Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Christopher Levy.

One year before the Battle of Yavin (34:10:30) in the Brentaal system: Brentaal IV (Cormond: The Speakeasy), in the Essesia system: Esseles (The Void) and Nerf Herder, and in the Malastare system: Warspite.

Agent Ysanne Isard, Major Kerrie Kiley, Sub-Lieutenant Tosha Previn, Lord Marcus Rodney, and Major Min Traebor.

Major Min Traebor, an attractive woman in her late-thirties who wore the maroon uniform of Imperial Intelligence meandered through one of the ubiquitous corridors of the Star Destroyer Warspite. Her black hair flowed straight to her neck line, perfectly in line with Imperial regulations. There was a determined look about her, letting all of those around her know that she was not to be disturbed. Her steps became faster, more hurried, as she realized the time. She was late ... and for whom she was going to meet that was unacceptable. Turning the corner, she entered into one of the private communication suites, which she had arranged to be unoccupied.

Traebor was indeed late and the signal to begin receiving the transmission had already been beeping for several moments. The holoprojector in the center of the room flared to life and the image of Ysanne Isard, daughter of the Director of Imperial Intelligence, slowly flickered into focus. There was a genuine physical similarity between the two, save for the streak of white hair that was a genetic trait belonging to the Isard family. She had counted the seconds the Major was late and already she was glaring at the junior officer. "Report," was her one word order.

Major Traebor lowered her head obediently before beginning to pass on the knowledge she had learned over the past weeks. "There have been no further updates on the status of the lost datadisk," she began, stating simply. "It is our conclusion that it has fallen into the hands of the Rebellion," she continued, clearly stating her assumptions. "Since we have arrived in the Malastare system there has been no activity worth reporting," she concluded, using no unnecessary words. The Major had a way of stating things efficiently and to the point.

Isard considered the words carefully, letting no facial expression convey her thoughts to the junior officer. "So we are no closer to learning the traitor's identity then? Pity," she stated in mock disappointment. She had long since come to the conclusion that Admiral Rodney himself was the traitor and it was long past time to deal with him. "Next month you travel to Alderaan for Admiral Rodney's wedding. Correct?" she asked her, tilting her head towards the Major.

"Yes. The Admiral invited everyone on his staff and protocol dictates that I attend," Major Traebor added. Privately, she disdained such functions, but her absence would have been noticed and a woman in her line of work cannot afford to be noticed.

"See that the Admiral does not return from his honeymoon, Major," Isard commanded in a loud, clear voice. Unless she removed Admiral Rodney from command one of her best field operatives would be stuck watching the pod races on Malastare. That was a resource she could not afford to waste. "...and Major, if you blunder this operation and it leads back to you," she warned in a stern voice as the holographic image glared, "...I will disavow you and let the Admiral's guard dog deal with you." Without allowing the Major to utter another word the transmission abruptly terminated and the holographic image of Isard faded away.

Traebor swallowed deeply, her throat bulging through the tight collar of her uniform. As she contemplated what had transpired, a cunning smile began to curl upon her face. This was the opportunity she had waited for.

*Thud* the right foot of Major Kerrie Kiley connected with a punching bag in the Warspite's athletic facility, where she spent so much of her free time training and expending her energy. She was glad to have returned to the ship since the end of her exile to Gateway Space Station. Those that knew her were inclined not to disturb her during the time she spent there.

Unfortunately for her, Min Traebor had not yet gotten a chance to meet Major Kiley, and so when she learned that she was training in the gymnasium she did not hesitate to move swiftly to its location on the lower deck of the massive Star Destroyer. She stood there silently, watching from the corner of the large room for quite some time. She was impressed, but disappointed that Imperial Intelligence had not gotten their claws into her at some point. "Impressive," she said coldly, her gloved hands clapping with approval as she strode towards her.

Kerrie stopped her workout as she looked over to the woman, hunching over slightly as she tried to catch her breath. She was breathing rapidly, and her mimicked Human flesh was flushed red. The sweat was pouring off her now, the gray physical training gear she was wearing darkened from sweat. "What do you want?" she asked, sounding quite annoyed as she moved to her bag where she began to rummage for a bottle of water.

"I have been reading your file, Major," Traebor confessed as she continued her forward progress towards her, now standing barely two meters from her. "I was hoping you could assist me with something," she explained, though deliberately not going into more detailed information yet.

Kerrie raised herself back up, unscrewing the cap of the bottle of water and holding it above her head. She poured it down over her, letting the cold liquid run down her hair, which was braided in two ornate ponytails, and over her face. She shook herself off like an animal, cooling down as she gave the Major a questionable look. "...what kind of assistance?" she asked coldly, her eyes moving back towards the punching bag. She was missing her workout.

"You used to work as a bounty hunter," Traebor explained, stating what she had learned in the file. "I need a recommendation. I have an assignment that needs to be outsourced. I want someone skilled and subtle," she continued, taking another several steps towards her. "Someone up to your level," she finished, offering what she thought was a compliment.

Kerrie flashed her a concerned look, moving away from her as she returned to the punching bag. "I don't talk about that time of my life anymore," she informed her, taking a few moments to tape up her hands before returning to her routine. After a moment her hands began to connect with the bag, having been inspired by Min to recall several bad memories to image while hitting the bag.

"Just a name, Major Kiley. Not a story..." Min restated, trying again. She allowed her to move away from her, respecting the animal inside of her and did not want to make her feel caged. This was important and she could not take 'no' for an answer. Her career, perhaps her life, were at stake.

Kerrie continued to hit the bag repeatedly, no longer making eye contact with the Intelligence officer. She considered it for a moment and eventually decided to help her, but only because anything she could do to spite Major Zevrin and the Imperial Security Bureau always brought her pleasure. "Seek out the Nerf Herder," she instructed her, still working the bag.

"Thank you," Major Traebor said kindly, bowing slightly as she hurried out of the gymnasium. A grin curled upon her face, satisfied with the information she had received. Things were moving forward and her plan would soon be in place. Now all she had to do was find this 'Nerf Herder.'

Inside The Speakeasy, a bar of ill repute on the planet Brentaal serving as a front for the Black Sun, Tosha Previn waited patiently in one of the private rooms. For months now she had been working as a liaison between her organization and the Empire, but she still felt uneasy whenever a member of one of their more covert services contacted her.

The door to the private room was opened by one of The Speakeasy's staff, affording Major Traebor the ability to meet with Tosha without having to touch anything. This was such a dirty place. Gone was the uniform of Imperial Intelligence, instead replaced with an elegant black dress covered by a dark cloak that shrouded her face and most of her feminine form.

"You are not one of Commodore Tion's staff," Tosha commented abruptly, standing from the table with concern. Was this a trap? ...a setup? Any number of possibilities raced through her mind as she considered sounding the alarm.

Min raised her hand in a cool and collected manner, forcing a smile onto her face to keep the Black Sun lieutenant at ease. "I represent the previous administration," she explained calmly as her hands moved to her head to pull the hood down to reveal her face.

"Previous..." Tosha repeated in a mumble, considering her words carefully for a moment. She tilted her head to more closely examine the woman, arching her brow. "You're one of Admiral Rodney's?" she inquired after a moment, attempting to hurriedly piece the puzzle together in her mind so she would no longer be at a disadvantage. She so detested disadvantages.

Min nodded politely to Tosha, acknowledging she was correct in her assumption. Without asking permission, she glided across the room towards the small bar that had been stocked for the meeting. Her hands immediately went for the Whyren's reserve, arguably the most expensive liquor in the room. Moving with the bottle and two small glasses, she situated herself opposite Tosha at the table and poured them each a drink. "Though, as you will find out, I am not here on his behalf," she added as an insatiable grin curled upon her face.

Satisfied for the moment Tosha adjusted her dress and sat back down at the table, accepting the drink ... she needed one. The small glass of Whyren's was consumed in an instant, and she slid the glass to the side of the table. One was enough until the business at hand had been concluded. "How may we be of service?" she asked, still sizing up her opponent.

"I am looking for someone," Min explained as she finished her first glass of Whyren's. Unlike Tosha, she was quick to pour herself a second glance, smiling over towards her as she did so. She could handle no more alcohol than her, but she wanted to attempt to present that she could. It was all about posturing in meetings such as this. "All I have is a codename," she explained bitterly as she nursed drink number two. "...the Nerf Herder," she said plainly, it not yet having any meaning or significance to her.

"If you want him then I need that second drink," Tosha said coldly, her hand moving immediately towards the bottle. Her hand shook slightly as she poured her second glass, some of the precious liquids splattering out upon the table adjacent to the glass. "May I ask..." she said, looking towards Traebor as she lifted the drink and swiftly downed it, "...why you would go looking for that man?"

"A 'friend' told me that he was the man to get for this sort of thing," Min explained as she finished her second drink. She did pour a third, fearing inebriation would compromise her position. "Do you disagree?" she asked, wondering in the back of her mind if Major Kiley had set her up.

Tosha exhaled sharply as she put the glass back down on the table. "No... No he's good all right..." she explained, breaking eye contact to look up at the back wall for a bit. "...but in all the years the Black Sun has worked with him, we have never gotten so much as his initials," she explained as her face grew serious. She leaned across the table now, moving closer towards Traebor's face. "...and believe me ... we've tried," she concluded, her voice trembling with grave seriousness.

Min was not phased by the warning Tosha had given her, in fact she was quite impressed. She leaned back in her chair, folding her arms upon her chest, as she smiled back at the woman. "That sounds exactly the sort I'm looking for," she stated confidently. Having all the information she needed, she stood from the table and raised the hood of her cloak back over her head. "Set up a meeting immediately," she instructed, turning her back to the woman. "Open this door," she bellowed loud enough for the lackey standing outside to hear. A moment later the door was opened and she disappeared back out into The Speakeasy.

Tosha sat there for a moment, considering what had transpired. She did not like working with the Nerf Herder. She preferred working with individuals whose lives she could find out about. Who had family and loves ones to move against in the event they failed or double-crossed her. She had nothing on him, and she doubted she could. But, high risk brought high reward and she considered the upside if there was success. A reluctant smile curled upon her face as she considered not informing Vigo Chall to these latest developments.

On the planet Esseles the Black Sun had constructed a facility in conjunction with the Empire to house most of its cooperative projects. It was this location, hidden within a shielded hangar deep within the mountains on the northernmost continent, that Tosha Previn had arranged the meeting between the Nerf Herder and the Empire. There was an ill feeling in the pit of her stomach. "Perhaps he won't come..." she speculated, trying to ease her tensions.

"He will come," Min said excitedly as she paced the hangar, a smile never leaving her lips. Wearing her uniform again the woman intertwined her two gloves hands and rubbed them in anticipation. She felt as if she was on the verge of making her career, and it was exhilarating. Then she saw it ... a black spec growing larger on the horizon ... a ship was approaching.

Marcus Rodney sat in the cockpit of his modified G-1A transport as he maneuvered through the atmosphere of Esseles. It had been a long time since he had worked with the Black Sun and never this deep in the Galactic Core before. He suspected something was different this time and as he approached the remote mountain facility it had every indication of a trap. He still could turn back, but there would be no fun in that ... he liked a good mystery. Switching the small personal craft over to its maneuvering thrusters, he entered the massive structure and his eyes began probing the activity through the forward viewport. "Imperials..." he muttered under his breath. He should have known. As he touched the craft down upon the hangar deck he swung out of his chair and began moving towards the rear of the craft.

Outside the craft Min waited, studying the unremarkable transport. When she saw the markings she cocked her head immediately towards Tosha. "...the ship?" she asked, sounding quite puzzled as she said the words quickly.

"Yes," Tosha said with a nervous smile. "Some people name themselves after the family pet," she said with a soft chuckle. "...while some name themselves after their ships," she added as she walked forward, taking a step in front of Min. She thought he might react better to someone not wearing a uniform.

The ramp of the Nerf Herder descended, a release of the pneumatic pressure causing a *hiss* sound as it moved towards the deck. A moment later the sound of Marc's boots connecting with the ramp echoed throughout the massive structure. His Human form was covered in a set of brown Ubese tracker armor. Looking through the visor of the helmet at the two women he touched his foot down on the deck and stood silently before him.

"Master hunter," Tosha said with a kind smile and deep bow. She would play the part well. She knew how delicate the psyches of these men could be. As she rose she began to speak again when she suddenly felt a push against her side.

Min stepped forward, interrupting her 'colleague' as she physically pushed into her to step front and center. "It is a pleasure to meet you," she said to the impressive looking figure, bowing her head to him respectfully.

Marc stood silently in front of them. Neither had said anything worthwhile yet. He was considered turning around and walking back on the ship if all they were going to do was talk over one another and push each other around.

"I have a task I would like you to perform," Min said quickly, sensing their first impression was turning sour. She would waste no more time on her rivalry with Tosha, getting to the point at hand.

"You will be well compensated," Tosha quickly chimed in, offering him a reassuring smile. Credits ... these types always needed credits, she thought to herself as she stood next to Traebor.

"In addition," Min continued as she looked around the massive structure. "You will receive access to certain technologies and resources we have been developing here," she explained, nodding her head with a confident smile.

Tosha swallowed, speaking not a word. Min had not discussed that point with her and she did not think it was a particularly good idea. She knew enough, however, not to contradict her in front of the bounty hunter

Marc listened to their propositioning and concluded that this was a very important mission to each of them. That probably meant there was a lot of risk involved. He also assumed, looking at Min, that it would involve some Imperial entanglements. All of his experience was telling him to walk away, but he would hear them out. He raised his left hand, indicating he wanted silence. "What is the job?" he asked, his voice scrambled by the Ubese tracker helmet.

"I need an Imperial officer eliminated," Min explained to the bounty hunter, speaking in the same manner she would have if she were asking for her walls to be painted. "I need it to be done using methods used by the Rebellion," she continued to explain, sharing the most basic details of her plan. "It should be done publicly to harden public sentiment against these scum," she concluded, her disdain for the Rebellion evident with each breath.

Tosha had not heard the plan in detail before and so she stood silently, listening to each of Traebor's words. She shifted each word in her head, looking for small nuggets of information she could use toward her own end. She had a stake in this as well.

The job sounded easy enough to Marc. Already has brain had formulated several methods he could use that would accommodate the Intelligence officer's needs. Still, he thought it was best to avoid entangling himself in internal Imperial business. Even if he succeeded they might attempt to eliminate him to cover it up. If he failed the entire might of the Empire would be sent against him for trying to murder an Imperial officer. "Who is this man you wish me to kill?" he asked through the Ubese helmet once again. He could not turn the job down without knowing. Curiosity was his deadliest of habits.

Min could not help but smile, believing she had intrigued the bounty hunter with what she considered to be a very cunning plan. "Admiral Claudius Rodney," she informed him. "Commander of Imperial forces in the Malastare system," she added, feeling that a name alone was not enough for the hunter to form a clear picture in his mind.

Inside the suit of Ubese tracker armor, Marc was floored by the news. They wanted him to assassination his own brother. It proved to him that his years of keeping his identity a secret had worked, for if they even suspected his identity they never would have contracted him for this job. It was, however, the one Imperial job he would take. "I will do it," he said coldly through the helmet. No explanation, no details, no questions ... just a simple answer. That was his style.

"Excellent," Min said as she extended her right hand at patted the side of his arm cheerfully. "Hmm," she murmured as she tilted her head to look at his armor closely. "We need to upgrade this," she commented, looking over towards Tosha, shaking her head in disapproval.

Tosha nodded in agreement to Min and turned to the shadows, motioning for a couple of unseen Neimoidian technicians. "Using armorweave technology we have developed a suit of molded body armor," she explained as the technicians began conducting a bioscan of his body. "It is quite adaptive and I think it will serve you well," she concluded, nodding her head satisfactory as the technicians completed their work and moved off into the darkness.

Marcus stood there as the creatures did their work. He acknowledged the shortcomings in this suit of Ubese, and wore it more for psychological reasons than practical ones. The prospect of cutting edge armorweave appealed to him, so rather than blast the technicians for daring to get close, he allowed them to do their work.

"Do you need any additional information?" Min asked as she studied over her datapad, wondering if there was anything she forgot to mention.

"No," Marc replied with but a single word as the technicians returned and presented him the suit of armorweave. It was dark, flexible, and seemed to be quite durable. All of the things that she had advertised ... Marc was impressed. "I will report when the job is finished," he said, offering a nod of his head before ascending the ramp back into the Nerf Herder.

"I told you he'd do it," Min said proudly as she turned to Tosha, a confident smile cutting a swath across her attractive face. She felt as if they had succeeded already.

"Let's just hope we don't get more than we bargained for..." Tosha warned as she turned to look at the transport one last time before moving off with Traebor to celebrate with another bottle of Whyren's.

Once the Nerf Herder had maneuvered back into Esseles' atmosphere, Marc slipped the Ubese helmet off his head to reveal his attractive, early-forties, Human face. He sighed as he considered what had happened, replaying the conversation in his head. Old Claudius must have done something to get into this mess, he speculated. Now it was up to him to get him out of it. And so he devised his plan, to 'attempt' to murder his own brother using the methods they had devised, but in a way that would assuredly fail. He had work to do.

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