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A note from H.C. Ogden

Episode IV: Situational Awareness

 

  IT was about one standard week’s time before we reached our first stop. In that time, Zeb and Hector constructed some incredible armor from both the Dwarf Spider Droid as well as the Hssiss’s hide which Aegeon had procured. Eventually we reached the planet Bothawui and immediately were scanned by a local patrol ship.

  “This is Bothawui Port Authority, what is the name and crew size of your ship?” came a voice over onboard comms.

  “This is the Scarlet Estoc…we have four crew members onboard.” I replied.

  “State your intentions for your arrival at Bothawui.”

  “Just resupplying.”

  “State any illegal items onboard your ship.”

  “None.” I lied, hoping the items stashed in the hidden compartments wouldn’t come up on a scan.

  “Scanning for illegal items now. Please wait for confirmation.”

  A few moments passed. I tried to avoid thoughts of doubt.

  “You are cleared for entry. Welcome to Bothawui. Please proceed to docking bay number 31 at Capital City Drev Starn.”

  A sigh of relief was exhaled as I turned the navigation to the ship’s onboard computer for docking.

  “So what do we want to do when we land?” I asked the group.

  “Well,” said Zeb, “Gresk told us to meet a ‘Gotham Nisala’, that's who we’re delivering the gear to. I suggest we find him first.”

  “Sounds good.” the group replied in somewhat unison.

  A minute or so later, the landing gear was engaging as thrusters were pulled back, the ship’s weight settling. The entry ramp hissed as it unlocked and lowered before us. We made our way out of the docking bay and before us we saw Drev Starn, a well-maintained city that reminded me somewhat of the Alderaanian capital, Aldera, with its peaceful, utopian feel. Off-white permacrete buildings rose up towards the sky like four-walled pyramids with flat roofs on top. Pools of serene blue water were strategically scattered, fountains bursting with life pouring into them. But we knew there was something happening beneath it all, and that’s where the slicer gear was heading.

  We found a nearby directory and searched the name Gresk had given us. We found a match for a Gotham Nisala: apparently he was a mid-level government official with the Enforcement Division for the Capital.

  We were all thinking the same thing. A government official who's getting an under-the-table strongbox of slicer gear delivered? Now that's a double agent.

  We headed for the nearest grav-train to take us further into the city, wherein lied the Enforcement Division building, according to a map within the directory we'd just accessed. Once onboard, we were bombarded by news, propagated by several large holo-screens mounted to the interior.

  “The ‘True Victory’ Party thanks you for your loyalty…Victory Enforcement Center: two minutes till arrival…Please report any suspicious activity to your nearest Enforcement Officer. Remember: slander is treason, and even first-time offenders are subject to arrest and imprisonment. Your loyalty is greatly appreciated. A reward of….” one holo-screen droned on in Basic, several other languages were shown in sub-titles at the bottom of the screen.

  Another was showing recent events, with explosions and sirens in the background: “A number of attacks have left dozens injured and some even killed, others remain in critical condition, in yet another show of hate and evil from the terrorist group known as The Recreation and Reconciliation Party. Known for their lack of remorse and courage, they continue to indiscriminately slaughter citizens as they wage a futile war against our great nation…”

  Yet another holo-screen showed a different story: “Hutt Cartel raids continue in Federation and Confederation space…”

  Everywhere the eye could see, there was galaxy-wide war and power struggle. It seemed to have no end in sight. I can't say I wasn’t used to it though, and from what I gathered, that was the general consensus.

  However, one news-vid caught the group's full attention: “Mandalorians have maneuvered to lay siege to the planet and Wookie-homeworld of Kashyyyk. Forces arrived just three standard days ago in force and –”

  The grav-train doors opened and passengers began spilling in and out. The group and I wormed our way through and out into the sunlight, glancing nervously at each other at what we'd just heard. Just in front of us stood the Victory Enforcement Center Central Command Station. Guards stood all around us, so we moved ahead to them without a word as they checked in guests and officials through two separate lines.

  “State your business,” one of the guards said sternly as we arrived in front of him.

  “Here to see Mr. Gotham Nisala,” I responded.

  He paused and looked at the entire group before proceeding: “You'll need to speak with his secretary. In the doors, to your right. Put these on.” as he handed us four temporary ID's and motioned us through the double doors just beyond.

  Inside, we found yet another line for Mr. Nisala's secretary. As the line shortened, some beings turned and walked towards the exit, others were escorted into a different room, and a few were dragged out; in one such case, the being was screaming something about a family member being taken and was stunned on sight and taken away abruptly.

  “Next.” The secretary said as it was our turn. We stepped forward in unison, although somewhat awkwardly.

  “Hi,” I said to the secretary, trying to put on my charm while reading her name badge, “miss 18-4, that's a pretty name..” She was staring unamused. “Umm.. we need to speak privately with Mr. Nisala.”

  “About?”

  “Well, it's really something for his ears only, I don't think he'd want us speaking with anyone else about it.”

  She stared at me, not speaking.

  I continued: “We actually have a package for him but like I said it's not something he's gonna want anyone else to open.”

  By this time she was looking at me quite suspiciously, her eyes narrowing. I realized I sounded like a blinking idiot, and finished with, “You know what, just let Mr. Nisala know he's got a package from Gresk Linaz and here's my comm info you can pass along to him.”

  After giving my comm info, we walked briskly out of the office and into the area outside.

  “She was about to push some red button on the bottom of the desk, nerf-brain,” Zeb said once we were out of earshot. “You sounded like some sort of terrorist.”

  We all laughed nervously at how close we'd just come to being taken into official custody and walked towards the edge of the capital city.

  “I’m gonna look for some ammo and grenades.” I said.

  “I'm heading back to check on the ship.” Said Zeb.

  Hector chimed in, “I'm gonna see about some mods for this armor.”

  “What about you Aegeon?” I asked.

  “I guess I'll go with you and make sure you don't get yourself killed,” he said while looking at me.

  “Aww, thanks,” I laughed, and we split up.

  Scanning the nearby buildings and shops near the edge of the capital, I realized something: weapons and ammo were obviously illegal to buy here, because there wasn't a single shop selling them. I finally found what I was looking for though as Aegeon and I came across a nondescript warehouse. It looked sketchy enough to possibly be a black market arms dealer. As we stepped inside, I noticed the warehouse was pretty empty-looking, but a Bothan woman stood behind a desk. No one else was in sight. I looked at Aegeon and gestured with my eyes to keep an eye on the door we'd entered.

  “Where's everybody at?” I said loudly to the woman, my voice echoing in the vacuum-like chamber of a building.

  “It’s just me,” she said confidently. “What are you looking for?”

  “Got any ammo for a Variable Holdout?”

  “We don't sell that here,” she said sternly.

  I figured, maybe she thinks I'm with the law.

  “Riiight, maybe just some carpet then.” I said with a wink.

  “Sure.” she said after a pause. “One moment please.” With this, she left into an adjacent room.

  I looked at Aegeon confidently, like I’d just scored a Sabacc pot.

  Moments passed. Nothing.

  Eventually I decided to sneak towards the corner of the room where she'd just entered to check on her. As I turned the corner, I could see she had taken off the civilian robes she'd been wearing and had donned a suit of riot armor. She was watching a set of screens viewing the rooms of the warehouse as well as the street outside. Also, she was on a comm unit apparently calling for reinforcements for a raid. It was a trap.

  After failing to attempt to jam her comms, I quickly called for backup and quietly made my way to the front door, where the sound of boots approached.

  Aegeon knew we were about to be done for, and suddenly walked outside with an apparent air of confidence as the armed reinforcements surrounded him, blasters drawn. He spoke calmly, addressing them all: “There is nothing here. You've been sent to the wrong building.”

  I was sweating profusely, thinking he was about to be shot just on the other side of the wall I was on. After a moment, however, the guards began responding, “There's nothing here. We've been sent to the wrong building.” With this, they turned and walked the other way, reholstering blasters, back where they'd come. Quickly, Aegeon reached inside and grabbed me by my trenchcoat collar, pulling me out the front door and into the street, where we disappeared as quickly as possible into a crowd of beings, making our way back to the grav-train.

  “How…did you do that?” I asked Aegeon once I’d gotten back control of myself.

  “The Force is a powerful ally.” he replied shortly, and gave me another tug forward as I attempted to look behind us. We continued walking…and silently I puzzled over the universe and its many mysteries.

  As we neared the grav-train station, I received a call on my comlink.

  “Killik here…” I said in a sort of daze.

  “Hello, this is Secretary #56-1, Mr. Nisala is ready for you. Please proceed to the Victory Enforcement Central Command Center at your earliest convenience to secure an appointment.”

  I snapped to full attention. “I’ll be arriving shortly with my crew,” I replied as I disconnected the communication.

  I relayed the message and within minutes we had regrouped at the grav-train station near the Enforcement Center. Near the entry, a stationed officer noted our approach.

  “Killik Faz?”

  I nodded.

  “Right this way.” And he led the crew and I through the doorway ahead, escorting us through the interior of the building until we arrived in a small interrogation style room: one desk, two chairs (a few more were brought in), and fluorescent lighting. The only thing missing was the one-way mirror on the wall.

  We took our seats, and the officer spoke again: “Mr. Nisala will be with you momentarily.” And with this, he opened the door and left the room, leaving us there in silence.

  Not sure if the room was bugged or not, we knew to keep our mouths shut. And waited.

  Minutes passed.

  The door opened once more and a tall, muscular male Bothan entered the room. As the door closed behind him, he measuredly paced himself across the room, taking a seat at the other side of the table. Then he spoke.

  “I assume you know who I am?” He said with a quiet but strong demeanor.

  “Mr. Gotham Nisala, I hope.” I replied. “We were told to find you by a contact with the last name Linaz. We have something for you.”

  He stared, then nodded in expectancy.

  I removed the small strongbox from my pocketed trenchcoat and slid it across the table into his outstretched hand. He inspected it briefly, then proceeded to open it as we watched, tense. His mouth turned upwards almost imperceptibly.

  “This will come in great need very soon…Your group…are you all for hire? Good mercenaries can go a long way. I can put you to use.”

  “We’re actually in the middle of a mission we must complete, but if we survive, we may be able to help you. Give me your frequency and we'll see what we can do.”

  “If you survive, hmm? That's some mission. Yes… Well, I won't hold you any longer.”

  “Actually,” Hector spoke up, “I was curious if you might know a Dal Fosketter. I'm looking for information on his whereabouts.”

  The Bothan thought for a moment, appearing to be hesitant about giving forth such information. “Normally, things like this would cost you. But, as you've helped me a great deal going through the trouble of bringing this,” he placed a hand on the slender box of slicer gear, “I’ll tell you what I know.

  The previous Planetary Governor known as Dal Fosketter was involved in the betrayal of his own constituents by his handing over of classified information in exchange for a Senate position within the Federation, who used the information to attempt to destroy the planet of Waldwelt. In any case, his current whereabouts are unconfirmed but there's a rumor he's been seen on Coruscant recently. That's all I’m aware of at the moment.”

  “And Gotev Kavikon?”

  “Fosketter’s ‘dog’ Kavikon is doing the dirty work on the Outer Rim. He was last seen on the planet Vandor.”

  Hector appeared satisfied.

  I leaned forward. “Mr. Nisala, is there anything you can tell us about Kashyyyk? We may be heading there and I saw some disturbing news about a Mandalorian force converging on the planet on the Holos today.”

  “Oh yes, things are heating up on Kashyyyk quite quickly. I wouldn't go there if I were you, but I assume your 'mission' may not allow that. The Mandos have joined forces with Daala - Head of GFFA – and the Sith, as well as the Trandoshans. They're rampaging across the Galactic North, with the Mandalorians and Trandoshans focusing on the siege of Kashyyyk. There's a ragtag alliance moving to counter: the Jedi and Wookies have formed the ‘Freedom Fleet’, and the Hapes Consortium is taking action as well. Hutts are also working to indirectly take the planet… In short, it’s turning into another galactic warzone.”

  The group and I stared at each other while he spoke, our eyes wide, until he finished.

  I spoke up again: “Is there anything we can use to our advantage?”

  “Hmm…well…There are a couple of cards left to play…There happens to be a group of Mandos who are amongst the Protectors, led by Boba Fett, known as the Skirata Clan. They disagree with Boba’s siege on Kashyyyk, and may be open to contact in the hopes of taking back control of the Protectors.

  There's also the radicalist group of Mandos in the Outer Rim named the Ascendants. They're a quite secretive religious reformation movement, and our spies have resorted to using proxies to gather data on them.

  One of these groups may be your ticket into Kashyyyk if you don't have any allies at the moment. Good luck. I’m afraid I'm needed elsewhere. If there's nothing else…?”

  “Actually,” I cut in, “I'm in need of a few supplies. Would you be able to assist me in acquiring a few power cells and possibly a couple concussion grenades. I'm not sure when the next time will be that I'll be able to find a vendor.”

  “That won't be a problem.” Gotham quickly replied as he brought out a datapad, keying in a few commands. “Transfer 325 credits to my account. The supplies will be waiting at your ship in a nondescript container.”

  We completed the exchange, and with this, the Bothan rose and walked calmly to the door, opened it, and gestured with his arm for us to exit.

  Minutes later, we were boarding the Estoc, where a container was waiting to be picked up, my weapons and power cells inside.

  Once inside, we relayed the information learned to Mr. G. He motioned for us to sit at the lounge. We did so, a bit concerned.

  “The Ascendants happen to be my employers..” This revelation left me in a momentary state of awe, thinking back to our skirmish on Rishi.

  “You work for the Mandalorians?” I asked.

  He nodded. “They happen to be in business with a group named ‘Orange Panthracs’. The information retrieved from Hypori has been requested by them as they are planning to lay siege to the planet, re-purposing the factory for their needs. They happen to be ‘droids themselves, originally used in the Clone Wars, then reactivated by the GFFA for use against the Yuuzhan Vong. Now they have become independent mercenaries.”

  “In that case,” said Hector, “they are going to really want that information we gathered. The extra information you weren't interested in? They're gonna need it.”

  I thought to myself, So Orange Panthracs needs the data, and we have extra data to give them that could help immensely, but we need safe passage to Kashyyyk to receive payment..

  “Do you think you could get in touch with Orange Panthracs or the Ascendants and see if they'll meet us near Kashyyyk? We need to see about negotiating protection to make planetfall in one piece, and they may be able to help the Ascendants if war over Kashyyyk is what they want.”

  He obliged, and a few minutes later he'd returned with news.

  “The Ascendants have agreed to meet us on the nearby planet Rakhuuun, just spinward of Kashyyyk. There we will negotiate with them.”

  “Rakhuuun it is.” Said Zeb, and we began plugging in coordinates and checking datapads. Once ready, I took a long moment to stare at the golden dice which hung from the module above the pilot’s seat. No turning back, I thought as I flipped switches, prepping the ship. Then, shoving the final control stick forward and activating the hyperspace generator, the stars turned to streaks of light…

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About the author

H.C. Ogden

  • A Galaxy Far, Far Away..
  • H.C. Ogden

Bio: Creator of the written series and upcoming podcast:
"STAR WARS Edge of the Empire: Life and Death on the Rim"

Experience the galaxy of STAR WARS in a whole new way..
Jump into the shoes of Killik Faz as he navigates the galaxy as part of a mercenary crew..

Author of the upcoming novel "Tales of Shady Grove Episode I: A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing"

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