This session takes place over the course of roughly 9 or 10 days. The crew has split into multiple smaller groups to accomplish various goals as quickly as possible before continuing their main mission. Venn, Kane, and Amanha Orden are leading these groups, as much as "leading" applies….
Venn and Company
Venn is secretly carrying medical supplies (experimental drug) to family. Sidara insists on coming along, purportedly for tactical support. Gnawing at her, though, is that she knows something is going on with Venn, and she doesn't want him to be there alone. Rourke also insists upon going; she doesn't know why this experimental medication is so important, but she knows more about it than anyone else. She insists on consulting with whatever doctor plans on using this kit to ensure that he knows as much as possible about it.
Sidara and Rourke confront Venn about these issues separately while in transit to Antaras. They both privately insist upon coming with Venn.
After Venn's announcement that the ship will be stopping off at Antaras "to deliver urgently-needed supplies," Sidara immediately begins planning to intercept him as soon as possible. As soon as Venn goes off shift, Sidara stands from her duty station and quietly asks, "Sir, may I speak to you for a moment?"
Venn replies, "Of course, my quarters…," kind of distractedly.
As soon as they enter Venn's quarters, Sidara stands stock to attention. Stoically, she opens up with, "Sir, let me start by saying I don't know what is going on, and I don't care. All I know is that you're going down to your homeworld, an Imperial-occupied homeworld, off on some mysterious mission. I can't order you not to go, and I won't try, but you're not going alone. You need a bodyguard, and I'm coming along." By the end of the speech, Sidara is shaking slightly, almost imperceptibly. She's obviously holding back strong anger, irritation, or fear, and she's doing a good job; only your years of training as a diplomat allow you to see it hiding in her eyes and her stance.
Venn looks somewhat quizically at her for a moment. pauses "Well, Sergeant… I'd be happy to have you along, but I'm a bit curious about why you're in here making this speech instead of Tam…"
After a slight delay, Sidara finally answers, "Well, sir, he is still on duty."
After another slight pause, Venn replies, "Any reason why you're not suggesting I take him along instead?" He still looks somewhat confused by Sidara's proposal.
Sidara's response: "Sir, I might recommend we both come along."
Venn is pretty sure she isn't telling him the real reason, but he doesn't show it. Instead, he nods assentingly, "Very well, Sergeant. Anything else?"
"Thank you for volunteering, then. That'll be all."
Confused but somewhat mollified by how that went, Sidara leaves.
Keeping It Spicy
Immediately after his first shift while en route to Antaras, Venn drops by the medbay to speak to Rourke. He asks her about the status of the medication. When she confirms that it is still stored and stable, he asks her to put it into a transportable case and have it ready to go as soon as they get to Antaras. He also requests all the instructions she can provide, including her detailed analysis on the medication.
Rourke immediately asks, "So, you're planning on taking this system to Antaras, sir?"
Venn replies, "That's correct. We're delivering it to… a VIP on my planet who hasn't responded to any other treatment. After that, we'll be heading back to Kessel. Please have it ready to move by the time we get there, and provide any care or handling instructions for me."
"In that case, sir, I respectfully decline unless I may accompany you."
"I beg your pardon?" mildy annoyed/surprised tone
"Sir, this is an untried… medication. No one has dealt with this compound as much as I have. I want to be there in person to support the attending physician as best as I know how. That's my job, my duty."
Venn starts to speak, then stops and stares at Rourke for a bit while thinking. His face softens. Quietly, he replies, "Very well." He pauses for a moment, then continues more normally, "Be prepared to travel when we arrive. Civilian dress."
"Sir," Rourke acknowledges with a nod.
As he's leaving, Venn looks back at her and adds, "And check up on the crew… there seems to be an epidemic of crew members inviting themselves along on missions lately," giving Rourke no time to respond and leaving her with a deeply puzzled expression on her face.
Tam If I Know
Early one morning during the trip to Antaras, Venn has just been awake for long enough to prepare for the day when he hears a knock on his quarters door. "Come."
Tam enters. "Good morning, sir."
As Tam enters, Venn asks Tam, "Just to get this out of the way, Tam, are you going to request permission to accompany me onto the planet? Because I've already reached my quota…."
Momentarily taken aback, Tam replies, "Not exactly, sir. I was going to ask you exactly what I should bring."
Amused, Venn replies, "Well, you always were prepared…." After a short pause, he continues, "Sorry,Tam. Strange day. And I think it would be best if yu sat this one out. Rourke and Sidara will already be accompanying me. And this mission isn't an assault. Just a delivery that will invole more stealth than anything. And I think the to of us together would probably be more of a tip off than Rourke and Sidara. Besides…." Another short pause. "If we were to be discovered, we'll need someone to pull us out. Sorry Tam… you ca try out your new armor on the next mission…," he finishes with a grin.
Hesitantly, Tam considers for a moment, then replies, "If you're sure, sir…. Sgt. Lanka will be accompanying you?"
"Yes, and next to you and Kane, she's the most capable soldier on th ship. We'll be fine."
"Yes, sir," he replies as he stands to attention again.
Venn: "Anything else?"
Tam: "No, sir."
Venn: "All right, dismissed."
There's a bit of gibberish over the radio upon the Prospect's arrival from hyperspace. Planetary traffic control then apologizes for not muffling solar flare activity quickly enough - an odd occurrance, but not unheard of. In Venn's distracted state, he quickly dismisses this. The rest of the landing routine goes much more smoothly, and Venn directs Kane to vector in for a smaller spaceport in the mid-lattitudes of the planet, a spaceport near the city of Ialain.
Upon arrival, Venn begins issuing orders for the crew.
- begin plotting hyperspace coordinates to Kessel - I want to be able to blast out of here at a moment's notice
- keep under the radar… there's a high risk of being discovered by Imperials or sympathizers here
- one person to remain on the ship at all times
- our business may take a few days, but may be disrupted at a moment's notice… keep ship maintenance to that which can be quickly abandoned
- if you have the opportunity (specifically to Kane)… the supplies and refit of Prospect have our funds pinning zero… see if you can find us some cargo to deliver to Kessel (not the planet itself… they'll probably remember us) - and not "sell," "deliver." we likely won't be staying on Kessel long enough to sell anything
- anyone going off ship radio checks in every 12 hours, trying to keep comms traffic low. we don't have encryption, so… use code words. make it sound like just a standard cargo crew on shore leave
After that little speech, Venn leaves the Prospect with Sidara and Rourke in tow, armed with sidearms only. Venn has let his beard go for a while, and he's wearing shoddy clothing (for him) and leaving his fineries onboard the shuttle.
Once on planet, Venn begins to debate his options. He believes his best bet is to charter a shuttle to his sister Orianna's home city to deliver the medicine to her. He charters a shuttle to her home city of Denau, the fourth-largest city on Antaras.
Once there, the crew heads to a decent restaurant to try to lose any tails. After a meal, when they determine that they have not been followed, Venn decides to continue on to his sister's apartment in the city. He'll actually ask Rourke to make contact. She's likely not known as one of his crew. She's also attractive… a bonus to being helped. I'll ask her to say she's working for a relief organization with a name that's a pet name she would have sed for Venn when they were growing up, in order to get in with her. Oh, and Rourke should say her organization deals with unknown dibilitating neurological disorders.
The crew heads to her apartment. She has a penthouse in one of the nicer buildings in the city. Venn sends Rourke in to talk to the staff, and she buzzes in. After a few moments of talking with the staff, Venn and Sidara see her heading back out of the building toward them.
"Well?" Venn asks.
"I've been informed that the mistress is not currently in the city. Apparently she's gone away for a short while on some family matter." Rourke says quietly. She's picked up on what Venn asked her to tell the staff, so she thinks she now knows why they're there on Antaras. "The staff asked me to call again in a month or so."
Venn quickly asks, "Did you ask where?"
"They wouldn't say. They only said it was a family matter."
Venn then begins to consider his alternatives. His brother, Galen, lives in the capital, at least last he'd heard - after all, he's been seeing that Imperial diplomat's daughter. Shara, his younger sister, is God only knows where; she could have been deployed and redeployed a dozen times since last he'd been home.
Realizing that Rourke is figuring things out, Venn turns to her and Sidara and briefly fills them in on the situation. Rourke is quiet; she'd obviously figured most of it out, though she didn't know specifically who the medicine is for. Sidara's gone into "battle mode," which is her "emotion isn't good here, I'll deal with it later when we don't have so much to do" mode.
"I'm sorry for keeping this one close to the vest, but I need you to know now. If you have any problems, please make them now or after the misson is over…"
Venn's comment is met by a near-simultaneous "No, sir" from the two. He thanks them, and then continues, "Now, here's the plan. She could be at a hospital, but is probaly at our family home. I can't use comms to father or brother — too risky. we need the staff to call her. Sdara plays my nurse… helps me walk. I put bandages on my face, and act like someone with advanced Parkinson's… the story - I'm a vet, served with Shara on Rising Storm. I was injured in Xillashi raid by poison and have "less than a month to live." I'm trying to do "my last duty to my brothers in arms." Venn convinces the servants, after a short discussion, to call Madam Thissian and have her speak with "the director" (Rourke).
The servants finally do call wherever Madam Thissian is, and when someone answers, there is a short whispered conversation between the servants and whoever picks up. The servants then ask you to wait for "just a few moments, please, and the Mistress will be on the line shortly," handing the phone over to Rourke.
Rourke waits on the line for a long few moments before someone picks up. She then begins conversing per your instructions. She begins the conversation incredibly apologetic, then falls silent after a minute. Finally, she sets down the comms unit and turns to you. "I'm sorry, Lieutenant, but she's not in town. She asked me if you were well enough to travel. She's going to send a chauffeur for us." Turning to Sidara, she asks, "Do you think he can make the trip?"
"We'll talk. We'll see." Sidara replies. She then turns and thanks the servants, beginning to escort Venn out. Once outside, Rourke quietly informs Venn and Sidara that Orianna had simply snapped at her, "I don't know who you think you are, but I'll be there in four hours. I expect you to be outside my house, and so help me…." She'd then hung up.
The crew waits out of the way for a while, returning to the apartment nearer to the time Venn's sister should theoretically arrive. In a while, a luxury speeder stops near the building.
Venn stumbles to his feet. The door opens, and Orianna glides out. She looks haggard. She heads directly toward the building, not appearing to see Venn. She's heading right into the building. She looks terribly tired, haggard, and distracted, and she'd barely keeping her red-rimmed eyes open.
Venn, still playing a character, coughs out, "Madam Thissian!"
Startled, Orianna's head snaps up and over to you. She looks straight past your bandage-bedecked face over to Rourke. "You're Director Willias, I presume?" Her voice sounds exhausted and devoid of most of the caring you'd normally expect to find there.
"Yes, ma'am. I understand you're quite busy. Should we…?" Rourke gestures toward the speeder.
Momentarily closing her eyes, Orianna then opens them again. "Fine, yes. Come along," she says, turning back toward the speeder. You see that three of her largest bodyguards have accompanied her here…. The crew is escorted into the speeder, and they take off. Immediately upon sitting down, Orianna begins to drift in and out of consciousness.
After a couple more hours of dreary, uncomfortable silence, you arrive at a very familiar place, your father's primary home. When everyone finally does arrive and she comes back around, she shortly tells Venn that Shara should be here within the next day or two, and that he's free to either stay and wait or go. She then begins to walk in to the manor house escorted (assisted) by one of her bodyguards. The other two are watching the team closely but discreetly.
Venn begins walking toward the house. Rouke and Sidara follow, themselves followed by the bodyguards. There are few others around, just Orianna, her bodyguard, and a servant or two cautiously creeping about the grounds. The house seems sparse, almost dead, and everyone seems to be pulled in around themselves.
Rourke is getting very agitated. Sidara doesn't appear to be, but that might be just Sidara.
After a while, Venn approaches one of the bodyguards to ask, "Is Lord Gallos Tyree in today? My father served with him, and I would like to have the honor of shaking his hand before I must leave."
In return, Venn receives a curt, "He's not to be disturbed."
Deciding much bolder action may be required, Venn tries, "Please tell Lord Tyree that we are aware that his wife is dying, and we have an experimental medicine that might save her life. I imagine he will want to be disturbed for that…"
In return, the bodyguards immediately draw blasters, their faces betraying a hidden rage. "All right, we've tolerated you lot long enough. You're out of here," one says as they approach, waving sidearms at Venn, Rourke, and Sidara.
Venn slowly (but barely slowly enough) reaches up to remove his bandages. He then stares down the guard, realizing at that moment that he had been just a hair's breadth from being shot, possibly to death, but his own family's bodyguards. As his commands, "Tell my father what I said," he can see the guards biting back their rage, slowly breathing to keep themselves from accidentally squeezing the trigger. Finally, one guard slowly acknowledges through gritted teeth, "Yes… sir…." The two bodyguards leave, and suddenly Venn is alone on the grounds.
Venn turns back to Sidara and Rourke, announcing mostly to himself, "Well, that could have gone better…." Rourke and Sidara sit in silence, not acknowledging.
Venn begins pacing the floor. As he starts to absentmindedly put the bandages back on, Orianna returns, marching up to him. Her face is an emotionless mask, and she's staring right into Venn's eyes. "Orianna?"
Her eyes flash momentarily, and she suddenly strikes Venn square in the nose.
Venn, holding his nose, asks, "What the hell, Ori?…"
Enraged like you've never seen her, she screams into your face, "What the hell indeed, brother? What the hell are you doing here? What the hell do you mean showing up with strangers and in disguise, never introducing yourself? What the hell do you mean springing that horrible comment on Baub and Jakk, who you've known for a decade and who are just as close as family to Mother?" By the end, she's bawling, and you can see her crumpling in on herself.
Venn, gently, "Ori… I need to speak with Mother' doctors. Is she here?"
Softly, Orianna replies, "Yes, she's here…. she's here. She's in the old game-room… it's been converted… she's there with Father…." Sighing, she pulls herself together, blotchy and nearly shaking with exhaustion. "Come along, Venn, I'll take you to see her. Your… your servants can wait here," she says, barely glancing at Sidara and Rourke.
Instead, Venn gestures for Rourke to approach. "Ori, this is Katiara. She's a doctor. She's familiar with the medicine and needs to speak with mother's doctors…"
Distractely, Ori glances at her for a moment, finally whispering, "Yes, fine, whatever…." Rourke follows Venn into the house as Sidara again sits in the front room to wait.
Venn follows Ori to the newly-christened medical ward. Upon entry, Venn sees a downright astounding array of medical equipment. A full team of doctors stands in the corner with Venn's father quietly discussing something he can't hear. Venn's mother lies in a heavily-modified medbed surrounded by high-tech diagnostic equipment. She appears gaunt and shakes constantly, and her eyes occasionally flutter closed. No one seems to notice as Venn comes in. Distractedly, in the back of his mind, he realizes that his father's accounts must look like a shuttle with a failed repulsor if he's been paying for this equipment for more than a few days.
Venn simply stands near the door for a moment, taking in the scene in a slightly-traumatized, open-mouthed stupor. Orianna walks quickly over to kneel beside the bed. Rourke gently touches Venn on the arm, looking questioningly at him, then quietly gesturing towards the team in the corner. At Venn's nod, Rourke quietly walks over to the corner with the case, joining his father and the medical team. No one seems to have noticed Venn. In the back of his mind, he hears Rourke murmur an introduction, and then the murmuring of medical terms continues nearly unabated. Venn slowly walks over to the bed, the same side as Orianna. He kneels down, staring at his mother "Mother?…" he whispers.
Illiara is sleeping fitfully. Orianna is sitting next to her and holding her hand, but she, too, appears to have fallen asleep. Venn kneels next to Orianna, and puts his hand over both of theirs. Tears are quietly flowing now. Venn sits that way for an undetermined-to-him period of time then feel a presence behind him.
Venn turns to see his father standing behind him. He, too, looks haggard. He gently shakes Orianna awake, then helps her to her feet as he greets you. "Venn, it's nice of you to come. Please, come along. We need to give your mother some rest. She'll… she'll come out of the sedation in a few more hours. Until then, you can help me put your sister to bed, and you can show your crew to their rooms as well." He's speaking slowly, determinedly, but the words are almost on autopilot; Venn can see his mind working over and over behind the scenes. And worst of all, Venn sees the most horrible thing behind his eyes: hope.
And worse yet, Venn, too, is finding himself filling with hope.
Mother and Father
With nothing else to do and hours to wait, Venn reluctantly goes to his room intending to sleep. Instead, though, he tosses and turns for most of the time, falling asleep for maybe 10 minutes before the household once again wakes. Ori wakes Venn, informing him that Rourke is already with the medical team. They're currently debating whether or not to proceed with the experimental treatment, and they're waiting on your father's and mother's decisions. Ori still seems distant and emotionless; this whole situation is obviously taking an extreme toll on her.
Venn gets up groggily, but quickly. He moves to his sister, and (tries) to give her a hug. When Venn hugs Ori, she stiffens for a moment, and then she just breaks down.
Quietly, Venn says, "I'm sorry it took me so long to come home…"
Ori's saying something, but Venn can't understand a word of it. She's sobbing too hard to enunciate.
Hugging her and giving her a back rub, Venn says, "I missed my big sister." After a slight pause, he adds, "Not the punches, though…"
After a minute, she valiantly pulls herself together. She smiles weakly and says, "Come along. We should go see Mother."
He walks with her, holding her arm… "How are the kids?"
Ori makes distracted small talk with Venn, but he can tell she's once again distracted by everything weighing on her mind. "They're fine."
He makes small talk back … growing quiet as they approach Mother's room.
Approaching the room, Venn hears only the soft beeping of machines. However, upon entry, Venn sees that Rourke is talking softly with your mother. Iliiara looks almost nothing like herself, she's lost so much weight, but her voice is still clearly Venn's mothers voice, if somewhat raspy and breathless.
Venn will let Ori go and slowly approach his mother's bed, pausing at the foot until she finishes speaking with Rourke. Rourke finishes up with Illiara and returns to the corner of the room where, once again, your father is discussing something quietly with the medical team. This time, however, the center of the discussion appears to be Venn's mystical cure; the case is open and powered on, and it appears to be running a self-diagnostic of some sort.
Venn will go kneel by next to Illiara. "Mother…" take her hand and move to kiss her forehead.
"Oh, Venn… Venn… It's so good to see you again…"
"I'm sorry I didn't come home sooner, Mother… If… if I'd known…" starting to tear up, trying not to, speaking very quickly.
"Venn… there's more important stuff going on in this galaxy than me, dear."
few tears fall at that "barely…" tries to get a hold of himself… "Did they tell you about the treatment?"
"Yes, dear. Your darling surgeon just went over it with me. I understand it's very risky…." Venn's father chooses that moment to break away from the medical team and walk over to Illiara. Venn starts to stand, instinctively, but just straightens.
"Are you sure about this, dear?" he whispers to your mother. She just nods.
Breathlessly, Venn waits to see what has happened. Rourke comes over to Venn and whispers to him, "Your mother has decided to move forward with the treatment."
Over the next couple of hours, Venn speaks quietly to his mother as the medical team carefully hooks up a series of epidural taps. Despite their careful anesthesia, you can tell that the procedure isn't comfortable for her. She bears it all with grace, though; significantly more grace than Ori, who can't bear to watch and leaves the room weeping part-way through the procedure. Venn's father escorts her out. Rourke is still in the room, though the medical team is no longer really discussing anything with her. Apparently, she's told them everything she knows.
Throughout the procedure, Venn stays with Illiara, holding her hand and talking to her. Through the procedure, Illiara seems to only want to talk to Venn about what's going on in the galaxy. She knows that Venn is with the Rebellion somehow, but she doesn't know — and doesn't really want to know — the details. She just seems impressed by the "charitable work" Venn is doing now, and Venn can see that she even seems a little guilty that he's there.
When the medical team finally has everything carefully hooked up, they ask Venn to leave; they're going to sedate Illiara again during the procedure per the system's instructions. Agreeing, he tells his mother "I love you" and departs.
After the team began the procedure on Illiara, Venn tracked down Rourke to ask some questions. How long with the procedure take? When will they know if it's working?
Rourke, to summarize, is going to delicately guide Venn to a quiet, empty room while she's explaining the procedures to him. They take a few hours to administer, and the results won't be clear for a week. Ending up in the kitchen, Venn asks for a minute to "make himself a sandwich," promising to talk to Rourke soon.
Rourke corners Venn for a few hours, getting him to open up about his family and his childhood. He eventually admits that everything right now seems surreal; he feels like he's spinning out of control, in Zero-G with a broken tether. Rourke quiets up while Venn talks; her goal is just to allow him to get some of this off his chest.
Once Venn has talked himself out, Rourke excuses herself to track down Orianna. She plans to talk to her as well; Ori is obviously buried under the events of the past few months and in desperate need of a helping hand.
The First Day of Treatment
There's not much else that will happen during the day. Everyone's stressed but secretly hopeful, and everyone's sort of deliberately avoiding one another to avoid having to face that terrifying hope.
Eventually, Venn tracks down Ori. Once he does, they have a long talk. Venn finds out that she's been doing all of Illiara's work, all of her own work, supervising medical treatments, and trying to raise and maintain her family. This has left her flying back and forth almost every day for the past three or four months at least. She's probably not slept more than 2 or 3 continuous hours in that entire time, and she's taking this entire situation extraordinarily hard. Venn gets the impression that she thinks she has to BE Illiara now now as well as herself, and she just doesn't know how to handle it. Venn tries to comfort her as best as he can, apologizing for not returning sooner. He's here now, though, and he promises to support her as much as he can. He suggests she try to get some real sleep so that they can see how things are going when Illiara is through the first procedure, and he walks her to her room and leaves her.
Surprisingly Sentimental Sidara
As Venn is wandering through the house aimlessly, lost in thought and waiting for the procedure to end so that he can see his mother again, he finds himself drifting into parts of the house where his mother would spend her off-hours. He wanders into a crafting-room that Illiara had painstakingly set up when he was still a child. As he slowly ambles into the room, he notices Sidara standing to the side of the room, examining some of the old paintings Illiara had practiced on when she was just learning. As he enters, she turns to him, surprised to see him there. "Si… Venn," she reconsiders cautiously, taking a small half-step towards him. Her face seems strained with emotion, and it strikes a cold, logical part of Venn deep inside that it doesn't make sense… after all, she doesn't even know Illiara.
Seeing "the drill sergeant" abruptly brings Venn out of his thoughts into a brief business-mode… but then noticing her behavior… Sidara… I'm… sorry to have been neglecting you… are you all right?" he says, taking a cautious step or two towards her, but remaining 4 or 5 feet away.
"… Yes, yes, I'm fine…. I'm fine. But how… how are you holding up? Is everything…?" she trails off.
"I, uh, I think I should apologize. I'm afraid I've been quite insensitive to you… I've been worrying to death that I may lose one of my own family… and I completely forgot the terrible losses you've already suffered… pause… "I wish I were dealing with things with half the grace you've shown…"
Sidara tentatively takes another half-step toward Venn. Her eyes are a bit reddened, but she's obviously dried her face. She tentatively reaches out, unsure, to pat Venn's arm.
he lets her… looking into her eyes… and he sees a lot there… and in his state is definitely feeling more than he has been… he waits for a moment, then moves to hug her… more to comfort her…
Sidara's not good at bonding with people emotionally. She's a very physical person, and she's also wracked with her own grief. She's going to take that as comfort, but she doesn't really know what to do with it separate from sex. That's where she sees this going unless Venn stops things. (Essentially, that's the only way she knows how to comfort Venn, and also herself, when it comes right down to it.)
They lock eyes for a moment, then kiss. Venn will go along with that. As soon as she moves to do something more, he would gently stop her… and himself. Collect himself for a moment. pause. "I… need to be present. For when news comes in on my mother… I'd like to… talk with you later. Would that be all right, Sidara?" Venn stays a minute longer, finally reluctantly pulling away. "I think I need to get some sleep… tomorrow?"
Confused and concerned, but trying not to show it, Sidara agrees and leaves Venn to return to his chambers.
TODO change "yous" to Venns, etc.
As you're pacing the house again, both trying to avoid Sidara a tiny bit and hoping to hear that your mother has once again come out of sedation, you hear a sudden commotion from outside. Suddenly, amazingly, two of the household bodyguards appear out of nowhere and fly past, sidearms drawn.
I follow, drawig my own pistol… though hanging back so I don't burst out and be seen by someone I don't want to be seen by…
As you bust out of the rear doors, you see Sidara coming from around the side of the house, her sidearm drawn as well. More bodyguards are converging on the back gardens, but they're paying no attention to you. Instead, all eyes are focused on a TIE Interceptor that is swooping down toward the house at a relatively rapid pace.
Take position behind a column or something, but aim my blaster at the TIE and set it to kill instead of stun… for all the good it's likely to do…
Nearby, you see bodyguards taking well-practiced positions and setting up defenses. Surprisingly, though, no one opens fire as the TIE swoops into a tight corkscrew and begins to vector in on what is clearly a landing run.
Venn tells Sidara to get inside the house as he does the same, heading to a window.
As you look out the window, you see that the TIE has set down and the pilot has exited. As she doffs her helmet, you don't manage to see her face, but you catch a glimpse of long brown-red hair.
You hear muffled shouting from the yard, and the only thing you clearly hear as the door opens, then slams, is "BORROWED!" Shara's voice…? Yes, which is confirmed a moment later when she rounds the corner and nearly collides with you at a half-run.
Venn greets her, "Shara," studying her reaction
She's momentarily distracted and completely taken aback, then greets you with a raucous, "What the HELL do you think you're DOING here!? You're bloody DEAD!"
Brotherly grin… "It didn't really take."
"I'm goddamn read in, you doof! I'm supposed to report you! Well, I'm not technically supposed to be read in, but still…."
Venn quickly responds, "… well, don't. I imagine you're should't have too much diffiulty chaning the subject given your… unusual means of arrival."
Shara replies, "I said it's BORROWED!"
Hearing all the ruckus, Ori and Rourke sleepily approach from down various hallways. Venn notices that Ori takes on a sudden wariness when she sees Shara.
"Since when does ADF use TIE fighters, anyway? Did the head of the fighter corps sleep with th High ouncilor's wife?.."
"Since the Empire's increased their presence in-system. Since Alderaan… since you 'died'…"
Ori finally steps into the room and tentatively greets Shara. Shara, slightly coolly, returns the greeting. You also notice Sidara's slight wince when Shara mentions Alderaan. Rourke, yawning, also introduces herself to Shara as one of the medical team.
"Mother's just finishing up the initial stages of a new treatment." gestures to Sidara… "This is Sidara. She's a friend." Shara responds to that with a slight "hmph" before introducing herself to Sidara.
Venn notes the attitude. "Are we likely to get a visit soon from any naval personnel interested in your borrowed interceptor? If so, I may have to make arrangements to leave sooner than expected."
"No, I'm cleared. I have a three-day. Speaking of which, as happy as I am to see you, I came to see Mother. Where is she? How is she?"
With that, Orianna steps forward again to fill Shara in on everything that's going on. For the next hour, the group chats amongst itself, letting Shara know about the new treatment and everything that's happened over the last 36 hours.
After everything settles back down, Venn decides to find Sidara and ask her to speak with him somewhere more private. Eventually, he tracks her down in the kitchen, idly picking at some food with some other servants. Venn tries to just catch her eye - not loudly ask her for a word. After a minute, he succeeds. She quickly cleans up her food and comes over to speak to him.
Quietly, Venn asks her if she wouldn't mind speaking with him somewhere with fewer ears. Hiding her nerves, but sort of poorly, she nods. As she follows, he tries to keep up some conversation, asking, "What's the latest word from Prospect?"
Confused, she replies that there hasn't been any news, really, and they fall silent again as they walk through the house. Venn leads her back to the crafts room. Heading into the crafts room, he'll sit down on a couch, and wait to see if she does the same. She pauses momentarily, then sits down next to Venn.
He eases in the conversation, asking her if her accomodations are all right. He then moves on to basically apologize for some of the things his family/staff have said/done that may have come off as rude. "Normally, Orianna and Shara are very kind and polite, and Father is very charming to guests… It's just been a very difficult time for the family…" Throughout the conversation, she murmurs the occasional acknowledgement, but her heart's not really in it.
Venn pauses for a moment to gather his thoughts, then continues, "When we were in here before… when we kissed…" He can see that she's sort of holding her breath as he broaches this subject. "First of all, I'm sorry for, well, leaving it in the air… I've just been distraught and off my feet these last few days, and I was surprised…. I was… I enjoyed it quite a lot."
Venn pauses, and a small sobby-chuckle escapes from Sidara's lips. Venn steals a glance at her. She's not crying, but her eyes are watery. In response, Venn smiles softly, continuing, "Good… It just seemed like you were feeling vulnerable, and I was afraid you might feel I was taking advantage."
Nearly whispering, she says, "I thought you might think the same."
Venn chuckles a bit at their shared unfounded worry as Sidara scoots slightly closer to him.
Venn continues, "Well, now that we're both agreed that we liked our last meeting… I suppose we need to figure out wht we want to do now."
"….I have an idea," she whispers as she moves in to kiss Venn.
Venn kisses her back. While there's still the looming shadows of Kessel and his mother in the background, and he still feels a small twinge of guilt over the military situation… he's far more centered now, and he knows what he wants now. After kissing Sidara for a while, Venn says, "My mother should be waking up soon. I'm going to stay with her a while. Afterwards… perhaps we could meet and "talk" some more in my room?…"
She nods, then reluctantly gets up and smooths down her civvies, heading towards the door.
As she starts to leave, Venn stops her momentarily by saying, "Sidara, one more thing… I know I told the crew that I would be playing quite 'loose' with interpersonal regulations, and I still believe that's a good idea. The way a team like this lives, relatonships among the crew are bound to happen, and are probably a positive thing… as long as it doesn't affect the mission, and as long as it's discreet. So, let's agree that we won't let this affect the mission. And, since I'm the commander an you're the senior non-com… I think we have a responsibility to try to be particularly discreet… Okay?"
Sidara smiles slightly and nods, then turns again to leave Venn alone with his thoughts.
Back With the Family
Here's what you find out over the week, then. Shara can't stick around. She's still the same hyperactive and hyperdedicated girl you knew, but she's withdrawn from the family a bit. You get the feeling she's doing something she's not talking about.
I already filled you in about Ori.
You don't hear from Galen, and the family isn't really discussing him. Something's changed with him recently that no one wants to talk about, and if you bring him up, everyone just kind of steers the conversation away, particularly if your father's around. When Venn presses Orianna for more information, she just gets angry and won't speak with him.
Your father, meanwhile, is incredibly distracted, and he just seems emotionally almost dead. He only really responds to things normally when he's talking quietly to your mother. Other than that, he's just going through the motions. Venn tries to converse with him but can barely get answers from him at most times.
After the first 48 hours, Rourke is no longer really working with the medical team. She initially starts to try to get you to open up, but once she kind of recognizes you're handling things (maybe not perfectly, but you're dealing), she shifts her focus to Ori (and Shara while she's there). She's keeping herself quite busy, surprisingly busy.
Sidara seems to be always nearby, but never really in the room. She seems like she's not exactly sure what to do with herself when she's not "comforting" Venn. Any time she can get him alone, she does, but he can tell she's trying not to pressure him.
A Week Later
Okay, it's the morning of the 8th day after your arrival at the manor. There's been no information to date on any change in Venn's mother's condition, but at least she hasn't been getting any worse. As usual, the family and the medical team shuffle quietly into the room to review the morning results. As with the past few days, the entire family has their fingers crossed, hoping for the best. Over the past week, everyone's become something of an expert at reading the charts and interpreting the diagnostic screens. The panels have shown the same data, day in and day out, every day for the past 6. The team regards this as a generally positive sign, but they have been careful not to get anyone's hopes up.
As you enter and look at the readouts today, though, something looks very different. The medical team is conferring quietly but animatedly, going over the displayed data with a fine-toothed comb; meanwhile, Ori and your father are simply staring at the neurological activity readouts, nervous and on the verge of crying.
Venn is kneeling by his mother, speaking to her and holding her hand, mostly. She's the only one in the room who seems calm. She seems to have accepted that she's dying, and she's just been trying to spend what time she can with the family. She's the only one who seems to have accepted that, though.
Venn's trying to be calm and (pretty much realizing what she wants), is trying to be there for her and talk to her and maybe joke with her, but inside, he's absolutely terrified. If he didnt feel he had been helping somewhat by talking to her, he would probably be like his father or worse. He can't do anything else. His mother is dying and he can't do anything. He's waiting with bated breath for the med team to figure out what's going on.
After a few minutes, the medical team begins to confer with your father. After a moment, he just breaks down and cries, something you haven't seen since you got here. Ven listens in and looks at the medical team for information. They look cautiously optimistic, and you catch little snippets: "neurological regeneration" and "synaptic function increased by 20%"
Eventually, the medical team talks to you mother, than finally talks to the family as a whole. They explain that the situation looks promising, and that there has been some neurological regeneration. They dont' want to leap to any conclusions or give anyone any false hope, but they'd like to proceed with the remainder of the treatment.
Venn is overjoyed. Unless there are scenes that need to be run, they'll be contacting the ship and preparing to leave that evening. (Venn would ask for some discreet, swift transport back to the city where the docks are). Venn would spend the rest of the day talking to and saying goodbye to his family. He'll epecially be talking to his mother, say he's sorry, but he has to go, and tells her he loves her and says goodbye, hoping it's not the last time he'll see his mother, or the rest of his family, for that matter. Venn, Rourke, and Sidara take a private limo (Ori's, and she accompanies them) back to the ship.
Before he leaves, Venn will also ask his father if he could arrange a private way for Venn and they to leave messages, as comng back might not alwys be an option, and he really needs to know how mother is doing, particularly if he needs to find the doctor again. He'll also hand over all the information aout the doctor that they know about.
You can contact them via Third Fleet, but rarely. It's very risky.
Upon arrival in system, the Prospect receives what appears to be a garbled message on a largely disused communications channel, followed quickly by a system-control apology for interference due to solar flare activity. A few hours later, as they're in the pattern, Orden requests a leave while on-planet. Venn distractedly grants it.
Tam, now torn between covering Venn and Orden, doesn't know what to do next. Sidara, noticing, insists (essentially "orders") that he go with Orden, stating that she will cover Venn while on-world. Reluctantly, Tam agrees, leaving Venn in Sidara's capable hands. He then begins the difficult process of determining how to convince Orden…. Thankfully, he's saved from most of that by Venn's realization that Orden will be on Antaras alone. Venn orders Tam to go with her to keep her safe (mostly from herself).
As soon as Venn leaves the Prospect, Orden fades off the bridge and back into her quarters. A few minutes go by before Kane and Tam even notice that she'd gone. As soon as Tam realizes that she's left the bridge, he leaves his duty station to find her. He runs into her carrying a pack and heading from her quarters towards the loading ramp. Tam tries to intercept her, even to ask her what she's up to, but all she's admit to is that she's got "some business to do." Swearing under his breath, Tam quickly grabs his sidearm and a go-bag and runs out of the ship after her, comm-ing Kane as they leave that they're heading out.
Outside the ship, Tam finally catches up with Orden, who immediately complains that he's following her. Tam has to physically run after her to keep up as she keeps muttering about him needing to go back to the Prospect. Tam insists that he's practically been ordered to stay with her to ensure that she has an armed escort in case of any danger. Reluctantly, Orden agrees that Tam can accompany her, so long as he stays "Double-super secret-quiet, okay?" She then reminds him that she has "more ranks than you, okay, so you have to listen to me now." Interpreting this as the closest thing he's going to get to a "direct order," Tam agrees.
Incom-ing, Don't Rush Me
For the next couple of hours, Tam semi-patiently but persistently tries to get Orden to explain to him exactly what's going on as they're ferried through the streets of the city by various taxi services. After travelling, as best Tam can tell, around in a random pattern for the best part of a day, Orden finally directs a droid-taxi to bring the two of them to a hotel where she's reserved a room.
Frustrated and annoyed, Tam follows Orden into the hotel room. When they finally have checked in and taken the lift to their temporary quarters, Tam blockades Orden into the room.
With forced calm, Tam says, "Listen, I know that you said this is critically secret mission, but you've been putting me off all day. I need to know what's going on if I'm going to protect you."
Interrupting him with an exasperated sigh, Orden quickly and violently pulls her bodgie-scanner from her satchel. Quickly scanning the room, she finally nods once, then says, "Okay, okay. Listen, I said double-secret super-quiet, okay? No telling, not even the Commander. He didn't get the clearances, I'm not supposed to tell you, either, but I have to, so you better not mess this up!"
Confused, Tam's annoyance starts to drain away: considering he's never heard Orden this serious, he figures she has a reason to be concerned. He simply nods in acknowledgement.
"Okay, well, that communications burst when we got here? I lied about that, that wasn't just garbledy-gook. It was a secret message, and I can decode those. So now we're here, and we're gonna meet some secret guy, and he's gonna tell us why the message. And since you followed me, I guess you gotta help now."
"… Okay, then," Tam considers. "But… what's the plan? We're going to meet someone - where and when? Do you need me to scout the meeting location?"
Orden looks thoughtful for a moment. "Okay, yeah, that's good! Do that scout thing in the bar. I'll be here, then you come back. We've got until 7."
Finally slightly less confused than before, Tam agrees, but insists that Orden stay put until he returns. He then heads down to begin looking around the hotel bar.
Pour Me a Galen
With Orden up in the room doing God-knows-what, Tam heads down to the bar. He pokes around for a bit, looking around for anyone suspicious, but after half an hour of waiting, he's ready to give up. As he's walking back up to the bar to settle up, however, he notices a slightly-furtive young man walking in… a man who, at first glance, looks surprisingly like Venn! Looking twice, the man clearly isn't Venn, but he looks considerably like him.
Tam, suspicious, decides to order another drink instead of settling up. Watching, he notes that the young man whispered something to the bartender as he retrieved his drink and slipped the bartender some extra credits. Tam, pretending to be waiting for someone, pauses for a few minutes while he drinks; he then calls up to Orden in the room.
Tam: "Are you here? Oh, good, good. I'll come out and meet you - I've just been waiting in the bar."
Tam settles up and walks out of the bar, then once he's sure he's not been followed, runs quickly up to the room. When he reaches the room, he pops in to grab Orden. He shuts the door firmly and begins to fill her in on what he's seen. "I've spotted someone suspicious down in the bar, possibly your conta—" he stammers to a stop as he notices Orden's only half-dressed and in the process of putting on a very fancy outfit the likes of which he's never seen on her before. It looks much more like something from Rourke's closet than from hers.
Orden, apparently completely unaware, starts asking questions about the suspicious person as she finishes pulling on her dress. Tam, distracted and confused, stammers out answers, describing the man and his apparent nervousness. As he's finishing describing the man, Orden interrupts him, saying, "Yeah, okay, good. Your clothes are no good. I've been researching Rourke, and I've developed this program that shows how you should dress for different things, and so you need to change. Oh… and I borrowed some of your money, because your clothes are bad." While saying this, she pulls out some brand-new clothing, much higher-end and more businesslike than anything that Tam would normally wear. "I wouldn't have, but I had to, so you can be mad at me later, but change," rolls out of her mouth like a torrent as she pushes the clothes at him. "Now. We have to hurry now."
Embarrassed but chided, Tam slides out of his "officer-chic" casualwear and into the more formal business attire while Orden inspects him with an unnerving eye. "No, Rourke's magazines say that should be tucked in like this.", etc.
Rushed and chided, Tam awkwardly pulls on his new clothing; confused, he follows Orden as she rushes out of the room.
The pair make it down to the bar, Tam finally realizing he looks like a corporate bodyguard while Orden looks like an elegant (or at least semi-elegant) and wealthy lady. As they enter the bar, Orden acknowledges the suspicious-looking young man, who gestures for them to come sit down with him.
After they exchange some apparent code-phrases (of which Tam was completely unaware), the young man sets down and activates a discrete sound-isolation device. He then quietly introduces himself as "Galen" and begins to explain the situation. "Incom has been operating facilities on Antaras for the better part of three years, and up to now they've remained hidden from the Imperial auditors and analysts. However, with the increased Imperial presence, the intelligence analysts have started getting close to discovering some shady financials covering their operations. I have some ideas and a lot of access, but I need help cloaking these financials one way or another from the Empire. I'd like you to pose as a corporate leader and present some information for a shell company, leading the Imperial analysts off Incom's trail. I'll take care of the rest."
During the conversation, Orden (as is her wont) generally sits quietly; with her new outfit, however, she looks less confused and out of place and more haughty and self-assured. At the end of "Galen's" speech, she begins throwing out options and complications. Unable to follow the details, Tam just watches the room, playing the security officer role he's been trust into.
After hearing out Galen's plan, Orden interjects "Yes, yes, this is all fine, but it won't work. We need to tap a node directly to make this all work. I don't have one of those."
Galen looks sheepish and quietly agrees, "I know. But we do have a node here, and if you think you can tap it…."
Exasperated, Orden sighs, "Fine, give me all your data and the cover packet."
After she has the data, Orden stands to leave. Galen quickly follows suit, and Tam snaps out of his security-daze to escort her out of the restaurant.
Node Thy Enemy
Tam spends the second day away from the Prospect listening intently if confusedly to Orden's explanation of what they have to do. "Galen" has provided Orden with falsified corporate records and false identities for both her and Tam (as well as a series of completely fake employees). The next day, Orden must meet with Imperial auditors and present them with the data; she'll have to sell the story that she's a corporate investor who has been quietly providing venture capital to various startups on Antaras and is now moving to take over and sell off some of her assets. Tam will be posing as her security chief, "so I still have all the ranks, and you gotta listen to me unless someone starts shooting, this is important."
The records that Galen provided, however, aren't good for anything unless they can be directly uploaded from a core HoloNet node; anything less secure than a major relay, and they'll be too easy to flag as fakes. As a result, Tam has to spend the day researching the HoloNet node that Galen told them about. Meanwhile, Orden needs to put the finishing touches on all of the necessary forgeries and prepare her bureaucracy-reports for the Imperial analysts. More critically, the forgeries have to be uploaded as soon as possible after the meeting; before would have been preferable, but they have no time before. The Imperials will have all the records cross-checked within six hours of the meeting, so they'll need to get the records in quickly.
Tam reluctantly leaves Orden in the hotel with the promise that she won't leave the room until after he gets back, "even though you do have all the ranks." Orden, seemingly unaware that she's being slightly teased, agrees, saying she has too much to do anyway.
Tam spends the majority of the day feeling his way around the city. Galen's research gives him a starting knowledge base, but he has to spend a lot of shoe leather checking his work. Tam confirms that the HoloNet node is a legacy from the Old Republic and is located in the old access and maintenance tunnels below the city proper. The node, a data-center-sized subbasement, used to be guarded by a contingent of civil law enforcement officers; since the Imperial occupation, however, the Imperials have placed Stormtroopers in charge of the operation. Counterintuitively, this is something of a stroke of luck for Tam, as he understands their procedures well enough to be able to improvise around them on the fly if needed… he hopes.
Returning to the room at a late dinnertime hour, Tam finds Orden staring at a datapad with almost no acknowledgement of the surrounding world. Tam tries and fails to get her attention for a few minutes, then, exhausted, sits down on his bed to wait for her to finish. An hour and a half later, she finally looks up to ask, "When did you get here? Never mind, come here now." She pokes and prods him for a few minutes and enters a bunch of meaningless gibberish into her datapad, then finally frowns and says, "I'm hungry."
Orden then quickly fills Tam in on the details. He is her chief security officer, Maxir Syko. She is the CEO of Eriss Capital, Coria Beren. She has been funding startups with venture capital for years now, but only operating in "stealth mode" so that corporate raiders wouldn't be able to flood her out. Recently, she's hit a decision point and has decided to come out of "stealth mode." She's on Antaras temporarily to revise some of her businesses and sell off some of her underperforming assets, after which time she will hand over day-to-day control of the local businesses to a recently-hired Antaran named Rharo Enkows. Rharo doesn't exist, but his actions will be performed by Galen, and the entire array of businesses is just a series of shell companies under which Incom can hide their operations on Antaras.
Tam and Orden then grab a rushed late dinner where Tam can't manage to get more than three consecutive words out of Orden's mouth. Giving up, he returns with her to the room where they both crash.
The Coruscant Inquisition
Early on the morning of the third day, Tam wakes as usual. As he's preparing to do his early morning PT, Orden flops out of her bed with a groggy "Mrph." She looks at him and says, "No. Dressed. Now. Preparations."
Sighing, Tam shrugs and heads into the 'fresher to put on his fancy new clothing. As soon as he's done, Orden exhanges places with him and is out faster than he would have ever expected.
As soon as she exits the fresher, Orden seems a changed person. She's a little more imposing than usual. She immediately begins drilling Tam about his lines for the meeting today, and she doesn't let up until her datapad buzzes to inform them that they need to leave.
The rest of the day is spent in some of the most intense interrogations Tam has ever seen without physical contact between the participants. By the time the Imperial inquisitors dismiss the two, the sun has long been down.
Tapping the Node
With time running out, Tam and Orden hurry back to the hotel to change. Tam notices that they're being tailed by Imperials as they head back. After returning to the room and changing, they've already lost an hour and a half, and it takes them another half hour at best to make it to the node's location. Tam knows this will be complicated by the tail.
Tam scouts the hotel under the cover of looking for a meal. Since the hotel is relatively high-end, they've caught a break. The Imperials have taken up station outside. Tam steals a page from Kane's book and returns to meet up with Orden, telling her that they will have to leave the hotel through the kitchen.
The two give the Imperials the slip, but they lose an hour and a half tracking obtusely to the building in which the HoloNet node is located. Orden logs them in to the building using some forged credentials. Once there, Tam distracts building security by questioning them about their protocols, laying down a line that some important Imperial representatives will be visiting tomorrow. Orden takes that opportunity to suborn a few building sensors, giving them a couple of minutes unobserved. In the sensor confusion, they slip away to an unobserved janitorial closet. Once there, they switch outfits into building maintenance gear. Tam forces himself not to allow this to distract him… must keep his mind on the mission… but seriously, does she not even care that I'm right here?
Shaking off his temporary distraction, Tam follows Orden back out into the hall. She burns another pair of false IDs getting them into the subbasement before the building sensors revert to active scanning.
Carrying their false maintenance kits, Tam and Orden slump their way toward the HoloNet data center. As planned, Tam takes over the discussions with the Imperial guards. Pretending to be a washout, he hands over the falsified maintenance orders, then attempts to distract the Stormtroopers by talking them up and telling them how he'd tried to make it to the Academy but just couldn't quite cut it. Interrupting them with question after question, he manages to annoy the Stormtroopers just enough to make them want him out of their face, but not enough that they'd shoot him. They make do with a cursory check of the maintenance orders and wave him through, performing a more detailed check immediately after they pass.
As the Stormtroopers bend to double-check the maintenance orders, Orden plugs in to the main node and uploads background data supporting the falsified maintenance orders. Tam hears the stormtroopers beginning to discuss calling for orders and taking them as prisoners before they find the maintenance orders in the system.
With their cover barely intact, Tam pretends to help (and mostly just does whatever Orden tells him) as Orden begins carefully suborning the hypernet node. They spend an exausting three hours inserting all of the falsified corporate and personal identity information, then another four suborning the node and inserting well-hidden taps for the Rebellion. Exhausted after the long day, they finally pack up and head back to the hotel, realizing only just in time that they are already in the hotel according to the Imperial guards. They barely manage to sneak back in through the locked kitchen, forced to bribe the night guards with the story that they're just a couple who had to sneak away from their friends for a bit for some privacy….
Beat a Repeat
The pair are woken early the next morning (Day 4) by an Imperial summons. Concerned about possible taps, Tam again skips checkin, making it nearly 48 hours since he's contacted the Prospect. He and Orden rush out of their respective beds, unsure of whether or not they've been made. Luckily, they're just pulled into another interrogation session where all of the data they planted the previous night is relentlessly checked and cross-checked. The Imperials even note that the two are "wearing the same clothes. That seems fishy, don't you think?" causing Orden to blush.
Thankfully, Orden's crazy mind manages to keep all the data straight, and after another long day of interrogation, they're told that everything checks out and they're free to leave. Unfortunately, they're still being tailed. As their cover story has them leaving the next morning, they return to the hotel and stay in. Again, Tam considers checking in, but frightened of Imperial eavesdropping, he refrains.
The morning of the fifth day, Orden arranges for their travel to the capital. The Imperials tail Tam and Orden to the shuttle, but once they board, the tail leaves. Breathing a sigh of relief, Tam and Orden pay off the shuttle pilot to leave them and continue on without passengers.
Tam finally quickly checks in with Kane: "Kane, this is Tam, checking in. Know I missed a couple — sorry, have been… unavoidably detained. Back within 24 hours."
However, now Tam and Orden are in the middle of an Imperial-heavy area with almost no remaining cash and no clear way to make it back to the ship. They end up sneaking through various alleys and buildings trying to avoid the Imperials but are eventually cornered by the unaware patrols. Out of options, they are forced to slip into the undercity, accessing a nearby sewage system. Gagging and embarrassed, Orden and Tam sneak most of the way back to the spaceport (nearly 20 kilometers) through the various undertunnels of the city, coming back to the surface only late at night when they feel they can safely dash the last kilometer and a half to the Prospect and her sweet, sweet freshers….
A few days after his return to the ship, Tam has finally begun to compartmentalize and come to terms with the experiences of the previous week. He has managed to mostly get over the embarrassment of being ordered to strip-down unceremoniously in front of Orden; after all, she probably didn't even know what was going on, she was so deep into the nitpicky details of the mission.
Of course, no sooner had that though popped into Tam's head than he heard a buzz at his quarters. Let's see… Kane, Wen, and Starfall were out carousing, leaving Orden and him alone to guard the ship, so only one guess as to who that could be.
Orden: "Tam, I need to explain about the whole clothing-thing. We had to look like those big corporate people. So… sorry about the money. I'll give you your money when I get paid again."
Oh, right. Tam had forgotten about that. Now he didn't have any money, either. Still, there was a pretty critical mission need…. "… yeah, I understand. Listen, don't worry about it. You have to do what you have to do for the mission sometimes." As he said that, he stepped forward a bit, uncertainly, but trying to grasp her arm comrade-like.
As he did, though, Orden stepped back, looking down and squinching her face up. "No, see, that wasn't all, that was just part A. There's also part B, because I had to order you to take your clothes off, and I had to take my clothes off. That wasn't… see, we just… stupid Empire-guy sprung all this on me, and…" she trailed off, confused, trying to find an appropriate analytical description.
Oh, great. So she didn't forget. Lovely. With a part of him that he desperately wanted to smack chanting that it was unfortunate they didn't get to take all their clothes off, Tam forced down his embarrassment to interject, "No, I understand. We were really tight on time. I'm just glad we made it through all of that… amazed, really."
Popping her head up quizzically, Orden turned back to him, looking him directly in the eyes. Momentarily distracted by the thought that this may have been the first time she'd ever looked him directly in the eyes, Tam nearly missed her next statement, "So we're black—er, green?"
Half a second passed before Tam spun his brain back on topic enough to respond. "Oh, yeah, yeah, we're green. We're good."
With that, Orden suddenly flashed a rare smile and bounced out of the room, calling out, "Okay, good. See you after shift, Tam."
Stupid. Really. I mean, what did he expect? Orden's human-interaction skills are… a little piecemeal, and she just doesn't think like a normal person. Why would he have expected her to react like a normal person? Still, the sheer level of frustration trying to deal with that girl! I should just go talk to Rourke, or maybe Starfall. Or, hell, just ask for some leave and go hit the local bars - there's gotta be some fun to be had around here. But for all that I've done it before, I just can't bring myself to do it now! Something's definitely changed in my head… hell, maybe I should go talk to Rourke and see if she's got something for that! Probably just whiskey….
Shaking his head to clear his thoughts, Tam sat back down at his desk to finish writing up his falsified reports of the time away. Orden had compiled a reasonable story about how they'd needed to get some supplies, run into some Imperials, and had needed to rabbit far longer than they'd planned to lose their tail and clear themselves. The story was the best kind of false report — boring, but unfortunately, writing it up allowed Tam's thoughts to wander too much. Was he wrong to keep thinking of a possible ulterior motive, however poorly understood, on Orden's part? URH! Stupid! Just chill out, meditate, and let everything pass. She's just the girl who was too crazy to be scared of you when you showed up in your big blue armor! Write the report, do your kata, and let the days pass like a river, carrying your thoughts away.
Only hours later, when he'd finished his kata, did Tam realize that Orden has't been calling him "the big guy" in a while…. She's been calling him Tam….
Kane the Enabler
Left on the ship with only Specialists deCrion and Starfall for company, Kane decides to explore the mercantile options available to him on Antaras. Having spoken (and gambled) with deCrion and Starfall a bit, he believes that he can convince them to go along with his plans, particularly if he doesn't really plan on violating any real Rebel "rules." Besides, they have enough of the "rebel" (pardon the pun) in them to want to make a bit of semi-dishonest coin that can be put to good use.
Upon hearing Venn's orders, Kane is momentarily taken aback, but he soon decides that his priority order should be to make money; all the others are just secondary and thus not important. Based on this, Kane's initial plan is to take Starfall and Wen to nearby bar to drink and brainstorm how to make some money.
Wen, of course, suggests gambling.
Kane: "Let's call gambling Plan B - but I like the initiative." Turning to Starfall, he adds, "And, uh, by the way, Starfall, I'd like to replace that dose of synthetic adrenaline Tam used on me when I broke my fingers… any idea who on this planet would be in a position to sell something like that? I just happen to have a database of medical companies, maybe you could help me sift through them?"
Wen's talking, Starfall's mostly listening and drinking. Wen: "Well, if you wanna pick up cargo, we'd have to find something we know we could move. What's that? Food or other perishables? Or is there something else you think you could sell quickly and turn a profit? I mean, hell, this is one nice world… they must have SOMETHING…."
Meanwhile, Starfall replies as well. "Well, that's just a matter of finding a bribe-prone medical office, right?" Starfall replies. "But, yeah, I'm game…."
Kane: "Excellent. I've got a list of dry goods I think they'd eat up on the Kessel Asteroid, but I honestly don't expect the Hutt to give us such a great price on it, and it would be foolhardy to try and go around him when we left on such nice terms." Thinking to himself, "So, that'll be our front."
Catching his thoughts, Kane then asks Starfall how she'd go about finding a medical professional that's bribeable, since it was her idea and she has some medical industry experience.
Considering for a moment, Starfall thoughtfully replies, "Well, the guys who put out all the big, blaring advertisements always seemed to be kinda skeezy. They might not be the most approachable, but if you can find a way to talk to them, they seem like the type to maybe value money over the Oath, if you know what I mean…."
Thinking on this, Kane asks Wen to give him a hand making contacts. He also asks Wen if he thinks they have time to do this, given Venn's warnings about having to leave in a hurry.
Wen grins, "What's the worst that could happen? We just cut and run?"
Kane's face falls. "Yeah, I'd… like to try and limit our exposure on this… I mean we could make a lot of trips back here in the future, if we play this right…" In the back of Kane's mind, the wheels are spinning, and he's thinking "What have I begun?"
Wen characteristically waves that off. "Sure, sure. I mean, we don't wanna abort, but hey, we're talking worst case, yeah?"
Starfall looks less certain, but still game.
Kane realizes his own sudden lapse in attention, and the horrifying realization that it coincides with one his commanding officer made. "Okay. I'ma head back to the ship. Wen, I'm assuming you wanna play this by ear?"
Wen shrugs, "sure."
"All right. Comm us if on the encrypted channel if you need us. Otherwise, just check in when you have some leads. Tormorrow at the latest. Starfall, go ahead and take a little leave, but tomorrow I want you watching the ship. Any questions or concerns?"
Neither one seems to have any. They just finish up their meals, chat, that sort of thing.
Awesome. Okay. I head back to the ship, feeling a little self-conscious about leaving that stupid satchel in my quarters. Why didn't I bring it with me? It would have looked perfectly normal for a guy on shore leave to carry some baggage with him. Stupid, stupid! Trying to keep my wits about me and maintain situational awareness as I casually stroll back to the ship.
No problems - the ship is still secure, and the satchel's still in place. After all, this isn't Mos Eisley.
Breathe a sigh of relief. Gonna peek inside the satchel, make sure everything's okay. Come to think of it, Kane has noticed much less Imperial presence than he'd been led to believe — perhaps they're mostly in the largest cities and in orbit?
He's gonna hit up the local hypernet, figure out who the big suppliers are, where the space trade comes through, and how the locals dress and talk. His goal is to figure out how to make himself look like an appealing businessman.
In the middle of your day, you come across a name you thought you'd never see again. You have to double- and triple-check to make sure, but one of your Alderaanian contacts must have made it off planet safely and emigrated to Antaras. makes sense - the worlds are sort of similar in a lot of little ways…
An Old Friend
Kane finds out that a contact he'd made on Alderaan, a man ho goes by the alias Davin Finnall, is now safely on Antaras. On Alderaan, Davin used to mostly act as a "fixer"; Kane doesn't know how he's operating on Antaras yet.
Actually, Kane is thrilled on at least three levels.
There's the organic, OMG you're alive!
There's the rebel in him thinking "FUCK YEAH, even when you blow the PLANET out from under us we're operating outta your star system!"
And then there's the tactical layer of "sweet, this saves me the groundwork I thought I would need to do."
Okay so I send him an email, Hey Davin! Good to see you man! How's business? You got time for a drink tomorrow? (I assume you'll drop in some references to who you are, obscure ones, but enough that he can figure out your identity.)
You get ping back later that day. "Leen, nice to hear from you. How long are you in town? I'd love a drink. Why don't we meet up at The Dockside this evening?"
Meanwhile, Wen has spent the morning getting a bit of the lay of the land. He comes back to inform Kane that he hasn't heard much of anything in terms of an Imperial presence in this city, but he also hasn't found any direct leads yet.
"Okay. I actually lucked out. It turns out a contact I made back on Aalderann survived the destruction of the planet and has set up shop here!"
"Oh? " Wen asks, raising an eyebrow. "He a trustworthy sort?"
"Depends who you trust." Kane replies with a slight smirk.
So, later on, you find The Dockside. It's a mid-scale restaurant/pub that is, as its name suggests, near the spaceport. Kane arrives in the morning to check it out, case the place, but nothing seems amiss. Later in the evening, he returns for his meeting with Davin. Wen and Starfall are both up for some fucking food made not by a processor, so Kane invites Starfall along for the meal.
When you get there, Davin's already got a table. He waves you over from the corner. You notice that he's now missing most of his left arm and has some bad scarring on the left side of his face.
Kane asks, "So, how's it going, man? What're you having?"
"Well, you know (indicating his arm), I've been better, but I make do. They've got a good local diapada, if you're up for a big meal. So, it's been, what, months now, right? What have you been up to? What brings you here? This your girl?"
With that, Kane looks over at Starfall, giving her a single raised eyebrow. Starfall chuckles and says, "No, I'm just on his crew. I'm Sara - nice to meet you, Davin."
Introductions done, Kane continues filling in Davin on what's going on. "Oh, you know me. Nothin' interesting ever happens to me. Just cargo runs."
Davin replies, "You knew what you were getting into with that old boat of yours. Still got that Corellian jobber?"
"Ah, no. No. We traded up to a Sentinel. Lotta parsecs on it, but it's rugged as hell, and the pirates don't wanna mess with it."
Davin whistles at this. "That's a much rarer ship, there, boyo. Bigger, too, ain't she? You gettin' much use outta that new cargo bay?"
"I try to! You know how it is with all the red tape, but I'm gettin' by. Why, you got something you need moved?"
"Oh, sure, if you got some space, I always got some cargo ready to go out, you know. Us little middlemen, we're always looking for some kinda space on the next transport headed our way. Whereabouts you headed next?"
"Uh, Kessel, actually. If you can believe it. We're leaving soon, but I'm not sure how soon. So, yeah. I'm probably the first pilot in history to ask you if you wanna ferry cargo to that rock."
"Hmm… yeah, that's an unusual one. Tell you what, let me look in my manifests, see what I got queued up that might be headed that direction. How 'bout you and your lovely shipmate here drop by my place tomorrow morning sometime? Davin's Shipping, it's just about half-way around the 'port from here, heading east."
"Sounds good! So, Diapada, eh?"
So, if you've got no more small talk you want to do with him tonight, he'll buy your meals and spend the rest of the night talking business with you and vaguely hitting on Zhymmia.
Davin's Shipping and Smuggling Emporium
On the morning of the third day, Kane tries to comm Tam since he hasn't been heard from in 48 hours. He gets no response. Trying Orden, he also comes up empty. Attempting to get some response, he tries, "It's really weird. We've been here three days and it hasn't rained once yet…", but still, there is no response. Kane really thought that would do it. Okay. Now I'm concerned. "Venn, you there?"
Venn picks up, sounding verrrry distracted. "Yes, Kane?"
"Yeah we've been holding down the fort… I got some leads on that thing you wanted… but uh, Orden and Tam seem to be out of touch."
You hear a sort of commotion in the background, then Venn distractedly responds, "Yes, fine, good, call me again if anything changes."
Kane decides, 'All right fuck it'. "Starfall, it's your turn to pick up the slack for the rest of this crew. Keep trying to reach Tam and Orden. If they don't reply by the time I get back, we're gonna lock down the ship and go looking for them. Wen, you're with me. We're gonna see a man about our next paycheck. If you reach 'em, tell 'em to come in and take their turns on guard duty."
Kane and Wen leave the ship and head over to Davin's Shipping. As they're approaching the store, they notice an IPF officer leaving.
We "fly casual," then when the bobbie moves on, I go "You thinkin' what I'm thinkin'?"
Wen replies, "… that was a police officer…?"
Kane nods. "Probably nothing, right?"
Wen considers and adds, "Yeah. Yeah, probably nothing" as he discreetly draws his sidearm.
Noticing, Kane says, "Easy. Let's case the place first. See if there's anything else off about this. Be subtle. Best case, we're ten minutes late. You wanna split up or move as a unit?"
Wen looks dead at you and, straight-faced, says, "Split up. You go ahead in there. I'll hang back and watch."
"Nah, he's seen me. You go in the front, I'll circle around back."
"Shoot for it?" he replies, holding up his left fist.
"Don't make me pull rank like a grownup." Kane sounds vaguely annoyed at the very idea.
Wen acquiesces, "Right, right. What do you want me to do when I head in?"
"Just take a look around, chat with the guy a bit, basically do a security check. Our contact is the guy with half his face blown off and one arm missing."
Wen winces a bit at that and says, "Oh, great. Okay. I'll… umm… inquire about his rates." He holsters his sidearm and starts marching over.
Kane circles around back, trying to be stealthy, looking for a back door and any cameras and the like. Kane rounds the back of the building. There's a backdoor, and there are some normal-looking security cameras studding the back and sides of the building.
Meanwhile, Wen enters and begins chatting with the proprieter, Davin. Eventually, Wen comes back out and you see him looking around for you.
Kane emerges from hiding. As Wen is walking over to Kane, he nods. "Seems clear. Nothing amiss."
"Okay. I guess go ahead and wait out here. Might be a little while." I head inside
Wen shrugs and nods.
Kane heads into the shop. Davin's there. As you enter, he smiles and greets you warmly.
"Sara couldn't make it, unfortunately. Got anything for me?"
As you walk up to the counter, you see him reach underneath and mess with something.
Okay. I start to turn as I walk, so hopefully he won't notice me reach for my pocket and mess with something.
After a second, he says, "Okay, it's all good. You can speak freely - nobody's around."
"Nice. What is that, some kinda anti-listening device?"
"Yeah, and I always check the cameras. So, what are you really looking for here? You got any cargo to move, or are you just looking for something for the next port of call?
"I was hoping to do both, if you're up for it. I have a modest satchel full of the cheap stuff to unload, and I hate to leave a planet with an empty cargo hold if I can help it."
"Excellent, excellent! What are you looking to offload? Let's see if I can't fix you up with a buyer." he says as he starts flipping through screens on his desktop display.
Attempting to be cool, Kane asks, "We actually noticed an IPF officer on our way in here. What's the story with him?"
Idly, he replies, "Eh, Elem, yeah, he's here usually once a week. Works the port - he inspects a lot of incoming shipments." Davin seems pretty blase about the visit.
Davin pauses for a minute to consider. "No, you know, not so much. I do enough legit business that it's not a big deal. And now that I think about it, IPF doesn't seem that concerned about the grey market, really. Seems to me they're so pissed off about the Imperials they just don't care about the little stuff. Only busts I've seen recently have been for high-grade weapons and Glitterstim, and the guy running that stuff was so bone-dumb I'm amazed he could even fill out the paperwork for a storefront…."
"Heh. Yeah. Can you believe some of these guys. Anyway, that's (unit of weight) of Ryll, good quality, uncut. And, uh, confidentially?" I put my hand on his good shoulder. "The more money we make on this? The harder life is going to be for a bunch of Stormtroopers somewhere."
He perks up for a minute at the mention of the Ryll. "Just Ryll, though? Refined or raw?"
"Uh, raw. Why, how are they refining it?"
"Damned if I know; I just know who to send you to. All right, let me give you a couple names. For you, I'll go 10%. Deal?"
"You're only taking 10% of the sale price?"
"Yeah, that the friend-of-the-family deal for you, buddy." Big smile. So, he's got some contacts for you, and he'll do intros or he'll broker the deal if you want.
You set up a meet with "a great guy, he's a good client, you'll see" tomorrow morning. Davin then asks, "So, you mentioned you got some hold-space available, too. You really running to Kessel? That's a hard market, man. What you looking for to fill yer hold?"
"I was hoping maybe you were already making deliveries there and you had something scheduled. Just needed a courier."
"Nah, not really, sorry. I'm mostly the middleman, you know - I know people who know people, and we make shit happen. But I don't have a real backlog of grey-market stuff or anything. I just make the connections."
"Okay. Let me be clear. I have a list of non-perishables they consume there, and I have an established contact who might buy them. If he doesn't wanna deal, I'm pretty sure I can get away with a sincere apology. But I would definitely not recommend your other business contacts try this. It's not just a hard market. It's a closed market. By design."
"Gotcha, noted. So, you got a list of this stuff you want me to track down or something?"
"Well, if you can get it, I'd like to get a dose of synthetic adrenaline."
"Just one dose?" He looks at you questioningly.
"It's a long story. But, hell, how much is one dose?"
"Well, shoot, usually about 150 or 200 or so on the down-low…. Less if you can get a script, of course."
Kane discusses the arrangements with Davin and confirms that he'll meet up again in the morning to arrange the sale. He also informs Davin that he may be arranging a purchase later.
The Ryll Deal
Around 10 AM, you get a message from Tam: "Kane, this is Tam, checking in. Know I missed a couple — sorry, have been… unavoidably detained. Back within 24 hours."
After that, Kane heads down to perform the Ryll sale. Davin brokers the deal, introducing Kane to the anonymous but "trustworthy" buyer. After intense negotiations with the "trustworthy buyer," you arrange to sell the Ryllspice for 1500 credits. After Davin's cut, Kane still clears 350 credits on the deal; not a terribly great profit, but a profit nonetheless.
Tons of Fun (And Dry Goods)
Kane decides to arrange another meeting with Davin's same contact so that he can purchase some performance-enhancing drugs, ideally for resale. He negotiates for 10 doses of synthetic adrenaline and 5 doses of Requilisant, paying 2,000 credits for the lot.
Kane also decides to purchase a couple of tons of dry goods, ostensibly for cover. He purchases 1,000 credits worth of dry goods, planning on reselling these on Kessel for an estimated 2% to 5% profit. He carefully selected the goods for their likely resalability on Kessel.
Profitability! (Phase 3)
Kane then hands Wen 1,000 credits and tells him and Starfall to try to turn a profit by gambling. Over a long evening of gambling, Wen loses a lot of money, but he manages to scrape together a winning streak near the end of the evening, bringing 1,300 credits back to Kane due to four really lucky Sabacc hands in a row.
The night after Venn gets the good results is the first night that he actually gets to sleep for more than a few hours at a stretch. During that night, he dreams of a Kel Dor woman. She's incredibly calm and collected, and she's speaking with him over tea and scones as they both attend some sort of state function. The discussion revolves around some treaty that, within the dream, he appears to fully understand; but once he wakes up, he has no idea what it means. Venn only knows that he was discussing the importance of the Treaty of Sacaya, and the Kel Dor was of the opinion that it deserved his full and undivided attention. He, on the other hand, felt that there was some more pressing issue to pursue, and that the treaty was unimportant, but he vividly remembers her impassioned pleas for him to reconsider. He's not positive — she's wearing her mask and goggles, and she's cloaked in relatively fine clothing, but she looks similar to the Kel Dor on the odd alien ship.
Venn wakes up with a start, confusedly saying "…Sacaya…" Interest piqued, Venn begins searching the ship and local databanks for references to Sacaya, particularly to treaties or other political actions involving Sacaya. Hours pass, and he's unable to find any references, but he hasn't even noticed the time flying by as he searches. Finally, about to give up, he notices a reference in an obscure astrogation database to an uninhabited planet designated Sacaya in a decaying system. It's an old system with a red giant star. Most of the planets were probably burnt up by the stellar expansion, but Sacaya, a tiny, icy dwarf that used to be in the outer reaches of the system, is now in what might be a habitable zone. However, the system has no resources of note and was passed by for colonization.
Venn is confused as to these strange dreams… chalking it up to normal strangeness that could be involved in dreaming, coupled with a very stressful and taxing week… still… maybe it's his unconscious mind remembering something from his days in the Senate?… a report on a secret Imperial base?… the last dream he had did concern Lowthar… that might be it… Looking up the location of the system, he notes that Sacaya is off-plane, and it's not really anywhere near Kessel. In fact, it's not really anywhere near almost anything….
Venn decides to try to track down Orden and Kane to discuss this. Venn buzzes at Orden's quarters. Orden acknowledges, and the door opens to show Tam and Orden discussing something. They've stopped to see who is at the door. Both are dressed in civilian clothing.
Venn: "I'm sorry… am I interrupting anything?"
Tam: "No, sir."
Venn: "Orden, I'd like to speak with you on the bridge for a minute, please…"
Orden: "'Kay." She turns to Tam and says, "I'll drop by later and we can figure that thing out."
Venn raises his eyebrow at Tam; Tam simply tries to look confused, but Venn can see he's hiding something.
"Okay, Kane, Orden… strange question… Kane, you've been around the galaxy, and talk to others who've done so too. And Orden, you've got an… impressive amount of intel in your head… have either of you heard of the Sacaya System?"
Kane: "Yeah, I know all about the Cikaya System. Exports some exotic silks, I understand."
Orden replies, "No, no, no. Aren't you the pilot? Sacaya. We surveyed it for a base, but it's no good. It's far away from everything…"
Venn: "What do you know about it?"
Orden: "Well, it's far. And it's not good for anything."
Kane: "Actually, that sounds like an ideal place to build a base… just not a forward operations base. You could hide anything there…"
Venn looks somewhat embarrassed about what he's about to say… "Look, a while ago, I had a strange dream about… well, I don't know, bu I know the dream included 'Lowthar' and it was important. Well, I just had another dream. I was back in the Senate, I think, discussing 'the Sacaya Treaty'. Now, I looked up 'Sacaya', and it's listed as a remote, dead system… someplace I have no reason to dream or even know about… Look, I realize it sounds silly… but it feels… important… somehow. I think that, maybe, it's my unconscious mind dreging up information… maybe I… read some appropriations request or report on a secret Imperial staging area… something I didn't give a second glance… at least consciously. Since we're low on funds, we might not be able to buy information on Imperial movements around Kessel from Rjana… our Kessel trail is as cold as it's likely to get."
Orden, sort of to herself: "That's lucky. All my dreams ever tell me is where to put our frigates…."
Venn continues, glancing at Orden, then looking at Kane uncomfortably, "… I think it might be worth a look at the Sacaya system. It's a bit out of the way… (Kane, you know it's not even near the way)… What do you think?"
Kane sighs and asks, "How do you spell it?" (Kane hunches over the navcomp and tries to come up with a route or maybe even a round trip that takes us past a world where we might be able to trade.) Venn indicates Sacara to Kane on the navicomp display.
Orden, still kind of to herself, continues, "…oh, and where I put that pair of pants I lost."
Kane looks at Venn for a moment and jokes, "Don't look at me, sir. All my dreams ever tell me is what shy women are secretly thinking."
Venn, trying to bring the talk back on topic, asks, "Well…?"
Orden appears to still be thinking quietly to herself, though whether it's about Sacara or her dreams neither Kane nor Venn can be sure.
Kane, considering, says, "Ehhh. Well, I can get us there… If we add a week to the trip it might not be a total loss. We could stop off on one of these rim worlds if we're lucky… Actually, we should probably make sure the food units are well-stocked before we take off. Unless you want to dip into the cargo. Try some authentic Transdosian cuisine."
Orden wrinkles her nose and says, "I don't like moving foods."
Venn thinks for a bit… "All right. We'll make a stop and see if we can scrounge up some funds…. Okay Kane, everyone's on board… lay in your course and let's get on our way."
After they lift off, Venn looks somewhat wistful, staring at the planet as they leave. He stays on the bridge, in his sleeping clothes… actually takes the helm on occassion (he knows a few fast routes through this system)… looking out the window a lot. After they jump to hyperspace, Venn leaves to return to his quarters and finish dressing.