Murder on the Coruscant Express

This story takes place concurrent with the side session "You Can't Go Home Again."

Tam and Orden's Story

TODO Need to edit this story to clean up the draft and make it fit for later reading. Notes on what needs editing follow:

  1. Day 15 when Tam comes around and coroner is asking about what he took, put more hints in that Tam's ignorance is kind of a highlight of how "institutionalized" he's becoming about taking various drugs (combat drugs in particular).
  2. Day 16, name the diner and give it a bit of a flavor description (for fun)

Murder on the Coruscant Express (Day 1)

On Venn's request, Tam and Orden head out to make contact with their Antaran contacts. They have two missions to accomplish: first, to arrange transport of the Xillashi intelligence to someone in the Antaran intelligence community; and second, to arrange a cold-drop or similar means of communication between Prospect and "unnamed persons" on Antaras. Using her faked corporate channels, Orden sends out encrypted and encoded communiqués to her on-planet relays. Eventually, she receives an acknowledgement and instructions for a meet.
At the meet, Orden is surprised to find that she and Tam aren't meeting with Galen Tyree as they'd expected. Instead, they're met by a harried-looking young woman with unkempt hair and clothing. She quickly gives the sign/countersign sequence and leads Orden and Tam to a table where she sets up a small white-noise beacon and deftly passes a datachip to Orden. She then introduces herself to Tam and Orden using as an alias the name of a mid-level manager in their shell company, Eriss Capital. She explains that Galen has been arrested mere days ago by Imperial officers under suspicion of murder. She's certain that Galen is being framed; she is concerned that the Imperials have discovered Galen's involvement with Incom. Orden is so focused that she misses Tam muttering to himself, "…this fucking planet…."
Distracted, Orden nearly forgets to ask about arranging contact with someone trustworthy in Antaran intelligence. Thankfully, Tam reminds her before she just jumps straight into this new, wonderful challenge. Orden quickly (and almost dismissively) requests that the contact arrange to have someone trustworthy contact Venn. She then begins requesting additional information to be left at a pre-arranged dead drop in the city. Seemingly with a plan already prepared, Orden asks for new fake identities (only required to be passable for a few weeks) be left in the dead drop. She also requests all available (i.e., public) information on the murder.
Tam, frustrated on being left out of Orden's apparently already-formulated plan, breaks in to ask, "Are you going to let me in on what you're thinking?"
Orden, with her normal lack of interpersonal skills, replies simply, "No. Tomorrow," glancing meaningfully at the contact.
After a few more notes on the murder and Galen's current position, Orden finally excuses Tam and herself to return to the Prospect. They are the last to return, making it back to the ship about an hour and a half after everyone else.
That night, Orden quietly reads the packet passed to her by the Rebel agent. The packet only carries the most basic of information about the murder for which Galen is the prime suspect.

  1. The murder victim, one Yul Greenstar, is an Imperial officer a few years older than Galen. He is not Galen's superior, but he was in a department (Imperial Intelligence) to which Galen openly aspires.
  2. The murder occurred in a stateroom on board the Imperial II-class Star Destroyer Coruscant Express, currently in orbit around Antaras.
  3. Some physical evidence was found placing Galen in the stateroom, an area of the ship to which he would not normally have access. Additionally, security footage shows Galen in the area around the time of the murder.
  4. The victim was killed with a neurotoxin, specific toxin unannounced.
  5. Galen is being held in the brig aboard the Coruscant Express. Antaran authorities have been informed about the basic facts of the case, but as the case involved Imperial officers and took place aboard an Imperial vessel, Imperial military police are handling the investigation.

Tam and Orden, Day 2

Orden and Tam leave as early as possible in the morning, Orden still refusing to share any of her plans with Tam. When he presses, she finally explains, "I'll fill you in when we get to a hotel."
Unsatisfied but at least expecting an eventual explanation, Tam settles down. However, he is surprised to see that they are stopping not at a hotel but at a fancy bistro, "for breakfast," as Orden explains. On the way into the bistro, she stops near a decidedly-Antaran architectural flourish to adjust a shoe. Tam is convinced she just picked something up from a nook in the building's facade; he's further convinced that, surprisingly, no one else on the street seemed to notice. He has to momentarily reset himself and realize he's no longer among trained soldiers; he's currently surrounded by a street full of civilians.
After a short (yet expensive) breakfast, Tam and Orden summon another hovercab and finally head on to a rather high-end hotel. Check-in and room inspection seem to take forever, but after nearly an hour, the porter finally leaves. Orden immediately sets up her white-noise generator. Surprisingly acute for a change, she delays not one bit in filling Tam in on her plan.
With Galen accused of murder and imprisoned aboard an Imperial Star Destroyer, the two have little chance of arranging a personal interview with him to get his side of the story directly. However, Tam has a law enforcement background. Orden plans to start by having Tam review all of the evidence she can get her hands on; on her request, her contacts used the Rebels’ secret HoloNet tap to get electronic copies of the evidence files. Reviewing what the Imperials have found should give them a lead on what they need to look into next.
For the next 7 hours, Orden and Tam do exactly that, carefully pouring over the files and looking for any discrepancies. They decide to trade off check-in duty with the Prospect, alternately calling in via anonymous relays every few hours to report nothing of value.
After a few hours, Tam has identified a half-dozen places to start digging. Some things he can do remotely; for instance, to his eye, the surveillance footage looks like it has been manipulated. Unfortunately, the questionable physical evidence is safely locked away in the depths of the Coruscant Express. Tam has also decided that he and Orden should begin investigating Galen's relationship with one Gunther Fallon, another Imperial officer and competitor for placement in Imperial Intelligence. Gunther and Galen have had some moderate run-ins in the past few months, and though the conflict has not become physical, it's clear from investigation notes that no love has been lost between the two. Tam is particularly suspicious as Gunther is listed as having found Yul’s body. Orden, watching the ruthless efficiency with which Tam reviews and either picks apart or dismisses certain details in the evidence packet, is secretly impressed. She knew, before, that Tam was a law enforcement officer, but she's never really thought of his skill set beyond his ability to shoot people. Watching him sifts through reams of data to filter out only the important (read: suspicious) bits actually impresses her. She never thought before about the other (non-violence-related) skills that would be required of a person in his position.
As soon as Tam reports his suspicion of Gunther to Orden, she reaches out to "the computer guy," or as Tam would call him, Wen. She asks him to build a very specific device: a composite box, grey, 40cm x 50cm x 30cm, labeled with an electronic tag. Orden requests that the tag needs be coded with a very specific identification label and with a small virus that will switch that label with the label of another box. Moreover, after a configurable timeout, both labels need to revert to their original data with no evidence of tampering left behind. Orden requests that Wen initially set this period to 10 days. Orden orders Wen to code it up as quickly as possible and bring it to the hotel dressed in mid-grade Antaran business clothing; she assures Wen that she'll repay him for the cost of the suit.
Tam, overhearing this, is once again confused. Why the box? What the hell is that for? Before he can ask, however, Orden comes out directly to say, "I see the pattern now. I know what we have to do. We have to break in to the evidence locker on the Coruscant Express."
Orden spends the rest of the evening explaining her plan to Tam (and, eventually, convincing him to reluctantly go along with it). She has a packet of false identities, some of which would be suitable for roles as civilian contractors licensed to come aboard an Imperial vessel. So long as they stay aboard no longer than a few days, she thinks they can avoid any security checks that would uncover their true identities. When asked why she thinks this is necessary, she explains to Tam that "the evidence is going to be destroyed and Galen is going to be killed. It all fits the pattern. Gunther is framing him, and he's going to destroy the evidence, so we're going to fix it."
Tam agrees that, from an outsider's perspective, Gunther looks like a potential suspect. However, they have no evidence that he's even involved! How can Orden be so sure of his culpability? Still, he eventually acknowledges that moving forward on the case requires their insertion into the Star Destroyer, and allowing Galen to be convicted is certainly unacceptable. Tam begins preparations for heading onboard the Coruscant Express.
Unbeknownst to Tam, Orden stays up late that night, mulling over what she's witnessed. Watching Tam work on a case has given her a new appreciation of him as a complete person, not just a soldier. While he's nowhere near her level of insight and intuition, his specific skillset is impressive in its own right. Orden has to think for hours about why this is so important to her, and she finally falls asleep still trying to figure out just how to catalog this new information about Tam Minera….

Tam and Orden, Day 3

Relatively early in the morning, Wen drops by with his custom-designed box. It's disguised as a corporate parcel. Tam greets him and accepts it at the front desk, claiming he just "happened to be there taking advantage of the hotel's wonderful breakfasts."
Orden, meanwhile, is still asleep in the room. She wakes only when Tam enters with Wen's special parcel. Considering Orden's usual demeanor, Tam is considerably surprised to see her just-woken disorientation. It seems unusually strong; for a moment, she shakes her head and mutters to herself, "Where am I?"; she truly seems not to remember. However, she quickly snaps back to her usual self, sliding out of the bed and taking the parcel to check over Wen's work. Within half an hour, she has pronounced it "suitable."
Meanwhile, Tam has been working on figuring out just how he and Orden will be able to gain access to the evidence locker. He's managed to spin a storyline (to be attached to his next throwaway alias) that should get him access to the brig and legitimate access to the electronic evidence records; he'll be posing as an Antaran legal representative there to assist Galen's Imperial council in preparation for the military trial. Orden, meanwhile, will be posing as a diplomatic aide. She and a few other aides will be tasked with following various Antaran representatives around the ship and assisting them in various ways. She's arranged to be assigned to Tam.
After her normal waking rituals are through, Orden sits down to review the data they have put together for their cover identities. She spends a good four hours locked into deep study; though Tam tries to get her attention a few times, he can't seem to get through to her. Finally, sometime around noon, she sits up almost startled and asks, "Tam, what time is it?" Learning it's nearly midday, she announces, "I need to eat. Let's go get some food."
Tam and Orden head out of the hotel and spend the afternoon roaming the town. The time starts out awkward; away from the hotel and the safety of the white noise generator, the two don't know what to talk about. They spend the early portion of the meal in long periods of silence punctuated occasionally with awkward statements.
After lunch, they head to various shops to pick up necessary equipment for the mission: suitable clothing, clean datapads, and other sundries. The distraction of shopping actually allows the two to have something akin to a conversation. While they only talk about their clothing choices and other such superficial topics, Tam actually manages to make Orden laugh once, and she seems to be much more… present… than she normally is. They return to the hotel after an early dinner having gathered all the necessary supplies, determined now to finalize their plans for the morning.
That evening, Orden calls in to check in with Prospect before she and Tam need to begin their "pre-boarding activities." Venn picks up the comms when she calls in.
Venn tells Orden that he's just survived an attack, and while it was likely not directed at him, if things begin to heat up, the Prospect may have to leave before Tam and Orden get back.
Orden's reaction is, "You're already dead, Commander."
Venn: "Like I said, I doubt I was the intended target."
Orden: "Of course not. You're dead. And we won't be able to communicate. We should set up a meet location now."
Venn: "If we have to leave without you, just make your way to meet up with our three friends. And please don't use my rank over the comms…."
Orden: "This channel is secure, Commander. Also, I don't have a spaceship with me at the moment."
Venn: "If we have to leave, we might not be able to return for you, at least not for a while… Tam knows where my sister lives. Contact her. Tell her you're one of my friends. She should be able to help. Unless of course your new bosses can help you arrange travel offworld…"
Orden: "I don't have new bosses, Commander. But I'll attempt to arrange alternate transport." At this point, Orden's head is reeling with contingency plans should the Prospect leave. Knowing where she and Tam will be, she's thinking less about escape and rendezvous and more about how to leave messages that the Rebels can recover after they find Tam's and her bodies….
Venn: "Do you have any idea how long until you can rendezvous with us?"
Orden: "No, Commander."
Venn: "Alright. We'll be trying to look into the attack. We'll wait for you as long as we can."
Orden: "Yes, Commander."
Having wrapped up their final contact with Prospect before they head off-planet, Orden and Tam decide to turn in for the night. They have to wake up early, check out of the hotel, and get themselves lost so that they can change identities, after all.

Breaking In Is Hard to Do (Day 4)

The first day onboard the Coruscant Express is fairly uneventful, as these things go. Tam and Orden, disguised as legal/diplomatic civilians, ride an Imperial shuttle to the Star Destroyer early that morning. Thanks in large part to the diplomatic overtures currently being made toward the Antarans, security aboard the shuttle is significantly lighter than usual. The two are only scanned for weapons and cybernetics (and a cursory check performed on their IDs) before being allowed to board.
Upon boarding the shuttle, Tam and Orden discover that they’re not the only Antaran civilians riding up to the Coruscant Express today. There are five others aboard. Tam and Orden strike up brief conversations with some of the nearby diplomats. The idle chitchat reveals that the Antaran government has already sent nearly 20 representatives to the Star Destroyer to discuss a multitude of topics. Some are there to discuss trade agreements; others, to debate military tactical training regimes. In all, the Antaran government apparently had nearly a dozen different cooperative projects ongoing with the visiting Imperials in the name of greater Imperial unity.
Once onboard the Coruscant Express, the relative monotony continues. With Tam posing not as council but as a mere observer, his attempts to visit and interview Galen are rebuffed; however, he and Orden are accorded set up with a small office space in the investigators' offices where they can converse with Galen's Imperial-appointed attorney. Surprisingly, the officer did turn out to believe that Galen was truly innocent; not surprisingly, she also turns out to be a junior officer, freshly christened, who had not yet argued in a real case.
The rest of the day is spent in conversation and planning mode. For hours, Tam discusses the details of the case with the Imperial attorney, one Lt. Vanel Vassic, while Orden mostly listens and takes notes. Grateful for the assistance, Lt. Vassic provides Tam and Orden with more context and detail on her interpretation of the prosecution's likely case. The three work late into the evening before finally retiring to their respective quarters, promising to get an early start the next day in preparation for the pre-trail hearings.

Lockbox Down (Day 5)

The morning of the next day proceeds directly from the previous evening: discussions about strategy and megabytes upon megabytes of "paperwork." Lt. Vassic leaves the two in the late morning to report to chambers; though she apologizes profusely, she refuses to allow Tam or Orden to follow as they are not officially part of the legal proceedings.
Taking advantage of being left mostly alone on an Imperial ship (if you can call "surrounded by Imperial Naval investigators" anything like "alone") Tam and Orden begin to quietly plan their true activities aboard ship. Having reviewed the official security footage, Tam finds himself even more convinced that it had been planted. Hearing this, and seeing how relatively shoddy the tampering job had been, Orden becomes more convinced that the framer's plan had been to destroy most of the physical evidence and steamroll the trial. Despite his misgivings, Tam recognizes the possibility; willing to hedge his bets, he and Orden begin planning how they can break into the evidence locker itself.
During that afternoon of planning, Orden can’t help but be impressed by Tam's knowledge of both law enforcement procedure and security systems. While she can easily grasp the theories and memorize esoteric legal procedure, Tam's seemingly natural skill with the intricacies of both Imperial law and shipboard security protocols surprises her more than she would have believed. Sure, she knows, intellectually, that Tam had been living and breathing this work for years before defecting to the Rebellion. Still, she wasn't prepared for the man she still sort of thought of as "the big, dumb soldier" to be able to show such a depth of knowledge about these fields that, when it came right down to it, had absolutely nothing to do with dislocating or removing other people's limbs. Maybe it is just all this forced social interaction, playacting as an intensely-social diplomatic aide, that is causing her so many butterflies, she thinks to herself… but the longer she spends working so closely with Tam, the less she can dismiss alternate possibilities….
Later that evening, Lt. Vassic returns with news that the trial date has been scheduled only two days hence. Tam and Orden now have only 24 hours to secure the evidence and expose the true perpetrator.
As shipboard-night falls, Tam and Orden retire to Tam's stateroom (since it is larger than Orden's) to prepare their bait evidence box. With the trial starting in only 36 hours, Orden hastily reprograms Wen's false tags to expire not in 8 more days but in only 2. She then prepares the label on the false lockbox so that it is ready to copy the tags from the real evidence box.
Near to shift change, Tam heads down to the evidence locker. Striding in both purposefully and pompously, he begins interrogating the desk officer about Imperial evidence control practices. During the grilling, Orden manages to shyly sneak in, deferentially handing over the false evidence box to the flustered clerk. With so much commotion and distraction from Tam, the desk clerk pays little attention to Orden or her parcel, distractedly scooping up the false lockbox and signing for it without question while trying to placate the rowdy diplomatic representative making a figurative mess of her office.

Tam and Orden, Day 6

Tam and Orden's third day onboard the Coruscant Express seems to go by in a blur. To maintain their cover, they spend only part of the day with Lt. Vassic; they also spend time with some of the other investigators, asking idly about other open cases, shipboard life, and other such menial matters. During the morning, Tam managess to slip in the odd question or two about Gunther's report to the investigators. Their answers - or, in most cases, lack thereof - only seems to strengthen Tam's suspicions about Gunther's involvement in the murder.
While Tam was making conversation with other investigators, Orden manages to slip away unnoticed. She uses her brief unobserved window of time to gain access to a secure terminal assigned to one of the head investigators. Acting quickly, she manages to slip a HoloNet tap into the terminal electronics, nearly getting herself caught by the investigator’s aide in the process. She only just managess to talk herself out of trouble, claiming she'd just been sitting at the desk so she could write up a daily report. Despite her story, she spends nearly an hour detained by the aide as he rifles through her datapad looking for pilfered files. Thankfully, Orden was only carrying her disposable pad; all of the information stored there is information taken down as her diplomatic aide cover. In the end, the aide and the investigator let Orden go with a stern warning to stay away from his desk.
That evening, Tam sneaks back into the office while Orden waits in her stateroom. Accessing the HoloNet tap, he downloadss further information about Gunther along with the original security logs and holotapes. Again, things nearly fall apart; Tam is forced to hide in a nearby closet for more than an hour waiting for the investigating team to leave.
When he finally returns to the stateroom, Tam discusses the new evidence with Orden. The original security footage clearly shows that Galen wasn't anywhere near the murder scene during the time-of-death window. Additionally, Tam manages to get some information on Gunther. The two delve into the data and discover that Gunther has close associations with some of the investigators. Orden believes that he's been paying off the investigators. Tam is forced to agree, as that's the only way he can believe that the investigation would be so sloppy. His suspicions are only strengthened when Orden recovers partially-deleted evidence that the medical examiner, Doctor Cyern Kyle, received odd payments and favors from Gunther Fallon not long before the murder.

They Couldn’t Handle the Truth (Day 7)

Tam and Orden's fourth day onboard the Coruscant Express marks the start of Galen's trial. To maintain their cover, they have to stay aboard ship; however, Orden and Tam both are starting to worry about how much longer their IDs will hold up to the scrutiny of the daily checkpoints.
The morning of the first day of the trial is uneventful. However, one of the investigators is caught out when he testifies during the afternoon that the physical evidence is no longer available to give to the defense. When the defense council produces the evidence intact, the courtroom explodes in a barrage of conversation. Court officers quickly escort all of the Antaran representatives - including Tam and Orden - out of the courtroom.
Lt. Vassic eventually comes to meet with Tam and Orden and tells them that they'll be escorted off the ship. That evening, they're hustled off the ship on the shuttle, but Lt. Vassic slips Orden a private comms line and whispers that she'll keep them apprised of the details of the case.
The shuttle contains, as far as Tam and Orden can tell, every Antaran diplomat and civilian representative previously aboard the Coruscant Express; apparently, the Imperial bureaucracy has no desire for the Antarans to see any more of the ship (or hear more rumors about the trial) than they already have. Upon landing, the entire group is hustled into a barracks structure, one Tam recognizes as an easily-deployed temporary shelter commonly used by Stormtroopers. The conditions are none too luxurious. On the plus side, the barracks are designed to hold 72, but there were only a couple of dozen civilians aboard ship. Even accounting for the nearly 20 guards stationed with them, the barracks are nearly half-empty, meaning only the soldiers are required to share bunk space.
Tam and Orden are scanned along with everyone else as they're "guided" into the barracks by their escorts; both note that the scans this time are much less cursory than the original checks. Tam can't help but steal a glance at Orden during the commotion to see her reaction to this. He's hardly heartened when she blanches. Later, after everyone has settled in and stopped asking for immediate explanations, Orden steals over to Tam to whisper quickly, "We're going to be discovered in a day or two. We're going to be killed." Before he can reply, she's again walked over to the women's partition just in time for the guards to call for lights out with a hardly reassuring promise that everything would be explained and everyone returned home "tomorrow."

Day 8, Tam and Orden

Tam and Orden (and the rest of the civilians) are woken early the next morning by the arrival of the Coruscant Express's third officer. For a groggy hour over breakfast, the officer explains in great detail that the Coruscant Express is undergoing some major maintenance while in such a friendly territory.
In his head, Tam automatically translates the standard Imperial doublespeak as the officer drones: Unfortunately, some of that delicate work didn't quite go as expected, and the kindly Imperials thought it best to move the civilians off the ship until she could be made safe again. Of course, the problem has been isolated, and everything really was always safe all along, but it would be best for everyone if they were just a little patient. In two or three days, the ship will be fixed up good as new, and then your bestest Imperial buddies will bring you back aboard to show you all you ever wanted and needed to see! And of course your visitation visas will be extended to compensate for the down time. In the meantime, some Imperial officials have taken some time away from their duties just to come down and continue the diplomatic work here on Antaras. What's that? Can you call home? Well, this structure was just set up last night, and unfortunately, we haven't fitted all the communications gear yet. That usually takes just a few extra hours. We promise you can call home this afternoon. Tonight at the latest - we swear.

After this rousing (well, stomach-roiling, at least) speech from the third officer, both Tam and Orden are fighting hard to not break out into their respective cold sweats. Tam is well versed in this type of Imperial lag-inducing doublespeak; he can connect the dots well enough to determine that the Imperials are busily running background checks on all the civilians and cleaning up the political mess aboard the Coruscant Express before the Antaran diplomats are welcomed back aboard (and appeased at whatever cost). Unfortunately, those same background checks to locate the bribe-levers on the diplomats will quickly expose both Tam's and Orden's falsified idents. With so many people watching their every move, Tam and Orden can't just walk away; moreover, they don't even have a clear means to communica…wait…Lt. Vassic's comm! Now if they can only find a way to sneak off and use it….
Tam barely has a chance to chat with Orden during the breakfast, but they do manage to communicate enough to formulate an initial plan. Tam will focus on building relationships with one or more of the guards; since he has a law background and a weak ident, he can play to his law enforcement past and claim to be a peace officer turned legal representative. Orden, meanwhile, will listen in on some of the diplomats' conversations to try to figure out the Imperials' specific stalling tactics. She'll also search for a hiding place for Vassic's communicator to keep it out of the hands of the guards.
The initial plan goes off without too severe of a hitch. Tam manages to strike up some conversations with a few of the guards, befriending one or two just a little bit with his knowledge of Imperial Stormtrooper procedure and equipment. He starts the conversation by boasting about Antaran procedure and how well-trained the Antaran police are, drawing the Stormtroopers in by jovially picking apart little aspects of Imperial procedure. He manages to walk a fine line, not insulting or offending the Stormtroopers, but instead building a reasonable rapport with them as they all give one another shit about procedural failings throughout the Empire.
Meanwhile, Orden manages to hide the comm in an anchor point in one of the exterior bathroom walls. She also eavesdrops on a few conversations between Imperial and Antaran diplomatic representatives. She determines that, fortunately, the Imperials are focusing first on the more experienced and influential Antaran diplomats (as expected). Since Tam's cover identity lists him as a mere civilian auditor, and since hers is that of a legal aide, she estimates that they probably won't be discovered for another full day… that is, unless the more senior diplomats have more (or more easily discovered) skeletons in their closets than she assumes.
During dinner, Tam and Orden manage to slide into a table off to the edge of the cafeteria. Carefully covering their conversation whenever a patrol wanders near, they fill one another in on what they've learned since the morning. To cover for their isolated location, Orden pretends to flirt with Tam every time the guards pass by. As she quickly explains to him in their fleeting time out from under surveillance, pretending that they're coworkers having an affair may well allow them some excuses to sneak off together and try to use their communicator… or try to escape.
Orden and Tam briefly discuss their options during dinner; however, given their tenuous situation, they can't come up with many options. Escape seems unlikely due to the heavy guard and remote location. Besides, their disappearance would arouse far too many suspicions. Waiting things out seems equally unlikely to work, given that their IDs will almost certainly be compromised before the situation on the Coruscant Express can be resolved to the satisfaction of the Imperial higher-ups. The only viable option Orden can come up with: tweak their hidden communicator and try to make contact with someone in the Underground (or otherwise sympathetic to the Rebellion).
That night, during the pre-lights-out rush, Orden scoops and palms the hidden communicator, taking it back to bed with her. The next morning, she'll have to find a way to intercept Tam and see if they can make a quiet call for help.

Day 9, Tam and Orden

The next morning, Orden slips out of bed very early and sneaks over into the men's section of the barracks. She quietly wakes Tam, and the two slip off into the bathrooms, just barely slipping past the guards unobserved; only Tam’s familiarity with standard Stormtrooper protocols saves them from a wakeup brush with blaster rifles. Lost for a better option, they dodge into one of the 'fresher stalls. Pooling their relatively meager communications skills, they quickly spin through some likely frequencies and try to acquire a non-Imperial frequency with the restricted commsline. Just as Tam is about to try a broadcast, Orden grabs the comms device, pockets it, shoves Tam against the wall, and jumps into his arms. As she starts pulling off his clothing, Tam expects to hear the door to the bathrooms open, or at least hear shouting or some sound of alarm in the hallway. Surprisingly, though, he hears nothing. As his surprise at Orden's action fades, Tam begins to respond in kind, kissing Orden and starting to unfasten her top as she finishes unbuttoning his shirt and starts reaching for his belt. Just as he reaches the fourth clasp (and coincidentally, just as he's forgotten his initial surprise), the door to the bathroom bursts open, followed immediately by the opening of various 'freshers. Moments later, the guards open the 'fresher in which Tam and Orden have concealed themselves to find the two partially undressed and in one anothers' arms. What follows is an hour or so of interrogation and half-hearted apology from the guards after they've accepted Tam's and Orden's stories that they've been having an affair. Of course, the guards must keep an eye on every member of the diplomatic party, for their own safety, after all; when the morning check found the two missing, the guards were immediately concerned that they may have come to some misadventure. No, of course they'll keep everything very hush-hush; there's no need for any embarrassment. After all, as a diplomat, you can certainly understand when some things need to be kept quiet…. The Imperials return Tam and Orden to breakfast quietly, all the while obviously cataloging this secret affair as a leverage point to use against Tam during the inevitable tit for tat conversation back aboard the Coruscant Express.
For the rest of the day, Tam and Orden are forced to tread very carefully, mostly avoiding one another's company. Orden, still concealing the comms, manages to slip off the bathrooms to try contacting her friends on Antaras, starting with the Prospect. At the end of the day, during the mess-hall dinner, Orden finally sits down with Tam again to tell him that she managed to send some burst messages requesting assistance in fortifying their false IDs. What she doesn’t tell him is that she included details about the affair in the burst message and requested that some evidence be planted that the Imperials could find to corroborate the affair. Assuming someone in her circle heard at least one of the bursts, someone in the Underground or a similar organization should be hard at work at that very moment, shoring up the background details on their false identities. For now, all they can do is wait and see if they've been caught; if no one received their messages, it's likely that their false IDs will have been penetrated before the night is over.

That night, Tam can't seem to fall asleep. Without any guarantee that they've actually managed to contact help, he falls back on the last thing he can think to do, a trick he learned during his time in basic all those years ago. These barracks are mostly self-contained and self-erecting, but there is a section of the bedframe that can be quietly removed using only the bedsheets as a friction-wrench of sorts; while it's hardly a blaster, it makes for a serviceable club. During the night, Tam quietly loosens that part of the structure, having decided that if he's going to be killed, he'll be going down fighting….

The Bored Identity (Days 10, 11, & 12)

When Tam and Orden awaken the next morning, they both breathe their individual sighs of relief. If they're not dead yet, they wager, they probably did manage to make contact with someone on the outside. With nothing else productive they can really do until they can get free of their "prison camp," they settle into a routine of nervously trying to keep up appearances. Orden surreptitiously checks the smuggled comms, once again hidden in one of the 'freshers, for messages from Lt. Vassic, keeping Tam apprised of the political fallout from the case onboard the Coruscant Express. Within a few days, the evidence has been reprocessed by additional Imperial experts. As the days go by, Galen looks more and more likely to be exonerated of the crime.

As the days go by, the situation between Tam and Orden becomes more and more awkward as well. Though Orden maintains a pretense of slyly flirting with Tam whenever "she thinks the guards aren't watching," (read as: she thinks the right guards are quietly watching), she becomes the locked-down professional analyst whenever they do manage to sneak off together. Tam, taking his cue from her, maintains the trappings of an affair whenever they're "sneaking around" in the vicinity of the guards; however, whenever they're alone, he's not sure how he should act or react. Just a short time ago, she'd nearly had him naked while playing at having an affair in a fresher; now, though, she doesn't even pretend, instead only reporting out anything new she's learned from listening to the comms, observing the guards, or eavesdropping on conversations with the other "guests."
After four tense days in the barracks, the guests are once again greeted by the Coruscant Express's third officer, this time at dinner. He gives a short speech claiming that the maintenance issues aboard ship have been cleared up. He again apologizes for the inconveniences suffered by the guests and promises them that they'll once again be onboard ship bright and early in the morning. In fact, just to make up for the tribulations of the past few days, the captain and executive officer plan to hold a gala dinner the next night aboard ship to welcome all the diplomats back and apologize more formally for the delay in their schedules.
Finally able to breathe a silent sigh of relief, Tam drops into sleep easily that night, the first time in several days he's been able to do so.

Day 13, Tam and Orden

As promised, the "guests" are all herded back aboard shuttles after breakfast the next morning. After careful checks and cross-checks that everyone is present and accounted for, the shuttle leaves for the Coruscant Express, arriving just in time for the guests to be treated to a "special lunch". Officers of the ship then insist on escorting the junior diplomats (including Orden) to their quarters while the more senior diplomats (including Tam) are taken on a short tour.
The tour seems to serve no grander purpose than that of delaying the diplomats' return to their duties. The officers do show their guests various "more sensitive" areas of the ship, areas which Tam knows are not actually sensitive in the least. However, the officers play up the tour as an "open sharing of information," showing the diplomats three (obviously staged, to Tam's experienced eyes) recently damaged and more recently repaired areas of the ship's mechanical workings. The officers claim that these areas were slightly damaged due to some vague "unexpected issues" during the aforementioned maintenance overhaul. As the guests can plainly see, had things gone wrong, there may have been some minor injuries, so obviously it was best to take that oh-so-inconvenient precaution of returning the diplomatic staff to Antaras for a few days until they could be assured that everything aboard ship was back in tip-top shape.
By the time Tam is freed from his obligations and escorted to his new quarters, he barely has time to change into the provided clothing for the promised gala dinner. Just as he finishes his preparation, Orden arrives at Tam's quarters wearing a flattering, if somewhat plain, dinner gown. With little privacy or time to spare, however, Tam is unable to comment on the situation; instead, he simply stows his comments and escorts Orden to the gala.
As both Tam and Orden expected, the gala proves to be plump with pomp and devoid of substance. The speeches of explanation and diplomatic apology drone one for what seems like hours, and though the food is the highest quality they've tasted in a long while, the bland company seemed to suck much of the flavor from it. As soon as is seemly, Tam and Orden make their excuses and head back toward their respective quarters.
On their way, as "luck" would have it, the two pass by Lt. Vassic. Tam begins to greet her, but apparently a signal or look gives Orden pause, and she stops him before he can do so. The two pass by the lieutenant without so much as an acknowledgement on either side. When Tam and Orden reach her quarters, however, she slips something into his hand as she furtively kisses him goodnight (knowing full well that the mouse-droids lingering in the hallway would catch any action they'd taken). Tam wisely decides to ignore the note until he has returned to his own quarters. Once inside, he finally removes it from his pocket and reads it; in Lt. Vassic's handwriting, he sees the message, "Critical new information. Meet 0220 at 34.12A4," the shipboard coordinates for a recreational area roughly midship from the small offices they'd shared just a few days prior. Checking the clock, Tam finds that he has only a few hours to catch some sleep before he'd need to head out if he plans to be there. In the finest of military traditions, he chooses to sleep while the sleeping is possible.
Tam and Orden arrive separately in the recreation room in the dead of ship's night. Since the Coruscant Express, currently in friendly territory, is maintaining a lowered level of security, comparably few crew members are pulling overnight duty; as such, the recreation area is relatively full. Scanning the crowd, Orden is first to spot Lt. Vassic sitting at a side table with a young man. As they approach, the two say their laughing goodbyes while Tam and Orden are still out of earshot. The young man walks off at a right angle to Tam and Orden as they approach the table and sat with the lieutenant.
As Tam and Orden sit, Vassic cautiously pulls out a small disk from her pocket and unfolds it on the table. Delicately tapping the button on the small white noise generator, she then quickly turns to Tam. Before he or Orden can speak, she opens with, "I haven't got much time, so listen closely. As I've noted in my messages, the case is going well. Galen is very likely to be exonerated of the charges when the trial reconvenes tomorrow; in fact, they're likely to be dismissed, as the prosecution's primary eyewitness was just found dead yesterday evening. Apparently, he had a bit too much to drink and slipped on a ship's ladder, and with the skeleton night crew, the medical teams didn't reach him until too late to render assistance. But I've been having some very… odd conversations with my superiors the past few days. I… I think they're feeling me out to find out if I'll go along with a cover-up. They've implied that they realize that Fallon set all this up, and it's likely he even committed the first murder, but they're… worried about the potential diplomatic repercussions, Galen being the son of an Antaran council member and all. They want to brush it all under the rug and make some covert… apologies to the Antaran government to keep things cordial. It… it's not what I'd choose to do, but I can see their point, and really, Fallon's gotten his punishment one way or another now…. The thing is, though, I'm just worried about you two." To Tam, she sounds as if she’s only half trying to convince them, as she is still trying to convince herself that this is right. She very quickly adds, "I don't think they'd do anything to you or anything like that, don't get me wrong! I don't think you're in any danger or anything… I just… I want you to know that they're probably going to be approaching you soon to see if you'll… if you'll go along with this, and if so, what the costs will be. I… please just… just think about it, and realize that we would have tried Fallon if he hadn't…. I just want you to be prepared, and… I hope… well, just be careful, okay?" She trails off for a moment, then shakes herself a little. "I have to go. Stick around a little while, order a drink or two or something, and just meander back to your quarters later, but give me at least 15 or 20 minutes."
Tam and Orden quietly agree, and Vassic collects the white noise generator. She beckons subtly to Orden, who returns the secret communicator as well. Vassic then makes pleasant small talk with the two for a couple more minutes. She then stands and says, "Well, I need to be getting back to my bunk. I've got to be in court tomorrow afternoon, and I should make sure my closing arguments are finalized in the morning. I hope you enjoy the rest of your time aboard ship, sir, ma'am." She then leaves Tam and Orden as the waitress approaches. True to their word, Tam and Orden stick around and make additional small talk about the long day and how good it will be to "get back to it" tomorrow. Finishing their drinks, they finally leave the recreation room a half-hour later, returning to bed to catch as many of those fleeting Z's as they can before tomorrow's busy morning.
As she's sleeping that night, Orden dreams of fires and flashes, of lightning and thunder. She awakens many times during the night wondering what she's so worried about, but by morning, it has come to her. She can see the pattern clearly, now, and she knows that, no matter what she does, Tam is going to die aboard the Coruscant Express.

The Tam Minera Affair (Day 14)

The next morning, as Vassic had predicted, both Tam and Orden are stopped during breakfast by senior Imperial legal officers. As an aide, Orden's conversation with the officers is mercifully brief. When questioned (under the guise of polite interest), she describes her duties as more those of a gopher, explaining that she knows little or nothing about the specifics of the cases her superior has been overseeing. The senior officers bid her good day and leave her be soon after.
The friendly senior officer casually chatting with Tam, however, displays a twinge of unhealthy interest when Tam admits to having worked on Galen's case. Tam attempts to play things cool, saying only that he was convinced of Galen's innocence from the beginning and is gratified to see that the trial will probably turn out in favor of that verdict. Unfortunately for him, Tam slips up when discussing the trial, speaking too much and in too much detail about the staging of the original murder. Unbeknownst to him, the senior officer leaves Tam's side convinced that Tam will cause problems in the Antaran government1.
As soon as she can get away from breakfast (and while Tam is still deep in discussion with a senior legal officer at another table across the room), Orden risks much to sneak out to a computer terminal and send a single burst message to her contacts on Antaras. She encodes a brief message asking them to burn Tam's false identity's diplomatic privileges, accusing him of stealing government money and possibly spying for the Rebellion. The burst message includes details of the affair as the rationale for Tam’s embezzling, asking the contacts to tie this in to the previously-fortified background. She also requests that they be prepared to have Tam’s wife find out about the affair, suggesting a specific known Rebel on Antaras to play that role. She is nearly caught immediately after sending the message by a junior communications officer, but she is able to play the flustered junior aide and convince the officer that she just got turned around trying to find the a member of the legal team's quarters to retrieve a forgotten datapad.
At lunch that day, Lieutenant Vassic storms into the mess, quietly steaming and looking for Tam and Orden. Glaring at Tam, she slams a datapad down on the table hard enough to momentarily fuzz the screen. Thankfully, the normal commotion in the room covers the noise. Livid, she spits, "Your quarters, right now," spins on her heels, and marches out of the mess hall. Orden nods barely a smidge at Tam, and he bolts out of his chair (scooping up the 'pad) to follow Vassic out of the mess. Despite his long stride, her anger carries her to his quarters faster than he can catch up with her. When he arrives, she's tapping her foot impatiently outside his door. She commands him to enter; as he does, she follows him in, Orden scurrying in (playing up the role of the timid legal aide) just before the door closes.
Just after the door clicks shut, Vassic's anger erupts from her as she just barely holds back tears of frustration and betrayal. "Explain to me why I shouldn't turn you in to security, you… you… Rebel scum!" she spits, gesturing at the pad. Tam glances down at it, and his face slowly falls as he realizes the significance of the display. Tam's false identity is prominently displayed along with the prominent header, "Diplomatic Status Revoked. Detain On Sight. Warrant ATQ-11718-4, Treason."
"I don't… Lieutenant, you have to believe me, I don't know what's going on here," Tam stammers, at a loss for what to do. His mind races; just as he thought he might make it off this ship alive, just as he thought this mission might actually succeed, his false ID fails. In a moment, he realizes he's a dead man; all his hopes of escape fly from him. His very next thought is for Orden. As he stares, stammering and speechless, at the 'pad, only one thought echoes through his mind: "I'm a dead man now, but can she still escape? What can I do to save her?"
Without warning, Orden suddenly bursts into tears. "It's not what you think! Oh, God, it's not what you think! The money… the money was for me. He and I are having and affair, and he was going to leave his wife for me once he had enough saved up. I kept telling him, I kept telling him that the money didn't matter, but he wouldn't listen." She crumples to the floor, crying into her hands and repeating over and over, "I told you, I told you to just leave her…."
Taken aback, Lt. Vassic's face rapidly runs from anger to confusion. Tam, too, is incredibly startled by this completely out-of-character display of emotion from Orden. Mind racing (and thinking once again, "I may just have a chance to survive this after all!"), Tam picks up on Orden's implications and decides to balls it. Allowing his face to fall, he slowly lowers the datapad and kneels down to take the bawling Orden in his arms. "They found the money… I didn't think they'd find it…," he says, almost to himself, before shaking himself and turning his watering eyes to Lt. Vassic. "I swear to you, I'm not a traitor. I'm just… I'm just a stupid man in love. I only took… it doesn't matter any more what I took…. It's just… I just wanted to be with her. My wife has all the money, all the prestige, everything; I just married into it. But she… she never really loved me, and then I met Ailain…." Crestfallen and pleading, he looks to Vassic, "I can't go back there in restraints. She'll… she'll steamroll me. She has so much, so many connections. I swear to you I committed no treason, but she'll make sure those charges stick. At best, I'll never see sunlight again, and at worst, I'm a dead man. Please… you have to believe me. Please help me… I don't know what to do…."
After a long hour of pleading and lies, Tam and Orden finally convince Lt. Vassic that their story is true. She's clearly torn between her duty and the friendship she's built with Tam and Orden as they helped her win her first (and high profile) case. Vassic finally reveals that she has a friend who attended law school on Antaras and works for a government agency there. Through him, she received the warrant notification early; it's not been officially signed and vetted for distribution as of yet, but she expects that the Imperial security details aboard ship will know about this by nightfall. In a fit of "desperation," Orden lets slip the only plan she can think of to save Tam's life: kill him. She explains to Vassic that she and Tam were planning to run away together soon anyway. If Vassic could just help them, just smuggle them off the ship… maybe with the help of the corrupt Doctor Kyle….
Under threat of calling the security forces early, Vassic forces Orden and Tam to agree to stay in his quarters until after her court session that afternoon. She tells them that she'll return immediately thereafter. She promises not to tell anyone about the pending warrant until they've discussed things further that evening, but she makes no promises for later.
As soon as Vassic leaves, Orden quickly explains her full plan and the overall situation to Tam. She tells him about the burst message and about how she could tell that the Imperial cover-up could only succeed if he was sufficiently suppressed as to not tell the Antaran government - his government - the truth about Galen's case. Tam's anger subsides more quickly than he would have suspected after hearing her analysis of the situation, replaced by that cold hole in his gut that used to be fear. Putting his fear aside, he then works with Orden to formulate a plan… a risky plan, but the only thing they can think of in a couple of hours.
When Vassic returns, her attitude has changed slightly, but she refuses to discuss why. //(Though she has told her superiors nothing to date, they've been prying at her about Tam, and she had the revelation that they want him out of the picture one way or another.) // Tam, resigning himself to his final path out, tells her their plan. She should turn Tam in to her immediate superiors. They'll then fake Tam's death, one way or another, and smuggle him off the ship. Vassic isn't to worry about anything beyond informing her superiors and obtaining the necessary drugs; Orden and Tam will take care of the rest.
When Lt. Vassic informs her superiors of what she's learned later that day, they strongly imply that it would reflect very well on her service record should she ensure that Tam was found to have committed suicide upon learning about the warrant, just "moments before" security teams could find and arrest him…. With this implicit go-ahead from her superiors, Lt. Vassic decides to track down the Imperial medical officer who falsified the death records both for Fallon and for the original murder victim, the aforementioned Doctor Kyle. Threatening him with the same treason charges that would have been levied against Gunther Fallon had he not died, she manages to convince the good doctor to give her some drugs that would be fatal on overdose. She also requires a dose of something that will cause Tam to enter a short coma that will mimic death.
Doctor Kyle, in a last-ditch effort to provide some leverage for himself, does just that. However, what he does not tell the Lieutenant is that the death-mimicking agent requires an antidote. Without application of the antidote within a few hours of leaving the coma, the effects of the drug are often agonizingly fatal, as the subject’s organs fail to sufficiently restart themselves and slowly necrotize within the body.
Telling the doctor to stand ready to produce one more falsified death certificate, Lt. Vassic leaves to make one final visit to Tam, leaving him the drugs.

The Big Sleep (Day 15)

Overnight, Orden stages some additional contingency plans without Tam's knowledge. She moves anything even vaguely incriminating from Tam's personal effects to hers and purges anything else that cannot be easily hidden. She prepares rendezvous instructions for Tam should she not be able to travel with his body back to Antaras and hides them deep within his personal effects. Finally, and most significantly, she falsifies pickup records for a set of Stormtrooper armor sized to fit Tam. Retrieving it, she stashes it in an unused medbed in the medical bay where Tam's body should be taken in the morning. Exhausted and wracked with nerves, she finally returns to her quarters and fitfully sleeps waking every hour, it seems, with thoughts of another way the plan can fail.
During the night, word of Tam's expulsion from the diplomatic corps (and the subsequent arrest warrant) reaches the ears of the security teams. Just as Lt. Vassic predicted, the security team rushes Tam’s quarters in the wee hours of the ship’s morning. When they bust in to his quarters to arrest him, however, they find nothing but spilled pills and Tam's seemingly lifeless body on the floor near the desk. As planned, Medical Officer Kyle retrieves him and pronounces him dead, hauling his body to the medical bay for storage until transport to Antaras can be arranged.
Accosted by security upon waking, Orden feigns ignorance of the entire situation. With Lt. Vassic defending her and providing her alibis, she is eventually freed from further interrogation, though she is notified that she will no longer be allowed to remain aboard the Coruscant Express. After being released, she begs permission to see Tam's body, finally being led past the guards outside the medical bay. Once there, she asks for a moment alone with him. The guards are initially disinclined to grant this, but the medical officer gently convinces them that he'll keep an eye on her if they would just stay just outside the door. Once they reluctantly agree, the medical officer and Orden slip Tam and the hidden Stormtrooper armor into a sealed casket for transport. With his part of the bargain complete and his safety guaranteed by Lt. Vassic, Medical Officer Kyle then slips Orden the antidote for Tam just before the guards re-enter to escort her and the casket to the shuttle for departure back to Antaras. She now knows that Tam will revive naturally that evening, but the toxic drug cocktail that left him in the near-death state will at minimum leave him greatly debilitated for days; left untreated, there is even the strong possibility could the aftereffects could actually kill him. Orden must try to get the antidote to him as soon as possible after he wakes; the longer she delays, the longer and more difficult his recovery will be. Delivering the antidote earlier will, apparently, bring Tam out of the coma earlier and further reduce the chance of complications.
With Orden having been cleared of all suspicious activities onboard the Coruscant Express, the return flight to Antaras is relatively lightly guarded. Rather than that large landing craft from before, Orden finds herself escorted to a Lambda-class shuttle by four Stormtroopers and a pair of Imperial officers. A pair of droids directs the casket itself onto the shuttle.
The flight back to Antaras is awkward and silent but otherwise uneventful. Upon reaching the military spaceport in Denau, Orden and the casket are silently escorted off the ship. Finally daring to speak up, Orden addresses one of the officers, asking if she can make contact with Tam's mythical family; her luck holds, and the officer grants her that boon. Orden is escorted to a public comms by a pair of Stormtroopers. Hesitantly, she accesses the comms and dials in a burner number for one of the few members of the Rebellion she knows about on Antaras, the contact she’d indicated should play Tam’s wife. As soon as the agent on the other end picks up, Orden begins babbling, trying to force her voice to crack. Choosing her words carefully to be certain she triggers the proper response, Orden softly says, "Maria, I need you to listen to me. It's… it's important. It's your husband… it's Tavrie… he's… I'm so sorry, Maria, he's dead…." She pauses for a moment as the agent on the other end of the line begins to catch on.
"Maria" starts to yell at Orden in false anger and grief. "What? What happened!? What's going on?!"
Before she can ask too many questions, Orden breaks in again, choking out the words, "Maria, I… I can't talk right now, I'll explain everything… just come down here. Come down to the spaceport, Denau, Dock 23. Tell the guard you're Tavrie Varless's wife, they'll escort you in… oh, Maria, I'm so sorry…. I have… I have to go, Maria." Hoping she remembered the proper keywords and got the message across, Orden closes the comms line and allows her shoulders to slump in grief. The Stormtroopers escort her back to the waiting shuttle, and she sits down to Tam's casket to wait for his "wife's" arrival.
Orden waits for nearly four hours before Antaran Defense Force Military Police arrive, escorting a powerful woman nearly 10 years Tam's senior. She's obviously been crying, but she carries herself with a firm and determined demeanor. Orden rises to greet her, but the woman ignores her entirely, instead focusing in on the casket to the exclusion of all else. She stops just short of the casket, cinching her eyes shut and breathing deeply four or five times before finally whispering, "Let me see him." Orden catches the woman's eye for only a moment while the guards are opening the casket's faceplate; she quickly half-nods to cue "Maria." When Maria looks down at Tam, she immediately bursts into tears and crumples against the casket. Orden approaches to comfort her, but Maria throws her back and onto the ground, yelling, "Get away from me, you whore!" In the commotion, Orden manages to slip the palmed antidote into Maria's pocket and pat her once. With that, all Orden can do is hope that she received the message, as the guards immediately take over the scene and begin making arrangements for Tam's body. With her mind racing, Orden dizzily tries to find the pattern in the scene; she desperately wants to know that Tam will survive, but she can’t be sure, even though she’s done everything she can. Two Stormtroopers – Orden distractedly wonders if they are the same two as before - escort Orden away from the scene and out of the base. They hand her personal items over to her and load her into a car that takes her to a nearby hotel, informing her that she's to stay there and not to leave Denau until the situation between the Imperials and the Antaran government has been "fully resolved."
As Orden is escorted to her hotel-prison, Tam's "wife" takes possession of his body. She arranges for the casket to be taken to a local hospital, turning down all offers of Imperial assistance; she insists that her husband's body will be handled by Antaran officials to ensure she is given a full account of what has happened to him. She's forced to maintain the act all the way to the hospital itself, as the Stormtroopers escort her there. Once there, she is granted private audience with the coroner. Pulling funds to which Orden had previously given her access, Maria quickly negotiates a new cover-up with the coroner. Tam's body is to be replaced with another and Tam stashed away until he can recover; the new body will be interred in "Tavrie Varless's" place. The coroner, sufficiently bribed, begins to make the arrangements as the grieving widow leaves. Maria then spends the rest of the day contacting various Antaran officials, sowing more bribes around to maintain the integrity of the cover-up in government circles. Unfortunately, she does not realize that she carries the antidote for Tam's condition….
When Tam finally awakens late that evening, he finds himself nude and in pitch blackness. As his eyes adjust, he notices a faint glow above his head. Dizzy and disoriented, he lays still for a few minutes, trying to obtain his bearings. Soon, though, he begins to feel warm, closed in, and claustrophobic. He realizes he can't move his arms out or up more than a few inches, and as he tries to move, he begins to hyperventilate as if he's running out of air. Finally, his mind starting to clear slightly, he brushes the glowing object over his head with his fingertips and feels a sudden rush of cool air as the coroner's locker he's in slides out from the wall about 8 inches. Reaching up, he plants his palms on the locker above him and shoves, sliding the drawer out further. The room he's in is empty and dark, so he swings his legs over the side of the drawer and starts to step down, leaning against the wall of lockers to steady himself. He barely manages to take three breaths before a sudden nausea overwhelms him; he stumbles toward the sinks but falls short, cramping and trying not to moan as the smooth muscles of his digestive tract try to restart. Looking around frantically, he spots a floor drain a meter or two away and crawls toward it, barely managing to reach it before heaving up a thin, acidic fluid. Panting hard, he lies on the floor, alternately shivering and curling into a near-fetal position before throwing up onto the floor again and again, often throwing up nothing. He lies there for what seems like hours but is more likely only fifteen minutes before the cramps begin to diminish and he feels he can move again.
Once he feels that he won't have to throw up again, Tam crawls over to the wall and wrestles himself unsteadily to his feet. Looking around the room, he can now see in the dim light that he's in the pathology room of a largish hospital. Multiple operating tables sit in the center of the room, with lockers, sinks, and medical equipment on three of the four walls. The final wall contains a couple of doorways. One door is labeled as an exit and the other as a quarantine room for more delicate samples.
Realizing he has no idea where his clothing or equipment might be, Tam decides to slowly and carefully walk the perimeter of the room. Using the wall for support, Tam drags his shivering body from column to column of lockers. Coming to "his" locker, he checks the label and finds that it is supposed to be empty. However, the locker next to his reads "Tavrie Varless." Curious, he pops it open to see a man nearly his height and build lying in state. He looks on for a moment as his brain slowly spins up, realizing that this must be his body double. Carefully, attempting not to fall, he slides the two open lockers shut once more and stumbles slowly along the wall. One bank of lockers ends and he comes to another bank on the next wall; these, too, are labeled, but the lockers look and feel different. As he passes by, he happens to notice that one of these lockers, too, is labeled "Tavrie Varless." Curious, Tam opens the locker to discover his clothing, personal equipment, and a suit of white Stormtrooper armor stashed carefully in bins. Still shivering, Tam scoops up his clothing bin and makes his way slowly to the sinks.
Once he reaches the sinks, Tam cleans his face quickly and begins to struggle into his clothing. As he starts to put on his underwear, the lights in the room suddenly come on, blinding him; when he lifts his arm to block the light, he overbalances and topples neatly backward into the wall, banging his head. Disoriented and stunned, he suddenly feels hands on him. He tries to fight back, but in his weakened state, he can barely manage some half-hearted swings that, despite connecting, do little to his target. As he thrashes, he suddenly realizes that he can hear a voice through the ringing in his head: "I'm a doctor, it's okay, I've got you. Just calm down. I'm here to help. I'm a doctor. It's okay, I've got you…."
As the sounds slowly resolve into words, Tam stops lashing out and tries to speak; the best he can manage is a gravelly grunt. The doctor begins talking to him once more, saying something about aftereffects and weakness. Tam can tell that he's trying to explain what's going on, but Tam can't follow more than one word in ten, and he can't seem to put words together himself to express his confusion. Instead, he allows himself to be guided to one of the operating tables and helped onto it. Moments later, he feels the stickiness of a medical patch on his neck. Some form of stimulant seeps into his bloodstream, and the sounds the other man is making once again begin to resolve themselves into words. "Do you know what you took? Can you tell me what they gave you? I need to know. I'm a doctor. Can you understand me? I need to know what you took."
Tam finally manages to grunt out a rough, "No," as he makes the mistake of shaking his head. This sudden movement throws him back into a fit of vertigo, and Tam lies down quickly on the operating table to regain his composure. The doctor, meanwhile, begins prodding and poking at him, but Tam is too dizzy and sick to resist. After a few minutes, the doctor reaches for his arm and begins to pull him up again.
"Sit up, son, I need you to sit up. Good. Now, listen to me. You're going to put your clothes on, and I'm going to clean up after you a bit. Stay here, don't move, just get dressed - and take your time."
Deciding these are probably good orders to follow, Tam slowly begins once again to pull his pants and shirt on. By the time he's fully dressed, the doctor is back with him, waiting.
"You know where you are and what happened?"
Tam thinks for a moment, then manages once again the seemingly insurmountable task of forming words. "Hospital someplace. Took something. Coma drug."
"But you don't remember what it is they gave you?"
"Never told me. Should've asked."
The doctor considers this for a moment, then sighs. "Can't be helped, then. I can't give you any specific counteragents to counteract the drug you took since I don't know what it is. I can't risk giving you anything stronger than what I already gave you, either. You're gonna be one sick puppy for at least tonight, maybe longer. You got someplace nearby, a safe house or something?"
"No."
"All right. Well, we'll get you fixed up, and then we'll figure out…." The doctor trails off as Tam touches his shoulder to interrupt him.
"Wife. Got armor. Help me get it, get to my wife. She'll know what to do."
The doctor frowns at this. "Son, you're gonna be stumbling and babbling once that little stimmie I gave you wears off. You're definitely in no shape…."
"More stims. Got to."
"I can't give you any more stims! It's too dangerous! You're restarting all your organ systems already - the last thing you need to do is try to put 'em in overdrive when they're just spinning up!"
Tam looks at the doctor dead in the eyes. "No choice."
Reluctantly, the doctor helps Tam into the Stormtrooper armor and hands over a small pack of stimulants and directions on how to contact Tavrie's "wife." Tam gathers up the critical components of Tavrie's - of his - personal effects and slaps another stimulant patch on before walking out the door and into the night.
By the time Tam makes it through the city and to "Maria's" listed address, he's consumed all the stimulant packs the doctor gave him just to remain vertical. In just over two hours, he's consumed roughly 6 hours worth of stimulants, and he can feel the familiar effects of an overdose hitting home. He's sweating and trembling underneath the armor, but he continues to push through, promising himself that he can collapse just as soon as he crosses the threshold to Maria's house. The last thing he remembers that night is doing just that; as Maria opens the door, Tam stumbles inside, slurring something akin to, "Message for you from the Imperial High Command, ma'am," before pitching forward onto her entryway rug as the door slides closed behind him.

You Only Live Twice, or I Faked My Death and All I Got Was This Lousy Armor (Day 16)

The next day, Tam doesn't wake until quite late. Upon waking, he finally meets with his "wife," who refuses to give him any name other than Maria Varless. She remains completely tight-lipped, even cold, telling Tam only that she'd given him something last night that should help his recovery and that he'd need to let her know as soon as he was strong enough to leave. She impresses upon him multiple times that their cover could very easily be blown at this point. By late afternoon, thankfully, Tam feels up to leaving; having received approximately no new information other than Orden's location, he thanks Maria and leaves with little more than his clothing, his new armor, and directions to Orden’s hotel.
Tam next travels to Orden's hotel still posing as a Stormtrooper. Upon arrival, he asks after her, claiming to have a message for her from the Imperial delegates to Antaras. The hotel staff escorts him to her room where he finds Orden waiting patiently.
Once inside the hotel room, Orden fills Tam in on her current predicament. She has been under a form of house arrest since her return and will not be able to leave until the Imperials and Antarans have resolved the situation of the dead diplomat. The only problem is that there is no dead diplomat; though Tavrie Varless's credentials were strong enough to withstand a week's Imperial scrutiny, they would never survive the scrutiny of a full Antaran inquiry. Orden hands a datachip to Tam and tells him that the data must reach a privileged HoloNet terminal like the one they’d previously tapped. From there, the forged data on the chip will self-inject into the Imperial and Antaran databases, marking the issue as having been resolved in delicate (and quiet) negotiations through various side channels. When the officers aboard the Coruscant Express receive word that everything has been cleared up, she should finally be free to leave. However, as she is currently under surveillance, she cannot risk leaving the hotel at the moment.
Orden directs Tam to return to the shuttle in the security dock. He should be able to hand off the data chip as a normal intelligence packet and have the officers themselves upload it into their system. From there, the information will automatically propagate through the tap to the necessary nodes. After that, Tam will need to ditch the Stormtrooper armor somewhere safe and make his way (quietly and carefully) to a hotel, any hotel, somewhere far from Orden. Orden tells him that they'll meet up in two days at a specific waterfront diner popular with tourists, the Double Sunrise; from there, they should be able to blend in with the rest of the crowd and make their way to a shuttle that will return them to Ialain. Until they are far clear, Orden instructs Tam not to try to contact the Prospect as the risk of exposure is still too great.
Before he can even break in to argue with her plan, Orden shoves a fist-full of credits into Tam’s hands and practically pushes him to the door. He begins to resist, to question the plan, to question where all this cash came from, but something about the look in her eyes causes him to think twice. She looks… concerned. Fearful. Something about that look tells Tam that they're truly, truly not out of the woods yet. Stowing his concerns, he turns to the door and thanks her for her time. Tam then leaves and heads toward the military starport.
Tam barely manages to talk his way onto the military base; despite his purloined Stormtrooper armor (and the associated rapidly-expiring credentials), the extremely tight security level at the base stymies him for half an hour. He finally manages to convince the Antaran Defense Force guards to call up "his superiors on station" so that he can speak with them. Once the officer arrives, Tam keeps his report brief. He claims to be attached to a different troop guarding an on-world Imperial diplomat; in the course of his duties, he was given some intelligence "of the utmost importance" to deliver to a "suitably-secure" Imperial on-world presence. Tam hastily hands off the datachip and departs, ostensibly to return to his duty station. Involuntarily, he crosses his fingers as best he can in the armor as he walks away.
On the way to finding a hotel, Tam stops off at a large public park, temporarily stashing his armor in an apparently-unused boathouse. He makes his way to some downtown shops to purchase additional clothing and luggage cases, discovering in the process that the large wad of cash Orden had pressed into his hands amounted to nearly 1500 credits. Thankfully, he manages to sneak back to the park hours later with his luggage to pack up the Stormtrooper armor inside, just in case. Late that night, Tam finally arrives at a hotel on the far north side of Denau. As rich as he felt at the start of the day, however, he barely retains 200 credits by the time he's paid for his clothing, his luggage, and the cost of the hotel stay. Exhausted and still reeling (though from the mission or from some lingering aftereffects of the drug, he cannot say), Tam slides into his rented bed and falls asleep nearly before his head hit the pillow.

Days 17 and 18, Tam and Orden

The next day is, thankfully, rather uneventful. With nothing to do (yay!) but no one to spend a free day with (boo!), Tam spends almost the entire day in his hotel room, leaving only to find meals. He fastidiously strips and cleans the new armor as best he can given the circumstances and carefully repacks the components into his luggage, concealing them under his brand-new clothing. By the time he's earmarked as his bedtime, Tam is well and truly itching for something to happen. He finally drifts to sleep muttering vague prayers that his meeting with Orden in the morning will go smoothly and that they'll be able to return home to the Prospect.
The next morning, Tam arrives 20 minutes early at the Double Sunrise, clumsily dragging his luggage behind him like many a tourist before him. He sits and orders, but as time passes, he sees no signs of Orden. Twenty minutes… thirty… forty-five… she should have long since been here! Just as he is about to cash out and go looking for her, he sees Orden walk up to the door. Tam is immediately floored by the waves of relief he feels just seeing her face again. When she sees him, she smiles as well - not the warm smile of her alias, but her small, tight, timid smile, her Orden smile - and comes to sit with him. They share a small breakfast finally, but neither speaks much; it seems to both of them that there is nothing they can say in public, not with this may people around.
After breakfast, Tam throws down very nearly the last of his money and stands, offering Orden his arm in a semi-humorous gesture of chivalry. To his great surprise, she takes it, and they walk out of the diner and into the street, set on finally finding themselves a ride back to Ialain and home.

Tam and Orden, After Murder on the Coruscant Express

A few days later, back onboard the Prospect, everything seems to Tam to have returned to some semblance of normalcy. Venn seems more dour than usual, whereas Kane seems almost compulsively gregarious, but neither has spoken much yet about what happened while Tam was away. With everyone packed in to the suddenly small ship, Tam hasn’t had the chance to speak with Orden privately since they arrived, not that he’s seen her more than six inches from a computer terminal anyway. Feeling sort of lost now that the adrenaline of the past few weeks has well and truly passed, Tam falls back into old habits, checking and double-checking every piece of equipment he’s been issued. This keeps his hands occupied, but his mind wanders, playing back Orden’s odd behavior on the Coruscant Express. Odd even by Orden standards.

The door buzzes, startling Tam from his reverie. As years of military life bring him automatically to his feet, he calls "Enter" toward the door. As the door slides open and Lt. Orden crosses the threshold, he snaps to a habitual semi-attention before noticing an odd, pensive look upon her face.
Orden faes off with him from just an arm's length away, her brow furrowed. As Orden looks Tam slowly up and down, he opens his mouth to speak. Before he can formulate just what to say, Orden grabs him by the lapels and pulls him down to her level. Tam's momentary surprise quickly melts away as her lips unexpectedly find his, turning instead to raw desire the likes of which he had not felt in a long while. He feels his face start to flush as his hands find her back and slide down it, pulling her to him. The world dissolves around him, leaving nothing in his mind but the scent of her hair and the taste of her lips. Then, just as suddenly as things had begun, Orden pulls away from Tam, taking a half-step back. For just a moment, Tam can see her eyes flutter slightly as the flush begins to slowly fade from her face; just as quickly, though her face snaps back to her standard neutral demeanor.
"So it was real, not the role," Orden mutters, seemingly to herself, as she turns to leave.
Amped up and frustrated from this (becoming all-too-common) interaction with Orden, Tam quickly reaches out and grabs her shoulder, spinning her back to face him - and just a little harder than he'd intended. Embarrassment re-reddening his face, Tam starts to stammer an apology. His frustration quickly gets the better of him and he stops himself, instead saying, "What the hell was that all about? You come in here… you… what…." Tam pauses for just a moment to compose himself. He momentarily closes his eyes and takes one deep breath. Looking at the floor at Orden's feet, he finds the words he's been searching for: "I deserve to know just what is going on here, between you and me." Somewhat reluctantly, he looks into Orden's eyes, fearful of what he might find. His shoulder slump as he finds her face, impassive as always. She looks at him intently for a long moment, studying, not answering, and he can feel the flush of embarrassment spreading up his face, Just before he breaks the seemingly-impenetrable silence between them, she whispers, “I haven’t cracked the puzzle yet,” turns, and leaves, leaving Tam speechless in the door to his quarters.


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