Log:Array Consortium: Cloak and Dagger, Part 2
Working with Adhar Gann as a double agent against the Mathall Syndicate, Pash Danigo goes to meet with Aline, the Mathall recruiter and agent, and deliver a cargo of now-precious Danati Blue.
It's a long trip into the southern Outer Rim, but you're doing the job anyway. Five hundred kilos of Danati Blue spice, salvaged from the body-pockets of the slaves rescued from over Corva Yag and another incident, both just before you joined up. That's a hundred or so sentients. The Blue is a drop in the bucket, considering what they've lost, but your holocall to 'Aline' got you a bright laugh and a impressed look from the Echani. She gives you coordinates, and gives you a where and when to make the drop.
And so here you are, in hyperspace, ticking down the time before you return to realspace. Realspace, where an entire planetary system, the heart of the New Republic, may well have just been annihilated by unknown means wielded by a still-mysterious enemy. And you're playing double agent
Hell of a thing sometimes, smuggling.
Hyperspace is exactly where Pash wants to be at the moment. It's why he jumped at doing the job, while others were busy looking to each other for comfort in this uncertain time. It's this place, where he can be alone, that Pash finds comforting.
"What are you doing, old man?" He asks himself, voice sounding tiny even in the cramped cockpit. What is he doing in the Consortium? What is he doing delivering this spice? It's all stuff to wonder about in the wake of such a tragedy.
Pash doesn't dwell on it,though. Instead, he eyes the nav computer to check his hyperspace status and goes over what he's going to talk to 'Aline' about. Some of it will be sincere, which will help, but he knows he's going to have to BS something.
You're doing the same thing you've been doing for years, that's what. Republic, Empire, New Republic, First Order, how much does it really affect what you're doing now? Smuggling never changes, just what's legal and what's not. Isn't the Consortium a step up? Just one, big happy family with a heavily armed patriarch. Standing up there on those blocks, in that highly ornamented battle armor, like he were Mandalore or some other warlord. Isn't he supposed to be a smuggler? His reputation is good. He's supposed to be very skilled...
An alarm sounds. The navicomputer s telling you that you have five minutes before entering realspace. It does not lie to you, it just crunches numbers. Doesn't ask you to inform on friends. Or whatever these people are.
Some of those thoughts may flit through Pash's mind. Or at least some version of them. Whatever they are, or aren't, though, is cut short by the alarm. He straightens and eyes his control board. His head bends left, right, joints cracking each time. Then, everything distills into the pinprick points of light that make up the backdrop of real space. "Here we go, then," Pash mutters, eyeing his scanner.
Here we go, indeed.
The ship transitions into realspace at the coordinates Aline has given you - and sure enough, there's a ship waiting for you. A Corellian CR90 floats in space, just a few thousand kilometers away - still sizable, its hull enlarged on either side with some kind of large pods attached to the hull. Lights can be seen there, some kind of opening. Likely a hangar.
<< There you are, Special Delivery. >> Aline's voice, amused as always, pours like warm honey into your ears from the comms system. << I take it you weren't followed? >>
Pash eyes the craft and the opening in it's side, angling his Broadstar toward it. When the honeyed voice fills the cockpit, he cant help but smirk. "Through hyperspace?" he answers into the comm. "I think we're safe."
The Corellian craft grows larger as he nears. With the flick of a button, Pash realigns the fusealge for a horizontal approach, watching as the craft revolves around the cockpit.
"Many ways to find out where someone's going," Aline says, chuckling on the comms. "Your boss could sabotage your navicomp and have it broadcast your coordinates on jump, mmm? He a suspicious type?" Even as she speaks, however, landing coordinates are transmitted to your ship, allowing you clearance.
Pash receives the coordinators and adjusts his approach accordingly. "You really need me to answer that question?" he says, eyeing the other ship closely for signs of trouble. "Trust me, I'm alone."
When he's close enough to begin the landing procedure, his engines slowly power down to help slow his approach. "You see the fireworks, too?"
"Pretty sure that everyone did," she says, sounding utterly unconcerned. The ship drifts into what is very much an aftermarket hangar bay, set up like a saddlebag on one side of the ship - and likely the other. A small number of Imperial TIE fighters hang from racks on one side of the hangar, and a spot for a shuttle or a transport to land. It's this pad you are guided into, and once the ship lands and the engines power down, her voice sounds again.
"Come on out. And bring the good stuff."
Pash notes the response and seems unimpressed by it. Lots of cold people out there, he muses, and not for the first time in his life. "See you in a jiff."
The smuggler guides his ultra-light and sets it down gingerly on the landing pad. Not long after, the rear hatch opens up and Pash can be seen inside, unfastening the straps that are holding the spice safely in place.
Standing at the base of the Special Delivery, the Echani woman awaits you in a plain black spacer's coverall, a blaster and a heavy vibrosword hanging off either hip by crossbelts. Behind here are a squad's worth of sentients in heavy combat armor, blaster rifles at hand. She smiles as she sees you, red lips making a lopsided curve. "Pash Danigo," she calls breathily, hands on her hips. "You /did/ bring me something good, after all. I'm /very/ impressed."
A few of the armed men stow their rifles and begin to ascent the boarding ramp, while the rest stand guard, watching.
Pash eyes the squad and chuckles. "Is all that for me?" he asks about the rifle-bearers, stepping aside as some begin to board. He's happy enough to let someone else get this stuff off his boat, hopping from the rear to land with a thud just below. Slowly, he stretches out his sore limbs. "Let's unload and find somewhere to chat," he then suggests.
"It's for whoever comes in, darling," Aline says, smirking faintly as you leap onto the deck. "And yes, let's do that." She saunters off toward a door build into the hull that was likely once an airlock, leading you down into the guts of the ship with the two black-armored goons following behind you.
After a trip to the turbolift you enter a luxurious salon, complete with artwork and a big holoprojector recessed in the ceiling. Lots of misery money involved in this boat. "Have a seat," she says, gesturing to one of several c-shaped couched upholstered in blue leather. "Would you like a drink?"
Pash takes a look back at his ship and watches for a moment as the armored beings crawl inside of it. He feels a pang of regret for not sticking around, but if the Syndicate really wants him around as much as they claim to, the Broadstar should be in safe hands. So, he turns around again and keeps walking.
In the lounge, Pash shakes his head and settles onto the nearest couch. "Not for me. Let's get down to things." He leans back, drapes an arm behind him, and waits for Aline to lead.
"You're a combative fellow," Aine says, dropping fluidly onto a couch at the center around the holotank assembly, draping her arms across the back. "I wonder what you'd be like in the sparring ring." A smile curls her lip. "So. Speak your mind."
Pash stares across to Aline and says, "Combative. Not a word I usually hear to describe me," he says, smirking. "I'm a businessman, Aline. That's what I'm here for." He crosses one of his legs over the other and looks entirely relaxed, though it's clear his mind is racing. "I first want to address all the ugliness going on, in particular the most recent attack affecting your spice. It was - " here he pauses to search for a word " - unnecessarily violent. I'm sorry for that." Another pause, this time to gauge the woman's response. "But you should know the cheap assassination attempt on Captain Gann is only going to goad him on."
"Ohhhh?" Aline sits up a bit, grinning. "He's an interesting person, that Adhar Gann. He's made some people very nervous. What's he like, Pash? My employers want to know. He's a real cipher, this guy."
A droid comes in, carrying a tray with a pair of tall flutes filled with blue liquid. She takes one, sipping, and gestures at you with it and a pointing, manicured finger. "You know, this guy's just come out of nowhere? Six months ago he was just some sleemo smuggler with a little boat, junior grade all the way. But now? Mmmm. That's a rise nobody's seen in a long time. And so violent! Up until now he was supposed to be a real soft touch, right? But he's raided slave ships, took out a fighter wing, a whole ship full of slaves and spice, razed an important facility..." She laughs incredulously. "What a surprise!"
Pash eyes the drink that's offered to him, eyes narrowed. He was sure he turned down such a thing. Still, he plucks it from the tray, then proceeds to otherwise ignore it. "He's a mystery to me, too. Violent, for sure, but not without compassion. You ask me? He's a man who earned a lot of money real fast and a name to go with it. He'll do anything to keep that name afloat." The spacer's head cocks to one side. "Best to find a way not to tread on each other's toes."
She snorts. "Pash, please," Aline scoffs with a toss of her lovely while hair. "He's earned nothing by comparison to my employers. I mean he's got what, that old Marauder? Look at this ship I'm in right now. We have ten of these. Fighters, troops, mercenary contracts, all of that. If we wanted to assassinate him, we'd turn him and his into a greasy spot. Just because you lot are on Nar Shaddaa doesn't mean you're out of reach." She winks, taking a deep sip of her drink, her other hand extending a long finger in a pausing gesture.
When she's done, she looks you over. "Of course of all his crew, I didn't expect for -you- to take this little job of mine. That Cathar, she's the one with the real sketchy reputation. But you're surprisingly cooperative. Why is that?"
Pash smirks again. If this woman didn't represent what she does, he might actually like her. "Well, in comparison, sure," he says, though to the other single-boat smugglers out there, the Consortium looks pretty flush.
When the topic turns his way, he looks down at his glass thoughtfully. "I don't know about the Cathar," he begins, "but for me, it's a matter of keeping peace. Captain Gann's violence concerns me. I'm hoping that by working with you, I can help broker something that doesn't involve a bunch of dead bodies. Then, maybe I can work for someone who has their shit together."
She lifts her glass, looking at you through the blue lens its contents provide. "You, my friend, are dreaming." Aline drains the glass and gives it back to the waiting droid, shooing it off with a flick of her fingers. "You don't do what Gann did and get away with it. He's gonna die, and we're gonna drive him over the cliff. He's an example, Pash, and so is anyone else who was involved in all that mess. I'm assuming just /his/ crew, but if not..." She mimes an explosion with cupped hands spreading apart. "That's it for them, too."
Pash takes a deep breath, holds it, and exhales. "I don't know," he says. "I prefer to consider myself hopeful." He shifts uncomfortably in his seat, perhaps because of the threat just given, or more probably because he's just dug himself a bit deeper with yet another violent person. And for what, exactly?
"Adhar Gann isn't going down without a fight," he tells Aline. "And you're clearly not about to budge. Making me wonder whether I should just walk away from it all." He mutters this last bit to himself, but who's he kidding, really? He would have done that already. "Where do we start?"
Aline's slender shoulders lift in a shrug. "You know, this didn't have to be," she says. "I mean, shutting down their spice connections, that wasn't an /attack/."
Pash shrugs, exaggerating the act by lifting his hands as well, which very nearly sees him spilling his still-full drink. "And, yet, here we are. Forced to choose sides," he tells her. Hands lowered once more, he uncrosses his legs and leans forward, setting the glass on a table to the side. Folding his hands together, he looks at Aline very seriously. "I'm in, alright? Let's just make it quick."
"Make what quick?" She lifts her brows. "You don't think you're /done/, do you Pash? You haven't earned your place yet, not with this minor betrayal you've engineered." She looks vaguely surprised, perhaps even disappointed.
Pash lifts his gaze to the ceiling for a moment and nods. "Yeah, I figured as much," he tells Aline. "I mean, let's get this whole, nasty, backstabbing business out of the way. I want to get back to work." He stresses this point, lowering his gaze onto Aline once again. "So, what do I need to do?"
"Ahhhhh." She smirks, sitting up so that her arms cross over her knees. "It's a shame," Aline says, meeting your gaze with her own silvery eyes. "I thought you liked talking to me, man to woman. But that's fine. Let's talk business, instead." Aline props up her chin with one hand now, the other dangling over a knee. "You know, your boy there, he's managed to do something that nobody's ever managed to do before - recruit one of our people. He sent a team to take a girl from Vaynai, but she belonged to our man. He disappeared that evening, and his own castle exploded the same night. We conclude that not only was this planned by your boy Gann, he took the girl out to seal our man - our former man, that is. To seal his loyalty."
She flops back against the couch, arms draped over the back again. "You want to make us happy? Find out where he's put Danar Koolen. We want our spice boss back, Pash. No Koolen, no Blue, not the special formula that makes it really sing. All data went up with his house laboratory. We want him back, so we can get it out of his head. Then we'll decide whether or not to detach it."
Aline smiles at you, then looks past to you the guards by the door. "You can go, Pash," she says. "Quick enough for you?"
Pash's brow remains arched as a smirk spreads across his face. "Even if that were true, a smart lady like you might know a thing or two." But since he knows it's not, he turns to fully face her. "Doesn't take a genius to read the spice market," he claims. "Just a bunch of us with enough experience under our belts. So, throw me a bone?"
"Sorry, handsome," Aline says, spreading her hands in a gesture of supplication. "Just not the kind of stuff we deal in - although if anyone was going to deal in that sort of thing down this way, it would be the Gantas. They're based out of...Manpha, I want to say. Well, best of luck to your boy, I guess. Hope you aren't around when we start poking him for real, huh?" She gestures to the door, dismissing you - because on this ship, she's queen - before taking the other glass from the droid's tray and sipping it with a smile of intense satisfaction.
Pash stands there for a moment, thinking. He doesn't want to stick around too long, but he does know he could have left with a lot more. "You and I are going to have to trust each other one of these days," he tells Aline, before turning and heading for the door. "Good luck to all of us," he shouts over his shoulder with a wave. Force knows /he's/ going to need it.
She says nothing more, and the armored goons direct you back to your ship - where, it must be assumed, no bombs or whatnot have been attached. Fortune only knows. But it's quiet now, the guards not interested in talking, and as the audience is over it's time you be on your way.
Pash isn't much on talking anway, so he actually doesn't mind the presence of the guards. When he's back on his ship, he loads up carefully, but quickly, eager to get the hell off this ship. He's got a mission now, but first a stop-off to Manpha. Still reeling from recent events, it's the perfect distraction before returning to Nar Shaddaa.