Log:Array Consortium: Gunboat Diplomacy
Now that the cat's out of the bag, Kespasian patrols range through the system - but they haven't discovered the combined fleet of the Atrax Guard and Grey Legion, not yet. In the meantime, it is determined that the corporate leadership at Ralun and Jaynat's mining colonies may be swaying for the Kespanian 'cause'. Elements of the Consortium, by private request of the Crown, are to travel via secure transport and protect royal diplomatic agents as they meet with colonial authorities and try and reverse this situation. The Children of Kespan are expected to hear of this, and violence is to be expected.
With the discovery of the Atrax Guard in 'their' system, the Children of Kespan have stepped up patrols all over the system, leaving travel in that space more than a little exciting these days. It has gotten to the point that the security of even the other planets in the system have begun to feel the heat, and now both the colonies on Jaynat and Ralun appear to be on the verge of giving over to the corporatist 'revolutionaries'. To that end, agents in employ of the Crown have taken the industrial transport Alaxus out of Bespin which, having just unloaded its gas payload at Jaynat, now seeks to meet with the representatives of the aforementioned worlds - themselves awaiting the agents on an ore transport in the area - so that negotiations can occur.
The Consortium agents have been sent to protect them, naturally at the request of the Crown. Assigned one of the few bunkrooms not already taken by the crew, the four operatives await the ship's reaching the rendezvous. Stealth is not a necessity here, not like the past trip to Ralun via tramp freighter; as guards, the crew won't flinch at the sight of armed mercenaries tromping the deck. They just don't want to know the detail.
Alaxus's bulk moves slowly through space, and its drives can be felt humming through the deck at all times - but the bunks are insulated enough so that those who rest in the little four-bunk room won't be rattled to their bones...
Times like this, Sion is grateful for the bunks' insulation; no doubt it keeps many a coach-class passenger from going spare. The bunk she's been assigned is all but a refuge from the ship's noise and bustle. Something tells her arriving rested and ready to work will be essential. Some sense of impending arrival is probably what nudges her from a sound sleep to bleary wakefulness; she opens her eyes to find herself looking up at the bunk above her. She rubs her eyes and yawns silently, pivoting to sit up and look around, preferably at a clock.
As usual, David Ironside hasn't slept. He's just been.. there. Making sure his weapon's in working order, twirling it on his finger and practicing his quickdraw in a mirror. As one does. When something (someone!) stirs behind him, he twirls the pistol one last time and slots it back in the holster, leaving it unfastened. "Morning, sleepyhead." he tells Sion as he turns around.
Aola herself had been resting earlier, so by the time the others are stirring she had been up for a bit. Hell, it took 'a bit' for her to get all her armor on when she wasn't under pressure. The pilot might have had some infantry combat training, but she was still much more comfortable up in the cockpit. Checking her rifle on her sling one more time, the blue-skinned woman was headed for the door just in time to spot Sion stirring and she turns, sharing a grin with David before waving her fingers at Sion. "Heading out to the deck. Don't forget your pants this time!
The interior of the Alaxus's main bay is open plan, being made up of chambers situated around a catwalk which surrounds an array of storage tanks and pumping mechanisms that stands two decks tall. Five hundred tons' worth of pressurized gas can be carried on Alaxus, and entering the bay is like entering a cavern. Every sound seems to echo off the machinery and the bulkheads alike.
Standing outside the bulkrooms on the starboard side, on the other side of the bay, the Crown's agents stand speaking furtively to one another. Mol Barow and Tenno Aldan are their names, a stern woman and plump, almost jovial man in crew boilersuits and jackets over that. They look like they should have spots on the crew, but they certainly don't - they're diplomatic sorts, though they comport themselves as spacehands at the moment.
"Are we there yet?" Sion asks, almost petulantly, though her Aola-answering smile belies her tone. "I'll be along in a minute. I'll do my best not to forget," she adds, sticking her tongue out at the Twi'lek as she pushes the covers aside. As might be expected, she slept in her underwear; lavender athletic bra and briefs.
"Morning to you too, Dave. Just need a minute." She nods to Dave as she gets up, brushing her hair back over her shoulders and opening her gear bag to collect her armor. Setting out the pieces, she pulls it carefully on. "Think we'll need all this gear? We'll be just a bit conspicuous us around the negotiating table."
David shakes his head with a smile at the banter between his two companions, stepping out the door to just take a peek. "I don't think I stand out that much." he replies to Sion with a glance down at his regular wear, never opting for armor. If he gets shot, it'll have been meant to be. He steps back in the bunkroom, waiting patiently for the others to be ready as well.
Aola's eyes do move over the crew and the diplomats, but she's not really going out of her way to talk to them or approach them yet. She wasn't much of a negotiator or political sort at the best of times and the last time she'd done the 'talky' stuff? She'd been pretending to be a slave to help rescue her family...
Yeah, she'll let others talk to the big-wigs. Right now? She's just walking some semblance of a patrol.
Barow and Aldan stop speaking the moment Aola emerges, giving their guard a bit of a look; they depart form their place, coming round the catwalk to where Aola stands, assuming she hasn't departed. "We'll be ready for the meeting soon," says Barow, her thin face mean and speaking nothing of niceties. "But there's been a change of plan. We'll be moving from the Alaxus onto the other vessel, and returning to Jaynat. By the time we reach Jaynat, we'll have either brokered a suitable agreement or we'll be departing the colony empty-handed."
This was not - as they say - "part of the plan." But it /is/ how these sorts of things tend to go, isn't it now? Always the help has the deal with the shaft given them by the VIPs. At least it's only added travel.
"Probably not, not in streetwear. Me, I'd rather have a little more between me and the blasters," Sion says, no judgement in her tone, just a statement of fact. She fastens the last tabs, adjusts her collar, and straps on the belt with her blaster. "Guess we'd better meet our negotiators."
She steps out of the room, looking around the deck before she moves to join Aola and their two bosses. She's just in time to hear those unwelcome words. "So, we'll be waiting to find out how we'll be getting back, then?" she asks, not asking whose idea this was. She has a feeling it was the other side's suggestion.
David inclines his head to Sion, acknowledging her silently and letting her pass first. "If anything goes sideways, you're lead." he tells the Socorran in passing, eyes on Aola and the two in their boiler suits. "I'm sure there's plenty of people willing to give us a ride out, anyway."
Well...great. Where was Adhar when you need him? "Are you certain that's wise?" Aola questions, shifting her grip and hugging her rifle to her as she speaks to the pair. No niceties offered? That didn't bother her. "Here on this ship we control the evironment. Our ability to protect you all is less stable when we're on a ship with its own force and limited resources." The Twi'lek looks back over her shoulder, looking towards Sion and nodding. David's comment earns a shrug. "Here's hoping."
"We have that handled," replies Aldan, who sounds as jovial as he looks; the big man folds his hands upon his expansive middle. "Don't worry, you're our allies! We'd not leave you out to twist. Now, then. If you haven't gotten your gear together, please do so. We'll be ready any time now, I expect. Lots to do."
"Just need my bag," Sion replies, exchanging a 'the customer is always right, even if they're making a mistake' look with Aola and Dave. These two have all but guaranteed that the trouble they've been trying to prevent will happen... but they're the clients. All they can do is try to be prepared for the sudden-but-inevitable double-cross. "All we can do is our best, and hope it's enough. If anyone needs, I can bring back your stuff with me." She waits for answers, then steps away to return to the cabin, to retrieve her gear bag (and possibbly others' as well).
David has no gear bag, he looks the jovial big man up and down and pats his sidearm. "All I need, right here." he comments. It's also all he -brought-, but he's conveniently leaving that out of the comment. "I'm ready to get this going." he adds, in an attempt to get underway that much quicker.
There's a nod from the Twi'lek, then she shifts to turn towards the rooms. There's only a small bag with her sleeping clothing, but she'll be taking it with her none the less. "Alright, but for the record? I've got a bad feeling about this."
"I have a bad feeling about losing our system to corporate opportunists," Barow replies waspishly. "So we are all on the same page. We'll call when we need you..." With an apologetic look shot to the lot of them from Aldan, the Crown's agents walk away, allowing the rest to go about getting their gear together for the time when they are needed.
It doesn't take too long. The Alaxus meets with the industrial salvage hauler 'Tel-Ne-Nog', flying Hapan colors, near the inside border of the Glittering Belt. Summoned to follow them, the Consortium folks are brought on board the other ship - which isn't much more comfortable than Alaxus, albeit quite a good deal larger - where a larger number of Sarkhaian folks making a great deal of being unnoticeable and their equally unnoticeable bodyguards with their unnoticeable guns under their jackets. Oh yes, quite unnoticeable. Gold stars for everyone.
At length, hours pass where the unnoticeable bodyguards stand around by the very noticeable Consortium parties - and it is quite late in the evening when the ship enters the space near Jaynat and the Crown's agents emerge, stonefaced, and gesture to the Consortium agents to follow. They lead back toward to the staterooms, not saying a word...and that seems, well, grim.
The transfer goes smoothly, and there follows a great deal of standing around, watching things, and waiting on instructions from the clients... which take a very long time to arrive, and aren't very informative. Sion glances to Dave and Aola, and finally falls in behind the Crown agents. Who are being uninformative still. She resolves to wait as long as they do, maintaining her own silence.
David's face turns sour with the lack of action, information or actionable information. He leans on a wall with his arms crossed, returning Sion's look occasionally. He peers at the chrono on his wrist, eyes falling shut in irritation more than once. Maybe he could go for a quick nap -now-. In one of the staterooms, they're there anyway.
Transfered and following, Aola had been relatively quiet as she walked. Out of her comfort zone no in both job and location, her lekku give a light twitch in irritation as they continue their walk behind their charges. It was almost like she were muttering under her breath if anyone could read the motions.
"Well," says Aldan in his cheerful way, "I think that went quite well."
"You heard what they said, Aldan," Barow replies, making a dark face. "The Crown will never accept those terms."
"Ah, but they need not hear them to accept," Aldan replies pleasantly. "A short-term ruse while the Crown is behind a shield and incommunicate will lead to a lovely turn later on, I think. In fact--"
As if a whole flock of ducks were fed screaming into an industrial press at once, klaxons go off across the ship, and following that, the sudden, sizzling wash of electricity pouring through the hull. Sparks shower from a hundred places on the hull, and the ship begins to list as the power goes out...and only the soft blue of emergency lighting replaces it.
Sion frowns, hearing the potential deception that might shortly be occurring. But she barely has time to consider that before things go from bad to worse: She hears and feels the telltale hull tremors and arcing of ion cannons fired into the ship, just before the power goes out!
Sion lifts her hands, motioning for quiet as the power comes back up. "We're under attack. Those were ion cannons, and I'll bet we've all got some good guesses who fired them," she says tersely. "And if /my/ guess is right, we're about to have a lot of unfriendly company."
David pushes off the wall, hand going down to his blaster instinctively. "What do we do? I'm not used to being inside a ship that's being fired at without being able to go out and fire back." he defers to Sion and Aola equally. "Last time was.." he starts, but stops himself. It was the Raddus, with the First Order on their heels. He doesn't want to remember it. "Nevermind. What's the plan?"
Aola hadn't been on the Raddus, but that didn't mean she was enjoying the experience any greater than anyone else. Even if there was a little 'I told you so' to it all. "Well, they didn't blow us up, so that's a good start. Boarders won't be far away." A grunt, she looks to the others. "Figures we'd be without our fighters, huh?"
In an instant, Barow manages to get that much more grave. "Things like this just keep happening to me," she mutters, pulling a pistol from inside her jacket; the combat little piece has an underlung illuminator, which throws a cone of red light across the bay. "Aldan? Your opinion?"
"Boarding party, most likely," Aldan replies, himself growing grave as well - all cheer wiped from him, he sighs in resignation as he draws from his own jacket a blaster. "We need to find the escape pods," he says, looking back to the Consortium folk. "And then we can make planetfall. These poor devils are their allies, or at least as close to such as I can imagine. We, however, they'll skin until we die screaming." That said, the portly 'diplomat' looks to Sion and the rest. "Well, then. Let's find our way, and fast. Best to stun anyone who gets in our way, just to be safe."
"Most likely," Sion agrees, drawing her own weapon and checking the charge level. "Stay close together, watch for anybody who you don't know and who isn't wearing a ship's uniform. And yes, set for stun; I don't like it, but we could easily hit the wrong people, and better to avoid any permanent damage."
She takes a quick look around. "This is the main passenger area. There should be escape pods forward of here, probably between command and engineering.
David looks at his gun sheepishly. "Yeah. Stun." he says with a slight chuckle. "That's not going to work for me. I'd love to, but there's no stun mode on this baby." he explains as he dangles the gun lamely from his finger. "See, it's kind of a classic. I don't know. Not built for stunning." He ponders for a second and turns it around. "I guess I could use it as a club."
Meanwhile, the klaxons continue to roar; the thunder boils in the ears, until they suddenl stop, and an awful silence fills this section of the ship while ahead and to aft muted thunder of feet and calling voice seem a thousand miles away. Here, there is only the flashing of the alarm lights, blue and black, the pulsing of the bruise.
"Then you'd better not shoot unless we're sure we've got combatants, my lad," says Aldan, who winks at David before turning to lead the way to fore, gun in hand...
...just as the ship shudders with what can only be the contact with another. Docking has commenced.
Aola Ziveri just frowns, lifting her own weapon before nodding her head. Stun was a good point, but the blue-skinned woman gives a little noise of disapproval. The badguys probably weren't going to offer them the same courtesy.
"Hurry," Sion hisses, taking the lead. "That has to be the boarding party." She toggles her low-light visor active and begins making her way forward, blaster in hands, lanyard around her wrist, eyes up and alert. "Stay sharp. We know they docked. We don't know /where/."
David follows behind Sion quickly, dryly replying "You suppose they're at a docking ring, then? How many of those could there possibly be?" he glances over at Aldan, shrugging. "We go there, we head them off and I don't have to worry about stunning anyone." That's the plan and he's likely to stick with it if no alternatives are offered.
Solid enough plan for Aola, the Twi'lek nods. But she's not changing back to Lethal just yet.
"We go to the escape pods," Barow hisses, looking back at David. "We're paying /you/, don't forget. We need to get off this crate - the Crown doesn't have many representatives offworld, and they need everyone they can get. Shoot if you need to, but we're not 'heading off' anyone unless they're standing in front of the pods!"
And with this said, Barow joins Aldan, who crouches down by the hatch leading into the next session - and opening it, reveals...an empty passage beyond. Somewhere to fore, a clanking can be heard, more voices. Some of them seem...muffled? Distorted? Something's off.
"Come on," says Aldan. "The quicker the better." Then the fat fellow - with surprising dexterity for a man his size - begins to walk, mid-crouch, down the hall with partner in tow.
Sion moves to the hatch, peering through, then steps through, brushing the hatch coaming with one of her shoulder plates. She winces at the slight sound, but continues advancing carefully. "Something's not right up there..." she hisses back to the party, staying close to the wall so as not to cast a silhouette forward.
Following Sion, David is exceptionally unworried about making noise by scraping again the wall, on account of him not having all that many rigid bits on his gear. When Sion points out the noise, he whispers back. "What do you suppose is making that noise? Which way to the 'escape pods'?" he replies, peering at Aldan when he puts slight emphasis on 'escape pods' for no reason. Lighter on his feet than his appearance would suggest he keeps moving.
Down the corridor, around a bend, and down yet another - the five of you creep along the guts of the ship, seeking the pods in question. As the lot of you turn into another section, the corridor runs along the outside of an interior chamber to the port side, the ship's lounge; large viewports show a number of crewmen within, and with them, a number of beings in slate gray battle armor (or perhaps powersuits from the heaviness of the suits) and heavy rifles are busy interrogating them - the muted sounds are the voices of these boarders, shouting at the hapless people through their sealed helms.
The five of them proceed past this area, where - hurrah! - a sign can be seen just beyond marked with the universal glyphs designating that escape pods can be found there. "Hurry," hisses Barow at the head of the formation, waving on the lot of you from there. "We're almost there!"
And it's about that time that, from behind you all, the lounge hatch unseals, and the tromp of boots can be heard ringing on the deck, and more shouting from the gray-armored boarders. Though the voices are muffled to the point their words cannot be made out, the tone is undeniably /angry/. And, because fate is unkind, coming their way.
"Get to the pods and get one open," Sion hisses, quickly taking cover once she sees which hatch is opening. "Walk soft, but hurry. Bet they hear us about as well as we hear them." She motions the rest of the group past while she remains to protect the tail, knowing full well how much most things hate getting hit by her antique weapon.
David nods, tiptoeing quickly to the pods. He cushions his weight with the air under his heels, bouncing slightly in his crouching step. He sticks a hand tentatively out towards a door panel, unlocking the nearest pod to the others, blaster ready in case it comes down with all the sound the man himself has avoided making.
"Let's just hope whoever picks us up is friendly," Aola muses softly as they head towards the pods, turning her own blaster back behind them to cover their retreat and gesturing with a nod of her head to the VIP's. "After you."
The tromp of boots up the corridor threatens doom at the end of those heavy guns, but the baddies are too late; by the time long shadows are thrown down the pale gray bulkheads of the hall behind you, Barow and Aldan have two pods unsealed and are shepherding them all through the hatches. "We've got coordinates prepared," Barow explains from outside before she ducks into the other pod. "We'll meet there." And so she disappears into the other pod with Sion and Aola, while David is left with Aldan. The round fellow reaches for the control panel, flicking witches and pressing a large button marked 'COMMIT'...and then with a metallic rumble and the sudden jerk of explosive bolts, the pod is away. Two durasteel comets streak away into the night, the sight of a CR90 sealed against the far chunkier form of the Tel-Ne-Nog spinning away through each pod's long porthole. Down through the dark and into the atmosphere of Jaynat, at length, they go...entering the atmosphere with the brilliant halo of fire that re-entry provides, a last thrill of possible doom, and then...each pod lands, not far from the other, landing in the soft rock-sands near a vast flint plain.
And so you've escaped. Mission accomplished, perhaps - for already, the pods are pinging away on altered frequencies for the ship that will come and take you away from Jaynat, and back to safety, before the Kespanians can come find you. Gold stars for the Consortium agents, they've saved their own skins once more.