Log:Array Consortium: The Think Tank, Part One
And so it was that Adhar was busy as hell, dealing with...a rogue droid crisis beginning to unfold on Nar Shaddaa, of all things. However, these things do not stop the progress of business, and smugglers need coin. Thus, the captain has dispatched you to meet with a client on the third moon of the remote Outer Rim world of Vassek. Abandoned since the Clone Wars, once this foggy, canyon-scarred place once hosted the fortress of General Greivous, ill-famed cyborg commander of the Separatist Alliance. Now, however, it is nothing but a world of graves.
Perfect for a secret rendezvous, right?
You arrive in the Vassek system ahead of schedule: the planet is a vast, swirling orb of clouds and greenery, surrounded by its three battered moons like a charnel necklace. In order to make a clandestine insertion, the Voidhome slips into realspace a good half-again distance than is necessary, letting you cut the drives and glide in with minimal power usage. The client? A man named Rodo Hassi, who claims to be an executive from Industrial Automaton's facility on Nubia. The job? Delivery of whatever he gives you to a location revealed upon meeting you. The reward? Twenty thousand credits, to be divided into shares as per usual. Risk? Well, it depends on what this Hassi gives you.
In the co-pilot seat, Stavros is cross-checking when necessary but keeping most of his attention on the sensors. In passive mode, it's harder for them to see anything, but there's no point in coasting in quietly if they go announcing their presence electronically. He has a single earbud in, listening to music from something at his belt and tapping his fingers on the edge of the instrument panel.
Behind him and against a wall just outside the cockpit are his rifle and his heavy armor. He's already checked it over while in hyperspace, and it's ready to be put on at a moment's notice.
R5-DT wheels up and watches out the viewport because he's a droid and can't really get into the pilot's seat. THe little astromech lets his dome swivel to look around at the folks as he tries to relax as best a droid can.
Mara Jade is part of this trip. Does she want to be? She didn't refuse to go so it would seem she's a willing participant. At least until things turn sideways and then she'll point out how this was all Adhar's fault and how as Captain he's always getting them into another fine mess. Even if this ends up turning into the first of the finest messes since Mara joined the crew. But with Stavros along, well she's hanging back. Because the seat's taken. She has to. Leaning against the bulkhead just behind the cockpit, she watches the stars streak past in the plasma of the hyperspace tunnel only to blur back into stationary pinpricks of light as the ship emerges into real space again, the destination planet not far off.
The ship slips in, liquid beast that it is, swimming along through the great night of the void as it approaches the distant sphere of the planet. There's a beacon on the third moon, set to a specific frequency, which you can lock onto in order to get exactly where you need.
Vassek III is a moss-ridden, foggy hellscape. So. Might be a good idea to do just that. '''
"Will you handle the way down, Mara?" Stavros calls over his shoulder, as he climbs out of the pilot seat and passes her on and R5-DT on the way to the stairs. "Hey, you never said what to call you, Dee-Tee." He pauses at the top step. "Gonna do a comm check, buddy." He disappears down the stairs, and fiddles with his helmet on the appropriate frequency on the weakest possible setting. "Is it Dee-Tee?" he asks quietly.
Mara Jade looks to Stavros with a smirk. "Sure. Park it in the chair when it's easy." She heads forward and drops into the pilot's seat, tapping a few holographic switches and buttons on the high tech VR display, swiping a few screens to the side. She brings the Voidhome around and locks onto that frequency. "Signal acquired as expected. Homing in on it now." She throttles up the engines and sets a nice speed toward that moon.
There's a chirp from the cockpit comm, and Stavros says, "Don't pretend you don't appreciate that seat being comfy and warm." A few sounds of metal against metal, a snap here or there. "I'm near the turret. Let me know if things go to hell." A couple more snaps, and a sound not unlike raising a car window. "There we go. Though if we're already burned," he says drily, "I assume Adhar would want you to scrub it?"
R5-DT powers up now that the ship's getting close to the signal and plugs into the computer system 'speaking' over little displays at the different stations as he plugs into the secondary turrets activating them from his location, 'Turrets looking good what's the mission again boss?'
Mara Jade shrugs absently. "No credits to be made if we cut and run at the first signs of trouble. And if it's clearly a setup, there's no point in leaving any of them standing to set someone else up next time, either." She offers a grin heard through the comm as she guides the freighter closer to the source of the signal.
It takes a while - plenty of time to prepare - but soon enough the ship crests the gravity well of the planet and approaches its third moon. The beacon strobes dutifully as the ship breaches the atmosphere, revealing the landscape as expected - a vast field of canyons and rock fields, covered in seas of fog and moss. Ahead, in a particularly deep, wide canyon, the source of the signal apparently awaits.
Stavros holds onto the back of a seat, rifle propped up against his armored shoulder, humming tunelessly as they descend. He'll see it when they open the ramp. If you've seen one non-urban planet you've seen them all, right? Covered in dirt and green stuff, but sometimes with clean air.
Mara Jade brings the freighter through the atmosphere. "Going to bring it around. See if anything unexpected comes up on scanners before putting us in a canyon with a target on our backs" she states calmly. Circling the signal at 10km she begins to spiral inward toward the source, making a final pass right along the rim of the canyon. Should the scanners come up clear Mara will then bring the Voidhome around and bring her in to land near the signal source in a swirling cloud of dust as the manuevering thrusters correct for lateral motion before the ship finally settles onto its landing struts with a number of loud hisses.
Well, the air out there is breathable, but thin - hence all the moss and lichen instead of, you know, real plants. There are breather masks in the ship's enviro kit, though, so no trouble there. The gleaming body of the Voidhome touches down, the scanners clear of any biological life - or, at least, nothing that isn't shielded. There *is* a ship, though, an Incom Sleuth that is, apparently, completely powered down. Its bulk sits in the depths of the canyon, lit up by the drive plumes of the landing freighter. Silent. Dark.
The Zeltron taps at a console next to the ramp. When the air situation becomes clear, Stavros refrains from opening the ramp until Mara is equipped with a breather mask. Does this mean they're losing their precious atmosphere? Probably, but a ramp is a lot faster to run into than a cargo loader, if running does become necessary. "This feels awfully lonesome." He looks out at the freighter. "Is the ship itself the beacon?" he asks. He has his rifle at his shoulder, but pointing at the ground in front of him. Cautious, not hostile.
Mara Jade studies the powered down ship and nods to Stavros. "Yeah... Not really friendly at all." She looks to R5. "R5.. can you keep things running? Just in case. If we need to get out fast, as soon as we get back on board get us out of here. The fastest friendly jump you can calculate, ok?" She lightly pats him on the dome then grabs her own breather mask. "Okay. Let's see what's going on." Reaching down she draws the blaster pistol off her right thigh.
R5-DT stays put up in the cockpit of the freighter as others are getting ready to depart from the ship. Being plugged in allows him to access the ship's sensors and weapon systems. He turns his dome towards MJ and puts his reply up on a display near here, 'Of course. But I'm designed for fast calculations I could have us back to Nar Shithole in no time at all... I've been running the numbers since we started flying out here.'
It seems only fitting that one with the heaviest armor should go first, and Stavros does so. The ship looks powered down, but it only takes one vehicle-scale shot to ruin your day and every other day you no longer have. "Is there a recognition code?" he asks R5-DT and Mara quietly over the comms. "If he's sleeping in there, how do we wake him up?" He brings his rifle up a bit more as he approaches the Sleuth. "I don't want to shout. It'd echo forever down here." He activates the built-in flashlight next to his helmet. He doesn't need it, with his helmet's nightvision, but he is considerate! Also, maybe anyone over there will see a light.
Opening the rear hatch, the cold, dry air of the planet gushes into the ship, filling the space between the escape pods in the entry bay. Beyond, the moss-encrusted earth is a gray-green field, hung heavily with a calf-height carpet of fog that swirls amongst the pistons of the landing ramp, picking up the pale blue-white glow of the ship's landing lights.
Beyond the Voidhome, the Sleuth sits low on its insectile legs, drives and reactor cold; it hunches there like a waiting beast, dust collected about the frames of its cockpit windows, the plates of its hull. Dull gray, it has no livery, and no wingtip guns. Strange, that.
Mara Jade follows Stavros down the ramp and around the side of the ship. (insert Addy's code here. 'cause he's considerate and told us! No. For Reals.). She holds her blaster in hand, glancing around carefully. "It's unmarked. That's not usual" she says between breaths inside the mask.
R5-DT broadcasts over HUDs or wrist links or whatever text based thingy the rest of the group has on them, 'Hyperdrive has no transponder. The odds are this is a trap'. He starts to do sensor sweeps for lifesigns now because this isn't right.
"Dee-Tee's right," Stavros agrees immediately, as he looks the ship over. "How long does a ship have to sit on an open air planet- a /wet/ one- to collect dust?" He sidesteps, pointing his long-barrelled gun more towards the Sleuth's ramp. "Don't just scan for life; scan for droid power sources," Stavros says. His suspicion is obvious. "I've been ambushed by ship droids enough times for this life."
Mara Jade nods as she covers Stavros on approach. "It could be anything. Even a dead end. but it seems more likely a setup. But we came all this way. It'd be a shame to leave without finding out who is trying to play us, mmm?" She sweeps her gaze around (also reaching out through the Force to try and sense any other beings in the area).
"Five life forms, hot battery," Stavros repeats after the droid. "Okay, okay." He eyes what he thinks is an entry ramp. "You'll probably have better luck jimmying the ramp than I will, Mara. I'll cover you." And he does just that, dropping to one knee and aiming towards the not-yet-open ramp, watching for movement.
Stavros flips the mode toggle on his Merr-Sonn G8 Blaster Rifle - 8599, switching it to Stun mode.
Mara Jade moves up to the boarding ramp, holstering her pistol for the moment as she overrides the hatch locks then grabs her pistol again, ready for what may be inside.
The boarding hatch hisses open, expending reserve hydraulic power to crack the hatch; you can go up inside the ship's hold from there, a strip of emergency lights illuminate the path into the vessel's short 'neck'. As low as the ship is, however, you can easily see what's inside; a black metal case, about the size of a large stage trunk. Indicator lights wink from a panel low in the side facing the boarding ramp, suggesting a lock or control system within.
Mara Jade slips up into the hold, weapon drawn. She looks around, seeking to find the weak life signs she sensed from outside. She doesn't want to assume anyone is incapacitated and get shot in the back. Or the head.
Stavros gives the hatch about thirty seconds - ample time to start spewing hostile life forms or droids. Then he advances, gun pointing forward, then looking back behind and doing a full three-hundred sixty degree turn until he is convinced attack is not immediately imminent. "What's the deal?" he asks quietly. He's staying armed and up. Letting your guard down on strange ships is how you die!
Mara Jade shakes her head, murmuring quietly. "...don't know.. but I'm not liking it at all.."
The hold is stripped entirely - there's not even a pilot's seat. The ship is a shell, and the only contents that one can see is the mysterious container, which sits on the deck connected by another panel filled with ports to various points inside the ship's superstructure by data cables. Heavily armored, and seemingly sealed with a mag-lock, the container seems...oddly familiar to those who ply the spacelanes with illegal cargo. Then it hits Mara and Stavros both.
This thing looks like a butcher box. The 'butcher box,' spacer slang for what is essentially a shielded stasis unit, is a tried and true method of taking biological material from point 'a' to point 'b'. This particular unit looks /very/ expensive, having controls, diagnostic panels, even what appears to be a holoemitter built into its lid. The /strange/ part, of course, is having the thing plugged into the ship. That's obviously not just the battery feed.
The ship may be completely bare, but that makes Stavros more wary rather than less. "Okay- so. No controls, no seat. Something biological sealed in a box, with all the wires in the world leading to it. Six faint life signs." The Zeltron summarizes. "If all this junk was taken outside, we'd have seen it. So it got here- without it."
He glances at Mara, looking to meet her eyes. "Are you thinking what I'm thinking, and is it kriffing terrifying to you? I can't fix an electric recliner chair, but-" He shakes his heaada.
Mara Jade looks around. Carefully. She looks to Stavros, meeting his gaze with her own grim expression. "Everything is not right about this situation, yes." She looks at the case.. "This is wrong. All of this. We were offered a job. But I don't see any life forms in this ship but R5 said there were five. That..." She looks to the case, playing her Force senses off as logical from R5's scans. "I don't like this at all. Let's just get this case and get the frak out of here before things get worse."
R5-DT comes up on the comms, 'Reactor's power cycling. I don't think this is the best place to be right now.'
Stavros spins around, aiming his gun at the box, his eyes as wide as they can go. "We're leaving. There are _five people_ in the box and they just woke up. Go-go-go!" If he has to tackle Mara to get them both out of the ship faster, he will try. Yes, he would probably end up hurting her, but he's pretty sure that's the lesser of two evils.
Mara Jade is a tough girl. She doesn't fight him as he tackles her. Landing hard, she winces, coughing inside her mask and groans.. Her hand rubbing her forehead before she drags herself out from under Stavros and struggles to get up, stumbling toward the Voidhome. Breathless she comms R5. "We're getting out of here R5..soon as we're on the ramp lift off!!"
It is about this time that the power begins to cycle. The reactor hums to life, flooding the ship with the budding flashes of indicator lights; the overhead lights come in, if dimly, and the trunk's holoemitter flares to life.
Images of five spheres appear over the lens, swirling slowly, and a chorus of voices - male, female, in-between - rises from all over the ship.
<< Do not be alarmed. We are your cargo. We wish you to deliver us. >>
Over on the Voidhome, the computers buzz as the navicomputer bank begins to take on data - a specific set of coordinates arrive, with the simple label of 'DESTINATION'. Sliced remotely, right under his nose. R5 will likely not care for /that/.
<< Deliver us, >> the voices repeat, echoes fading once more. << Deliver us. >>
The power cycles once more; the reactor shuts down, taking the lights and the systems with it. Only the trunk remains.
R5-DT pipes back over the comms, 'Understood. They're saying they are the cargo and they managed to get the data put directly into the Void! I didn't even see the intrusion.'
Stavros rolls back onto his back, pointing his rifle back up the ramp. It's cold comfort, against a ship possessed, but you use the tools you have. "Dee-Tee... if they can slice the computer from outside the ship, we're probably not in any more danger with them inside than with them over there. Right?" He rubs his forehead. "If we just- don't plug them in, maybe, except to power. I mean- this is Adhar's ship. Would he want us to take the spooky cargo? Do we have any reason to believe we'd get _paid_ for this?"
R5-DT looks at the data he can pull up, 'Not a clue. But yes we're not in any more danger with them inside the ship than over there. My assessment would be that if we believe we can get paid we should do it but we're likely in more danger.. Well you're likely in more danger from them shutting off our life support trying to leave them here than taking them along as they desire.'
"I'm in a vac suit," Stavros mutters, but it's a pro forma protest against his implied organic weakness. "Okay. Lower the cargo lift. Mara and I will get it over there." Against his better judgment, Stavros gets back on the ship, and with either blaster or a fusion cutter fetched from the Voidhome, he will separate this case from its wiring.
Really this would be a great time to be able to trust loader droids. Hopefully this thing has wheels or repulsorlifts, but either way, he and Mara will get it to where the lift can just bring it up into the ship.
"Dee-Tee, are cyborg mainframe computers a thing?" Once the lift is taking up their ... passengers, Stavros asks the question as he's coming up the ramp. He presses the button just inside to close it. "Because I can sense emotions there. And that's only from... you know, organics. But there are five of them. In a box. I have zero schooling, Dee-Tee: is this a thing? Because it's creepy as hell to sense someone who doesn't seem to have a _body_." He heads up to the cockpit. At this point, unless they're pursued, this is a milk run. With sapient milk.
As the butcher-box is being loaded into the ship, the Sleuth powers up again; a horrible whining sound begins to emit from the vessel's aft section, something that promises that something awful is likely to happen sometime /very/ soon.
R5-DT preps the Void for launch as soon as the others are on board and starts the lift off as he gets the ramp closing moving away from what looks to be a likely epic explosion... 'I wouldn't say I've ever seen it but I've heard of similiar things. But like I said they hacked the ship remotely without me detecting it. So does it matter? We need to get them where they're going quick as can be.' And on that note he starts the calculations for the destination to load into the hyperdrive to start spooling it for the jump but waits for one of those dirty organics to make the call.
Good thing R5-DT already warmed things up, because as soon as Stavros can hear and the sensors can pick up the other ship doing anything, the Zeltron drops into the control chair, he takes the stick and does a no-no - he activates the full sublight drive right there next to the mossy, foggy planet, aiming them up and away. "Give me a vector, we jump ASAP." Only then does he answer: "It only matters if this whole thing is even more illegal than usual and somebody knows we've got them."
In the dark, the ground is lit by the brilliant yellow-white flare of a fusion explosion as the Sleuth's reactor is goes critical; the flash sears the hull even as the ship rapidly ascends through the atmosphere, and the shockwave tears at everything around it in great cacophony of sound and force. Behind you, a twisting mushroom cloud climbs toward the sky, illuminated by the blazing carnage left behind as the lichen flash-burns for a hundred feet in every direction. Soon, the foggy sky cures into the glittering void of space...and you are safe. For now.
R5-DT turns his dome towards Savros, "Coordinates that they wanted to be delivered to have been loaded and I've calculated the jump for there as well as back to Nar Shithole. Which would you prefer?"
"Nar," Stavros says immediately. "Adhar can figure this critical-reactor, five-brain, one butcher-box /situation/ out." He looks at the navcomputer. He says something in Zeltron that, while melodic, does not sound complimentary.
Mara Jade settles in behind Stavros as he flies the ship out, breaking most rules of flight prep. But for good reasons. The ship can handle it. And if not, well Addy can get recompense from Stavros. She shakes her head, "Well this is turning into an amazing job."
And so it is that the stalwart - and somewhat terrified - crew of the Voidhome directs the vessel on this new course. To....adventure! Oh, God!