Log:Array Consortium: We Actually Made That Stick
And so it is time for business. The job, as Adhar advises in detail on the way over, is to move twenty tons of pure, raw industrial-grade daniga crystals - which are a very close cousin to diamonds, in that they /are/ diamonds with a few other additional chemical treatments post-formation that make them very useful for large-scale industrial cutters. Each palm-sized crystal, even rough and uncut as they are, are worth their weight in gold.
But among them, there are four tons that aren't daniga crystals. They're crystallized glitterstim, each 'gem' caked in a chemical sealant that emulates the spectroscopic profile of the stones. It's a great trick, but the sheer /expense/ of the affair, to say nothing of the cargo, boggles the mind.
And so here you are, sitting on them. Taking them to Dantooine for pickup by an old associate of Adhar's, a fellow named Geeta.
Adhar sits in the captain's seat, allowing you to take the pilot's station. A new droid is around, an R3 named 'Aunt Lily', who has asked you three times already if she can make you dinner - she prefers baking, but since you don't eat cookies, she's trying her best to show hospitality any way she can. After all, you're a /guest/.
"All right, let's get this show on the road," Adhar says. "Get us started up."
Nadia goes through the paces on the Moonstormer, gets the engines prepped and ready as she familiarizes herself with the individual controls of the heavy freighter. One ship, they say, is just like any other, but there's so many intracacies involved. A seasoned pilot knows what to look for and what to do when she finds them.
Nadia is just such a pilot.
The freighter grunts the repulsors kick in to elevate them above the tarmac, "Alright." She brings the big bitch around to face atmosphere and launches them forward with a press of the throttle.
Is it necessary? Nah... but every pilot on Nar Shaddaa is cocky, no sense pretending otherwise just because they've got tons of drugs stowed on board.
"No, I'm fine..." She says for the hundredth time to the R5. She may be trying to push the droid out of the cockpit with the speed too, but she'll never admit it.
"She ate before she came on board, Aunt Lil'," Adhar says, smirking as his ship is swung around in a starfighter's pirouette - smirking instead of frowning because he know the pilot can pull it off. Adhar's usual shipsuit has been traded in for a rather impressive flight suit, a military-grade job with armor plates and all; might not be heavy combat armor, but it goes with everything.
"We're meeting these guys on Dantooine," he explains as the ship heads inexorably skyward. "Go ahead and punch in for the jump, and once we've cleared the patrols I'll tell you all about it."
"I chewed on a droids memory core." Nadia smirks as she manages the ship into orbit, then shuttles out towards the extent of the gravity well with an almost lazy ease. She's done this part of the trip thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands, of times over her three decades.
The instructions are given a nod and she turns in her chair to start the nav-computer calculating the jump. Nothing fancy, a straight shot to their destination by the path of least resistance. "You know these guys?" Eyes watching the commboard for any lights, but sofar it looks like easy sailing.
The droid makes a cheerfully dismissive noise that is essetially 'oh, you!' before wandering off to check onto various systems; chuckling, Adhar eyes the displays mounted over the pilots stations for his benefit, all functions at-a-glance. "Yeah, I know these guys," he says. "Kando Ana and his mining group. They pick up the glitterstim on Kessel, process it into the solidified form, glaze it, and move it legitimate mining materials. It's not quite the same as lacing wine with the stuff, but considering we're moving a half million in spice down there that's damn near undetectable to all but the best sensors, I'll take it."
Nadia is always listening, taking notes, adopting what she learns and likes. That's how she learned basic, that's how she became a pilot, that's how she knows everything about the galaxy off of Cathar. Adaptation and integration.
She presses her lips into a fine line, nodding at the sheer weight of what it is they're moving and its price. "Huh... These guys stand to make a small fortune." She whistles, tongue against the back of her teeth, "Makes you wonder if we got into the wrong line of work, doesn't it?"
"Why do you think I'm building a colony?" Adhar chuckles. "I love this life of crime, but it never hurts to have a more mundane foundation for these sorts of operations." He gets to his feet and stands on the deck as eternity yawns beyond the viewports and the cold fire of the stars burns away, clockwork and correct. "But this is a very big haul for us, Nadia. That's why I wanted you running the helm on this one. Mara had to handle other business, and frankly...well. You know you're damned good."
"Mara Jade..." Nadia cants her head a little, "Any of the stories about her true?" None of that is really important, nor is the cathar the sort to press. She'll find things out in time anyways, right? Time mends all bridges. "I don't see myself ever doing anything else. I tried the boss part, didn't suit me... too much responsibility and not enough reward.. plus you have to deal with everyone's ego. Which we all have in spades..." She smirks and leans back once the controls go inoperable, "I do know that." She is good.
"Depends on the stories you've heard," says Adhar, looking down at you from his position - well, literally, not symbolically. He sways slightly as the makes the jump to hyperspace, and the world is motion-smeared into speed lines before the actual blue depths of the fourth dimension come into view, then says, "She's a mysterious lady. I'd like to know what you've heard, though."
"Just rumors." Nadia shrugs, seat turning so she can cross ankles in the seat of the co-pilots chair. "Nothing I'd want to repeat if you've not heard it yourself.... you know how people talk." A big ass smirk, "At least when you don't give them any information yourself, right?"
"Let's just say she's my first mate for a reason," Adhar says. "And more than skilled enough that I don't have any problem when she goes off to handle business - hers or mine. She's more than skilled enough to make up the difference." His bootheels ring on the deck as he crosses to look out the starboard windows. "Mind you, I'll need a Second Mate. Nobody on crew that can do the job, right now, though. Good smugglers all, but not command material."
"Mm." Nadia runs a claw along the ring on her thumb, turning it thoughtfully, "If I hear of anyone looking to make a step up, I'll send them your way, but there's plenty of children stepping off a ship thinking they'll make it big on the smuggler's moon." She shakes her head, "The galaxy sure is changing, huh?"
"Not so much as you might think." Adhar shakes his head. "I don't know. I get a bad feeling about the fact something like the First Order can exist, and the Republic does nothing about it. Nobody knows what they're doing out there in the Unknown Regions. What if they come out with a full bloody fleet and it's the Empire all over again?"
That said, he turns to you entirely. "I won't lie, part of the reason I'm building a legitimate network is to stabilize things should things go that way. You want to see credits pouring in? See what happens when we smuggle guns /and/ own stores that sell them."
Nadia shrugs in that way she often does when she knows something she's not talking about, "It'll be an interesting couple months, I know that." She says with a glance at the controls while he explains about the potential ends to be had with the opening of his community. "Sounds right profitable, we'll be sipping umbrella drinks and smoking fifty dollar cigaros in no time."
"Something like that," Adhar says with a snort. "I wanted you to go see the armor shop on Nar Shaddaa that I mentioned because it's mine, you see. Wanted you to see what I was planning." He heads back to the command chair. "With my connections in the arms trade, we're already seeing all sorts of new stock. Like this Corellian suit I'm wearing." He raps a fist against the flightsuit's plated chest. "We're already starting to make money."
Nadia turns to regard Adhar in his new armor, "Huh... well, I assumed that's why you were bouncing me over there. Never been a big spender..." Point at the Captain, "You've got so many tells." With a smirk, she shrugs. "Good that you're bringing in real credits though. Setting up a cartel is profitable."
"I don't try and hide things with you," he says with a shrug. "When I lie to you, it will be because I either need to protect somebody, or that we're enemies. And then you'll know that before we get started."
Another shrug, and he passes the chair and heads aft. "I'm getting a drink," he calls. "Want something?""R
"Yeah, some whiskey." Nadia calls after, remaining in her seat just incase the alarms sound. Never know when you'll have to be ontop of the situation, right? She's quiet until he returns and catches his eyes with a squint of her own, "I'll probably hide the truth a lot, I'm a liar." She says with a laugh. "But not if I can help it."
"Keep it to the absolutely most important things close to you that won't ruin my business or get anyone killed, then, and we'll be fine."
Hours pass. Eventually, the ship breaks into realspace once more, this time over the great pastoral orb that is Dantooine. Behold the beauty of cliffs and farms and zzzzzzzzzzzzzzokay let's get to the drugs.
"So this is where we get to the fun part," Adhar says. "You getting the--"
"Incoming freighter, this is Republic customs ship Abazolah. Heave to and prepare for inspection."
"Man, they are just -not- patient out here," Adhar mutters. "Well, say hello, Nadia, let's see what they've got to say."
Nadia eyes the nav-alert starting to flash and turns towards the controls in preparation for realspace. When they are immediately met by the beautiful world of Dantooine, lush green fo-- Republic customs.
"My lord, do they just sit around waiting for people to drop out of space? How do they even know we're a freighter, maybe we're here to see our friend Rob? Rob is just a normal guy running a normal guy farm, but no... these jack ass Republic pricks are keeping us from seeing poor, sweet Rob."
Nadia reaches out for the controls, complaining the whole time, "Haven't seen him since we graduated from Corellia Uni..." It sounds as if she's going to keep saying as much once she opens comms with the republic vessel.
But then she switches on a dime, "Republic Customs ship Abazolah, ya'll bored out here?" Turning about as directed eyeing Adhar, "Barely got myself oriented and you're already jumping on those comms like a Kath hound. Someone's missing quota, huh?"
"Of course," says Adhar, snorting from the captain's seat. "Poor R'obb. We're just here to bring the best party possible for him and a small city filled with spice addicts. All his bestest friends, disappointed."
From the comms, the strident, businesslike voice. Female. Clipped Basic. "Incoming freighter," the voice commands, "You will heave to and prepare for inspection - and /identify yourself immediately./"
Up ahead, the ship in question begins becomes visible, a rapidly lightening - and growing - speck against the background of the planet. "Get us a scan, Nadia," Adhar says, "And let's give the lady what she wants to hear. Sounds like one of those serious types."
"Now we're being held up. I feel the worst for R'obb, R'obb Th'omas, he was in that band all through college?" Nadia shakes her head while bringing the Moonstormer around as instructed, "Barely ever gets to see any of his friends all the way out here, ya know?"
She clears her throat while hitting the controls to get them a cursory scan of the incoming vessal while opening channels, "Yeah, yeah, we were just trying to be conversational over here, no need to get your pantalones in a wad. Republic Vessal Tight wad, this is the Moonstormer, just coming to see our friend R'obb. Really swell guy, best parties."
"You're definitely not invited."
"I shall endeavor not to weep into my pillow, Moonstormer." Ooooh, snippy Coruscanti accent. Definitely sounds human now. "We have you firmly in our sights. Remain there."
As the channel cuts out, Adhar peers at you. "Well," he says, "I recall saying what the lady what she wants to hear, not what was hilarious. Trying to convince her of the picture she's already put in her head of us as scummy freight-hounds, right?"
Nadia winks at Adhar, "They already had an idea of who we were, might as well play into it. Watch, if they board I'm going to blatently offer a bribe as if I've never done this before." She waves her hand in a flampent manner over her shoulder, "It'll be great." The comms are depressed, "Tick tock Republic Stuffy, I've had my eye on this Sullustian number he works with for a few weeks now... those lips, am I right?"
"Not how I'd do it," Adhar replies, "But I'll be interested to see how this plays out."
There is no further reply from the ship - which turns out to be a Corellian CR90 corvette in Republic colors - until it clamps down upon the ship with its tractor beam. Held in space, the two of you are imperiously commanded to meet the boarding crew at the aft lock, which is just fore of the engineering compartment and to the starboard side. Once the two of you are in position, the hatch soon opens, and then...
...an entire squad of Republic Marines fills the corridor, followed by a scanner crew and a Cathar woman in full Republic dress and wearing lieutenant's rank plates.
Yes, Cathar. Juhani Cathar. She looks as though she cosplays as an ice princess on...every day.
"Proceed with your inspection," she commands the scanner crew, and the two uniformed techs lump the scanner kit down the steps into the cargo bay. Then she looks to the two of you expectantly.
"Lieutenant," Adhar says, smiling at her in vaguely flat, greasy manner. "I never expected to be greeted by such a...statuesque example of the Republic fleet." He hands out a sheaf of transfer documents. "Will you be searching us yourself?"
Nadia finds the perfect place to lean and look disinterested at her nails when the hatch opens, not even breaking her steadfastness when she sees another Cathar... even one wearing those drab colors of the Republic. She tries not to roll her eyes, but it's imposible.
She clearly thinks very little of the Republic.
"Yeah, stalwart. I'll accompany the scanner crew, Captain? Show the Lieutenant some hospitality or something.. might as well, since she's holding us up like we've got all day or her to flex her muscles or something." She starts after the scanner crews with her thumbs stuck down behind her belt.
The Lieutenant leafs through the papers offered him, looking over each very swiftly. "This ship has a very nonstandard construction," she comments. "I assume you are pirates? Smugglers? Certainly nobody with a hangar in their ship has an honest career."
"Oh, c'mon, Lieutenant," Adhar says, "This boat belonged to my uncle, and he flew for the Alliance - he was a patriot of the Republic, even! I'm just trying to do what's right by moving cargo that would help people out here in the outer reaches, that's all. We're just trying to help."
Adhar's got this, but there's a moment there where Nadia does look back before slipping out to assist the scanner crew, "Smugglers! Hah, how quaint. We're more like murderers, to be perfectly frank..." She holds up a hand up the scanner crew, "Hold on a second, let me go offer your Leutenant a bribe so we can just forgo all this nonsense..." She fishes around in the pockets of her coat, "I mean that's what you're doing right? Shaking us down? No doubt whatever you find in our cargo bay, you're going to hold us up until we pay you... so let's just skip the bantha shivak and get right to it.."
She pulls out her credit case, "How much does it cost us to get back to work? We've got cargo to deliver and a friend to see... damn Republic, as corrupt as they get."
Believe it or not, this sudden and forthright action throws the Lieutenant off entirely. The Cathar looks between the two of you, staring a bit open-mouthed for a moment. "I...I don't...take bribes," she begins, then squares her shoulders. "Who /are/ you?"
"We work for the good of the Republic," Adhar says, his voice full of meaning, suddenly, rising quite suddenly out of his slouch and adopting a very professional, military bearing. "Who do you /thing/ we are?"
"Well stop acting it like it Lieutenant." Nadia follows up Adhar's redirect with a stiff shift of her own. Her posture becomes straight and stoic and she looks over her shoulder at the scanner crews with that same cold stare the other Cathar demonstrates with a leveled practiced ease. She might not be military in demeanor, but she's clearly seen her way around them. "And you're hold us up from meeting our friend R'obb."
She looks between the two of you, suddenly /quite/ unsure of herself. "I...I mean, I don't know," she manages, blinking her large, golden eyes - and then stiffens a bit, trying to redouble herself. "If his...person...is so important, then what are you bringing him?"
"Lieutenant." Adhar steps forward, peering down at the slightly smaller woman, doing a rather good job of looking imperious. "We're bringing a trap," he informs her. "Any moment now, your scanning crew - if they're doing their job, that is - will find that the cargo is anomalous in places. We're carrying mining crystals, Lieutenant, but a number of them have been doped with a chemical agent that allows us to track their distribution. We expect that some of these mining crystals are being sold to traitorous elements in the Unknown Regions."
The Lieutenant's eyes widen a bit. "You don't mean..."
"Yes," Adhar says with a nod. "The First Order."
Oh, lord. We're off to the races now.
Nadia is listening to Adhar, even nodding a few times throughout his explanation of what they're doing, but then he starts going off the rails. By the end of it even she's staring at him like he's gone on a hand in hand frolic with a two toed Corgon. She rolls her eyes and steps over to the bewildered Lieutenant, "Listen." She puts a hand upon the woman's shoulder and leans in to talk secrative, "I get it, this is your career we're talking about and your reputation with your crew and subordinates."
She flashes a glance at Adhar, lips pressed together expressively, then she continues. "So let's work this out, huh? We have to deliver these crates and if we're detained overly long there's going to be entirely too many questions on the other end... ones that could be very dangerous to a nine month operation.. we're close Lieutenant. Very close." She holds her fist tight and clinches her teeth.
"So, how do we all come out of this smelling like flowers, huh? You with your men and us with our friend... obviously he'll have eyes, likely watching us now."
The Lieutenant's eyes narrow at the mention of the First Order. Clearly this was /not/ what she expected him to say, and it takes a bit of the punch from his words - but she's still softened up enough for Nadia to come in and push a few more buttons. "I...but I couldn't just let you go," she says, almost pleadingly. "My men must --"
"Lieutenant!" Just like clockwork, the voice of one of the techs drifts up. "We've got an anomaly here."
"Ask him to look for piezoelectric voids," Adhar murmurs to the officer. "I think you'll find he's going to see a lot of them."
The Lieutenant looks between the two of you again, unsure, but she calls down anyway. "Understood, Crewman," she calls down, and then after a moment's hesitation calls, "Are there any piezeoelectric voids?"
After a long moment, the tech's voice replies, "Affirmative, Lieutenant. They're all over the place in these crates!"
Adhar gives the Lieutenant an impressive look. "We're working for the good of the pepole, here, Lieutenant," he says. "You can let us go, or you can let us fail our mission - and then have to deal with the Navy."
Rock, hard place, smugglers, go.
"There will be other operations." Nadia sounds understanding, far removed from the flampant disregarding voice she used earlier over comms and upon the crews arrival. "Do what you have to do, Lieutenant." What the Cathar has learned is morality plays a large part in the decisions made by others, especially the Republic.
She doesn't try to guilt the woman into their ploy or deepen the stakes by adding more details than could easily be varified, she puts as much truth in her deception as lie and folds it in such a way that it looks completely different to observation.
Once she's said her piece, she steps away with her arms crossed, facing Adhar. Her hand rises to point in his direction and lightly pat at the air. Let it ride. She says in no words at all.
The ball is now in the Officers lane.
But Nadia is an avid Shockball fan.
Adhar's perfectly happy to take Nadia's lead, having helped to weave this frankly ridiculous narrative around the officer's head - but since the two of them are horrible creatures, and rather good liars, in the moment their story manages to ring weirdly true. It's the Crazy Pills effect, you know. Finally, the Lieutenant - after a moment of closing her eyes and taking a deep breath - decides to take a leap of faith, the poor thing.
"All right," she says, and then calls down to the techs, "Leave it, crewman, we're packing up."
"Sir?" Not what the fellow was expecting, clearly."
"I said we are leaving, crewman!" Some of that Coruscanti steel returns to her voice to deal with the enlisteds. "Double time, now! We are done here."
Adhar doesn't even look at Nadia. Doesn't have to. Keeps his eyes somber and fixed on the young officer, who nods to the Marines. They aren't terribly sure of the whole thing either, but they aren't going to ask. They start to clear out.
Nadia turns as if that's not what she expected, but isn't entirely surprised. It's a delicate balance, honestly, "Lieutenant.. I'll make sure you're assistance in this matter goes into our final report." Offering her clawed hand to the woman before she's had a chance to depart with the rest of her crew.
She keeps her demeanor stoic and serious until they've left and not a second longer.
"Oh, yes," Adhar says with a nod. "Good evening, Lieutenant."
The Cathar woman's golden eyes are still glazed a bit as she turns to look back at you from the other side of the lock. They are the last thing you see before it seals shut.
Adhar says nothing until the clunk of the docking cylinders wresting free rings throughout the hull. Then he says, "You are wasted on Wodi. Come on, let's get the kriff out of here."
Nadia keeps her hands back behind her back until the hatch seals and the ship is released from the brackets and then moves to face Adhar, "I'm about them credits." She says with an offhand smirk on their way forward towards the cockpit, "He had enough to help get us started..." That's not entirely true, but it worked out. "You should have seen me with the rest of my family, we were like an oiled machine."
"Well, I don't think we did too badly, ourselves," says Adhar, snorting faintly. "Let's get dowm there and make our delivery."
The 'delivery' is to be made in a field far from civilization (of course) in the remains of a long-abandoned farm. There's a ship already waiting on you, a sleek and speedy-looking Gambit, its hull dotted with very obvious after-market additions and massively oversized drives. It's a courier, built for speed, plain and simple. Standing down there, surrounded by several sentients in heavy battle armor of various provenances, is a tall, gangly Rodian in similarly heavy plate.
Once you bring the ship down, Adhar gets to his feet and gestures for you to follow. "Come on," he says. "Let's meet the natives.'
Nadia powers the ship down, but keeps the engines on standby just incase. The incase clause.
She bounces up and grabs her coat off the back of a chair on the way towards the hatch leading to the loading ramp and throws it on to cover that monster of a blaster so as not to startle those locals. "This is suppose to be cut and dry right?" She sides to Adhar as they descend towards the armored crew of mercs, "Because they're loaded for rancor."
"Half million in glitterstim," Adhar reminds you. "Come on, let's go see what's what."
He heads down the boarding ramp, gun on his hip and his hands away. "Ah. There he is!" This last bit ascends in volume to become a friendly, genial call as he approaches the knot. "Geeta! I haven't seen you in what, six years?"
Geeta, as he is called, regards to approaching smuggler with a less than charitable expression. "You let your ship get boarded," he says, tone accusatory.
"'Let' is a pretty strong word..." Nadia eyes Geeta with a level stare, "We weren't given much of an option on the matter, what with the big Republic Cruiser with all it's big guns... you did want your merchandise right?" Motioning behind her with a point, "Because that's a lot of money on the streets... way more than you're paying us..."
She opens her hands, "So maybe the word that's accurate, that you understandably misplaced, is Thank you.."
"She's quite right," Adhar says with a chuckle. "As far as the Republic is aware, we were very vaguely identified undercover officials hauling doped industrial crystals that might be getting sold off to parties in the Unknown Regions. You know, a commerce investigation." A beat. "Though it strikes me now she might have thought we were military intelligence."
Geeta just stares at the two of you for a long moment at all of this - behind him, his men give each other looks. Finally, Geeta raises a hand, fist clenched...
...and brings it down lightly onto Adhar's shoulder in a sudden fit of buzzing laughter. "Stars and light, you pirate," he bellows, doubling over and cackling. "Republic commerce officials! Military police! You!?"
Nadia doesn't move towards her weapon, but she's very quick if she needs to be. She shakes her head a little when it becomes clear Geeta is getting on board the wagon and blows out a breath she wasn't aware she was holding. That's a lot of armored guys, afterall.
"Yeah, he looked pretty rediculous trying to be official in that kriffing jacket, too."
"She doesn't like the coat," Adhar says, chuckling as Geeta manages to straighten up and return to himself. "I'm very sad about that."
"I love it," Geeta says, "But you /do/ look like a pirate." He wraps an arm around Adhar's shoulders companionably, looking Nadia over and nodding. "So is this your first mate, or the first you mate with?"
"Nadia's my partner in this endeavor," Adhar says, elbowing the Rodian lightly. "That's it. Our relationship is professional."
"More like the brains of the operation." Nadia teases Adhar, stepping up to offer her hand to Gretta, "Nadia Cuul. Just a dirty spacer, down on her luck enough to work with this scaliwag." Thumbing at the pirate. "Anyways, we threw the lieutenant of that boat off, but I'd still take the long way home if you intend to get this stuff out of here without a full lockdown inspection.. Soon as she gets the brains cells rubbing together to check Military records, they'll be on us like sand on Tatooine."
"Sand gets everywhere," Geeta says with a chuckle. "Or so I'm told - right, boys, you get this shavit offloaded, and we can get out of here. And as for you two..." His eyes widen a bit. "After they verify the cargo, I've got a fair bit of cash for you."
Naturally, the cargo checks out - and thanks to your advice, Geeta and crew plan a new course off the planet and out of the system that will severely reduce their profile. Before he goes, he leaves the two of you with a sizable credit case /and/ the opening key. Inside, of course, is money, money money.
As Geeta's ship departs, Adhar watches it go with his hands tucked behind his back. "That," he says, "Was a miracle."
Nadia waits for the crew to get the cargo unloaded and their payment to be handed over, but then she disappears to a place with dollar signs in her eyes. Not so rude as to count it in front of Greeta, but not far removed from out from it.
She's classy after all.
Once they get underway and it's just the pair of them, she looks up to Adhar from over the top of the case, "It definitely could have gone worse.. We made it work, though." Pointing down at the case with both hands, "A lot worse by the look of this."
"Still a tiny share by comparison," he says, "But I'll take it. Onward and upward, and all that mess."
Adhar turns to head back up the ramp. "Let's get out here, Nadia. Drinks are on me."
Nadia clicks the case closed and heads up the ramp. The credits are tossed into the co-pilots seat as she sets in to get them started and underway. "Let's get out of this system and then we'll start celebrating. Still a Cruiser between us and the gravwell." She reminds him and pulls them off from the farm to take flight in the direction of orbit.