Log:Hard Target: Nardo Vig Pt. 3
"Hoo boy. Tell you what, I already thought Nar Shaddaa was a sewer. Turns out, even a sewer's gotta have a sewer, man... That's like... crazy to think about, man."
In the back of an open-topped air taxi, a strange, blue, multi-armed space simian is making the best of a bad situation by puffing on a tightly-rolled stick of very dank Ardennian shroob. The thick, pungent, purplish smoke seems to help him cope with the overwhelmingly oppressive stench of decay and... better not to think too much about what else is in this claustrophobic environment. 'Claustrophobic' being a relative term, as the air taxi is navigating a tunnel many hundreds of kilometers long, and nearly a hundred meters wide.
The droid air taxi pilot doesn't mind the smell, nor do his talents as a pilot seem to be especially taxed. It's a fairly straight run, this massive conduit, with only occasional ninety degree turns and periodic offsets that stretch for several kilometers. But the abandoned sewer conduit contains no light sources whatsoever, aside from the headlights from the air taxi. It makes it difficult to see anywhere but directly in front of the speeder, though there's really not much to see. Centuries of neglect have caused most of the moisture to evaporate and most of the waste product to break down, leaving little but a thick layer of 'dirt' along the bottom of the conduit and a pervasive foul smell as the only evidence that this used to be one of the main sewage arteries across the Smuggler's Moon.
It honestly doesn't smell much worse than Ezlo's shroob stick...
"Makes you wonder if any of this is even worth it, man. You know? Like, what are we even getting out of it? Sure, one hundred and fifty thousand Wupiupi is like... a lot of money, man. But what IS money, right? It's like... a construct, man."
In the absence of light within the lengthy tunnel, it would be difficult to see the Ardennian's bulging eyes. But rest assured, they are heavy-lidded, and practically covered in thick red veins. The telltale bloodshot appearance of one who has smoked too much shroob.
Up front, the pilot is largely uninterested in any chatter within the taxi. He's also not too bothered by Ezlo's smoking within the cab. After all, it's an open top and he's been programmed to be agreeable. Agreeable, and informative, which is why he delivers some pertinent information, only when it's actually about to become pertinent.
"We will be arriving at your intended location in forty standard seconds. Though, really, this is a most unusual route... still, Triple Aurek Taxi Co appreciates your repeat business, and hopes that you continue to use us for all of your legitimate travel needs."
Up ahead, a bit of dim light can be seen. Though that could always be a hallucination from all the fumes from the tunnel. Not to mention the fumes from Ezlo.
Amal was, once again, silent through the journey, sitting by what would be one of the windows, had the taxi a roof, eyes scanning the terrain as they made their way down from the district above to the subterranean layers of the moon. Not a place one much enjoyed wearing white, but it was suspected, but never said to her face, that most of her disposable income went to a dry cleaner in new Vertica. As the destination appeared to be in sight, Amal looked away from the landscape and towards the small group with her, ending on Ezlo, "We will take your lead. You are, after all, the bounty hunter, yes?"
Sitting the back of the taxi, clad head-to-toe in Cinnagar light armor, his plasteel visor shaded over to matte black, Volnay Tidsa might be protected from the smells or he might just pretend to be.
When Ezlo asks 'What *is* money,' the tall Corellian gives a low, dark chuckle. "Money is universal trading cards representing time and expertise provided to someone," he mutters, low enough to be talking to himself.
Volnay cuts himself off when Amal Jha speaks, then doesn't wait for Ezlo to answer the woman before he continues his low-volume diatribe. "How else could you buy milk if you were the fourth carpenter in a town with only one dairy farmer?"
He hesitates a moment, then turns his helmeted head to point the shaded visor at Amal Jha: "Just don't kill the mark," he suggests.
The air taxi lands at the mouth of the tunnel, where it opens up suddenly into...
A very large, mostly empty rectangular space a bit wider and longer than a football field. The entirety of this cavernous rectangular surface has been packed with what appears to be dirt (from the air). The air taxi stays low as it exits the massive pipe, well under top of the 'walls' that surround the party of bounty hunters on all sides. As the taxi lowers, it becomes more obvious that all of this dirt has had rows carefully arranged along its entire surface, with some sort of fungal growth having sprouted. By the look of it, it's been planted for a while, and is coming along quite nicely.
"Yeah... uh... totally.. uh... totally legit bounty hunter. I mean... as far as..."
Ezlo's attempts at further philosophy are interrupted by the droid, who interjects suddenly, and a bit sharply.
"Please exit the vehicle. And thank you for using Triple Aurek Taxi Co."
As Ezlo's bare feet somewhat relucatantly hit the soft ground, he looks around as if somewhat bewildered. Clearly still out of his depth, he's doing the best that he can with the limited aptitude that nature provided him.
"So... I guess we should like... uh... do... like, looking around for clues?"
"Reconnaissance. That's the word. Let's do reconnaissance."
Amal stepped down from the taxi easily enough, "As you say." The Echani took a moment to study the fields, before she nodded, "Not a bad crop, all things considered, but we are unlikely to find the one we're looking for here in the mushroom patch. I would advise making for the walls. A better vantage point as well as the most likely place to stage workers as well as overseers."
"Ladder there," Volnay Tidsa mutters, still talking so quietly he might be muttering to himself. One gloves hand does make a gesture, though, toward the far end of the big, open, uh, 'farm.'
"Man... these are... shiz... these are BALO mushrooms. Man... you smoke up some of these... whooo... wouldn't recommend it man. Friggin' KILL you, man..."
"Least I think they are. But they gotta have like... man... I don't even know how much all of this is worth."
It looks as if Ezlo might be tempted to just try a few, for science. But when Volnay points out a means of egress, he reluctantly leaves.
He can always come back later...
Up at the top of the ladder, behind a couple of haphazardly placed grates and industrial farming equipment, Ezlo is doing his best not to be seen by the workers up at the top of the patch of farm land.
It looks like there are many of these giant patches, each a bit bigger than a football field, and many meters deep. This old water processing plant turns out to be a natural location for agriculture on a massive scale, now that all of the fertilizer has finished composting...
Speaking quietly, Ezlo stays low as he looks around. There seem to mostly just be workers, and a couple of Gamorrean guards here and there overseeing production.
Strangely, all of the 'workers' seem to be...
"Man, do these workers look, I don't know... kind of 'young', to you guys?"
Sure enough, none of them looks to be older than fifteen. Most look substantially younger. All of them are extremely dirty, befitting their new lot in life as mushroom farmers.
If Amal was bothered by the fact that the fields were being manned by child laborers, there was no indication of it, as the group arrived at the top of the walls. Rather, there was, again, that scanning of the terrain, now so much larger in scope than could have been guessed even from the approach. "We need to move with caution, less for the alarms that might be raised by the workers than for alarms set up, with all likelihood to prevent theft of the product. By my best guess, the person we are looking for will be there." A shift of her hand indicated the largest of the buildings in the area. A structure not unlike a lighthouse, if such a thing as light existed in these depths, at least three stories with what appeared to be a windowed observation room at its height. And then, Amal simply began to move forward, using the terrain to mask her movements from any eyes which might be observing the landscape.
Last up the ladder, Volnay Tidsa is probably the most amateur of the group. The soles of his boots ding each rung lightly, not loud enough to be heard up above maybe, hopefully, but definitely loud enough to set the teeth of more able operators on edge.
Carefully, the tall human puts one hand on his hip holster and slides it up so the heel of the palm pushes the flap open while the fingers grip the butt-end of his blaster pistol. He holds the weapon toward his visor to check the setting, then points the weapon at the ground, ready.
Like Amal, the Corellian gives no answer to Ezlo's concern. He seems more concerned about the Gamorreans.
Since Amal has a plan of action, he waits for Ezlo to get moving after her and then trails to cover the flank.
The water treatment facility has been disused for perhaps centuries. All of its original equipment has either been stripped out, scrapped, or left to rust in place. In that sense, the interconnecting landings that hover over the farm 'plots' look much like a junk yard in some places. In others, the workers have begun reclaiming the space, and it's starting to look just a bit more orderly. But it's clearly the sort of work environment one can only encounter in Hutt Space.
Though he's a bit uncertain, and probably the least competent in just about any party he finds himself a member of, Ezlo is a surprisingly sneaky sort of space monkey. He climbs over abandoned equipment and haphazardly stored crates with the greatest of ease, and with almost perfect silence. But more importantly, he keeps himself low. As low as possible, always keeping either cover or concealment between himself and any of the workers of Gamorrean guards. For now, the party will remain unseen.
The Ardennian has brought a fairly decent sniper rifle with him, which he uses from time to time to look ahead. Peering through its scope whenever he isn't moving, he helps keep watch for any unnoticed guards, and any traps.
It's a loud whisper, and an urgent one. But a whisper nonetheless.
"Up ahead... can't tell if those are mines or alarms."
Sure enough, right in the middle of their path to reach the Overseer's Tower, they'll need to cross a landing that's practically lousy with laser-rigged devices. They'll probably either blow up, or just give away their position so the Gamorreans can chop them to pieces.
"Man... that's a bummer."
Amal stopped as Ezlo spotted the danger ahead. There was a moment of absolute stillness from the Echani, before she nodded, "Remain here for the moment. I will scout ahead to locate the controls. If such exist." She kept low, using the terrain as if she had been born to it, eyes tracking both the moving workers and the patterns of mines until she disappeared behind what appeared to be an equipment cart. A control panel there appeared to be the focus of all of the ordinance. A toolkit was slipped out of a jacket pocket before she got to work, cutting and rerouting wires as necessary. It was the span of a few minutes, before Borgol's Wraith appeared again, gesturing that the way through was clear.
Volnay Tidsa stops cold when Ezlo hisses his warning, then creeps closer to the others when the danger is pointed out. He crouches there, elbows rested on his knees so his hands and pistol dangle between, while the more experienced operators do their thing.
He's so intent on staying there, unmoving and quiet, that he doesn't notice he's sinking into the 'fertilized' ground until he's in it up to the greaves. Abruptly, the tall human throws himself to the ground aside of where he's stuck, and his boots come free with a greasy THWUCK!
Laying there on his side, looking past a pile of debris, he spots a Gamorrean with sharp, beady eyes sweeping over the spot. Oolog the Flatulent heard something, and it didn't come out of him, and he's shuddering and spluttering in preparation to give off some kind of scree.
"Company!" Volnay hisses at Ezlo, since Amal went off ahead.
His blaster raises, taking aim at the pig-guard, finger on the trigger, but he doesn't fire. Yet.
Content to stay where he is and provide overwatch, Ezlo stays huddled up behind an obliging burn barrel. Whatever they're burning in it, it's nice and warm, but smells... kind of like everything else around here. In fact, since their immaculately-garbed companion is taking care of the problem for them, it might be time for the strange four-armed creature to relax... unwind... maybe smoke a little shroob.
But before he's able to roll up a fat Shroob Stick, the sound of Gamorreans arguing in Gamorrean can be heard!
"REEEEEEEE! REEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! Shnokt snok snok!"
One of the Gamorreans makes an excellent point.
"Snukt snukt! REEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! Snuphkt snuphkt!"
The other one clearly has a firmer grasp of the issues at hand.
It looks as if the Gamorreans are going to be content to argue amongst themselves. In fact, it looks as if they might come to blows, and help out our heroes immeasurably. But then, almost simulatanously, two of them take note of the approaching Bounty Hunters! Sure, they might be lazy mercenaries, but they're still not interested in letting their boss get rolled up on by a couple of hunters.
"Dammit!" Ezlo curses, and pulls out his trusty pistol, and fires off two shots at the more talkative one.
Though Amal was moving ahead, and might have made it to the tower without raising the alarm, the sound of blaster fire was loud, ringing in the cavernous tunnel. A moment after one of the guards went down, a flash of white emerged from the darkness, crimson lit blades in hand, and making quick work of the second of the guards. "Hide the bodies." Only that, before Amal grabbed one of the guards to try to do just that, the blades disappearing back beneath her jacket. A nice cart would do, preferably one with some mushrooms to lay over them like a blanket.
Content to be the guy who made less noise than the other, and held his fire to avoid the worst possible outcome, Volnay Tidsa rolls to his knees and then rises fluidly. His pistol goes back in the holster at his right hip as he jogs over to grab the other Gamorrean by the chubby wrists so he can try dragging the big thing behind a junk pile.
"Aww... now we're porked for sure."
Sure, it's a rookie move. But Ezlo is TECHNICALLY a rookie. He's also ACTUALLY a rookie. At least in a sense. Despite all his claims about finishing a bounty hunting apprenticeship, he never seems to show anybody his certificate.
Forced to move positions, Ezlo helps hide the bodies as quickly as possible. But there's already some commotion within the facility, and a couple of other guards have been dispatched to investigate the claims of blaster rounds fired!
"These guys... huff! It's like... man... huff! Would it kill 'em not to eat ALL the food? Like... the hell man."
Having hidden the bodies 'just well enough', Ezlo gets away from that immediate spot, moving as quickly as he can without making too much ruckus. But there are already noises coming from the Overseer's Tower. It's either now, or never. Who knows what sort of secret ways Nardo Vig could have arranged for his escape in just this scenario?
"Screw this! We gotta CHEESE IT, MAN!"
And... he takes off running. Directly toward the tower. Carrying a blaster rifle in two of his hands, and a pistol in the other.
This will go well.
He immediately falls and trips, making a loud ruckus.
Whatever was happening behind her, well, Amal wasn't going to stay back to find out. It was unlikely that Nardo, having heard the commotion was going to be leaving them the time to find him. And so, Amal did what she needed to do, as she moved out from where she had been hiding, moving on silent feet (you'd think the heels would make noise, but they did not, point of fact), keeping low and silent as bodies came out of the tower door. One and then another, quickly dispatched once they were identified as not the target.
For his part, Volnay Tidsa is assisted by the monkey-man in dragging a fat, flatulating-in-death-at-every-bump Gamorrean corpse behind a debris pile. It's Volnay's fault the next sound triggered activity at the tower... he had tried to grab a big sheet of scrap metal to pull over the body, not realizing that a jagged bent-up edge would snag a roll of discarded wire, which would in turn catch on a jutting plasteel post, and that made several big pieces of junk come tumbling down on top of the body.
Well, says the grim line of Volnay's mouth behind his shaded plasteel visor, at least the body's out of sight!
Knowing what's going to happen next, he gets his blaster pistol back into his hand and charges after Ezlo. When the boss goes down in a pile, the Corellian amateur keeps going on past him, toward the tower.
The barrel of his pistol is extended ahead of him, barrel wobbling between targets as he races onward, but Amal takes the both of them down as deftly as she took down Oogol the Flatulent so Volnay Tidsa still hasn't had the chance to fire a shot. Maybe at the tower door, as he rushes past the white-clad ninja (aka Storm Shadow) in hopes of catching the mark unawares...
It's a mad dash to the tower, at least for Ezlo, who managed to fall behind by literally falling down. Not his best showing, nor is it an especially auspicious start to his career as a bounty hunter. But perhaps he'll improve with time? Maybe he'll cut back a bit on the shroob? Maybe they'll skip the next star war, and we can all live in peace?
A sentient can dream.
Sprinting to catch up from the rear, Ezlo turns to look over his shoulder in time to see that there are a couple more Gamorreans appearing from one of the old maintenance buildings, and they look like they're in a real Ezlo Chopping Mood. He fires off a couple pot shots behind him with his pistol while running, and manages to hit one. Fortunately, the Gamorreans seem to be mostly armed with shock sticks for zapping orphans. Bet they wish they'd been prepared for SHOOTING the orphans instead now, eh?
Once inside, with the door hastily barricaded, The Party begin making their way up the stairs. From up ahead, they can hear the sounds of a panicked Pau'an priming a pistol!
Looks like he doesn't have an escape route after all...
There were those who wondered how the Echani managed to remain in one piece, given the work she did for Borgol, given the sheer amount of fire power aimed in her direction, and the distinct lack of anything approaching armor. Perhaps there was some answer in the way the woman moved up along the stairs, moving to a face off with the errant banker, who fired a shot in her direction, which seemed to skim away from her as she moved in, using not the blades, but her fists. Borgol would want the man brought to him for answers. And for the information he could provide on these growing fields.
Volnay Tidsa had tried to stop his mad dash at the tower door, and the only reason the big halberd blade slicing down through the open door, from just inside, didn't hit him is because his booted feet slid from the muck still slopped over them. At this range he hardly needed the expensive sight mounted on his sleek pistol. He had stabbed the barrel right into the pig-guard's big belly and fired a couple of times, taking down the Gamorrean with *massive* levels of energy-based stun.
Then Amal goes rushing past him, through the door and up the stairs, and the tall human charges up behind her. At least he accounted for one of the rent-a-thugs, and nobody can say he kept out of harm's way.
He makes the top of the steps just as Amal is putting the fists to the mark, leaving him wobbly on his feet, so as an act of mercy the Corellian steps aside to get a clear shot, then casually snaps off a stun blast at Nardo Vig. The pistol does less physical damage than the ninja's fists, but seems to be enough to finish the job.
Bringing up the rear, courtesy of having the shortest legs of anyone in the party, Ezlo keeps a pistol trained behind him while keeping his rifle aimed at the door. But when a silken spectre slips past him and pummels the Pau'an like a professional pugilist, all the Ardennian is really left to do is watch and take notes. He really needs to start practicing his Teras Kasi more regularly.
"Man... that's tight."
The goons are already battering the door down, but once Nardo Vig is down for the count, Ezlo is able to head back toward the stairway, firing a couple of shots toward the door for dramatic effect before shouting at the tip of his lungs in his... not very intimidating voice. Still, he does his best.
"HEY, YOU PUD-PULLING GNORTS! WE GOT YOUR BOSS UP HERE! SO.... uh.... don't... ahem! DON'T DO NOTHIN'... uh... DON'T DO NOTHING AT ALL, UNLESS WE SAY SO!"
It's not the most effective attempt at intimidation ever made, but at the end of the day, they do in fact have their boss, check and mate.
As the Air Taxi lands near the Overseer's Tower, the pilot droid looks almost annoyed at being called back so quickly. But then, the Hutt Cartel's crew very pointedly didn't offer Ezlo a ride back. Probably because he's an Ardennian. Or maybe because he's Ezlo. Or maybe they were just busy. Either way, the unconscious body of Nardo Vig is hauled off by a crew of bruisers who look more intimidating than any of the Gamorreans at this place. Looks like Nardo Vig is in for a rough end to his already too-long life.
Sitting on the railing, overlooking more Balo Mushrooms than he could ever count, which are worth more Wupiupi than he could ever spend, Ezlo has little to do other than admire the view.
And... finish rolling up a joint full of very dank, very potent, Ardennian Shroob.
Lighting it, he watches as the orphans continue to work, and the Cartel thugs survey their new acquisition.
"<Kaff!> <KAFF!> Man... I can't wait to tell my grandma about this."
Once the target was secured, and things appeared to be mostly under control, Amal settled Nardo onto the floor. Well, more like she left him where he had fallen on the floor, as she activated her holocall unit, "The target is secure. bring in an extraction team, if you will." As Amal spoke, she reached beneath her jacket, withdrawing a set of credit chits, which she tossed, one to the human, one to the ardennian. "For your services. I am certain Lord Borgol will wish to follow up with you both."
As the cleaners move in and start collecting the mark and cowing what remains of the guards, Volnay Tidsa finds a quiet spot where he can clean the nasty muck off his boots. He uses a gilded hairbrush he found laying around the big room to knock the chunks off, then to scrub between the treads of each boot.
Only when the air taxi arrives does he toss the expensive bauble carelessly away, uses a nice rug to finish stomping and rubbing his boots clean, and then heads out to the landing pad for extraction.