A soldier had lied to me, that’s always a sign that something bad was going to happen. Usually soldiers lie to save their own skin in one way or another, but when they lie about someone else, that’s usually far worse. That means that they are emotionally attached, thus a risk to the operation.
Learning what Skeelos was hiding from us seemed like the fastest way of learning if he was Belikos’ pawn or not. During our tour, we had barely seen any workers at the metal factories, and an unusually high amount of supplies seemed to be shipped in as well. This combined with the limited areas we were allowed to inspect clearly indicated that he was hiding something. I suspected, due to his past, that it meant he was dealing with slave labour, but it could also be something more directly related to our investigation. That was why gaining intel was so important and why Marion’s attachment could not be allowed to interfere.
I waited for Marion to begin her preparations for the operation, and confronted her about it. She seemed confused about what I was saying, as if she hadn’t even realized that she had done it. But after reflecting on it, she admitted her mistake and agreed to try and get her friend to help us get into Skeelos’ factory.
The plan was simple, Marion would meet with her friend and get as much information out of her as possible, then we would meet up at base and set out to infiltrate the factory and be out before dawn. As it seemed as though Marion’s task would take some time, I decided to keep myself busy as well. While Vicrushakal continued with background checks on the factory I made my way to some of the shadier areas of Coruscant.
I wanted to find more information about Lye Xomae that Ran had mentioned. She had gone into hiding but seemed to be making a living in some of the illegal fight clubs the planet had to offer. I had gotten a lead from Twitch about where to start looking, but Coruscant was big place, and I needed more help to narrow it down. It took some time, but finally I found the type of person I was looking for; a ‘Big Guy’, a man who knew he was big and tough, and made others aware of the fact, but also with enough brains and confidence not to be too full of himself. People like that tend to garner the respect of those around them, which usually also means they are up to date with most things of note around them. His name was Malo and I quickly made sure to befriend him.
I was in luck, he did indeed know about Xomae and she even had a fight starting fairly soon. Malo took me there and I let Twitch know where the fight was happening. We arrived at the club, if one could even call it that, it didn’t even have a name, and likely didn’t officially exist. Malo was cheerful and quickly began taking bets; I chipped in a few credits myself and made myself at home amongst Coruscants scum and villainy… as well as the Twi’lek girl who had gotten herself punched earlier that day aboard the Neimoidian personnel ship.
She confidently swayed her hips across the club, clearly showing the people around her that she was out of their league, and subtly insinuated being together with the meanest, scariest looking people around her when any of them made any advances. I wasn’t sure how much of it was the Twi’lek’s natural grace and how much was skill, but I had to admit, she was quite good. She settled outside the areas where the fighters were coming from and waited.
I didn’t have time to see what she was there for, because soon after she arrived, the fighters exited the arena. First was the apparent fan favorite, a heavily cybernetically enhanced Twi’lek woman named Liitara with robotic legs, next was a large gamorrean prodded along by jawas, and then finally Xomae made her entrance.
Malo had mentioned that those who lost were usually simply left there, only aided by those who felt they were worth the credit to save. Thanks to this, I was hoping that Xomae would lose, allowing me to simply take her with me rather than squeezing her for answers here. It started to seem unlikely however as after a short bout, Xomae cut Liitara down and began circling in on the gamorrean.
Their fight was far cruder and took both fighters out of the fighting area and in amongst the crowd. Xomae used the crowd to hide, leaving me face to face with the brute. It was not hard to distract him, and Xomae used the opportunity to strike him down. She turned to face me and asked what I wanted to speak to her about, the umbaran ‘mind reading’ in action. She did, it seemed, not read the mind of Liitara though, as she had recovered and skewered Xomae through the back, claiming herself victor of the fight.
Excellent. Right as I was about to pick up the umbaran, Liitara signaled to a group of thugs, all with cybernetic enhancements, all branded with Zymaltech’s logo. I had heard about them, apparently they recruited people into their gang by implanting them with bombs or similar devices, ensuring their loyalty and it seemed as though they had found their latest recruit.
I did not have much time to spare, I adjusted my identifications to have its photo resemble one of the thugs instead and as Marlo and I went near them, I bumped into him making it seems as though he had dropped it, right in front of Malo. Malo reacted just the way I hoped he would, accusing them of being ‘knarks’ and so the fight was underway. I picked up the ID and went around the commotion and shot the man carrying Xomae. I picked her up and began moving out but I got careless and got spotted at the last moment.
I got grazed by two of the Zymaltech’s blaster rounds before I could put him down. Then I made for my escape, I had gotten outside the club, but was still stuck alone in the slums dragging a bleeding woman with me. But, punctual as ever, Twitch arrived to join the fight, a few death sticks persuaded him to think differently and he let me use one of his bounty coffers where I could store Xomae. I patched her up best I could and then we were off.
I quickly learned that having Twitch drive me in a state regulated, hover moped was quite different from him driving me in a swoop bike, but as long as he didn’t kill us, we were safe. My carelessness had gotten myself hurt before an important operation, which was somewhat irksome, but all in all it was likely worth it. As we got near Twitch’s hangout I called Vicrushakal to have him drive us to the safe house. He answered the coms, but it was obvious something was wrong. “Marion is dead”.
Vicrushakal had lost contact with her some time ago and after tracking down the signal, found it inside a trash compactor. It took a moment for me to process the information. I had only known her for a few months so it wasn’t as though her death should be particularly relevant to me, beyond setting back our plans a bit. I had sent Stormtroopers to their death many times before this, there was no reason why this should be any different.
Yes, we had happened to save each other’s lives a few times during our assignments and yes, she was one of the last connections to the life I had before the empire fell, and yes, while occasionally aggravating and annoying, I didn’t hate her. But still, there was no reason why this should be any different.
I let the Twi’lek know that we would have to adjust our plans and get more information. Information on Skeelos and on whoever had killed Marion and how much about our operation they had figured out. The likely candidate was Talo but why would she risk her cover by killing a Stormtrooper? And how would she have known where to attack her?
No, there were too many unanswered questions and little point thinking about it. We settled Xomae inside the bacta tank where Marion had spent most of her time since arriving on the planet and went on to plan our next step. We didn’t make much headway, with little intel on the facility it would be difficult to pull off with just the two of us. I might be able to infiltrate the place as a new hire, but it would be difficult now that my face was known amongst them.
When the umbaran had recovered sufficiently we took her out of the tank and into the cell where we had stored Zarvady. We had removed her weapons and a series of chems she had on her, but as an assassin it was possible that she was still a threat, but I was in a foul mood due to the change of plans and my wound had started hurting a lot more and I was not in the mood to draw things out.
I went into the cell along with her but didn’t chain her up like I had the Zabrak. Intimidation would likely not get me very far with her, and I preferred that she would give me information freely. She eventually came to and seemed to catch on what was happening quite quickly.
In the interest of saving time I was as open as I could with her, which clearly surprised her. I told her who I was, what I was doing and what I needed her to tell me and, with a little bit of prodding, she complied. She was grateful to me for saving her from being forcefully recruited into Zymaltech and similarly to the cell’s previous occupant, she seemed weak against compliments and having her ego stroked, and before long she seemed to indicate that she was willing to stroke me back. I was unsure if this was a genuine response or a way for her to reassert a measure of control, sex being one of the best ways to do so.
Regardless of her reasoning, she seemed ready to help us and provided me with information about Skeelos as well as information about the black comet. They had been the ones who had contacted her and asked her to fake the attack on the president. She didn’t know anyone on board the ship, the only contact had been a modified protocol droid but after the attack they had cut off ties with her.
That was definitely relevant information, as she detailed her interaction with them, it seemed as though Agent Talo had been quite busy and it was likely that the black comet might not even be tied to the black sun at all, and only run by Belikos’ men. She promised to provide clearance codes and other assistance to go along with our frequencies if we helped her get revenge on Liitara. I promised I would set things in motion and left her cell.
I began debriefing Vicrushakal about what I had learned when Marion came waltzing in, battered and bruised but otherwise seemingly unconcerned about the current state of affairs. Apparently she had run into Zarvady and by the sounds of it, he had tried to court her by bashing her face in. I ordered her to tell us with what she learned, after which I pointed out that due to her inability to keep in touch and keep a schedule, the operation would have to be delayed until the following night.
Her incompetence had already cost us enough time and so she had better make up for it by getting herself ready inside the bacta tank. Indeed, once again emotional attachments had jeopardized the operation. We had to be detached to be able to make level headed decisions. Still, strangely, when I saw her making her way back into the bacta tank I noticed that my wound didn’t hurt as much anymore.