Title: The Enemy of My Enemy Is...? (Part Four of Four)
Genre: Gen (adventure)
Summary: An Imperial Agent's and a Smuggler's missions intersect, for better or worse.
Lord Dralick's facility looked no different from the other bland duracrete buildings in the industrial area that backed onto the spaceport. A nearly windowless gray box with security cameras built into the upper walls and, more obviously, above the dark double doors, it was wedged between a secured warehouse and a squat office building guarded by Gamorreans. An alley ran behind the buildings, currently blocked at one end by a knot of presumably off-duty Gamorreans playing some type of dice game.
Bowdaar led the distraction team to the free end of the alley, leaving the other three to slip in through the front door at the appointed time. There were few people on the streets so late in the evening.
"I still think this is backwards," Jezari muttered.
"There's more security on the back door," Risha said, not for the first time. "Most people don't break in front doors."
"Most people are sensible."
Kyrian doubted the captain's bad mood was due to the plan. If he or Kaliyo screwed up in any way, they would be looking at a future in a Republic prison. If they were lucky. He couldn't fault her for that; "trust me, I'm an enemy agent" was not the best beginning to a partnership, even a temporary one.
"I'm sorry about Kaliyo," he said. "I should have simply warned her the ship wasn't safe to keep. I could have made it sound like a threat." He might even have been able to convince Jezari to drop him off wherever she left the ship.
Jezari stared at him. "Yeah, that makes me trust you. Just give it a rest."
"Is there anything that would help you trust me?"
"Why do you even...?" She shook her head. "You'd have made one hell of a con artist if you'd been born in the right part of space, Imp."
He wasn't sure how to respond to that. He certainly wasn't going to point out that if she really didn't trust him, she should lock him up and finish the mission on her own. Nor was he going to mention that he wasn't entirely certain she wouldn't do precisely that as soon as they were finished. Another reason not to have included Kaliyo.
"It's time," Risha said.
The sounds of the diversion didn't carry well in the maze of buildings, but there was no missing the force field that dropped over their target's front doors.
The three of them walked casually down the street, as if their business were with somewhere further east of the spaceport. Only when they drew even with the double doors did they dash for their real objective. With the security's attention drawn to the chaos in the alley, it might give them a few extra seconds to disable the force field.
No sooner had Kyrian pulled out the force field diverter he'd taken from his ship than the doors opened on a pair of security droids.
"This facility is currently closed," the one on the right said, managing to sound more ominous than any droid should. Or perhaps it was the very large wrist-mounted blaster it had leveled at them that gave its words that weight.
"Our mistake," Kyrian said calmly as all three of them took a step back. "We'll come back another time."
"Duck!" Jezari dove for the droid's feet almost before the word was out of her mouth.
Kyrian and Risha dove for cover on opposite sides of the doorway.
The force field blipped off, allowing the droids to fire, but the split second delay cost them their targets. The shots merely blew molten holes in the street. Jezari fired from the ground and the building was short two security droids.
The force field blipped back on, leaving Kyrian and Risha still outside.
"Damn it!" Jezari kicked one of the fallen droids. It bounced off the force field with a sharp zat and a small shower of sparks.
"It's all right," Kyrian said. "I can get us inside."
"No time. I've got it." Jezari blasted the force field generators in the entryway ceiling. Clearly the designer hadn't considered the need to shield them against people inside the field.
The force field evaporated.
"Emergency stairs are this way." Risha sprinted down the corridor to the right, barely slowing to fire on the security droids hurrying to intercept them.
Jezari and Kyrian followed, trying to both aid Risha and cover their rear from further reinforcements. It was soon quite clear why Dralick preferred droids to people; these hadn't been programmed with any sense of self preservation. Nothing short of destruction or dismemberment slowed them.
The three of them made the stairs, but only barely. Jezari's ponytail was smoking and very near misses had left singe marks on her jacket and Kyrian's. A chunk of door vaporized as it closed behind them.
Jezari swore. "They were expecting us!"
"I can still shut everything down if I can get up there." Risha took the stairs two at a time, the other two right behind her.
Jezari paused long enough to lob a flash grenade through the hole in the door. With luck, the droids' photoreceptors wouldn't be shielded against it.
"We can cover you," Kyrian offered as they reached the second floor.
Risha shook her head. "Go for the lab. They might not realize we split up."
No, we're coming with you," Jezari said, pegging another shot over the railing. "He got the bulk discount."
An answering column of flame engulfed the outer railing between her and Kyrian. He leapt aside, the wash of heat singeing his left arm and back. Jezari flattened herself against the wall as the jet of fire swept downward past her.
"Also the flamethrower attachment." Kyrian flexed his smarting left hand. That had been a little too close. "You're going to need us."
"Not arguing that," Risha said.
They sprinted up the last of the stairs just ahead of a second sweep of flame. The doors opened at their approach, but the droids in the hall beyond reacted just a little slower. Security had expected them to make for the lab, a costly mistake. Kyrian and Risha took out the two security droids in the hall before they had a chance to bring their blasters to bear.
"See how you like it!" Jezari tossed a grenade into the staircase as the doors closed behind them. There was a muffled whomph and the doors bowed outward slightly.
"Captain," Risha groaned. "We need the stairs."
Jezari gestured to the bent doors with one blaster. "Droids with flamethrowers!"
Risha could complain all she wanted; she hadn't nearly gotten her face fried off. Jezari felt like she should be checking to make sure she wasn't on fire somewhere. That she'd had worse sunburns was beside the point.
Kyrian picked off another guard droid as it came around the corner. "To the security room?" He suggested.
Risha threw up her hands in a last gesture of exasperation at the whole thing. "This way."
Their luck, such as it was, seemed to be holding. There were only a handful of guard droids posted outside of the control room, and they made short work of them.
The fight still took longer than Jezari would've liked. The entire mission was taking longer than she liked, and she really didn't want to find out if that was bad luck or design.
She blew the doors open before anybody could object. And dove out of the way with a yelp as a ceiling mounted heavy blaster fired on the spot where she'd been standing.
It tracked her as she rolled out of the way, stopping only when she was out of sight beyond the wrecked doorframe. With a faint whir, it reset to the middle of the doorway, waiting for any of them to show themselves. Kyrian and Risha had taken cover on the other side of the door.
"I'm really starting to hate this guy," Jezari said. She hoped Corso and Bowdaar were all right, with all the trouble they'd had so far. "Can't we just blow up the room?"
"The computer's shielded," Risha pointed out.
"That turret can't fire without dropping its shield briefly," Kyrian said. "I'll draw its fire and you should be able to take it out."
Jezari shook her head. "Reverse that. You two have got more powerful weapons."
"It might take all of us," Risha said, risking another glance. She ducked back as it tracked toward her. "Distract it so I can get over there. Unless you want to."
"I think your captain is more attached to you," Kyrian said. "Cover me."
"Both of you stay-"
They didn't wait for her to finish the sentence. Risha opened fire from as high on the wall as she could and Kyrian dove for Jezari's side of the door.
"Damn it!" Jezari added her own fire to Risha's, giving the weapon too many targets to focus on. She hoped.
It scored the sides of the doorway and put small craters in the hallway floor, showering them with molten bits of aluminum and duracrete. That it managed not to put craters in any of them owed rather a lot to luck.
"You still in one piece, Imp?" Jezari asked as he took up position beside her.
"I seem to be. You two?"
Risha nodded. "Ready?"
"Don't you ever pull something like that again," Jezari ordered. "It's a great way to get killed!"
"I just thought about what you would do," Risha said.
Kyrian coughed. Jezari glared at him. It had better have been a cough.
"You two... " Nothing quite summed up her frustration well enough. "Do something about that turret already!" She turned to guard their backs and wonder how she'd ended up surrounded by smartasses.
Risha's plan worked beautifully. The turret swung back and forth, opening itself up to rifle fire each time it blasted at one of them. It was well made, but hardly immune to blaster fire. A few well placed shots and it exploded in a fountain of flame and sparks. The whole fixture drooped slightly.
Their timing couldn't have been much better. Jezari had no problem taking out the first few guard droids who'd realized they'd headed for security instead of the lab, but their numbers were growing faster than she could blast them.
Worse, the latest batch had flamethrowers.
She shoved Kyrian into the room and ducked in after him. Risha made a beeline for the security computer. Jezari crouched on the inside of the same wall they'd been using and wondered if maybe blowing up the door hadn't been such a good idea. Every time she popped out to fire, there seemed to be more droids.
What kind of person sticks flamethrowers on guard droids, anyway? The only up side she could think of was that they weren't trying to catch them alive. Not that being burnt to death was much of an improvement.
Kyrian had taken position on the other side of the door, and was calmly picking off the oncoming droids. If their numbers bothered him, it didn't show on his face.
Irritated, Jezari pitched another grenade at the droids.
"Ha!" Risha's cry of success was almost drowned out by the explosion. When the echoing rattle and bong of falling droids faded, the hallway was still. Risha sighed.
The stairs proved to still be serviceable, once they'd pried the bent doors open. A section of the handrail was gone and parts of a few steps, but the damage was easily avoided. The door to the second floor was closed, presumably in response to the security shutdown, but Kyrian and Jezari slid it open without difficulty.
The hallways were empty and the security droids in front of the lab were drooped and silent. They stepped around them and slid the door open.
The lab beyond was chaos. A handful of disheveled humans, a Twi'lek, and a Zabrak had done a fair job of destroying the place.
No longer identifiable lab equipment lay in smoldering heaps, the examination table had been tipped over, dead lab techs and more broken equipment scattered the floor amid pools of liquid from a broken refrigeration unit. The prisoners had been released by Risha's shutdown and they weren't in a good mood.
They turned toward the door, three of them leveling blasters at their would-be rescuers.
"Whoa, wait!" Jezari raised her hands. "We're the rescue."
Kyrian and Risha raised their hands as well. It should have been obvious that they weren't in Dralick's employ, but the former prisoners eyed them with suspicion. Though they lowered their blasters, slightly.
"We don't need you," the Zabrak said. She hefted a jagged metal pole as if it were a spear.
"They might have a ship," the only other woman said. The blaster in her hand made it unclear if she was advocating reason or piracy.
"Rescue for who?" One of the men asked. His voice and aim were steady, but stress showed on his face. "Who sent you?"
"For all of you," Kyrian said. "We can-"
Every weapon the former prisoners held swung to point at him. Their mixture of accents had given him no reason to hide his own; that seemed to have been an error.
"This was his idea!" Jezari said quickly. "We're here to rescue you."
"Really." The Twi'lek's voice dripped sarcasm. He didn't lower his blaster.
"What did they put in us?" a man whimpered. "A poison? A plague?"
"Tell us," the woman ordered. "Tell us and we execute you cleanly."
Kyrian wished pointing out he was a fellow Imperial would help, but he suspected that was exactly why she was advocating his execution. He wondered what she'd done.
The man who'd first spoken gestured with his blaster. "Up against that wall, now. Maybe your mercs are innocent, I don't want to shoot them by mistake."
"I came to rescue you and destroy Dralick's work," Kyrian said. But he moved, slowly, in the direction indicated. His odds on ducking behind one of the piles of shattered equipment without getting shot did not seem good, and would do nothing to defuse the situation. "I don't know what he did to you, but I had no part in it."
"I'll shoot you not by mistake," Jezari said, drawing her blasters. "Drop your weapons. Now."
The woman's aim swung back to her. "You'll die, too."
"That isn't helping," Kyrian said. "Check the computer, they must have kept records." And if they have been brainwashed or poisoned, I'll think of something. He hoped they hadn't.
The woman nodded toward the computer terminal. Risha kept her hands raised as she walked to it. Jezari edged after her, blasters still trained on the former prisoners. The Zabrak and the other two armed with broken equipment watched them warily.
"Why was this 'rescue' ordered?" the man with the blaster asked. "And don't lie. I won't kill you until you tell me, but that doesn't mean I won't shoot you."
Kyrian considered quickly. That was a terrible way to encourage someone to talk, but in this case, the truth would keep him alive the longest. Even if there were serious problems with that option. "My orders were to steal his formulae and destroy the lab. Rescuing you was my own idea."
"Very funny," the man said.
"Don't shoot him," Kyrian said, steeling himself for the expected pain.
"You think you're a Jedi?" the man snorted.
"He's talking to me," Jezari said. "And I'm not listening. You shoot him, I shoot you."
"And I shoot you," the woman said.
"Can we not shoot anyone?" Kyrian suggested. "There's some chance Lord Dralick is on his way. We have a ship - two, actually, and we can drop you anywhere you like. All we need to do is destroy his formulae and leave. Isn't that a better outcome for everyone?"
"He's got a point," one of the other men said.
"You'd drop us anywhere?" the Zabrak asked. "Even Coruscant?"
"Of course." Kyrian indicated Jezari. "She'll take anyone who wishes to return to the Republic and I'll take anyone who wishes to return to the Empire." Though he couldn't imagine anyone would. "Either of us can take you to another neutral planet."
"It's a lie. Imps pull this all the time," the man with the blaster said. "They let prisoners 'escape' with false information or surprises for the Republic."
"Horrible surprises." The man worried about poisons and plagues shuddered.
"If that were my plan, why would I take this risk?" Kyrian asked them. "You were already free."
"For the formulas," the Twi'lek said, and frowned. "That doesn't make sense."
"No, it doesn't," the woman agreed. "He might be telling the truth."
"Great," Jezari said. "Now do something about your trigger happy friend."
"Why would an Imp rescue us?" the man with the blaster demanded.
"It's the right thing to do," Kyrian said.
The man stared at him.
"Now I've heard everything," the Twi'lek said. But he lowered his blaster.
"This is disgusting," Risha said, looking up from the computer. "Even in scientist-ese. But as far as I can tell, they were just test subjects. Anybody want to check before I erase everything?"
"I want to see," the worried man said, leaning eagerly over the computer. "How do I know which one's me?"
"You're really going to have her erase everything?" The woman looked curiously at Kyrian. "Against orders?"
"Yes." Kyrian risked a glance at her. "No one needs Dralick's formulae."
"Right," Jezari said. "Dralick's formulas, bad. Rescuers, good. Now put your blasters away already!"
The woman turned back to her, but she'd lowered her blaster. "Your friend is going to get himself killed if he make a habit of this."
"Maybe if the rescuees appreciated getting rescued," Jezari grumbled.
Kyrian was pretty sure that wasn't what she'd meant. But the immediate problem remained. "Wouldn't you rather have a lift back to the Republic?" He asked.
"I'll never trust an Imp," the man said.
"You don't have to trust me. You don't even have to trust her. No one will stop you from leaving and finding your own way back."
The man considered him a few long moments longer, then finally lowered his blaster. Kyrian hoped his relief wasn't as obvious as Jezari's. She sagged back against the computer bank with an audible sigh of relief and holstered her blasters.
"About time," she said. "Can we get out of here?"
"Wiping the computer memory now," Risha said. "Give me a minute or two."
"Is this everyone?" Kyrian asked the former prisoners.
"Everyone who survived," the man who'd threatened him said darkly. "The experiments straight out killed some. Others they shot because they weren't useful any more."
It was the wrong thing to say. Fury contorted the man's face. "Don't you dare pretend you're any different!" He waved his blaster at Kyrian. "You're getting something out of this and it's paid in blood."
Kyrian took a half-step back, hands raised. The most obvious solution was not likely to end well. Even with Jezari there, there was a good chance the other former prisoners would join in if it came to a fight, and Kyrian doubted they'd be on his side. On the other hand, another attempt at diplomacy seemed likely to get him shot.
"You should pay for what happened here, pay for what they did!"
Kyrian watched the blaster barrel make wild circles through the air. His options had dropped to a mere matter of timing.
"They all agree! They're just too afraid to-"
"That's it!" Jezari snatched the blaster out of the man's shaking hand. "I oughta make you walk back to Republic space."
He stared at her.
"Thank you," Kyrian said, more calmly than he felt.
Jezari felt a bit like smacking him, but it was hard to be too irritated with somebody who got in trouble for acting like a decent person. The Imperial woman was right, though; he was going to get himself killed.
Your crew doesn't need a stray enemy agent, she told herself. There's something seriously creepy about his partner and Corso would have a fit. Not that he'd said anything about wanting to defect.
"Are you done?" She asked Risha.
"Yep. I erased everything, just to be on the safe side."
"Great." Jezari waved her out of the way. And blasted the computer into slag.
Risha rolled her eyes. "He wasn't going to be able to recover anything."
"Now he really won't." Jezari grinned. Leaving a trail of wrecked computers through Dralick's properties was surprisingly satisfying. She was sorry she hadn't thought to shoot the security computer. "Time to move out."
They ran into Corso on the stairs.
"Captain! We were getting worried," he explained before Jezari could ask what the hell he was doing there. "I thought something might have happened."
She shrugged. "We ran into more droids than expected."
"Oh." He glanced at Kyrian, frowned, and turned to lead the way down the stairs. "We, er, found a utility speeder. In case, you know..." He made a vague gesture at the rescuees.
"Good thinking." Even if they didn't need a ride back to the spaceport, it sounded better than walking back. The sooner they were far away, the better.
The "found" utility speeder turned out to be an open-air model, intended for cargo rather than people, but she wasn't worried about it for a short ride. As long as Flashquik Couriers hadn't noticed their speeder was missing, the trip would be a breeze.
Jezari hopped into the driver's seat. "Pile in. Next stop's the spaceport."
Corso slid into the passenger's seat before anybody else could, and the rest climbed into the cargo bed. With luck, they'd pass for a work crew. If anybody noticed them at all. That was one thing she had to give Hutt space: nobody noticed anything if at all possible.
Jezari, however, did notice the expensive, enclosed speeder that passed them going the other direction. And did an immediate U-turn.
"That can't be good," Kyrian commented from behind her.
"Hang on." She pushed the throttle in and took a sharp left between rows of warehouses. Her passengers yelped, cursed, and scrabbled for the cargo tie downs - the only available handholds.
"We need rope, cargo straps, something!" Risha yelled. She clung to the back of Corso's seat.
Jezari zigzagged through the alleyways, their pursuer never more than a block behind. If only they'd stolen an airspeeder, a covered airspeeder, she could have lost them by getting above the maze of buildings. As it was, aerobatics were out of the question.
A blaster bolt melted a hole in the windscreen.
"Damn it!" She took the next corner so fast that her passengers were all slammed to one side of the cargo bed. She tried not to worry about the assorted cries of pain.
Five abrupt turns later and she'd lost track of where the spaceport was. Their pursuer, however, was still fast behind them.
"Why can't I lose them!?"
"If that's Dralick, you can probably blame the Force." Kyrian's voice sounded a bit strained.
"The Force? What...?" Jezari nearly turned to gape at him. "He's a Sith!? Nobody told me he was a Sith!"
"He wouldn't be Lord Dralick if he weren't."
"How was I supposed to know that!?" Jezari swore. That was an extremely important thing to not mention. It was like handing somebody balls to juggle and forgetting to tell them they were high explosives. "A Sith!? I hate Sith!"
"It's all right," Kyrian said. "I don't think he's very powerful."
"Not very-!? He's a Sith!"
She ramped off a parked speeder and almost made the roof of a lower warehouse. Almost.
The landspeeder bounced on its repulsorlift cushion and slewed sideways. Jezari risked a quick glance behind her. Everyone was still onboard, barely. She took advantage of their new heading and sped into an open warehouse.
"Captain!" Corso yelped.
Loader droids skittered out of the way, bleeping angrily. The other end of the warehouse wasn't open. It was a grid of some clear material, meant to let in light. She was pretty sure a cheap warehouse wouldn't use transparisteel.
"Captain!" Corso's voice hit an octave she'd never heard from him before. He pulled Risha into the front seat and covered her with his body.
They crashed through the wall at speed, shards of whatever-it-was raining down on them. Jezari barely noticed. She'd sighted the spaceport again. Abandoning all hope of losing their pursuers, she shoved the throttle to max and aimed them straight for it, other vehicles be damned.
In a straight run, the courier speeder was just a tiny bit faster, though not faster enough for Jezari. She ignored the parking area and didn't so much as slow down for the spaceport gates. Security shrieked at them as they flew past.
Disregarding everything, including the blaring alarms, Jezari laid on the horn and steered the speeder through the spaceport itself. Beings of all varieties scattered, shouting and waving tentacles, fists, and other appendages at them.
Mere meters from the docking bays, Jezari slammed on the breaking thrusters. The battered courier speeder spun and slid sideways into the wall, coming to an abrupt halt almost precisely between their ships.
Jezari vaulted from the driver's seat. "Everybody out!"
Corso and Risha stumbled out the other side.
"Whoo!" Kaliyo jumped down from the cargo bed. "My kind of ride."
Kyrian hopped down with less than his usual grace, but he turned to help Bowdaar with the escapees. They half climbed, half fell out of the back, looking rather stunned.
"Pick your ship," Jezari called. "We're outta time. Get out of here, Imp."
"Good luck, Captain." Kyrian sketched a salute, turned, and sprinted for his ship. Kaliyo, the Imperial woman, and the Twi'lek followed.
Jezari ran for her ship, followed by everyone else. Clearances, pre-flight checks, and other niceties were not on her agenda. That way led to meeting Lord Dralick and if there was one thing she didn't want to meet, it was Sith Lords.
The ATC computer of Dirha's main spaceport bleeped in irritation to itself as two ships disregarded all procedures and orders and took off without permission. It logged their registrations, banning them from future travel, then turned its attention to the more responsible traffic. That those two ships were wanted by an angry Sith Lord was entirely irrelevant.