Title: Conflicts of Interest (Part Two)
Genre: Gen (adventure)
Rating: PG (mild violence, swearing)
Summary: Missions for their respective governments have set Kyrian (an Imperial Agent) and Jezari (a Smuggler who does work for the Republic) on a collision course. There is also the slight matter of a Bounty Hunter...
As Kyrian had expected from the holo, Zarva's factory was infill, the building stuffed awkwardly into what had once been a small cul-de-sac. There was just enough space behind the factory for a small loading dock and landing area open to the urban canyon beyond. There was no safety railing.
To the left of the factory, a sheer face of durasteel rose a good thirty stories upward toward the brownish sky. To the right of the factory, and several meters above it, was an old overlook which afforded them a good view of the factory and its surroundings. Directly below them, a narrow alley ran between the original side of the cul-de-sac and the wall of the factory. Heavy wires and pipes of various sizes and dubious strength crisscrossed the space above the factory, linking its neighbors and keeping out all but the most reckless of repulsorcraft drivers.
A row of cameras dotted the front of the building, apparently aimed at the street beyond, and a matching row watched the landing area behind. The alley bellow had neither cameras, nor any other type of security that Kyrian could see. There was also a puzzling lack of guards. If not for the grayish smoke rising from the exhaust stack, the factory might have been abandoned.
"Waste of time," Kaliyo grumbled. "That guy's just looking to get even with you."
"Possibly." Kyrian shrugged. "We may as well be thorough." He clipped the end of a descent line to the railing.
"If the mission's for real, somebody down there might know where he is." Kaliyo's grin wasn't pleasant.
"Not that kind of thorough."
"You're too squeamish."
"By some standards." Kyrian climbed easily over the rail. "But there are more effective ways of gathering information. We'll see if Zarva's made any recent changes to security and then we'll find out where his guards spend their off duty hours."
"They might all be Gamorreans."
"There's still pleasant conversation and strategically losing at dice." He let himself down the line and dropped lightly to the alley below.
The maintenance hatch let Jezari and Corso out right next to Zarva's factory. It took both of them to shove it open, but the gronk of the hinges was lost in the hum of the factory and the creaking of the overhead wires. She guessed the hatch hadn't been used since the factory was built. The gap between the building and the factory was less than a meter, not quite enough space for it to open all the way.
They pushed the hatch closed and took a look around.
The building they'd come out of towered above them, its surface pitted and stained with corrosion, clearly older than the flat duracrete wall of the factory. Garbage littered the ground and there were a few ominous dark patches, but there was no sign the alley was patrolled. Jezari led the way to the front of the building and peered around the corner.
There were no guards, even at the doors, just some stationary security cameras aimed at the strip of ground between the building and the street. She frowned. Hutts were sloppy, but usually not this sloppy.
"Captain?" Corso leaned around her to get a better look. "Why don't we go back to the ship, get Bowdaar, and just break in?"
Jezari pushed him back into the alley. "Cameras."
"But we've got into places way better guarded than this."
"We don't even know if Riada's here," she said. "And ten to one he's not. The only way a Hutt would have security this bad is if there's nothing worth stealing. Or it's a trap." She put a few more meters between them and the front of the building. Risha would never let her hear the end of it if she and Bowdaar had to rescue them from Hutt security.
"Where else would he keep him?"
She shook her head. "I don't know. Look, we'll check out the back, but I think this one's up to Risha."
Corso turned sideways so she could squeeze past him and lead the way again. She was glad Bowdaar hadn't come along. The alley would've been enough to give somebody his size claustrophobia.
Kaliyo hung back as Kyrian checked around the corner with a small hand mirror. The building's plain facade was only broken by the recessed entrance and the line of security cameras. There were no guards and they were out of range of the cameras, so they both risked looking around the corner.
"Still no guards?" Kaliyo frowned.
Kyrian shook his head. There should have been guards on the factory doors, if for no other reason than to keep the workers in. Zarva's lack of proper security was reaching disturbing levels.
"Think it's a trap?"
"That's certainly possible." Though Kyrian couldn't see the former Fixer turning traitor to get revenge. He could see Zarva agreeing to lend his factory to the Republic for a ruse to catch an intelligence agent, especially if they offered the right amount of credits. "I'm going to take a quick look at the doors. Stay here."
"And risk missing the fun? Oh, Agent, you know me better than that."
"Ideally, we avoid your kind of fun."
She grinned. "We never do."
I try, Kyrian thought as they walked casually along the front of the building, careful to stay under camera range. It was a calculated risk; on Nar Shaddaa, it was highly unlikely that any of the factory's neighbors would choose to notice them, much less report their presence.
The door security proved slightly better. The metal doors were inset, their little alcove clearly rigged to trap anyone who triggered security. A pair of cameras adequately covered the entrance, but he and Kaliyo could study it unobserved from just outside.
The lock was a standard keycard design and clearly not new. From what they could see, the projectors for the force field trap had also been there for some time. The floor was dirty and marked with numerous boot prints. It was clearly a working factory, even if it was missing its guards.
They exchanged puzzled glances and retreated to the alley.
"Bet we could get somebody to play with that lock for a hit of glitterstim," Kaliyo said. "Wouldn't even have to pay them."
"You know I don't do things that way."
She shook her head. "You've gotta get rid of those morals, Agent. They just hold you back."
"I thought you approved of my insubordination." Before she could work out an answer to that, he gestured toward the back of the building. "We should still take a look at the loading dock security."
What is with this place? Jezari wondered. The loading area was just as peaceful as the front had been. No guards, no workers who'd snuck out back for a smoke or a hit of something more potent, not so much as a rat or a scavenger bird.
A small freight hauler was parked on the other side of the dock, near an uneven pile of old crates. She frowned at it, half tempted to see if it even had an engine. Then she looked up at the long balcony that ran along the building opposite, not far above the factory roof. If she and Corso could get up there, that hauler might just answer whether there was anybody in the factory.
"I've got an idea," she said. "Follow me." She pulled herself easily onto the loading dock and kept close to the wall, glancing back periodically to make sure Corso was doing the same. They were beneath the cameras, invisible to security - if there was any.
And if there was, they would definitely come out if something happened to the freight hauler.
Savler watched from the shadows as her quarry and his partner scouted the factory. She could've taken them out while they studied it from the overlook, but she'd had to make sure they weren't meeting someone. She'd been mildly irritated when he'd produced a descent line and vanished over the edge.
Yeah, get captured by security, she thought as they approached the front door. That won't save you. She was more than a match for Hutt security and confident she could strike a bargain for him if retrieving him looked to be more trouble than it was worth.
But they only studied the door for a few moments and returned to the alley below her. She wasn't surprised that security had been too tough for them. Imperial Intelligence was barely competent at best, and she wasn't convinced that her target was among the best, whatever his designation.
"What's he doing?" Mako asked over the com. A small helmet camera let her watch from the ship.
"Damned if I know," Savler said. "Recon of some sort." She was half tempted to let him do whatever he planned to the factory and then snag him. Nobody would miss a Hutt factory. But there were probably workers inside.
They passed beneath her, and she silently paced them. She wasn't about to let them out of her sight, especially not when they were headed for the loading dock. It was the one area of the little compound where she could actually lose them. There was a small freight hauler parked back there and a good chance that at least one maintenance ladder led down from the edge of the platform.
They slowed as they approached the end of the alley. A stack of crates partially blocked it, providing her with a nice bottleneck for an adhesive grenade. She grinned as she unhooked the grenade from her belt. Whatever her target planned, he was flat out of luck.
Movement on the loading dock caught her eye and she paused, shifting slightly for a better view. A second pair of people was picking their way carefully along the dock towards her and her quarry, keeping close to the building and under the security cameras. One was a young man in heavy armor, the kind of guy you found by the dozens on Nar Shaddaa and places like it - kid who thought the army was cool, joined it, found out it was work, and ran off to join the underworld because that was all that was left. But the other she knew.
Jezari? How long had it been since she'd seen her? A year? More? She'd gotten herself a bodyguard somewhere, unless the guy came with her current job. What she was doing sneaking around some factory was another question. She was a freighter captain and smuggler, not a thief.
The two of them, whatever they were doing, reached the end of the dock and dropped down, edging carefully toward the corner of the building and the pile of crates.
Shit. Savler had almost forgotten her quarry. She clipped the grenade back on her belt. It was too late for that, now; they were nearly on opposite sides of the crates. Gluing everybody down sounded good in theory, but if the wrong person still had an arm free...
She leaned over the railing and took aim with her dart launcher.
Kyrian didn't have time to react to the soft sound of footsteps on the other side of the crates. A dart caught him in the back, wreathing him in electricity. The world vanished for a moment in white pain, and he dropped to one knee, gasping. He reached for his rifle and got a second dart in the arm.
He hit the ground hard. Electro darts weren't meant to knock people out, but two in such short succession came damn close. Sparks danced in his vision and Kaliyo's swearing and blaster fire seemed to come from a long way off.
He awkwardly pulled the darts out and rolled under the shadow of the overlook. His right arm was half-numb and tingling and he ached, but his vision had cleared. Not that that would do him much good until his arm recovered. He'd never thought he'd be thankful for Kaliyo's insistence on wearing heavy armor regardless of the mission; it was the only reason their ambusher hadn't darted them both.
Kaliyo fired straight up, blasting notches in the edge of the overlook and preventing whoever it was from coming down to finish the job. Kyrian rubbed his arm, trying to restore proper feeling. He doubted the SIS would use electro darts, but bounty hunters were fond of them. The long list of people who might have put a bounty on him were not, on the whole, an improvement.
They both ducked as blaster fire cut through the stack of crates, burning molten holes in the wall behind them. The shots zigzagged up the wall.
Hutt security, the SIS, or a bounty hunter less concerned with bringing them in alive, it was past time to retreat and figure out what had gone wrong from a safe distance. He gestured toward the front of the building. Their attackers could fight over them while they slipped away.
"Jez! It's me!" The muffled shout came from the overlook.
"Corso! She's a friend!" That voice was unmistakable.
Redirected blaster fire set one of the crates on fire and burned the wall where they'd crouched moments before. Kaliyo swore and returned fire.
"Wait!" Kyrian shoved her arm aside, sending her shots harmlessly into the pavement and wall.
She elbowed him in the ribs. "Don't ever do that."
There wasn't time to argue. "Truce!" He called, hoping the woman above them could hear him. "We surrender!"
The alleyway fell silent, except for a faint sizzling from the crates.
"They're our friends," he reminded Kaliyo.
"You're such a fool," she muttered, but she had lowered her blaster.
Above them, a figure in power armor vaulted the rail. She fired her jetpack like a retrorocket and landed in front of them, a blaster pointed at Kaliyo, a wrist-mounted dart launcher pointed at him.
"Don't move," she ordered.
Jezari watched Savler vault the balcony rail and descend into the alley on a jet of flame. The power armor was new, but in Savler's usual blue and gold color scheme. Guess she's doing well, she thought dazedly.
"Bwuh?" Corso said.
"You've got me," she said. She holstered her blasters, her hands shaking. That's it. He's defecting if I have to have Bowdaar sit on him. "Come on."
Corso followed her, his blaster still hanging limply from his hand. She wondered if he'd forgotten it. Not that she'd blame him under the circumstances. You weren't supposed to end up in firefights with your friends. She ignored the little voice that pointed out that that was what you got for being friends with people who were supposed to be your enemies.
She stepped around the gently smoldering crates and found Savler holding Kyrian and Kaliyo at gun point. Savler's power armor didn't look so new up close, but none of the singes and scuffmarks looked new. Kyrian's dark clothes were smudged with dirt, but he didn't appear to be bleeding anywhere. Kaliyo just looked annoyed.
"Are you all right?" Kyrian asked, sounding more concerned about them than the dart launcher pointed at his chest.
"Fine," Jezari said. "What-"
"You shot at us!" Corso stomped into Savler's line of fire, puffing up to loom at Kyrian. "You're here for him too! You can't have him!"
"Corso..." It didn't matter that he was probably right, there were at least a dozen better ways of finding out if Kyrian was there for Riada. Or if Savler was, for that matter.
"Him?" Kyrian asked.
"The-" Corso froze mid gesture at the factory. "Oh, no, you don't. I'm onto you!"
Savler holstered her blaster and retracted the dart launcher. "Jez, what the hell's going on?"
"Long story," Jezari said. "Corso, back off. Savler, meet Corso. He's...part of my crew. The Imp's a friend, too. Kyrian, Savler. And that's Kaliyo." Who wasn't anybody's friend, as far as she could tell.
"What? Hang on." Savler pulled her helmet off. She still wore her dark hair just long enough to tie back, and Jezari was amused to see she was wearing sparkly eye makeup. "Must have been the helmet. I just heard you say an Imp was a friend."
Kyrian smiled and held out his hand. "It's a pleasure to meet you."
Savler blinked at him and turned back to Jezari. "Explanation. Now."
"I saved him from a Sith." Jezari filled her in on how they'd met, and ended up working together, as she led the way around the front of the building to the maintenance hatch.
Savler gaped. "Wow, Jez, that... I..." She shook her head. "That was some risk you took."
"I didn't know the guy was a Sith!" Jezari protested while Corso pulled the hatch open. "Nobody told me. They always leave out important stuff like that." Not that it stopped her from taking more SIS jobs, or bailing out people in trouble. "Okay, it probably wouldn't have made a difference. And we've helped each other out a couple times since. He's all right."
"Sure he is." Savler eyed him with obvious doubt.
"I realize my profession is against me," Kyrian said. "Would it help if I pointed out that I tend to be creative with my orders?"
"That just tells me you're suicidal."
"It's not quite that dangerous," he said. "Most of the time." He glanced at Jezari. "It can be a little tricky."
That was another good reason for him to defect. "Yeah," she said. "We need to talk."
"About 'him'?" Kyrian smiled wryly. "I'm afraid Corso is right. Unless Zarva makes a habit of collecting people both the Empire and the Republic have an interest in?"
"That'd be just great," Jezari muttered. "Let's sort this out back on the ship. We've got a big enough mess already."
"Uh huh," Kaliyo said. "Let's try neutral territory."
"That you pick? I don't think so."
"The Luck is probably the safest place on Nar Shaddaa," Kyrian pointed out. "It's certainly the most private."
Kaliyo shrugged. "Your funeral, Agent."