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MC: AOTE: Brothers in Arms


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Noelle reached out and shook Nic's hand. "Pleasure to meet you, Mr. White. I don't think we've ever met before, but I did pass you and your companion in the elevator on my way up here." His eyes were unfocused and his handshake wasn't as firm as she'd expected. "Is there something the matter?"

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“No, It’s, erm...” Nic paused as he released the girls had. “...It’s fine.”

 

After a few more moments giving the girl an apprehensive look he turned to look over at Conn. “There’s nothing to find out, everyone on the planet seems clueless to what the empire is doing.” He lied considering he didn’t even ask as he had his personal business to deal with. “So if we’re going to do this without hurting anyone at ChandraMed we’ll have to do this covertly.”

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"Don't worry miss. Everything will work itself out in time," Jeez commented as he shot a quick glance at Nic. "A pleasure to meet you, by the way, ma'am."

 

Hearing what Nic had to say to Conn, Jeez then commented, "Well, being covert does have its advantages, but we could use some rather detailed intell before we head in. Has that been taken care of?"

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Conn pointed at Noelle. "You're looking at her," he said in reply to Jeez. "I think we're counting on Noelle to sneak us into ChandraMed and get us the information we need, namely the drug's exact chemical composition and the location of the water treatment facilities that the Empire plans to use to spread it. Once we have a grip on those two things, we should have a better idea of how exactly to go about this."

 

He turned to Noelle. "We're going to need access to some pretty encrypted files, I'd imagine. Do you have the clearance for them?"

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“However we do this me and conn’ll need to be careful walking around any facility with the Imps wandering around.” Nic stated looking around the group. “The plastic boys probably have our pictures imprinted on to their eye balls, we’ll need disguises at the very lease.” He then turned to Noelle. “Do you think you could help us out with that as well?”

Edited by starmark2k
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((Joint post with Rogue Nine :)))

 

"We're going to need access to some pretty encrypted files, I'd imagine. Do you have the clearance for them?"

 

"I have mid-level access, thanks to a few corporate projects I'm working on," Noelle replied. "Something like you describe would probably be restricted to the higer levels, ones I don't have access for." Her eyes glinted. "But there are always ways around that."

 

"The plastic boys probably have our pictures imprinted onto theur eye balls, we’ll need disguises at the very least. Do you think you could help us out with that as well?"

 

Noelle gave Nic an inquisitive look. "The Empire is looking for you?"

 

Conn chuckled ruefully. "Three of the Empire's ten most wanted are in this room right now," he told Noelle. indicating himself, Jeez and Nic. "If you were so inclined, you could make a tidy sum of credits by taking us in."

 

"The temptation is great, I must admit," Noelle replied, her eyes glinting again as she looked at each of them in turn. "But credits don't really interest me, so I don't think you need to worry."

 

"That's a relief," Conn said, rolling his eyes at the petite brunette. The thought of her taking all of them into custody by herself was an amusing one.

 

Noelle nodded at Nic. "It shouldn't be too hard to come up with disguises for you guys. If all else fails, we can just throw you in some body bags and get you into the facility as cadavers."

 

Conn snorted. "That shouldn't be a problem, all three of us have been dead before."

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((Joint post with Writer. :) It's long, sorry, but everyone's 'mission' is listed in this one so read, scan, whatever. ;) ))

 

“Body bags.” Beryl considered for a moment, then nodded her head. “I like that idea.” She crossed the room and sat down on one of the comfy chairs in the living area. Hands behind head, she leaned back and stared contemplatively at the ceiling. “If not just a tiny bit morbid, it’s simple and believable.” She grinned. “Although, if you guys are corpses, you certainly won’t be needing your fake IDs.” She glanced askance at her brother Telk. “Looks like, you might have done all that work for nothing, brother.”

 

Telk just grinned. “Story of my life.” He clapped his hands together. “So, what’s the gameplan? Anything else I need to do, or can I depart from this little rebel party of yours and go back to my day job?”

 

“We are not rebels,” Beryl stated flatly. “We’re…”

 

“We're just trying to survive under a government that doesn't want to let us," Jana offered helpfully.

 

“Exactly,” Beryl smugly agreed. “So go back to your ‘day job,’ Telk. Just, erm… keep yourself available for when we’re ready to go. We won’t need to hitch a ride this time, but we might need a distraction to take off without being harried.”

 

Telk nodded, kissed his sister goodbye, then said his farewells and left the apartment.

 

“Ok, so… Chandra Med.” Beryl perched herself on the edge of the chair and cleared the ornamental flowers off the coffee table in front of her. “Jana? You have the building plans handy?”

 

Reibe laughed. "We have them, Beryl. And a little something more."

 

Jana shook her head. "I didn't get..."

 

Beryl frowned. “Didn’t get what?” she asked Jana.

 

Jana frowned at Reibe. "We didn't go anywhere, or do anything to get the building plans. Where did you get them?"

 

"I have my sources," Rebe replied coolly, and behind her, Teser grinned.

 

"Nevermind where she got them, Jana. Let's see them," Beryl said to Reibe.

 

Reibe handed a slim card to Beryl... definitely not the building plans. She chuckled. "Whoops, sorry. That's the 'something more' I mentioned. Even if we didn't have the plans..." she paused here to take the card back and hand a datapad to Beryl, "... we would still get around ChandraMed without questions."

 

“Oh? Planning on using your ‘special skills’ to navigate once we’re inside?” Beryl asked.

 

Reibe snorted. "Nothing so complicated." She leaned back. "The Empire still considers me an ally. That card I just showed you is a high-level Imperial security clearance. Allows me quite literally anywhere I should wish to go... well, except for the Emperor's private room... though who'd want to go there? His face is that ugly, just imagine..." She shuddered. "Anyway, you two would be covered simply by being with me."

 

Beryl gave Reibe an odd sort of look. “As long as you’re not planning on betraying us.”

 

Reibe shrugged, again holding up the card. "This is about the only reason I was ever allied with the Empire," she explained. "It's a go anywhere, do anything, get out of jail free card. Beyond this, I need nothing more from them except for the occasional test of my loyalty, which serves to keep my clearance active." She winked at Beryl. "You're safe, doll."

 

"That explains how you get in," Jana interrupted. "What about Beryl and me?"

 

In response, Reibe handed identification papers to Jana. "That's you."

 

Frowning incredulously, Jana asked, "Jana Vailar?"

 

“Sisters?” Beryl sniggered. “How novel. This mission really is turning out to be a family affair all the way 'round.”

 

"Mother and daughter, actually," Reibe corrected, seeming to dismiss Beryl's 'family' comment. "Jana is to be my daughter, my apprentice. You won't need further ident..."

 

Daughter?” Beryl choked. “No offense, Reibe, but even though I know you’re older than you look, no one’s going to buy that you’re Jana’s mother.”

 

With an icy glare, Reibe once more extended the security clearance for Beryl to see. "You've never seen one of these before. For that reason, I'm going to give you some leeway that questioning Imperials would not get." She stood. "That doesn't mean I'm going to answer that question for you either."

 

She turned and began a slow pacing across the room. "As I was saying Beryl, you don't need further identification. Jana and I will merely state that you are part of our party and you won't be checked. A Force Sensitive 'friend' or 'pet' or whatever..."

 

Beryl’s jaw set, and she fought hard to quell the anger rising inside her from Reibe’s snarky comment. “Oh, hey, don’t worry about me, Reibe. I’ve got an Imperial uniform and a code cylinder, remember? Lower level security than yours I’m sure, but it’ll get me in without having to be a ‘pet’ for a high ranked hobnob.” She flashed a close-lipped grin. “But I digress.”

 

Beryl shifted in her seat. “Now then,” she turned her attention to the datapad, “whether it be in body bags or not, I think that Conn, Jeez, Cloud and Nic should go in with Noelle through the employee entrance. Conn and Noelle, being the smart, scientific doctory sorts that they are, should try and find the research results for this project, and sabotage them.” She locked eyes with Conn. “Don’t delete any files if you can help it. It’ll be better if the data is corrupted to make it look like the drug doesn’t work. That way, the Imps will be less likely to try the experiment again someplace else.

 

“Meanwhile, Teser, Reibe, Jana and I will go in through the main entrance.” She looked at Teser. “You do have an Imperial Ident, don’t you? Or do you have to be someone’s ‘pet’?”

 

"Much as I regret it now... yeah, I've got an Imp ident," Teser sighed. Winking at Jana, he added, "Though I can't say I'd have minded being her 'pet'."

 

Jana snorted. "Maybe next time."

 

Teser grinned. "Promise?"

 

“Can we just stick to the topic?! Please?” Beryl glared at her brother who merely shrugged a shoulder at her. “Right, so, it’s settled. We’ll all just go in through the front door.”

 

"And through the front door, we'll be demanding to inspect the place," Reibe said with a grin. "Every last square inch of it." She turned to Noelle. "Empire's been known to do that, haven't they? Yes, they have. So it'll work. Especially with my clearance. And once we're in, they'll let us do whatever we want." She smirked faintly and murmured, "I'm gonna love explaining this one to Palpatine..."

 

“Just make sure it’s after we destroy the supply stocks of this drug we’re looking for,” Beryl growled at Reibe. “Because that’s our part of the mission. Search and destroy.” She glanced at Noelle. “With as few casualties as possible, of course,” she added as an afterthought.

 

“What about me?” Sam asked eagerly, crossing the room and sitting in the chair next to Beryl. “What do I get to do?”

 

“Well, if my hunch is correct, and the Imperials are planning to release this drug into the general water supply of the city, here,…” Beryl pointed to a spot on the datapad map that wasn’t too far away from the main ChandraMed facility. “…then there must be a tunnel or something that the Imps could use to transport large quantities of the drug cocktail from the ChandraMed facility directly to the water treatment plant without alerting the Chandrillan authorities. Nic, Cloud and Jeez’s mission will be to search for the tunnel entrance from the ChandraMed side, and then destroy whatever distribution and tunnelling equipment the Imps have set up down there.” She looked up at Sam. “But, I’ve no doubt that both the tunnel and the treatment plant will be heavily guarded so the guys will need some kind of diversion. That’s where you and Jack come in.”

 

“Jack?” Sam’s brow raised. “You want me to work with… Jack?

 

Beryl stared at her. “Is that a problem?”

 

The normally confident Sam hesitated. “Well… no, but….”

 

"Let's just say they're not on the... friendliest of terms," Reibe offered, clearly amused.

 

“What sort of ‘diversion’ did you have in mind?” Sam asked.

 

Beryl shrugged a shoulder. “Be creative. Just make sure that whatever you do, that you attract the attention of the Imperials and not the local police force.”

 

Sam let out a contemplative sigh. “Gotcha.”

 

“So, that’s the plan,” Beryl said. “We should be able to stay in contact with one another through a secure channel on our comlinks. After you’ve each completed your missions, we’ll meet back here, or alternatively at the ship in the hanger bay if this place isn’t safe.

 

"Anyone have any questions? Because now’s the time to ask them.”

Edited by JasraLantill
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After Beryl laid out the plan Nic went to the supplies and collected some of the things they may need to destroy the Imperial Equipment, a few compact high explosives, some remote detonators and a

field medical kit in case things went wrong. This didn’t take long so when the bags were ready and full he decided to get some alone time on the Apartment’s balcony.

 

He had to think things over and now was probably the only chance he’d get for a while especially with this mission coming up. Nic leant against the balcony rail and up into the nights sky, at all the stars, he liked looking into the universe it made him feel small and with that his problems also became small in comparison.

 

Cloud had been watching Nic for a few moments, he had known his friend was in pain for some time now and was burdened with it among many other things. The young Mechanic stepped forward over to the Balcony and leant in next to Nic.

 

“I have a Confession.” The Force sensitive stated looking out over the city.

 

“Yeah.” Nic Replied not taking his gaze off the Stars. “If it’s about you always overestimating your repair times so you come across as a genius... I had a hunch.”

 

“No not that.” He Laughed. “I Um... Followed you and Jeezs today.”

 

“Why?”

 

“You know, I’m a Sneaky son of a Schutta.” Cloud laughed remembering the conversation the two had before Nic was taken by his brother. “I heard what that Cleric said about the prophecies, and your destiny.”

 

“I wouldn’t take any notice of that.” Nic suggested smiling. “Guy’s old... Probably losing his marbles.”

 

Cloud Laughed again. “I always liked that about you, whenever anyone gets serious ,you make joke.” The mechanic informed before a long pause. “You know I didn’t always like you. First Couple years on Echo I thought you were Arrogant scruffy looking nerf herder, Hells, I only stuck around because of Aerith.”

 

“Well love makes you do crazy things.”

 

“Yeah. Now Aerith she always use to say that there was something about you, something special... I never saw it.” Cloud paused againg and breathed deeply. “Until after she died, the it was clear to me, you’re someone we can trust in the bad time, someone who’ll risk his own life to save an others, someone who could save us all.”

 

“I can’t save myself.” Nic stated finally turning to look at him. “Don’t put your faith in me.” He stood up and began to walk back inside. “C’mon, let’s play galactic Hero.” Nic Walked inside and went to get his things leaving Cloud on the Balcony.

 

“We stopped playing it along time ago.” He said quietly to himself before turning to follow Nic.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Beryl stood in front of the full-length mirror as she adjusted her Imperial uniform. Even though it wasn’t as comfortable as her usual tank top and trousers, after having worn it day after day while on Carida she felt completely at ease in it.

 

While she carefully placed her security code cylinder on her shirt, she caught a glimpse of Conn standing behind her and she grinned at his reflection.

 

“So, think I’ll pass inspection?” she asked him.

 

Conn smoothed a wrinkle out of his white lab coat before responding. "You look like every other Imperial Navy lieutenant," he said, tossing her the dark short-brimmed cap that completed her outfit. "More attractive than most, but just like every other. Which is what we're counting on."

 

Beryl put the cap on and smiled at him. “Just so you know, Conn, I’m not splitting us all up because I’m jealous of your new friend.” She carefully glanced at Noelle, who was patiently waiting in the living room. “It’s so when Reibe betrays us, I can have all our bases covered. If one of our teams fail, the mission can still succeed.”

 

He frowned at the word 'betray'. "What makes you think she's going to do that?" Conn asked.

 

Beryl lowered her voice. “You don’t think it’s a little too convenient for her to have unlimited security access?” She raised a dubious eyebrow. “C’mon. Something’s going to happen, something bad, and when it does, I want you and the others safely someplace else so that you can shut this project down.”

 

Conn crossed his arms. "I don't like this, Beryl," he told her, shaking his head. "You make it sound like you're going into a trap. If you suspect something's going to go wrong, then we should try to prevent it. I don't want to lose anyone in this operation, especially you."

 

Beryl grinned surreptitiously. “Don’t worry about me. I’ve got a trump card to play, if I need it. The important thing is shutting down this project. If the Imperials are successful with it here, they’ll use it elsewhere. And then we’ll all lose.”

 

She looked into his eyes for a moment, then said, “You know, I really appreciate all you’ve done for me. Things have been crazy. I’ve been crazy. And the Imps, well… they’ve just been being their normal, overbearing, domineering selves.” She snorted. “Heck, you could have been half-way across the Galaxy by now. Setting up your own private practice, or….” She shrugged a shoulder. “What I’m trying to say, is thank you, Conn. You’ve stuck by me when you didn’t have to. Maybe after this is all over we can…” She scowled slightly, as if suddenly recalling an unpleasant memory, but it soon passed. “…talk about more pleasant things.”

 

He gave her a small, grim smile. "I'd like that," he replied. "Just be careful, okay? Don't take any unneeded risks. And watch your back."

 

“You do the same.” This was followed by another quick glance, no more than a flick of her eyes, in Noelle’s direction.

 

Conn caught the movement of Beryl's eyes towards Noelle. "I will. But I do trust Noelle, so you needn't worry about her." He glanced towards the younger woman across the way, then pursed his lips thoughtfully. "It's funny though...when you flipped out earlier, I detected surprise and alarm from pretty much everyone...except her. I actually can't detect much of anything from her, truth be told."

 

“Really.” She lowered her voice a bit. “Then it won’t surprise you that I can’t sense anything from her either. And I mean anything.” She glanced over at a potted plant sitting on a shelf. “Even that has tiny Force ripple. But, from her? Nothing. She’s hiding something, though I don’t know how or why.” A pause. “Actually, I don’t really care how or why, just as long as she does what she said she was going to do.” Her eyes raked over Conn’s lanky figure. “So, have you decided if you’re going in as a corpse, a visitor, or a new employee?”

 

"I'd think the lab coat would be a giveaway," Conn said, smoothing out his sleeve again. "I'm riding a body bag in, though." At Beryl's dubious look, he chuckled lightly. "Security checks people coming in, but they don't check people going out. The less people they see coming in, the better. I ride a body bag in, walk out."

 

She smiled. “I don’t know why I was worried about you. You’ll do fine.”

 

Conn nodded. "We've all got to succeed if we really want to take down the Empire's scheme. I just hope Noelle and I are able to find what we need and do something about it to do our part."

 

Beryl checked herself in the mirror one final time. “Well, guess I’m as ready as I’m ever going to be. Let’s get going.”

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  • 2 months later...

"I'm glad to hear you so ready, Ms. Quitaan," Reibe said sharply, almost sarcastically as she entered. "Looking like quite the Imperial, you are." Reibe herself did not seem to have changed anything about her outfit, still wearing the black leather... but she had affixed a small patch on the right side of the neck of the outfit. Almost unnoticeable, this little patch was a silver-lined black 'S' curled around the left side of a fully silver 'H'.

 

"Come along," she said, turning in the doorway to leave. "Jana and your brother are waiting."

 

Indeed, when they entered the main living room, they found Teser and Jana there. Teser seemed to have fully gotten into the role of Imperial brat. In that role, he appeared to be attempting to hit on Jana, who was significantly less comfortable. Dressed much like Reibe, but without the 'SH' patch, she stood ramrod straight, dismissing Teser's advances even more stiffly.

 

"I don't know how you manage wearing this thing as often as you do," Jana said irritably to Reibe, cutting Teser off midsentence. Reibe chuckled.

 

"If we'd had more time, I'd have been able to do a better job fitting it to you," she said. Then, she handed one of the two lightsabers on her belt to Jana. "There. That will complete your outfit."

 

Jana clipped it to her own belt without looking at it. "We're ready then. Let's get this over with."

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Looking in front of the mirror in his room, Jeez sighed to himself. He could sense trouble ahead, but it was difficult to sense exactly what was going on. Closing his eyes, he could feel a comforting presense that was very familiar. "How come I could never sense you like this whenever you were alive?" Jeez commented aloud as a smile crept at the corners of his mouth.

 

You were the one who severed our bond in the Force, remember? Ryshana's voice replied in Jeez's head. Although she was nowhere to be seen, their bond had remained strong even after Ryshana's death. It was as if Jeez could communicate with her anytime he wanted simply by concentrating ever so slightly on the Force that flowed through him. However, even he could sense that there could be other advantages aside from constant communication.

 

"Yes, I remember," Jeez stated as the smile faded slightly. "I just didn't think it would've been so absolute. Oh well, that's all behind us now."

 

Perhaps, Ryshana replied. Our bond now is such that it could be broken if you were to lose your concentration.

 

"But you're one with the Force. Even if that were to happen, I could still find you again," Jeez replied. "I have to wonder, though, is there something else that could come of this bond?" Pausing for a moment, Jeez could feel a bit of darkness begin to settle on him. "I mean, I'm not looking for more power, but what if I need more power to resolve a situation? Is there something more to this than just simple communication?"

 

Our bond is something unique, Jeez. When we were able to reform our bond just before my death, we were able to impart strength to each other through the Force. Since our bond still exists, I have no doubt that we could still do the same, Ryshana replied. I sense that much will be revealed soon enough. For now, just know that I will always be with you. If you need strength in dark times, I will be here.

 

Nodding his head, Jeez then adjusted his new outfit. It was more or less your standard civilian garb, but Jeez had paid extra attention to make sure that it would blend in with the styles of the locals. Taking his lightsaber, Jeez paused for a moment as he looked over at his small pack of items. Reaching over, he took the pack and removed a small, round cylinder. Pressing a button on one end, an image of Ryshana popped up as a small, blue hologram. She was smiling as she had done so many times in the past, and Jeez couldn't stand but to smile right back at the hologram. Depressing the button, the image flicked off, and Jeez placed the cylinder inside one of his pockets near his lightsaber.

 

Taking another quick look in the mirror, Jeez nodded to himself in satisfaction and headed out the door leading to the common room.

Edited by JasraLantill
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Noelle stood up as she observed Nic and Cloud return from the balcony, looking ready to go. Another door opened, and Jeez appeared from a side room, also looking prepared. Beryl and Conn entered the common room soon afterwards, both blondes looking steeled and determined. She took a few steps toward the front door before turning around to address them.

 

"If you would follow me," Noelle called out, addressing those who were to come with her. "I'll take you back to my apartment, it's fairly close to the facility. You can stay there until I procure body bags to take you in." She nodded towards Beryl. "We'll contact you via comlink to let you know when we're ready to move."

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Beryl eyed Reibe and then Noelle, nodding at both of them in turn. Truth be told, she didn't trust either of them, but at this very moment, even though she couldn't yet 'feel' anything from the pretty scientific friend of Conn's, she trusted her a lot more than she trusted Reibe. Problem was she was also fairly certain that Reibe knew this.

 

"Fine," Beryl replied to Noelle. "The four of us," she glanced at Reibe, Jana, and her brother Teser, "will just have ourselves a leisurely stroll to the facility while we wait for your call. After all, we're Imperials, right? We've no need to rush or sneak about."

 

She shifted her position, coming to a parade rest stance with her hands clasped behind her back, and stared at Reibe for a moment, then Jana, but then frowned when her eyes reached Teser. "You missed a button on your shirt," she pointed out to him. She wasn't being facetious, but completely genuine as her Imperial training surfaced once again.

 

Teser looked down at his shirt, then glanced warily at the others. "Yes, sir," he said to his sister while he fixed the problem. "Ready now?"

 

Beryl nodded to the door. "After you," she said to Reibe. "You're the senior officer. I'm just a 'pet,' remember?"

 

As Reibe led the way, Beryl winked at Conn, tapping a thumb against her back as she followed the trio out the apartment door. She had her lightsaber concealed just under the waistband of her trousers and was trying to let him know without broadcasting the fact to the others, as she had confessed to him her fears of Reibe's potential betrayal just moments earlier. "Good luck," she said to him and the others.

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((JP with Quist))

 

Conn caught Beryl's gesture and nodded to her slightly. He still wasn't comfortable at all with the arrangements, but there was nothing he could do to change them at this point, so all he could do was hope.

 

He joined Noelle at the door along with the three other men. "Let's go," he told the young willowy woman.

 

*********

 

"Convenient to have a medical supply store just a few buildings down, huh?" Conn asked Noelle as they walked down the streets of Hanna City. They'd left Jeez, Nic and Cloud at Noelle's apartment while they went to procure the body bags. Conn had gone along with her after assuring Nic that he would make sure she didn't double cross them.

 

"I've found it comes in handy," Noelle replied, leading the way into the store from the sidewalk. "ChandraMed provides me with an expense account for the various things I require in my work."

 

"Handy indeed," Conn said in agreement. "I don't suspect body bags are a hot item, though."

 

Noelle shook her head. "No, but that doesn't mean Darby doesn't keep them around."

 

"Darby?"

 

Noelle gestured to the back of the store where a tall Vurk stood, arms crossed and observing the customers. "Darby Semaj. He owns the place."

 

"Ah," Conn said, comprehending. "Don't suppose he gives you discounts, does he?"

 

"It won't matter after we're done," Noelle said, eerily calm.

 

Conn grimaced. "I suppose you're right. Let's get this over with."

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Reibe laughed at Beryl's 'pet' remark. "Not a pet," she corrected. "You don't dress a pet up in a uniform. You're one of the little people, though, the ones we high-ranked operatives can't be bothered to remember the names of."

 

"Speaking of names," Jana said suddenly, "who is Teser supposed to be?"

 

Just as Teser was about to reply, Reibe interrupted with, "Doesn't matter. He's a little person too." As they 'strolled along', she went on, "You see, Jana, you've really got to dig into the role. You're self-absorbed, arrogant, and determined to have it your way, and if anyone gets in your way, they've entirely deserved what comes to them."

 

Jana rolled her eyes. "Bit early to be into the act, don't you think?"

 

Immediately, Reibe shoved Jana into the wall. "No! We're in public, you must be seen for what we say you are."

 

Putting on a surly sneer, Jana rebounded off the wall, coming to stand on Reibe's other side. "Yes, Master," she growled. Reibe smirked.

 

"That's more like it," she approved. "Come along, then. We've got a little trek ahead of us, don't we?"

 

Taking the lead, she assumed the role of Imperial operative/royal pain. She completely ignored Beryl and Teser, speaking only to Jana, even when Teser ventured to ask her a question (which wasn't often). Finally, they came into view of the ChandraMed facility and Reibe stopped.

 

"There it is," she told Jana. "Bright and shining on the outside; just a bit dingy where no one will care to look, but that's why we're here. Unscheduled Imperial inspection. Happens all the time. Puts people on edge, so once all our little friends are in, the facility's full focus should be on us. Makes it easier for people to sneak about, yeah?" She grinned and turned to Beryl and Teser.

 

"Alright," she told them. "This is the last time until this is all over that I'll directly acknowledge your existence as Human beings. If you have any questions, ask them now."

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Sitting quietly in Noelle's apartment, Jeez concentrated on the Force in meditation. Meanwhile, an anxious Cloud could do nothing but pace the floor. Diverting his concentration, Jeez focused on Cloud for a moment. "You're too tense," Jeez commented without opening his eyes.

 

Shaking his head, Cloud replied, "I know, but its just.. something. I don't know." Standing still for a moment, he concentrated on the Force himself. "Its just too foggy. I can't make sense of things."

 

"Relax first. Your body is making it difficult for your mind to concentrate," Jeez replied.

 

"That's not my point. I was relaxed earlier when I felt the same thing. I haven't gone into a situation nor a mission without some kind of foresight," Cloud commented as he continued to pace the floor.

 

"Yeah, well you're making me nervous. I'm with Jeez on this one: relax," Nic commented.

 

Sighing sharply in frustration, Cloud took a deep breath and sat down across from Jeez. "If it makes you feel any better, I don't know how things are going to turn out myself," Jeez stated as he finally opened his eyes to look at Cloud. "Then again, you shouldn't need that kind of reassurance. You have to be confident in yourself and the Force."

 

"Well, I guess it would help if those two would hurry up and get back," Cloud replied as he tried to relax. "Not that I'm really wanting them to get back so soon. I'm not exactly looking forward to my next role as a corpse in a claustrophobic body bag."

 

"What about you, Nic? You think you're ready to play the role of a dead man?" Jeez asked.

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Nic sat leaning back on a chair with his feet resting on top of a desk, he looked up from cleaning his blaster pistol and over to the two meditating Jedi. “Fortunately I’ve had experience with the real thing so I should do fine.” The captain replied unusually relaxed. He held his gun outwards and looked down the sights. “Of course chances are something will go wrong and we’ll all be playing dead methodically.”

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"That's reassuring," Cloud commented dryly as he sighed to himself and began to focus on the Force. Trying to relax, Cloud decided to do something he hadn't done for a long time. Focusing on his lightsaber, he pulled it out of its pouch with the Force. Levitating it in front of him, he slowly began to disassemble it in mid-air. Small screws slowly began to unwind effortlessly and slide out of their sockets. Piece by piece, the lightsaber slowly began to come apart almost as if it was becoming a three dimensional blow-up diagram.

 

Finally, the lightsaber was completely disassembled, and it began to slowly rotate in mid-air. The pieces then seemed to swirl, and the neat order quickly began to almost melt away. The rotation then got faster and faster, and the pieces quickly became a jumbled mess all swirling around in mid-air.

 

Then, pieces began to shoot down to a location near Cloud's right hand one by one. The pieces were snapping into place in their proper locations even as the swirling mass of parts continued to rotate almost violently. Within several seconds, though, the swirling mass was noticeably smaller, and the lightsaber was already taking on a recognizeable form.

 

Then, as quickly as it began, the nearly complete lightsaber floated up in front of Cloud just as the last little screws began to sink into their proper locations. With the lightsaber now done, it quickly moved back to its original location in Cloud's pouch. Able to focus on the Force, Cloud decided to focus more on the here and now. His senses could acutely detect just about everything in the room, and for the first time in a while, he was finally able to relax.

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"Alright," Reibe told them. "This is the last time until this is all over that I'll directly acknowledge your existence as Human beings. If you have any questions, ask them now."

 

Beryl raised an eyebrow at Reibe, then placed a finger in her ear and gave it a shake as if she were trying to clear her ear canal of water. "Must be a lingering side-effect from those drugs...." She looked at her brother. "I think I'm having an auditory hallucination, Tes," she told him sotto voce. "I could have sworn that 'the Empress Valar' here spoke to us. To us, not at us, mind."

 

Teser said nothing, mindful that Reibe was still essentially his boss and quite aware that she could put him out of commission if she chose to, but he still bit back a grin at his sister's acidic tone. "I don't have any questions, sir," he said to Reibe.

 

"I do," Beryl said, still looking at Teser, "but I doubt a lowly peon like me would get any straight answers from her majesty, so there's really no point in asking them." She flashed a sardonic grin at Reibe. "No questions, sir. Lead the way."

 

~~~~~~~~

 

Inside a small conference room of the ChandraMed building, Facility Manager Brechin Tal greeted his guests. "I'm very sorry, sirs," he apologized to them, seemingly a bit flustered as he hurriedly tapped buttons on the small computer affixed to the small podium. "Had I been expecting you, I would have arranged a more suitable meeting space."

 

"That's quite alright, Mr. Tal," said Admiral Quitaan as he sat in one of the chairs. "Major Payne and I are quite used to 'basic' provisions. As is Doctor Ferrana," he added.

 

A chart with figures appeared on the display console on the far wall. "But production is going to plan, on-time and on schedule. The first batch of the formula has been produced and is ready for dispatch, as requested, but we still haven't received the data from you regarding the effects on repeated human exposure to the substance, so I cannot issue a Class I safety certificate yet. Unless I can get you to sign off on a waiver, Doctor?"

 

"That won't be a problem," Dr. Ferrana replied. "Our study is very nearly complete, and the Emperor has taken a personal interest in this project and will make certain that the product does what it is supposed to do without undue risk to any Imperial citizens."

 

Tal grinned at the thought of the Emperor having a rodent problem. "You know, I find it mildly amusing that the Empire has ordered the product in such high quantities. I'm not complaining," he added. "We don't usually produce substances like this, but government production contracts are always welcome in the current economic climate. I just wasn't aware that the Empire's military had such a huge vermin problem."

 

"When uncontrolled, small vermin have a tendency to cause large problems, Mr. Tal," Admiral Quitaan replied coolly.

 

"Must say that it's a novel approach to the problem," Brechin Tal commented. "Making the little buggers so passive that they stop foraging for food? Brilliant."

 

The image on the screen changed to display some bar graphs.

 

"Now, we still haven't completed the tests on the after-effects, but preliminary lab studies indicate a high propensity for addiction and consequently hyper-aggression upon withdrawal of the substance. So, basically the creatures would either be too passive to do anything on their own with the substance, or so aggressive that they would tear each other apart when it's taken away. Quite an efficient, yet non-evasive method of extermination, I must say."

 

"And cost effective?" Major Payne inquired.

 

"Oh, yes," Brechin Tal agreed. "Very cost effective. Per one hundred measured doses, the cost is less than twenty credits when mass produced on such a scale as we have done."

 

"Well worth it, if the end result is what we've predicted it to be," said the Admiral, giving a knowing look in Dr. Ferrana's direction. "Is there any other information, Mr. Tal, that you need to disseminate to us before we take the first batch away for... final testing?"

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With a roll of her eyes, Reibe shot back, "It's Vailar," and led the little group toward ChandraMed. Again, she fell back into the role, speaking only with Jana and in all other ways, ignoring Beryl and Teser. When they reached the front doors, Reibe showed her clearance and was immediately admitted. The guards were a little less eager to let the rest of the group in, but Reibe wheeled on them irritably.

 

"We are here to perform an inspection," she snapped. "This is my daughter, Jana, my apprentice. These two are..." She paused for half a second before continuing, "... well, that hardly matters. They're part of my team. If you're unwilling to let them in, I should remind you that this clearance allows me to end your lives here and now without consequence." To Jana she said, "Show them your clearance..."

 

Jana complied, managing to look sufficiently put out at having to withdraw her own clearance. After seeing Jana's clearance a second time, the guards let them through. Then, Reibe turned to Jana. "We brought your little people along because they have the schematics for the place. Ask them where we ought to start."

 

Jana turned to Beryl and Teser and demanded sharply, "Starting location."

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Inside Beryl cringed, and at the very least wanted to say something sassy and insolent in reply to Reibe's demand. But on the outside, she remained cool, her expression detached and blank, and she said in a quite clear, quite confident, quite typically Imperial soldier voice, "Central Archive room, sir. Level 2." Beryl lifted her chin in a nod that indicated the left corridor. "That way to the lifts, sir. The Health and Safety equipment store is on the way, but we won't have a proper inventory control list until we obtain the datafiles from the Central Archive and then cross-reference them with all the job descriptions from personnel files."

 

She glanced askance at the guards. "Unless... someone were to call ahead and arrange to have that done for us, sir? If that were the case, we could leave the H & S inventory inspection for later and start off with the Research & Development and the current Budget files."

 

If the employees were put into a fluster, and the mainframes occupied with the busy work of searching and cross-referencing through personnel files while Reibe's 'inspection team' checked out the project files to see what phase it was in, that would hopefully cause less grief for Conn and Noelle when they tried to corrupt the research data.

 

Whenever they arrived, that is. Beryl had been trying to use the Force to detect Jeez and Cloud's presence, but she couldn't feel them nearby. Conn neither. Noelle, well... she couldn't detect Noelle if she were standing beside her anyway, so that didn't matter.

 

But Beryl was getting an odd feeling from within the Force that was making her feel increasingly uncomfortable. She wasn't sure if it was the foreboding feeling of Reibe's predicted betrayal, uncertainty about Jana's abilities, or the tension that had been building between her and Jeez and Cloud, or it could even be the sensation that Ryshanna, though gone physically, wasn't quite gone in spirit. Whatever the feeling was from, Beryl was becoming hyperaware of everything around her, and in her current physical state, it was making it more difficult for her to maintain her self-control. And this was not an opportune time for her to lose it.

 

Focus, Beryl, she told herself.

 

"But of course, sir, it is your decision," Beryl concluded to Reibe.

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  • 4 weeks later...

It was dark and stuffy in a body bag, Conn quickly discovered. As a doctor in service to the Empire, he'd used his fair share of them, but this was his first time actually in one. And now here he was, all zipped up and floating on a repulsorlift tram, ready to infiltrate ChandraMed headquarters. He heard Jeez's and Noelle's steps next to him as she led the tram to the back door of the facility. She had assured him that not very many people traveled this way, but then again, it didn't take very many people to raise the alarm for the whole place.

 

The tram slowed to a halt and he heard Noelle punching a few buttons on the side panel. A mechanical chime let him know that they had been admitted. So far so good.

 

*****

 

Noelle guided the tram into the building carefully, not wanting to jostle the men inside the body bags too much. She looked over at Jeez, the Jedi disguised as a doctor. So far, no one had stopped them or given them a second look.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Beryl followed the on-duty facility manager down the corridor towards the lifts that led down to the Research and Development level of the ChandraMed facility, with Reibe, Jana, and Teser following close behind. The manager, a middle-aged, balding man of small stature and a nervous disposition who had introduced himself as Mr. Talbot, had obviously been notified of their presence by the guards and had hurried down to meet them.

 

Beryl had had a difficult time suppressing a smirk at his arrival. Their plan to cause panic, distraction, and disruption was obviously working. Mr. Talbot kept feverishly dabbing beads of sweat from his forehead with a handkerchief as the lift descended, and he chattered non-stop about the facilities excellent safety record thus far. Beryl and the others remained stoically unimpressed which just seemed to fuel his rambling.

 

"...were awarded an excellent rating with our last safety inspection," he babbled while the lift slowly descended to the lower levels. "Of course, that was last year, but we at ChandraMed believe that by continually striving to improve our procedures and policies not only ensures that we meet the current Imperial regulations and standards, but in some areas actually exceed them, which of course makes for happier and more productive, and, I might add, more creative employees so that we can remain leaders in research and development of new drugs, medical procedures, and treatments for...."

 

The lift opened.

 

"Oh. We're here," Mr. Talbot stepped out of the lift, followed by the others. "Erm... where would you like to start?"

 

Beryl glanced askance at Reibe. "Storage and inventory for new products. It's all well and good to have 'creative' employees, but creativity doesn't ensure production quantity or quality. The Empire is more interested in end results."

 

"Certainly, certainly." Mr. Talbot dabbed his sweaty brow again. "And I think you'll find that our quality control department is ...."

 

"We'll tell you what we find, Mr. Talbot," Beryl said stoically. "Not the other way around."

 

"Yes, yes, of course, of course." He started to lead the way.

 

"I think we can manage on our own," Beryl said, glancing over her shoulder at Reibe for a nod of 'approval'. "If you can manage to get those cross-referenced lists we asked for, it would shorten our visit."

 

Mr. Talbot didn't have to be asked twice. The shorter the visit, obviously the better in his book. "Yes, yes, right away!" He quickly backed his way to the lift. "Just let me know if there is anything I can do to assist you."

 

The lift door shut, leaving the four of them alone in the Research area.

 

Beryl frowned slightly. "Ok," she asked Jana and Reibe, "is it just me, or did Mr. Talbot seem a little more nervous than was necessary?" She paused, taking time to stretch out her senses through the Force. "The others are here in the building. I can sense Jeez, and Nic and Conn...." She grinned wryly. "Conn's feeling a bit claustrophobic, so he still must be in the body bag." Again she paused. "But I'm sensing something else as well." She stared at Reibe. "I can't quite put my finger on it, but it feels... like... like someone's 'expecting' me to do something. Or be someplace."

 

She thought it might be the spirit of Ryshana. Or perhaps it was Jeez attempting to project confidence to her to succeed. Or maybe it was something Reibe was planning to do. Beryl wasn't sure, and her heightened senses were making it hard for her to concentrate.

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"I noticed Talbot's nervousness also," Jana admitted, "but I was under the impression he was simply on edge due to our presence... Imperial inspection, and all that. He seems to be an easily intimidated fellow under ordinary circumstances... and these are hardly normal."

 

"Perhaps," Reibe murmured, and for once she seemed at least a little interested in Beryl. "Someone expects something of you, eh? Concentrate. What is it?"

 

But she almost immediately seemed to lose interest. "So, the others are in. Good." She glanced over in the direction Talbot had left. "I didn't like him overmuch... he reminded me of someone I..." She scowled. "It hardly matters. He'd better get back with those lists quickly, or..."

 

The lift door slid open and a droid scuttled into the room with the lists Beryl had requested. Jana arched a single eyebrow. "What, they keep the lists inside the lift somewhere?"

 

"We requested the lists before that... Tailbelly..." Reibe said as explanation, frowning at the name.

 

"Talbot," Teser helpfully supplied.

 

"Whatever," Reibe scowled. "We requested the lists before we were passed on to him. The droid undoubtedly was sent to collect them and sent to us. The nervous idiot will likely be down to deliver the same lists in a moment."

 

Jana snorted. "We should deduct points from their score for poor communication lines," she advised.

 

Reibe's scowl faded slightly. "Indeed."

 

Sure enough, a few moments later as the members of the little team were examining the information they'd been given, the lift slid open once more and Talbot reappeared. "Got them!" he exclaimed. "The lists, I mean. A bit remarkable they were already prepared, cross-referenced, and all that. We never used to... I-I-I mean it was always done by the inspectors in the past..."

 

Jana wheeled on him. "You're not only slow, you're too late. Our official inspection report will..."

 

Reibe gently touched a hand to Jana's shoulder. "Now, now. What have I told you about scolding the little people?"

 

Jana blushed. "Right." She turned to Beryl. "Reprimand him for his department's error of giving us the same information twice, and then dismiss him. We are busy."

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