[REMOVE PERSONAGES FROM HANGAR-LEVEL CORRIDORS EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY. KINDLY REMOVE PERSONAGES CLASSIFIED NON-FLIGHT RELATED/NON-TECHNICAL STAFF OR RISK DISCIPLINARY ACTION. ADMIRAL XIMEN DEMANDS IT. COMPLY WITH DEMANDS OR RISK DISCIPLINARY MEASURES AND CONSIDERABLE PAIN]
Friendly, it seemed, was in a bad mood, if that was the word for it. The LOM
droid who served as head of security on the Keep
(for reasons completely inscrutable to anyone else on the ship besides the Admiral) was brandishing a sizzling shock-mace in one metallic fist and a data-slate in the other, on which bold runes declared he was acting on direct orders from the Bridge. His bulbous optics glowed red as he blared his directives at the gawping troopers and furious officers clustered in an dim alcove just off the main corridor, where they had been dicing and sharing a bottle of Corellian brandy. Behind the battered droid, several rust-flecked B-1 units stood at attention, armed with shock-maces and riot shields. Techs and pilots rushing back and form from the nearby hangar-bay ogled the scene as they passed by.
[NON-FLIGHT PERSONAGES TO REPLACE THEMSELVES TO ENGINEERING LEVEL 21. FLOODING HAS BEEN RESOLVED AND HABITABLE SPACES ARE BEING PREPARED TO RECEIVE YOUR BODIES]
"21?!" shouted a human commander, "You're sending us to the fuckin' swamp, Friendly? I lost fifte-"
[LOSSES ON ANAXES DEEMED WITHIN ACCEPTABLE CASUALTY MARGINS AND IRRELEVANT TO RELOCATION OF GROUND PERSONAGES FROM-]
"Acceptable?! I'm taking this right to Lieutenant Ensago, bug-bot," screamed the officer, "You and your seperatist freak of an Admiral can't keep stowing us like cargo."
One of his soldiers, a wookie, roared in agreement.
[ENSAGO WILL NOT SAVE YOU. REPORT TO NEW HABITAT OR BE PUNISHED APPROPRIATELY. OPERATIONS TOMORROW WILL LIKELY DECREASE YOUR SQUAD-NUMBERS AND MAKE HABITABLE SPACE MORE AVAILABLE]
"Why was I-zzzt-not informed of this sooner, Commander?" asked the Admiral, his crab-like throne clanking as it slowly carried him in a circle around Trist Axton, who was standing at attention, her face angular face a mask of blank professionalism.
"Intelligence did not identify the Lycurgus
as a likely threat. We have reliable information that it is detailed to a detachment whose mandate is to uproot Imperial traitors and suppress domestic uprisings, not offensive operations."
"A-zzz-nd yet, I find my ship ambushed by a Star Destroyer which my databas-zzzt-es say does not exist, with no information on its commander, on an operation ordered by the same IntellIGENCE WHO TELL ME-" Ximen twisted down the dial on his pressure-suit, "-that that resistance is ex-zzz-pected to be minimal. And now I-zzz-also am ordered to steal another ship, and operational data I am given is-zzz-incomplete at best. Di-zzzz-spleasure is expressed, Commander Axton."
"I will relay your sentiments to Command, sir" said Axton.
"Zzz-see that you do, a-zzz-ssuming we do not all die after blundering into another fias-zzz-co tomorrow," said the Admiral, "And tell Genera-"*Sir*
one of the tactical droids interrupted, approaching the admiral and handing him a data-slate, *LOM-8347 reports outbreak of violence on Level x-13. Brawling with security droids.*
"The brig for all off-zzz-enders. I am not running a mercy-ward," said the Admiral, "Send reinforcements to clear out that corri-zz-dor. Have the offenders'-zzz-commander report to the Bridge."
"Well, Agent Zorn," said Pale, lowering himself into the shuttle's bucket-seat with a slight wince, "We found our Rebel spy. After five months, ten thousand tons of stolen cargo, two military disasters, and one cunning but-alas-imperfectly executed trap of my devising..."
He pulled a flask from the pocket of his overcoat, took a long swig, and offered it to Kae, who shook her head "...we located- and plugged- the Anaxes leak."
The ramp of the shuttle swung closed with a hiss, cutting off the noise of the bustling landing pad, enclosing the Colonel and his protege in the humming quiet of the spacecraft.
"Who was it?" asked Zorn. She was a woman in her late twenties, slim, with dark hair and skin, her mouth set in what seemed like a permanent grimace. She wore the lightly armored gray tunic of an ISB Agent.
"The lieutenant, or rather, the lieutenant's boyfriend," said Pale with a sigh, "Apparently Commander Uled was a bit chatty after-hours, and his lover was feeding the information he gleaned in the bedroom off-world. Boyfriend disappeared just before the rebs raided. I have Agent Xenyg tracking him down."
"Should have sent me," said Zorn, "I can track a rebel agent faster than Xenyg's team."
Pale smiled as he lit a cigarra, "I need your talents elsewhere. We have bigger bantha to hunt than Officer Pillowtalk's bedmate."
"Always the mistresses of one bureaucrat or another," said Zorn, shaking her head, "Makes you wonder what they teach at rebel training camps."
"This time it wasn't a mistress
," replied the Colonel, exhaling a cloud of smoke, "So I appreciate Lieutenant Uled introducing at least that much variety into my otherwise dreary existence, which is why he isn't facing a firing squad."
"You know what these Academy-cadet types fear more than blasters or prison camps?" asked Pale, "Demotion
. I'm serious. He'll serve as a more effective example to the others in a trooper's uniform than if I'd hung him from the comms tower and left his body for the birds."
"Never wound an enemy you can kill," said Kae.
"Pithy, very pithy, Agent Zorn, if
lifted word-for-word from ISB training manuals. I prefer the old Jedi mantra: Love blinds, desire binds
," said Pale, and Zorn's jaw clenched almost imperceptibly, "That's why the first place you always check for info leaks is the CO's bedroom, and why stripping a man of his sole ambition can send a clearer message than shooting him."
"Your wisdom, as always, is..." said Zorn, eyes rolling.
"Under-appreciated," said Pale, taking another drink from his flask, "You've much still to learn, padawan."
"You know, I could probably get you arrested for jokes like that."
"I doubt it. I'm one of the ones they send to make those arrests, and I'm miles ahead of my colleagues where it counts," said Pale, tapping his temple.
"With some notable exceptions, Colonel," said Zorn, with the smallest hint of a smile.