A shirtless Jaren Jast, caf in hand, flickered into holographic existence on the holoprojector console. “Hello?” he asked, setting down a datapad out of view
“I didn’t think you’d be awake,” Val said. The Twi’lek engineer was seated in the Raven’s pilot seat. It was so late in the night to be considered early morning.
“Still on Ord Mantell local time,” Jast answered. “What’s going on?”
“I was looking into hangars at Garbella Memorial,” she said. She was referring to Garbella Memorial Starport, one of the largest planetside starports on Nar Shaddaa. “Hangar 141 has an open berth next to the Rodia’s Revenge
. It’s a freighter captained by a Rodian bounty hunter, Gleetch Elnam.” The holographic image of Jast was too small to interpret his facial expressions, but by Val’s estimate he seemed to become thoughtfully curious.
“Rodian bounty hunter?” he said, attempting to remember. “Didn’t I shoot him?”
“Yeah, on Ryloth a few months back. During that job for Yurga,” he said.
“No, that was Gleenik. Gleenik Anam, I think. Different Rodian. This guy’s a freelancer. He’s a good merc according to Khulbe’s database.”
“You think we need the help?” he asked. Val nodded. She did, in fact, think they needed the help. Telsa had been right in pointing out they were going after the Pyxis. It was a dangerous group, and if the crew needed firepower, they didn’t have it.
Jast nodded. “Alright,” he said after a moment. “Book the hangar, we’ll talk to him about coming on with us.”
- - -
Spaceyard NSD-04 - The Mandalorian
Thresholds were the key to the Ministry’s operations. In a galaxy full of trillions, in an empire whose citizens numbered in the hundreds of billions, it was impossible to expect absolute security of information. The Ministry of Intelligence had determined long ago that there were certain tolerance thresholds it would have to accept, simply for the fact even an organization as robust as the Ministry lacked the resources to make itself omniscient. Some spies would go unrooted out, some defectors would disappear into the manifold worlds of the Republic, and some information would make its way into the hands of the enemy.
Medical records of hundreds of the Sith Empire’s highest-ranking administrators, Sith, and most prominent private citizens had not been within the tolerance thresholds the Ministry deemed acceptable, but once the offending Republic agents had escaped Nar Shaddaa, and then Tatooine, there seemed to be little to be done to remedy this failure of internal security.
The Gunslinger, as the intelligence team charged with reviewing the incident had named him, and his crew had escaped on an XS-class light freighter, such a common and replaceable ship that a hunt for the team seemed to more or less entirely impracticable. That said, they appeared to be irregulars, and the ship was outfitted with military grade ion warheads that required specifically designed, similarly military grade launchers to fire. The intelligence team concluded that it was probable that the ship was likely not a disposable asset, and that its crew would continue using it. A quick transponder swap was still an option for the crew, however, and that issue plagued the team’s ability to develop a strategy to track the field team.
Until a clever intelligence analyst on Dromund Kaas had applied the philosophy of tolerance thresholds to the problem.
While transponder signals could be changed with some clever slicing and engineering, even swapped freely with a dedicated program, a ship’s drive signature, that is, the many various emissions and signals given off by the ship’s engine, would remain the same without considerable effort. This was not particularly useful, usually, as ships within a particular class would have only marginally different drive signatures. This made transponder codes the superior form of identifying vessels, practically speaking. However, for ships as readily and eagerly modified as the XS freighter, the various modifications made to the ship would alter the drive signature substantially enough that similar ships could be distinguished from one another.
By using the sensor readings captured by the D-5 Mantis during its engagement with the freighter over Tatooine, the analyst was able to extrapolate a void-applicable drive signature, which could be used to parse through and compared to the drive signatures of other XS-class freighters. Initial tests showed significant enough variance in the drive signatures among XS freighters that the ships could be meaningfully distinguished.
For their success, the team was rewarded with a reassignment from the nigh-palatial accommodations of the Ministry of Intelligence’s central headquarters in Kaas City to a cramped office on an orbital spaceyard over Nar Shaddaa.
Deklen Ordo found something amusing in that.
Ordo stepped off the turbolift and into the offices of Kadiza Star-Traders, a company which existed only on digital registrations filed with the Nar Shaddaa government. Inside, a half dozen sleep-deprived analysts sat in their cubicles, furiously working away at their terminals on whatever it is analysts did. Ordo passed them by without much greeting and came to the office of Lieutenant Skaddi.
Skaddi was a lean, hatchet-faced Ministry officer with a deep mistrust of Ordo. Cipher 12’s mandate requiring the integration of the Mandalorian liaison had been accepted and executed, but professional accommodations did not extend to the Lieutenant’s personal relationship with the mercenary. Ordo didn’t care for him much either. Most of Cipher 12’s staff were overcompensated bureaucrats who had never fired a blaster at a moving target. He figured that kept him employed, though, so he didn't pass overly harsh judgment on this note.
“We have a 96% match docked at the personal hangar of a Hutt businessperson,” Skaddi said in greeting, eyes fixed on his terminal screen. “Entrepreneur and reputed crime lord by the name of Khulbe.” Ordo smirked. For all the things the Ministry of Intelligence knew, its understanding of Nar Shaddaa was superficial at best.
“I’m familiar with him. Following up will be difficult while they’re berthed there,” Ordo offered.
“Scans detected what we are highly confident is a modified portside missile system. We’re not following up,” Skaddi rebuffed him. “You will take a team planetside by way of the Manticore
and wait for them to move. Once they’re clear of this hangar, apprehend them on the ground or incapacitate them in the air once they leave Hutt airspace.” Skaddi looked at Ordo, icy, piercing eyes locking with the Mandalorian’s. “Understood?”
Ordo offered him an appeasing smile. “Understood.”
- - -
Garbella Memorial Starport - Jast
Garbella Memorial Starport was the single largest structure in Dijuula City, a monolithic cylinder two kilometers wide and hundreds of stories in height. It was capable of accommodating nearly any atmospheric capable starship or aircraft in the galaxy in its massive array of hangar bays. Jast whistled as Telsa brought the Raven
in on approach.
“That’s massive,” he said, his eyes taken away from the terminal for a moment. Telsa nodded, and continued updating Garbella Memorial Control with their approach vector.
“How’s the message?”
“Mr. Elnam and Company, my name is Jaren Jast, captain of the courier ship Raven Trespass
. I understand that we have we a mutual association with Khulbe the Hutt, and that you have an excellent reputation as a mercenary. I have a unique and exciting opportunity with high potential compensation, and believe that you and your crew would be an excellent fit for the job. We will be docking our ship at Hangar 141 at Garbella Memorial Starport, and would be interested in discussing this opportunity further if it suits your interests.”
“I hate it,” Telsa commented after a moment’s thought.
“What about it?” Jast asked with a laugh.
“Mr. Elnam and Company?”
“What am I supposed to say?” Jast asked.
“Just, Gleetch Elnam. Colon,” she suggested. Jast tilted his head, and acquiesced, amending the greeting from Mr. Elnam and Company
to Gleetch Elnam:
“Fair enough,” he said.
An hour later, after clearing their approach and descending into the great central ring of Garbella Memorial on repulsorlift power, Telsa set the Raven
down in Hangar 141. She completed her post-landing checks with practiced ease, and they lowered the boarding ramp and disembarked a few minutes later.
Val and their new crewmate, the Zelosian T’a, made their way to a stack of crates, where Val planned on assigning T’a to do inventory on the provisions they’d ordered to restock the Raven. Most of what they were taking on was water, but they had an urgent enough need for dry goods that Val, acting in her quartermaster role, had insisted on provisioning the ship before making another trip off-world. Jast watched as she handed off a datapad to T’a to take inventory while she spoke with the docking officials. E2-M6, the ship’s astromech droid Val had tasked T’a with repairing upon her coming aboard, beeped excitedly as it followed the Zelosian on her errand. Boqorro, Val, and now E2 had taken a liking to T'a quickly; Boqorro had even fixed up her old blaster for her, which the Zelosian now carried strapped to her thigh.
“What now?” Telsa said, hands on her hips. Jast shrugged, taking in the massive, four-ship hangar bay and settling his eyes on the silent form of the docked Rodia’s Revenge.
“We wait for Thrax and Sena. And we see if Mr. Elnam and company want to play ball,” he said. Telsa nodded.