Anari Sato // Alsakan // Barren Apartment
Anari inhaled deeply and breathed out slowly as she lowered her macrobinoculars and closed her eyes. The muffled hums of speeders and shuttles in the distance nearly lulled her to sleep. If it weren’t for two Stormtroopers on a distant adjacent platform turning around and returning inside the station, she might’ve succumbed. Her eyes briefly stung before the relief of moisture dulled the pain, and by the time they reopened she once again peered through the filthy window of her shoddy apartment to witness a new pair of white-clad soldiers fill the gaps. It was monotonous watching these grunts “work”—guarding a landing platform that saw no fresh arrivals in over thirty-six hours, slouched and lackadaisical.
But she could work with that. Imperials lax and unaware, believing themselves far from any danger this deep in the Core Worlds. With Coruscant so near and a mighty fleet looming over their heads, with Alsakan towers and monuments decorated with Imperial banners and imagery, one would find it hard to believe that an uprising was about to take place. Under their noses in the bowels of the ancient city, weeks of preparation were about to culminate into an attack that would knock one of the last few legs the Empire could stand on.
She raised her macrobinoculars high above the landing pad and settled on a wide dish angled towards the traffic-filled sky. A heavy flow of information traveled to and from it, helping keep the Empire’s web of communication far-reaching. The amount of transmissions the Alliance could intercept and make use of was incalculable. By planting a unique spike inside that system, High Command hoped that the wealth of knowledge they could obtain as their fleets pressed the attack into the Core could help force a complete and total surrender. Enemy movements could be tracked. False “all clear” signals could be sent to outlying fleets. And best of all, the many worlds still under the grip of Imperial rule would know that the war would soon be over, and the galaxy would know freedom once again.
Lowering her equipment, Anari glanced beneath her to eye a small metallic cup sitting beside her on the windowsill. She took it in hand and brought it to her lips, drinking away the last of the cold and bitter-tasting caf that remained inside. As she set it back down, a gentle chime rang in the darkness behind her.
She spun sharply towards it, her tired eyes struggling to adjust inside the darkened apartment. A hand shot to her left hip and gripped the handle of her scattergun. For the briefest moment she was more alert than she’d been for over a day, her body pumping with a sorely needed rush of adrenaline.
Then, she returned to her senses. She remembered that this rundown apartment without furnishing and any homeliness, with one untouched cot nestled in the corner and a busted light dangling above her, had one unique feature planted in the center of the room: a holoprojector.
It quietly buzzed with power; a blue light was cast from its center and from it the image of a Human male emerged. He wore his rank well on his chest, the color and pattern of General stood out even in holo form. Elik Weinost was a hard and calculating man, the same as the rest of his peers in the Alliance hierarchy. If it weren’t for his dark hair starting to whiten, one might think he was still in his prime. He was built strong with broad shoulders and a buff chest which was joined by an uncharacteristically wide smile.
“Agent Sato,” he started, sounding unusually enthusiastic. Unlike him. “How’s the Alsakan air this evening? It is evening there, isn’t it?”
Anari hesitated in answering. She glanced around the room, taking advantage of the sudden lightning to examine each corner. Nothing around. Not another soul.
“Wouldn’t know… I haven’t gone outside.” She replied in a tired tone, taking one last once-over of the room before allowing her blood to cool. Her hand withdrew from the grip of her scattergun, but she double-checked to make certain her sniper-configured blaster was resting against the wall beside her. As usual, it was. “I don’t have an update to give you.”
“But I do.”
“The fleets are finally in position then?” Anari asked, feigning what little enthusiasm she could muster—and it wasn’t much. “I’ve been waiting for over a week, and I’d like to get started.”
“Your objective hasn’t changed, but the methods you’ll use to get inside has. Furthermore… you’ll be receiving backup in a few hours to see this through.”
An uncomfortable silence followed, both expecting the other to continue the conversation. Elik knew her feelings about accepting aid she didn’t want nor need. It was one thing to be dispatched immediately and know who you’d be dealing with, and another entirely to have it sprung on you after a week’s worth of scouting, watching, and planning all on your own.
She broke the silence. “I clocked every TIE fighter patrol making a pass over that relay. I estimate the exact amount of time I need to reach that platform and get inside undetected. I sat here, I watched, and I waited, for days at a time…” Her voice was calm, but the fire in her eyes betrayed it. “All of it, only for you to tell me you’ve changed your mind and that I need someone to help me do my job?”
“The circumstances have forced undesirable transfers and updated mission parameters for everyone, Anari, not just yourself,” Elik said. “Colonel Trelleck has started to become anxious. Despite my greatest attempts to placate him, he will no longer update us on Moff Gyllard’s movements in the Alsaka Sector. He’s willing to risk his position entirely, but only if a full team is sent in to retrieve him and get him to Chandrila. One operative isn’t enough—and believe me, I talked you up.”
“Undesirable transfers”. “Updated mission parameters”. The Alliance had twenty-four hours in a day—more or less, depending on where they were situated—to plan the push for Coruscant. It was one thing if a fleet needed reinforcing, but it was another to make a solo act a duo or more. She didn’t want to waste her strength arguing the point. If Colonel Telleck wanted a larger safety net, so be it.
“Fine,” Anari muttered through her clenched jaw before turning her back on Elik. She closed the window’s blinds, leaving only the projection to cast light on her lithe figure. “What team have you sent?”
“The Diplomatic Advanced Reconnaissance Team, otherwise known as DART. It’s being led by a Captain Dev Arx, a man of action with the occasional habit of challenging his superior officers. He’s battle-tested and gets results wherever he goes. You’d like him.”
“You said diplomatic?” Anari repeated, skeptical.
“Yes. DART is typically an information-gathering unit; if the New Republic has interests in people, planets, or sectors, they’re one of the best to send in. They’re a capable group of individuals who can fill many different roles if need be. They’re also able to adapt to new and unforeseen circumstances, like this one.”
Her steely eyes returned to Elik’s figure, with her body following. “If this is the condition to get me inside, then so be it. I just don’t want them in the way.”
“Well, Dev is a Captain, so—”
“I don’t care, Weinost, and you know that.” Her disdain for pulling rank was well known. She respected those both capable and cunning, people who could keep a level head in a fight. Dev Arx’s title of Captain was meaningless. He’d prove himself during the operation, and she’d see the type of man he was for herself. “The “updated mission parameters” you mentioned… what’s changing for me?”
Elik’s jaw tensed as he gave her a tight smile, choosing not to let her infamous disregard for her superiors stop him from delving out critical information. Dev had a reputation, too. Maybe putting these two together was a bigger mistake than he realized, but it was too late to cancel DART’s orders.
“Instead of a flyby over the landing pad, Colonel Telleck has insisted that the new plan be entering from the bottom-most entrance of the building. It’s normally under heavy guard—just as you mentioned days prior—so he’s decided to feign orders from Moff Gyllard to fan out and search for insurgents reportedly seen in the area. The sentries will scatter and him with them, and he will use the distraction to meet both you and Cap—… with Dev at the coordinates I’m sending to you now.”
Elik turned and gestured to someone out of view. A notification sounded on her vambrace’s interface, which she examined in silence. Taking those coordinates and combining them with the carefully mapped out terrain above and beneath her, the location for the meeting point was near a shanty town in the poorer part of Alsakan's underworld. It was also conveniently located just a couple miles out from the nearest spaceport.
“You recognize it?” the General asked, eyeing her. “I can never tell what you’re thinking when you go quiet on me.”
“I know the place,” she confirmed, closing the coordinates and letting the projection fade away. “How does his extraction guarantee my entry?” Anari reached for her sniper-configured rifle and knelt down to retrieve a satchel containing its attachments; even with very little lighting, she was able to carefully disassemble the parts and create the pistol configuration, then stowed the parts inside the satchel. “He never gave you the layout inside. He’s holding out.”
“The Colonel claimed the layout was far from complex. He gave no other hint except one: a keycard is required to access the primary console and listening station. Should the mission go south, it can also be used to open the station’s power generator and disable it entirely. He'll provide it when you rendezvous with him.”
“That still doesn’t tell us where to find it,” she pointed out. “The guards go missing and we take the elevator up. What about the men inside to receive and send the signals?”
“An evacuation drill—again claimed to be Moff Gyllard’s orders. The personnel responsible for handling that information will evacuate from the building via a Lambda Shuttle and take off for the nearest planetary garrison. Fortunately for us, it’s far, far away. He guessed you’d have ten minutes or so to enter inside and take control of the relay.”
“He guessed.” She repeated the words, lightly shaking her head. “I prefer facts. What about remaining security inside?”
That brought her attention from the weapon in hand straight to Elik. The pistol slid into the holster against her right thigh, and the satchel containing her attachments was brought around her neck and underneath her right arm.
“Do I have to say it?” she asked.
“It’s sketchy. It’s flimsy. It’s treacherous.” Elik agreed, nodding his head with every term. He couldn’t shake the same feeling she did, but refusal meant the Colonel would sound the alarm, thus giving Coruscant time to send additional reinforcements, or simply reinforce what defenses they already possessed. “Treason is death, and once he goes through with his plan of action there won’t be any going back for him. Should we burn him on the extraction with DART, he’ll leave enough unknown variables to risk mission failure. Until he’s safe, he refuses to tell us anything more. Our hands are tied.”
Anari held her stare on Elik for a moment more before resuming her gathering of equipment. She left his view and vanished into the dark, and when she reemerged, she sported a belt containing three grenades across her waist. Under her left arm was a tattered brown cloak with frayed edges and more holes than he’d care to count. With it, she’d be able to blend in in the city slums. There was nothing rich about Alsakan beneath its towers. The underbelly of the world was every bit as cutthroat and dangerous as Coruscant’s.
“DART will be receiving access codes given to us by the Colonel and land at the nearest spaceport. Imperial Customs will be expecting a ship matching the description of their vessel, which he will claim is carrying a rare Alderaanian Wine cache he purchased from a third party to be presented to Moff Gyllard. Customs is ordered to leave them be as he wishes to make the shipment a surprise upon the Moff’s inspection.” Elik hesitated to continue once he noticed Anari’s eyes closed for an unusually long amount of time. “Did you get all that?”
“DART arrives in the system, receives coordinates from you provided by the Colonel, and enters orbit likely escorted by TIE fighters. The Colonel is notified that his shipment of Alderaanian Wine arrives by the spaceport authorities. He then fabricates an order received by Moff Gyllard, the man in charge of their fleet in orbit. He takes a detachment of soldiers, travels down the elevator to the underbelly of the relay tower, then orders every sentry to fan out in search of reported insurgents seen in the area. From there he meets with Dev and myself at the coordinates you’ve just provided to me.”
She opened her eyes and looked at him as though she expected to be corrected.
“That’s correct. It’s the best we could do. Between our dwindling timetable to secure that relay and Colonel Trelleck’s increasing paranoia, it’s the only set of steps he was willing to agree to.” Elik shrugged sheepishly. “It’s congested.”
“It’s sketchy, flimsy, and treacherous…” She shook her head. “Updated mission parameters I'd rather do without.”
“You’re telling me,” Elik agreed, pinching his nose and exhaling from his mouth. “There’s one other thing I forgot to tell you.” He stood straighter and looked over his shoulders, making certain unwanted ears weren’t sat among him. Once satisfied with his environment, he stepped closer to the audio transmitter. The projected image of him expanded. “This man was once one of General Madine’s subordinates—A Storm Commando. He carried out assignments that would make your stomach turn. Now, General Madine believes in second chances. But General Madine saw the kind of man he was and walked away before it was safe. Colonel Trelleck didn’t.”
Anari read between the lines. It was risky for General Weinost to insinuate going against another General’s expressed wishes, but Alliance Intelligence had always operated differently. People like Mon Mothma believed in second chances and redemption, that people had it in them to change if shown the error of their ways. But redemption—the opportunity to change—was a privilege they reserved for a select few.
Colonel Trelleck wasn't worthy. To her, no Imperial was.
“Accidents happen, as you and I both know.” Elik stepped away; his image reduced in size. “Expect DART to arrive in the next few hours. Admiral Ackbar’s fleet will be jumping to lightspeed shortly after they report their arrival.”
Anari nodded curtly. General Weinost’s image vanished and the transmission ended, leaving her to her thoughts. She leaned against the wall beside the window and shut her eyes, listening to the hum of speeders and shuttles outside. Sleep took hold in minutes.