Jan 30 2014 12:35am
GX-1 Yacht Crescent Sun, somewhere in the Talcene Sector
Thorn grasped the cold metal railing in the yacht's zero-G chamber and slowly slung herself around the pole. She deftly twirled her body around the bar experimentally before pushing off the bar to float towards the door. Her hands grasped the bar of the door, and she swung it forward to walk on the floor of the craft. The sudden reappearance of gravity made her almost stumble forward, but she caught herself. A waiting armored Kashan shock trooper just stared at her. Thorn just shook her head with a wry little smile.
“It's all right to laugh, you know,” mused the brunette, “just because you almost look like a droid doesn't mean you have to act like one.”
The soldier popped off her helmet, revealing a square face edged with very short blonde hair. She stared at Thorn with almost placid blue eyes, but her lip was beginning to curl up. Christina's mouth dropped.
“Marie? You're of my escorts!?”
The other woman smiled, “Now that was worth it.”
Thorn shook her head again quickly, “And you've kept that from me for the last two days how?”
“With very careful planning?” replied another shock trooper through his amplified vocader, striding in from the Lantillian-built craft's cockpit.
“You're a bad influence sergeant,” lightly chided the woman, “keeping an old friend from me like that...I guess Lucerne is getting better at this. Though truth be told, I do miss the Courage a little bit.”
Sergeant York shrugged, “We both know it's a little too well known for this sort of thing. What's not to like about the Crescent Sun? It's plenty larger and more luxurious than your shuttle...”
“Yeah, I guess it is,” mused Thorn, turning her gaze back to Marie, “but you won't all be wearing your armor for all of this...that'd be more of a giveaway than the Courage...”
Marie shook her head, “Don't worry, Lady Laurent gave us some more...stylish clothing.”
“But myself and Dayners will be remaining on the ship in our armor the whole time, Councilor, just in case you need us to rush in there for a real fight.”
“I can't see that happening...”
“There has been a lot we haven't been able to see coming. The whole lot of us have been blind, milady.”
Thorn winced at the use of the title, “Yes, I suppose you're right. I suppose Lucerne is right, after all, he always his.”
“I wouldn't go that far, Councilor,” replied the sergeant, falling into one of the common room's chairs with a light thud, “I think the company you'll be keeping for the next couple of days is terrifying enough...”
“Another one in the Admiral's molds?”
“It's not the amount of people, milady. It's the type,” explained York, “you can't trust them to follow on what they say they will.”
“Nor will I,” replied the woman with a smile, “and you're going to help me help them to keep their word.”
Marie shook her head, “I don't like what I'm hearing.”
“It'll be all right,” said Thorn, taking up a seat next to the Kashan sergeant, “it'll just be like old times, when my dad used to yell at us for climbing over those old fences or picking fruit from the Lucerne orchard...”
Marie snorted, “Yeah, but it's with blasters and stuff now, slight difference...”
Feb 5 2014 2:49am
GX-1 Yacht Crescent Sun, Talcene system
The star yacht floated through the starry sea, edging ever closer to a world of mottled greens and browns. At the cockpit, Marie and Christina stood over the pilot's chair, watching the hundreds of vessel entering and leaving the system. Many of the ships were small time tramp freighters and shuttles whose owners just managed to eek out a living. But there were also bulk cargo vessels and drone barges, notably several Stellar Enterprise and Starstriker models among them. A good number of the vessels had civilian Confederation transponders, since it was the gateway to Metalorn and the Confederation trade worlds further rimward on the Perlemian. She even managed to spot a pair of Nebulon frigates in the world's local defense force markings plying around the space lanes, watching for pirates, or worse, Reavers. Yet the first vessel to near them was an old, angular Guardian-class Light Cruiser, a ship just barely bigger than the yacht.
Xi turned up to look at the women, “It's a customs vessel. Probably will want to board us, or at least do a scan for any illicit substances...”
The Talcene vessel hovered over them briefly before flitting away to check out a pair of newly arrived drone barges coming in on the same entry vector. But Christina's warm brown eyes were already focusing on Talcene itself. Xi began to mutter with port control as the two kashan women walked away to commons area just aft of the cockpit.
“Do you feel ready for this?” questioned the Pro-Consul.
Marie snorted, “Not really, but it shouldn't be too bad. I kind of think that York likes to talk things up a bit. But it could be that he's just a little too cautious for my tastes.”
“See, he sounds like Lucerne already...”
“Minus the talking up part...”
“Ok, but he seems like an obvious pick from Corise.”
Marie sighed, “Corise didn't personally pick him, but he definitely had some sort of interviewing process for this all...”
Thorn frowned as she sat down in one of the small seats, “He screened all of you?”
She hesitated, “Not exactly, but I think he set the standards for the screeners. I wouldn't say it's a bad thing, Pro-Consul.”
“That's only slightly better than Lady for a pair of old friends...”
Marie winced, “If you say so.”
“I do,” smiled Thorn with a dismissive wave of a hand, “but enough about that. What have you been up to? Last I heard, they had deactivated your Company...”
“Oh,” replied Christina with a sudden understanding, “I won't pry then.”
“Councilor, I know we used to be friends, maybe we still are, but things are different now. We're not just two little girls romping around Kashan any more, with a couple of terrified parents chasing after us. I'm a grunt of a soldier now, and well, you're a bit higher up. We're not equals...not that we ever really were, I guess...”
Thorn reached over and squeezed her hand, “I wouldn't say that. Look Marie, we might not be on the same scale of importance for this...visit. But I really want us to remain friends, even if we don't go out for tea or regularly raid the Lucerne orchard any more. I mean it. I want to do something with you when we get back, just like it used to be. Sometimes I envy you soldiers. Life might be rough sometimes, but at least you always know who your true friends are...”
Feb 6 2014 2:35am
After several minutes of a gentle descent, the Crescent Sun touched down at on a sandstone slab that served as the Havausa Falls Spa & Resort's landing pad. Thorn meandered out of the common's room, with Marie trailing in her wake, to exit the spacecraft. As she glided down the ramp, warm air whipped about her, grabbing ahold of the loose areas of her blouse and quickly warming her up. She smiled as the sun's rays fell upon her as she stepped onto the trading world. A golden humanoid droid waddled up to her and made a stiff half-bow to her.
“Councilor Thorn, welcome to Talcene. I am E3PO, human-cyborg relations-”
“Excuse me E3PO,” interrupted the kashan woman, “but can I ask who sent you?”
The droid gazed at her with its expressionless eyes, “Colonel Young, Councilor.”
Thorn nodded, “Thank you, sorry for the interruption. Please continue.”
The droid looked behind her, “And who are you, my lady?”
“Ah, Marie,” blurted out the blonde woman.
“Welcome also, Lady Marie...” started the droid.
Thorn quickly glanced at her childhood friend with an amused smile. The other kashan woman's cheeks grew red at the droid's greeting. Despite the almost garish clothing Lady Laurent had provided her with, Marie didn't quite seem quite at home posing as one of the well-to-do. Her family had come to Kashan in one of the later waves as one of those sponsored by House Lucerne to better develop some of their farmland. While her family's fortune had improved since their arrival to even owning several hundred acres themselves, Marie had continued to play the part of a tomboy farmgirl since Christina had last seen her, though the woman thought she might have seen through what was merely a facade to conceal some of Marie's body image issues. Her thoughts drifted back to the droid in front of them, who droned on about the resort's ameneties and the beauty of the desert oasis and springs upon which it was based. Thorn had to admit, there was a certain magnetism in watching the blue water thunder off the limestone cliffs to fill up a naturally occuring basin which directed the waters into a myriad of directions, some into the hot springs themselves.
“Oy, you two are quick,” murmured a man coming up behind them, “I just barely grabbed my luggage before I saw the two of you already going on the grand tour without me...”
“I'm sorry dearest,” replied Marie with a faint smile.
Thorn glanced at their hands, noticing a pair of matching silver wedding bands. She winced. Well, that at least explains why they're together in the same room...but really, is that going to fool anyone who watches them closely? She shook the thoughts from her head. Then again, there shouldn't be anyone looking too closely at us as it is...The little group reached a pair of dark glass doors and entered the lobby of the resort, where the droid dispatched a pair of other servant droids to retrieve the rest of their luggage before showing them to their suite of rooms, which offered a picturesque view of the Havausa Falls themselves. The two soldiers wandered around their rooms, inspecting it for any possible bugs or potential security concerns while Thorn chatted with the protocol droids about the scenery. She let a smile creep across her face.
“E3PO, tell me, has the Colonel told you when he will be joining us?”
“Sometime to night, Councilor. I do not have an exact time.”
“E3PO, please refer to me as Miss Thorn from now on, not only to me, but to others as well.”
“Yes Miss Thorn.”
“Can I do anything else for you, Miss Thorn?”
“Ah, no thanks E3PO, but thank you anyways.”
The droid wandered out of the room and Thorn quickly shut and locked the door behind him.
“Well, that went pretty smooth,” quipped Marie, emerging from one of the bedrooms.
Thorn shook her head, “Not really. We're compromised.”
“What do you mean?”
“The Council never told Colonel Young who he'd be meeting...”
Feb 7 2014 2:36am
“Well, we can't stay here then,” blurted out Marie.
“The ship probably isn't safe either,” mused Reid, pulling up his encrypted comlink to his mouth “sergeant, the op is bad. Someone knows who the ambassador is.”
“It's the ambassador's call on our next move.”
Christina eyed her two fellow Kashan citizens. We don't know enough to make much of a plan. Maybe the droid has only been programmed to lie to us about being from Colonel Young, or maybe someone slipped the word to the Colonel somehow, but nothing else is wrong...or it could be assassination attempt. She briefly narrowed her eyes. Did the kidnapping really make me this paranoid? She shook the thought away.
“I don't know what the right thing to do here is,” started Thorn, “but I do know that we need more information about what's going on Talcene in general, regardless of if Young is with us, or against us. I think we should leave two people here to contact Colonel Young if he does come by, or to deal with whoever is out there to get us. The rest of us go to nearest CSIS safe house on the world and link up with CSIS. We'll be safer there than here. Thoughts?”
“You're the boss,” reminded Marie, “or should I say Councilor?”
“And not a military or intelligence expert, that's why I'm going to be relying on the rest of you to get us through this.”
“We should move now,” decided Dash, “and talk on the way out of here before anyone else decides to show up...”
With that, the three Confederates exitted the room, with Dash ostensibly meandering twenty paces ahead of the two women to pick up potential threats, while the two women pretended to idly chatter and stroll through the path Dash had cleared. Where's Kitty when you need her? They made it back to the Crescent Sun without incident. Dash slapped the ramp button as soon as the two women had started walking up the ramp. Sergeant York greeted her with a curt nod as she stepped onboard.
“Sergeant York,” started Christina, “I want you and two other shock troopers in our hotel room, just to give the appearance so it looks like we're still there, and just in case someone else pops by for a visit. If it's Colonel Young, give him one of our comlinks, and I'll talk to him like that. Otherwise, use your best judgement. The rest of us are leaving to a safehouse.”
“Yes ma'am. Just let me grab a few of us and get our stuff. How long will you be away?”
Christina paused, “I don't know. Hopefully not too long, but I guess it'll depend on what we find....”
Minutes later, Sergeant York led two other soldiers with their bags to take possession of their room. As they walked towards the resort, a pillar of flame rose up from their section of the resort, engulfing half of the building in a deafening explosion that knocked the troopers off their feet and onto the hard sandstone landing pad. As Christina's jaw dropped, Marie began to steadily swear besides her. Dash slapped the ramp button one more time and rushed out to his fellow troopers.
“Lady Laurent is going to be pissed...”
“Don't worry. I don't think Lady Laurent planned on our luggage being exploded. She'll understand...”
Feb 9 2014 2:07am
The next day...
Styria-class Galleon Freiheit, in orbit via Talcene
“How is?” asked Thorn, eying the body of a man floating in the bacta man..
“Colonel Young should survive,” replied the 2-1B droid, eying the tank's display console, “Councilor, if you would wish to speak with him for a few minutes, you may, but he is not fully recovered from the blast.”
Nodding, the kashan woman strolled over to the tank, lightly rapped on the glass, and ascended a little ladder to the top of the tank. The 2-1B tapped several controls into his console, opening up the hatch to the tank. Young rose up from the bacta and removed his breath mask. Their eyes met.
“Have they been caught, Councilor?”
Thorn shook her head, “No, not that I know of. I have people looking into the blast itself, but your description of the bomb's trigger device hasn't brought anyone up yet. You're lucky to have survived.”
Young scowled, “But not lucky enough to sense a trap until after it had been sprung. We are only fortunate that I went to inspect the meeting room before our visit. I am more troubled that someone knew that it was you that was coming...”
“They didn't,” replied Thorn, “the investigators recovered part of the 3PO unit that initially met me at the landing pad. It was loaded with the recognition data for all of our councilors and several dozen of our more well-known ambassadors. They only knew as much as you did.”
“It is on my side then. Someone in the ruling coalition must secretly be working for the Trade party.”
Thorn frowned, “I don't understand. Why would they want to stop our mission? It's not as if smuggling stolen goods, even if it is bacta, or something that portends to be our bacta, would attract that much attention...unless...you think they're involved with it.”
“Some of them, maybe,” suggested Young, “they're all merchants. They're all out to make a cred, it's only a matter of how low some of them would stoop to get it...”
The medical droid butted into their conversation.
“Councilor, Colonel, the patient needs to be submerged again,” stated the 2-1B, “the patient has not fully recovered from the inhalation burns. The patient has a 56% probability of developing an airway based infection if he is not submerged within the next two minutes.”
“Thank you,” replied the brunette, turning back to Young, “you get better. I'm going to investigate your theory...”
Feb 11 2014 6:52pm
Trade Party local campaign office, Maxence, Talcene
Thorn let a smile grow across her face as she greeted the secretary droid at the front desk. Behind her, a pair of junior Confederate diplomats, one of them actually a Jensaarai, idly glanced around the lobby of the office. There were several holos displaying a trim man dressed in a business suit with the captions “Tuman for Governor”. Several of the politicians' aides and interns greeted other people and volunteers as they entered the building. One of them, a dark-haired youth with a rash of stubble spread on his chin openly gawked at her. She stared him right back at him with a placid face before another volunteer dragged the man away.
“Excuse me ma'am?”
A man with a swarthy complexion came up from behind the secretary droid, “I must be seeing things. Councilor Thorn, of the Confederation?”
She nodded, “Yes. I was hoping to have a word with Mr. Tuman, or perhaps one of his aides. I'm sorry that the timing is not the best, not in the middle of a campaign, trust I understand that. I just would like five minutes with him, if that is possible.”
“Uh...uh...I'll see what I can do.”
“Thank you,” replied the brunette with a faint smile, “I really do appreciate that.”
“Uh...why don't I take you somewhere a little less...well...public, where you can relax while I get an answer for you.”
The man led the trio past a set of upholstered doors into the rear of the campaign office. Dozens of droids and volunteers darted around the cubicle farm, taking comlink calls and coordinating Tuman's campaign across the capital of Talcene, the ancient stone-walled city of Maxence. Several spared quick glances at her entourage. She spared a glance at the Jensaarai, a small-statured man named Anderson. The man's hazel eyes returned her gaze without emotion. Well, that's good so far, right? They rounded a corner to a small lounge area where several Trade Party volunteers snacked on a varied assortment of pastries and drank more caf than Thorn thought was healthy. The dark-haired youth was there. He immediately eyed her again, but the Jensaarai met his gaze and stepped in front of the councilor. Thorn turned to the man who had led them in.
“Thank you, mister?”
“Ah, call me Ken. Ken Graves.”
“Thank you Ken.”
“I'll get right back to you, I promise,” said the man, hustling out of the room.
Anderson cleared his throat, “I think this gentlemen has something to tell us, don't you?”
Thorn turned her gaze back to the youth, “Oh, is that so, Mr. Anderson?”
“Thomas, why don't you tell us about your friends you visited Havausa Falls. It would seem that you recall seeing Miss Thorn's holo there, right before your friends asked you to drive them back to the local shuttle area back to Maxence.”
“How'd you know my name?” blurted out Thomas, as Anderson walked towards him.
The other Confederate aide, a distant relative of House Kalaxas, managed to quickly engage the other aides in a conversation on the opposite side of the room about local politics and political theory. Thorn closed in behind the Anderson, the duo slowly pushing the young man into one of the corners of the room. Thorn eyed the Trade Party volunteer, noting the parting lips tugging towards his ears, the wide set focused eyes, and the tensed lower eyelids. Fear.
“What are you afraid of Thomas?” questioned Thorn, “it's not like you put a bomb there, is it?”
“Of course not.”
“You know who did though,” stated Anderson, “isn't that against Talcene law? Probably under some sort of aiding and abetting terrorists acts? I'll have to research it when we get back, Councilor...”
“How do you know my name?”
“Oh, we have a pretty good idea who set the bomb there,” noted Anderson.
“Is that so?” questioned a new voice from behind them.
Tuman stood behind them, along with Graves and a golden 3PO unit. Graves cocked his head to the side in bewilderment, while Graves coolly eyed the pair up and down. He forced a practiced smile across his face.
“I'll have you know, Mr. Anderson, that what you're doing right now is fairly close to harassment under Talcene law, though I suppose diplomatic immunity has its benefits, assuming that you are a registered diplomat...”
“Mr. Tuman,” said Thorn dryly, “perhaps you could spare us a few minutes to explain to us why your people tried to kill me.”
“That is a very heavy accusation, Councilor...”
“For a very heavy end to a political career, Mr. Tuman....”
“Is that so? Very well, let's all go up to my office and sort this out, shall we?”
Feb 12 2014 8:04pm
Graves quickly parted from their presence, leaving the four of them to enter Tuman's office on the third floor. Judging by the room's lack of decoration or personal effects, Thorn guessed that either he didn't spend much time there or it was merely a temporary satellite office used just for his campaigning. Tuman gestured for them to sit down on a group of chairs clustered around a plain metal office desk, which he promptly sat behind. He stared down into the councilor's eyes.
“You are quite the woman, Councilor Thorn.”
“Do you know a Colonel Young?” questioned Christina.
Tuman hesitated, “I did.”
Thorn frowned, “Did?”
“I heard he died in the bomb blast that Mr. Anderson was accusing one of my volunteers of participating in...” mused the man, “I'm assuming that's not entirely incidental that you asked. Am I right?”
“The bomb nearly killed him when he came to visit me.”
“I'm sorry to hear that,” replied Tuman, reclining in his chair, “he sent you after me, didn't he?”
Thorn narrowed her eyes, “Perhaps.”
“Let's just assume that's a yes,” countered Tuman, “as much as the two of us differ on political views, I would not kill him. That would only undercut the argument I've been trying to make to cut defense spending because Talcene is a safe world. You are more than welcome to research that history of my stance...”
“He's not lying,” noted Anderson, “but that doesn't explain why one of your volunteers is linked to the bombing...”
“I can't speak for him,” quickly shot back Tuman, “I don't even know his name. But I assure you, the Trade Party is not behind the attack. If it would placate you, I will cooperate with your security service, whatever it is, to clear up my name, and that of my party.”
“I'll take you at word for the moment,” replied Thorn, “I apologize if we came off as being a bit aggressive or paranoid...but I am curious, who do you think did the bombing, Mister Tuman?”
“Hard to say. Could be terrorists, could be some personal enemy of yours or the Colonel, or maybe even Mr. Anderson here...who can really know who really is behind it.”
“Would you mind if we continued to speak to your volunteer about it then, in our search for the truth?”
“I have no qualms with that,” replied Tuman, “though I'd appreciate it if you would be rather discrete about your presence here, for practical and political reasons.”
“You're not a big fan of the Confederation?”
“I'm a big fan of Talcene. I don't want to be identified as being galactic power's pawn...like I really need to give Governor Jodiah more ammunition to shoot at me during the debates...”
Her eyes flashed as the realization came to her, “What about being viewed as a friend of the Confederation?”
Feb 12 2014 10:59pm
After Thorn explained her theory to Tuman and the others present, the Confederates left his office to question the volunteer some more. The gold 3PO unit was waiting for them just outside the office doors, from where it lead the small group to a conference room where both Mr. Graves and Thomas were waiting for them. Both of them stared at the Councilor as she entered. Thorn plastered one of her practiced holo-cam smiles for the pair.
“Thomas, you weren't working for Mr. Tuman when took your friends down to the resort, were you?”
He shook his head, “No, well, not exactly...”
Thorn raised an eyebrow, “Did Mr. Tuman explicitly tell you to take them there, or anyone else in the party ask you to take them there?”
“As I understand it, you're a bit of an outsider here...not a lot of friends within the Trade Party itself...”
“Well...I could see how some people might think that,” replied the man, “I'm just quiet though...”
“So who were these friends you were hanging out with that day you drove up to the Falls?”
“Ah...school friends. We're in the same economics class at the uni. They offered to pay me pretty well for taking them up there. They said it was just to chill out before the big exams, though one said she was also going to be writing a journalism story for the school news service there too. That's where I saw your holo.”
“So she knew I was going to be there.”
“No, she just knew some...ah...she said some 'Confederation bigwig' was going to show up, but that they had a way in. Her uncle's droid was set to greet ah, I guess it was going to be you, so she had a friend tamper with a bit...bugged it, per se, to see who it was and what it'd be about.”
“...but it wasn't her,” blurted out the man, “it couldn't be. She wouldn't do anything that'd hurt her uncle.”
“And who modified the droid?”
“Ben Jodiah, the cousin of the Governor...” said the man, “but I won't tell you anything else unless you promise me Hannah, Hannah Young, won't be hurt by all this.”
Christina frowned, “You have feelings for her.”
He nodded, “Well, yeah.”
“I can't guarantee that Thomas, though I wish I could,” sighed Christina, “though perhaps we can work out a bargain together with the future governor of Talcene to fix that, to have her pardoned. I can't imagine that Governor Jodiah would want to believe your story, or he'd just cover it up he were involved...but why would he be involved?”
Thomas stared her incredously, “You hadn't heard of the Maxence Court scandals? He was caught trying to bribe a bunch of judges to lessen the sentences imposed on some of his friend's friends...if you know what I mean. Though they couldn't quite legally get him with it. They were sentenced for tampering with goods...”
“Probably our bacta too then,” suggested Anderson.
Thorn nodded, “Then I think it's time to make Mr. Tuman our new governor...”
Feb 13 2014 3:35am
Thorn lounged in her workout clothes in one of the Confederation Embassy's guest rooms, wiping a bead of sweat off her brow as it slid down her eyes. She pressed the edge of a cup against her lips and let the sweet liquid of the blue sports drink slide down her throat. In her other hand, she held a rectangular remote with which she clicked through the various local holo channels. After skipping past several series of soap operas, she settled on one of the local news networks, the Talcene Broadcasting Corporation. A golden droid and a pale man continued to present the daily news to their world.
“...analysts note that newly elected Governor Tuman's campaign numbers skyrocketed after a joint investigation between the Talcene Customs Service and CSIS of the nearby Confederation discovered that then Governor Jodiah was linked both to several smuggling rings via his appointees, as well as the recent bombing of the famous Havausa Falls Spa & Resort. While Jodiah has yet to answer any formal pleas, sources state that he is working out a plea agreement with the Board of Justice. In other news, an initial summit with the Contegorian Confederation over a free trade treaty initiated by Tuman's Trade Party has produced unexpected results. The talks have convinced Tuman to state that his party will introduce legislation next week that could potentially bring Talcene into the Confederation. Aside from trade benefits, Tuman is on record as saying it will allow newly promoted General Young to bring badly needed reforms and reorganization to the Talcene Defense Forces, which already conduct joint missions with nearby Confederation nations...”
Thorn tapped a button on her remote, turning the holo-projector off. Nothing good yet. She spared a glance at her chrono. But I still have got ten minutes before he calls...
She tapped several other buttons on the holo-remote, flipping through several channels, but there wasn't really anything on that interested her, aside from the exercise channel, but since she had just finished her workout, it did not make much sense to start another one, especially with only ten minutes to go. She turn the projector off, tossed the remote onto her bed, and walked to the bath room to freshen herself up. Thorn briefly jumped in the shower for a quick scrub before drying off and changing into his favorite nightgown, a traditional Alderaanian cut made out of Dramassian shimmersilk albeit there was also some more Zoosha fabric in it as well. She thought it actually had less Zoosha fabric than Thorn thought most other men would have wanted, but if nothing else, Lucerne was a traditionalist when it came to aesthetics...