Empire's Edge: Unexpected

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Perfect Storm

Tyco woke to the sound of Stella over the intercom. “We’re approaching Borgala. All crew and passengers meet in the lounge for briefing.” Tyco groaned as he sat up, still in his armor. Brayden was already gone, but that didn’t bother him. He grabbed his gun and slowly made his way to the main crew lounge and sat down. Dev and Stella were bent over the table where MRK-4 fiddled with a holographic-projector that had been set into the table. An image of Borgala slowly spun before them in full color. MRK-4 enhanced the image and zoomed in on the planet surface. Tyco noticed on one side of the screen there was some image distortion on the bottom left corner, which MRK-4 was pointing out the Dev. He couldn’t hear what was being said but figured they’d share it with them when the need arose.

Gale walked through the doorway and Tyco felt his entire body tense up. The Empire and Bortali had never gotten along, and Tyco and Gale were a good pair to prove that. Opposite in every way, from their looks to their attitudes each set the other on edge, though the large Bortalli man would never let that on. Gale reached the table and said something to Dev before walking over and leaning against the wall, waiting for the captain to speak. Brayden was the last to wonder in and throw himself on the couch, a slightly board expression on his face as he stared at the projection hovering just above the table’s surface. After another few minutes of quiet talking between Dev, MRK-4, and Stella, they all stood straight and looked at the rest of the assembled men.

“Thank you for coming.” Dev said, trying to keep an air of authority.

“Well you know, the theater was closed and this was the closest attraction.” Brayden said jokingly.

“Can it, Strider.” Dev snapped, giving the crewman a look, before he nodded to MRK-4 who brought the planet back to full view. “This is Borgala. Our passengers have business on this rock. Does anyone know anything about Borgala?” Dev asked.

“Its an empirical mining planet, isn’t it?” Brayden asked, sitting up straighter on the couch.

“No.” Tyco jumped in, taking a step forward. “It is a mining planet, but the empire has no actual established foothold. It just monitors the movement of the materials mined here very closely.” Dev nodded as Tyco spoke.

“It is a mining planet,” Dev continued, “but it also has extremely volatile storms that spring up on the surface. These storms have been know to take out ships, so let’s try avoid those as much as possible.” Dev said.

“There is also a moderate Corri presence on this planet. For those of you who’ve been around Corri, know they are not to be messed with.” Stella said with a nervous tone to her voice. Tyco could tell she’d had dealings with the Corri before. He opened his mouth to speak, but saw Gale shift. He glanced at the Bortalli, who was watching him closely, and decided it would be best to keep this thought to himself, for now.

“The plan is to land here.” MRK-4 said zooming back in on the planet. A small square formed on the visible terrain. “Its out of the way, and too far out of the way to be patrolled. After that Gale and I will make our way to the high ground in this region,” another small square lit up away from the first square. “This is where I will leave Gale to set up his snipers nest. And I shall move forward to exterminate the acquisition. If I am unable to, than Gale’s job changes to extermination.” MRK-4 explained. Brayden lifted his hand.

“How often are you unable to kill your targets?” Brayden asked.

“Since working together, Gale and I have a one-hundred percent bounty completion rate. Nine kills and seven captures.” MRK-4 reported. Brayden nodded, it wasn’t the answer he wanted, but he was satisfied with it for now. “After after the target is eliminated, we return to the ship. We will not have long before they begin to search for us, which is why the timing of our actions must be perfect.” MRK-4 said looking at Gale who nodded. His eyes were closed as he listened to the droid.

“So, I have one question.” Tyco said. He was bored of this meeting, and it showed in his demeanor and his tone. “If this guy has a bounty on his head, and this is a legal operation, why can’t you walk in and arrest him?” Tyco asked unenthusiastically.

“We have a source that tells us that this operation is far from legal. Also, this company is a known alias for a minor criminal organization. The empire regulates what planets these minerals go to, but these people take it to places the empire doesn’t want it to go.” Gale explained.

“And what’s wrong with that?” Dev asked defensively, his shoulders had tensed and he stood straighter than usual. His eyes nearly slits as he glared towards Gale.

Gale looked at him, one brow raised. “Not a thing. It’s the only way that the people who actually need it can get it, generally.” Gale said. Dev nodded, relaxing his rigid posture.

“What kind of minerals are on this planet that they regulate so strictly?” Stella asked.

“Thersian steel, mainly. Its light, but nearly impenetrable. Perfect for starships.” Gale looked down at her, “It’s a Bortalli favorite, so when they purged Bortalli they put strict regulations on the metals to keep them from rebuilding any sort of resistance.” he explained.

“Well,” Dev said, clearing his throat, “we will reach Borgalla in less than four hours, so everyone begin your preparations.” Tyco stood up and walked back to his bunk room, he had grabbed his helmet and rifle when Brayden walked in.

“What’s your rush, Tyco?” Brayden asked.

“Just eager to get off the ship.” Tyco replied. He wasn’t lying he felt stir crazy and had been in a foul mood ever since the Bortalli insulted him.

“Don’t get your hopes up.” Brayden yawned, stretching out on his bunk. “It’s more than likely that we will be told to guard the ship while Gale and MRK-4 leave.“.

‘That damned Bortalli.’ Tyco thought. Gale was turning everyone against him, and now, he got to leave the ship while the rest of them stay and wait. Tyco grumbled, but stowed his rifle and helmet before sitting down, arms folded across his chest, on his own bunk.

As the ship finished its jump the planet Gorballa came into view. A planet wide desert. It seemed to be a painting of various shades of deep purple and blue across the surface. “There she is. Borgalla.” Dev said finishing his after jump checks. While Stella took control of the ship.

“I’m beginning our approach to the surface.” she said over the intercom “Countdown fifteen minutes till landing.” Gale walked into the bridge and looked at the planet.

“Welcome to Gorballa,” Dev said in his best tour guide impression. “this stormy dustball is known for its rich metal fields, major industry, slave labor, and plasma storms capable of knocking anything smaller than a cruiser right out of the sky.” He finished. Stella just shook her head before turning to Gale.

“Ever been here before?” She asked. Gale shook his head.

“Not in person.” he said, “I saw pictures in the bounty briefing, but I’m interested see how they compare to the real thing.” As Stella flew closer she noticed a massive cloud moving toward their landing zone.

“Please tell me that’s not what I think it is.” Stella said. The bright blue flashes from inside confirmed that it was exactly what she feared. With a loud groan, she banged her head against the rest of her seat.

“That storm is headed straight toward our destination. How long till it reaches us?” Gale asked.

"If we land,” said Dev, “the storm would reach our landing spot in two, maybe three hours. You’ll have to work fast.”

“Since when have you studied the weather?” Stella asked a teasing grin on her face.

“It’s your call, Dev. We might be able to get in and get the job done by then, but its pushing it.” Gale warned. Dev looked at Gale and then at Stella and raised an eyebrow while a smile spread across his face. Stella sighed, and shook her head. She knew it was a bad idea, but when Dev got that look in his eyes, there was no changing his mind. Either she would fly them down to the surface, or he would take the controls and do it himself.

“Everyone, hold on.” she grumbled, putting the ship into a decent.

As she landed, Gale and MRK-4 ran out of the ship and were out of sight within moments. Stella walked back into the lounge and saw Brayden and Tyco, both armed, talking about their time in the military. Stella shook her head and walked back through her quarters to the bridge and sat down.

“So what do you think about those two?” Dev asked.

“Brayden seems like a decent sort, once he knows where the boundaries are and Tyco’s an ass.” Stella told him, with a matter of fact tone. She flopped back down in the pilot’s seat and glanced over to Dev, who looked confused. After a moment he rolled his eyes, and shook his head.

“I was talking about our clients, not our crew.” Dev told her. Stella looked out the windows and saw the empty expanse of desert before them as she thought.

“I don’t know, honestly.” She said. “They seem like really good people, and that’s what scares me.”

“I’m a good person, and you’re not scared of me.” Dev retorted.

“But you need me, Dev. That’s the difference.” She replied.

~*~

“This looks like a good spot MRK-4” Gale said sitting down.

“I believe a higher vantage point would suit our purposes better.” MRK-4 informed his companion. They’d been traveling together for several months and already had a lot of success together.

“No, too much higher and I won’t be able to see into those windows.” Gale reminded. MRK-4 looked at the outpost in front of them and at the windows. At this vantage point he could see into most of them.

“Your logic is sound.” MRK-4 replied, bringing a smile to the Bortalli’s face. MRK-4 began to head toward the outpost.

“Hey!” Gale yelled. MRK-4 looked back up at him. “Be careful in there.”

“Your concern is noted, but unnecessary.” He replied before turning around. After walking five feet he turned around. “Gale, would a moment like that be expressed with gratitude by meatsacks?” MRK-4 asked. Gale laughed and nodded. “Interesting custom.” MRK-4 said. MRK-4 ran down the hill until he finally made it down and stopped. He looked at the storm that was closing in.

“Gale, do you read?” MRK-4 spoke into his built in com relay.

“Loud and clear, MRK-4. What’s up?” Gale’s voice came through. He watched as MRK-4 began to quickly run from rock to rock in order to hide his approach.

“The storm is approaching. It might be wise to head back to lower ground.”

“I see it MRK-4.” said Gale, “I’ll head down if it gets to crazy up here, but for now let’s continue as planned.”

MRK-4 had reached the wall, where a man was patrolling. Calculating the distance with the speed at which he moved, the droid knew it would take too long for him to move out of hearing distance. He ran toward the man and with one arm grabbed the wall and the mans head with the other. He swung himself around the wall and slammed the man into it with a satisfying crunch. He knew the man was dead and that was good enough. He ran along the side of the wall until he came to the main building. The doors were locked, but he saw windows that were open. Quickly swinging himself up and into the building, he landed in a hallway. As he walked, his metal feet made echoes down the hall. He finally reached the last room in the hall. “Gale, I’m inside the main building.” MRK-4 reported.

“Roger that.” Gale’s voice could be heard along with a growing amount of wind.

“Gale, the danger of your position due to the weather is increasing. Relocate.” MRK-4 said.

“Don’t worry about me. Just get the target.” Gale replied. MRK-4 opened the door and walked into a room with a human and a Corri.

“You are not my target,” MRK-4 stated. The Corri hissed and pulled out a spear. “but this fight will be invaluable experience.” MRK-4 said charging. He shot several times with his ion pistol one shot hitting the Corri in the chest. They slammed into each other, trading blows, until MRK-4 took the spear and drove it into the Corri. MRK-4 looked for the human and saw him running and hitting the alarm. MRK-4 walked toward the man as the sirens started to go off. The man turned around and looked at the approaching droid.

“That was an error.” MRK-4 said

~*~

Gale had lost sight of MRK-4 when he had grabbed the guard at the gate and drug him behind the booth. He could only imagine what the fate of the man was, but didn’t dwell on it. He looked at the 4 towers that surrounded the compound. Each one had a single man inside it. From the looks of it, they monitored each other as well. That would pose a problem for the overall stealth of the job. The wind had begun to pick up and dust had begun to get picked up. It didn’t cause difficulty for Gale’s aim yet, but if it got much worse, he would need to relocate.

As Gale was evaluating possible problems when he heard MRK-4′s voice over his comlink. “Gale, I’m inside the main building.” Gale tapped the button on his com.

“Roger that.” he replied he turning the mic off, but MRK-4′s voice came through the com again.

“Gale, the danger of your position due to the weather is increasing. Relocate.” MRK-4 said.

“Don’t worry about me. Just get the target.” Gale snapped. He didn’t know why MRK-4 was concerned, the wind was just getting rough, the lighting was still a ways off. He returned to his evaluation and suddenly heard sirens from the outpost. He looked around in surprise when MRK-4 reported.

“I’ve been compromised.” He heard the droid amidst gun fire.

“Get out of there MRK-4!” Gale yelled. He returned to his scope. He watched for a moment before seeing MRK-4 burst out of a window and crush a soldier on the other side. Gale took shots at the snipers on the towers, sending 2 of them falling to the ground.

“I have located the target.” MRK-4 said to Gale.

“Where is he?” Gale asked. There was no reply. Gale looked for MRK-4, but he had disappeared behind the wall. Gale managed to take out the other two snipers before tapping his mic again.

“MRK-4!” he yelled. There was no response for several more seconds until the synthetic voice of the droid came through.

“Target neutralized.” Gale smiled in relief.

“Then get back here. I’ve got you covered.” Gale informed him. He watched MRK-4 dash out of the entrance, soldiers on his tail. Gale shot several, causing some to fall back, but there were still several following MRK-4

A bright flash followed by a deafening crack of thunder as lighting coursed over the sky, told Gale it was time to go. He quickly moved down the mountain until he met MRK-4.

“We need to reach the ship.” the droid said. Before Gale could respond, MRK-4 had picked him up, and begun running at top speeds towards the Crimson Falcon. Once the ship was in sight, he set him down so as not to raise more alarm than necessary.

~*~

“So what about them being nice, scares you?” Dev asked, after a long silence. He was reclined in his chair, feet on the dash, and looking lazily at Stella; who sat slumped in the pilot’s seat, fiddling with her hair.

“In my experience,” she said, without looking at him, “people who are nice, expect to get something out of it. Like there’s some sort of quid pro quo regarding being a decent person.” Dev half nodded his head as he thought about it.

“So, what? You think he expects you to hook up with him if he treats you well?” Dev asked, a concerned look on his face. Stella rolled her eyes, still not looking at the captain.

“I don’t know Dev,” she sighed, “but everyone has an angle, and the sooner I figure his out the happier I’ll be.” Dev nodded and the two sat in silence for quite some time.

After what felt like hours, Dev looked up with a smirk “Why don’t we-” He was cut off when Stella sat bolt upright, looking out the window to the figures running towards the ship. After turning on the intercom system, they could hear Gale yelling as they ran “Start the ship!”

Stella began preflight checks, flicking switches and turning knobs. The ship roared to life as Stella’s voice came over the intercom, “Hold on tight folks,” she said cooly “Brayden, Tyco, you know what to do.” Ramp still down, Stella took the ship off the ground, and made a sharp turn towards the still running figures of MRK-4 and Gale. Once within their reach, she held steady, hovering just above the ground until she received the three bangs on the wall, telling her that the two were safely onboard.

It wasn’t until they were nearly halfway out of atmosphere that she understood why they had been in such a hurry. Storm clouds were closing in fast, cracks of blue lightning making the scene that much more menacing. “Te, ka ches mi nach.” she muttered. Dev looked at her, one brow raised, “You don’t want to know.” he nodded, and the two went back to focusing on the storm. As they flew up, trying to get past the storm. Arcs of lightning cracked around them as Stella rolled, bobbed, and weaved through the minefield of electricity.

“Look out!” Dev cried out right before they were both blinded by a arc of lightning striking the ship. Their systems flashed on and off but after a brief moment they heard the ships engines sputter to a stop and the ship began to plummet out of the sky. The auxiliary power kicked on, leaving Stella with only the most bare of essentials. Thinking quickly, she pulled the ship out of its dive, aiming for a softer looking bit of sand. Beside her, Dev’s hands were white knuckled on the armrests of his seat. While he watched, wide eyed as the ground came closer, very quickly. A crunch was heard as they hit the planet, jaring them all, and throwing Dev and Stella hard against the dash. After the ship finally slid to a stop, the two picked themselves up and looked at each other.

“You ok?” Dev asked breathing heavily, and rubbing his head.

Stella nodded, turning to Dev, “Yeah, are you?”

“Yeah. Let me see if I can get the landing gear down” Dev said turning to the side console. The controls were unresponsive, despite being repeatedly tried. “No dice.” Dev finally said leaning back in his chair. Stella had already begun flitting about the bridge, opening various drawers and cupboards, muttering in Zerri as she did so.

“Stella?” Dev asked, watching her dizzying movements, “Stella, what are you doing?”

“Looking for tools.” She snapped, throwing a set of wrenches into a bag, “We’ve gotta get her back in order. There’s no town within walking distance from here, and we don’t have a speeder.”

“I don’t know anything about mechanics, Stella.” Dev said, standing up and taking a step towards her, “Are you sure you can fix it alone? We’ve never been in a jam this bad.”

Stella wheeled on the captain, a fiery annoyance in her eyes, “Well, I’ve gotta try don-” She was interrupted by a tap on the open bridge door. Gale stood framed in the doorway, leaning on his shoulder his legs crossed to the side. Stella couldn’t help but think he was oddly relaxed.

“I couldn’t help but hear your conversation, and I think I can help.” He said.

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