A King’s Ransom
Torryn Farr watched as barrels of the valuable Bacta were moved off of the Gryphon and into the Rebel Base. Even more valuable to her cause was the pair of individuals volunteering to take the remaining fifty tons of Bacta and trade it in an attempt to secure a transport capable of taking the refugees from Hoth to join the Rebel Fleet. Sage would keep a percentage of the profits, of course.
Kamahl watched in not so silent frustration as more of his potential profit share was moved off the ship. Quinn and his astromech were finishing their repairs to the base X-Wings. Kronk, geared up in an armored space suit, minus the helmet, and packing a Loronar version of the E-11 moved to join the growing collection of volunteers. Mercedes was already aboard, relaxing in a plush lounger, drink in hand. Her tail twitched irritably as the red and gold threepio unit bumbled past muttering about a battle droid body. Artoo Eff You beeped and whirred disapprovingly at the protocol unit.
The plan was simply to find a buyer for about five million credits worth of Bacta, buy a transport ship, and get the refugees back to the Fleet. Then simply rendevouz with Rath and Envicar at Hoth, rescue the Rebels left behind, and rejoin the Fleet themselves to collect a big reward. Simple. Sage smiled as he thought of the pile of credits he would get out of this.
Only a few minor complications. They had no buyer. They didn’t know the local Black Market. They didn’t know who had millions of credits and would give it to them for their cargo. And they had no idea who was selling ships that suited their needs. Add in a corrupt Imperial Governor, the Galaxy’s largest criminal orginization, the Black Sun, and the Bounty Hunters Guild, who just might be looking for some members of the team, and it was all wrapped up pretty neat and tidy.
Six Hours to the Survivors
Not willing to wait for Evincar to decide a course of action, Rath and Arden manned Phoenix One, both in armored spacesuits. Rex beeped and chirped excitedly. A rebel traffic controlman waved his taxi wands, guiding the Y-Wing into launch position, then signaled them off. As the red fighter cleared the cliff face, it veered skyward and shot off at incredible speed, rivaling that of the new Imperial TIE Interceptors. Soon they were enveloped in the darkness of space.
“Hey Hump, you sure about this? What if the Empire’s still there?” Arden asked with genuine concern. Rex chirped and beeped a response about his capabilities operatiing the stealth systems. Rath nodded in agreement. “Why do they call you Hump anyway?”
Rath ignored the last question. “Rex here can outwit any Imperial sensor crew. Besides this ship is incredibly fast. What? Don’t you trust me?” Rath’s charming Corellian grin did not in fact reassure Arden. With that said, Rath engaged the hyperdrive. Stars streaked past, then turned into the mottled purple vortex of hyperspace. “Besides, I have friends on the planet. What could go wrong?”
“Not in this life time. I’m just here for the thousand credits a month, and this month is late.” She laughed. “What makes you think he’s down there anyway? Commander Farr said he never made it onto the transport. He certainly wasn’t among the eighteen we’re after. They probably all ended up dead or in an Imperial Detention Center.” Rex beeped scornfully.
“Farr said he stayed behind with some Alderanian die-hards to defend the ion cannons until the last transports got away. If anyone could survive the impossible, the old man can. But we’re not actually after him. We’re looking for eighteen extremely valuable Alliance personnel off Commander Farr’s transport. She gave me a datachip with the encrypted profiles. Once we are in system, we’ll look for signs of the escape pod. Then we just follow the trail of bread crumbs…” Rath pulled out a synth-harmonica as his voice trailed off and started playing the Mantooine Blues.
The Second Wave
After some discussion, Sage insisted that he and Mercedes would be better off cutting the deal on the Bacta themselves. Kronk went along to protect the valuable cargo while they scoured the city for a buyer. Quinn suggested that he take the Longstrider with extra supplies to deliver to the Hoth survivors until proper transport could be arranged. Kamahl volunteered to man the turbolaser on Quinn’s ship. Evincar was already preparing his fighter.
To their surprise the base X-Wing pilots all volunteered to go with them, carrying extra supplies as well. The eight pilots seemed eager to get off the steamy jungle world and routine patrol duty. Within the hour all ten ships were up and away from the jungle surface…
Darlyn Boda City
With little else to go on, Sage took the only lead they had and headed for the city of Darlyn Boda and a seedy joint called Pepper’s Pax. The crescent-shaped yacht skimmed over the vast jungle canopy, causing clouds of avian creatures to occasionally burst forth as it passed over. Occasionally they passed over any number of wide rivers, often marked by roaring waterfalls plummeting over cliff faces. Large bubbling mud holes dominated some of the lower plains and small villages and towns occasionally dotted the landscape.
Mercedes lounged in a recliner next to the pool, filing her claws into razor sharp blades. Sage and Kronk sat at the Sabaac table playing against each other and the dealer droid. The large reptillian merc was clearly getting irritated as the droid once again slid a small pile of credits over to Sage’s side of the table. Then there was a loud buzzing warning as the ship approached its destination. Scrambling up to the bridge, Sage flipped off the autopilot and took the controls.
The ship dropped down onto a crude landing pad. The permacrete was broken and crooked where it had sank into the mud over years of neglect. The sprawling city Darlyn Boda, with its shadowy streets, presented a ripe criminal environment. It stretched out like some ill-planned ghetto, running up the hills and into the jungle like foul splatter in an all too public fresher. More expensive villas dominated the elevations, all with walls manned by armed guards. The streets were filthy, and many were little more than mud paths between cluttered buildings and abodes. As the ramp hissed down on the Gryphon, an Imperial Customs Officer and a pair of Stormtroopers approached…
A Bird of a Different Color
Rex chirped and whistled, indicating that Phoenix One was approaching Hoth. Purple light danced off the red paint scheme, making it look black or dark blue at times, then it actually shifted to a deep flat black. “What the…” Arden started in.
“Polychromatic camoflauge, similar to that used in dichrome tents,” Rath replied. “Told you Rex had some tricks. Sensor absorbant finish too. And baffled exhaust that runs on spin-sealed Tabanna gas, so it doesn’t leave a standard ion trail to follow. Pretty cool, huh?” That last bit reminded Arden that Rath was still really just a kid.
The purple vortex faded into streaks, then stars. As the now black Y-Wing dropped out of hyperspace the passive sensor board lit up in a dull blue scheme and the cockpit glass dimmed. The stark white orb of Hoth was marred by three distinctly triangular dark shapes. Schematics started scrolling across the monitors, accompanied by technical data. “Imperial Class, Type Two’s” Arden read off the display, despite the fact the same data was being fed to Rath’s station. Arden let out a low whistle. “Looks like about thirty-six TIE’s scattered over this side of the planet on random orbital patrols, running in elements of two. What’s the plan?”