The silence of hyperspace fell on the 4 pilots like a piston’s final thud.
“Sandon, shields down, but otherwise, copy.”
“Roger. We have 6 days in hyperspace, link up all cathodes and drip-feeders. Pass on orders to astromechs to initiate dosing sedatives. I plan to stay up another hour, so if you need me I’m here. Private channel also open. After that, link up with me via my astromech – he’ll wake me up.”
The crew confirmed, and began working on the commands for their astromech droids. Some trying their utmost not to think about what just happened. Fate, however, gave them 6 days of silence. It was a long journey, and most of the crew drifted in and out of consciousness throughout. Kameron and Max even managed to catch each other for a quick talk – Kameron remaining surprisingly upbeat. Some things just don’t sink in that easily.
Six hours before re-entering real space, astromechs began administering appropriate vitamins to the pilots. 4 hours before leaving hyperspace they returned to solid food, the reserves specially prepared for the end of long journeys under drip-feeding. The Smuggler’s Moon shined bright from the millions of buildings on the surface, most of the crew aware this is only the top level of 3 similar structures. Landing on the Eastern Platform, Level 212, Spire 56, the crew had only one thing on their mind – get safe and see what happens next. A week’s docking was paid, and taxi arranged, and the crew followed Kameron’s lead on where to get a hotel. Freeside Hotel was her favourite, still from her days with Aliant – the pirate captain who gave Kameron her wings.
In the room, once all the necessary arrangements were made (No, we don’t need to prep the evacuation engines of the room. No, it’s ok, no armed security guards just in case. What? Oh, no. No content-crushing storage compartments either), they sat down to decide what happens next. Noone wanting to discuss what happened a week ago, they focused on what happens next. All this time, Max seemed detached. Critical of the situation, clearly seeing the flaws made by the rebel leaders. What the heck didn’t they jump right after the G720’s arrival? Idiots.
A quick calculation gave them a number of steps. According to Protocol 56, they were to locate the possibility of sending an emergency long-range transmitter message to a particular location – confirming whether they are alive. The danger was that the receiving antennae were located on a planet partially government by a man who’s importance to the rebel cause was immeasurable. Senator Bail, of House Organa, the sponsor and supporter of Phoenix Cell. Yet again, a risk Max utterly could not comprehend they are taking. How are the lives of 4 people potentially more important than that of the man who supports a whole fleet?
There was more to do, Max still had his old credit chip from his days as Imperial Lieutenant – and Kameron knew someone who might be able to get at them if there is anything left there. She also knew an old contact in a particular Tavern who might be able to assist with the transmitter situation. If there is anyone who has access to a galactic-range transmitter antenna on Nar Shaddaa, his boss would know them. In fact, it would probably be her. No matter how Kameron did not look forward to asking for the help from the only person who terrified Aliant, it was the only thing she could do. Helmsman and Sandon stayed to work on encoding the message in the most complex way possible, while Kameron and Max left for town.
The contact proved true to his reputation, however owing to the heat of the credit chip, his fee was far higher than usual. 40% of whatever is on the chip, and 6 hours needed to complete this job. It was, after all, a locked account of an Imperial Officer recorded down as ‘traitor’. Max and Kameron left him with the job, as they traveled to Tenkar’s Tavern.
Typically loud music, a ratio of human to xenos of 50-50, a selection of drug-laced drinks on the official menu, and a seven-tentacle-armed barman greeted them upon entry. They went slow, with two simple drinks. Max’s training and need to survive clicked in, as he scanned the room for any threats in as inconspicuous a manner as possible. He saw many. Kameron saw one main one. The burly figure of Elias Crichel sat at a small round table in the corner, elbows on the table, speaking to a young man on the other side of the alcove sofa. At least 4 guards in strategic positions around him, blocking any realistic access without his explicit permission.
“He’s here, my contact. They guy in the corner there.”
A nod from Max, as he picked up his drink from the bar. Mr. Crichel stood up from his seat, dismissed his conversation partner, allowed himself a delicate smile, and began to walk toward Kameron and Max.
“Well, rarely am I this pleasantly surprised young Kameron. Let me start my asking you to accept my condolences. Aliant is sorely missed.”
Back at his table, they managed to come to some understanding – but as with all dealings with the underworld, it was not to be as pleasant as they’d like. Yes, they would be able to use the antenna at a certain price – however the… owner… has a specific rule. She gets to see the full and unencrypted message prior to sending. Knowledge is power, and noone knows this as well as she does.
Max was not impressed with this idea, an opinion he voiced when back in the room. Prior to this, however, they managed to pick up what was left of Max’s credits. 40,000 Credits, in cash. A… troublesome amount – unless well hidden or spent quickly. Ideally, both in that order.
The final exchange of the whole crew in their quarters ended up being very fiery. Many words were said, and most of them could be described as ‘too many’. As Max let his opinions out, as asked by Helmsman, and suggested alternatives to sending such a delicate message – at the same time criticizing the idea of putting the life of Senator Organa at risk – Helmsman cracked. His tirade went far, but what was perhaps most shocking was his revelation about why they cannot ignore this. And why it is the best pilots and the best ground & security operative in what was Phoenix Squadron in the room now. It’s because of Max. His blood and his genes. His fathers genes. They would allow the rebels potentially create fake keys which are gene-locked to senior officers such as Colonel Veers. Max was the first defector of such immense indirect value to the rebel cell.
The crew, tired and agitated, needed some rest. As dawn came for the fourth time in the last 20 hours, they laid to sleep in their rooms. Kameron’s smile from that morning did not return, Max fell asleep uninterested in talking, Sandon stayed up a while longer to finish working on his code, and Helmsman retired to his chamber quietly.
Max awoke a few hours later to find Kameron missing.