They had been there for months now. Slowly monitoring the headquarters of the Eclipse. Monitoring ingoing and outgoing traffic. Mapping zombie movements on the lower levels, just in case, and coming up with strategies and tactics for getting inside and out again. Their numbers had dwindled. Captain Roland Rook, their most valiant and accomplished warrior, had been forced to leave on another urgent matter... maybe he saw this mission for what it was? Darmus shook his head and handed the infra-red binoculars to Lieutenant Velt (@TerranSteel), "That's our way in," the older ranger said with a sly grin as he pointed at the door roughly forty yards from their hiding spot.
Sector Ranger Darmus Onn was going to be part of this op. Who would've thought his desire to catch the Eclipse actually outweighed his infamous will to survive. They hadn't called him a coward in years, much to his dismay, but he had hardly been himself. Getting shot, witnessing massacres and experiencing a state of utter powerlessness. He was fed up with it, so here he was, on the lower levels of Nar Shaddaa, blast-vested and holstered up. "You all ready?" he asked the others over their shared commlink, "Plan is simple. We sneak into their server room and I upload my plague." he was suddenly very conscious of the small backpack with his datapad and the three datasticks in his pocket. They all contained the dataplague. He had brought extra in case they needed to split up. "Don't rush, but shoot to kill." He wasn't in the mood for stunning known mass-murderers or knee-shots. If they didn't shoot to kill it could well be the last time they pulled their triggers. Kriff, how they could've used Captain Rook right now...
Months of planning. Blending in with criminals, villains, smugglers, and con-men. Gathering all the equipment they needed. Following the carefully laid path down to their starting zones. All of it came down to this. Corran could feel the cosmic dice in his hand waiting to be cast. He looked more mercenary than ranger to face against what dangers dwelt within the base. Custom armor encased his head and torso - carefully designed and paid for with almost his entire savings to counter a Sith warrior. Two blaster pistols, secured in holsters, clung to his hips. Several concussion grenades clung to his belt and fastened down not to cause any noise. A vibrosword, a memento from the first Sith the blond ranger ever encountered, hung close in a scabbard along his back. Held by the grip and laid across one knee was an A280C blaster rifle. Other handy tools like a fusioncutter and medkit had also been packed. There would be no impossible hurdles this time.
A pair of binoculars came into Leiutenant Velt's field of vision. He took them up and lifted them to his visor. Sure enough, an entryway was less than half a huttball field away. The rangers had gotten as close as they could without revealing themselves and remained concealed until operation kickoff. "It sure is," Corran replied in a quiet, modulated voice. He turned his head slightly to get a good look at Ranger Onn before offering back the binoculars. There was no person more important to this whole gamble than Darmus. He'd make sure the veteran would get in there intact and out of there whole. Without Captain Rook here, the heavy lifting fell on the blond ranger's shoulders. Oh, how he wished the Mandalorian was with them now.
Orders through the secured commlink were simple and clear. "Understood," Corran replied stoically. Stealth was imperative to try and get to the data room undetected or at least the whole base unalerted. Everything else was take no prisoners. A harsh policy given how the Sector Rangers usually operated but their hand had been forced. Sith were fanatics and butchers - especially the brood that nested in this base. Any hesitation would spell their doom sooner than later. Lieutenant Velt had killed before at Outpost Blue. He had felt more sympathy then. There would be none this time.
The area was quiet, but not quite silent. The muffled rustle of armor and hushed talk carried in the damp, still air. The woman was crouched, still as a statue behind a discarded, rotting stack of crates, the muzzle of her blaster carabine swiveled on the railing of the fire escape as she shifted her weight over her other leg. The rusted metal creaked slightly, causing her to cringe. The view down revealed Corran and Darmus in their makeshift shelter six meters below. Bast scanned the sith base again, on guard and ready to deliver a clean headshot to the nearest enemy should the need arise.
H-hour drew near as the team waited uneasily. They had made it this far, through grimy cantinas and sewage flooded streets, checking over their shoulders every other second. The suspicious behavior would have draw eyes elsewhere, but in the belly of Nar Shaddaa, men and women without bounties on their heads or unresolved grudges were few and far between. The flashing neon lights and streaking blaster bolts were the tangible effects of moral decay imprinted on her retinas. The Corellian would never return again, if she could help it. For better or for worse, she was buried deep with men she trusted. Darmus was tough, street smart, and not lacking in humor. Corran... well she was responsible for bringing him back alive. Command had had to give her special dispensation to join his mission group for the final leg of the assignment, as if they both died, his partner would be left alone with an infant. Having to change the diapers by herself, she thought, would be enough to make even Ilana’s iron fortitude crumble.
Ranger Onn’s crackly voice interrupted her musings. Reinspecting her armor, Bast flung the carabine onto her back and drew her pistol from its holster, next to a frag grenade and two thermal detonators. “Copy that. I’m heading down.“ @Eccles @TerranSteel @The Good Doctor @Mr. Teatime
The deep of the smuggler's moon was, all things considered, a fairly quiet place. Sounds of ancient and leaking pipes, poorly maintained air vents, struggling machinery of forgotten purpose, and scuttering vermin made up the majority. By contrast the levels higher above were busy with both the living and the dead, a moon of criminals fighting and lying to survive on a Hutt dominated world.
But even down here not every corpse was known to remain still and silent as they were meant to. The Rangers would have noticed them from their observation, roaming groups of the infected staggering along in the dark and musty alleys. They would have to be careful not to attract their attention as well as that of their quarry. It was a mere fourty meters ahead, the entrance they had found and chosen, but down here anything could happen.
They also would have seen the rare comings and goings of individuals, most often in pairs and more rarely in larger staggered groups spread out over time. Usually in ordinary clothes with faces shrouded in hoods, hats, and other facial covers. Once in a voluminous and filthy black robe. The rangers would have determined some few of these exited regularly and wandered the underdark as if on patrol, although no true external security appeared to exist.
Before the gathered men and women the way appeared all clear of potential hostiles. Rats of unusual size skittered across the filthy streets and over the gathered dust and detritus of centuries. Just before the entrance was a cross-path alley they could not see down from their positions. At the end of the path was the decrepit and dimly lit entrance, a black and yawning maw waiting to accept the Rangers within.
Everything about these depths were mysterious. Mysterious and unsettling. The relics of ancient infrastructure sometimes still hummed and functioned despite endless years of disrepair. Living beyond when they should have died. Much like the victims of that disturbing virus. Shambling among the decay as they themselves degraded. Then there was the Sith. Their erratic patrols and lack of uniforms. Coming and going at seemingly random times. Faces obscured to hide their identities and the terrible deeds they work. Corran would've been all to happy to never return to these cursed depths. But duty kept him on the path forward. So forward he proceeded.
"Start operation time. Moving out," Lieutenant Velt monotoned through the secure commlink shared by his allies. There would be no action-packed, mad dash for the door. Only steady, methodical movements. The armored ranger deftly exited their hidden outpost and brought his rifle to the ready as he gingerly stepped towards their entry point. Bast and Darmus would likely cover his approach before bringing up the rear. They would all go through the door together but someone had to take the dangerous point role. Corran had volunteered.
The black gun barrel of a blaster rifle panned with the blond ranger's gaze. He kept to the right side of the path, avoiding the middle to keep at least one flank secure. If nothing immediately blew up or lunged for the kill, he would stop at the juncture in the road just before the door. Taking what cover he could, Corran would flip through thermal and night-vision settings on his helmet to try and detect any hostiles. He'd start with the left side of the cross-path and then carefully tilt his head over the edge to the right. Then a careful visual search for traps, cameras, or other nefarious devices by the door itself. If all looked clear, a hand-signal would summon the other Sector Rangers to his position.
If all went well, they'd be one step closer to entering their long-hunted target's lair.
Despite this being Darmus' operation he was glad the more combat-tested lieutenant took point. Taking up the rear, the older ranger made sure to look behind them as well as to not be surprised by scurrying rats or killer droids. Lieutenant Emblai would take up the middle and the trio, under Corran's leadership, moved forward towards the door.
They were cautious, sure, but they had this place under observation for months and if there were any traps before they reached the door they would've spotted them during their most recent surveillance. Patrols had been mapped, too, but there was always the risk of a chance encounter. The odds on that is what made Darmus' heart nearly pound out of his chest. This wasn't the Net. Outliers couldn't be ignored or patched. If they ran into a Sith now their whole operation would be ruined.
Once they reached the door, Darmus would insert a security pike he designed specifically for this mission. He had sliced into the base as far as he could, mapped entry and cut-off points, marked the moon's powergrid where he believed it intersected with the more power-needy equipment of a terrorist outfit working on a galactic level and was pretty confident he could navigate the party straight to a server room. What he didn't know was what they would find standing behind the door and Darmus had always counted himself luckily that he hadn't actually had to fight a Sith before..
Combat boots tapped lightly on the spiral staircase as Bast descended towards the putrid streets. The group’s entrance was to be methodical, calculated. There was no room for error. Corran had already pulled ahead, taking point. Darmus hung back for a moment as the female ranger filled the gap between them and placed her hand on Velt’s shoulder, both to ease close-quarters movement and provide a line for silent communication.
The new adrenaline hit her hard with a sudden sense of lightheadedness. The Corellian forced herself to remember that nerves were good. They meant she, at least on a primal physical level, still feared death. It was, after all, the first time she would potentially fight a sith in a greater capacity than to simply escape. There was no escape. If they did indeed run into a force user, it would be a fight to the death. Making a successful retreat in the home base of the Sith would be as impossible as finding an honest businessman on Nar Shaddaa. She had seen what they could do. How they could bend the very universe, the air, everything around them to their will. Their hatred was enough to leech into her bones with an ancient pain and their abilities in combat were superhuman. For a moment, the Lieutenant wondered if she was even expected back alive. Surely no one could think three men would be enough to topple the planetary hold of someone- something so powerful.
Silently reprimanding herself, Bast followed Corran to the junction, freezing in a crouch as he scanned. She needed to follow orders. If she think about death... god forbid if she accept death on the mission, no one would make it out of the depths alive. The clear signal came and the pair of rangers moved forward. One hand hovered over her blaster pistol, ready to draw in the blink of an eye. It would be a faster defense than with the carabine. As Ranger Onn slid the spike into the security port, she stood watching his back, eyes alert and following every movement. This was the closest she had ever gotten to achieving the mission, and the farthest she had ever felt from the comfort of the known.
Footsteps took the rangers toward the juncture and toward the entrance door, each fall of boot to ground joining the chaotic plethora of background noise that existed in this dank, dead place. They were on watch, careful, eyes open for any dangers. The events on Coruscant had no doubt left them wary of this mission's target and what they might be capable of.
Corran himself had seen what a Sith could do, the scar behind his helmet and the blade a testament. The rangers had no special senses or great and magic powers, only what they were born with, learned, and brought with them. Each was only human in the end, after all. They had weapons and maps, expertise and equipment, and a great determination to enact a righteous justice upon the Eclipse.
The junction was clear as Corran found it, empty of life or sound beyond the dripping and wheezing of the undercity, like the death rattles of a great mechanical corpse. Two more rangers appeared at the door and Darmus got to work opening it. There were no cameras the Rangers could see, no surveillance, no soldiers in black or red-bladed assailants. Just a door that waited for them, the dark console flickering to life as Darmus interacted with it.
From the shadows a sound, loud rustling and the crash of metal on metal, a loud squeeking-
As a rat of unusually large size burst from a pile of refuse and scampered around behind the three Rangers, hissing loudly as it passed, and then disappeared once more around some dark corner.
Shortly after, then, the door would open before the Rangers three.
It was dark within, the only dim light that which came in from yawning portal before them. Barely within sight there was a dust and grime-covered desk that sat to the side of a closed turbolift and a side door labeled "stairway". A very old model of console sat there on the desk.
Clear of hostiles. A promising start. Neither the cross-juncture or the initial door presented any immediate danger. The group's stealth remained intact. As Darmus began tinkering with the lock system, Lieutenant Velt kept his gaze slowly panning over their surroundings with rifle at the ready. Metal suddenly screeched and pounded to the ground somewhere nearby. Like an automated turret, the helmeted ranger pivoted to the sound and lined up his sights.
Only a rodent. A big, mangey, one but just a rodent. Almost as soon as he got a bead on the creature, it darted off into the darkness to continue the daily struggle of survival in the Smuggler's Moon underbelly. Corran allowed a sigh of relief under his helmet where no one could see. Not an enemy.
The door slid open and allowed a glimpse into a dark threshold. Lieutenant Velt's night-vision through his visor kept him from that visual sense from being obscured. He peered around the corner as minimally as he could and found only a tiny lobby awaiting them. To think, there was a Sith receptionist somewhere. Almost made him laugh. With a silent two-fingered motion, Corran alerted his comrades that he would take point and proceed into the base.
Each step was as methodical as the one before. Keeping the body steady incase for the sudden need of accuracy and to avoid any traps. Eyes scanned the pathway, walls, and ceiling for any immediate threat. If nothing arose, the blond ranger would find himself along the wall facing towards the desk with the terminal. If he had to pick, the stairs would be ideal. A turbolift could be stopped or otherwise alert those below. But the terminal came first. As soon as Darmus filtered into the room, Corran would gesture to the console. It could be nothing - like a series of visitor appointments scheduled by the Sith receptionist for their cruel master. It could also hold basic readouts of the hidden base. But he was no slicer. That would be left to Ranger Onn.
Darmus nodded and slowly made his way over to the dated console, giving it a look over and shaking his head. "This kriffer's old," he told the other two rangers. Darmus figured the Eclipse to use much newer tech simply because he didn't believe anyone, not even with the help of the Force, could pull off an operation like that attack on HQ without utterly sophisticated tech to stay under the ranger's radar. "And yes, even for the Outer Rim." Darmus was born in Hutt space and discovered his affinity with slicing by digging around in Hutt systems. Even then, roughly forty years ago, this wasn't a top of the line console. Somewhat hesitant, the old ranger wiped off some dust after dropping his pistol on the table and pressed the power button.
First he'd try to scour the console, find out if it was attached to a network without making it ping the server. Just to scroll through data without alerting anyone. If he deemed it safe or if it really did ping directly to the Eclipse server, well, then his custom dataplague could be plugged in to complete 50% of their mission right then and there. He didn't bank on it, though, and worked and meticulously. He was especially wary because he didn't think it could be this easy. There had been the assumption that he would only be able to really access the server directly from the server room and that there wouldn't been many unwatched consoles lingering about. Finding one right away was suspicious and - possibly booby-trapped. Suddenly feeling his heart in his throat, Darmus slowly knelt down to watch for any traps or improvised explosive devices attached to the desk.
Kriff, maybe they should've just walked passed this one and head for the stairs. Is it too late for that now?
The scraping of claws on the dingy floor immediately drew the attention of the woman. She was so on edge the rat would have been dead if she had remembered to pack her silencer. Instead Bast drew her pistol, and feeling the conspicuous lack of weight on the end, barely managed to stop herself from shooting it. Damn rats. They were everywhere. The mangey things likely carried a host or diseases as well. Sliding the pistol easily back into the holster, the Corellian Ranger settled on holding her carabine instead. She could not risk alerting potential opponents to their presence.
The door slid open, releasing a gentle breeze of stale air. It was dark. Bast flicked on her night vision HUD immediately. If she were caught of guard, she was dead. The Sith had the upper hand. This was their territory. It could be trapped, rigged with signal transmitters and explosives. While the delicate steps of the force users could dodge the metaphorical wires, the heavy boots of the rangers could not. The Sith were also gifted with The Force. She was no expert in the mystical. She had been raised in a crowded, poor city. A common person. There had never been any use for religion and learning past learning survival. It was to be grit versus privilege.
Darmus’s words caused her to flinch, not because of the coarse language but because it was the first time someone had spoken inside. Talking felt... wrong in the space. As if the sound might carry to some deep buried artifact and trigger the building to collapse. Naturally the idea was silly, but she still shot the man a look, more out of principle than anything. It wasn’t as if he could see her through the visor. Carefully stepping up the first few stairs, she looked up, keeping watch. It was too quiet.
The stairway Bast had moved to was both simple and old. Duracrete steps lead both up higher into this particular tower and down beneath it in a rectangular arrangement. None of the lights within seemed powered from what she could see through her helmet's HUD, and so as she could see nothing so much as moved. Only quiet, and dark.
This was after all meant to be an abandoned section of Nar Shaddaa. No one lived or worked down here so far as records indicated. Power drawn to the sector found by the Rangers, however, had indicated something else going on. Dead buildings weren't connected to holo-towers or using the power network.
Case in point, the console on the desk before Darmus was activated easily, if slowly. Missing dust over some of the controls and clearly indicated it had been used relatively recently rather than simply aging away in this ancient lobby. It had little the way of true contents. Lists of appointments with dates from far before Darmus had even been born, titles, names, and even appointment notes and information taken down in Huttese. At a glance, nothing special at all.
It was so old, in fact, it had an attached datapunch card reader plugged in next to. Also showing signs of having been used.
The console was not connected to a primary network or server, but it was connected by hardline to both minor lobby power controls, like the lights and doors, and turbolift access. Attempting to use the turbolift, should Darmus investigate that program, would reveal it required a datapunch authorization card before it would be powered on and opened.
When Darmus checked beneath the desk he would find no explosives nor other kinds of trap he could discern.
Corran, from his position, could easily spot a large rat passing through the way outside the entrance doors. It sniffed at the air and skittered about, the little available light reflecting off its black and beady eyes.
Ranger Onn's voice felt like it boomed and echoed even though it was quiet. The relative silence they had been operating in had make speaking aloud surprising. Corran glanced over his shoulder only briefly at Darmus before returning his gaze to the door they had entered from. Knowing the plan, Bast was securing the other points of entry. Another giant rodent passed in front of Lieutenant Velt's iron sights. He took aim should it have charged at them or morphed into a deadly space wizard. You never knew when dealing with Sith. It only fritted about and explored its immediate surroundings by smell and touch. The rat provided a reminder, at least, that the Ranger team should be covered its tracks as best as possible. An open threshold would alert anyone arriving after them.
Corran gestured towards Darmus with two fingers and then towards the door. "Can you close the door from the terminal?" He asked through their secure headsets. If it was done, the blond ranger would begin to move to support Bast and stack up at the entryway to the stairs, keeping his back to the Corellian and blaster at the hallway that led out of the base. "Did you find anything, Darmus?" Being held in suspense if they hit jackpot or useless dirt could alter the mission or keep them on the same track.
If nothing of note needed to be handled at the terminal, Lieutenant Velt would take up the lead or the rear depending on Bast's preference if the began advancing up or down the stairwell or even taking the lift, though that seemed risky. All the while, he'd remain alert but loose, keeping his blaster rifle ready and head on a swivel for potential cameras, traps, noises, or threats.
Realizing the console was cut off form the main network, Darmus obliged Corran's request and closed the outer door with a press of a button. "I think I can-" he uploaded a program in an attempt to bypass the datapunch authorization system for the elevators and did so without much of a hassle. If this was the Eclipse' way of netsecurity then Darmus was quietly confident that, at least for him, this would be a walk in the park. "-yes, the turbolift had an extra layer of protection. We can use it now, though."
One last sweep of console's contents showed it for what it was: only active to access the turbolift. It did immediately cast some doubt on the presence of the stairs, though, for why have access to them be unrestricted if that, too, lead to the Eclipse's hideout. Maybe there'd be a doorconsole with the same datapunch authorization system, which, judging by how easy it was to crack this one shouldn't be a problem either. With a thoughtful frown, Darmus thus looked up from the console and at the two lieutenants. "Their access control is a joke, but whether we take the stairs or the turbolift is-" he hated admitting it, but since he wasn't planning to take point he would have them decide whether they wanted to risk the exposure of a turbolift ride. "-is up to you guys. No kriff that, let's try the stairs first."
If Lieutenant Emblai agreed to take the stairs, Darmus would take up the middle again and keep an eye out for surveillance tech or (explosive) traps. He didn't like them taking the stairs down, would tire the old man out a bit, but without intel taking that lift down was on par with utter stupidity. If the stairs didn't lead to the base then they simply had no choice but take the lift, ofcourse.. but Darmus hoped there was another way, still.
The console before Darmus took a while to process things, at least compared to modern simple models, but he would find his slicing work went without a single hitch. Only basic protection existed on the antiquated machine to begin with. The front door closed with a grinding of old and unlubricated parts that resounded in the relative quiet, the rodent scampering away with a complaintive squeek at the sudden noise, before finally sealing shut.
Behind the Rangers the turbolift powered on at Darmus' command, ready to be entered at their whim. Inside the lift a casual surface inspection would determine it was worn down and filthy, with only some of the control buttons even lit at all and so worn down there weren't even visible floor numbers on them. A light embedded in the ceiling flickered behind dirty glass.
The stairs weren't much cleaner or more well lit. If the Rangers chose this path instead the way down was easy and quiet. Only their breathing and footsteps surrounded them. First down one flight, turning the corner, down another. Turn, down another. Turn, down another. Turn, down another. Turn-
There on the wall before the next turn was a collection of graffiti. Nestled in the center were three lines long lines painted all in bright yellow, two curved and almost resembling a question mark, that orbited three short strokes. In the center was a single dot, hopelessly uneven like the rest of it.
Behind it were simply more stairs. Two more turns and the Ranger in front would spot a thick metal door, currently closed with a datapunch access panel next to it. He would also spot a camera on the wall nearby, staring resolutely at the space in front of the door itself. The power light was off.
One look inside the repulsorlift told Corran everything he needed to know. It was ramshackle enough to be hazardous on its own without some Sith warrior slicing the tube in half. Flickering lights, grime, and aged controls practically blared 'get murdered here.' Even if they all chose to enter the suicide slide, none of the buttons even had markings of any kind. They'd have to navigate by best guess and whim. Which button went down? What about up? End up on the wrong floor and all secrecy could be lost. Better to have a controlled descent they could react to as they went. Lieutenant Velt pointed towards the doorway to the stairs with two fingers rigidly, "On point. Proceeding down stairwell."
Down and down they went. Further descending into the guts and abyss of Nar Shaddaa. The path wasn't much cleaner or well-lit than the repulsorlift, but they at least knew where they were going. Down one floor at a time. Each corner was checked by 'slicing-the-pie' of view and a blaster barrel swept every section. Each section of stairs was just as dim and dank as the last. After awhile Corran started to wonder if it wasn't just some elaborate hologram or illusion. Until a yellow marking on the wall proved they had made progress. It even could be seen in the darkness. Lieutenant Velt would stop to examine it briefly. If it was Huttese or Basic, he'd recognize the symbol immediately and what it meant. Anything else was beyond his experience or education.
Two more turns around the downward spiral revealed a thick metal door. When the camera was spotted, Corran kept behind was cover was available to avoid its gaze instinctively. It wasn't until a second glance proved it was inactive that he motioned the other two about the encounter. "Door ahead. Datapunch access panel. Camera on nearby wall. Appears deactivated," he reported through secure commlink. Lieutenant Velt observed until the other two caught up. He was no Sith Hunter like Trys Aran or Roland Rook, but he understood broadly how Sith operated. Schemes and traps.
If the camera had cable exposed on its rear, Corran would attempt to slide along the wall and avoid its viewing arc. Once underneath it, he would attempt to cut the cameras feed, even if it was inactive. If no such manual option was available, any further technical abilities would have to fall to Bast or Darmus. Everything was pointing towards this base being abandoned, but something in Lieutenant Velt's gut felt it was anything but.
Darmus followed Corran down, taking up the middle position in their squad of three. It took a while, them moving slowly down the badly lit stairs, looking around paranoid for traps and secret camera's or heat-detectors, but while the climb down was tiring and the general alertness was already starting to drain the old ranger's focus.. he still managed not to bump into Corran once the latter stopped to gaze at something behind a corner.
Once the younger ranger was done, either cutting the camera connection or stepping aside, Darmus would motion for the both of them to stay back out of sight as he stepped up towards the datapunch access panel. He was confident he could easily slice into this one like he had before, but he didn't became lax in his protocols and carefully proceeded in plugging in his datapad, making sure he wasn't too intrusive. He would be able to read whether or not the panel had an active connection with a main hub and was sending, or if it was pretty much a standalone panel like the one for the elevator. He reckoned it was the latter, because the if it was connected he could fulfill about eighty percent of their mission objective from right here in the staircase. He doubted he was that lucky.
If Corran hadn't been able to disable the camera then Darmus took the chance of getting filmed and appearing on a screen somewhere. Everything pointed towards this access point being rarely used, if at all, and no sane person came close to a secret base in a long abandoned sector of the Smuggler's Moon's lower levels.. add the AMS virus to that and the Sith had to be extremely paranoid to be actively monitoring all camera feeds and access points. It was a gamble.. but one he felt he had to take if they ever wanted a chance to succeed.
If he got the door open he would motion for the others to take point as he stepped back.
Although Bast betrayed no sign of fear, she was relieved when the two men filed behind and in front of her to advance down the staircase. Years of training had taught the woman the importance of watching her own six, the lesson reinforced in a burning blast of plasma and shrapnel, a pain like no other. She could not make that mistake again. Literally speaking, should anything happen, she would truly be paralyzed. Enough scar tissue had formed that a third surgery would be impossible. Having her team behind her made the space feel more fortified, less like a yawning void. Still, a warm, stale stickiness hung in the air. The vague scent of decay kept the Lieutenant from letting down her guard in the uneasy quiet of the abandoned building.
The outer door closed with a quiet hiss-click. Perhaps Bast was letting her mind wander, but the sound was eerily reminiscent of the closing of pressurized coffins she had used in mass-casualty cases. Of course it was a coincidence. The fresh, clean, vacuum sealed coffins were nothing like murky depths and hazy labyrinth of the Swindler’s Moon. Briefly she wondered if there were any insects this deep in the city that would gorge on the decomposing bodies. The thought of the swelling of the small abdomens and the buzz of wings made her shudder.
It was with cautious step that the Corellian lightly descended. Every corner was immaculately and thoroughly cleared. The risk of losing touch or distraction seemed to mount with every turn. The hyper-focus could only last for so long. Alertness would lull into complacency if nothing was found. Even the architecture of the base seemed designed to disorient and mock the trio. Down fourteen flights, or so her mental record indicated, a neon marking stood out against the grime. Making sure her helmet cam got footage of the graffiti, the woman paused a moment to study it. The bright symbol vaguely resembled a flower with bantha horns. The thought almost made her chuckle. They had traveled so far and found wall art that resembled a child’s nonsense drawing.
A few moments later, the Rangers came upon a door. Letting Corran take the camera and Darmus the access pad, the waited, looking over her shoulder at random but frequent intervals so no enemy could easily approach from above or behind. Every step they took farther from the entrance was one they must make back, and they could not afford to be trapped.