The Sidori Gambit

Session 5: Interrogation And Factionalism

Our heroes are interrogated about Erawlon's destruction and discover that the Empire is not as united as it appears.

by The_Flax

The Silent Destiny and Vainglory dock at Velcor station, orbiting Velcor’s Cross, without any incident and more surprising, no questions about the battle damage. As the crew of both ships disembark, they finally understand why, as they are met with a squad of stormtroopers and an Imperial lieutenant in crisp uniform.

Kaylani suddenly feels very glad she actually remembered to leave the knife and hold-out blaster in her cabin.

Zeva asks Kay, quietly, “Is this normal?”

“No,” Kay whispers back.

In an officious tone, the Lieutenant speaks up. “Crew of the Silent Destiny and Vainglory, you are wanted for questioning. Please follow me peacefully. Any resistance will be met with deadly force.”

“Fantastic,” Caster says under his breath.

Kes sighs. “What for?”

Zeva waits for the captains to call the shots and does her best to act like she belongs here, while Kay barely resists the urge to ask a smart-ass question.

“That is not under my purview,” the Lieutenant answers Kes and then motions the stormtroopers to take the weapons of every crewmember.

Kes pulls out her blaster and hands it over simply.

Kay raises arms and turns around slowly. “Nothing to declare sir.”

Zeva follows suit. “Me neither.”

“Is that really necessary Lieutenant?” Caster asks.

“Come on. The faster we do this, the faster it’s over,” Kes tells him.

Caster continues his plea: “We mean you no harm, two of us aren’t armed, and you have a lot of guns pointed at us. We’ll gladly calmly explain the situation and answer your questions.”

The Lieutenant simply glares back at Caster while the stormtroopers take the weapons.

“Now, if you’ll follow me?” the Lieutenant asks them.

Kes follows, expression blank.

Kay glances at Zeva and attempts to smile encouragingly and follows Kes.

“Gladly, sir,” Caster adds.

The lieutenant leads the crew of both ships to an Imperial facility on the station, where each and every one of them is separated into small, sparse rooms, containing only a metallic table and two chairs.

-————————-

Zeva is joined in her room by a Viashin with spots of blue on her forehead. She is dressed in a uniform unknown to Zeva.

Zeva nods and tries to swallow her anxiety.

“Greetings Miss, I am with Velcor’s Cross Planetary Security and I’d like to ask you a few questions.” She pulls out a datapad.

“Of course. I’ll help in any way I can.”

“Very well, Niss, could you please describe as you best recall what happened on Erawlon?”

“All right. Let me see. Everything was a bit of a blur. as I was very sick at the time… nearly blind, you see. But I hired the crew of the Silent Destiny to take me to Velcor’s Cross for treatment, and to look for work. Not much opportunity on Erawlon. I’m a seamstress. Anyhow, I was waiting for them at the starport when the pirates attacked… they came and got me, and I heard something about pirates occupying the control tower. They said they’d be right back… and when they returned, there were others with them – the crew of Vainglory. They reported that the control tower had been liberated, and they asked the crew to deliver a message once they’d cleared the planet. The pirates attacked both ships – and I know ours took a beating – but we managed to transmit the message and escape to hyperspace. That’s what I remember, anyway.” When finished talking, Zeva folded her hands in her lap.

“So you did not know the crew members of both ships, or that the captain of the Vainglory is in fact a fugitive from the Empire?”

Zeva looks shocked. “No, I didn’t. My cousin used to fly with the Silent Destiny crew. But she never said anything about that to me. Are you certain?”

“Quite, not that it’s of any concern to my people. Do you have any idea why Captain Hayes of the Star Destroyer Victory wanted all of you apprehended for questioning?” the female Viashin asks.

Zeva looks surprised, genuinely this time. “No. I know that the pirates were preparing to bombard the planet with asteroids, when we made the jump to hyperspace…”

“Interesting. Thank you for your statement, Miss. And I hope you have a pleasant stay on Velcor’s Cross.”

Zeva is even more surprised. “I hope I was able to help you.”

The Viashin officer rises, datapad in hand and leaves the room.

-————————-

A thin wisp of man with a severe expression enters the room containing Kes and locks the sliding door behind him. His Imperial uniform marks him as a major in the Imperial Army. He sits down in front of her, opening a datapad to take notes and as he looks up to Kes, he shows visible disdain.

“Full name, age, birth world and occupation,” he asks curtly.

“Kes Varn, 33, Iridonia, freelance cargo transport and passenger shuttling.” Kes crosses her legs and leans back.

He thumbs in the data. “What was your involvement with the alleged incident on Erawlon?”

She gives him an ‘are you stupid?’ look. “We ran. Pirates were attacking so we ran.”

The Major thumbs his datapad. “That is not what this report says. Attached to this there is a report from a stormtrooper sergeant stating that you took part in the fighting at the spaceport. Using, from what I can read, illegal weaponry, which I’m sure we’ll find on your ship. Now, tell me what happened, because I am seriously doubting the statement that your crew took back the control tower from the pirates.”

Kes grins. “Okay, we did that, and after that we ran and tried to get a message out for help, under orders from that sergeant. What, you think we can’t point and shoot? They were a bunch of stupid pirates. Disorganized. Couple of us have training, we managed.”

“I am more inclined to believe you were in league with the pirates. You are an alien after all, like them, and you scum tend to stick together.”

“Gee, thanks for the vote of confidence. And my crew? Human. My ship? Hasn’t been in the area for long. I was picking up a part because my ship was busted,” Kes states.

“Yes, that’s why you say now, but I don’t see why else Captain Hayes would have any interest in you otherwise, so I intend to charge you accordingly,” the Major gruffly replies.

Kes raises an eyebrow and spreads her hands. “So that report from your Sergeant counts for nothing? Glad you value your people’s words so highly. I can tell you right now tha- Wait. What? Why would Captain… Hayes, you said? Why would she have an interest in us…?”

“That’s what I want to know; don’t play games with me.”

Kes stares at him incredulously, shaking her head. “I have no idea why she – is it a she? – would want me. I’ve never heard of her. I don’t pay attention to galactic politics unless it involves my work directly.”

“Yes, well, save it for a tribunal, I’m done here.” The major rises abruptly and leaves with his datapad.

“Wh-! HEY! I didn’t do anything! I SAVED PEOPLE.” Kes flops back and huffs indignantly.

-————————-

As Caster is led into one of the rooms, he notices a stiff man in his thirties is already seated with a considerable amount of articles in front of him. He is in plainclothes, clashing visibly with the pervasive uniformed personnel.

“Ah, hello, sir.” Caster greets him.

“Caster Novastar, I am Seth Larbec, representing Imperial Intelligence here, in eh… unofficial capacity. Now first off, you can help yourself by telling me what happened on Erawlon.”

“Well, it would appear, sir, that a band of what I assumed to be pirates decided to make everyone’s day by bombarding it with asteroids. It was a well planned attack; they first assaulted the spaceports… actually, I’m not positive on that. They assaulted the spaceport the Vainglory was currently parked at. We aided the local militia in liberating the tower from the pirates, then took off to beam a communications package to a satellite. Just in time too, from what I saw from my ship, sir.”

Then Caster adds. “Hate to bother you on an off-day sir. Let’s try to wrap this up as quickly as we can, so we can both go back to doing something else.”

Seth Larbec quirks an eyebrow. “I think you misunderstood me Mister Novastar. I am here because I took a special interest in you when your file passed through the system. It’s a rather interesting read.”

Fear creeps into Caster’s voice. “Is it, sir? I didn’t even know I had a file.”

“Yes, it seems you’re from Corellia, a long way from home, and that you didn’t leave in the best of circumstances.”

Caster keeps his cool. “The Empire keeps good tabs on its people indeed. Yes, that’s true. I could argue the ruling, and the circumstances, but the actual events are true.”

“How would you like for all of this to simply go away?” the Imperial agent asks him.

Caster suppresses a smirk. “That would be useful indeed. What do you need?”

COMPNOR is making my life miserable, I’m too visible, you see, and it’s hard to gather intel like that. I need people on the field, giving me what I need. It works like this: you say yes and your file disappears from the system. You report to me anything and everything you hear out there, and don’t try skimping. I have many, many sources. Also, it would be ill-advised to turn on me, because you see, your file could very well reappear in the system, with many more additional charges.”

“And if I say no?” Casters tentatively asks. “There is going to come a point in my life when I’m not going to want to be your field agent anymore. I do want to go back, and rebuild what I… lost. I don’t plan on staying here forever.”

“Saying no to me is very unwise, Mister Novastar, I usually get what I want. For instance, I could just shoot you right here and now with my sidearm, and I would walk out of this facility in less than an hour. As for your services, they’ll be required up until I deem them no longer necessary. Then, you might find it profitable to know me if you plan to rebuild your life.”

Caster leans back. “You could shoot me, but what of my fellow shipmates? They won’t be too happy to have their captain killed. And then, you also lose out on getting a new agent and we both really have wasted time. How about this: I agree to your terms right here, right now, but with one very small stipulation – I don’t need to report on my companions – the captain and crew of both the Vainglory and the Silent Destiny. No hassle of an Imperial litigation, no fuss.”

“Very well. I doubt anything you’d have to say about them would interest me anyway. I’ve read their files; trust me, they are incredibly dull,” Seth Larbec reassures Caster.

“I’m sure they are, but you never know with some people. Deal. How shall I contact you? Or will you find me?”

“I’ll keep in contact with you; don’t worry, my reach is deep.” Larbec rises and picks up his things. “I believe this concludes our business; in a short time, you and your fellows will be freed from this place.”

“Thank you. Always glad to do business.”

-————————-

A woman in her forties, yet visibly fit and with a cold edge, enters the room in which Kaylani was placed and locks the sliding door behind her. Casually, she drops a small device on the table before sitting down. Her uniform marks her as a captain in the Imperial Army.

Kaylani tries not to fidget and looks at the device. “Howdy Captain. How’s business?” Kay asks.

“Kaylani Seren, I’m Captain Ori Reyes, and it seems you’ve landed in small bit of trouble. Care to elaborate on that?” Ori Reyes asks her.

“Besides the avoiding of the asteroids? Any word reach here ’bout Erawlon before us?”

“What happened exactly there? What we know is sketchy at best. Captain Hayes’ report was rather vague, except in its mention of apprehending the crew of the Silent Destiny and the Vainglory.”

“What?! Apprehending? Us?” Kaylani asks in a shocked voice. “We was trying to run past the pirates to give word. Asteroids rather wrecked that plan though. The sergeant on the scene asked us for assistance-like. Can’t rightly remember his name though.” She then mutters. “Captain’s memory appears to be contagious.”

“Relax dear, it’s only for questioning. So I take it that you sent the message which brought Captain Hayes to Erawlon?” the Army captain asks.

“We was trying to, yes. Unexpectedly saw a fleet approaching with asteroids in tow, and had to cut and run pretty quick.”

“So you didn’t even see Captain Hayes arrive then? Interesting.” Ori Reyes seems to ponder a bit. “Well, you probably don’t know her, but she’s taking a keen interest in you and your people. Of course, my superior, Major Brandt, doesn’t quite see it the same way. He wants to charge you lot for aiding what he calls “the Raid on Erawlon” and conspiracy against the Empire. Didn’t help your case that your sister ship’s captain is a known fugitive from the Empire. We both know though that what happened on Erawlon was more than a raid, right?"

“Well, goodness gracious Captain, I don’t even know where to start with all that. We met the Vainglory on Erawlon, no sister-ship there. Crazy pirate attack seemed quite more than a raid, but by the time we knew that the stormtroopers was asking for assistance. As there wasn’t any other way off planet… " Kaylani shrugs. “We were just trying to avoid the tolls. Save some credits. Gotta get what you can when you run short cargo runs and such-like.”

“Yes, quite,” Reyes replies sardonicaly. “What I’m getting at is that things are about to change around here, and I represent a certain group of people who would like to take advantage of that. We’d appreciate your help.”

“You… wha? You want our help? We’re advantageous-like? When did that happen?”

“No, just yours. If you accept, I’ll clear this whole thing up with the major. You see, Captain Hayes is coming to Velcor’s Cross, to meet you and your compatriots. She was a member of our group once upon a time, but has declined further participation and we dislike that. You’ll get close to her at least once. It will be enough.”

“I’m not sure we’re likely to be able to do any of the many things I think you might be implying there. We were just lucky with the pirates, after all,” Kay modestly replies. “Not that I want to be turning down your fine offer, but we’re just spacers and all, after all.”

“All you need to do is shake her hand; no one will be the wiser. Surely you won’t imply that this requires a special skill?”

“More that I”m worried we don’t know what’ll happen after the handshake, but be blamed for it anyway. Obviously, however, I certainly can’t turn away such a fine captain as yourself, if she needs my help." Kaylani smiles at Reyes.

“You need not worry about that; we aren’t in the habit in compromising our people. Besides, if you are caught, it brings scrutiny on me and I’d prefer to avoid that, just like you’d prefer being out of here.”

“Well, as we seem to both understand the situation rather well, I guess my answer won’t be much of a surprise, now then will it? What, exactly, would you need me and my captain and our ship to be doing?”

“Just you dear.” Ori Reyes pulls out a very small casket which she opens to reveal a thumb-shaped bit of synthetic skin. “Just put this on, be careful with it, and shake her hand. It will take some time before it takes effect.”

“So, I must be careful not to shake anyone else’s hand before, I’m gathering? Does it have more than one dose of whatever-it-is-I-don’t-want-to-know-about, or do I not have to worry about after the handshake?”

“Only one dose, but any contact by skin activates the agent,” the army Captain emphasizes.

“Even mine? Cause I’d rather not be dosing myself, of course.”

“The agent is only on the outer part of the synthskin. The part that sticks to your thumb is made of another material; suffice to say, once it’s on and provided you don’t touch yourself with your thumb, you are quite safe.”

“Oh the joys.” Kaylani sighs and sticks her hand out. “Oh lovely lady, I am at your mercy.”

“Then I take it we have an arrangement?”

“How could I refuse such a friendly offer as yours?”

“Very well, then take this box.” Reyes closes the small box and pushes it near Kay. “And just a small piece of advice, it wouldn’t be wise to cross me. You don’t know how deep of a reach my friends have.” With that she begins to rise.

“One last question, my lady Captain. Just in case things go horribly wrong, as things are of course prone to do, my captain and her ship have a clean slate, yes?”

“That depends on how horribly wrong it goes, but your captain has nothing to fear from us, especially since I’ll also be bailing her and all of the others out of this place.”

Kaylani flashes her brightest smile. “Why, thank you kindly, milady Captain. It’s nice to know I’ve got such lovely backup.”

“Now, if that is all, I’ll go arrange your release.” Captain Ori Reyes leaves.

Kaylani slides the box into her pocket and sighs miserably.

-————————-

Outside each room, a voice suddenly rises; the words are muffled but it seems indignant. With each reply, the voice seems to grow stronger. Kes recognizes it clearly as her interrogator. As swiftly as it came, the voice disappears. There are a few moments of calm before troopers escort each member of the crew of both ships out of the respective rooms. When they are all together, they are told they are free to roam for the time being, but cannot leave until they have met with Captain Hayes when she arrives.

Kaylani totally fails to smile. “Well, we were planning on the shopping trip, yes?”

“Oh, hi!” Caster exclaims. “How was your interrogation?”

Kes stares at the others. “Whee.”

“Finally! What now?” Kai asks.

“I suppose that could have been worse,” Zeva adds.

“Well, it depends. What did they want from each of you?” Caster asks.

“Hello there, business-man. Captain. Zeva. Such fun time with the Imps, yes?” Kaylani inquires, almost rhetorically.

“I just told them what happened.” Zeva looks around, as if the Imperials were still listening.

“Ah, same old same old. Pirates on Erawlon? Asteroids? Promise you’ll go shopping in our fine districts and give us all your money? Okay, free to go,” Kay recounts.

“We should get out of here, anyway,” Zeva says.

Kes purses her lips and gives Kay a significant look before nodding. “I feel a little… exposed without my weapons.”

“That seems like a fine and dandy idea, my favorite new seamstress. We should get you a little something for self defense, now that you’re traveling the space lanes with us ruffians, yes?” Kay says to Zeva before nodding in agreement with her Captain.

“All right,” Zeva continues in a low voice. “Hopefully we can find someone around here who’ll change out my Republic credits…”

“Shh. Should have enough for both of us. No worries for now, right?” Kaylani smiles sadly.

Caster gives Zeva a shush look.

Kes rubs the back of her neck awkwardly. “What did they say to you all? Any… problems?”

“No worries,” Zeva says, as if trying the words on for size.

“No problems at all. She called the lot of you fugitives from the Empire.” Zeva corrects.

“Remember how we mentioned the Wookiees and the Duros? I think I miss their level of problems, Captain,” Kay says to Kes in Zabrak.

“What happened to you?” Caster asks Kes.

“Nothing for the worrying, Captain. Can we please get going now?” Kay asks.

“Anyone not in Imp service is generally in danger of being a fugitive,” Kay adds for Zeva’s benefit. “And you know that, Captain.”

Kes stares at Zeva. “What? What the f…” She growls low in her throat. “Have any of you heard of a… Captain Ha…Hayes?”

“I have,” Zeva replies to Kes. “She wasn’t a Captain then, of course.”

“And I heard tell that Captain Hayes was the one who landed at Erawlon after we did the running,” Kay adds.

“She made quite a name for herself in the Clone Wars…” Zeva continues.

Kes nods slowly to Zeva. “Alright, alright, later.”

“We all are fugitives now, with you around,” Caster mutters to Zeva.

“Shh, you lousy businessman. You really want to fuss here?” Kay tries to quiet Caster.

“Then I’m in the right company,” Zeva shoots back.

Kes smirks at Caster.

Kay smiles at Zeva. “Ah, a lady after my own heart. That was lovely. Can I buy you dinner?”

“You are. I am a fugitive in the flesh, and they figured it out. Things did not go over well in that little room,” Caster begins seriously. “But, more about that later.”

“Well, your face is still intact, unfortunately, so it’s well enough,” Kes quips.

Kay glares all around. “Finally! Deal later! Shopping, food, now?”

“Sure,” Zeva answers.

Kay turns and stalks away.

Kai perks up at the sound of getting moving. “Lead the way!”

“Has anyone been on this planet before?” Zeva asks.

“Nnnnnope,” Kes answers.

“Aw, spaceports are all the same. Ask the guy on the corner, find the market, get some food and some alcohol, pass out happy,” Kaylani says with an expert air, practically snarling.

Kes gives Kay a stern look. “No drinking. We’re in deep trouble as it is.”

“What trouble?” Caster asks innocently.

Kay laughs rather hysterically. “Of course, my Captain. My apologies.”

Kes, Kaylani, Caster, Zeva and Kai all head out to a nearby food joint, serving meals from a multitude of cultures.

Kes gives a small, bitter smile as they sit. “I’ve got a nice tribunal. The impression I got is that this Captain Hayes person knows who I am, or thinks I was associated with the pirate attack. Aside from, you know, attempting to save them.”

Kay snorts. “Imps just like scaring the little peoples; you know that, Captain. Doubt we’re big enough fish they’ll follow through on that.”

Caster blinks. “I don’t think they will.”

Kes shrugs. “We’ll see, I guess. Either way, we’re stuck here. Until they bleed us dry of money.”

“What bleeding? Did they up the docking fees?” Kay asks.

“I don’t think they’ll do that either,” Caster reassures them.

“Is there something you’d like to say to your fellow Captain, Casper?” Kes asks.

“Caster,” Zeva corrects her.

“Yes there is, if you’re willing to be rational about it.”

“Caster. Sorry.” Kes looks mildly apologetic. “Go on.”

Kay snickers and mutters under her breath. “Captain finally got a name right. I forgot the nice Sergeant man, and Captain got a name right. The universe is ending.”

Kes nudges Kay, grinning faintly.

“I struck a deal with Imperial Intelligence here. before you try to kill me, it’s not about any of us. They wanted me to do intel gathering for them on third parties. Considering that we just saw a planet get whipped by pirates and asteroids, I thought it was a swell idea.” Caster explains.

Kay sighs. “Are you sure for sure I can’t order some beer, my Captain?”

“So what’re we in for?” Kai asks.

Kaylani glances up at Caster, finally paying attention. “Who offered you this intel on what? I mean, who wanted you to do what?” she corrects herself.

“Seth Larbec. Came in off duty for it, so it was under the table,” Caster answers Kay.

“Of course it was. Which means we might get in more trouble for doing it, after the fact.” Kaylani shakes her head.

“Look, it’s a job. And gets us immunity for the time being, and a way off this station. No questions asked about Zeva, no tribunal, nothing,” Caster argues.

“Were you in a position to say no, Caster?” Zeva asks him.

Kes picks at her food silently, listening.

“If I wanted a few blaster rounds in my chest,” Caster answers her dryly.

“Of course he wasn’t, I was just pointing out the likely unhappies on the way,” Kay comments.

“A way off? Or just under their thumb somewhere else?” Kai asks.

“It’s a big thumb,” Zeva points out.

“From what they gathered on me, I’m always under their thumb. I dunno about the rest of you.” Caster finishes.

Kay addresses Zeva in Zabrak. “Not that I’ll likely be around. I got a similar, if worse, offer than the businessman. Think they bugged the ships?”

“I’m sorry, what are you saying?” Zeva looks puzzled.

Kay smiles. “Not something I really want to talk about out in the open. Sorry, bad habit.”

“I only ever learned Basic,” Zeva adds for good measure.

In Zabrak, Kes responds, still looking at her food: “What did they tell you?”

“The lovely captain who talked to me doesn’t like Captain Hayes much. And apparently thinks I”ll be in a position to do something about that for her." Kay explains in Zabrak before smiling around the table amd continuing in galactic Basic.“And we really shouldn’t be talking about this so much, even out here.”

“Agreed.” Zeva tucks into whatever food’s placed in front of her. Hibernation munchies.

Kaylani is picking at food, and REALLY wants a beer.

“Are any of these odd jobs likely to pay for the repairs we need?” Zeva strikes up a conversation again.

“Not really. He didn’t bite when I asked for pay – that’s when the blaster came out,” Caster replies rather morosely.

Zeva nearly does a spit-take.

“Of course you asked for pay.” Kes comments wryly.

“I didn’t even bother asking. We need money, too. Joy of joys, today is not so much fun,” Kay adds. “Perfectly reasonable to want to be a contractor rather than a peon.” She raises an eyebrow at Caster. “Impressed you had the nerve though, to be honest.” Kaylani then looks down at her half-eaten meal. “Anyone still hungry, or shall we go?”

“It depends on what you mean by nerve, really,” Caster replies.

“We’ll need some business on the side anyway, right?” Kai asks.

Zeva gets Kay’s attention before moving to finish what’s left on Kay’s plate.

Kaylani turns to Kai while pushing her plate to Zeva. “Why, yes, that would be our problem. Got some leads, my fellow pilot?”

Kes also pushes her plate over to Zeva, smiling faintly. “You’re so thin. Eat more.”

“Yes, I’ve been wondering how you find these jobs,” Zeva comments between two mouthfuls.

“Usually you know someone who knows someone who needs something,” Kay explains.

Caster finishes up his food, clearly not enjoying it but dealing with it. “It’s all about who you know out here…”

“Or, you get hired all official like by a local business. Not so common on the Imperial stations, that,” Kay finishes for him.

“Oh. I’m not going to be much help with that part, then,” Zeva finishes.

“The jobs I get straightforwardly seem to keep me busy enough.” Kai nods at Caster.

“They also don’t pay as well, and come with annoying paperwork and constraints,” Caster laments.

“If we can find something that pays okay and doesn’t get in the way of Imperials, that’ll work,” Kes adds. “If it’s not asking for too much.”

“I think the job hunt can wait til tomorrow. Home?” Kay gestures vaguely back towards the ships.

Zeva collects whatever hasn’t been eaten and works it down on the walk back.

Kai, Caster, Kaylani, Kes and Zeva all head back to one of their ships in order to get some more privacy.

“Don’t mind the mess,” Kes warns the others as they board her ship.

“You take absolutely no pride in this ship, do you?” Caster asks as he looks around.

“I’ll start on that. Soon,” Zeva replies, apologetic.

Kay slams dishes, and starts making monster cookies. “Shut up. We like our ship. Keeps everyone else away.”

Kes chortles and has everyone sit where she can fit them in the kitchenette-like area. “It’s a good ship. Really rude sometimes, but a good one.”

“If you like it, you’d at least make an attempt to keep it somewhat livable. Whatever, to each his own,” Caster comments.

“I said,” Zeva says evenly, “that I’ll start on it.”

“I can live in this. Not my problem you’ve got a mop up your rear.” Kes retorts to Caster.

Kai scowls.

Kay laughs at her captain’s comment. “Nice to hear you’re back on form, Captain.”

“Did anyone get asked about me?” Zeva asks them more seriously.

Kes quirks a brow at Kai, then shakes her head at Zeva. “Nope. Completely innocuous, you are.”

“Nope. And they don’t know anything either. I was told your file was boring as all get-out,” Caster adds.

“Strangely, not a thing. My captain wasn’t worried about much of anything to do with us,” Kay reassures everyone.

“Although the fact that you HAVE a file makes me suspicious. Someone is either lying, methinks,” Caster notes. “Or they know and we’re all screwed anyway.”

“Oh, they’re all lying. Tricks and plots and secret clubs all over the place in politics,” Kay adds.

Kes nods wearily. “Imps. Yay.”

“True enough,” Caster concurs.

Zeva suppresses a shudder. “All right, so what did happen?”

Kay glances up from cookies. “Someone else go first, I’m still too mad.” She then eats some raw cookie dough while she works.

“Oddly enough, I didn’t get asked about anything other than recent events,” Kai simply says. “Nobody got asked about me, I hope?”

“That’s because you’re an honest, hardworking good fellow unlike the rest of us,” Caster tells his pilot.

Kes snatches some dough from Kay. “Nope. No one asked about you. You’re unimpressive.” She smiles faintly at Kai, clearly joking.

“Nope. Mentioned businessman was wanted, Captain Hayes was interested in us, and I should shake the nice captain’s hand,” Kay explains.

“You… saw the captain?” Kes asks, seemingly puzzled.

“No. I saw a different captain, Imperial Army,” Kaylani precises.

“Oh,” Kes replies, understanding.

“Who seems a bit peeved at Captain Hayes, and wants me to dose her with something on some synth-skin," Kay continues.

Kes continues to munch on her piece of cookie dough thoughtfully. “I was accused of being a pirate. Me being alien scum and all.”

“This Empire is certainly racist, so far,” Zeva comments matter-of-factly.

“The joys of the Empire. Not an Imp means you’re a pirate, or a tool, or a patsy. Or all of them.” Kay nearly launches in a tirade.

Caster snorts. “So we have Hayes, who wants you dead, we have someone else who wants Hayes dead, we have an intel guy who wants shady info on things. What have you got, Zeva?”

Zeva shrugs. “I’ve got nothing. I told my story, and the Viashin got up and left. It was… easy.” The Jedi almost expects not to be believed…

“I thank the stars for small wonders,” Kes replies.

“I’m not sure, from what the Army captain said… Reyes, her name was, that Hayes really wants anything to do with us. She knows we helped on Erawlon. It’s possible your interrogator, Kes, was up to something else entirely.” Kay ponders before pausing and looking at Zeva. “You know, that odd, that. They’re interested in me and the captain, who haven’t done anything, but have been clearly visibly shuttling around the past three years… and ignore the mysterious one. How did we attract attention, Captain?”

“Because they didn’t have any dirt on you, I guess. I got a blaster pulled on me because they have my charges on file. I assume that Kes here has some interesting info in her past because she got a tribunal. The Empire is smart, they don’t muscle for no reason,” Caster explains. “I’m not asking for details. I’m just saying.”

“I’ve never done anything more than not ask for all the paperwork for a passenger or a cargo! Well, I mean, I always knew who to ask if you needed more, but I’m generally pretty dull and all,” Kay complains.

“Considering we just invented Zeva Milaska a few hours ago…” Zeva begins.

Kaylani laughs. “Ah, the Milaska clan’ll be happy to adopt you. No worries.”

“I always wanted a family.” Zeva comments, somewhat wistfully.

“Milaska…Right. They didn’t ask me for your name, thankfully.” Kes shakes her head.

“Well, there are lots of Milaskas. They always like more, though. And you’ve got us now too, unless you think you’d be better off away from the crew who attracted Impy attention.” Kay shrugs.

“No, I’d be dead if not for you. I’m not going anywhere,” Zeva tells Kay before awkwardly adding a hand gesture to indicate “all-of-you”.

“I haven’t really done nothing. I stayed away from the war.” Kes snorts. “Maybe that’s their problem. An alien with no agenda against them.”

“So they’ve invented one for you,” Zeva suggests.

“Well, then, I guess I’m the villain of the bunch.” Caster counts off on his fingers as he recounts his tale. “I dealt in illegal goods. And annoyed the wrong people. Got my business shut down, with some pretty false charges, so I left. I was on the run when I ran into you.”

Kes sighs and glares at him. “Figures it’d be you.”

“That’s not that extreme, either though. Someone’s desperate, and we’re just handy, I’m thinking,” Kay posits.

“I saw it the same way – I get the feeling we’re about to be employed as vigilantes.” Caster scratches his head. “I think I may have dragged you into it too by wanting the ability to ignore you when I ‘report’ on things.”

Kes stares blankly at Caster. “You are just a magnet for this, aren’t you? Oy.”

“I don’t try!” Caster says defensively. “And you were facing a tribunal anyway, I didn’t hurt things.”

“Ah, I think an assassination plot beats some vigilante spying or a tribunal,” Kay tells them. “At least, I assume the dose will kill her. Suppose it could be something else.”

“We could report that, if we wanted. It’d look good to whoever I have to lick the boots of when this starts,” Caster suggests.

Kes grumbles. “The last thing I want to do is get drawn into Imperial politics. Especially rank bull. And you know it’s about rank with a female captain.”

“Racist and sexist. Oh, dear.” Zeva shakes her head.

“Oh, the Impies are lovely. I’m surprised there is a Captain Hayes lady, to be honest. Wonder how she did it… " Kay asks no one in particular.

“Yeah. The future turned out not to be a nice shining beacon of hope,” Caster says glumly. “Money. Anyone will do anything for money.”

“If she managed to get by without sleeping with anyone, I’ll be shocked,” Kes comments.

“How did they expect you to meet Captain Hayes, anyway?” Zeva asks Kay.

“Reyes said that Captain Hayes wanted to meet us, actually. I think about Erawlon,” Kaylani answers the young Jedi.

Kes was admittedly curious about this Captain Hayes. “When? Did Reyes say?”

“I just wish I knew more about this Hayes. If she’s powerful enough to protect us. If she’s the lesser of two evils.” Kay pauses and looks back up at Kes. “No idea when. Soon, I’m sure. She’s probably on her way from cleaning up Erawlon.”

“I suppose they don’t want us going anywhere.” Zeva shrugs.

“In truth, I want to meet her, too,” Kes tells them.

“It seems like our best course of action,” Zeva agrees.

“Suppose it beats picking sides,” Kai acquiesces.

“We’ll just get forced to a side. And we’ll have to make the best of it,” Kes predicts.

“I hate being the last one to leave a party. Anyway, we wait for now. Do some odd jobs. and maybe a spot of cleaning,” Caster suggests.

“I like third options where Imperials are concerned. They two they give you are never any good,” Kai adds.

“Which is why we should learn as much about the sides as we can, while we’re still free to,” Zeva comments on what the Duros pilot just said.

“Any suggestions on how to do that though?” Kay looks hopefully at Zeva and Kai.

“All right. That I can agree with. And who knows, we may dig something up that gives us some bargaining power,” Kai says with hope.

“That would be fantastic. Bargaining with ‘But you don’t want any trouble, do you?’ does not take you very far,” Caster tells them. Zeva laughs a little, which brings a sigh from Kay.

“Ah, all I got was a reminder that I would prefer to leave that little room, yes?” Kay replies.

“Cookies are up. Any takers?” Kay takes a pile on a tray to sit at the table with everyone else.

Kes snatches a cookie and shoves it in her mouth.

Zeva takes a handful of cookies as if she hasn’t eaten all day.

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The_Flax

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