The YT 2000 freighter Emerald Priestess slipped out of hyperspace and into the fringes of the Oban system. Being under the control of the Galactic Empire, it was not surprising to see the heavy military presence. Logan was however happy to see that the last report he had been given that stated there was not a single Star Destroyer in the system, or indeed any ship much larger than a Corvette appeared to still hold true.
The Empire was after all massively over stretched following their recent annexing of the New Republic so could not push as much infrastructure into each and every system as they would perhaps like. Logan was under no illusions though, there would still be plenty enough military to make short work of their little crew should their mission become compromised. The ships comms unit crackled to life and a terse male voice came through,
“Septicus, this is the Emerald Priestess, private courier out of Denhui seeking approach vectors for Oban I, our arrival should be registered.”
“Emerald Priestess, change course to heading 18.1.25 and hold course at 5 MGLT. State your business and confirm cargo.”
“Septicus, we are hauling a variety of hides, meats and ivory from our last hunting expedition on Denhui. Seeking to trade on Oban I exotics market.”
There was a pause while the Imperials checked their credentials. Logan was confident in their contact having provided solid ID’s and security clearance, but the pause made him start to wonder none the less. Finally, the comms crackled back to life.
“Emerald Priestess, hold your course and prepare for inspection. You will be boarded to visually check cargo. Alter course or provide resistance and you will be fired upon.”
Logan sighed in exasperation, this was not entirely unexpected, the Empire bread paranoia amongst its military, but it was annoying and just one more step in the current mission that risked a trip up. But, there was nothing to be done about it.
“Understood Septicus, we await inspection.”
Logan muted the comms unit and after setting the autopilot to keep them steady at current course and speed he got up and headed back into the ship.
“Argon, Connie, going to have Imperial visitors, you both presentable?”
One glimpse at the tall, raven haired Diathim answered half of that question. She was in her customary figure hugging black jumpsuit, dark green belt sinching her waist tight and soft leather boots buckled right up to her knees. She lounged on her bunk, a hot steaming drink in one hand whilst the other twirled a lock of her hair.
“Always ready for visitors Logan, you should know me”
She purred in her soft, yest still somehow commanding voice. Connie was an old Pitch Black special forces trouper who had remained vigilantly loyal throughout the troubles and continued to serve with utter devotion. He nodded his appreciation and moved on to find Argon in his room.
The mountainous Gamorrean sat ackwardly on a metal bench, a hunk of meat on the bone clasped in one hand, chewing contentedly. The damned reptile was forever eating. Usually not seen out of his heavy battle armour, he had been forced into more acceptable attire for this mission. Heavy brown leather boots, simple black trousers and a battered and worn brown hide armour vest that Logan recognised from a mission a long long time ago.
“Argon, is that the ‘SCALE’ gang vest?!”
The two of them had infiltrated a gang on a dust ball of a planet that was suspected of slave running. The so called “SCALE CREW” were large and well organised, terrorising small villages on the planet, rolling in on their speeder bikes in large numbers, then leaving only once they had captured any villager they thought they could sell on as a useful slave. Logan and Argon had found that the gangs reputation for brutality had, if anything, been understated and it had not been long before the Bone Collectors had been called in to clean things up. He was amazed to find that Argon still had his gang members vest.
With a wide grin, and a mouthful of half chewed meat he rumbled,
“Fit well this mission too.”
Logan found he could not argue that, shook his head in amusement and turned to leave, making his way back to the cockpit.
“Put your bone aside and clean up, don’t want the imps thinking we are animals. Not any more than they probably do already anyway.”
With that parting shot, he climbed back into the pilots seat in the cockpit and awaited for update as to their inspection.
He did not have long to wait, barely half an hour had passed before an Imperial Theta class shuttle heralded its approach. Another male voice came through the comms unit in the cockpit, this one not only stern, but full of brusque arrogance.
“Emerald Priestess stop your engines and prepare your docking hatch for boarding. Acknowledge compliance.”
Logan stopped his ship and powered the engines down.
“Emerald Priestess is ready for docking.”
A few moments later the ship juddered slightly as the shuttle docked a little more violently that was really required. The docking clamps kicked in and there was a brief period of quiet. Logan, Connie and Argon had made their way to the docking hatch and when the seal showed as green, Logan hit the controls to open the hatch. He stepped back to clear the way and watched as a pompous human male in crisp imperial uniform stepped in, his head held high. He was followed in by two storm troopers. The imp, a Sergeant according to his rank insignia sneered at the trio.
“The colour of your ship offends me, but I should not expect better of such as you. You will stand aside whilst my men search your ship.”
The two troopers walked past in the tight confines of the corridor and made their way towards the cargo hold. Two more troopers stepped in from the shuttle and stood behind their Sergeant, trying their best to look menacing.
In the uncomfortable silence that followed, Logan noticed that the Sergeants attention was fully on Connie. He was openly leering at her, clearly attracted to her figure in that tight fitting jump suit. He decided to “not notice” and looked away, deciding to stare instead at one of the troopers, an amicable smile on his face. He did not notice Connie wink at the obnoxious human and give him her most alluring smile. He DID hear her purr softly to the man,
“Sergeant, it is Sergeant isn’t it? Well, I am not surprised the ship’s colour offends you, to be frank it hurts my eyes too, but there is no accounting for taste with some sentients is there? I am sure that a fine man of your standing would be much more tasteful.”
To Logans amusement, this caused the Sergeant to stammer briefly, a slight colouration reaching his cheeks before he regained control of himself again.
“You will not address me half breed whore. One more word out of you and I may just take you in to have those feathered atrocities on your back removed, then perhaps we can continue this conversation in my quarters with you doing my every wish without question. How does that sound to you half breed?”
His utter contempt for any sentient that was not pure human was clear, not all that unusual in an Imp. Connie, knowing not to push too far did not speak again, but pouted and ensured she kept as alluring a pose as she could without being overly obvious.
The long silence that followed was about to become unbearable when the two troopers that had gone into the cargo hold returned.
“Sir, the cargo manifest is correct, frozen meats, pelts, various hunting trophies. Some basic hunting gear, a few weapons but nothing illegal, no black market goods or weapons on board.”
The Sergeant looked disappointed. He acknowledged the report with a curt nod and flicked his head towards the hatch, indicating that his men should exit. All four troopers left, leaving the Sergeant on his own.
“You will proceed as the system flight controller indicates to you. You will surrender your weapons on arrival at the star port for safe keeping. My men have listed them so don’t try to keep any behind, any infraction will be dealt with fully. Conduct your business here swiftly and leave.”
He took a step forward and put himself right up close to Connie. That proved to be a mistake on his part as his attempt to threaten her with his proximity failing as he had to look up to her, instead of being able to loom over her. As with most Diathim, Connie was tall and although the human was himself tall, he could not quite contend.
“If our paths cross again half breed, you will find me unforgiving of your slutty manner. Don’t think for one minute that your reptile guards will be able to stop me doing whatever I like.”
He turned and walked out of the docking hatch without further words. Logan hit the controls to close the hatch as soon as he was gone and turned to look at Connie.
“looks like you have an admirer, sure that was a smart idea?”
In reply she kissed Logan on the forehead and purred in his ear.
“He was just a young pup looking to impress his troops, I just gave him a chance to throw his bluster and stamp his manly authority, without risking him ruffling your feathers. Don’t go getting jealous now my love.”
The forever flirting Diathim brushed past him as she made her way to the cargo hold.
“I will go secure our hunting gear and weapons store ready for our arrival to the star port, let me know when we are descending handsome.”
Argon looked at the departing Connie and then looked at Logan.
“She always play, she crazy. Like her.”
Argon had not known Connie long, but his seal of approval meant a lot to Logan, being his most trusted bodyguard.
“Yes my friend, she is a real piece of work. But don’t let her looks deceive you, that bitch is deadly.”
There was admiration in his words though, not malice. Clearly Logan also liked her, trusted her. He did find it a great pity that she was not more…. Well…. Reptilian…..
The Emerald Priestess endured yet another search by the planetary security forces before finally landing on the surface of Oban I, in a starport that was as typically imperial as anything Logan had ever seen. Grandiose, militaristic, uninspiring.
As soon as their hatch opened and the ramp lowered to the ground, yet another officious Imperial officer boarded without a word of greeting.
“You have weapons on board that are to be deposited with me. Hand them over to my men and make it quick, I have better things to do than stand around here.”
Connie appeared at the other end of the corridor with an anti grav sled in tow stacked with crates. She smiled coyly at the Imp officer.
“Hey handsome, got them all here ready for you. We packed them all up ready for you as instructed.”
Her tone was flirty, but demure and it appeared to strike the right tone with this officer. He smiled broadly at her, clearly not quite as fussy as other imperials about her not being quite human.
“Ah, I see we have somebody of quality to deal with. Hand that over to my men, they will of course have to check the contents and provide a receipt.”
“But of course….”
She brushed a hand seductively up his arm to his insignia and put a questioning look on her face.
“Forgive my ignorance sir, I don’t recognise your rank insignia.”
“Lieutenant First Class.”
The man visibly puffed his chest out with pride, it almost, but not quite stood out further than his ample stomach.
“Of course Lieutenant First Class, we will await the receipt, the key kcards to the crates are just here.”
She placed six key cards into the officers hand and curled his fingers around them, then stepped back and walked up the ramp, letting her hips sway as she went.
Logan and Argon watched the performance from the top of the ramp, trying to keep their faces impassive. But as Connie drew near, Logan could not resist a dig.
“Hey Connie, you keep swaying your hips that much you get seasick”
“Oh, but you like it don’t you Logan? You know I would sway them for you too if you only asked.”
“Sure, right before you knocked some of my teeth out.”
She smiled at him and sidled up next to him, threading her arm into his.
“You know me so well sweetlips, its why I just cant stay away from you.”
The troopers searched the crates, checked the contents against the list they held and once satisfied, handed Logan a receipt for the contents. They then went inside and carried out another search, triple checking that no other weapons or contraband were on board and had been missed by the previous two searches.
Logan got a sense that the Imps had become a tad paranoid in their security, perhaps feeling less dominant without the usual military might that would be present, had they not over extended quite so much in recent times.
The third and hopefully last inspection done, the Imps left, leaving the trio to get organised for their planned meeting with their man on the ground.
“Lets get kitted up then kids.”
Logan walked back into the ship, entered the cargo bay and started loading sleds with cargo containers.
“Connie, why don’t you see if you cant go find us a vehicle of some sort to hire?”
“Sure thing sweetlips, be back soon, don’t get into any trouble whilst I’m gone!”
Argon lumbered in and gave Logan a hand with the task at hand, shaking his head in amusement at her constant flirting.
Nearly an hour later and a heavy transport barge came lumbering towards the Emerald Priestess. Logan and Argon had finished off loading the cargo and sat atop a pile of crates enjoying a drink. The barge came to a halt and gently lowered itself to the ground. The door opened and Connie unfolded out of it.
“Hey boys, waiting for me?”
“Interesting choice of vehicle?”
Logan was looking it over, seemed well used to say the least and not the vehicle he was expecting her to come up with.
“Limited selection loverboy, it was this or a Bantha skiff and I didn’t think you pair would appreciate having to wear exposure suits all the time. Least with this tub you can sit inside in comfort, well, at least in more comfort than a skiff. Besides, she is solid, powerplant is good, checked her out myself.”
“OK then, lets get her loaded up and get to that market. Ralph should be there just after midday.”
Connie piloted the barge across the arid landscape, heading out of the city and into the rocky terrain that surrounded it. The atmosphere on this hellish rock was highly toxic and you could quite literally see it. A thick haze hung in the air, a menacing sort of red at dawn and dusk, but a sickly yellow during the day, it gave the place the look of malice. Why sentients chose to make a life for themselves in such places, where there were so many better, non toxic planets in the Galaxy Logan would never understand.
Less than an hour out from the city the outline of buildings could be made out on the horizon and soon after, the shimmering of an atmospheric shield could be made out. Connie sent the barge through the shield and found a spot to settle it down in what would soon be a very busy market square, or so they were told.
At the moment it looked like a menacing empty square of land, surrounded by buildings in various stages of disrepair. Many other vehicles had already arrived, their occupants busily unloading their goods to put on display.
Playing their parts, Logan and Argon did the same, leaving Connie to wonder around the market square on the pretext of browsing the increasing number of stalls, but using it as an excuse to have a scout around. She saw a patrol of Storm Troopers keeping an eye on the place, but otherwise, nothing overly concerning.
She returned to their barge, just in time to see the final couple of crates be brought out and placed on display next to the barge. She took on the role of the trader, whilst Logan and Argon stood back and played the part of hired thugs protecting the merchandise.
The hours went past, Connie actually making several large sales which was an unexpected bonus. The stock was a cover but making some credits on the side was never unwelcomed, and it meant they had much less to haul around. By midday almost half their stock had been sold and Connie had just seen off their most recent customer. She turned and spotted a human heading their way, a smile creased her pretty lips. She pitched her voice to carry to Logan and Argon, but not carry further out,
“Boys, I think our man Ralph is heading our way. You didn’t tell me he was so pretty!!, I think I will like dealing with him.”
Logan stood up from his slouch against the side of the barge and spotted the approaching figure.
“Yup, that’s him, and Connie…. Go easy on him… please?”
“Sure sweetlips, I wont break him, promise.”
Ralph Repcon was a long standing member of AMC but one that Logan had not really had opportunity to work with before. He usually spent his time off surface, preferring the deck of a ship to the feel of soil underfoot but being a human, he was a strong candidate for this particular job.
He had made his way to this planet about a month previous, integrating himself with the planets underworld, making connections, and basically laying the groundwork for what was to come. It was critical that the job was done by a human as the planet, like a lot of Imperial planets, was extremely prejudice to non humanoid races, being brainwashed into believing Humans are the master species.
With Ralph was another human, one not known to the trio and they assumed was part of the underground that Ralph had infiltrated. He was fairly large as far as humans go, his face heavily scarred, head shaved clean but wearing a short beard around his jaw line.
As the two approached, Ralph looked to have his attention focused on Logan so, not wanting to throw their cover roles aside, Connie made her move before Ralph could commit to his course of action.
“Hey sweetcheeks, what can a poor old trader like me do for such a handsome young man?”
There was a brief second of confusion on Ralphs face but he composed himself remarkably quickly, showing his professionalism.
“I would like to discuss trading of some… exotic meats. Perhaps we might have some that would interest you as an export. But perhaps we could use your barge….”
Ralph was interrupted by the scarred man next to him who was keeping a very keen eye on who was around. Clearly a man that was constantly aware of his surroundings.
“No, not in there. One of your men can come with us now, we will discuss our offer and he can return to you with or without a deal.”
Connie smiled at the scarred man but her face portrayed her disdain for this course of action.
“Well, aren’t you the rugged type? Think we could come to an arrangement of our own at some point and find some enjoyment, but for the business at hand… no, my underlings do not conduct my business for me and you don’t get to take one of us anywhere on their own. I am pretty, not stupid.”
The scarred man leered at her and looked her up and down, clearly liking what he saw.
“You may just be lucky enough to strike a deal with me wench, but I’m not sure how much enjoyment YOU might get. As for the business at hand… fine, I will be back when the market closes and we can all go someplace nice and private. Who knows, you and me may even get ourselves a drinks and some privacy of our own afterwards.”
He made a sly wink at her which on his scarred face looked more likea grimace, tapped Ralph on the shoulder and motioned to him that their business was concluded and they were leaving. As he turned to leave, Ralph dropped a tiny datacard on a pile of furs, making sure it was spotted by Connie but out of sight of the scarred man, who was already marching away.
Conscious of a trooper patrol approaching, Connie quickly pocketed the little card and turned her attention to the commander of the patrol.
“Hey there soldier, anything a humble trader such as me can offer the honoured Imperial forces?”
“Is that an attempted bribe trader?”
“Oh no sir, I would barter a good price for our product, I have to make a living after all and have all the relevant permits.”
“I’m sure you do…. Go back to minding your business.”
The patrol continued on, only casting a cursory glance at her wares.
Although the heat still lay thick in the air, nightfall was creeping in and Logan and Argon packed away what little stock they had left.
“Had I known people will actuall pay good credits for this stuff…. I would have done a lot better in my youth I think! We done Argon?”
“Yes. Ready, need protection then go?”
“Yes, lets get in and sort ourselves out before our visitor returns.”
The trio headed inside and Logan headed to one of the freezer crates. He tapped the unlock code into it and then added a second code to the panel. The crate unlocked and then hissed as the inside lifted up, revealing a well concealed fake bottom to the crate. Inside were three holdalls whichc Logan retrieved, handing one each to Argon and Connie before picking up his own. He pushed the crate closed again, ensuring that the fake bottom was locked up again, then turned to his holdall.
From inside he took out two knives that he strapped to his bare forearms in secure sheaths. Two DL-44’s in holsters that fitted snuggly into the small of his back. Finally he unfolded a full length hooded robe that had been designed to keep the wearer cool. It had the additional benefit of covering his arms and back, making his weapons invisible to the casual observer.
Connie had also put a pair of DL-44’s on her back, but opted for one, long, thin blade strapped tichtly down her spine, between her wings with the pommel sitting just above the pistol holsters. Her robe was similar to Logans with tadjustments made to allow her wings to be clear of it.
Argon used his size to his advantage, a shotgun holstered on his back, giving them some real punch if they needed it and several ammunition pouches around his body. He also carried power packs for the DL-44’s and a pair of hand-axes concealed on thigh holsters. He threw his own robe on and the three checked each other to ensure that their weapons were indeed well concealed.
Happy with their attirrer, they made their way out, hoods down and grabbed a breathing mask each to sling around their necks, the precaution required because if the settlements atmospheric shield failed, the toxic air of the atmosphere would make short work of killing them if breathed in. The robes they wore also provided a minimal protection against the atmosphere if required, but not one they could rely on for any length of time.
Back outside Connie and Argon busied themselves securing the barge while Logan pulled out a datapad and took a look at the datacard Ralph had provided. It rovided clear evidence of the suspected slave trading going on, the bribes to local Government officials, details of buyers from the last three years. He smiled, that alone would keep elements of the FHA busy for quite some time hunting them down. It also contained one very critical bit of information, the registry and current location of a ship that had already been cleared to leave the planet with no questions asked by the Imps, the bribes paving its way out. Clearly the ship that would be used to pull out the slaves on this occasion.
“Connie, soon as we are done tonight with the meeting, go find this ship, see how the lay of the land looks.”
He tossed her the datapad, she looked at it, noted some details down on a datapad of her own strapped to her forearm and tossed it back to Logan.
“Looks like our friends are back, time to get this show on the road boys.”
Logan tossed the datapad into the barge, closed and locked the hatch. Connie swayed over to the approaching scarface and Ralph, Logan and Argon tailing her like good bodyguards should. It was noted that scarface had also changes some of his own attire, making the concealment of weapons possible on his person. Honour amongst thieves and all, clearly this would be a meeting with lots of trust involved…. Or perhaps not!
They followed scarface out of the market, Ralph taking up a position at their rear, and into one of many small streets that seemed to fan out at right angles from all sides of the market area. Ten minutes later a turn to the left took them into a narrow alley. Logan noted that their group had picked up a tail, shadows skulking a distance ahead and behind them, but his highly sensitive vision was able to pick them out. A few twists and turns later, in a region of the settlement that appeared to be full of run down tenaments and shacks and scarface stopped at a door that led into what appeared to be a run down warehouse. Before opening it he turned to Connie.
“Might be you find this place not to your tastes, might be that you not being full human makes you stand out some. Tell your hirelings to mind their mouths and all will be well while you are with me. Try to cross me and not likely you see daylight again get my meaning?”
Connie smiled and turned to Logan and Argon,
“you heard him boys, best behaviour now, don’t let the nasty humans upset you.”
Scarface registered the slight but said nothing, pushing in through the door and into what turned out to be a tavern. Logan had seen shadier places in his travels, but not by much. The clientele was mostly human, and those who were not, were at least humanoid. He and Argon were clearly the only non-humanoids in the building and their entry caused a stir. But as scarface had stated, soon as it was noted that they were with him, people went back to their own business and little was said, not to their faces anyway.
Logan liked this, it meant scarface was indeed somebody of consequence in this business, not just a hirerd underling used to make trade deals.
They made their way to a table right in the far corner, badly illuminated and with only one approach vector, something Logan appreciated as a tactical choice. Once seated scarface came straight to the point.
“my man here,” gesturing at Ralph, “claims you have Hutt credits backing your visit and are not likely to be wasting my time. Now is the time to prove it.”
He pulled out a datapad and placed it on the table.
Connie pulled out a datacard from a pocket and inserted it, then tapped out a code, allowing the credit balance of the encrypted account to be seen. She pushed the pad over to scarface.
“There you go honey, think that should satisfy any concerns over my ability to pay for the goods. Now… think it is perhaps your turn to prove you are good for what we have been told you can provide?”
Her tone was sweet, her husky voice being played to its full potential. Scarface noded and tapped his own code into the pad, releasing images of the ‘merchandise’. The two conversed for almost an hour, Connie playing her part with utter conviction and making sure there was no doubt about her standing and ability in the trading of flesh. She came across as a truly ruthless slave trader that had cut her teeth in the business many, many years ago. This of course was true, but not in a way that scarface would ever have guessed. She was one of Logans ultra loyal elite for one reason, because she had been a slave herself, one of many that Logan and the Bone Collectors had freed over the years of their operations.
Logan paid little attention to the conversation, confident in Connies ability to do whatever was needed to get them to the next stage of this trade quickly, but without raising any suspicions. His attention was in the surroundings. He had already spotted eight humans that were clearly armed to the teeth and who had a very keen interest in what was going on at this table. So, either rivals, or guards, the latter more likely Logan suspected. That they had been able to walk in, get the best situated table in the place for illicit trading to be done discreetely and securely, and to be able to occupy it without ordering any drinks and not have so much as an eyebrow raised meant that it was most likely a place owned by scarface, or at least the group he represented.
Logan could see Argon doing the same scans as he was, but in the direction that Logans field of vision could not see. He indicated that he had spotted 4 targets, which made quite a large total. This was a crew that liked to be cautious. They had known that they could not possibly get all of them though, not under the watchful eye of the Empire, but they would certainly get as many of them as possible.
His attention snapped back to Connie who was standing up, a smile on her face as she gazed down upon Scarface.
“Come on then loverboy, lets stop wasting time, deal is done, lets get the merchandise sortd and we can be done with the business side of things.”
Scarface lifted his hand to grab Connies backside but her hand grabbed his wrist, in a grip that he perhaps found surprisingly strong,
“I have a rule that I do not break sweetlips, business always before pleasure. You want that, I suggest we get finished up and we can both have a bit of fun eh?”
Her eyes glinted mischieviously and it seemed to be about all scarface could do to keep his composure. Connie had clearly done a number on him whilst at the table, making sure the human was as eager as possible to push the deal through swiftly himself, so as not to place suspicion on Connie for wanting such a trade done in haste. How she could flirt so seductively and so convincingly with a scumbag such as scarface was beyond Logan…. But, it was something she most definitely excelled at.
“They are not far from here, a warehouse right on the outskirts of the settlement. I will go ahead and make preparations, my associate here will guide you to its location. The west side of the building has a large loading bay, covered and very discreet. Set your barge down there and we will bring out the merchandise to you.”
Connie snatched up the datapad from the table and removed her card.
“Think I might just keep hold of this until I see it for myself sugarplum, don’t want any misunderstandings when we arrive. After all, I am only a helpless lady with just two brutes to help me, would not want you overpowering me with an army of thugs running out from the warehouse, having had your pay and deciding to…. Alter the deal?”
She smiled and winked at him, still managing to sound alluring despite the tone of her voice and the subtle accusation and clear lack of trust shown in him. But he seemed to take this in his stride, perhaps expecting her to be so distrustful.
The trio left, following Ralph back to the market square and their barge. They did not engage in conversation as all were more than aware of the five shadows they had picked up since leaving the tavern. They got to the barge and a short while later took off, leaving their shadows behind.
Connie kept the barge in a slow, steady flight to avoid raising any concern from authorities and Ralph directed her towards what turned out to be a warehouse of substantial size.
“Was once a factory behind that warehouse that built TIE fighters on contract for the Imps, got closed down when the owner was caught skimming off the top and selling surplus fighters on the black market.”
Logan stuck his head into the cockpit,
“Ralph, whats the score with old scarface not providing the transport to the ship taking the slaves out? Smells like some sort of trap?”
“No, it isa sort of trust tactic he has. If you are willing to risk transporting slaves across the planet to a starport and unloading them, risking getting caught, you are serious about doing business. It also enables him to split the two sides of the business, so that the pilots don’t know who the actual slavers are, only ever dealing with an middleman and the buyers. Adds a level of protection for him.”
“So scarface is thet big boss of this lot then?”
“Yup. Name is Lito Condrian. Real scumbag, has most of the Imp governors in his pocket as they like having play things delivered to them on a regular basis. The entire system is so corrupt it is disgusting.”
“Well, we will take one nasty little cog out of that corruption tonight, cant take on the Empire, but every little helps huh?”
“In truth Logan, if we take him out, and the majority of his men, we will almost enihilate the slave trade in this system. In time somebody else will surely take up the mantle, but it could take years to establish the connections needed, build the trust etc. We could strike a real blow.”
“Ralph, you have no idea how good that is to hear, it is like music to my earholes. You ready for what is to come?”
“Sure, this lot of b*st*rds have sickened me over the past three months, they deserve all they get tonight.”
“You tooled up or need something?”
In answer Ralph pulled his sleeves up, revealing a pair of wrist casters and a bandolier of small, thin throwing knives in his belt.
“All good, we gonna try and keep it quiet for as long as we can, blaster fire will only draw attention. Wait for the signal from Connie before you start ok?”
“Ok boys, we are just about in, get ready and stop flapping your chins.”
Whilst they were talking, Connie had backed the barge into the loading bay and was gently settling it down. Logan and Argon made their way to the rear and lowered the loading ramp. Scarface was standing there waiting, with four heavies behind him. Logan recognised them from the tavern. He noded to scarface and shouted out.
“you want bring them in, or we come get them?”
“YOU, wont be doing anything belly crawler, your mistress can come out talk to me and we will get things sorted, you keep your filthy mouth shut and let your betters do the talking.”
Ralph pushed past Logan to exit, feigning disgust at the contact, and Connie followed behind, her honeyed voice breaking the tension. “Now now boys, no need to get all exited. Lead on sweet Lito, lets get business done huh? The night is yet young.”
She winked at him and swayed her way down the ramp, reaching out and putting an arm around his and encouraging him into the warehouse.
“Lead on handsome.”
Scarface and Connie went into the warehouse, followed by Ralph and two of the heavies, then Logan and Argon, with the last two heavies bringing up the rear. Inside five more heavies stood around, keeping a group of 18 female humanoids corralled together in the middle of the poorly lit building.
“You wanna check them out or shall we just load them? Can see they are all alive and no marks that will last on them. That enough?”
“Sure thing sweetling, lets get them on the barge and settled down, we can finish this up then. You mind sending some of your boys with mine to get them all tied in? Means I wont have to keep an eye on the simpletons to make sure they do it properly.”
Scarface smiled at her insult towards Logan and Argon, taking this as another confirmation that she was a woman of his kind true enough, even if she was not full blooded human.
“Han, Silus, Merv and Squint, go with the lizards and secure the merchandise in the barge. Make sure its done properly, don’t want it damaged on transit.”
He smirked happily as four of his largest men went and collected the slave girls, leading them by their slave collars into a line and heading to the loading bay.
“Shall we head into my office for some more privacy while we complete the financials?”
Scarface was now openly leering at her as he guided her up some steps towards a room with darkened windows that overlooked the warehouse floor. She would be able to see out from there, but nobody would be able to see in, it was perfect. She went along eagerly, letting the slaver put his grubby hand on her backside as he led her through the door.
Logan and Argon followed the four thugs, and the line of slaves into the barge. Making sure he was the last one inside, Logan hit the close command on the ramp
The noise of the ramp lifting alerted one of the slavers who turned around to face Logan,
“Hey, what the f….”
He neve finished his sentence as Logan had slipped out one of his knives and pushed the blade up under the mans chin right up to the hilt, the blow coming with such force it cracked the top of his skul as the tip of the blade popped out. It was all done with a minimum fuss and little noise.
The nearest slaver might have heard something, over the noise of the wimpering slaves, but Argon had used the blade of one of his axes to slit his throat at about the same time as Logan had stabbed his target.
The other two slavers were up ahead, in front of the slaves and in a cabin, busy getting the first slave girls tied into the bench seats. Argon and Logan lowered the bodies to the ground quietly and moved ahead, managing to get past the slave girls without much fuss and entering the small cabin room. Argon threw an axe at the one slaver who looked up to see what was going on, hitting him with a sickening crunch right between the eyes. His second axe was not as accurate, hitting the remaining slaver in the shoulder as he turned and ducked, scrabbling for a blaster in a hip holster.
Logan launched himself forward, knicking two slavegirls to the ground in the process and punched the man hard on the side of his head. His hammer like fist shattered the slavers cheekbone and sent him to his knees, but Logan did not give him a chance to recover or react in any way as he followed the punch with his second knife, straight through the mans eye socket.
He let the convulsing slaver fall to the ground, knife still deep in his eye socket and turned to the slave girls. Argon already had his huge hand around one girls mouth and Logan realised another one was about to scream. Instead of grabbing at her he stepped back and put his fingers to his lips.
“SSSSSHHHHH…. Calm now… we are not here to harm you, but if you scream, things gonna get a lot uglier when the rest of those slavers come in weapons blasting ok?”
The girl swallowed her scream and nodded, her eyes wide like saucers.
“Good, ok, now, you get the rest of the firls and close yourselves in this room, stay quiet and you will be fine. Me and Argon here… Argon think you can let go of that little lady now… me and Argon will take the bodies out and leave you to it… and here, this key card should open up your collars ok? But please, stay in here or I have no idea what may happen. We are here to help, you will see.”
Argon retrieved his two axes, handed Logan back his knife and picked up both bodies. The pair walked to the back of the barge, dumped the bodies on thet deck next to the first two slavers to die. Logan yanked his knife free from the mans skull where it had got bone jammed, glad that the girls had not been there to witness because the sickening noise it made as it tore free almost turned his stomach, who knew what reaction they might have had.
All four bodies got piled into a corner and covered with a large fine mesh net used to secure cargo in the hold. Happy that the bodies were hidden, and checking that neither of them had visible blood splatters on them, they lowered the ramp again and readied for action.
They had managed the whole thing so quickly and quietly that nobody had paid any attention to the barge yet, nobody had even come out into the loading bay yet. That was good. They made their way to the door of the warehouse and waited on either side of it, waiting to hear from Connie.
Up in the office, Connie let scarface have a good old grope of her backside, his fingers straying in places that made her go very, very cold… but she gave no outward sign, instead appearing to encourage him by pushing her hips towards his exploring hand. There was one heavy in the room with them, he had been in there already and was standing by the windows looking out at the warehouse, appearing to keep an eye on things.
“Hey loverboy, don’t you want the credits first?”
“Yeah, guess so…”
She used the hand furthest away from him to reach under her cloak, the other snaking onto scarface’s rump to pretend at a grope of her own, but using it as an opportunity to turn him and put him with his back between her and the heavy. As he turned to face her, following the guidance of her hand, she lent down and planted her open lips over his mouth. At the same time her other hand plunged the thin, long blade up through his sternum and straight into his heart.
He tried to let out a gasp, but she had his head pinned firmely against her and her lps locked tight over his mouth. The kill was done so silently and deftly that the other man in the room had no idea what had just happened. To his eyes, his boss was having his way with a client, probably nothing new there.
The heavy was pretending not to look at the encounter, but Connie could see him using the reflection in the windows to see what was going on. Soon as she saw his eyes flick back to watching the warehouse floor she made her move. In one motion she pulled the blade out of scarface, let the body drop to the floor and stepped over it with one long stride of her long legs. She had reached the heavy before he registered the move and her blade scraped across his throat, slitting it wide open.
His body hit the floor with a thump, but no other sound left that room. Connie locked the door to the warehouse, stopping any other curious slavers bursting in and went to one of the windows on the other side of the room. Her luck was in, the big window opened and she clambered out and spread her wings. One powerful thrust and she was up and above the warehouse, making her way to the loading bay. She spotted Logan and Argon calmly standing by the door and flew right up to them.
“Hey boys. Scarface and one extra heavy are history, how many you get?”
“Four, means we got at least five in there.”
“I think we can get away with some limited blaster fire, as long as it does not turn into a shoot out. The abandoned factory is huge, almost surrounds the warehouse so cant be many residentials around.”
“Good work Connie. Can you get back in the way you came out?” “Sure” “Do so, come out of the office and try to get some attention heading your way, we will come in this side when we hear your voice, Ralph will know the score once he sees the play.” “Got it Logan, lets finish this off, only so much more my stomach can take of playing the alluring sex toy to these scumbags.”
“You done better than I ever dreamed Connie, we are at the end game, stay strong.” She nodded and swooped away, heading back to the open window and into the office.
“That girl mad. Good mad, not want make nagry with me! Me no want ever upset her!”
“Right there with you Argon, she is a terror, but only for her enemies, she is an angel in every way to her friends.”
On her way back to the office window Connie had decided to take a slight detour on a whim. She had found the front door to the warehouse and spotted two guards slouching on either side of it. That was a stroke of luck, they could have thrown a bit of a surprise had she not found them. Not wasting any time, she dropped like a stone, folding her wings until the very last moment. Her boots connected with the first guards head with a crunch. At the same time she had unfurled her wings and pumped hard once, lifting her back up only to drop down in front of the second guard who was only just beginning to realise something was going on. Her knife darted out and made one quick slice against his throat and he dropped to the ground with his hands trying to hold in the flowing blood, gurgling red froth as he tried to speak.
The man she had kicked was out cold, but she was not letting him off that easily, she pushed her blade through each eye socket and jiggled it around a bit to scramble his brains up nicely. It was more a message she was leaving for whoever found him than a necessity.
She wiped her blade and wasted no more time getting herself back into the office. A quick look out of the tinted windows showed that all was still calm in the warehouse, Ralph doing his bit in keeping the slavers preoccupied. He had pulled three of them into a game of cards around an up turned crate, the fourth sitting on the bottom step of the staircase leading down from the office, and the last one just starting to make his way to the door of the loading bay. It would appear she was just in time.
She silently thanked Ralph for making this that bit easier and unlocked the office door, making noise as she stepped out, In as belittling a tone as she could muster she loudly snarled,
“After all the build up and the promises, that all you could manage? I’ve had better times with Wookies.”
She slammed the door shut behind her, feigning disgust as she made her way down the stairs.
“Bet one of you could show me what a real man can do eh boys? Big muscular samples like you…”
She dripped sex as she approached the heavy who was now standing at the bottom step and had a dirty smile on his face.
“Oh yeah baby, you come here and I’ll show you how…”
He never finished that sentence as he found a kkife hilt sticking out of his chest. He looked down stupidly at it, not really appearing to know how that had appeared there. He turned his stupid look up at Connie, who blew him a kiss,
“Die die my darling”
As soon as Logan and Argon heard her shouting as she came out of the office, they had come in through the door. The heavy that had been heading towards them was distracted by Connies antics and Logan punched his one knife into the mans gut and sliced it across hard, the other into his neck, not taking any chances. He pulled them out and carried on walking, letting the body drop to the floor. Argon, despite his size could move when he needed to. He had stormed ahead, spotting the three heavies gathered around Ralph and had his first axe in the air before any of them had registered what was going on.
Ralph looked up when he heard Connie coming out of the office, he waited to see what she did and saw her stab the slaver at the bottom of the stairs. He had noted Logan and Argons entry too and as soon as his fellow players became distracted he pulled out a throwing dagger in each hand and with amazing dexterity flung them simultaneously at the slavers sitting either side of him, hitting the first in the throat. The second throw was unlucky, the blade hit collarbone and deflected, doing no real damage, but making the slaver jump up in surprise that quickly turned into rage. Just then Argons Axe hit the third slager in the side of his head with a loud crack, the force of the blow knocking him over.
Ralph had a third knife in the air before the startled slaver at his side could bring his weapon up, it hit him in the chest but did not go in deep enough to kill, just injure. The slaver grunted but carried on, bringing his blaster up to aim at Ralph. The nimble Ralph jumped up from his seated position and lashed out with his foot, not aiming to kick the rising blaster, but to hit the partly embedded knife in his opponents chest. His boot connected, driving the little blade right in to the hilt and knocking the slaver back onto his arse.
The slaver looked at Ralph, sneered, made as if to get up and attack, but instead slumped forward. The tip of the blade had hit the mans heart, he had been dead, just took his brain a second to catch up and let him know.
Not wanting to risk any surprises Logan headed towards the left side of the warehouse where an open door led out onto downward spiralling steps.
“Don’t think you will find anyone down there Logan, not unless they got any more slaves in since this morning. But there are two more heavies outside the front door…”
Connie interrupted Ralph,
“Already got them two.”
“Ok, should be clear then, but I guess a sweep would not hurt, just in case?”
“Ralph my boy, one thing you will learn if you work with me regularly, is that its NEVER not worth checking for more enemies! Good work man, both tonight and for the last three months, this was a well run op, you a bit of a natural at this huh?!”
“Not entirely sure I want to make a habit of it, past three months have been pumping my adrenaline around so much, think its taken years off my life!”
“HAH!!!, go see Doc about that, sure Gene will hook you up with something nice to bring you back down. Connie, why don’t you go work your magic on those girls, they are most likely close to outright panic, and we could do without them running wild on us. Me and the boys will run a sweep.”
Having not found anyone else in the building as Ralph had suspected, the three met back up in the warehouse loading bay. Argon, ever the one for attention to detail had retrieved all their weapons from the various bodies they were embedded in and handed them back to their owners. The giant had also made easy work of dragging the two bodies from the front door inside and dumping them in the warehouse, locking and barring the door behind him.
The four dead bodies were dragged from the back of the barge and also dumped into the warehouse.
Connie in the mean time had been with the slave girls, making sure they were all ok, even helping one remove her collar that had not released with the key card, apparently having malfunctioned. She had soothed and calmed them and now stood at the door to the barges cargo hold. When Logan spotted her he motioned her over.
“Think those girls are calmed enough to take you away from them for a short bit?”
“Sure sweetlips, so long as you don’t go in there, covered in blood as you are.. not sure they are ready for the sight of you just yet.”
“No worries, you will be quick anyway. Can you go in, lock and barricade the door to the loading bay, and come back out from that office as you did before? Want to buy us as much time as possible, and the longer it takes anyone to go in there, the better.”
“Easy job, be back in a minute.”
The barge slowly pulled out of the loading bay 45 minutes after its arrival, pushed through the settlements atmospheric shield and made its way to the planned rendezvous with the ship that was to take the slaves out of the system. Connie was in the pilots seat, Ralph next to her providing directions to their destination. Logan leaned into the cockpit and looked out of the cockpit window.
“So Ralph, whats the score, where we headed and what we expect to see there? Havent had time to read your full info file on that datacard yet.”
“Going to a small landing pad out in the dessert. Owned by the local Governor who has a hunting lodge there. Wont be any of his goons there, never is when these jobs go down – plausible deniability and all that. There will be a Zeta Class shuttle there, the pilot and a few heavies just to keep an eye on things. Never seen more than four, by this stage in the process, they are there for decoration really, and to make sure the slaves don’t try anything at the last minute.”
“So its out in middle of nowhere and we don’t have to worry about noise?”
“Erm, well no, but hold it a bit. The pilot has to do the job, he still has to get us past the planetary and system security and he holds the passcodes in his head, wont be shared, the final safety net so to speak.”
“Ok, he likely to check in with his goons once he has taken off?”
“Once, he will send a comm back to a man on the ground to let them know he has passed out of system and due to enter hyper. That will be last contact until his scheduled delivery location is reached.”
Logan did some quick thinking.
“Crap. Means we got to get those girls back in their collars and string them along until they pass through the security nets. Increases the risk a bit… not sure those girls will be happy to be putting collars back on either.”
“Its ok sir, I will get them to do it, if that is what you need us to do.”
Slightly startled, Logan turned around to find a young Zeltron girl, could not be much older than 15, perhaps 16 years standard. She had clearly been listening in and although she looked terrified, she also had a look of determination on her little face. Logan smiled as the look took him back to a time when he had seen a very similar look on the face of a young Diathim girl…. He crouched down, so as not to loom over the poor creature and as gently as he could he asked,
“Are you sure girl? This is very important, if you cant do it, don’t be ashamed to say so. We are not done yet and certainly not out of danger yet. But if you cant get the rest of those girls to willingly agree….”
“I heard you talking sir, heard it all. I know you are good, The others will be ok, I can be very persuasive if I need to be. How long do I have?”
“About an hour girl, and we need to put on the best performance of our live yes?”
She nodded with a slight smile on her face.
“This will be far easier to act than the things those men wanted us to act…..”
A storm cloud flitted past Logans eyes as he gathered in the rage that brought up in him, but he got hold of himself and put a single clawed digit as gently as he could on the girls cheek,
“All that is over for you now girl, we get past this and I promise you a better life.”
Again she nodded and to his surprise did not flinch away from his rough touch.
“Connie told us what you did for her, I’m gonna try be just like her, you’ll see.”
“Lets get us all out of here first eh? Hell, call it your first mission if you want!”
To his utter astonishment, and amusement, the little girl threw him an almost crisp salute before turning around and heading back to the cabin full of ex slave girls. He felt a presence behind him and turned his head to find Connie standing over him.
“That one will be trouble Logan…”
He burst out with a laugh,
“HAH! I seem to remember Tersen saying the exact same thing about you a few years ago..”
Connie smiled, but not one of her playfull smiles, but an honest, straightforward smile with no alterior motive attached to it.
“You leave her wit hme then boss, you hear me?”
Logan stood up and faced Connie, patting her affectionately on the shoulder,
“Sure thing Connie, sure thing.”
“You got us on auto or is Ralph doing the driving?”
“Ralph has it for now….. Hey, Logan…. Why… well, do you … erm, aren’t you ever lonely?”
To his amazement Connie actually blushed as she broached a subject she clearly found difficult.
“Lonely? In what way girly?”
“I mean… you never… you know… never let anyone in close…”
Logan looked at her quizzickaly,
“Huh? Hell, I got family with me right here Connie, you, Argon, not to mention the crew from the Bone Collectors days, the others like you we freed…”
“No, not what I mean… you got us as family yes, always will, but you never have anyone … Speial, you know….”
And just like that it dawned on Logan,
“Ah girly… that sort of thing is not for the likes of me. Things get too dark, I got my family and that is what I need, nothing more. Leave it be, and don’t worry about old Logan… he gets all the love he needs from family.”
He caressed her face and smiled at her, marvelling at how this fearsome warrior had just turned into a worried daughter in the blink of an eye and then remembered again the younger Diathim and her pledge to him all those years ago. And he remembered what she had been through before they had rescued her. And realised just how close to the bone this mission must have cut her, bringing back memories she probably did not want remembered. And he gave her a fatherly embrace, letting her have her moment of emotional instability. A well deserved moment.
And it was not long before she drew in a deep breath and composed herself, she drew away from him and with a voice that she had managed to stop from quivering she said,
“That’s enough you old perv, you men are all the same, just cant keep your hads off a pretty lady.”
Her mask was back on, she was back on mission and the moment was over. But Logan cherished it. It would warm him in times to come, he could add it to his cache of memories that kept the dark at bay.
Just under an hour later, the barge approached the small landing pad, the Zeta class shuttle sitting squarely at its centre. Connie placed the barge as close as she could and let it gently bump down on its skids. Logan and Connie had changed outfits, not wanting the blood splatters all over their current clothing to raise questions. Argon and Ralph had somehow avoided getting any on them, a pretty amazing feat, considering how much of it had been spilt earlier that night.
“OK boys and girls, the tub has landed, time to get things done.”
Argon stepped out of the barge first, cast his eyes around to take stock of the surroundings and put his hand out to “help” Connie out, happily playing the game of obedient and brainless hired muscle to the beautifull angel. Connie of course, back in full character placed her hand delicately on his and stepped out gracefully, her whole body posture back to its seductive best. Logan tried not to think just how the hell she was so good at that… it brough dark thoughts up. He followed her out and took in their surroundings just as Argon had.
Looked like just three guards and the pilot. Good, fewer the better at this stage. Connie spotted the pilot and made a beeline for him.
“Ah, now, I know a pilot when I see one, and you sweetling look like a fine, and very handsome if I may say so, pilot. Will you be taking my little gems out of this horrid place for me?”
It was a miracle the young human did not feint there and then. He went completely goggle eyed and his mouth hung open while he tried to put together some form of reply together.
“err. Um, yes miss, lady, erm… will you be the one coming with me?”
“But of course sweetling, cant let my cargo be left on its own, and I would not trust one of those two louts play babysitter… and of course I understand your man R.. oh, oops, no names sorry, forgot myself, well, that one there anyway will be coming with us.”
Ralph had just made his own exit from the barge and joined Connie and the pilot.
“The girls are ready to load up soon as you are pilot, sooner we are gone the better, don’t like hanging around.”
“Yes, yes, erm… well, our flight is cleared to leave in…. erm… 25 minutes.”
Connie turned to Logan and Argon.
“Boys, you heard the man, we have no time, get my little gems loaded up and lets be done with it. The heat on this planet is no good at all for my constitution.”
Argon ducked back into the barge and came out leading a string of slave girls, slave collars attached to each other in a chain. They proceeded in single file and Logan followed behind.
As they walked past one of the hired goons, the so called protection for the pilot, one of them reached out and groped one of the girls. His hand had barely had time to squeeze and Logan had his hand on the mans shoulder. There was a barely noticeable spark and the man dropped like a sack of rocks to the ground.
Logan looked up from the prone figure and with the best ‘I’m just a thick guard doing what I was told” voice he said,
“put his hand on the merch miss…”
Connie’s face clouded in rage.
“you stupid idiot, they are only merchandise, putting his hand on them is not reason to kill him, they will need to get used to being handled anyway. I knew I should have hired better…”
“Miss, not killed him, just pinched a nerve, he be ok later.”
Connie pretended to calm.
“Well, ok, fine, perhaps he deserved that much.”
She looked over at the remaining two guards, batted her lashes at them sweetly,
“I’m sure you two gents will understand, just a brute being a bit too heavy handed… but he will be ok, and besides, I’m sure a few extra credits your way will make you forget the indiscretion of my buffoon guard?”
The two guards looked at each other and smiled,
“Sure lady, credits make us forget lots.”
Meanwhile, wanting to get the girls out of harms way, Argon had quickened the pace a bit and got the firls to the shuttle, the first one already stepping inside as the matter with the guards got settled by Connie, handing out credits and smiles in quantity.
The idiots had not even checked to see if their fallen comrade was ok. If they had, the lack of a pulse may have caused some issue… but perhaps the amount of credits handed over would have bypassed that too. For the first time since the incident on Polus, Logan had used his force skill with lightning, in a controlled way, to stop the mans heart. The tiny zap had been enough to shock it into stillness.
With everyone loaded up, Connie came over and spoke to Logan, within earshot of the two remaining guards.
“Now listen and try to get this right, I am going with them. When we are past the security the pilot will let these fine men know in a message through their comms unit. They will let you know all is well and you can then take this tub of junk back to its owner and get my ship. You know where to meet us. But you DON’T LEAVE HERE, until they get the message, you understand?”
Again, playing the dumbass Logan nodded.
“Yes Miss, not until they get message.”
She rolled her eyes in contempt, then winked at the two guards and climbed into the Zeta, closing the hatch behind her.
That left Logan and Argon with the two guards, all watching as the Zeta took off and climbed into the toxic sky, quickly vanishing from view in the swirling gasses of the atmosphere.
Argon decided to try out Ralphs trick and so dragged out a crate from the barge, dumped it on the ground and sat down, producing a set of dice. He looked at Logan,
Catching on, Logan smiled.
“yeah, kill time, sure.”
The two human guards, freshly loaded with credits could not resist the opportunity to perhaps rinse a pair of buffoons out of more credits so pulled up to join in.
Of course, playing their roles to the best of their ability, neither Logan or Argon appeared to have muc in the way of luck, loosing credit after credit to the tow humans who grew steadily happier and happier.
The first check in came, and was acknowledged, so the Zeta was past planetary security. The four continued to play on and then the second call came in. The man answered it and shut down his comm.
“Right, were done, you two idiots get out of h….”
Argon had actually pulled out his shotgun and shot him point blank range in the chest, punching a gory hole through the man. The second guard jumped up screaming in rage but did not get far, Logan had pulled out both his DL-44’s and blasted him with both.
Not wasting any time the two got into the barge and made their way back to the starport and their YT as fast as the lumbering barge could take them.