Queen of Air and Darkness
h2. THE QUEEN OF AIR AND DARKNESS
The search for the truth continues. Darga the Hutt, fleeing his palace on
Cato Neimoidia, has traveled to the planet Bespin to seek refuge.
Bespin, home to the famous resort and mining outpost known as Cloud City,
remains free of Imperial rule for the time being, and the city teems
with criminals and gamblers.
Meanwhile, intrepid heroes working with the Alderaanian Resistance travel to Bespin
to find the Hutt and learn more about his dealings with the Galactic Empire . . .
The Banshee arrives at its lonely rendevous point at a dead moon orbiting the gas giant Antar, in the binary Pindaar System. It glides into The Resurgence’s hangar bay.
“The Empire’s tendency to create enemies is our gain,” says Admiral Varth. Captain Verana agrees and summons stewards to take Jedi Master Denia to the infirmary. Technicians begin refueling and restocking The Banshee, and Sirona stays to oversee their efforts.
In the sterile briefing room, you share with Admiral Varth and Captain Verana the following information:
Darga the Hutt trades his tibanna gas for the empire’s “biological” resources and sundry assets and contracted services.
“A week to double his entire output in time for a monthly shipment? Hard to do for a mining franchise, but not for a smuggling op. If Darga plans to make that shipment, he’s going to have his goons double their tibanna skim. They are going to push hard on the mining franchises. Something about the surge in gas demand makes me nervous. Cloud City is our best opportunity to crack this thing open. Darga will be there and so will his shipment, along with the Empire’s trade goods. If we disrupt the shipment or get Darga, we could deal a swift strike for the Resistance. At the very least, we have the ability to find out what’s being traded on the Empire’s side. Maybe that will give us another lead on the Saarlac. Let’s get Darga and finish this.
“Now, who is this person you picked up?”
“Information broker,” Fenn replied.
“Have you brokered any information about my companions.”
“No sir,” ”/campaigns/dawn-of-defiance-buffalo-ny/characters/fenn-ya-bag" class=“wiki-content-link”>Fenn said.
“Good. They’ll need false identifications, and the Banshee will need a new identity. Can you do that?”
“It is my specialty,” Fenn said.Then, he produced from his bag Demos’s datapad.
“Where did this come from?” Varth asked.
“It’s from Demos.”
“Excellent. We will get our best people to decrypt it.”
“Should we wait until it’s decrypted?” Kelyn asked.
“No, it could be days,” Fenn responded.
Before leaving, Tor met with Master Denia.
“What is on your mind, child?” Denia asked.
“I want to thank you,” Tor said.
“I want to thank you for rescuing me,” Denia countered.
“I am almost ready to make my own lightsaber,” Tor said.
“I can show you exercises to prepare for the process, but the secret is the crystal. You will be called to it by the Force. It will serve as the heart, as an extension of your connection to the Force.”
“I have all the materials for the casing. I just need the crystal,” Tor said.
“It will find you,” Denia assured Tor.
“May the Force be with you,” Denia said.
“And also with you, Master.”
Varth told the rebels he decided to send Sirona O’Keefe and the Banshee, so Sirona could monitor communications while the others did their business about Bespin.
“Can I talk you into getting some more security?” Bariss asked Sirona.
“That N3MO seems like an effective security measure. I will see if I can find a droid like him on Bespin,” Sirona said…
The Banshee slams back into realspace within the Bespin system and Crash sets course for a misty white cloud giant, shining in the distance, about the size of a marble. Sirona picks up the Message to Spacers immediately.
“Welcome to Bespin, home of Cloud City. Please select your destination on Bespin to contact spaceport control for permission to land.”
Sirona navigates the menu, and the automated voice continues.
“This is message from Cloud City space traffic control, welcoming all spacers. Your tourism is important to us. As a result of heavy tourist traffic from the sabacc tournament, each ship will be assigned a landing priority.”
A live voice interrupts:
“Cloud City space traffic control guild to The Banshee, our system sensors read you on approach to Cloud City. Our secure credlink is now open to directly prepay docking fees if you wish.”
You see a 100 cred fee blinking on Sirona’s secure commscreen.
“As a result of heightened security for the sabacc tournament and an especially rich tibanna pocket, our hangars and customs inspections are backlogged. I’m checking on your landing priority here. Hmm. Okay. Looks like we can park you in about 12 hours or so, give or take. I’m vectoring you to a parking orbit. If you need to stretch your legs, I can send you to a parking barge to await your turn in sequence. The view is quite nice.”
Another choice blinks on the screen: 20 creds for the barge.
“How about 500 credit payment?” Carson asked and sent payment.
“Why, a priority landing pad just opened up. Follow the coordinates, and enjoy your time at Cloud City.”
The approach path is unlike arrival on most other worlds, taking you on a beautiful tour of the city, obviously meant to show off the planet’s wealth and various points of interest. Air traffic is indeed heavy, and amid the transports, yachts and cruiseliner shuttles, you see a cloud of rough looking mining tugs and industrial droids, streaming up from a swirling dense cloud bank.
Sliding between two gleaming white and chromium buildings, you find a circular landing platform, one of several, branching fan-style from a common trunk, high above the concourse. An open air skiff glides to a stop at the gated junction of the platforms, joining a second one that is already there. A third one is hovering nearby.
By the time you disembark, the blue-uniformed customs officials are at your platform. Though they bear no Imperial insignia, they are waiting with the same self assured arrogance that agents of the Empire always display, hands clasped behind their backs, noses high. Behind them, on the other platform, you hear an argument about regulations between some officials and a Zabrack visitor. The officials are gesturing to an object they’ve pulled from his baggage.
“No lethal weapons of any kind are allowed on Cloud City. You may leave weapons on board your ship, but this bay will be subject to a customs seal, which will prevent opening or access to it during your stay, unless you schedule another customs inspection.
For personal security, you are not allowed anything other than small weapons and stun batons. For your own security, all visitors are required to be subject to a personal search. I am required to tell you that the penalty for discovery of weapons after the forfeiture opportunity has elapsed, is to have the weapon confiscated, and the perpetrator removed from Cloud City.”
Looking over your shoulder to the other landing pad, you see the Zabrack captain escorted to his ship as two wickedly angled combat CloudCars hover expectantly. One of the Wing Guard twirls a blaster in his hands as the crew loads into the skiff and the yacht powers up its engines.
“In accordance with Imperial edicts, your ship will be inspected for contraband and proper permits. Please have ownership and licenses ready…”
Sirona: “What? That’s ridiculous! That ship is my home, and nobody steps on it unless I okay it.”
Wing Guard Customs: “Ma’ame, regulations allow us to board and search. It’s not your place to tell us what we can do on Cloud City”
Sirona: “Don’t Ma’am me. I’m less than 10 years older than you. Nobody tells me what to do on my own ship.”
>The two of them get into an argument about this, while the other customs officials watch, placidly, pulling a portable personal scanner from the skiff.
Fenn thought to himself, this is either a very big bribe or a very big body count.
“Would there be a problem with our droid?” Kelyn said, looking at N3MO. Khalic presented the proper permits.
“He has a permit for a saw on his arm?” Kelyn whispered.
“He’s a construction droid,” Khalic responded.
“Well, I use my blaster to make ice sculptures,” Kelyn countered.
Carsonschemed that since he’s going to enter the sabbac tourney, he’d need an armed bodyguard. He stepped between Sirona and the customs officer.
“If you touch me, I swear I will throw you off this landing pad, Sirona sneered.
“These gentlemen are just trying to do their job here,” Carson soothed. “We can get through this without bodily harm. We just need to take a couple deep breaths.”
“Fine,” Sirona said, “But I don’t want them going through my stuff.”
“It’s the protocol, Sirona,” Carson said.
“How about I reach down his pants and mess with his stuff? I don’t think he’d like that.”
“Let him do his job. If things go sideways, we’ll go sideways,” Bariss whispered.
Sirona turned to Bariss. “I hope you locked that bottom drawer this time.”
Kelyn went through the scanners without his mess kit’s identity getting found out. He recalled weapons permits could be attained from the Parliament of Guilds. Bariss thought about the Parliament. Fast tracking would be difficult without a contact.
“Is it still possible to register for the tournament?” Carson asked the security officer.
“No problem. You can do that until tomorrow afternoon.”
“Where do I do that?” Carson asked.
“The Royal Casino. Level 37.”
“There obviously is a lot of money at stake…”
“Over half a million credits,” the guard bragged.
Carson’s heart skipped a beat.
“Obviously there are some very prestigious figures from all over the Galaxy. How can we be certain the security is…”
“Mandelbrott who owns the casino hires a crack team.”
“Can bodyguards carry weapons?” Bariss asked.
“If they have secured permits from the Parliament of Guilds.”
Tor barely got through without his lightsaber being discovered. Carson’s distraction, asking for directions to the Parliament of Guilds, kept the “hydrospanner” from being detected.
As the heroes left the landing pad, they heard O’Keefe inside the Banshee yelling, “Don’t touch that. Let me explain what you’re about to see here.”
The heroes picked up their pace.
Once at the office, a secretary droid said, “Welcome to the Parliament of Guilds. What may I do for you today?”
“We wish to apply for weapons permits,” Carson explained.
“You’ll need form Alpha Beta Gamma 264.” It handed out a massive pile of flimplast to each rebel. “Please fill these out. There will be a 350 credit deposit.”
“What do we do when we finish with these?” Bariss asked.
“You give them to me.”
“What do you do with them?”
“I put them in the Secretariat’s mailbox.”
“How long does it usually take?” Carson asked.
“You could be lucky. It could take three months only.”
“Have you seen the Secretariat?” Bariss asked.
“She’s busy getting the tournament ready.”
“She sounds busy,” Bariss continued. “She could use help, or she could get backed up.”
“Yep,” the droid said and stood indifferently.
“Aren’t you going to help the Secretariat by processing these forms?” Bariss asked.
“No,” the droid responded. “That is not my job.”
“Wonderful,” Bariss sighed.
“Could we see one of these permits?” Kelyn asked. “I thought I had one, but I’m not sure.”
The droid typed on a datapad and pulled up the image of a certificate.
“Fenn, does this look like the one I have?” Kelyn asked.
The Bothan concentrated intensely. If only he had a photographic memory.
“Couldn’t we get special consideration?” Kelyn asked.
“Yes, but only with the Secretariat’s permission.”
“Do you have a picture of her?” Bariss asked.
The droid pulled up a photo of a lady who was not prepared for her picture to be taken that moment.
“She’s probably at the Casino,” Tor whispered.
“Let’s find her,” Fenn said.
“I’m worried about my safety being a competitor in the tournament,” Carson told the droid.
“You’re competing? Wonderful. We can accommodate. Bring in your entry bade at 8 tomorrow morning. The Secretariat should be in then.”
Fenn led the group to the Blaster and Saber, a spacer bar in the lower levels. Carson’s money flowed like cheap wine. Bariss chatted up species he didn’t recognize. He got the impression the clientele was weary of strangers. Carson spun tales of adventures in Darga’s palace, leaving the Hutt’s name out of the epic. The crowd ate up the gladiator yarn. “Have you heard where Darga is?” Fenn asked. A hush fell over the room. Slowly, the tight lips repeated, “We don’t know a Darga.”
Kelyn and Fenn noticed a hooded figure in the back smoking a hookah and playing solitaire. He flashed a card toward them, showing the picture of Darga. Quickly, he pocketed the card. The rebels approached. “I’m not supposed to tell anyone this, but you won’t find Darga’s yacht on the computer’s system. The record was altered by agent 70933. Find him.”
“Let’s find this guy,” Fenn said.
Carson thought about it. Anyone with the authority to do this would be based in the Wing Guard HQ. Tor walked in and spoke to the front door officer. “I’m here to see agent 70933.”
“Wing Guard numbers are kept secure. How did you come by this information,” the officer asked.
Tor waved his hand in front of the officer. “That name isn’t restricted.”
“That information isn’t restricted, but I don’t know who goes by what numbers. You’ll need to speak to the Sarge.”
Kelyn and Tor approached the Sarge’s door and knocked. “What can I do for you gentlemen?” the Sarge asked.
“You mind if I close the door?” Kelyn asked. “This is sensitive.”
“We were working with an agent. We have his badge number. It’s about docking logs being forged,” Kelyn said.
“I’d like to speak with him too,” the Sarge said. This kind of thing is handled through a hierarchy. What’s his number?”
“That’s Dex Kin’s number.” He called out to the desk sergeant. “Get Dex in here.”
The desk sergeant replied, “He just left for his weekly sky jump.”
“You mind catching up to him and asking him to check in when he’s done.” The Sarge handed Kelyn a card. “This is where he goes.”
There were two seats left on the sky jump transport. Bariss and Tor purchased the tickets.
The human across from Bariss and Tor wore a Wing Guard jacket. Bariss squinted at him and said, “Dex, is that you?”
“Todd, is that you?” Dex said. “I haven’t seen you jump since you broke your leg.”
“Took a while to heal, but the thrill couldn’t keep me away. This is my maiden voyage since you know.”
“What’s new with you?” Dex asked.
“Actually, I’m getting into this sabbac.”
“Talk about your spice addiction there.”
“All these high rollers coming into town. I hear there’s a Hutt even.”
“There’s no Hutts here.”
“No Hutts, huh? A Hutt wouldn’t come into town and make someone change docking info.”
“What do you know about this?”
“Know about what?”
“A guy came up to me and said I could make a lot of money if I just changed this one log entry that’s going to come in at a certain time. It happened. It was my shift. At the same time I got a personal call showing my wife through the crosshairs of a blaster rifle. I had no choice. I changed the name. It’s good to get it off the chest. This goes no further than the transport, all right?”
“Totally,” Bariss assured him.
Back on the landing pad, Fenn and Kelyn saw employees whispering, “The lock for the storage facility got blasted off. I don’t understand.”
Tor, Bariss and Dex jumped from the transport.
Bariss screamed frightened. Dex yelled, “You have been away from this for a while.”
Tor opened his chute. Bariss opened his. Dex’s chute didn’t open.
Tor worked his way toward the falling Wing Guard. The landing platform lights flashed nearby. He reached out with the Force and brought Dex to him. He caught Dex and guided his chute to the landing pad. “What was that?” Dex asked freaked.
Back on the landing pad, alarms blared. Emergency vehicles were dispatched. Fenn noticed a guy in Mandalorian armor on the upper catwalks, trying to disappear into the panicked crowd. “Somebody get the sky people. I’m going after him,” Fenn said. “I don’t know if you know what Mandalorian armor looks like…”
Carson directed his companions, telling them where to run to tighten the trap on the Mandalorian. He couldn’t reach any airbuses or take side exits. He was forced eventually into the Hall of Holos museum.
“Someone might want to contact the Wing Guard and tell them someone tried to hurt one of their boys,” Fenn said.
“We might not want to do that,” Carson said. “There’s a thing called due process.”
Bariss turned to Dex. “Someone just tried to kill you. If I were you, I’d take the wife and kids and get out of town.”
“I told you what happened,” Dex said.
“What did you change the entry to?” Bariss asked.
“I’ll have to check that info at the office. I don’t remember.”
“Are you sure? Someone made a pass at you in a public place. He might try to get to you again…”
Emergency transports arrived. The Sarge stepped out. “Good job guys. We’ve got it from here.”
Dex was loaded up and flown away.
Fenn entered the Hall of Holos, moving quietly through the shadows. He entered the Hall of Mandalorians. A holo image of Duchess Satine welcomed visitors and one by one introduced the three historical figures presented around her image. The three surrounding projectors were smashed, causing the images to be refracted.
“Carson, wait outside for the others,” Fenn suggested.
“Keep a low profile,” Carson warned. “We can’t afford to blow this.”
Kelyn looked around, thinking where the power controls would be. He followed the catwalk to the utility door. Must be back there. I’ll do my little turn on the catwalk, Kelyn thought to himself as he assembled his mess kit.
Kelyn ran through the hall and up the stairs along the catwalk and to the door to the utility room. Fenn ran in, studying the holos. The hologram in front of him came to life and fired a controlled burst at the Bothan. Fenn hollered in pain, and the lights faded. Satine’s voice said, “Let me tell you about three other Mandalorians.” The images were all different when the lights came back up.
Fenn fell back behind a column and fired at a hologram. The blast passed through it. The door opened for Fenn, revealing a catwalk leading around a airshaft leading through the city and to the planet below. Kelyn raced along to the power utility room door.
Carson entered the hall. “The guy in front of me… missed. Try the other two,” Fenn advised.
Carson thought over the situation. He would try to keep his movements as random as possible. “This sonofabitch isn’t that hard. The coward’s hiding behind holograms!” Carson shouted. Cydon, the bounty hunter, blasted Carson in the foot.
“You might not want to stand in the open,” Fenn shouted.
The lights faded. “Let me tell you about other notable Mandalorians,” Duchess Satine said.
The lights came up to show different Mandalorians.
Fenn fired at a hologram. The blaster passed through, but something inside the image distorted, like someone inside the hologram ducking. “Found him!” Fenn yelled.
Cydon aimed and fired at Fenn, blasting him in the chest. The lights faded and came back up.
Fenn shot. The blast passed through the hologram. Kelyn pulled levers, cutting the power to the Hall of Mandos. Emergency lighting came on. Cydon ignited his jet pack. Tor looked at the bounty hunter and used the Force to frazzle his mind. Carson hurried over to Fenn and treated his injuries.
Bariss popped out from behind the column and opened fire. The shot bloodied Cydon’s gun hand, leaving it a bloody mess. Carson yelled, “It doesn’t have to be this way. It’s your choice. Live or die.”
“It is the Mandalorian way,” Cydon hissed. “We do not surrender.”
Tor raised his hand and used the Force to stun Cydon, who collapsed unconscious.
The Wing Guards charged into the room. “What’s going on in here?”
Bariss pocketed his blaster quickly.
An Ugnaught ran in, surveying the shattered holoprojectors.
“What happened to the display?”
“That’s a real thing,” Fenn said.
“There’s no real things here.”
“You’re right, officer,” Bariss said. “We’ll remove this broken piece and get it fixed up.”
“That’s a good idea,” the officer said.
Bariss and Tor carried Cydon to the utility area near the airshaft and locked the door behind them.