Kes, Kay and Zeva have now been recuperating from their ordeal on Velcor’s Cross for a full day. As they leave the medbay, they are informed by one of the imperial physicians that Captain Hayes would like to see them.
“Course she does. Why we’re here, yes?” Kay quips.
“Oh boy. Authority. Ain’t it grand. I was hoping they’d just let us scuttle along on our merry way.” Her Captain concurs.
Zeva stretches out her back. “I’m not ready for scuttling yet.”
The three are guided through the eerily similar corridors of the Star Destroyer and up a turbolift before arriving at a small conference room, with a large viewing area overlooking Velcor’s Cross.
Kes raises her eyebrows at the other girls.
Zeva mutters, “I can’t tell if these are nothing like the Star Destroyers I remember… or if it’s me that’s changed.”
“Shh!” Kay strokes Zeva’s shoulder gently. “Not something we should be talking about, neh?”
“Sorry. I’m trying to be quiet…” Zeva apologizes.
After a few minutes, the door swishes open again and Captain Irene Hayes enters, parts of her face still covered in bandages.
Kes hesitantly, but almost instinctively, moves to salute.
Zeva’s attention swerves to the floor.
Kaylani snorts and collapses into a chair. “So, what’s the story for us, Captain Hayes?”
The Captain sits down at one end of the table and slides a datapad with her gloved hand to Kay.
Zeva moves beside Kay for a better look at the pad.
Kay picks it up, twirls it gently between her hands before tilting it so Zeva can see it too.
On it, there is the image of a temperate if rocky planet. Kes stands behind Kay, watching Hayes.
“That’s Alemgotti, a rather unremarkable little world,” Captain Hayes begins.
Zeva glances at her shipmates for any sign of recognition of the name, but sees none.
“There are lots of those. Been to quite a few,” Kay shoots back.
“If you browse a bit further, you’ll notice though that it has a few particularities,” Hayes continues.
“Every planet has its charms…” Kes mentions offhandedly. “Some of them blow up unexpectedly.”
“This one seems charming enough to have at its disposition roughly seven percent of this Sector’s Navy contigent,” Hayes explains to them.
“That sounds like a lot of ships for a place so unremarkable,” Zeva remarks.
Kes starts to stare out the window.
“Just a touch, yes,” Kay agrees.
“This piqued my curiosity and I was unsurprised to learn that Moff Yeagar has at least one major investment on that planet.” The Imperial Captain pauses, looking at each of the other women in turn. “Apparently, he owns thirty-two percent of Almek Pharmaceuticals and most of his partners have thus been found to be untraceable shell corporations. Furthermore, this relatively minor company by galactic standards hasn’t had a major sale in the last two years, roughly since a wave of new buyers took over, including the Moff. Actually, since then, Almek has only recorded losses and is kept alive by private financing.”
“Laundering pirate money, you think?” Kay asks.
“Wow. The Hutts sound a little more legit,” Kes remarks.
“I don’t know, either this is a case of pink bantha in the room or there something else going on there and I’d like to find out why fleet assets I’ve requested to root out pirate activity are instead deployed to defend this insignificant piece of rock.” With this statement, Captain Hayes’ voice seems to turn colder for just a moment.
Kes looks from the window to Hayes with a start, squinting her eyes suspiciously.
Zeva looks to Kes, not sure if this is even the sort of thing that the Destiny’s crew does.
“That’s a bit outside our normal chauffeur duties there, ma’am. What makes you think we’ll find what you’re looking for?” Kaylani asks earnestly. “Not that I’m against the looking, mind you. Just don’t want you getting your hopes up.”
“Plus, I don’t exactly fit in with Empire employment.” Kes taps a finger against her horns. “As your subordinates so kindly remind me.”
“Despite the heavy naval presence, ground forces are minimal. Security should be fourth-rate, nothing quite as bad as Erawlon. I need to know what’s going on. Else I’ll not be only fighting a war by myself, but with my hands tied behind my back and a blindfold over my eyes,” Hayes explains.
“There are other ways to see…” Zeva starts to say, her voice trailing off midway through.
“Well not for me, I need something concrete to nail this bastard and convince other captains to join me,” Hayes replies earnestly to Zeva.
Kes’ hand clamps down on Zeva’s shoulder.
“What happens if we get caught?” Kes wonders.
“Don’t, there’s nothing I can do if you do,” the Imperial Captain replies curtly.
“That’s not encouraging. What’s to stop us from saying YOU sent us?” Kes pointedly asks her.
Zeva sucks a breath in through her teeth.
“Nothing, but that won’t help you and I’ll be forced to deny it, nevertheless it would make my position even more awkward and I’d have a far greater difficulty bringing to justice those who were responsible for Erawlon,” Hayes rebukes the brash Captain of the Silent Destiny.
“So, again: don’t get caught,” Zeva emphasizes.
“I’ll be in jail or dead anyway,” Kes mutters, but she seems to be in agreement. “I try not to get caught anyway. Not that I have anything to get caught with. Ma’am.”
“Nope, not us. Never have anything to get caught with.” Kay grins.
Zeva presses her lips together until they start to whiten.
“By the way, your ship should be ready by tomorrow, good as new if that can ever be. All repairs and fees have been taken care of.” Hayes nods at Kes.
Kes’ mouth drops open. “THAT bucket of bolts? You FIXED it?”
“That’s very generous, Captain,” Zeva tells the Imperial.
“Be nice to our Lady, Captain-mine,” Kay gently berates Kes. “And thank you, Captain Hayes, for the assist. She’s just been crying out for some loving care. More than we could give her.”
“I’ll believe it when I see it. Not that I doubt you. The thing just hates me,” Kes shoots back mostly to her pilot.
“It was part of our agreement and I always deliver on my promises. Hopefully it will be satisfactory, Captain Varn. Now, unless you have any questions, I need to get back to my bridge. There’s a shuttle waiting for you in the hangar and an Ensign to guide you there just outside this room,” Captain Hayes explains.
Kes looks at Kay, who shrugs. “…Nice view.” She points to the window.
Zeva gets up and crosses to the window to see. Kay tilts her head and watches Zeva rather than the view.
Kes rubs her horns idly. “How far away is it, by the way?”
“A few light years, two to three hours with a times one hyperdrive,” Hayes answers without missing a beat.
Kes nods. “Let’s get this over with, then, I guess.”
“If that will be all.” Captain Hayes rises and moves to leave, before stopping and turning back to face them. “Good luck and come back safely, I’ll send over the rendezvous point to your ship in a short while.” Captain Hayes then leaves.
“You get a girl mixed up with the most interesting people, Captain,” Kay says to her Zabrak Captain as soon as the Imperial has left.
“…So. Trap?” Kes asks the other two women.
Zeva lets out the breath she didn’t know she’d been holding.
“Obviously. Might actually not be hers though. Oddly think she’s playing it straight with us,” Kay points out. “Why she’d pick a ragtag bunch like us to be her agents I haven’t a clue, but…” She shrugs again.
“Doesn’t seem like a job for a seamstress, no. Where are they keeping the ship, anyway?” Zeva asks.
“Maybe she thinks underdogs stick together or something. I dunno. We gotta do this either way…” Kes replies.
“Let us find our newly shined Lady then, shall we?” Kay suggests, excited at the prospect.
“It’s not a she…” Kes protests as she moves toward the door.
Outside of the conference room, a prim and proper Ensign of the Imperial Navy awaits at attention.
Zeva decides to save her question for later.
“Aw, aren’t you adorable in your uniform, Ensign. You’re our guide, yes?” Kay asks the man.
“Yes, Ma’am, that is correct,” the young Ensign replies.
“Well, lead on.” Kes hopes someone tries to remember the structure or the passages.
“Don’t worry, we won’t muss up your pretty. Lead on, lead on…” Kay makes a shooing motion.
Kes, Kay and Zeva are guided down a turbolift and through a labyrinth of corridors before arriving at the Star Destroyer’s expansive hangar bay. There they are led to a Lambda shuttle, apparently waiting for them.
“And here I am, doomed to passenger status yet again,” Kay laments.
“Not for much longer.” Zeva tries to cheer her up.
“Hey, howdya think I feel?” Kes asks the pair. “Bein’ Captain grows on you.”
“Yes, but even when you’re the Captain, you’re not behind the wheel. I hate not being behind the wheel,” Kay points out. “Not that they’re literally wheels. Wonder why we call it wheels? Did they used to be round?”
Kes pats Kay’s head idly. “I’m sure there’s a reason for it, dear.”
After they take a seat on board, the shuttle lifts off and a few minutes later lands. As Kes, Kay and Zeva disembark, they notice they have arrived in the same hangar bay where they first met Captain Hayes.
“Well, familiar territory and all. Starting to feel a bit less with the twitchy. Shall we see what they did to our home, then?” Kaylani suggests.
“If they touched my stuff….” Kes pauses. “I’ll… glare.”
“Oooh, scary!” Kaylani taunts her Captain. Kes glares at Kay in return.
“Is anything ever really ‘yours’?” Zeva wonders aloud.
Kes’ look turns quizzical.
“Course it is. Family’s mine. Home is mine. It’s all what you value,” Kay explains. “Just like I belong to them. Haven’t you ever belonged to anyone?”
“It ain’t theirs, it ain’t anyone else’s, it must be mine.” Kes shrugs.
“I was more talking about ‘stuff’… but I suppose I used to belong to someone,” Zeva muses.
“Really?” Kay stops walking rather abruptly.
Kes ambles on ahead, not realizing they’ve stopped.
Zeva almost crashes into Kay. “Yes. The Order. You know… them.”
Kay shakes her head. “Right. Course. Sorry. Moving now, catching up with the Captain, yes. Yes?”
“Sure,” Zeva acquiesces. “There’s more to it, but this is hardly the place.”
Once the three have made their way to the Silent Destiny, they notice that little about the ship has changed, but a quick look at the screens show that the whole ship is in perfect working order and that the shields are slightly more powerful than they were before.
“Never thought I’d live to see the day… I think it didn’t look this good when Nalin had it,” Kes mumbles, examining the… everything. “These kids work fast.”
“Does someone have a datapad?” Zeva asks.
“I think there was one under the cookie sheets in the galley.” Kay answers.
“Well, that’s worth somehow getting involved with the crazy then, yes? For Nalin and all?” Kes asks no one in particular, oblivious to anything else.
“Be right back.” After a moment, Zeva returns with the datapad, holding it out for Kes and Kay to see. She’s written “Should we check for listening devices or homing beacons?” on the screen.
“Dunno. Guess so. Depends on what other stuff they put in that I don’t need on this shiii…” Kes looks at the datapad. “That’s what I meant, yeah.”
Zeva nods and punches up one of the stored recipes, clearing the screen and goes to have a look around.
Zeva and Kaylani search the ship well into the night for anything amiss, but find nothing.
Kes just seems to get distracted by things as she tries looking. Half of it is because a lot of the wiring is now… behind plating… Shocker.
“Ah, they made our Lady nice and shiny,” Kay remarks as they finish their search.
“Maybe she- it’ll hate me less now,” Kes wonders out loud.
“Aw, you almost called her she, Captain.”
“I did the best I could, you know. Just ‘cause I don’t have fancy equipment doesn’t mean I can’t fix you decent enough,” Kes tells the ship, patting the doorframe.
“Need some dessert, my Captain? Or just a good night’s sleep?” Kaylani asks her Captain.
“Sleep. You girls have some dessert if you want. Just make sure they didn’t do anything to the sweet goodness.” Kes tells them with a yawn.
“Repairs look good, but they didn’t clean very much. Glad to know I can still earn my passage around here,” Zeva remarks.
“Ah, we wouldn’t kick you out even if she was sparkling, now would we? And sweet dreams, Captain.” Kay says to them both.
Kes ruffles Kay’s hair and pats Zeva on the shoulder and disappears down the hall.
“Sweets, pretty lady?” Kay gestures towards the galley.
“Sure. I feel like I’ve slept enough, but I’m not sure what else I could be doing.” Zeva answers.
Early the next morning, a chime can be heard in the intercom, indicating someone is outside the Silent Destiny’s airlock.
“Guests, how exciting. And I haven’t even made pancakes,” Kay remarks.
Kes nearly explodes out of bed, indicating she hadn’t been sleeping much at all. “Pleasantly surprised anyone uses the bell.” She goes to greet whoever it is.
Zeva follows the Captain. Kay goes along to answer the door too.
As Kes opens the airlock, all of them see three burly men dressed casually, each carrying a large duffel bag. Kes, Kay and Zeva recognize one of them as the stormtrooper Sergeant they met on Erawlon.
“Sergeant!” Kay exclaims.
“Uh…” Kes seems somewhat flustered.
Zeva swallows and sticks close to Kes.
“What brings such fine strapping young men to our airlock?” Kay waves them in towards the galley.
“Do you have to feed EVERYONE that comes within a five-mile radius of us?” Kes asks Kay in Zabrak.
“You want to turn away stormtroopers and have them make a fuss? And yes, food makes everything better,” Kay replies to her Captain in the same language.
The Sergeant scratches the back of his head. “Uh… Well, Captain Hayes gave us leave after what happened on Erawlon and suggested we might want to… uh… visit Alemgotti. Supposedly good rock climbing there or something. Anyways she sort of mentioned you were going that way and might be interested in three fares.”
“And who are we to turn down such handsome company? Paying company, no less? Don’t have a lot of room though, you understand.” Kay tells them before turning to Kes and asking her in Zabrak. “Convert a cargo hold, you think?”
“We’re used to barracks, we don’t take up much space. Don’t you worry on our account.” The Sergeant hands over to Kes a credit chip with 1,000 credits. “I’m sure this should cover it.”
“I’ll, um, make some room for them,” Zeva tells the others.
“No, no, sit, breakfast. We’ll all clear out some space. After we eat.” Kay stops her.
“All right.” Zeva sits down.
Kay smiles brightly all around.
“By the way, I’m Broli and this is Rannek and Cal.” Both men smile awkwardly and sheepishly as the Sergeant introduces them.
After a hearty meal, the three men settle in a cargo room, unpacking their duffel bags revealing not only pratical clothes and blankets, but a small armory of weapons and armor.
“I always heard that rock climbing was dangerous,” Zeva comments.
Cal grins. “Yeah, that’s also what I heard!”
Kes offers them all stiff smiles. In Zabrak, she tells Kay, “Spies, do you think?”
“Only a little. Think they’re mostly honest muscle. And what is the world coming to, that I’m trusting an Imperial Captain to her word?” Kay replies in Zabrak and shakes her head slightly.
“Just, uh, let’s be careful,” Kes tells her pilot in Zabrak.
“Aren’t we always? Oh wait, no, that’s never. We can try though,” Kay replies to Kes in the same tongue.
“Now that we can leave a planet without getting shot at, I’d like to see what goes into that,” Zeva mentions to Kay.
“Well come along, my little co-pilot in training, and I’ll show you how it’s done.” Kay motions Zeva to follow her.
“All right.” As they move out of earshot, Zeva adds, “Mostly I need to learn that language you two speak.”
“If you need anything, boys, just… give a shout. I’d appreciate it if you didn’t wander around unattended,” Kes tells the soldiers. “Really. Really. Appreciate it.” The pat to her holster hopefully does not go unnoticed.
Without any issues, Kaylani goes through the procedure of logging in their destination, undocking and then translating into hyperspace as soon as they leave the gravity well. Hours later, the Silent Destiny translates back into realspace and the rocky planet known as Alemgotti fills the cockpit viewport. After being cleared for landing and passing through a thick Imperial Navy screen, the Silent Destiny makes a smooth planetfall under the caring guidance of its pilot.
“This was kind of easy…. I’m nervous,” Kes admits.
“If it were easy, Captain, anyone could do it,” Zeva tells her.
“Anyone could’ve done that part. The fun’s still waiting for us, I think,” Kay posits.
“Well. Let’s rock on.” Kes gives them a twisted smile.
“Ah, my heart. Someone else made you laugh. I shall never recover.” Kay grins at the Captain. “Afraid we should get our rock climbers now too, my Captain.”
Broli, Cal and Rannek can be seen packing back their duffel bags.
Kes grimaces and adds in Zabrak, “I hate stormtroopers on my ship.” To the boys, she says, “Hopefully that wasn’t too bumpy. It’s oddly smooth now, actually…”
“Leaving us so soon, my lovelies? Or would you like some … company for your rock climbing?” Kay asks almost suggestively.
Zeva tilts her head at Kay’s little pause there.
Kes steps on Kay’s foot, perhaps accidentally.
“First Mate, you have not been given permission to go on shore leave,” Kes states to her pilot.
“They’re here to be our muscle ma’am. Should take advantage,” Kay almost snaps back in Zabrak.
“Not by coaxing them with your wiles, young one,” Kes admonishes her still in Zabrak.
“Who’s wily? They know they’re our muscle too,” Kay protests.
Unable to understand her crewmates, Zeva looks for the stormtroopers’ reply.
Broli looks puzzled but unfazed. “Its up to you three, but we wouldn’t mind the company. Apparently the view is quite nice. But first we were planning on looking for a place to stay, you know since we’re on vacation on and all that.”
“We’ll let you do your recon then. Later, then?” Kay replies politely.
Kes grumbles about Kay’s accurateness. “Ah, vacation. I remember when I used to get that. Then I fell in with these ladies and it was all downhill from there…” She grins. “I suppose we can feed you dinner, too, if you roll back around.”
“Vacation.” It’s like Zeva’s never said the word before.
“Oh… I’m not really good at this. No we’re really going to get a hotel room.” Broli seems somewhat apologetic.
“Figured that,” Kay grins. “The Captain’s sense of humor sometimes flies right over people’s heads.”
“They’re sort of boyish when they fumble like that. Awww,” Kes says to her pilot in Zabrak.
“Shoo, do your thing, you know where to find us, and I’m sure we’ll be able to find you. If needed, and all.” Kay waves them out.
“Stay out of trouble, or something,” Kes tells them tentatively.
“Now you believe me,” Kay whispers to her Captain in Zabrak.
“We’ll call you tomorrow for the rock climbing. You really shouldn’t miss out on that.” Broli winks awkwardly.
Kes covers her laugh with a cough.
Kay coughs as she tries not to laugh. “Ah, they’re worse at the sneaky than you are,” she remarks to Kes in Zabrak. "Will do., she then adds in Galactic Basic for the stormtroopers’ benefit.
“Oh, but we’re going out for drinks tonight, if any of you want to join us,” Cal adds while eying Zeva before receiving an jab from his Sergeant’s elbow.
Zeva just looks back, utterly oblivious.
Kay clicks her tongue. “Trying to take advantage of our young seamstress? You should be ashamed of yourself.”
Kes’ frown returns and she plunks an arm around Zeva’s shoulders. “We’ve got work to do. We’ll talk.”
Zeva tenses up for a moment.
“Sure thing.” Broli waves goodbye as he grabs his duffel and leaves down the ship’s ramp, followed by his men.
Kes grunts quietly and dusts Zeva’s shoulders off before planting her hands on her hips. “Well.”
“So what happens now?” Zeva asks.
“Do some recon of our own, I suppose. Find the nearest cantina.” Kay suggests. “Listen to the gossip, buy a few drinks, bemoan our fate, stuck here waiting on capricious customers…”
“Get my girls hit on by losers…” Kes adds grumblingly.
Zeva adjusts the holster beneath her jacket that holds her lightsaber. “As sound a plan as any.”
“Your girls hit back.” Kay offers Zeva her arm.
“That’s my girls. Onwards." Kes locks up the ship as they leave.
Zeva takes it and follows Kay out into the port.
The starport, while a much grander affair then the one on Erawlon is unimpressive. After a cursory tour of the planetary capital, Kes, Kay and Zeva settle for a small cantina were they enjoy an uneventful evening, punctuated by Kes’ scowl at several men attempting to approach their table. The evening spent on idle conversation and cheap drinks, the trio return to the Silent Destiny, where they quickly fall asleep.