The instructions said to report to a seemingly uninteresting business in this district. Inside, a solitary employee works at keeping the place tidy and re-arranging merchandise here and there. Half of the store is devoted to clothing while the other half accessories of all types and origins to be worn by those looking to make a fashion statement. An odd customer comes in and leaves now and then, however, the place is never too busy. There are simply much larger stores that do the same thing with a much greater selection. The employee, a Human male in his 60s, shows a customer out of the store. She had just bought some jewelry and inserts for her hair which she carries out in plain packaging wrapped with a string, something common many centuries ago but exceedingly rare in these times. Once the customer is gone, Drelan goes back to his business, adjusting the clothing on a display at the store window.
As each guest arrives, the employee of the store picks out an article of clothing that seems to be tailored to their exact specifications. After a short conversation he will bring them back to the dressing room where they can enter a code supplied to them to open a hidden door behind the mirrors which line the fitting room. Inside, a hallway will lead to a Regency Intelligence remote operating location. It is small but has enough room for about 20 people and enough equipment to operate effectively if isolated from headquarters. Inside, Kalden waits for the guests to show.
Stefan looks at the disc and then looks up at the shop with a soft grunt. "Intel" He murmurs to himself before finding his way into the shop. His eyes scan the employee for a long moment before finally doing as the disc instructed, finding his way into the fitting room and punching in the code.
As far as fronts are concerned, the meeting organizer couldn't have picked a worse choice for Trina. Why did it have to be a shop for clothing? Trina's wardrobe remained sparse because shopping for attire given her condition...
Gritting her teeth, the female cyborg enters the shop and stalks towards the front counter, trying to ignore the pretty garments that would have attracted her attention in a previous life.
"Well?" Trina asks, then exudes a heavy sigh. What was that stupid phrase? Oh yeah. "I'm looking for something trendy but I don't look good in yellow."
Whoever chose this meeting and that pass-phrase needed to be reprimanded. Perhaps blasted.
Honestly, the whole scenario doesn't seem to phase Sian one bit. There's a reason many graduates of the Academy go into Intelligence.
By the time Trina arrives, the dark-haired Auxilius servant is already in a dressing room and keying in the code while leaving the dress she was handed hanging on its hanger. In another galaxy far, far away, there might be allusions to a wardrobe and a place in eternal winter.
Stepping through, Sian brushes at her coat andd casts a brief look around the room. Dark gaze lands on Kalden: "Master Cato is unavailable due to an urgent meeting. I serve in his stead."
Trina is the first to arrive inside the remote operations room. The meeting was somewhat of an awkward affair in that regard. The last time that they had seen each other, he was leaving her behind to die during an operation. It was an unfortunate turn events if necessary, however, Humans had a way of putting personal feelings in front of duty. As much as Kalden hated dealing with droids, the one from the previous meeting did not come with such complications. The agent rises to his feet and offers a greeting, "Trina, I'm glad you were able to make it out alive." He did not know if she harbored resentment or not yet the agent still felt it necessary to try and placate her in his own Regency approved way. "I'm sure you would have done the same if the dice landed differently."
Next Stefan arrives and he too is greated. "Captain welcome, please have a seat at the table." Unlike wardrooms on starships with clearly defined seating arrangements, this place had no such order established. Any seat was up for grabs. "No doubt Captain you've heard whisperings of what is about to transpire. I'm afraid your well deserved leave may be cut short but that is not my decision to make. We will discuss how that effects our operation shortly." With that, the agent motions to opening at the table.
Next in is Sian absent Cato. The same polite greeting is offered and invitation to have a seat. "Disappointing.... but not unexpected. Lord Cato is a busy man and I've yet to present anything which would pique his interest enough to descend to this level." In truth the Agent did not care to stroke the ego of a social elite nor did he feel that he needed to prove his own worth to the man. Despite his feelings, Kalden knew the cold hard truth. He was not anyone special himself. His brief five minute meeting with the Lord Marshall was the only time in his life that he had been anything more than a doormat to the elite. At least at that meeting, he was coat hanger to be used and discarded when no longer needed. It was something he intended to change. "If everyone is ready, we can begin." With that, Kalden sets into motion his ownascendance from doormat to Lord.
The sight of Kalden hits Trina in a way she didn't expect. One moment, she's glowering at a sweater that would be so pretty if it didn't end up snagging on the jagged features of her arms. The next, she sees Kalden and hears his words. All at once, her mind transports her back to Orum's Bastion and that filthy cantina and the terrible blaster of an out-of-control combat droid.
Trina's training kicks in. She straightens, her back as straight and stiff as a protocol droid. Breathe. Compartmentalize. Get through the mission and then process later.
Trina opens her mouth to speak, the closes it. There were others present in the room and whatever words were about to come out of the cyborg, this wasn't the time or the place. Pursing her lips, Trina brushes several articles of clothing off a display onto the floor, making a seat for herself. She sits and crosses her legs, her back still straight and her countenance frosty.
Stefan says nothing as he finds his way to his seat. Pulling his hat from his head and placing it infront of him and places his hat rank forward. His gaze falling to Kalden, "I dont listen to gutter rat rumors. I work in facts. Pure facts that allow me to plan, tactically, on avoiding unnecessary regency losses" Before lloking over to Trina and then back to his hat.
The dark-haired woman stands in silence for a time, watching Trina's display. Then there's a look to Stefan and a flicker of something crosses her features: it's there and gone before she dissembles again. Amusement? Or perhaps that was consternation. Difficult to say in how quickly it passed.
With measured movements, she crosses to a chair and sits, sweeping her coat out as she does. Beneath, there's a glimpse of a blaster and the shine of at least one blade. "It would also raise questions were he to cancel this particular meeting. You can schedule another with him if it is deemed necessary."
Kalden catches the subtle lines move on Trina's face and braces himself to be chastized only to find that she chooses to instead remain silent. A momentary reprieve to an encounter he was dreading. The Captain himself was more droid than Human. The strict military bearing from a man who has dedicated his life to order and leading men into battle. He understood what it meant to make tough choices, choices that would lead men and women to their demise for the greater good of the Regency. The agent appreciated that in the man and believed that Stefan's rigid composure would be relied upon heavily in the campaign ahead to see the team through. Then there was Sian, graduate of the legendary Shedal Academy. By all rights, she should be his equal if not better. She too could be relied on when others would falter. Despite the training of Sian and Stefan, even Trina had proven that she had that special quality to endure and push forward when duty called for it. She could have chosen to run instead of charging the droid modified for battle yet she had not. Despite her own reservations, somewhere deep inside, Kalden saw what she did not. She was just as capable and possessed just as much grit as anyone here. Whether or not she chose to embrace it was hers to decide.
"Thank you for coming. I will get down to it." A few buttons are pressed on holoprojector and an image of Orum's Bastion pops up. "Anti-Regency activity is either being coordinate or operating out of this station." A video feed plays of a cantina brawl. Inside Kalden can be seen rushing to an extracting a potential recruit. Trina can be seen charging a droid modified for combat. In the effort to disable it, she can be seen taking a shot from the droid before it is finally disabled. Kalden casts a glance towards Trina as she is shot in the feed, then reverses the playback. "Pay particular attention to the woman in front of the droid. The one deflecting most of it's blaster bolts with an energy staff... That is enclave member by the name of Delphine." The video plays back slower, zoomed in on the woman. "I challenge you to find anyone in the galaxy who can do that... even from the Academy." Another glance is cast, this times towards Sian.
In spite her augmentations, Trina still possessed the same human frailty when it came to both emotion and memory. She remembered the encounter in the cantina playing out differently. The disgusting shells that ground between her joints. The awful smell of sweat and cheap alcohol and just the a hint of urine. Trina remembered the encounter in impulses and instincts, ultimately ending in pain.
It's different seeing it play out in holo. Tears well up within her human eye, though she remains transfixed watching the scene play out. Her cheeks crimson, then go pale. A twitch of just a few centimeters on the part of the droid. That's what meant the difference between her getting shot in the shoulder and getting shot in the head.
"I know Delphine," Trina says, her voice steady in spite of her pallor. "She's a member of The Enclave. She doesn't hold with The Enclave's usual neutrality."
Stefan watches the holo, occasionally asking for it to be sped up and reversed occasionally. His mind fully locked to the onto the brawl infront of him. Barely paying attention to much more than the words being spoke, "You really need me for some renegade enclaver?" His tone purely disgusted as he leans back heavily, his eyes turn to the schematic of the station, "I wont be able to convince my men to stay sane next to that station. If that cantina is any resemblance"
"Send me a copy of that recording, please." Sian does keep a fairly even tone, despite Kalden referencing her center of training. She crosses one leg over the other, leaning back in her chair. She folds her hands in her lap.
There is a glance to Trina, when the other woman mentions knowing this 'Delphine.' "If she does not keep to their neutral stance, that is likely something we can use against her. Whose side has she chosen and do you know why?"
Was it some cruel trick by the agent, forcing Trina to watch herself nearly die multiple times as the video played over and over for all to see? Those present would not know what was going on behind the hawkish eyes of Kalden yet they might infer the purpose was not malicious as he casts a somewhat sympathetic look towards the woman. "I know that Trina." The video loop stops and a new scene pops up, this time on Valentine's world although the image is currently still. In this scene there are new players on hand with the exception of Delphine who appears yet again. The video is recorded from a holorecorder inside of Kalden's scout armor. "I asked you once, did you believe that nice people could oppose the Regency. I asked if you could shoot them if necessary." The agent's tone is strangely sympathetic as asks that question. "I said it is something that we all have to face eventually in our line of work." The rest is unspoken but laid out in the open for Trina to infer. Delphine could be her fork in the road.
To the Captain attention is turned. "Captain...", the tone unusually sharp. "Credit please." The new video plays. This time showing a battle between three force users. "Notice how they hurl objects at each other, heavy objects with some unseen force." In the video, a man in black leather, his features shrouded hurls a droid at one girl, only for the other to stop it mid flight. "Also, notice this new weapon used by the one called Sarna." In the video, perhaps the first recorded evidence ever of the existance of a lightsaber in this galaxy. "I believe the enclave is splitting, perhaps heading into civil war." The video pauses. Kalden looks to Sian, "You want to know why you are here? Because we are of the same mind... which is counter to the Lord Marhsall's." The agent had spoken of the political landscape. It was slowly being revealed.
"I don't know what faction Delphine is sworn to," Trina says, her eyes fixed on the new holo. Several interesting figures inhabit the scene, but it's Delphine that holds all of the cyborg's attention. "I just know that Delphine is not on the side of The Regency. And something else..."
Trina pauses to look at the other people sharing the meeting with her. The bold captain, proud enough of his rank to broadcast it with his hat. The dark haired woman from that secret school. The one Trina knew she wasn't supposed to know anything about. Quietly, Trina wondered about the loyalty of her compatriots. Whatever their affiliation, it didn't seem likely they shared Trina's specific convictions.
"The last time I saw Delphine, she'd been injured by some... thing. She was looking for Ravace, The Envoy. She's also looking for you, Agent. When she tried to interrogate me, she was asking about you."
Stefan scratches at his chin as he watches the video, "Go back. Five second interval." Before announcing "Play." His tone holding the edge of command and the desire to see more of what had been happening. "Where do you believe these individuals are held presently?" As he motions to the pair of women.
Stefan wouldn't be absent to the look Triana gives. His gaze momentarily focusing on the woman before turning his head back to the holo. "What exactly are you hoping to gain by capturing or ascertaining any of these individuals?"
"It is dangerous to go against the Lord Marshall's will," Sian responds to Kalden in a quiet, even voice. It's not disagreement, but it is the party line. Even here, she plays by the assumption that the walls have ears. Dark eyes slide to Trina to listen to her regard of Delphine.
The woman clad in black is silent for a time before tilting her head. "Whatever approach we take cannot be head on. They clearly have capabilities beyond our own. Weapons, too. Infiltration is the best option. Subterfuge. These are things we-" though she does glance with uncertainty toward Stefan. "...are good at."
Kalden nods at Trina and the video plays on, revealing the name of the man in black to be called Malideus. In the video, Delphine accuses him of being just the kind of monster the Regency would want to recruit. "I can assure you, it is not the side of the Regency." A brief pause is given before more words spoken, "Trina, I would like for you to meet the Propoganda Minister. She has been assigned as my handler. Are you ready to do so?" One might think it was not an option yet for some reason it was given in her case. He deliberately does not ask if she revealed his identity to Delphine.
"The Marshall of Valentine's world has been harboring them. I warned her that her activities might draw a fleet to their location. The Marshall did not seem all that intimidated by the prospect... maybe even welcomed it." If the Captain wanted an excuse to crush someone under his boot, that was it.
Sian's response garners a smirk from Kalden. "It is dangerous indeed. Those of us in the militant follow orders. Those in Cato's position shape orders." The smirk fades to a more serious glance, revealing more of his intentions for her house. "I will not go against the Lord Marshall, however, I suspect he will soon fine that his prized neutrality of the enclave no longer exists." Another feed pops up, this time of a monsterous battleship being completed in dry dock. "You said you deal in facts Captain so here are your facts. We.", a pause to explain what should be obvious just in case, "Being the intelligence operatives of the Regency. Have been scouting out locations for the next military campaign. Soon a new fleet headed by this flag ship will set out to bring order to worlds who turn a blind eye to corruption and piracy. It is at this time that some members of the enclave will challenge our moves. It is at this time that the Lord Marshall will be forced to accept the new reality that the enclave is no longer neutral. It is at this time that I will attempt to gain Malideus as an asset to counter dissidents within the enclave. It is at this time that your fleet and men Captain will be already prepared to respond immediately to the needs of the Regency." A glance is cast towards the Captains insignia on his cap. "Such forward thinking is sure to be rewarded." Looking to Sian Kalden continues, "Cato does not need me to spell out his opportunities here."
The cyborg understands her place in all of this, and she understand just how much choice she really has. Trina looks away from the holo Kalden draws attention to the man in black leather. She directs her eyes down to her hands, metallic yet still feeling. She looks past her fingers to her legs, one crossed over the other, yet still machine. How much choice did Trina have? About as much as she would have trying to swim a lap at one of High Centre's beautiful pools.
"I'll meet whoever you need me to meet," Trina responds. She looks at Stefan, then back at Sian. "These women can do things, yes, but we have the might of The Regency. We have sophistication and order and the will of the people. In my professional opinion, if we spend too many resources trying to damage these women, we'll martyr them and turn some of that will against us. I agree with her." Trina points a finger at Sian. "We should be clever and sneaky. Maybe try to lure them with a treat instead of force them with a blaster."
Sian tilts her head in appreciation for Trina's words. "You're right," she says, returning the favor. "If they're hiding out on an unfriendly planet, with members of the populace already on their side: throwing strength at them will just bolster their resolve."
She picks at invisible lint on her pants. "If we want only the man-" a glance up to the holo again, "that should be easy enough. Send an agent or two to speak with him. Offer our aid. If we want the other two -- or at least Delphine -- we need to make them think it their idea." She takes a deep breath. "We need to make them realize the Regency is their friend. Manufacture a scenario in which we become their savior."
Kalden nods at the advice given in turn. "There is time to test your theory Trina which has been seconded by our representitive." A hand gestures towards Sian who still remains un-named! "After your sacrifice I believe you have earned the right to try it your way. Is this a mission you believe yourself capable of leading? In the mean time, the Captain would have time to prepare his ships should Delphine and her allies refuse peaceful efforts and take up arms against the Regency. If you choose to attempt this, just remember one thing Trina. The Lord Marshall wants her name but I have not given it to him. I can only hazard a guess as to what his intetions are and I can only withhold it for so long." The agent did not believe for a minute that she would side with the Regency. Not after what he had seen yet it was important that he let her try. She needed to be forced to make a decision she had been trying so hard to avoid. With Sian there was so much more to discuss. Things so delicate it would force her to reject all involvement if brought up in the open.
Stefan finally releases a breath, "Do you know how many systems my "fleet" and I say fleet sparingly, because we aren't like any of the ship carriers and battleships." before pointing toward Valentine's world. "I need to know exact positions of anti-air inplacements. Anti-capital ship weaponry. Fighter capability." As he lists off some of the various needs his team would require to work something like that properly.
Stefan brushes his tunic down, "The two other agents are correct. Something subversive is required. That isn't in my repertoire.".
Trina looks back at the holo, her eyes taking in the scene as it is replayed. The trajectory of the little droid as it is hurled through the air. That precious little droid! And then the brandishing of weapons Trina instinctively feared. She'd seen Delphine wield those shock rods first hand, heard their bark and snap as she used them to repel blaster bolts. She had scene Sarna's weapon, too, but as a harmless cylinder strapped to the young woman's waist.
In a sense, this was another test of loyalty. Why was it that Kalden and Delphine both felt the need to test her?
"I think something the representative said before makes a lot of sense." A small pause. Trina knew what she was about to suggest would hurt her friend, but better this small pain than the larger. "I don't think The Enclave would go along with the way Delphine is misrepresenting them. If we can separate Delphine from her order, she and Sarna may come to us for protection. As long as they are being hunted by that bounty hunter, we may be able to offer them some kind of peace."
"Captain, I don't think a place like Valentine's has much by way of what you're imagining. It's an Independent. They're... a little hodge-podge down there, likely. Getting specifics would be difficult, but you can likely reassure yourself knowing it won't hold a candle to us."
Sian leans back a bit to listen to Trina, tipping her head in a slight nod. "So someone needs to get information of how Delphine is behaving to the Enclave. That's easily done." She tilts her head in a nod to the holo. "This alone, I imaagine, would do the job." She starts to get to her feet, palms on the table, looking to Kalden. "Do you need anything further of me?"
"Of course Captain you would not be going in blind. You would have every detail of defenses at your disposal. But remember you would not be going rogue. You would be acting on the orders of high command." Kalden says to reassure the Captain that he would not be slaughtered or executed for treason. To Trina the agent replies, "Then perhaps you could extend her an invitation? We can discuss it more later but I am not opposed to giving you a chance to do it your way." Towards Sian, Kalden next replies. "No, thank you for joining us. Please give your master my regards" Despite his words, the Agent signals that they should meet in private at some point to have a more open discussion.
Stefan releases another pent in breath before standing up, claiming his hat. "Great. You can tell my crews that shore leave is canceled". As he states to Kalden. Before nodding to the two women, "Agents. If you require me. You can find me on the Reliance. Likely, outside of Valentine's scanner range."
So that was it. The end of a pivotal meeting, leading possibly to the end of a pivotal friendship. Trina stands and looks around the small store. First she looks at the captain, eager to wield his weapons of war. Then to the representative, a small amount of envy coursing through Trina for the other woman's dark hair. She missed having hair of her own. Perhaps she would have to do something about that, to reclaim some small portion of her dignity.
To Kalden, Trina offers a brief nod. There was more that needed to be said to the agent. The events from Orum's cantina still needed resolution. But that was not for this day.
The cyborg turns and starts for the door, then stops. She turns, throws out a hand, and snatches an elegant knit sweater off a hanger. She knew it would become a tangled snarl of pulled threads and snags the moment she tried to pull it over her arms and shoulders, but she would take one nice thing for herself. Even if it didn't last, this one thing would be hers.
Much in the way she entered with storm clouds circling her shoulders, Trina leaves the clothing store fuming.