2 ABY – 09 Golf – 2 Zheliday (Phaseera) After reviewing their existing intel, Cheebs, Kantarra, and C4-BL3 all head down to the Ugly Bantha in the evening. C4-BL3 stations himself near the entrance with the other droids – all of whom are secretly conducting business and surveillance on a variety of encrypted networks. Kantarra & Cheebs set to drinking a couple rounds of Fuzzy Tauntauns that Kantarra ordered while checking the place. The mouse droid is present, as is their human target (Crag, under alias) who’s accompanied by several others. The rare sight of a female Quarren draws their attention as well, with a different group of sentients. Discreetly sweeping the area with his surveillance detector, Cheebs finds odd sideband activity and reports this to C4-BL3 using his wrist datapad. C4-BL3 traces it to a familiar-looking astromech nearby whom he eventually identifies as belonging to none other than C4-BL3’s old employer, Nix. When Cheebs asks the over-eager comm droid if he can overload the spying astromech, C4-BL3 takes this as an order. A blast of potent feedback emanates from the dataport to which the R-unit’s connected, triggering an unexpected complete meltdown. The bar jumps to life with all the patrons pulling out weapons; half of them rush for the exit at the sudden violence of a droid going up in smoke. The party leaves too.
Among the general rush to leave the cantina, the party picks up on several details. Their human target (Crag) is hustled off by several bodyguards to a side corridor; C4-BL3 later traces this to a long maintenance shaft that seems to lead 1km away from the city and to the surface. The female Quarren leaves in a group with a Rodian, a Trandoshan, and a human. Back at the ship, R3-M3 also reports noticing a red-skinned female Nautolan lingering nearby shortly after the group had left. They piece together that these five (including the Nautolan) are all part of the Metatheran cartel – a local affiliate of the Osaji Syndicate, Nix’s group. Presumably Cheebs’ tail earlier in the day was also one of them.
Wanting more intel on the Metatheran faction’s disposition and motives, Cheebs asks C4-BL3 to start sifting the city’s data registries for (rare) female Quarren. Wanting to make himself useful as well, Cheebs then attempts to break into the Ugly Bantha’s point of sale system. He’s surprised at his success – although he’s focused all of his “luck” on the task – and Cheebs and Kantarra get a few glimmers of information from this. Finding several encrypted chain codes in the POS system, they give one corresponding to the female Quarren to C4-BL3. The comm droid makes short work of this, decrypting and isolating the record – which is a dead end. The Quarren has been using a fake chain code – and C4-BL3 recognizes his own handiwork! Another tie to Nix, but also another dead end.
After much deliberation, the party decides to surveil the mysterious and possibly empty apartment on the upper level. Although the mouse droid has been seen going in and out the front door, no organics have shown up on the camera covering the front door. C4-BL3 locates a back door opening onto a maintenance corridor. Cheebs & C4-BL3 quickly fashion a discreet camera system out of probe droid sensors. Under cover of an improvised ship-maintenance diversion, R3-M3 slips away from their putative Metatheran spies. The doughty astromech hasn’t yet even been off the ship, so she’s a natural choice for placing the surveillance sensor to cover the back door. But waiting and watching for a full day, the party sees no activity there other than the door unlocking twice a day when the mouse droid comes & goes out the front.
Feeling woefully uninformed about the situation and all its players, the party agonizes over its next move. Kantarra in particular is acting increasingly stressed and out of her depth, muttering about how she “never should’ve taken this job.” They eventually reach the consensus that moving on the residence, with or without the mouse droid present, would be unwise. Without any evidence of Crag’s presence there nor that of the camtono holding the “asset,” they agree that the apartment could be a trap, or at best a diversion.
Instead, they decide to move on the Ugly Bantha cantina in the morning when the target is known to be there. C4-BL3’s purloined security data suggests there are small groups of visitors to the cantina in those off-hours, different visitors every day. Kantarra suggests they could pose as potential buyers for the target’s stolen tech, which seems the most likely explanation for the target “holding court” as he has been. Presuming that the Metatheran faction is one such potential buyer, they concoct a cover story: The party is sent by the Osaji Syndicate, having broken with the Metatherans and wanting to cut them out of the deal. Meanwhile, C4-BL3 forges himself a work order to go in slightly ahead of Kantarra & Cheebs; he’ll claim to be there to fix the obviously faulty data port that fried that hapless astromech a couple nights ago. R3-M3 helpfully chimes in with a strategy to prevent the real group of buyers from reaching the cantina by shutting down the lifts at the right moment. They all prepare for their roles, ready for trouble this time. Cheebs readies the repaired camtono they recovered those months back on Nar Shaddaa to act as a prop. To look as though it’s filled with cash, he gives it a convincing heft by filling it with his high-pressure-modified “goo gun” loaded with quick-drying glue. Meanwhile, C4-BL3 strips off his now-customary ship’s jumpsuit and utility vest and adds some racing stripe accents to his chassis to match the local maintenance droids. Kantarra grimly readies her arsenal.
2 ABY – 09 Golf – 3 Benduday (Phaseera) C4-BL3 moves first. He approaches the eyestalk of the TT-8L gatekeeper droid at the cantina’s entrance. In a stroke of supreme luck – or perhaps destiny – the tactless comm droid manages not to raise any suspicions and is duly admitted. The Ugly Bantha’s many-eyed bovine bartender (Suggs) jokes with the droid before ordering him to get to work back in the kitchen where the service connections are. Passing through the mostly darkened cantina, C4-BL3 notes the target’s presence in one of the booths accompanied only by two female near-human bodyguards this time.
Some minutes later, Cheebs & Kantarra are surprised to be admitted as well with a bare minimum of subterfuge. Thankfully no one seems to be paying much attention to the identity of this morning’s scheduled visitors. Kantarra and Cheebs see (and he senses) no one else in the establishment besides the bartender. They approach the sole occupied booth.
This is their first good look at Crag, their “target.” His expression is drawn and general appearance disheveled, with the look of a desperate or possibly crazed man. He asks them bluntly what they want, whom they represent, and why they’re any different from “all the others.” Kantarra answers that they’ll pay handsomely for the tech he has, as they’re representatives of the Osaji Cartel and as such have a keen interest in keeping it out of the hands of the Metatherans. Although hearing the Metatheran reference seems to catch Crag’s interest, he sneers, saying they have nothing new to offer; he laments aloud that no one seems to understand what he really wants. What he really wants is to escape this planet!
Improvising along this unexpected new line, Kantarra offers that yes, indeed they do have a ship, a fast ship, pointing to Captain Cheebs. As they talk, Cheebs suddenly feels an urgent need to sense as much as he can from this strange human, this scientist turned industrial-espionage agent. Fear of losing control of the situation, fear of missing a potentially huge payout, and fear of getting caught in a firefight all combine to focus a terrible urgency in Cheebs’ mind. Suddenly he can sense the man’s thoughts rushing over him: The scientist’s unstable mind is almost overcome by fear of a great calamity. The images and words of his mind paint a picture of droid armies sweeping across the galaxy destroying all in their wake, on a scale even greater than that of the Clone Wars. This is what he fears if the technology he’s stolen falls back into the company’s hands – or worse.
Crag’s somewhat incoherent outbursts are a challenge: How could he trust them? How does he know they won’t let the technology fall into the wrong hands? Cheebs tries to keep his stammering at a minimum and think on his feet; there’s an opportunity here, and potentially a drastic change in their mission. Guided by the man’s fractured thoughts and fears, Cheebs assures him that – although of course they can’t offer any real assurance of trustworthiness – they could get him offworld as long as they can escape the attention of the Metatherans. In fact, they’re already heading to the very edge of the Outer Rim, to Mon Calamari. This seems to produce the desired effect in the strained scientist’s mind, and he’s impressed. But whom is the party is actually working for? Kantarra chimes in, and they explain that the Osaji Syndicate connection was a lie to get them in to talk to Crag. Cheebs intuits that the scientist must be afraid of the technology falling into Imperial hands, since the tech came from companies closely affiliated with the Empire – so he lies. Cheebs implies that their actual connections are to a “certain group” on Mon Calamari. This too produces the desired effect; Crag turns to the bodyguards, saying “I’m going with them.” Cheebs remembers that their occasionally violent comm droid is waiting in the kitchen and is prepared to murder the man who was just a couple minutes ago their target for termination. He frantically pecks a message into his wrist datapad:
Just then the cantina’s front door begins to open. Kantarra hustles the man towards the curtained doorway on the stage that leads to the kitchen and asks him about the tech asset’s whereabouts. He says it’s in his quarters. Cheebs follows behind, having grabbed up his camtono containing the goo gun. As they pass through the curtain into the kitchen (where C4-BL3 greets Crag with a matter-of-fact “I was told not to shoot you”), they catch a glimpse of a familiar group of people entering the cantina. It’s the Metatherans: the female Quarren, a Rodian, a Trandoshan, and a human. As the party dashes for the kitchen’s back door, lashes of blaster fire erupt in the cantina between the bodyguards and the newcomers.