Chapter 7

DIANA

"We're finally here, huh?" Tobias asked as they came out of hyperspace. "I gotta say, I'm more than a little a little unimpressed."

Diana felt the same way. Utapau wasn't nearly as impressive as she'd thought it would be. Even from space, she could see that the planet was arid, sandy, and to top it off, she could clearly see several sinkholes dotting the planet's surface. "I couldn't agree more, Tobias," she muttered. An inquisitive look came over her face. "It makes me wonder what the Republic and Empire are fighting over. Are there valuable minerals on this world? Perhaps some sort of technology developed by the natives? Or are they just looking to blow off some steam?"

"Yeah…" Tobias muttered, a gleam coming into his eyes. "If it is some sort of mineral, I wonder what it would sell for on the black market…" This got him a little pinch on the arm from Diana. "Now, now, Tobias, this is strictly a professional assassination mission. Perhaps when we're done, we can go sightseeing or… something. Right now, though-"

"Yes, yes, we have to kill the crotchety old Jedi. When does that happen?"

"It happens when it happens, my dear Mandalorian. Now, we're going to contact Darth Vatrus and see what he wants." Without waiting for him to respond, she brushed past him, and went to the conference room.

As she walked, Tobias caught up with her, and fell into stride beside the average-heighted human. "I just have to ask, Kroan," he said as they walked, "why do you always say 'now, now' to me? I realize you envy my mother, but guess what? She said that to a Trandoshan once, and her jaw now has a hole in it... not to mention also being unhinged."

"That just proves that your mother wasn't me. I mean, have you ever met anyone else remotely like me in all the galaxy? Everybody loves me, Trandoshans included. Except that one whose mate I accidentally shot, but I guess that's understandable…"

The massive bounty hunter laughed. "You're right, Kroan. Only you would say something so unbelievably… let's call it braggish."

"We could call it that, but that's also not a word, Tobias! Are all bounty hunters like this?"

"Nah. Just the ones who enjoy pissing off women that are named Diana."

This led to yet another "important" discussion that continued until they reached the conference room. When they got there, though, Diana finally stopped talking, gave Tobias another pinch, and contacted the Emperor's Wrath.

When Vatrus' image finally came up on the surface of the holoterminal, he gave an insincere smile. "Ah, Miss Kroan, and… ah, the infamous Tobias Ilic! I have heard a great deal about you... Such as your tendency to storm in guns blazing." The Emperor's Wrath sent a brief glare at Diana. "Miss Kroan, I don't think I need to remind you that this mission will require precision as well as discretion, neither of which Mr. Ilic is known for, which is why he has the reputation that he does in the first place. Still, this is your mission, and if you believe that you can keep this brute under control, I won't argue. Now, as to the details of your-"

"Brute?!" Tobias suddenly roared. "Is that all you think of me as? Why don't you come over and say that to me in person so I can-" Tobias' words were suddenly cut off, and his hands went to his throat. The bounty hunter looked up and saw Vatrus' hand was raised, and realized that the Sith was choking him. As Tobias continued to struggle desperately for breath, Vatrus continued his conversation with Diana as though it were the most normal thing in the galaxy.

"As I was saying before I was so rudely interupted," Vatrus muttered, "I want you to dock in the Pau City Imperial Spaceport, where I have authorized your ship to land, and meet with a Mirialan called Patro Kist. I told him to meet you in the cantina on the ninety-fifth ring of the city." He finally released Tobias, who instantly fell to his his knees as he sucked air back into his lungs, and was about to press the button to end the transmission, when Diana stopped him.

"My lord, a quick request."

"Of course, Miss Kroan. What is it that you need?"

"I was wondering if there was any more advice or information you could give us?"

"Patro Kist will update you on the situation on Utapau, as well as how you'll be able to reach Master Ovan. As for the rest, you're an Imperial Cipher, figure it out." And with that, he turned off the holo, leaving the Cipher momentarily stunned. She quickly snapped out of it, and knelt down to help her wheezing friend stand back up. "Tobias! Tobias, are you all right?"

The galaxy's greatest bounty hunter gave a few ragged breaths before speaking. "Bastard… choked me… stupid Sith…" After a few minutes of support, he straightened up and removed himself from her. "I really cannot believe that you choose to work for those guys. I stood up for myself, so he-"

"Force choked you through the holo like I said someone eventually would? Tobias, let me tell you something right here and now before it happens again: Do not talk back to a Sith. It doesn't work out well, as you just discovered. Now, you can stand there and be mad at him, or do this mission with me so you can be rid of him." And with that, she walked off, back toward the bridge.

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As Diana guided the ship down, she messaged Pau City, and a man gave her the coordinates to the Imperial spaceport. She effortlessly piloted the ship into orbit, and touched down on her designated landing pad. At some point, Tobias had come to stand next to her. His massive size and stern expression would have been intimidating to anyone who didn't know that he had a heart of gold, AKA everyone but his family and Diana. "So, we're here, eh? Again, I have to say, not impressed."

Again, the human woman silently agreed. The spaceport was pretty lacking, and she'd been to Ziost - the planet may have been a dark side focal point, but that didn't change the fact that the spaceport on Ziost… wasn't even a real spaceport. This was definitely better, but it was still pretty shabby. The docking bay walls were bent and rusted in some places. This was probably because the spaceport was built in haste in order to get troops to the planet faster, but they could've at least made sure the walls were straight! The overhead lights were also subpar, constantly flickering, sort of like the sky on Dromund Kaas, which was constantly lit up with lightning.

"Yes, well, I've got a feeling that we're going to meet people who are suspicious of a Cipher agent that talks nonchalantly about pretty much everything when not addressing a superior, and a Mandalorian who likes money more than honor, so get your game face on, if you'd please." Just for show, she lifted her hand in front of her face, then brought it down, obscuring her face for just a second. When it was done, her constant small smile was gone, replaced by cold, emotionless eyes and a straight line for a mouth. "Now you." she said in her near-monotonous Cipher voice.

"Are you serious? I'm not gonna wave a hand in front of-"

"Do it, Tobias."

"There's no way I'm-"

"Do it."

The bounty hunter seemed a bit taken back by the intensity of those two words, but this mission was far too important to leave anything to chance. She didn't want herself or Tobias to get hurt. "Al…alright," he said, and did as she requested, with his casual, adventurous expression replaced by one that seemed equal parts stoic and ruthless. "Happy now?"

"Yes. Now, come, Tobias. We have to meet our contact." She walked off toward the exit to the ship, the Mandalorian following close behind.

As they exited the ship, they were immediately greeted by a scrawny Imperial man with a small bit of freckles, messy black hair, and dark green eyes. "Cipher Nine, it is an honor," he said nervously as the pair walked up. "I am Ensign Hertin, a temporary representative of Patro Kist. I'm on loan, in a manner of speaking. He told me to personally escort you down to the cantina where you would be meeting. Pau City is a big place, you know."

Diana gave the ensign a look that told him that this Cipher wasn't here to exchange pleasantries, she was on a mission. "Well then, Ensign, I suggest that you start. I don't like to be kept waiting, and my mission is of great importance. While on that topic…" she said, quietly pulling out a two-hour amnesia toxin contained within a syringe from her belt, "Are you aware of the details of my mission, Ensign?"

The small man quickly shook his head, a fearful look in his eyes. "No Miss, I am not knowledgeable of the mission's details; I was told only that it is critical that I get you down to meet with Patro. Now, let us be off. You can put that neurotoxin away. Please." He swiftly turned on his heel and walked away, though Diana could tell that he wanted to run. The Cipher followed suit, a little bit surprised that he'd noticed the subtle movements of her hand to grab the syringe. Shrugging, she put it away, and followed Hertin out of the hangar.

When she got out, she was amazed at how busy the place was. There were Imperials everywhere, conversing with some unfamiliar, tall, stately beings that she could only assume were the planet's natives. There were also several small creatures tinkering with faulty droids, which she suspected were another native species, as she'd been to virtually every planet in the known galaxy and had never seen them before now. As she made her way through the crowd, she saw several of the tall beings staring down at her, looking over her form appraisingly, as if deciding whether or not to crush this little insect that had invaded their planet. Others simply smiled at her, the tight-stretched skin stretching even tighter around the mouth, showing sharp, crooked teeth. The smaller beings wore overalls that were occasionally too big, and tended to keep their distance from the Imperials in general, though they conversed freely with the tall creatures.

"Geez, these natives make me feel both big and small at the same time," Tobias said, walking a slight bit behind her. "Do you agree?" He asked, a small smile on his face. She gave a very quick smile back once she did a quick survey of their surroundings and decided that no one would notice. "Yes, it would seem so. I find it interesting how such utterly different species have such friendly relations, as evidenced by the various conversations between the races. However, the tall ones were eyeing me like a slice of bantha steak, while the tiny ones keep their distance from all Imperials, especially the ones with blasters and badges, such as me. When you think about it, though, you can't blame them. I mean, we and our Empire suddenly discover this planet and establish a presence on it. Then the Republic discovers it and establishes its own presence, so the Empire tries to establish a bigger presence and because of that, the Republic does the same, so the Empire has to flex their muscles again, and it just keeps going back and forth. It's all maddening."

"Yeah, I get what you mean, but now's really not the time to be discussing our relationship with weird-headed midgets in overalls, and tight-skinned giants in robes. Let's try to keep up with Hertin right now." He stopped talking, so Diana did as well. They continued walking in silence the entire walk to the lifts, and remained quiet during the ride down. When they finally arrived on the correct level, the ensign swiftly led them to a very small cantina.

"Well, there you are," he said, turning and nodding curtly. "I have other matters to attend to, so I'm going to leave. No need to thank me, Miss. Service is its own reward." He quickly strode off, and as Diana looked back, she saw him exhale loudly and wipe a light layer of sweat off his brow.

She looked over to Tobias, and a small burst of laughter managed to escape the bounty hunter, which earned him a glare. "Damn it all… I'm sorry, Kro – Cipher Nine, but that was hilarious. Did you see him? I mean, really see him? He looked like he was going to drop a load when he finally got us here. What'd he think we were gonna do with him?"

The Cipher gave him one of her signature pinches. "Tobias, I appreciate your views on the state of people's digestive processes, but there are Imperials everywhere here. When we're alone, I'll let you blow off some steam and tell all the jokes you want. Not now, though." Before he could come up with something to say, she yanked him into the cantina.

The first thing she noticed was that none of the natives were anywhere in the cantina. It was completely Imperial-operated and Imperial-attended, which led Diana to believe that this hadn't been here before the Imperials came. She looked around the cantina for a minute, until she saw a green-skinned man leaning back in his chair, feet on his table, the chair back held steady by the wall behind him. He looked up from his drink and saw her, then motioned for her to come closer. Diana did so, seeing as this man fit the very vague description Darth Vatrus had given her.

As she got closer, he started to smile, and his smile only grew wider as she came closer. "Well," he said, "aren't you pretty? The name's Patro Kist, but you can call me Hot Stuff. Put her there." He held out his hand, which she refused to acknowkedge.

"Patro Kist-"

"Hot Stuff."

"Patro Kist," She said again, making sure to add some venom behind the words, "I was told that you had information for me that would help with my mission's progression. I assume that means directions, knowledge of codes, and other relevant information?" She suddenly realized that she liked being a Cipher. All she had to do was get intense for a second, and then everyone spoke about nothing but business.

Except for this idiot. "Now now, I don't like it when people get all high and mighty with me. I don't work for the Republic or your Empire, therefore, I'm not gonna get all scared when some upper-class Imperial agent tries to cow me by acting tough. What're you gonna do? Turn me in to the Sith for speaking my mind when I'm not even part of their little Empire? How is that fair? Now, I have information, but until you start being a little more nice to me, and call me what I asked you to, I don't think I feel like telling you anything other than the fact that you're amazingly beautiful."

Diana could have done that, but she had a much more efficient solution in mind. "Tobias," She ordered, "Hit him."

Kist barely had time to respond before the gauntlet-covered fist smashed into his face, breaking his nose in the process. "Agh! What the kriff!" Suddenly a smaller fist seized his hair, and the Mirialan's head was wrenched up so he could look into the eyes of a furious Imperial Cipher.

"Now, are you going to give me the information that I need, or do we need to do that again?" She then released his hair.

Patro Kist snarled. "I was wanted to have a little fun with you, and your response is to sic your goon on me!"

'Looks like this idiot still doesn't get the message.' Diana thought with more than a little irritation. "Hit him again."

Tobias gave the Mirialan an uppercut, and Kist screamed in pain.

Before the idiot had a chance to whine, Cipher Nine growled. "Give me all the information you have that's related to my mission now, Kist. You can either tell me, or I can have my friend beat it out of you. Or," She said as a smile that sent chills down Patro's spine appeared on her face. "I can beat it out of you. I think I've earned it."

"Man, "Kist groaned," you guys are really awful at the good cop, bad cop thing. You're like... bad cop, and even worse cop."

'Okay, it's official: Patro Kist isn't just an idiot, he's kriffing retarded.'

"Do you want me to..." Tobias offered as he made a fist again.

"No," Diana answered as she drew her pistol. "Let's just shoot him. This guy's way too dumb to be able to remember everything that we need to know, which means he recorded all the information on a datapad. We'll take it off his corpse, and if the thing's encrypted, I'm sure I can crack it."

Finally, the few functional brain cells that Patro Kist possessed came online. "Wait! Wait! Y-you mean this datapad showing the coordinates of the Republic stronghold where your target is located? Here, take it! It shows the easiest way to get to there from here, as well as the names of some of your target's generals and where they're located, in case you want to piss him off a little before you snipe him! Just don't kill me!"

Diana took the offered datapad, looked over the information contained in it, and nodded in approval. "I must say, Mr. Kist, this is quite impressive for an idiot such as yourself. To show my thanks, I will not only let you live, but give you some friendly advice: The next time you accept a contract - whether it's with the Empire, Republic, or anyone - instead of screwing around, do, your, job." She then noticed something at the bottom of the datapad. "What're those numbers at the bottom of the pad for?"

Patro's eyes widened. "Oh, those? Those, uh, form the code to tap into my personal holocom's frequency. I-if you need advice, or... anything else. I-I'll just delete those right now."

"You do that."

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"Well, I'm glad that's over and done with." Tobias muttered as they speed walked through the city. "Who the hell did that idiot think he was? Was that his first job with the Empire or something?"

"It doesn't matter anymore, Tobias. Hopefully that moron learned his lesson, and we can focus on our mission. Now, I think we're far enough away from public eyes, so let's look at the directions on this datapad." She did just that, and stopped in her tracks, looking over the pad, inspecting it. "Here, it says that the best way to get to the coordinates is by landspeeder, so I guess we should rent a couple."

"Alright," said Tobias. "Let's start this mission for real, shall we?"

"I do believe that that would be a wonderful course of action," Diana said. With that, they went back to the lifts, got on, and went back up.

As they ascended, Tobias' eyes widened and he covered his face with his palm.

"What is it?" Diana asked.

"I just realized something."

"What?"

"We don't know where the hell the speeder rental place is!"

Diana considered this for a moment, and then mimicked his gesture.

"Dammit."

AN: Yes, I know, it's awesome. I try not to brag, but, well... you read the story!

Also, Paragon said something about the interrogation scene being partially copied or something from some web series, so if anyone knows which one it is, feel free to tell me in the comments. I'll favorite your stoooooooooooriiiiiiiiiiiiii iiiiiiiiiies!