This is a prequel of sorts for two characters covered in another of my FanFics called "To No Avail". Hope you enjoy this little exploration into the past of these characters and how it will shape the men they become. As always reviews are appreciated!
Operation Nar Shaddaa.
High above the planet Nal Hutta, adopted home world of the Hutt species and the center of the Hutt Empire, orbits the moon Nar Shaddaa. A planet wide city covers the entire surface of this ecumenopolis moon. Nar Shadda was once a commercial center and trade port that rivaled the glory of even Cosuscant. Over time that prosperity decayed and the planet wide city became a center for crime and piracy. Being in orbit of the Hutt capital, it was perhaps the best example of unchecked crime and corruption in the entire galaxy, it was a dangerous place. Nicknamed "The Vertical City", Nar Shaddaa was home to a seemingly endless population of pirates, smugglers, slave traders, drug traffickers, and any other form of scum you can imagine. It was the unofficial capital of the black market in the galaxy. But it was also the site of an Imperial Army covert-ops mission undertaken by Imperial Army Captain Jhan Miles and Specialist Wilkis Zarin in the year 2BBY.
In orbit of Nar Shadda, a modified WUD-500 freighter, christened the "Ghost Jewel" is entering the heavily trafficked airspace over the "Vertical City".
"Shouldn't we get clearance to approach Captain?" Wilkis asks, an obvious tone of worry in his voice.
Specialist Wilkis Zarin is 22 years old and has been a Storm Trooper in the Imperial Army for just over 2 years. He is unaccustomed to operating outside of his armor and outside the disciplined regimen of the Storm Trooper ranks. It was his close friend, Captain Jhan Miles who volunteered him for this mission. Despite his repeated protests, Miles was his superior, and Wilkis was given no choice in the matter. They have spent the past 3 days making their way to Nar Shaddaa in this old beat up freighter confiscated by the Empire. Acquired from a detained smuggler weeks ago, the ship was repaired and issued to the team for the duration of the mission along with a cargo hold full of illegal goods. Wilkis is nervous beyond words at the thought of breaking the laws he has sworn to uphold and dealing with the same types of criminals he took an oath to fight.
"No. This is not Imperial Space. It's lawless out here." Miles says. "And stop calling me Captain. We aren't Imperial Troopers, we're smugglers remember? We have to maintain cover at all times on the surface."
"Right." Wilkis replies.
Jhan Miles, is a Captain in the Imperial Army, he has served as a Storm Trooper for nearly 15 years. At 35 years old, he is older than most officers of his rank. He spent his first 4 years as an enlisted trooper and excelled in his duty culminating in his achievement to the rank of Sergeant. He was selected for Officers training and enlisted in the ROTC program on Carida. He spent two years there before getting an officers commission as a Second Lieutenant. 3 years later he was promoted to First Lieutenant, and 2 years ago he was promoted to Captain. His high level of combat training and his skill at infiltration landed him this particular assignment.
The mission called for tracking down a pirate known only as "Arkin". Arkin is accused of taking contracts to destroy Imperial Civilian transports running the hyperspace lanes. He has destroyed 6 transports already, resulting in over 650 deaths. The Empire wants to find out who put these contracts out and needs Arkin captured alive to be brought back for interrogation. Typically, a target like this would have a bounty put on his head, but the Empire does not wish to have Arkin's employers start covering their tracks once they know the Empire is closing in. A covert-ops mission was planned. It called for no more than 2 soldiers to infiltrate the black market operations on Nar Shaddaa and track down the fugitive. Miles volunteered for the assignment and was quickly chosen to lead the mission based on his service record. He chose his friend Wilkis Zarin to join him against some serious protests.
Despite their age difference, Miles and Zarin consider each other great friends. They both hail from the planet Anaxes and both have families with a long history of military service. They first met when Miles was already a Lieutenant in the Imperial Army. They bonded over their shared obsession for playing "Dejarik" and a mutual appreciation for any member of the female sex. Miles would often share tales of his adventures in Imperial Service and eventually Zarin decided to enlist as well. It was by pure luck that both got stationed on board the ISD Devastator, however Wilkis was placed in a specialized unit called Desert Sands used primarily for missions in extreme temperature environments, whereas Miles serves as a member of the 501st Legion and sees a lot more action of a regular basis. Miles sees Wilkis as a sort of protégé and spends a lot of time training Wilkis in the skills he has picked up over the years. He feels that Wilkis being a member of a specialized unit loses out on the opportunities for experience and training more active Troopers get in their daily service, so he has made it his mission to make sure Wilkis doesn't fall behind. Because they serve in different units the two never get to work together, so Miles specifically had Zarin join him on this mission, if nothing else than to get the chance to finally have a tale they can share and own together but also to continue the vision of training he has for Wilkis.
"Navigating this airspace can be tough so keep our speed down." Miles says. "Once we're near the commercial center we're going to get about 45 hails from various docking ports vying for us to pay them for use of their docking facility. I don't care to haggle today so just accept the first one that makes contact. I'm going to get back into the cargo bay and prep our gear."
Miles gets up from his seat and makes his way to the back of the cockpit.
"Roger that sir." Wilkis says as he takes the flight controls.
"And Wilkis?" Miles says as he stops at the door, looking back.
"Yes sir?" Wilkis asks.
"Stop with the 'sirs'. Call me Miles from here on out." Miles says.
"Yes si-" Wilkis starts before stopping himself. He shakes his head quickly. "You got it, Miles."
Miles laughs quietly as he steps out of the cockpit, the hatch closes behind him. He makes his way down the small corridor leading to the ships crew compartment, his boots clang against the metal plating and send echoes down the small passageway. He reaches the next hatch and hits the release. The door opens to reveal the crew compartment. This room is typically for use of passengers and crew during transit. Smugglers use these areas as miscellaneous parts storage since their cargo bays tend to be filled with contraband. This room has the entrance to the bridge and crew quarters, the hatch leading to the cargo bay, and the main entry hatch for the ship. Along the ceiling is the auxiliary hatch leading to the roof of the ship, and along the floor are various maintenance hatches, often used for smuggling as well. The room is still full of random junk left over from the previous owner whom the Empire confiscated the ship from. Miles makes his way to the cargo bay hatch, weaving his way around various boxes and components. When he reaches the cargo bay hatch he hits the release.
Miles stares at it for a moment. He can hear the motor trying to open the door, but there is no movement. Miles kicks the hatch hard with his boot. The door shakes a bit before finally opening. Miles shakes his head with annoyance as he enters the darkened bay. He hits the control for the lights. They flicker and slowly come to life. The ship rocks slightly. Miles looks over the cargo in the bay. Most of the boxes put in the ship are various items of contraband confiscated from a wide array of arrested pirates and smugglers. It was all repurposed for the mission by Miles' commanding officer. Everything in here is illegal in Imperial Space, and the hope is, Miles can use the items to get credits with which to buy information on their target, or gain favor to earn the trust of any associates who know the target. Miles scans over the manifest provided by the team who loaded the bay to get an idea what he is working with. The ship rocks again, more violently this time. Miles reaches over and hits the com.
"Everything alright up there Wilkis?" Miles asks.
"Yeah just fine!" Wilkis responds through the com, clearly annoyed by something. "Nothing to worry about, just some crinking stoopas cutting me off!"
Miles smiles and continues reading the manifest. The ship rocks some more. Miles has memorized the list and deletes the data. He picks up a nearby hard case and takes it with him as he turns off the lights and heads back up to the cockpit. As he enters the corridor leading to the cockpit he can hear Wilkis cursing loudly, likely at passing ships. When he enters he can see that they have entered a heavily populated zone over the Vertical City and are nearing a small space port.
"Any luck finding a landing pad?" Miles asks as he sits down.
"Yeah, we got clearance for that space dock up ahead, if these ships would get out of my way I can come in for a proper landing!" Wilkis says, frustration dominating his words.
"Don't worry about any proper protocol, just come in hot if you have to." Miles says. "These guys will move out of the way."
Wilkis turns the ship hard about and manages to cut some other traffic off. Those ships don't bother slowing down as they pass over and under the "Ghost Jewel" shaking the ship as they pass. Wilkis brings the ship in fast towards the open docking bay below before engaging full thrusters to slow their decent. The blast scorches the tarmac of the docking pad but it's likely no one would notice anyway since the pad appears to have never been cleaned before. The ship sets down and Wilkis cuts the engines.
"Gah!" Wilkis lets out a long exasperated sigh. "I hate flying on unregulated planets! They need a blasted control tower or something!"
Miles gets up and heads to the crew compartment. As he enters he sets the box he took from the cargo bay onto the table and opens it up. Inside are two blasters, holsters for them, and two small covert communicators. Wilkis enters the bay behind him.
"Here." Miles says as he hands Wilkis a blaster.
Wilkis takes the blaster and checks the safety, checks the charge and then secures the blaster in the holster before strapping it to his belt. Miles then hands Wilkis one of the communicators, which Wilkis places in his shirts inside pocket.
"I feel so exposed without armor." Wilkis says as he surveys his outfit. A typical scoundrels set of clothing, Wilkis scrutinizes the dirty black slacks and dark brown, and very worn out leather jacket he wears.
"I know what you mean." Miles says as he straps his blaster and holster to his belt and pockets the communicator. He zips up his dark blue jacket and runs his hands through his hair shaking his hands as he goes. He looks even scruffier than before.
"Is this really how smugglers prefer to dress and look?" Wilkis asks. "I mean, how can they command respect without proper grooming?"
"They tend to only respect those who can get them money or whoop their butt." Miles says as he pulls out a digital survey reader. On its screen is a map of the surrounding area. "Stay tough, don't take any crap and don't hesitate to threaten to kill anyone who gets in your way. You got me? That's the only language the types in this place understand."
"I got it." Wilkis says as he confirms his blaster in well within reach. "You know how much I hate disorder. I don't think I'd mind beating some Imperial training into one of these pirates."
"Don't go picking fights though. We need to act the part. We hate the Empire, we're here to sell stolen goods remember." Miles says. "In fact, just let me do the talking, I don't need to clean up after you again."
Miles turns and heads towards the ships main entry hatch.
"Hey! What's that supposed to mean?" Wilkis says as he follows Miles.
"You remember that bouncer back at the Corellian Pub on Anaxes?" Miles asks with his eyebrows raised.
"Yeah so?" Wilkis says as he furrows his brow. "That guy and I got along just fine!"
"Yeah! Because I paid him not to kick your ass after you told his girlfriend she looked weathered!" Miles says as he hits the entry hatch controls.
"That was his girlfriend?" Wilkis says shocked. "Opps."
"Yeah, oops. Don't go causing trouble on this mission Zarin, I'm warning you." Miles says as he starts down the entry ramp.
The pair exits the ship and looks around. The bay is filthy and worn down. The Auxiliary Energy ports used to recharge docked ships batteries are broken, the cooling vent recyclers are missing and the main docking bay door doesn't appear to be able to close leaving the ship exposed to the polluted air and traffic of the city above. Miles looks up and watches as the endless stream of ships pass overhead. He looks down. The refueling tubes seem intact at least.
"Well at least we won't be stuck here." Miles says.
Across the docking bay the main exit port opens and an overweight and foul looking Klatoonian enters. He scuttles over to Miles and Wilkis.
"Ah welcome to Nar Shaddaa, yes yes. I am Yheedo." Yheedo says. "Docking fee is 6,000, you must pay now."
Miles looks at Wilkis with scrutiny.
"6,000?" Miles asks Wilkis. "You really agreed to that?"
"You told me take the first offer!" WIlkis says as he tosses his hands up to his sides.
Miles shakes his head and turns to Yheedo.
"Look, I'll pay you 1,000 no more." Miles argues.
"Docking fee is 6,000!" Yheedo shouts.
Miles lets out a long deep breath. They've been on Nar Shaddaa for all of 5 minutes and already someone is trying to con them out of credits. It's clear that Miles will need to take his own advice on how to deal with the populace here.
"Look, you either take the 1,000 or I get back in my ship and find someplace else." Miles says as he crosses his arms across his chest in defiance. "And you'll be lucky if I don't drop a few thermal detonators into the bay before I leave! Not that anyone could tell the difference anyway, this place is beat to all hell."
Yheedo frowns and stares at Miles. He shakes his head as he absorbs the insults and the threats.
"Gah! Fine, 1,000. All the same, you humans, you think you can push anyone around and get away with it!" Yheedo says.
"I'm not the one trying to rob people who park in this Bantha pen you call a space port." Miles says as he removes some credits from his jacket and hands them to Yheedo. "Don't touch my ship while I'm away Yheedo. It's not worth your life."
Miles can't tell if Yheedo hears him as the Klatoonian looks down and counts the credits in his hand with some poorly veiled excitement. Miles assumes that Yheedo probably tries to con a hundred ships a day and Miles and Wilkis are probably the first ship he thought he had snared. While 1,000 credits is still a steep price for parking, Miles feels at the very least Yheedo will quickly spread the word that some "suckers" are in town looking for business. If it gets Miles and Wilkis some interested parties quicker, all the better for their mission.
Miles heads towards the exit, Wilkis right behind him. Yheedo stands there putting on his most grumpy expression possible. He eventually follows them out of the bay as well. Miles and Wilkis exit the small space port facility and enter the street outside. Nar Shaddaa is so populated most of the foot traffic uses bridges connecting the various structures, as well as tubes running through the buildings themselves. The streets are filled with small make shift markets scattered around in a completely unorganized manner. The owners of street side shops fight with the merchants setting up their tents in front of their businesses in every direction Miles can see. Small air taxis come and go for those who don't wish to walk but since Miles and Wilkis have no idea where to start their search they decide to take it slow and remain on foot for now. Miles turns to Wilkis.
"Alright, the ship will be our home while we're here." Miles says. "We need to get some leads. I figure the best place to start is to start earning a reputation as smugglers selling goods. We have several crates of Death Sticks on the ship, let's go find a buyer."
"Death Sticks?" Wilkis protests. "Those are illegal, we can't sell those!"
"We're smugglers Wilkis, we don't care about laws." Miles says as he steps closer. "We're going for the bigger fish here, don't sweat the small stuff. Not now at least."
Wilkis is visibly concerned about the whole concept. He didn't want to come on this mission in the first place and breaking the law is not something he is comfortable with. He knows Death Sticks are a scourge on civilized society and he holds himself to higher standards. But Miles is right. They are going after the big fish here. The ones who employ Arkin are responsible for killing hundreds of innocent Imperial civilians. If he needs to bend his morals for a few days in order to bring them to justice, then so be it.
"Fine." Wilkis relents. "Lets go find a bar and start selling Death Sticks." Wilkis says as he walks into the crowded street.
Miles looks around and takes in the atmosphere of Nar Shaddaa. It is crowded and everyone here has terrible secrets. Most are criminals hiding from the Empire or simply avoiding its systems to continue to indulge their sins and vices. Miles and Wilkis however carry the most dangerous secret of all. They are Imperial agents. If anyone found out, they wouldn't last two minutes before they were killed. They had to be careful. Miles follows Wilkis into the crowded street.