\--Search Parameters Accepted...
\--Record Found: TAL-14825-Aurek
The Aleena fidgeted as he knelt in the tall grass, surveying the facility in front of him under the pale glow of the moon. It was certainly a situation outside his comfort zone. Though, to be fair, that more or less encompassed most things for Justinios Drake. Yet still, he had made his way to this place regardless. Eschewing his clan for a time—not that he was completely trusting of them to begin with—the scientist had given in to curiosity.
Advancement required such things. It demanded action of Justinios when others would be content merely letting the opportunity slip by. That would be a mistake as far as he was concerned. Then again, perhaps there was prudence to be found in being far less trusting of mysterious confidants making contact through underground channels.
Or perhaps not. The outcome would be the judge of that.
Sticking to the shadows, the Aleena continued to pace himself. His analytical mind acknowledged that the data he had received was accurate thus far. All signs pointed to the building being an isolated research facility, and it wasn't just the security systems that gave it away. Nor was it the plaque near the front entrance, for that matter, considering Justinios hadn't quite managed to work his way around to it yet. There was just something about the facility that said 'knowledge' to him. It felt like the right kind of place for his work. That bode well for the latter, more important part of this task. That there was, indeed, a research archive on site that would advance his own material by months, even years.
The sound of crunching gravel brought Justinios' focus back to his immediate surroundings. Luckily, due to his natural stature, he didn't have to put too much effort into keeping out of sight. Stick to the shadows and the foliage and he'd be fine... more or less. He was pretty sure of it. Ninety percent certain, not accounting for extraneous variables he couldn't factor. Like infrared cameras. Or, you know, just bad luck.
Justinios looked on as one of the guards passed him by. His body tensed up momentarily as the man's flashlight moved across the grass. It wasn't until the crunching footsteps began to fade that the Aleena allowed himself another breath. His hand reached to the pouch on his hip and lightly tapped it a couple times, checking to ensure the ID card was still there. It had been provided to him alongside the initial tip as a means of access if Justinios managed to get to the facility.
For anyone else, they could possibly have made the approach more boldly. The Aleena, however, felt he might stick out a bit too much for comfort. So he had lowered himself to becoming somewhat of a 'thief in the night'. He reminded himself again the importance of what he was doing. The reward was worth the risk.
Seizing his opportunity, Justinios sprinted across the pathway and closer to the building. Stones scattered behind him as his feet dug into the ground, the only sound left in his wake. The auxiliary entrance was close. He could make out the soft red glow of the security panel through the brush. His estimations of the layout had proved correct after all, a benefit of spending the better part of the day scoping out the facility from afar.
Justinios had to wait just a little longer for another guard to move along his rounds. He steadied his breathing and focused on tempering his excitement. A few heartbeats later the way was clear and the Aleena was in motion. He pulled the ID tag free of the pouch and slid it into the data terminal. For a moment, Justinios felt dread. What if he was walking into a trap? Such things had become increasingly common of late, especially within the Brotherhood's looming conflict.
The feeling didn't last, chased away by the terminal's ping of recognition. The light turned green and the door hissed open. Justinios didn't hesitate as he rushed inside, though he had to shield his eyes from the sudden change in light. The artificial brightness within the sterile hallway—a stark contrast to the darkness outside—forced his pupils to dilate rapidly.
\--No Data For What Occurred Inside The Facility Prior To Alarms Triggering
\--Success Is Assumed Due To Agent Reports
Klaxons rang out across the expanse of the facility grounds, accompanied by flashing warning lights. The door Justinios had used to gain entry was on full lockdown just like all the other entryways—a fact denoted by the flashing yellow light on the terminal. It stood resolutely in its purpose, an immovable blockade.
A sudden orange glow pinpointed near the bottom betrayed the truth of that.
The glow—thermal energy consuming the durasteel—gave way to molten globs, revealing the blue tip of a lightsaber. It moved with purpose as it outlined a crude opening before retracting with a hiss. The carved portion of the door fell away, creating a haphazard exit point that Justinios quickly ran through. His small stature was an advantage in this case. Anyone pursuing him would have to either override the lockdown or crawl through the opening.
"I shouldn’t have done that," the Aleena muttered repeatedly. His breathing was loud and rapid as he panted with effort, his short legs taking him from gravel to the tall grass and back to gravel again.
The guards who had been stationed outside were on full alert. Their heads swiveled back and forth with their rifles at the ready, cones of light scanning the area for any intruders. "Hey!" one of them shouted as Justinios rushed past, spotting the sudden silhouette outlined by the flashlight before it vanished into the brush. "Halt!"
Yeah, that wasn't going to happen. The Aleena glanced down at the encrypted disk in his left hand before shaking his head and reaffirming his resolve. As it so happened, his curiosity had gotten the better of him. Not content to merely get the specific research data that had brought him here—another confirmation of his contact's reliability—Justinios had decided to take everything he could gain access to.
That could probably be safely attributed to being the cause for tripping the security system.
Still, he had gotten what he had come for. A small victory and one that hinged on his escape. He could hear the man that had caught sight of him gaining from behind. A threat, to be sure, but a manageable one if the Aleena could make it into the thicker foliage of the nearby forest. His thoughts were broken as a series of red streaks screeched by, impacting the earth just ahead and to the side of him. Dirt and stone filled the air, pelting his skin as Justinios yelped in surprise and protected his face. He stumbled, falling to the side somewhat before regaining his footing.
Clearly, the guards at the facility weren't all slouches when it came to aiming. A chill of warning slithered up Justinios' neck, causing him to dive into a forward roll. Another series of shots cut through the air where he had been half a breath earlier. The grass turned black and scorched, fragments glowing bright orange in the wake of the blaster bolts' impact.
The Aleena was starting to think his chances were far slimmer than he had previously predicted. Especially given the distance he had left to travel before he had a true shot at safety. Justinios glanced from left to right, trying to get his bearings again. He saw movement to his right that left him with a sinking feeling in his gut. Surely it was another guard come to assist the one already trailing him.
Justinios ground his teeth together, working up the will for what he felt he needed to do if he was going to have any chance of getting out of this. He planted his feet and spun around. As his body pivoted, he reached to his hip with his right hand and grasped the hilt of his lightsaber, ready to ignite the deadly plasma blade.
He hadn't been fast enough. A blaster discharged and he winced in expectation of the pain to come.
The sound had been different, however, and it took a moment for his mind to acknowledge that fact. Blue rings emanated from the newcomer's weapon and Justinios found himself watching as the stun bolts struck the guard that had been chasing him. The man fell to the ground with a thud, his momentum carrying him a foot or two before finally coming to rest.
Now, it probably would have been wise of the Aleena to seize the opportunity to complete his escape. Curiosity got the better of him, though. Again.
As his 'savior' drew closer, Justinios noted the cloak and hood that shrouded their features. The person knelt down and reached out with what looked to be a humanoid hand, pressing two fingers to the guard's neck. Checking for a pulse despite the stun setting. A prudent, if unnecessary, action.
"Professor Drake," the woman said without looking up, the smooth contralto of her voice giving away her gender. "I presume your endeavor was successful?"
The Aleena was hesitant to reply right away. Logic dictated there were only a few means through which the stranger could have known his name. His fingers tightened around the hilt of his lightsaber, looking for reassurance despite his lack of confidence in the powers he could wield. "Sitri," Justinios queried, invoking the name of his contact.
"Just so," the woman affirmed. "I ask again: were you successful?" She rose from her crouch above the guard's prone form, turning towards Justinios. There was something off about her that the Aleena couldn't place. Something dangerous. It was not unlike the feeling one would have when observing a predator.
Justinios swallowed and found his courage. He lacked confidence, but he knew he wasn't incapable of putting up a fight. "I was. And I haven't forgotten our arrangement. Though I must ask, what are you doing here if you needed me to acquire the data?"
"You should understand that observation is one of the tenants of all research," Sitri said, as if that alone was answer enough.
"And you are researching me?"
That brought a smile to the woman's lips, the only part of her face Justinios could see clearly between the shadow of the hood and the light from the moon. "One might say that my employ requires me to be rather inquisitive," Sitri replied. "You may transfer the data to this."
Justinios caught the woman's datapad as it was tossed to him, pairing it with the data disk he had acquired. He found himself fidgeting from side to side, ready to be done with this task and be on his way. His eyes glanced up at Sitri periodically, noting that her posture remained completely rigid and unmoving.
The sudden ping from the datapad in his hand stole Justinios' attention back. Finally, the transfer was complete. He pocketed the data disk before tossing the datapad back to Sitri.
"Thank you for your service. It is beyond what was required," she declared while quickly confirming the data and acknowledging his overindulgence in that regard.
That elicited a shrug from the Aleena. "What exactly were they up to here? The research is quite extensive."
Again, a slow smile came to Sitri's lips. "The artificial manufacture of Force sensitives," she stated flatly, as if reading the title of a thesis paper. "Whether they were successful or not is unknown, though I am sure this will be useful to your own research."
She slid the datapad under her cloak and turned back towards the way she had come, glancing back at Justinios. "Credits will be transferred to your account. For your trouble. I certainly hope you can be of service again," Sitri said.
The Aleena nodded, his fingers falling away from his hilt. If he were to be honest, Justinios hoped that wouldn't be the case. He wasn't quite sure who or what organization he had just helped, but he felt like he wanted nothing more to do with them. His gaze followed Sitri as she shrank into the distance before turning to leave himself.
Regardless of the repercussions that exchange might have, he had managed to advance his research further. That mattered more than anything else.
\--End Of Record...