Unfortunately, since she’d missed her drop on the sentinel warheads, she didn’t really have an excuse that she needed to be somewhere else. So she may as well meet with him and get it over with. It’d been over a month since she’d last seen him.
She landed the Phantom softly on one of the docking bays in the Fleet, the ship drawing a few eyes, but she had long ago learned who she needed to bribe to keep its secret safe. She walked out, checking her blasters for the tenth time, ensuring they were loaded, in case it came to a shootout.
It did not take long to find Gimble in the hangar he had specified, talking to someone. She tensed, eyeing the pair, taking in the whole bay and the ship at a glance. It seemed to be deserted except for them. Of course, appearances were often deceiving. She grimaced, remembering again the attack on Manaan. Would that forever haunt her?
She slowed, narrowing her eyes at the one Gimble was talking to. She recognized her suddenly. Shadow – the one who had showed up to spook her when she was talking with Capt. Katydid. She grimaced. That one had to be watched. She didn’t like the ease at which she disappeared. It reminded her of the killer with the orange eyes. An uneasy feeling sank into her stomach… but no, Shadow had nothing to do with that. It didn’t make the uneasy feeling go away.
Gimble looked up and saw her, motioning her over. She walked up slowly, looking him over and keeping an eye on Shadow, hands near her blasters, left hand tingling again. Strangely, Gimble was leaning casually against a crate in anything but a fighting stance. Was he throwing her off? Or did he really not care about what she’d said. She stopped, squinting at him.
“Missed ya on Nar Shaddaa,” he said.
She said nothing for a second, but he just stood there. She raised her eyebrows. “What, no knife in the back? You aren’t going to duel me?” she said, eying him warily as his own eyebrows lifted.
Shadow blinked at her. “Why he do dat?”
“Figured you’d at least be angry at me for not comin’,” she said, and spat to the side. “I hate Nar Shaddaa, Gim. You know that. Not going there ever, unless it’s on my terms.”
Her mind flashed back to the LX5-plasmines, bomb bots and detonite she’d managed to smuggle into places around the largest spaceport, piece by piece. It wasn’t done yet. Sith and Imperials just wandered around that whole planet free. And it was full of criminals and Hutts. Lawless. Not like an Imperial world that one could predict like clockwork. One never went into a situation like that without being able to blow every strategic place that could become necessary in a fight.
Gimble gave her a look and shrugged, but it was easy enough to see he was displeased. She tensed, glaring, waiting for him to move. “Well, let’s just hope ya don’t need any rescuin’ on any world tha’ we don’t find appealin’.”
Jagna bristled. “I don’t need rescuing,” she said, snorting. How dare he suggest such a thing?”
“Not yet, anyway,” he said, “But I didn’t call ya here for tha.”
Shadow looked at Gimble. “Guess it’s good I’m not picky, ya?”
Gimble nodded, looking at Jagna speculatively and said, “Ya e’er heard o’ somethin’ called Project Swarm?”
Jagna paused, thinking. The term seemed vaguely familiar somehow and she frowned. “A few references in some old Intel files, I think,” she said. “Why?”
“Come wit’ me. I wanna show ya somethin’,” he said. He motioned for her to follow, as he walked toward his ship. Shadow followed immediately, with her casual swagger. Jagna hesitated. So, was this what he was up to? Perhaps he would try to kidnap her for some suicide mission, to get his revenge. She narrowed her eyes, but followed, glancing around to every side. She almost wished she had more extensive cybernetic implants… might allow her to detect threats faster.
She followed up the ramp, as Gimble keyed a coded sequence to get onto his ship and walked up the gang plank, into the ship proper and followed Gimble into a medbay. Shadow stopped by the door. Jagna walked in, turning to face the door, learning against a med unit on the wall, near one of the beds. She hated medbays. Been seeing way too many of them lately.
She glanced at Gimble warily, taking in everything in the room. It appeared to be modified somewhat for technical work. A state-of-the-art microscope sat on a white counter next to a large cabinet. Opposite from it, there was a large viewscreen monitor hanging on the wall at eye level, titled forward slightly. He turned it on, and moved in front of the science terminals to one side, pulling on gloves, opening the cabinet.
“No sudden movements,” he warned, shooting her a glance. She nodded. Inside the cabinet, she saw it contained some kind of refrigeration unit. He opened it, and white fog billowed out, pooling at his feet. Carefully, he removed what looked like a small petri dish that was frosted all over with tiny crystals of ice. From the top, he took off some kind of cover, leaving an undersurface clear of frost. He set it underneath the microscope on the nearby counter. A camera was attached to its head, and immediately, the screen on the opposite wall popped up an orange-tinted image of what almost looked like a cross between a beetle and spider. The things had six legs and the top of their “shell” was brought up to a sharp, antenna-like point. She squinted at it. She didn’t need to ask what they were. A nanite. She had seen the like, but not this kind.
Glancing around, Jagna realized that Shadow was watching her with those large silver eyes. It made her nervous.
“Intricate, eh?” Gimble said, bringing her attention back to him and the strange nanites on the screen. Nanites were dangerous. She squinted at them, looking to Gimble.
“What do they do?” she asked.
“Good question,” he said. “From wha’ I can tell… they consume computer systems and electronics… at a molecular level. Wha’ yer lookin’ at are nanobots… machines the size o’ one billionth of a meter. I’m talkin’ genetic make-up level.”
Jagna glared hard at the screen, eyes narrowing. Were nanites the same as nanobots? “That sounds bad to me. You tried ‘em on anything? Where’d you get ‘em?”
Gimble rubbed his brow. “We got a sample o’ ‘em a while back. A few months ago from a Jedi who did a lot o’ covert operations. She needed help figurin’ out wha’ they were… an wha’ they did… nearly took over tha’ damn ship.”
“A Jedi,” Jagna muttered.
Gimble shrugged. “It ain’t important.”
“Kriffin’ odd…” she said under her breath. She wondered if Gimble was telling the whole story. Jedi… and nanobots… it was troubling.
He went on, ignoring her comment, nodding at the petri dish. “They’re frozen now. Ta keep them from gettin’ out,” he gave her a look. “An’ … no… we let tha’ happen. I mean.. we had no idea wha’ we were dealin’ wit.”
“I see,” Jagna said.
“Apparently she ‘jacked ‘em from some military science vessel, but they were only a tiny sample.”
“Sounds like negligence,” she muttered under her breath.
Gimble gave her an exasperated glare. “Do you ever just shut tha’ hell up an’ listen?”
Jagna frowned, tensing, watching him. He glared at her, continuing. She glanced at the door. Shadow was still there… watching. She did not like this…
“I’ve had a lot o’ slicers go missin’ recently. Contacts o’ mine. Tha’ first was Junk, a week ago. There’re some connections between these disappearances. First… they’re all cyborgs. An’ second… they were all lookin’ into somethin’ they heard about called Project Swarm.”
“Lots of cyborgs work for ya, Gim,” Jagna said.
“They work wit’ me. They ain’t technically my people.”
“Tha slicer who contacted me said he didn’t know much about Project Swarm – just tha’ it was thought ta have somethin’ to do wit’ nanotechnology.”
By the wall, Shadow spoke quietly, “I not tinkin’ so… dere efficient if nothin’ else.”
Jagna glanced to her, then back to Gimble. “So you think this Swarm thing is connected with those?” she pointed at the petri dish.
Gimble looked down at it and back to her levelly. “I don’t know. Maybe these were early stage prototypes,” he shrugged. “Was hopin’ ya might look into it for me.” Jagna’s eyes narrowed. So… this was where the suicide mission no doubt came in.
“One thing we noticed,” he said, continuing. “These machines… they consume the host system… they take control o’ it… but that’s it. They don’t… use it. They don’t destroy it. They don’t shut it down. It would be like me slicin’ into a terminal an’ just lettin’ it sit idle.” He grew more serious, turning to face her, and leaned against the wall, arms folded.
“Imagine this… Someone boards Carrick station wit’ a simple dataspike. Jabs it into… hell… any terminal. Holomail… credit dispenser… whate’er… An these things go ta work. At a molecular level they start breakin’ down security protocals tha’ no ship in the galaxy has a defense for. An’ then they sit an’ wait for a command. Lower shields. Self-destruct. Power off.”
Jagna felt a chill, calculating potentials… If that was what they did… she could imagine much worse, with that kind of a weapon…
“Yep,” she said. “That’s about as bad as it gets… aside from wholesale genocide, anyway.”
By the door, Shadow was staring at Gimble with concern. “What dat do to… ya Gims?”
Gimble glanced over his shoulder at Shadow. “Ta me? I’d hate to e’en think about it. Probably shut down all my cybernetics. Take out my optics, audio implants, shut down my neural augments…”
“Have any leads?” Jagna interrupted.
Gimble shook his head. “Tha’ only lead I got is Junk’s place.”
She frowned. “How is that a lead?”
“Whoe’er took him stripped it clean, but slicer’s got a knack for hidin’ things where people tend not to look. Could be anywhere. Anythin’.” She gave him a significant look and sighed
exaggeratedly. About what she expected.
“Right…” she said a bit sarcastically.
“Junk was tha’ one who was lookin’ into Project Swarm. An’ he got someone’s attention. Had a fortress o’ tech. Chances are, information like tha’ he kept in a really, really special place.”
Jagna folded her arms. “Have you rigged it to blow yet?”
“No… I haven’t gone near it.” Gimble shook his head.
Jagna nodded. “I can fix that for ya. …” she gave him a frown. “Send in the guinea pig, eh?”
He grinned at her, and she scowled. Suicide mission. Maybe. Well, he would be in for a surprise. She didn’t plan on dying yet. Pain tingled down her left arm as a reminder of what could happen when things went wrong.
“What are ya payin’ me for this job? I could use a few more sentinel warheads…” she eyed him. She glanced at Shadow, by the door, and said, “If you want to come with me Shadow, I won’t complain… you’re a lot sneakier than I, I’ll wager.”
Realizing what she had said, she glared at the both of them, then stared at Gimble, waiting for a response. She hoped that if Shadow came, Gimble would be less likely to throw her to the wolves. He was stroking his chin speculatively.
“Dazzle’s factory just got its hands on a new prototype missile. They’re workin’ on recreatin’ it now. Resistance fighters on Balmorra traded it for a shipment o’ new weapons an’ tech. I’ll give ya credits an’ a copy o’ tha’ schematics. Along wit’ a shipment o’ tha’ first few tha’ roll off the assembly line.”
Jagna stared, heart momentarily skipping a beat. That was a lot of tech. This job must be more suicidal than she expected. But that was a lot of tech. To get her hands on some good schematics…
“Done,” she said, nodding curtly.
“Hell, ya might e’en know how ta improve tha design. I’ll get ya in touch wit’ my contact on Coruscant at the factory.” Gimble was smiling thinly, almost smirking.
Jagna stared at him, unable to believe what she was hearing. In spite of herself, a slow grin spread over her face. “Now that’s what I like to hear…”
Unfortunately, Gimble was starting to figure out exactly what made her happiest. “I knew we’d be able to come to an arrangement,” he said. “Junk operated out o’ some run down facility on Tatooine a few miles outside Anchorhead. I’ll send ya tha coordinates.”
She hoped it wasn’t a suicide mission. In spite of her doubts, she hoped she could really trust Gimble one day. If he turned out to be this obliging… they could go far, kicking Imperial butt all over the galaxy. The thought made her feel warm and fuzzy.
“Tatooine…” Jagna grimaced. Every man’s junk yard. She glanced at Shadow again. “Ya want to come, Shadow?” Shadow said nothing, taking out a lemon drop and putting it in her mouth. She looked at Gimble.
“Is dat where Gims wants da ratty?” she asked. Gimble glanced at Shadow a moment, as if thinking, then nodded.
“Yeah, why not.” He looked Jagna in the eye. “Don’t blow her up.” Jagna relaxed a bit, and nodded.
“I’ll try not to,” she said.
As she walked back to her ship, Jagna marveled at the fact that not only had Gimble made no move to shoot her… he had actually agreed to give her missile schematics, a hand in the design and the first few that came off the rack. And credits. And he let Shadow come with her… she frowned. Either he was just a really nice guy… or he was pulling some huge con on her… probably the latter… there were very few genuinely nice people … her mind flicked to Daceest. Yeah, well, there were very few of them. And she did not like to trust anything that looked too good to be true. This definitely looked that way. But it was worth checking out. She shook her head, mounting the ramp to the Phantom and keying in the security key.
She’d tell Daceest about this scheme. He could probably make some good guesses as to where Junk might have hidden something like that.