A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…
Senator Nalgen, a representative of the Coynites, has spent many years, and a vast portion of his personal fortune, developing plans for a project that he calls the “Safety Net”, which will drastically improve the quality of life for the citizens of Coyn.
However, the plans for the Safety Net were stolen by a thief named Yinem Fone and taken to Sullust, where they were given to Eryd Tyls, a vicious Barabel gangster.
Not wanting to alert Tyls that he knows where the plans are, Senator Nalgen has quietly sent out his most trusted aides to hire a group of specialists to retrieve the plans.
Corusant, the jewel of the Republic, has many fine restaurants and cantinas with exquisitely prepared cuisine from all over the galaxy, and near-limitless varieties of drinks to satisfy even the most refined palette. On any given day, any one of those establishments offers wonderful music, dancing, and high-quality entertainment.
This was not one of those places.
This cantina was found in Corusant’s lower levels. It was dim, dank, and the band was bad enough to drive a translator droid to madness. Nason, Chief Aide to Senator Nalgen, was clearly out of his element, but personal comfort was not his concern. He was here because reliable sources had informed him that the person he was looking for could be found here. He scanned the cantina; the man he was looking for should be in back next to the game tables.
He must have been misinformed. There was only one man next to the game tables, but he was a thug. Powerfully built, unkempt, bruises on his face and arms, and draining a mug of grog, this man could not possibly be a master tactician, could he?
Nason took a seat at the bar and positioned himself so that he could observe the man while he reviewed the file on his datapad. The bartender approached “So what’s your poison?”
Nason ordered a drink that he wouldn’t even touch and started reviewing the dossier…
Dargo Karr was a Sith Tactician in the early days of the war. His battle plans were bold and often alarmingly effective. Almost two years into the war, Karr arranged a meeting with Republic officials and requested to defect, claiming that the Sith had fed him a lie that they just wanted to reclaim what was taken from them, but the merciless battle strategies that they employed revealed their true nature. Karr served as a Republic strategist for over four years, tipping the scales of several battles and earning numerous commendations in the process. But after all his efforts, he simply resigned his position and walked away. When his superiors asked why he was leaving, he said that there were others like himself, idealistic but ignorant of the truth, in the thrall of the Sith, and he could no longer bear to turn the Republic’s forces against them.
While the Senator’s Aide reviewed the dossier, a wiry Rodian approached the man at the holochess table. “Do you just enjoy the pretty lights, or do you actually play?”
The man in the corner took a long drink from his mug. He didn’t bother looking up. “I will play anyone that has the credits to lose.”
The Rodian took a seat and dropped one hundred creds on the table. The man grunted and finished his drink. “One hundred creds. Hmph, amateur hour.” He then placed a matching stack of creds on the table and fired up the board.
The Rodian angrily stormed away. He had likely never been so thoroughly beaten. Nason could only look on, amazed. He was no stranger to the game himself, in fact he was quite skilled, but he had never witnessed such bold and decisive moves. The man was clearly a genius, but looking at the profile image on his datapad, and seeing the man in front of him, surely they could not be the same man. Lowering his eyes once more to the datapad, he saw the last official photo of Dargo Karr. He was a soldier through and through. Short, well-kept hair, clean shaven, immaculate uniform, sharp eyes and a hardened demeanor. He looked back up as the man put the creds in his bag. He was large, well-muscled and imposing, his blonde hair was long and unkempt, he had not shaved in several weeks, his clothes were in tatters, and his face and body bore the scars of more than a few bar brawls. But his eyes, despite the glaze of cheap booze, were still sharp and observant. He had learned all he could from observation. If he wanted to know if the man in front of him was the man he sought, he would have to take a more direct approach.
Leaving his untouched drink at the bar, Nason approached the man and counted out 500 credits. “Care for a game?”
The man ordered another drink before turning back to Nason. “I was wondering how long you were going to stare at me before you said something.” As the man fired up the board he added “I don’t give lessons, and I don’t do refunds.”
Nason held nothing back. He opened strong, and used the most effective strategy he had ever learned to keep the pressure on… He lasted seven turns. As the man took the credits off the table, Nason knew that this was the man he was looking for. He put two thousand credits on the table. “How about one more game?”
The man pushed the reset button on the board, and gestured for Nason to make the opening move. Nason knew he couldn’t win, but he needed time to try to enlist the man’s help. He opened on the defensive.
The man stared calmly at the board. “You offer enough credits to ensure my attention, then play not to win, but just to occupy my time. You clearly don’t belong here, so what do you want?” The man’s opening move was aggressive. This game would be over soon. Nason knew that he would have to get straight to the point.
“Are you Dargo Karr?”
The man’s next move left Nason confused. A fairly limited piece, placed in an open space on the edge of the field, it seemed like a useless gesture. Had Nason’s question shaken him? The man’s eyes never left the board. “Beneath your cloak, your clothes smell of flowers and soap, your nails are treated, your hair is professionally trimmed, you have cash to burn, and your datapad bears a Republic seal. You are a government official, so you obviously already know who I am, now what do you want?” Karr’s next move was to bring a piece to the center of the board. Unexpectedly straight forward. Karr was trying to lure Nason into abandoning his defensive posture, but he wouldn’t fall for it. He continued to build his main line defense.
“You don’t miss much. I suspected who you were, but I needed to be sure. Now that I am, I have a proposition for you.”
“Not interested.” Karr drove a piece left of center into the middle of the defensive line. Nason couldn’t figure out what Karr’s plan was. His moves seemed random, and his strategy was erratic. Perhaps Nason’s questions were getting under his skin. Capturing the piece that invaded his line with one of his rear defenders, Nason added “You will be well compensated.”
“No doubt. Not interested.” Using the gap made by allowing his piece to be captured, Karr used the idle piece he had placed earlier in a questionably legal, if not altogether respectable, move to drive straight into Nason’s command center.
Nason was speechless. Five moves. Game Over. And on top of that, he had utterly failed to convince Karr to so much as hear him out. Nason got up, and was about to walk away, but a thought occurred to him. He had played Karr’s game and left him utterly bored. If he could offer Karr a challenge, and perhaps peak his interest, he may still have a chance. It would mean divulging Republic secrets, but Karr didn’t seem like the talkative type. It was worth the risk. Taking the last of his credits, he sat back down and looked at Karr.
“If you can figure out the answer to a riddle, these credits are yours and you will never hear from us again. If not, I ask only that you listen to what I have to say.”
Karr eyed the stack of creds, but did not reach for them. “The promise of some peace and quiet is more appealing than your money. Ask your question so I can get back to my drink.”
Nason leaned forward, so as not to be overheard. “How does one turn a planet into a utopia, reduce crime to almost nothing, and provide for the needs of the population of a planet for only the cost of a dozen droids without using slaves or forced labor?”
Given what he knew about the situation, the answer was obvious. The Republic had developed state-of the-art droids. The plans were stolen. They needed help getting them back. The only thing that left Karr wondering was “Why come here? The Republic has tacticians and special operations forces of their own, so why come here?”
Karr looked at Nason steadily. “You have my attention. Speak your peace.”
Nason breathed in relief. He didn’t even realize that he had been holding his breath. Karr had given him a chance to play a new game, and it was Nason’s turn. He couldn’t waste it.
“Senator Nalgen of the Coynites has spent many years developing plans for a project called the “Safety Net”. It will improve the quality of life for the citizens of Coyn, reduce crime, clean trash and pollution, and increase the planet’s trade revenue. The Safety Net is a highly advanced web of construction droids, only a dozen at first, which will harvest minerals from trash and waste and create raw materials, from which the droids will build large complexes that will contain free-of-charge medical droids and services, rest areas, security droids, and more construction droids. The construction droids will then move on and begin building another facility within fifty kilometers of the previous one. After the planet is covered in a net of these facilities, the construction droids will then shift their function to perform maintenance on the facilities.”
Even Karr was impressed by the ingenious simplicity of the plan. Now it was time for the real reason for the visit. Karr looked at Nason “But…”
Nason sighed. “But, surely anyone could see the potential to create a self-replicating army of war droids. The plans were stolen by a thief named Yinem Fone and delivered to Eryd Tyls, a Barabel gangster operating out of Sullust.”
“And you need someone to recover the plans, but despite having government resources at your disposal, you are down in the gutters trying to recruit a wash-out.” The puzzle now clear in his mind, Karr followed the line of logic. “That means that you’re afraid that going through official channels could tip-off the thief or his employer. You think someone in your cabinet is on the take, and you need a team not affiliated with any government branch so the Barabel won’t see it coming when they come to steal back the plans.”
Nason nodded. “We can get you to the planet, but you will have to determine the exact location of the plans and how to retrieve them . What’s more, until the plans are recovered, we can only provide enough funding that won’t raise any eyebrows. It will be risky, it will certainly be dangerous, and the support that we can provide is minimal at best. Aside from the knowledge that you will greatly help a planet, and the promise of later reward, there is little that I can offer you. I asked you to hear me out, and you have. I understand if the risk is too great. The choice is yours.”
Karr smiled and his spirits rose. Almost at will, the glaze on his eyes vanished and he saw clearly for the first time in years.
“Sounds like quite a challenge.” Karr stood and took the Aide’s hand. “Looks like you’ve got yourself a boy.”