The Sonic Rainboom drops out of lightspeed over the planet Khar Delba.
You're impressed with Rainbow's ship. It runs very smoothly, and it's fast. Probably the fastest ship in the galaxy. You wouldn't be surprised in the slightest if it was.
According to her, this ship holds the galaxy's record for doing the Kessel Run in fourteen parsecs. She claims that record will never be broken and that she'll hold it forever, but if you've learned anything in your life, its that someone is always better. Another hotshot will come along in a faster ship and do something to beat it. Someday.
Rainbow is at the controls. Both you and Mandalore are standing behind her and watching.
The Sith presence around this planet is very great, but it isn't big enough to be all of them. The bulk of their fleet has to be somewhere else. Even so, numbers of cruisers and command ships litter the skies above the icy world.
You're far enough away to not be too worried about them spotting you, you're pretty sure. You sneak a look at the control console to check if the stealth drive is still functional.
"Oh boy..." Rainbow licks her lips as she looks for the best way to get to the planet.
It might take a little while. There are ships everywhere.
"Just take it easy, Rainbow." You advise.
She nods and begins her approach toward the planet. You and Mandalore both look around at the cluster of Sith ships in orbit.
This is where the fear virus is being made.
The death sticks were just a test. A method of spreading a watered-down version of the virus across the galaxy to make people less resistant to the real thing . Since they're so addictive, it would spread around rather easily. The resulting demand would also create chaos and civil unrest all over the Republic. Darth Sombra was using that chaos to his advantage.
All of that is exactly what the Sith want. Unrest, chaos, and carnage. The galaxy would have no chance in fighting back if they couldn't stop fighting themselves. What happened on Cerea will be a huge setback against for its people for generations.
You refuse to let that happen to the Mandalorians. That virus goes down here and now.
"Scan the planet's surface for the location of the Sith factory, Rainbow." Mandalore commands.
Rainbow presses a button on her console. "Yes, Mandalore."
On the console's little screen, an image of Khar Delba appears, along with a layout of the Sith ships in orbit.
You're watching the screen when Pinkie walks past you and stares out the viewport to look at the planet. She isn't smiling or laughing at all. She looks like she's in a trance. Applejack follows behind her and stops beside you.
You look at her. "What's wrong?"
Applejack shakes her head. "I dunno. She seemed fine a second ago, but then she got all nervous and stuff just now."
The two of you look back at Pinkie as she stares at the planet silently. Her mouth is slightly agape. You can hear her shaky breathing. She's scared.
"Pinkie?" You ask.
She slowly turns to face you and Applejack.
Applejack takes a step forward. "You alright, Sugarcube?"
She stays still for a moment before looking back at Khar Delba. "The Dark Side is very strong here, you guys."
Rainbow takes a quick look back at Pinkie before looking back outside.
Applejack looks at the planet as well. "Makes sense. Master Maud said this place was a Dark Side nexus, and it was important to some ancient Sith Lord."
Pinkie shakes her head slowly. "There's just so much... I can feel pain...suffering...fear. So much fear... This place is so evil, it's unnatural." You swear you hear her whisper "I shouldn't have come here." under her breath.
Rainbow exhales. "Pinkie, will you stop worrying? You're making me nervous, and I can't concentrate on avoiding the Sith when I'm nervous."
Pinkie seems to jump a little when Rainbow speaks. She looks at her. "I-I'm sorry Rainbow, but you don't know how it feels just being here, and sensing what's going on down there."
"No I don't, and I don't want to know, either!" Rainbow says.
"Everyone stop." Rainbow and Pinkie go silent and look at you. "Pinkie, I know you're worried. I'm not surprised that the Force is pretty negative here. Remember, this is where they made the virus they spread over Cerea. All those people died because of what the Sith are doing here. People are counting on us to stop it."
Pinkie looks at you with a somber expression as you speak.
You continue. "We are here to prevent that from happening to anyone else. It's up to us. If we don't stop the Sith's fear virus, no one will. Keep Cerea in mind while we're down there. I need you to be strong for me, alright?"
Pinkie pauses for a moment before nodding. "Okay, Anon. I'll do my best. Pinkie promise. Cross my heart, hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye." She smiles and crosses her heart before covering one of her eyes for a second.
"Good." You say. "You don't need to be afraid. We're all in this together."
She still isn't smiling, but she nods at you once and takes another breath before walking back into the ship. It is only now that you notice that Mandalore has stayed quiet during this whole exchange. He just watched and listened.
"Nice work, Anonymous." He says.
You look at him and say nothing. What exactly did you do?
He continues. "She strikes me as the eccentric type. Probably more than anyone else I've ever seen in my life, honestly. She was on the verge of panicking. Losing her nerve. You were able to calm her down."
He's not wrong at all about her being eccentric.
"Pinkie tends to worry when it comes to the Dark Side of the Force." You say. "I think she's got a few demons she hasn't told me about."
That is a thought that has been in your head for a while. Pretty much since you first met her. In the Pazaak Den on Nar Shaddaa, she looked almost giddy while she was kicking your ass. She was legitimately having fun. That is, until, you and Sunset got the upper hand. Even with two of you though, she still proved to be a bit of a challenge.
What if she doesn't really trust herself with the Dark Side?
"Even so." Mandalore continues. "You stepped up and helped her in exactly the way she needed. I've wanted to see your leadership skills in person for a while now. So far, I'm impressed."
Wow. Coming from Mandalore himself, that means a lot. It's probably the best compliment you've ever received from anyone, ever.
"Thank you, Mandalore." You say.
He nods again. "Keep it up."
You don't reply. You just grin under your helmet as Mandalore looks outside at the approaching planet once again. If he's praising your leadership skills, then you must be doing something right.
Do the others see you as a good leader too?
You've tried to be the best you could be. Giving orders, but also doing by example. If you're a part of a team, then you need to work too. You don't want to be seen as some boss sitting behind a desk giving orders, like so many in the Republic, you want to be on the front lines doing the same thing as everyone else, just like Mandalore. He's one of those leaders. You've tried to follow his example as best as you can.
Beside you, Applejack approaches the viewport as well and stands next to Rainbow.
She whistles softly. "That's a lotta Star Destroyers, y'all."
Rainbow nods. "Yep. I think I found a way onto the planet though."
You needlessly check the stealth drive again to make sure it's still working.
Rainbow maneuvers the ship very close to the rear of one of the Sith Star Destroyers. Applejack shields her eyes a little to protect them from the massive engines illuminating the cockpit.
"Hopefully they don't see us." Rainbow breathes.
You hang onto the back of Rainbow's seat, just in case. The Sonic Rainboom quickly zips around and weaves through the fleet, inching its way closer to the planet. You and Mandalore both provide advice and input here and there, but she eventually manages to sneak past the fleet.
Once you enter the atmosphere, you all breathe a sigh of relief.
Applejack puts a hand over her heart and shakes her head slightly. "Oh my goodness, my heart's goin' a mile a minute."
You chuckle. "We're not done yet. I have a feeling that was just the easy part.
As you continue moving through the atmosphere, you pass through a few thick, dark storm clouds. The ship shakes and rumbles slightly from the turbulence. You're on the night side of the planet, so it's a bit hard to see where you are.
Rainbow is flying pretty fast, but you're not worried. You're still a long way from the surface. Her ship has an infrared view on the console that she's also looking at as she flies through the clouds. There's a blizzard going on right now outside, so it should mask your approach.
After a few moments, you finally make it through the clouds and get a good look at the surface of the frozen world.
The factory is located at the bottom of a snow-covered valley. It is a massive complex of smaller buildings that surround a towering spire in the center. The spire glows red in a few places. Ships and transportation vehicles move to and fro around it. They're presumably hauling cargo and other equipment. Being at the bottom of a valley, the factory is surrounded by large mountains. The largest of which lies on the opposite side.
Along the outskirts of the valley, you notice a large section of rocky terrain that could obscure your ship from prying eyes.
You point to them. "Land somewhere in there. Let's stay hidden as best we can."
Rainbow nods and quickly descends to the ground. You pass through more turbulent air as the blizzard whips around outside. The ship wiggles a little, but otherwise stays on course.
A few moments later, Rainbow finds a clearing among the boulders and starts to land. The Sonic Rainboom's wings rotate up and the landing gear lowers as you finally touch down.
Rainbow exhales and shuts down the ship. "Okay, I think that's good."
Applejack heads into the ship. "I'm gonna put somethin' on. It looks brisk out there."
"Tell Pinkie to do the same." You call after her.
She nods and walks away.
Rainbow stands up and looks at you and Mandalore. "So how do we get inside?"
Mandalore turns to you. "Any ideas, Anonymous?"
Good question. He's testing you, you just know it.
If there were more Mandalorians here, you'd opt for just shooting your way in. Mix things up a little. But there are only three of you, along with an expert thief, and a Republic soldier. Stealth is your best bet.
"Okay." You begin. "We aren't too far from the factory. A couple miles or so, from what it looks like. I say we sneak in."
Mandalore nods. "A decent idea. What about security?"
You think for a moment. A Sith base would likely have patrols and sweeps going around the perimeter. Overpowering them at this particular one would be pretty easy, you would assume. It's unlikely that they'd be expecting to see anything. Look at this place. Who would come here?
Then again, this is supposedly the only location where the fear virus is being manufactured. That's the Sith's galaxy-conquering superweapon. It would be unwise to underestimate them.
"Tell you what. I'll go outside, do a bit of recon, and get a better idea of what we're up against." You suggest.
Mandalore nods. "Good idea. Get to it."
"Yes, Mandalore." You turn and leave the cockpit, grabbing your jetpack on the way and putting it on.
You pass Applejack on the way to the exit ramp. She's now wearing a thick winter coat that looks like it's armored underneath.
Once you reach the exit ramp, you press a button on the wall and it lowers. A gust of freezing air whips around you inside the ship as you step off and set foot on the snow.
The wind whistles a bit as you look around. There isn't much to see. Just large snowy rocks and boulders that surround your little patch of open terrain.
Taking to the sky, you fly up and turn around to face the factory. You don't have much trouble flying in this storm until you reach the open air above the rocks. You really struggle to stay in one place up here. The rock formations are blocking most of the blizzard. Flying to the factory seems to be out of the question.
You hug the tops of the boulders and proceed forward until you reach an opening that leads to the valley. The fear virus factory is just ahead. From where you are, there's a lot of open space between you and it. Sneaking in might be a challenge.
You turn on your thermal vision and look around. Apart from the factory itself, there isn't much heat anywhere in this valley. A couple heat signatures here and there show the locations of some fauna far away, but other than that, there's nothing of significance. This frozen valley is pretty much dead.
There are a few transport shuttles in the air. You aren't sure what they're for though. They could be patrols, or supplies, or anything.
You switch off your thermal vision and look around some more. On your right, you think you see a path or a road in the snow. Your HUD zooms in and you see little blue light markers leading away from the factory into the rocks. Interesting.
You descend a bit to shield yourself from the storm, but continue flying, being careful not to fly into any of the rock formations. After a few minutes, you find a road through the rocks leading directly to the factory. The blue markers show the way in the deep snow. That means there are ground patrols or caravans or something that make routine trips through here.
You make a note of this. A plan is starting to form.
It's a shame you don't have your ship here. You still have a few probe droids you could use. You'd like to know what kind of ground transportation these Sith use. You'll find out soon enough though.
Right now, you're starting to get cold, so you turn around and head back to the ship.