"I think... I think I've got it!" Hellcat stage-whispered triumphantly, fist pumping as he reset the access board he'd been slicing his hack into. He reset the screws in place with his automatic screwdriver and took a step back to fully appreciate his work.
The inert bar droid before him looked none the worse for wear after he'd unfortunately been forced to be rather insistent in his attempts to disable it once the droid became aware that it was in some sort of danger. Only minor scuffing remained on the breastplate where Hellcat had struggled to get his temporary restraining bolt in place so the panicked droid would stop trying to blow his cover.
The mischievous Rogue took a step forward and pried off the bolt now that his work was done, securing the metallic device in his pocket. He took a quick step back in case the droid restarted in a panicked state and swung its limbs around upon reactivation. Last thing he wanted was another bruise he might have to explain to match the already puffy eye he'd received during the initial phase of his plan.
The bar droid's ocular receptors flared brightly a moment later, and the droid had indeed fired up in a worked up state, flailing its limbs and attachments around briefly. "Lieutenant Kinney?"
"We appear to be in a storage compartment."
Hellcat feigned confusion as he looked around at the cramped compartment he'd used for many of his pranks in the past. "Yeah, that's weird, isn't it?"
"Why am I not in the Lounge?"
"I just heard a banging, so I popped open this compartment and found you in here, good buddy."
"Right?" Hellcat chuckled. "Say, uh, do you think you can make it back to the Lounge? I think I'd like to grab a drink and think about this strange turn of events some more."
Mixer's ocular receptors flared even more bright than they already were, but then lowered to their normal levels. "On your... your..."
Hellcat took a cautious step back. "Uh, Mixer?"
"Error!" Suddenly, Mixer was enveloped in a cloud of thick, black smoke and the sound of crackling flames somewhere inside its chassis.
The smoke quickly filled the cramped compartment. Hellcat fell backwards out into the open air of the CRS Liberty's service hangar, gasping mightily to pull in clean air to clear out his lungs. Back inside the compartment, Mixer continued to melt down.
"WHAT were YOU thinking?!" Stryker's voice boomed, shaking the walls with the rage behind his words.
Hellcat stood straighter, startled. Unfortunately, no real good excuse came to mind, so he kept his mouth screwed shut. He'd been found at the scene of the crime by the mechanics that had been working one of their many vac-stills in a nearby compartment, and they were all too eager to string him up so they wouldn't be discovered.
"Well, I would put you on tug duty for the rest of your natural life for tampering with Alliance equipment, but then I'd be losing two people while I place another pilot on bar duty to cover for our now defunct server droid."
Hellcat sighed inwardly in relief, realizing that he was about to be placed on bar duty where he could certainly drink his fill for free. It also meant that he still accomplished his goal that he'd originally set out to do when he decided to hack Mixer for free drinks for himself, Jalb, and Krayt. "I see, sir."
Stryker must have picked up on something, because his mood suddenly shifted again. He looked toward the door expectantly. A moment later, it opened, revealing the Rogue Squadron executive officer, Vidster.
Vidster stepped in purposefully and deposited a melted circuit board gingerly on Stryker's desk, then stepped back and crossed his arms. "Definitely a hack job, and a clumsy one at that."
"I was just trying to fix him!" Hellcat declared in his defense, but it wasn't very convincing.
"As I'd suspected," Stryker muttered. "Did you manage to suss out what the code was supposed to accomplish, Vids?"
Vidster nodded as he nonchalantly leaned back against the wall. "It was a clumsy homebrew that was supposed to distribute free drinks to the Lieutenant, as well as Rogues Seven and Nine."
Stryker's eyes bulged as he began to run through the implications that he'd likely be without three of his elite pilots while they atoned for their indiscretions. "Well, I think we can forget bar duty as a punishment for any of them. Seems like putting the prisoners in charge of the prison."
"Cargo duty?" Vidster suggested.
"What do you have in mind?"
"We have to take that shipment of supplies over to the Rehz'nor sooner rather than later. Lots of heavy, mundane, back-breaking work. Big, heavy snub parts."
Stryker nodded, and turned his back to the men. "Make it happen. Grab your co-conspirators and get those items loaded by hand onto a Lambda shuttle and take them at top speed to the Greens."
"Sirs!" Hellcat exclaimed. "Jalb and Krayt had no-"
"Why are we here?" Krayt whined, securing the last crate they'd been ordered to load into the shuttle. Mysteriously, all of the heavy cargo lifting machinery was spoken for or down for maintenance, so they'd had to do the entire load by hand.
"Farkled if I know," Jalb said, wiping the sweat from his brow as he settled into the pilot's seat in the cockpit and started to run preflight checks.
"I, uh, may have melted Mixer down by accident when I tried to hack our bar tabs for unlimited drinks," Hellcat replied sheepishly from the copilot's chair, refusing to meet either of their eyes as he focused on his preflight checklist.
"WHAT?!" Both men exclaimed angrily in unison.
"It wasn't my best work," Hellcat said apologetically.
A strong hand gripped Hellcat's shoulder and ripped him out of the chair. "Back with the kitty litter you go," Krayt growled, staring daggers at the cause of his misery.
"All this karking hard yakka for a free stubby..." Jalb muttered angrily. "Rack off!"
Hellcat's shoulders slumped as he trudged back to the cargo area without objection. He pulled out his datapad and fiddled with it idly as the shuttle lifted off.
The unloading of the cargo had been easier than they'd expected, as the mandate from Stryker apparently hadn't been relayed to the crew of the FRG Rehz'nor, and one of the load skiffs had been made available to them. The three Rogues still had to do quite a bit of labor, but the skiff's inclusion in the work ensured their backs wouldn't be completely crooked at the end.
"That's some good work," one of the mechanics said approvingly as she checked in all the cargo. "Yep, the flyboys and girls will be happy to have these replacement parts for the ships they broke last week."
Hellcat was too tired to respond, as he'd borne the brunt of the labor because his friends punished him with the harder work for their suffering. Krayt nodded at the mechanic and made for the ramp, anxious to end this nightmare extraneous duty for some rack time to rest his screaming muscles.
Jalb, though, had other ideas. "Yous have a place a guy could get a slab and snag?"
The mechanic looked perplexed as she tried to parse Jalb's native slang. Krayt chuckled as he translated. "He's wondering if there's a place we can grab a bite to eat and a drink."
The mechanic nodded in understanding. "Ah, you would want to check out the bar. Nothing fancy food-wise, but it'll hit the spot and the booze is fine. Just watch yourself around the server."
Hellcat arched an eyebrow. "Why's that?"
The mechanic chuckled. "Well, your skin is so flush right now that it looks pink," she said, as if that was enough of an explanation.
"Pink? What's so bad about pink?" Krayt asked, equally perplexed.
"Oh, right. New to the ship," the mechanic smiled. "He uh... gets violent if he sees that color."
"Righto," Jalb said, yanking both of his compatriots away eagerly.
"Mind if I wait until my skin isn't so red?" Hellcat asked as he was dragged along.
"That's the point I think," Krayt said with a dark grin spreading across his face as he too grabbed Hellcat and dragged him along.
After many wrong turns and gruff dismissals by many Green squadron personnel, they finally found the bar the mechanic had been talking about. The amount of time it took meant that Hellcat's skin had managed to cool down and return to its normal coloration. All three were fairly miffed at the way the personnel of the ship had treated them, but they were still completely shocked when they rounded the corner into the bar and saw the bartender they'd been warned about.
Behind the bar was an IG series killdroid.
Each of them instinctively reached for their blasters, but didn't draw as they assessed the situation with the speed and visual acuity all Rogue pilots possessed.
At almost all of the tables, personnel were having relaxed conversations as if nothing was amiss, despite the fact that they were in the same room as one of the most murderous droids this side of the Clone Wars. Laughter permeated throughout the room; not directed at their confusion, just at the jovial atmosphere.
The Rogues relaxed, but Hellcat only felt a pang of guilt as he realized that he'd selfishly deprived the Liberty's crew of this same relaxing experience with his attempt to hack free drinks for himself and his friends.
Jalb shrugged and trudged through the sparse crowd and set himself down at the bar. Krayt likewise slid himself easily into a spot next to his wingman. They quickly ordered alcoholic beverages and typical bar food items, nodding in approval at the speed with which their drinks arrived.
Hellcat finally joined them, though the nugget of an idea took root at the base of his skull as he walked. Each step forward added a new step of his plan, until he slid himself into the seat next to Krayt at the very end of the bar, with a completely off-the-wall half-cocked plan only a Rogue could love. Of course, it was that same type of scheme that had landed them here.
"What'll it be, sir?" The droid asked as it stepped over.
"Screwdriver," Hellcat responded absentmindedly as he continued to fill out the last few pieces of his plan. Of course, all of this was contingent upon him convincing his friends to go along with it.
"This has to be the best Sundowner I've ever had," Jalb gushed as he motioned for another, quickly downing his first. "All of our tabs are on him," he said, jerking a thumb in Hellcat's direction.
Krayt likewise nodded in approval as he sipped his Firelands Ale, noting the perfect temperature of the liquid.
Hellcat greedily accepted the orange-ish drink he'd ordered and took a hasty gulp, hissing at first but then smiling from ear to ear as his taste buds exploded with joy. "This is the best thing I have ever tasted in my life."
"Better than Mixer ever managed, I'd say," Krayt murmured.
"Truth," Jalb agreed succinctly, not wasting any more syllables on the matter as his plate of fried foods appeared in front of him. He tore into the various delicacies with relish.
"So..." Hellcat ventured.
"No," Krayt said.
"Absolutely not," Krayt replied more forcefully this time.
"I'm just saying..."
"Yeah, what's your plan, mate?" Jalb said between bites, clearly enjoying the unspoken idea his friend was proposing. Krayt's look of disbelief bored a hole into the side of Jalb's head.
"I'll slice a script together to get him on our shuttle."
Krayt barked out a disbelieving laugh. "And have it turn out like your last hack? No thanks. I'd rather not be doing hard labor for the rest of my life in the various docking bays of the Alliance navy."
Jalb chewed quickly and loudly, only pausing to belch silently. "Ripper. Do it."
"Don't encourage him," Krayt grumbled, looking down at his drink in defeat of the notion that he'd been outvoted.
Hellcat was actually shocked that he was being encouraged to commit another mischievous slice, but now that he'd proposed it and Jalb had accepted the idea, he had to put thought to action. But first, he needed more liquid encouragement. "Droid."
Hellcat held his hands up in mock surrender. "Iggy, two more screwdrivers, please."
"It's your liver," the bar droid replied sarcastically as it got to work mixing both drinks at once.
"Did you do it?" Jalb asked quietly over his shoulder.
"Is it working?"
"What did you put in that hack?" Krayt asked, looking over his shoulder as surreptitiously as possible.
"One directive to accompany us to our shuttle to purchase some rare booze we supposedly brought with us," Hellcat whispered as he ticked off one finger, then moved to the next. "Then, a shut-down command once he is on the shuttle, and lastly a directive that will self-replicate in his code to change his duty station from all instances of the Rehz'nor to the Liberty."
The three Rogues walked as casually as they could back to the hangar, with the subdued Iggy trudging along behind them. It droned on about the various bottles of rare alcohol it was looking to add to its stores, including a very limited yearly run of a barrel-strength bourbon named after a whimsical-sounding old man. The few crewmen that did encounter the traveling group seemed to pay them no mind, though it was clear that it was a rare occurrence to see Iggy out from behind the bar.
"And it's working?"
"He's following us, isn't he?"
"And the other hack will work when we're on the shuttle?" Krayt asked nervously.
Hellcat was less confident in that bit of code. "I... yeah?"
"Ha, we're gonna die," Jalb guffawed as they reached the hangar bay.
"Iggy? What are you doing out of the bar?"
The Rogues whirled around and froze. The mechanic they'd encountered when they arrived was standing there with a hydrospanner in one hand and a suspicious look on her face clear as day.
"I am making a black market purchase for some rarer spirits, Technical Sergeant Walmsley," Iggy replied curtly. "I shall be back in the bar momentarily with my purchases."
The mechanic shrugged, but the look of suspicion didn't leave her face as she resumed her duties and paid them no more attention.
"What else did you say you had in your personal stores for me to peruse?" Iggy asked from the back of their pack as they resumed their walk to the shuttle.
Hellcat shrugged. "I... honestly cannot remember aside from that one we told you about."
"I'll be mildly disappointed if that's the only bottle there, as it is hardly worth the profits I'm losing by leaving the bar unattended."
"They're just in here, Iggy," Hellcat said as he motioned the IG droid into the shuttle hold. All the Rogues looked on with bated breath as the droid trundled up the ramp and then stopped cold, all functionality seeming to cease.
"Thank fark," Jalb exhaled.
Hellcat pumped his fist in celebration. "I can't believe that worked!"
Krayt's jaw dropped at the revelation that Hellcat didn't think his hack job would hold. He leveled an accusatory finger in the slicer's direction. "You mean to tell me that we could have been splattered stains on these shuttle walls if that droid went haywire like Mixer?!"
Hellcat held up his hands in a mock surrender. "It worked, didn't it? Slap this restraining bolt on him if you're worried about it!" He shouted as he pulled his original restraining bolt he'd used on Mixer from his pocket.
Krayt's eyes widened as he shook his head. "Oh no, that's on you, kitty. I'm not going anywhere near that metallic murder machine."
Hellcat looked to Jalb for help, but he saw the other Rogue quickly duck his head with a smirk , "Wow... so many Sundowners... I don't think I'm in any condition to fly."
Krayt sighed and shook his head, but stepped up into the cockpit and began preflight without a word.
Hellcat sighed, and stepped toward the deactivated assassin droid cautiously. He was careful to stay out of range of the many arms and other attachments that could easily rend him limb from limb or bludgeon him until he was sure of his next steps. Taking a deep breath, he prepared to spring forward to secure the bolt to the droid.
Iggy's ocular receptors flickered on, then off, then on again in quick succession. The droid began to move slightly in a stuttering fashion.
"Stang!" Hellcat cursed as he lunged forward, slamming the bolt onto Iggy's chest and securing it quickly with a zap from his spot welder. Before the bolt completed its job, however, a metallic arm swung around and clocked Hellcat across the side of his face. The opposite side Mixer had smacked him during his last covert endeavor. He fell to the side and clutched his throbbing cheek, knowing without a doubt that he'd be returning home with a new black eye to match his current one. He groaned as he lay there, his chest heaving as Iggy finally shut down under the influence of the restraining bolt.
"All good back there?" Krayt's voice called out.
"Yeah, we're good," Hellcat wheezed as he felt the shuttle ramp retract and secure itself into position for flight.
"Almost took yer block off, mate," Jalb huffed through a fit of laughter. He bounced out of his seat with a muffled sound of shock as Krayt took them out of the hangar quickly to make their escape before any of the Rehz'nor personnel got wise.
Hellcat had spent the trip through hyperspace with his datapad plugged into the data port on Iggy and parsed through the code to ensure his assignment change stuck and didn't cause their new prospective bar droid to malfunction upon reactivation. Without any distractions aside from the throbbing around his new shiner, he was able to ensure the change would take hold without issue. The only part of the code in the modified killdroid that gave him pause was the hard-coded militant-skills. There was no possible way he could see with his vast slicer skills to completely partition those off. Specifically, there appeared to be some bit of code that was very antagonistic toward the color pink as that mechanic had warned them about.
He scratched his head at that, but shrugged as he wasn't able to do anything about it. He made a note to tell Command that a general warning message would need to be posted outside of the Lounge and maybe a ship-wide message should be sent upon reactivation.
"How's it going?"
Jalb's voice startled him visibly, but he instantly relaxed. "We're all set, more or less."
Jalb raised his eyebrow. "More or less? We're not looking at another Mixer meltdown are we?"
Hellcat shook his head and looked back at his code to double check. "No, I got this done cleaner than that hack." Though, as he said it, he noticed another partition in the code that was apparently hard-coded in that he couldn't get into titled: Remote Backup Transfer Protocols. He attempted the usual low-threat slice attempts to find his way in without damaging anything, but none of them worked. "Huh, well I guess I can't do anything about that..."
Jalb had moseyed off at that point and hadn't heard it. Apparently Krayt was speaking with him, though Hellcat couldn't quite make out the conversation. He pulled his datapad out of the port and made his way up to the pilot's compartment of their Lambda shuttle.
"Vidster just passed our shuttle extremely close in his X-wing," Krayt reported again for Hellcat's benefit.
"No word on what he was doing?"
"No, wouldn't respond to our hail at all," Jalb replied, scratching his head in puzzlement.
"You think he scanned us for some reason?" Hellcat asked.
Krayt shrugged. "Either way, he just jumped to hyperspace on the same vector we took coming in. Strap in, we're about to land."
Hellcat nodded and headed back to the main passenger hold and buckled in. Without the threat of discovery and detention, Krayt pulled them in with the ease of a professional pilot, which was in stark contrast to their speedy getaway from the Rehz'nor.
The three pilots walked down the ramp together and were greeted by the familiar ground crew of the CRS Liberty. As they walked down the ramp, they noticed a commotion near the area of the hangar that housed the Rogue Squadron fighter craft.
"What's going on over there?" Krayt asked, nodding toward the scene.
The crewman grumbled, a flash of anger crossing his face. "That blasted bloah peeled out on our deck with his landing skids still down!"
The crewman nodded and spat on the deck.
"Why?" Hellcat asked.
"Transfer orders to Green is the scuttle."
"Any reason?" Krayt asked.
"None we're privy to."
The three Rogues were as perplexed as the rest of the crew about why the now ex-Rogue had decided to leave in such a destructive manner. "I wonder why he did that?" Jalb asked rhetorically.
"Just wanted to leave his mark on the place I guess," the crewman replied sarcastically before his eyes widened and he stumbled backwards. "The frack! Security, security to hanger bravo, deck 2!!"
The usually bored marines at the hanger door perked up and started running towards the new arrival while bringing their blaster rifles to their shoulders. Hellcat and Krayt looked back over their shoulders and realized they had a problem. Jalb took a double take and, being a step behind, threw himself at the legs of the droid walking down the ramp behind him, which didn't have the effect he was after, but did get the result. Iggy merely sidestepped the Rogue on the ground but it did mean the bolts heading for its head missed. Fortunately before Iggy responded Krayt had jumped forward yelling.
"Stand down, stand down!" he bellowed as Hellcat raced to his side with his arms up gesturing surrender. "It's not a threat... it's on our side!" Krayt finished.
The Marines skidded to a halt eyeing the IG warily but they had lowered their rifles. The crewman that had sounded the alarm however was sitting on his butt with a large wet stain forming at his crotch and a very red face as everyone looked down at him. Jalb walked over and offered his hand.
"I've been there mate, you're not the first... you won't be the last." He said with sympathy as he helped him to his feet. Hellcat, being Hellcat, just laughed and mouthed off.
"Well, once you get that mess cleaned up, let the crew know we've got a new bar droid in town," Jalb and Krayt looked at each other and rolled their eyes, the unspoken ‘Why do we hang out with this guy?' obvious in their looks.