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Milk Run

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Commenor, 3 months after the destruction of Starkiller Base...

Poe had told Finn that Commenor was "aggressively normal".  Like so much else Poe told him, what was meant to be helpful was worse than useless, given Finn's radically different upbringing.  Still, the spaceport outside Chasin City was far closer to what Finn considered ordinary than what he'd seen with the Resistance after escaping the First Order: ship berths sized for shuttles, all in a row, with orderly passenger traffic meant to converge at the customs booth, before moving to the visa check.  Not as secure as the First Order ports he'd spent half his life processing through - Finn could see at least three points of unlawful exit on an initial sweep - but understandably similar.  Finn pulled his student's rucksack over his shoulder, and joined the line waiting for processing.  The intel officer who given him the kit had said it would pass muster on any non-Imperial world, but Finn had to consciously relax as he moved up in the queue.  

Be water, he chanted in his head. Be water, be still.  Be empty.

Captain Tunn, the Lorrdian who'd overseen his supplementary training, had looked at him a bit oddly when Finn had explained his mantra, but couldn't dismiss the results: Finn was excellent at presenting calm, confident body language to the world.  He'd only needed to work on his face, and even that wasn't difficult, not compared to other lessons he'd had to learn with the Resistance.  As a result, anyone watching Finn would have seen a young man with a pleasant face and the clothes of a well-off son of Kattada, first presenting his rucksack at the customs booth, then presenting a student visa at the processing area. Anyone watching closely would have noted that he didn't have the build typical of a student - but that was easily written off given the popularity of grav-ball among the children of the well-to-do.  Only someone who knew exactly what they were looking for would note that the boy had the posture and gait of someone ill-used to wearing civilian clothing, someone far more used to the weight and confinement of heavy infantry armor...  but who would know what to look for in a regional spaceport on Commenor?

Quite a few people, as it happened.

Finn noted the first tail when he was in downtown Chasin City, walking in the general direction of the University. He'd hoped that he was just being paranoid, but the third time he saw the same man out of the corner of his right eye, he'd had to accept it: he'd been made.  Human male, medium height, medium build, wearing a cap and bulky spacer's clothing even in the heat of equatorial Commenor.  Finn could make out at least two concealed vibroblades hidden in his coat, and winced internally.  He'd worked with the Resistance's hand-to-hand trainers over the last few months, but his blade work was still pretty basic; give him a straight shoot-out any day.

Finn had a small hold-out blaster in a holster on his right forearm, hidden by his long sleeves, but he couldn't just shoot the guy in public.  Finn started scanning for blind alleys under the cover of looking at passing restaurant menus; the urban warfare training module had been very clear about this exact situation when on solo patrol in hostile areas.  And right then, while Finn was looking through a neon holo-ad for FRUITY PANNA CAKES AT MOM'S DINER, Finn caught sight of the second tail.

Human female, red hair, delicate and fragile features.  Finn was still shaky on guessing people's ages, but she looked closer to General Solo's age than Jessika's; she was dressed in a serviceable pilot's jumpsuit, buying a breakfast biscuit from one of the lower-end street stalls, no concealed weapons visible to Finn's eyes.  She was blending in far better than the first tail, but Finn just knew.

Poe was always telling him to trust his gut instinct and improvise more.  In an instant, a plan to escape his tails without calling untoward attention came together in Finn's head, and he smiled a little before walking casually towards the red-haired bounty hunter.

Probably the biggest surprise of his new life was the fact that he was famous.  He'd always expected to be hunted down by the First Order, but he'd never expected the hunt to be so public.  But nearly the first thing Poe had told him after he'd woken up on D'Qar was the fact that there was now a sizable bounty on his head, courtesy of the First Order.  In the weeks and months since Starkiller base's destruction, it had only grown larger.  

"But why?" he'd asked, confused by the concept.  He'd expected pursuit - but this was far above the norm for one escaped stormtrooper.

At that time, Poe had just sighed a little.  "Buddy, you just helped destroy a massive planet-destroying superweapon within a week of escaping their clutches.  Even they can't hide this from the rank-and-file; if they can't cover you up, they're going to make an example of you.  And the First Order - and the Empire before them - have always outsourced this sort of work to the specialists."

The human woman Poe would later learn was named Jessika Pava then interrupted. "So get used to all your new friends," she said, gesturing toward the other people in the medbay.  "We're going to be hanging around until we get the go-ahead to move to a more secure base.  Tell me, do stormtroopers know how to place sabacc?"

Finn hesitated, then nodded his head slightly.  "A little bit between missions."

Pava grinned.  "Great!  It's always good to get a new player in this crowd."

As she turned around to get some cards from the other pilots, Finn looked at Poe and raised an eyebrow.  All Poe could do was shrug his shoulders helplessly and smile a little. He smiled a lot more once Finn cleaned out his friends on the third hand of the game.

Finn didn't bother to be subtle when he walked towards the red-haired bounty hunter; in this case, he wanted to be seen - and not just by her.  Within ten seconds, the first tail had changed directions, and wasn't even bothering to pretend to browse anymore; he was just straight out following Finn, trying to catch up with him before he "escaped".  The redhaired woman had been looking at Finn in shock, probably surprised he was coming directly towards her in such a public place.  Finn noted that she was already pulling a hefty wrench out of her jumpsuit's thigh pocket, but in three long strides, he just barely passed her by...

...leaving her wide open to his first tail, who had just realized he had competition

Finn didn't bother to look back at the bounty hunters as he walked away - he knew what a vibroblade sounded like, and frankly, a wrench really did sound like any other blunt instrument when being slammed into someone else's body.  He turned down a side alley within a moment, and then broke out into a run.  Originally, the mission had been to meet with an retired New Republic Intel officer currently teaching at the University of Commenor, pick up the man's analysis of whatever subject matter the Resistance had tasked him with, and return to base.  But now, with at least two bounty hunters waiting for Finn upon his arrival, it was obvious the mission had been compromised from the start.  

The only thing he could do now to salvage the mission was find his contact, convince him to return to base with Finn, and somehow find a discreet way off planet, all without alerting the unfriendly Commenor authorities that the Resistance had brought trouble to their doors.  Poe had been very clear on that part when he'd seen Finn off - the Resistance could not afford to upset the Commenor government at this time, not when the diplomats were furiously negotiating for their help against the resurgent Empire.

With his new objective in mind, Finn stopped running once he reached another main thoroughfare, and seamlessly melded into the crowd.  According to the map of Chasin City he'd memorized before even hopping on transport, the university was about a klick away.  In fact, Finn realized with surprise, given the hour of the morning, students should be getting to class right this instant  - and sure enough, Finn saw a crowd of people around his age walking down the street, eating breakfast and drinking caf.  

Finn pulling a book out of his rucksack and casually joined them, just another face in the crowd.  

His contact was listed as a Major Voort saBinring, male, currently working as a professor of mathematics at the University of Commenor, physical description unknown.  The Intel officer who'd briefed him, a pleasant red-skinned Twi'lek woman around Poe's age, had been a little annoyed at the oversight by Command, but had shrugged it off.

"Binring is a company from Saffalore in the Corporate Sector," she'd explained.  "With a name like that, I can see why you've been assigned this mission."

"Why?" Finn had asked obligingly. If there was one thing he'd learned first, people in the Resistance loved telling him stuff for some reason.  He wasn't ever going to turn free information down.

"The Binring Corporation is strongly pro-Empire, even on a putatively neutral world.  Given this operative's years of activity, he's probably an Imperial defector from the post-Endor era.  He'll probably react better to you than, say, someone like me," she said with a smile.

Finn didn't really understand - people in the First Order never defected, they just tried to escape - but took the information at it's worth - his contact would be male, probably around General Solo's age, and probably had a background similar to the First Order's officer corps.  Finn didn't think that was going to build rapport between them, but then again, the older Imperials had been widely hated in the First Order for being maybe not.  Either way, he wasn't turning this mission down. 

The mission notes had stated the Professor saBinring kept office hours in the morning, and it would be expedient to simply visit him then in the guise of a potential student inquiring into the mathematics program.  Time was of the essence, so Finn didn't bother to do more than some initial surveillance - just enough to see someone was in the office, and the door hadn't been forced.  Finn put his book away, palming his hold-out blaster at the same time; the rucksack would conceal it for a moment or two.  Then he put a well-practiced smile on his face and opened the door, only to stop in shock.

Sitting behind the desk was a Gamorrean!  He'd only seen them once or twice when processing prisoners, but it was unmistakably a Gamorrean, wearing a business suit and looking at papers.  The sight was ludicrous; Finn had to suppress the urge to laugh.  Within an instant, the Gamorrean looked up...and surveyed him from head to toe.  Finn had the uncanny idea that the creature had actually noted his concealed blaster, which should be impossible: Gamorreans just weren't that smart.

But all doubt was cast away when the Gamorrean spoke - and not just the grunting Finn had heard before in the prisoners he'd escorted but actual Basic, transmitted by a translator unit around his throat. 

"I assume you're my contact," the Gamorrean stated regally.  "Otherwise I'm going to have to inform you that carrying weapons on campus is strictly forbidden."

Finn blinked, before straightening up a little.  "I'm Finn, your assigned contact.  Are you Voort saBinring?"

The Gamorrean suddenly stood up.  "I am.  Have there been complications with the exchange?"

Fin smiled weakly.  "You could say that - I've already had to shake off two bounty hunters on the way here.  I'm afraid you'll have to come with me, sir - there's no way they don't know who I was meeting."

Professor saBinrig nodded, and suddenly pulled open a desk drawer, bringing out a very battered and well-used blaster.  "Well, that's all right.  It was only a matter of time before I was recalled anyway."

The professor sighed before tucking the blaster into his coat pocket.  He lumbered past Finn, only pausing when Finn didn't start following quickly enough.  "Well, come along.  I have a plan to get us out of here."

Finn wasn't sure, but the translator had sounded almost...impatient.