Reposting this in the hopes of someone actually reading it.
Prologue – The Blue Gunmetal Man
Drills spun, saws whirred and the man screamed agony. Even through the anesthetics and kolto medication coursing through his veins. He endured such pain! It writhed through him, like a parasitic serpent, supping on his lifeblood, dining on the utterly unique agony of having metal seared and stitched into his flesh! But it would be worth it, the man reminded himself. He would be even stronger than before – a raving Juggernaut! Unstoppable, relentless and pitiless! His roars encompassed the room, though if they were born of some ******* urge of pain or from the thought of his future victories, even the man could not say.
And like that, it was over. The man could not say how much time had passed, yet all the pain had disappeared – no, not disappeared, scattered, as if driven by fear. His Master stood over him, yellow irises set in a hooded, scarred and worn Pureblood face, as unpitying as he knew they would be. “Awake,” the Sith said, not a question but a statement, an acknowledgment of the man’s conscious presence. “You will not fail again.” Yet another statement, its implied threat all too clear for one who had spent years under the scrutiny of those merciless eyes. “Rise, Darth Vershrik. You will not cost me more.”
The pain returned, though halved, and Vershrik rose from the operating table – and saw his own form reflected. Where half of his skin had been red, blistered and wholly burnt before, now it was covered, every inch of it, in gunmetal durasteel. It seemed he actually had died, for Vershrik did not recognize the twisted face of this blue gunmetal man. Perhaps that was for the best, he thought, as he donned a simple black cloak. Thus Vershrik was reborn, for the hunt, lunatic will sutured to enveloping hate and steel. And he would hunt.
Chapter 1 - Route A-97 to Sith Space
Five Months Later
Endless space between lords of sin and intrigue, that’s what Thorwer had called it – the hyperspace lane they had followed between Kowak and their Middle-Man’s outpost near Empire controlled space, a world called Naordor. Endless was right. The journey took two days each way, not counting the simple time it took to offload the “exotic” fauna of Kowak, not counting the possibility of Sith patrols which Oric was still altogether to wary of, not counting the possibility that Gemry the Middle-Man would be unhappy with the delivery and would try to “negotiate”.
The first time Middle-Man had tried, Thorwer had simply pinned him with a glare and reminded him their employer was a Hutt. The implied threat seemed to lose effect with repetition, and with each time they did nothing about his attempts at undercutting, the Middle-Man was simply emboldened. It was also possible the Middle-Man simply discounted the threat of two lone mercenaries so far from the reach of a Hutt, not thinking there could be more of them.
But, it was more likely the Middle-Man was just too stupid for his health.
Settled in Mother’s pilot chair sipping on some Corellian whiskey, his blonde hair typically unruly, his blue eyes lusting after sleep, black hide-bound boots resting on the co-pilot’s chair, Oric had nothing but time to reflect on anything and everything as his slight but muscled frame was wrapped in his “modified” brown leather flight jacket about him. Though it was his watch for the night, Oric did not have his jade-hued bracers on – they made his prosthetic pinky fingers uncomfortable for whatever reason, something he’d ask Doctor Caspar about the next time they were on Corellia. He worried it could factor in to his gun-slinging, but he was loath to admit this to his comrades.
According to Ahneta, Golga the Hutt has had enough of the Middle-Man’s nonsense. His job is to simply distribute to their Sith clients, nothing more. If he needs reminding of this fact, then Bad Thor just needs to make an appearance. If the Middle-Man were to still try to cheat a Hutt, well… Oric tried not to think about that. He might feel pangs of sympathy and do something unforgivably stupid, like not do as he was paid to do. Due to the complication of replacing someone so highly placed with such incredible connections as to smuggle certain items without too much scrutiny, Golga understandably wants the Jexxels to do anything and everything possible to not need to have him replaced.
Such was life when working for a Hutt.
“Oric?” an old Corellian voice said, like sandpaper over cobblestones – a symptom of his incessant need to have a cigarette after every meal, with every alcoholic beverage, after waking up and before sleeping. Thorwer “Bad Thor” Baden stood in the entryway to Mother’s cockpit, standing at his usual imposing height with his vertical red and white jumpsuit on with the moniker of the Jexxel on his left breast. “What time is it?”
“A quarter till, last time I checked. Why’re you up anyways, Thorwer? Thought you and your wife needed some…ya know.” Oric finished with a sly wink, always preferring the gentlemanly art of sexual intimation.
“One,” Thor began, obviously irritated already. “You know its Captain, Thor or Baden, I hate Thorwer.” Oric nodded in response with an obviously fake look of apology. “Two, you know better than to speak of Anne like that.” This actually did make him feel somewhat apologetic. If she considered you family, she was better than any mother in the galaxy – and so making sex jokes of your own mother is rather inappropriate.
“Oh, it was just a joke Thor,” the young Jexxel started to say, but the Jexxel Captain’s look was taking no excuses. “Right, right, sorry, Captain. You know I’d never disrespect Anne.” The giant of a man seemed content, shoving Oric’s feet out of the way as he took the co-pilot’s chair. “That’s what I like to hear, boy. Anything of note happen?” Bemused by losing his footstool and rebellious, Oric planted his feet on the console directly facing the viewport. “Well, a few hours ago there was a pink stretchy line thing. It was kinda noteworthy. But I didn’t make a note! Crap!” The Jexxel pounded his fist into his open hand, an embellished expression of self-reproach. “Okay, I get it boy, you’re funny,” Thorwer sardonically muttered as he stood back up to leave. “Just pay attention, we’re about due for the next course change. Mother here doesn’t like to be late for her appointments, you hear me?” He thought he heard a garbled “********” as Thorwer left down the gangway to the lounge.
“Yeah, yeah,” Oric mumbled, feeling henpecked. Not a moment later they reverted back to real-space. Oric wasn’t really anywhere near on the level of Thorwer’s piloting abilities, but he could do this at least – the Captain had made damned sure of that.
A sound like a hammer on an anvil, and the ship went spiraling out of control, dashing him against the console and into unconsciousness. Oric’s last thought was to bemoan the fate of his surely shattered glass of whiskey.
Klaxons blaring were the third things Oric’s senses recognized, the first being the incredible agony that was the inside of his skull, and the second being Maal’s open-handed slaps repeatedly wracking his cheeks. “What-“ Slap. “Stop-“ Slap. “STOP!”
“Oh, void, Oric, sorry, it took a lot and and, I uh, kinda got carried away.” Maal’s pale hands had left his cheeks with what seemed to be permanent impressions – at least the Chev wasn’t in his usually outlandish outfits. It seemed he had jumped straight out of bed, still in his oddly understated undergarments. Even if he still had his ridiculous moustache, tattoos and earrings everywhere.
“Uh, yeah, uh, Oric we’re under attack…,” Maal stuttered out, Oric, having recently received a head wound, was predictably slow to respond.
“Oh. Well. Is everyone okay?” The Jexxel could honestly not think of anything he cared about outside of the realm of his skull, but it seemed important to ask. Even through the pain, rules of conduct must be abided. Apparently.
“Sssorta?” was the Chev’s confused response. “They’re boarding us right now.” Then Anne was with them, throwing Maal his battered blaster rifle and Oric his gun belt, modifying her own marksman’s rifle immediately after. As she was standing in a simple robe that was almost too small for her, her fiery red hair hanging close to the small of her back, her green eyes alight with alarm and concern, the Jexxel’s First Mate looked like something out of some saucy space holo, maybe even regal with her towering above everyone else aboard. “You awake, dear?”
“Boarding?” was Oric’s mannish witty reply to the both of them.
“Yes. They caught us in between course changes. Seems they knew we were coming, dear.” Some panic flared, but Anne seemed to immediately know what he was thinking, placating him with a hand on his chest. “No, they’re not Sith. They say they work for some rival Hutt. They want the monkey-lizards, among other things.” Despite the very real and very imminent possibility of being boarded and killed, this actually did calm Oric down. “Thank the Force,” as he strapped on his gun belt. “If they aren’t Sith, they can’t do space magic!” Inexplicably heartened by this random supposition, the young Jexxel followed Maal and Anne into the lounge bordering the airlock – after finding his glass of whiskey perfectly intact, with only a minimum of the contents missing resting on his chair. Not one to tempt fate, Oric quickly downed the last of it before joining them, savoring the liquid warmth which subdued his tension.
They looked quite the odd team, two of them in their sleeping wear carrying rifles, one in his normal wear buckling on a belt with two Dead Eye pistols in them and finally Thorwer, in his full red and white trooper armor with micro filament of durasteel, his enormous heavy repeating cannon propped on an overturned container, flanking the airlock. He soon raised a gloved finger in front of his helmet’s faceplate, making a shushing noise. “We told them we surrender. Don’t give away the surprise!” Thor always seemed most intimidating when he was like this. Not for the dense armor, the heavy weaponry or his sheer size, but for the fact he seemed to enjoy the idea of what was about to happen so thoroughly.
“Whatever you say, honey,” Anne said nonchalantly as she joined her husband’s side, her own rifle similarly propped up. Oric and Maal set up on the opposite flank’s barricade, likewise setting up as the older two Jexxels had. Somewhere, he thought he heard the treads of T1D and what was likely a series of robotic expletives about having to repair his perfect ship while these disgusting organics shot at it and inside it and leaked the most organic things all over it! As Oric and Maal tried to fight grins, Thor took the time to explain the plan: Tidy would open the airlock and then lead the hopefully unsuspecting “guests” out of the threshold, where the Jexxels would promptly catch them in a crossfire that would, with any luck, be very short and entirely one-sided.
From the sound of it, Tidy did not like this plan at all…
While he was blacked out, the other Jexxels must have set up these makeshift barricades in the side corridors that flanked the airlock. Oric must admit, even with their hastened construction, they had been well placed. The corridors inside of Mother, which ran perpendicular to the lounge, snaked so that if the boarders tried to use the threshold as cover to attack Thor and Anne they’d be totally exposed to the younger Jexxels. Even if they advanced into the lounge area, the cover there was very scant. It consisted of two couches and a very short table, while they would still have their own very high, rather dense cover which intersected with the lounge further down the corridors from the airlock. A more perfect crossfire situation Oric did not know of.
An ominous clamp. A sound like a giant breathing – hissing. A very angry voice on the other side of the door, demanding it opens up. The Jexxel’s red and white astromech trundled forward, warbling and beeping very unflattering things about Thor. “Just open the damned thing, Tidy!” Thor’s static voice bit out angrily. Though grumbling, Tidy assented, and the door opened. Quickly but, somehow not panicked, the droid rushed into the lounge, then turned and looked into the airlock as if waiting. “It’s ‘bout damned time! Kriffing mercs..,” the Weequay voice grumbled as it trod through the opening carrying an unremarkable pistol, followed closely by two flanking Twi’leks hefting scatterguns.
A static shout and Thor’s repeating cannon began scorching red holes into the yellow twi’lek closest to his side, severing a lekku clean, his cannon pounding thunder and judgment through the corridors of their Mother. The Weequay and the surviving Twi’lek, this one red naturally as opposed to being recently made this artificially, ducked into cover. The Twi’lek dove right, into the lounge, the Weequay back into the airlock’s threshold, pressing himself up against the wall while blindly firing his pistol around the corner. Oric didn’t give the alien a chance to reconsider, drew and fired – the sound of rasping leather followed closely by a wrathful whisper, then the sight of his body going rigid from the impact. He expected the Weequay to fall, his body rigid after the bolt had entered his temple – anything but stand there, as if pinned by his head to the wall, legs askew and twitching.
Possibly maddened with fear, the other Twi’lek must have realized the hopelessness of his situation and tried to jump back into the airlock and to the relative safety of his ship – an attempt cut down by the bark of Anne’s rifle, which caught him in mid-air and sent him skidding nearly all the way towards Oric and Maal’s barricade. The boarding party had been ill-prepared and had fallen for whatever ruse Thor and Anne had cooked up, all of them felled within a minute of attempting to board. It took Oric a second to realize Maal hadn’t fired a single shot, so fast he and the older Jexxels had been.
Dropping his heavy repeater cannon, Thor disappeared into his and Anne’s quarters further down the corridor for a moment, reappearing with a light repeating cannon. He stepped over the body of the first gunned down Twi’lek, looked to Oric and growled an order to Tidy to “Tidy up” and dispose of the bodies.
The little droid almost went berserk, from the sound of it, its treads whirring as it hurtled at Thorwer – a plethora of warbles, chirrups and beeps assailed everyone’s ears until Anne appeared from behind her husband, her face serene and smiling, cooing at the droid to please do as the Jexxel Captain asked. After a moment of low, frustrated beeps, the astromech seemed to relent, and began dragging the bodies towards the airlock on the opposite side of the ship. Tidy reminded Oric of nothing so much as a crotchety old man, continuously dealing with the random whims of “youngsters”.
“C’mon!” Thor shouted at the threshold of the airlock, his helmet continuing to distort his voice as he threw the Weequay’s body away from the wall.
“’C’mon’ what?” Oric called back, his body expressing his perplexed state, his head still throbbing. “We just done for them, we can get outta here now.”
“Just c’mon!” Thor roared. The younger Jexxel could almost see his face twisting with impatience, and when Thor got impatient he got angry, and when he got angry, well, that was a whole other can of worms that Oric did not want to be opening. So, he followed. Maal and Anne would obviously stay behind, being the only two without any kind of gear on aside from their weapons. Further in, Thor finally relented and explained that he wanted to see who had let the other Hutt in on their little secret – namely, who had known where they would be and when they would be there. Having little choice but to agree after seeing the sense – after all, whoever set this up could do so again and have the next people far more prepared – Oric followed the Jexxel Captain.
Though the craft that had boarded them could carry little more than the three people that had boarded them, Oric and Thor entered carefully. That is, Thor threw in three flash grenades before Oric dive-rolled into a corner farthest from the airlock, quickly righting himself and scanning for any threats, both pistols drawn and covering two different angles simultaneously. But it was all for naught, as there was no one – the ship was significantly smaller than Mother, Oric noted, as a small compartment with two bunks to the side of a slightly larger lounging area were the only amenities aside from the cockpit, which was directly visible from the airlock. “Clear,” the Jexxel called to his Captain, holstering his weapons.
From the airlock’s threshold, Thorwer seemed content, able to see what Oric could and relaxed his grip on the light repeating cannon. So the search began, looking for something. Thor seemed to know exactly what he was looking for, as he stubbornly insisted, but Oric most certainly did not – so he just sat down on the pilot’s couch, and stared at space. Oh-ho, what’s this? The young Jexxel thought upon discovering a datapad with a rather saucy set of pictures involving the yellow Twi’lek and what Oric presumed was his human girlfriend. Scandalous! After fully taking in the few pictures the Twi’lek had on that one file, he began sorting through the other files to hopefully find another instance – when he found one file marked as: VELGU; JOB SEVEN; ROUTE A-97 TO SITH SPACE. Rather stunned by how simply he had found this, Oric made sure to read it before telling the Captain.
Most Esteemed Velgu the Hutt,
I, Gemry, ever your servant and loyal to your mighty Cartel, have included the coordinates necessary to complete our business transaction. There are often only two of them, so one with your mighty empire should find no trouble in dispatching legitimate businessmen that are more than capable of handling the situation.
Ever your servant,
Gemry the Middle-Man
“Yeah uh, Thorwer?” Oric called, extending the datapad. Thorwer, though masked by his helmet, was obviously curious and cautious all at once. After a brief moment of reading, Thorwer looked at Oric in what must have been disgust and said, “This stuff’ll rot your brain, boy.” And tossed the item back to him, which Oric nearly fumbled in catching such was his confusion. Looking down, he realized he must have thumbed back to the scandalous pictures. “No, wait! Not that!” The young Jexxel nearly leapt out of his chair in his haste to show the Captain the file and that he was not a pervert. A few moments of confused, hurried explanation and the pair made their way back to their Mother, Thor obviously fuming under his helmet.
“Well?” was the unified reply of Anne and Maal as Oric and Thor exited the airlock.
“We continue on,” Thor replied stoically, handing his wife the datapad, Maal reading around her shoulder.
A confused question followed Thor back to his quarters as he shed his armor, voiced by his wife.
“What does this **** have to do with anything?”