Chapter 2 – Naordor and Gemry
A little less than a day later, Mother was breaking into the atmosphere of Naordor, a temperate agricultural planet, and where Gemry the Middle-Man’s outpost was located. Flickers of orange fire framed the viewport briefly, sounding like nothing more than simple, angry wind to Oric’s ears as he downed the last swallow of his brandy. He had to have something to dull his rage, and this was all they’d allow him. Thorwer’s face was still set into a scowl as he sat in the pilot’s chair, making the lines at the edge of his eyes even more pronounced, likely to convince himself he was even more heated than Oric about this betrayal. Not that Gemry was anything other than pond scum, he was an entirely despicable person, but still, nothing hurts quite like betrayal. Nothing enrages – nothing requires more of a reckoning.
Though the world was sparsely inhabited and was largely free of any government oversight – an exceptional rarity during these times of cold war, especially for a planet so close to the Core – they weren’t going to go in guns blazing. Anne, after a great deal of calming her husband, had convinced him to wring what information he could out of the little turncoat. Then the Jexxel Captain could have his way with Gemry. Decked in his vertically striped red and white armor over his already giant frame as he was, though, Oric had difficulty believing Gemry simply wouldn’t run at the sight of them armed, armored and, simply alive.
Oric would soon find out, however, as Thorwer set Mother down in the verdant grasslands surrounding the Middle-Man’s outpost with a final, solid vibration as the landing struts kissed earth.
“Thor,” Anne called, as he rose from his seat and began buckling on his helmet. “Remember what we discussed, okay? I trust you to keep your word since you won’t let me come.”
“Have I ever broken my word to you, Ahneta?” the Captain bit out, distorted once more, letting his temper get the best of him. The hurt look on her face said it all, and caused him to pause, sigh and mutter an apology. It had been decided on the last legs of the trip to Naordor that only Oric and Thor would go, as had been the tradition before. Ahneta and Zanatos would act as an ace in the hole. Besides, they would have their communicators should anything occur that the two could not handle alone. Together, the two Jexxels trudged to the exit ramp, where Maal waited, now fully clothed in flamboyance, with their weapons. “Anne wants me to go over it with you guys again,” the Chev Jexxel said apologetically as he handed them their weapons – Oric’s pistols and Thor’s heavy repeater cannon. Thor’s growl made Oric think of something leonine. Maal’s second apology made him think of an offended canine.
Oric definitely shared Thor’s anger, in fact Oric’s anger likely eclipsed the Jexxel Captain’s own, but Thorwer was not focused. He was snapping at every little thing. One of the worst things to have at your back is a snappish man with an enormous weapon. “Right!” Oric shouted and clapped loudly and suddenly, calming Thor, by oddly enough, annoying him. “So, we’re supposed to be like, ‘Oh snap man! You didn’t think we’d be alive did’ya!’” The Jexxel had to congratulate himself, his gesticulations actually seemed genuine even if his words had failed utterly. “No, no,” Maal replied, fighting back an exasperated grin. “You’re supposed to turn on your comlinks if you think things are about to go bad, and then make up something to say that has the word ‘Jexxel’ in it. Even you can’t kark this up, Oric.”
Such votes of confidence were Oric’s daily rite among the other Jexxels. He deserved it, he knew – past mistakes, past follies. Still, like any man who feels constantly harassed, Oric cannot help but feel bitter and, of course, angry. This particular instance was no exception, and he weathered it like any other: by plastering a grin to his face and asking the Chev if his unusual clothing choices were a mating ritual to attract potential mates – of the same sex. Long suffering jokes between the two, lifelong friends who had known one another through thick, thin and everything in between. An act Thor was long tired of even without his atypically short fuse for the day. “Yeah, yeah, Oric’s incompetent, you’re gay, what the hell ever, let’s go.” Almost bodily shoving Maal out of his way, Thor trudged down Mother’s loading ramp, his armor-enhanced frame causing the ramp to bend under his weight with every other step.
He shook his old friend’s hand as he buckled on his holsters, then followed his Captain across the pasture towards the unwelcome looking trading post – so small it didn’t even have its own port for incoming ships, instead relying on the surrounding valley as an interstellar parking lot. For Oric, this was the best part of the trip, the walk from the ship to the outpost, not for the peace, but for the intangible beauty of Naordor. The smell was instantly relaxing; the temperature was always just right with the sun simply warming and not suffocating, the valley bowed and curved for as far as the eye could see, and all the eye could see was green. Oric had grown up on Coruscant, a place with almost no wildlife or naturally occurring vegetation – thus his wonder of it was born when he visited Naordor and worlds that were kin to it. Thor, having grown up on an agrarian world, seemed entirely immune to it any time they set down on a planet of this type. This time, though, Oric could understand the Captain’s lack of interest as their path bent and broke the back of the grass.
The outpost was almost another world, a row of steel geometries housing a veritable bevy of people winding in and between the buildings. The hum, bustle and stench of the place overpowered the surrounding vista, stifling him and bringing Oric back to cold reality, Thor still as unaffected as he was before. Finding the administrative building, the two Jexxels strolled through – though not without incident. An over-enthusiastic guard attempted to make Thor leave his weapon at the door, to which the Captain replied by hitting the man with said gun. The sound of the impact made everyone in the room wince and one woman even cried aloud, shrill and sudden. For some reason that was beyond Oric, the armored Thor began to jog down the side hall which led to Gemry’s warehouse office, as if fleeing any possible retribution.
Fearing the Jexxel Captain’s excitement would get the better of him in the heat of the moment, Oric called out to him to stop his sudden rush. “Chill. OUT. If you charge in there like that, you think anything good’s gonna happen? CHILL.” For a tense moment, Oric worried that Thor would charge in anyway, heedless of any negative consequences. But at last, his shoulders and head slacked, and the Jexxel Captain entered the Middle-Man’s warehouse.
The sound of the door opening had surprised Oric on some level – some part of him must have expected Gemry to try anything to keep them away, including locking a simple wooden door. On the other side, he had expected a firing squad, but no – just the utterly baffled face of Gemry the Middle-Man greeted them, the many shelved enormity of his warehouse in the background, along with a stuttering “h-h-o..hello!” The Middle-Man rushed over to clap Thor on the back, with the largest, most fake smile, eyes as large as saucers and made deep with fear and confusion. It was odd, seeing such a tall, dark-skinned and impressively built fellow such as Gemry look at someone else with those eyes. “Hello to you too, Gemry. Remember Golga?” A gauntleted fist shot out, catching the Middle-Man square in the nose. A wet, crunching noise and the six-foot-something muscled man was writhing on the ground; nose clutched as if he were trying to hold it together, blood coloring his dark beard darker.
“He doesn’t like it when his people – HIS PEOPLE – get shot at. He doesn’t like it when some middle-men start trying to renegotiate contracts and deals while in the middle of it. And you know something,” a low growl was distorted by the helmet’s speakers, which Oric realized was a chuckle. “I especially dislike it when some random thugs board my ship and get it shot up. Especially when they were sent by the same gosh darned man that we’ve been so annoyed with already.” Gemry’s attempts to scramble away were cut off when Thor stomped on his knee – hard. More wet crunching. More agonized screams.
“Nuh uh uh.” Thor un-slung his cannon – aimed it at the man’s arm. “Now. You’re going to tell us who the kriff Velgu the Hutt is. You’re going to do this, because you like having that arm. Then you’re going to politely call Golga the Hutt, apologize for any – and I mean any, even possible perceived kriffing insults – and halve all of your prices.”
The Middle-Man had been numbly nodding along, agreeing silently, until the last, when he looked about to shout in protest before a boot – Oric’s – caught him in the chin. “OH!” Oric shouting, a grin forming on his face as he warmed to the idea of rending pain into every fiber of this man’s skin. “You’re feeling generous, and want your prices down to a quarter of what they were?” A low laugh, this from the younger Jexxel as well as Gemry spit porcelain teeth. “Alright! Pleash! Don’t hurt me!”
And over the next hour, Gemry told all he knew as the Jexxel Captain lit a cigarette, rushing every detail, as if Thor’s beatings were held at bay by rapidity. He told of how, three months past, he had been approached by a woman – a Rattataki woman – and told that he would be paid incredible sums of money to tell her where Golga’s operation is. Since he had not known, he offered to have them – the Jexxels – tracked, which would eventually lead them to wherever Golga is. Apparently, Velgu had become impatient, and ordered his men to ambush their ship in mid-transit. From Mother, they would have retraced the Jexxel crew’s path from the navigational computers. Gemry swore he had no idea who or where this Velgu the Hutt was, he had only communicated through the Rattataki woman and various holonet calls. The only thing he knew was that, yes, Velgu was definitely a Hutt.
“And the woman?” Oric piped up, curious.
Whether from blood loss, pain or renewed fear, Oric could not say, but the dark man paled. “She has some bad mojo, man. You don’t even know. You can’t. She would be here, and then not, and then out the door without moving. And the way she would look at you, like she was really seeing you, ya know… I don’t get it man, I’ve met some bad people, but she…I’m more scared of her than you.”
Oric thought he heard Thor mutter something about kriffing idiots being pains in the kriffing *** as he stamped out his cigarette and put his helmet back on. “So where’s this money, then, eh? This ludicrous sum they promised you?”
“What money?” he replied, suddenly stock still as his eyes darted.
“Gemry… by the Void, we have no patience for your nonsense right now,” Oric sighed. “You looked straight at it. You are in the wrong business.” As the younger Jexxel made his way to the three pairs of briefcases the Middle-Man had glanced at, he heard more crunching as Thor stomped on the man’s hand that had shot out. Another pealing scream. “You said you wouldn’t hurt me!”
“I never said any such thing. Nor did I even imply it. You are a fool. Now,” Thor’s distorted voice said, hefting the bloodied, beaten and worst of all, whining, Gemry up onto a desk. “Call Golga.” As Oric hefted five of the cases, handing two off to Thor, and felt the weighty promise of what was within, he felt his anger inexplicably vanish. “Well, Gemry, thanks for the cash, we’ll be back for the rest. If we have to visit you again, it will be significantly more pleasant, I assure you.” Baleful dark eyes followed him and Thor as they exited the warehouse with a final order from the Captain to call Golga the Hutt, “Oh, and Gemry? If I find out you didn’t call? Well, I’ll be back. Even if Golga doesn’t pay me to do it, I will be back for the simple principle of the thing. Industry standards have to be kept at a set level.”
Broken, bloodied and lying on a desk as one of his warehouse workers, Alec, attended to him, Gemry cursed and screamed in frustration as kolto patches and antiseptic medications were administered. Between the curses and screams, though, came a single demand: “Ow, you kriffing idiot! Bring me the comlink before you kill me!” As his command was obeyed, Gemry noticed a pearlescent object next to his resting hand: a tooth – his own. He cursed again, swatting the tooth away. Those damned fools! His knee was broken – shattered! Gemry would likely walk with a limp for the rest of his life!
Then, finally, the idiot worker that had gone to fetch the device returned, with a stupidly blank stare on his face. “Go get a real doctor, you kriffing idiot!” Alec promptly turned and obeyed, his idiot gaze thankfully turned in another direction as he left. Keying in the correct code, the single from his comlink bounced, from the relay down the street of his warehouse to one several miles further north, then to yet another on the western continent – then a tone, indicating a connection, and Gemry spoke: “Februus, boy… you’ve got a job to do.”
Three Weeks Earlier
The hunt had led him for so long, had hounded him like a founding truth of the universe, as if he was born to it – Vershrik existed, thus he must hunt. The Chiss Sith had followed every lead that he could think of for the past five months, from the past-owners of the Chev that had been in Oric’s rescuer – dead – to the make and model of the Jexxel’s ship – which was uniquely made apparently. But finally…
Finally, his quarry had made a careless misstep.
On Corellia, there was a sawbones surgeon – not a unique trait in and of itself on such a densely populated planet. But this sawbones specialized in the replacement of digits for over thirty different races, from Rodian to Wookie. About five and a half months ago, Vershrik’s sources uncovered that a ship licensed to a “Bad Thor” had made entry to the world and paid for the replacement of two digits – two. Human. Pinkies. Like the sound of twigs snapping underfoot, Vershrik had been drawn.
He would find the Doctor Caspar. He would rip answers from his writhing and battered soul. And Vershrik would hunt.
He sniffed. He panted. He scratched at the bars which held him, shaking, howling, roaring hatred. He was Lowraccor! Mightiest of Wookie-kind, most savage of all beasts! He would be no pet to some smooth-skinned fool! Shaking, howling, roaring rage! “<I will tear you!>” the Wookie cried in vain, for even had they the ears, the doctor – nor his captor that had brought him here for treatment – understood his language. “<I will claw and bite you!>” He strained, he bent and…even pleaded. “<You shame me! Let me go!>”
Even after time, it seemed, could the savage be made tame. “What’s his problem?” the sawbones asked. “Is it something that needs treating, like Wookie rabies or some such?”
“Hell if I know, he came like that, always violent. I haven’t been able to let the bugger out of his cage; he’s so violent all the time.” Sighing, Lowraccor’s captor continued. “Nah, he broke his hand or some such trying to get out of the cage – again! – last night. Heard you were the guy for this kinda thing.”
Nodding, the doctor peered into the cage – from a wisely safe distance – and replied, “Yeah, I help with this kinda thing,” an expression of resigned melancholy etching his face.