"Heeeeeeeey Boss!" Maneera called as she walked into the common, a bottle in each hand. "Got an unbirthday gift for you!"
A single blue light on TR-0L's head flickered to life. "TR = need recharge // Organic = loud," the droid hooted indignantly as it withdrew its power cable from a wall socket and trundled off toward the engine room. "Air recycler = quieter."
"Good riddance, you piece of scrap metal," Nayar growled after TR, "and I suppose 'Unbirthday' is a trademarked 'Man'-erism now?"
"That was awful." Maneera scowled and tucked the bottles close against her chest. "I don't think I'm going to give you these, now."
"After all I've done for you? For shame, Mans," Nayar shook his head in mock disappointment.
"From under the counter at the Mynock," Mans replied, her tone just slightly frosty as she set the bottles down on the table before flopping down onto the couch. "Found the woman from the security video, by the way. She'll be stopping by at 1200."
Nayar stopped and blinked at those words. "I'm sorry, fly that by me again?"
"You remember, the one we both decided couldn't possibly be with Republic Security? I ran into her while I was out, we talked, and she'll be coming here in a few hours." Maneera arched an eyebrow. "That's not going to be a problem, is it?"
"Uh, yeah, there might be! We don't have any info on this broad, Mans. You didn't even bother to ask my opinion."
"Look, she wasn't gonna talk without a show of good faith, so I let her pick the place for a meet. She already knows where we're parked, and all she knows about us is my fake record, so it's not like I spilled anything crucial." Maneera looked up, her tone turned pleading. "Come on, Boss. This is our best shot to find out about the competition and
maybe get one of them on side."
"And how many times has that worked for us, Mans?" Nayar responded incredulously. "I don't like this one bit, and no amount of booze, women, men, or sweets will change my mind- Oh, stop doing those crocodile tears, they don't work on me!"
Maneera stood up suddenly, mouth open to start a reply, then held in a breath instead. "Okay, look," she finally said. "There's only one of her, compared to two and a droid of us. She's meeting us on our
home ground, and we still have more than enough time to prepare. Yeah, okay, it's a risk, and maybe I shouldn't have signed us on for it without running it past you first, but this is pretty far from the dumbest risk we've ever taken."
Nayar stared at her for a minute, then sighed heavily. "Fine. But if she makes so much as a glance at my weapon collection, I will boot her @ss off this ship before you can say 'Kessel Run in 12 parsecs,' got it?"
It was exactly 1155, and Serlynne was standing just outside the Fortune's Folly
. She was in her usual black costume with two twin blasters resting in the firearms on her hips. Nerama could talk about friendly meeting all she liked but as far as Serlynne was concerned, she was about to venture into unknown, hostile territory, so the only thing assassin left at her ship was the sniper rifle, and only because it was pretty useless for shooting at short range in closed space.
Naturally, Serlynne did a background check on her new acquaintance, but hadn't found anything major, just loitering and public nuisance, a few minor assault charges, in and out of drunk tanks throughout Republic space. Which left the assassin with a distinct feeling that Nerama's criminal record was as real as her own cover in Coruscant Security, but Serlynne simply had no time to reach her contracts for any actual info. There was also the matter of Nerama's yet-to-be-named boss, but that would have to wait until after the meeting would be over.
Speaking of which, are they going to invite me in already or what?
Suddenly tired of just standing there and doing nothing, Serlynne moved closer to one of the ship's outer cameras and gave it a look the assassin usually used on people she had to drag intel from.
If that doesn't get their attention, I swear I'll just slice the door to their cargo hold and screw the rest-
"Lady, it's called knocking. I assume someone as skilled as you claim to be understands the concept?" a rough, masculine voice answered through her portable radio.
"Damn it, Boss, be nice!" chimed a second voice Nerama's. "Sorry about that, Miss Lyris. We weren't really expecting you to be early."
Serlynne suppressed a brief urge to tell the owner of the voice just where he should shove his opinion regarding her skills. Instead she offered the ships camera a sarcastic smile and said evenly on the radio: "If I wanted to show my skills, right now I would be greeting you while standing right behind your back. But I assumed you would be a gentleman and open the door for the lady without me asking for it. Alas, I have overestimated you."
"Okay, let's hold that thought for a second. You arrived to the meeting early, waited near the only place of the ship without a camera, and made no attempt to even notify either of us you were here, and it's my
fault for not opening the door for you? Riiiiiiiight
," the male voiced dripped with sarcasm. "Add to that the nice idle threat you just made, and not only have you just managed hurt my manly feelings, but you've also managed not
to endear yourself to the owner of the property you're about to set foot in. You graduated top of the class, didn't ya, thief?"
Around the side of the ship, a gangway deployed and a door hissed open. A moment later, Nerama was at the bottom of the ramp, waving. "Over here! Sorry again about Boss, he's always a little " She made a goofy face and flailed her hands around her head. " around strangers."
"Your manly feelings are your own problem, buddy," replied Serlynne, both unwilling to let it go and not wishing to provoke the man any futher. "And as far as I am concerned, I was the only one in my school who passed the final exam." Which was true... in a way. No one else dared to leave the Hutts by their own will.
Serlynne reached the ramp and extended her hand to greet Nerama. "Nice to see you again. Glad you are keeping him in check."
"I do what I can," Nerama laughed as she reached out to shake Serlynne's hand. She turned, starting back up the ramp. "Come on in and we can start getting things hammered out."
Which reminds me of one little mystery I left unsolved.
"By the way," said Serlynne. "With all this running about, I almost forgot to ask the most trivial thing about your boss. What is his name?"
"Oh, did I forget to make introductions for him? Sorry about that," Nerama replied with an anxious chuckle. "Alecs Beval." She led Serlynne into the common where a man presumably her boss stood glowering. "Miss Lyris, meet Alecs Beval. Boss, this is Aziure Lyris. Be nice."
"Alecs" glowered for a few seconds more before sighing, putting his hand out to shake hers. "A pleasure, all that nice meeting stuff, blah, blah, blah."
Serlynne shook his hand. "So you are the mastermind behind that little invasion into the mainframe. Tracking you down was a pain in the ***, but the results were worth the efforts."
"A simple anti-trace program I hacked together from scratch. Not particularly advanced, but it does the job for a fraction of the cost," Alecs shrugged. "I'm more interested in how I missed your signature when I accessed security. Perhaps I was focused too much on deleting all footage of Nerama. In any case, not bad."
"I have my ways to stay hidden," simply said Serlynne. "Now, if we've done with niceties, let's cut right to the chase. You want to steal the holocron and get the money, it's fine by me. In fact I am ready to assist you whatever way you'll choose. What I want, is to know who and why wants this artifact so badly. Call it a whim, if you wish, but I really would like to know that more then I am interested in the reward itself. So, what will you say?"
"Wait, hang on," Nerama blurted out. "The thing's a holocron? You're absolutely sure about that?"
"What, you didn't know?" Serlynne said with a mix of disappointment and sincere surprise in her voice. "I just assumed you have seen it on the footage. Yes, it is a holocron with a few strange markings on its sides. I haven't risked opening it though, so don't ask me what's on it."
She didn't bother mentioning a transmitter now hidden there - holding this little secret could still prove to be useful should Serlynne fail to ally herself with Alecs and Nerama.
Nerama's expression shifted sharply; calm, easy cheer was replaced by angry focus with no visible transition between. "Boss, sidebar," she said as she grabbed Alecs by the elbow and dragged him aside. "This changes everything."
"How so?" Alecs questioned.
"This is Robe sh*t," she snarled. "Black robes or brown, I can't tell and don't really care, but I'm not letting them play me us
for chumps. We can't just give this thing to Master Three Hundred Large."
"Sure we can, just like every other job before. Let them have it," he shrugged. "Creds are creds."
"For the non-existent record," Nerama grumbled, "I think this is a rotten idea." She turned and stalked back toward Serlynne.
The assassin waited patiently while Nerama and Alecs had their private conversation. Nerama's strange reaction to her words left Serlynne somewhat puzzled.
Just how does it change anything? I sure hope they do not have some stupid moral reasons for not stealing any important knowledge. And given the price, this one has to be very important indeed. But for whom?
"Okay. So we're in it for the creds, while you," said Nerama, pointing to Serlynne, "want to find out who's holding the purse strings which, I've gotta say, is a much more interesting question now than it was a few minutes ago. I see no compelling reason for us not to pool our efforts."
"Neither do I," smiled Serlynne "So, Alecs? What's your verdict?"
"My verdict? 'Why are we standing here when there's creds to be had?' is my verdict."