Somewhere Underground, Nar Shaddaa
Dredd led the group of ragtag criminals deeper and deeper into his employers bunker, if you could call it that. It seemed more of an underground mansion than anything else. There were pristine, grandiose hallways that wouldn't seem out of place on Alderaan, or perhaps even on the higher class homes on Coruscant, and they even caught a glimpse of a dining hall fit for a king, with a low hanging chandelier, and its light dancing off of silver plates and utensils.
"This place has always been a bit much for me." Dredd shrugged idly, not really directing his speech at anyone.
These luxuriant surroundings instantly reminded Serlynne about the time she was working for Jargo. The inner interior of the Hutts' palaces looked pretty much the same as the hallway she was crossing right now, making the assassin slightly more nervous, due to her bad memories about these places.
From the back of the group, Maneera kept anxious watch. "How do you hide someplace like this?" she wondered.
"Money and Intelligence are powerful tools." Dredd replied over his shoulder, as he took a sharp right into a new corridor.
The walls in this hallway were not as ornate and decorative as the last few, but instead were a more practical white. They passed through an opaque plastic barrier, the smell of chemicals instantly filling their nostrils. Dredd led them to a door at the end of the hallway, simply marked "Laboratory 1".
"Ah, Dredd! Fantastic work, knew holocron would get here." Arthen walked quickly up to the Mandolorian, a labcoat swirling around him as he flipped an empty beaker in his hand. "Was just about to test new acid. Care to see? Of course!" Arthen grinned at the rest of the now bewildered crooks, spinning quickly on his heel. Before he moved to steps, Nayar's hand landed on his shoulder.
"Now, hang on a second, Doc. Where's the creds?" Nayar asked slowly, making sure he had eye contact with Arthen. "I don't know if those chemicals addled your brain with that speech o' yers, but I'm not budging until I'm paid."
Maneera stumbled as she backed frantically away from Arthen's approach. "Gotta go, Boss, can't stay here. Get the payment and let's go."
Serlynne, who was silently studying Arthen, gave her a puzzled look, then said, "Actually, this is not the best idea. Let him tell us what is on the holocron first. I have a feeling that whatever it is, it's worth much more than we think."
"Nerama, calm yourself. Az, this damn cube isn't worth any more of my time. I couldn't care less what's on it-"
"A map," Arthen shrugged, then shook his head. "I apologize for my speaking earlier. I ignore personal pronouns when I think to myself during experiments. I assume you saw the lavish interior of the base? Not my taste, personally, but the people who fund my experiments demand. . . accommodations
to their likings." Arthen nearly spit the word, then shifted his eyes to Nerama. "My my, you are a jumpy little human, aren't you?"
"And what if she is?" Nayar questioned right back, one hand coming to rest on his blaster.
"Well, it just seems as though she's caught a bit of Sith curse. I can feel the Force roiling from her mind, blocking her frontal lobe, and agitating the amygdala," Arthen put his hand to his chin, stroking the area.
"Okay, just... just stay back." Maneera lowered her scattergun to point toward Arthen, bracing the stock against her hip, and waved him away with the other hand. "Someone please tell me I'm not the only person thinking Crazy Robe Guy sounds crazy."
"Well given the fact that we all saw a Sith in that vault, this guy may be right," said Serlynne. "Now put down your weapon before you do anything stupid."
"For your information, I am wearing a labcoat, not a robe. So it'd be Crazy Labcoat Guy, Nerama." Arthen didn't move a muscle as she aimed the scattergun at him. "As for the curse, I'm no healer, but perhaps. . ." Arthen closed his eyes, focusing his own Force energy to combat Maneera's paranoia, soothing waves of Force moving into Maneera's mind.
Maneera pulled in an anxious breath and held it a moment, before exhaling in a sigh. "So yeah," she said, grinning sheepishly. "This is the part where I apologize, I guess." There was a faint electronic whine as she disengaged the power cell on her scattergun.
Serlynne stared at Nerama in disbelief, then switched to Arthen. "That's it?" asked she, not bothering to hide notes of doubt in her voice. "Can't believe it was so simple."
Arthen slumped against the wall as he finished, one hand rubbing his temple. "The Force is capable of many things, but like life, extend too much, and it will kill you. Were it not for how. . . common the curse was, I would have said you fought a Darth. But more likely, it was a Lord; perhaps an apprentice. But I doubt that."
"The lady we fought seemed more like the lower class of Sith. Hell if I know, though, I just hate them," Nayar ground out as he bumped Maneera. "You uncrazy now, Nerama?"
"Near as I can tell, yeah," Maneera replied as she gently elbowed Nayar. Frowning, she turned her attention to Arthen. "Uhh, hey. Doctor... Master... Labcoat Guy. You okay? You look kinda wiped."
Dredd hurried to Arthen's side with a chair from one of the lab stations. "My friend," the large man breathed quietly as he helped the scientist into the seat, his concern poorly hidden. "Are you alright?"
"Bah, I'm not a feeble old man, Dredd. I just haven't practiced in a while, of course it'd wind me," Arthen grumbled as he was pushed into the seat. "As for how you may address me, I prefer Doctor Kole, if possible. I'm fine, I just need to catch my breath."
"So what are you exactly, Doctor Kole?" inquered Serlynne. "A Jedi? A Sith? Or just an independent Force user?"
"The latter, to be truthful, but my past is quite inconsequential. Come now, let me see the holocron," Arthen motioned, Dredd stepping back from where Arthen sat, still keeping a close eye on him.
Nayar gave both Serlyenne and Maneera a questioning look, before he moved on hand to his blaster, and the other inside his jacket to remove the lavender holocron. He gave it to Maneera to hold as he eyed Arthen. "Now, the payment will need to be split evenly by three, so I hope you're prepared to do so."
"Indeed, you fulfilled the bounty, so by all means. Dredd, please split the creds on this stick 100k each — one for every member of our little gang here." Arthen handed the tall Mandolorian a credit stick, then relaxed in his seat. At this movement, the labcoat fell far to the side to revel a double-saber hanging from Arthen's hip.
"Funny thing about this holocron," said Serlynne slowly, addressing no one in particular. "It seems both the Republic and the Empire want it pretty badly. Makes you wonder what all this fuss is about."
"Bah, it's a holocron. They believe they'll find some ancient super-weapon or some other nonsense on it—"
"When did you leave the Order?" Maneera interrupted, her fingertips hooking into the carved-out sections of the holocron's casing.
"The Order? Where did- Ah. My saber," Arthen removed it from his hip, twirling the deadly handle as though it were a baton. "A long time ago. Far too long to dwell on." Arthen leaned forward suddenly. "But, Nerama, how did you know this was a Jedi's saber, and not a Sith's?"
"Yeah, Nerama, how did ya? It just looks like a saber to me." Nayar looked at her.
Maneera shrugged, forcing her tone to stay light and careless. "You grow up around the Temple, you learn to notice things."
"So you do. . ." Arthen mused, glancing one more time at Maneera before snapping his fingers. "Dredd! Where is my clients' payment?"
Dredd came forward, passing three separate credit sticks to each of the criminals who had captured the holocron in silence.
Serlynne took the stick from Dredd and inserted it into her datapad, making sure that it contained the proper amount of credits. Then she carefully hid it inside one of her suit's pockets.
"So, you mentioned a map." said the assassin casually. "I doubt we are talking about some stupid pirate treasure, buried on a distant planet, right?"
"Well, to a degree, that's exactly what it is. But I would very much like my holocron now." Arthen outstretched his arm to Maneera as Nayar finished his own check on their sticks. Each held the correct amount of creds.
Maneera started to hold out the holocron, then paused, looking to Nayar. "Everything looking legit, Boss? It's your call."
Nayar nodded at Maneera to hand it over, pocketing his cred-stick while holding hers ready after she gave Arthen the holocron.
"Okay then." Maneera set the holocron in Arthen's hand. "All yours, Doctor. Unless there's anything else that needs discussed, we've got a reward to spend."
Arthen took the holocron almost reverently. "Splendid. Absolutely splendid. I feel as giddy as a child on Life Day morning!" Arthen exclaimed, already moving the holocron in his hands. "As I look at the time, I realize it is already quiet late, and this corner of Nar Shaddaa is very. . . unscrupulous at night. Would you like for me to arrange for rooms? If not, I can have Dredd escort you all back."
"Actually, the room sounds great. I would like to get one," smiled Serlynne.
Maneera gave an exaggeratedly indifferent shrug. "When is Nar Shaddaa not unscrupulous?"
"A fair enough point, my dear Nerama. But the offer still stands," Arthen agreed.
Nayar nodded. "I figure we could use a break from the ol' gal, eh, Nerama? What do you think?"
"Well, if you're staying, someone
's gonna have to keep an eye on you," Maneera replied, grinning. "And besides, if the girls and cantinas aren't still there tomorrow, we've got bigger problems than a missed night on the town."
Serlynne shot the duo an annoyed look, but didn't say anything. Instead she turned to Arthen and asked, "You said something about people funding your work here. I hope they won't mind you having guests?"
"Cretins as rich as them don't care what happens here, so long as I produce results. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need time to myself," Arthen graciously bowed, and promptly spun away from the group to a door marked "Testing Site 3", holocron in hand. "Dredd, please have some of the other workers around here show our guests to their quarters."
Dredd hit a small button on the wall near the door, and within moments a nervous man with distinct birdlike features appeared, an inquisitive look on his face. "You called, sir?" he asked.
"Juris, Mr. Kole would like you to show our guests here to some rooms." He directed Juris' eyesight towards the trio of criminals with a slight inclination of his head.
"Ah, yes sir, very good sir. Would they prefer the suites? Or something more practical?" He chattered on, his head moving in a distinct twitch as he spoke. "Perhaps the Hurvey Room? I don't know if the Hurvey room is ready though. I think Tonnil's in there now. I can al-"
"Enough, Juris." The large Mandalorian shook his head, obviously a bit annoyed by the quirky man. "Just put them in a room. I really don't care which one."
"Yes, sir. I'm sorry sir," he apologized as he turned to his charges, extending a hand in a dramatic motion towards the door. "If you would be so kind."
An audible sigh was heard from Dredd as the odd man hurried out the door.
The minute they left the room, Serlynne stopped dead in her tracks and said coldly to their guide, "Let's get one thing straight first. I don't give a rat's *** about what Dredd told you. I am not going to stay in the same room with these two, so you need to find me another one. Am I clear?"
"Our apologies, Mister Juris," said Maneera as she stepped up to stand closer to Nayar. "I'm sure whatever kind of space you can dig up for us will be fine."
"From the way she said it, Nerama, one could almost come to the conclusion that Az doesn't like
us," Nayar nudged Maneera playfully. "I think my manly feelings are hurt." Maneera snickered, returning the nudge as she rolled her eyes.
"It's quite fine, ma'am," Juris reassured, a slight glare aimed at Serlynne before looking back at Maneera. "Everyone shall have their separate rooms."
"Excellent," nodded Serlynne approvingly, then added, "Don't flatter yourself, Alecs, it has nothing to do with any of you. I just value my privacy."
"Privacy. Right. Bet you're gonna make a bunch of calls to your Sithy employers. . ." Nayar joked, a wide grin plastered on his face as Juris led them all away.