Somewhere Underground, Nar Shaddaa
Under the cover of a Force veil, Soleta and Quintus had cautiously negotiated the maze of corridors through the underground lair, on the trail of Arthen's messenger. The pair reached the entry to Laboratory 1 just in time to see the band of criminals leave through one door, and Arthen through another. Quickly, Soleta tugged her saber hilt from her belt and handed it to Q. "Keep this safe," she insisted in a sharp whisper. "I'll keep you hidden as long as I can, but you should find cover." Without waiting for a response, she strode into the lab, heading directly for Dredd. "Good evening," she called, her arms spread and hands open and empty. "I would like to have a word with your employer, if I may."
"You may not," he replied without a pause, his hand stopping on his holstered blaster. "You aren't welcome in here."
Quintus knew what he had to do. The operative stalked off into another passageway, intent on finding a way to disable electronic security systems.
"I rather think I'd prefer hearing that from him, if you don't mind." Soleta smiled, bringing her hands up slowly to rest on top of her head. "I can wait."
"Dredd! Who's outside?" Arthen called out. "Did you take her coat?"
"I'm afraid I didn't think to bring a coat," Soleta called back, "but the offer is appreciated."
"I don't know this one." Dredd replied, ignoring her comment. "She new?"
"I'm sorry, I didn't quite catch that, DREDD, did you take her coat?!" Arthen yelled out, the whir of machinery precluding him from hearing either Soleta's or Dredd's first responses.
"SHE DIDN'T BRING A COAT!" Dredd roared back, exasperated. "JUST GET IN HERE!"
"WHAT- Oh Dredd, there you are. Now, what is the issue- Oh, this lady here. I don't remember ever adding you, and judging by your Force signature, I believe I may safely assume you belong to the Empire, considering your choice of dress?" Arthen guessed after having barreled through the door, one hand gesturing to Soleta's slinky dress from the club.
"Yes, well, protective colouration. One can't be too careful, even in Hutt space. Sometimes especially
in Hutt space." She looked anxiously from Dredd to Arthen. "Could we take it as established that I'm not an imminent threat? I must confess, I feel a bit silly with my hands up like this."
Dredd took his weapon out of the holster, keeping his arm at his side. His eyes narrowing on the young woman before him.
"So she's Sith?" Ignoring her again, he spat the words.
"Dredd?" Arthen queried.
"Don't take her coat."
Dredd looked at him for a second, shook his head, and aimed his gun at the Sith's head.
Remembered fear was easy to call up; Soleta let it wash over her, leaving her wide-eyed and shaking as she watched Dredd anxiously. "Please, I... I just need to hide, just... just a little while, please," she stammered. "The thing that was being held on Coruscant, it's here already, isn't it? I can, maybe I can help you unlock it or decipher it or whatever, if you let me stay. I know about old things, I can help. Please
"Shut up." Dredd breathed through clenched teeth.
"And why particularly would I need your help, Sith, even if I did fall for that pitiful charade you are attempting to con us with?" Arthen raised an eyebrow.
"But it isn't a charade," Soleta insisted, nearly in tears. "Alright, yes, I'm sensitive, I admit that, and I've had to do some things I'm not proud of to keep safe, but that's all, I swear it! I work... worked
for the Reclamation Service, I'm a digger, and I thought... I just thought maybe someone with the resources to instigate a scavenger hunt like this might be able to help me disappear. And if I could offer my services as a student of archaeology, it might be enough to make it worth the trouble."
"Sith, drop the tears. Faking isn't necessary to get a look at the holocron," Arthen rolled his eyes, the green skin crinkling around his eyes. "All you had to do was ask. You won't even understand what you're looking at anyway." He spun on his foot, gesturing for Dredd and Soleta to follow him in to the lab.
"You first," the hunter snarled, waving her through the door with his blaster.
"May as well start lying," Soleta grumbled as she fell in behind Arthen. "It would be much more forgiving on my dignity." As Dredd entered the side room after her, she let her veil dissipate, hoping she had bought enough time for Quintus to do whatever sort of clever spy thing he could manage.
"Sit." Arthen commanded, gesturing at a nearby stool as he turned his attention to the holocron, now mounted on a stand next to another holocron, this one emerald green. "You don't even know what this holocron contains, do you? No, please, give me your best guess."
Quintus entered a chamber which housed security systems and began to slice into it stealthily in order to accomplish two things: downloading information on the holocron he and Sol were seeking, and to cover his tracks by disabling the system.
Soleta perched on the stool, peering at the lavender holocron. "Cubic casing suggests Jedi origin, but this ideogram on the side... Rakata, isn't it? indicates a much, much earlier construction. Or, I suppose, someone who's nearly as clever as I am is showing off, but that seems unlikely." She slowly moved her hands down from her head to rest on the work table, supporting her as she leaned out over the holocron to check the symbols on the other sides. "The near face reads 'treasure'. 'Power' and 'seal' to either side of that, and 'conceal' on the top." Soleta leaned back, grinning. "It's a map. I could puzzle out a clearer notion of what the treasure is if I could see the other two sides, but I'll assume you'd prefer I didn't touch this."
"The other two sides are unrecognizable," Arthen stated blandly, "unless you have access to their earliest records of language." Arthen pulled the green holocron closer to it the lavender one, then quickly lifted a scalpel. "Being Rakatan in nature, the cube won't respond to just Force. It demands a sacrifice as well. Your hand, please?" Arthen asked.
"You've both made it perfectly clear you don't trust me; I see no reason why I should extend you any further courtesy," Soleta replied, crossing her arms. "I would much prefer to handle the incision myself, thank you very much."
"Dredd, if she doesn't extend her hand in the next three seconds, you have my permission to open fire."
"I've faced hungry ghosts in their own ritual-fouled tombs, and you think the mere threat of blaster fire will frighten me?"
"It was not a threat towards you, but more of an informative warning towards my associate. But still, I feel it will provide an excellent distraction," Arthen smirked, twirling the scalpel through his fingers.
Soleta merely arched an eyebrow as a pale flicker of static skittered over her skin. "You may fire when you are ready, Dredd."
The hunter grinned widely, hatred in his eyes. He adjusted his aim at the last second, sending the blaster bolt at the Sith's left leg.
Suppressing a wince as the bolt impacted her shield, Soleta glared at Arthen. "If you and your enforcer are both quite
done waving your manhood about, I should very much like to have this holocron opened before your Jedi friend finds you. The scalpel, if you please."
"Jedi friend, you say? My guess is he followed you following. . . whoever you sent to warn the bartender, Dredd. Speaking of which, I suddenly have a far better idea. Dredd, please call in the man our dear Sith followed," Arthen passively waved his hand, the scalpel still twirling in it. "And, my lovely little flower, if you continue to believe that I will hand you anything that could possibly be used as a weapon of any kind, you are sorely mistaken."
Dredd grunted and backed to the corner of the room, where he spoke in hushed tones into a communicator, all the while keeping his aim on Soleta.
"Sir, you called?" came a voice from the lab.
"Ah, yes, Orpheus, glad to see you could join me for this. Thank you for informing the bartender he is no longer necessary," Arthen smiled at the thin, wispy fellow who Soleta had tailed. "Now, this precious little flower here? She is a Sith who managed to follow you here. Into my base."
Orpheus paled at the sight of Soleta. "Not-not possible, sir, I took every precaution-"
"Shh, shh, Orpheus. I'm not mad, I promise. See? I'm quite composed," Arthen continued to smile. "Would you kindly look closer at the artifact I had brought in?" Arthen waved his hand towards the lavender holocron.
"Yes sir, Doctor Kole, sir," Orpheus leaned in closer to examine the holocron. "It's quite lovely, sir."
"Indeed, it is," Arthen agreed as he grabbed the back of Orpheus' neck, and drew the scalpel straight across his throat, the arterial blood spurting all across both the lavender and emerald holocrons. "I'm glad the last thing you saw was something beautiful."
"Perhaps I'd be just as safe taking my chances at home, after all," Soleta murmured absently as she watched the pair of holocrons, completely mindless of the spray of blood that had spattered over her arm.
Orpheus fell to the floor, holding his throat and gasping for breath. Dredd watched the man thrash with a regretful look.
"Nu kyr'adyc, shi taab'echaaj'la,
" He whispered to himself, as Orpheus' thrashing quickly slowed to a stop. "Ni su'cuyi, gar kyr'adyc. Ni partayli, gar darasuum.
" [tr: Not gone, merely marching far away. I'm still alive, but you are dead. I remember you, so you are eternal.]
As the lavender holocron whirled and stirred, the emerald holocron immediately began a soft humming noise. Before long, both fell silent. "Finally," Arthen breathed, "I have the key. Dredd, escort our Sith friend to her. . . accommodations. I have an interloper to stop."
Soleta smiled as she slid down off the stood, once again settling her hands on top of her head as she started toward the door. "Coming, Dredd?" she called back over her shoulder.
Dredd spat at her, the glob falling just short of her retreating form. "Keep making jokes, love." He grumbled, leaving the threat in the air, before following her out the door, leaving behind him a trail of curse words.
In an opposite-side lab housing the majority of Arthen's security systems, a datapad's light flashed green and beeped, indicating a completed slicing. Quintus took note, stowed information on the holocrons in the system for later study, albeit mostly pulling information on the ancient Rakata language, uploaded a fabricated virus to take down the security system at a slow but sure pace, and logged off to cover his tracks. Sensing Soleta's veil wearing off, he took back his datapad and engaged his stealth field generator and tread near the walls in order to find an exit route.