Arthen Cole’s underground base, Nar Shaddaa.
The room, man named Juris referred to and which he ultimately led Serlynne to, turned out to be a rather luxurious suit, causing Serlynne to wonder once again, who were the mysterious benefactors Cole mentioned earlier. “It would be quite the irony if Jara the Hutt is one of them”
, thought the assassin.
Right now Serlynne was lying on a huge bed, hands on the pillows under her head, and staring into high ceiling. The assassin was still wearing her leather suit with armor underneath, just like she always did when she had to sleep somewhere outside her ship. Serlynne felt more comfortable that way and, more importantly, much safer. The assassin had been attacked while sleeping in the middle of the night several times before during her missions, and current situation didn’t seem any less dangerous – Serlynne wouldn’t put it past Cole to send someone to try and murder his guests in their sleep. After all, now more then ever, Serlynne, Alecs and Nerama had become dangerous witnesses.
Still, the fact she couldn’t allow herself to refuse Cole’s offer, didn’t mean Serlynne shouldn’t prepare herself for any unwanted complications that could come with it. One of her blasters was stashed under the pillows of the bed, almost exactly beneath the assassin’s head. The other one rested on a nightstand to the left of it, so Serlynne could grab both of her guns and then use the bed as a cover. The sniper rifle, armed and ready, was standing in the corner next to the nightstand and the vibrosword was lying on the floor underneath the bed, close enough to it’s edge to be retrieved in a couple of seconds. “I probably not gonna need that one, unless Cole himself will come for me”
, mused Serlynne darkly. Still, you never know…
Right now, however, Serlynne had nothing else to do, but to think about her next steps and future plans. Her original plan – to kill the smugglers and be the only receiver of the bounty, was rendered impossible the minute Dredd joined the duo. And to think I was ready to pull the trigger back there, in the warehouse. That would destroy any chance of getting to Cole and his base without use of force.
On the other hand, Serlynne had to give credit to both Alecs and Nerama for taking her with them to the meeting, because in their shoes, she definitely wouldn’t do the same thing. Of course the assassin could still try to kill the smugglers after all three of them would leave Cole’s base and then take the money from their corpses, but this thought suddenly made Serlynne feel uncomfortable and almost… dirty. For the Hutt’s sake, what am I, an ungrateful thug?
Serlynne decided that such low move was beneath even her dignity. So she would leave the pair alone. Of course it would upset the Empire, since Tuk'ata requested death of all the thieves, but Serlynne wasn’t a loyal citizen of the Empire anyway. Plus, I can always say that I had to choose between getting the holocron and killing those who took it. There is no doubt about what the Empire wants more.
The holocron… that was the root of all her problems. SIS wanted it and was using blackmail in order to make Serlynne get it, Imperial Intelligence was offering money, and now it belonged to Cole, who said the artifact contained some kind of a map. Was it possible that this map led to some sort of treasure, and that was what everybody really wanted? Perhaps. But Cole was clearly unwilling to provide any further information on this subject, which came as no surprise for Serlynne. Still, the assassin decided that she had two choices. She could try to steal the holocron from Cole and use it as a bargaining chip in her dealings with both Rainbird and Tuk'ata. Or Serlynne could do just the same… but with whatever artifacts the map inside the holocron was leading to. The second option was far more challenging, interesting and ultimately more profitable, however, in order for Serlynne to use it, she had to be sent by Cole to retrieve said treasure. That’s why the assassin agreed to stay at his base for the night against her better judgement. I wonder what Alecs forgot here, though. Unless he also wants this job or really intends to have a rest under a potentially deadly roof. Oh well, it’s his problem, not mine
Serlynne also had to admit, at least to herself, that there was, in fact, a third option. She could just walk away and leave Cole, Republic and Empire to fight among themselves. After all, the assassin hadn’t yet officially confirmed to Tuk'ata that she would take the job. So whatever would happen with the holocron and the treasure it leads to, Serlynne would still have Empire among her clients, not to mention other private customers, even if enraged Rainbird would indeed make her Republic’s Most Wanted. Not having free access to Republic’s territory would be tough and, more importantly, bad for business, but Serlynne was sure she could make it. Because, above all else, she was a survivor.
But… that wasn’t all Serlynne was. The assassin’s entire life had been a challenge – first living in orphanage, then surviving the Hutt’s training program, then finally escaping the life of servitude and becoming a freelance mercenary, working for both sides, yet remaining outside their endless struggle. Serlynne had been always ready to raise to the challenge and beat it, and she had always done so. Now the assassin viewed her current problems as nothing but another challenge, perhaps the greatest of them all. And Serlynne firmly intended to beat this one too… or die trying.
That’s why the second option was the preferable one. Which meant in the morning Serlynne had to reach Cole by any means possible and convince him to hire her. Should he refuse…
Then I will have only one option left.
Get the holocron myself.
This thought was clear, cold, and as dangerous, as the quest itself. Because it meant Serlynne would have to storm the base, deal with Cole, Dredd and whatever guards they have, find the datacron and get out. And all of it after Alecs and Nerama would leave the base because there was no telling how they‘ll react and whose side they’ll take. And to avoid the suspicions I will have to leave with them. Damn.
It wouldn’t be the first time Serlynne would have to storm a secure location to get to her target. But It would be the first time the assassin would have to do so without having any substantial knowledge about the place she was breaking in. I can’t even leave this room to sneak around the base right now, because If my absence will be noted or if I will be caught, Cole will have one more reason to ignore my request. ****.
The odds of success looked very low, but then Serlynne remembered Tuk'ata saying something about agents dispatched to retrieve the stolen datacron. She didn’t tell me how to contact them, but I can ask her… after I’ll return to my ship.
The assassin liked the idea, especially since she would have to leave the base with Alecs and Nerama anyway. Of course it also meant the holocron would most likely go straight to Empire’s hands, not hers, but this thought only gave Serlynne a cold smile. That’s what you get, Rainbird, for trying to control me. That’s what everybody’s gonna get, just like Jargo did.
Then Serlynne slowly drifted into the darkness, still smiling….
…only to find herself in all too familiar dining room which also served it’s owner as a throne room. It was a large hall with a big long dining table in the middle, with huge double doors on the one side of it and a throne near the wall on the other. The table was staffed with plenty of tasty, exotic food while the throne was occupied by it’s rightful owner.
Jargo the Hutt.
Serlynne was standing between her master and the table. Despite the fact that there were more then a dozen comfortable chairs around the table, the large room was otherwise empty , save for a few guards.
-I am done with being your toy, Jargo, -shouted Serlynne, - I am leaving,one way, or another.
- Foolish girl! – roared the Hutt, - No one leaves me until and unless I command them too. It seems you need a lesson of obedience… again. Guards, seize my pet!
It was always happening the same way. Two guards, armed with blasters, coming from behind to hold her hands. Then the third one. with a Force pike, using his weapon to shock Serlynne until she loses consciousness. Hours later she would come into her senses in a bare, empty room, locked from outside, where she will spend days and weeks learning her “lessons”. Nothing too lethal or permanent of course, nothing that kolto can’t heal . After all, Jargo needed his assassin to be able to perform all the tricks she was taught to use. Damaged goods was the last thing he wanted… as well as having a rebellious assassin on his hands. On the other hand, the amount of pain said assassin would feel was completely irrelevant as long as her brain and nervous system didn’t suffer any irreversible damage.
It was always happening the same way.
Jargo’s mistake (which in fact was less the mistake and more the result of Serlynne’s careful planning and preparations) was that he didn’t anticipate how many efforts she was ready to invest into her escape. The assassin realized that if she won’t try to break free from her master from time to time, he will grow suspicious of such quite behavior. But In the same time Serlynne understood, that if she will try too hard, Jargo would grow tired of her insolence and would simply order to kill her. That’s why all the assassin’s previous attempts of escape were fake (save from the very first one, which was as genuine as it was unsuccessful, because the girl lacked the necessary skills to actually pull it).As for Jargo, he eventually decided that his slave realized all the futility of her attempts and was just blowing up steam while trying to annoy her master in the same time.
He was deadly wrong.
Serlynne waited patiently while two guard moved closer to her from behind, then suddenly hit them with her elbows, aiming for their solar plexus. She didn’t even need to look at them to know, where they will be and where she must strike – by now she have learned it by heart. When two men started to lean forward in pain, Serlynne hit them again, this time her elbows went straight into their faces. Then she quickly grabbed the right guard and shoved him into the third man, the one with a Force pike, taking the blaster from his holster in the same time.
The rest was quick and simple – two shots to deal with collapsed guards, the third to finish the man who was still holding his hands to the face and stomach. The forth shot was supposed to take the life of Jargo the Hutt.
But it was never fired.
The whole plan depended on how fast Serlynne could deal with her enemies in this room. Ironically, the assassin didn’t expect that her master can move so fast as well. Maybe he just wanted to live so badly that it gave him the edge he needed. Or maybe despite her best efforts Jargo wasn’t as deluded about her true nature as Serlynne wanted to think.
Jargo jumped at his would-be killer, clashing into Serlynne and knocking the assassin on her back. Unexpected speed of this attack caught Serlynne by surprise, so her fingers instinctively let go of the blaster and it flew away, landing on the floor far beyond her reach. At the same time her left hand made a broad swing and pushed a plate from the dinner table with a small kitchen knife on it. The plate smashed into pieces, while the knife landed very close to Serlynne’s fingers. She saw it only for a second – then enraged Jargo pressed his slimly underbelly against upper half of her body, attempting either to suffocate his rebellious toy or simply crush her skill with the weight of his body
It took an eternity for Serlynne to find the knife by touch and another eternity to stick it deep into Jargo’s belly and then slowly move it down as if she wanted to cut the Hutt’s body wide open. Jargo roared in pain and recoiled from her body. Much later she realized that his wound wasn’t all that serious, it was just hurting as hell and Jargo wasn’t used to feel physical pain, just to inflict it on others.
His brief confusion gave Serlynne all the time she needed to jump to her feet, toss the knife to her right hand and slew her master in one swift blow to his head. Ironically, it was hired by Jargo trainers, who taught Serlynne how to kill a Hutt quickly. Unfortunately Jargo was dead before he realized it… or anything else for that matter.
And that was when the dream and the actual Serlynne’s memories went their separate ways.
In reality, right after the deadly strike, Serlynne slipped the knife into one of her pockets, picked up the blasters that belonged both to the first and the second guard and run to the small door in the corner, which led to kitchen and to the servants room, because that’s how the assassin planned to get to her ship without meeting heavy resistance from the palace’s guard.
In her dream, however, Serlynne was nowhere as clever as she was supposed to. First she lingered near the Jargo’s corpse too long, hitting him with the knife over and over again, until his face and his head turned into bloody mess, then the assassin tossed her weapon aside and rushed to the large double doors. Serlynne pushed will all of her body’s weight to open them only to see a team of guards on the other side.
They opened fire immediately as they spotted her. Serlynne’s chest exploded with pain, which then enveloped her entire body. The assassin’s legs went numb and she fell to her knees, still unable to tear her eyes from her killers, and feeling that a fire, which started in her chest,was now spreading to consume everything inside her.
And the guards continued firing. Even at the brink of death herself, Serlynne started to wonder what the hell was wrong with them. It’s not like Jargo’s guards were religious zealots, ready to suffer and die for their god and tear to shreds anyone who dared to harm him .No, the guards were merely hired guns, and now they were out-of-work. So why all the rage?
Unbelievable, but their blasters were still firing. Stranger still, there was some familiar rhythm in it, and it was becoming clearer with each shot. Before bloody haze clouded her mind, Serlynne finally understood that the blasters were firing in the exact same manner as a datapad, beeping to notify it’s owner that it received a new message. Even the sound of blaster fire was replaced by beeping sounds. Serlynne was still trying to make sense of this mystery, when the darkness finally came and consumed her completely.
Serlynne woke with a start, breathing quickly and loudly with both blasters already in her hands and aimed into darkness of the room. The datapad on her belt was still beeping but for once the assassin was really glad to hear it. She carefully returned her weapons where they belonged, and checked the beeping device. Apparently someone sent a message to her ship’s comlink, and it came on the same frequency that Tuk’ata usually used. Wonder what she wants this time. Maybe she finally decided to provide a way to contact Imperial agents? That would be nice, given the circumstances.
Reluctantly, Serlynne returned her head to the pillows and tried to sleep again, but not before putting her right hand into one of the pockets and wrapping it’s palm around a small kitchen knife she always held there.
It was a long time before the assassin was able to fall asleep again, but this time darkness was the only thing she saw in her dreams.