Arthen Koleís underground base, Nar Shaddaa
Early in the morning, Serlynne was once again awakened from her dreamless sleep by loud ringing of her datapad, but this time it was merely the sound of her alarm clock. The assassin had no idea if and when anyone would come to her room to wake her up, so Serlynne decided to get up as early as possible in order to find Kole and speak with him before Alecs and Nerama would be awake and therefore able to interfere.
First, Serlynne visited the bathroom and quickly splashed her face with water, banishing the last remains of sleepiness from her mind. Then she picked up her weapons and checked the location of the holocron via the datapad, only to find out with mixture of surprise and relief that it was no longer within the baseís premises. At least now I donít have to worry about fighting my way through Kole, Dredd and all their goons to get it.
She wondered briefly if someone had already managed to steal it again, or if Kole had just decided to move the artifact somewhere else. If all fails, Iíll still have to get it. But first, I have to find Kole.
Naturally, Serlynne had no idea where the strange scientist could be, but she figured Dredd or one of his servants would know. Last night, when Juris had led the assassin to her room, she memorized the way, so now Serlynne just had to backtrack it. It didnít take much time for her to return through empty corridors to the door which led inside the room where she and the others had met Kole for the first time.
Serlynne paused for a few seconds, still thinking about what would she say to Kole, then took a deep breath, knocked on the door, and entered the room.
Only a test-tube bubbled over a low flame, the lab deserted as Serlynne moved into the room. Holo-terminals were powered down, chemicals in containers just laying there as she slowly walked in.
"Doctor Kole?" called Serlynne, while still moving forward and looking around. "Are you here? Hello?"
Serlynne heard a quiet grumble from behind the nearest lab station, looking closely the assassin could see an armored pair of legs sticking out from behind the table.
"Wha-?" came the reply, a confused Dredd popping his head up and looking around the corner of the station, instantly regretting his swift movement. The hunter let loose a string of curses as he ran a hand down his temple, squinting heavily as Serlynne powered on the lights. "Wha'd ya do that for?"
"Good morning to you too, Dredd," shrugged the assassin. "Rough night?"
He grunted an acknowledgement, rising clumsily to his feet and knocking an empty petri dish to the ground, shattering it.
"Kriff," he breathed, annoyed with his own clumsiness, and turned his attention to Serlynne. "Sorry," he apologized, dropping one arm to the tabletop to help support himself. "Didn't quite sleep it off yet."
"I see," nodded Serlynne with fake sympathy. "I was just looking for Doctor Kole. Any ideas where I can find him?"
"I'll see what I can do." He yawned, stretching for a moment before fiddling with his commlink.
"Thanks," replied Serlynne.
"Ahhh Juris, could you find Kole for me?" He waved her off as the party on the other end answered. "Yes I know, I'm in the labs, one of our guests has been looking for him." His face fell into a scowl. "No, I didn't break anything..." He sighed, annoyed, and growled. "Just get Kole."
"By the way," said Serlynne, suddenly remembering something she'd meant to ask. "Does our mysterious doctor have a first name?"
"Arthen," he mouthed as he rolled his eyes as the voice on the other end of the comm-link could be heard. After a few more moments of chatter, Dredd sighed audibly as he powered off the comm, silencing the other speaker mid-sentence. "One day..." he muttered audibly, then turned his full attention to Serlynne.
"What's the matter?" asked she with genuine curiosity. ''Is something wrong?"
"Juris has that stick up his a** again." He responded with a shrug, as if it were nothing. "He's very self important. What I'd give to..." He casually made a shooting motion with his pointer finger and thumb, making a click with his tongue on the roof of his mouth. "But that
is of no concern, and I assure you, Kole should be along as soon as he is able."
"Glad to hear," said Serlynne. "I take it you and Kole are friends? You seemed rather worried about him yesterday after he did this... thing with Nerama."
"You could say that." He nodded, giving no reaction.
"'Friends' is a rather powerful word for the relationship between Dredd and I, but it is most likely the closest thing as well," Arthen stated as he came behind Serlynne, tossing a pear-shaped purple fruit in one hand. "Is there something that bothers you, Miss Az?"
"It's Aziure. Aziure Lyris," explained Serlynne, unable to hold back a smile. "And I have a business preposition for you, Mister Kole. Would you like to hear it?"
Arthen's eyebrow raised up then, unable to contain his surprise as he looked over at Dredd briefly before returning his attention to Serlynne. "Well, Miss Aziure. First, you had my attention. Now, you have my curiosity."
"Mine as well," Nayar drawled as he caught the fruit Arthen was tossing, having woken up by then and headed to the lab as well. "I figured a charming gal like you would have been out of here before the crack o' dawn." He bit into the fruit, savoring the juices that ran through his mouth.
"Funny, I thought the same thing about you, Alecs," replied the assassin, once again rewarding him with a death glare.
"It's quite obvious that the holocron we delivered is extremely valuable to you, Mister Kole," she said calmly, turning back to Arthen. "However, when you mentioned it holds some kind of map, it was only natural for me to assume that the object it points to is what you are really after. Am I correct so far, Mister Kole?"
"Eh, six out of ten." He shrugged, leaning against the wall. "To a degree, yes.
"Good. The amount of payment you offered for bringing the holocron was rather generous," continued Serlynne. "But I believe that whatever this thing leads to, you value that
even more. Therefore I am willing to bring this object to you ó for the right price, of course. What do you say, Mister Kole?"
A low laugh came from Kole then, almost a chuckle, before he composed himself, Nayar eying him weirdly. "Oh, of course. Yes, I do believe I can avail myself of your services. How does 450 thousand credits sound?"
At that, Nayar sputtered, pieces of fruit landing on the ground. "Hell, I'd take that deal."
"Tell me we're not agreeing to something before I've had caf," Maneera grumbled as she shuffled into the lab. Her hair was down and rumpled, and dark circles mingled with the scars beneath her eyes.
Nayar turned to Maneera, grasping a scalpel to slice the fruit in half before saying, "Sir Moneybags just offered Az here 450k to go after the. . . whatever he's after. I'd take that deal." He handed her the uneaten side of the fruit before turning back to Arthen, who had an eyebrow raised at him now.
"Sir Moneybags?" Arthen grinned.
Serlynne decided to ignore both of her former partners. "Make it 500k and you can consider me at your service, Mister Kole," she said with a polite smile.
"I don't haggle. 450 thousand," Arthen said back, his face still grinning at the pair.
"As you wish... sir," agreed Serlynne, mentally reminding herself that money wasn't her first concern anymore. "What are your orders?"
"Go to your ship. I'll relay what you'll be doing there," Arthen commented, already summoning Juris to escort her out. "How about you, smugglers? Do you wish to be paid as well?"
"Wait... what?" Maneera glared at Arthen in confusion. "We already settled up for delivering the box."
"Indeed we did, Nerama. But I am offered more payment for more services rendered," Arthen explained. "If you both are willing to help me further, I will pay both of you 450 thousand credits each."
She took a bite out of the fruit, confusion turning to suspicion. "So this is what, another race? Creds to whoever can make the tag and get back first?"
"No. I have different objectives for each group I'm sending. Do you accept?" Arthen pressed.
Nayar looked back at Maneera, shrugging at her. "450k in my pocket? Yeah, I could do with that."
Maneera returned the shrug. "Your call, Boss, but I reserve the right to say 'I told you so' when this blows up in our laps."
Nayar looked back to Arthen, nodding in agreement. "We'll take it. But first," he grinned, turning towards Maneera. "Nerama and I need to go spend a night on the town. We'll head out first thing tomorrow morning."
Arthen tried to come up with an appropriate response, but then shook his head. "As you wish."
," Maneera insisted with a tired grin, stepping forward to bump her shoulder against Nayar's. "And... uh... thanks," she added, turning her attention to Arthen, "for, y'know, everything."
"My pleasure, Nerama," he smiled at her, before waving a droid over to escort Maneera and Nayar to the kitchen. "Juris, please escort Miss Serlynne out. Dredd, follow me."
The hungover bounty hunter acknowledged him silently and moved across the room, hand shielding his eyes from the direct shine of the rooms light.
He led Dredd into his study, letting the hunter settle himself in a chair before addressing him directly. "The Sith woman escaped, Dredd."
Dredd sobered up instantly, staring at the seated man in disbelief before the information sunk in. He slammed his fist on his leg, his eyes flashing in anger.
"She was... She knows where we are!" he spouted, unable to control his frustration. "How?!"
"Indeed. Not only that, but my files were hacked. Whoever did it copied all of my recordings of ancient languages, and disabled security measures. The holocron has also been taken. But I know where it is
." Arthen grinned at Dredd then. "I found a tracking device while studying the holocron. Based on how the Jedi that barged in before didn't locate it immediately, it obviously doesn't belong to the Republic. So, that leaves us with the smugglers, the thief, and the Empire, if not an outside source."
"And you want me to find out?" Dredd inquired skeptically, not sure he was following the former Jedi's train of thought.
"Indeed. When I send you on your mission to Taris, I want you to keep an eye out for any datafeeds you can collect floating through Imperial comm lines. I attached my own listening device to the holocron so I may determine who placed it."
"Alright," Dredd leaned up against the nearest wall. "and when I find out who placed it?"
"Execute. With extreme
"Hunt and kill." Dredd smiled slightly, eying Arthen. "You know me too well."
"I'm a people person," Arthen laughed as he scooped up his datapad to send the coordinates of Serylnne's mission to her.
"Right." Dredd snorted, shaking his head. "Do you trust them?" He motioned towards the other room.
"Not at all. But greed is a powerful motivator. They'll work for us," Arthen assured. "Now, it's time you started on your mission. I'll be sure to send all the info I can on rakghouls."
Dredd nodded, the smile fading from his face. "I'll need all I can get."