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Formal Request of the Galactic Underworld (IC)

STAR WARS: The Old Republic > English > Community Content > Roleplaying > Roleplay and Play-by-Post
Formal Request of the Galactic Underworld (IC)

DarthThuzad's Avatar

02.18.2013 , 03:05 AM | #61
Sunken City, Taris.

Too close...

The dead bodies of the pack of Rakghouls surrounded Dredd as he stopped to catch his breath, their corpses still steaming in the low-light. He removed his helmet for a moment, examining a large claw slash across its forehead.

If not for you I'd be... He pushed the thought out of his mind after a moment, taking a deep breath and planting the helmet back on his head, pausing again as he removed the torn cape from his armor. They had attacked without warning, swarming the ruins. A quick grenade and a few blaster shots had done the trick on most of the poor buggers, and a quick retreat into the nearest room had given him the opportunity to finish the rest off, despite the last giving him a bit of trouble as his armor now showed.

Now here he was, sitting in a columned room deep in the ruins of the old Jedi Tower, not sure if he was any closer to his objective.

Actually, I'm not sure where I am at all... He scanned his surroundings, looking for any signs of where he was. There was a light at the end of the room, and a partially collapsed wall with a hole leading to open sky at the top of it, Yet in the center of the room is what looked to be three fountains, but the years had been kind to their barren pools, as they seemed to be untouched. Especially when compared to the ruins surrounding them.

The bounty hunter slowly walked forward, blaster still drawn, keeping to the shadows as he continued to scan the room. His eyes stopping on an odd contraption hidden within the largest fountain, it was what looked like a lever which was placed next to a symbol that the bounty hunter did not recognize, although it certainly resembled the Rakata symbols that had covered the holocron Kole had paid those criminals to bring him.

He reached down and attempted to pull the lever to no avail, as it moved a mere inch before refusing to budge. And after numerous attempts, Dredd leaned back, his shoulders slumped in defeat. He looked around the room again, eyes stopping in the next fountain, where another lever and symbol were laid on the floor of the pool. After a deep breath he stood tall and moved to the new lever, yanking on it as he had done the last. The lever only moved an inch, just like the last.

"Kriff it." he breathed to himself, shaking his head in frustration. "This has to be it."

Then an idea struck his head, remembering the blood sacrifice the holocron had required he smiled.

"Bloodthirsty little bastards." He laughed to himself, as he casually cut a slit in his off-hand letting the blood trickle down onto the symbol, which lit up instantly, its purple light coloring his armor in the darkness.

As Dredd looked around the room, symbols of all colors and shapes lit up slowly, filling the darkness with conflicting colored lights. Dredd would have been astonished if he wasn't so happy with himself.

He yanked on the lever, which raised easily as one half of the large central fountain began sliding outward towards the fountain Dredd had pulled the lever on, displaying a dark hole beneath the fountain. Gleefully Dredd rushed to the next fountain, yanking on its lever and grinning widely beneath his helmet as the same process occurred for this lever. He smiled as the floor beneath him rumbled, an orange glowing mass rising from the depths.

Outside the ruins, Quintus dismounted his speeder whilst coated in Rakghoul blood. The operative subsequently scanned his surroundings and registered a great power activating in its vicinity. He silently beckoned Zero over.

"I believe we're here," Quintus whispered.

Zero walked up behind him in a crouch, with her sniper rifle drawn and her looking into the scope, scouting out the location using it "Indeed. You have checked yourself, yes? The last thing I need is to have to explain to your sith partner that you turned into a rakghoul."

Quintus ran another bioscan on himself for affirmation. "I'm clean; just need to get a fresh labcoat when I get back to the ship."

"Good. The area seems clear....almost too clear after how many rakghouls we saw on the way. I wonder...." Zero made some adjustments to the scope, zooming in as she scanned the ground "Yep, there it is. Dead rakghoul bodies. Someone has already been here."

"Indeed," Quintus mused. "We may have been beaten here." He reloaded his blasters, "follow the trail inside. Keep an eye out for Rakghouls."

"Understood" Zero started moving to the entrance, circling around as she did so, watching the area for any sign of rakghouls. Quintus followed, blasters primed at his side as the two proceeded into an archway leading into a room with a light at the center of it. Not sure where he was, Quintus examined the area and spotted what appeared to be a Madalorian, the same individual who was in Arthen's compound.

Such a sight for sore eyes, Quintus remarked to himself as he took cover behind a pillar. He then continued to observe the armored individual activating some sort of machine. Recognizing the Rakata symbols from afar, Q concluded that this was his objective, and that the Mandalorian was therefore sent by Kole. Q silently instructed Zero to train her sniper rifle on the armored man then returned to observing him from a distance.

Zero nodded and aimed the sniper at him, training her crosshairs directly at his head. She signaled back that she had him in her sights and waited for further orders.

As the two Imperials looked on as Kole's lackey finished what he was doing at the glowing console, his jetpack piercing the low rumble of the console retreating back into the fountain. Around the fountains the glowing Rakatan symbols began to fade, but a low rumble continued. It's source seemed to be from beneath the central fountain. The Mandalorian was clearly finished here, and had begun to cross the length of the room, heading directly for the crumbled wall.

Zero glanced over at Q, raising her eyebrows as if to ask what he wanted to do. The operative pointed at the Mandalorian and made a shooting motion with his fingers in response. Zero nodded and looked back into her scope, firing the gun right at his head.

The Mandalorian jerked from the impact as the rifle's blast took him in the shoulder, flinging the armored man violently to the ground. He quickly scrambled behind the cover of a column, placing it directly between him and his unseen assailant.

Zero pointed at Q, moved her fingers as if walking, then made a stabbing motion. She then went into a prone position, aiming her rifle at the pillar she saw the man go behind, waiting quietly for the man to stick his head out so she could blow it off.

Quintus obliged, as he stealthily approached the armored man from behind, switched on a vibroknife, and made a swift stab around the previous wound, not projecting any emotion whatsoever. "Hello there."

The bounty hunter quickly blocked the strike with his uninjured arm, and dropped his shoulder into Q, knocking the smaller man away so he could draw his blaster.

"Agent." He tilted his head in sarcastic acknowledgement, and fired his weapon.

The operative quickly rolled away from the shot and drew his own blaster. "Lapdog," Quintus returned with snide as he returned fire.

Zero used the distraction from Q to sneak around the pillar, circling behind Dread, and positioned herself about 20 feet away, aiming her weapon directly at his head "Hands up, Mandalorian. At this distance, I won't miss your head this time."

The Mandalorian and raised his blaster hand high above his head. Letting loose sharp intake of breath he attempted to raise his wounded arm, he motioned with his weapon cautiously, pointing out his wounded arm.

"Can't quite do that." He said in an apologetic tone as he instead placed his arm behind his back.

"Drop your weapon then, and kick it over to my partner over there. While you are at it, start talking. I want to know everything you can tell us about the artifacts, your employer, and anything else assocated with the holocron and it's contents." Zero kept the rifle aimed at his head, ready to fire if he tryed anything.

The bounty hunter slowly lowered his weapon, placing it near his foot. He turned his body to Zero, not saying a word. His scarred helmet staring at her through her scope.

Zero shook her head "Why make this hard, hunter? What do you care for your employer? Is it the money? I assure you, intelligence will make it worth your while."

"I'm sure it would." He snorted, amused by her comment.

"Look, I don't want to make this unpleasant. What do you want, hunter? Name your price, or I will have to resort to plan B"

The hunter nursed his shoulder, keeping his eyes fixed on her.

"Plan B." Came the calm answer, words punctuated by his heavy breaths.

"As you wish. Q, since my partner is not here to do this for me, would you be willing to extract whatever information you can from this man?" She looked at the hunter, her gun still pointed at him "Last chance, hunter. Save yourself a lot of pain and cooperate."

There was only a snort in response as the hunter tore his gaze from her. Zero looked over at Q and nodded. Quintus sheathed Dredd's weapon and revealed a syringe. "Perhaps pain will make you talk?" The operative stabbed the wounded area with his syringe containing a pain serum and pressed down. "I know which cretin you work for. What is he planning to do with these artifacts?"

The hunter shook his head, not answering as the serum slowly took effect. As fire spread slowly throughout his body he stumbled a few steps forward before falling to his knees. After fumbling around for a few moments gasping for air, he launched himself at the pillar. Violently pressing his back against it in an arch. His already struggling breaths got weaker and more erratic, but instead of talking he began to laugh. It was a weak and wheezy, yet unmistakable.

Zero lowered her rifle, since the hunter was clearly not going anywhere, and frowned. Why doesn’t he just talk? The pain he must be going through.....What is it about his employer that gives him the willpower to resist the pain serum like that?"

"Your resilience is admirable, hunter, but futile," Quintus sneered as he added a more potent dose to the syringe, then injected. "Congratulations, you have graduated to level two. Now, my friend and I tire of these games. What is your boss seeking to accomplish with these artifacts," Q growled in a threatening tone.

The man's roar of anguish echoed off the ruined walls. His head had begun twitching heavily , but his hands held it firmly in place.

"N-n-no." He stammered, legs writhing in his agony.

His helmet shook in his hands as he screamed, rolling onto his side. With a crazed roar he ripped off his helmet and clawed at his right cheek, tearing at the scarred flesh that covered it. Blood now ran down his cheek as his fingers broke the flesh, wild eyes flashing around the walls before stopping on Zero.

"Don't do it." he pleaded, supporting himself on an arm as he dragged himself towards her. "She didn't do anything."

Zero stared at the man in shock. After a moment, she recovered "Look, we don't want to harm her. We can protect her, if you just answer our questions." She knelt down next to the hunter "Just tell us what your employer is planning to do with the artifacts."

"Let her go." He begged, tears streaming down his face. "Please, just kill me. Leave her alone."

"No one has to die here. We can let her go, but you have to work with us. Tell us about your boss’s plans and we will let her go." Zero shot a glance at Q, motioning for him to back her up.

"Talk and we will see about letting her go. You have our promise," Quintus added.

"Please." The hunter breathed, as he began to wobble at Zero's feet. "I killed the Sith. Not her. Please."

He fell forward, passing out from pain.

"Damn, he passed out." Zero turned to Q "I have never seen pain serum do that to a man before. What exactly was in it?"

"The standard set. I modified it to include stronger touches of Titroxinate and Mongoriza to have more profound effects. It is a prototype I have been working on over the years," Q answered.

“Impressive. Well….” Zero turned to the passage the hunter had opened “Shall we get moving? Bring him with us; we can work on him more when we leave. Just make sure you secure him well, we don’t need him getting free.”

Q lofted Dredd's unconscious form and headed in after Zero.

"After you."

As the two walked out, they began to notice something. A noise they had assumed to be part of the rooms low rumble was in fact seemed to be coming from the man slung over Q's back. It was a high pitched, grinding noise. Barely audible, it sounded like a training whistle. The hunter must have powered a device on when he placed his wounded arm behind his back.

"I've a bad feeling about this..." Quintus groaned as he picked a device off of the unconscious man's waistband.

"What is it? An automated signal to his employer? A bomb? Can you deactivate it?"

"I can, but it would take minutes," Quintus sighed. Once he began working on it, getting a good look at it, his eyes widened in horror. "This cretin played us for fools!"

"If it was a bomb, you would have already thrown it away. So, what is then, if not that? Don't leave me in suspense."

"It is a noise fabricator. As its name implies, it fabricates sounds and its frequency can be set. This more than sufficient to irritate rakghouls...for kilometers," Quintus replied disdainfully.

"Damn it. We need to get out of here, now. We can pry the information about whatever was here from the man later. You go, get him to the speeders, I will hold them off till you have him secured and ready to go" She turned away, raising her rifle and preparing herself for the approaching rakghouls.

"On it!" Quintus made for the unconscious body then began to walk out with him in tow rather slowly. "Heavy bastard..."

Zero saw the first of the rakghouls approching and opened fire on them, quickly gunning down targets as more and more approched. Ok, hurry up, Q. I can't hold them off forever.

Taking slightly longer than expected due to the Mandalorian's weight, Quintus got within the vicinity of the speeders. However, another wave of rakghouls appeared

"Oh dear..." Quintus growled as attempted to run, but tripped, causing him and his human package to tumble.

“Damn it!” Zero ran over to where Q had fallen, and lifted him up, grabbing one half of the captive, and lifting him up. She grabbed her blaster off of Q “Going to need this back!” She started dragging the man to the speeder while firing backward at the approaching rakghouls.

The hunter wrenched himself from her grip, the fall having jarred him awake. He grabbed his blaster in Q's waistband, firing it through the holster into the agent's leg. He pulled the weapon out and lauched himself at Zero, jetpack screaming as he flew directly at her.

Zero jumped out of the way of the man, having time to avoid him due to his attacking Q first. “Idiot! This is not the time for that!” she pointed at the approaching rakghouls “We can kill each other later, but right now we have to go!”

He skidded to a halt and twisted acrobatically, placing himself between the agents and their escape.

"I think you can stay." He shot back, hatred painted on his every feature.

He fired on the pair of them, launching a few blaster bolts in their direction before flying around a bend in the corridor and out of sight.

"I think you can die!" Quintus retorted as he rolled aside in time and tossed a thermal detonator in Dredd's direction. "Kriffing Rakghouls..."

Zero also rolled out of the way “Forget him! He is not worth it! We need to go! NOW!” Zero started sprinting for the speeders.

Q chucked a cryo grenade at the pack of rakghouls and sprinted for the speeders nearly as swift as a hawk-bat.

Zero made it to her speeder and jumped on, gunning down a few rakghouls who got too close as she did. She twisted around, providing covering fire for Q and shooting at any rakghouls coming his way. Quintus entered another speeder and began shooting with his own blaster pistol at any remaining Rakghouls that got close. "So...close, yet so far..." Q mused as he activated his speeder.

A rocket impacted the ground, blowing Q off of his speeder. As the seat of the speeder blew past Q's head, he saw the Mando fly back into the trees, preparing to set another ambush. Shrapnel and debris from the speeder flew around, some of it landing on Quintus' skin, causing him to yell in pain as fire from the destroyed speeder began to ravage his body and the shock forced him to remain prone.

Zero kicked on her speeder and flew over to Q, holding out her hand “Grab on!”

Unable to fight any longer, Quintus obliged and grabbed on to Zero's hand. "Get us out of here, and fast!"

Zero quickly turned away from the approaching rakghouls and the last place she had seen the hunter, and started flying away from the temple. “How are you holding up? Do you need medical attention?"

"I'm suffering heavy burns and I am losing blood," Q rasped.

Blaster bolts impacted the front of the speeder, and a light trail of smoke erupted from the holes. More blaster bolts flew over their shoulders as they sped past the hunter, who had circled around and cut them off.

"Almost there! Keep trying to lose him!" Q coughed.

Zero chucked a flashbang in the direction of the blaster bolts as she increased her speed as much as she could, making hard, unpredictable turns in an effort to lose the man. Yet her attempts were in vain as he effortlessly dodged a tree and rocketed into the sky above the smoking speeder. Zero could see the imperial outpost in the distance, and stopped swerving in favor of heading directly for the outpost, figuring the hunter would not be stupid enough to take on an entire military outpost by himself. With a quick glance over her shoulder she was proven correct, as the twinkling light of his jetpack faded into the night.

She drove into the outpost, the troops already waiting for her, as they had seen her coming. She landed and motioned to an incoming medic "This man needs medical attention immediately!" The medic ran over and started examining Q’s wounds.

"I...I failed," Quintus rasped quietly as he faded into unconsciousness, albeit happy that he made it back.

"What happened to him?" The medic asked, scanning his unconscious form. "We had reports of unusual Rakghoul activity, is he?.." He eyed his unconscious form with suspicion.

“We were investigating some ruins, and came under attack. A missile hit his speeder, and injured him. I can’t say more…’s classified. You understand, I am sure.”

"I understand loud and clear, agent." The medic bristled, annoyed with the restriction. "Get this man inside, we have some work to do if he is going to make it. Prepare the Medical droids!"

The medic left Zero standing there alone as she rushed inside, the unconscious Q strapped to a stretcher as two soldiers rushed him inside.

"I am sorry." The medic curtly nodded as he shut the door in Zero's face. "Restricted area."

LogicLoup's Avatar

02.21.2013 , 01:13 PM | #62
Rakatan Underground Ruins, Ilum

"Whew, now if that just ain't a stench," Nayar wheezed, shifting his hand to cover his nose as his scatter blew apart the last Esh-kha. "Nerama, we're going to have to burn these clothes when we're done. I don't think the smell will ever come out."

"No argument here, Boss," Maneera replied. "Between the stink, the cold, and the company, I'm about ready to put this mess behind us."

"Could be worse," Soleta noted cheerily. "At least the only things we've met so far are alive."

Nayar gave Soleta an extremely puzzled look before shrugging at Maneera, his best just go along with it and maybe she won't zap us face on. "Uh, good point, Sith. Now, seeing as we've hit a dead end. . ."

Soleta stepped forward, tugging off a glove. "How did you open the previous doors?" she asked as she ran her uncovered hand over the stonework. "Concealed latch? Pressure plates? Verbal commands are unlikely, as I doubt you're fluent."

Nayar once again glanced at Maneera before answering, "Uh, we walked up to it, and it opened. How? Magic."

"Bloody amateurs," Soleta sighed, continuing her survey of the wall. "One on every dig. Always thinking just because they've managed to not get themselves killed they're somehow contributing."

As Soleta grumbled, Maneera leveled her scattergun at the back of the Sith's head. Give me a reason, she mouthed at Nayar.

Might be more of those freaks, he mouthed back, turning to lean against the wall, watching Soleta search the wall.

Maneera rolled her eyes, scowling as she shouldered the gun again. Just so you don't decide to bring her home with us.

Soleta, meanwhile, still searched the wall ahead, apparently ignorant of the silent conversation behind her. "I've missed something obvious, I know I have," she muttered, half under her breath, as her fingers ran over the rows of carvings which lined the walls. "This group of glyphs here..." She tapped a block of symbols. "They were at each of the other doorways, that has to be significant, but..."

"Well, what's the Rakatan word for 'open'? Maybe 'enter'?" Nayar suggested, his elbow pressing low into the wall to click a switch. The wall behind him opened suddenly, sending him sprawling on his back, landing on his *ss.

"Oh, well done indeed," Soleta smirked as she turned and picked up the lantern, then proceeded through the opening in the wall.

Maneera set her scattergun down and held her right hand out for Nayar. "You okay there?"

Nayar grasped it, pulling himself up before responding, "Yeah, peachy. I hate this place." He handed Maneera's scattergun back to her before turning to follow Soleta into the darkened hallway.

"I must say, this is a bit of a disappointment, as ruins go," Soleta remarked. "Where are the ghosts? The traps? The enticing but fatally cursed artifacts?"

"If you're that bored," Maneera grumbled, "you can leave any time. I'm sure the Jedi back at base would be more than happy to give you the welcome you deserve."

"Oh, I'm certain the end goal will be more than worth a little tedium," Soleta replied. "It just seems a trifle odd that we've been presented with so little in the way of legitimate challenges." She smiled, the light from the lantern wavering for a moment as she shrugged. "Ah well. No sense borrowing trouble, I suppose."

"Borrowing's for suckers. I make my own trouble," Nayar drawled. They continued on in silence, until they finally turned a corner, a blinding light flashing on the group before moving away. When it did, Nayar gaped at the visual feast before him. "What the hell-"

Bronzed pipes were embedded all around the massive room, mighty carved pillars holding the stone and ice above them. Multiple openings vented steam when mighty pumps activated, sliding up and down to power the lights along the wall. Icicles hung from nearly every crisscrossing pipe above them, the thin metal weaving about the room. At the opposite end of the room, a large, ancient pedestal stood.

Soleta bounced on her toes. "This is wonderful!" she cheered as she darted out into the center of the room, spinning around to take it all in. "Just imagine the power behind a facility of this magnitude! I wonder what it all does."

"Ten creds you'll find out when we turn it on," Nayar grunted as he jaunted past the wide-eyed Sith. "Nerama, give me a hand over here, would ya?" He stood near the pedestal, the symbols representative of the galaxy.

"Sure thing," Maneera replied as she went to stand across the pedestal from Nayar. "Okay, so we're here. How do we get this up and running?" She ran a hand over the carved stone, wiping away a thin layer of frost.

Soleta strolled toward the pair with a smug grin on her face. "Any ideas?"

"I could try hitting it with my elbow, see if that works again," Nayar smirked. "But wait, we have the all-knowing Sith who totally found her way here without any help from the 'normal' people. Please, oh mighty omniscient one, tell us how to get our creds!" He moved his hands in a mock begging pose.

"A good attempt," Soleta sighed as she stepped forward, peering closely at the engravings on the surface of the pedestal. "Much less obviously insincere than the flattery, anyway." She started to reach into her bag, then stopped, holding her hands out. "I'm going to draw a knife," she stated. "Just thought you might appreciate the warning. I would certainly appreciate not being shot."

"Stepping back then," Nayar said, keeping his hands close to his blasters as she stepped up to the pedestal.

Her grip tightening on her scattergun, Maneera said nothing as she glared anxiously at the Sith.

Slowly and carefully, Soleta reached into her bag and pulled out Quintus' vibroknife. The blade whined to life as she drew it down her uncovered hand, re-opening the long, clean scar she had made when examining the holocron. She let a stream of blood trickle down her fingers as she traced along the design carved into the top of the pedestal, outlining the spiral burst in red before pressing her palm into its center.

Nothing happened as the blood soaked into the runes, filling the cracks of the ancient stone monolith as it stood inert.

"Now can I hit with with my elbow?" Nayar smirked.

"If you're going to insist upon injuring yourself," Soleta replied as she switched off the knife and tucked it away, "I won't stop you." With her hand still resting lightly at the top of the pedestal, she circled around the stone, examining it from every angle.

Nayar lightly tapped the pedestal with his elbow, only for the stone to remain inert. "Dang. I thought for sure I had the magic touch," he grumbled, stepping off to the side. He looked at the blood-coated monolith, then gazed at the wall behind it. "Whoa, whoa. Check that out."

Beneath a frozen layer of ice and rock lay a similar pattern on the pedestal, but far larger and more imposing. "Think that has anything to do with this damn rock?"

"Seems rather more likely than not." Soleta leaned against the pedestal, giving the frieze a long, considering look. "I don't suppose you have anything to clear all that mess away? Circumstances demanded that I travel light."

"Yeah, I got something," Nayar laughed. "Ladies, step away from the wall, and cover your faces!" He pulled out one of his incendiary grenades, tossing it in his hands before pressing its on button and tossing it at the wall. "Burn, baby, burn!"

Maneera and Soleta both stepped back and turned away. Soleta pulled a Force shield around herself and then, as an afterthought, shielded Nayar as well. Maneera hunkered down in the shadow of the pedestal, grumbling under her breath as she glared at Soleta.

The flames ate the ice in seconds, tongues of fiery infernos lapping at the melting icicles. After nearly half a minute of the roaring fire, the chemicals fueling the incredible, oppressing heat ran dry, snuffing the flames out in an instant. "There we go, one ice free wall."

"An adequate solution, if somewhat more extravagant than necessary." The static bubbles around Soleta and Nayar hissed faintly as they dissipated. She turned and stepped toward the wall, studying the carvings there.

"Did we just get called showoffs by a Sith?" Maneera drawled, smirking at Nayar.

"Not at all," Soleta replied, her attention still focused on the wall. "You've been eminently forgettable, Miss Sundrift."

"I'll take it as a compliment," Nayar replied, his eyes wandering over the wall. "Alright. Puzzle solving time, Sith."

Soleta pressed her bare hand to the wall, smearing red over the raised spiral. As her blood soaked into the carving, what had first appeared to be random imperfections in the porous stone were revealed as a network of hair-thin lines, deliberately placed to add detail and definition to the image of the galaxy. A muffled stone-grinding noise sounded from somewhere behind the wall, but there was no visible change to either the wall or the pedestal.

"Ominous, but encouraging," Nayar muttered, a critical eyes sweeping the wall. Maneera nervously flicked the safety of her scatter as she shifted from foot to foot.

"First step done," Soleta murmured as she stepped back, frowning thoughtfully. She stretched out her hand, pulling the skin of her palm tight to prevent the cut from starting to close. "Ah, there we are." Stretching up on her toes, she laid her palm against an apparently blank spot on the stone above and to the left of the galactic spiral. Once again, her blood soaked into the stone, and once again, the fine lines of a hidden carving were revealed. Repeating the process in three other bare patches, all more or less evenly spaced around the main spiral, showed the four symbols which had labeled the destination worlds in the holocron's map. There was another noise of grinding stone, this time from within the pedestal itself as the sides split into four separate panels and slid outward, the top sinking to rest inside the expanded circle.

"Well, holy sh*t," Nayar breathed.

"There's two." As Soleta turned back toward the reconfigured pedestal, her normally pale face was fishbelly white, her eyes gleaming a smoky grey-violet as she drew on the Force to push through pain and blood loss. She moved to the far side of the pedestal, looking up at the four blooded glyphs on the wall as she drew her hand across the corresponding spots on the now-accessible inner panels. When the last hidden icon had been revealed, four metal struts extended upward from inside the pedestal, bending in over the capstone to twist together into a single lever.

"And done." Soleta gave a weak but profoundly smug smile.

"And you need to seal up that cut. Dying from blood loss is a very poor *ss way to go," Nayar grunted, shifting the lever up to activate. With a loud pop, the pipes around him went into overtime, steam pouring from the vents as the machine gurgled to life.

Soleta laughed softly as she pulled off her other glove, running her fingers along the long, deep gash across her palm. "Why, Captain Beval, you almost sound concerned. How touching." Pressing her hands flat together, she held back a pained wince.

"Not at all, Sith, I'm just not fond of a lightsaber in the back from your master," he shot back.

"Ah, self preservation," Soleta nodded. She separated her hands, the glow in her eyes fading as she peered down at the fresh line of scar tissue. "My apologies for having forgotten."

"As if you're any better," Maneera snarled.

Soleta smiled as she pulled her gloves back on. "Granted. But then, I never pretended anything different, whereas you're drenched in your own self-righteousness."

Nayar didn't respond, only shook his head as he looked closer at the wall, examining the ancient runes.

"I may be on the side of the angels, but don't think for one second that I am one of them."

LogicLoup's Avatar

02.21.2013 , 02:51 PM | #63
The Surface of Ilum

"Alright, that was not what I expected," Nayar coughed as he gasped for air, the ancient Rakatan door sliding shut behind the two smugglers, Soleta nowhere in sight.

Maneera ejected a spent power cell from the second scattergun. "Let's just get out of here before this day gets any better." She quickly untied the tauntauns, leading Nayar's to him and then climbing up onto Fluffy.

Nayar hopped on his tauntaun, kicking his mount into a brisk jog towards the base, hoping to give the appearance of normalcy, that look of hey, we totally didn't just go into ancient ruins. Nope!

With a snicker and a gentle pat to Fluffy's shoulder, Maneera pulled up alongside Nayar, keeping pace with him as they approached the outpost. When the outer perimeter came in sight, she pulled ahead, waving to the advance guard as she led the way to the tauntaun paddock.

"Say your goodbyes to Fluffy, Mans, we're out of here," Nayar stated as he hopped down from his mount, pushing the beast of burden into the pen with a swat on its rear.

Maneera patted Fluffy again as she slid from his back, then removed both tauntauns' tackle and set it neatly aside. "You be good now, Fluffy," she cooed, hugging the animal's neck. Fluffy gently butted her hand when she reached up to tickle under his chin. "I know, I'll miss you too. But there aren't any lady tauntauns on the Hawk, and if you come with us, there won't be any lady anythings on there, and no one wants that." After one last pat, she turned and left the pen, pulling the gate firmly shut behind her.

"You are far too fond of that beast," Nayar remarked as they trundled through the base.

"He's cute," she retorted, as if that should have explained everything.

They made their way to where the transport waited, shifting to sit inside the the small ship as it lifted off. Maneera started peeling out of her snow gear, dropping bits carelessly onto the bench seat beside her. "We're never coming back here, right Boss?"

"Hell to the no! Alderaan'll explode before I visit this ice-cube again," he grumbled.

"Good." Maneera shrugged out of her parka and tossed it away. "Ugh. Tauntaun and dead whatever-those-were. Worst. Smell. Ever."

Nayar laughed, sprawling back across his bench. A short time later, when the transport had landed on the orbital station and the exit hatch swung open, the pair bolted from the shuttle.

Lieutenant Cortess and the weaselly sergeant were waiting in the hangar. While the lieutenant's expression shifted from worry to tentative relief, the sergeant looked insufferably pleased with himself. "Well well, so we finally meet again," he smirked.

"Good to see you both safe and sound," the lieutenant added. "You didn't check back in groundside; Master Shayal was getting worried."

"Oh." Maneera fidgeted, smiling anxiously. "Well, we didn't see her when we swung through the base, so we figured —"

"You were on an unauthorized, unsupervised surface excursion," the sergeant interrupted. "Despite a stated intent to be out for, quote, 'a couple hours,' endquote, you were out of contact for four hours and twenty-seven minutes. You failed to check in either in the field or upon your return."

"I think they get it, Sarge. How 'bout you get base on the line and let Master Shayal know we found her lost guests, okay?" The sergeant hesitated; Lieutenant Cortess crossed his arms, glaring down at the fussy little soldier. "Go on. Someone needs to let her know, and someone needs to keep an eye on these two." The sergeant turned on his heel with almost mechanical precision and exited the hangar.

"We got a little lost checking out some of caves nearby. Thought I'd get a nice trinket to bring home, show the folks," Nayar grinned sheepishly, his hand rubbing the back of his head. "The tauntauns also gave us a little trouble. Maybe they'd been fed too much, you know? Bad stomach-ache or something."

"You were 'a little lost'?" said the lieutenant incredulously. "For almost four and a half hours?"

"He's useless for navigating if he can't see sky," Maneera replied. "And of course using the beacon was 'cheating' or some damn thing." Her smirk faded into a look of contrition. "We honestly didn't mean to be any trouble, sir."

The lieutenant heaved a weary sigh. "You know we're gonna have to check for contraband now. Nothing personal, just SOP."

"No worries." Maneera turned out her pockets, producing a lint-covered power cell and a squished nutrient bar. "Everybody's just doin' their jobs, it's fine."

Nayar did the same, producing nothing outstanding that the lieutenant would confiscate. "We're good little children, sir. Never even put our hands in the cookie jar."

The weaselly sergeant poked his head in, his voice low and pained as he whispered loudly, "Lieutenant, sir?"

"What is it, Sarge?"

"It's Master Shayal, sir. She sounds... displeased."

Lieutenant Cortess nodded as he turned to face the sergeant. "Alright. Let's see if we can't put her concerns to rest." He took a step back, motioning Nayar and Maneera toward the door.

The smugglers walked through the hanger exit, turning the corner only to run into the Jedi Master herself, the sergeant nervously wringing his hands as the Jedi tapped her foot. "Hello, Captain. Hello, Miss Sundrift."

Nayar blinked repeatedly, trying to come up with a response as Master Shayal tapped her foot, waiting for a reply.

"Hello again, ma'am," Maneera said, breaking the uneasy silence. "I'm sorry we missed you on our way back through base. We didn't mean for you to have to head all the way up here."

"Four and a half hours. I highly doubt you got lost, Miss Sundrift. As for the Captain, I'd think an esteemed navigator such as himself would never get lost, not with the stars above your head. What were you two really doing?"

Nayar sighed then, raising his hands above his head dejectedly. "Alright, Master Shayal. You caught us."

"Do tell, Captain," the Jedi responded, her tone only just slightly above absolute zero. The sergeant grinned like a nexu scenting fresh blood, while the lieutenant wore a look of quiet disappointment.

"You see, my parents? Big archeologists. Love history and the past. Unfortunately, I just like flying. So, I've always been seen as a bit of a disappointment to them," Nayar admitted, drooping his shoulders. "I figured, maybe if I bring some actual pictures of Jedi ruins and the crystal caves here, I might actually be able to meet up with the rest o' my family." He guiltily held up a holo-camera. "If you need to confiscate it though, I won't blame you."

"It's my fault, Master," Maneera added. "Boss wanted to call in to clear it with you first, but I didn't think you'd allow it — attachments, and all that — so I convinced him we'd be better off asking forgiveness than permission. And then when we didn't see you at the base..." She trailed off, scuffing her toes against the deck.

"You went missing for four and a half hours for. . . pictures," Master Shayal repeated, her face unchanged. The sergeant's eager grin widened.

"Yes, ma'am," Nayar grinned sheepishly.

"We're very sorry," Maneera chimed in.

The lieutenant cleared his throat as he took a step toward Nayar, turning to face the Jedi. "With respect, Master Shayal, sightseeing sounds like a pretty minor offense, and they've both been decent enough to me and my crew. I think we can afford to cut them a little slack here."

"Lieutenant, that is a blatant disregard for the rules and documents they signed!" the sergeant whined.

"No, the lieutenant is right. Let them go to their ship. I need to meet with my padawan. But we are not done discussing this, Captain. You are not to lift off before consulting with me," she warned, turning on her heel to jog down the hallway.

"Whew. We're not shish-kabobed," Nayar let out with a sigh, hands falling to his side.

"You wouldn't have been," Lieutenant Cortess replied. "She's good people, as Jedi go. Come on, I'll walk you to your ship."

Nayar and Maneera turned away to follow the lieutenant, the sergeant sputtering in fury back in the hallway.

The lieutenant paused in front of their hangar, looking up in confusion when the door didn't open at his approach. He waved a hand in front of the sensor, then stopped shaking his head. "He didn't..." he muttered as he jabbed at the door control. "Burns!" he bellowed. "Get your scrawny *ss over here!"

The sergeant scurried over, sulking. "Yes sir?"

"Care to explain why this hangar is on lockdown?"

"Master Shayal said that these..." Sergeant Burns paused, glaring at Nayar and Maneera. "These civilians are not to lift off without her approval. I took reasonable precautions to ensure that they remained on the station."

"Did you miss the part where she said they were to be allowed onto their ship?" Though his face was still bright red, the lieutenant's voice had calmed to an eerily placid tone. "This kind of hearing loss could be serious, Burns. After you release the lockout on the hangar, you are going to report for a full emergency physical. Do I make myself clear?"

"But sir—"

"Do I make myself clear, Sergeant?" The lieutenant stepped aside, allowing access to the control panel.

The sergeant cowered. "Yes sir." He keyed open the door, then trudged off like a man headed to an execution.

"Nerf-herder," Nayar spat, the glob of spit impacting the ground. "Thanks for that."

"Just don't make me have to hear he told me so," Lieutenant Cortess said. "You stay on the pad till Master Shayal gives you the go-ahead to launch."

"We will, sir," Maneera replied. "I promise."

Nayar gave a grinning salute to the lieutenant, stomping up the ramp into his ship, shedding the skin of his clothes while waiting until the heavy durasteel door had locked before sighing. "Holy crap, I didn't think they'd buy it."

"They almost didn't," Maneera retorted. "What if they'd checked out the camera?"

"Then we would've been kriffed. Anywho, we better get a hold of Dr. Crazy for our creds," Nayar wondered, slipping into warmer clothes, his winter outfit tossed haphazardly on the floor.

Maneera nodded in agreement. "The sooner the better," she said as she keyed in the comm frequency.

Arthen appeared on the holo-channel, his face haggard as he looked at them both. "What in the Force happened down there, Captain?! My instruments went wild when that array activated!"

"All right. . . but you can't be mad," Nayar started.

"What happened?" Arthen deadpanned.

"Well, okay, so the Sith girl powered up the thing," Maneera replied. "Yeah, she showed up. Not fun. Anyway, so she started the thing and Boss pulled the switch. The way you do."

"THE SITH?! But did she- Never mind, I'll find that out myself, later," Arthen stammered, his fingers interlacing tightly.

"Right, so. . . we finally got the thing up, and we were about to leave like total bosses for figuring out the puzzle and doors," Nayar buffed his knuckles, blowing on them for good effect. "When all of a sudden, some freaking pirates bust through the wall!"

The room shuddered as explosives boomed, collapsing one wall entirely. Nayar hunkered down behind the pedestal, while Maneera dove for the far side of a massive column. Soleta simply took a calm half-step backward, shadows wrapping around and concealing her as she edged into the shade of a pillar.

A troop of raggedly-armored men stormed through the gap, rifles drawn. "Get on your KNEES!" one shouted as he stepped forward from the rest.

Maneera peered cautiously from her hiding place, trying to catch Nayar's attention as she frantically shook her head.

"And so, I responded with," Nayar continued.

Nayar took one look at Maneera, grinned, and stuck his head out to shout, "I'M NOT YOUR MOTHER LAST NIGHT!"

"And they took exception to that."

As the leader dropped back into rank, the pirates opened fire, spraying the forward half of the room with blaster bolts, doing little more than chipping away at stone and metal fixtures as the three explorers waited in cover.

"But seeing as we're here, you can pretty much guess how the rest of that song and dance went."

Nayar tossed his secondary incendiary grenade, Soleta coming from the shadows behind the men to unless a devastating barrage of lightning. Maneera laid down suppression fire, keeping the pirates pinned down until her scattergun ran out of power. Nayar's blasters poured fire into their disorganized ranks picking off the stragglers with precise shots.

"We got all of 'em but one," Maneera explained.

"And. . . what happened to the last one?" Arthen asked, bewildered.

The last pirate, screaming, fell back against the ruins of the wall as his team was wiped out. As Soleta turned her gaze upon him, he pulled his blaster pistol out, brought it to his head, and pulled the trigger.

"Wussed out like a B*tch!" Nayar grinned. "Silver lining? I bet that pirate crew won't be bothering anyone!"

"So yeah," Maneera added. "Job's done. How are we handling payment?"

"Just. . . come on back to my base," Arthen said defeatedly. "I'll pay you, and you can be off to wherever you wish to go."

"Fantastic," Maneera crowed. "Leave a light on for us, we'll be back soon."

"Alright, I better go get chewed out by Mistress Jedi, Mans. Start up some caf? The good kind, if you please?" Nayar started as Arthen cut off the call.

Maneera grinned brightly. "The very best we've got, Boss. Want me to blow through the preflight while you're out?"

"Nah, we got time. Better to just relax," Nayar gave an easy smile, dropping the scattergun and blasters on the nearby couch. "I'll be back in a few. She can't want to yell at me that much."

"Good luck with that," Maneera snickered as she headed for the galley.


"Alright, time to get this show on the road!" Nayar crooned as he waltzed back into Hawk.

"Outstanding," Maneera said as she pressed a steaming cup into his hands. "Chief Robe Lady didn't give you too much trouble?"

"No, not much trouble at all. A lot of yelling, though." Nayar flicked up his jacket's sleeve to glance at the time. "Wow. No way all that happened in an hour."

"Yeah, it really did. Since you were taking so long, I figured I'd go ahead and get the preflight done. We can take off whenever you want."

"Perfect. I'll get flying, then," Nayar answered, turning to the c*ckpit of his ship when a small article of clothing fell from one of his inside jacket pockets. "Oh, yeah, don't worry about that, I got it!" Nayar snatched it up immediately.

Maneera started to reach for the piece of cloth, then pulled her hand back sharply. "I'm just gonna trust this is one of those things I'm better off not knowing."

"Every port, Mans. Every. Port," Nayar sheepishly grinned, walking down the short hallway to sit in his captain's chair.

"Better off NOT KNOWING!" she yelled back as she headed for her quarters.

"I may be on the side of the angels, but don't think for one second that I am one of them."

LogicLoup's Avatar

02.22.2013 , 05:34 PM | #64
Rakatan Underground, Ilum

As the dust of the brief battle settled and the smugglers scrambled for the surface, Soleta slipped quietly back into the shadows, waiting until she could be certain of conducting her survey undisturbed. Moments stretched out in patient silence until the Sith finally stepped forward, the soft shuffle of her footsteps echoing dully in the cavernous chamber Something had happened when the captain had pulled that switch, something more than was betrayed by the mechanical rumbles welling up through the steaming pipes. There was tension in the air now, a sense of anticipation on the edge of her awareness, as if the Force itself were focused and waiting for. . .

The unknown. Soleta laughed out loud as she examined the carvings on the wall behind the pedestal. It wasn't often that the past gave her something completely new to puzzle over, and whatever this machine was doing, it was entirely unlike anything she had yet experienced. And to think, she had been disappointed at being pulled from the Veeshas Tuwan dig! For all the library's probable treasures, it couldn't begin to compare with this living mystery.

She ran a hand over the carved glyphs, concentrating intently, using the Force to collect every sensory detail into a perfect memory. When she was certain the moment was properly inscribed in her mind, she relaxed and gave the wall a less intense but more thoughtful look, letting her attention be drawn to whatever caught her eye. The symbols for "other" and "together" kept cropping up — another machine, another place, all together... Of course. The artifacts on the other three worlds must work with this one to produce the intended effect. But what is it? What do they all do?

Leaving the wall behind, Soleta examined the rest of the room, to little useful effect. Aside from the hole blown by the pirates' entrance — which had only served to widen the doorway which had closed, unnoticed, some time after Soleta and the others had passed through it — there was no way she could find into or out of the room. No back doors or side doors, no access panels, no way to climb into and then through the piping. Just a mostly-sealed room with a singularly enigmatic toggle switch. With a shrug and a sigh, she backtracked through the ruin to the surface.

The splayed, shallow footprints left by the smugglers' tauntauns had, by then, been all but wiped out by blowing snow. The pirates' deeper tracks, on the other hand, had persisted, and led almost directly opposite the way back to the Republic base. Stepping lightly over the crusted surface of the snow, Soleta followed the trackway. Just beyond a line of hills, tucked into the shelter of an icy cliff face, a ship waited. The Sith stretched out her senses, seeking life and finding only a pack of lisks roaming nearby on a hunt. Shrouded in her white costume robe, she was nearly invisible against the snow-covered slope as she waited for the predators to pass before picking her way carefully to the ship. After shorting out the lock on the cargo bay door, it was a simple enough matter to board the vessel and prepare for takeoff.

"I may be on the side of the angels, but don't think for one second that I am one of them."

DarthThuzad's Avatar

02.23.2013 , 04:53 PM | #65
Imperial Outpost Medical bay, Taris

Zero was standing outside the medical building, waiting for some hint as to how Q was doing. Then, a medic walked over to her. She turned to him “How is he?”

“He will make a full recovery, we think. He is awake now if you want to go ask him yourself.” Zero nodded and followed the medic inside the building as he let her to Q’s room. She nodded at him and walked in “Good to see you still among the living. I was worried for a bit there. How are you feeling?”

"Still slightly frail, it seems," Quintus sighed. "But recovering. I did not expect to be saved, you know."

"Why not? You expected me to leave you behind so I would not have to deal with you during the inevitable fight between us for whatever is waiting for us at the end of this map on the holocron? My partner would have left you behind, surely. Perhaps you think me foolish for not taking the opportunity to get rid of you, but that is not how I work. Besides, I don't think your sith partner would forgive me for letting you get eaten by rakghouls, even if it was not on purpose."

"She would have left me, but that's another story for another time," Quintus snickered. "But do not mistake me. I appreciate you bringing me back here."

Zero nodded "I want you to know that, regardless of what may come, I have nothing against you. We both serve the empire, in our own way. You serve your master, and I serve mine. There is not much we can do if they order us to kill one another but obey. I think we both understand that."

"I'd hate to admit it, but likewise," Quintus spoke. "I have nothing against you either. Your partner may be less than desirable, but you are more of an asset, at least more than him."

"I appreciate that. You don't get to pick your partners, sadly. He has his uses, I admit, but more often than not he is not worth the trouble."

"Him and some of the Sith both." Quintus mused. "Medics said I should be able-bodied within a few hours. I have to contact my partner when I get back to my see if she made it off where she went."

"I would be careful what you say about the sith. Comments like that could be taken as treason. I have seen sith lords kill people for less then what you just said. They are the ones in charge, after all."

"Trust me on this one, I know when I can be discreet about it and when I cannot," Quintus growled. "I'd be passed off as a lethargic man here."

Zero shrugged "Fair enough. It is not my place to question the decisions of the sith. At the end of the day, my thoughts on the matter are irrelevant anyway, they are the ones in charge, and what they say goes. My thoughts and actions are not about to change that."

"Understandable," Quintus said impassively. "My lunch is nearly here. It would help me get back on my feet."

"I shall let you eat in peace then." Zero made her way to the door and walked out


Quintus emerged from the medbay with profound facial scarring marring his right cheek and neck, along with a few new cybernetic implants. "I do not have my full strength back yet, but I am mobile once more."

"That's good" Zero said, staring at the new additions to Q "You want to check in with your partner before we leave? I can wait."

"I will contact her as soon as I get back to my ship," Quintus affirmed, still getting used to his new implants, as he rubbed a hand on one of them. "I would love to talk about our findings away from the public ears...possibly aboard my ship."

"Yes, I suppose this is not exactly the proper venue for this discussion. Lead the way, then."

"Very well," Quintus walked toward the orbital shuttle, with Zero following. The shuttle left Taris nearly as soon as they boarded, then entered the orbital station.

DarthThuzad's Avatar

02.25.2013 , 07:04 PM | #66
Phantom-class yacht Veil, Taris Imperial Orbital Station

Quintus led Zero inside his ship and into the makeshift conference room standard for most Phantom-class ships. " that we are out of public eyes, I just want to discuss our findings." The operative briefly removed the implants around his eyes, re-calibrated them, then fully installed the implants along with a red cybernetic visor. "The artifact is not your mere everyday portable holocron or the like. The artifact was an ancient machine, adorned with runes only seen back in the Rakata days."

Zero quickly thought back to what she saw at the temple. "So...what you are telling me is that the Jedi built their temple around this rakata machine? Interesting...this isn't really my area, any clue what it may do?"

Q shook his head. "None. I had a holocamera stealthily grab shots of the runes when I was in there. I can study them with my partner when she returns."

"Fair enough." Zero took out a holocom and tried to make a call, but it doesn't go through, "Damn. He must still be on hoth. Comms there are in worse shape than Taris. I hope he hasn't done anything stupid."

"From what I know of him and from what you have told me so far...maybe he did do something stupid." Quintus snickered at his own joke.

"Damn it all! It's not like I had a choice in letting him go off. I can't exactly trust the bounty hunter or whatever she wants to call herself, and the only other option was to go with her and let him go alone. That would have been an even worse idea. So long as he doesn't kill anyone important, nothing should go wrong" Zero sits down, shaking her head "I swear, nothing has gone right with this job. It's true what they always say in intelligence; don't get involved in Sith business. It only leads to trouble.”

"I don't trust either him or the pirate," Quintus put in his opinion. "But yes, being in intelligence I say has its...perks as well as its cons. For example, as much as I enjoy working with Thanaton and his archaeologists in the promise of expanding science and Sith tradition, I...try to keep a distance."

Zero sighed "Some days, I wish I had never been promoted to this job. I could have served the empire just as well as another no name sniper as I do now and the worse I would have had to deal with is a yelling commander. But no, apparently my superiors were impressed I salvaged a mission my incompetent superior messed up. Add in a dead jedi knight that I took out by sheer luck, and here I am, working for a member of the dark council, with my life in more danger then it ever was on the battlefield."

Quintus grumbled, "I have some regrets about my transfer as well. Though, I will say that Thanaton pays me higher than Keeper, let alone Jadus does a typical operative of my rank."

"I don't do this for the money. If I wanted to make credits that badly, I would become a bounty hunter. It's not all that different from what I do now, and you can set your own rates. I am sure it would take me all of 5 seconds to convince my partner to join me in it. No, I signed up to serve the empire, nothing more. Anything else is meaningless."

"Yes, the Empire is above all," Q mused. "Well then, anything else you would like to discuss before I release you back to your ship? I need to get in touch with my partner."

"Not really. You don’t want me here when you call? I should think it would be much easier for me to just be present for your call rather than force you to fill me in later."

"I'm sorry," Quintus replied as he shook his head. "Necessary protocol. You may have earned some of my trust by saving my skin earlier, but I very much doubt you would gain my partner's trust. Nevertheless, you will be informed of the developments later, preferably after you have heard something from your friends on Hoth. That way, we have information from three planets rather than two."

Zero nodded and stood up, stealthy placing a bug underneath the chair she was sitting on as she did so "I understand. I will see myself out. Good day." She walked out of the room, making her way off the ship.

Trained to be paranoid, Quintus checked around and underneath the chair Zero was sitting on and found the surveillance device. He stealthily watched Zero as she left. Once she walked out, he placed the bug into a microwave oven, set it for twenty seconds, then started it as he heard the device short out. "You may have earned some of my trust...but not enough," he silently mused.

Zero returned to her ship, and walked over to a console to check on her bug, only to find the signal had been lost. She smirked to herself Should have known he would find it. But, no harm in trying. He is a professional, I am sure he understands how the game is played. Now, not much left to do other than wait for Mean to check in.

LogicLoup's Avatar

02.26.2013 , 09:23 PM | #67
Refitted freighter, en route from Ilum to Taris

The pirate vessel was, in Soleta's considered opinion, the most unconscionably ugly thing she had ever had the severe misfortune of being forced to use. Its one and only saving grace was that it was small enough to slip unnoticed past the Republic's sensor grid as it skimmed along Ilum's upper atmosphere on her way to open space. With a cruising course laid in, Soleta found the main holocomm, laying out the datapads with her notes and a copy of the map before putting in a call to the Veil.

A holoimage of Quintus, with his new scars and his eyes adorned in his new cybernetic implants, sprung out of the terminal. "This is operative Q. Receiving transmission."

"Q?" Soleta arched an eyebrow, her expression shifting from eager anticipation to a disapproving frown. "What happened?"

"The good Doctor Kole's lapdog, that's what happened," Quintus growled with anger in his voice. "The bastard blew up a speeder next to me. The shrapnel landed on my face and some flames undermined my vision. I can still undertake this operation, though I have to calibrate these every once in a while."

"And where exactly was Miss I'm Too Mysterious for a Proper Name while this was happening?" Soleta asked, her tone icy. "Why wasn't she providing cover?"

"She was around, but was too focused on the horde of rakghouls and not paying attention to Kole's hunter until he destroyed my speeder," Quintus replied with a defensive, but angered tone.

"And Dredd himself? I assume he's been properly dealt with."

Quintus shook his head and shot back in the same icy tone. "No. The lapdog escaped when I was incapacitated. Zero couldn't handle him. My only consolation... is that he was briefly my latest... test subject."

Soleta sighed, shaking her head. "I suppose I really shouldn't be surprised, given the tools you had at your disposal." After a brief moment's thought, her expression brightened. "Not to worry. Once we've caught up to him, he can be yours to deal with as you like."

"I have every hope that his end is painful," Quintus spoke in a vengeful and sadistic tone.

"If that's what you want, then certainly. Consider him my gift to you." She rubbed her hands together briskly. "But first, to the task at hand. What were you able to learn on Taris?"

"Our artifact was no ordinary artifact." Q began, "it was a machine, adorned with Rakata runes. Dredd activated it first, but I managed to snap images of the runes."

Soleta nodded, grinning eagerly. "Consistent with what I found on Ilum, and I expect we'll find more of the same on Hoth — have you heard from Hoth? — and our mystery world. But these aren't four individual machines, they're four pieces of a larger device."

"Nothing from Hoth yet, though I remain unsurprised," Quintus sighed, "and to think Madame Blueberry is more competent than her partner and the pirate scum combined. Still not a by vast margin."

"When the bar is set that low, it's hardly an accomplishment to stumble along over it." Soleta tapped at the console controls. "It seems we're more or less on our own for this. I'm sending you the recording of the holocron map. If you would be so good as to find our mystery world, I'll start collating our observations on the Taris and Ilum pieces of the device. I don't much like the idea of fully activating anything without knowing what it does."

"Agreed," Quintus mused. "I will calibrate my astrogation charts accordingly. Are you going to return here to collate our observations?"

She drummed her fingertips against the console, frowning in thought. "I think it's likely best if we start work right away, without waiting for travel. We have to assume Kole will be sending someone — either Dredd or the other two — to activate the fourth machine as soon as possible, and we need to ensure that we're there first. Send me your pictures, and I'll keep in touch."

"But what do we know about the mystery world besides where it might be located?" Quintus voiced his dissent as he sent the images of the Taris runes. "Even if I activate machine number four, it will be meaningless if those idiots on Hoth don't do anything."

"Nothing yet, that's why it's a mystery," Soleta replied, laughing. "We'll have to see what we can find out from orbit once we get there. Hoth, I think we can safely write off. The device as a whole seems to require the activation of all of its constituent parts, so whether Hoth has been activated or not, we can delay throwing the fourth switch until we know what we're dealing with."

"Indeed, I missed a key word," Quintus jokingly laughed back. "But makeshift Rakata-Basic dictionary I hacked from Kole seems to be in order. Sending you them when we're done talking."

"Wonderful!" Soleta clapped her hands as she bounced on her toes. "Ah, and there are the image files from Taris. I truly can't thank you enough for this."

"As I said earlier, even far apart, we make an excellent team." Quintus removed his cybernetic visor, showing Soleta slightly marred eyes. "Though my eyes have been weakened, they are still able to perceive your sheer beauty, I must say."

Soleta's giddy bounces stilled to contained, anxious fidgeting. She dipped her head, looking up at Quintus' image through the thick fringe of her lashes as pink crept across her pale cheeks. "I look forward to seeing you again in person, Q."

Quintus smiled as he too formed a blush, "As do I, Soleta."

"Ahh... well then..." she stammered, her blush deepening. "I suppose we should both get to work. Let me know when you've plotted out where we're going next? Or if the team from Hoth manages to contact you."

"You will be the first to know, even if it calls for me to interrupt some mundane routine," Quintus assured Soleta, maintaining a smile.

"Good. Very good. And of course I shall do the same once my research bears fruit." She started to reach for the control panel, then paused. "Is there anything else we need to talk about?"

"Of major note, nothing really," Quintus replied. "I just look forward to seeing you again. I must have lost my touch with other agents. That, or the two blueberries are just incompetent."

"I know which theory I would find more credible," Soleta laughed. "See you soon, Quintus." She closed the channel, then called up the images he had sent. Time to get to work.

"I may be on the side of the angels, but don't think for one second that I am one of them."

DarthThuzad's Avatar

03.03.2013 , 08:43 PM | #68
Republic Strategic Information Service HQ, Coruscant

Xon walked slowly, carefully down the hallways of the base, passively observing agents and workers alike mill about in the low-lighted building, the sound of computers and droids beeping, chattering voices all climbing over each other in the crowded base of operations. A thin woman came out from the door on his side, nearly hitting him as she raced away, a muttered apology rushed as she was whisked away by the hum-drum of the office at work. A moment later, Ardun Kothe emerged from behind the same door, smiling broadly as he caught sight of Xon.

"Master Rainor," Kothe called. Though he kept his voice low, it was perfectly pitched to carry over the background drone of the busy room. "I hope I haven't kept you waiting."

"You haven't," Xon greeted impassively as he extended his hand. "I was running slightly late myself."

Kothe took the offered hand in both of his and gave a sturdy shake. "Looks like we'd best be on our way, then," he replied, a warm chuckle in his voice. "I'm sure everyone's as eager as I am to hear about your progress." He drew back his hands and pointed back over his shoulder. "There's a conference room back toward the entrance a bit; it'll be quieter than out here." With that, Kothe turned and led the way out of the ops center. Xon turned and followed Kothe out of the ops center.

"That conference room?" Xon pointed at an empty conference room.

"That's the one." Kothe ambled in, gesturing toward the chairs which surrounded the central table. "Make yourself at home." He continued to the intercom panel on the far wall and pressed the 'call' button. "Davessi? It's Ardun. When my guest arrives, let him know I'll be in CR2." After smiling at the tinny, barely-audible response, he took a seat halfway around the table from Xon.

Syo Bakarn came in quickly afterwards, a small smile on his lips as he approached the table. "Ah, Xon fantastic to see you again. I trust you've been well?"

"The honor's all mine, Syo," Xon returned the small smile. "I've been doing quite well, thanks."

"Glad to hear it. Ardun, efficient as always," Syo continued, raising a hand out in welcome. "I appreciate SIS's help in this matter."

Ardun nodded as he took Syo's hand and shook. "That's what we're here for." His own smile settled into lines of disappointment. "I just wish we'd made a better showing of ourselves so far."

"Indeed," Xon chimed in as he turned to Syo. "Is Master Satele ready?"

"Unfortunately, Master Satele is busy with other matters of importance. She sends her regrets, though," Syo replied, dropping Ardun's hand, then moving to sit in a nearby seat. "Now, tell us Xon, what have you found?"

"I'm sure by now you two recall the holocron stolen from Republic Security not too long ago, yes?" Xon asked as the two nodded. He provided them with copies of the runes he obtained off of the holocron. "Using evidence of two Chiss and a Sith being spotted in the area, I followed the Sith to Nar Shaddaa, where she was taken hostage by my fallen padawan, Arthen Kole. He cleverly hid the Sith and the holocron thus far, however. As for the contents of the holocron's runes itself... I assume one or both of you have some knowledge of the Rakata langauge?"

"Not offhand, no. The archives will, though. But your fallen padawan?" Syo raised an eyebrow, crossing his hands to balance his chin. "I was under the impression he left due to personal issues. Was he clearly corrupted by the Dark Side? Perhaps far different from his time as your pupil?"

"He did not establish himself as a fallen padawan," Xon began, "but my eyes have sensed profound radiation of the Dark Side around him. It has been more prominent since he left the Order, yes."

"How confident are you that Kole took this Sith hostage?" Ardun asked. "Is it possible he'd been working with the Sith from the outset, and his... invitation, to retrieve the holocron, was engineered as a distraction for us?"

"He referred to the Sith as his prisoner, but yet, he constantly protected her from me, not allowing me to search her or anywhere near her. That is a sound theory indeed..."

"Troubling," Syo muttered, tipping back in his chair, stroking at his beard. "Ardun, if we were to send an Ops team to investigate, what would you rate their chances of success?"

"Without knowing how far this conspiracy extends? Too risky to call." Ardun slid a still image from Coruscant Security across the table to each Jedi. "The woman in front there is an asset of ours, callsign Banshee. She was deployed to recover the holocron, but has since refused all contact with SIS. Her handler is..." Ardun paused, his expression turning grim. "He's currently under investigation."

"The two others?" Syo continued, gesturing at the man and woman in the picture, a thoughtful look etched on his features.

"Small-time operators, both of them. They've both got records extensive enough to wallpaper my office, but nothing on this scale. The woman, though..." Ardun slid another set of images across the table, this time from a missing persons report. "Local girl, ran away from home thirteen years ago, the same day her brother was adopted by the Jedi Order."

"That's a bit much to be coincidence," Syo answered, picking up the picture to examine it closer. "Too many mysteries near this holocron."

"Too many people with reason to see the Jedi suffer," Ardun added. "Tell me how I can help you stop this."

"The presence of a Sith and two Chiss agents is an unsettling matter on its own," Xon chimed in. "We need to figure out what they have to do with the holocron."

"That part sounds pretty straightforward from where I'm standing," Ardun replied. "Sith pulls rank to call in a couple of intelligence operatives. They flip one of our assets, who then recruits a couple of sympathetic outsiders for further assistance." He leaned back from the table, shrugging as he crossed his arms.

"But where does your padawan fit in all this, Xon?" Syo wondered, his hand never leaving his chin. "Is he the ringmaster? The man pulling the strings? Or is he but a puppet himself to a far sinister Master? There is too much we don't know that we need to."

"Considering that the Sith which left for the holocron flocked right to where Arthen's base is...I shouldn't believe in coincidence. He is cunning enough to be the kingpin, of that I am sure," Xon replied. "I did not sense another sinister presence there besides the Sith he took hostage, but I am not necessarily ready to rule it out."

"Then I'm not seeing another option. Ardun, we'll need two teams," Syo began, drawing up a map of the galaxy.

Ardun nodded. "I'll get my best people on it. Where are we sending them?"

Xon set a datapad with coordinates on the table and slid it to Ardun. "This underground complex under Club Vertica is where I found my fallen padawan. Given the scale this conspiracy is on, I would not be surprised if it spanned different directions of the galaxy."

"We need one team to infiltrate that base. We need the other to track down the Sith Arthen captured," Syo began. "We either need the holocron itself or the data it has, and those are our two best leads. Tell the commander of the Base team that Kole is to be captured alive if possible. Xon, I'd like you to personally lead the team tracking the Sith."

"Master Rainor, how soon will you be setting out?" Ardun asked. "I can have your team assembled and waiting at the spaceport within the hour."

"As soon as I am able," Xon nodded.

Ardun returned to the intercom panel on the far wall. "Davessi? Notify the Winning Hand their leave's been cancelled. Get them back to base yesterday." He turned back toward the Jedi. "Hand-picked squad. I personally vouch for all of them."

"I will meet with them before I leave, then," Xon remakred, "I look forward to witnessing their talents firsthand."

"They won't disappoint." Ardun looked from Xon to Syo and back. "Anything I need to know before assembling the team for Nar Shaddaa?"

"Other than Nar Shaddaa's standard neutrality, Arthen will try to play games. Don't let it fool you," Xon advised.

"Excellent, then. I'll follow up on the Rakata language. I'll let you know as soon as I have something," Syo smiled, getting up from where he sat. "Thank you, gentlemen."

"Proud to be of service," Ardun replied, his own smile returning as he moved to open the door, "as always. May the Force be with you both."

"May the Force be with us all," Xon allowed his friendly smile to resurface as he motioned for Syo to go ahead of him.

Syo exited quickly from the room, his distinctive pony-tail marking his progress through the wall of offices that was the SIS HQ.

LogicLoup's Avatar

03.05.2013 , 12:26 PM | #69
Nar Shaddaa

"You're a good man Kal."

Dredd smiled as Tannia nestled up in his arms, her body fitting perfectly into his as they lay on her bed, streams of morning light shining through her ragged window shutters.

"What makes you so sure?" he whispered playfully as he lightly ran his hand up her leg, and snorted in laughter as the Twi'lek swatted it away.

She rolled off her end of the bed, stretching as she stood. Dredd took a moment to admire the view before she slipped into the next room. After a few moments of watching the door he leaned back and closed his eyes as the sounds of running water washed over him.


"You know I'd be happy to join you in there," he called, leaning back onto his hands.

"That thing I said earlier," she called back, feigning annoyance.

"You take that back?"

"I take that back."

"It was worth a shot." He consoled himself with a chuckle as he rolled to his feet, throwing on his street clothes from the night before.

The smile on his face disappeared the second he looked into the mirror across the room, a scowl replacing his grin as he ran his hand over the lone scar running down his cheek.


"Why do you put up with me, Tannia?" he asked as he leaned against the wall by the bathroom.

"What?" she replied, surprised by the question.

"Why do you?"


"I leave for months on end, and come back bringing gifts and money," he responded, unsure of himself.

"And that's exactly why I put up with you." Her twinkling laugh cut through the sound of water..

He smiled at that, but it faded again just as quickly.


After a long pause, she finally spoke up.

"I'm still not sure what you mean."

"Don't you wonder what I do to get that money?" came his question, the one that had been tearing him apart for the last few years.

"I'm not stupid." She laughed again, the sound of water ceasing. "Excuse you." She smiled as she exited the washroom, shooing him into the other room so she could change.

"It's not like it's something I haven't seen before." He rolled his eyes as he granted her wish, leaving the room behind him.

"Give a girl a break here." She sighed, before continuing on topic. "I can put two and two together, you're a bounty hunter. I've lived on Nar Shaddaa for all of my life, and been dancing in cantinas for a few years now. I think I know a bounty hunter when I see one."

"And this doesn't bother you?"

"Not one bit," she replied. "You can come back in now."

Dredd complied and walked back into the room, grabbing her from behind before she turned to face him.

"Why the concern now?" She smiled as he rested his head against her neck. "It's never been an issue before."

"I don't know."

"Oh, come on." She pulled away, turning to face him. "Out with it."

"I've been called a lot of things before, Tannia, but never a good man."


She placed her hand softly on his cheek, rubbing the smooth surface, her beautiful blue eyes staring back into his.

"I don't know why, but whenever I'm with you. I feel like I'm dreaming," he admitted, grinning as he stared into her eyes.

"Kal?" She pulled him in close, burying her face in his chest.

"Yes?" He closed his eyes as he pulled her in tight to his body.

"That's because you are."

Not again.

Dredd's eyes shot open in surprise, and when they opened everything had changed.


There was a demon in front of him, a demon shrouded by unnatural darkness. His sight was blurred in the darkness, and it was all Dredd could do to make out its silhouette. But its blue eyes, they pierced the darkness, and left the hunter with an uneasy feeling.

A childish giggle came from the darkness surrounding them, the sound of it could chill to the bone.

Make it stop.

"You killed my Master, Mandalorian." The voice of a young girl piped up, eerily cheery.

"Where am I?"

There was only laughter in response.

"Get me out of here!" He roared angrily.

I can't.

"That is up to you, silly hunter," she giggled, hatred dripping off of her every happy word. "You have to kill the monster. You do that, she is free, and only you come to harm." The girl giggled again, relishing in every moment. "Sith's honor."

Dredd looked across the room at the demon across from him. Realizing he was not bound, he drew his blaster, keeping it held by his side.

"Coward!" he called to the darkness, his eyes unable to pierce its veil.

"You killed my Master," she repeated in a sing-song voice, before growling, "Shot him in the back of the head, and you call me a coward."

The demon stared at Dredd now, it's flaming blue eyes felt like they were piercing his soul.

"There's only one way out now," the Sith assured, her voice seeming to come from every direction.

"I'm sorry," Dredd apologized to the monster before him, raising his blaster to its face.

I love you.

The monster opened its mouth, and an inhuman note flew from its throat before being cut off sharply by the bolt from Dredd's blaster.

"Wrong choice." The Sith spouted whimsically as the darkness began to recede. "Looks like you lose my little game."

"What?" Dredd roared in confusion as he looked around for her. "But it was just me and..."

The Sith's laugh echoed as the darkness receded, leaving the hunter and the body alone in a dark alleyway.

Realization dawned over Dredd's face and he fell to a knee, his hand resting on the dead Twi'lek who had replaced the demon at his feet. Tears streamed down his face as he grabbed Tannia's lifeless hands.

"I'm the..."




The word that will forever be ingrained in my head.

Dredd sat up violently, cold sweat pouring down his face, as he shook off the nightmare that would haunt him until his dying day. His arms were shaking, and he was barely able to support himself.

"Master, you have awoken."

The shaken hunter rested his head in his hand, gathering his wits for a moment before looking up to see the ship's caretaker droid.

"No sh*t." He growled.

"You were in the tank for a week, Master," it responded as soon as it was asked. "Altogether you were unconscious for about eight and a half days, I hope you enjoyed your rest."

Dredd grumbled in response, pushing himself slowly off of the medical table. He looked around for a moment before seeing Tannia's blood-red pendant hanging from the door, in the exact same spot he had placed it when he'd stumbled in bloodied and raging from his failure to kill the two agents.

Almost nine kriffing days... He sighed, knowing his quarry was long gone, yet the mission had technically been a success, despite its unfortunate ending.

He placed the pendant around his neck sighing as its cold metal touched his skin, taking in the new scar that decorated his shoulder mournfully.

Not today, but I'll be with you soon. Not dead, but marching far away.

"Prep the ship. Let's get off this Rock."

"I may be on the side of the angels, but don't think for one second that I am one of them."

meanken's Avatar

03.07.2013 , 05:02 PM | #70
Somewhere on Hoth

"Stop!" Specialist Arnn suddenly shouted over comm and slowed down his speeder until it came to a halt. He had spotted something and took out his electrobinoculars.

"There better be a damn good reason for this" Mean muttered as he stopped. Serlynne did the same and looked at Arnn questioningly.

Without a word he observed something through his binoculars for a few seconds, zoomed in and turned ot to the left a little. Then he said: "There is a bunch of scavengers or pirate vermin directly ahead, I think."

Serlynne pulled out the datapad from one of her pockets. Among other things it contained different sensors and detectors, including the one showing the life signs in close vicinity or at long distance. The assassin pressed a few buttons, changing the mode, and the datapad immediately raised the alarm, proving that Arnn was right.

“Give me that!” Mean snatched the binoculars out of his hands and looked into them “Probably.....yep. White Maw. Too many on the outside to just be a hideout. Looks like they stumbled onto the cave. Based on their numbers, I can almost guarantee they think something valuable is inside."

Serlynne left the speeder, pulled the sniper rifle from behind her back and began to move ahead slowly.

"I am going to find a proper firing position,"- she said. "I will pick them one by one, nice and easy."

"Could we..." Arnn hesitated for a second. "Could we develop a battle plan first?" he asked. "I'm not sure how good you are, but with their numbers, I doubt you can take out all of them before they find you."

Meanken grabbed Arnn "You are a damn scout, nothing more. Don't you dare tell us how to do our job. Because my current plan involves using a certain chatty scout as live bait to distract them while I sneak in close and start slitting throats. Understand?"

"You know, that was exactly my idea too," Arnn answered quickly. "I'm not of much use in killing them, but I could draw their attention towards me during the attack. She can snipe them from another position and you ambush them from a third position."

"Fine by me," - Serlynne agreed,- "As long as we stay in contact via comm to coordinate our assault. And try not to get yourself killed too fast, Specialist Arrn. The longer you live, the greater the distraction you will cause."

Meanken chuckled at that as he started to walk away. Arnn chuckled too, assuming Serlynne had been joking. Surely they would all three manage to survive.

"If you want to, I could also order an artillery strike before we start shooting," he said. "That would take out some of them right at the beginning. Only if it fits with your plan, of course." He added.

Mean flipped around angrily "Moron! That could damage the cave, and I am not going to have this mission screwed up because you were afraid to get your hands dirty! No air strike!"

"Look, I don't know your military background," Arnn started "I served with the artillery during the last war and I know how to place strikes precise enough..." He stopped. Then he turned on a holographic map: "Anyways, where should I position myself?" he sighed.

"You are a distraction, so just kind of walk at the entrance and get their attention. Not hard." Mean rolled his eyes out of annoyance from having to explain it.

No way this guy is an Imperial agent, Arnn thought. He seems to have no idea how a distraction in battle works.

He waited a moment if the other agent would say something. If not, he would disobey this order. He had already picked a position he would use for the distraction. A position he could defend for more than a few seconds.

Serlynne, who finally saw a good spot for a sniper nest on one of the cliffs that were facing the cave,decided at first that Arnn should figure the answer to his question without her help, so she ignored him. But then the assassin realized that Mean is setting Arnns up for a quick death, and although it could solve their spy problem, Arnns' death would mean Serlynne will never know if he truly was a spy, and who the Specialist was working for.

"Please forgive my partner, he specializes in action, not strategy." - the assassin said. "As a scout, I am sure you know what you need to do to survive, so just do it. As for me, I am moving into position. Comm me when you are ready for me to open fire" With these words Serlynne turned away from the group and run towards the mountains nearby. She quickly approached the wall of the cliff and used her grappling hook pistol to ascend to the plateau on the top of it, disappearing from sight of her companions.

"Well, have fun." Mean reached down and fliped on his stealth belt, vanishing into the snow as he started making his way to the pirates.