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Aftermath


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Syart
11.06.2012 , 12:42 PM | #1
Part 1: In which a message is received

Kaliyo crawled blearily out of bed, ignored the shower, threw on a bathrobe and limped to the galley. “Coffee, hot, strong and plenty of it”, she mumbled at the ship droid.

Lokin looked up from his unsweetened skimmed milk porridge with extra oat bran. “Hung over again, Kaliyo?” he enquired, with precisely the right blend of condescending amusement and sarcasm in his voice to really get under her skin. She knew he did it deliberately, and he knew that she knew, but she was unable to stop herself reacting to it. This naturally only increased his amusement.

“It’s not a good day unless it starts with a hangover”, she growled.

“Fascinating”, said Scorpio. “I shall observe your actions and document precisely how your faculties are improved by this condition.” She hummed almost contentedly as her oil change continued. She insisted on performing her maintenance routines in the galley at mealtimes, in order to catalogue the social interactions of the crew and determine the best methods of destruction.

“Shut up, Scorpio, or I’ll wipe that permanent smirk off your metal face”, Kaliyo snapped back.

Scorpio buzzed and whirred briefly. “I estimate that you would have only a 17.92 percent chance of doing so in your present physical state. Do you concur, Doctor?”

Lokin pondered for a moment. “I really don’t consider myself qualified to judge the matter to that level of accuracy, my dear Scorpio.” He took another spoonful of porridge, managing (albeit with some effort) to look as though he was actually enjoying it. “We could go to the training room and perform some experiments later, however.” He beamed benevolently at Kaliyo.

“Shut up, ghoulhead!” Kaliyo stabbed a spoon viciously into her coffee cup and stirred violently and unnecessarily, splashing multiple drops of the hot liquid across the table, fortunately not hitting anyone, though she’d been trying to aim it at Lokin.

Vector was lost in contemplation of an orange, having eaten one segment of it, and apparently not paying attention, but he looked over at Kaliyo and stated solemnly: “We find it interesting that your aura changes after drinking alcohol.”

Kaliyo swallowed a mouthful of coffee and made a noise rather like a snarl. “How about we experiment on you, bugboy? I’ll tie you up and tip alcohol down your throat and you can watch your own aura changing!”

Vector pondered for a moment, then shook his head, replying seriously: “Since the joining, our metabolism has altered. Alcohol no longer has the same effect on us as on other species. We thought you were aware of this.”

“A very useful side effect, especially for diplomatic parties”, remarked Lokin cheerfully, as he scraped the last bit of porridge out of his bowl. “All that social drinking, circulating, and deal making, need to keep your wits about you. I’d started Protean on a project to see if that particular effect could be isolated and supplied to the Diplomatic Service. I’m sure they would have found it most useful.”

“Another of your private moneymaking projects, Doc?” sneered Kaliyo.

“A benefit to diplomats everywhere; the name of Eckard Lokin would surely be blessed. I expect Master Vector could regale us with many horrifying examples of alcohol-induced diplomatic disasters.” He looked over at Vector, who had returned to contemplation of the orange again and made no response.

Raina, who was on watch duty, stuck her head round the door. “Oh, I thought the agent would be in here, anyone know where she’s got to? There’s an urgent holomessage for her. Quadruple-encrypted, so it must be important.”

“She’s as paranoid as the Doc now, doesn’t mean anything”, Kaliyo shrugged, not quite spilling her coffee.

“I’ve taught her well”, Lokin nodded with smug superiority.

“The encryption isn’t the problem”, said Raina impatiently. “I've already cleared the first three levels. That's when I found out it’s from Republic space, and time-sensitive. It took so long to get through our alternative routers and firewalls that she’s got less than an hour before it expires.”

Scorpio clicked and buzzed, then announced: “According to ship sensors, the agent is in her quarters, viewing maps of Corellia. An individual of average intelligence would be able to deduce that this information could have been obtained from the control centre.”

Raina narrowed her eyes. “I was at the holoterminal, not in the control centre. This is closer, I thought she’d still be at breakfast, so I came here. Try programming common sense sometime, you ... you ... recycled protocol droid!”

“Your insults are meaningless”, intoned Scorpio.

Raina rolled her eyes and departed. Kaliyo drank three more cups of coffee in silence. Scorpio clicked and whirred occasionally. Lokin put his bowl and spoon into the washer, then contemplated Vector with something of the same expression with which Vector was examining his orange. Vector took no notice of any of them, but managed to eat another two orange segments over the next fifteen minutes.
Control, passion, diligence: these three principles shape your world.

Lord Scourge: To repeat a mistake and expect a beneficial outcome is a sign of insanity.

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imnotawitch
11.06.2012 , 02:10 PM | #2
Aww, we rarely see the agent companions detailed to this level in the first chapter of a fic, and I'm enjoying it. I love the mental image of Vector slowly nibbling on an orange slice. Is this it, or will we see more?
"Those who dance are considered insane by those who can't hear the music."- George Carlin
*Forever Shenanigans*

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Vesaniae
11.06.2012 , 02:11 PM | #3
Nice portrayal of the IA crew. I certainly hope there's more to come!
Force Lightning: The solution to every problem. Every. Problem.
Afterimages * Walking Penumbral * Like Moths to the Flame
Forever Shenanigans!

Syart's Avatar


Syart
11.07.2012 , 05:20 PM | #4
Quote: Originally Posted by imnotawitch View Post
Aww, we rarely see the agent companions detailed to this level in the first chapter of a fic, and I'm enjoying it. I love the mental image of Vector slowly nibbling on an orange slice. Is this it, or will we see more?
Quote: Originally Posted by Vesaniae View Post
Nice portrayal of the IA crew. I certainly hope there's more to come!
Thank you both for your kind words Yes, there is definitely a lot more to come, but after part 2 which I'm about to post, it may be a bit slow in the coming. I know where it's going, but it needs to get there, and I have a full time job as well as a gaming addiction
Control, passion, diligence: these three principles shape your world.

Lord Scourge: To repeat a mistake and expect a beneficial outcome is a sign of insanity.

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Syart
11.07.2012 , 05:26 PM | #5
Part 2: In which the message is understood

Raina knocked on the door of Quave’s quarters. “Are you in there?” she enquired, a bit pointlessly.

The door slid open and Quave looked up from her desk, wiping the screen as she did so. “What’s up, Raina?”

“Urgent message, Agent, time sensitive - I’ve taken down the first three encryption levels for you, quite difficult, but one of them was actually based on a Cheunh - Chiss language - algorithm which was standard protocol at the base on Hoth ...” She was waxing enthusiastic, but trailed off suddenly, as Quave was regarding her with an ironic “concentrate on the job in hand, Raina” expression. She handed over the message chip without further comment.

Quave snapped the chip into the slot on her workdesk and glanced at the lines of code that came up. Beyond widening her eyes briefly she made no sign. “I’ll sort it, thanks Raina.”

Doing her best to suppress curiosity, Raina went back to the bridge.

***

The intercom buzzed with the two short and one long signal that meant: “Urgent, get here now.”

Raina shot down the passageway from the bridge and collided with Kaliyo who was coming out of the galley, still carrying a coffee cup, fortunately empty. The two exchanged glares as they continued to the briefing room.

Lokin emerged from the medical bay carrying two datapads and a holorecorder, and clapped Vector on the shoulder as they met in the briefing room doorway. “Interesting times again, Master Vector, something to get our teeth into perhaps?”

“We are not sure that teeth will need to be involved, Doctor, but indeed we expect it to be of interest.” Vector spoke calmly and with no hint of humour. Lokin frowned internally but maintained his normal outward air of slightly smug benevolence. It annoyed him that he had still not managed to work out whether Vector’s literal response to certain figures of speech was genuine miscomprehension or done deliberately to wind him up.

Scorpio glided silently into the room and took up her customary place by the wall next to the door as the rest of them found chairs around the table. She had previously explained that, once she found a way to execute them, she had calculated that this would be the best position from which to implement it.

All of them gazed expectantly at the Agent.

Quave pushed the message chip into the holoviewer in the centre of the table, and her own image came up, dressed in a casual leather jacket and plain slacks with a pair of very serviceable-looking blaster pistols at her belt. She froze it in place. “Ladies, gentlemen, Scorpio ... meet my twin sister Cademuir.”

“Really, Agent, I’m impressed!” exclaimed Lokin. “I never found any trace of your family beyond Dromund Kaas. You hid her very well indeed!”

Raina switched her gaze back and forth between the image and Quave. “That’s amazing, you’re completely identical. I would have accepted her as you without even wondering!”

Quave shook her head with mock despair. “Raina, you really, really need to get more suspicious. You know I never use pistols.”

Lokin nodded sagely. “Paranoia always pays off, if only in an increased life expectancy.”

“We thought we knew your family, but you have never spoken of your sister to us”, said Vector, looking a little downcast. Quave patted his hand. “There were good reasons, love, you know I would have shared with you if I could.” She gave him a quick kiss on the cheek, at which he brightened up.

Kaliyo mimed vomiting into her coffee cup and muttered, “Get a room”.

Quave touched the play button on the console and the image spoke. The voice was a cheerful one, a bit higher pitched than Quave’s and had a marked Republic accent. Lokin raised his eyebrow slightly and Raina looked very surprised.

“Hey sis, bet you were never expectin’ to hear from me like this. I’ve called in sixteen favours from here to the Outer Rim to find you, and had to shift this message cross borders three times, you always were a pain in the butt, know that?” The saucy grin on Cademuir’s face belied her complaints. “Listen, somethin’s up, and a whole load of big shots have gotten more antsy than an akk dog with ginger up its backside.”

“A colourful lady, this sister of yours”, murmured Lokin.

“Seems some Jedi are lookin’ for you, ‘cept it’s on behalf of a Sith, not Jadus, some new bigshot callin' herself Wrath or somethin' like that. Guss says the Jedi check out, he met one of ‘em on Tython, and the message came in from an Imp bounty hunter who did a couple of jobs for Nok Drayen so Risha vouches for him. The other Jedi's sister is a free trader workin' central mostly, she's confirmed it's legit. Got Republic military in it somewheres too, haven’t figured that bit yet, but I’ll tell ya it’s not good for business, havin’ those types show up here. Makes the locals kinda jumpy, y’know?” She grinned again. “I’m just tellin you all this so you know it’s important, ok?”

Quave pressed the pause button again and the image froze.

“Are you sure the message is genuine?” enquired Lokin.

“Oh yes,” replied Quave. “She included plenty of identifiers in it, and the final encryption level was a personal one.” She eyed Lokin. “And no, you may not have a copy to analyse and figure out how to fake it.”

Lokin threw up his hands and feigned injured innocence. “Agent! Would I do such a thing?”

“Sure you would, Doc.” “Yes, I think so.” “It would accord with my observations of your standard behaviour.” “We consider that to be quite likely, Doctor.” “I would, and I learned from you”, came simultaneously from Kaliyo, Raina, Scorpio, Vector, and Quave.

“Dear me”, sighed Lokin. “What a dreadful opinion you all have of me.” He dropped his hands again and smiled blandly. “All quite correct, of course.”

He looked back to Quave. “So, Agent, what comes next?”

“Some personal stuff.” She fiddled with the console and Cademuir’s image jumped a bit, then continued, “... the old place. So I’m guessin’ best thing is, you come on over nowhere, and you can talk to the Jedi folks for settin’ up a meetin’. Bring that motley crew of yours, ‘bout time I met them, ‘specially that handsome hunk of a ...”

Quave stabbed the pause button again hastily, but not quite in time to prevent “bug-eyed monster” slipping out. Vector’s face went extremely blank. Kaliyo laughed heartily, Raina started to join in then looked ashamed of herself, even Lokin’s lips twitched very slightly. Scorpio said something about noting how much humans enjoyed insults, but was mostly drowned out by Kaliyo’s guffaws.

Quave took Vector’s hand in hers. “Listen, I never said that to her, love, she doesn’t understand or know you yet.”

Kaliyo stopped laughing and mimed vomiting again.
Control, passion, diligence: these three principles shape your world.

Lord Scourge: To repeat a mistake and expect a beneficial outcome is a sign of insanity.

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Syart
11.10.2012 , 07:24 AM | #6
Spoiler warning! From now on, this thread will contain major spoilers for the (mostly light side) warrior, (mostly dark side) agent, and (neutral) smuggler stories, also some of the companion stories, and elements from the knight, trooper and bounty hunter. I've not managed to complete either a consular or inquisitor yet, never been good with mages I’m working on it.

Part 3: In which nowhere turns out to be somewhere

Lokin was watching the scans on the Infinity's bridge while Raina idled in the pilot's chair with the ship running on auto. “Hmm... that appears to be an Azalus-class Hutt dreadnaught we're heading for, not a space station. Interesting. Years since I was last on one of those.” His fingers skipped across the board, calling up some schematics.

“That's what's at the coordinates the Agent's sister sent.” Raina shrugged. “I guess it means they can move it around if they want to.”

“Indeed, easier to hide than a space station. Port Nowhere seems an apt name for it.” He looked up as the com buzzed. “Ah, briefing time.”

They walked down to the briefing room and joined the others as they all sat in their usual seats, except Scorpio, who was by the door as normal.

Without preamble Quave announced: “It'll only be me and Kaliyo going on-station. I want the rest of you here, in case something goes wrong.”

“Do you expect a trap?” Lokin enquired brightly?

Scorpio emanated an aura of hopefulness.

Quave shrugged. “Didn't you tell me once that you always thought everything was a trap, and that was why you were still alive?” Lokin chuckled, and she carried on. “I don't expect a trap, Cade wouldn't do that to me, not knowingly. But it's possible she might have been set up, for all the this person vouches for that person stuff.” She looked around. “You can all listen in on holo, and I want it recorded every which way.” Lokin nodded.

Kaliyo yawned and looked bored, clearly having already been told of Quave's decision.

“We were looking forward to seeing this place and meeting your family.” Vector looked disappointed, as did Raina.

“I'll bring Cade over to the ship later, once this is all sorted.” She smiled kindly at him. “I want Kaliyo because this is her sort of place: lawless, dangerous, a lot of very nasty people.”

“Aww, Agent, skip the compliments”, said Kaliyo with heavy sarcasm.

Quave grinned. “If there's something wrong, you're going to spot it before any of the others do.”

The proximity alarm pinged at that moment and they dispersed.

Raina expertly piloted the ship to the docking port they'd been assigned and cut the engines to standby mode. Quave and Kaliyo waited through the clangs and bumps of the airlock connectors, then made their way down the access tunnel and into the main dock. There was a small knot of people at the exit, one of whom, a smiling young man with a scarred face, detached himself from the group and came over to them. “Welcome to Port Nowhere, Agent. Cap'n's in the private bar, I'll take you along there.”

“This is Kaliyo. I'm guessing you're Corso Riggs?” asked Quave.

“Yep, that's me, been with the Cap'n since Ord Mantell and that dumb, ugly pirate Skavak screwed us over. We got him good in the end, now he's dumb, ugly, and dead.” He led them along a series of passageways and up a couple of turbolifts, chatting cheerfully about Cademuir’s past exploits as they went. There were plenty of other people around, but mostly silent or in furtive conversation. A lot turned to watch them as they went past, and Quave started to feel a bit twitchy. Kaliyo was looking around with cynical, calculating eyes.

Eventually they came into what was clearly the main hub of the station, a huge brightly-lit cantina with multiple bars; pazaak, sabaac and other games going on; sinuous dancing girls making themselves agreeably decorative. There was a loud hum of conversation (and a few louder arguments) and the band was playing one of the latest hits.

Without pausing, however, Corso led them straight across to another turbolift. A red-skinned zabrak with a fierce expression, dressed in Mandalorian armour and carrying a vicious-looking electrostaff, was guarding it.

She didn't move as the three of them came up. “Hey Akaavi, let 'em go on up, will you?” said Corso.

The Zabrak twitched her electrostaff . “How do you know these are the guests the Captain is expecting?”

Corso sighed with exaggerated patience. “How come you ain't recognisin' the Agent? She's the Cap'n's double!”

“Faces can be faked”, said Akaavi without humour. “I will accompany them and bring death on the enemies of the clan if necessary.”

“She should come and meet Scorpio”, Kaliyo muttered to Quave. “Got a lot in common.” Quave coughed to conceal a laugh.

“I'll see you later, ladies, gotta go meet the other lot now. Akaavi'll look after you.” Corso grinned and headed back the way they'd come.

They came out of the lift into a much smaller room, with a few tables and chairs scattered around, and a well-stocked bar over to one side with a droid attendant.

Cademuir was sitting at one of the tables with a small Mon Calamari and a large Wookie, and another woman with a heavily made up, rather petulant face. Two Rattataki men were standing at the bar. The taller one had a drink in his hand and was talking earnestly in a low voice, the other listening while picking his nails with a small knife, which he returned to a belt pocket as they came in.

“Quave!” Cademuir leapt up and the sisters hugged. “Great you could get here – you've met Corso and Akaavi, this here's Risha, Guss, and Bowdaar. Over by the bar is Ivory and Redsike.” She pointed to each in turn.

“Good to meet you all.” Quave smiled politely.

Kaliyo smiled snakily at the Rattataki with the drink. “Hey Ivory. See you got off Belsavis then.”

Ivory shrugged. “I was doing well enough. Captain there needed a hand, we teamed up, came here.”

“Ain't so much how I remember it.” Cademuir grinned, but with no malice. “Fine dance you led me, but it worked out in the end.”

“You know each other?” Quave enquired of Kaliyo.

“Ivory and I go way back, Agent.” She looked over at him again. “Fancy getting reacquainted, say, over a few drinks? And who's your cute friend?”

Ivory grinned. “I wanna hear how the Wheezer got it, guess he finally bit off more than he could chew with you. And I'll introduce you to Red here, you'll get along real great.”

Quave sighed slightly. “Not now Kaliyo, you can go off and have fun later.”

“Sure thing, Agent.”

The smaller Rattataki listened without apparent reaction, his seamed face expressionless, his ice-grey eyes unreadable. Quave noted the amount of weaponry he was carrying. And I'll bet he's got plenty more concealed as well, she thought. Bounty hunter for sure, and a good one, most likely.

Cademuir’s holocom beeped and she flicked it on. Corso's cheerful face appeared. “Just got the Mistrunner dockin' now, Cap'n. They'll be on station in 'bout 5 minutes. I made 'em promise the trooper wasn't in uniform.” Cademuir nodded. “Thanks Corso. Bring 'em up to my office, we'll head over there now.”

“You got it Cap'n.” He ended the call and vanished.

She gestured to a door over to their left. “C'mon Quave, time to meet the Republic without puttin' a bolt through its skull.” She grinned.
Control, passion, diligence: these three principles shape your world.

Lord Scourge: To repeat a mistake and expect a beneficial outcome is a sign of insanity.

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Syart
11.13.2012 , 03:19 PM | #7
Ultimately, the basis of this story stems from the rationalisation/resolution I wrote for the "Quinncident" (not sure where I plagiarised that from, but thanks to the inventor )

However, the way I wrote it, it's in a completely different style to this thread, and inevitably much heavier and more intense, also very long. So, despite it being the fundamental beginning of this story, I don't feel happy including it here. I've posted it separately [A Price Worth Paying], but to save you from having to read it all, this next chapter is an OOC summary of the essential points.


Part 4: OOC - In which the reason for the Cipher hunt is explained

While Quinn was working for Baras on Balmorra, he discovered quite a few things about his boss:
  1. Baras was concerned that his family's Force power had been diluted over the generations by intermarrying with weak or even non-Force users. He and Ekkage were the only powerful Force users in their generation. Hence, he had spent many years trying to remedy this and improve the stock, and ensure a large and powerful set of children and grandchildren whom he could dominate and use to gain the power he craved.
  2. He started off with an incestuous relationship with Ekkage, which produced Draahg.
  3. More children were planned, but then Ekkage vanished, so Baras started to investigate cloning, gene-splicing, and similar ideas. This got him to an organisation called Project Protean.
  4. Protean set up a separate autonomous unit to work on Baras's requirements under a cloak of strict secrecy, in common with most of his projects.
  5. But clones and suchlike don't spring into existence overnight, and Baras was never going to restrict himself when it came to his secret plans for universal domination, so he began hunting for other potential breeding partners for himself and Draahg.
  6. As one of these, he found Drumelzier (Zier), who was Zabrak rather than human, but was an exceptionally powerful Force-sensitive and young (17) and impressionable enough to be perfect for his purposes. He took her as his apprentice and began to try and bind her to him*, treating her well, ensuring her loyalty and happiness in his service and trying to soften her up for his future intentions**.

* Including making creepy comments like "This proves you belong at my side", which is what sparked this whole idea off.
** This also provided another reason for me as to why Quinn was initially so unwilling to accept Zier’s advances, since he was obviously attracted to her. If he knew she was marked by Baras for his own use, he wouldn't dare touch her and therefore took refuge behind military protocol. However, once it was plain that Baras was out of the picture, Quinn was able to follow his own feelings.


Later, when Baras contacted Quinn to force him to attack Zier, he told Quinn that he had been unsettled (read: seriously worried) by her success with Nomen Karr and Jaesa. Baras had realised that, firstly, Zier had become too independently-minded and powerful to be willingly seduced (literally) into his schemes; and secondly, regardless of her loyalty, there was a high probability that she would eventually challenge him. He did not, however, entirely abandon his schemes for using her as breeding stock.

He used Zier’s power to implement Plan Zero and bring down Darth Vengean, then set up the plot with Draahg to disable her on Quesh. When he discovered that failure he continued his efforts, including setting Quinn up.

Quinn explained all this to Zier, and expressed his unhappiness and concern over her leaving Baras alive [I took the imprisoning him forever option]. It would be very unlike Baras not to have provided for all possible contingencies, and Quinn was certain that Baras would have arranged for his clones and/or other offspring to free him in the event of any imprisonment or exile.

Draahg was accounted for, but it was clearly necessary to find any other existing Baras-offshoots and dispose of them, which meant locating Protean's secret project. Quinn knew of its existence, but had never found out where it was, nor exactly what the project team had done.

Zier and Quave have met several times, and Quinn knows from conversations with Lokin that he had been associated with Protean in the past. So they have decided that a good starting point would be to find Quave in order to get in contact with Lokin. This should have been straightforward, but ....
Control, passion, diligence: these three principles shape your world.

Lord Scourge: To repeat a mistake and expect a beneficial outcome is a sign of insanity.

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Syart
11.16.2012 , 12:35 PM | #8
(Approximately 2 months before the message received by Quave, and immediately after the events in A Price Worth Paying)

Part 5: In which a hunt begins

As the shuttle approached the ship, Quinn became visibly nervous. “My lord ... what did you say to the crew?”

“Oh, sorry Mal, I’m too happy to think straight.” Zier smiled blissfully. “I told them I was going to sort things out one way or another, and get back together with you if I could. If we come back together, everything’s good and if they say one word to you about what happened, or act in any way like things aren't back to normal, I’ll be using them as a replacement for the training dummy.”

“What if … ?”

“If we didn’t get back together, you wouldn’t be coming back at all, you’d have been on your way to Dantooine as a Moff. If that happened, and they said anything to me about it, I’d be using them as a replacement for the training dummy.” She grinned.

Unable to suppress his curiosity, he asked: “What was their reaction?”

She grinned again. “You can probably guess ... Jaesa is very hopeful and will be happy; Pierce said if it’s what I wanted he’d go with it, but you’re a slippery little bastard and he’d still keep an eye on you; Broonmark just said: “Sith speaks, Broonmark obeys”; and Vette said it was about time we made up because, apparently, living with me at the moment is like having your own personal thunderstorm.”

He didn’t say anything and she poked him. “Are you sure you don’t want to be a Moff? You’d be a very good one, you know, no Broyscisms from you. In fact, I kind of wish you would take the promotion, after I spent time arranging it for you.”

“My Lord, I would rather be at your side as a humble Captain than ....” he stopped and smiled ruefully. “You are too fond of teasing me.”

“At least you’re getting better at recognising it.” She chuckled. “I shall have to up my game.”

“As you wish, my Lord, I look forward to the combat.” He smiled and kissed her. “But, to return to what you were saying, there is something we will have to discuss with the crew: namely the matter of Baras and his plans. He will not have neglected to prepare for all possible contingencies, and as I know, he was concerned that you might defeat him. I strongly suspect that, if his dynastic ambitions have been fulfilled in any way, he will have made arrangements for his ... ah ... family to work on getting him out of prison or exile, or to take over his possessions and power base in the event of his death.”

“Probably still guided by himself, Baras would be a restless Sith spirit for sure. You do have a good point there. How can we find out if there are any little mini-Barases running around?” She shuddered. “Awful thought.”

The shuttle had finished the docking procedure by then, and they re-entered the ship. Jaesa was waiting for them. She smiled happily at them and hugged Zier quickly. “Welcome back, Master. I have good news, Master Timmns will be here tomorrow, with another Jedi Master. They’ll meet you at the Elysium at noon local time.”

Zier looked nervous for a moment. “I hope this works. But right now, we have a small problem ... can you get the rest of the crew together? Quinn has found out some things about Baras.”

****

Quinn concluded: “I believe, therefore, that our best approach, at least initially, will be to find Project Protean’s subidiary and find out exactly what they have done. We must establish first that there is a threat, before making plans to deal with it.”

Pierce was scowling. “Fat bastard did a lot he oughtn’t, I ain’t letting him get away with this. Tell us where to look for these clones, I’ll introduce 'em to my rifle, up close and personal.”

Vette wrinkled her nose. “Baby Barases ... I’d rather have a herd of baby rancors. But I’ll get on the net and the archives, see what's there.”

Pierce nodded. “I’ll talk to my Black Ops guys too, if there’s anything they got we’ll know about it.”

Quinn nodded his thanks. “As I explained, I know that Cipher Nine’s associate Dr Lokin was part of Protean at one time. Imperial Intelligence as such is no more, but using your authority, my Lord”, he looked at Zier, “I should have no difficulty obtaining their records and from those we should be able to locate him.”

Broonmark trumpeted: “Sith clan seeks, Broonmark will hunt. Talz may know. Broonmark goes to Hoth.”

He rose and stalked out, leaving a vaguely stunned silence behind him.
Control, passion, diligence: these three principles shape your world.

Lord Scourge: To repeat a mistake and expect a beneficial outcome is a sign of insanity.

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Syart
11.19.2012 , 02:45 PM | #9
Part 6: In which there is a conversation

Jaesa, Quinn and Zier went down to Alderaan together the next day, leaving Vette and Pierce to look after the ship and start hunting for Baras-offshoots. Quinn and Zier were in something of a second honeymoon haze (“Not that we ever had a first honeymoon”, she'd muttered to Quinn), and not really concentrating.

Jaesa hoped they’d snap out of it before the Elysium. She might share Zier's hopes for a new Empire, but that didn't mean she wanted to be the one trying to start it. All the way there, she was trying to work out the best way to get herself and Zier talking to the Jedi with Quinn being somewhere completely different so as not to distract Zier. She was happy for them, but she didn't want this first and all-important meeting to go wrong.

In the event, it wasn't a problem. They arrived at the Elysium, Zier striding forward confidently from the taxi, and then found their way barred by the most enormous and darkest-skinned Zabrak they had ever seen, an ebony giant in full Republic battle armour minus the helmet, and carrying a huge assault cannon as easily as though it was a blaster pistol. “Major Standtrae, Havoc Squad”, he announced in a deep rumbling voice which fitted him perfectly. “Your escort for today. Don't make me do anything you might regret.”

Zier drew herself up to her full height, which put her eyes approximately on a level with the middle of his chest, and stared up at him, letting some red fire leak into her eyes. “Darth Drumelzier, Wrath of the Emperor. My Apprentice, Lord Jaesa Willsaam. My husband and ship's captain, Malavai Quinn.”

Major Standtrae narrowed his eyes at Quinn. “Captain, huh? Military?”

Quinn had no chance of matching the Major's imposing physical presence, but he could do cold stares pretty well and aimed one at Standtrae. “I serve the Empire in a military capacity, that is correct.”

“Maybe we'll have a discussion about that, while the Sith ladies talk to the Masters. They're waiting for you now.”

Without waiting for a response, he turned his back and walked away. They followed, watched by what felt like a thousand hostile Jedi eyes.

Zier murmured to Jaesa, “For all the Jedi claim to have “no emotion, only peace”, I’m feeling an awful lot of hate washing around here.”

Jaesa nodded sadly. “Yes master, I feel it too. You showed me how much of a lie they live. I hope we can teach them better.”

“They should have learned from what happened to your old master”, Zier sighed.

Major Standtrae reached the end of a short side corridor at that moment and opened the door into a small room in which Master Timmns was waiting. Timmns sprang up from his chair with every appearance of delight at their arrival. “Lord Drumelzier! Darth, I should say. You’ve come a long way from that vault on Belsavis. It’s good to see you, I hoped that something might come of our collaboration. You puzzled the Council a great deal, you know, myself included.” He chuckled.

Zier glanced at Jaesa who gave a tiny nod. “Yes, it’s genuine, he really is pleased to see us.”

“Let me introduce my colleague, one of our youngest and newest Jedi Knights, Taberon. The Council – those who agreed with this meeting, anyway – thought it would be good for you to meet a fellow Zabrak as well as myself.”

The other man, another very dark skinned Zabrak, had also risen when they came in, but stood quietly in the background waiting for Timmns. He bowed politely, with a neutral expression. “My Master, Orgus Din, is very interested in what might be spoken here today, but was unable to join us. He proposed that I represented him at this meeting, and I was glad to accept.”

Zier glanced at Jaesa again, who made a miniscule shrug and a slight sideways turn of her head. “Not being completely honest, but not hostile, open-minded enough to listen.”

“Come and sit down”, said Timmns hospitably, gesturing at a low table with four comfortable chairs arranged round it. “I'm afraid we only have water to drink, but I'm sure we could find something stronger if you preferred it.”

"Water will be fine", said Zier, as she moved towards one of the free chairs.

“Guess we’ll leave you to it”, Standtrae rumbled. “Come along, Captain, we’ll let them talk in peace.” He led Quinn out of the room, much to Jaesa’s relief.

Spoiler
Control, passion, diligence: these three principles shape your world.

Lord Scourge: To repeat a mistake and expect a beneficial outcome is a sign of insanity.

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Syart
11.20.2012 , 01:34 PM | #10
Part 7: In which there is another conversation

Standtrae and Quinn walked back to the start of the corridor. Quinn automatically took up a standard guarding position, but Standtrae lounged casually against the wall and stared down at him, completely at ease and clearly believing himself superior in every way.

“You've heard of Havoc, right? Guess we've caused you Imps a few problems here and there.” Standtrae grinned, not exactly maliciously, but definitely with enjoyment.

Quinn maintained his forward gaze. “Possibly not as many problems as when the entirety of Havoc Squad defected to the Empire after being abandoned by their Republic overlords.”

Standtrae roared with laughter. “Good answer! Guess you Imps do have a sense of humour after all, hidden somewhere behind that stiff-arsed outside. Wasn't quite the whole squad though, they left a rookie Sergeant behind. And we got a couple of 'em back including Tavus, even if I had to down some of the others.”

“You were the rookie Sergeant, I take it?”

“Too right.” Standtrae shook his head. “Got to admit, it wasn't all easy. Can't deny you Imps can be pretty tough, but nothing stops Havoc Squad. You ever on Balmorra?”

Taken by surprise, Quinn turned his head to look at Standtrae. “Yes, I served on Balmorra for a number of years. Why do you ask?”

Standtrae shrugged. “Just wondering. My home planet, see? I grew up in the Resistance, got recruited by the Republic. They tried to get my sister Deuchar as well, best pilot I've ever known, but she told 'em to stuff it. She's a free trader now, working the Core Worlds mostly. Taberon's our kid brother. Jedi found him first, got him shipped off Balmorra for training. Was Republic military shipped him out, that's how they found me and Deuchar.” He shrugged. “Funny how things work out. Might've been me chucking a bomb at you sometime.”

“That may be possble, but if so, you missed, as you can see.” Quinn tried another cold stare.

Standtrae laughed uproariously again. “You have got a sense of humour, Captain, I swear I'm starting to like you. I got to try pushing Dorne a bit more, maybe she'll lighten up eventually.”

Quinn blinked. “Dorne?”

“My squad medic. Imp defector, pretty good, proved herself enough in Havoc.” Standtrae frowned. “Still gets hassle from security though.”

“Not Elara Dorne?”

“Yep, that's her. Say, you know her?”

“I did field medic training with an Elara Dorne.” Quinn rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “If I'm honest, she was the only person I ever met who was more concerned with military protocol and regulations than myself.”

“You ain't wrong there, poor lass.” Standtrae grinned wryly. “Brilliant officer, but I've got a few free spirits in Havoc, she does get on the wrong side of 'em. They're all off on R&R at the moment, hopefully they won't murder her before I get back.”

Quinn looked at him enquiringly.

“I'm here unofficially. Taberon asked if I'd come along and lend a hand in case things got awkward. Most of the Jedi here are historians, archaeologists, that sort of thing, not that they can't fight if they're pushed, but not many of 'em good at it, and not many been up against full Sith. Tab reckoned I'd be handy if it came to scrapping.” He shrugged.

“I see.” Quinn nodded. “You did not expect us to be trustworthy. It is also a good thing you did not bring Dorne with you. If we meet, I will execute her for treason to the Empire.”

“Don't take it personally, we've had a few bad experiences. And lay off Dorne, she had her reasons.” Grey eyes met blue in glacial competition.

“A traitor is a traitor! And Darth Drumelzier's honour is unquestionable ...” Quinn started, his hackles rising angrily in Zier's defence, but Standtrae held up his hands pacifyingly.

“Whoa, I told you not to take it personally, I take things as they come, and I ain't seen anything that worries me yet. Your ladies don't look that threatening anyway. But orders from the Jedi Council said to be prepared, right? So, Tab's just being a good boy and following orders.”

By unspoken mutual consent they dropped the subject, and Standtrae began regaling Quinn with stories of his time in the Balmorran resistance, and some of Havoc Squad's escapades. Quinn listened closely, and soon realised that, despite his open and cheerful demeanour, and seemingly thoughtless garrulity, Standtrae was in fact extremely careful not to let any militarily useful secrets slip out. Reluctantly, he began to develop some respect for the giant Zabrak. A deep one, this Major, a force to be reckoned with, he thought to himself.
Control, passion, diligence: these three principles shape your world.

Lord Scourge: To repeat a mistake and expect a beneficial outcome is a sign of insanity.