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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)

LogicLoup's Avatar


LogicLoup
01.05.2013 , 08:46 AM | #41
Somewhere Underground, Nar Shaddaa


Dredd led the group of ragtag criminals deeper and deeper into his employers bunker, if you could call it that. It seemed more of an underground mansion than anything else. There were pristine, grandiose hallways that wouldn't seem out of place on Alderaan, or perhaps even on the higher class homes on Coruscant, and they even caught a glimpse of a dining hall fit for a king, with a low hanging chandelier, and its light dancing off of silver plates and utensils.

"This place has always been a bit much for me." Dredd shrugged idly, not really directing his speech at anyone.

These luxuriant surroundings instantly reminded Serlynne about the time she was working for Jargo. The inner interior of the Hutts' palaces looked pretty much the same as the hallway she was crossing right now, making the assassin slightly more nervous, due to her bad memories about these places.

From the back of the group, Maneera kept anxious watch. "How do you hide someplace like this?" she wondered.

"Money and Intelligence are powerful tools." Dredd replied over his shoulder, as he took a sharp right into a new corridor.

The walls in this hallway were not as ornate and decorative as the last few, but instead were a more practical white. They passed through an opaque plastic barrier, the smell of chemicals instantly filling their nostrils. Dredd led them to a door at the end of the hallway, simply marked "Laboratory 1".

"Ah, Dredd! Fantastic work, knew holocron would get here." Arthen walked quickly up to the Mandolorian, a labcoat swirling around him as he flipped an empty beaker in his hand. "Was just about to test new acid. Care to see? Of course!" Arthen grinned at the rest of the now bewildered crooks, spinning quickly on his heel. Before he moved to steps, Nayar's hand landed on his shoulder.

"Now, hang on a second, Doc. Where's the creds?" Nayar asked slowly, making sure he had eye contact with Arthen. "I don't know if those chemicals addled your brain with that speech o' yers, but I'm not budging until I'm paid."

Maneera stumbled as she backed frantically away from Arthen's approach. "Gotta go, Boss, can't stay here. Get the payment and let's go."

Serlynne, who was silently studying Arthen, gave her a puzzled look, then said, "Actually, this is not the best idea. Let him tell us what is on the holocron first. I have a feeling that whatever it is, it's worth much more than we think."

"Nerama, calm yourself. Az, this damn cube isn't worth any more of my time. I couldn't care less what's on it-"

"A map," Arthen shrugged, then shook his head. "I apologize for my speaking earlier. I ignore personal pronouns when I think to myself during experiments. I assume you saw the lavish interior of the base? Not my taste, personally, but the people who fund my experiments demand. . . accommodations to their likings." Arthen nearly spit the word, then shifted his eyes to Nerama. "My my, you are a jumpy little human, aren't you?"

"And what if she is?" Nayar questioned right back, one hand coming to rest on his blaster.

"Well, it just seems as though she's caught a bit of Sith curse. I can feel the Force roiling from her mind, blocking her frontal lobe, and agitating the amygdala," Arthen put his hand to his chin, stroking the area.

"Okay, just... just stay back." Maneera lowered her scattergun to point toward Arthen, bracing the stock against her hip, and waved him away with the other hand. "Someone please tell me I'm not the only person thinking Crazy Robe Guy sounds crazy."

"Well given the fact that we all saw a Sith in that vault, this guy may be right," said Serlynne. "Now put down your weapon before you do anything stupid."

"For your information, I am wearing a labcoat, not a robe. So it'd be Crazy Labcoat Guy, Nerama." Arthen didn't move a muscle as she aimed the scattergun at him. "As for the curse, I'm no healer, but perhaps. . ." Arthen closed his eyes, focusing his own Force energy to combat Maneera's paranoia, soothing waves of Force moving into Maneera's mind.

Maneera pulled in an anxious breath and held it a moment, before exhaling in a sigh. "So yeah," she said, grinning sheepishly. "This is the part where I apologize, I guess." There was a faint electronic whine as she disengaged the power cell on her scattergun.

Serlynne stared at Nerama in disbelief, then switched to Arthen. "That's it?" asked she, not bothering to hide notes of doubt in her voice. "Can't believe it was so simple."

Arthen slumped against the wall as he finished, one hand rubbing his temple. "The Force is capable of many things, but like life, extend too much, and it will kill you. Were it not for how. . . common the curse was, I would have said you fought a Darth. But more likely, it was a Lord; perhaps an apprentice. But I doubt that."

"The lady we fought seemed more like the lower class of Sith. Hell if I know, though, I just hate them," Nayar ground out as he bumped Maneera. "You uncrazy now, Nerama?"

"Near as I can tell, yeah," Maneera replied as she gently elbowed Nayar. Frowning, she turned her attention to Arthen. "Uhh, hey. Doctor... Master... Labcoat Guy. You okay? You look kinda wiped."

Dredd hurried to Arthen's side with a chair from one of the lab stations. "My friend," the large man breathed quietly as he helped the scientist into the seat, his concern poorly hidden. "Are you alright?"

"Bah, I'm not a feeble old man, Dredd. I just haven't practiced in a while, of course it'd wind me," Arthen grumbled as he was pushed into the seat. "As for how you may address me, I prefer Doctor Kole, if possible. I'm fine, I just need to catch my breath."

"So what are you exactly, Doctor Kole?" inquered Serlynne. "A Jedi? A Sith? Or just an independent Force user?"

"The latter, to be truthful, but my past is quite inconsequential. Come now, let me see the holocron," Arthen motioned, Dredd stepping back from where Arthen sat, still keeping a close eye on him.

Nayar gave both Serlyenne and Maneera a questioning look, before he moved on hand to his blaster, and the other inside his jacket to remove the lavender holocron. He gave it to Maneera to hold as he eyed Arthen. "Now, the payment will need to be split evenly by three, so I hope you're prepared to do so."

"Indeed, you fulfilled the bounty, so by all means. Dredd, please split the creds on this stick 100k each — one for every member of our little gang here." Arthen handed the tall Mandolorian a credit stick, then relaxed in his seat. At this movement, the labcoat fell far to the side to revel a double-saber hanging from Arthen's hip.

"Funny thing about this holocron," said Serlynne slowly, addressing no one in particular. "It seems both the Republic and the Empire want it pretty badly. Makes you wonder what all this fuss is about."

"Bah, it's a holocron. They believe they'll find some ancient super-weapon or some other nonsense on it—"

"When did you leave the Order?" Maneera interrupted, her fingertips hooking into the carved-out sections of the holocron's casing.

"The Order? Where did- Ah. My saber," Arthen removed it from his hip, twirling the deadly handle as though it were a baton. "A long time ago. Far too long to dwell on." Arthen leaned forward suddenly. "But, Nerama, how did you know this was a Jedi's saber, and not a Sith's?"

"Yeah, Nerama, how did ya? It just looks like a saber to me." Nayar looked at her.

Maneera shrugged, forcing her tone to stay light and careless. "You grow up around the Temple, you learn to notice things."

"So you do. . ." Arthen mused, glancing one more time at Maneera before snapping his fingers. "Dredd! Where is my clients' payment?"

Dredd came forward, passing three separate credit sticks to each of the criminals who had captured the holocron in silence.

Serlynne took the stick from Dredd and inserted it into her datapad, making sure that it contained the proper amount of credits. Then she carefully hid it inside one of her suit's pockets.

"So, you mentioned a map." said the assassin casually. "I doubt we are talking about some stupid pirate treasure, buried on a distant planet, right?"

"Well, to a degree, that's exactly what it is. But I would very much like my holocron now." Arthen outstretched his arm to Maneera as Nayar finished his own check on their sticks. Each held the correct amount of creds.

Maneera started to hold out the holocron, then paused, looking to Nayar. "Everything looking legit, Boss? It's your call."

Nayar nodded at Maneera to hand it over, pocketing his cred-stick while holding hers ready after she gave Arthen the holocron.

"Okay then." Maneera set the holocron in Arthen's hand. "All yours, Doctor. Unless there's anything else that needs discussed, we've got a reward to spend."

Arthen took the holocron almost reverently. "Splendid. Absolutely splendid. I feel as giddy as a child on Life Day morning!" Arthen exclaimed, already moving the holocron in his hands. "As I look at the time, I realize it is already quiet late, and this corner of Nar Shaddaa is very. . . unscrupulous at night. Would you like for me to arrange for rooms? If not, I can have Dredd escort you all back."

"Actually, the room sounds great. I would like to get one," smiled Serlynne.

Maneera gave an exaggeratedly indifferent shrug. "When is Nar Shaddaa not unscrupulous?"

"A fair enough point, my dear Nerama. But the offer still stands," Arthen agreed.

Nayar nodded. "I figure we could use a break from the ol' gal, eh, Nerama? What do you think?"

"Well, if you're staying, someone's gonna have to keep an eye on you," Maneera replied, grinning. "And besides, if the girls and cantinas aren't still there tomorrow, we've got bigger problems than a missed night on the town."

Serlynne shot the duo an annoyed look, but didn't say anything. Instead she turned to Arthen and asked, "You said something about people funding your work here. I hope they won't mind you having guests?"

"Cretins as rich as them don't care what happens here, so long as I produce results. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need time to myself," Arthen graciously bowed, and promptly spun away from the group to a door marked "Testing Site 3", holocron in hand. "Dredd, please have some of the other workers around here show our guests to their quarters."

Dredd hit a small button on the wall near the door, and within moments a nervous man with distinct birdlike features appeared, an inquisitive look on his face. "You called, sir?" he asked.

"Juris, Mr. Kole would like you to show our guests here to some rooms." He directed Juris' eyesight towards the trio of criminals with a slight inclination of his head.

"Ah, yes sir, very good sir. Would they prefer the suites? Or something more practical?" He chattered on, his head moving in a distinct twitch as he spoke. "Perhaps the Hurvey Room? I don't know if the Hurvey room is ready though. I think Tonnil's in there now. I can al-"

"Enough, Juris." The large Mandalorian shook his head, obviously a bit annoyed by the quirky man. "Just put them in a room. I really don't care which one."

"Yes, sir. I'm sorry sir," he apologized as he turned to his charges, extending a hand in a dramatic motion towards the door. "If you would be so kind."

An audible sigh was heard from Dredd as the odd man hurried out the door.

The minute they left the room, Serlynne stopped dead in her tracks and said coldly to their guide, "Let's get one thing straight first. I don't give a rat's *** about what Dredd told you. I am not going to stay in the same room with these two, so you need to find me another one. Am I clear?"

"Our apologies, Mister Juris," said Maneera as she stepped up to stand closer to Nayar. "I'm sure whatever kind of space you can dig up for us will be fine."

"From the way she said it, Nerama, one could almost come to the conclusion that Az doesn't like us," Nayar nudged Maneera playfully. "I think my manly feelings are hurt." Maneera snickered, returning the nudge as she rolled her eyes.

"It's quite fine, ma'am," Juris reassured, a slight glare aimed at Serlynne before looking back at Maneera. "Everyone shall have their separate rooms."

"Excellent," nodded Serlynne approvingly, then added, "Don't flatter yourself, Alecs, it has nothing to do with any of you. I just value my privacy."

"Privacy. Right. Bet you're gonna make a bunch of calls to your Sithy employers. . ." Nayar joked, a wide grin plastered on his face as Juris led them all away.

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

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LogicLoup
01.06.2013 , 08:43 PM | #42
Somewhere Underground, Nar Shaddaa


Under the cover of a Force veil, Soleta and Quintus had cautiously negotiated the maze of corridors through the underground lair, on the trail of Arthen's messenger. The pair reached the entry to Laboratory 1 just in time to see the band of criminals leave through one door, and Arthen through another. Quickly, Soleta tugged her saber hilt from her belt and handed it to Q. "Keep this safe," she insisted in a sharp whisper. "I'll keep you hidden as long as I can, but you should find cover." Without waiting for a response, she strode into the lab, heading directly for Dredd. "Good evening," she called, her arms spread and hands open and empty. "I would like to have a word with your employer, if I may."

"You may not," he replied without a pause, his hand stopping on his holstered blaster. "You aren't welcome in here."

Quintus knew what he had to do. The operative stalked off into another passageway, intent on finding a way to disable electronic security systems.

"I rather think I'd prefer hearing that from him, if you don't mind." Soleta smiled, bringing her hands up slowly to rest on top of her head. "I can wait."

"Dredd! Who's outside?" Arthen called out. "Did you take her coat?"

"I'm afraid I didn't think to bring a coat," Soleta called back, "but the offer is appreciated."

"I don't know this one." Dredd replied, ignoring her comment. "She new?"

"I'm sorry, I didn't quite catch that, DREDD, did you take her coat?!" Arthen yelled out, the whir of machinery precluding him from hearing either Soleta's or Dredd's first responses.

"SHE DIDN'T BRING A COAT!" Dredd roared back, exasperated. "JUST GET IN HERE!"

"WHAT- Oh Dredd, there you are. Now, what is the issue- Oh, this lady here. I don't remember ever adding you, and judging by your Force signature, I believe I may safely assume you belong to the Empire, considering your choice of dress?" Arthen guessed after having barreled through the door, one hand gesturing to Soleta's slinky dress from the club.

"Yes, well, protective colouration. One can't be too careful, even in Hutt space. Sometimes especially in Hutt space." She looked anxiously from Dredd to Arthen. "Could we take it as established that I'm not an imminent threat? I must confess, I feel a bit silly with my hands up like this."

Dredd took his weapon out of the holster, keeping his arm at his side. His eyes narrowing on the young woman before him.

"So she's Sith?" Ignoring her again, he spat the words.

"Dredd?" Arthen queried.

"Yeah?"

"Don't take her coat."

Dredd looked at him for a second, shook his head, and aimed his gun at the Sith's head.

Remembered fear was easy to call up; Soleta let it wash over her, leaving her wide-eyed and shaking as she watched Dredd anxiously. "Please, I... I just need to hide, just... just a little while, please," she stammered. "The thing that was being held on Coruscant, it's here already, isn't it? I can, maybe I can help you unlock it or decipher it or whatever, if you let me stay. I know about old things, I can help. Please."

"Shut up." Dredd breathed through clenched teeth.

"And why particularly would I need your help, Sith, even if I did fall for that pitiful charade you are attempting to con us with?" Arthen raised an eyebrow.

"But it isn't a charade," Soleta insisted, nearly in tears. "Alright, yes, I'm sensitive, I admit that, and I've had to do some things I'm not proud of to keep safe, but that's all, I swear it! I work... worked for the Reclamation Service, I'm a digger, and I thought... I just thought maybe someone with the resources to instigate a scavenger hunt like this might be able to help me disappear. And if I could offer my services as a student of archaeology, it might be enough to make it worth the trouble."

"Sith, drop the tears. Faking isn't necessary to get a look at the holocron," Arthen rolled his eyes, the green skin crinkling around his eyes. "All you had to do was ask. You won't even understand what you're looking at anyway." He spun on his foot, gesturing for Dredd and Soleta to follow him in to the lab.

"You first," the hunter snarled, waving her through the door with his blaster.

"May as well start lying," Soleta grumbled as she fell in behind Arthen. "It would be much more forgiving on my dignity." As Dredd entered the side room after her, she let her veil dissipate, hoping she had bought enough time for Quintus to do whatever sort of clever spy thing he could manage.

"Sit." Arthen commanded, gesturing at a nearby stool as he turned his attention to the holocron, now mounted on a stand next to another holocron, this one emerald green. "You don't even know what this holocron contains, do you? No, please, give me your best guess."

Quintus entered a chamber which housed security systems and began to slice into it stealthily in order to accomplish two things: downloading information on the holocron he and Sol were seeking, and to cover his tracks by disabling the system.

Soleta perched on the stool, peering at the lavender holocron. "Cubic casing suggests Jedi origin, but this ideogram on the side... Rakata, isn't it? indicates a much, much earlier construction. Or, I suppose, someone who's nearly as clever as I am is showing off, but that seems unlikely." She slowly moved her hands down from her head to rest on the work table, supporting her as she leaned out over the holocron to check the symbols on the other sides. "The near face reads 'treasure'. 'Power' and 'seal' to either side of that, and 'conceal' on the top." Soleta leaned back, grinning. "It's a map. I could puzzle out a clearer notion of what the treasure is if I could see the other two sides, but I'll assume you'd prefer I didn't touch this."

"The other two sides are unrecognizable," Arthen stated blandly, "unless you have access to their earliest records of language." Arthen pulled the green holocron closer to it the lavender one, then quickly lifted a scalpel. "Being Rakatan in nature, the cube won't respond to just Force. It demands a sacrifice as well. Your hand, please?" Arthen asked.

"You've both made it perfectly clear you don't trust me; I see no reason why I should extend you any further courtesy," Soleta replied, crossing her arms. "I would much prefer to handle the incision myself, thank you very much."

"Dredd, if she doesn't extend her hand in the next three seconds, you have my permission to open fire."

"I've faced hungry ghosts in their own ritual-fouled tombs, and you think the mere threat of blaster fire will frighten me?"

"It was not a threat towards you, but more of an informative warning towards my associate. But still, I feel it will provide an excellent distraction," Arthen smirked, twirling the scalpel through his fingers.

Soleta merely arched an eyebrow as a pale flicker of static skittered over her skin. "You may fire when you are ready, Dredd."

The hunter grinned widely, hatred in his eyes. He adjusted his aim at the last second, sending the blaster bolt at the Sith's left leg.

Suppressing a wince as the bolt impacted her shield, Soleta glared at Arthen. "If you and your enforcer are both quite done waving your manhood about, I should very much like to have this holocron opened before your Jedi friend finds you. The scalpel, if you please."

"Jedi friend, you say? My guess is he followed you following. . . whoever you sent to warn the bartender, Dredd. Speaking of which, I suddenly have a far better idea. Dredd, please call in the man our dear Sith followed," Arthen passively waved his hand, the scalpel still twirling in it. "And, my lovely little flower, if you continue to believe that I will hand you anything that could possibly be used as a weapon of any kind, you are sorely mistaken."

Dredd grunted and backed to the corner of the room, where he spoke in hushed tones into a communicator, all the while keeping his aim on Soleta.

"Sir, you called?" came a voice from the lab.

"Ah, yes, Orpheus, glad to see you could join me for this. Thank you for informing the bartender he is no longer necessary," Arthen smiled at the thin, wispy fellow who Soleta had tailed. "Now, this precious little flower here? She is a Sith who managed to follow you here. Into my base."

Orpheus paled at the sight of Soleta. "Not-not possible, sir, I took every precaution-"

"Shh, shh, Orpheus. I'm not mad, I promise. See? I'm quite composed," Arthen continued to smile. "Would you kindly look closer at the artifact I had brought in?" Arthen waved his hand towards the lavender holocron.

"Yes sir, Doctor Kole, sir," Orpheus leaned in closer to examine the holocron. "It's quite lovely, sir."

"Indeed, it is," Arthen agreed as he grabbed the back of Orpheus' neck, and drew the scalpel straight across his throat, the arterial blood spurting all across both the lavender and emerald holocrons. "I'm glad the last thing you saw was something beautiful."

"Perhaps I'd be just as safe taking my chances at home, after all," Soleta murmured absently as she watched the pair of holocrons, completely mindless of the spray of blood that had spattered over her arm.

Orpheus fell to the floor, holding his throat and gasping for breath. Dredd watched the man thrash with a regretful look.

"Nu kyr'adyc, shi taab'echaaj'la," He whispered to himself, as Orpheus' thrashing quickly slowed to a stop. "Ni su'cuyi, gar kyr'adyc. Ni partayli, gar darasuum." [tr: Not gone, merely marching far away. I'm still alive, but you are dead. I remember you, so you are eternal.]

As the lavender holocron whirled and stirred, the emerald holocron immediately began a soft humming noise. Before long, both fell silent. "Finally," Arthen breathed, "I have the key. Dredd, escort our Sith friend to her. . . accommodations. I have an interloper to stop."

Soleta smiled as she slid down off the stood, once again settling her hands on top of her head as she started toward the door. "Coming, Dredd?" she called back over her shoulder.

Dredd spat at her, the glob falling just short of her retreating form. "Keep making jokes, love." He grumbled, leaving the threat in the air, before following her out the door, leaving behind him a trail of curse words.

In an opposite-side lab housing the majority of Arthen's security systems, a datapad's light flashed green and beeped, indicating a completed slicing. Quintus took note, stowed information on the holocrons in the system for later study, albeit mostly pulling information on the ancient Rakata language, uploaded a fabricated virus to take down the security system at a slow but sure pace, and logged off to cover his tracks. Sensing Soleta's veil wearing off, he took back his datapad and engaged his stealth field generator and tread near the walls in order to find an exit route.

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

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meanken
01.07.2013 , 09:41 AM | #43
Nar Shaddaa

Mean brushed off some dirt from his trenchcoat as the two flew as far away from the jedi as they could “So, what’s the plan now?”

Zero was deep in thought, making plans and discarding them just as quickly. Eventually, she came to a decision “Ok, we don’t have many options here, but there is still a lead we have not followed up on. That assassin Keeper told us about, the Banshee. We should contact her” As she said this, she pulled out her holocom and a holopad, quickly looking up the contact information intelligence had provided her.

Mean, however, looked annoyed “We really want to be bringing another person into this? This seems only like a way to screw over the mission more than it already has been. For starters, can we trust this assassin?”

Zero seemed to hesitate a moment as she considered the question “No more than we would trust any outside source. She has not been picky about her jobs, based on this info, working for both sides of the conflict, usually for who was paying more at the time. I anticipate that she will be like most mercenaries, in that so long as the pay is good, she will cooperate.” Zero finished entering the info and placed the call, awaiting a response. Few seconds later she heard a synthetic female voice, which said: "You have reached the Banhsee. She is not here, so you have 30 seconds to present your offer. Afterward, please leave your number, so upon her return the Banshee can contact you regarding her answer and/or details of your offer. Countdown starts... now. " There was a loud "beep" and then the line went silent.

Zero quickly started talking "Hello Banshee, I am Agent Zero, imperial intelligence. I am told you have already been contacted by one of our people regarding what we require. Me and my partner are the field agents in charge of securing the object. We wish to arrange a meeting ASAP to discuss and plan the job. Call us at this number on a secure line and we can talk further." Zero hung up, deciding against reminding her of the high pay she would get. If she has any brains, she will already know that. Stating what would be blindingly clear to a child may only serve to insult her intelligence.

Mean looked over at Zero "So, what now?" Zero did not respond for a moment as she looked at her holopad, finally looking up "I sent a report on the latest incident to keeper, and he has sent us a list of underworld contacts to grill for information" Zero held up her hand to stop mean before he could ask what she knew he would "Let me finish. You will remember my examination of that message to the underworld earlier, and how I guessed based on that that a force user was behind it? Well, the appearance of several other jedi and sith only reinforce my hypothesis. So, we are going to question the local underworld figures. Knowing how paranoid criminals are by nature, chances are someone will have noticed strangers in the area, odd occurrences, anything that may give us some hint of where these people have set up base,

Mean took out his knife as she spoke, and started sharping it "Sure, but what makes you think their base is on this planet?"

"Easy, this is a neutral planet, a haven for anyone who is trying to hide from empire and republic both. I have a sneaking suspicion that whoever we are after is not part of either. Think about it. If it is a jedi who wanted to look at it, why steal it from the republic? They could have just walked down there and asked to look at it. If it was a sith, then why have the delivery to them on nar shaddaa, when there are plenty of imperial worlds where they would be much more secure? Not to mention neither jedi nor sith would typically rely on the underworld and freelance criminals for such high risk theft. That is the job of Intelligence, or the SIS, or failing that, one of their own apprentices or such. No, this has to be a defector, from whom I do not know. Once we locate the base, then we just have to attack, using stealth or just a full assault depending on what kind of defenses they have, take it, and bring it back to dromand kass."

Mean shook his head "You make it all sound so damn simple. How much you want to bet that whole plan is going to be going down the ******* in a few hours?"

Zero sruged "I can't see into the future, but it is a fact that generally all plans have to be changed due to changing situations. We will start tracking down these underworld people while we wait for the assassin to get back to us" with that, Zero turned her car and started driving toward the first location on her list.

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LogicLoup
01.11.2013 , 07:09 PM | #44
Somewhere Underground, Nar Shaddaa

Dredd had been standing outside the Sith's cell in silence, doing nothing but standing, and waiting. He took a long pull from a flask he had taken from his belt, relishing the warmth it brought his body as it rolled down his throat. He leaned back against the wall, eyes closed for a moment, before glancing at the cell door. He walked into the doorway, peering into the darkness to see Soleta sitting upright in her cell, her eyes locking with his as he leaned against the frame. The hunter took a deep breath and looked away as he brought the flask to his mouth once more, taking in the last of its contents as he flung himself into a chair in the corner.

"Drink?" he asked as he pulled another flask from his waist, still looking down and away from her.

"If you're offering, then certainly," Soleta answered, smiling. "It does seem a trifle dry in here."

Dredd took one last drink before he tossed the flask at her feet, not once looking at her.

Soleta picked up the flask and took a brief, dainty sip. "Thank you most kindly," she said as she stood, holding out the flask. "To business, then, I suppose. What is it you want of me?"

"I don't want your thanks, for starters." He grunted as he pulled the flask from her hands, alcohol heavy on his breath. "A good drink calms nerves, if Sith have nerves." He laughed loudly, seemingly at the absurdity of his statement.

He drank deeply again, spilling a small amount down his front. He quickly wiped the liquid off his chin, and paused, looking down and grabbing at the chain hanging around his neck, his fingers stopping on a blood-red stone which had hung over his heart.

"I've met a few Sith in my day." He spoke absentmindedly as he sat back in his chair, the stone clasped in his hand.

"I'm afraid I haven't made the acquaintance of any Mandalorians." Soleta watched intently as Dredd clutched at the pendant. "Until you, of course. Field scholarship doesn't offer much opportunity for dealing with people in your line of work."

He didn't respond to her comment for a few moments, still apparently lost in his own little world. "So you haven't worked in the field before?"

"Not the kind of field work you mean, no." Soleta grinned as she shook her head. "I was telling the truth, back there, about working for the Reclamation Service. I've been cleaning dust off of pottery fragments since before I could walk properly. Not that I expect you to believe me — you and your employer made that quite clear."

Dredd snorted, uncaring. "Never trust a Sith."

"What do you want, Dredd?" Soleta asked again. "You obviously aren't here for the pleasure of my eminently charming company, but there's something you want badly enough to be on the wrong side of a cell with someone you dislike and distrust. What is it?"

Dredd looked up, maintaining eye contact with Soleta for the first time since entering the room, his piercing blue eyes contrasting his heavily scarred face. "Have you ever killed anyone, Sith?"

Soleta sighed heavily as she stalked back to the opposite corner of the room, sitting down on her heels with her hands in her lap. "Countless lives have met their end at my hands," she deadpanned. "The galaxy is awash in the blood of my unworthily slaughtered foes. Is that what you wanted to hear?"

"No." He asserted. "I want to hear the truth."

"Then yes. I have." She met his gaze with a challenging glare. "Most in my own defence. A few at my Master's command. None I particularly regret, aside from the first."

"Go on." Dredd urged, intent upon her words.

"He'd found out before I did that we were both being considered for an apprenticeship and, quite sensibly, he wanted me out of the way. He knew I had a terrible crush on him, so he asked me to spend the night with him, and of course, I was too busy being overawed to wonder why he'd suddenly taken an interest in me. I don't begrudge him any of that; it's simply how the game is played."

She smirked, chuckling under her breath. "He picked the lock on one of the guest chambers for visiting Darths, and we shared a bottle of Alderaanian red that he'd stolen from an Overseer's private collection. Things progressed as they generally do, and after that first was done and he thought I was defenceless, he attacked me with the knife he'd hidden under the mattress. We fought. It went badly for him."

"I'm sorry," Dredd apologized, looking away. "I'm sorry they did that to you."

"I survived," Soleta replied with a shrug. "I'm quite good at surviving."

The room fell into silence for what seemed like a decade.

"You know I'm going to have to kill you, right?" Dredd breathed, almost inaudibly. "An hour from now? Tomorrow? I don't know. The end result will be the same."

"You'll do what you need to do," she replied, "as will I. That's simply how the game is played."

"That's it?" Dredd laughed in disbelief. "The mighty Sith's view on life and death. A game."

"I suppose that offends your Mandalorian honour," Soleta snapped.

"SHUT UP!" He roared in response, her words clearly striking a nerve.

He stood from his seat, clumsily catching himself on the wall. Clearly drunk, he stood there a moment before slumping to the ground. Having given up on the idea of retreating from the room he resigned himself to laying his head in his hands, pendant now pressed against his cheek.

Soleta stood again, crossing the narrow cell to stand beside Dredd. "Come on, then," she said as she bent to wrap her arms around his chest, trying to haul him up to his feet. "You're doing no one any good sitting there in a heap."

He pulled away from her halfway through being lifted to his feet, laughing hysterically.

"Where would I be without the Sith's generosity?!" he asked to the nearest wall, raising his arms to an audience that wasn't there. There was no humor in his laugh, not this time. "It's all part of the game! Who are we but pawns to the Sith?!"

"You're an idiot, for starters," Soleta replied, her tone icy. She reached out and pulled his blaster from its holster, then held it out to him grip-first. "If you're really that disgusted with me, I suggest you do something about it rather than blubbering like a spoiled child."

Dredd grabbed her hand, not taking the blaster, but instead redirected it at himself in her hands. His scarred face was mere feet from hers.

"Do it." He was grinning widely at her, the barrel of the weapon pressed against his forehead. "Finish what the others started."

"Convince me." She tried, without success, to work her hands free of his hold. "Give me one good reason why ending your misery is worth endangering my plans."

Disappointment dawned on his face and the crazed Mandalorian slowly lessened the pressure on Soleta's grip, allowing her to transfer the weapon into his hands.

"I should know better than to interfere with a Sith's game." He backed away from her slowly, voice cracking as hatred filled his eyes.

"Is this where I'm meant to apologize?" Soleta demanded as she took a step forward, closing the gap between herself and Dredd. "I'm sorry I can't help you be a coward."

"Coward?" He took another step back, nearly tripping over the chair. "I'm not afraid to live, and I'm not afraid to die. Those lines blurred a long time ago."

"Oh, of course. How silly of me not to notice how unafraid you are, while you're hiding at the bottom of a bottle and pleading with me to kill you." She sighed heavily, shaking her head. "You're going to regret this come the morning, you know."

"The only thing anyone is going to regret tomorrow, is that you didn't kill me." He smiled, tapping his head with his blaster as he backed out of the cell. "Enjoy your rest, Sith. Here's hoping it's your last."

"Good night, Dredd." Soleta returned his smile with one of her own. "Be sure to drink plenty of water before you go to sleep. It helps with the hangover."

"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


DarthThuzad
01.17.2013 , 03:01 PM | #45
Arthen's Secret Base


Arthen moved quickly down the pristine hallways of his base, the end of his labcoat swinging behind him. As he rounded to the back entrance, he stopped, eyes narrowing as the figure emerged from the hidden stairway. "Xon Rainor," Arthen stated impassively.

The Miraluka Jedi stopped as he encountered the Miralian. "Arthen Kole. It has been some time, my old padawan," Xon returned the stoic tone. "I am merely here to return a holocron to the Republic. I advise you do not interfere."

"Any holocrons stored here have been properly bought, receipt and everything, and are all my property, as is the flight of stairs you just came down," Arthen replied icily. "I suggest that if you come into my home, you abide by my rules. I am no longer the padawan you had so long ago."

"Hrm...an odd thought. I do not recall purchase being equivalent to theft, old friend." Xon retorted. "Though I would prefer you be the padawan I had so long ago, I have no quarrel with you. Step aside as I retrieve the holocron and bring the thieves to justice."

"Perhaps you'd like to describe this holocron you're chasing, and I may show you my collection? I can assure you, I stole no holocron from the Republic," Arthen offered, one hand coming up in a careless gesture as he shrugged. "And then afterwards, maybe you can leave me alone to my experiments?"

"Lavender, of Rakata make," Xon crossed his chest, then shook his head as another thought occurred, "I sense...darkness in you, old friend. Have you learned nothing from me?"

"My experiments have led me to touch the Dark Side quite a few times; it is a siren song, dancing in my ears. . ." Arthen murmured the last part, his eyes unfocusing for a second before nodding his head, glancing again at Xon, his hand stroking his green chin thoughtfully. "I've collected a blue Ratakan, a red, a yellow, but lavender? None of Ratakan nature. Pray tell, what would be on the holocron that would interest the mighty Republic and Jedi Order?"

Xon sighed, "I would think an esteemed collector of holocrons as yourself would have more. As far as what it has, I can only say that it is a map to something the Jedi Order believes cannot fall into the wrong hands. Hands like yours if you do not turn back from the dark path you have been on since our last meeting, at least."

"I'm not eating children over here, Xon. My experiments are almost entirely scientific in nature, meant to benefit, not slaughter," Arthen's tattooed face spoke of annoyance. "Kindly refrain from attempting to cast me as "The Devourer of Worlds" until after you see my work." With that, Arthen motioned for Xon to follow him.

The elder Jedi followed Arthen. "For whatever reason, understand that I cannot take you at your word."

"Oh ye of little faith, I know you won't. You never did before," Arthen dryly remarked as they moved quickly towards the chamber where Arthen housed the other datacrons and holocrons. He motioned towards the walls. "As you can plainly see, no lavender holocron."

"Not so fast," Xon spoke sternly, "I know for a fact that that very holocron was sought after by someone taking up base in close proximity to Club Vertica, and the holocron was spirited here, per said directions and where I tracked down its thieves. I sense the Sith that was there when it was stolen in close proximity. Putting two and two together, you should know that we Jedi are not allowed to believe in coincidences."

"Then allow me to assure you this once again: I do not have it. The Sith you speak of was caught snooping in my home, perhaps looking for this holocron of yours. As you can see," Arthen gestured to the wall of holocrons again, "none of mine are missing. And once I find out how the Sith got into my base, I plan to send her back into the Empire, since she is not your property, and both the Republic and Jedi have no jurisdiction on Nar Shaddaa, I will not turn her over to your custody."

"I still have no reason to trust your word," Xon retorted with a growl. "This is a vast complex. I would prefer my search thorough. I still sense you are hiding something."

"You didn't even listen to me as your padawan, let alone trust. I should have suspected the same today. Search then, but stay away from the Sith. You are not to go near her. I will be waiting here." With that, Arthen turned away, holopad already in hand as he began to catalog new info.

"Believe what you want to believe, Arthen. From my point of view, I listened to you and trusted you at a time. That moment is gone. I realized that over the years. If you would have finished your training as I would have liked you to, then things would have been much different," Xon shot back as he began searching the complex, starting with double-checking the wall of holocrons, then searching every crevice of the room he was in. Not finding the holocron in there, the Jedi Master conducted a thorough search of the complex, not going near the Sith nor any of the prisoners or other inhabitants, not sensing the holocron near the latter's chambers. Disappointed, he returned.

"Either you hid the holocron near the Sith herself, or you legitimately do not have it, padawan," Xon resigned. "You were somewhat cunning in the past, I wouldn't be surprised if you left any surprises."

"Or perhaps, just maybe I've been telling the truth this entire time. If you're so frantic to find this holocron, perhaps you should intercept the Sith once I've released her," Arthen responded neutrally. "If you're done, I will have someone escort you out."

"Do not be so complacent, my old padawan," Xon replied stoically, "I will not leave any stone unturned. You may not have the holocron out in here, but I still suspect you have something to do with it. You forget that my Force-augmented sight permeates what normal sight cannot." The Jedi sighed, "I am finished here, for now."

"So, let me get this straight. I let you ransack my home for your holocron, provide no resistance to searching anywhere you please except for my prisoner's quarters, and, even being a Miraluka, you could not find the Force signature of the holocron. And yet, you still believe I'm the prime suspect," Arthen set aside the datapad, turning to look at Xon. "Get out of my home, you arrogant pr*ck." Arthen snapped his fingers, and at once, a butler arrived near him. "Escort Master Rainor from the grounds."

"I believe you mean I sensed it nowhere I could go without you whining about it," Xon growled. "This whole complex embodies your own arrogance. If only you listened to me back then, if only you have learned something back then...how everything would have been different. Alas, that moment is no more. I will leave, but do not think that this is the end, padawan." Xon turned to the butler, "I'm ready whenever you are."

The butler nodded, moving slowly as he led Xon back to the entrance he came from.

drfumblez's Avatar


drfumblez
01.22.2013 , 11:00 AM | #46
((For Gelly.))

Arthen Cole’s underground base, Nar Shaddaa.


The room, man named Juris referred to and which he ultimately led Serlynne to, turned out to be a rather luxurious suit, causing Serlynne to wonder once again, who were the mysterious benefactors Cole mentioned earlier. “It would be quite the irony if Jara the Hutt is one of them”, thought the assassin.

Right now Serlynne was lying on a huge bed, hands on the pillows under her head, and staring into high ceiling. The assassin was still wearing her leather suit with armor underneath, just like she always did when she had to sleep somewhere outside her ship. Serlynne felt more comfortable that way and, more importantly, much safer. The assassin had been attacked while sleeping in the middle of the night several times before during her missions, and current situation didn’t seem any less dangerous – Serlynne wouldn’t put it past Cole to send someone to try and murder his guests in their sleep. After all, now more then ever, Serlynne, Alecs and Nerama had become dangerous witnesses.

Still, the fact she couldn’t allow herself to refuse Cole’s offer, didn’t mean Serlynne shouldn’t prepare herself for any unwanted complications that could come with it. One of her blasters was stashed under the pillows of the bed, almost exactly beneath the assassin’s head. The other one rested on a nightstand to the left of it, so Serlynne could grab both of her guns and then use the bed as a cover. The sniper rifle, armed and ready, was standing in the corner next to the nightstand and the vibrosword was lying on the floor underneath the bed, close enough to it’s edge to be retrieved in a couple of seconds. “I probably not gonna need that one, unless Cole himself will come for me”, mused Serlynne darkly. Still, you never know…

Right now, however, Serlynne had nothing else to do, but to think about her next steps and future plans. Her original plan – to kill the smugglers and be the only receiver of the bounty, was rendered impossible the minute Dredd joined the duo. And to think I was ready to pull the trigger back there, in the warehouse. That would destroy any chance of getting to Cole and his base without use of force. On the other hand, Serlynne had to give credit to both Alecs and Nerama for taking her with them to the meeting, because in their shoes, she definitely wouldn’t do the same thing. Of course the assassin could still try to kill the smugglers after all three of them would leave Cole’s base and then take the money from their corpses, but this thought suddenly made Serlynne feel uncomfortable and almost… dirty. For the Hutt’s sake, what am I, an ungrateful thug? Serlynne decided that such low move was beneath even her dignity. So she would leave the pair alone. Of course it would upset the Empire, since Tuk'ata requested death of all the thieves, but Serlynne wasn’t a loyal citizen of the Empire anyway. Plus, I can always say that I had to choose between getting the holocron and killing those who took it. There is no doubt about what the Empire wants more.

The holocron… that was the root of all her problems. SIS wanted it and was using blackmail in order to make Serlynne get it, Imperial Intelligence was offering money, and now it belonged to Cole, who said the artifact contained some kind of a map. Was it possible that this map led to some sort of treasure, and that was what everybody really wanted? Perhaps. But Cole was clearly unwilling to provide any further information on this subject, which came as no surprise for Serlynne. Still, the assassin decided that she had two choices. She could try to steal the holocron from Cole and use it as a bargaining chip in her dealings with both Rainbird and Tuk'ata. Or Serlynne could do just the same… but with whatever artifacts the map inside the holocron was leading to. The second option was far more challenging, interesting and ultimately more profitable, however, in order for Serlynne to use it, she had to be sent by Cole to retrieve said treasure. That’s why the assassin agreed to stay at his base for the night against her better judgement. I wonder what Alecs forgot here, though. Unless he also wants this job or really intends to have a rest under a potentially deadly roof. Oh well, it’s his problem, not mine.

Serlynne also had to admit, at least to herself, that there was, in fact, a third option. She could just walk away and leave Cole, Republic and Empire to fight among themselves. After all, the assassin hadn’t yet officially confirmed to Tuk'ata that she would take the job. So whatever would happen with the holocron and the treasure it leads to, Serlynne would still have Empire among her clients, not to mention other private customers, even if enraged Rainbird would indeed make her Republic’s Most Wanted. Not having free access to Republic’s territory would be tough and, more importantly, bad for business, but Serlynne was sure she could make it. Because, above all else, she was a survivor.

But… that wasn’t all Serlynne was. The assassin’s entire life had been a challenge – first living in orphanage, then surviving the Hutt’s training program, then finally escaping the life of servitude and becoming a freelance mercenary, working for both sides, yet remaining outside their endless struggle. Serlynne had been always ready to raise to the challenge and beat it, and she had always done so. Now the assassin viewed her current problems as nothing but another challenge, perhaps the greatest of them all. And Serlynne firmly intended to beat this one too… or die trying.

That’s why the second option was the preferable one. Which meant in the morning Serlynne had to reach Cole by any means possible and convince him to hire her. Should he refuse…

Then I will have only one option left.

Get the holocron myself.


This thought was clear, cold, and as dangerous, as the quest itself. Because it meant Serlynne would have to storm the base, deal with Cole, Dredd and whatever guards they have, find the datacron and get out. And all of it after Alecs and Nerama would leave the base because there was no telling how they‘ll react and whose side they’ll take. And to avoid the suspicions I will have to leave with them. Damn.

It wouldn’t be the first time Serlynne would have to storm a secure location to get to her target. But It would be the first time the assassin would have to do so without having any substantial knowledge about the place she was breaking in. I can’t even leave this room to sneak around the base right now, because If my absence will be noted or if I will be caught, Cole will have one more reason to ignore my request. ****.

The odds of success looked very low, but then Serlynne remembered Tuk'ata saying something about agents dispatched to retrieve the stolen datacron. She didn’t tell me how to contact them, but I can ask her… after I’ll return to my ship. The assassin liked the idea, especially since she would have to leave the base with Alecs and Nerama anyway. Of course it also meant the holocron would most likely go straight to Empire’s hands, not hers, but this thought only gave Serlynne a cold smile. That’s what you get, Rainbird, for trying to control me. That’s what everybody’s gonna get, just like Jargo did.

Then Serlynne slowly drifted into the darkness, still smiling….

…only to find herself in all too familiar dining room which also served it’s owner as a throne room. It was a large hall with a big long dining table in the middle, with huge double doors on the one side of it and a throne near the wall on the other. The table was staffed with plenty of tasty, exotic food while the throne was occupied by it’s rightful owner.

Jargo the Hutt.

Serlynne was standing between her master and the table. Despite the fact that there were more then a dozen comfortable chairs around the table, the large room was otherwise empty , save for a few guards.

-I am done with being your toy, Jargo, -shouted Serlynne, - I am leaving,one way, or another.

- Foolish girl! – roared the Hutt, - No one leaves me until and unless I command them too. It seems you need a lesson of obedience… again. Guards, seize my pet!

It was always happening the same way. Two guards, armed with blasters, coming from behind to hold her hands. Then the third one. with a Force pike, using his weapon to shock Serlynne until she loses consciousness. Hours later she would come into her senses in a bare, empty room, locked from outside, where she will spend days and weeks learning her “lessons”. Nothing too lethal or permanent of course, nothing that kolto can’t heal . After all, Jargo needed his assassin to be able to perform all the tricks she was taught to use. Damaged goods was the last thing he wanted… as well as having a rebellious assassin on his hands. On the other hand, the amount of pain said assassin would feel was completely irrelevant as long as her brain and nervous system didn’t suffer any irreversible damage.

It was always happening the same way.

Until now.

Jargo’s mistake (which in fact was less the mistake and more the result of Serlynne’s careful planning and preparations) was that he didn’t anticipate how many efforts she was ready to invest into her escape. The assassin realized that if she won’t try to break free from her master from time to time, he will grow suspicious of such quite behavior. But In the same time Serlynne understood, that if she will try too hard, Jargo would grow tired of her insolence and would simply order to kill her. That’s why all the assassin’s previous attempts of escape were fake (save from the very first one, which was as genuine as it was unsuccessful, because the girl lacked the necessary skills to actually pull it).As for Jargo, he eventually decided that his slave realized all the futility of her attempts and was just blowing up steam while trying to annoy her master in the same time.

He was deadly wrong.

Serlynne waited patiently while two guard moved closer to her from behind, then suddenly hit them with her elbows, aiming for their solar plexus. She didn’t even need to look at them to know, where they will be and where she must strike – by now she have learned it by heart. When two men started to lean forward in pain, Serlynne hit them again, this time her elbows went straight into their faces. Then she quickly grabbed the right guard and shoved him into the third man, the one with a Force pike, taking the blaster from his holster in the same time.
The rest was quick and simple – two shots to deal with collapsed guards, the third to finish the man who was still holding his hands to the face and stomach. The forth shot was supposed to take the life of Jargo the Hutt.

But it was never fired.

The whole plan depended on how fast Serlynne could deal with her enemies in this room. Ironically, the assassin didn’t expect that her master can move so fast as well. Maybe he just wanted to live so badly that it gave him the edge he needed. Or maybe despite her best efforts Jargo wasn’t as deluded about her true nature as Serlynne wanted to think.

Jargo jumped at his would-be killer, clashing into Serlynne and knocking the assassin on her back. Unexpected speed of this attack caught Serlynne by surprise, so her fingers instinctively let go of the blaster and it flew away, landing on the floor far beyond her reach. At the same time her left hand made a broad swing and pushed a plate from the dinner table with a small kitchen knife on it. The plate smashed into pieces, while the knife landed very close to Serlynne’s fingers. She saw it only for a second – then enraged Jargo pressed his slimly underbelly against upper half of her body, attempting either to suffocate his rebellious toy or simply crush her skill with the weight of his body

It took an eternity for Serlynne to find the knife by touch and another eternity to stick it deep into Jargo’s belly and then slowly move it down as if she wanted to cut the Hutt’s body wide open. Jargo roared in pain and recoiled from her body. Much later she realized that his wound wasn’t all that serious, it was just hurting as hell and Jargo wasn’t used to feel physical pain, just to inflict it on others.

His brief confusion gave Serlynne all the time she needed to jump to her feet, toss the knife to her right hand and slew her master in one swift blow to his head. Ironically, it was hired by Jargo trainers, who taught Serlynne how to kill a Hutt quickly. Unfortunately Jargo was dead before he realized it… or anything else for that matter.

And that was when the dream and the actual Serlynne’s memories went their separate ways.

In reality, right after the deadly strike, Serlynne slipped the knife into one of her pockets, picked up the blasters that belonged both to the first and the second guard and run to the small door in the corner, which led to kitchen and to the servants room, because that’s how the assassin planned to get to her ship without meeting heavy resistance from the palace’s guard.

In her dream, however, Serlynne was nowhere as clever as she was supposed to. First she lingered near the Jargo’s corpse too long, hitting him with the knife over and over again, until his face and his head turned into bloody mess, then the assassin tossed her weapon aside and rushed to the large double doors. Serlynne pushed will all of her body’s weight to open them only to see a team of guards on the other side.

They opened fire immediately as they spotted her. Serlynne’s chest exploded with pain, which then enveloped her entire body. The assassin’s legs went numb and she fell to her knees, still unable to tear her eyes from her killers, and feeling that a fire, which started in her chest,was now spreading to consume everything inside her.

And the guards continued firing. Even at the brink of death herself, Serlynne started to wonder what the hell was wrong with them. It’s not like Jargo’s guards were religious zealots, ready to suffer and die for their god and tear to shreds anyone who dared to harm him .No, the guards were merely hired guns, and now they were out-of-work. So why all the rage?

Unbelievable, but their blasters were still firing. Stranger still, there was some familiar rhythm in it, and it was becoming clearer with each shot. Before bloody haze clouded her mind, Serlynne finally understood that the blasters were firing in the exact same manner as a datapad, beeping to notify it’s owner that it received a new message. Even the sound of blaster fire was replaced by beeping sounds. Serlynne was still trying to make sense of this mystery, when the darkness finally came and consumed her completely.


Serlynne woke with a start, breathing quickly and loudly with both blasters already in her hands and aimed into darkness of the room. The datapad on her belt was still beeping but for once the assassin was really glad to hear it. She carefully returned her weapons where they belonged, and checked the beeping device. Apparently someone sent a message to her ship’s comlink, and it came on the same frequency that Tuk’ata usually used. Wonder what she wants this time. Maybe she finally decided to provide a way to contact Imperial agents? That would be nice, given the circumstances.

Reluctantly, Serlynne returned her head to the pillows and tried to sleep again, but not before putting her right hand into one of the pockets and wrapping it’s palm around a small kitchen knife she always held there.

It was a long time before the assassin was able to fall asleep again, but this time darkness was the only thing she saw in her dreams.

LogicLoup's Avatar


LogicLoup
01.22.2013 , 03:31 PM | #47
Arthen's Operation Center, Nar Shaddaa


Arthen stalked slowly through his hallways, his time showing him that it was barely morning. Cradling the lavender holocron in his hand, he moved slowly towards where he was keeping Soleta, his plan already forming into shape as he rounded the corner.

The door to the Sith's cell was open, and the force field behind it deactivated. Soleta herself sat in the hall beside her door, not meditating, but simply resting, hands on her lap and eyes lightly closed. At the sound of approaching footsteps, she looked up and smiled. "Good morning."

Arthen continued walking towards her, sighing as he came close. "I'd like to think you managed to swipe the keycard off Dredd, the way he lumbered about drunk last night. But that wouldn't be flashy enough for you, would it?" he motioned for her to follow him, as he turned on his heel.

Soleta stood and fell into step beside Arthen, still smiling. "Flashy? Oh goodness no, flash gets one noticed. I much prefer being enigmatic." She peered eagerly at the holocron. "May I ask if you've made any progress?"

"Indeed I have. But we'll discuss that at a later time," Arthen said brightly, moving into a incredibly furnished dining area with a kitchen nearby. He snapped his fingers, and a protocol droid came out of nearby hallway, beginning a pot of caf.

"What could possibly be a more pressing concern than an ancient relic leading to even more ancient relics?" Soleta asked incredulously.

Arthen reached over to the center of the table, swiping a orange and blue fruit from the bowl atop it. He took a large bite out of it, chewing thoroughly and swallowing before answering, "Breakfast."

"Surely we can converse and enjoy a meal at the same time?" Soleta moved to sit across the table from Arthen. After a moment of thoughtful deliberation, she selected a green piece of fruit from the bowl and began peeling away its skin in a long, continuous spiral.

"I like my meals in silence. If you wish to blather on about a topic of your choice though, I will gladly sit here and listen half-heartedly."

Soleta shrugged and calmly set the peel of her fruit aside, laying out the segments on the table in front of her.

As the droid finished the caf, Arthen took two cups of each, and set Soleta's near her food. The droid moved to pull out more fruit and turned on the stove as Arthen slumped in his seat, slowly eating the fruit in his hand, savoring the sweet juices spilling from the plant.

Soleta took a sip of her caf, then made a face as she set it aside. She nibbled at her fruit in silence, letting the emotional background noise of the compound fill her attention.

As Arthen finished, he took he a deep drink from his cup before setting it back down. He looked a Soleta, raising an eyebrow as he asked, "I trust Dredd didn't cause too much trouble? He's not fond of Sith, as you can surmise."

"No trouble at all," Soleta replied. "He was, if not an ideal host, at least an intriguing one."

"His love of throwing himself into the fire tends to burn him more often then keep him warm," Arthen slowly rolled the lavender holocron in his hands. "Tell me, young Sith: What do you think of your Empire's government?"

"The Dark Council has their own immediate interests at heart," Soleta replied, her tone cool and even. "But only their immediate interests, as you're already aware, or else you wouldn't be asking my opinion."

"Do I detect a hint of disapproval in your voice, my dear flower?" Arthen smiled, one hand scratching his chin. "Or perhaps you approve?"

"We are creatures of desire and passion; I make no excuse or apology for that." Soleta picked a seed from a segment of her fruit. "But only a fool allows the passion of the moment to blind him from the needs of the future. The Council has forgotten how to play the long game, if they ever knew how in the first place."

"And this is a game you claim to play?" Arthen continued slowly as he took another piece of fruit. "My my. Quite the apprentice you must be. I wonder if your Master even notices the moves you make, let alone the game you play."

"It's the only game there is," she replied, taking another segment of fruit. "As for Darth Serevin... what could he possibly have to fear from the weak, timid scholar who hides away in forgotten tombs?"

"I wouldn't know, my little flower. I'm just a well-paid, glorified scientist," he chuckled, passing the holocron across the table towards her.

Surprise flickered across Soleta's features for a brief moment, only to be replaced by almost childlike delight as she accepted the holocron from Arthen. "Well hello there, lovely," she said, running her fingers over the filigreed panels as she turned the cube over in her hands. "We're going to have ever so much fun together, yes we are."

"I'll be sure to have the droid escort you off the premises safely," Arthen gave her an indulging smile, moving to leave as the protocol droid came up to stand near Soleta.

"What? Already?" Soleta stood suddenly, hugging the holocron close as she circled the table to block Arthen's path to the door. "You can't just send me away, not when there's still so much more of the puzzle left undone."

"You don't want to figure it out on your own?" Arthen asked, the corner of his mouth quirking up in smirk as she intercepted him. "I'm certain you'll figure it out what it is, Sith. If you can think outside of that box."

"I've seen enough snipe hunts to know when I'm being sent on one," she replied, scowling. "The second holocron, the green one. You must have had a reason for having it out as well, and I highly doubt that reason was to impress me with your collection."

"That was a datacron, actually. One meant for storing the data of a holocron. You see, this particular one," he lightly ran a finger over the cube, "requires blood every time it is to be open. I don't have that much on me, and certainly don't wish to clean up every time I use it."

"Hmm." Soleta frowned thoughtfully, tracing the carved-out symbols with her fingertips. "How much blood?"

"You'd have to cut your hand open every time," he warned Soleta.

"Oh, is that all?" Soleta's expression shifted from concern to relief. "I thought it might have been something more than an inconvenience."

"Oh, it is when you have to slice to the bone," he mused, before attempting to move past her.

Soleta sidestepped, keeping herself in his path. "And in return for your gracious hospitality, I owe you... ?" She trailed off, one eyebrow arched.

"Nothing comes to the top of my head. Though, when you tire of your dear Darth Severin and Dark Council, do feel free to look me up, Miss. . .?"

"It would be significantly easier to look you up if I knew your name," Soleta replied, grinning impishly. "Unless I'm supposed to figure that out on my own, as well?"

A small chuckle came from him as he laughed. "If you ever do get in touch, look for the man named Wade Herrington. He'll have you find me."

"I'd offer something of the same, but I suspect any contacts I gave you would become rather worse than useless when we reach that stage of the game." She stepped out of the way, offering a brief curtsey. "You have my sincere thanks for your kind gifts."

Arthen waved off her thanks, already moving down the corridor away from her, a whistling tune already playing from his mouth. I wouldn't thank me yet. Not with the Jedi that'll be on your tail. He gave a wave from behind him as he turned the corner.

Soleta gave a happy little squeak as she stepped out into the hallway, waiting for the droid to catch up and escort her to the exit. "Now to find out if you're useless enough to hand over," she whispered, patting the top of the holocron.

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

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LogicLoup
01.30.2013 , 08:42 PM | #48
Club Vertica Casino, Nar Shaddaa


After a final wave and nod to the droid Arthen had designated to escort her, Soleta beelined for one of the public holocomm booths in the casino lobby and put in a call to Quintus. "Guess what I've got," she said with a giddy grin.

"Judging by the giddy look on your face, I'd say you found it," Quintus' lips curled into a faint smile.

The grin turned briefly into an exaggerated pout. "That's why no one likes to play guessing games with spies," she muttered. "But yes, it's ours." As she brought the holocron up into view, the normal background static on the transmission increased.

"What can I say? We are the guessing game champions," Q snickered. "How did you do it?"

"I asked nicely," she replied. "I'd like to give this a thorough going-over before we get back under way. The Reclamation Service has a modest research facility here — nothing to compare to Dromund Kaas, of course, but needs must. Sending you the coordinates now." Soleta set the holocron down beside the receiver, and the call was all but drowned out by static and a piercing feedback squeal. "Of all the bloody luck... Can you still hear me? The signal's breaking up."

"Bits and pieces, but I can still hear you and see your beautiful face..." Quintus responded while raising an eyebrow when finishing, then returned to his usual stoic self. "Want to take this somewhere else?"

Soleta grinned, shaking her head slightly. "Flatterer. I'll meet you at the research lab." She paused to key in and send the coordinates. "If you could bring my bag, and perhaps a proper change of clothes, that would be wonderful. See you soon."

"Will do, and see you soon," Quintus allowed himself to wink briefly before he cut the link.

After a quick trip to the casino gift shop, where she picked out a regrettably gaudy purse to stuff the holocron into, Soleta flagged down a cab and was on her way.


Imperial Requisition Service research facility, Nar Shaddaa


By the time Quintus arrived at the lab, the skeleton crew of researchers were clustered just outside the door, doing a fair job of not looking intimidated. "Ah, sir," one of them said as Quintus approached. "I wouldn't go in there just now. Sith's pet project."

Quintus, briefcase in hand, brushed off the researcher as he continued to head towards the door. "She's already cleared me, thank you."

"Your funeral," she muttered as she stepped aside, allowing him to pass.

Inside the cramped lab, Soleta had cleared off the single workbench and placed the holocron in the center of the empty table. "Why won't you work?" she demanded of the scanner in her hand, glaring death at the device.

Q laid his briefcase onto an empty table to his side. "Is there a problem here?"

Soleta looked up sharply at the sound of another voice, then relaxed somewhat when she realized it was Q. "Oh... sorry. It's just this thing refuses to scan properly. It's picking up background noise where there oughtn't be any."

"Certainly odd," Quintus mused as he approached Soleta and the holocron. "Are you certain that the alien didn't leave any surprises?"

"Not in the slightest," she replied as she handed over the scanner. "Maybe you could make sense of all this? I'm a bit lost with anything that's not at least older than I am."

"Fair enough. You wouldn't be the first non-tech savvy Sith I've met," Quintus joked as he examined the scanner and ran it. "I'm picking up background noise too. Perhaps...the holocron is bugged?"

"Let's see you navigate a trapped and haunted ruin," Soleta pouted. She picked up the holocron, turning it over and peering at it closely. "I suppose it's possible... between the casing and the crystal array?"

Quintus slightly nodded. "Perhaps. Whoever bugged the holocron is good, but it is still the work of an amateur."

Soleta set the holocron back on the table and slid it toward Quintus, then reached for a datapad and started typing: Find it but don't deactivate it. I want to see who comes looking for us.

Quintus replied on the datapad: Are you certain? I can find it in minutes tops, but would we want to compromise this entire project?

As she took back the datapad and began typing again, Soleta rolled her eyes. I'm SITH. I do know how to be discreet. "It's likely just a fault with the scanner," she said out loud. "Darth Arctis is terribly tight-fisted with the Service's funding. Go ahead and see if you can get it working while I get changed. You did bring my things, didn't you?"

Quintus shrugged as he typed once more: Fair enough, Sith princess. "Of course," Quintus said out loud as he opened his briefcase and tossed Soleta her satchel along with a change of clothes, "I always take you into account." He then proceeded to scan and examine the holocron from more angles.

"Ah, thank you." Soleta smiled brightly as she accepted her things. "Club clothes are most emphatically not designed for sleeping in." After kicking out of her shoes, she pulled her pants on under her dress and a hoodie on over it. A few moments' wiggling later, she'd managed to pull the dress off through the neckline of her top, then stuffed it into her bag. "Oh, before I forget... do you have your knives with you? I'll need to borrow one for a moment."

"I sure do," Quintus slid one of his trusty vibroknives across the table.

"Wonderful." Soleta picked up the knife with a nod. "Have you found the fault in the scanner?"

"I used both your scanner and my own to confirm my findings," Quintus nodded. "There is a tracker in the holocron, lodged between the upper casing and the crystal array."

"Oh, is that all?" Soleta said as she took the holocron back. "Well then, I suppose it's just a matter of waiting to see who comes 'round to try and take this back. In the meantime..." She set the holocron back in the center of the work table and started up a holorecorder. "I have work to do." Q's knife whirred as she flicked on its power, and she brought the blade down across her palm in a deep, smooth slice.

Q winced at the sight. "What was that for?"

"Activation," she replied, paling slightly as she pressed her bleeding hand to the surface of the holocron, channeling Force energy into the ancient device. "Seems my new friend here is a touch more demanding than most." She looked up at Q, smiling. "It's a small price to pay."

"If you say so. It's still quite demanding if it requires such barbaric actions to open," Q mused, obviously showing concern for her.

"Far from the worst I've heard of. Darth Atrox's Meditations on Power required the heart's blood of one with whom the prospective reader had formed a Force bond." The holocron stirred to life, its soft lavender glow intensifying. "And there we are."

The lavender glow began to pulse slowly, beating as though like a heart. With each beat, the light grew stronger, washing every feature of the room's occupants with a purple glow. Just when it hit a crescendo, the holocron's lights died, only to burst forth with a shimmering map of the galaxy.

"It's beautiful," Soleta breathed in a hushed, awestruck whisper. With her bleeding hand still resting on the surface of the holocron, she raised her free hand to the edge of the projected map. "Please tell me we're getting this."

"You shall not be disappointed," Q replied in an equally awestruck tone.

"Good. We're here, on Nar Shaddaa." She sidestepped a bit, shifting to stand rimward from where Hutt space stretched in the map. "So where's the treasure..." she mused. On the holocron, her thumb slid to trace out the etching of the symbol for 'treasure,' as she peered along the plane of the galaxy, looking for anything that stood out.

Very slowly, certain lights began to pulse in different locations across the galaxy. Each grew steadily stronger until single words appeared over four locations, all in the ancient Ratakan language.

"There you are." A satisfied grin curled across Soleta's face as she stretched up on tiptoe to look down at the map from above. "Oh, and you're even better than I'd hoped." She brought her free hand to each of the marked worlds in turn, bracketing the tiny sparks between her fingers as if she were about to pull them out of the display. "This one says 'Force'... and this is 'purification'... and 'void' over here." She frowned as she examined the remaining label. "I don't recognise the last one. The script is too archaic, and that term isn't replicated in any vocabulary I've seen."

Quintus reached into his briefcase and brought out a datapad, "I did not leave empty handed last night. I found a list of Rakatan words and phrases, with some translations here and there. I'll let you take a look."

"Wonderful," she replied, her smile returning as she took the datapad and tucked it into her bag. "It appears we've learned the most pertinent facts currently available, and I'm certain my colleagues are eager to have me out of their laboratory. Shall we be on our way?" She withdrew her hand from the holocron, and slowly, the cut across her palm began to mend, pulled together with pale scar tissue.

"We shall," Quintus smiled. "You can keep the knife if you so desire. I have at least two spares. Consider it a... gift."

"Oh. That's..." Soleta blinked, looking from Quintus to the knife and back again with a faintly puzzled expression. "That's very kind. Thank you." She tucked the knife into her belt and, once the holocron's display had faded, slid the cube and the datachip from the recorder into her bag.

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

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LogicLoup
01.31.2013 , 02:28 PM | #49
Arthen Kole’s underground base, Nar Shaddaa


Early in the morning, Serlynne was once again awakened from her dreamless sleep by loud ringing of her datapad, but this time it was merely the sound of her alarm clock. The assassin had no idea if and when anyone would come to her room to wake her up, so Serlynne decided to get up as early as possible in order to find Kole and speak with him before Alecs and Nerama would be awake and therefore able to interfere.

First, Serlynne visited the bathroom and quickly splashed her face with water, banishing the last remains of sleepiness from her mind. Then she picked up her weapons and checked the location of the holocron via the datapad, only to find out with mixture of surprise and relief that it was no longer within the base’s premises. At least now I don’t have to worry about fighting my way through Kole, Dredd and all their goons to get it. She wondered briefly if someone had already managed to steal it again, or if Kole had just decided to move the artifact somewhere else. If all fails, I’ll still have to get it. But first, I have to find Kole.

Naturally, Serlynne had no idea where the strange scientist could be, but she figured Dredd or one of his servants would know. Last night, when Juris had led the assassin to her room, she memorized the way, so now Serlynne just had to backtrack it. It didn’t take much time for her to return through empty corridors to the door which led inside the room where she and the others had met Kole for the first time.

Serlynne paused for a few seconds, still thinking about what would she say to Kole, then took a deep breath, knocked on the door, and entered the room.

Only a test-tube bubbled over a low flame, the lab deserted as Serlynne moved into the room. Holo-terminals were powered down, chemicals in containers just laying there as she slowly walked in.

"Doctor Kole?" called Serlynne, while still moving forward and looking around. "Are you here? Hello?"

Serlynne heard a quiet grumble from behind the nearest lab station, looking closely the assassin could see an armored pair of legs sticking out from behind the table.

"Wha-?" came the reply, a confused Dredd popping his head up and looking around the corner of the station, instantly regretting his swift movement. The hunter let loose a string of curses as he ran a hand down his temple, squinting heavily as Serlynne powered on the lights. "Wha'd ya do that for?"

"Good morning to you too, Dredd," shrugged the assassin. "Rough night?"

He grunted an acknowledgement, rising clumsily to his feet and knocking an empty petri dish to the ground, shattering it.

"Kriff," he breathed, annoyed with his own clumsiness, and turned his attention to Serlynne. "Sorry," he apologized, dropping one arm to the tabletop to help support himself. "Didn't quite sleep it off yet."

"I see," nodded Serlynne with fake sympathy. "I was just looking for Doctor Kole. Any ideas where I can find him?"

"I'll see what I can do." He yawned, stretching for a moment before fiddling with his commlink.

"Thanks," replied Serlynne.

"Ahhh Juris, could you find Kole for me?" He waved her off as the party on the other end answered. "Yes I know, I'm in the labs, one of our guests has been looking for him." His face fell into a scowl. "No, I didn't break anything..." He sighed, annoyed, and growled. "Just get Kole."

"By the way," said Serlynne, suddenly remembering something she'd meant to ask. "Does our mysterious doctor have a first name?"

"Arthen," he mouthed as he rolled his eyes as the voice on the other end of the comm-link could be heard. After a few more moments of chatter, Dredd sighed audibly as he powered off the comm, silencing the other speaker mid-sentence. "One day..." he muttered audibly, then turned his full attention to Serlynne.

"What's the matter?" asked she with genuine curiosity. ''Is something wrong?"

"Juris has that stick up his a** again." He responded with a shrug, as if it were nothing. "He's very self important. What I'd give to..." He casually made a shooting motion with his pointer finger and thumb, making a click with his tongue on the roof of his mouth. "But that is of no concern, and I assure you, Kole should be along as soon as he is able."

"Glad to hear," said Serlynne. "I take it you and Kole are friends? You seemed rather worried about him yesterday after he did this... thing with Nerama."

"You could say that." He nodded, giving no reaction.

"'Friends' is a rather powerful word for the relationship between Dredd and I, but it is most likely the closest thing as well," Arthen stated as he came behind Serlynne, tossing a pear-shaped purple fruit in one hand. "Is there something that bothers you, Miss Az?"

"It's Aziure. Aziure Lyris," explained Serlynne, unable to hold back a smile. "And I have a business preposition for you, Mister Kole. Would you like to hear it?"

Arthen's eyebrow raised up then, unable to contain his surprise as he looked over at Dredd briefly before returning his attention to Serlynne. "Well, Miss Aziure. First, you had my attention. Now, you have my curiosity."

"Mine as well," Nayar drawled as he caught the fruit Arthen was tossing, having woken up by then and headed to the lab as well. "I figured a charming gal like you would have been out of here before the crack o' dawn." He bit into the fruit, savoring the juices that ran through his mouth.

"Funny, I thought the same thing about you, Alecs," replied the assassin, once again rewarding him with a death glare.

"It's quite obvious that the holocron we delivered is extremely valuable to you, Mister Kole," she said calmly, turning back to Arthen. "However, when you mentioned it holds some kind of map, it was only natural for me to assume that the object it points to is what you are really after. Am I correct so far, Mister Kole?"

"Eh, six out of ten." He shrugged, leaning against the wall. "To a degree, yes.

"Good. The amount of payment you offered for bringing the holocron was rather generous," continued Serlynne. "But I believe that whatever this thing leads to, you value that even more. Therefore I am willing to bring this object to you — for the right price, of course. What do you say, Mister Kole?"

A low laugh came from Kole then, almost a chuckle, before he composed himself, Nayar eying him weirdly. "Oh, of course. Yes, I do believe I can avail myself of your services. How does 450 thousand credits sound?"

At that, Nayar sputtered, pieces of fruit landing on the ground. "Hell, I'd take that deal."

"Tell me we're not agreeing to something before I've had caf," Maneera grumbled as she shuffled into the lab. Her hair was down and rumpled, and dark circles mingled with the scars beneath her eyes.

Nayar turned to Maneera, grasping a scalpel to slice the fruit in half before saying, "Sir Moneybags just offered Az here 450k to go after the. . . whatever he's after. I'd take that deal." He handed her the uneaten side of the fruit before turning back to Arthen, who had an eyebrow raised at him now.

"Sir Moneybags?" Arthen grinned.

Serlynne decided to ignore both of her former partners. "Make it 500k and you can consider me at your service, Mister Kole," she said with a polite smile.

"I don't haggle. 450 thousand," Arthen said back, his face still grinning at the pair.

"As you wish... sir," agreed Serlynne, mentally reminding herself that money wasn't her first concern anymore. "What are your orders?"

"Go to your ship. I'll relay what you'll be doing there," Arthen commented, already summoning Juris to escort her out. "How about you, smugglers? Do you wish to be paid as well?"

"Wait... what?" Maneera glared at Arthen in confusion. "We already settled up for delivering the box."

"Indeed we did, Nerama. But I am offered more payment for more services rendered," Arthen explained. "If you both are willing to help me further, I will pay both of you 450 thousand credits each."

She took a bite out of the fruit, confusion turning to suspicion. "So this is what, another race? Creds to whoever can make the tag and get back first?"

"No. I have different objectives for each group I'm sending. Do you accept?" Arthen pressed.

Nayar looked back at Maneera, shrugging at her. "450k in my pocket? Yeah, I could do with that."

Maneera returned the shrug. "Your call, Boss, but I reserve the right to say 'I told you so' when this blows up in our laps."

Nayar looked back to Arthen, nodding in agreement. "We'll take it. But first," he grinned, turning towards Maneera. "Nerama and I need to go spend a night on the town. We'll head out first thing tomorrow morning."

Arthen tried to come up with an appropriate response, but then shook his head. "As you wish."

"Caf first," Maneera insisted with a tired grin, stepping forward to bump her shoulder against Nayar's. "And... uh... thanks," she added, turning her attention to Arthen, "for, y'know, everything."

"My pleasure, Nerama," he smiled at her, before waving a droid over to escort Maneera and Nayar to the kitchen. "Juris, please escort Miss Serlynne out. Dredd, follow me."

The hungover bounty hunter acknowledged him silently and moved across the room, hand shielding his eyes from the direct shine of the rooms light.

He led Dredd into his study, letting the hunter settle himself in a chair before addressing him directly. "The Sith woman escaped, Dredd."

Dredd sobered up instantly, staring at the seated man in disbelief before the information sunk in. He slammed his fist on his leg, his eyes flashing in anger.

"She was... She knows where we are!" he spouted, unable to control his frustration. "How?!"

"Indeed. Not only that, but my files were hacked. Whoever did it copied all of my recordings of ancient languages, and disabled security measures. The holocron has also been taken. But I know where it is." Arthen grinned at Dredd then. "I found a tracking device while studying the holocron. Based on how the Jedi that barged in before didn't locate it immediately, it obviously doesn't belong to the Republic. So, that leaves us with the smugglers, the thief, and the Empire, if not an outside source."

"And you want me to find out?" Dredd inquired skeptically, not sure he was following the former Jedi's train of thought.

"Indeed. When I send you on your mission to Taris, I want you to keep an eye out for any datafeeds you can collect floating through Imperial comm lines. I attached my own listening device to the holocron so I may determine who placed it."

"Alright," Dredd leaned up against the nearest wall. "and when I find out who placed it?"

"Execute. With extreme prejudice."

"Hunt and kill." Dredd smiled slightly, eying Arthen. "You know me too well."

"I'm a people person," Arthen laughed as he scooped up his datapad to send the coordinates of Serylnne's mission to her.

"Right." Dredd snorted, shaking his head. "Do you trust them?" He motioned towards the other room.

"Not at all. But greed is a powerful motivator. They'll work for us," Arthen assured. "Now, it's time you started on your mission. I'll be sure to send all the info I can on rakghouls."

Dredd nodded, the smile fading from his face. "I'll need all I can get."

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

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LogicLoup
02.02.2013 , 07:34 PM | #50
Sith Sanctum, Dromund Kaas


Darth Thanaton strutted past a multitude of Imperials and Sith alike on his walk to Darth Serevin's office. He had just examined files on a top secret Force-sensitive slave imprisoned on an Imperial Prison Planet known as Angolus, explaining his apparent tardiness.

From what I know about this slave on my visits and what Quintus has given me, this slave has the most force potential I have ever seen. I must keep tabs on her at all times. She can either be a weapon or the doom of the entire Empire.

Seeing Serevin's door open, Thanaton slid in without announcing himself, gazing at an expectant Serevin. "I care not if I am fashionably tardy, Serevin. I simply had more pressing matters to attend to."

"What an unexpected honour, my Lord," Serevin replied, his voice oozing flattery. He rose from his seat and gave a brief bow — enough to satisfy the demands of courtesy, but not as deep as Thanaton was accustomed to receiving. "I had expected my invitation to be beneath your personal attention."

"Indeed, Serevin." Thanaton spoke calmly. "Now, what have you got this time?"

"This artifact that we've sent our respective forces after." Serevin's tone turned casual, almost dismissive, as he returned to his chair. "I had hoped to discuss the matter with you, perhaps settle some questions that are, as yet, unanswered."

"Very well, I suppose I have time for this," Thanaton took a seat.

"Only if you're quite certain, my Lord," Serevin replied smoothly. "I'm sure, Councillor that you are, you must have many pressing concerns demanding your full attention. This can wait."

"I'm certain," Thanaton nodded. "My field deals with the IRS and Ancient Knowledge, no?"

"Of course, of course." Serevin smiled broadly as he picked a datapad from his desk. "Well then, to business. Has your agent returned any useful information regarding our prize? I would be quite interested to cross reference his findings with those of my apprentice."

"It's a Rakata holocron, he claims," Thanaton said impassively. "Rakata holocrons generally are... valuable in our line of work, I must say."

Serevin's smile never wavered. "Indeed they are, and with that in mind, it falls to us to determine where that value would be most wisely placed."

"You know the answer as well as I, Serevin," Thanaton scoffed. "I'm sure you would be more suited trying to get your alien scum into the Empire's good graces than to study the secrets I desire, the secrets you cannot fathom."

"Ah, but the Rakata themselves were alien, were they not?" Serevin set the datapad down, sweeping his hands out in broad, dramatic gestures. "Who better than I to present such a priceless gift to the Council as a whole, thereby enriching us all with the holocron's stored wisdom." His hands settled back to the desk as he bowed his head in a brief moment of feigned humility. "There's a sort of poetry there, I find."

"Who better to gift the Council with a holocron than someone who has solid rapport with them, let alone a member," Thanaton retorted. "I do not need a diplomat taking glory from where it is due."

Serevin's expression shifted to a frown of almost parental disappointment as he leaned forward, dropping his voice to a low, conspiratorial tone. "My Lord, I know you would never be so crass as to squabble over so small a thing as glory, not in the face of something so much greater than any single ego."

"I would just rather the holocron be in the hands of one who can fathom its power," Thanaton shrugged. "So, anything further from your apprentice? I haven't heard back from my agent in days."

"Oh, as would I, most assuredly," Serevin replied. "Such power is not to be dispense lightly. As for my apprentice, I have been informed that the holocron is currently in transit off Coruscant, and that she expects to be able to make the necessary appraisals of the piece shortly." He smiled with indulgent pride. "Such a diligent young woman. I was fortunate indeed to find her."

"Her reports are promising, I'll give you that," Thanaton nodded. "I must say... it speaks volumes that apprentices I previously sent after the holocron all failed and I sent a force-blind operative instead. I just used the sharpest knife in the rack, for now, at least."

"We all make use of whatever poor tools we may have, my Lord, and trust the rest to fate and the Force." Serevin picked up his datapad again, looking up over its edge at Thanaton. "I believe we sufficiently understand the situation and our respective places in it. Unless there was anything more you feel you needed to be informed of?"

"Nothing more until my eyes and ears report in again. He has a scheduled call sometime after lunch today, if that interests you?"

"I look forward to it. Until then..." Serevin gestured vaguely toward the door as he turned his attention fully to the datapad.

"I better get started, lest Baras rob the canteen again," Thanaton slightly chuckled before heading out the door.

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