Campaign of the Month: January 2012
Star Trek Late Night
Jacen's Second Story
I’d been a prisoner on Denchar for a while now. Long enough that I was a recognized face on the streets and no longer automatically harassed for being new. It’d been a few months since my run in with Mission and her mates. Since then, I’d taken a job at the Grinning Vulcan, slinging watered down drinks to some of the locals in exchange for minimal pay and a room to sleep in. The Vulcan wasn’t a bad place to work, really – the crowd got along with one another (mostly), the owner was reasonable (mostly), and the rest of the staff (slaves) were attractive. Ostensibly I’d taken the job because my old place had gotten a bit insecure, but if truth be told, I figured if Mission ever got back this way, she’d mostly likely try the Grinning Vulcan first, since that’s more or less where we’d met on her last visit to the colony.
Tarak (the owner of the Grinning Vulcan) had sent me to the City Square – it was time for the supply beam-down, and he’d told me to get what I could. Usually the AK’s grabbed everything and then sold it later, but enough of a crowd usually showed that they weren’t able to get everything. More often than not, fights would break out over whatever goods the AK’s weren’t going after, but I wasn’t interested in getting involved in anything that vigorous; I’d grab whatever supplies I could with a minimal of fuss and then head back to the Vulcan.
When I arrived, the Square was crowded, as I’d expected. I found a spot near one of the walls, opposite the public gallows, to wait and watch. There were only a few bodies hanging there – Tal Shuresh must have been in a good mood. I could see members of various gangs scattered throughout the Square, but everyone was behaving themselves – I guess no one wanted to miss the beam-down. I stood and waited patiently, and presently heard the telltale sound of the incoming transporter beam. Soon enough, everyone had.
The first to arrive, as usual, were the newcomers. They were immediately set upon by various predators, determined to take advantage of the new arrivals before they could gain their bearings. Next to arrive was the foodstuffs – this caused the most commotion, as groups moved in to claim what they could. I watched the scuffles, waiting for the miscellaneous goods to arrive – I’d still have to fight for whatever I got, but the Vulcan needed raw materials more than it needed food.
I don’t know what drew my attention, but I noticed a second transporter effect taking place in a hidden corner near my position. A man beamed in, and though he was cloaked and hooded, it was obvious he was no prisoner arriving. As I watched, one of the sleazier denizens of Xebec approched the arrival – Cort Enzor was mostly a gossip-monger, but just about everyone knew he was a snitch as well. I hadn’t figured out yet how he was still alive, but he must’ve had some powerful friends.
Cort and the newcomer casually walked out of the Square, heading down the Western Promenade. My curiousity was piqued, so I decided to follow them – at a distance. Tarak would be upset, but I’d deal with that later. Right now, I was following up on what might be the source of Cort’s continued survival.
I had been following them for quite a while as the traveled North and West across the city. Eventually they arrived at their desination – one of the entrances to the sewers. I waited for a while after they headed down – I had a good idea where they were headed now. Der Rathskeller was an underground cantina in a secured area of the undercity. It was operated by a Reman named Ra’ta Shadeer, who ran his establishment with an iron fist. Der Rathskeller was a rougher establishment than the Vulcan, but I occassionally spent some time there as I tried to find Dey’ron, who was proving to be more adept at hiding underground than I would have ever credited a tree-living sapient. The dancers at Der Rathskeller, of course, had no bearing on my interest in being there, at all.
I eventually descended and made my way through the lit passages to the chamber holding the cantina. The chamber also contained a store run by two brothers, and the Retreat, an establishment set up as a place for those wishing to explore the undercity to use as a headquarters and sleeping quarters. The rest of the chamber was taken up with various crypts and mausoleums of the fallen heroes of Xebec’s Demise.
As I entered, I made my way to the bar and ordered an amgrosia. As I waited, I scanned the shadowed booths for Cort and his friend, and eventually found them. They were in conversation with Ra’Ta, which was interesting, but then I was distracted as one of Ra’Ta’s dancers took the stage. Honi, a slim blonde who always managed to take my breath away. She graced me with a smile as she noticed me at the bar, and then started to dance. Tanj! I reluctantly turned to watch the meeting in the corner and saw Cort approaching me.
He grinned as he approached, and nodded to me, “So, what brings you to the lair of the enemy?” He glanced over to the stage, “As if I had to guess! You should give Ra’Ta an offer… one never knows. Take your boss, Tarak, for instance… did you know he…?”
I interrupted, “Where’s this going, Cort? I’m not interested in any of the dren you’re slinging, so if you got something to say, spit it out. Otherwise, let me enjoy the entertainment.”
Cort held up his hands in a supplicating motion, “Hey, hey! No harm meant. Just thought you might be here to meet people and make some new friends. No need to get ruffled.”
He started to pay for his drink, but I caught his arm. “You know what? You’re right. Here, let me pay for your drink to make up for it.” He sat and we watched Honi for a while, then I leaned over to him, “Hey, you got any idea who that guy is with Ra’Ta? I’ve never seen him before, but he doesn’t look like an FNG.”
Cort glanced over to the booth, “He’s not new, but you need to keep to yourself on that front, priyatel. That’s Jhargren Dhal, a well-placed Orion slaver.” He emptied his glass and motioned for a re-fill. “Word is he’s here to pick up a special shipment. If you ask me, it looks like they’re discussing terms right now.”
Just about then, Ra’Ta motioned to one of his staff, who went into a back room. Presently, he came out with a rather fetching Togruta in slave silks, leading her by a chain running to a collar on her neck. He led her over to the two men and forced her to kneel – something she apparently didn’t want to do, as she demonstrated by quickly turning and putting her knee into the Nausicaan’s mivonks. I don’t know what she had planned next, because she suddenly screamed and started writhing on the floor in pain. Ra’Ta had some sort of control in his hand – obviously the cause.
A hand on my shoulder brought me around. Honi’s smiling eyes were suddenly staring into mine. “Hey Jacen. It’s been a while; I thought you’d forgotten about me or found a different girl.”
Oh, the things we’ll believe when we want something to be real.
“Nothing of the sort, Honi,” I replied, taking hold of her waist and pulling her a little closer. “I’ve just been busy working at the Vulcan. You should think about taking a job there, and getting out of this cave.”
She laughed and motioned for a drink – my wallet was getting lighter than I’d liked. “You know I’m indentured here! Unless Tarak wants to pay Shadeer’s price-bond on me, I can’t go anywhere. Besides, it’s not too bad down here. The air’s a little cleaner than topside, since there’s less atmo to scrub. Plus, Shadeer’s got some good connections, so we usually have quality stuff to eat and drink.”
A scream from across the room drew my attention. The Orion, Jhargren, had the controls to the Togruta’s collar now and was playing with it, torturing her for his amusement. I stood and Honi grabbed my arm, “Don’t…”
I ignored her and headed across the room. Ra’Ta’s Nausicaan, now recovered, moved to intercept me. “Step aside,” I growled, and to my surprise he did. Ra’Ta and Jhargren seemed surprised as well, so I closed the distance.
“Can I help you, friend?” the Orion asked. His smile contained no humor, and I could see he was keeping one hand beneath the table – a weapon, no doubt. Ra’Ta observed but said nothing.
I kept my focus on the Orion, “I’m no expert, but only a veruul would damage such a prize.” I looked down at the slave – she was watching us defiantly, so I think my wink caught her off guard. She dropped her eyes to the floor, but not before I caught her trying to hide a grin. “What do you say I take her off your hands? You obviously don’t value her highly, so we should be able to come to terms.”
Jhargren laughed, then said, “Veruul am I? Well, only a pewnkah interrupts a discussion he has no part in.” The blast from the weapon caught me without warning, even though I was expecting it – I hit the floow as all of my muscles and nerves went haywire. Distantly, I felt something strike my head, and then everything went black.
When I regained my senses I opened my eyes and nearly panicked. Everything was black, so I opened and closed my eyes a few more times – no change. I cautiously reached out and felt a damp wall. Gradually, the sound of dripping water reached my ears. I slowly stood up and nearly passed out again as a sharp jab of pain ran through me – I felt like I’d been the dog skull in a game of juggers.
I took a deep breath and tried to get my bearings. I was somewhere in the sewers, that much was obvious. It was also bad news – so far as I knew, there were only two entrances to the sewers from the city – one in the Northwest Quadrant, and the other somewhere else. From what I knew, I could pick either direction and eventually make a circuit of the city boundry, but without some form of light, I’d probably walk right past the entrance to the chamber that held Der Rathskeller. Even more dangerous would be the ghouls and other denizens that could – and would – find me here. Without a weapon, I’d pretty much be some creature’s lunch. I shrugged and picked a direction – trusting to the Force to see me through this.
- – - – - -
Riyo watched the Romulan vessel on the viewscreen – it was small, probably a scout. The Federation ship Neptune was aware of it; they just simply ignored its presence. She’d tracked the slaver, Dhal, to this dismal planet. He was somewhere on the surface – so close, and yet so far. There was no way for her to reach the surface, herself; she had neither the contacts nor the pull of her quarry.
She stood up and headed for the equipment locker. It was time to put her plan into action.
- – - – - -
I’d been traveling for about an hour in the darkness, moving as fast as I dared in the absolute darkness. The stench was awful, and I’m certain I was only able to bear it due to my sense of smell having been all but destroyed in the ammonia atmosphere of Denchar.
I was thinking as I stumbled through the sewer – that and listening for any hint of danger. So it was with absolute surprise that I tripped over something – a shrill cry pierced the quiet as my world of darkness was suddenly filled with glaring light. I shut my eyes against the sudden pain and tried to shield them with my hands. Whatever it was meant me no harm, as I wasn’t suddenly forced to defend myself from attack.
As my eyes readjusted to the light, I found myself looking at, of all things, a droid – a T-series maintenance droid to be exact. The little guy had somehow gotten jammed into a hole in the wall, and had been unable to get himself free. His light dimmed and he gave me a soft warbling plea. I smiled and then set about getting him free – they’re heavier than they look. When I got him loose, he spun about on his servos with a jubilant whistle. “Hey,” I asked. “Any chance you know the way out of here?”
He stopped and looked at me, then gave a whistle of assent. He started heading down the sewer, lighting our way as he went. Of course, he was headed back the way I had come from. It took less time to travel back than it had taken me to get to his location – beaing able to see is not to be overrated. As we neared the door heading to the chamber, I heard a skittering from behind me. I turned to see one of the sewer ghouls scabbling along the wall toward me – those things can move! I grabbed for my knife and – TANJ! – my sheath was empty. I turned and ran, hoping that I could reach the chamber before it overtook me.
The sound of it gaining on me spurred me on, and then I heard another sound, an electrical discharge of some sort as a light behind me lit up the sewer before me. I dove forward and rolled to my feet, turning to face the ghoul as well as I could. It was nowhere to be seen; the only thing behind me was the droid, rolling toward me slowly. It gave me a smug warble and waited at the door for me to open it. I scratched the stubble on my chin – clearly I’d missed something, but I was frelled if I was going to stand there and try to figure it out. I opened the door to the chamber of the catacombs and waited for the droid to preceed me.
Immediately I headed for the Rathskeller. The droid followed me in – I didn’t see Jhargren anywhere, nor the Togruta slave. I did see Ra’Ta, however, and headed across the floor towards him. His Nausicaan saw me coming and stepped to block my way, but Ra’Ta stopped him, and said to me with a smile, “Jacen, you need to calm down. You know better than to interrupt a business deal.” I didn’t even slow down as he continued, “You’re trying my patience! You don’t like the Orion? Fine! But, you hit him when he’s outside my club. While he’s here, he’s under my shields, so ka?”
I stopped a few meters from him, then nodded, “Yeah, you’re right, Ra’Ta. He got under my skin, and I forgot protocol.” I glanced at his bodyguard, then noticed the rest of his men scattered around the bar, all focused on me. “But the Orion isn’t the one who dragged me into the sewers and left me for ghoul-bait. That’s on you.”
He laughed, “And what? You think you’re going to get some sort of payback against me? If it wasn’t for my mercy, you would have had your throat slit – the ghouls eat the freshly killed as much as anything else. No, Daasa, you OWE me.”
I thought about it. Truth was, he was probably right. I’d been causing static where I didn’t belong, and nearly paid the ultimate price for it. I nodded, “Yeah, okay. My apologies, Ra’Ta; I just don’t like feeling like the bantha-dren I’ve been acting like.”
He shrugged, “Put it out of your mind, Daasa. You can make it up to me later. Right now, I want you out of my club – there’s been too much trouble caused here today. I want you out of here before any more starts.” He turned and started walking for the bar. “I had to kick that Orion out of here as well, about ten minutes ago. Never could trust those Syndicate-types.”
I couldn’t believe my ears, but I didn’t waste any time on consideration. I headed out of there and all but ran for the passage back up to the surface. Ra’Ta had just told me that if I hurried, I might be able to catch the Orion before he got away.
- – - – - -
Riyo hated being in space – she’d never liked being in a EVA suit; the things were just too clunky. But it was the only way she could get close to the slaver’s ship. If she’d tried to bring her ship closer, his crew would likely notice. So far he was unaware that he was being hunted, and she intended to keep it that way. If she blew it, Soka would be the one to pay for her mistake.
So Riyo worked through her discomfort. She drifted across the space between the two ships, making adjustments to her course through calculated bursts of compressed air. Gradually she got closer to the ship, until she was able to grab hold and stop her momentum.
Grinning with her small triumph, Riyo made certain to get her magnetic-soled boots afixed to the hull, then started moving toward the ship’s primary sensors. If she’d figured it correctly, the package she inteded to deliver would be masked by the ship’s own sensors. She knew she’d better hurry, though. Dhal had been on the surface for quite a while now, and there was no way of knowing when he’d return. She had to be away from the ship before that happened.
- – - – - -
I ran through the chamber, and then down the hallway to the stairs leading to the upper city. I didn’t know if he had to get back to the City Square to beam out or if reaching the surface would allow him to escape. I burst into the starlit sky of the City and looked around. There! The Orion was headed down the street, apparently headed back to the Square. Somewhere he’d acquired a pair of guards – Klingons – and was leading two women on leashes.
I started to follow, trying to think of a plan. I had no weapons, he had guards, and he had a stunner of some sort – slim odds. Something bumped into me from behind – my little droid buddy. He looked up at me with a low-pitched hum. I smiled, “Hey! Didn’t realize you were still with me.” I motioned toward the group I was following, “I have some business to take care of. Wanna help?” He nodded, so I continued, “Can you think of any way to take out the two butt-heads while I take out the other one?”
The little guy hummed, then nodded his head. He started rolling ahead of me, so I followed, sticking to the shadows. As the little guy got close, the Klingon in the back tunred to see the droid approaching. I saw him scowl and grip his bat’leth a little tighter. He gave a warning to the others as the little droid stopped in front of him and looked up. Jhargren had turned to see what the matter was, then said, “Deal with this heap of junk! I don’t have any time to waste!” He then gave a tug on the Togruta’s leash. She grunted in pain, but followed. It was then that I realized the other Klingon was holding the other girl’s leash – it was Honi!
The rear Klingon kicked the droid and gave a grunt of surprise – I told you, those things are heavier than they look. He hopped up and down on his uninjured foot for a minute while his companion laughed. Just then, the droid popped open a comparment on his head, from which a nozzle popped out. Before anyone could react, a jolt of electricity shot from the droid and hit the hopping Klingon in the chest, who promptly fell over. I saw the chance and charged forward.
The second Klingon – the one holding Honi’s leash – saw me coming and lashed out with a remarkably agile kick for someone so large. His steel-shod boot caught me in the chest, knocking me over and a few meters away – I’m pretty sure I heard a couple of ribs crack as well. I managed to regain my feet, however, and lash out with a kick of my own, aimed at his knee.
He easily batted aside my attack and yanked on Honi’s chain, forcing her between us. I could see the fear in her eyes, which distracted me from the Klingon’s next attack – his big fist caught me on the side of my head and knocked my sideways. Through the fog I found myself in, I could see him closing in for a follow-up kick, which I managed to avoid most of by twisting to the side. I countered by grabbing his leg and falling toward him, which carried us both to the ground and dragged Honi down on top of us.
Before he could react, I smashed my elbow into his face. His nose shattered under the blow, to which he grunted in surprise. I rolled to my feet and looked for Jhargren. He was standing a few meters away, holding his pistol at his side. He also held the leash to the Togruta, keeping her between the two of us. Then the Klingon swept my feet from under me, bringing me crashing to the ground again (mental note – don’t ignore Klingons until they’re unconscious).
The Klingon rolled atop me, pinning me to the ground, and grabbed the front of my shirt. He then proceeded to slam my shoulders and head into the ground, in response to which the stars came back out to watch the show. Knowing that some of the residents of Xebec’s Demise follow a more stringent set of Codes than I follow, I willed myself not to lose consciousness. He was preparing to slam my head into the ground one more, but I snapped my head forward and smashed his broken nose once again. His howl of pain was accompanied by my shove upwards, which knocked him off of me and allowed me to regain my feet.
I stood unsteadily and shook my head to clear the stars, which was a mistake because all that I accomplished was getting the street around me to start spinning wildly. It must have been my stumble that caused Jhargren to miss, because I heard the energy discharge and felt the heat of it pass nearby. Then I heard him scream out in a mixture of anger and pain. I managed to clear my eyes and head to see the Togruta slave had launched herself at the slaver, and that my Klingon friend had regained his feet as well.
I sighed, “Really?”. His face was covered in bright pink blood, the result of his broken nose. He grinned at me, but I could see a grudging respect for me in his eyes – not that it stopped him from drawing his knife from its sheath. I tensed, ready to get hurt but unwilling to concede. It was quite a shock to both of us, then, when the length of chain caught the Klingon across the back of his head. It seems we’d both forgotten about Honi, who had used the length of her leash to bash him. He hit the ground – again – while I stood there stunned. Luckily, she didn’t pause and continued to beat the Klingon with the looped chain in her hands.
I snapped out of it as I heard the Orion’s pistol discharge again. Looking over, I saw the slave had been stunned and was lying on the ground at his feet, groaning. He was looking at her with some anger, but he saw that his bodyguard was down. He glanced at me, “Well done, Jedi! You nearly win the day. Now you only have one more decision to make – me or the slut!” He lifted his pistol and shot Honi.
Even as I ran to her, I could sense Jhargren lifting the Togruta to his shoulders and running down the street toward the Square. I didn’t care though; Honi’d saved me, and I had to check on her first. She was alive, but barely. I looked down the street at the retreating Orion and vowed I’d find him again. I lifted Honi carefully and started to hurry toward the Grinning Vulcan. That was closer than the Medical Center, and thanks to the resident Klingon tech, Karr, we had our own access to the colony’s EMH. Cate would take care of Honi.
- – - – - -
As Riyo reached her ship, the Orion’s vessel turned and left orbit. Cursing under her breath, she waited impatiently for the airlock to cycle and give her access to the interior. Before she made it back to the cockpit, the Lying Bastard had entered warp. She grimaced, then checked her sensor readings. There! Lifesigns indicated a Togruta was aboard. Her face showed grim satisfaction as she powered up the engines and checked her readings. The package she had delivered – a Holonet transceiver – would let her know where he went. She was one step closer to getting her friend back and killing the svoluch that had her.
She activated the controls and followed the Bastard into deep space. Looked like he was heading to Bajor.
- – - – - -
It took Cate three days to get Honi patched up. Tarak wasn’t too thrilled to find I hadn’t gotten any supplies, but he seemed to like the fact that one of his biggest competitors had lost his main attraction, and that it looked like the Vulcan might have gotten a new dancer. He was even more pissed when I arranged to have Honi transported offworld through a contact of Cate’s – a trader named Luthor Huss. He’d take her to Citadel where she could look up a few friends of mine I told her about. I also told her I’d join her as soon as I was able – I just had some unfinished business here. She thanked me in ways I’ll never forget, then left with Huss. I made certain that he understood that if he harmed her in any way, I’d be paying him a visit. He said he understood; Cate vouched for him, and even had a few words with Honi privately.
I’ve seen the Klingon I’d battled a few times – he even came into the Vulcan to have a few drinks. He laughed about our fight and bought me a drink for the courage I’d shown. I could only shake my head, but say whatever else you want about Klingons, I maintain they’re nuts. Never did find out his name though.
The droid – his designation turned out to be T3-M8 – had followed me back to the Vulcan as well. He hangs around, but he seems to be nervouse around Karr and YunDarr. I can’t blame him, really; those two techs are as likely to take him apart for spare components as patch him up and get him working properly. I keep an eye out for the little guy though, and whenever I have the opportunity to arrange an oil bath for him I do. Cate’s been a big help with him as well – I guess she has more in common with him than anyone.
Ra’Ta hasn’t made any waves about the favor I owe him, but I know he won’t forget about it and he will collect. I do owe him though – he’s right about that. I just hope I can stomach whatever it is he asks of me.
I will find that bastard Orion when I get off this ammonia-tainted dustball. I’ll find him and the Togruta slave. He’ll pay for his actions – all of which stemmed from my ill-advised bout of chivalry, I know – and then I’ll decide about her. All I had wanted to do was stop her abuse, but now… well, things always seem to get out of control sometimes.
- – - – - -
On a distant planet, Ina’rovi’nuruodo opened her eyes. Standing from her meditation, she thought about the vision she’d just had. She’d found the woman, of course, but he was there as well. The one who she had visions of from time to time, to the point where some of dreams had even been invaded.
She didn’t know who this Human was – she only knew that their paths were destined to cross. She shivered as that thought passed through her mind, though she was uncertain whether it was from fear – or from anticipation.
She found her current employer at his favorite spot – by the pool where his nubile slaves cavorted and writhed as he watched and feasted. He noted her approach, and Rovi was again disgusted by this being – Nuquad might have been powerful, with many connections, but he also seemed to have gotten it into his head that if one was going to act like a Hutt, one must behave like a Hutt and look like a Hutt.
“Well, Rovi?” he asked as he watched the Chiss female approach. Oh, what he would give to have her spend a day or two in his private pleasure gardens. However, he knew better than to try with this one – she was Force-trained and therefore quite dangerous. Besides, he could have any other woman he wanted – no matter the price.
Rovi stopped before him and crossed her arms, “She’s no longer on Denchar.”
The news caused Nuquad to chortle with glee. He took a large swig of his wine and stroked the slave standing next to him, “Excellent!” His eyes swept the naked body of the female at his side, his excitement growing. He turned back to his personal Jedi servant, “Do be a dear and fetch her for me, will you? And please make certain that she is unmarked… there are some things a man likes to do himself!”
Rovi gave a short bow, “By your command.” She turned and headed for her ship, ignoring the sounds coming from the poolside. The quarry had finally entered the field – it was time to get to work. As she entered her ship and prepared to debark, her thoughts turned again to the man in her visions. ‘Yes,’ she thought, ‘Time indeed to get to work.’