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Errant Venture, Malastare
The Errant Venture sat hovering over Malastare like a fuming sentinel picketing the entire planet, it reminded Reece of the stories his parents had told his sister and him as children about the orbital bombardments of the Empire, except this Star Destroyer had been painted a vibrant red. Booster Terrik had ordered the whole ship painted the garish color when it became his ship; after all he didn’t want people to confuse the Errant Venture with any of the Imperial ships that were still roaming around the galaxy. Kall’el activated the comm and sent a message to the Venture’s traffic controller and received the landing coordinates to dock. Reece marveled at the size of the ship, the Empire had impressive ships; Reece had to credit the Empire for that. They brought the ship by the command tower and turned for the docking bay they were assigned Reece couldn’t believe the New Republic could have ever been swindled out of possession of the Star Destroyer, and yet some how Booster had managed it, the man was crafty that was one of his trademarks. Once the Spicy Lady had crossed the mag-field and set down on the flight deck Kall’el started shutting the ship down. When they were finished they made the ship ready to be loaded, when all tasks were completed Reece and Kall’el walked down the boarding ramp to meet with Booster’s people.
Noble Krovn was standing at the foot of the ramp waiting for them as they came out of the ship. He smiled mischievously at Reece and bowed to the two in greeting, Reece’s jaw had dropped the moment he had noticed Noble standing at the head of the group. Well for Reece, Noble just standing there at the bottom of the boarding ramp spoke volumes about the type of hyperdrive his ship was boasting. He tried not to appear too surprised by the turn of events, but from the smile that was spreading across Noble’s bearded face; he could tell he failed to achieve his composure.
“Ah, now don’t let it bother your kid,” Noble bellowed up to Reece while stepping forward to greet the two as they came down the Spicy Lady’s ramp. He gestured to a ship parked parallel to the Lady, “The Synic over there is more than likely one of the fastest ships in the galaxy it would give Solo’s Falcon a run for its money even on its best day. But then again it should, Chewbacca helped Blixz over there with most of the special upgrade to the hyperdrive and engines.” The Rodian Blixz nodded his head in greeting, then turned to Kall’el and asked, “Are you about done playing smuggler? It’s not as much fun flying around in the Synic with Noble pretending he’s in charge, you’d never guess it, but he can be a little bossy.”
Kall’el unfolded his wings, extending them to their full wingspan, something he would often do after a flight. Reece knew it must be hard on the Stenax, he was already a large being, but having to keep his wings folded around himself must have been taxing. Kall’el said that it wasn’t something that caused him pain or distress, his wings could create a natural cloak and cowl, which helped him stay inconspicuous when he needed to be. Though he made it no secret that he did enjoy every opportunity he received to stretch them out. As his wings moved about behind him, Kall’el turned from the Rodian to Noble and laughed, “Noble? Bossy? Blixz you clearly need more time to get to know him better, efficient, yes, but bossy...” He turned back to Blixz and lowered his voice conspiratorially, “I know precisely what you mean.” He winked at Reece and for a moment Reece felt out of place, the Rodian and Kall’el were both laughing and even Noble found humor in the exchange, but why Reece wasn’t quite sure.
Kall’el turned back to Reece and gestured at the group, “Reece Denzar, I would like to introduce you to my fellow Jedi.” He pointed to each as he named them, “Blixz Remlin, Tranna Sunna’rasa, Keki Sodran, and of course you already know Noble Krovn. With the exceptions of Noble and Keki, we all trained together in the same classes at the Academy.”
Reece missed most of what Kall’el had said after that, something about how the group had became close, some of their adventures and the missions, he knew he would actually be interested in most of what Kall’el was talking about, but he was struck at that moment by the beauty of Keki Sodran. She was an Arkainian, and for some reason she reminded him of the mysterious Arkainian woman he had met on Tatooine. For a moment he thought it was her, and expected her to recognize him and say something, but he quickly realized that she was not the same woman, but just bear a resemblance to her.
She raised her left eyebrow and her eyes seemed to pierce through him, evaluating him. He quickly looked away embarrassed, then his eyes were immediately pulled to the other female of the group; the Twi’lek, Tranna Sunna’rasa.
Tranna’s lithe body and the cool shade of her blue skin was hard to miss, and if it hadn’t been for his mistaking Keki for someone, he might have been staring at Tranna right off the landing ramp, but as it was she was staring penetratingly at him. Her eyes had locked onto his, he swallowed hard, and she was by far one of the most beautiful women Reece had ever laid his eyes on. His pulse quickened, and he had to force himself to break eye contact with her, he found that breaking eye contact was hard, her eyes seemed to hold him captive, he had to blink a few times before he could turn away. He found that in a matter of moments she was filling his thoughts; thankfully Kall’el chose that moment to speak, braking up his thoughts and had probably saved him from impending embarrassment in front of a group of Jedi and smugglers no less!
Kall’el spoke in a tone that snapped Reece back into the moment.
“Blixz here has been working on the Synic for a couple years now, Master Skywalker managed to acquire a few starships for the Order, and Blixz took on the challenge or repairing and upgrading the Synic. I’m sure you’ll be interested to see some of his engine modifications, and I know he’d be happy to lend his expertise to the Lady while we conduct our business on the Venture.”
Reece felt like he was being blown off suddenly, and wasn’t sure why before Kall’el and the rest could walk off, he asked, “What, now your going to handle all the business Kal? I thought you wanted me doing it all from here on out?”
Before Reece could continue seeking answers to the questions that suddenly flooded his mind Tranna stepped forward and took his hand.
“I’d be more than happy to show you around, Blixz still has to finish unloading a few things anyway, don’t you Blixz.” She whispered conspiratorially.
Just as Kall’el’s voice had brought Reece out of his wandering thoughts, the touch of Tranna’s hand on his made Reece forget his troubles and worries, and just enjoy the attention the Twi’lek was giving him. He smiled and tried to sound macho as he replied with a tilt of his head forward and an arching of his left brow, “I would enjoy that, lead on.”
Tranna glared over at Blixz for a moment, she obviously wanted him to disappear and leave her and Reece alone. She spoke to Blixz in a sultry voice, “I can show Reece around Blixz, if there was something else you needed to do. When we’re done, I can send Reece to fetch you for your more technical explanations.”
Her eyes widened and her brows rose momentarily and she sent a shooing motion at Blixz just then through the Force. From previous experience Blixz could tell whenever Tranna was dropping him a hint to leave, and she was being way more obvious than normal.
She obviously had a thing for the human, not that Blixz really cared about such things; after all, he did have plenty of time to show Reece the engine and technical rooms of the Synic. If Reece still wanted to see the specs he would still have time. Blixz smiled at the two and started to back away towards the ship.
“Sure. Come and find me whenever you’re ready Reece. I’ll be more than happy to show you what I’ve done to this thing.”
With that he walked back to the Synic, he stopped before he went up the ramp and called back.
“Oh, and if you need me Noble, Kal, you know where I’ll be.”
With that he entered the ship. Kall’el knew Blixz would most likely be in the engine room for the rest of their stay on the Errant Venture. Blixz loved tinkering with that ship. It was a passion of Blixz’s, Kall’el reflected, but tinkering with ships was one passion that Blixz was actually quite good at. Kall’el didn’t see anything wrong or dark about Blixz passions.
Noble was looking over at him grinning suspiciously, Kall’el smiled back.
“What?” he asked.
“Nothing.” He said as Kall’el folded his wings out to their full wingspan, then folding then around his body like a cloak.
“Nothing at all. Come on Booster wants to talk with us before we load your ship.” He turned back to the group standing at the Synic.
“Oh and Tranna, we’ll be back shortly, try not to disappear when we get back, we’ll be loading and lifting within the next hour or so.”
Tranna turned a sour look on the two Jedi as they departed, “Ha ha Noble, you’re a riot.” Then with a wicked smile spreading across her face she took Reece’s hand and turned back to the Synic.
“You know Reece, I know that I promised you a tour of the Synic, but I think Blixz was actually looking forward to showing you around the engine room himself. Why don’t you show me your ship instead?” She looped her arm through his and leaned into him.
“After all, despite what Noble says, we’ll be on the Venture for at least four hours. We have never managed to leave before that long and there is a lot that those three have to catch up on. So shall we?” she purred as she turned Reece back around.
She started them off in the opposite direction, back towards the Spicy Lady before he could respond to her questions. His head was spinning at the momentum of the events in his life that were unfolding these past few minutes. He decided it was best to just go with the flow. Yes, go with the flow.
“Excellent suggestion.” He said quickening their pace. “Right this way beautiful.”
Outer Rim, New Republic Star Destroyer- Free Will
Nevit Calkin had settled in quickly on the Free Will, Captain Dertna Nykon had been immediately impressed by the performance increases Nevit had made to over half of the computer systems across the ship. He was able to increase shield output by twelve percent, and decreased the time it took for the turbo lasers to cycle between blasts. Captain Nykon had arranged for Nevit to receive senior officer quarters to have all to himself, he didn’t have to worry about a bunkmate. It was a much larger living space than the quarters he had been assigned back at Kuat Drive Yards. KDY had never really appreciated his talents, and it was obvious that the New Republic did, he felt like a sports athlete being recruited for a high profile Core World, he had never had this much attention directed his way before. Nevit knew he would have to be careful or his ego would get out of hand. He had spent the last two weeks going over most of the ship with the systems and maintenance crews, at first he feared his crewmen would resent his presence, but he had been welcomed with open arms. He had even been invited to a few private Sabacc and Dejerrik games by the senior staff. If Nevit had any misgivings about taking his new assignment, they had all faded away by the end of the first week.
On his sixteenth day aboard the Free Will, he had been called to the NRI office; Nevit found it rather funny that New Republic Intelligence actually had an office aboard a Star Destroyer, part of him had always expected there to be a cloak and dagger set up behind NRI, nothing so formal as an office. He was curious how the whole process would work itself out. It wasn’t like he had ever worked with an intelligence agency before, and from what he gathered; he’d be one of the ‘high tech’ science guys behind the real agents, supplying them with the latest in super spy ware, like in the holo-dramas. He didn’t mind that arrangement, less blaster bolts fired his way he figured, and that was just the sort of arrangement he would like to keep anyway.
An hour later on his way back to his quarters, Nevit had a much better understanding of where he fit into the NRI chain. So he had been assigned to a Special Forces unit, he would be the unit’s mechanic-technician-engineer. He was equal parts nervous and excited; he had never had the amount of trust placed in his abilities as the NRI was placing in him at that moment. In many respects he would be the heart of the unit, just as the unit leader would be the brain of the operation. He would be responsible for acquiring and fabricating anything the unit would need for its various missions. If something needed repaired, they would go to him. If it had anything to do with computers or terminals, he was their man. He smiled as he strode up to the door that served as the unit’s headquarters on the Free Will. He had been briefed on the other members of his new unit as well, from what he had heard. His new unit was a pretty laid back group of beings, and he hoped he would fit right in with them. It had been so long since he had really felt accepted, or as part of a team, and that was the main reason he had left KDY in the first place. Steeling himself, he pressed the button that would announce his arrival. Ok, here goes, he thought as the door flew open.
Errant Venture, Malastare
As Noble and Kall’el approached the sliding compression doors of the bulkhead leading to Booster Terrik’s office Noble couldn’t hold back anymore. He had to say something. He had let the silence build for too long, but he was not going to let the moment pass without ribbing Kal a little.
“Kal you do realize that Tranna has set her sights on your boy back there, right? May the Force protect him.”
Noble looked like he was enjoying the fact, Kall’el thought. But Kall’el would not rise to the bait. He turned his head and looked down at his fellow Jedi and friend and gave him a smile full of sharp teeth.
“Yes Noble, the thought did occur to me. But Reece Denzar is a grown man. He can do what he wants, when he wants. I am not going to tell him what he can or cannot do, nor would I want to. I have chosen to honor his father’s request and watch over him for now because of my visions. But if he chooses to return Tranna’s advances that is his decision to make. I just hope she doesn’t break his heart in the process, he’s a good kid.”
Kall’el kept a straight face, but Noble could tell there was a larger issue, and as much as he wanted to dig deeper into Kal’s visions he decided to let it pass. He figured it was finally time to tell Kal what he had been hoping to tell him back on Tatooine. Noble looked down at his feet as they stood outside the office, and then looked up into Kall’el’s eyes.
“Just so you know, Master Skywalker has asked Booster to have us work more directly with some of the smugglers. He feels that by having some Jedi along on their runs it might make Master Durron back off the smugglers a little.”
Noble knew what Kall’el was going to say then. The same thought had occurred to him when he had first learned of Master Skywalker’s plans.
“Won’t the New Republic be upset that the Jedi are aiding groups of beings that are working outside New Republic law? That can’t look good to the public eye.” Kall’el stated.
“I asked the same questions when I heard, which is why our actions can’t be known to the public. This is why we are working through Booster. He has agreed to set us up with various groups that can be trusted to keep our involvement to themselves; in exchange we will be keeping Kyp from harassing their ships.”
Concern creased Noble’s brow as he explained his thoughts to Kall’el. He pused before continuing.
“Or so the idea is. Personally, I wonder why Master Skywalker hasn’t just reined Durron in himself. It is almost as if he has been sanctioning Durron’s actions. And then he sends us out to dissuade him, which shows me he obviously doesn’t care for Kyp’s methods. It can be confusing.” He joked.
“I think that perhaps, had Master Durron sought out more peaceful ways of addressing the issues he faces; we wouldn’t be here at all.” Kall’el mused. “I also think Master Skywalker is hoping Master Durron will come around on his own. After all, being told to cease and desist when you are doing something you don’t see as being a wrong course of action can lead to open rebellion. That could be one more reason why Master Skywalker is pushing the re-creation of the Jedi Council. It would make situations like this one a lot easier to deal with. If there were a group of Jedi Masters telling Master Durron to stop his actions he would be more compelled to listen. Power in numbers and all that.”
Kall’el had thought about the idea of a Jedi Council for a while himself, certainly it would make Master Skywalker’s life less worrisome; he always seemed to feel that every Jedi’s actions were a direct reflection on his training. One day he would have to realize that each Jedi was responsible for the individual choices and actions they made, and that their actions have very little to do with their teacher. Even talking about Master Skywalker’s intentions out loud had felt like a betrayal of some kind to Kall’el. The Jedi Master was a great man, and a hero to the galaxy. Doubting his actions and choices didn’t feel right to Kall’el, but he knew that Master Skywalker would need to do something about Kyp Durron, or the Jedi Order was going to be in for some harsh criticism. Kall’el didn’t see anyway around it.
Noble nodded his head in agreement.
“You speak the words in my mind friend, though I don’t like hiding our actions in all of this, it feels dishonest. At least Kyp isn’t afraid of angering the leaders of the New Republic by his actions. I know that what he is doing is wrong, but the way we’re coming at this issue doesn’t feel right, or at least that’s what I’ve been feeling lately in the Force. Ever since Master Skywalker told me what he wanted us to be doing for the next few weeks, I’ve been having troubling feelings from the Force. I can’t place if the feeling is about the mission, or something else altogether.”
Kall’el came to a stop in the corridor; he turned to Noble and gave him a long stare before he spoke. But when he did he spoke in a low smoky voice.
“I too have been feeling a warning from the Force; I have had visions of a future with a war, and Reece is at my side, and that he would play a fundamental role in events, and that it was important for me to be there to protect him. But the more time that goes by now that he’s been in my sight, the more the feeling has started to shift. I’m starting to feel that the change has to do more with my working with Reece- that perhaps I would end up dragging him into something that might get him killed. Or that my vision was of a time before I sought out Reece. Either way it has been a large reason why I have been pushing him into his role as a captain, I am beginning to see that I will not always be around Reece through the war, but I might still have to be there at the end of it. The vision feels like it is slippery, as though by my contacting Reece has set events into motion, all I can do now is look to the Force for guidance.”
He placed his hand on Nobles shoulder and squeezed, “We must be open to what the Force is trying to show us, it may be something minor, but I fear it may be important.”
“Agreed. But for now,” He gestured to the door they had stopped in front of, “Booster awaits, let’s see what he has for us.” They both went into Terrik’s office, he wasn’t there of course, Booster liked it when people were waiting on him, and not the other way around. The two Jedi sat and discussed their thoughts on the upcoming assignments, and the impact they might have in the Outer Rim as they awaited Booster.
Outer Rim, New Republic Star Destroyer- Free Will
Nevit Calkin had settled in quickly with his commando unit; his unit leader, a tall Twi-lek named Prock Pagnotta promptly put him to work upgrading a Lamba class shuttle that would be serving the unit as transportation. He has spent a week working on the shuttle, he had developed a comradely with the three pilots of the unit; Rayf Tanyan, Logan Bromner, and Vann Jergan. And he had become very close to Eyres Kudan the Jenet slicer; Eyres had a photographic memory and Nevit kept him near most of the time. It was convenient to have someone to work with who remembered everything. The only member of the unit he hadn’t seen much was the Defel, Vox.
Nevit closed a hatch on the underside of the shuttle and wiped his hands off on his coveralls, he crossed over to the hanger door where Prock Pagnotta stood with Logan Bromner and Rayf Tanyan.
“Ok, that should about cover all the modifications you asked for sir.” Nevit said.
“Even that one I mentioned?” Rayf asked intently.
“Yes, I got you an upgrade to the entertainment suite; you have the latest installment of Death Star Escape 3, it’s the one where you have to fight you way off the station and then go head to head with a squadron of TIE interceptors. Granted it won’t be as fancy as a full on flight simulator, but it should keep you entertained.” Nevit replied with a wink of the eye.
“Nice.” Logan said then raised his eyebrows and asked, “but where you able to upgrade the auto-chef?”
“Yep, you’ll be impressed. Trust me.”
Logan turned to Prock and said, “You know boss, I think I’m fallin for this guy.”
“Hey wait your turn, I saw him first!” Rayf teased.
“Don’t worry guys; there is enough of me to go around.” Nevit teased back.
“Alright you three knock it off.” Prock ordered. “Have the ion and laser cannons been upgraded?” Nevit nodded, Prock began to pace the length of the shuttle, “I see you added a tractor beam too, nice.”
“And I added special single torpedo cannon emplacements both forward and aft, they have been concealed with a panel that slides out of the way before launch. I think you’ll be impressed sir.” Nevit beamed.
“Yes Calkin, I believe I will.” Prock said. “And we should be testing out your modifications before you know it, we just got orders, and we will be shipping out by the end of the day. Meet me in the briefing room at fourteen hundred hours. Dismissed!”
“Sir! Yes sir!” The three men called out in unison and left the hangar.
In the space that had been assigned to the commando unit as a makeshift headquarters for their stay on the Free Will, the squad sat readily waiting for their commander to tell them what their first assignment would be comprised of. Nevit looked around the room at the other members of the unit gathered. Logan Bromner sat chatting and killing time telling stories of near death experiences in the middle of the room as if he owned it. On Logan’s left sat his lifelong friend, Rafy Tanyan, the two were born on Coruscant, and Nevit could tell by their accents. To Logan’s right sat Vann Jergan, Vann was a drifter of the space lanes, a playboy, and his family’s wealth was one of the things that Logan and Vann had in common, well wealth, and attitude. Eyres Kudan sat near the one corner of the room that was purposely darkened, Nevit could just make out the glowing red eyes that gave away where Vox stood next to Eyres. The Defel’s dislike of bright light was one of the main reasons Nevit hadn’t seen him much in his time aboard the Free Will. Sitting in the opposite corner, completely by their selves were Crev Colton, and Dravis LyhtHamer. Crev was a typical Corellian, brash, cocky, and way too sure of himself. He was the unit’s sharpshooter and weapons master. He was quiet, and aside from Dravis, kept to himself. Dravis was the explosives expert, and unlike Crev, couldn’t be shut up. Dravis was always going on and on about explosives, and kit, he was convinced that if anyone could get Crev to open up it would be him. Nevit had for the most part adjusted well to his new unit, they all embraced him, and his skills were, as Logan once put it to him; ‘legendary.’ Nevit’s pride swelled knowing he had finally found a place where he was respected.
Prock Pagnotta entered the room in his typical all business fashion, he walked up to the podium in the front of the chairs. He pulled out his datapad and accessed a series of files before looking up at the group. He gazed into each person’s eyes and waited for the room to grow silent before he began.
“As you may or may not know, the New Republic has been in conflict on the issue of smugglers and pirates. Whereas the pirate activity in Republic space will not to be tolerated, we have on the other hand found ourselves in the past, counting on the smugglers to get supplies to our forces and our constituent planets.”
Logan raised a hand, “I’m sorry sir. What is the issue? Hasn’t this been the case since the foundation of the New Republic?”
“Yes Bromner, the problem lies in the Jedi.” Pagnotta remarked.
“The Jedi?! Wait a minute, with all due respect sir, how are the Jedi a problem?” asked Vann Jergan.
Before Pagnotta could reply, Dravis answered, “Because they keep sticking their noses into New Republic affairs, Kyp Durron has a personal vendetta against anyone who flies without New Republic allegiance.”
BRIEFING ROOM - GET SENT ON SAME MISSION AS THE JEDI- BY THE SENATE
Prock Pagnotta - Male - Twi-lek, Commando unit leader
Eyres Kudan - Male - Jenet - Slicer, has photographic memory
Crev Colton - Male - Corellian - Sharpshooter, weapons master
Rayf Tanyan - Male - Courscant - Ace pilot
Logan Bromner - Male- Courscant - starfighter pilot, Rayf Tanyan’s best friend from childhood. Also has a history of anger issues, Playboy but is a good man at heart. Quick to anger, and just as quick to exact payback.
Vann Jergan - Male - Pilot drifter, playboy befriended Logan when he started working with the NR, often hangs out with Rayf and Logan.
Dravis LyhtHamer - Male - Bonada - Corprate Sector - explosives expert.
Vox - Defel
Errant Venture, Malastare
After the meeting with Booster Terrik, Kall’el and Noble Krovn left Terrik’s office, and went back down to the docking bay to meet up with the rest of their group. When they arrived at the ships, Blixz Remlin was sitting stride the top of the Synic making minor repairs to the hull, Keki Sodran was there helping him, holding down the panel that he was currently welding onto the hull to reinforce a section of armor that had been damaged by a collision with an asteroid on their way to Malastare. Typically, Noble couldn’t see Tranna Sunna’rasa, true to her style she was nowhere to be seen, nor was Reece Denzar waiting for them. Noble looked over to Kall’el, “Go find your partner Kal; I’m sure Tranna is with him. Try looking in your ship, I’m positive that’s where you’ll find them.”
Noble Krovn couldn’t help laughing as Kall’el walked into the Spicy Lady to find Reece and Tranna; normally it was his unfortunate luck to be the one to find Tranna and her latest conquest. Moments later an embarrassed Tranna came down the boarding ramp followed by an amused Kal, who didn’t say one word, he was barley maintaining his look of neutrality as it was. Noble could tell it had taken Kall’el everything he had to keep a straight face and not bust out laughing at the situation. Less than a minute later a slightly embarrassed and hair tousled Denzar came out, his shirt un-tucked, and his blaster holster was now slung over his shoulder instead of across his waist where he normally kept it fastened. And by the large goofy grin plastered to his blushing face Noble could tell that Reece had clearly enjoyed his time with Tranna.
Tranna glared vibroblades in Nobles direction, as if to demand that he did not say a word either as she walked towards him. She walked past him as casually as she could and sat down on a crate next to where he was standing. Kall’el had waited for Reece at the bottom of the ramp and the two had just caught up, Kal raised a brow at Noble, which Noble took as a cue to speak.
Noble dove right in, he used the Force to carry his words above the sounds of the mechanics working in the hangar to each person gathered, “So we talked to Terrik, and things are promising, he has shipments ready so we’ll be splitting up again within the next four hours. We will basically ride along with the convoys, hopefully it will be uneventful, but we may run into pirates or more importantly Durron’s Avengers.”
Blixz leapt down from where he was perched on top of the Synic and landed between Tranna and Noble, he looked at Kall’el and asked, “Yes, Kyp’s squadron, what will we do then? I am most curious about what we actually plan to do about that little problem. Ask him to nicely back off? Cause I have a seriously hard time believing he will just back off because we ask him to.” He looked from one Jedi to the next seeking an answer. They each seemed to Reece to be contemplating that question in their own heads; clearly none of the Jedi had a sold answer to the problem with Master Durron. It was Reece who broke the silence that hung in the air after Blixz’s question.
“Well we do have four hours to think real hard on that, might I suggest we take advantage of being on a traveling casino and head on up to the Blue Level? I don’t know about you guys, but I always think better on a full stomach.” Reece declared. The Jedi all seemed to agree, and within moments they were all heading to the Blue Level, except Blixz who said he still had some more repairs to make to the Synic’s hull before they departed. Blue Level was one of three middle decks of the Errant Venture and each one was suited to a different level of clientele. Sure Booster had given them full run of the ship, and that meant that they could have gone to the Diamond Level if they wanted to, but they knew they would most likely be out of place there among the rich and famous. And Reece had suggested that if they couldn’t come up with a good plan for handling Durron on the Blue Level they could always head down to the Black Level and see what the general population that frequented the cantinas there thought should be done about him.
After arriving at Blue Level, they soon found a nice little cantina called the Corellian Slip. Named after the dangerous flight maneuver made famous by the Corellian pilots, the Slip was a nice cantina that, had it been on any planet in the Outer Rim, it would have been considered quite luxurious, but on the Venture, it was a modest cantina compared to some of the others that Reece had seen in the Blue Level. It was filled with a vast array of beings; smugglers, merchants, and other unsavory characters from across the galaxy. Noble lead them to a long table situated in the center of the cantina between the bar and the Sabacc tables. Once settled in, Reece and Noble each ordered a mug of Corellian Ale, and Tranna ordered a Gamma Burst. Kall’el just asked for a menu, and stuck with water to drink. After scanning over the menu Kall’el summoned the server droid back to their table and asked for a large Nerf steak, raw. Which reminded Reece that his stomach was hungry as well, and ordered the same, only he ordered his extra-well done. He hadn’t had a good Nerf steak in ages, and since Booster had offered to cover the charges he had no problem ordering the biggest one the Slip offered. He glanced over at Kall’el, sometimes he wondered if Kal would rather have his Nerf steaks raw, bloody, and cold; the fresher the better, and skip the whole cooking-heating process of preparing the steak. Kall’el was a Stenax after all, and Reece recalled one time they had traveled to Naboo on one of their first runs as a team; he had never shook the uneasy feeling he had that day when he glanced over at Kal on their way to the port, he recalled the savage look Kal had gotten when he had seen a large herd of nerfs out grazing on the plains. Reece shuddered; thank the Force for Kal’s Jedi reserve he thought as he took a large drink of his ale.
After they had all been served, they began discussing ideas for handling Kyp’s Avengers. The Jedi were convinced the safest and simplest way would be to reach out to Kyp and Miko through the Force and warn them off that way. Reece, for his part in the discussion was the one quick to point out that they would need to have a back up plan just in case the first one failed to draw the Avengers away. The Jedi seemed to sit silent again as they contemplated Reece’s declaration. True, Kyp might not back down when confronted. And the last thing any of the Jedi wanted, or needed, was to start a Jedi verses Jedi conflict over a smuggling issue. The Jedi had enough criticism in the Senate, and didn’t want to give the more vocal of the anti-Jedi faction any fuel for their arguments. The Senate, just like the Jedi Order itself, was heavily divided on the issue of what the Jedi should and shouldn’t be involving themselves with at the moment. After all, the least amount of attention they drew, the better. After it became obvious to Reece that his opinion didn’t matter much to the conversation, he stood up, “If you’ll all excuse me,” he said turning and walking over to the Sabacc tables, “I’m going to head on over to the tables and double my credits.” He looked back over his shoulder to Tranna as he called back to the group, “I’m feeling lucky.”
Reece walked over to a Sabacc table that was empty, he preferred to play alone; his cards against the dealer’s. This case it would be him against a droid; Booster typically had droid card dealers at his tables, except of course for the Blue Deck, there one could find living beings serving the drinks and dealing the cards. Reece didn’t mind who dealt the cards, a droid wouldn’t complain if it kept losing hand after hand.
He walked up to the table and placed a ten-credit ante into the hand pot. He noticed that there was a two hundred-credit Sabacc pot on the table from the last game. Whoever had been playing at the table before him had walked away with out winning big. It’ll make winning all those credits so much sweeter, Reece thought. That was the one disadvantage of playing the dealer droid and not other players; the Sabacc pot typically remained small and didn’t get too big. But then again so did the amount of credits he could lose.
Sabacc was a game as old as time with varying rules, players would pit their cards against the other players; the player closest to a positive twenty-three was the winner. The cards values could range from the negative to the positive, and at any moment. The rules at the Slip allowed players to place up to two cards from their hand into the interference field; locking in the card value. Each round the cards out side of the field had the possibility of changing value, and thus the total of the player’s hand. One minute a player could be sitting on a twenty-two and find themselves holding a negative fifteen. If a player called during any round after the fourth round, the highest hand value was the winner of the hand pot. To win the Sabacc pot a player would need to have a card total of twenty-three which was known as a Pure Sabacc. A Pure Sabacc beat all hands except for the best hand of all, the Idiot’s Array. Idiot’s Arrays were often rare, and consisted of the Idiot card with a value of zero, and any two card or three card of the same suit, after that it didn’t matter what the last card was, the player was usually screaming at the top of their lungs with joy.
Unfortunately for Reece, he wasn’t able to get any winning hands; he was only able to play two games against the droid dealer before a Bothan trader, and a devious looking Dug joined him. Reece had one decent hand and managed to call at the right moment, leaving both his opponents with bomb out hands he pulled in the hand pot and smiled, all he needed was a Pure Sabacc and he could walk away from the table. Two losses later though, the table had filled up, a Devaronian, a Whiphid, and a Duros had joined the game and added to Reece’s stress level, but also the Sabacc pot. He didn’t enjoy playing with so many opponents, it made his neck sweat, and he was chewing mercilessly on his lower lip, but he sure wasn’t going to leave the table at that point. The Sabacc pot had grown to over four hundred credits, and as long as no one won the Sabacc pot it would only increase in value. Reece would not be leaving the table until he won it as well, preferably.
Time flew by, and before he knew it and hour had came and went, the Sabacc pot had grow exponentially, the Bothan was a big bettor, and more often than not had the worst hand at the table. The Duros didn’t seem to have a strong grasp of the concept of the game likewise, there had been a few hands when she had driven up the bet, and was holding negative hands. The Sabacc pot soon totaled over seven hundred and eighty credits, and Reece was sick with the thought of losing it to one of his opponents his bottom lip was bleeding where he had peeled a chunk away with his teeth. He tried to focus on the hands he was being dealt, but the thought of all the upgrades and repairs he could make to his ship with all those credits just wouldn’t let him stay focused long enough. Within a few more hands he had lost all the credits he had won from his previous wins.
He was starting to have the feeling that he might walk away from the table broke if his current luck played out. Reluctantly he pressed on and hoped for better cards than his opponents. The dealer dealt again, and once the cards were out to the players, Reece looked at his hand and discovered that he was holding the Mistress of Flasks, the Seven of Sabres, the One of Coins and Demise, a hand value of eight. The dealer on the other hand was showing Balance a negative eleven, Reece didn’t know what the dealers other three cards were though. Reece bet five more credits to the hand pot, the cards shifted, he looked down and his cards shifted to the Two of Sabres, the One of Coins, the One of Sabres and the Queen of Air and Darkness. His hand value lowered to two, whereas the dealer now showed the Commander of Coins worth twelve. He placed the Two of Sabres into the interference field and hoped for the best, again he bet five credits, and he waited for the cards to shift. His cards remained the same as before, as did the one card the dealer showed. Again he raised five credits, the cards shifted once more; he now held in addition to his Two of Sabres, the One of Coins, the One of Sabres and the Commander of Sabres. He now had a total of sixteen; the dealer was showing the Five of Staves.
So far his hands weren’t looking very good; Reece shook his head in disapproval. Determined to see it through, he bet once more, his heart began to beat faster as he watched his hand shift once more. He looked down and saw that he had the Eleven of Coins, the Three of Staves, the Two of Staves and the Seven of Sabres, with a value of twenty three he was holding a Pure Sabacc! The dealer’s face card was Moderation worth negative fourteen. Reece wished he could call at that moment; unfortunately he would have to wait one more hand before he could call. If only the card values would remain the same for one more hand. What the heck, you only live once Reece thought as he raised the bet forty more credits and placed the Three of Staves in the interference field with his Two of Staves. The cards shifted once more and his Eleven of Coins changed to the Nine of Coins, and the Seven of Sabres became the Idiot! Reece couldn’t believe his luck, one second he was holding a Pure Sabacc, and now he had an Idiot's Array! He called the hand, and the best hand was a total of nineteen, Reece couldn’t stifle his excitement; he shouted out as he jumped up out of his seat. The other players shot him dirty looks as they departed, the Dug grumbling about being cheated. The Duros woman actually congratulated him for his good fortune before she left the cantina. Reece collected his credits and left the table, he was walking away with seven hundred and eighty more credits than he sat down with. Maybe he would see if Booster’s mechanics could get some upgrades knocked off his to-do list in the immediate future! He walked back to his Jedi companions in a much brighter mood than when he had left them.
It appeared the Jedi had everything sorted out when Reece came back to the table. They had many of the details sorted out; they had figured their plan was as good a plan as they were ever going to get considering the factors involved. Kall’el looked up at Reece as he walked up to him as he returned from the Sabacc table, “So any luck?”
“As a matter of fact,” Reece signaled the server droid as he tossed a pouch overflowing with credits onto the table, “another Corellian Ale over here. Things are looking much better, I think we’ll be making a few of those upgrades sooner than I had anticipated, I’m up eight hundred credits for the evening, and you know how quickly credits just start burning a hole in my pockets. I’m so glad you Jedi bored me into going over and playing a few hands.” He smiled to the group, and Noble had a good laugh at Reece’s sense of humor.
The droid quickly brought Reece his Ale, which he took a quick satisfying drink of, and licked his lips. Kall’el smiled as he stood up from the table, “Well little one, I think now that everything is sorted out here, I will be heading back to the ship. Someone needs to get started loading the last of the provisions into the hold; the Lady won’t load herself after all.”
“Sure Kal, I’ll meet up with you shortly, I’m going to finish my drink first,” Reece said as he took another drink from his ale. Without another word, Kall’el turned and left the cantina, Tranna moved to Reece’s side and spoke softly so only he would hear, “Is he still just as cut and dry as ever?” Reece noticed the amusement in her tone of voice and replied, “Oh no, usually it’s all… Yeah he’s always like that; I thought it might be all you Jedi types, now I’m not so sure.”
Tranna Sunna’rasa raised her brow at Reece’s comment and smiled slyly, “Come now Reece, not all Jedi are cut and dry, some of us even know how to live a little.” Tranna’s lekku was twitching rhythmically over her shoulder and she placed a hand on top of Reece’s arm. Reece’s cheeks immediately turned red and he looked down at the table quickly to try to hide his embarrassment. Yeah Tranna could be called many things, but to describe her as cut and dry sold her short, way short, Reece thought as a smile crept back across his face.
“You know Tranna, we still have some time before we have to go our separate ways…” he let his sentence trail off; he knew she would know his implied meaning.
“Your absolutely correct Reece, I still have to show you my quarters on the Synic. After all, you showed me yours its only fair that I show you mine,” Tranna said smiling mischievously at him. “She started to rise and reached out for his hand, “Shall we?”
Just then Noble seemed to sit a little taller in his seat and tensed up. His eyes drifted shut, Tranna turned her head and gave him a curious stare; she was patently awaiting a response that she seemed to know would be coming soon. Reece though was less patient; he was about to ask Noble if something was wrong when Noble opened his eyes and suddenly spoke out, “We’ve got company.”
“Where?” Reece demanded. Casting a nervous glance about the cantina, Noble lowered his voice so they wouldn’t appear too suspicious, “Those Rodians over there, across the room.” When Reece looked right at them and still didn’t seem to comprehend who was watching them, Noble continued. “At the bar Reece, you remember them right? Because those two seem to remember you well enough. They have been eyeing you since we entered and look like they are itching to settle and old score. And the Devaronian you were playing Sabacc with earlier.” Noble gestured across the room in the other direction. “He’s now sitting over there in the corner. That fellow is bad news, he happens to be one of Dorraj’s boys. A bad piece of work that one.”
Dorraj Ryyder was the head of a self named black market crime syndicate that rivaled Black Sun in its prime. He was a Falleen, one who was often seen as the next Prince Xizor. In fact, not since Prince Xizor of House Sizhran had a Falleen ascended to such criminal heights. Dorraj was best known for his ruthlessness and cruelty, but his love of women, and successive use of his pheromones to seduce them was right up there on his list of seedy traits. He long made it a habit of surrounding himself with beautiful women and the best mercenaries one could hire. In short, he was not a being one would want to have as an enemy. Reece had always gone out of his way to avoid dealing with him or coming up on Dorraj’s radar.
Noble took a swig from his drink before continuing, “I’ve seen the Devaronian out and about since we arrived on the Venture; he’s been sulking around the hangar bays watching the ships too. He’s been tailing us for a few days now; he obviously isn’t any good at surveillance work, because unless I’m mistaken he’s working with Reece’s Rodian buddies over there.”
“Hey! They’re not my buddies, we just had a little disagreement, and that’s all. What makes you think they are working together though?” Reece asked. He was completely at a loss for how Noble figured the Rodians were working for Dorraj Ryyder, and how Dorraj even fit into everything. Sure the Rodians had a reason to be following him, Rodians were known to hold grudges about ass bad as a Bothan, and after the spectacle back on Tatooine, and Reece could see the obvious reasons why they would be following him across the galaxy.
“Simple, I saw them all talking together as we entered, and the shorter Rodian seemed to get all excited when he saw you,” Noble taped Reece with a think finger, “Since then, the Devaronian hasn’t let you get out of his sight.”
“Oh, ok. I can see how you put it all together, but I don’t see how Dorraj Ryyder fits into all of this. It’s not like I’ve done anything to make him angry.” Reece wasn’t sure if any of the past runs he had made were for Ryyder’s Syndicate; it wasn’t like Dorraj would advertise a false company after all that was kind of the point. Move goods with a company that was a front for the real action. But certainly Kall’el would have known. Wouldn’t he?
As if reading his thoughts Noble leaned in closer, “You wouldn’t have had to anger Dorraj personally Reece, stopping fretting about it. After all, his goons were made to look the fools that they are; do you think they would mention something like that to their boss? No way. Only way that happens is if they had already taken care of you before hand.” Noble seemed to consider his own words, “Which might just be what this is all about. Stay sharp Tranna.”
“Don’t worry Reece,” Tranna purred, “Nothing will be happening in here, I promise. After all you have two Jedi to look after you, we’ll make sure you get back to you ship. What possible trouble could Dorraj’s thugs be?”
“You may be right; still I think it would be best if we left. Now,” Noble stated, “It’s always best to leave before things get awkward. If something were to happen this place is too closed off, there are too many innocent bystanders and things could get to cramped even for my liking.” With that he rose out of his seat, signed for the tab they had ran up, and threw his cloak over his shoulders.
Tranna walked up to Reece and drew his arm over her shoulders, “Ah well, there’s always next time.” She said sulking. She sent Reece a wink that she made sure was out of Noble’s line of vision. She twisted her lips and made a sour face, Reece couldn’t help but think she looked adorable when she pouted, and smiled back at her, she made him start to forget about his current situation.
On the way out of the Corellian Slip, Reece made it a point to walk past the Rodians sitting at the bar. Noble had been right all along, it was the two who had jumped Reece back at Mos Espa, the short one glared at him as he went past, Reece smirked and winked at him as he walked out the exit. The taller Rodian, the one missing an eye ran his finger across his throat and pointed his other hand at Reece like a blaster. “We’ll be seeing you,” he mouthed. Reece continued on his way out of the Slip, and he desperately tried not to appear as worried as he felt. Now came the fun part, would the Syndicate goons follow them, or wait to strike another time? Reece really hoped that they were stupid enough to strike in the next few minutes, while he still had two Jedi with him covering his back. But knowing his luck, they would bide their time and attack him when he was completely alone. He watched the doorway to the Corellian Slip, never taking his eyes from it until Tranna turned him past the corner of the promenade.
The whole way back to the hangers Noble would disappear into the crowd for a while and check to see if they were being followed. Once convinced that they had not been followed out of the Slip and tailed, he would catch back up with Reece and Tranna. Reece was happy that Noble was taking the incident as serious as he felt it was, he had barley managed to escape the green duo the first time, and add the Devronian, he wouldn’t be putting up much of a fight. Tranna on the other hand, had completely brushed off the incident, and was taking full advantage of each of Noble’s departures. Reece was feeling very uncomfortable with her advances at that moment; it was a different story from when he wasn’t in danger. Now that he had to watch his back the whole trip back to the hangars, and possibly for the foreseeable future he wasn’t as laid back and carefree, as he had been. He wasn’t about to take any chances; he kept glancing back over his shoulder expecting to see one of the three Syndicate goons.
It was also starting to bother him that Tranna didn’t even seem to care about the possibility of a tail following them; she had faith in her Jedi skills apparently. Reece envied her ability to trust something that he himself could barley understand. He wouldn’t feel safe again until he was back aboard his ship, and couldn’t wait to get there. They reached the turbolift and Tranna punched in their destination, within seconds they were traveling back to the hangers and relative safety. Reece allowed himself to relax once more, and put his arm back around Tranna. Tranna reached up and stroked her fingers through his hair and whispered in his ear, “See? What did I tell you? I wouldn’t let anything happen to a hotshot pilot like you. Now then Reece, what about that tour of our ship?” Reece smiled and shook his head in amusement; Kall’el never told him that Tranna had a one-track mind.
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