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  1. #1
    A Pleasant Day at the Beach

    A Pleasant Day at the Beach

    Visper Averrod

    Visper opened her ship's galaxy map, spreading the image to maximum width with practiced fingers. Once the array of planets was laid out in front of her, though, she hesitated. It occurred to her that she'd never been in quite this position - at least not that she could recall. She couldn't remember the last time she'd been without a clear destination. Of course, with the limits of her memory, all the time that she had lost, she couldn't say for certain that this moment was unique. It felt odd, though.

    Being without a destination didn't mean she was without an objective. Quite the opposite, in fact. Her goal was entirely clear. She just wasn't sure how to accomplish it.

    They found you once - and I don't know how. I don't know who knows about you. But I won't let it happen again. This time, I'll be able to keep you safe.

    Visper stared at the names of planets as though the mere arrangement of letters could bring clarity, but they just seemed like a meaningless blob of light.

    Breathe. Think. Where is the best place to go?

    It needed to be someplace out of the way. This wasn't the time to be strolling the streets and alleys of Coruscant. Not in the Rift Alliance - too obvious, after her extensive diplomatic work there. Or Wild Space - remote, but posing its own dangers. It needed to be a planet accustomed to comings and goings, with a significant transient population; it was too unwise to visit a backwater where the arrival of a stranger would be the talk of the town. It needed to be a place where people didn't ask a lot of questions in general...

    Her eyes settled on a possible destination.

    Rishi.

    The longer she stared at the name, the more sense it made. It fit all the criteria... and they could go to the beach. Visper had been wanting to go to the beach. A petty consideration, in a sense - but they needed the open sky. That seemed almost vital to survival right now.

    She punched in the coordinates. The ship gave the usual small hiccuping shudder as the stars appeared to elongate amidst the hyperspace jump.

    The bedroom door opened with a soft, mechanical swish. "Welcome to Rishi," she said. A small smile rose to her lips as she added, "We're finally going to the beach!"
    Last edited by Monkey Kitty; 03-22-2020 at 08:30 PM.
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  2. #2
    Count / Countess Quaxo9 is online now Quaxo9's Avatar
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    Neva Xolte

    The ride out had been a quiet one, despite the younger children being excited about the upcoming vacation. The austerity of the adults was catching and she was certain the now seemingly cramped quarters on the ship were perhaps playing a role. Still, she didn't begrudge the quiet. The colonies of Rash'lahn VI had welcomed them back with open arms. The rest of the deliveries were made without issue and they'd discovered that the colonists had initiated contact with one another. After having been the brunt of an unknown enemy's joke, it seemed that the two communities found that they had more in common than they realized. Neva hoped their communication continued - and that it would blossom into full-out cooperation. She could think of no better way to stick it to Senator Mahr than to have a planet turn against war by becoming allies.

    The next leg of the trip to Rishi was actually a bit more exciting, but perhaps it was her own emotions getting in the way of her paying attention to the mood of the rest of the crew. She loved this planet. Many of the Wayfarer's upgrades had been installed there - and she'd spent a fair amount of time on her own tune ups as well. There were excellent fighting clubs, gaming houses and pubs - not to mention the extensive beaches. When Siralai had suggested the planet, she had been surprised as she tended to think of Rishi more in light of the things at the foremost of her mind. Of course there were parts of the planet more condusive to families - Siralai had even spent time there and knew people they could stay with. No doubt this was going to be one of the best trips to Rishi she'd ever had.
    Winner of the dubious Vaarsuvius Award for Verbousness!

    I support altruism.
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  3. #3
    Siralai and Trystan Mahr

    The warm air was tangy with salt. Seabirds circled and cried overhead. The wooden planks beneath their feet groaned alarmingly, but held - as they had since time immemoral.

    Rishi.

    Siralai liked it here. On her last trip, she'd decided to bring her family someday. Now, the day had arrived. Yes, Rishi was rundown and seedy. Parts of it were even dangerous. But there was beauty here, too. There was life and energy. Siralai and Trystan had always felt it was important to show their younger children - who had seen less of the galaxy - that not all of life was nice Coruscant apartments and carefully selected schools. A week or so on the beach, getting the flavor of the local culture, would surely be a good experience for them.

    She led them to a small, rundown fishing village right on the coast. It was clearly down at heel, but the huts were newly repaired and the walkways were clean. Siralai had provided some help here on her last trip, and now they were happy to rent the family a cottage and docking for the ship. They would have welcomed the family for free, but Siralai insisted on paying - she had the credits, and grateful as the villagers might be for her past efforts, the credits were clearly needed here.

    They took a few minutes to unpack, but the children immediately wanted to run to the beach, and their parents couldn't blame them.

    Sitting on the beach, Trystan and Siralai both separately received mail on their holopads.


    To: Trystan Gunther Mahr
    From: Unknown Sender

    Why are you still around, Imp scum? The boy isn't your son.

    To facilitate your departure, I am attaching a transfer of 50 million credits. That should be a good start on a new life. Those credits would go a long way on, say, Nar Shaddaa. Plenty of ale and Twi'lek dancers should ease the pain.

    Do the smart thing and cut your losses.



    Trystan rolled his eyes and deleted the holomail, credit transfer and all.

    Truth be told, it stung. They didn't know him. Of course they didn't. They just heard the Imperial accent. But it hurt that someone - likely someone connected to his wife's own sister - thought that he could be bought. That he would abandon his wife and children for credits. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    Siralai, meanwhile, was looking at a very different type of message... which she passed to Trystan, Jasper, and Neva for a look.


    To: Siralai Mahr
    From: A Friend

    It has come to my attention that an artifact that may be of great interest to you is on Rishi. An ancient Sith holocron is currently hidden on the planet. This holocron was of great importance to your Master, and it would honor his memory greatly if you would retrieve it. The holocron is currently in the possession of a Dark Jedi, being used for nefarious purposes. Find the holocron and open it, and you will learn the secret that Master Orgus intended for you.



    The holomail ended with a set of coordinates.

    "Master Orgus was born here," Siralai explained. "I don't know why he would need a Sith holocron, but this was his home..."

    Siralai glanced down the beach, and saw the flicker of a familiar image. Neva would be able to see it too. Trystan and Jasper saw nothing.

    The Force ghost stared at Siralai with fondness and worry. Caution, he said. Go. You are needed. But you must use caution. You must look. You must listen. You must perceive, and understand. Your hesitation to strike has always been your weakness. Let it be your strength. Look. Listen. Caution.

    The vision of Master Orgus faded away.


    ***

    A short distance down the coast, a third holomail had been received.


    To: Visper Averrod
    From: Your Past Mistakes

    The Jedi knows.

    She's coming for the holocron.

    She plans to open it.

    You don't have much longer...
    Last edited by Monkey Kitty; 03-25-2020 at 08:26 PM.
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  4. #4
    Visper Averrod

    Even as her heart pounded and her breath seemed to catch in her throat, Visper's hands were steady as she carefully strung up trip wires and planted small detonators along the mouth of the cave. She couldn't remember where she had learned to do this. Fighting Mandalorians? Fighting Sith? Fighting Jedi as a Sith? It didn't matter, really. Her hands remembered what to do, and her brain was able to compartmentalize her panic enough to let the work proceed.

    She'd thought about trying to get off-world, but her ship would be too easy to follow, and she didn't want to have this fight in some even less defensible location, if having to fight at all was inevitable. Calling allies was also a tricky proposition. She wasn't sure who she could trust; she didn't know who had betrayed the secret. There were a few who could definitely be relied upon - for example, Qyzen Fess as the traitor defied even the wildest imagination - but those people were too far away to get here in time. They were on their own.

    Visper thought the odds were good that she could hold her own against another Jedi. Her combat skills were well-honed. The problem would arise if the Jedi came with a lot of friends. It wouldn't take much to render Visper's party of two outnumbered.

    She made sure Felix had a blaster in his hand, too. That was... not ideal. Felix was a soldier, an excellent shot - but currently in poor physical condition after a long, harrowing ordeal. She had hoped he wouldn't have to fight for awhile. She had hoped he would have time to rest and regain his strength before they saw combat again. But it seemed fate had other plans.

    "Let's get it over with, Jedi," Visper muttered under her breath, her robe swishing against her legs as she paced, waiting. "Let's get this done."
    Last edited by Monkey Kitty; 03-26-2020 at 06:49 PM.
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  5. #5
    Count / Countess Quaxo9 is online now Quaxo9's Avatar
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    Neva Xolte

    A fair breeze brought waves to shore and kept the sand's heat from becoming blistering. She'd exchanged her dark-coloured layers for a sleeveless jumpsuit of soft grey, boots for bare feet, and hood for sunglasses. As much as she loved these trips planet-side, her years of star travel meant that her eyes were rather sensitive to the light. She had to lift her glasses to read Siralai's holoscreen and had to admit she didn't know what to make of it - other than the term 'nefarious purposes', that is. Siralai seemed distracted by something and Neva followed her gaze, dropping her glasses back down onto the bridge of her nose. The man down the beach looked odd...like he was only partly there...maybe it was her glasses? Still, the strange message he gave Siralai and the way he just disappeared...Neva was glad her face was somewhat hidden by the dark shades over her eyes. She shook her head and focused back on the group.

    "So, we're going, right? Let me grab some gear - sounds like it could be a bit rough." Her smile showed her teeth. Clearly she didn't mind a bit of action on this vacation.
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  6. #6
    Siralai glanced quizzically at Neva for a moment, because... well, it looked like Neva had just seen a Force ghost too. Interesting. Siralai would not have expected that someone other than a Jedi would be able to see the spirit of her dead Master. But that was probably a conversation for another time.

    "Yes, I would like to," Siralai said. "This is all very odd and mysterious, but if it really does have to do with Master Orgus, I'd like to pursue it. He was a good man, and a good teacher. I would like to repay his kindness to me, if there is still unfinished business I can complete for him."

    Rossi offered to watch the younger children while they were gone. Their oldest daughter was scrupulously responsible, but under the circumstances Siralai hesitated a little. Would a teenage babysitter be enough? Well, probably, if that teen had attended the Sith Academy. Still, Siralai felt better when Jasper said he would stay and protect the kids too. In a straight hand-to-hand fight, Rossi was probably more formidable than Jasper, but a second defender with a blaster couldn't hurt.

    The coordinates led to an abandoned house - one Siralai recognized. It was the house where Master Orgus was born. Nothing had changed in the empty dwelling since the first time Siralai had seen it. This time, though, she noticed something behind the structure. A cave. That must be where the holocron was hidden.

    Entering the cave, she was even more sure. The mouth was lined with homemade traps and explosives. Someone had been low on supplies, and in a hurry - there wasn't much potential for real damage. It slowed them down, though, and made the going much more tricky... and less stealthy.

    When they arrived, a Jedi was standing with a double-bladed green lightsaber at the ready.

    The message had described her as a Dark Jedi, but reaching out with her own mind to sense her opponent's, Siralai realized that wasn't quite accurate. The other Jedi's mind was more like a patchwork of light and dark. Jedi, overlaid with Sith, overlaid with Jedi - with odd breaks, fractures, threads, and connections shooting through the whole tapestry. The robes, too, were interesting. They were the vestments of a Jedi Master. This was not merely some wayward apprentice who had fallen into temptation.

    The Jedi wasn't alone. Behind her, a soldier in Republic armor leveled a blaster at their little group.

    "Master, we mean you no harm," Siralai said, confused by the hostile welcome. This was another Jedi, after all - even if that might be a little complicated. "We've only come for a holocron..."

    One green blade swept just past Siralai's cheek. A deliberate miss - a warning. But... why issue a warning at all? Trystan raised his blaster, but she motioned him to hold.

    Siralai took another stab at diplomacy. "We don't have to take the holocron if you still need it for your own research endeavors. We haven't come to rob you. I just need to open it and look at the contents, so that..."

    The unknown Master's lip curled into a sneer. "Murderers. Torturers."

    Siralai was confused by these accusations. Not 'murderer' per se - she had killed people, and although it had always been in combat, that wasn't necessarily much comfort to those on the other side. But 'torturer' was odd. Siralai had never done anything even remotely like that. So why would this stranger say such a thing?

    The other green blade was now leveled at Siralai's chest. It wasn't going to be a warning this time. Baffled about why this was happening but needing to defend herself, Siralai's own gold lightsaber ignited.

    But then she saw the ghost of Master Orgus again. His face was troubled. Watch her. Watch. See. Understand.

    Siralai watched - and the strange Master made a mistake. Or at least, it appeared she did. She took a step sideways, partially blocking her soldier, making it more difficult for him to get a clear shot.

    Master Orgus spoke again, more urgently this time. Watch! Understand! What does she guard...?

    Siralai replied with her thoughts. She guards the holocron...

    But as soon as she thought the words, she realized she was both right and wrong. There was nothing behind the mysterious Master but blank cave wall. No glowing artifact. No treasure chest. Just the back of the cave... and the soldier. That step. It hadn't been a mistake. She was guarding the soldier. Which meant the holocron...

    Siralai finally understood. She abruptly let go of her lightsaber, and it went out, clattering to the ground at her feet. She put her hands up in a gesture of nonviolence.

    "Stop!" she said. "This was a mistake. A misunderstanding. We didn't know the truth about the holocron. We didn't know the price. I swear on the Force, we won't touch it."

    The green double-blade dropped a few inches.

    The ghost of Master Orgus nodded proudly with folded arms, and faded away.

    Siralai could tell Trystan was confused about what had just happened, and she thought Neva might be too. "The holocron is inside this man," Siralai explained. Seeing the green blade tip up again, she hastily continued, "And it will stay that way. I can't even quite imagine the process to put a holocron in someone's brain, but it must have been awful... and the removal would be even more agonizing, wouldn't it? And if it were opened - which it won't be - the person wouldn't survive. It's simply too much information for the human brain to safety contain, unless it's locked up and shut away. I'm sorry. We didn't know."

    It made sense now. Murders, torturers - that's what they would be, if they tried to open the holocron. Siralai realized now that her innocent words had seemed like the gravest of threats.

    The Jedi and the soldier exchanged a glance. He nodded, and the Jedi's lightsaber darkened and returned to her belt.

    "Sorry for the rather violent greeting," the Master said. "My name is Visper Averrod. This is my husband, Felix. We... weren't expecting company."
    Last edited by Monkey Kitty; 03-29-2020 at 07:36 AM.
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  7. #7
    Count / Countess Quaxo9 is online now Quaxo9's Avatar
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    Neva Xolte

    While the Mahrs set up guards for the kids, Neva dashed back to the ship to better prepare for a fight. She left her light-weight layers on, but re-donned her hood, using it to help shade her eyes. Her pistol found its holster at her side and she tucked a couple of knives into a belt for a quick left-handed draw. Hopefully she wouldn't need much more than that.

    Minutes later, she was cursing the weakness of her eyes and the setter of the trap that she'd just sprung. Neva had managed to avoid the worst of it, getting a few stab wounds along one leg instead of her whole body, but she was still angry at herself for being so careless. Clearly her time alone in space had dulled her senses. If she survived this embarrassment, she told herself she'd start on a more disciplined training regimen.

    The exchange between Siralai and the other Jedi was tense to say the least. She had her blaster in her hand, mirroring Trystan's own drawn weapon - even as Siralai waved them back. Part of her didn't want to listen, the part that pride built - and recognizing that, she shoved it aside and simply maintained a watch on the second person to make sure he didn't take any pot shots at her people. The revelation, however, took her aback. Honestly, she hadn't any idea what a holocron was - and still didn't - but the idea of having your brain torn apart from the inside was enough to make her think she'd avoid them in the future. Little wonder their arrival had been beleaguered. Neva holstered her weapon as things seemed to be settling down, though she still kept a wary eye on the other two. Just because they were suddenly less aggressive didn't make them friendly.
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  8. #8
    "I should also apologize for the traps," Visper said casually, not quite looking at Neva so as not to call attention to her and to make it a more general statement. "That was my fault. I wasn't sure what we were dealing with, and I wanted to be... thorough."

    "I'm sure any of us would have done the same," Trystan replied. "There are no half measures when it comes to protecting those you love."

    Visper nodded her agreement.

    "I'm sorry we startled you," Siralai added. "When I received the message that the holocron existed, the possibility that it might be inside a person never crossed my mind. I've never heard of such a thing being done. I'd read occasional speculation, or theory... but never even a hint of it being put into practice. I didn't know that it could - or imagine that anyone would. Have you had the holocron long?"

    Felix nodded. "Better part of a decade," he said. "Although for the first two years, I didn't even know. I have hardly any memory of it happening... and that's probably for the best. What I do remember isn't pleasant."

    Siralai was sure that 'isn't pleasant' was a massive understatement, given what must have happened, but she didn't press the subject. If Felix had wanted to say so, he could have. Since he hadn't said it, she assumed he didn't want to talk about it in more detail with strangers. She couldn't blame him.

    "So you've been hiding out all that time?" Siralai asked - though even as she said it, she suspected there was more to it. Felix looked liked he'd been through hell, and much more recently than he said he'd received the holocron. Visper, on the other hand, looked tired but otherwise physically fine. Whatever the recent events, they had happened to just the husband, not the wife.

    Felix shook his head. "Nah. Life was pretty normal at first. Like I said, I didn't even know. Once I found out, it didn't change anything. I mean, yeah, it's a wild card, it could go bad and kill me - but so could anything else. So could a stray blaster shot, or a shuttle crash, or a disease. There was no point in dwelling on it, you know? This scientist lady assured me that no one would be able to sense it, not even a Sith. Barely anybody knew - or at least I thought that was the case. Someone did, though. I dunno who. I got captured. I was a prisoner for a long time."

    "How long is 'a long time'?" Siralai asked gently.

    It was Visper who answered. "Five years," she said softly.

    Even though she had expected to hear something troubling, that made Siralai's mind reel. Five years? That was an agonizingly long time to be away from home - especially given what his captors surely would have done to him to try to get to the data library in his head.

    "So you can see why we were... jumpy," Visper added. "That's why we've been hiding. We can't let something like that happen ever again."
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  9. #9
    Gaius Simnae

    In a much seedier area of Rishi, a tall, heavyset man in a long trench coat entered one of the many cantina dives and bellied up to the bar. The cybernetic implant in his hand made a faint metallic clank against the wood.

    "What can I get ya?" the proprietor asked, sounding bored.

    "I need to rent some lodgings," the large stranger replied. "I was told you're the man to see. I'm here on Rishi doing some perfectly legal and legitimate business that I prefer to keep... shall we say, quiet..."

    The proprietor motioned with a lazy hand for the visitor to skip the preamble and get to what he was looking for. Most things were legal on Rishi... and things that weren't were often overlooked. It didn't behoove him to dig too deeply into anyone else's business. As long as the appropriate amount of credits changed hands, the visitor could keep his secrets.

    The visitor's name was Gaius - but he never gave it, and the proprietor never asked.

    "I'm looking for a place where I can be undisturbed. A few rooms, no close neighbors, no nosy people going to pry into my business."

    "I got a hut down near the beach. Nothing else close by it. It's a few rooms, nothing fancy, but no one will bother you. 500 credits a night."

    "Sounds okay. I'll take it. Oh, and I'm expecting a delivery from Mek-Sha. Two boxes. Heavy. Can someone bring them into the hut for me?"

    "Yeah. Sure. 100 credits a box."

    The proprietor didn't ask what was in the boxes, or seem to care. Still, Gaius didn't want to take any chances. "I'll give you 500 credits for the whole job, if you can personally guarantee that the boxes won't be opened."

    "You got a deal, mate."

    "But only if you can assure me that they definitely won't be opened..."

    "Look, mate, I only care about your credits. Not what you got in your luggage."

    Gaius smiled. He thought he was going to like it here. So far, Rishi definitely agreed with him.

    Within a few hours, Gaius was unpacked and set up in the hut. It really was a hovel - cracks in the plaster, a leaky roof, and a persistent smell of mildew - but he didn't care. He wasn't here for the ambiance. He watched with approval as a team of laborers lugged in two heavy shipping crates the size and shape of caskets and deposited them in the back room.

    Yes, he was going to like Rishi indeed.
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  10. #10
    Count / Countess Quaxo9 is online now Quaxo9's Avatar
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    Neva Xolte

    With no small amount of difficulty, she managed to pry herself away from her own thoughts and focus on what was going on in front of her. Despite what she was feeling in her own mind, it wouldn't do to be blinded to the emotions of the rest of the people in the cave. It was a good way to miss important cues that could keep her alive. To her mild surprise, she didn't feel any hostility in the cave - none - not even from Trystan. In fact, what she did feel was...weariness and maybe some pity. She looked at Visper and Felix a little more closely. They both looked like they'd lived through hell, though she didn't have visible bruises. The Jedi didn't seem like a dark Jedi...and if they couldn't open the holocron...

    "You were right to be jumpy." Neva spoke suddenly, with no introduction. Her face and voice were largely emotionless, though hints of impatience and annoyance certainly played across her forehead. "You were set up. We were set up." She turned toward Siralai and Trystan, now appearing pensive. "But to what end? Was the point to have you two duke it out and kill each other? And what did that ghost dude have to do with anything? He keeps showing up and saying cryptic things - it's weird!" All semblance of control lost, she threw up her hands and let out a pent up gust of air to the ceiling.
    Last edited by Quaxo9; 07-11-2020 at 01:23 PM.
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