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Ord Mantell


handofthrawn
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A magnificent sight exited hyperspace as the VT-49 dubbed 'The Helmsman's Sorrow' shifted into sublight, it's golden sail flying in the void of space. Upon the Captain's chair sat a bored figure, heavy in weight and in age as he stroked the tendrils that had grown upon his snout with age. Ord Mantell had been known as home of late, and rejoice amongst the crew echoed behind him as Vlad set the distinguished course.

 

An encrypted comm reached out to the planet below from Sha'Kara with gained intelligence from their last venture, and 'The Helmsman's Sorrow' made a path for the Trader's Quarters, with salvage, spice, and humbled riches aboard. A grizzled voice rang across the ship.

 

"It's not Kessel nor Nev'aru'lund, but it's still a sight to behold." Greensnout's grizzled voice echoed through its now quieting hull. "Drink, be merry, but don't spend all your spoils in one place."

 

With a deafening cheer, the crew began their descent, Greensnout taking a brisk swig from his jug of Ambrostine following with a drag from his Tabac pipe. Once landed, they would offload the cargo and collect the credits and most would enjoy the freedoms their hearts desired while in port. As for Greensnout, Bomba, and Sideon, Black Castle would be their next stop.

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It had been a really long time since Zalis had even stepped foot on the Capital planet for Black Sun, yet even as she inhaled the air, it reminded her more of home. Between Ord Mantell and Titan, the two were her safe places. The spots she could go to without any worry of something happening that was outside of her control. And even if something did happen outside of her control, it was always profitable or beyond irrelevant that it matter not. She took a moment to observe the landing pad designated for Vigos and others of alike status. Fluanern stood at the other end, awaiting the Queen of Vice to make her way over. She stood in her black uniform, choosing instead to remain within a business state, even though she had long since been given permission to dress up or down. A complete opposite to what Zalis wore, black boots and jacket over a white dress. 

 

Her movement across the landing pad was more sluggish due to the amount of traveling she had been doing recently. Fluanern gave a small nod and turned to match pace with Zalis into Black Castle. "Local area has been running smoothly, no hiccups. And word has it that Iridonia has settled in nicely, beginning to adapt to the culture there along with filtering in some of the spice there. Bounty Hunter Guild is also fully up and reporting to us as requested." She turned to acknowledge the woman before stepping into the turbo lift. Upon it closing is when Zalis spoke up. 

 

"Less concerned with those avenues Fluanern. I suspected the guild would re-establish upon given the right circumstances. Right now, I want to know what's happening out with our contracts we offered up..." Zalis turned and looked the other woman in the eyes. Her own blue eyes as cold as ice locking with the emerald green of the trusted Vigo. "... We can't afford for anything to go wrong on that end..." The other woman shrugged her shoulders simultaneously with the turbolift doors opening to Zalis's office. The two stepped out together, Zalis making for her chair, while Fluanern headed to a chair directly opposite. "Unfortunately contact is limited. And the facility is so closed off that we can't really see movement or progress..." The words had Zalis close her eyes and think for a moment. They needed something special to distract them from the potential of disaster at the whim of the Crime Families. 

 

"When was the last time we threw a party here?..."

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As credits were collected and handed out, the small crew went about their merry way, a couple in sing song as they left. Captain Greensnout, along with Bomba Jinx and the Quarren Sideon, turned their attentions to the Black Castle and the trek began.

 

It had been months since their last time at Black Castle. Kleef, having been given a ceremonious Rank within the Black Sun as Operative stood as more a formality than actual status due to the Black Sun's dealings with the Children of the Maw. Raids and Piracy had always been a silent backbone upon which the two organizations had long forged a mutually beneficial repor upon. But in recent months, with the Sith having dominated the Galaxy at large, profits had only been a margin of what the once were.

 

It was time to turn the formality into a living reality. With the recent collapse of the Sith Empire at Nar Shadaa, along with the smuggler's moon eradication, territories had became voids both in leadership and claims. Many dared not travel, and those that did, relied heavily upon the Alliance for escort. And the refugees of war offered little spoils and the gambit of facing the Alliance left hands lacking. There was opportunity to be had, but the underworld had to be a united front in order to prosper. Turning his gaze upon the massive Black Castle before him, Greensnout furrowed his brow and shook his haillu.

 

"Sideon, announce our arrival." Kleef spoke, his hand placed firmly upon the hilt of his cutless, his gaze shifting from the Quarren to Bomba Jinx. "Jinx, I'll do the talking."

 

Sideon respectively nodded toward his Captain whilst Bomba simply showed his disdain. Neither Kleef nor Bomba truly cared for each other, nor themselves for that matter, both of them Gungs. The only true thing that carried weight between the two and held their mutual respect for one another laid solely upon their histories and dislikes for their own ilk. Still, despite their dislike for one another, both trusted the other to be entirely what they were and a symbiosis of kinship laid hidden beneath the disdain. They trusted each other with their lives, as did all of the crew, but even deeper because of their relationship. Pulling forth the holo transmitter, Sideon opened up a comm.

 

Filtered and encrypted through numerous channels, the comm would finally arrive to the personal holo of Lady Zalis. It would be of Sideon, the Quarren's politeness hidden by his rough exterior until he spoke. "Lady Zalis, it is good to see you again. You're looking raviously as usual." For a human, Sideon thought to himself in silence as he progressed. "Captain Greensnout, Commander Jinx, and I have returned from our voyage and are requesting a personal meeting with you, mi'lady, to discuss current events and the prosperity it provides. Would you have a moment to avail us with?"

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Her eyes darted from her holopad to Fluanern and back and forth a few times as she hesitated to even pick up the call, and it was on her public access server, so it made the choice rather annoying. To her surprise, Fluanern simply gave a smile and then stood up, tilting her heads towards the incoming call and then excused herself. She hesitated a second longer, acknowledging within her own mind the thought that her faith in promoting Vigo's was becoming on point. With a small smile, she allowed for the call to come through. The Quarren on the other side was formal and addressed her as an equal, but used language that suggested he wasn't. It threw her off for a moment. In her own mind it felt like a week had passed before she could even respond. 

 

He spoke on the right things though, as the state the galaxy was now entering with the events of Nar Shaddaa unfolding made for a perfect storm for local crime to rise. Bigger organizations could also rise, if they played their hands right. Too much of a noticeable movement would draw unwanted attention. She leaned back and gave a face of narrowed eyes and slightly smile. "Very well. I can meet you at the Regnant Casino House. There is a private room there. Ask for the Vice room. I'll meet your crew there within the next fifteen minutes." She then cut the transmission. She would need to get dressed to host, even though it wasn't her building. But on Ord Mantell, the way of Black Sun ruled strongly and was beyond embedded into the culture, it was now customary for her to show her best. 

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As the holo cut out, Sideon turned his one good eye toward the blank stare of Captain Greensnout who erupted in a fit of Gung laughter as the elder Gung fought to breath by patting at his left knee. Commander Jinx, however, could only turn his back and look over his shoulder at Greensnout in disgust. Greensnout may have had a logical mind, but his Gungan heritage had a way of spilling out.

 

"You're Gung is showing, Captain." Jinx spoke in disdain, his hoarse voice filled with phlegm as he scolded his Captain. "You really should get ahold of yourself."

 

If one had been looking on at the trio, one would have to wonder why Greensnout even broke out into a fit of laughter, the cause at the least. But the reality of it wouldn't make sense for the generalized mind. After all, the trio had come to the Black Castle to seek an audience with Lady Zalis, and yet, despite the success, had to walk right back from wence they had came. And all Sideon could do was half arse chuckle back in ignorant bliss.

 

"Forgive me." Greensnout replied, choking up the last of the laughter and spitting it aside, as the Captain wiped away the tears in his eyes and stood up from his hunched position. "I can't help but find the irony in these humans. Like the Naboo, they must make everything complicated."

 

Shaking his head, Jinx turned back toward the other two, the apparent disdain washing from his face as he stroked the tendrils upon his chin. "That may be true, but you're still an embarrassment both to yourself and the crew. You should really learn to keep your composure Captain."

 

Greensnout smirked, his eyes staring coldly in a mixture of a fiendishly look. "Mesa did big doo-doo?" He spoke in reply, watching in hysterics as Jix's face turned a bright orange against the brown backdrop of his gungan skin, the apparent rage in his face and eyes. "Fine. Let us head for this...."

 

"Regnent Casino House, Captain." Sideon finally spoke up, deterring the onslaught of rage building up in Jinx from his Captain back to the matter at hand. "It's on the outskirts of the Trader's Quarters in the Casino District."

 

"Yes. Onward then. Let's not keep the Lady waiting." Greesnout spoke, turning away from the Quarren and Commander Jinx who still looked like he could kill the Captain, but quickly shook it off and regained his own composure. Silently, Jinx contemplated how he even ended up in the company of Greensnout as the trio made their way toward the Casino District. But all Sideon could do was place his clawed hand over his face at the two's ridiculousness and the trouble they pain each other with.

 

Arriving at the Regnant Casino House and asking for the Vice room, the trio would await Lady Zalis' arrival... if they arrived on time.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Zalis stepped out of the speeder that brought her to the casino and offered up a smile to the owner, who greeted her at the door. "Lady Zalis, I'm so glad that you would choose our location to host your business." She offered up a slight curtsy as a formal greeting. Her black dress with a navy blue cape on the back almost made her stand out amongst the white and golden colors used for the Regnant Casino. The owner, a Twi'lek male turned and escorted her in the main doors. As they walked through, he snapped his fingers at someone. "The Vice room has been prepared and your guests have already been escorted inside." A waiter quickly joined them, offering up a glass of Chandrillia whiskey for Zalis, to which she took without any hesitation. "Thank you Junal. Your standards really do amplify the city of Worlport heavily." He gave her a bow in return and then left her at the main door of the Vice room before turning around to tend to the others within his facility. 

 

Zalis eyed the three who were already within the room. Her eyes darted at all of them, narrowing ever so slightly. She didn't acknowledge them verbally yet, but instead choose to sit down in her chair that she always used for this establishment. Upon sitting down and getting comfortable, she turned towards the three. She spoke directly with the Quarren the last time, but he said he worked with others. She hesitated for a quick moment before finally speaking. "You addressed me as if I should know you on your call- but I don't. Two of you hold a body posture of being annoyed. My only guess is it's due to me not meeting with you at Sandorne Palace. Which places you as people who know me by reputation only. A very bold move to connect directly with me, but time will tell if it will serve you or not."

 

Zalis let her words sink in by taking some time to drink her whiskey provided to her by the Casino owner. After she put some of it down, she shifted slightly in her chair and raised her eyebrows. "Now is the time to make your next move and see if your boldness pays off..."

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After their arrival and having been led into the Vice Room, Sideon and Jinx stood to the left and right sides of Greensnout as he took seat upon a lavish couch that graced a crystalline table in the middle of the room, opposite of the chair that Lady Zalis would likely have taken. Moments would pass, a lingering silence upon the refreshed air that poured a constant flow into the room until the twisting knob announced the human's arrival.

 

"My lady..." Sideon hesitantly replied, his clawed hands motioning his apologetic sympathies as he tried to explain away his informalities. But Greensnout raised a hand to silence the Quarren before meeting up with his other, a sly smile gracing his scaly face as his brow furrowed devilishly. Leaning forward, his deep voice croaked forth. "Where we meet, Lady Zalis, is of little consequence. Only that our paths meet formally. The discretion is yours alone."

 

"I only offered a more direct approach." Greensnout continued as he reached for the ginormous Jug attached to his hip and brought it forth to his lips as he guzzled more than a snout full of the liquid inside it and wiped away what spilled from his gullet with his leathered sleeve. "But let us put away the guise of pleasantries and lay our cards upon the pazaak table."

 

With that spoken, Greensnout motioned for Sideon to bring forth the holodisk, the Quarren placing it within the holoprojector between he and Lady Zalis and activating it as a screen blossomed to life. "As my Lieutenant pointed out, there is much to be had during this time of strife, and i grow tired of the ceremonious rank that i've been given by your organization.  I may be a lowly Pirate, but even i have bigger dreams. This Galaxy needs a Pirate King."

 

Upon the hologram that covered thespace between them was alit with star charts of most of the Outer Regions and the Unknown Wilds of Space, most notably the areas that once were controlled by the Hutts. Updates of various planets sat aside with highlighted routes both common and largely unused for millennia as the Gungan Captain pointed out the areas left vulnerable by the Alliance and their war with the Sith.

 

"These wars between the Alliance, Sith, and even each other have been so constant and devastating that what should be general knowledge has been left lost in their wakes." Greensnout chuckled briefly and took another swing from the Jug that still remained in his hand. "And with the devastation of Nar Shadaa and Hutt Space, as well as their Shipyards and Capital Worlds, it has left the board wide open for plunder and a hunger for flourishment. Outside their strongholds, the Galaxy is too vast for their thin armadas."

 

Greensnout reached forward toward the table and placed the Jug of Ambrostine upon the crystalline table, offering its content to be poured for Zalis should she wish it before sitting back in a reclined position and crossing his Gung legs casually. 

 

"But I am but one being of many. And Piracy is a growing business now that chaos has sown its seeds from one side of the Galaxy to the other. And i have realized that if I am to truly recognize my dream, I cannot do it alone." Greensnout shook his haillu in a humbling show of humility that proceeds a broken pride. "I have been an Operative for your organization for quite some time, and the benefits have been mutual for an outsourced asset.... But now, with the rise of the coming age that follows war, I am to either grow with it or become a memory of the past like Kane Wartide himself."

 

Greensnout raises his eyes to meet that of the human Zalis before him.

 

"It's time that I am raised to full status within your organization, along with the assets I have available, and we take this Galaxy by rebuilding the Black Sun's holdings past its former glory.... together."

Edited by Captain Greensnout
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The intent of the meeting was laid out rather quickly. The gungan before Zalis was one of cunning moves and big dreams. She could tell as he leaned in to speak, long before he even laid out his plan to her. She took a drink of her own Chandrillia whiskey, almost emptying the entire glass with one drink as she looked over the map that the Gungan displayed for her. Yes, his plans are ambitious indeed. Yet, they are not without flaws. She looked him over as he talked some more, clearly offering up a drink to her. She decided to not show any hesitation and poured the drink offered into her glass before leaning back in her own chair now that Greensnout was finished. Her eyes looked him over again, along with everyone within his party. 

 

"Ambitious to say the least. But you clearly don't have a hold on the state of things within Black Sun." She took a sip from her glass and then leaned in. "Former glory is irreverent by now. Only future and new glory is what matters. And Black Sun is thriving in far more ways than its former self." She now leaned back and took another sip before continuing. "Czerka has become the front that draws attention. It's by this point, untouchable by any government without true cause. Spanning shops from Taris to Corellia and beyond. Black Sun holds major hubs on Dubrillion and Ord Mantell, yet still holds smaller trade outposts on Tatooine, Onderon, Dantooine and yes, even within it's fragile state, Nar Shaddaa. The Bounty Hunter's guild has resurfaced under the help of Czerka and Black Sun on Iridonia..."

 

Taking yet another sip from her glass, she set it down on the table and leaned in yet again. Her eyes locked with Greensnout. "But I am not blind or stupid. The need to capitalize upon the current state is something of great value. Piracy is good for business... sometimes." Her voice lowered a bit, yet not too much so that the Gungan wouldn't hear her. "Eyes have been set upon areas of great value to Black Sun. But piracy without a funnel and a command destroys chances for legitimate business and growth. And placing such funnels and command structures would no longer make you a pirate." She leaned back again in her chair. "That would make you more of a warlord of sorts."

 

She now wondered if she would even be able to exert such control over a sector like that. Granted, by some default, she already had. But how long until the new political system wanted to show it's forceful hand like they did at Outer Haven? Maybe setting up a few warlords of sorts would be good to keep egotistical eyes off of her. But could this Gungan do it? She'd have to test him first. For now, she was curious if he had anything else to add to what she spoke. 

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Greensnout watched attentively the human female before him, a devious smirk upon his grotesque face as she spoke. She had the makings of a politician, a trait most Gung recognized almost instinctually from their affairs with the Naboo, but this is why he chose to come to her here and now. She was beautiful by Human standards, coyful and yet refined, and her prestige amongst those of the underworld did her a fine justice. She was something Greensnout could never achieve, and why his contentment settled so easily. After she poured herself a glass, he reached forward, and after another swig, let the jug hang loosely upon his bottom digit.

 

"Piracy is piracy... if only by another name." He spoke with an encroaching slur behind bloodshot eyes, a sure sign the Ambrostine was taking affect on a physical level. "And a King cannot be a King with no Kingdom to command."

 

"You have legitimized the businesses of the Black Sun's forefront, and kept a tight rein upon the underbelly of it. But it can be a demanding and taxing role, both as the head of a Conglomerate and as a Criminal. And that is where my proposal comes into play. I am no upstanding citizen of our beloved Galaxy, and you shouldn't have to sully your hands with the filth that litters the ground, a position that fits a Gung well, yes?"

 

Out the corner of his eye, Greensnout catches a well hidden smirk coming from Commander Jinx, only broadening his own as drunken drool threatens to spill over his teeth. Focusing his gaze back toward Lady Zalis, he closes his mouth and swallows the drool.

 

"My ambitions may be high, but they're not so grandeous that they find a weak foundation. I know the realistic limits of what I can and cannot do. Nor am I oblivious to the reality I live in like the ilk of my homeworld. I learnt well under the tutelage of your species and what hinders me. As an Operative of the Black Sun, my limits are hindered. But as a... Warlord you called it?... I can be the face that hides your own, limited only by what you constrict."

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There was a slow lean back into her chair as she fully understood what was on the table. A golden opportunity as it were, a chance to push another into the fray without risking anything herself. But still, could she even trust this crew? She took a long moment to stare down the crew as she deliberated within her own mind what sort of thing was she getting into. After a good two minutes of silence, which may have been awkward for the crew, Zalis finally leaned in again. 

 

"A test then. A chance to prove your skill which could then be like falling stones that begin an avalanche." She then pointed on the holodisplay map that was still up from the Gungan captain. Her hand slowly moved over each planet as she spoke of them. "Kessel has long since been a resource of Spice, that of which is used across the galaxy. Other hubs such as Iridonia provide a version of it which can be used, but the main source has been cut off by the forces of power that be. The events around Nar Shaddaa recently have unfolded into a vacuum like state, which means some borders are more exposed then others. Kessel being the primary one."

 

Zalis now leaned back again within her chair, but this time did not sit all the way back, allowing for her own posture to indicate that she was offering up the final deal. "There is a Spice worker under contract at Kessel still who has indicated to us that he may have a fairly large shipment for us to sneak out. While not piracy, it's still a job that needs to get done. However, to spice up this test for you. Three days after the pickup of this Spice... there is a Kolto shipment we learned is being taken to Onderon. We need it. This is your piracy act. Take that Kolto and deliver it to me. Any other plunder you find along that way is yours, and along with a handsome payment fee, we can enter into a full and final draft of this scheme working out."

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As Lady Zalis sat in thought, the crew awaited her answer with tactical suspense. Greensnout, simply took another swig from the Jug in drunken glee while Jinx stood erect in silence and Sideon ran his clawed fingers through his tentacles. And as she spoke, Greensnout raised his jug in agreement. With a nod, Sideon activated his comm and moved out of frame to contact Smegga.

 

Back on the Helmsman's Sorrow, the Hutt sat lost in communications, his overtly large form taking up most of the room as he clattered away within the realm of the Deep Holonet. When Sideon's form appeared beside him, he barely raised a brow. 

 

"Recall the crew. We have a mission." Sideon could be heard across the encrypted comm unit aboard the ship as well as off to the side by Greensnout and company. "We're to depart at first light. The crew can sleep off their enjoyment in route."

 

Deactivating the comm, Sideon returned his nod to Greensnout while Smegga sent out the recall. All across the Leisure Quarters, small comms vibrated with orders to return, including the Captain's as he sat across from Lady Zalis with a grin before he chugged another gulp from his half empty, or half full depending on how you look at it, Jug of Ambrostine. 

 

"I thank you for the chance, mi'lady." He spoke, bowing his head respectfully as he offered her another pour from his jug to seal the agreement, a lost art that very few still practiced as the era of word had long passed. "Let us toast to the potential of a prosperous future."

 

Meanwhile, the Children of the Maw begin their return to the Helmsman's Sorrow.

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  • 2 weeks later...

She moved her glass to allow for another pour of whatever drink he continued to consume. Upon the toast, she gave a small nod and drank what was before her. Whatever partnership this would become, it would be profitable for her regardless. As she finished her drink, Junal the male Twi'lek owner of the establishment walked into the room and leaned down to address her quietly. "Ma'am, the others have arrived and are waiting upon you." Zalis simply shuffled herself to sit more direct to the Twi'lek.

 

"Go ahead and pour everyone Prow as they wait. Put it on my tab Junal." The blue skinned owner slowly bowed his head and withdrew from the room. Without adjusting her seating to turn back to the Gungan, she addressed him. "Beware on both of these. While the shift of power is slowly happening, Kessel is still fragile. I have no idea of how much patrolling is being done in that sector. And while not as valuable as Bacta, Kolto is still somewhat monitored by... controlling factions. But both of these items are needed regardless." 

 

She now stood up from her seat and adjusted her navy cloak to sit just right again. "Use either Dubrillion or outpost 102 here for your drop off." She went to step out of the private room but paused for a single moment at the door. "Good luck." Upon finishing her words, she left the Vice room. Her attention was quickly turned towards what was next, which was more local owners seeking out a meeting to discuss different protocols and other boring stuff. She always willingly went to them though, simply because she had somehow created a culture that was beyond dependent upon Black Sun and the activity they brought to the planet. 

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  • 1 month later...

Through the course of a few days, Zalis found herself meeting with almost every local owner of some establishment within the city of Worlport. Everyone seemed to be in high spirits and eager for the coming influx of more foot traffic with some of the events that were being put on to draw crowds. Many of the events centered around big time gamblers and pleasure seekers, yet held a strong pull for those who operated on the black market. Many of the owners she found knew Black Sun was heavily profiting from such events, but didn't seem to mind or care, as it also greatly helped them. In fact, many of them flat out told her they wanted her to continue is generating influx for their businesses. It made her feel slightly proud at the fact that she was doing something that both made a profit for her, but others also enjoyed what she was doing. But there was a small part that wondered what sort of mini empire it was creating, and how long before some idiot thought it would be a good idea to dismantle it. 

 

She was pondering much of this within her own private room in Sandorne Palace, otherwise known to most as Black Castle, when a beeping began to signal to her. She knew from the sound that it was the main office calling into her room. She went to a wall panel and opened the channel. "Go ahead." There was a slight pause, the new attendant was slowly still learning the job since she let the other girl go, as she just didn't grasp everything the job entailed. This new guy, Suguril understood what was involved in the job, but held a massive learning curve in some of the tech. "...Umm... Wess Zis has expressed that Tor Blatheuld is excited to meet you at the fundraiser Gala in a week... Umm... he inquired if you would wear... the Hanna dress?" The lack of understanding made Zalis offer up a laugh to herself, but she was sure that Suguril heard her. 

 

"You may send a reply that I will wear his favorite dress to show off at the Gala, so long as he buys me a new one, or atleast connects me with a designer. Is that all?" She waited and heard some movement, as clearly the next thing he had to say he understood carried some more weight to it. "Yes ma'am. Kivro and Graak have requested your presence on Thalassia in the next four days..." She fully paused as she held out the dress that Wess had requested her wear from her closet. So... the Pykes and Crimson Dawn have decided that now is the time to act...

 

The thought had her narrow her eyes as she thought more carefully upon what exactly her next move should be. The thoughts were slightly interrupted by the sound of Suguril on the other end making a sound to let her know that he was still awaiting her response. "Thank Suguril. Let Fluanern and Akor’ketez know of this development. I will conference call with them on my ship. I'm headed out to Chandrillia for the Gala being hosted. Also- have Ve meet me at my ship. Thank you." She walked up to the wall panel and shut the line off. This was indeed worth her time to plan out some more and be prepared for offensive action if needed. 

Edited by Zalis Krales

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  • 1 month later...

The tang of blood ran fresh in Kerrigan's mouth, a gift from the Devaronian thug the pit boss had sicced on her. It wasn't the first time she'd taken a punch, but it was never something she cared to ever repeat, either. Kerrigan winced as the Devaronian hauled back for another punch, but the Quarren pit boss put a hand on his shoulder, stopping him. Nobody could hear her in one of the myriad backrooms of the casino, especially over the loud dance music that was being pumped through the place. Calmly, Kerrigan spit some of the blood onto the floor, meeting the gaze of the Quarren, who started to speak once more in a smug, condescending tone.

 

<"You thought you could cheat us? That we wouldn't know? We have been watching you since you stepped off your transport.">

So she was a little more popular than she thought. That wasn't good. With a half grin, she replied back.

 

"Look, nothing happened, you didn't pay out, and my collateral was never called anyways because I won. What's the real harm done here? Why not let this small fish go?"

 

The Quarren nodded at the Devaronian, prompting another punch. <"This tournament was held by powerful and influential people. People with reputations. If word got out we didn't clean house when we had a mess, it would severely harm those reputations.">

 

Kerrigan's blood ran cold. She knew she should have avoided Ord Mantell due to the crime syndicates, but the prize money offered could have had her set for months. And now she'd just pissed off the wrong people at the wrong time. Right now, she had nothing to her name, no assets to call on. She had gone all in for the tournament as she'd needed everything she'd owned just for the ante, not to mention her securing collateral that was a hacked fake ship registry she'd traded half a months' rations for. After a moment, though, the Quarren backed away, leaving the room.

 

<"Guard the door. I need to contact the Vigo. They will know how to dispose of our friend.">

 

There were a million things that could mean, off the top of her head she could list several different things that could happen to her that were worse than death. Being sold into slavery was even one of the nicer options. 

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Fluanern was a bit annoyed when the call came in from the Quarren, as they have refused to use the security personnel offered to them by Black Sun. But as apart of what Zalis assigned to her, she did need to maintain the peace and offer up some sort of remedies to situations that held potential to become a loss for the company. And because of that, she now unfortunately had to step into Violet Caprice, the larger of the casinos in the casino district. This one had already built up the reputation within Black Sun as being on the rebellious side. Zalis had worked hard to maintain a lot of the overall owners into positions to help feed the machine in order to build their own base, to which was successful for the most part. Some resisted, as was expected. But this one rebelled in smaller ways that they managed to never fall within the cutoff line, but still reaped rewards from being associated with Black Sun. 

 

Even as she walked through the door, the large event that was designed to attract all sorts of gamblers to the planet was already in full swing here at Violet Caprice. Because of it, neither her, nor the owner wanted her to be seen dealing with anything, so there was a Rodian waiting for her who quickly escorted her to a back room where the Quarren was waiting, and opened a door for her to step into. Upon entering, she saw a woman of about the 20-30 age range, dark hair much like her own. Blood was dripping from her mouth from the small enforcer crews own form of justice. The girl reminded her of herself almost immediately, to which she was made a Vigo through the fact that Zalis aw herself at times in Fluanern. 

 

"So this is your problem?" She made the question sound insulting as she raised an eyebrow and looked back at the enforcer crew, almost begging for them to explain the situation in full. 

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The Quarren began sputtering a quick reply as the irritation of his Vigo became apparent. People had died in their line of business for less offenses. Or at least, that's the impression this particular Quarren was under, and it often benefited Black Sun to keep order in their ranks through the cheapest means available.

 

<"Well, you see...she managed to hack our security system with this-"> The Quarren handed over a dated datapad model, though the software on its display screen was clearly aftermarket. <"-and we...we think it allowed her to somehow see her opponent's hands during the tournament. Clan Brassk and some of the other sponsors have already voiced their objections to me about a newcomer taking the grand prize in our annual tournament, and it is too late to walk back her win without exposing that we had our security breached. We can't afford to look weak to our sponsors or there will be no tournament next year, and it drives nearly half of this quarters' profits.">

 

What he didn't mention was that their systems were still last-generation security systems that were vulnerable to an old hack, but that wasn't his job to upgrade them anyways. He simply didn't want to piss her off any more than he already risked.

<"I think she needs to disappear, personally. We didn't want to make that call without your go-ahead.">

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Fluanern glanced for a moment only at the datapad before returning her eyes back to the young woman. "Ego is the damage then." Her own annoyance with the Quarren just as apparent as his towards her was. She knew that Zalis maintained a certain level of 'appearance' when it came to favoritism within the ranks of the local owners, all of which she did have a list that she knew to maintain. However, the Violet Caprice was one of those establishments were not on such a list. They were in fact one that Zalis wanted to be watched more carefully for signs of rebellion. The tournament was not special to this establishment alone, but was the only one that refused Black Sun security. 

 

She took a step in closer to the girl and both leaned in and squatted at the same time. She took a full long minute to study her. After there was clear discomfort from both the girl and the crew in with her, Fluanern stood back up. "You'll declare the winnings are a tribute to Black Sun. I will expect the funds in our account by tomorrow morning due to disturbing me on a night that your boss should have secured in advance, like every other facility did." WIthout letting any other complaints arise, she turned and moved towards the door. "Release her, she is spending the rest of the night at Sandorne Palace under the watch of Black Sun." She then turned to face the Quarren directly. "She can keep 12 percent of her winnings. Fetch them for me and have the girl in my speeder in five minutes."

 

Without waiting for a reply, she stepped out of the room and walked herself back to her speeder, which was waiting just outside the Violet Caprice, along with her driver. She climbed and and spoke to the driver, a young Bothan male. "We're taking one more with us. When she gets in, we're headed back to Sandorne."

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"Fetch them for me and have the girl in my speeder in five minutes."

 

This was an order from the Vigo. Whatever was going to happen to the woman, it was out of the Quarren's hands now. There wasn't even room for objection, everyone knew what happened when you displeased the wrong person in Black Sun, much less a Vigo. He nodded to his Devaronian muscleman to get the woman as ordered before heading off to take care of the funds. Kerrigan struggled a bit as the Devaronian easily hefted her up onto his shoulder in an improvised carry, not bothering to undo her restraints. Most of her wanted to protest, screamed inside her mind to fight this unknown fate. The rest of her, however, had coolly noted that she was still keeping a tidy sum of the profits. Maybe not anything fancy, but it was something. That meant she wasn't slated for termination by these goons, at least not yet, and if Kerrigan played her cards right she knew she could get out of whatever situation she now found herself in.

 

...She just now simply needed to ingratiate herself to the most notorious criminal organization in the galaxy. Somehow.

 

Four minutes and thirty seconds later, the Devaronian plopped her down in the rear seat of Fluanern's luxury speeder. Kerrigan recognized the model from holonet ads, it was newer, and even appeared to have several custom options on the interior that most speeders didn't bother with. She waited until they embarked before popping a question, hoping that it wouldn't irritate her host.

 

"So I suppose you're not one to piss off, and I apologize if I'm speaking out of turn, but...I don't suppose you'd tell me why I'm not taking a long walk off a short balcony right about now?"

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"Move" There wasn't any hesitation upon the girl getting into the speeder. As the Bothan drove them away and the girl asked her question, the older of the two women turned her head ever so slightly with an eyebrow raised. "You are within this speeder for two reasons." She adjusted herself to sit to be facing the girl. As she spoke, she did so while looking past the girl and not directly at her.  "First off, talent is hard to come by. Even though the Violet Caprice doesn't have the top class of security by any means, you did manage to get in and secure some winnings." Fluanern made no attempt to even hide her disgust at the place. "With some training, you could easily help move our organization forward." Her voice suggested that it may be a lot of work to get her to a decent level. There was a slight pause for a moment. The girl would doubtfully understand the truth in why she was kept, and the Vigo knew such answers may never be revealed until a much later date. 

 

Shifting again, she turned to face forward. "The second reason is Bollils Vapet, the Muun who owns the Violet Caprice. He's been a slight irritant to Black Sun recently. You walking away both is revenge and a slap in his face." A smile came to her own face as she thought of the Muun's face when he realized what had just happened to him under his nose. She turned to look at the girl again. "You exposed something he was warned about. And the more elevation I give you, the more he'll squirm. 

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"And I suppose I can't exactly say n-...yeah forget I said anything."

The flash in her host's eyes from the merest insinuation was enough to convince Kerrigan to cease that particular line of questioning of her own volition. Sam really had never seen herself as a criminal, but then again she'd also never had the opportunity to work with the largest criminal underworld in existence. Obviously there were perks, the sweet speeder was just the icing on a very rich cake this Vigo was clearly privy to. Kerrigan might have just won bigger in opportunity than she ever could have dreamed at that tournament, but selling her soul to the devil wasn't something she was keen to do.

 

"I mean, I'm pretty good with numbers and my hands, but I'm no killer. I don't know what you're going to have me doing for you, but, you know, you have muscle for that kind of stuff, right? I mean, I can handle things if I have to, I'm just not really, um...built for it."

 

She shaped her question carefully, fully understanding saying no to whatever was about to be required of her wasn't exactly an option. On the bright side, this was a huge opportunity, and Kerrigan tried to look on that bright side, instead of the fact that she essentially just got kidnapped and pressed into a crime family.

 

"I guess what I'd like to say is: what exactly can someone like me do for Black Sun? I don't imagine I'd turn much of a profit for you as a pickpocket."

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Even as her words came out, Fluanern turned and raised both eyebrows at the girl in utter disapproval of the notion. She must have caught on, as the silence that followed the unfinished question. As the girl rambled on for a bit, the Vigo held in more annoyance at the very fact she was underselling herself. But as she finally got around to striking the real question that she danced around for a bit, Fluanern turned to directly look at her. Upon her finishing, she turned her head and looked back forward. 

 

"First off, don't sell yourself short. Zalis herself used her good looks, slender frame and just an overall eye candy only appearance to work as an assassin. It's what got her into Black Sun at first." She turned for a moment to look at the girl. "Her discontentment with the status quo and being held back is what moved her forward enough to be the head." She then turned back to see a turn coming up as the speeder came into the final stretch of road to only have Sandorne palace stand in full view.

 

"And no. You are no killer. We don't need that from you and I wouldn't waste my time with someone who could just as easily work up the ladder normally." The speeder came to a full stop, and Fluanern wasted no time in opening her own door and stepping out. Upon the girl taking her own step out into the main speeder hangar of the palace is when she opted to finish the sentence. "You're very useful as what you are... a distraction." Her eyes raised just slightly as she looked upon the girl. 

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A distraction, Kerrigan thought to herself. Whatever the kriff that meant. "Well, I'm sure I'll fit right into whatever plans you have for me. Your, uh...Vigo-ness." Kerrigan took a step away from the speeder as she felt her wrists, revealing the picked restraint devices on the seat behind her. The Devaronian hadn't had the courtesy to unlock them for her, so she swiped the key from him as he placed her in the speeder. Relatively clean lift considering the circumstances, but the low-level thug wasn't exactly a professional either. Casually she held out the key to Fluanern, hiding a sheepish grin as best she could.

 

She began unzipping her spacer's outfit a bit, snugging up rigging in the right spots to accentuate a curve here and there. She wasn't a huge fan of using her body as a distraction, but she also wasn't a huge fan of disappointing the one person that more or less represented her future. So it was this or nothing.

 

"Right. Paying back the debt ASAP, better sooner than later I suppose. So, uh, what'd you have in mind?"

 

To be honest, Kerrigan was terrified, but she was also riding the adrenaline high. The sabacc tables had nothing like this, the flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants feeling that rushed through her veins like thunder.

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Fluanern stood and studied the girl for a moment. She had wondered how long it would take for her to get out of her restraints, and was a bit curious as to when the exact moment was. But for now, she had a lot of work to do on the girl and not a lot of time to do it. She almost rolled her eyes as the girl finished, but held it in with great restraint. Letting her heels almost begin to turn towards the main turbolift, she just simply began to walk without waiting for the girl, but responding to her as she walked away. 

 

"Your debts may be something you'll be doing for a while. But to answer your question, training. I will not risk you into the main plot already in motion without you first proving your skills.- And you can call me Fluanern. Not Vigo. Not Vigoness. Just Fluanern." She opened the door for the turbolift and hit the button that would bring them to the office floor, where there was a simulator. "You're ability to lift things and play high stakes games will be the skills you need to have sharpened and proved before I reveal to you what the overall purpose and goal of bringing you in was for."

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Embarrassment flushed over Kerrigan's face as she realized she wasn't about to be thrust into action. It was also a huge relief, and she relaxed quite a bit once they stepped out of the turbolift.

 

"Well, hey, I suppose everyone starts somewhere. Truth be told, I thought you were about to use me for skag bait... This is probably a little better for my health insurance bill." Nonchalantly she began fixing her clothing back to the way it was before, baggy and comfortable. She'd not looked half bad on the way in (if she had anything to say about it, anyway) but now there was no mark, nobody else to try to impress.

"So Fluanern, if you don't mind me asking about your name, what is that, Hapan? It sounds floral."

 

Kerrigan studied the simulation room Fluanern had walked her to. It didn't look flashy or new, but it did look durable. Like it was stolen from a military starship durable. Kerrigan looked around, trying to find the holoprojectors before they activated. It was almost like a mental game for her, as such knowledge would be useless once the simulation started.

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Fluanern took a moment and glanced at the girl beside her. She was a talkative one for sure, but it wasn't necessarily something bad for the job. Just meant there could be some loose moments. They've had talker before, but very few would keep talking and asking questions by the time of the turbolift. As the question about her name came up, Enyahue, a tan skinned Twi'lek approached them. "The room has been setup as requested, along with the guest quarters." The Vigo waved her off and thanked her for the work. She turned and began to walk towards the quarters, allowing for this to be the time to fill the girl in on things. 

 

"You'll be held up here a good two days working on some practice tests. Maybe less depending upon how well you actually do. Then we're going to send you to Titan to work the table there and meet Zalis, who will then give you the details on the job." She handed her a keycard. "It will get you into most rooms that you have access to, I don't care if you explore. When you're finished with the job, you'll get paid 20,000 credits upon completion-maybe more for other incentives." 

 

The Vigo stopped in front of a door. "I'll leave you to get changed and comfortable. The dining hall will be serving breakfast tomorrow from 6-8." Giving the younger girl a slight bow, she turned and began to walk away. As she walked away, she did finally answer the girls question about her. "I'm a Lorrdian from Lorrd." She finished as she turned a corner, ready to quickly finish up other things she was working on before she got called away, and to get some rest before the busyness of the next few days really kicked in.

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Kerrigan nodded at Fluanern's response to her question as if she'd heard of them before. But she was alone now, there was no need to try to impress someone, so she quickly shook her head with a chuckle. A Lorrdian from Lorrd. She'd have to look them up later on the holonet. For now, she simply used the keycard on the door sensor, revealing her new quarters for the next two days. 

 

She had to hand it to Black Sun, they lived up to their well-funded reputation. While compact and a bit sparse, the room was nonetheless furnished with several luxury accommodations, including the compact adjoining bathroom. The bedsheets were made of fine silk, the closet was stocked with business casual of varying sizes, and if she saw correctly, the curtains had gold thread inlay. Sam let out a soft gasp, these digs were nice. Immediately she went over to the curtains and opened them...to reveal a holowindow. Capable of reproducing several settings, but decidedly a feature of a room not on an outer wall. Ah well, couldn't ask for everything, maybe there was good reason for it.

Kerrigan spent the next two hours getting settled and clean before putting her holowindow on a nice tropical night scene and snuggling into the bed. This is the life, she thought to herself, just before drifting off to sleep. The next morning was a bit chaotic, as she had forgotten to find the dining hall beforehand and barely made it before they stopped serving food. One stack of Corellian hotcakes was all it took to make everything right again, though. Drizzling wroshyr syrup all over the hotcakes, she dug in without a care in the world.

 

Soon, she knew, it would be time for the first few tests. She would be ready.

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Enyahue, the tan skinned Twi'lek from before showed up into the main dining hall, seeking out the new acquisition. As she entered the room, her eyes darted from one per to the next, even though there was only five people within the room. To her, she didn't memorize the girl, only that she was one. A human female, much like a few of the other Vigos. Only Akor'ketez was non-human and a Vigo, and second only to Zalis. She found the girl finishing up something on her plate, so she knew that she was done. Walking straight up, she just began to speak to the girl without and formal introduction. 

 

"Lady Fluanern has you setup today to work on three games. Junilee Wheel, Denebian holo-chess and Hintaro. She believes those are going to be featured in your upcoming mission. Although she also suspects a few of the older classic ones may be present, so she wants for me to see which games you're fully familiar with." The Twi'lek handed the girl a datapad, but not directly at her. She handed it in such a way that almost implied she should stand up and get ready to follow her. 

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Sam got up when approached, not sure who the person really was, and wanted to show her full respect. While a tad saddened to leave the remainder of her hotcakes on the table, she began walking with her new escort when prompted. Taking the datapad, she quickly began reviewing it.

Seriously? Denebian holo-chess? That game was more pure strategy than luck, but she'd give it a try anyways. The Jubilee wheel took more of a persistent betting strategy, which likely meant Hintaro was where she could shine her skills and bluff. As long as she could fool her opponent into thinking she wasn't as skilled as she was, she knew she could make a good surprise surge at some point, which might give her the edge to win no matter what the game. Unfortunately the simulators meant she had to fool algorithms, so she intentionally had to start by playing worse than she knew to, in a calculated approach.

 

As she predicted, after several hours of all three games the Denebian holo-chess had given her the most difficulty as she was the least familiar with it and it required the most strategy. She couldn't get past the computer's long term strategies, and her short term gambits were only working around half the time, an unfortunate result of not knowing the game well enough. Still, her bets were solid for the moves she made, Kerrigan still managed to make a slight net profit with the imaginary credits they'd given her despite losing more than half the time. Her analytical mind could only carry her so far, after all.

 

The Jubilee wheel was the most predictable of the three, and a simple betting strategy had her looking at statistically accurate losses. There really wasn't much to the game other than randomness, and so simple betting tricks often worked just as well as random strategy. Still, by spreading bets to cover common probability ranges, she managed to luck out and break even.

 

And that simply left the Hintaro.

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