Jan 16 2014 1:02am
The Burnout Station, Thaereian System
“Look, you can do one, two, three more runs no problem. What's that to you, a month more of your life? And think how nice it'll be at the end, full pardons and the favor of not only House Mercex, but the Confederation as well. You can do that for us, for me, can't you Jess?”
The man let out a long sigh and shoved a cold glass of cheap beer to his lips, letting the watery beverage slosh down his throat without almost tasting it. This stuff has only gotten worse. Jess Braner eyed the blue-skinned twi'lekk woman quietly. Sighing, the man set down his beer.
“Look Seela, I love you like a daughter, but this...well...I'm not so sure it's for me. I don't feel right returning to protege only to put him in the slammer. What can I say to him after I betray him? I was somehow better than you all these years along? Because I'm not...”
She narrowed her eyes.
“You are. You haven't ever trafficked slaves...”
“We all make mistakes. I've made mistakes, so has he, so have you,” sighed the man, “I loved your mother, all right? And I want to always be there for you, but there's limits as to what I do. You can't just expect me to throw them all away like last week's refuse...”
“Maybe I was wrong,” sulked the woman, leaning back, “maybe he was right. Maybe you're just a self-interested, cookie-eating, underpants-whipped douchebag. But I thought you could be the man you were to me and my family, and you could be that man for more than just us, but for countless others. But I guess I was wrong.”
“Look Seela, I'll do it, but I have conditions. Will you at least hear me out?”
Her eyes widened, “Well Roger, I guess I owe you that much...”
Jan 21 2014 11:51pm
House Mercex Headquarters, Thaero Privo
“And you're entirely he sure he can be trusted after that little relevation of his?”
Jess Seela turned her violet eyes to stare into the CEO's brown eyes. The twi'le hard stare almost caused the man to curl lips up in a smile. He barked out quick laugh and strolled around his greel wood desk to pick up a tumbler filled with a gray-green liquid. Rathers sighed as he picked it up to fill three glasses.
“Try not to be so serious Jess. I know he's like a father to you, but you can't speak of him as such to the Confederate man. He needs to see that a man going by the name of Jess Braner...did he steal part of his alias from your name?”
She nodded, “Yes...”
Rathers shook his head, “A little too sentimental for my taste, but if it works for Roger, well, it works. In any case, I was going to say, he needs to understand that we're not going to become emotionally involved if the plan goes south.”
“You think that's a reason why House Jucos abandoned their own plan?”
“Perhaps, the greater the risk, the more to lose or gain. Perhaps they were just satisfied were they were at...”
Seela frowned, “It's kind of hard not to be when you're the most powerful trading group on our world...”
“But the Confederates will help change that for us, as we work together, of course...”
A bell dinged, announcing the arrival of their guest at their doors. Rathers smoothed out his hair and tapped a button on his desk. The doors swung open to admit a silver protocol droid leading a darker-skinned human male wearing a rather plain jumper jacket and navy slacks cut off by almost knee high bantha hide boots. The man looked around the office, quickly appraising the variety of status symbols that Howard Rathers displayed in his office. Rathers broadly smiled and walked towards the man with an oustretched hand.
“Mr. Winston? I am President Rathers of House Mercex, and this is Miss Seela, one of our junior board members.”
Winston curtly nodded, “I have read much about you both. It is a pleasure to finally meet you.”
“Hopefully not too much,” half-smirked the man, gesturing for the Confederate to take a seat, “I was just discussing your Confederation's recent success.”
“I don't follow,” replied Winston, opting for a chair across from the love seat on which Seela lounged.
Rathers sauntered over to the pair and sat down on another chair besides Winston. He offered a small crystal shot glass to both of the room's other occupants. But Winston quickly waved it away as Seela almost instantly downed the glass. Rathers tilted his head.
“Not a drinker, Mr. Winston?”
“Not on business trips.”
“There is something to be said about the old adage of mixing business and pleasure, but we have to take everything in moderation, after all. A little can't hurt...”
“Thank you no,” said the Confederate, “what support does your man need?”
“What can you give him?” questioned Seela, handing her glass off to the protocol droid.
“Nearly everything physical wise,” said Winston, “down to some illegal cargo, if need be. It's the...organic parts and networks that we currently lack here on Thaere Privo. We can even get your man a ship.”
Seela's lips crinkled up into a sly grin as she ruefully shook her head, “I wouldn't.”
Winston frowned, “Wouldn't do what?”
“Give him a ship. It wouldn't be half the ship it was after he returns it to you. You might, uh, end up with more or less than you originally had.”
“That's the nature of the beast,” replied the Confederate with a shrug.
Rathers cleared his throat, “We would be grateful for all the material support you could provide, not that we couldn't supply it ourselves, but I think our links would be far more noticeable and easy to spot on this world, given our presence here, and that of the criminals as well...”
“A tramp freighter is what we're looking for, I'm assuming?” said Winston.
“Yes, that'd be good,” said the rutian twi'lek, “but I'm serious about the last part. Don't give him your showroom model or some ambassador's star yacht...something a little more...rough. Not only for expense's stake, but well, you know...to better blend in among the gang.”
“I think I can find something suitable,” muttered Winston, “assuming he's not too picky...”
“Oh no, Mr. Bran is anything but that. He'll work with what he's given...”
“Good,” said the Confederate, “I'd like to discuss a few potential changes to the plan. At the base, it's very good, I'd just like to set up and discuss some possible scenarios with you, and see if you feel like we need any back-up plans or controls that we need to implement before we fully start it...”
Jan 22 2014 3:07am
Several days later...
YT-1210 Discus, somewhere in the Thaere Sector
“So this is it. What do you think Roger?” said Seela, sweeping her around to the cockpit of the craft.
The man eyed the controls curiously and stroked his salt and pepper goatee, “This is looking like more than I bargained for.”
The rutian twi'lek frowned, “What do you mean?”
“It's almost too nice of a ship,” replied the man, lightly rapping the hull, “though I'm not to sure about that droid the Confederate's gave me...”
“There's nothing wrong with that R6 unit, dad. The Confederate's thought you might need an extra hand if things get messy.”
“That's what concerns me. Don't get me wrong, it'll be nice to have a droid work on some of the repairs. But the fact that this is coming from the Confederates...”
“It has extra recording equipment and technology inside father, that's it. It's just to help make a better case in the courts...”
The aging man sighed, “That doesn't make me feel any better. Nor does that homing beacon...”
“It'll make me feel better. If something happens, we can people there to look out for you...” mused Seela, eying the man closer, “Now you're just griping for the sake of griping, aren't you?”
The many wryly grinned, “It is flattering to see you try show some concern for an old man like me...or at least pretend to show some...”
“Oh stop it, if you keep this up, there won't be much more concern coming your way. Maybe I'll just let Chordak know why you're really here.”
The man winced, “A little too close, dear. And your promise about him?”
“I will hold it, and the Confederates seem content with it...look Dad, they're not after him, they're after his bosses...”
“All right dear,” said Jess, glancing at his chrono, “I think it's time for you to go. Chordak wanted to see me as soon as I could. Would you tell that R6 to join me in the cockpit on your way out?”
She nodded, tiptoed up to the man, and gave a light peck on his cheeks, “Try not mess it up too much...”
“I'll try not to wreck your friends' ships,” promised the man slipping by to plop into the cushioned chair of the old freighter.
The woman disappeared behind the doors, leaving the man to gaze at the distant stars splattered across the void of space. He took in a deep breathe, noting an almost tropical, fermented smell, making him wonder what the ship had been carrying before its confiscation. Jess Braner idly rested his hand on the controls, hearing the tootle and whistle of the R6 droid before it wheeled in to take a spot next to the man. He turned towards it.
“Well, it's just you and me now,” said the man idly, watching Seela's sleek shuttle jet away back to Thaere Privo, “you ready to go?”
The droid whistled and made a series of bee-bop sounds.
“Me too,” agreed the man, slamming the control throttle forward.
The bright lines of superluminal travel flooded the viewport as his ship swiftly ran into the expanse of hyperspace. Discus. What kind of a name is that for a ship like this? I guess it's roughly disk-shaped...wonder what surprises it holds besides the smuggling compartments and the missiles...hopefully nothing else too ridiculously. The man dozed off into sleep, his mind drifting off to lives lived in the past; when Seela and her sisters were little girls, and the love of his life clung to his side with that little smile of hers plastered on her face. The R6's whistling along with the early warning timer woke him quicker than a bucket of water splashed upon his face. His hands immediately went to the controls of the vessel, and his eyes glanced at the weaponry. He spared a glance at the countdown timer and breathed a sigh of relief. Have I really been on the other side so much that I still expect that Interdictor years ago to pull me out again? The Discus reverted to realspace among a series of asteroids on the edge of the LFA-509 system.
“Oh, this is going to be just like old times...for me bud, I won't say I know what you've been through...”
The man deftly swung the freighter into the field of rocks. It was a fairly sparse and ancient belt. He had little difficulty moving even a large tramp freighter like the Discus through it, though he imagined it'd be much harder for a capital ship to move through it. His comlink crackled to blend into a smooth voice.
“You've got a better ship than I thought an old dog like you would get your hands on, Rogers.”
“It's Mr. Bran,” shot back the man, “what can I say Chordak, she's not quite the Oo-Ta Goo-Ta, but maybe I can her up to that level with a little work.”
“How did you get it?”
“Let's just say it's a gift for a very big favor someone owes me.”
“Sounds like quite the story...” said the distant rodian.
“Maybe I'll tell you all about it once we can get a drink together and catch up on good times. Want to shoot me the exact coordinates, now that I've made it this far. You can tell I'm not being tailed, can't you?”
“Yes, yes...well...Jess...I can't be too cautious. With the Cartel gone now, things in the area are going more respectable. The things we used to do and get away with, can easily get us imprisoned or killed without much thought.”
“The confederates?” questioned the man.
“Yes. Perhaps you're not so much out of the loop as I originally thought...”
“Oh, I don't know about that. I managed to save a certain person's rear from Confederate investigation...”
“And that's how you got the ship?”
“Well, that and a bit of blackmail and gambling.”
“You're a son of gun. But now you're close enough that you do not need more coordinates. Look to your seven. You see the glowing lights? I lit up the landing lights just for you. Just enter the cavern and land, and we'll get down to business, just like old times.”
“Sounds good Chordak.”
Jan 23 2014 12:06am
Chordak's Asteroid Base, LFA-509 System
Braner fidgeted with the controls of the vessel, carefully maneuvering the freighter through the narrow crevice into a natural cavern which Chordak had sealed with a basic magcon field. He heard the pop which announced that his entire ship was now inside the containment field. His eyes quickly scoured the room, half-expecting an ambush. The floor of the base appeared to be covered with stacks of duraplast crates, along with several significantly larger objects covered in tarps. The rodian's own YT-1300, modified almost beyond recognition as the stock craft, rested in the center of it all, though there was a noticeably large spot cleared out next to it. Apparently that's where I'm supposed to land. The old spacer brought the craft down, letting R6 handle the fine details of tuning the repulsorlifts. His eyes continued to scan the area, yet he saw no-one, not even the rodian's army of repair droids. Clearing his throat, the man tapped a button on his comlink.
“Where you at, Chordak?”
“I'll be right out, just doing some last minute fixing up on my hyperdrive.”
Braner winced, remembering the massive tangle of cords and wires which fed the oversized hyperdrive the alien had installed on the ship. It seemed to take at least four repair droids always working on it to keep it operational, but it hadn't failed the rodian yet; at least as far as he knew. Slapping his holster, to ensure his blaster was still present, the man sauntered throughout the corridors of his newly acquired ship and exited the craft to take a deep breathe in of stale air. R6 tootled and rolled down the ramp behind him, just as the other freighter's ramp lowered to reveal Chordak, who raised up his arms.
“How you been, you old dog you?”
Braner smiled in turn, “Well enough, boring, but well, you know. What about you? You've got quite the place here. What is all this stuff?”
“My enterprise. You know how I've ended up trying a bit of moving everything, but I think I finally got it. Weapons.”
Braner frowned, “Weapons?”
“Of course. Conflict has seized the galaxy for decades. People are always looking for the next best weapon, whether it is an Imperial emperor or the thug down the street. Most of my wares aren't that interesting, blasters, explosives, you know the like. But I managed to snag a couple of tanks from Aridus from an associate of mine, right before the world fell to the Reavers. It's taken a while, but I think I've finally found a buyer for them.”
“House Jucos of Thaere Privo. They've been buying a lot of my stuff recently. Almost legitimate work...”
“But...is that lipstick on your cheek?”
Jess frowned and wiped his right cheek, “Ah, yes. Nothing to worry about Chordak, I haven't found myself a new woman. It's just from the other Jess. You gave me a brief sendoff and told me to not get in any trouble, not that we're ever going to.”
The rodian chortled, “Not if she never knows...”
“She doesn't,” replied Braner with a weary sigh, “nor do I hope she ever finds out...but what have you got for an old dog like me to move around for you?”
Jan 23 2014 2:09am
YT-1210 Discus, LFA-509
The circular starship wove around the asteroid belt, following the illumiscent trail of Chordak's own freighter almost a kilometer ahead of them. The rodian elaborately flew his craft in loops around the asteroids. Occasionally, the alien would take his craft almost close enough to the giant rocks, before suddenly banking out of the asteroid's path, as if he were playing chicken with it. Listening to some oldies music, Braner merely shook his head and gently guided the Discus in gradual arcs around the belt's asteroids, all while the R6 unit rolled around in the back of the ship, inspecting the duraplast-crated cargoes before finally wheeling himself back up to the cockpit. Jess spared a quick glance at the droid.
“I have to admit R6, fifty tons of explosives isn't really what I had in mind when I said I'd take anything he'd give me, but trust me, it was better than hauling that tank. I don't think it'd fit, no matter what he said...”
The droid made a series of tootling sounds.
“Are you actually displaying a bit of personality? And no, I don't want to play catch with a thermal detonator, though that was almost funny...”
His comlink crackled as Chordak's static-distorted voice washed out of the ship's speakers, “I'm transmitting you the jump coordinates. I'll see you when you get there.”
The other freighter jetted out of the asteroid belt and surged into hyperspace. Jess lightly pulled the yoke back and tilted it to his right, gradually arcing out of the belt towards the coordinates that Chordak had calculated for him.
“Want to double check his figures for me? I'm assuming that neither of us want to hit a star along the way...”
The droid cirled its photoreceptor to eye the mand twitted an affirmative noise. A blip on his communication's console began to light up into a blinking green dot. There shouldn't be anyone else in this belt...unless they're moving to raid the base now...but that'd jeopardize everything...He tapped a button.
“Discus here. Who am I speaking with?”
“Jess,” replied a female voice.
“You or me?”
“You're not that funny dad.”
“I thought it was worth the shot. Is this encrypted?”
“Dad, we're on a secure hyperwave channel, we're good, all right? I just wanted to let you know how proud I am for you getting this far. R6 has been keeping us updated on your progress. When you get to your destination, I want to let you know that there will be a ship tailing you to the rendezvous point, if you manage to see it or you need help, just shoot us a message. Don't worry, it's stealthy according to my Confederate friend.”
“I really hope so...”
His freighter entered hyperspace. The two continued to talk about nothing in particular. Finally, the starlines of hyperspace faded away to reveal a terrestial planet swathed in green and blue. Vast amounts of ships filled its starlanes, with everything from the big corporate bulk cruisers to dozens of tramp freighters like his own. A shuttle nearly clipped his vessel as it jetted off a passenger liner to the comsopolitan world below. And this is where Seela lives...I forgot how busy Thaere Privo can be...
“I see that you're here now Dad, I'm going to let you go. Good luck, and I love you.”
“Love you too dear.”
His eyes immediately began scanning for the rodian's ships, but only after glancing at his sensor board did the man realize that the alien had already docked the Oo-Ta Goo-Ta on one of the skyscrapers controlled by House Jucos. He began to run his freighter towards the tower below after transmitting his codes to Thaere Privos traffic control. His ship plunged through the clouds and into the night sky. As his craft vibrated from the turbulence, he constantly glanced at his scanners, half expecting to see the little blip of the follower. But nothing appeared. Jess shook his head.
“I must be going crazy.”
The droid tootled back at him. Eying the communication's screen on the droid's digital readout, Jess shook his head.
“Hey, at least this should be it, shouldn't it? You're almost done with me...”
“Discus, this is the House Jucos flight coordinator. We're going to have to make a little alteration in your flight course to a new landing pad. Please land at the new coordinates transmitted, at landing pad D6.”
“Flight control, what's wrong with D4?”
“Ah...nothing. Nothing that I can talk about Discus. But I ensure you, everything is fine.”
“Roger flight control,” replied the man, clicking off the comlink, “yeah right...”
They wove around a few buildings towards a pair of conjoined circular towers rising out of a smaller ringed complex. Dozens of ships only slightly smaller than his own buzzed around the tower. He recognized the paint scheme and immediately frowned. He called Seela.
“Why are there Thaere Privo patrol ships all over the place already?”
“Father, I don't know how to better tell you this, but Chordak is dead.”
“I just don't know. We gave the local authorities the heads up when it happened.”
“What? But how did you know?”
“Chordak was also working with us, Dad. It turns out the Confederates had already caught him before, and had him turned. But he had never met the buyers in person before. You were going to be his back-up and another witness. That's how I could guarantee you that you weren't going to be harmed. Just have some faith and land. I swear to you, I'll be there for you. We'll be there. That R6 has been modified to provide you with some extra protection, stick close to it Dad...”
Jan 23 2014 9:55pm
Landing Pad D6, House Jucos Tower, Thaere Privo
As he neared the landing pad, Braner almost instantly understood the last minute flight control. While D4 jutted out of the building on a support structure, D4 was partially built into the building itself, providing better protection from the weather and prying eyes. Probably don't want to see the cops to see any more weaponry that they already know about...I wonder if they got to searching Chordak's ship yet...Peering out of the viewport, he saw a dozen droids march up to his craft, including several large binary load-lifters. Looks like they want to get this cargo off in a hurry, not that I blame them...Jess slapped a button on the console, lowering the ramp. He turned and looked down at the R6 unit.
“I guess we should stick close together on this one, it could get ugly...”
The droid replied an affirmative in droidspeak, and the two crewmembers exited the old Corellian craft to the duracrete pad below. He glanced around the group of droids, who immediately began to board the craft, looking for whoever was in charge of the operation. He heard the whine of a blaster bolt before it hit him, though the R6 unit had managed to absort of it. Braner took cover behind the droid and drew his own sidearm. A familiar voice called out tohim.
“Well Rogers, I'll give you this. You're tougher than I remember, but you're still as stupid and amoral...”
His mind reached into its own recesses, trying to match the voice with a face. But his memory failed him as his mind kept going to the burning sensation he now felt in his right flank. Rogers swept the muzzle of his blaster pistol across the hangar, but there were too many crates and boxes that his potential assailant would likely be hiding behind to easily detect the attacker.
“Well, at least you got Chordak,” called out the man.
“Yeah, he didn't know what hit him. Clean kill, unlike what you're going to be. But maybe you deserve it after all of these years with my daughters...”
It all suddenly clicked.
“Well Zeleda, we're not always lucky now, are we? What do you want from me? I saved the rest of your family all those years ago. How about a little thanks and a little less blaster fire?”
“Oh, how noble of you, the great savior of my family. I know you just took them in while I was on the rock because of a little bit of Noola...”
“So why didn't you try and win her back then, when you got off? You never visited your daughters. Do you know what Jess would say if she saw you now?”
“Daughters I never really knew, thanks to you in the first place...”
“You told me you were going to sell them to Chordak...”
“I almost did,” admitted the twi'lek, “but things had changed when you betrayed me.”
“I was protecting them from-”
A bright blue burst of blaster fire flared out of the astromech droid and smacked Braner's assailant straight in the face. The alien collapsed onto the ground, his lekku twitching. Clutching his wound, the old smuggler awkwardly ran up to the stunned alien. He kicked the Rutian, but he didn't respond. Turning the twi'lek over, he noticed that the alien was wearing a House Jucos uniform. On one its labels, it read Chief of Security. Sighing, the man immediately called the mission's controllers. This is about to get really ugly...
Jan 24 2014 12:06am
Two days later...
House Jucos Headquarters, Thaere Privo
“Your house is liable for these operations. Your chief of security ran the ring, with the CEO's knowledge and acquisience, for a profit. The Committee will expel your house for this, not even House Tylek will stand by you for this,” informed General Ressus.
Ressus, the chief officer of the Thaerian military, cleared his throat and sat back down in the elaborately carved wooden chairs of House Jucos' banquet hall. Nearly two dozen people sat in similar chairs around the table, among them representatives from most of Thaere Privo's merchants houses as well as Winston. At the head of the table, CEO Raxilur of House Jucos let out a weary sigh and plopped back down in his chair. Winston cleared his throat, almost instantly getting all of the representative's attention.
“While I think it is true that some people in House Jucos made an unwise decision,” said the Confederate, “we cannot allow it to dominate the Committee's proceedings. It needs to be cleaned up, and that will require every house here, as well as the Confederation, before it gets out of hand. We cannot afford such a proliferation of weapons to flood your streets, or our own for the matter. I think we can all agree that House Jucos will cede its leadership position in the committee, am I correct?”
A series of bobbing heads, including that of Raxilur, confirmed his thoughts. The man continued. His eyes rapidly scanned the faces of the other members present.
“Whose House then is to be the leader of the Thaere Commerce Committee then?”
A number of people awkwardly began to look at each other and several began to exchange murmurs. Winston's eyes turned to those of Rathers, but the CEO of House Mercex kept his face straight and spared a glance at House Jucos' delegation. They looked back at the Confederates and House Mercex sagely nodded. Winston struggled to keep his own face straight. They have folded then. But it'll be better for them and us if they accept our agreement... Raxilur stood up from the table again.
“My fellow committee members. My house has erred, I have erred. But that does not mean I cannot recognize good leadership when I see it. I nominate House Mercex to form and lead the Commerce committee's of Thaere. They and their Confederate partners can steer Thaere on the proper course, and perhaps more importantly to our houses, open up their worlds to our markets, and vice versa.”
Winston cleared his throat, “For Confederate markets to be open to Thaere and vice versa, it would not requireHouse Mercex taking control of the committee; it would take the committee as a whole deciding to apply for membership into the Confederation. The Council has vested in me the powers to induct Thaere Privo into our nation, but it will require a full vote of the Committee itself before we draw up a membership treaty, or simply sign the standard one.”
“Do we wish to vote on this now?” questioned Rathers, “or are there other items of business that people would like to take up?”
“We should vote now,” suggested Raxilur, sitting down.
Winston swept his eyes back and forth between the two erstwhile rivals. Well, at least that agreement between the two of them seems to be holding. Jucos doesn't want Mercex or us to fully expose their misdeeds, or at least take more advantage of them by suing the pants of their corporation, and Mercex would like to cement their positions as Thaere Privo's new leadership, but they need to do something lasting and worthy to keep the other House's support.
“Any objections to the vote taking place?” said Rathers, “no? Let's vote then...”
Each delegate announced their vote as they went around the table, albeit Winston abstained from voting. When it was all said down, nearly three-quarters of the committee had opted for the Confederation's membership, with most of the voters of “yea” coming from the two blocs of merchant houses lead by House Jucos and House Mercex. The next vote stamped their seal of approval onto the standard membership treaty; a treaty that Winston had already shown and discussed with members of both blocs of houses. The third group of houses, the unaligned independent houses, hadn't been entirely formed of the Confederation's plans for them, partially because CSIS couldn't really vet any of them to see where they might stand on the issue. Yet looking around, Winston was happy to see that a significant number had fallen in ranks with their House Jucos and Mercex counterparts. And all of this because a daughter managed to get one dad to do the right thing for his people. Or should I say, the one dad she still loves?