December 05, 2012

797. The Rough Exchange

The rundown luxury airspeeder settled down to the ground near the abandoned power converter factory and the co-pilot ensured her helmet was securely fastened before opening the door to the passenger compartment. The two red robed elderly gentlemen looked up at her from their seats. "Brother Beeble? Brother Zaphod? We've arrived at your specified location, sirs. If you'll allow me, I'll step outside and make sure the area is secure."

"Oh, I'm sure that won't really be necessary, Miss Brox," Brother Zaphod said with a warm smile. "S'spannish Expeditionary Monks often travel to seedy places, but we're rarely treated poorly," he reassured her.

"Let the young lady do her job, Zaphod," the other old man said, rolling his eyes. "It's what we pay her for."

"I don't know why you have to be so cranky all the time, Beeble. I was just trying to be nice to the young lass," the monk said, patting his elderly friend on the arm.

Dianna Kingsdoom smiled at the antics of the two old monks and activated the door controls, it opened with a hiss. Holding her carbine at the ready, she walked down the steps, keeping her head on a swivel. Despite the fact the landing yard at the factory was empty, she was wary for hidden threats. For a moment she was worried they might be in the wrong location, or that the other party hadn't kept their appointment. She was about to call back into the speeder that she'd go investigate when a walk through door on the side of the huge factory building opened up and two armed beings stepped out. Both were reptilian species; the first, a Gektl, the other, a Trandoshan who was gigantic even for one of his species and was wearing a large cape made of some sort of fur. It suddenly dawned on her that the fur was a Wookie pelt, and the realization made her shudder.

The Trandoshan called out to verify that she was with the monks, and she nodded in the affirmative, then turned her head just slightly and called into the open door of the speeder to let her employers know that this was indeed the place. She strode across the open space toward the building and the two reptilian humanoids, her mind imagining energy bolts striking her body from hidden snipers all around, but nothing of the sort happened. "Is this the lamest meeting every or what?" she said to the Trandoshan, then nodded conspiratorially to the Gektl. "I'm stuck protecting two ancient scholars from your boss, and you're stuck protecting your boss from two old humans," she chuckled.

She watched as the two criminals visibly relaxed just a bit, which was exactly what she had intended. No need for one of them to get jumpy.

She turned to watch as the two old men helped each other clamber out of the speeder and begin making their way toward the building. They each leaned heavily on a specialized staff that was taller than the stooped over man who used it. The bottom meter and a half was made out of a polished wood of some origin she didn't recognized, but it was beautifully marbled. The staves were topped by half a meter of electronics which housed their recording and communication devices for which S'spannish Monks were known for, along with their red robes.

When the monks got close, the two guards turned back inside and indicated the newly arrived party should follow them. Dianna made a mental note of the turns they made down various hallways inside the old factory in case they needed a hasty retreat, and after several minutes of walking they arrived outside of a doorway. Dianna turned to the old men to see how they were doing. They seemed to be wheezing a bit and leaning even more on their staffs, but she didn't say anything.

"Well, what are we waiting for, Master Trandoshan? I'm sorry, I don't know your name," Brother Zaphod asked. The Trandoshan mercenary didn't bother to answer, instead, he knocked on the door once, then opened the door upon hearing a voice from the other side say, "Enter."

The room was as non-descript as the rest of the building they had seen so far, with tan walls and tan floor tiles with a white ceiling. The recessed florescent glow rods provided harsh light above the beat up plasteel table. There were three chairs; Two obviously meant for the monks and the third was occupied by a Chiss male with blue skin and scarlet red eyes with black hair.

"Ah, Master Faren'or'gamulak. I'm glad you saw fit to meet with us," said Brother Beeble as he and his counterpart both settled down into their chairs.

"Your Cheunh isn't completely horrible, Brother...?"


"... Brother Beeble. Still, please call me Norg," the Chiss said.

"Thank you, Norg. This is Brother Zaphod," Beeble said, indicating the other monk who was squirming in his seat.

"Not very comfortable chairs, Norg," said Zaphod, grumpily.

Beeble pinched his the bridge of his nose and shook his head incredulously, but Norg answered. "Yes, and I apologize. It was the best I could do on such short notice. Now, what can I do for such an esteemed organization as the Ss'Panish Expedition?"

October 31, 2012

796. The Rough Exchange

"I can't tell if you're listening to me or not with your damn helmet on," Rhox Vegha said to the armor clad figure sitting next to her in the cockpit of the air speeder. At one time, the craft would have been considered the ultimate in luxury speeders, but that time was a couple centuries past. Now, it needed a paint job and an engine overhaul, not to mention a complete renovation of the interior. The last time that had happened was probably more than twenty years ago, by the looks of things. Still, it afforded the privacy that people of their passengers status was required without giving the appearance of opulence which was unbecoming of any monk, no matter which order they belonged to.

"I'm listening," Dianna Kingsdoom's muffled and distorted voice said through the vocabulator of the helmet. It was weird hearing her own voice sound like that, but Trychon and Raezyr had insisted on disguising her voice on the off chance it might be recognized.

"Correct me if I'm wrong, but you told me you were going to avoid getting back together with that Sith, and take it slow if you did, didn't you? Or was I dreaming that conversation?" Rhox chided.

"Yes. That's what I said," Dianna said, turning away from Rhox and pretending to look out the window.

"Well, seeing you come out of Raez's sleeping quarters this morning kinda throws all that out the window, doesn't it?"

"First of all, we slept. That's it," Dianna said. "Second, he caught me off guard. I couldn't sleep, so I decided to try this armor on, make sure it fit. I wasn't expecting to see him in the middle of the night... at least..." she paused, remembering how Raezyr had looked; disheveled hair, shirt off, that wry smile off his. "At least not like that."

"Whatever," Rhox said curtly.

"I'm sorry, Rhox. I can't help it when I'm around him. You know that."

"I do know that," the dark haired woman responded in exasperation. "You know I only have your best interests at heart, and it's not just you I'm thinking of."

"I know... I know," she said, and even though a helmet and disguised voice, she could hear her friend's smile. "I promise I'm going to take things slow. I haven't forgotten about all the changes he's caused in my life... the good or the bad."

"I guess that'll have to do," Rhox said, turning her attention to the upcoming landing.

October 24, 2012

795. The Rough Exchange

"So tell me again who we're looking for," Trychon said after the issue of disguises were settled. It was usual for most monks of S'pann to travel with a body guard so it had been decided that Dianna Kingsdoom would don a suit of Eriadu armor and play that role, while Rhox Vegha would pretend to be hired aircar driver and wait outside. If things went badly she could either come in as reinforcement, rescue, or just play the role of get away driver. Hopefully it wouldn't come to that.

"The being our trail led us to was a Weequay named Que-do Ulvik, but other than the fact he belongs to the Exchange organization, we have no information about him," Dianna Kingsdoom informed them. "We suspect, although we've never been able to confirm, that Ulvik is on Orbital Station at Telos IV."

For the next few hours they hashed out some more details of their plan, then finally decided to turn in. Raezyr lay in his bunk, unable to sleep yet unable to pin point a particular reason why. After a couple of hours, he got up pulled on a pair of sleep trousers and went out to the main room to get something to drink.

As he entered the room, he noticed Di across the room, her back to him. She hadn't heard him. Instead, she continued to strap on the Eriadu armor she was supposed to wear the following day, adjusting various straps and ensuring a snug fit.

Raezyr grabbed a drink canister and walked across the room toward the fiery haired woman. "Something about a woman in armor," he commented quietly. She turned and looked him in the eyes.

"I wanted to make sure it fit properly," she said. "Help me adjust this strap, will you?" she asked, indicating a strap by her waist.

He walked over and connected the strap, making sure the fit was snug. He then put his hands on her hips and drew her to him, pressing his lips to hers. She tried to pull back. She put her hands against him to push away, but he held her tight. Slowly he felt her resolve melt as she gave herself to him, her hands beginning to run over his muscled chest.

Long moments passed as they drank each other in. Slowly Raezyr's hands began to disconnect her armor, and finally she pulled back. "Raez... no."

He wrapped his hands around her waist once more and pulled her close. She didn't try to fight. She didn't want to fight. She told him so even as she turned her head away. "Raez, you don't know how badly I want this... but I can't right now. There are things..."

"None of that matters," the big Sith interrupted, caressing her chin and turning her eyes back to his. "All that's happened is the past. Your past, my past, it's nothing. What matters is that you and I are here, together. I've become even more powerful than you can imagine, and I promise you this: Nothing will come between us. I won't let it. And I won't let you go again... Ever."

He looked into her eyes, and through the Force he felt her relief and... something else. Was that a flash of fear? He told himself he was mistaken as he lost himself in her.

October 03, 2012

794. The Rough Exchange

Within moments, the cargo speeder was safely secured in a nearby storage locker while the four humans and cyborg were safely inside as well, with their makeshift headquarters fully operational. Trychon sat in the 'command chair' at the main console, inspecting the data scrolling across the numerous screens while Darth Invictus scanned the security feeds, ensuring no one would pay them a surprise visit. Not that they really expected anyone to do so.

"And just how secure are we here?" Rhox Vegha asked Raezyr as they checked the racks of supplies to ensure whatever they might need was already on hand. "How do you know the owners of the building don't know about this place?"

Raezyr paused for a moment and gave Rhox a bored look. "The owners do know about this place."

The dark haired woman's jaw dropped. "How do you know they won't rat you out to the Exchange, or worse, the Hutts?"

The big Sith rolled his eyes in exasperation. "Because the owners are us," he replied as if talking to a small child and indicated Trychon and himself. "And now that we're finally done taking inventory, how about we all sit down and go over everything one more time? Unless of course you feel like raising more concerns that have been taken care of long before you waltzed back into our lives? No?"

Rhox glared at him and plopped down into a chair at the long table in the center of the room. "Oh how I missed your sunny disposition."

"And I, your trusting supportiveness," Raezyr retorted, sitting down opposite.

"Guys!" Dianna said, sitting down at the end of the table, between the two. "Let's focus on what we are here to do," she admonished. "Now, as we told you back on Den Var, someone made multiple in-roads on our private lives. At first, we thought it was an isolated incident, locally related, but then the next attempt was made, and we were unable to trace that one to it's source. We were never able to even find out who had been snooping around our home and businesses. The third attempt, however, was and attack on our lives. We got lucking in that we were able to trace the assassin, but the trail ran cold after it lead to Nar Shaddaa and The Exchange. After being out of the business for so long, our contacts were either dead, unable to be located, or out of the business themselves."

"At that point, we had a choice to make," Rhox said, picking up where Dianna had left off. "We could either go back home, hope whomever it is stops sending people, hope that next time the assassin didn't get lucky, or..." the dark haired woman trailed off, looking over at the red head to continue.

"Or we reach out for help," she said. "Raez, we knew you probably still had connections, at the very least. We couldn't live our lives in fear anymore."

For the next hour, Rhox Vegha and Dianna Kingsdoom laid out the trail they had followed to the point it had gone cold. Dead ended, rather. The Exchange was an intergalactic crime organization that had been insurmountable for many people, including planetary governments and the Galactic Republic itself, let alone two single individuals. It was no surprise they had reached out to the only help they had available.

“Norg,” Trychon finally said aloud, still working on the computer consoles.

Rhox and Dianna looked over at him for an explanation. When it became apparent that one wasn’t coming, they looked back to Raezyr.

“What is a Norg?” the red haired woman asked of the big Sith.

“Norg isn’t a ‘what’, it’s a ‘who,’” he said. “Norg is a Chiss we had some business dealings with a few years ago, but he’s not going to be receptive to just handing over information, even if we do pay him well.”

Trychon got up and grabbed a box from the shelf then walked to the table. “That’s why we use these,” he said, dumping the contents out in front of the other three.

Dianna picked up one of the two red robes which had fallen out. “What are these?”

Rhox grabbed the other one. “These look like the robes belonging to the Monks from the planet S’spann,” she said. “They’re sort of famous for taking knowledge gathering expeditions all across the galaxy. They usually travel in pairs, each with their own body guard. Mostly they’re harmless, but like to have protection anyway. I still don’t understand how these are going to help us.

Trychon looked at the rest of them. “Don’t you get it? Nobody expects the S’spannish Expedition.”

September 26, 2012

793. The Rough Exchange

Rhox Vegha pulled the massive cargo speeder truck up to the darkened warehouse storage facility and waited for the receiving doors to open after punching in the security code. Slowly, the massive doors groaned open and she pulled the vehicle into the opening. She had the brief sensation of what a Torrolian sardine must feel like when it's being swallowed by a kruk whale as she passed through the doors which were large enough to admit even a large space freighter.

Inside the warehouse itself her an even more insignificant feeling as the ceiling was about 500 meters above her... and this was just the ground floor. The height of the building itself didn't surprise her as many of the buildings on Nar Shaddaa were just as tall, if not taller. The difference was that most of the other buildings weren't designed to have cargo ships pull inside and unload their freight.

All over were individual storage units, some with regular sized doors, others with doors large enough to pull a speeder inside, but she maneuvered her vehicle on past them all, pulling up to and onto a large elevator platform which, after yellow warning beacons began flashing, started to rise into the air, taking them up to the third floor.

Despite it being after hours, there she noticed there was actually people loading or unloading plasteel crates or duroplast bins from individual storage lockers, but on the entire first floor, she estimated there weren't more than four, beings. Probably quite busy for this time of day, but not abnormal given the size of the facility.

When the elevator finally stopped moving, she noticed the third floor was much more normal sized, and while you couldn't fly a ship down the corridors, her large cargo speeder still maneuvered easily. She counted the numbers on the doors, stopping at eleven thirty-eight.

Rhox hopped out and ran around to the back doors of the vehicle and, after a quick look around, opened them.

A man jumped down to the ground and Rhox barely scrambled out of his way. "Watch where you're going, Sith Lord," she said sarcastically to Trychon, clearly annoyed as she reached her hand up to help Dianna Kingsdoom down.

Trychon ignored her and walked over to the doors on the storage unit, punched in a code, then held his hand up to door for a minute.

Dianna watched Trychon for a moment, then turned to Raezyr, who had jumped out and stepped up beside her. "I don't know why you would risk us being seen like this. Why not just let Rhox open the door?"

"See him holding his hand there?" Raezyr noted. "That's not just for fun. There's a mechanism on the other side that can only be deactivated manually. Which means unless a Force user, who knows the device is there, deactivates it before the door is opened, we'd have all been blown to pieces," he explained. "Besides, there's really no danger of being seen. We own the building and none of the storage units on this level are rented out."

Rhox opened her mouth to comment, but before she could, the storage unit doors began to creak open. Dianna was glad for it too, as she was sure there was some sort of wise crack about to leak from her friend's mouth.

Trychon hit the light switch and the glow rods flickered on, revealing what appeared to be a fairly comfortable living space, combined with some sort of technical center, one wall being lined with computers, the other lined with racks of all manner of weaponry. Scattered about were tables and couches and along the back was a kitchen area with a door placed awkwardly in the middle.

"Where's that door lead?" Rhox asked, unloading some gear from the truck.

"Bunks. Refresher," Trychon called over his shoulder as he began flicking switches, powering up the electronics. He paused, turned to the two ladies and grinned. "Welcome to our Nar Shaddaa base of operations."