THREE YEARS AFTER THE CLONE WARS
Swirling her drink in the dim lighting of the Courageous Clone Cantina in the capital of Jazbina, Soleil watches the holo-game unfolding before her. Oduph, Raighl, Raiden and a Human starship Captain are each on opposite sides of cube-shaped hologram, strategically placing knives in squares to claim them, and block an opponent’s placement. It’s some sort of Mandalorian game, but Soleil doesn’t know what it’s called, only how hard it must be for Oduph to plan his moves after all the Corellian ale the Ithorian downed. Soleil catches snippets of their conversation, some of it commentary on the game, some of it boasting by the starship Captain about how much he saved on his last shipping job. “….And I didn’t even have to put in more rations for those hairy beasts!” she hears, before Oduph interrupts the Human, “Yeah, but how much money is a lot? And how’d you find locks strong enough to keep in a Wookiee?” The Human laughs at Oduph, “Wookiee? I think you mean Wookiees friend. Stun cages work real well in keeping those walking carpets in check until the Empire takes ’em for labour.” “By labour, you mean slaves?” Raiden interjects, shocked, to which the Human chuckles and shrugs. “They weren’t volunteers, that’s for damn sure,” the Human says, snickering cruelly.
Soleil‘s comlink goes off, indicating S19-N5 has received a hyperspace transmission for her. Soleils look up to tell her crew to pack it up, when she notices Max sneaking a hand into the Human’s pockets, coming out with a small fistful of credits, while the Human takes no notice. They lock eyes for a moment, and the small blue Squib scurries out of the bar, with Soleil practically chasing after him, all the way back to Ataraxia. “Why did you do that?!” She hisses at the little Squib, but he sticks his tongue out at Soleil and makes a crude noise. “These credits mine! Me stole them, so me no have to share with you!” Max squeaks gleefully, practically skipping back to his nook in the port engine. Sighing and shaking her head at the Squib kid’s antics, Soleil brings up the HoloNet on the computer and checks the message waiting for her, as she waits for the rest of her crew to return to the ship.
Baj’R‘s face comes up on the holoprojector, and Soleil listens to his proposal; It could be worth a few credits, depending on what this job of his is. Once her crew returns from the Courageous Clone Soleil fires up Ataraxia and cedes the heavily modified pilot’s seat to Tik’Trii as Raiden plots a course to Ord Mantell. During the trip through hyperspace Soleil goes about making some food in the lounge, and joking with Raighl when the two of them are interrupted by B.B. “Wailing” Jinkins shuffling into the lounge, sobbing and well, wailing. “Captain! Oh by all the galaxies, have you no mercy? Why Ord Mantell? Why, in all places, are we going back there?” “Because there’s a job waiting for us there B.B., now stop your whining. If we don’t get paid, how do you expect to get around the galaxy?” That sobers him up, and the Bith stops sobbing, but is still quite morose. “But Captain! Remember I had business there? Musical business? Well it didn’t go quite so musically as planned, and I, uh, er…don’t really want to go back there. I’m a wanted Bith! Yes, that’s it, I’m a wanted Bith. Wanted by the, er, law…Yes! You could very well say I am wanted by the law, no doubt about that. Now how about we turn Ataraxia around and-” “No.” Soleil says to B.B., cutting him off. “Baj’r has a job for us, and I’m curious to see what he’s got, your misgivings notwithstanding. Dong-mah?” “Yes Captain,” B.B. moans as he shuffles back to his shuttle.
Ataraxia drops out of hyperspace, and Soleil runs up to the cockpit to catch a view of Ord Mantell out the viewport. Tik’Trii chitters with laughter as he banks Ataraxia around slower moving orbital traffic moving planetside. Setting down at the Persphone Spaceport, Soleil decides to take Raighl, Tik’Trii, and Max to the meeting with Baj’R. Apparently Tik’Trii makes up for his size in his murderousness, and if Oduph comes too, Baj’R might just think you’re all trying to knock his operation down. Satisfied with leaving the rest of the crew in charge of refueling and resupplying Ataraxia, the four of them walk through the streets and alleys of the island city of Persephone, towards Baj’R’s criminal den.
The heavy duratseel door leading to Baj’R‘s compound is guarded by a muscular, dark-skinned human with a vibro-axe, who nods at the crew’s arrival, and opens the absurdly heavy door. After passing through mazelike hallways, they’re finally led into the central chamber, where Baj’R sits at a raised table. Places have been set at the table for each of them, with some type of biscuits, tea, and a dark-looking bottle of liquor. “Ah, the Captain graces us with ‘er presence. I was wonderin’ if you’d gotten around to lookin’ at my message, thought maybe you were too good to deal with the likes of me.” “A job’s a job Baj’r. Last time we stood face to face, you wanted nothing to do with me or my goods, screwing up my job. That’s on you, and you said you wanted to make good. So what’s the job?” Soleil says, placing her hands on the table and leaning toward the greasy looking Human. “A’right love, down to business it is then. Why don’t you take a seat an make yourself comfy eh?” Baj’R says, to which Tik’Trii promptly hops onto one of the chairs and begins tearing into the biscuits provided. The rest take a seat, and Raighl motions for Baj’R to continue with his proposition.
“You see Captain,” Baj’R continues, “you’re not the only one round these ‘ere parts with a stick up their pi-gu as it so ’appens. Councillor ’Arrik Talloran is looking to move some of his cargo, perfectly legal goods as it turns out, off-world to a buyer. Only the fly in the ointment is, ’Arrik’s not well connected enough to bypass Imperial tariffs, and his goods won’t make ‘im enough profit for the whole ordeal to be worth a damn shipping it ’imself. The old codger won’t do business with me to move his goods to bypass the tariff, but that’s where you come in Captain. ’Arrik will do business with a well-heeled lady like yourself Captain, and you can smuggle his goods off-world, while I take a modest cut from your share.” “My crew get shares. Last I checked you weren’t a part of my crew Baj’r,” Soleil says flooding the air with her pheromones, heightening the tension in the room. “Now, now Captain,” Baj’R making placating gestures. “I said a modest cut. Does fifteen percent off the top sound like a fair compromise to our little parley ’ere?” “Fine,” Soleil growls, slapping his greasy palm in agreement. “Are we meeting this Councillor Talloran at this supposed party you mentioned in your message?” Raighl asks after they’ve agreed to Baj’R‘s terms. “Credits for the smart lady,” Baj’R says, tipping his hat to Raighl. “Tickets for a party like this are tough to come by for rabble like us. Just one of these blasted tickets costs a sapphire the size of a testicle, but I managed to get my ’ands on a couple of ’em,” Baj’R sates with a grin, when both Max and Tik’Trii look at each other and burst into a fit of laughter.
Baj’R‘s face reddens as he realizes what the two small aliens are laughing at. “Tickets you womp-rats!” He yells at them, before tossing two ident-cards your way. "Don’t make me regret trying to buy a little goodwill from you Captain. Now, each of those invites has a few ‘undred credits loaded. Go out and buy some fancy new clothes so you fit right in with those overstuffed buffoons tonight. I’ll be eager to ‘ere back from you soon Captain." The meeting now clearly over, Baj’R‘s burly men escort the four shipmates out of the compound and back into the afternoon haze of Persephone’s alleys. Soleil lets both Max and Tik’Trii know they’re free to do as they please until her and Raighl return to Ataraxia. The two of them are going shopping!
Returning to Ataraxia with Raighl and their expensive new ‘disguise’ dresses in hand, Soleil is surprised to see one of the RC-2 Twilight Scoutships is gone, the one B.B. is renting. They find Tik’Trii in Ataraxia‘s lounge making some food, who informs Soleil that B.B. left for some ’engagement’ and won’t be back until tomorrow. Mildly irritated that the Bith musician didn’t inform her himself he was leaving, Soleil decides it’s pointless to get upset over it as she’s got a party to attend, and may not be back until B.B. has already returned. As the sun over Ord Mantell begins to set, Soleil and Raighl start getting ready for the party, and prepare each of their ‘disguises’. Spending the last of the credits loaded on the ident-cards, they rent a repulsor-carriage pulled by two bipedal droids to take them to the party, located at a sprawling mansion on the far side of Island.
As the repulsor-carriage is drawn up to the mansion, the first thing they can see is a large security matrix that has been installed by the gates into the mansion. Crisscrossing lines of faint blue scanners form almost woven net in front of the open gate, checking all attendees for weapons. “Good thing we left our weapons on the ship,” quips Raighl and Soleil nods in agreement as they both ascend the stairs to the mansion’s gate, and the sprawling gala beyond. They both pass through the security matrix unhindered, and present their tickets to the attendant at the entrance, who takes them, checks them, hands them back to Soleil, and then escorts them both to a lobby area with many other party guests. One by one, the guests are announced by their tickets, and then filter into the large hall that seems to be the center of the gala’s goings on. Once the announcement line gets to them, Soleil hands over their tickets to a new attendant who picks up a small voice-amplifier and speaks into it, “Lady Raighl Nova, of Zeltros; and escort.” They both walk down the stairs into the hall, and the look of all the different species mingling together, in high finery no less, brings back memories of Coruscant before the Clone Wars.
“So we’re looking for this Harrik Talloran guy?” Raighl asks. “Yeah, he’s an older Human, kinda fat. Should be wearing a red sash cross-ways over his chest,” Soleil says, leading the way through the crowd. They luck out and spot the man off to the side, taking a glass of lightly coloured liquor from an attendant. Raighl walks up first and introduces herself, while Soleil stands at her side and scans the room for any grey-uniformed Imperials who might listen in. “And you are?” The older Human asks Soleil. “My name’s Captain Soleil, and I’m Lady Nova’s escort this evening. But we actually came here to talk business. I’m sure you’ve heard of a man named Baj’r?” She says, to which the human raises an eyebrow. “Yes, I have,” he replies, “and I think he’s a psychotic lowlife.” “Be that as it may, and I can’t help but agree with you,” Soleil continues, “Baj’r led us to believe you might want to move some legitimate cargo off-world. It’s a shame what the Empire is doing to businessmen like yourself Councillor, what with these crushing tariffs. I happen to have some extra room in the cargo bays of my ship if we were to work something out?” The man looks at them both, considers, but is distracted as a middle-aged woman in a gold dress adorned with teal-coloured gemstones approaches.
“Councillor Talloran, how good of you to make it!” The woman says, but Soleil and Raighl are instead off put by her companion that she’s locked arms with. It’s B.B., but he’s almost unrecognizable, wearing a formal black suit complete with unnecessary jewelry and a thin scarf tied into a tie, tucked into the suit’s collar. You think he might have even bathed. “Lady Nova, Captain, may I introduce Lady Aithra Wing, a fellow Councillor here, and host of this party,” Harrik Talloran states. Soleil just stares, mouth agape at B.B., while Raighl actually asks the question they’ve been thinking all along. “What the hell are you doing here BB?” The older woman interjects instead, “Balzus dear, do you know these…women? I’d be very cross to think you were spending your time with anyone other than me.” B.B. stammers and makes a line motion across his throat with one finger to the both of them, behind Aithra so she doesn’t notice. “Uh, of course I don’t Aithra! I’ve never seen these women before in my life.” “How true!” Raighl lies, “so why don’t you do me the honour of a dance, Mr. Balzus?” At which Raighl guides B.B. onto the dance floor and the two begin an awkward waltz to the slowly-timed music.
Soleil quickly hashes out the last of the details regarding the transport of a small herd of nerfs for Councillor Harrik Talloran to the planet Ansion, and the buyers she’s supposed to meet there, when a visibly angry Aithra interrupts the two of them to excuse herself. The older blonde woman rushes onto the dance floor and abruptly grabs B.B.‘s arm, pulling him away from Raighl. Soleil can’t quite make out what they’re saying to each other, but the older woman starts screaming in Raighl‘s face, and Raighl just decks her with a fist to the side of the Human woman’s face. The woman stands up, a trickle of blood running down her lip and simply says, “I accept,” and walks away while a cadre of guards swarm Raighl and remove her from the room. “Krif!” Soleil swears, but before she can run to help her friend, Harrow puts a hand on your shoulder. “Leave her,” he says reassuringly, “Lady Nova will be put up in lodgings for the night before the duel in the morning. She won’t be harmed, at least not until then.” Soleil turns to the Councillor with a mortified look on her face. “A duel? With what?” She asks, to which the Councillor simply shrugs. “Vibroswords my dear lady, what else?”
After Councillor Talloran escorts Soleil back to Ataraxia, she informs her crew of Raighl‘s predicament, and the terms of their new job. "So we have to stay until the duel’s over, that’s hardly a problem," Raiden says. “I assume Raighl knows how to swing a sword?” “I imagine she knows what end to hold,” Soleil grumbles, unhappy about the whole situation. In the morning, Councillor Talloran meets Soleil outside the boarding ramp to Ataraxia, eager to transport her to the duel. Once they both arrive at the Wing Mansion, they’re led to the rear of the property where a large garden has been planted and carefully tended. Aithra Wing is in a flowing dress, with a few pieces of plasteel armor covering one forearm and a shoulder. B.B. is standing at her side, while Raighl is still wearing her dress from the party, and looks as if she hadn’t slept. Soleil walks over to her and nudges her in the ribs, “did you practice with that thing before they gave it to you?” she asks, to which Raighl shakes her head mournfully, and gives Soleil a quick hug and steps away onto the grass when an attendant calls the duelists together. “Gut her!” Soleil shouts to her friend, but she’s quickly hushed by an attendant.
The two duelists step out onto the grass facing each other, then take five steps back. Aithra Wing drops into a fighting pose, while Raighl brings her blade up in front of her protectively. Aithra lunges at Raighl, but she bats away the older Human’s blade and follows up with a parry of her own, which is then thrust aside. They go back and forth for a while, but it looks like the older woman is toying with the younger Umbaran. The vibroswords ping and spark as they catch on one another, and Raighl manages to bash the older woman with the pommel of her sword, but Aithra recovers and slashes Raighl on her wrist and shoulder. Trading blows, and wounds too, the two women fight viciously, until Raighl surprises everyone by stabbing Aithra in the chest, just below the shoulder. She practically pins the Councillor to the ground while attendants rush in to aid the injured Councillor and to relieve her of her weapon. Harrik Talloran smiles and chuckles as Raighl limps over to the two of them, B.B. helping to support her as she walks. “Get back here Balzus!” Aithra screams at B.B., but he pays her no mind. Harrik Talloran turns to Soleil and shakes her hand, “If your crew are willing to fight that hard for my cargo, I’ll ensure it’s moved to your holds within the hour. It’s been excellent doing business with you Captain!” And with that, the Councillor departs, leaving the three of them to take the transport he provided back to Ataraxia.
Ataraxia lifts off from the Persephone Spaceport, leaving the glimmering jewel of Ord Mantell behind it. Soleil watches the planet get smaller and smaller as Tik’Trii breaks orbit, and Raiden begins calculating the jump to Ansion. She climbs down the ladder from the cockpit and sese B.B. helping to apply bacta to some of Raighl’s slash wounds. “That was one fine shindig, eh Captain?” Raighl asks, wincing as another patch of bacta is applied. Soleil laughs a little and nods to her First Mate. “Yep, a mighty find shindig indeed.”