A Little Bit of Red

Homecoming

In hindsight, things could have probably gone a lot smoother.

The palace’s great hall explodes in confusion as the main doors swing wide. The gorgeous ceiling which was a one of a kind greel wood mosaic rains down upon the crowd below having been exposed to rapid fire turrets trying to track Thanatos and Aurekk.

The assembled guests in the hall itself have already descended into panic in tune to the shrill alarms that blanket the palace. There are those who are running for the main doors, pushing one another in a mad trample as screams of “assassin!” echo. Some are of a more stalwart nature though, ducking under tables or standing their ground with ceremonial short swords drawn.

Two of the guards lay crumpled before the Queen’s audience chamber, Raez’yr standing upon the steps looking back upon the crowd in a traditional fighter’s stance. The random attendants in the hall are shouting and panicking and nobody looks like they’d like to take on the twi’lek who just disabled two of the queen’s guard with her fists; but the rest of the queen’s guard and palace reserves are trying to surge in over a sea of nobles trying to get out.

A quick glance around shows how dire things are. Kaze is in no condition to fight, his chest rising and falling in short uneven gasps while Caitlyn is busy trying to heft a halberd that’s about three times taller than she is. If it comes to a fight; it’ll easily be odds of at least two dozen to one.

Solani’s crouched by the queen, her medpack already on the ground as her hands race across the elderly woman to try to stabilized her. A heart attack, a seizure, or maybe just a panic attack could be happening, but it’s hard to say why or what’s happening.

“Full evacuation; sniper team get your asses to the roof NOW” shouts a familiar voice in your combined communication pieces as a shuttle comes screeching in low over the palace roof.

At least one part of the plan is going accordingly… Now you just need to figure out how everyone else is getting out alive.

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"One day... you're going to fly"

“And the racers pull into the the canyon pass; Number 9 pulling into an amazing barrel roll to sweep through the canyon needle OVER Number 4! We’ve never seen Rolan make moves like these before, but he’s certainly brought his best game out today as he moves into second place!”

The dull voice in the back of the massive audience chamber loosely pawed at the Queen’s attention, her eyes drifting lazily across the far monitor. The image was blurry, but looked to be a closeup of a pair of swoop bikes as the one in the rear swept over the other.

Her eyes perked up a little, her attention momentarily restored as there was something about the blurry image and the armored rider that seemed to bring about something… something….

And there she was again… The room of marble and jade, filled with gold filigree crowning on the intricate pillars and ceilings. A large fire burned in the center within a bronze and gold brazier, the warmth complimented only by the very faintest tint of cinnamon in the air from the cracking of the logs.

Their estate was far from the largest or the richest, but Baroness M’Jest felt wealthy beyond her years as she crept up on her son who was presently imitating what she could only imagine to be the most epic of races between a pair of toy swoop bikes that his father had sent back from the capital city.

The boy; completely enraptured by his imagination huffed and burred excitedly as the bikes in his outstretched hands weaved left and right in tight formation, their lifeless riders locked in an eternal dogfight of skill and valor.

Larissa M’Jest moved and sat across from him, her eyes transfixed on her six year old son, his hair in soft gentle curls as he wished himself to a different life. Sessiesh’s father was away often and it was easy to see that the boy was becoming aimless in his pursuits. Larissa had the company of other nobles and did not lack for attention; but she loved her first born son and to watch his infinite futures unfold without a father was… troubling for her.

Without warning, Sessiesh looked back into her eyes; pools of dark hazel with a hint of green like his father, holding one of his swoop bikes up triumphantly.

“One day I’m going to be the greatest racer ever mama” he proclaimed with a certainty that could only be mustered by a child who knew little of what laid beyond their skies.

She held out her arms and the boy took the instinctual cue to run into her, swoop bikes outstretched as she scooped him up and twirled him around, already marveling at how much he weighed than when he was a baby.

“And you shall my child… One day, you shall be anything you want to be”

And suddenly the moment was gone. Larissa Mjest was standing in a different sort of audience chamber, a pair of faded swoop bikes in her hands and a portrait of her now dead family staring at her with their dead eyes and forgotten smiles.

Her attendants rushed to her, their mouths moving and chattering a foreign tongue that she thought she remembered once. She began turning back for the throne, a minor note of surprise at how heavy her feet felt and how she’d walked so far away from it in the first place.

“The Mad Queen walks” she thought she heard, but the words had no meaning to her and she took back her seat upon her throne that suddenly looked like a hover chair for the infirm.

She looked at the swoop bikes in her hand, mimicking the movements that her son had once performed as the attendants looked upon her with snickering and judgement. Distantly, she knew that they laughed at their queen as they returned their attention to their monitors; but she didn’t care.

Larissa felt her arms moving, the two toy bikes held aloft in a fight for position, and in doing so she felt something in her past scream and cry without explanation, and was surprised to find her throat hoarse, her face warm and wet, and her breathing ragged.

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Of Coups and other fast vehicles

Ryjal 3’s a pleasure planet that would’ve long since been forgotten had it not been for a chance discovery of cortosis; an exceedingly rare mineral that is used to fortify armor plating to all but shrug off energy rounds. Now this once idyllic pleasure world has been plunged to the forefront the galactic war, with every noble house competing against one another while being backed by members of the Rebellion and Empire.

Half a week ago, the capital city fell victim to a rash of terrorist style attacks, eliminating several members of the royal family and throwing the order of succession into disarray. As a people, the Ryjalian’s have never known conflict like this, and the faces of her people show their fear and despair as people bicker over their futures.

So to give them hope (and hopefully win a planet), Imperial Intelligence has found someone they can use. While Kaze has no more claim to the royal throne than Solani does, he has spent a good amount of time posing as the now deceased son of a 7th Ryjalian royal cousin; which has landed him firmly in the middle of a propaganda campaign of the prodigal prince.

If Imperial intelligence can win a cold war, it will mean not having to win an all out military one; and the next step to that is to remove the next main person who would be in a position to contest the throne: Baron Raval Fell; a paranoid madman whose boundless ambition is very likely the main reason things on Ryjal 3 have gotten as bad as they have.

The planet needs a new ruler, and the coronation will happen before the week is over. This would be all but impossible given the Baron’s maddening level of (well earned) paranoia, but he’s proud of his prowess as a swoop racer and missing out on this year’s tournament wasn’t acceptable. This ego, and the fact that everyone still thinks that “Winter M’Jest” is never coming back; has given away to a perfect opportunity to dispose of the Baron and install Winter; but there will only be one shot to pull of the switch…

Which means that the only two questions remaining is how in the nine circles of xendor you’re ever going to pull this off; and what are you going to do with all that money and power when you do?

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Elsewhere...

“Agent; we’re being summoned. Keeper has made their decision”

In the hollow emptiness of space, Traynor Ranol had found a moment to himself, hanging his legs over a catwalk that overlooked the relatively empty cargo bay aboard his vessel. His legs felt light with the ship’s artificial gravity kept at a heady 0.8 Coruscant norm; which suited him fine having grown up on starsh-

“Fish?”

The agent looked to his right, broken from his trance by the floating orb that was Spots as it hovered a little way out from him.

“Hearts will never be practical until they can be made unbreakable” quoted the agent as he stretched his legs out once more and got off the catwalk.

“… You’re quoting a story of a mechanical being’s wish for organic characteristics?”

“No… Never mind, lets get moving” said Traynor offhandedly as he motioned the droid to follow him into the main briefing room. A benefit of luxury included having engines you wouldn’t be able to hear in all but engineering, but the agent had grown up around archaic starships; and quiet engines were usually a precursor to death by suffocation; so he always found travel to be a little unnerving.

The doctor was already waiting, as was a scarred and angry looking Bothan who at this moment was working on cleaning some explosive devices at the main table.

“Doctor; Chell. Good to see you made it back from Corellia” greeted the agent as he stepped up to the console and began keying in his authorization codes.

“As if there was ever a doubt… Last time I work with Renn though” replied the bothan without taking his eyes off the blasting cap he was presently cleaning with a rag.

“Guy’s a racist and and asshole” agreed Traynor as the console beeped twice indicating that the signal was being established.

“Was… I hear he had an accident during exfil when a grenade went off in his hand?” pointed out the doctor laconically.

Traynor looked up with a raised eye brow, but didn’t have time to push on further as the image pulled into view. Keeper, a code word for his handler back at headquarters, pulled into view; a thin woman whose creased face and scarred complexion suggested a life that didn’t always involve life behind the front lines materialized.

“Agent” greeted the senior handler, her tone and facial expression cold and impossible to read.

“Keeper”

“The council’s made their decision based on the results of your efforts and an operation to secure the prized assets has been made”

“Excellent. My team is ready to mobilize at once” replied Traynor, his moment of satisfaction ready to burst forth when he noticed a pause in Keeper’s expression.

“We’ve decided to deploy a different squad to retrieve the asset agent”

This grabbed everyone’s attention, but the crew kept their wits together and looked to Traynor who gave everyone a stern glare to silence them.

“With all due respect Keeper; why? My team knows her and her crew best”

The hologram didn’t respond, and merely shimmered in place.

It came to everyone simultaneously, but Chell said it first. “… You don’t want to keep her safe. You’re bringing her in to weaponize her”

If Keeper felt uncomfortable, she showed no sign of it as she extended a finger to the console in front of her which caused a packet of information to be relayed over.

“You’re all to be commended for your efforts in finding the sample. You’ll find your next assignment in the briefing files I just sent over. Keeper out” finished the senior handler before ending the transmission without anything else being said between them.

There was a pause in the air as everyone took a moment and mulled over the gravity of the situation.

“Orders received agent; warlord assassination in the outer rim” said Spots finally.

Traynor nodded in silence and sighed. “Chell, set a course and lets roll out”

“Fish; we don’t-” began the doctor before the Traynor cut back in.

“Orders are orders doctor… I just hope for their sakes they’re ready for the galaxy of hurt they’re about to receive”

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Security Recording on the Iron Vengeance: Intelligence Warfare Division

“How is the transition going doctor?”

“About as well as we expected; it’s personality is pretty much hard coded to protect the doctor at all times… but some of its more ancillary functions can be altered”

“As predicted. And the hardware?”

“We found an old holowan 86… it’s a bit of a rush job but it’ll look the part minus any modifications or equipment it’s picked up recently”

“Perfect. How soon till you can have it deployed?”

“Two hours; we have a shuttle prepared and at that point it’ll be an independent unit, identical in almost every way except for the logical functions and additional prime directives we loaded”

“Excellent… Excellent. Alert me the moment the doctor is brought here; we mustn’t keep her waiting”

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Thoughts of an idle assassin droid in hyperspace

From the perspective of Thanatos

You’re not entirely sure if you think this is something to enjoy (as you were never programmed for it), but there’s something about the files you download that makes you believe in some all powerful maker that ensures that everything in the galaxy remains in balance.

According to your dossier and timelines, Reil continued on work as a high profile bounty hunter, snaring some top targets in the galaxy, escalating to capturing a minister of defense on some hapless world in the outer rim. It’s at about this point however, that you notice that the intelligence in the dossier takes a different turn from talking about what he had done, to where he went and what his movements were.

In the days leading up to the destruction of the first death star, the deployment of an Imperial task force with Star Destroyers and walkers can be seen as… a little heavy handed. The Empire is not at all afraid to use terror to subjegate any of its worlds, but sometimes a more indirect method is needed to coerce a planet of the folly of turning away from the main.

Enter Goruda the Hutt who ran one of the largest private military clans in the galaxy. Goruda’s operation would generally blockade a world, pillage it’s people, then leave once the planet called for Imperial assistance which would arrive just in time to ‘save’ a beleaguered people. It generally worked well on planets which were too far flung to deploy an actual garrison, yet important enough to not warrant collateral damage.

Reil Volo got contracted for the critical extraction for Goruda who wanted the codes to a planetary defense network before their blockade started. Reil’s team went in, organized nothing short of a coup, and extracted several key members of government which in turn should have forced the planet into an easy surrender.

Where the plan fails however, is that Goruda got angry when local resistance persisted; and he turned the might of his warships to begin dragging asteroids into the planet. Billions were killed and there was a huge cover up that blamed an unlucky cosmic event and the untimely failing of a planetary defense network.

Imperial intelligence needs to silence Goruda, but doesn’t really know how to go about doing it, and as such has taken a keen interest in the workings of several Hutt cartels which don’t like the attention. In an attempt to disassociate themselves from Goruda, the clans have been trying to track down the rogue cartel; which happens to include some intel on Reil Volo among hundreds of other ancillary contractors who are now travelling with Goruda.

You make the robotic equivalent of a chortle of mockery at the notes, realizing yet another failing of organics. They’re trying to track a phantom fleet that strikes at random and with no warning, and are inevitably failing at it. You on the other hand, see patterns not in the massive fleets but in their individual contractors as you start passively searching the holonet for sightings and tips on the various contractors and known associates of Goruda’s cartel.

The organics have made the folly of trying to see an invisible forest, while completely neglecting the trees that comprise it. You will not make that mistake, and when you’ve found the pattern you’re looking for; you will find the phantom fleet…

… and you will kill Reil Volo.

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Hyperspace diaries

That night, sleep is… elusive as your ship gently rockets through space towards the Smugglers Paradise station. Even now, you hear a muted scream that refuses to go quietly into the night; all that hatred, and anger, and jealousy, and impotence creeps into your vision as you pull yourself out of bed in a cold sweat.

The last two days of your life have probably been among your worse. Never before have you had something so visceral enter your mind, and bend your will so far away from you that you felt like a stranger to your own consciousness; but you take a little solace as you find yourself steadying a breath you hadn’t realized you were drawing.

Nothing you do will ever bring back those who were harmed by what you did; but there is a grim satisfaction to be had from the memory of Hans burning beneath that Nar Shadda night sky. Be he a renegade jedi, an elaborate alchemist, or something beyond science and the inexplicable; you defeated the impossible and that makes you mighty.

And then… there’s Zimmer and Red.

From Aurrekk’s viewpoint:

It’s a shame about Red, but at the end of the day; nobody gets to walk away from what they were. Zimmer was responsible for the whole sale trading of thousands of lives, and the weapons and drugs he dealt in weren’t making lives better for anyone; and for all the misery he brought, he was going to ride off into the sunset?

Sooner or later, everyone will be made to account for what they did; and with that thought you find sleep’s tender embrace begin to encircle you and pull you back to bed for a well earned rest.

From Raezyr’s viewpoint:

It’s hard to shake what you saw. All that work, all that effort into rescuing Zimmer and Red; only to watch them evaporate like that. You’re not sure if it’s just the stress of the last two days, or the harrowing fight, but…. you can’t help but think that you feel less ‘bad’ about this than you should. As if maybe their tragic deaths lacked the weight you feel when those close to you pass on.

Ultimately Red and Zimmer found each other again, and your thoughts drift to that first embrace you had when you found your family again. Life in the galaxy is fragile, and we should be so lucky as to find our loved ones before the darkness claims us.

With that, you take a deep breath and return to bed where sleep finally finds you.

From Solani and Winter’s viewpoint:

There’s an odd sense of guilt and sadness that creeps around your mind, but it feels propped up and forced. All that work to save Red and reunite her with Zimmer, just to see them explode like that; who wouldn’t be feeling like they’d just been robbed?

But you find yourself running the moment to yourself over and over again. You saw them board the shuttle, you heard their final message, the explosion that ripped across the sky a scant two minutes past take off, and that they’d spend the rest of their lives running so long as the Hutt’s knew they were out there?

And rather than that guilt and sadness you think you should be feeling, there is only a wry sense of curiosity about how Lance “The Magic Man” Zimmer made his escape. You have nothing to even remotely suggest that they survived, but yet…

You don’t know if you’ll ever see either of them again. If they’re smart, they’ll want to put as much distance as they can between this life and their new one; but somehow everything… just feels alright; and with that you find sleep reaches out to you once more.

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Another day on Nar Shadda

The distant wail of sirens fills the night sky as another security cruiser rolls by. Nar Shadda is probably as lawless a planet as you could possibly hope/ fear to ever find, but a wanton killer and public shootouts are bad for business.

The various criminal clan security and mercenary groups working together is rare, and while they may not be as thorough as an actual police force with standardized training and shared resources; they also won’t be held back by red tape or an interest in maintaining a good representation in the public eye.

Zimmer’s apartment is a mess, clearly having been recently tossed by someone who came in through the windows as opposed to the doors. There are glimpses of a better life between the smashed pictures, and broken drawers; with signs of silk curtains and some fanciful art which probably looked nicer than what it was actually worth.

While most of the electronics in the place are smashed in and beyond repair, there is a working holographic projection that splutters badly from some recent blunt force trauma. It’s presently set to a local holonet, with word of the recent shootout being at the top of the list of interesting news.

The news hasn’t ID’d anyone yet, but if it’s to be believed; ‘security already has several suspects in mind and all locals are being urged to comply with any of their requests’.

You’re pretty sure that’s code for “security will be knee capping your children if they even think for half a second that you’re holding out on them”.

As a group, there are still questions… what happened back at the Golden Globes? Where the hell is Zimmer? Who or why would anyone set the group up for a blood bath?

And perhaps most importantly of all:
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How are you going to come out on top of it all?

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Old Debts

Whomever thought you’d never find a greater hive of scum and villainy than some spaceport on a miserable dust ball has obviously never been to the Smuggler’s moon; Nar Shadda. It doesn’t matter what, or who, or how much you need to buy, sell, steal, or move; Nar Shadda is an inevitable constant that those in your particular line of work will come through.

Times are hard in the galaxy; a civil war and an unstable political backdrop have a funny way of shifting priorities from the distant future to the immediate now, and so it should come as little surprise that the spice industry has done nothing but boom as of late.

Solani and Winter both come up with names of friendly contacts who they know have the credits, the need, and the gumption to go with picking up a crate of Ryll for street prices, and inevitably arrive at Lance “The Magic Man” Zimmer; a shifty a snake if there ever was one but he specializes in these sorts of deals and always has the bankroll to pay if you can promise a timely delivery. Zimmer’s old school, dangerous, and probably a little insane to try brokering spice deals between the Hutt cartels; but he’s smart, reliable, and would have probably stabbed you in the back by now had it been worth his while.

But while our heroes count their fortunes to be made, old memories and older enemies emerge from the shadows; eager to ensure all debts are settled, whether in credits or in blood…

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Epilogue: The Prodigal Daughter

It’s a hectic two days, but the crew of the newly christened “Raez’yrs Edge” have survived their ordeal on Ryloth against all odds. Oridelve Incorporated is being brought up on charges of dangerous exploitation, terrorism, and manslaughter; but like all shell companies, the name may fall but the people behind them will likely go on to do the same thing all over again.

Raez’yrs immediate family has survived the ordeal. Despite being buried alive as the ferocious storm tore through the town, they’re experienced miners and anyone who survived the initial scramble to the way station kept sane and safe through their guidance.

In the days to come, the few remaining clan members are emboldened to press on despite the loss of so many loved ones. The opportunity that has been offered to the clan to start fresh and under their own power with all the rights being back in their hands is too good of one to pass up, and plans are already underway to start selling the large quantity of processed spice that was in no small part due to the breakneck pace that Oridelve was trying to excavate the new strain of rich Ryll.

Despite this turn in fortune however, it’s hard not to acknowledge the steep price that came with it. While 12 were saved from the facility itself, there were simply too many wounded to move in time. A quiet hope remains in many of the refugees who have come back to the mining town to dig through the rubble, but no one has found any survivors from what’s left of tunnels that didn’t already make it out.

Of the twelve survivors, most made speedy recoveries with only superficial damage and dehydration to their name; but Cotan’yr was never quite the same again after seeing what his idealism had wrought upon his clan and kinsmen. Every new body that gets pulled from the rubble seems to strike at him personally and it’s only through Nima’yrs strength that plans for new operations is pushing on.

Despite the extent of her injuries, Caitlyn does pull through and makes a supremely quick recovery which astonishes everyone, but none more so than Solani. Where the crew has assumed she’s simply a resilient little girl, or that her injuries were simply not that terrible; Solani’s initial findings suggest something far more fascinating is at hand.

There are still unanswered questions that linger however; from lost lovers who were never heard from, a robot revolution that came out of nowhere, and Arturo’s surprisingly pragmatic attitude that he’s just lost an entire mine. For now however; loved ones are alive, you all got paid, and perhaps most importantly of all; you’re still flying.

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