Some time before Mission: Harvest Moon
6 ATC month 4 week 1 day 1
6 ATC month 4 week 1 day 1
The Solo Disaster
Dashara paused outside the speeder bike rental building. Her eyes absorbed the image to memory, noting its bland appearance. She wasn't impressed with the presentation at all. It blended into the rest of the scene with its stone walls and wooden roof. Over all, it showed no distinguishing features beside the sign outside that read it was a rental service.
After a few moments, she inhaled and walked inside. It was difficult enough to find it in what she considered to be a backwater planet named Teya VI. The planet's rural feel and lacking bustling cities put her nerves to a new height of paranoia. Places like this were not her favorite, but rumors stirred her curiosity.
Word had it, someone was looking to trade a very unique and powerful weapon. One that once belonged to a Jedi.
Neith's tales about her time within the Order had sparked Dash into investigating it. If it proved correct, it wouldn't be hard to have it exchanged hands. More specifically, into hers.
A string tugged at a bell causing it to ring, bring a small, slender Strak to the counter. She wore a simple, plain dress and basic string baubles decorated her horns. They extended from her skull toward the back, but she seemed mindful of them. Her figure took wide turns from anything she could knock down.
Her lips curled into a weak, tired smile as she addressed Dashara.
"Welcome to Bilad's Speedster Rental Services. My name is Mione Korra, how may I help you?" Her statement held a rehearsed rhythm that came from a few years of experience.
Dash felt a hint of pity for the young Strak. She knew exactly how dull and painful those repeated lines could easily get. Her eyes caught the Strak's surprise at her appearance, noting the Zeltron features. She expected it since her kin rarely ventured outside pleasure settings.
Deciding to make the most of the situation, she put on her most charming smile and walked up to the counter.
Her torso leaned onto the surface and her arms folded underneath. She didn't care if it exposed a little flesh as she talked.
"Yes, I wanted to rent a speeder bike for about a week. How much would that cost and do you take credits?"
Mione frowned at the mention of credits. She briefly shook her head and delivered the bad news.
"I'm sorry, we prefer local currency to credits. Barter materials is also acceptable if the quality of the material is worth the amount."
"Oh," Dash played innocent, her torso lifted upright.
She tapped her finger to her lips as her other arm curled about her narrow waist, her hips cocked to one side. After a second or two, she looked to Mione.
"Is there anywhere I can exchange my credits with local currency? A currency post or something?"
Mione considered the question.
"The Trader's post often deals with tourists and will likely be able to exchange them. However, the rate is high since credits value has fallen recently out here. Few people consider them worth anything."
Dash nodded and pulled up a rustic map, "Can you direct me to him, please?"
Mione's finger touched the paper indicating the location in the small village. "It's not far from here."
"I'm sorry but I never got the cost for the rental."
"About nine hundred and fifty, including loss and damage coverage."
"That's rather costly..." Dash feinted shock.
Mione looked saddened and guilty, "I'm sorry, I don't make the prices. I only relay the information."
Dash took Mione's hand. Over the course of their conversation, her pheromones filled the air. She noticed the Strak's eyes gloss a bit to indicate it had taken affect. Her other hand rested on the woman's in a comforting gesture.
"It's understandable. I have to say, at least I get to see a pretty face around here." Dashara flirted. She watched the Strak's green skin take on a pinkish hue underneath at the compliment.
The half-zeltron had taken a calculated risk. If the Strak wasn't interested in her, the reaction would've been less embarrassed. While she could alter emotions, she couldn't change someone's sexuality. In heterosexual situations, she would've been an endearing friend.
Dash set the female's hand back onto the counter and turned to the door.
"I'll be back in a week, I promise."
Things went well with the trader.
Dashara checked her side and tugged at her side pouch, the minted currency jiggling at her touch. Her lips curled into a smirk. She had requested a small exchange using a special credit stick. It had a 'large' amount of credits listed on it, something she knew would keep his attention. Every time the trader attempted to withdraw her credits, the stick glitched near the end.
While the sour trader attempted to sort it out, she pilfered a sizable amount of local currency. Enough to pay for the speeder bike rental and some extra for spending.
When he couldn't get it to work, he banished her from the post. Told her to try somewhere else and return to him when she could get a stick that worked right. She expected, but she still played the role. She never stopped apologizing for the trouble on her way out.
All that acting was worth it in the end.
Not wasting time, she returned to the rental shop once more. When Dash entered, an excited Mione stood upright from behind the counter. This time her lips had a genuine smile.
"Did you get your credits exchanged?"
"Yep, how much was it again?" Dash asked, testing to see if the price had changed.
"Nine hundred and fifty." Mione's tone indicated she had considered changing it, even if she got into trouble for it.
Dashara didn't press for the discount. Instead, she slid the full amount onto the counter and continued to smile.
"That should cover it all. Is there a station or somewhere I can increase my rental time? I don't want to overcharge for late returns," she explained, once more bring out the map.
Mione was happy to help and she pointed to a spot not far from Dash's destination. It worked out well. Dashara collected her map, keys to the speeder bike, and started to depart. She stopped abruptly at the door when she caught Mione emotions. The female Strak's happy disposition had fallen.
Dashara bit her lip and twisted about, leaning against the door frame. Mione's hopeful expression made her cute in the hybrid's eyes. What was a little trip without some risk and reward? Dash gave into her own desires and went for it.
"You know, if you're off when I return... I would love to spend some quality time with you."
Mione nodded with enthusiasm at her subtle suggestion.
"It will be fun. My name's Dashara Horizon and I'll see you in a week."
Dashara eased up on the steering bars and parked the speeder bike. She leaned back as her hands raised to her helmet. With a small tilt and flick of her palms, it slipped off into her lap. Another unimpressive location, she thought bitterly.
She sighed then began to dismount.
It had taken her a little less than half the week to arrive here. Twice she nearly got turned around with the absence of obvious landmarks along the way. She slipped the helmet strap around the steering bars and brushed the dust from her tan breeches. They reached all the way down, protection against splattering bugs. She wore a short shirt with sleeves rolled up to her elbows, adding some variety to her usual apparel. Over all, her outfit was firm fitting and practical.
The only dangerous element on her person was the vibro-rapier bouncing at her side. Hidden in her boot was a simple dagger, something she kept on her person at all times. She knew the galaxy was a dangerous place to be weaponless in.
Locking up the bike, she headed inside.
~ | Some time earlier on Korriban | ~
Previous events had troubled Kurin Tonaal. He had not expected to be threatened by the leader of the Jedi Order on his previous mission. How could he have expected it? It did not help that the threat made him feel afraid. Weak. No, he had made the right choice getting out of there as quickly as possible. He did not let anyone know why the escape pod on his ship had been ejected. He simply reported it as ‘necessary’ without providing any information. Oh, and he separately sent a note to his master about whom he had encountered. She would take care of notifying anyone who needed to know.
He had taken a few days break after that mission. His master did not have any specific tasks for him at the time. Having sent his crew on leave, he had had the ship to himself. That was when he found that Jedi’s lightsaber. The one he’d taken when he took her captive. “I imagine she is incensed about this. Heh, heh, heh.” he muttered to himself, chuckling a little. “I know just what to do with this…”
~ | On Teya IV | ~
Procuring the materials and tools to modify the lightsaber had been easy. Especially on Korriban. Procuring a miniaturized tracker that fit inside the hilt without adversely affecting its functionality had taken more time, but both had been taken care of. That had been an interesting series of events. He thought back to that day.
The room was brightly lit. Kurin had not needed to wait more than three hours after requesting the use of a lightsaber workshop. Just the time he needed to requisition the parts. He seated himself before the workbench, lifting the lightsaber with the Force, rotating it slowly to get a feel for is design. In many ways, it was a simple yet highly effective design. Unfortunately, right now the influence of the light side oozed from it, almost making him feel nauseated.
Carefully he identified each part and how to take it apart. Without touching it, he opened the housing, extracting the power cell. Only then did he split the other components from each other. The blue crystal glowed faintly even in the bright light of the workshop.
He carefully lowered each component to the workbench, meticulously placing them in just the right order for reassembly. There was no denying that the components were all high-quality. The only piece left hovering was the blue crystal that made the lightsaber into a true weapon.
With steady steps, he moved away from the workbench, into the side meditation chamber. Setting the crystal to hover over the central pillar, he pondered how to clean the crystal of its pollution. Clearly it involved showing it the true power of the dark side… but how?
A curt gesture closed the door before he called on his anger to channel the raw power of the Dark Side into the crystal, in the form of Force Lightning. After a single burst, Kurin sat down to sense the effect it had upon the crystal. Still nauseatingly inundated with Light Side corruption, but there was something deeper. He reached into its depths, feeling the very structure of the crystal. It was not improved. If anything, it was worse. Weakened. Starting to fracture.
“No.” he muttered to himself. Force lightning was too powerful for something so small that had been corrupted by the light side. He needed to use his patience. Take his time achieving this. He left the crystal hovering over the pillar, seating himself down before it. Then he started meditating. Feeding it with his anger, his hatred. The anger he felt towards himself when threatened by the Jedi. His hatred of the Jedi. Of Revanites. Of the Republic that protected the Jedi. Of people who would see the Sith Empire laid low again.
For hours on end he fed it with his anger, his fury, his hatred. It realigned him with his purpose in life. For the first hour and a half there was no effect on the crystal. But ever so slowly he could sense that his power had started to leech the corruption out of it. It felt good.
He did not stop to think about that minor success. No. He kept going, feeding it more and more. Beneath his breath, he was chanting the Sith code, over and over, sometimes in basic, other times in Sith, as his master had taught him.
Focused channeling of the Force slowly cleansed the crystal, removing every last shred of Light Side corruption from within its essence. The weakened crystal matrix slowly realigned itself, the nigh imperceptible flaws wiped from existence as the full power of the Force flowed freely through the crystal once more.
He smiled to himself as he got to his feet, shaking his arms and legs and stretching his shoulders to restore mobility after sitting in the same position for so many hours on end. Before his eyes he no longer saw a blue crystal hovering above the pillar. Now the crystal had taken on a pure, crimson color. The color of Power. Of Strength.
After opening the door once more he returned to the main chamber, the crystal floating beside him, held aloft by the power of the Force. He took his time in reassembling the lightsaber, putting it back together in exactly the opposite order of the way he disassembled it, except for adding in a small tracking beacon near the bottom of the hilt. It would not be detected by most sensors and would not work between stars, but it was reliable enough for his use.
Kurin brought his mind back to the present. To his plan for a fishing expedition. Through several sets of intermediaries he had arranged for the lightsaber to find its way into the hands of a merchant dealing in goods of questionable legality. Here, so far out from the center of the Empire the laws were not enforced as well as they should be. Scavengers were many, pilfering the ruins of the Jedi Praxeum that had been on this world before its conquest by the Empire.
It was not implausible that such merchants might get lucky enough to get ahold of a lightsaber. Illegal, of course, but still plausible. Half his goods were at best questionable. Not that the merchant had any idea he was being used. He didn’t even know the Empire was involved in the transaction. Kurin would arrange for Imperial Intelligence getting word of this merchant’s operation once he was done playing with it. They would either take it down, or put it to further use in service of the Empire. It did not matter to him.
Now all he had to do was wait for someone to take the bait. Someone Force-sensitive. He had positioned himself close enough to detect any Force-sensitives, but far enough away not to attract undue attention. His ship was suitably concealed far away.
Dash glanced around the area, but she didn't see anything that caught her attention. Nothing felt dangerous either. Trusting her instincts, she ducked and entered the hut.
A thin, sharp chinned human was sitting on a chair. A death stick was lit and poured out smoke, hazing up the interior. Dash waved her hand about her nose to waft away the foul smell. It didn't help. Deciding to ignore the foul odor, she turned to the human eyeing her up.
Her mind flicked to the information she had spent a few days collecting. Smugglers and buyers alike called him Deng Horne, a man who dealt in the expected contraband. He wasn't hard to find, but the information over his illegal goods were.
He wasn't on good terms with either the Republic or Empire, which made her more comfortable. Less of a risk he would turn her in for a profit.
Dashara put on her widest smile and started off the conversation.
"I heard you sold some interesting merchandise here. Dash Horizon and shall we get down to business?" She used a tone that was pleasant, but she didn't intend to socialize with friendly chit chat.
The merchant looked up, a curious look on his face. “Define ’interesting’.” he said as he took a long draw on his deathstick.
Dashara chuckled, her arms crossed over her chest and hips cocked. Her mind already turned to the what she planned to say.
"Something that once belonged to a... Jedi, I believe was what the information entailed to. I'm curious to see if that is actually true."
“Why would I have such?” the merchant asked, struggling to contain the urge to look furtively around. “It isn’t healthy to deal in Jedi artifacts around these parts…”
Dash sensed his nervousness and sighed, letting her own pheromones release. She hoped it would calm him and allow him to think clearly, rather than just bolt.
"It isn't healthy to smoke deathsticks either, but that's beside the point," she countered.
She inhaled then waited a moment before she continued. Her hand toyed with the local currency attached to her side, jiggling it enough for him to hear. Dash hoped his greed might help coax him out of his 'shell'.
"Since the rumors were false, what do you happen to sell that might be interesting?"
“I do not deal in rumors.” he muttered stubbornly. “I sell a variety of things. Spare parts, blasters, holotomes…” He looked her over carefully, then chuckled. “I know exactly what you want.”
He scrounged beneath his counter, digging through what was presumably a box of various goods, coming up with a small storage device, the sort of which might be plugged into a holotome. “The Teyan Apology, by none other than Acertya Brayle!” He paused a second, placing a hand beside his mouth conspiratorially and whispered, “All six volumes.”
Idly, Dashara took the device, hooked it up to her datapad and flipped through a few display pages. Inspecting the goods to see their authenticity. She could easily summarize the whole subject in one go and heavily disagreed with it.
"A friend once told me something interesting. The Jedi are nothing but liars and the Sith are monsters. Seeing this, the first part of her words makes a lot of sense now."
She shut it off and slid it back to him, her head shaking.
"It's interesting, but not what I'm looking for. About the only thing I own that is even close to this is a holonovel called 'Dawn of a Knight's Dream'. The intimate scenes could be...spicier in that one." Dash stated in a nonchalant fashion.
“What else do you got?”
“Difficult customer, eh?” he muttered, somehow sounding both satisfied and frustrated at the same time. Beneath his counter, out of sight of the customer a small signal light had switched from red to yellow.
"I'm a picky gal. I don't just settle for anything or one." Dash chuckled as she watched his reaction, taking her own notes over them.
“The special thing about those books is not their special scenes—for there are some great ones—its how they mock books some Jedi seem to worship. Fools, worshipping books. The altars of flesh are so much more pleasurable.”
"You're talking to a half-Zeltron, that's first hand facts right there. Life isn't fun without a little close contact," she clearly enjoyed the topic. Her figure walked closer and leaned into the counter, taking weight off her feet.
He rubbed his cheeks, looking at her more intently. “Anything in particular you’re interested in?”
She thought for a moment, "Considering the rumors were a let down and I got money to burn, do you have any weapons? My vibro-rapier is getting along in years."
“Well…” he said as the small light switched from yellow to blue, “I may happen to have one or two that might interest you.” He bent his knees to reach down below the counter, his eyes blatantly locked on her ample cleavage as he gently lifted a long box up onto the counter.
From around his neck he pulled out a small necklace with some sort of key on it, placing it at the front of the box, between it and his finger. A small bleep could be heard as the lock disengaged and he lifted the lid. He drew out a long object. “There is this… Said to be Mandalorian in origin.” he held up a wide-bladed angular weapon with a leather-wrapped hilt. The blade was dark gray metal, polished smooth. He looked up from her cleavage into her face, seeing if it was of interest to her.
"May I examine it?" Dashara asked, gesturing to hold it.
She hid the fact she knew nothing about this thing’s worth. Having the merchant know this might give him the impression she was easily swindled out of her money. She could afford a lot, but even she had limits.
"You would be surprised how many people pass off junk as valuable." Dash explained, waiting for his answer.
“Of course,” he said, not quite having caught her lack of knowledge. He knew it was valuable, but not exactly how valuable. So many of the special goods he acquired were like that. Besides, even if it were worth a fortune, he would have had to find a buyer willing to pay that much for it.
He knew that she knew he had security measures in place to keep customers from stealing his goods. He doubted she knew exactly what measures he had, but all those in the business had various such measures. He held the blade out for her inspection, the soft protective fabric partially wrapped around it.
She took it from his grip and immediately she noted the weight. A moment of righting her grip, she finally managed to hold it upright and examine it. Dash could easily tell it was not a finesse weapon. It required more of a bashing movement than she wanted to adapt to.
"It is an excellent weapon, but I'm more into finesse weapons. The lighter, the better," she explained, giving no input over the weapon's authenticity.
She passed it back carefully, "Do you have anything that will fit my preference?"
He placed it carefully back into the box, wrapping the cloth back over it. “Do you consider yourself a risk-taker? Do you plan on staying long in the Empire?” he asked pointedly.
"Risk is apart of my job, there's no gain without it. And no, I do not. I tend to never enter it unless something grabs my interest. I never linger longer than is important." she noted the serious tone and felt her suspicions weren't completely wrong.
“Then this object may be of interest. It came in just a short while ago.” He took out a second object, not unlike the hilt of a sword. Anyone with even a shred of knowledge would recognize the signature weapon of a Jedi or Sith. “It is most unusual in being a Jedi’s weapon, but it has a pure, crimson blade. One of my associates dug it up in the ruins of their former praxeum here. I am sure it has an interesting past.”
He held it up for viewing, but not out towards the prospective customer. He wasn’t foolish enough to hand over such a lethal weapon without being paid in advance. Even then he would give it over boxed up where it could not be used against him.
Dashara stood upright a bit, adjusting her posture. Her eyes watched him as he revealed the lightsaber. While her mask didn't slip, her breath caught in her throat at the sight of it. It was exactly as Neith described one.
She made a note about the red blade. From what she knew, only Sith use red crystals to create the blade and affect their color. The bad part, the handle was distinctly Jedi. It confused her some about which it belonged to. She wanted to take it apart, but without Neith around disassembling it was a bad idea.
"How do I know it still works?"
The merchant saw her concern at the unusual combination of traits. “I won’t say I understand all the differences between the two groups, but believe it is mostly philosophy.” he paused for a moment. “The color surprised me too when I first saw it. Still... My associate found it in one of their tombs over by the praxeum, so it can’t have belonged to anything but a Jedi.”
For a moment further he was silent. “As for whether it works? I could give you all sorts of guarantees. You probably wouldn’t accept them. I certainly wouldn’t have in your position. So…” he thumbed the lightsaber on. The crimson blade appeared in a flash, perfectly focused and formed. He left it on for long enough to show it worked well, gently shifting it about, then turned it back off.
“It works.” he said, succinctly.
Or someone sold you a fake... Dashara thought, but didn't say it out loud.
She wasn't a fan of deceit or false appearances. Enough time in the Exchange had taught her when things look out of place, it was never for a good reason. Unless you were in on the changes.
She listened intently to his explanations. Her doubts countered them with hard and cold opposition, but one truth struck hard. The odds of finding another working weapon like this was very slim, if not impossible.
"Fair enough point. I am concerned about the price on it and if you're willing to negotiate it down to a reasonable one."
Dash decided to deal with her paranoia later.
“Ten thousand credits is a perfectly reasonable price for a rare artifact like this.” the merchant said, lying through his teeth.
Dashara looked at him. She was not pleased with the price and her figure stood upright. Any view of her assets became blocked by her arms recrossing over her chest.
"Now that is unreasonable. You have little information behind the origins of the thing. It's mixture of heritage immediately flags it as a risk, especially if the thing stop working.
"Most the parts are about a fraction of the cost. I would say, one thousand at best considering the fact you dug it up."
“I? Dug it up? No. I don’t get my hands dirty. I leave that to professionals.” He smiled as the real game had started. “Six thousand five hundred.”
"Of course, my mistake. Still, I only have your word that your 'associate ' found it in some ruins. So he could've just gotten lucky or stumbled across it with a story to up its value. I say three thousand." She didn't want to pay anymore she honestly had to, but she didn't want him to become frustrated.
Nothing killed a deal easier than a stubborn customer.
The merchant found his eyes being drawn to her cleavage again and again. He was oblivious to the fact that her species’ exuded natural pheromones. “My reputation should speak for itself as to my sources for goods. I can’t go about revealing them though. Business secrets, you know.” He couldn’t really hide his interest in what lay beneath her clothes. It being covered up was not at all desirable. He decided to lower the price a bit to hopefully get a better look. “Five thousand.”
Pheromones were a wonderful things, Dash mused when she spotted his attention drift. Her lips rose into a smile when the price was lowered into a more acceptable range. She leaned back into the counter causing herself to relax, her hand idly fiddled with her buttons. The diamond shape window widened a bit when she pushed it in and out of the the top hole.
"It's better, but I feel it's still pricey. I can go as high as three thousand and five hundred. I'm sure we can work with that, right? Unless you have other ideas?"
“Well…” he said, swallowing as she fiddled with the buttons. “I have other ideas… but they’re far more… Entertaining.” he chuckled a little, quite overwhelmed by her pheromones. “We have a deal. Three thousand, five hundred.” He put the lightsaber into a transport case and locked up his special goods box, while she transferred the credits.
Dash continued to widen her smile as she enjoyed her victory, "Something told me it would be fun working with you."
~| Considerable time later |~
The merchant smiled as his customer departed with her newly purchased lightsaber. It had been a far more enjoyable day than he expected. She had proven herself so much more than a good customer. So much more...
~| Meanwhile, some distance away |~
Kurin smiled. His bait had been taken. He had sensed the untrained Force-sensitive pass by, but couldn’t be certain she was hooked until after his wrist computer notified him that the tracker was moving from its original position at the same time as he could see her departing from the store through the macrobinoculars. The game was on.