Collab between me and @Commodore
Score of the Lifetime
World of Varan, Neutral Zone
Varan, a dry, yet green world nestled in the Neutral Zone, the borderlands between the Augustan Empire, and the Concordat of Free Nations. Varan, like many worlds within this region, serves as a front in the ongoing proxy conflict and struggle between the Concordat and the Empire. However, unlike other worlds, Varan is considered more a low priority for both powers, their eyes drawn elsewhere, allowing their respective clients, and even citizens to coexist without incident. Although tensions still remain, the threat of war is a distant one.
An Augustan freighter of elegant design, the Blazing Daisy
, was on approach to one of the major international stations that serve as neural meeting ground between the nations, a perfect spot for a Trader of distinguished qualities to make his fortune. The trader in question was Delmont Westlow, formerly of the Noble House of Westlow. Before long, the Blazing Daisy
docked with the station, giving the all clear to board. Delmont and his entourage stood ready in the airlock, the whistling sounds of air being squeezed out as the door rose up, revealing a bustling departures and arrivals sector of the station, filled with all manner of aliens, humans, androids, and various offshoots in between. Flanking Delmont was his trusted crew, and friends. Xhiumi, his Aratanni lover, her people are not looked upon kindly in the Empire, seeing as uncivilized at best, and abominations at worst.
It was no surprise when Delmont’s family discovered their secret romance that he was met with an ugly ultimatum. Toss Xhiumi aside for a wife of proper standing, and of the same species. Easy to say, the offer was denied and now Delmont has been disowned and disfavored, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. Among the rest, was his longtime friend, and former bodyguard, the Dathu named Jaray Gramral, who willingly followed the couple out of personal loyalty. Another is Jaasir el-Yamin, a runaway Psionic from the Mansadom, an Imperial Vassal state that looks poorly upon Psionics, and all fates of Mandenic Psionics in the Empire is either live lavish lives as adopted scions of the Augustan Nobility, or face military conscription, he chose his own path, to run, and eventually found himself among Delmont’s crew. Lastly were the inseparable pair and ship engineers, Yonnia Vikku, the second Dathu among the group and her droid companion, HD-704. Delmont surveyed his surroundings, taking a deep breath as he braced for a new opportunity. “Alright guys, let’s get to work, make a fresh start.”
Even among the thronging crowds one could spot those from Concordat space. A towering Kalyd in an encounter suit pushed through the crowds, or rather the crowds dodged out of the path of the being barely fit into the station's halls. Even Xhiumi looked small if you compared her to the prodigious being. In the distance the tell-tale sounds of Phen-Mo negotiators echoed through their droids, although the exact location of the often gaudy creations was hard to locate in the crowd. After the Kalyd some Ghesh pushed past, although disparaged often for barely joining the Orionic sphere before the invasions those who settled had made a name for themselves as builders and manufacturers of great machines. These Ghesh looked more likely to steal your wallet, all things considered, even as they scarcely gave a glance to the party as their claws clicked across the station floor.
The smell of Ozone pierced the air as a Yaevarite passed overhead, the aquatic species rarely left their colonies but the swimming in the air via their atmosuits was quite a sight when available. The thronging masses continued to present oddities it became hard to even categorize, subtypes of a hundred lost colonies in their unique genetic variances, cyborgs and those even further augmented beyond such a minute description.
An assortment of varied Augustan commoners and exiles mixed in among the masses, Dathu clad in rugged attire roaming the halls, found in all sorts of professions. Rehnath were not a rare sight in the Neutral Zone, Varan being no exception in hosting “outlander clans”, clans that answer to no state, but are quick to offer their services to the highest bidder. Their imposing frames prowling through the halls and corridors, flanked by the lowly Vrunaks, a reptilian species that were among the barbarian ranks when they first invaded over a century ago. A more recent addition to the interstellar community were the timid, yet Psionically attuned Ossani, a species native to the swamp world of Ors Casan, a recent conquest to the Augustan Empire. In a matter of a decade, the Ossani now find themselves in many corners of the Eastern Outer Systems and the Periphery.
The Daisey crew pushed through the crowds, trying their best not to upset the more intimidating guests in the station, many of which looked ready for a fight. Delmont pushed ahead, his hand holding on tight to Xhiumi as she followed behind, along with the others. Before long, the crew reached a customs checkpoint of the Federated Varani Republic, the polity that held onto the eastern portion of the planet, and was allied with the Concordat. Delmont and others were quick to present their necessary documents, the Customs Officer browsing through them. “Seems all fine.” The Customs officer spoke. “And what brings you to Varan?”
“Just some business deal.” Delmont replied, keeping his answer vague enough
“Right.” The Officer said, not in the mood to pry further and stamped down the passports. “Welcome to Varan.”
Shortly after, the Daisey crew now find themselves in the FVR portion of the station. “Well, we got spare time.” Delmont clapped his hands. “Why not go on a little sightseeing? Client won’t be here for a while.”
Xhiumi let out a little squeal, a rather humorous and cute thing to see from a member of a race of Frankenstein soldiers. “I was really hoping you’d say that!” Xhiumi said with a wide smile, Delmont fully aware what he got himself into. “I saw a gift shop a few stalls over with the cutest figurines, I need
them.” Despite her lineage, Xhiumi wasn’t one for fighting, she was more a lover and collector of whatever suits her fancy. Without hesitation, she grabbed Delmont by the arm and dragged him over to the shop. “Well, that was on me…” He thought to himself.
“I could use a drink.” Jaray said, as he spotted a bar down the hall, he turned to face Yonnia and her droid companion. “You up for a drink?” He asked.
Yonnia shook her head. “Nah, too early for me, besides, me and HD are gonna head over to the local mech shop, see what hidden gems the Varani have in store.” Following this, HD let out a few distressed beeps and whirling sounds. “Aaaand HD is in desperate need of a new voice box as you can see.”
“Right.” Jaray replied. “Good luck with that.” Yonnia nodded to him as they parted ways, Jaray turning to Jaasir. “Coming kid?” He called Jaaisir.
“Huh? Uhh, yeah, sure.” Jaasir replied, feeling both a little out of place, and anxious from the crowds. He had only been with the crew for a few months, still feeling like a stranger to his crewmates. Jaray read his face. “Relax kid, stick with me and you’ll be ok.” Jaray placed his robotic prosthetic arm over Jaasir’s shoulder to ease him. “We all stick together.” Jaasir nodded as the two headed over to the bar.
Elsewhere, Delmont was given the task of trailing behind his lover while Xhiumi scoured through the gift shop, shoving a handful of little Varani-brand souvenirs in a basket. Delmont scanned the assorted merchandise in stock, ranging from figurines based off local legends, historical figures, dried clay and wood shaped into various Varani wildlife, and those cups and mugs with printed labels on them. “Eh, why not?” Delmont said as he grabbed one of the mugs, make memories of his new life with his girl and with his crew. “Got one more for the pile darlin’” He called out to Xhiumi, carefully placing the mug atop her collectables. She looked at him with a smile and nodded. “That’s the spirit Del.”
“3000 credits!? For a voice box?! Bullshit!” Yonnia cried out to the mech shop owner, she was not pleased, followed by HD letting out unintelligible noises. “Lady, this is a GZ-series General-purpose Voice Box, that stuff went out of circulation decades ago. You’re lucky I ain’t charging you even more. Take it or leave it.”
“Un-fucking-believable.” Yonnia muttered to herself, storming out of the shop, HD following behind. Once she and HD were well away from the shop, she turned to face her droid with a sorrowful expression. “Sorry bud, looks like you’ll have to bear with this a bit longer.”
HD let out beeps and whirring noise in what seemed to be an understanding tone. Seems like he’s ok with a lack of a voice for a while longer. “If Del’s deal follows through, we might be able to afford that voice box of yours. That’ll show that prick’s face…”
Jaray and Jaasir meanwhile, relaxed and took in the unusually chill atmosphere of the bar, which was no surprise, since they had arrived in the morning hours. The two enjoyed the local brew, catching up with the news on the holoscreen. It was the usual, political tensions here, border skirmishes there. There was even news of the Ilovačićs crossing the southern Neutral Zone for an invasion. The lack of a crowd calmed Jaasir’s nerves and allowed himself to let loose. Jaray took notice, letting out a sigh. “I know you had it rough, kid, and I said this before.” Jaray said. “The moment you signed up with us, it was a mutual commitment to both parties.” He paused as he gulped down a beer. “We won’t abandon you or sell you out. My days as an Imperial Houseguard are over, and both me and Del owe the Empire nothing, and neither do you.”
Jaasir let out a little smile, nodding to Jaray’s words. “Thank you.” He muttered, before gulping down his drink. “I know you’ve said before, I....just need time to adjust, and it’s a bit late, but I am grateful for you guys taking me in.”
“No problem kid.” Jaray said as both men clashed their glasses, given a small toast to their friendship, and to new fortune.
A few hours pass as the crew reunites to resume their plans, the appointed time almost upon them. Eventually they find themselves in a rented conference room in a secluded part of the station, the crew coming face to face with their clients. Delmont took a deep breath. “Alright guys, show time.”
On the other end of the conference room sat a Numarti man well in his forties, flanked by a pair of armored Krentasian bodyguards, not an uncommon sight in the Neutral Zone for sure. The Numarti man was well-dressed, seeming either to be a politician or even some corporate official, in front of him laid a heavy briefcase, no doubt loaded to the brim with a very large sum of credits. The crew looked to one another with assured nods, and proceeded to take their seats on their end of the table, Delmont taking center stage as his eyes locked with the client.
The common Numarti red eyes amid the pale blue scleras of the client’s eyes matched his, “I do assume that you’ve not come here to waste my time?”
The man was very much at ease in his posture that was clear enough, but his words cut through the air in the particular swing of one accustomed to the Neutral Zone’s mix of speech.
Delmont formed a slight grin, motioning HD to hand over a certain device. The droid reached its back as it pulled said device out, exchanging hands as he slid the object over to the Numarti. “I think you’ll find all contents very
much to your liking, my good sir.” Delmont said with confidence, and with a heavy Augustan accent.
Wordlessly the Numarti pressed the device into a slot along a screen that quickly folded out, soon text scrolling across the screen. The faintest quiver of a smile breached across his face before he pressed a button on the briefcase, it floated silently just above the table easily allowing his push to float it over.
The Numarti’s words rang out clearly as Delmont grabbed a hold of the case, “867 Minutes Orion Beta.”
A small click resounded after half a second. The contents of the briefcase revealed themselves in a grand splendor, 100 Million credits, the crew looking upon the mound with hungry eyes. Never had any one of them looked upon so many credits in their lives, quite frankly it didn’t feel real. Delmont turned his attention back to the client. “I trust everything is well in good order, sir?”
“As well as I can check it,” the man said with a smooth Neutral Zone swing. “Keep in mind if this information isn’t what you purport, some friends of mine will pay a visit to give my regards.”
He stood clearly satisfied, and nonplussed at the threat given out. “A pleasure doing business.”
“Uuhhh, likewise.” Delmont replied, caught off guard with the threat tossed out. Granted he hopefully had nothing to fear, and at this point, it didn't matter, he and his crew were filthy rich. The team remained composed as they left the conference room, the moment they exited the doors, the crew couldn’t contain themselves. “Holy shit we did it!” Delmont exclaimed.
“Can’t wait to see that prick’s face…” Yonnia made a mischievous grin, looks like HD won’t have to wait too long for his new voice box. The droid letting out celebratory noises.
“This calls for a celebration!” Jaray said in an uncharacteristically chipper tone. “Gotta find the most expensive restaurant the station offers!”
The group strolled down the halls in triumph, although Xhiumi was conflicted, catching up and matching Delmont’s pace. “You’re really alright with this?” She whispered. “Selling off your family’s information like that?” Delmont gave a simple nod. “Yup, I got no quarrels.” His reply was swift. “Not a proper Westlow anymore, dad saw to that personally.” He paused as he locked arms with Xhiumi. “Think of it as my last parting “gift” to dear old dad, and besides, you and the others are my family now, that’s all that matters.”
Xhiumi couldn’t help but blush, her cheeks turning into a shade of indigo. “Now, let’s eat like the goddamn Emperor!” Delmont declared.