He despised the genre of cantina music, but this damned place had the cheapest alcohol in this part of the Galactic City's surface-- so he put up with it. It didn't help that the pretenses of this meeting were business, which meant he had to be on his toes-- only his usual level of intoxication, tonight. No indulgences.
Time would tell if he broke that rule.
Mercenary Xadok Tor-Bendu was as close to a saber as any mortal being could be-- elegant in execution, graceful in use, but could cut in any direction and kill you in a hundred different ways. A man like him required proper care to deal with, and so he had only lightly prepared himself; a few drinks ordered from the bartender had got him plenty inebriated, landing him square in his usual comfort zone. A good thing, too. His time in the Archives had left him itching for a drink, and Tukko's had a happy hour going. It helped that Republic Captain Tavos was joining him for the night, seeing as the pair were set to fly out to Rakata within the day. The sooner they got a head start on travel, the better; he'd only come here because he had a gift for a man that could hardly be considered an acquaintance. Aorri's message to Xadok had been cryptic enough, as were all of his usual introductory messages.
Time would tell if Aorri had the patience for the usual games.
For now, though, he was content to idle in his booth, leaning against the wall with one boot upon the seat as he watched the bar for any familiar faces. Every now and again, he got a few odd looks from the average passerby-- but the saber hilt strapped to his hip, shining with an uncharacteristic amount of care when compared against the disheveled nature of the rest of him, was enough to dissuade anyone from approaching to start something they wouldn't be able to finish.
The Galaxy had changed. It was an easy thing to say, but there was no denying it anymore. New threats, new faces and most importantly, a new war. Jaxon Tavos remained ever-vigilant in his quest to do his part in protecting his dear Republic. Although, the job was a lot less “glorious” than what is portrayed in the propaganda channels.
Rabid cheers and hisses at the sight of Naboo-native Mooka scurrying across tiny, sketched lines upon the metallic streets of Galactic City. A stubby Sullustan found himself amongst this bunch, waving about credits in-between his fingers. They totaled to about fifty. Those black, shiny alien eyes looked up on his chosen Mooka. It was an underdog, not expected to amount to anything, yet it was in the lead. Just a few inches away from the finish line. Just a few-
His cheers morphed into a sudden gasp. An iron-clasp grip snatched his wrist.
“Hey, buddy! Been looking for you.” Jaxon greeted the Sullustan with a deceptive grin. He towered behind him, sporting a forest green bomber jacket.
“Well- you see…” the Sullustan stuttered.
“Let’s go have a chat.”
The intelligence officer dragged the alien towards an alleyway. Nobody really cared enough to stop them, not around these parts at least. The Sullustan flung against the wall behind him, grunting as he did. A closed fist greeted his flapped face next, drawing blood from one of his nostrils.
“What do you have for me, Rynk?” Jaxon’s onslaught did not relent. A padded knee crashed into the Sullustan’s chin.
“STOAHP!” Rynk’s pleas were distorted, courtesy of a crooked jaw.
Jaxon stood back with his arms crossed, expectantly.
“Weaoahn Cacchee… sehanidng you cooordenates.” His incomprehensible babbling was difficult to understand, but the notification on his holocomm left the Captain satisfied.
“See, that wasn’t so tough!” Jaxon approached the wounded snitch, hauling him up to his feet before wiping dust off his shoulders. “I’m a pretty patient guy, but don’t ever ignore my calls again. Much more pleasant for the both of us.”
“Here,” The captain continued as he messed with his holocomm. Suddenly, one-hundred credits had found their way into Rynk’s account.
“You’ve done the Republic a great service, my friend. Get yourself over to a Doc-Droid, should be able to realign your face. Now, if you don’t mind, I’ve got places to be,” Jaxon made his departure after patting the Sullustan on the back for good measure.
His last words to Rynk, “We may be able to make a patriot out of you yet.”
Tukko’s Cantina wasn’t the best drinking spot in Galactic City, but you could do worse. At the very least, Jaxon would get to see an old friend again. He had long been acquaintanced with Master Jedi Aorri Besh and was curious about this mysterious mission. Thoughts circled in or about what in the world it could be about. Whatever it was, it was no-doubt to support the war effort.
He nonchalantly waltzed into the bar with his hands dug into his jacket’s pockets. His eyes wandered until they settled on the very distinguishable Kaleesh sitting alone at a booth. You wouldn’t find many of those around.
A Jedi with a drinking problem. That would make for one helluva song, Jaxon thought.
“Well, well. Fancy seeing you here! Get lost on your way to the Temple or was it the force that led you to this hole?” Jaxon cracked a joke as he always did with the Jedi Master, taking a seat across from him. He extended his hand, expecting a shake.
“Been a little bit, buddy. Seems like we’re expecting company?”
The airspeeder shuddered to a halt on the desolate platform adjacent to the cantina, its metallic doors swinging open with a mechanical precision that seemed to contrast the gritty atmosphere of the place. Wasting no time, Xadok emerged from the taxi, his movements deliberate and swift. The droid driver droned on, spouting a rehearsed thank-you script to its two occupants.
Now out in the streets again proper, Xadok’s hands discreetly traced the concealed contours of blasters and blades that lay hidden all across his person. His fingers danced over the arsenal, a ritual to reassure himself of their presence. To the untrained eye, it might have seemed like a mundane self-pat down, akin to searching for a misplaced lighter. In the end, a lighter did show up, accompanied by a cigarette—props to enhance the facade.
Surveying the surroundings with a world-weary gaze, Xadok found a certain amusement in the incongruity of a Jedi frequenting a locale such as this. It was a symptom, he mused, of the Republic's decay, an empire crumbling into the shadows. But philosophical musings weren't his forte. He was no Jedi.
The real Jedi was inside, drowning his sorrows within the cantina's dimly lit confines, awaiting his arrival. Practically begging for his help. Xadok, ever the helpful rogue, was all too willing to provide him with a helping hand.
“Right, let’s go, kid.” He called out to his companion, Yaliwen Tor, as he ignited his cigarette, the ember casting a fleeting glow on his features. To tell the truth, the Mirialan pilot was an afterthought. He had no need to bring her along, even if he included the whole spiel about getting her away from the ship for once. No, he wanted her here because he wanted to test out something. A hypothesis, to be exact, and one that he was infinitely curious about. That of her burning dislike of the Jedi Order.
Of course, everyone was entitled to their secrets and scruples, but so was he entitled to finding them out. And, if possible, to have some fun while doing it, too.
He stopped at the threshold of the cantina’s entrance, turning fully to address Yal. “Watch my back, you see anything that smells or looks like a setup, you let me know, dig?”
Without waiting for a reply, he opened the door. The neon glow of the cantina sign flickered above as he entered the dimly lit establishment. Smoke hung in the air like a veil, concealing the whispered conversations taking place in the shadows. It wasn’t an entirely bad place, all things considered. There were certainly far worse places to drink yourself to a stupor in. The low hum of people talking and the distant strains of a tacky tune emanated from a corner stage, where a worn-out droid band played their rusty instruments. Jizz music, Xadok recognised.
He navigated the crowded space with a fluid ease, the cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth emitting a thin trail of smoke that seemed to merge with the ambience. Once in a while, he spared a glance behind him, watching out for Yal as well as for any other unforeseen threats. His glances, occasional and vigilant, swept the room for threats, exit points and other assorted challenges in the span of a few short seconds. Nearly two decades of experience gained from breaching and boarding ships had instilled and perfected this habit within him, and he’d be krong’d not to do it here now. Thankfully, there were no threats in sight, and the cantina's patrons paid little to no attention to the duo as they made their way to the bar, where Xadok immediately sighted his quarry: Aorri Besh, the Drunk Jedi.
Not entirely by his lonesome, though.
“Well, well. Aorri, you wily kriffhound, you. It's nice to finally see you again,” Xadok remarked aloud, approaching the booth where the Kaleesh sat, accompanied by another figure. Well-built, with a bald head and a stern face. Likely Republic Military, if Xadok had to guess, perhaps even someone from Fleet Intelligence. A lot of those types around lately, especially in seedier places like these. For now, he paid the man no mind, but kept him in his peripheral as he regarded the Jedi. “Let me get a better look at you.”
Aorri, as usual, looked every bit unlike the Jedi Knight he was supposed to be. Discounting the fact that he was getting sloshed in a cantina, his dishevelled appearance and general demeanour always made him appear more like a listless drunkard than anything else. Only the lightsaber on his waist seemed to give out the idea that he was a Jedi. But even that might not be enough, these days. Xadok himself could afford to carry three or four lightsabers of his own, unceremoniously taken from their previous owners, if he wasn’t aware of how much of a liability they were for him. Was why he preferred to carry kyber crystals around, instead. Saved space, too.
Without being prompted, Xadok settled down across the booth from Aorri. “Scoot over, will ya?” He asked the Jedi’s companion, though he gave no room for a refusal as he simply sat himself down and forced the man to move over by his sheer presence alone. He motioned over to Yal, then.
“Oh, and, by the way, this is my pilot. Yaliwen Tor. Don’t think you’ve met. You can call her Yal, most of everyone does. Kid, you can go and sit down next to our Jedi friend here. I call her kid because it makes me feel better about being this old,” he remarked with a chuckle, before turning to look at the man sitting beside him, regarding him for the first time with a wry smile on his face. “As for you. I don’t know you, so you do your best to behave around her, yeah? We’re going to have a problem, you and I, if you don’t.”
If he wanted, Xadok could more than likely pull one of his holdout blaster from near his belt and put two shots in his gut before he could even give an answer. The threat was implied in the way his smirk dropped as his orange eyes narrowed, ever so slightly—his hand sitting comfortably on his leg while the other was draped over the seat behind him. If he was who Xadok thought he was, he likely understood that possibility. Xadok wanted him to know that he was a nonissue, in his eyes.
There was something about the man that Xadok disliked immensely, though he couldn't entirely place why. More than likely, it was because he was a wild card. A wrench thrown against a routine that he was already comfortable with. After all, the Jedi rarely brought anyone with him whenever he wanted to talk business. The fact that he did now put Xadok on edge, like a katarn sensing something deeply wrong with its surroundings. That said, whatever he felt, he did not show.
Smoothly, he turned to Aorri once again.
Strike fast, strike hard, overwhelm, and leave no room for retaliation. Indeed, Xadok approached most things like he approached the task of sweeping the deck of a boarded ship of hostiles. Funny how the same approach often worked for parlays and negotiations, too.
“So, you haven’t aged a day, you bastard. Tell me, what’s your secret?” Xadok grinned, the corner of his mouth curling upward like the edge of a vibroblade. The gold in his ears and on his fingers gleamed under the cantina’s dim lighting, and his eyes trailed down towards the empty glasses on the table with an amused glint. “Is it the alcohol?”
He laughed, then. Harsh laughter, like a hound’s. Raising his hand, he flagged down a server droid walking near the booth.
“Let’s get some more drinks here. Separate tabs—I’m sure you understand.” The last time he’d exchanged info with Aorri in a similar enviroment, the Jedi had burned a hole in his account. Xadok was not the type of man to repeat his past mistakes. “Don’t worry, I’ll buy the first few rounds.”
He put in the order for everyone else, then made to order for himself. Unfortunately, there were no Corellian Reserve being served here, so he settled on some other drink to keep himself busy. Nothing too hard, of course. The goal, after all, was to outdrink the Jedi.
“So, why have you called me, my friend? Was fancy seeing you in the Chancellor’s Office while back. This got something to do with that?”
When Xadok had told her they were meeting with the Jedi, she hadn't quite expected a place like this. A bar was par for the course. She knew the man was a hopeless drunk, and knew Xadok intended to get him drunker to see if anything would slip, but this wasn't the sort of place she imagined the self-important arbiters of the galaxy frequenting. It was the sort of seedy little dive she'd pass through on some outer rim moon, not - here.
Dirt's gotta fall somewhere when you polish the surface.
She nodded firmly at her crewmate's request, hand relaxing at the blaster tucked into the band of her pants. Least they didn't take their weapons here. Somehow made it feel safer than the High Chancellor's office, rough as it was. She followed behind Xadok, casually looking around - partly keeping an eye out for danger, like he'd asked, and partly to see if she could spot the Jedi before Xadok singled him out. Was a bit more difficult than she'd thought. Not a stern old man in robes, but a masked man, hunched over, dressed in a shoddy jacket and turban. There was definitely something about him, though. Something she couldn't place. The man next to him, though? Prim, more upright, with a serious look to his uncovered face.
Not a Jedi. Military? Guard? Certainly seemed the part.
Yal slipped into the seat beside the Jedi, eyes narrowing slightly, but she still gave a slight smirk at Xadok's introduction.
"He don't behave, I can handle myself," she retorted. "Pleasure meetin', I guess. I'm just a tag-along here. Don't pay me mind."
Jaxon arrived late, as per usual, and in a good mood, which was thoroughly unusual. Usually, if he were this happy, he'd just gotten through smoking a few of his subordinates for catching them drinking-- which was ironic, of course, given the current locale and their choice of activity. Aorri, however, was not one to judge a man's hypocritical drinking habits.
So he took Jaxon Tavos' hand and gave a firm shake, a faint smile dotting the thin lips of his batlike visage. The mask was situated about his neck, hanging there like some sort of enlarged talisman; it shuffled a bit as he moved, sitting up to shake Jaxon's hand before returning to lean against his corner of the booth. "If the Force guided me to this cesspit, I'd have left the Order by now. Suppose that's what you get, though, with a connection as weak as mine." He leaned forward on the table, expression turning serious at the mention of company. A silent nod confirmed Jaxon's inquiry, and the Kaleesh lightly ran his finger around the rim of his glass. The mask returned to his face, his drinks consumed. For now.
"Yes. Bounty hunters. Be on your guard. They should play nice, but you never know with these types." A sip of his drink, and he set it back down empty, finishing off the rest of the purple liquid within. It hardly burned going down, now-- only that pleasant, familiar numbness and warmth. "This man runs his mouth more than a Toydarian hooker-- but he's reliable." If he got paid. Which he would be-- just not by Aorri. A Jedi hardly had any credits to spare, after all. "Try not to shoot him. The urge will be there. I'll act a little drunker than I am, play a bit of a fool if I need to." He knew Jaxon well enough, after all. The Republic soldier was here as an extra gun if things went south, and also to brief once the other pair left. Having a buffer meant he was less likely to get ganged up on... especially if the twi'lek halfling brought his crew.
Which he did-- just not the one Aorri was expecting. There was usually a Wookie that seemed to follow him like a kitschy cape, but there was only a Mirialan. Aorri remained silent through the introductions, only giving a nod to Xadok and a look to Yaliwen; the surname Tor was intensely familiar, though coincidences were often commonplace. While Awarani had been Mirialan, the name might've been common. Still, he regarded her with a bit of silence, the blank visage of his mask looking over her features as he remained lazily reclined in the booth. His raised leg moved to let her sit, though he did not adjust his posture for the mercenaries. Instead, he glanced slowly between the pair of them, giving a delayed chuckle and slow blink of a drunkard.
"Something t'do with that, yes." Aorri replied, head tilting. "You missed the fireworks when y'left, by the way. Sith women started bickering with the Grandmaster. Looked like they were about to Force-choke me the moment I stepped in..." True to Yaliwen's statement, he hardly paid the Mirialan any mind-- for now. More important matters to focus on than old ghosts. He had become adept at compartmentalizing-- all for the sake of harmony. For instance, stomaching the fact he was talking to Jedi-killers for the good of the Republic.
"... poor Grandmaster's already under so much stress, already, what with everything she was bickering in my ear about with this damned contract." He let that hang in the air a moment, then stiffened somewhat, straightening his posture and looking over to Xadok. "Anyways. Digress. Yes, have something to tell you. How familiar... are you and your crew with HK-50s?"
Jaxon couldn't help but chuckle at the mention of these so-called "Bounty hunters." He knew the type and was more than acquainted with their scum. While he truly harbored disdain for them, the captain was well aware of their potential in the grand scheme of things—expendable pieces to be used in the name of Republic security. That's all they were.
Taking a sip from his recently arrived drink, the officer nodded. "I'll be on my best behavior," he finally said.
Not much time passed before the rest of the rabble arrived. To Jaxon's surprise, he recognized one of them, Xadok Tor-Bendu, formerly one of Rasczak's Raiders' top gunmen. The mere mention of the name, Rasczak, was enough to strike fear into anybody at one point in time. He was a dangerous man with quite the reputation. In Jaxon's eyes, even being affiliated with the infamous Rasczak or any of his degenerates in any capacity should be rewarded with swift execution. After all, more than many Republic Citizens suffered at their hands.
Having no choice but to scoot to the end, Jaxon's eyes beamed at the bounty hunter with an intent that was practically shouting, "I'll look for an excuse to kill you." His attempt at a sly grin did him no favors either. Jaxon Tavos was an unmistakably violent man with violent impulses. Had he not been born in the circumstance he was; one could easily see the man busting some poor sap's knees for a Hutt. His job called for a bit of tact and subtlety, of which he was more than aware, but he would be lying if he didn't want the bounty hunter to give him cause.
"Oh, don't you worry. No problems here!" the captain replied to the Twi'lek hybrid's warning of 'causing problems' with the one he didn't recognize; the Mirialan who didn't quite have that rough-around-the-edge look these types usually had. Still, if she were running with the likes of Xadoc and company, she was bad news. The captain was sure of it.
He placed the metallic mug to his lips and felt the cold, Bonadan booze trickle down his throat.
"A pleasure," Jaxon raised his mug for a moment. "Glad to be joined by such lovely company."
He didn't bother introducing himself. Jaxon enjoyed operating as a "boogeyman" of sorts behind the shadows. While he was eager to see what Aorri had in mind, it was also a chance to take mental notes; one dossier would need to be updated and in the case of Yaliwen 'Yal' Tor, a new dossier.