Think carefully. If you choose to fight, if you choose war, it is a path few turn away from once the first steps are taken. It carries with it a terrible price, and in the end, you may find you have nothing left to sacrifice.
The walk through the hall of the Coruscant Senate building was a long one. Mercenaries and bounty hunters from all walks of life could be seen, sans weapons of course, moving in large groups to and from the office of the Supreme Chancellor. It was more than an uncommon sight, it was entirely unheard of until today. Allowing sentients of such rough backgrounds into the most prestigious building on Coruscant screamed of the desperation of the Republic. But another question could be asked in this day and age, were there any ears left to hear the Republic's desperate cries?
All who had been brought to the Senate had been stripped of their weapons and, if their armor held built-in weapons, then their armor as well. Today was not a day for assassinations. Lightsabers, blasters, everything had been taken, but all would be returned by the end of the day. Flanked by four armored senate guards, the party was led past the Senate Chambers toward the Supreme Chancellor's office. As they passed, voices from within could be heard, each crying louder and louder to be heard-
"Where is the fleet?! Revan's forces are on our doorstep! You must come-" "What of the Jedi?! Have they all betrayed us?!" "The Fountains are silent! The Jedi have abandoned us-" "TRAITORS!" "COWARDS!" "Onderon demands the Republic-" "You are in no place to demand any-" "We must scatter the fleet! What is Admiral Ryne doing-" "Fire Syne! Fire Skaarsgarde! This is clearly a failure of-" "We don't have the budget for-" "We don't have the men-" "We don't have-"
The guard stopped outside a pair of large and ornate doors. Two stepped forward to push them open and the other two positioned themselves to react if anyone made any sudden moves. As the doors opened, the party would be greeted with the stern, exhausted face of Supreme Chancellor Majro Deen. He looked beyond haggard, it was as if he had not slept in days. In his exhaustion, he delayed even lifting his head to greet his guests, "Ah, the next group, fantastic. Please, make yourselves comfortable, there should be enough chairs for you all."
As he gestured to the many chairs around the large, luxurious room, the Supreme Chancellor turned to the only other being in the room with him when the party arrived. Sitting in a chair off to the side, the Jedi Grandmaster Kalla Zatoq rested with closed eyes. Majro Deen watched her face for a minute and, when she did not move, breathed a sigh of relief and relaxed slightly into his chair. Looking out to those entering his chambers, he spoke once more, "As you take a seat, please introduce yourself and describe your greatest asset. As you may well know, the amount of money the Republic is more than any living being has ever been offered before. You must be able to at least tell me a reason you're worthy of the first step of this mission."
Verse shuffled into the room, glancing around the room with an air of resigned irritation. She'd known some powerful Force-user would be present in the room long before she'd seen who it was; her skull felt like it'd been turned into a blender made of ice. Or something--again, head-blender; metaphors hard. She hadn't been expecting the bloody Grandmaster. Not that they'd been planning to have a go at the Chancellor or anything--at least, she hadn't been; maybe Corre felt differently--but damn, there went the option. She dropped into one of the chairs, into what she was pretty sure was an elegant, devil may care slouch. And hopefully nobody'd notice how badly she'd been wobbling beforehand.
"Verse Rastee. Bounty hunter." She glanced at Zatoq. The lady probably knew. Whatever. "Familiar with the inner workings of the Sith Brotherh--excuse me, the Sith Empire." The word dripped out of her vocalizer like, um... Something bad. And drippy. "I'm also lucky. And I'm good at throwing things. I guess." Fuck. "She already knows what Corre and I are; can you just skip us?"
Directly behind Verse strode Corre Kesyk, hands clasped neatly behind her back as she followed her sister into the room. Verse had warned her, of course, of the Force adept in the room, long before they entered- namely by way of her complaints of a searing headache. She hadn't expected a face so recognizable, so contemptible. Alas, they weren't here for her head, nor the Supreme Chancellor's.
In contrast to her associate, Corre walked with an easy confidence, almost as if she were a chancellor of the Republic herself, and in fact did sit elegantly into one of the many offered chairs, one leg crossed over the other, hands clasped around the knee, next to Verse, who clearly was not enjoying herself. Then, she spoke, and Corre let out a sigh somewhere between disappointment and resignation. Blunt, as always. She set a hand gently against her own chest, and spoke. "Corre Kesyk, a bounty hunter as well." The family name was said with pride, her tone of voice indicating that if you didn't already know it, you would soon.
"We are both familiar with the structure of the Sith Empire, and have a vested interest in the deposition of its leadership. You will find us more than capable, Supreme Chancellor Deen."
Coruscant. He hadn't been on Coruscant in quite some time, at least ten years. Its ever-growing urban sprawl leant itself to poverty, desperation, and crime in a way that everyone onworld seemed to actively ignore. Coruscant was the gaping wound of the Republic, a testiment to its need for opulence and status and an open declaration that only those with enough wealth to stay in the upper levels were worth paying any attention. It was the overwhelming sense of pain that drove Celtar away from the planet when he was a Jedi and, while he couldn't feel it nowadays, he knew it still existed. The air tasted of the atmospheric scrubbers that the upper levels were privileged enough to enjoy. The water tasted pristine, as if manufactured directly from its atomic components and flavored gently to demonstrate the superiority of such clean water. The sun shone brightly in the sky, clouds and storms held back by the weather control stations scattered throughout the planet. For those who could afford to live above the squalor of the undercity, Coruscant was perfect. For those who could not, it was like any other urban shithole.
With each step came more memories. He looked towards the Jedi Temple, where he had taken Katarina after one of their missions to show her around and to allow them to rest. He looked toward Sector A-22, where they had gone through the markets to taste Muja fruit. He looked toward the sky, towards space, where they had left this wretched planet years ago. Each step was haunting to him, a scream from the past at his failings and a mockery of everything he had been. He reached towards his pocket and grabbed a small bottle. Popping the top with his thumb, he poured two capsules into his hand and swallowed them with one motion before returning the bottle to his pocket. If he was going to be back on this planet, he'd need to suppress his memories and his emotions way more than he normally did. It was why he never returned to places they had been. There were simply too many memories.
The jeers of the crowd nearly fell on deaf ears. Nearly. Cries that the Jedi had betrayed them almost caused Celtar to break step. Almost. His eyes met those of the citizen who had yelled about the traitorous Jedi, pain-filled azure irises locking with the brown globes of the Twi'lek. For a moment, he wished to say something. For a moment, he wished to reassure him. For a moment, he wished to defend himself. For a moment, he wished to counter the arguments. For a moment. How could you counter something that was true? How could you explain away the Jedi's inaction not only since Revan rose to power but for the decades before that? How could you explain away the fact that Jedi were mythical beings who failed to come to the aid of the galaxy at large, let alone individuals? How could explain away anything they had chosen to do or not do in recent memory? You can't.
Celtar popped another pill into his mouth as they entered the Chancellor's office, hoping against hope that it would be enough to get through the meeting. He hated meetings, he hated politicians, he hated inaction. He hated a lot nowadays, though that was only a small portion of his failings. They were too numerous to count and Celtar had stopped counting long ago. The prattlings of a person who was so far removed as the Supreme Chancellor did not interest Celtar, nor did the fact that they were hiring seemingly untold amounts of people at historically high rates to fix problems that they had no business fixing. For the same price as a single employee, enough to buy a small planet or otherwise live a life of extraordinary wealth and privilege, the Republic could have invested in any number of programs designed to improve its citizens' lives, build more ships, hire more soldiers, or otherwise do something concrete. The job posting, broadcasted across the Holonet, screamed of the Republic's desperation, of its inadequacies.
As the others lowered themselves into their seats, Celtar remained standing. He spent most of his time flying and, as a result, he spent most of his time sitting. Instead, he leaned against the back of one of the excessively luxurious chairs, silently denying himself the comfort that most of the galaxy would never dream of, let alone be exposed to. It was defiance for the sake of defiance, quietly spitting in the face of the Supreme Chancellor and the Grandmaster of the Jedi Order. Celtar didn't care if they recognized it for what it was, he knew what it was and that was enough.
The former Jedi listened as the first two of his newfound coworkers spoke up and he rolled his eyes so hard that his head moved with them. As soon as the second one, who identified herself with such pride that Celtar felt the overcompensation from across the room, finished speaking, he clicked his teeth with a tsk and began his own introduction.
"Well, unlike our broody, unfulfilled, and obviously overcompensating friends over there," he began with a tone that oozed of sarcasm as he turned his head towards the two women. "Very well done, by the way. The whole 'better-than-you' act really sells just how much, y'know, you're better than us. And if you were any more direct with your knowledge of the Sith, the Grandmaster here might have to decide between continuing to do nothing or continuing to do nothing while ordering the guards to arrest you." He turned his head towards the Grandmaster. "Hard choice, I know. Don't worry, you don't have to do anything because we're here."
"Anyway, I'm Wyrton Skithurn. I'm a pilot, though I'm sure there are at least three other pilots in this room. They'll yammer on about how they're the best or how they did such a route in how many parsecs but you and I both know you don't care about that." As he spoke, he had turned his head back towards the Supreme Chancellor. "You want people who are willing to die for your cause. Nevermind the fact that it was you two," he said, looking back and forth at the Chancellor and the Grandmaster, "who didn't want people to die for your cause until it was too late. Now that you can't weasel your way out of this one, you're willing to pay idiots like us to do your dirty work."
"Lucky for you, we're idiots. We're all willing to die for a chance at," he chuckled as he looked around the room. "The ability to, from the looks of it, not worry about the Galaxy anymore. Statistically, at least one of us is addicted to drugs." Making his point, he popped another capsule into his mouth. "Statistically, at least one of us is a criminal and I bet it's that guy," he said, pointing his thumb over his shoulder at the Wookiee. "Statistically, there's at least one former soldier here, hoping to get the shot that he never got in the military." With that statement, he looked over at the man whose short, wavy hair and trimmed beard screamed in rebellion against the grooming standards to which he had been held. "And statistically, at least one of us is a droid. If you ask me," he said, dropping his voice for dramatic effect and nodding his head towards the droid, "I think it's that one." Scanning the room, he let his eyes fall on the Ubese. "And then you have her. The only thing even I can be sure of is that she hates the Jedi, that's you," he said, pointing his head at the Grandmaster once more. "And that she's more than willing to let all of us die to further her goals. Lucky for us, the state of her armor demonstrates that she's probably not that great."
"You want to know what value you get from us, we're all willing to die. Some of us because we don't care about life anymore, some of us because we have plans for the future. I can fly, I can fight, and I can read a room. You're desperate for someone to fix your problem and we're more like to die and, therefore, save you your money than we are to fix the problem. But you want a chance. You want to say that you're doing something. You want a tauntaun's chance in Mustafar that we can do what you failed to do. We're it."
Verse rubbed her forehead, pointedly not looking at Wyrton. There were a lot of things she could have said–no, actually, you’re the one who’s overcompensating, so there, for starters, wow–but filtered through the haze of her migraine, it just didn’t feel worth it.
“If we’re going to be arrested,” she mumbled, her mask turning the words into a raspy hiss, “it’ll be in a room we’re not sharing with the supreme chancellor. In the hallway, perhaps. So I’d like to get some work in before that happens. Are you done grandstanding? Can we perhaps move on to the next candidate, please?”
The weapons were good, but they were fresh, lacking the carbon scoring of hard use, or the subtler signs of age which lingered with a refurbished piece. If they were held by troopers who were equally new, A0I couldn’t tell. Organics were hard to reward in a way that a machine wasn’t, they aimed to lie and deceive about unimportant things, when the truth of the matter was clear enough. They had weapons and she had none.
A0I passed through the doors once one of the troopers nodded her through. It seemed that one of the gathered was in the middle of giving a speech — or was it a rant? — it had trickled out into the hallway while the troopers were doing their inspection but she hadn’t put much processing power towards listening to it. A mistake, perhaps, but it seemed things were wrapping up.
The seats were neatly arranged, and A0I took an open one near the door. Another organic spoke up as the first one ended their speech, and by the sound of their voice they were unwell. Still, she had no medical subroutines, and the person wore a mask, so it was simply an assumption on her part.
“Hello, I believe I will be next then?” A0I said, her voice was bright and chipper. “I am A0I-X2, and I am a weapons dealer by trade. I aim to procure and supply armaments for the Republic from the various weapon caches left forgotten following the end of the Mandalorian wars, which I believe should suffice for my introduction. Yes?”
The halls of the senate building on Coruscant paled in comparison to the structures Cal remembered on Alderaan before the Sith destroyed it. The memories of beautiful, glistening structures to the green, animal filled forests to the snow capped mountains of Alderaan held a special place in Cal's heart and often was his source of inner peace. It had taken great effort to not replace these images with that of war and death. This was something he still struggled with.
Cal looked around the room as everyone gave their introductions, two obvious, pompous, former or current Sith that shouldn't be trusted at all. The old, drug attled, washed up pilot, who rambles forever. A wookie and another mysterious armored being, and an arms trader Droid.
Ok, I guess it's my turn, time to put my cover ID that Skarsgaard gave me to use. Cal stood and spoke plainly and honestly, "My name is Owen Lars, I'm a bounty hunter and mercenary. I used to be a moisture farmer with my family on Tatooine but that couldn't pay the bills. So here I am, hoping one last job will be enough." Cal sat back down in his chair not wanting the attention to be on him for any longer and not allow everyone to think to much.
The lights inside the Senate Building were just way too bright, so the lightly armored female had increased the polarization on her helmet by about 50%. This plus the rather plush chair had made for a rather comfortable nap experience...well that and the heavy rip of some spice laden with Somatoll she'd gotten from one of her contacts in the undercity. One couldn't be too sure of what would and would not be seized by the Senate guards.
Looking around, the prizefighter known as Koushhk only belatedly processed what was going on. Luckily her helmet's linked datapad did this neat trick where it recorded and transcribed conversations around her...or at least it would have, but apparently she'd left it on some very unsightly and loud videos of a rather disgusting sexual nature.
Typical...oh...oh great, the hallucinations are back.
Uncaring about most of the individuals in the room, Koushhk decided it was better to simply ignore the dead man rather than try and engage with the delusions. That dementia-shit was infuriating and she didn't have enough stuff on her to make that go away. Instead, the pit fighter just turned the volume off on her datapad in the middle of what could be assumed was a Dathomiran rancor mating session before flipping to her own fighter profile. Moving silently, Koushhk simply slid the datapad over to the Supreme Chancellor.
Shining capital of the Republic. Centre of the universe. Seat of the vaunted Jedi Order. Truth be told, while the grandeur of the Republic's capital might bedazzle some, to Xadok it was just another cesspool, albeit one adorned with immaculate towering spires and fabulously glittering facades. To hear the people of the galaxy speak of Coruscant, one would think that it was heaven itself and more. The most important planet in the whole galaxy, the seat of all galactic power, blessed by the Force itself and inhabited by a host of the galaxy’s finest since time immemorial. But beneath those shining skyscrapers, outside those well-ordered, well-guarded districts of the surface sectors, there was another world entire. A world Xadok was much more familiar with.
This other world, it sprawled like the gnarled roots of an ancient tree beneath the surface of the planet, bloated beyond all recognition and building upon itself a dozen times over. It teemed with the untold billions, forgotten and cast aside like unwanted refuse, yet it was there where the true pulse of the ecumenopolis beat in the darkness, in the forgotten corners where the wealthy turned a blind eye. A world which languished in the shadows cast by the glittering light of its better twin.
Nar Shadda, for all its wretchedness, at least wore its decay on its sleeve. Coruscant, on the other hand, masked its seedy underbelly beneath layers of glitz, glamour, and outright deception. And nowhere was this masquerade more evident than in the heart of the political machine—the Senate. But today, behind the closed doors of the mighty Senate, where the fate of the galaxy was discussed in hushed tones, that veneer of nobility was crumbling - had been crumbling, truth be told, for the better part of the decade - to reveal the panic and fear that now permeated the very core of the Republic.
With each passing day, Revan’s Empire drew ever nearer to the Galactic Core, conquering vast swathes of territory like an unstoppable tide. The Republic, like an animal cornered, now brayed and bleated for help, driven by desperation to ask for help from those who inhabited the fringes of civilised society: Mercenaries, bounty hunters, and a wide assortment of other types of individuals who counted themselves among the galaxy’s best and worst.
So it was only natural that Xadok and his crew counted themselves among that crowd.
Desperation, after all, was a commodity they knew how to exploit. And the more desperate, the better the pay. The fact that the Senate, usually a bastion of protocol and order, had opened its doors to the likes of them was a stark testament to the gravity of the situation. And now, Xadok just had to convince them that he and his crew were the best choice for the job. A rather daunting work, even considering the circumstances at hand.
Having entered the Supreme Chancellor's office with the rest of the party, Xadok silently ushered his crew to find their seats, himself settling on a rather ornate and expensive-looking chair that seemed to look more like a modern art piece than a piece of functional furniture while his crew flanked him on either side. Truth be told, he was not entirely at ease with being without his weapons and armour—like a Katarn stripped of its fangs. Not only that, he also soon regretted his choice of seating too when he realised the curve of the chair he sat on was made in such a way that one could never get truly comfortable sitting in it. As a result, every couple of minutes he had to push himself up to prevent his entire body from slipping out of it and onto the floor. Not a good first impression, that. Nonetheless, he tried not to let it bother him too much as he patiently waited for his turn to sell himself and his crew's expertise to the Supreme Chancellor, listening silently all the while as the rest of the party introduced themselves one by one. First were the two sisters who looked, talked, and acted suspiciously like Sith, followed shortly by the pilot who had clearly not seen better days in the past decade or two.
"Statistically, at least one of us is a criminal and I bet it's that guy."
That remark by the pilot, Wyrton Skithurn, drew a genuine chuckle out of Xadok, followed soon after by Kallak'karr growling out a question to him in shyriiwook. "Yes, a human needs all four of their limbs intact to function as a pilot," he answered his friend back, grinning. "You really ought to know that by now."
When he realised that he and Kallak'karr had somewhat interrupted the man's speech, Xadok jokingly raised his palm towards the pilot, still smiling all the while as he did so. "Oh, sorry about that, do carry on."
A robot, a soldier, and an Ubese - or perhaps another robot? Hard to tell when it came to the Ubese, really - introduced themselves soon after the pilot, and Xadok kept any comments to himself, preferring instead to mark into his memory all that he could observe and listen from these few strange individuals. The better to learn about them and potentially plan out contingencies against them in the future.
Then, as it became clear that it was his turn to introduce himself, he huffed nonchalantly and stood up from his seat, taking a moment to pretend to dust himself off and straighten out his outfit before he spoke. He took the time to stare at the Jedi Grandmaster sitting in the corner of the room, as if acknowledging her presence, before he turned his attention fully to Supreme Chancellor Majro Deen, plastering an amicable smile on his scarred face as his orange eyes scrutinised the man.
"If you don't mind, Chancellor, I'll skip straight to the point and not give you any long-winded speeches, seeing as though our resident pill popper over there has pretty much already one-upped every one of us in that regard." He opened, shooting a wry smile over at the pilot. "The name's Xadok Tor-Bendu. Mercenary. Bounty Hunter. Assassin. Hunter. Tell you the truth, if the pay's right, I'll practically do anything."
He'd gesture at his crew, then, sweeping his hand in their direction to bring them to the Supreme Chancellor's attention. "These three are my crewmates and fellow coworkers. We're a package, me and them—and no, we won't be accepting the same fare, before you ask. And as for why you should be hiring us for this contract? Well... allow me to answer that question for you with these."
With that said, Xadok reached into the pockets of his pants, giving a subtle nod to the guards to show that he did not mean any harm, before pulling out what appeared to be a fistful of multicoloured crystals in his hands. Jedi's colours. Deftly, he flourished them in his hands, holding each crystal in the spaces between his fingers as he showed them off to the Supreme Chancellor (and to a lesser extent, the Jedi Grandmaster). Kyber crystals, eight in total. The proof of eight lives, violently taken before their time.
"Worry not, we don't discriminate." He said, finally offering a smirk in the direction of the Grandmaster as he transferred half of the crystals to one hand to reach into his pocket for more, this time coming up with three red kyber crystals. "And this is just a little taste of what we're truly capable of. We've amassed quite the collection over the years, let me tell you."
Confident that he already got the message across with such a display, he pocketed the crystals once again before continuing to speak, his voice resolute and sure. "You'll want us under your employ because we're the best at what we do. We make our living in chaos, Chancellor. Hell, we thrive in it. And while no, we won't lay down our lives in service of some grand cause or the other, you can rest assured that we're far more reliable than anyone else here so long as we get paid." A slight pause, and Xadok's eyes scanned the small crowd around the office, almost as if daring someone to speak out against him and his crew. Regardless, he turned towards the Chancellor once more, crossing his arms across his chest as he flashed his teeth at the man—his eyes fierce and challenging. "Desperation breeds strange bedfellows, Chancellor, and I reckon we're just the right kind of strange for whatever it is you need done."
Kesh-Dan didn't like the smell of Coruscant. Not that the scent wasn't unpleasant, it simply didn't smell right. On Nar Shaddaa, the beautiful stench of the decay of desperate living was on full display - from the moment you hit atmosphere the stink of life and chaos filled your nostrils and stuck to your clothes for days. Coruscant smelled too clean. As the taxi brought him to the Senate that morning he'd taken time to look down - miles and miles of city stretched until the smog and distance left him dazed.
As he entered the senate chambers it dawned upon him - Kesh was the first of his clan, perhaps first Mandalorian to set foot on this world since the first Mandalorian Crusaders who assaulted the world alongside the Sith Lord Exar Kun nearly sixty years ago. Had Mandalore the Ultimate's crusade arrived here, how would things have been different? How many countless millions would have been slaughtered? It mattered not now, another war concerned the galaxy. That's why he was here now, right? It was time to make a difference, he'd never had a choice before but now he did. He wouldn't waste that.
If only he knew that meant he'd be saddled with so many problem cases. The first two to introduce themselves announced their knowledge of the Sith, a fact they seemed proud of. Kesh couldn't care less, if they weren't on Revan's side he didn't have anything to worry about. Better Sith than Jedi, if there even was a difference. The next man was far more irritating. He ranted for a few minutes, grandstanding and judging the rest of them - ah, there was the Jedi. The war made butchers on both sides but at least the Mandalorians were honest about it, they didn't hide behind an air of superiority. Well, at least not most of the time.
The others seemed fine enough - an outlaw gang, a Ubese fighter. The droid was honest, and Lars was certainly - rustic, if not a bit out of place. Then again, who was he to talk. Once the room quieted down a bit, Kesh cleared his throat. "Hello Chancellor, and um - Grandmaster." Kesh bowed slightly, he still felt weird to be in the presence of so many important, yet unrespectable people. "My name is Kesh-Dan, I was a medic during the war," he glanced around the room at the strangers, "and they're certainly - something else." Kesh sighed. "I'll keep you patched up. As long as you stay smart, we'll all go home in one piece."
Somehow, it managed to be overwhelmingly massive and densely suffocating at the same time. She'd been in cities, before - long gone were the days where her tours of the galaxy were done solely from the cockpit of a freighter - but Coruscant wasn't just a city. The sheer verticality of it was staggering, as if it wanted to remind you at all times there was always something hanging above your head, and you were just a pathetic little droch cowering in the pits of its hive.
Su silrit ki díka.
Didn't help that she was basically useless here. Just a body, part of the crew, to show - solidarity, or whatever. Xadok did the talking. If she'd had it her way, she'd have stayed with the ship, and avoided this whole ano-salchhh entirely. Maybe took a nap. Caught up on maintenance. Useful things, fun things, instead of sitting around in a stuffy room with a stuffy old man talking about stuffy plans for a job she'd rather just jump right into. Her attention wandered to the other people gathered around. Lively bunch. Ubese hunter that could barely put a sentence together. Pair of shady kotqi that said they were deeply familiar with the Sith, whatever that was supposed to mean. Grizzled pilot that used more air to talk than an entire planet. A Republican medic. A - droid that sold weapons? And a tom'k ex-moisture farmer, for fate's sake. Xadok was going into his usual script about how they were the best of the best, nothing could compare, they'd get the job done twenty-times over before the other hires could do it once, but even they weren't exactly... fitting.
Yal raised her hand, eyes focused intently not on the Chancellor, but on the Grandmaster.
"Yea. Um. Question. Ye say the pay's bigger than any, but ye don't gotta worry 'bout that if we're all dead. This ain't suicide, yea? Cause I don't exactly fancy being fodder in your mess."
Then, after a moment, remembering she wasn't supposed to be the one talking, she shifted back uncomfortably in her equally uncomfortable seat with an equally uncomfortable grimace.
------ To say that Majro Deen had much laid before him was a gross understatement. From a pair of, quite obvious, Sith, to a grandstanding drug addict, to a trained group of killers, it was all so much. But this was the lot he had been dealt, so he would work with what destiny had laid at his doorstep. This was not the first group of psychopaths to meet with him today, it would not be the last.
The first two that spoke, Verse and Corre, bounty hunters they called themselves. They seemed quite obviously to be more than their meager descriptions. Chancellor Deen looked over to the Grandmaster for a reaction, she did not move, so they were safe. He had hopes for them, perhaps those with a better idea of the threat they faced would have better luck. They were rough, of course, but rough was what was needed. Rough was the stuff of warriors, and warriors could do what needed to be done.
The next that spoke, the drug addict pilot, Wyrton, was more than he seemed as well. He spoke a lot, that the Chancellor was more used to. Among the political spheres of the Republic, many talked and talked without end. But the way he walked, Majro Deen knew that walk. There were few whose steps moved like that, and it betrayed him in a way he might've not known. He was a warrior, and an older warrior at that. The Supreme Chancellor would not underestimate an old man in a profession where most die young.
After that rant came the droid and the mercenary. A0I-X2 and Owen Lars, unconnected by anything more than the fact that the Chancellor saw them as here for the same reason. Money. The droid wished to peddle more weapons, the mercenary looked for a paycheck to feed his family. While the merc clearly had a more noble goal, Majro Deen respected them both. They were straightforward and honest, he could appreciate that in this era. He had been lied to enough in his lifetime.
Then came the Fighter, Koushhk, with the, well, there were few words for what the Ubese warrior placed on his table. If the sexual images on the datapad hadn't been changed to a stat block worth looking at, she might've found herself the only member of this group expelled from his office. Such was the nature of the Chancellor's question, if they couldn't provide an answer of any kind due to being high off their ass then he wouldn't waste his time even speaking to them. But a fighter like this could, potentially, end up working in his favor. So he'd let this slide, for now. The Grandmaster seemed to bristle at the fighter's gesture, but the Chancellor ignored her.
Xadok Tor-Bendu spoke next, introducing himself and his crew. The man moved and carried himself in a war that sent a chill down the Chancellor's spine, it was a way all too kriffing familiar to him. But his preconceptions had to be put aside, desperation made for strange bedfellows, and these bedfellows could kill. For this mission, he didn't need people who would couch their words in platitudes and excuses, he needed killers, hunters, and the driven. The crystals, for better or worse, proved that. Majro didn't look to the Grandmaster, he didn't give a damn what she thought.
Finally, Kesh-Dan, a medic. The Chancellor's hardened, tired gaze seemed to soften as he looked at the Iridonian. Iridonia had burned several times over during the Mandalorian war, and again now against Revan. It was a vital planet and a vital staging ground for conflicts, so even now it could not be released from the fires of conflict. Here was a man who had given himself for a better cause, a cause for the Republic, surely. But what did he get in return? Forced into the desperation of taking a job such as this.
One of Tor-Bendu's crewmates asked a very pertinent question, so the Supreme Chancellor took that as his queue to speak. Standing up from his table, he spoke once more,"You have explained, and proven, yourselves. I thank you. Your question about the nature of this mission, about whether or not it is a suicide mission, is valid. I understand where you're coming from, and I want you to know this concern is on my heart as much as yours. I will answer you in a word, no. This is not a suicide mission."
Stepping away from the table, he stepped toward the direction of the Grandmaster and continued speaking. His contempt for her was beyond obvious, but her necessity was also beyond obvious. Less than a hundred years ago, the Supreme Chancellor of the Republic had been killed by a so-called 'Dark Lord' on the floor of the Senate. He could not take chances.
"The only reason I have called you here before me and not simply arraigned this meeting with a Bounty board is simple, the amount of money I am about to offer you is beyond anything any job will ever pay you. It is an amount of money that will set you, your family, and your bloodline on a path of wealth and decadence for the foreseeable future and beyond. It is an amount that I, Supreme Chancellor Majro Deen, can give with the extrajudicial powers I possess for the duration of this conflict.
"But this money is only worth anything if the Republic does not fall. It is only worth anything- if you succeed. On these datapads-"At that, the Chancellor tapped a button on the side of his desk and a row of datapads, neatly organized like ancient books, revealed themselves from inside the desk. He gestured for those gathered to each take one as he continued,"-Is all information we have gathered so far on Revan and the origin of his seemingly endless material stream. We are not asking you to, by a miracle of fate, destroy Revan or Revan's factories. We are not asking for the impossible. We need only one thing from you, one piece of information worth more than can be imagined."
He paused there, looking each sentient and machine in their eyes, or at least where their eyes would be, before continuing once more,"We need only the location. However you acquire it, whatever you must do, whomever you must kill, it must be done. We must have the location of Revan's factories. If, after reading the datapads, you decide this is too dangerous, the Republic understands. You will not be sanctioned or arrested, nor will you gain anything by taking this information to Revan himself. He most assuredly knows of our plans, and we can only assume he believes you will all fail. So you cannot fail."
He stopped there, moving back toward his seat and practically falling into it. His speech was well practiced, so well that it seemed as though it were just the natural flow of his conversation. He believed in his words, but even he did not believe this would work. The Grandmaster, sighing deeply, stayed silent throughout it all. At her sigh, something in the Chancellor seemed to break, and his script left him as he added, "It's all kriffing rancor shit, Revan might as well be a dark kriffing magician from a bad holodrama. We would bash him to death with a thousand Hammerhead cruisers if we could just be sure he would not rise from his bloody pulp even stronger."
Rubbing his tired eyes, he muttered, "We just need the chance."
Corre, neatly, retrieved a datapad for both herself and Verse, the latter of whom seemed she wished to be anywhere but here. As she returned to her seat, handing the pad to her sister, she felt her jaw lock, an involuntary response to the Chancellor's speech. More specifically, a single section of it, something that resonated with the young Sith.
And we can only assume he believes you will all fail.
It took a considerable amount of willpower for Corre to keep silent, to avoid protesting the thought. Revan had failed to kill her. She was still alive, she had managed to avoid his assassins since. Corre Kesyk would not fail.
As she idly read the data contained on the pads, as her mind stewed in her odd form of meditation, she let another smirk creep on to her lips. No, she wouldn't fail. It mattered not if she or Verse were the ones to discover where the Dark Lord's fleet was coming from, all that mattered was that it would make him weak. With those assembled, and with her at their backs, gently directing their efforts from the shadows, there was no chance this plan would fail. "We will get our chance, Grand Chancellor. Of that, I am certain."
Finally, her eyes managed to being to parse some of the information contained on the datapad. Always the multitasker, however, and knowing she and her sister would need transport, Corre spoke, directed towards the one who had given the long winded speech. "Pilot- apologies, Wyrton I believe? My sister and I, unfortunately, do not have a ship to ourselves currently. This task is dangerous. I believe it would be the best for both of us if we were to work together." She took a brief break from reading to glance his direction. "I don't mean to imply you can't handle yourself, but... well. There's not a warrior in the galaxy who could take this task on alone."
Celtar felt the ire of quite a few people in the room focus on him as they defaulted to defending themselves. It would be hilarious if it wasn't so sad. Their disturbing need to come to their own defense with words rather than with actions told him all he needed to know. Words didn't matter, actions mattered. They were pathetic. Then again, that's why they were here. The Republic was pathetic. The Jedi were pathetic. Even Revan, in his own way, was pathetic. Unlike those who spoke to their defense, Celtar had no need to do so. Their opinions didn't matter.
Their prospects were horrifying. Two edgy young adults who were apparently still catty teenagers at heart; they were more likely to get themselves killed trying to show how good they were than they were to help. A moisture farmer; he was so far out of his element that he couldn't even tell. A drug-addled sex addict; he actually sorta liked the Ubese fighter, if only because she flipped off the Jedi Grandmaster. A walking carpet and his overly-talkative friend; they were definitely overcompensating for something if they brought Kyber crystals to the meeting despite not knowing much about what would be talked about. A veteran medic; he just wanted to do something to make a difference and make up for all of those he couldn't save or whatever else he told himself for the reason he was really here. A droid who had more in common with a vending machine than something of actual use to the mission. And bringing up the pack was a humanoid who asked if it was a suicide mission but didn't have the bantha balls needed to actually stand up for herself.
As the Chancellor spoke, Celtar tried his best to avoid making any faces. Key word being tried. With every sentence came increasingly sarcastic looks and gestures that didn't stop even when the Chancellor locked eyes with the grizzled, unkempt face of Wyrton Skithurn. If anything, they only increased in both quantity and quality. As if to add insult to injury, he tossed another pill into his mouth and swallowed it with an audible 'ahh.'
When the Chancellor finally sat, Celtar moved around his chair and towards the desk. He took not only the proffered datapad but also the datapad from the Ubese, if only because he was particularly interested in what she had been watching. He was careful to disguise his movements, blocking his actions from the Ubese with his body and stepping close to the desk so that hopefully few would be able to see what he was doing. He took a look around the room and looked back at the Supreme Chancellor and the Jedi Grandmaster. "You're both pathetic," he said before turning back and beginning to walk towards the office's entrance. "You're all pathetic."
Taking care to avoid the Wookiee's reach, Celtar continued to speak as he made his way through the spacious, ornate room. "Funnily enough, I only need one limb to pilot a ship and even that's a stretch. To take me out, though, you'd need to use those fancy little claws of yours." More steps, more trash talking, though Celtar didn't even look back at the room as he left. "But we wouldn't want you to be a madclaw, would we?" His gait faltered for just few moments as he opened the door, staring a guard in the face as a result of the guard's inaction. One of the edgy kids had spoken to him and Celtar could only sigh. "I'm going to The Rancor Pit, it's a diner in sector A-22. I'll be there in an hour or two, or might it be three? I've got something way more important than Revan to deal with. Anyone who wants to fight and die for the Chancellor or, more importantly, me, can meet me there."
And with that, Celtar departed the meeting. He had work to do.
As the introductions and speeches continued, and various demonstrations were slapped down onto tables, Verse let her eyes drift closed. She focused in on the drum-beat of her heart and the sharp spikes of pain in her head, letting them spin out into the room until the whole chamber was mapped out in front of her. As for the Chancellor’s explanation, well, it wasn't that she wasn't listening, exactly--she was just meditating. It made it a little easier to cope with the noise.
Blah blah blah "not a suicide mission" blah blah blah "money" blah blah blah "the location of Revan's factories" blah blah blah "datapads" blah blah blah sighhhhh.
That last one came from the Grandmaster. Very disapproving. Verse cracked an eye open as the chancellor lost his place in the script and defaulted to oh-no-swearing.
"You got something to add, miss Grandmaster?"
That wasn't an intimidation tactic; Verse genuinely couldn't remember the name. Corre would probably scold her for that later. Although Corre was busy chatting up the talky pilot from earlier. That tracked; she was probably thinking of him as a mark. Maybe she wouldn't notice. Something about a meeting at a diner? Cool. More noise. More people. Maybe Corre would let her stay behind. Blehhhhhhhh.
It was quite the strange group of people, wasn’t it? Not often the chambers were host to both a moisture farmer and a prize fighter, but trying times bred strange bedfellows and all that. Not that she had any real use for a bed, or that organics seemed to actually become bedfellows in trying times with any regularity. Very strange.
A0I scrolled through the offered datapad, a subroutine portioned off to take in the information as she kept her attention to the room. It was nice to segment your brain at times, especially in busy rooms such as these. The talkative pilot seemed irate, but from what she had gathered that seemed to be a common affliction for the man.
“The offer is nice, however I must say I find the secret of Revan’s industrial base to be far more interesting than the credits.” Aoi said. Her attention turned back towards the other gathered members of the room as talk of book passage on a ship popped up, it seemed the two Sith had found a ship for themselves but others might still be in need of transportation. “My ship currently contains several square meters of unused space that can be converted into habitation should it be necessary.” she paused for a moment, as if contemplating something before speaking again.
Xadok remained standing as the last of the party introduced himself—an Iridonian medic, wholly unremarkable in his eyes. Hardly a footnote, much less an obstacle. He was just about to raise a question to the Supreme Chancellor when someone else pitched in with a question of their own. Came from a familiar voice, too. Xadok didn't need to turn around to know that it was Yal who spoke, but he did so nonetheless, offering his pilot a nod and a smile that conveyed one remark: 'Good initiative.'
Standing there, he listened on as the Supreme Chancellor laid out the details of the contract in just a few choice sentences. Short and succinct, just the way Xadok liked it. Then he used a couple more sentences to go rather ballistic, conveying his frustrations about the situation at hand with a generous sprinkling of swears. Also just the way he liked it. Almost reminded him of his time corsairing through the Outer Rim with the old crew, that. Despite himself, Xadok couldn't help but chuckle, finding it all amusing. Whole thing sure took the cake for the most interesting contract he'd ever taken - will ever take, perhaps - in his life.
"Worry not, Chancellor, we'll give you your chance. After all, you've promised us more than enough incentive to do that. What was it you said—wealth and decadence for the foreseeable future and beyond? With that type of pay, believe me, we'll deliver." Approaching the table, he took only one of the proffered datapad for himself and proceeded to skim through it. After a moment, he furrowed his brows at the intel found within, putting into memory a few of the leads he knew he and his crew would be able to pursue immediately, before whistling in amazement when he saw the true amount of credits offered for the completion of the job. "Fierfek. Wealth and decadence indeed."
Turning in the direction of his crew, he approached them and handed the datapad over to Kallak'kar for him and the rest to read. At roughly the same time, the pilot - Wyrton - went on with another one of his diatribes before leaving. Simple and succinct, opened up by calling the Supreme Chancellor and Grandmaster pathetic before then directing it towards everyone else as well. He then went so far as to poke the literal dormant giant that was Kallak'kar by taunting him openly, which drew a laugh out of Xadok. Half out of amusement, half out of amazement. The man had balls, that was for sure.
"Ooooh, he just called you a madclaw there, my friend." He teased his albino friend, clapping him on his shoulder as he did. "You going to sit there and take that from a junkie?"
Fortunately, the pilot was already making tracks towards the door, putting space between himself and Kallak'kar's reach. Even so, his infamous temper aside, Xadok knew his friend was never going to attempt any rash moves. Not here, in any case. He was no simple brute, despite what everyone else might think. He and Kallak'kar were very much similar in that regard. And besides, madclaw was hardly an insult for him.
Hand still on his friend's shoulder, Xadok gave him a few reassuring pats, the veiled message in the gesture known only to the two of them. Soon.
"Don't mix those pills with caf, pilot, I heard it's bad for you," Xadok called out teasingly towards the pilot's retreating back as he left the room, shortly after he announced his future whereabouts to everyone after being offered a partnership by the two Sith Sisters (Sithsters?). Following that, Xadok turned towards his crew, lowering his voice only slightly and still smirking at the thought of the interaction that had just occurred. "I like that man, he's funny. We should deal with him last if it comes down to it. Don't want to deprive the galaxy of his witty commentary."
Having said that, he once again looked at the Supreme Chancellor, approaching the man's table to better address him. "Well, Chancellor, me and my crew thanks you for your time, as well as for the opportunity you've given us. Rest assured, we'll see to it that we do what needs be done. And truth be told, creds aside, the title of 'Heroes of the Republic' does sound nice for me and mine." He winked, then, once for the Supreme Chancellor and again for the Jedi Grandmaster. "Next time we meet face-to-face, I expect you'll be handing us our pay and congratulate us for a job well done."
Giving one last parting smirk, he turned and walked back towards his crew. "Anyhow, we won't waste any more of your precious time, Chancellor. I saw the line outside—" A look back at the Chancellor, and a grimace (not entirely feigned) spread across his face. "—and let me tell you: You still have a long day ahead of you."
With that said, he then gestured for his crew to follow him outside, having completed all that needed to be done here in the heart of the Senate.
"Come now, my fellow blackhearts, let's blow this kriffhole. And to the rest of you here, best of luck—you'll all need it."
Probably the last place in the galaxy Kallak'karr expected him and his crew to touch down for a contract meeting, those in the underbelly had heard of this quite novel technology called holocomms so they seldom risked their skin by inviting killers - professionals or otherwise - to their doorstep. The grand, holier-than-thou Republic, though? Calling for a meeting so important an official issued contract or tertiary spokesperson could not handle themselves? That was the big leagues alright. Big payout too. One caveat, he'd wager: they most likely weren't expected to come out of it alive.
Kallak'karr was forest-born and raised, the assault of scents and noises on his senses had been dulled by all those years following Xadok into one cesspool after the other, and still the heart of the Republic was something else altogether. Awful to hear and smell, and no better to look at. City was a mass of grey, just the kind of lifeless husk of a world you'd expect from a parasite-infested druk. And where else were they expected if not into it's beating heart.
The Senators looked even less imposing when seen up-close, their little fragile limbs flapping about, only matched by their frail little egos. A true sight of how Revan's onslaught sliced through that weak apathetic government of theirs. Enormous fleets, an order of mythical warriors unlike any order, and yet all they could do was sit back as Mandalore the Ultimate hunted their worlds like a Katarn would a Kkryytch. It was but a matter of time until the Revanchists turned their sights on the pathetic bureaucracy of their allies, there is no predator that could resist the scent of easy blood.
The Republic's desperation, however, begets opportunity for him and his.
Xadok knew as much, the boy was smart enough to see the direction where credits flown the most, by this point in time Kallak'karr could trust him to handle negotiations on his own, all he had to do was sit there and let his species's fame do the rest. The other folk on the room? Not so lucky. You had the sisterly duo - talented, perhaps, but still green -, the elderly reject way past his prime but who still loved the sound of his own voice, yet another bounty hunter all by his lonesome - confidence or hubris, only time could tell-, an arena fighter way out of their depth and, most importanly, a sales droid who could definitely prove useful if not for better prices alone.
Everyone said their piece, negotiations being as short as one would expect, this was not the type of contract the Supreme Chancellor had much choice on who to trust or not trust, and as soon as the datapad fell on Xadok's hands, Kallak'karr's mind begun to work on a few possibilities of wheres, whos and whens. Only to be immediately brought out of it by the old coot's ramblings once more. "<<That a promise, moof-milker?>>" He growled viciously, dark talons poking out of his white fur. "<<Fortunately for you, I've seen harder prey inside a sandcrawler.>>" The madclaw added before following Xadok out of the room. "<<Afraid there won't be a last for us to deal with, boy. Man's gonna run his mouth straight into a Mandalorian veteran, and then straight seven feet under.>>"
The longer he stayed upon Coruscant, the less he cared for it.
The worst of it, he found, were the memories attached to the halls of the Temple, though the urban sprawl bore remnants of a more peaceful time for both himself and for the Order. A time where Ulten Syvor was not a Sith neophyte; a time where Awarani Tor was still alive. He avoided the Temple upon Coruscant for that very reason, and had taken to living in a spartan sort of apartment within the capital.
His routine was the same as every day. Wake up. Nurse the headache. Drink. Practice his form within his sitting room, where he had moved all furniture out to replace with a singular mat and a rack for training equipment. Forget that he has a meeting to attend with the Supreme Chancellor. Sit on his bed; stare out the window at the passing hovertraffic. Drink. Meet with contemporaries over a holopad; appear more sober than he actually was. Ignore the headache. Step onto the balcony, smoke a cigarette. Finally work up the appetite to eat something; drink afterwards. Fail to ignore the headache; lay in bed. Skip the second meeting that required he come to the Temple. Remember, now, that he has a meeting with the Supreme Chancellor. Drink, if not purely based on that fact alone. Put on robes. Don't forget the saber; never forget the saber.
Leave. Drink a bit more; the mask would hide the alcohol on his breath. Take a public hovercraft; he didn't trust himself to drive. Ignore the glances from the passengers who gawked, who judged, because the Republic hardly knew there were Jedi that remained. Leave the hovershuttle. Walk straight. Ignore the despairing protests outside the Senate Building, and ignore the worse cries from within its chambers. Walk straight. Be calm. Ignore the line that led to the private meeting chambers of the Senate. Ignore the budding malaise. Take out the flask hidden in an inner pocket, and ignore the burn as it slid down the throat. A bit of courage for the road. Look at the guards expectantly. He was a Jedi, after all. The position carried respect, once upon a time.
Aorri pushed in through the double doors to a nearly-wrapped conversation, and quietly took a seat beside the Grandmaster, lifting a chair from its stacked position and setting it shakily upon the ground with a twist and flick of the fingers. Sloppy work, but if he didn't want to lose it entirely, he'd need to flex the muscle the Force represented. He gave an idle nod to the band of mercenaries that were keen to leave as soon as he'd entered; it was a knowing greeting. Aorri was familiar with them-- the leader Xadok, at least. The rest, he paid the bare pittance of acknowledgement to, his migraine still very much present.
Quietly, he observed the gathered group, two fingers rubbing at his temple as he leaned back and sighed. Some were recognizable-- others were vaguely familiar, and others entirely new. Rather than intrude upon the pissing contest that mercenaries were apt to start when within any vicinity of one another, he looked to the Grandmaster beside him, eyes downcast by the shadow of his erkush mask.
"What did I miss." He asked, simply-- a gravelly voice beset by the accent common amongst Kaleesh and a reserved, flowing softness that had been refined from an inebriated slur over the years of his condition. An apology for his tardiness would have been a lie; he was not sorry for nearly missing whatever this was. "Or should you fill me in after whatever this is has concluded."
Oh frak this. It will be a hot day on Hoth bef...oh...oh
The numbers shown on the datapad silenced the fighter's thoughts as dreams of retiring somewhere exotic and just being absolutely blitzed on spice for the foreseeable forever filled her thoughts. Naturally, this was ruined when the goddamn hallucination did its best to get her attention. Sorry, but no. Koushhk had already played that game enough times. Unsubscribed.
Be gone, old man. Just accept that you're dead and leave me the fuck alone.
Seeing some of the others leave, the Ubese fighter decided that was a good time to slip out themselves. Packing up their own personal datapad, she discreetly slipped the datapad the Chancellor had provided into her bag. Free stuff was free stuff after all. Wait...no...this wasn't her datapad. Where the kriff had her goddamn datapad gone?
...did she even bring it?
The fighter decided that she just couldn't be fragged to figure that out right now. She'd just made the door when she caught the tail-end of the conversation between the dead man who wasn't real and the mercenaries.
Walking out as the white Wookiee spoke, Koushhk looked at him for a moment before typing.
Mandalorian...s. Least... of Problem...s. Right?
Flashing a quick thumbs-up, Koushhk simply drifted through the crowd. Whether this was some special Ubesian technique or just because she was smaller than many in this particular crowd was anyone's guess. What was clear was that the short warrior had business elsewhere.