w! Watch where you’re going, Bep!>,” Kliish’kra shouted to his companion in their native Ryl.
Beppy stumbled into his Rutian companion as they passed a curious-looking vendor’s stand. His attention was captured by a Mandalorian standing watch over a clan of jawas
bartering apparent Zakuulan tech to a prospective Chevin customer.
The Sons of Ryloth crew had been stranded on Vendaxa for weeks now, unable to safely transport their stolen Imperial medical supplies to their homeworld. Even in the time they’d been here, Beppy had been perplexed and amazed at the variety of patrons and sights here at the Point Nelere underworld outpost. The inquisitive green twi’lek was regularly distracted by all manner of bizarre sightings at the post.
“<Knock it off, you two>,” Jil, the crew’s captain, ordered from the head of their group.
Beppy felt Wonbolu’s firm, large hand grip his scrawny shoulder and peel him off his partner’s back. “<Keep your eyes peeled, kid. But don’t linger on anything not overly threatening too long>,” the former Republic Army sergeant advised.
Beppy offered an embarrassed smile in response before looking back at the various vendors, customers, criminals, tourists, refugees, pirates, and other interesting persons moving through the plaza.
There was a small group, apparently a family, of Zakuulan war refugees looking for assistance back to their liberated homeworld. Four green-skinned Rodian pirates hassled with four brown-furred Wookiees over pelts. Even the prominent Czerka Corporation operated an official vendor stand here. Point Nelere was very much like a smaller version of Nar Shaddaa, albeit with more pleasant smells and abundant natural flora.
The troop of four twi’leks, each sporting a different skin tone, made a beeline through the maze of vendor stalls of Point Nelere’s Merchant’s Plaza on their way to the local watering hole.
After weeks on Vendaxa, Jil finally secured an introduction with a prominent pirate group that could possible help the Twi’lek fugitives elude Imperial and Hutt Cartel patrols in the Gaulus sector. Jil and his crew were eager to return to their beleaguered homeworld with much needed medical supplies but knew well they were on the watch list of every local and Imperial law enforcement agency.
Before the Zakuulan era, officials could be easily bribed to look the other way when a flagged ship like theirs entered a local system. The strain on resources had impacted everyone though, and corrupt bureaucrats were now more likely to double-dip, taking bribes from smugglers to allow them through customs, then turning them over to Imperial or Cartel authorities for a bounty reward.
The four wanderers finally made it out of the jungle of vendor stalls and set out on the path down toward the local cantina. Since arriving on Vendaxa, they’d spent considerable time in the establishment, which was built into ancient ruins.
Today, they were to meet with a contact arranged by one of the local vendors. The cantina occupied a tower on the south-side of the outpost and should have been a familiar, welcome site to the anxious Bep’fukif. But today, he fretted about his crew’s dealings with the pirates, and hoped his captain would be able to secure an amenable deal that would soon see them safely home on Ryloth.
espite his new attire, appropriate even to this setting, Ad’enn knew he stood out in this crowd. Seated at a table in the shadowy rear of the Point Nelere cantina, Ad’enn’s balding head still sported a Republic Navy regulation-compliant haircut, with neatly trimmed black mustache to match.
His appearance was a stark contrast to the pirate sub-lieutenant seated next to him. The hulking Cathar male wore a dirty, unkempt brown mane crowning his blue fur. He wore several piercings on his left ear, half his mane was braided, and he bore the scars of an experienced interstellar pirate.
Seated at theirs and the table next to them, several Killer Queen Fleet crewmembers lounged around, playing pazaak, enjoying local brews, or seeking fights with other patrons.
The cantina’s customers were as diverse as the vendors, customers, tourists, and other denizens of the marketplace outside. The cantina itself was well-lit, with a variety of lights and holosigns illuminating the ancient structure it was built into. Indeed, spotting a comfortably obscure corner to hole up in had forced the Killer Queens to muscle out the area’s previous occupants. Ad’enn noted the high humidity level which accentuated the various smells of sweat, liquor, fried food, and other unsavory aromas emanating from the cantina and its varied customers.
Ad’enn of course was here because of his recent dealings with the Killer Queens. After arranging to provide intel on a makeshift Republic supply depot on Rishi and participating in a raid on the facility, he accompanied the pirates to Vendaxa where they’d cut up the loot and given him his share. Ad’enn accepted a less-than-desirable share of the profits in return for transport to Point Nelere and the possibility of enlistment in the pirate gang’s ranks. He developed the suspicion since arriving that Vinzago, the pirate group’s leader, might be interested in keeping him around to advise on more prospective Republic naval supply targets. He wondered if the pirate leader would keep him around, or even allow him to live, unless he proved useful in that regard.
A few days had not been enough for Ad’enn to merely discard his military training and adopt the life of a pirate. As he sat next to Rokin, his Cathar handler, he carefully reconnoitered the room.
One group in particular caught his eye. Situated in a similarly dark corner at the opposite end of the room, Ad’enn noted an ominous-looking figure staring straight at him. Though seated at a table, the menacing-looking human probably stood over six-and-a-half feet tall if he were standing and looked to weigh over two-hundred pounds. The hulking figure bore a long scar over his pearl-white left eye and had a triangular hat that gave him away as a pirate.
Turning from his conversation with another Killer Queen crewmember, Rokin checked on the former Republic naval officer. Spotting keen interest in his eyes, he followed his gaze across the room.
Quickly turning back to Ad’enn, Rokin punched his knee, causing him to spill some of his beverage on the gritty table.
“Hey! What gives?!,” Ad’enn protested.
“Keep your eyes down, ace. I don’t need you stirring up trouble here,” ordered the hulking blue Cathar.
Ad’enn shrugged, “What gives? Who are those guys?,” he inquired, gesturing to the one-eyed human and the entourage surrounding him at his table.
Rokin looked back to the assembled group across the room before turning back to Ad’enn.
“Stygian Slaughterers. You’d better steer clear. Got me?”
Shrugging again, Ad’enn fired off an incredulous look at his companion, awaiting an explanation.
Sighing, Rokin finally relented. “Pirates originating from out around the Stygian Caldera. Lot o’ mystery to that crew. Rumor is they were victims of Imperial subjugation on multiple Outer Rim worlds in the years before the Sith Empire decided to show its face in the galaxy again. Got their start raiding and pillaging Imperial worlds around the Stygian Caldera, adopting the same violent methods the Empire used on the worlds they’re from. Took a real beating when the Empire revealed itself, forced them further into the Outer Rim.”
The Cathar paused a moment to itch his mane. “Rumors say a lot of their current crew are former Imperial Navy blokes who were either disgusted with the Empire’s treatment of civilians on conquered worlds or disgusted that the Slaughterers made more money than them,” he finished with a smirk. “That big fella with the pearly eye… ‘Oclar,’ I think they call him. You stay clear of ‘em! We have business here and I don’t need you foulin’ it up!,” he barked.
Ad’enn threw his hands up in a surrendering gesture and resumed his attention to his drink. He afforded one final look to the pirate terrors across the room before continuing his scan of the room.
He caught two Advozse males with strikingly similar appearances staring at him as well from the cantina bar. Another punch to the knee punctured his attention to the twins.
“Look alive,” Rokin commanded. “They’re here.”
Ad’enn sat up on the couch as he witnessed four Twi’leks, all bearing unique skin tones, enter the cantina and head for his table.
eppy’s foot clipped the final step as he completed his ascent into the Point Nelere cantina. Reaching out to stabilize his fall, he gripped his Rutian crewmate’s shoulder, earning him another disapproving gaze from his friend.
“<Over there>,” Jil stated, indicating an unsavory-looking band of pirates in a corner.
The crew of twi’leks maneuvered through the room, drawing little attention in the diverse setting of bizarre patrons. As they approach one of the table, Beppy took note of a balding human whose haircut and facial features didn’t mark him as a rugged interstellar criminal. The figure was a stark contrast to the hulking, menacing Cathar sitting next to him. That seemed to be the leader of this particular band of cutthroats, as Jil led the party straight toward him.
Nodding at the yellow-skinned twi’lek as he approached, the Cathar greeted the group with a simple acknowledgement, gesturing to the empty seats across the table. “Captain, right on time. Very punctual of you.”
“We have important business to discuss,” Jil responded in clear Basic. He sat opposite the Cathar and human. Kliish’kra settled into the seat on his right, and Beppy plopped down directly opposite of the thus silent human. Wonbo stood toweringly over his comrades, carefully taking note of the cantina’s patrons in his immediate area, assessing for threats.
Beppy offered a weak smile to the human, who responded with a brief nod. Even with the wild myriad of customers and workers in the cantina, the human had a strange air about him Beppy couldn’t quite place.
“I’d like to get straight to it,” Jil started. “We need to get back to Ryloth as soon as possible, but certain… complications prevent us from getting there safely. We’ve been advised the Killer Queens can secure safe passage for us.”
Rokin threw up a hand in a halting gesture. “Whoa there, captain. Slow down.” The massively-built Cathar leaned back comfortably in his seat. “Now I happen to know for a fact that your merry band of do-gooders has a considerable price on your head. The Empire’ll pay a hefty bounty for information on your capture. Hell… you boys have knocked off loot from the Thila system
, the Gauntlet Shipyards
, the Paragons Covenant
Beppy’s face become contorted, expressing his clear confusion. He looked quickly to his captain for an explanation.
“You’ve got it all wrong,” Jil explained. “We’ve been on Vendaxa for weeks since… coming into possession of Imperial medical supplies on Tatooine. We haven’t been to any of the places you’ve said,” the captain professed sincerely.
“Sure,” Rokin offered with a smirk. Sighing heavily, the Cathar glanced suspiciously around the room before leaning toward the twi’lek captain. “Alright look, my people can help arrange for your passage to Ryloth. We can get you there, but getting out again will be your problem. And it’ll cost ya.”
“Forty percent’s our price.”
“<Forty percent?!>,” Kliish’kra pronounced loudly.
Jil nudged his companion’s arm to silence him. “Forty percent can’t happen. We’re not expecting a major payoff anyway. The medical supplies we’re moving are for twi’leks suffering on Ryloth.”
Rokin shrugged. “Not my problem, captain. Forty-percent is our going rate.”
The twi’lek captain sighed heavily, rubbing his chin as he considered their situation. “Look… forty percent obviously can’t happen. How else can we arrange payment?”
Rokin shot a knowing smirk and wink at Ad’enn before returning his attention to the twi’leks. Nodding, he finally offers, “We can do twenty percent. A special fee for you boys… but you’ll owe us something else.”
“Owe you what?,” Jil inquires pointedly.
“A job. One job. Your crew has a knack for evading Cartel and Imperial authorities. We’ll require your service to move some goods after you’ve gotten your precious medical supplies to those suffering saps on Ryloth.”
The green hue on Beppy’s face turned slightly red as he became flush with anger at this remorseless criminal’s exploitation of their situation and disregard for his people’s suffering.
“Fine,” Jil responded quickly. “Twenty percent, and one job.” Rising, the twi’lek extended his arm across the table.
Rising as well, Rokin reached out to grip Jil’s hand, accepting the gesture. “You boys can head back to your ship tonight. Someone will be along this evening to get you the details. Glad we could do business, captain. Don’t get killed on your way to Ryloth. It’d violate the terms of our contract,” the pirate said with a smirk.
Kliish’kra and Beppy rose as well, and followed their captain out the door. Beppy wondered why, with all the suffering people were experiencing in the galaxy due to limited fuel, medicine, food, and other supplies, people could not help each other out. He turned and took a final glance at the Cathar and human pirates talking privately before following his captain back into the humid atmosphere of Vendaxa.
riffing suckers,” Rokin harshly observed as the four twi’leks departed the cantina.
Ad’enn raised a disapproving eyebrow at Rokin’s indifference. The Cathar simply rolled his eyes and turned to one of his other crewmates. As Rokin began issuing orders concerning the fresh business dealings with the twi’leks, Ad’enn rose from his grimy seat.
“Where the hell are you going? We have business tonight,” Rokin inquired.
“Yeah, tonight. I’m going to hit up the shops one final time before we get going. Maybe catch a few hours’ sleep too,” the former Republic naval officer explained.
“Take someone with you,” the Cathar ordered.
“We’ve been here for days. I can see myself around.” With that, Ad’enn stepped away from the table and made a beeline for the bar on his way to the exit. Looking down into his satchel of credits freshly earned from the Rishi job, he abruptly stopped as two figures blocked his path. The two twin Advozse that had been watching him earlier stood between him and the doorway.
“<Going somewhere, captain?>,” one of the twins queried in his native Advb tongue.
Ad’enn felt a cold shiver run up his spine. Just my luck
, he thought.
“You boys have me confused with someone else. Excuse me.” Attempting to step around the alien pair, one of the twins stepped in his path.
“<In a hurry, captain?>,” the other alien asked. “<You remember your old friends the Beel Brothers don’t you? Bregg, and my brother Brekk>,” the alien said, gesturing to his companion.
Ad’enn mustered his military training to mask his apprehension at this unexpected surprise. “Look fellas, you got the wrong guy. Sorry. Now if you don’t mind.” Again, he side-stepped around the brothers, this time unopposed, and made directly for the exit under the watchful eyes of the Advozse twins.
He could feel their gaze on his back. Making his way up to the market, he ducked into the crowd of visitors, tourists, and market customers. Ad’enn cut a seemingly directionless path through the mob, stopping occasionally at a random vendor stall to feign interest in some exotic product while checking back to ensure he wasn’t being followed. He continued his misleading path all the way to the end of the market. Satisfied he was travelling unobserved, he ducked behind a few shops on the outskirts of the market before finally breaking his way into the thick Vendaxa jungle.
d’enn trudged slowly through the dense Vendaxa jungle. Having trekked over a kilometer away from Point Nelere, the heat from the planet’s harsh sun coupled with the overbearing humidity had him drenched in sweat. At long last, he finally reached the designated drop point in the jungle.
Above him, the ceiling-like cover provided by the thick jungle broke into a small opening, the sun’s light shining down on a handful of supply crates surreptitiously left in the middle of the jungle. Ad’enn proceeded to the containers and retrieved a canteen of water from one, a standard part of the undercover operative’s field package. The officer thirstily devoured several gulps of the warm, stale water before removing his jacket and blaster belt, setting both on the crate.
Turning his attention to a separate container, Ad’enn unclasped its latches and opened it to reveal standard long-range military communications equipment. After consuming another few sips of water, he began assembling the transmitter.
Ad’enn labored for several minutes in the sweltering heat, assembling the communications device. Crouched over the equipment, he was startled by the snap of a branch behind him. Immediately presuming that a local predator may have been watching him in the small clearing for some time, he retrieved a curiously purposed grenade from his pocket.
He previously purchased the ordnance from a bizarre clan of Mandalorian-associated jawas in the Point Nelere marketplace. It was actually one of two specially purposed grenades he procured. Not actually fragmentary or other standard military-issue ordnance, this particular grenade possessed a repellant to deter potential acklay predators from attacking. Contrarily, the other grenade harbored a vial of attractant, drawing a prospective acklay attacker to a desired area.
Careful to conceal his actions but moving swiftly, he cautiously removed the vial of repellant from the grenade’s carriage. Removing the vial’s cap, he proceeded to dowse his color and the front of his shirt with the foul-smelling fluid.
Slowly, the officer turned to confront his would-be attacker. Finally catching sight of the intruder, Ad’enn spotted a brown-skinned lemnai standing on a log in the shade, observing him intently. Immediately, the officer’s nerves calmed as the non-threatening creature ran off into the jungle. The lemnai were nocturnal beasts; he must have disturbed its resting place when he arrived at the drop point. Refocusing his attention to the communications equipment, he concluded its assembly and fired up its power generator, preparing to transmit a heavily encrypted message.
“Bluespell to command. Authorization number one-three-one-one-aurek-resh-six. Come in, command, over.”
“Command to Bluespell, we read you. Authorization confirmed. Proceed with your report, over.”
“Bluespell reporting. Target terrorist group designated Head-tails confirmed present and active on site Point Nelere in Vendaxa system. Suggest immediate apprehension of priority target, over.”
“Roger, Bluespell. Operation for apprehension of target designate Head-tails at Point Nelere, Vendaxa confirmed. Proceed with your cover and stand by for further instruction, over.”
“Roger, command. Instructions understood. Bluespell out.”
As Ad’enn shut down the transmitter, he jumped at another snapping noise behind him. Surely this time an actual predator was approaching. And he was right!
The officer spun around just as the Advozse Beel Brothers emerged from the jungle behind him, a ferocious intent in their eyes. One of the twins fired a blaster bolt at the ground between Ad’enn’s feet.
“<Hold it right there, captain!>,” a brother commanded as Ad’enn helplessly threw his arms up in surrender.
Ad’enn immediately began assessing his situation. The two brothers advanced into the small clearing, both with single blasters drawn. Both brothers approached him directly, but his blaster belt rested on another crate a few meters away. Unlike Point Nelere, where the staff strictly prohibited violent outbursts between patrons, out here in the Vendaxa jungles the strongest predators reigned supreme. Ad’enn silently cursed his situation as his apprehension about his predicament began to build.
One of the brother’s glanced over at the assembled military-grade communications equipment as they approached. “<I knew we hadn’t mistaken your identity. Thought you could escape the vengeance of the Beel Brothers did you, captain?>”
“Fellas, like I told you before, you’re making a terrible mistake.”
The two aliens finally halted several meters away from the helpless officer, blasters pointed squarely at his chest.
“No mistake! It’s you! You’re the one that arranged for us to be taken into custody on Sullust! You remember our youngest brother, Brell? The poor lad didn’t survive that hell of a prison you sent us to!”
Ad’enn’s mind rapidly processed his options for extricating himself from this quandary, but he had to concede that he had almost no options here.
Suddenly, the sound of another large snapping noise echoed through the jungle and into the small clearing where the three figures were engaged in their standoff. Until the previous two instances, it sounded this time as if a small tree had been snapped in two.
The ominous sound was succeed by the threatening, throat cries of a monstrous acklay. With tremendous force, the beast effortlessly broke through the jungle foliage and into the small clearing to the side of Ad’enn and his pursuers.
The two brothers darted immediately back toward the Point Nelere outpost, but determined not to led Ad’enn escape, they assumed a defensive posture behind some of the large trees at the edge of the clearing.
Ad’enn simply dropped down to his stomach to mask his presence from the massive predator. The beast cried and screamed vigorously, sending a fearful chill up Ad’enn’s spine. Instantly, he remembered he already steeped his clothing in the acklay repellent, but still had the grenade of attractant fluid!
A blaster bolt slammed into the crate behind which he was concealed. Apparently the brothers decided to divert their attention between him and the acklay. Rolling to his side, he retrieved the grenade containing the vial of attractant fluid. He quickly pulled the pin and lobbed the grenade in the direction of the brothers’ covered position.
A plume of yellow smoke enshrouded the two alien brothers and sent the acklay into a wild rage. The beast darted in the direction of the brother’s positon.
Moving quickly, Ad’enn rolled over again to initiate the transmitter’s self-destruct mechanism. Peering over the crate to find the two brothers with horrified expressions plastered on their ugly, alien faces, Ad’enn swiftly rose, retrieved his blaster belt, and darted into the jungle.
Making a wide arc away from the clearing to resume a path back toward Point Nelere, Ad’enn finally settled back into a clear, presumably unobstructed path back to the underworld outpost.
In the distance behind him, he heard the detonation of the transmitter’s self-destruct, but smiled victoriously at the horrified screams of the dying brothers overshadowed by the throaty wails of his beastly savior.
(( OOC Note: Check out the recurring Black Market event every other Friday at Point Nelere. ))