Being Trodden On

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Being Trodden On

Post by Archangel » Mon Aug 29, 2011 12:30 pm

[OOC: OOC thread here. Still plenty of room for more participants. Post in the OOC thread with questions/comments, etc.]

Radek tugged lightly at his clothing. It was civilian garb, neither the mercenary fatigues he was accustomed to, nor the Jedi robes he had come to know. It fit him loosely, which was probably because he had not bothered to acquire garments specifically in his size. The colors were all dull and drab, which fit in nicely with the environment around him.

The world was Bescane, an industrial center for the Empire. As headquarters of Galentro Heavy Works, it also controlled the shipyards at the nearby world of Jaemus. Radek had been watching and waiting. His research had led him to this world, not far from Sernpidal, where the last injustice against him had occurred. The memories were still fresh, still painful. He was glad for that; he used the pain, channeled it, into the Force around him. He exuded distrust, anger, frustration, and rebellion in the Force. In time, the whole planet would reek of insurrection. That, combined with his plans for direct manipulation, would cause a severe problem for the Empire.

The people were already angry. As an industrial world, they figured that they were a target far and above their neighbors. If the Cult of Shadow struck here, as they struck at Sernpidal, as they had struck elsewhere in the Galaxy, the Empire would be gravely wounded. Already, some people were clamoring for freedom from Imperial control. For the moment, they had been easily silenced - but Radek needed to make them louder. Radek needed to make them realize that the Empire needed to be stopped - and more than that, that it needed to be destroyed. Its interference in his life had caused too much pain. Letting it continue was something that he could not allow.

But he was no fool. He knew that he could not single-handedly destroy the Empire. But if he could cause them enough problems, then their own factions might tear themselves apart, until the other governments in the Galaxy could pick the Imperial carcass clean. This kind of manipulation would take time. It would take great power in the Force. Radek had meditated daily since Verena had died. The Force was becoming a familiar place to him. He could feel its flow, its moods. He was beginning to see ahead of himself. He knew that the Empire would send agents to stop him. He would have to be ready for them. But with a little bit of luck, they would be too late. Bescane was like a stone at the edge of a deep ravine; it just needed a little... push.

So Radek was meeting with the de facto leader of the political forces seeking independence. The other man, a human named Alan Kemen, was not an elected official, but spoke for the grass-roots element that desired to be separated from the Empire's control. Radek knew that the Cult of Shadow would not spare a world simply because it was not Imperial; he had even considered approaching the Cult itself, in order to join it, but he knew that he could not support complete destruction of life. He was an anarchist now, not an executioner. But in order to further his own goals, he had to make the Cult of Shadow a little more palatable to the people of Bescane - because otherwise, they would stick to the Empire like a mynock on a power conduit.

Kemen made periodic trips to a number of small-time juice joints, where disaffected industrial employees frittered away their time and money after a long day working for a disinterested government. Kemen made appeals to these men; some days, two dozen would join his ranks, but others, the drunks would shout him out of the bar. Radek needed to make Kemen more persuasive - the former Jedi wanted every man in every bar joining up with him. He also needed to make himself useful to Kemen. To do that, he had acquired some local civilian clothes and spent nine days sneaking in and out of factories, working on the machines and dirtying his skin and garments until he looked like a local. Meanwhile, his lightsaber was stocked away in a crate with several other personal effects he had discovered on Sernpidal; that crate was buried at the starport, where he could collect it whenever he pleased - especially since he was sleeping in a cheap hotel adjoining the starport.

While watching Kemen, Radek had detected a certain pattern in his movements - which bars he would attend and when, especially. He predicted that this bar, the Gray Sky Cantina, would be his next political target. So Radek had come here to wait. As the doors grated open, Radek noticed out of the corner of his eye that he had predicted accurately. Alan Kemen, along with a lithe young woman and a rather brutish associate, entered the cantina and approached the bar. This was fitting to Kemen's style: sit and drink with the locals before beginning the campaign speech.

It did not take long, and Kemen barely drank. Just as Radek was doing, he picked up his glass a lot, took tiny sips - if he let any past his lips at all - and generally gave the appearance of a hard drinker, although he was little more than a teetotaler. Radek smirked in admiration of the man's cleverness. He built his credibility while maintaining control of his faculties. Kemen would not need much help to get this rebellion rolling - in fact, Radek suspected, Kemen would accomplish his task eventually without any help, but it would not have the same drastic impact that a sudden and startling insurrection would have against the Empire. Especially as the Empire was trying to focus on issues with the Cult of Shadow, and other dark elements.

Kemen stood up and raised his glass high. "Gentlemen of the Gray Sky Cantina!" he called out, letting a false drunkenness slur his speech. "Let us raise a toast... to the grand and illustrious world of Bescane!" he said, dragging out the statement and drawing eyes from every corner of the bar, "May we never suffer under the heel of tyrants, governors, or Jedi ever again!" He drank his glass dry, but few others so much as sipped at theirs. Kemen continued, "But I can't say that, can I?" Now most of the bar was paying attention, if a little disdainfully. "The Empire has squeezed us like a boil on the flesh of the Galaxy! They have us enslaved to build them their ships, their guns, and their power, and what do we get? A few fat-cats at the top of our world get paid, and we get frelled. We let the companies, the wealthy, the corrupt, and the selfish run our world! And for what? A few bottles of filthy booze?" Kemen hurled the glass. It shattered on the floor of the cantina.

The bartender walked over calmly, but said angrily, "I think it's time you got out of--"

"No!" Radek shouted, standing up next to Kemen and glaring down the bartender, who backed away. "He's right! We don't mean anything to anybody, but they couldn't make their money, and they couldn't build their ships without us!" he declared. He saw one man at a table, squirming a little. Radek resisted the urge to smile; he had his target. He did not have to coerce the whole bar to join Kemen; he could coerce one or two, and the rest would follow. He walked up to the man and slammed a fist down on his table. "You, man!" he said, "You have a family, right?"

The man nodded sheepishly. "A wife and two sons."

"Two sons!" Radek said, beaming. "Two strong boys, no doubt! How old are they?"

"Four and six," the man replied.

"And what do they want to be when they grow up?"

The man smiled a little. "They both want to be pilots in the Navy."

"And how do you plan to pay for their tuition to the naval academy?" Radek asked. The man's smile disappeared. Radek continued, "And how long do you think they will last before they wash out, because the toxins the Empire forces us to pump into our air - the same ones we're forced to breathe because masks are too expensive - have weakened their lungs so that they could never survive excess gravitic forces on their bodies?" The man stared down into his drink. Radek leaned closer and said, "And how do you plan to tell them that they're going to grow up and become just like their old man, forced into a dead-end job by a bunch of selfish, greedy bureaucrats looking to collect?"

Radek reached out with the Force. The man was depressed more than angry. That had to change. He pushed at the man's mind, putting thoughts of revenge in him. He twisted his desire for hope into a quest for hope - his means of survival into a means of rebellion. A few moments later, the man looked back at Radek with a fire in his eyes. He stood up, raised his glass, and drained it. "I'm with you!" he declared.

"So am I!" another man yelled.

"And me, too!" said another.

More men surged toward the bar, shaking hands with Radek and Kemen. Kemen eyed Radek suspiciously, but Radek gave him a smile, like they were the best of friends - comrades in arms, with one mind and one goal. The two men pushed through the crowd until they shook each other's hand. Kemen said, "Thank you, friend," he said, "You are a true citizen of this world."

Radek nodded. "As are you, friend," he said, "It is time we made Bescane great again."

Radek felt that Kemen was hiding a smile as the other man said, "I am Alan Kemen, head of the Bescaneans for Independence. Who are you?"

The former Jedi smiled. "Zachary Freeman," he said, "And I'm with you, Alan Kemen. I once wanted to serve the Empire - I thought they were the best thing for this world. They taught me to fight, and then they threw me out - said I was too weak, too sick from the air here. We're better off without them. They won't save us from those that want to destroy them... we have to take care of ourselves, for the hope of our children, and our children's children."

Kemen smiled. "My sentiments exactly, friend Zachary," he said, "They taught you to fight, you say?"

"Imperial Commandos," he said, "I was going to be the best. But they destroyed my potential. And I don't want them to destroy the potential of any more of Bescane's children."

Kemen nodded. "Then come with us. I think we would do well to have one as passionate as you among us."

Radek still smiled. Total insurrection was almost within his grasp. The Empire would regret what it had done to him.

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Beorht
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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Beorht » Mon Aug 29, 2011 9:54 pm

Sith Academy
Elom
Sith'ari Centrality


"Come in, come in, out of the snow."

The operatives brushed Skavi's furs off as the door closed behind her. The red-skinned woman pulled back her encrusted hood and let caked snow fall to the wooden floor, melting into the cracks. She shook out her topknot. A tan-coated operative squinted at the two round black spots on her forehead, made up of dense Sith writing, as he took her heavy fur coat and hung it in a drying rack. The bitter winters of the A'driannamieq mountains had forged a strange sort of camaraderie among the Sith warriors and Central Command Operatives who trained here. Simple enough to create: harsh instructors and leaders, forced marches across glaciers in the dead of night, a sense of a common enemy. The Darksiders didn't form a unit, but taking the process that far wasn't the goal.

One of the base commanders, a young woman with dark skin, descended a staircase, and the operatives snapped to attention. Skavi's eyes narrowed.

"Darth Consecrai. Welcome back. Lord Sarastro wants to speak with you."

"Darth Sarastro is here?"

"Private holopad three." That was code: Velok wanted to speak with her in the usual place, an upstairs training room reserved for instructors. Skavi nodded her thanks to the immobile operatives in their red-trimmed tan coats, fingerless gloves, and heavy boots. "Thank you, Kelen."

She went up the staircase, leaving the relatively junior Darksiders to Kelen Adwar's attentions. A passing Sullustan Sith Marauder stared at Skavi out of the corner of his eye. She ignored him.

Skavi knew herself to be something of a celebrity here at the Elom Academy. Though none of them but the two base commanders knew Velok as anything more than Anrakk the old Dark Knight, and therefore her status as a Dark Lord's Apprentice was private knowledge, she was believed to be a representative of the Dark Council. Also she'd once dueled Kelen Adwar and Hin Jasto at the same time, deep in the tunnels below. Someone had recorded the fight, and most here had seen it.

Velok - in black armour, with his hair tied back and a sabrepike in his hand - sat slumped against the wall of the training room. He nodded and whuffled a greeting. Even sitting, he was tall; his seven-foot-seven frame could only collapse so far.

"Ever hear of a planet called Bescane?"

"Sorry, Master, no."

"It's a major Imperial industry world, near the border of the Crimson Empire. Some of my people are reporting unrest, a sense of - well - something big about to happen. My thought is that someone will try to use that for their own ends. Darksider, Jedi, anyone. So I'm sending you there to see if you can find anything we should know about. If someone tries to spur along an insurrection, find out who. If they're Darksiders, use your discretion." Meaning, if they can be eliminated without undue fallout, do it. Ally or not. "If they're NRI, let me know. If they're Crimson Empire, kill them. If they're Jedi, you're cleared to engage if you like. I'm giving you a lot of leeway on this one, Skavi. I know you'll make me proud."

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Archangel » Fri Sep 02, 2011 10:24 pm

Radek Vidar - alias Zachary Freeman - rose from meditation to answer his comm. He was pleased with the progress of the rebellion these past several days. He could feel the tension mounting around him. He was not sure how far away an open insurrection was, but he knew that it would come much sooner with his help.

His comm beeped as he activated it. "Freeman," he answered.

"Did I catch you sleeping, Freeman?" he heard Swinth, the woman who had been with Kemen when Radek first met him, say, "A little early, isn't it?"

Radek rolled his eyes, but tried to keep his exasperation with her attitude out of his voice. He mostly succeeded. "Just getting some rest, Swinth. Figured I might need it. Your call makes me think I was right. What's up?"

"Make your way down to the Bookie Crumbles pub and gambling den," she said, her tone betraying her disapproval of the gutter-trash Radek appeared to be. "We're making another recruiting push."

"On my way," Radek replied. He clicked off the comm and left his hotel room. The room, like the hotel it represented, was dirty, grungy, under-furnished, and overall, appropriate to the low, low price Radek was paying for it. The door had one flimsy lock and no bolts, but since Radek didn't have anything of value with him, that mattered very little to him. He walked down the hall, counting the roaches as he went. By the time he made it down four flights of stairs and out of the lobby onto the street, he had gotten to thirty-one.

The Bookie Crumbles was primarily a gambling den, as its named suggested, but it also had a bar with plenty of booze for the heavy-weights of the Bescane drinking scene. Fortunately, it was early, which meant most of the people there had just gotten off of a shift down at one of the factories. With luck, they would be sober enough to figure out what was going on.

As Radek entered the pub, he began to wonder why they were making a push at this particular establishment. Three out of every four people he saw were regulars from Kemen's not-so-subtle meetings. He resolved to ask Kemen when he arrived. To wait for his compatriots, Radek went to the bar and ordered a durindfire. The glowing beverage was delivered to him a few moments later, and he sat nursing its phosphorescent bitterness as he kept his eye on his fellow patrons. As was common when bumping into other rebels, Radek had learned, most of those he knew from the meetings did not acknowledge that they had seen him before. Everything was "business as usual," and the usual business at the Bookie Crumbles was drinking, gambling, and more drinking.

As Radek's eyes wandered around the pub, he reached out with the Force, testing surface feelings and searching for someone to push toward rebellion. Most people in the room were very unhappy with the Empire's treatment of them. There were a few brutes at the back of the pub, next to the private area, that seemed to have no opinion on the subject. They were weak-minded, but they were primarily interested in the scantily-clad women that were serving the drinks. Radek reached farther in that direction. And then he figured out why Kemen wanted to make a recruitment push at this particular bar: financing. The head honcho of the Bookie Crumbles gambling scene was a tall, meaty man named Berk Carlisle. His dark complexion and clean-shaven head, as well as the gold jewelry hanging from his neck, served to reinforce his toughness, reminding one of the holo-flicks about shockboxing champions. He probably didn't need most of his bodyguards, but he had a slew of them anyway. No doubt Kemen wanted Carlisle on his side to bring some enforcement power to the rebellion. With Carlisle and his empire - larger, indeed, than just the Bookie Crumbles, if rumors were to be believed - the rebellion would have enough strength to convince even the money-grubbing higher-ups to listen to reason.

Well, at least Radek's twisted version of reason.

Radek did not have to wait much longer for Kemen and Swinth to arrive. Their brutish associate was not accompanying them on this trip; Radek suspected that, in part, he was taking the role of the brutish associate, and also that Kemen did not want to put Carlisle on the defensive. As Kemen entered, he and Swinth sat on opposite sides of Radek at the bar. "Thanks for coming, Zachary," Kemen said softly. "This one's important."

"Why?" Radek asked, feigning ignorance.

Kemen replied, "Getting rid of the Empire is going to take manpower and wealth. We don't have a lot of either. There are some... people... at this location that can change all that."

Radek, alias Zachary, was ever the inquisitive type. "Who's that? How can they help?"

Swinth took those on. "Berk Carlisle. He owns this joint. He has a lot of supporters, a lot of employees, and a lot of sway with both. He also has the financial means to help us get where we want to be. Now stop asking stupid questions and back us up. If this gets dicey, we'll need to get Alan out fast."

Radek nodded, giving Swinth a wry smile. "Nice to see you, too, Eirian," he said, winking. She rolled her eyes, barely suppressing a grunt of disgust. Radek contained a laugh.

"Enough, you two," Kemen interjected. "Let's go." Kemen got up, then Swinth, and Radek took up the rear. Eirian Swinth was a beautiful woman, and Radek didn't mind walking behind her. Even so, he knew she hated his guts - and worse still, she didn't even know who he really was. Even a one-night stand with her would ultimately be painful. Radek wrote her off as yet another useful tool in his arsenal against the Empire and reminded himself that he had more important things to do than admire the scenery.

As they approached the stairs to Carlisle's upper room, the two toughs that were standing nearby closed in on them, blocking the path. "Hold it," one said, "This is a private chamber. Only personal guests of Mr. Carlisle can come through here."

Radek reached out with the Force as Kemen began fumbling something about having an appointment. When he was sure that the guard's mind was malleable enough, the former Jedi interrupted, "Mr. Carlisle asked to see us. You can let us through."

The man looked quizzically at Radek for a moment. At long last, he said, "Right. You can come on through." He backed away, drawing a confused glance from his fellow, but he did not even need to be molded to bow to peer pressure. When both men had divided enough to let the three rebels through, Kemen glanced back at Radek.

"That was a close one," he said under his breath, "I don't know what it was in your voice that convinced him, but we'll need to convince Carlisle, too... or he might just kill us."

Radek was well aware of that possibility. But he was not about to go down without a fight, and he doubted that either Carlisle or his men would be able to stop him from escaping. And if Carlisle took it into his head to kill Kemen, the loss would be significant, but not the situation would still be salvageable. He would just need a new patsy. There were always plenty of patsies. In fact, the bar downstairs was full of them.

On the other hand, Berk Carlisle was huge. His bulk, almost all muscle from what Radek could see, was mostly hidden behind the two Twi'lek girls that were giggling beside him as he told them some ridiculous story or another. He was clean-shaven from crown to chin, making his three nasty scars plainly visible. He had been in more than a few fights as he clawed his way to the top of the gambling food chain on Bescane. But Radek could just imagine the big, dark-skinned human telling him that he should see the other guys. Radek was reasonably sure that anyone who had gotten in Carlisle's way was not around to tell the tale.

When he saw the three intruders enter his private room, Carlisle leapt to his feet, outraged. "How in the Nine Hells did you get in here?!" he demanded as the Twi'lek girls fell away from him and cowered. His deep voice boomed throughout the private chamber, but Radek suspected that this room might have sound-dampening equipment throughout. With luck, no one in the bar below would hear.

Swinth drew a blaster. Radek immediately and involuntarily wiped his palm across his face. This was not going well. He reached out with the Force, doing his best to calm Carlisle's emotions. The turmoil in him was fit to explode if he did not get his way soon.

Kemen held out his hand, trying to soothe the raging beast with gestures. "Wait, please, Mr. Carlisle! I have a business proposition for you!" Radek used the Force to push this idea upon the other. He was not as weak-minded as his guards, but Radek hoped that the idea of money might soothe his ire for long enough for them to get on his good side... or at least, whichever side was less bad than the one they were on now.

Slowly, Carlisle's sneer faded, as if he were taking control of his own emotions. "What kind of business proposition? Make it quick, before I have your hides blasted."

Kemen swallowed visibly before beginning his speech. "The Empire has been choking operations like yours both on Bescane and across this sector. We have a mutual enemy, my friend. We both want the Empire gone. Without them, you can expand your operations and bring in more money than you could even dream while the Stormtroopers threaten to break down your door. You could be... one of the founding members of an independent Bescane. You could get in on the ground floor of all new industrial operations. All we need is your support now, while the independence movement is still growing."

Carlisle appeared to ponder this for a moment. Radek was having difficulty reading the other man, even through the Force. After a few moments, he burst out laughing. "Alright, friend," he responded after a few moments. Radek and Kemen awkwardly laughed along with him, and the Twi'lek girls were giggling again. Swinth seemed unamused. Carlisle continued, "While I'm considering your offer, why don't we have a drink?" Turning to the Twi'lek girls, he said, "Ladies, why don't you bring up some Alderaanian brandy for us, would you?"

Radek noticed the glance that went between Carlisle and the Twi'leks, as well as the one that passed between the two girls as they left the room. Alderaanian brandy had been code for something. But what? Was Carlisle sending for his guards? Or selling them out? Alderaan had been one of the first planets to oppose the Empire, after all, even in their pacifism. It had been a powerful statement. Until the Empire had blown them away. Radek again tried to pry open the mind of the crime lord, but he did not get anywhere useful. Maybe Carlisle really did want to get some of the most expensive brandy from his bar for a few guests. But it didn't seem particularly likely.

Turning back to Kemen, he said, "Well, you have me at a loss, friend. You know my name. What is yours?"

Kemen bowed at the waist. "I am Alan Kemen, the leader of the Bescaneans for Independence. These are my associates, Zachary Freeman and Einian Swinth." Radek sensed Swinth twitch at being named after him. He wondered just how much she hated him for sweeping Kemen off his feet with support. Or perhaps she was just suspicious. Rightly so, of course, but he was not about to let her know that.

"Kemen, of course! A few of your supporters are patrons of my bar. They've spoken very highly of you," Carlisle said, looking somewhat pensive.

Kemen smiled. "I'm glad to hear that I've been recommended," he replied.

"Don't get too excited," Carlisle returned quickly before settling back into his seat, "I don't think very much of the patrons of my bar." He gestured at the uncomfortable-looking chairs across from his luxurious couch. "Please, have a seat."

As Radek, Swinth, and Kemen settled into the awkward plastic chairs, Carlisle continued, "Bescaneans for Independence, eh? You really should think up something better than that. That sounds pathetic." Kemen looked about to interrupt, perhaps defending his choice, perhaps asking for the relevance, but Carlisle went on, "Why not, 'the Alliance to Restore an Independent Bescane'? Nah, that's already been done. Maybe, 'the Free Bescane Movement'? Eh. Kind of sounds like a bunch of hippies."

Kemen interrupted now. "I'm sorry, Mr. Carlisle, but... is this really relevant right now? Do you have an answer for us or not?"

Carlisle smiled winningly. He was charming, to be sure. No wonder he had amassed so much wealth while so obviously being corrupt and criminal. "Of course I do, Alan," he said, "I'm just making sure the 'Bescaneans for Independence' fall in line with my ideals." He paused as the two Twi'leks reentered, bearing drinks. "Aha!" he exclaimed, "Here is something to sup at while we talk."

Radek took his glass and sniffed it surreptitiously. It was most certainly not Alderaanian brandy. More like cheap Churban brandy. Really cheap. Radek was sure now that "Alderaanian brandy" had been code for something. The question was not whether or not Carlisle, who was clearly stalling, was betraying them - but when was the right moment to get out alive. Swinth, Radek noted, took her glass and immediately set it aside. She was no longer aiming her blaster at Carlisle, but had not put it away, either. She was still suspicious. Good.

Kemen, on the other hand, refused the drink. He was being an idealist again. "Mr. Carlisle, I am here to discuss business. Please - let us make a deal."

Carlisle nodded slowly. "Okay," he said, "Let's deal. You call your little band of upstarts the 'Frilly Tutus,' and I'll call off the Imperial squad that will be here very soon." A surge of locals yelling and tables crashing could be faintly heard from below. "Ah," Carlisle said, smiling. "That sounds like them now."

Swinth stood up and raised her weapon. "You cheating bas--"

Radek cut her off, knocking her weapon out of her hand before she fired. Charges of rebellion and treason were difficult to prove, and though the Empire might not be willing to work with standard kinds of evidence, they wouldn't hesitate to start shooting if they thought the place was going to erupt in a riot. Things were not in place yet. This was not the time. "Not now," he said, standing close to her now that he had knocked her weapon away. "We need to wait for the right moment."

Swinth, however, did not see his logic. She spun on him. "You, too?" she demanded, "I knew you were going to sell us out, I just knew it!"

Kemen called out firmly, "Calm yourself, Einian. I am sure Zachary knows what he is doing. We shall get out of this."

Carlisle laughed. "I would doubt that very much, pretty boy. In fact, I would be surprised if you lived through the night."

Stormtroopers burst into the upper room. They had their blaster carbines pointed at everyone and entered slowly, checking each person for weapons. They picked Swinth's blaster pistol up from the floor and bagged it. Carlisle pointed at his three unwanted guests. "These are your rebels, gentlemen. I trust my account will be credited with the reward money for Kemen's capture?"

The Stormtrooper in charge waved two others toward the large criminal. The two grabbed hold of Carlisle and pulled out a pair of stun cuffs to place on him. The commanding Stormtrooper announced, "Mr. Carlisle, you are under arrest for aiding and abetting known fugitives."

Carlisle was incensed. Using his considerable bulk, he broke free of the closest Stormtrooper's grip. One arm flailed out, knocking the trooper with the stun cuffs back into another one by the door. Radek glanced at Swinth and said, "Now is the right moment, sweetheart!" He threw himself at the commanding Stormtrooper, whose stun shot went into the ceiling as he lost his balance. Radek grabbed the blaster carbine and fired two shots at the Stormtroopers now entering the room. He grabbed Swinth's pistol from its pouch and threw it to her. Turning to Carlisle, Radek said, "What's your answer now, Berk? Are you willing to join the Frilly Tutus and take the Empire out before they take you out?"

Carlisle looked between the Stormtroopers on the floor and the others in his bar below, rounding up drinkers and bouncers alike. He spat on the floor and cursed in Huttese. "Fine," he said at last, "I'm with you. But I'm not doing this for your little ideals, I'm doing it for revenge and for money. Understand?"

Kemen nodded, smiling. "Understood."

"And we're starting right away," Carlisle said. "I'm not going to stand for my people going to prison, or worse. And I may not think much of my patrons, but I appreciate their wasting their life savings here. I intend to get my boys to bust up this raid and get our people out on the streets. By tomorrow, Bescane will be clamoring for freedom from the Imps."

Kemen's smile widened.

Radek threw on a smile for show. But inside, he was grinning wickedly.

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Pryde » Mon Sep 05, 2011 12:58 am

Sierra yawned deeply and stretched as she wandered the halls of the old Jedi Temple. It was early in the morning, far earlier than she had ever had to get up before. Whatever her superiors had wanted to tell her must have been important so she didn't argue. It didn't help that she was half asleep, though, but somehow she found her way to the main Council chambers. When the doors slid open her eyes widened in surprise, there standing next to the leader of her order was the Imperial Regent, Grand Admiral Thrawn.

"Grand Admiral Thrawn," she said, quickly getting down onto one knee and bowing her head, "How can I be of service?"

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Beorht
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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Beorht » Mon Sep 05, 2011 7:00 am

Hyperspace
En Route to Bescane from the Sith Empire


"The general idea is that a trooper squad was trying to bring in one of the people who's in charge of rabble-rousing, and that squad got wiped out. Kamen is the name I have. Listen, Skavi - Velok probably gave you a fairly broad mandate, but you know how I feel about this. If it was me there..."

"I know how you feel, Ald." And she did. The Dark Lord of the Sith'ari Centrality was easily her only friend, and she'd sat through more than one rant about oppression and suchlike things. The new-minted Sith Master was a revolutionary at heart - one of the reasons she quietly loved him. "Yes, Velok's directions left room for interpretation. I'll take a closer look, I promise." She hesitated. "Keep in mind, there are plenty of examples of a revolutionary government being worse than the old regime. Don't think less of me if I choose to help shut the rebellion down."

The black-and-white face on the holoprojector twisted, then nodded. "I'm sure you'll do what's necessary."

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Halomek » Mon Sep 05, 2011 10:35 am

“You may rise, Sierra Pryde,” Thrawn said to her. “Colonel Gerhard has informed me that you’re the most accomplished Knight under his command. I’m inclined to agree with him, but practice and training are no substitute for field experience and I intend to put his recommendation to the test.”

“What would you have me do?” she asked without hesitation.

There was a subtle shift in Thrawn’s expression, still cold and calculating, but with a hint of approval at Sierra volunteering without reluctance. “Are you familiar with the world of Bescane, Ms. Pryde?”

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Pryde » Mon Sep 05, 2011 11:31 pm

"Of course," Sierra answered, "It's an important industrial world. Why? Has something happened there?"

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Halomek » Tue Sep 06, 2011 9:25 am

“Bescane’s importance as an industrial world has come at the cost of its environment, and subsequently, given rise to poor living conditions,” Thrawn started explaining. “As such, there is a low-level hostility amongst the planet’s large working class. Galentro Heavy Works, which effectively runs the planet, has done nothing to address these issues, and allowed rebellious talk to spread. Up until now, that talk was mostly empty threats from disaffected workers.”

Thrawn narrowed his eyes a bit. “That is no longer the case. Seditious elements have started making trouble on Bescane, and if it is allowed to continue, the planet may see an attempted insurrection. Imperial Intelligence has identified the source of the trouble as a group calling themselves Bescaneans for Independence, led by a man known as Alan Kemen. If they succeed, it may cause other planets to attempt the same.”

“The Empire is already quelling riots on several of our worlds thanks to the actions of the Cult of Shadow. We can neither afford to deal with another, nor allow it to continue on such a strategically important world. I was going to send General Helstone to deal with Bescane, but Colonel Gerhard has suggested I send you instead.” Thrawn’s gaze seemed to burn right through her. “You are being given a chance to bring Bescane back under control before General Helstone and his forces do it their way. One way or another, I want this situation resolved.”

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Pryde » Fri Sep 09, 2011 1:24 pm

Sierra bowed, "I will not betray the faith you have placed in me. I will succeed in quelling the rebellion without bloodshed."

She straightened up then and looked to Gerhard, waiting for permission to leave...

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Beorht » Tue Sep 13, 2011 7:14 am

Bescane

Skavi was on the wrong side of the desk, if only traditionally.

"It's simple enough," said Velok's local man, a fat Chagrian in a nice suit. He was sweating. "The people I've described, the locations - this has never been anything organized, you understand. The trends..." He shrugged eloquently. Skavi displayed more patience than she felt. If her armour didn't constrict her neck she would have nodded in a reassuring way. "Bescaneans for Independence is the name, or catchphrase. Alan Kemen is the leader, and has been for a good while."

Perhaps not the impetus behind this, then. But if Velok hadn't suspected offworld or special-interest involvement, Skavi wouldn't be here.

"I'll need a meeting with Kemen or, better yet, his equivalent of a top staffer; I don't care how you arrange it. Lead with a contribution through someone you trust - this should be sufficient." She handed the fat Chagrian a small stick of high-value credits, or rather tried to: he let it sit on his desk. He stared at it, and sweated some more. For a moment she let herself ponder making him sweat for real. Perhaps he saw something in her Sith-yellow eyes, but he reached out a damp, flabby hand and scooped the credit stick across his desk. The pressure of his fingers lit up various embedded displays, including what looked like a flicker of Twi'lek pornography. Skavi sneered at him.

"I'll need to meet with him tomorrow," she added. "And I'll ask him how he liked his fifty thousand." A subtle reminder that Velok's stipend should be enough for the Chagrian merchant.

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Archangel » Wed Sep 14, 2011 5:36 pm

Radek stood in the manager's office of a large warehouse, where the Bescaneans for Independence had gathered. Kemen was introducing the cell leaders to the idea of working with Carlisle. The crime lord was in the manager's office with Radek, looking down on the large group as they voiced their complaints and concerns. Swinth, Radek noted, was down there, standing two paces behind and one pace left of Kemen - as always. The woman was dedicated, he had to admit. But why was she so dedicated? What made her want independence for Bescane? What kept her by Kemen's side, day in and day out, as they faced down the Galactic Empire?

Again, Radek could not help but notice her beauty. She had fiery red hair that would fall past her shoulders if she let it, but it was often tied up in some elaborate style that kept it out of her way. Like a business-woman - or perhaps a soldier. She had brown eyes that were quick enough to catch things in a room full of people, when Radek was the only other one who could catch them. She was suspicious, and Radek was suspicious of her, but he had little to go on besides a gut feeling.

Radek liked the manager's office here. The warehouse itself was huge, so the office, which was built at the top of the warehouse structure, overlooked the entire interior and had enough exterior windows to let him keep an eye on the roads and skies approaching the location. It also was private enough that he could use it for his meditation, far better than his hotel room. He could feel every rebel for a few miles from here - unlike his hotel room, where mostly, he only felt the loyalists at the spaceport.

Carlisle, though, was distracting him from his meditations. "How'd you get involved here, Zach?" the deep, throaty voice asked him.

"Intellectual assent in the right place at the right time, Berk," Radek replied. "I believe in Alan and what he wants here."

"And yet... you just happen to be a former Commando?" Carlisle asked weightily. So someone had informed him of Radek's false identity. He was suddenly glad he had put those falsified records in place, where inquiring minds - like Carlisle's - could stumble upon it and think they found something genuine.

"I got a medical discharge," Radek said, "Pissed me off."

Carlisle nodded, though Radek - still looking out the windows into the warehouse - didn't see it. "Yeah, I heard about that," he said, "Drunks hear more than most people think."

Radek pursed his lips. So Carlisle hadn't done any digging, except to interrogate a few witnesses to Radek's first encounter with Kemen. Perhaps he had wasted his time in falsifying records. Oh, well, he thought. "What's your point, Berk?"

Carlisle strolled over to Radek's side, placing one heavy hand on the former Jedi's back. "My point is," he said, "that I'm glad to have you on the team. It's good to have an agent who can actually handle himself." Radek knew that that was not his point, but he was not going to argue the issue. Carlisle turned and walked back to his cushioned seat on the other side of the room. "Thank you, by the way, for stopping that wench from shooting me. I'd hate to have to kill Kemen's little bodyguard."

Radek did not reply. He appreciated that Carlisle could help Kemen achieve his goals, but he did not think that the crime lord was the best choice for that role. There were others with money, others who could support the rebellion. Others, indeed, who did not do background checks and would not discover Radek's control on the situation; people who would not or could not profit from betrayal. Carlisle was a distraction for Radek, and it was not one that he could appreciate.

Radek clasped his hands behind his back and settled into a meditative mindset. He reached out with the Force, filling his mind with the things around him, making himself aware of every detail, whether flowing or out of place, looking for hitches in his plans. Carlisle was first; he was a wild card, but for the moment, he was angry enough about his attempted arrest at the hands of the Empire that he was on their side. Radek reached further, feeling with the Force, until he reached the crowd below. Kemen was a visionary, an idealist - and a fool. He wanted freedom, and liberty, and he vainly believed that those things would allow Bescane to be saved from itself, from its own laws and its own practices. Swinth was an enigma; she seemed to be counting the number of people in the room. That made little sense; she should have known exactly how many cells there were in the Bescaneans for Independence, and every cell leader on the planet had either come or sent a representative.

But Radek moved on for the moment, making sure to note her odd behavior. The cell representatives were mostly angry. Many of them were idealists, like Kemen, and did not want a criminal like Carlisle involved in the rebellion. It was too close to selling out, too much like trading one tyrant for another. If they got rid of the Empire, but had to suffer through an empire of crime, what did they gain? A few of the representatives were completely on board with the plan to bring Carlisle in; they were willing to go to any lengths to get rid of the Empire. Radek took note of these individuals, too. They were the easiest to motivate.

Radek wished there was not a necessity for having cell leaders from around the planet, but he knew that Bescane was too large a world for a man like Kemen to control surreptitiously and entirely on his own. So Radek accepted the need for them, but they were more variables for him to consider. He liked being in control. It helped to guarantee the success of his goals.

Suddenly, Swinth caught his attention again. She had finished her count, and she had come up with one more than he had expected, based on the number of cells. He noted her alarm at that discovery, then scanned the crowd until he found the extra person: one of the cell leaders from a distant district of the capital city had brought an aide along, judging by their garb. Radek pushed his way into the aide's mind. He found nothing. Not just dullness or simplicity or attentiveness, but actually nothing.

That was no coincide--

"The Indies for Indy!" Carlisle said loudly, chuckling, interrupting Radek's meditation.

Radek turned to look at him. "What?"

"The Industrialists for Independence," Carlisle explained, "Indies for Indy."

On the outside, Radek furrowed his brow, but on the inside, he was trying to find the slippery aide again. "Are you still trying to come up with a different name for the Bescaneans for Independence?"

"Damn right," Carlisle retorted, his smile fading, "Stalling for time or not, I still think it's a dumb name."

Radek rolled his eyes. "Good luck with that," he said, turning back to the window.

Looking out, he saw that the aide had stepped out. Radek reached out with the Force, searching for him frantically. As he expanded his senses, he found the man - entering a neighboring building, a hotel almost as cheap as the one Radek was staying in. Why hadn't he waited for the end of Kemen's speech?

Suspicious enough to make a move, Radek turned around and headed for the stairs. Carlisle, still thinking up names, heard the door and jumped up to follow him. "How about Livers and Libertarians?" he joked. Radek ignored him, making his way down the stairs two steps at a time.

As they reached the bottom, Carlisle slowed and began to amble towards the makeshift podium, where Kemen was making his argument. "We need support, both in resources and in personnel," Kemen was saying, "And Berk Carlisle can give those things to us."

"He tried to betray you!" someone shouted out. Radek was ignoring the exchange. He was making his way toward the nearest door, staying as far from the crowd's eyes as he could.

"And when he was betrayed in return, he found himself in common with us!" Kemen replied. "He sent his own people into the Imperial holding facility to get out those who were arrested, and--"

"Did he really?!" another person interrupted. Radek did not hear what they might have said as the Force warned him of danger. He spun just in time to see Swinth right behind him, forcing him up against the wall with a blade at his throat.

"Where are you going, Zach?" she demanded. He did not need the Force to know she was not in a kidding mood.

"There was an extra person. An aide, I think, from one of the other cells. He slipped out, and I wanted to see what he was up to," he said. The frown that flitted across her face told him he'd hit the mark earlier - she was perceptive, alright. "You saw him, too," he continued, "Come on, we need to find out what's going on here."

"It's probably nothing," she said, "That cell is run by an old man. He probably needed the support."

Radek studied her for a moment. At last, he said, "You don't believe that. Or else you'd still be at Kemen's back." Her eye twitched. On the mark again. Radek glanced back at the crowd.

Carlisle was up next to Kemen now. He was speaking. "If you don't believe I'm on your side, then take a look over there!" he yelled, gesturing toward a far door. It had opened, and a number of goons were marching in, interspersed with people Radek recognized from the Bookie Crumbles. Carlisle's people really had done it. Radek wondered if the Empire had let them walk out, but he had a more important issue at hand for now. He would worry more about Berk Carlisle later.

Radek looked back to Swinth. "You can come along or not, Eirian, but I'm going after that aide," he told her. She took a moment, the nodded and released him. The two of them slipped out while introductions and reunions were made between the crowd of supporters and the returning rescuees.

When they got out into the alleyway between the warehouse and the rest of the block, Swinth asked, "Which way did he go?"

Radek made a show of looking around, as if searching for clues. As they walked toward the street, he caught sight of the sign for the cheap hotel. "Maybe he went in there," he suggested.

She shrugged. "As good a place to start as any," she said.

As they walked, trying to appear as calm as possible, Radek decided that this would be a good time to probe into Swinth's life a little bit. "How did you get to be a part of this motley group, Eirian?" he asked.

She looked at him askance, one eyebrow raised, clearly not buying the friendly, curious helper aura that Radek was trying to project. But whatever she was thinking, she ultimately decided that talking to him was not something she could avoid forever. "I was dishonorably discharged from the New Republic Special Forces," she said with what seemed to be practiced ease, "Over a disagreement with a superior officer. So my husband and I came here, where he had gotten a job. He died in the factories a couple months later. Kemen was there for me. He was sweet, and had brilliant ideas. So I decided to help him make those ideas a reality."

Radek nodded. That seemed awfully convenient. It sounded like a cover story, if he had to guess, but if what she said was true - about her being there in the beginning - then it didn't sound like she was an outside influence. Maybe her story, however unlikely it sounded, really was true. Radek almost snorted when he thought that. Of course - her story was at least as true as his, which sounded remarkably similar in most respects. He made another mental note to check on her story with Kemen later. "He was there for you, huh?" Radek repeated in a teasing tone.

She glared lasers at him. "It wasn't like that," she snapped.

Radek did snort now. They were entering the hotel. "Of course it wasn't."

"It wasn't--" she started to say, but Radek cut her off as they approached the clerk's desk. There were bars between them, with a small gap in the bars close to the counter, so documents and cash could be passed back and forth.

Radek looked the Neimoidian behind the desk over once before he said, pushing the command through the Force, "Someone came in here about two minutes ago. Where did he go?"

The Neimoidian looked between Radek and Swinth. At last, he said, "Upstairs, room 217."

Radek smiled. "Thanks." He and Swinth headed for the stairs.

"How do you know he was telling the truth?" she asked him softly.

Radek shrugged. "If he wasn't, we apologize profusely and we wait for our potential spy to make another mistake. And if he's not a spy, we apologize profusely and leave it alone." Swinth frowned at that, but said nothing.

As they approached the door to room 217, they could hear talking. Radek held a finger up to his lips and they leaned in close to the door.

"--isle, and Zachary Freeman. Those are all the new additions to Kemen's central group. I think they plan to make their move soon," they could hear a man saying.

Another voice said officiously, with a clipped accent that could only be Imperial. "Very good. I'll check the background on all these names. In the meantime, I have a new assignment for you. Command is sending in an Imperial Knight to deal with this situation. You need to meet with her and bring her up to speed, and then get her into Kemen's organization."

The first voice was hesitant. "I don't know if I can do that. Kemen's people are a clever bunch. I shouldn't draw attention to myself."

A moment. Then, "These are direct orders from the Regent, Sargon." The voice had an edge of severity to it now. "Do whatever you have to, but meet her, get her up to speed, and get her in. She will take care of the rest." Another pause. "I'm sending you all the data you need to know about her. Good luck, agent."

There was a pop-fizz of a transmission ending and static ensuing. Radek looked at Swinth, then stepped back and kicked in the door.

The other man was startled, to say the least. "Wha-- What's going on? Freeman? Swinth? What-- What are you doing here?"

"Shut up!" Swinth said, one hand lashing out to box his left ear as he backed away from the two intruders. "We've heard enough here, Sargon." She drew her knife and seemed about to run him through when Radek caught her and pulled her away from him. She yelped and turned on him. "What are you doing?! He's a traitor! We have to kill him!"

"He's not a traitor," Radek responded, "He's a plant. Imperial Intelligence. And they'll miss him if he suddenly disappears, especially if this... Imperial Knight gets here and doesn't have anyone to meet." Swinth frowned again, but again, she did not say anything. Still, she was clearly upset enough that she might kill Sargon if she stayed - and Radek wanted a moment of privacy with the Imperial agent. "Go back to the warehouse, Eirian," Radek told her, "Talk to Kemen. Talk to Sargon's cell leader. Find out how far this goes, and crush it."

"It's just me," Sargon interjected.

"Which is exactly what I'd expect you to say," Radek replied, not turning to face the other, "if you had colleagues." He placed a hand on Swinth's shoulder. "Go. I'll take care of him. Don't worry." He smiled a little, and that seemed to calm her - that, along with the calm he was pushing onto her through the Force. At last, she nodded, acquiescing. She turned to go, but not before shooting one of her laser glares at Sargon. When she was gone, Radek closed the door.

A click behind him did not surprise him. He lifted his hands above his head. "Surprised you didn't draw on me sooner, Sargon," he said.

"Yeah," he replied, "Well, I would have, but Swinth is a damn fast draw."

Radek slowly turned. "I'm sure she is," he said slowly. "What's the plan, Sargon? Shoot me, claim I was the real traitor?"

"Something like that."

"And why do you think I sent Swinth away? Your story falls apart. Kemen trusts her more than he trusts you, or your cell leader."

Sargon shrugged, a sneer showing through his nice-guy veneer. "I'll think of something." He raised the weapon, aimed carefully, and fired.

Radek called on the Force, needing a great deal of power to pull the stunt he had to pull. He got his hand in the path of the blaster bolt, and used the Force to deflect the shot. His skin got a little singed, but nothing permanent, as the bolt ricocheted off into a wall. Sargon was stunned for a second, which was all the time Radek needed. He pulled on the Force again, wrenching the blaster from Sargon's hand and pulling it to his own. Calmly, he set the blaster down next to the door and took a step toward Sargon. "Oops," he said sarcastically.

"You-- you're-- you're a--" Sargon stammered. It did not take long for him to regain his composure, though. "I knew the Jedi couldn't be trusted. You're trying to take advantage of this situation with the Cult - trying to turn our own planets against us! Hell, I bet you're even working with--"

"Shut up," Radek said, calmly, but powered by the Force. Sargon stopped speaking, the silence not entirely voluntary. "You have about three minutes to tell me everything I need to know about this Imperial Knight, and exactly what the Empire is planning here. I don't have time to waste on your yammering."

Sargon snorted. "Good luck, Freeman. Jedi don't hurt people. You'll never get me to talk."

Radek smiled thinly. "See, that's your biggest mistake, Sargon. Whoever said that I was a Jedi?"

* * * * *

Three minutes later, Radek slipped out of the room, holding a datapad with all the data Sargon had on Sierra Pryde and the Empire's plans for quelling Radek's little rebellion. It wasn't much - a brief physical description, and the backup plan involving overwhelming force, if Sargon perceived that Pryde was not adequately completing her task. Radek slipped the datapad into his jacket and then pulled out a kerchief to wipe Sargon's blood from his hands. Now he had a few minutes to come up with an adequate tale about what Sargon said before Swinth came back.

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Beorht » Wed Sep 14, 2011 8:18 pm

The Chagrian's contacts talked with Kemen's contacts; simple enough. Within a couple of hours Skavi had a time and a location, a tapcaf across town. She's made it clear the Chagrian that she expected him to provide a vehicle and a driver.

Skavi al'Kon, Darth Consecrai, killer of Sith, couldn't drive.

For once she wore something other than her black armour and cloak: a black dress, knee-length and not too tight. Attractive but professional. A long tan coat completed the ensemble, and she wore her hair down - another uncharacteristic step. Careful use of cosmetics erased her Sith tattoos, leaving her just another Zeltron woman, albeit more conservative than some. She refused to wear heels, and she knew her walk didn't have the sway typical to her species; she walked like a predator and couldn't change that.

Her lightsabre remained in her hotel room; in fact, she went to the meeting entirely unarmed. If push came to shove, Velok had done his level best to make her all the weapon she'd ever need, and the Whiphid's best was - by any objective standard - pretty good.

She didn't know tradecraft, didn't know the arts of covert meetings; no mentalist or professional fugitive, she couldn't even pick out which passersby and patrons of the tapcaf had come with Kemen's envoy. She assumed there were some, and she trusted her gut, but she knew she was flying blind.

Pastry in hand, she picked a table on the patio and waited. After a handful of minutes, a redheaded woman with a cup of cap slipped into the seat opposite her. Skavi might not have been much in the world of clandestine meetings, but she could pick a killer out of a crowd ten miles away. She evaluated the woman's economy of movement, the lines of her hands, the way her eyes moved. Yes, Kemen's rep could take care of herself.

"Call me Swinth. Fifty thousand. You have my attention."

Skavi nodded. "My employer is curious about your movement. That's all. Something other than ideology - he's curious about what kind of following you have, how you operate, that sort of thing."

"You could be anyone. Fifty thousand doesn't buy you the kind of details you're after."

"I didn't expect so. I could, after all, be anyone." Skavi nibbled the pastry. "What he actually expects me to get is information concerning any...recent developments in your cause. Whether anyone new is on the scene. What changed - because something changed."

"The people got tired of-"

"I said I knew the ideology. I've been given a broad mandate here, Miz Swinth, to help your movement along or cause it some embarassment - your success or failure doesn't mean nearly so much to my employer as the answer to my question."

Swinth, unflappable, sipped her caf. "Which one? Some don't have answers."

"New power players, behind the scenes. Were there any?"

"Some."

"Any from offworld?"

Skavi had the satisfaction of seeing Swinth blink. At a guess, Swinth had thought she'd known who Skavi was talking about, and had apparently gotten it wrong. She got a general sense of increased wariness. "You really couldn't be anyone, you know," said Swinth. "A combat-hardened woman with yellow eyes and some kind of tattoos hidden by cosmetics shows up and starts bragging about hidden agendas and secret manipulations, and I start thinking Sith. I've been around the block once or twice. We can handle our world without your interference."

"Miz Swinth, something changed in the recent past. Please tell me what it is."

"Please?" A certainty settled over Swinth's features; at a guess, she'd taken Skavi's lack of answer as acquiescence. "That's an unusual word from someone in your line of work."

"This may be to your benefit, miz Swinth. Worst-case scenario, your revolution is being manipulated by other Sith for their own ends. I kill them, you're free to continue what you're doing. And that's as many cards as I'll put in the fixer field."

Swinth took a long drink of her caf, her eyes flat and hard. "Nobody from offworld," she said. "At least, nobody who admits to it. I don't like the picture you're painting, but I don't see anything that fits it. If you're running a game on me, I'll dice you six ways from-"

Skavi didn't move, didn't even twitch, but Swinth swallowed; her mouth closed, opened, closed again. "Not pleasant, is it," said Skavi. "Not something I enjoy doing." Just like that, Swinth could breathe again. The redhead glanced at something above and behind Skavi; the Sith Apprentice picked up her pastry again. "I bear you no ill will."

"I honestly can't think of anyone, any force, that sounds like what you're looking for." Swinth's voice was rough; her eyes blazed. Apparently she'd opted against calling in her backup. "Read my mind, Sith."

"Not my forte, but I believe you. So - not to overstress the point - what happened? What brought everything together? When did things start going better for you?" She'd sensed flickers in the Force since arriving here, but that was all: enough to suggest that there just might be Force-users manipulating things, maybe helping them along or possibly working against them

"We brought...a partner onboard, an established presence here on Bescane. Nobody new. Someone who could provide money and manpower."

"Did he come onboard of his own volition?"

"No, he was recruited."

"You're sure?"

"Kemen did it himself."

Skavi nodded, and opted against suggesting that Kemen could be the source of the offworld influence and that tiny disturbance in the Force. Perhaps it was just that he'd become more persuasive...

"This may seem like an odd question, miz Swinth, but has Kemen become more persuasive lately? Are his speeches better?"

"That is an odd question."

"Not in my line of work."

Swinth grimaced. "Come to think of it..."

Skavi chowed down on the remains of the pastry. Brushing crumbs off her lap, she looked Swinth in the eye. "I'm willing to bet it's someone close to Kemen. Might even be you."

"If there is a someone."

"There is."

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Pryde » Thu Sep 15, 2011 12:45 am

Sierra tugged at her shirt uncomfortably. It was neither the well kept uniform the Knights of the Empire typically wear nor the silk dresses or fancy clothes she was used to wearing as daughter to a Moff. Instead it was raggedy, torn in a few places and scratched at her skin whenever she moved. She hated it, but Imperial command felt it was important. They wanted her to fit in here, to blend in with the rebels and coax them from within. Looking around at the rundown buildings around her and the poor sods the dredged about in the streets she knew she stuck out like a sore thumb.

Everyone hear worked in some kind of industrial factory or another. Either that or they were poor and homeless, living in the dirt on the side of the street. Point was no matter how poor her attire looked she was still too 'clean' to truly be from this planet. This plan isn't going to work, she thought to herself for yet a third time. She was on her way to meet with her contact now and somehow he was supposed to get her into the rebellion. Sierra was certain with the way she looked now he would utterly fail.

I know Command wanted to plant me as a poor Bescanean but this isn't going to work. She stopped in front of a clothing store. "I think my wardrobe needs an upgrade," she said aloud to no one in particular. And I need a new identity. The Imperial Knights had wired her a nominal sum for operating expenses but as the daughter of a Moff she had access to resources not usually available to other Knights. For instance she had her own personal account that she could access and flaunt around. Money opened doors on planets like this and if she approached the rebellion as a backer she may have an easier time getting them to trust her.

It's decided then, she thought and she stepped inside to buy herself a new set of clothes...

**********

Some time later Sierra found herself staring up at a cheap motel in the poor side of town. Her clothing was better than before but it was still not up to her incredibly high standards. Her current wardrobe may pass for fancy on this world but she would get laughed out of business transactions and ballroom dances anywhere else. Still, the idea was to approach the rebellion as the spurned daughter of one of this world's wealthiest members, or at least that's how she planned it on her way here. Imperial Intelligence could easily doctor up some phony IDs for her.

She glanced down at her datapad again. Room 217, she read, do I really have to go in there? She hoped Gerhard and Thrawn weren't expecting her to stay here for very long. She wouldn't survive a prolonged stay in a place like this. Squaring her shoulders a bit she entered the building and walked right on past the front desk on her way to the stairs.

"Can I help you," the Neimodian behind the desk asked but Sierra ignored him.

She climbed the stairs to the second floor then wandered down the hall, her eyes glancing this way and that reading the numbers on the doors until she found the one she was looking for. Room 217, the place where she was supposed to meet her contact. Taking a moment to relax her nerves she reached up her hand and lightly rapped her knuckles on the door...

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Archangel » Fri Sep 16, 2011 10:10 pm

Swinth thought about mentioning Zachary. The man had come into the fold recently, and he did seem... oddly persuasive. She had suspected it had something to do with his training, or perhaps his resolve. Could it be something more? Could he be... a Jedi? Or worse, a Sith? But he seemed to be helping. He had been very helpful in convincing Carlisle to join the Bescaneans for Independence, and he had even tracked down the Imperial spy. But by the time she had returned to the hotel with Kemen, he had "disposed" of him. Could he have simply sequestered him away, to save the spy from exposure? She did not know.

But she also did not trust this... seducer. Zeltrons were notoriously deceptive, and this one even more so. She said, "No one fits the description you've offered. I'll be happy to do some digging and give you a call, though." She meant that; if there was a Sith involved here, she was ill-prepared to handle it, and if this woman was - far-fetched as it may have been - honest about her intentions, then getting her help could save their lives. But if the Zeltron was on a mission of her own, Swinth did not want her snooping around. "I would urge you to sit tight and wait for me to call," she continued, "Doing your own investigating could disrupt everything we have struggled to build for ourselves."

Swinth stood and extended a hand, her cold gaze unblinking as she stared the other woman down.

* * * * *

Radek popped his neck on both sides when he heard the knock at the door. He kept his reach in the Force close. He did not know how powerful in the Force this Imperial Knight was, and he did not want to risk exposing himself. He stood, his unkempt Bescanean clothes shuffling as he made his way to the door. The blood stains from Sargon's rather brutal expiry had been covered over with furniture, the upholstery cleaned just enough to prevent the rank smell of death from building up in the room. It had been rough, quick work - Radek had decided to hide Sargon's corpse, especially his cause of death, from Swinth and the others, too, which meant hiding the body post-haste. He had distracted the Neimoidian downstairs and disposed of the corpse in a dumpster that looked like it had not been emptied for a month. He suspected that meant it would not be emptied any time soon, either, and the decay on Sargon would be too significant for a positive ID.

Especially after Radek had killed him.

Radek had marveled at the new ways in which the Force allowed him to extract information. Sargon had been babbling like a brook by the time he died, regardless of his protestations to the contrary just minutes earlier. It gave Radek the useful information that Sargon had been the only Imperial Intel agent on Bescane, at least as far as he knew. He also remembered extracting information from people when he worked for Dorval the Hutt; his methods then had been more protracted, and harder on his hands. The Force was much smoother.

Except that all of his work up to this point had been almost more than he could handle. Every push, every nudge toward rebellion had been out of his comfort zone in the Force. Anger had powered him then, as it had when he killed Sargon, but he was nearing his limit. If he did not get some real rest soon, possibly even a healing trance, he would exhaust himself - and, especially if this Imperial Knight stayed around, expose himself. Another reason to keep his reach close.

Of course, he hadn't wanted to. A new player had entered the fold - to the tune of fifty thousand credits. Swinth had gone to a meet and greet with the newcomer, taking a few subtle associates along. She would be safe enough. But Radek was more concerned with his own fate. Especially after he sold that story about Sargon's information. He had changed the important details, of course. The Knight - Sierra Pryde - was just another Intel agent, and she would probably try to get into the organization so that she could take it down, or send information to her superiors that would let them take it down. Radek did not want Swinth to panic at the idea that a Force-user might be involved here, and he especially didn't want to imply that he was powerful enough to take care of such an interloper.

His full intention was, of course, to kill this Imperial Knight. Unless she proved useful. He would have to test her.

So he opened the door.

She was dressed better than he had expected - than Sargon had expected. She was supposed to be another disgruntled lowlife in search of sloughing the blame off on someone else - namely, the Empire. Instead, she was gussied up in what passed for finery on Bescane. Radek suspected her scheme, and saw it as potentially more productive than the lowlife plan... except someone else had already come up with it, and he didn't know who.

Radek tried to make his voice a little reedier, as Sargon's had been. "Welcome to Bescane, ma'am."

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Pryde » Fri Sep 16, 2011 10:58 pm

Sierra just stared at the man blinking in surprise. He was--not quite what she was expecting, but then she had no idea what exactly she was expecting. She was told to come here and meet with someone named Sargon, she was never given any physical description of him but given his status as a spy she was kind of hoping for, well... More.

"Thank you," she said, stepping past him into the room uninvited. She glanced around at her surroundings and turned her nose up at them almost as a reflex. She was accustomed to much finer lodgings than this.

"Grand Admiral Thrawn wishes for immediate results," she continued, "I think it best we begin at once. What is your plan for getting me in?"

She already had a plan of her own but she wanted to see what he could come up with first. She watched him expectantly as she waited for his reply.

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Archangel » Fri Sep 16, 2011 11:18 pm

Radek hesitated. "My... understanding was that you would be introducing yourself as a Bescanean commoner," he said, "But judging by your change in wardrobe, my guess is that you want to approach the organization as a financial backer."

He scrunched his face up, as if offering bad news, and said, "Problem is, you're not the only one. Someone just donated fifty thousand credits to the cause just to have a chat with the higher-ups in the organization, and frankly, I'm not authorized to throw that kind of money around. Not to mention the recent recruitment of that crime lord, Carlisle. And I worry that this sudden influx of wealthy supporters will be suspicious to these people. Kemen is a push-over, but his second-in-command is a woman named Swinth, and she's a real hard-ass... and then there's the aforementioned crime lord." He paused, then continued, "They'll take my word well enough, but you're going to need a damn good reason for supporting this movement if that's your way in."

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Pryde » Fri Sep 16, 2011 11:59 pm

Sierra raised an eyebrow at that. She wasn't made aware that her contact was so well connected in the rebellion. "You can get near Kemen," she asked, her tone betraying her surprise.

"Ah, yes," the man replied after a slight hesitation, "but there's still the matter of your cover."

Sierra was tempted to ask him what had changed since her departure from Coruscant but his speedy segue back to their previous topic distracted her. "Well, money isn't a problem for me," she began, "I have the resources of the Imperial Knights and my own personal accounts."

"Personal accounts?" Sargon repeated.

Sierra just shrugged. "It's only natural a Moff's daughter would be well taken care of," she turned away from him then and began a slow circulation throughout the room, "but you're right, though. Offering to give the rebellion more money at this point would be foolish. Perhaps I can offer them something else. Something they need more than money."

Sargon arched an eyebrow, "You're going to have to explain that."

"Credibility," Sierra said simply, finishing her circulation and coming back to stand right in front of Sargon, "I had planned to approach the rebellion as the spurned daughter of one of the industrial owners of this planet. There's no reason we can't still make it work. If you get in contact with your superiors in Imperial Intelligence I'm sure they can set up something."

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Beorht » Sat Sep 17, 2011 8:02 pm

Skavi shook the redhead's hand, feeling the hardened edges and creases of someone who knew what she was doing; Swinth, she knew, would feel the same qualities in Skavi's own grip.

"My employer has given me certain time constraints, miz Swinth. I'd hope to hear from you sooner, rather than later." Swinth eyed her, the implication not lost. Skavi met her gaze square on, then nodded out her quota of politesse and gestured vaguely at the card sitting on the table beside the half-eaten pastry on its plate. Polis Antillies, Galactic Import/Export and a comm number.

After Skavi left, she relied on the Chagrian's driver to shake whatever tails might have attached themselves. Tradecraft, again, was not her specialty, though she felt somewhat guilty at not taking the opportunity to improve herself in that regard; she suspected this sort of experience was exactly why Velok sent her on errands requiring a subtler hand. In her heart she knew that she wasn't the Apprentice he needed to succeed him in the future. She could kill anything - but she couldn't do what he did. She didn't have that sort of mind. Her thoughts flowed in straight lines.

Upon returning to her hotel - a very nice one - she ran herself a bath and went all underwater, head and everything. She scrubbed at her face with her palms, smearing and eroding the coverup around her eyes. She stayed underwater for a long time, practicing - everything was practice - how long she could hold her breath. She didn't keep count this time, just waited until the water started getting cool, using the Force to recycle the oxygen in her lungs and body, and slowing her body's use of it. Then she surfaced, half-drained the tub, and ran a good bit more hot water. The taste of cosmetics lingered in the corners of her mouth. When she looked at the mirror, stared at it really, she saw a face covered in tattoos both crudely simple and obscurely abstract.

She might have thought about Sith tattoos if she didn't have them already. Ald had them, and his didn't look half bad. But she would have liked the freedom to come up with her own, presumably for the second time. She had no memory of her prior life, and with that went knowledge of why she might have found the broad patterns of her facial tattoos significant.

Now they meant less than nothing. In thirty years - forty if she kept her fitness up, which seemed likely assuming she lived that long - they'd be faded and distorted and even more pointless. She hated them.

But for now, they said mystery and unnatural in letters a mile high. So she used them like a hammer, and the next phase probably called for a hammer. Besides, she hated the coverup, the nagging fear that a smudge might reveal the darkness underneath. The preparation time, best spent elsewhere instead.

She spent a good three hours in that bubble bath, letting the makeup slough away from her skin. When she got out, she dressed in black armour, tight at the neck, covered by a black cloak. She bound her long silken hair in a topknot. She hung a lightsabre from her belt and sat down to dinner.

If she didn't hear from Swinth within two days, she would begin to dig.

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Archangel » Sat Sep 17, 2011 9:29 pm

Radek smiled, an odd kind of toothy grin that said he had that kind of power. Of course, he didn't. But she didn't have to know that. "Easily done," he said, "Give me a few hours to handle everything. Let me know where you're staying - it can't be here, if you're the daughter of an industrial tycoon, spurned or not - and I'll contact you as soon as everything is set up."

Naturally, he had no intention of setting up anything. The Bescaneans were his allies in this, not hers - even if they didn't know who or what she truly was. They didn't send Imperial Knights, from what little Radek had heard, on sideshow errands. Someone had probably caught on to the rapid increase in activity on Bescane; he would have cursed himself for not being subtle enough, but he had more important things to worry about now.

So he would tell the Bescaneans that she wanted in, and just what sort of cover ID she claimed to have, and they would go along with it. They would go along with it because killing an agent of Imperial Intelligence was not wise, and how he would help them gloss over the fact that he had just done it was something he would let the Force worry about. Ultimately, that they sent this woman instead of the combined forces of Imperial might was a good thing, because she could be misled, tricked, and used, and Radek's goals could still be achieved before more force could be brought down on them.

"By the way," he said, "I'm under the alias Zachary Freeman here. That's the only name they'll know me by." He held out his hand, which was a little dirty, but he wanted to know how much of this "rich girl" attitude was really hers and how much was the cover ID she was building. Of course, that question left him wondering if she would be clever enough to dupe the Intel agent she was working with, or if she would be just another wealthy brat who had been given too much and had been asked of too little - and he doubted he would know from her reaction.

* * * * *

Swinth watched the woman leave. She was trouble. Swinth, meanwhile, was in trouble. She needed information, and she needed it fast. She had access to holos of everyone who had come into the fold recently - including Zachary.

She glanced at the two members of the Bescaneans for Independence that had accompanied her, to watch her back. She hadn't needed them, but Kemen had insisted. She nodded at them, and they both stood and left the cafe, headed back towards the warehouse. Things were moving along too quickly to be caught out in the open in each other's company anymore. She started to follow them, to discuss everything with Kemen, but she decided that this was best kept from him for now. If this woman was right about a dangerous new presence, Swinth didn't want Kemen ordering everything to quiet down. They were too close. She had worked too hard for this.

She palmed the business card the Zeltron had left, then headed for her own apartment.

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Pryde » Sun Sep 18, 2011 11:40 am

There was something--odd about that conversation. Sargon seemed a little too agreeable with her plan. Briefly she wondered if crafting a cover ID was really so easy. When she had gone over her first one there were so many details she had to remember that it seemed like they spent a great deal of time putting it all together. Could they really come up with a new one in just a few hours?

"By the way, I'm under the alias Zachary Freeman here. That's the only name they'll know me by," Sargon said. That was another oddity, Sierra was sure "Sargon" was his cover ID but she could have been wrong. Something kept nagging at her the whole time she was here but she would have to worry about that later. Right now the man across from her was holding out his hand expecting her to shake it.

Sierra stared at the grime on his palm but made no move to accept the gesture. "Ah, yes. Well, I will have to remember that," she said and then she stepped around the man (who was still waiting for her to take his hand) and headed towards the door. "I will contact you as soon as I'm set up," she threw back over her shoulder. Then she left the room and headed for the stairs...

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Archangel » Mon Sep 19, 2011 1:56 pm

Radek waited until he could be sure that Sierra had gone from the hotel. At last, he left, locking the door on his way out. He had considered destroying the equipment in Sargon's room, but thought better of it; as long as Sierra trusted him, she might prefer to discuss the situation in a "secure" room. So he left it intact, and he ambled back to the warehouse. If Sierra had known just how close she had come to stumbling upon the whole leadership of the rebellion... she would know soon enough, and likely feel the fool for it, but Radek still allowed himself a small laugh at her expense.

He entered the warehouse, where there were only a few people still milling about - mostly locals, part of Kemen's own cell. Most of the other cell leaders had already returned to nearby transport facilities to return to their respective areas. Upstairs, Radek could see Kemen, Carlisle, and the leader of Sargon's cell, an elderly man named Calogero Elwood. Radek made his way up to the office, where Carlisle was berating the old man.

"He was a traitor in your midst!" the criminal was yelling, "How could you not see it?"

"I didn't know, I swear! Everything he told us checked out! He was loyal!" The man's thin, cracked voice was pleading for his life, even if his words were not. "I never meant any harm to come to our people!"

Carlisle raised an arm to strike the old man. Radek stepped in and caught the blow halfway down, before it hit. Carlisle glared at him, but Radek said, "Leave him be. Sargon was quite clear that he was alone in his insurgence."

Carlisle sneered, but Kemen spoke. "I wanted to be absolutely sure," he said. Radek detected a hint of malice in his tone, one he had not expected from the high-minded idealist. "We cannot take any chances. Not when we are so close." His expression was hard, chiseled, unwavering, as he stared the old man down. Elwood cowered.

Carlisle took the aged rebel by the shoulder and ushered him out less than gently. Kemen turned to Radek, and his expression softened. "Any progress with the other Imperial agent, Mr. Freeman?"

Carlisle pulled his arm away from Radek, who let him go. The former Jedi stood a little straighter, as if reporting to a superior officer. "Woman named Sierra, from Imperial Intelligence, like Sargon said. Highly trained as an undercover operative for the counter-terrorism unit."

Kemen's face soured a little. "We're not terrorists," he said, "We belie--"

Radek cut him off. "What you believe doesn't matter to them. The Empire thinks this is an insurrection, and to them, that means someone who seeks to damage the image of the Empire and lead other systems away from their control through fear. Terrorism is their category, Alan, not mine."

Kemen tightened his lips and nodded. "Fair enough. What's the plan for this Sierra woman?"

Radek explained, "She needs a cover ID. She wants to offer our cause credibility more than money, and she believes that will be effective if she is the disenfranchised daughter of one of this world's industry big-wigs. Whether we actually create the identity is irrelevant, as long as she believes that we're all fooled."

"Except you, of course," Carlisle interjected. Radek glanced at him, but otherwise ignored him.

Kemen thought for a moment. "Berk, correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't old man Barnes have a daughter?"

Carlisle nodded. "Leland Barnes' daughter was killed in a speeder accident, oh, ten years ago, or so," he said, "Her name was... Peria. Peria Barnes." The criminal shrugged a little. "Wouldn't take much to alter the records, make it look like she was seriously injured, but alive. Probably hiding from the spotlight all these years because of her father's business contacts. Could have gotten 'disenfranchised' in that time."

Radek glanced at Carlisle. "What business contacts?" he asked.

Carlisle glanced at Kemen, who answered, "Rumor had it Barnes was dealing with the Hutts to keep the factory workers in line."

Carlisle explained further, "No real evidence of it, but people suspected. Never made it my business to worry about that kind of thing. Getting involved with Barnes - or with the Hutts - usually means a death sentence if you're not completely on their side. Much safer just to run the gambling and gin joints."

Radek nodded. "Can you take care of the paperwork? I'll need to deliver it to her by tomorrow at the latest."

Carlisle thought for a moment, then nodded. "I can do that."

Radek turned to go, then glanced back at Kemen, his brow furrowed. "Where's Swinth?"

Kemen glanced at the warehouse floor below. "Her backup returned some time ago. Said everything had gone smoothly, Eirian came away clean. I don't think she's been back yet, though." He looked at Radek. "Why do you ask, Zachary?"

Radek shrugged a little. "Just a feeling. Think I'll go for a walk. Try to find her, maybe."

"Girl can take care of herself," Carlisle commented, "No need to bother her."

Radek shrugged again. "Maybe not. Like I said, it's just a weird feeling. I'm sure everything's fine." He turned and departed the office, leaving Kemen and Carlisle exchanging bewildered glances.

* * * * *

Night came and went, and the next morning was well on its way to ending when Radek saw Swinth again.

Radek had not found her, but that had not surprised him. He did not know where she lived, and even if he had, she had proven herself rather adept at staying aloof. Instead, when he opened the door leaving his own hotel room, she lunged at him, forcing him back against the wall with a crash. Her knife was at his throat, and he was silently cursing himself for not sensing the danger.

He forced a jovial smile. "Eirian," he said, his vocal cords dangerously close to the sharp blade, "Pleasure to see you."

She was scowling, her typically beautiful features contorted in fury. "Don't give me that, you bastard," she snapped. "You've been lying to us this whole time."

His smile faded. "That's quite the accusation, my dear. Care to explain?"

"You first," she demanded, "Why don't you tell me why someone who is supposedly a native Bescanean is staying in a cheap hotel that couldn't be closer to the starport? Hmm?"

His expression began to harden. He was not in the mood for a fishing expedition. If she really had something on him, he wanted to know what it was. "Let me go so we can sit and talk about this civilly," he said.

"No!" she yelled in his face, her breath hot with moisture and reeking of day-old caf. Apparently, she had been too stressed to engage in her daily hygienic routine after her meeting with the strange benefactor. Radek wondered if that conversation had anything to do with this. He could think of no circumstance in which it didn't. "I'm not giving you an inch until you tell me the truth!"

Radek tried to swallow, but the blade, which had begun to draw blood, discouraged him. "What lie do you believe you've caught me in, Eirian?" he asked her calmly.

Her blade hand did not move, but her left hand reached into her back pocket and pulled out a data chit. "These files I've got on you... which one's real?"

Radek's brow furrowed. Did she have contacts he did not know about? Matching his face to official database files would not be difficult. He had had more than a few run-ins with both the New Republic and the Empire when he was a mercenary... and official records had been filed when he accompanied Jana to Sernpidal. But Swinth was supposed to be a backworld slumdweller. How did she have the resources...?

He realized she was waiting, and he said, "I don't know what you mean."

She leaned in closer, cutting a little deeper with her knife. "I've exactly no time for games. Are you Radek Vidar, mercenary for the Hutts? Or are you Radek Vidar, Jedi? Which one's real? Which one's the truth?"

Radek's face turned expressionless as he realized that he had failed. Everything he had worked for here would come unraveled. Swinth had him in a noose, and she knew it. Even if he killed her, she probably had a back-up plan, a means of transmitting this information to Kemen, to the Empire, to whomever she thought was in charge of this situation. He took a deep breath and said, "Both."

Before she could respond, he called on the Force and pushed. She flew backwards, colliding with the door, which had closed itself since the beginning of their conversation. He snatched the knife from her hand as she shook away the daze. He grabbed a fistful of her hair and pulled her head back, exposing her neck. He held the blade a few inches away from it. "You had your turn. Now it's mine," he said.

A few long seconds passed. Finally, he explained, "I was a mercenary for the Hutts, but I refused to keep doing their killing for them. The Jedi recruited me, told me I had power. You can see that I do. But the Empire - agents of darkness, they are - they took everything I ever cared about, long before I became a Jedi, before I became a mercenary. They pushed me to this. If you want to know whether I am with you or against you, let my actions speak for themselves."

With that, he let go of her hair and flipped her knife, so that he was holding the blade and extending the hilt toward her. He straightened up and allowed her to rise. She looked between the knife and his face a few times, not sure what to think. Finally, she took the blade back, almost cutting his hand as she snatched it from him. She glanced at it again; she seemed about to pin him down, maybe cut his throat completely this time, but when she looked into his eyes, she thought better of it. There was a power there she did not truly comprehend, not just the Force, but a determination of will. It declared one thing about him, something she had suspected, but not really noticed until now.

He was not going to lie down and die.

Radek's comlink beeped. He picked it up. It was Carlisle. "Papers are ready for your Imperial spy," he said.

"Okay," Radek replied, his throat a little hoarse.

"You okay? You don't sound so good."

"I'm fine," Radek said, forcing his voice to be a little clearer. "I'll be there to pick them up shortly. And tell Kemen that I found Swinth."

Carlisle laughed. "I'll bet you did."

Radek turned off the comlink and looked at Swinth. "Tell me this, Eirian. Can I trust you?"

Swinth looked at him, her expression one of combined anger and worry. She did not know how this would turn out. At long last, she said, "Yes."

Radek nodded slowly. "Good. Then we need to get straight everything that happened here, and everything we're going to tell the others."

"There's also the matter of the benefactor," she said, "She's looking for you."

Radek frowned. "For me?"

"For a powerful, influential off-worlder who changed the pace of this rebellion," she replied, "That's you, from where I'm standing."

Radek nodded. She had him there. "What's she hoping to find?"

Swinth's expression implied that she was shrugging, though she didn't. "I couldn't really say. But I get the feeling she'd know if I was being dishonest. Or she'd find out."

Radek nodded slowly. "Then I'll meet her. Once I'm done getting the Imperial spy introduced."

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Pryde » Tue Sep 20, 2011 11:32 am

Sierra spared a glance back over her shoulder at the cheap hotel where she'd just met Sargon as she was walking away. The street was mostly abandoned except for the occasional stray animal and the sleeping form of some human or alien lying in a corner. From her angle she couldn't tell which it was, but it was unimportant so she continued to walk past him.

One of her hands dipped into a pocket in her jacket and pulled out a small communicator. She connected to her ear and turned it on, the man on the other end had responded to her almost immediately. "Didn't we make it clear this channel was for emergency use only?"

Sierra ignored that, "Play back the last message we received from our contact on Bescane."

"Any particular reason why you're wasting our time?"

"Just do it," the girl answered sternly, her other hand involuntarily balling into a fist. The Imperial agent sighed heavily then did as she asked. Sierra listened to the message intently and one part of it drew her attention.

"... Carlisle, and Zachary Freeman. Those are all the new additions to Kemen's central group. I think they plan to make their move soon," the spy was saying.

Zachary Freeman, she thought that name sounded familiar to her and hearing Sargon's voice now helped her to notice the slight difference in inflections between him and the man she met earlier. So my position's already been compromised.

"Is there something wrong," the agent's voice cut into her thoughts.

Sierra shook her head though she knew he wouldn't see it. "No, it's fine," she lied, it didn't matter if the rebels knew who she was or not she could still accomplish her goals so long as they let her in. She couldn't risk telling Imperial Intelligence, however, if there was any hint of this mission being botched they would instantly send in Helstone to clean up. For that reason alone she needed them to believe that things were still proceeding smoothly.

"I will be taking over our updates," she added just to be sure.

"With all due respect, Ma'am, Sargon is--,"

"I said I would handle it," Sierra interrupted him, "Regardless of my status as a Knight I am still a Moff's daughter. You wouldn't want to risk angering my father now, would you?"

"Ah, yes...," the voice stuttered, "Well, we will be looking forward to hearing from you soon."

"Sierra out," she said and she cut off the transmission and slipped the communicator back into her pocket. Just who was this 'Zachary Freeman,' anyway? And more importantly, how did he know she was coming? She had a bad feeling about the fate of her contact and worried that it may have already been too late for him...

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Archangel » Fri Sep 23, 2011 2:54 pm

Radek tapped the side of the datapad. All of the talk of "papers" aside, there were no sheets of dyed wood pulp involved in the false documents Carlisle had drawn up for the Imperial Knight. As he ambled to the hotel room Sargon had used, Radek tabbed through the information, familiarizing himself with it. The tycoon Leland Barnes was one of the higher-ups of Galentro Heavy Works, the company that effectively ran Bescane. He had had a daughter, Peria, whose appearance was quite unlike Sierra's, but that wouldn't matter. The girl had been kept out of the public eye for most of her life. She had been twelve when she died. An airspeeder malfunction - her father's airspeeder, no less - had caused it to drop out of the sky like rain. The pilot, as good as he had been, was unable to stop the spin. Everyone in the vehicle died on impact. Several charred bodies were recovered, and one was Peria's. The funeral had been a quiet affair, and no one had investigated the obviously suspicious circumstances - Where was Peria coming from? Why was she using her father's personal airspeeder? Why was he not present? What caused the malfunction? Why weren't tests run or investigations made?

Convincing people that Peria had actually survived the incident, and had been hidden from the world by her father "for her own safety," would not be overly difficult. The incident, in spite of its widespread news coverage, was a mystery. It would be simple enough to twist that to their advantage. On top of that, the suspicions that Leland had been behind the accident, and in cooperation with Hutts, more than implicated him and exonerated his dearly beloved daughter for turning against her father.

When Radek reached the lobby, Sierra was waiting for him. She stood from her seat by the door. "Sargon--" she started.

"Zach," he interrupted. "Remember?"

"Of course," she said. Was that a smile? Radek could not tell. Ever since the Imperial Knight had arrived, he had tried to subdue his use of the Force. He had stopped trying to influence the world through it, preferring to let the rolling stone pick up its own speed after he got it rolling. His use of the Force at his apartment against Swinth had been a rare moment of indulgence. He knew that he was exhausted, and he did not want to get caught in his lies because of a slip in the Force. So while he was not influencing Bescane in the Force, he was also not reading the people around him, especially not the Knight herself. And that twitch - if it was one - was not sufficiently telling on its own to give him any useful information.

He held up a hand for silence as they walked up to the hotel room. Once they were inside, he turned to her and handed her the datapad. "This is the long version," he said, indicating the 'pad, "The short version is that your name is Peria Barnes, your father is a traitor to Bescane and, after you were almost murdered, he locked you away and out of sight, hoping everyone would forget that he has things he cares about. Your motivation for supporting the Bescaneans for Independence is to bring your father and those like him to justice and to bring peace and freedom to Bescane. Simple enough."

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Pryde » Fri Sep 23, 2011 5:33 pm

Sierra flipped through page after page of data, she had to admit the documents were fairly thorough. He's trying very hard to impress me, isn't he? "These are going to get me in," she asked, looking up through her eyelashes at him. She already knew the answer to the question but she still had to play the part.

"They'll get you in," Zachary posing as Sargon posing as Zachary replied.

Sierra lowered the datapad and looked him squarely in the eye, resisting the temptation to probe his mind. She didn't know who this man was or even what he was capable of and until she did she couldn't do anything that might reveal the fact that she was onto him.

"Is something wrong," Zachary asked, giving her a curious look. Behind that look his mind was calculating, Sierra could see it in his eyes. This man was very sharp indeed.

"No, it's fine," Sierra said finally, breaking eye contact with him and sliding the datapad into her pocket. "When are you going to bring me to the rebellion?"

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Archangel » Fri Sep 23, 2011 5:56 pm

"We can go there now, if you like," he replied, trying hard not to reach out with the Force and see what she was about. "I've been informed that I am needed for another meeting elsewhere, but I have time to introduce you and get you settled in. You can handle yourself after that, yes?" He gestured toward the door.

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Pryde » Fri Sep 23, 2011 11:32 pm

"Naturally," Sierra answered with a dismissive wave of her hand, "Who better to play a spoiled rich girl than a spoiled rich girl?"

She gave him another look out of the corner of her eye, studying him, looking for any kind of reaction. He was about as difficult to read as a book with no words. He hides himself well. Maybe that too can be a clue as to who he is. She knew many intelligence officers were often taught ways to protect the secrets they knew from Jedi. Without knowing much about him it wouldn't surprise her if he had received such training himself. Maybe under the New Republic, it would certainly benefit them to have the Empire wracked in chaos.

"We should get going," she finished, "As I said Admiral Thrawn is expecting results. The sooner I have them for him the better."

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Archangel » Mon Sep 26, 2011 8:42 pm

Radek nodded. "Follow me, then. There's information in that 'pad on the people you'll be dealing with. You can read and walk at the same time, right?" Without waiting for affirmation, he went the door and exited. He waited for her to exit, then made sure the door locked behind them. They walked down to the lobby in silence. The Imperial was reading - or perhaps skimming, given the speed at which she continued through the pages. Those pages held data, not only on Peria Barnes and her father, Leland, but also on the local faces she needed to know in order to fit in as the alleged local spoiled rich girl. It had enough about Berk Carlisle and his operations to get her as much up to speed as a sequestered brat, especially, but also some of the other names - ambassadors, industrial executives, famous locations on Bescane, little tidbits.

Radek, meanwhile, was eyeing her discreetly. Radek wondered how a Moff's daughter had managed to become an Imperial Knight. He also wondered if she was still in favor with her father, or if her taking these assignments had opposed the two of them. He might be able to manipulate her better if he gathered that kind of information from her. Unfortunately, now was not the time. It was too soon into their professional relationship to ask questions like that. Wait until they had shared a tense moment, hoping against discovery, or when they were on some assignment together for the organization. He was reasonably sure that such situations would come up - or he would arrange them. Little tests for Sierra - alias Peria - to see how willing she was to embrace this persona.

As they walked, instead of discussing her past, he said, "You may be surprised how close you have been to their headquarters." They were on the street now, ambling down the walk like old friends, or perhaps a young couple. He gestured down the alley when they reached it. "The warehouse. This way."

They came to a casual-looking door and Radek gestured for her to put the datapad away. Radek reached for the panel to open it, but hesitated. He imagined this speech was given by every Intel operative forced to work with some asset that was not, itself, in the business of intelligence. "Remember," he warned her in a whisper, "Just because these people aren't trained doesn't mean they're stupid. Keep your wits about you, Peria Barnes." She had a look on her face that suggested he was both wasting his time and risking discovery, so he let it go at that and resolved not to make such an idiot of himself again.

He tapped open the door and entered. There were a few people milling about. Radek nodded to them if they noticed him, but he and Sierra passed by, largely ignored. They went up the stairs to the office overlooking the facility. Radek rapped on the door a couple of times.

"Come in, Zach," he heard from inside. It was Kemen.

Radek entered, followed by Sierra. "Alan," he greeted the tall man with dark hair and dark eyes. Turning his head, he nodded at Carlisle and Swinth, who were also there. "This is Peria Barnes." Alan's eyes narrowed, Carlisle stood from his usual seat in the back, and Swinth furrowed her brow. Good, Radek thought - they played their roles well.

"The Peria Barnes? Daughter of Leland Barnes?" Alan asked incredulously.

"The same," Sierra, alias Peria, replied.

"She said she had heard about what we were doing, and she wanted to help us," Radek lied, "She's the real deal, Alan. I think she just might be what we've been looking for - a legitimate voice that can make people pay attention."

Carlisle came forward and extended a hand. "Berk Carlisle," he introduced himself, "It's a real pleasure." The large, dark-skinned man eyed her, pausing on her curves longer than Radek had when he had first met her. Carlisle was a natural liar and a ladykiller, so Radek was not surprised he was taking to this deception so easily. As for Swinth... she had enough secrets already, even from Kemen, that Radek didn't worry in the slightest that she would handle herself.

Radek took this moment of introduction to glance at Swinth, who pressed her lips together, as if trying to force a reassuring smile - and failing utterly. She nodded a little bit, and Radek sidled up to Kemen and whispered, "Alan, I've got to run."

Kemen nodded to him. "Take care, Zach," he said before he turned his attention back to Peria.

When Radek had gone, Kemen gently took Peria's right hand with both of his own. "Tell me, Peria," he said, "Why do you wish to help us?"

* * * * *

Radek, when he was outside on the street again, keyed the comm number the mysterious benefactor had given to Swinth the day before. A woman's voice, almost sultry if it weren't so direct, answered.

"This is Zachary Freeman," Radek said, "You spoke with an associate of mine yesterday - a miz Swinth. I know you were expecting contact from her, and I know that these communications are best kept to a minimum of personnel. Is there someplace we can talk in private? I have the information you requested of her."

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Pryde » Mon Sep 26, 2011 9:35 pm

As if you don't already know, Sierra thought to herself. She glanced down at her hand clasped between Kemen's wondering just how far this charade should go. Through sheer luck or divine intervention things had progressed far faster than she anticipated. Here she was alone in a room with the rebellion leadership just as she had wanted to be. She thought it would have taken weeks of undercover work to get to this point but all it really took was one afternoon. Finally, with a sigh she gently pulled her hand away from Kemen's and walked slowly towards the door.

"Why don't you start first," she said, reaching out a hand and locking the door from the inside. Then she turned to look back at the others. "Why don't you tell me why you're inciting a rebellion?"

"Excuse me," Alan began, there was a note of concern in his tone and the beginnings of an understanding that things had gone awry in his eyes.

"Zachary Freeman made two calculated mistakes. One, he tried to fool me and two, he led me straight to you," she fixed Alan Kemen with a stare that spoke volumes to everyone in the room.

"You bitch," Swinth shouted and in an instant her blaster was in her hand and her finger squeezing the trigger.

Sierra's green lightsaber ignited out of nowhere and almost as fast as the shots had been fired they were redirected into the walls. Then the blaster in Swinth's hand was torn from her grip by an invisible force, sailing across the room into the waiting palm of Sierra. "I am not your enemy," the knight told them as she tossed the blaster aside, "and I am not a spy. I wasn't sent here to investigate your insurrection I was sent here to end it. I--,"

She stopped suddenly when she noticed the surprise in their eyes. Genuine surprise unlike the feeling she had gotten from them before. "Zachary didn't tell you about me," she surmised, "Or was it something else?"

Carlisle scratched his head, "He left out a few details, yeah."

Sierra simply shrugged. "It doesn't matter, I am not here to kill any of you," she said, disengaging her lightsaber and slipping it back into her pocket. "I want this to end peacefully for everyone. Now I need you to tell me what it's going to take to make that happen."

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Archangel » Mon Sep 26, 2011 10:29 pm

Alan leaned back a bit. He settled one arm across his chest and rested his other elbow on it, so that he could rub the stubble on his face. For the briefest of moments, he turned and glanced at Swinth. She was angry, but he could not tell whether she was angry at this Imperial agent or at Zachary. When he faced the Imperial woman again, a diplomatic smile was on his face. For the first time in his rather short career as a politician, Alan Kemen looked every inch the part - cool, calm demeanor, an air of superiority with only a dash of self-righteous arrogance, and all the smarmy words in the world. "Zachary neglected to mention your ability with the Force, but I refuse to condemn him--" he looked pointedly at Carlisle, "--unless I may be convinced that he knew about those abilities himself. We do not know what your spy told him."

He gestured to the comfortable seating against the wall that Carlisle was accustomed to using. "But I will speak to Zachary when he returns. Please, will you sit?"

She did not move. Naturally, she did not trust any of them. Perhaps they had intended to kill her immediately, or laid some trap to contain her. Or perhaps she preferred to stand. Kemen didn't know. She said, "Why don't you address my questions first?"

Kemen's diplomatic smile did not fade. "Of course." He turned and glanced at Swinth and Carlisle, his expression telling them to act genially and play along. This woman clearly had the upper hand in a physical confrontation, but she made such affectations for nonviolence that Kemen was willing to give her some flexibility. As Swinth and Carlisle moved slowly to the seating on the back wall, Kemen pulled out a desk chair and settled into it, looking rather formal. "I am not sure that the Empire can offer us what we want. Indeed, I am not sure that anyone can offer us what we truly want, but I am compelled to pursue it because I feel, with every fiber of my being, that it is right."

He paused for effect, and just when it looked like the Imperial would make some interruption, he continued, "I want freedom, Miss Sierra. I want Bescane to be a glorious world, something... of which both its inhabitants and its allies can be proud. This is the ideal. The specifics... grow more complicated. I want proper healthcare for the poor and needy. I want an increase in wages. I want participation in government - I want every citizen to have a voice that's worth something to the people ruling this world. Galentro Heavy Works stifles those voices. Industrialism chokes out democracy, and the Empire empowers that industrialism for its warmongering. The Empire grows stronger while we weaken. The executives at Galentro grow fatter... while we starve. Your glorious Grand Admiral gets his methods of destruction while he grinds us into the dirt with his boot. We are the worm beneath your heel, Miss Sierra. But I tell you this: even the smallest worm will turn, being trodden on.

"And I know, by your presence here, that we have caught your attention at last. You may have the most power in this room, Miss Sierra - but of those of us here, in this room... I have the most power in the Galaxy." His smile widened a bit now, his diplomatic air taking on that self-righteous aura of sacrifice for the greater good. "Yet even if you were here to kill me, I would not worry for our cause, because I know that there are those who have the strength to stand up to you and your kind, who would take us forward in spite of your assassination of a meager, humble man like me."

He met Sierra's gaze evenly and said with a firm tone, lacking in malice, "So tell me, Imperial: can you bring this to end peacefully... for everyone?"

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Pryde » Mon Sep 26, 2011 11:28 pm

"Independence is out of the question," Sierra replied almost immediately, "Your other demands, though..."

She crossed her arms and leaned against the door as she thought about it. "I will see what I can do to improve living conditions here for all the workers but first you must do something for me."

"Ha, that's rich," Swinth blurted out, "First she claims she's here to help now she's making demands."

Kemen held up a hand for silence. Swinth gave him a look but held her tongue. "Yes, of course," Kemen answered in that diplomatic tone of his, "What would you like us to do?"

Sierra looked away from them, she was actually kind of embarrassed to ask this. She let one hand fall to her side while the other sheepishly rubbed her elbow. "Show me what things are like here. I would like to see it for myself," she said and she had a strange look in her eyes when she turned to face them again. She wanted very much to disbelieve everything Kemen said about the Empire but there had to be some reason for their rebellion.

Maybe it wasn't as bad as he made it out to be, maybe it was worse. She wouldn't know--she couldn't know. She was raised in the lap of luxury, she never had to live on the other side. Poverty was a thing she knew existed but had never seen. Hell, if she had her way it wouldn't exist at all. "I--I just need to corroborate your claims and confirm that they are accurate," she added in almost as an after thought, again diverting her eyes. Her words had the feeling that she was trying to cover up her own uncertainties.

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Beorht » Wed Sep 28, 2011 2:12 pm

"This is Zachary Freeman," Radek said, "You spoke with an associate of mine yesterday - a miz Swinth. I know you were expecting contact from her, and I know that these communications are best kept to a minimum of personnel. Is there someplace we can talk in private? I have the information you requested of her."

Skavi took the comlink out onto the balcony and looked over the lake. She’d spent most of the intervening time in training, though nothing overt enough to carry through the walls, and now a chilly breeze made her regret coming out here in sweat-soaked exercise clothing. She hugged herself with one arm and held the comm with the other.

She’d known a Freeman once, Giles P., but that name and its transliterations ranked among the more popular in a universe full of slaves. Certainly coincidence – like going to an Alderaani enclave and asking to talk to Mr. Antilles.

Or, for that matter, a Sith whose name ended in -us.

“In this case, Mister Freeman, I favour speed over other concerns, and I appreciate the promptness of your call. I’m staying at the Chateau au Lac; I’d prefer you meet me in the first-floor dining lounge, in one of the private rooms, in one hour. The reservation will be under the name Corbolan. I will be alone, but if you wish to bring associates, I won’t be offended.”


The private dining rooms weren’t precisely opulent, but they possessed the kind of simple class that made the very rich feel at home. The restaurant had four, adjoining the main lounge. Skavi had selected this one based on its proximity via intact non-bearing wall to a hypothetically convenient alley. She wore her full Sith attire – black cloak over glossy light armour that covered torso and neck. She sat behind the small greel-wood table, which boasted only a glass of water and her lightsabre: the latter, though metal, was reminiscent of deformed and dimpled bone, terminating in a dull point.

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Archangel » Tue Oct 04, 2011 5:02 pm

Kemen eyed the Imperial Knight. She seemed uncertain.

Good. He could work with uncertain.

"Certainly," he said, opening his arms in a magnanimous gesture, as if he was the one making concessions and allowances for his captive, instead of the other way around. She could have killed them all and ended this today. But that was not her way, he surmised. This could work to his advantage. He was about to order Swinth to show the woman around when he realized that Swinth and this woman would probably kill each other before the day was out. He would not have that.

He stood. "I will be happy to show you our little patch of dirt. I am sure you will see why things cannot remain the way that they are." He gestured toward the door. "Shall we?"

The woman nodded her head in deference, allowing him to go first. Turning, he said to Carlisle and Swinth, "You two stay here. I can handle myself."

Swinth's jaw dropped a little. "You can't trust her," she said. It was not a question, and it left no room for debate.

Kemen's lithe oratory, however, did not need much room. "If she wished me dead, I assure you, Eirian, I would be dead. We shall be safe enough." He turned and smiled at Sierra, a kind smile on his face. He led the way down the stairs.

"Let me show you first where Bescanean men make a mockery of themselves. Each man is worth so much, but after years of being worn down by the Empire and the industry, they believe that they are only worth as much alcohol as they can fill their blood with." As they exited the warehouse, he gestured down the street, toward the Pick Your Poison, a small tavern that he had never used for recruitment. He had sent agents there, but they reported the severest volatility and vitriol Kemen had come across since beginning his journey toward freedom. They were the perfect fit for showing Sierra the depression that ran rampant on Bescane.

* * * * *

Back upstairs, Swinth swore under her breath. Sierra clearly had power in the Force, something Zach-- Radek had neglected to mention. There was no way that he didn't know, given his own abilities. And yet he had left her here. Did he really want Alan dead? Was he trying to destroy their plans? She began to reconsider allowing him to speak to the benefactor, suddenly wishing she had told the strange woman about Radek's recent recruitment.

Then the thought occurred to her: what if that woman recognized the power in Sierra? If she was hunting a Sith, how much closer could you get than a Jedi that worked for the Empire? And Alan, alone with Sierra, could be a prime target. Swinth began to fret like an old matron, but she caught herself when she noticed Carlisle watching her. She sneered for good measure. "What is it, Berk?"

He had a little smile on his face that disgusted her, but he put it away when she spoke. "Just trying to figure out how to spin this to our advantage. I'm not as willing as old Kemen to think she can be turned."

Swinth furrowed her brow. That was Alan's plan. He was trying to show her how bad they had it, and then she would actually help them against the Empire. That would be ideal. But - and she was sickened to realize the company she now kept - she agreed with Carlisle that it was unlikely to happen. People didn't become secret agents of the Empire because they were naïve, good-natured, or had a passion for the poor and downtrodden. She glanced back at the criminal. "What's your plan?"

Carlisle shrugged a little. "We kill her."

Swinth raised one incredulous brow. "And how do you propose we do that?" she demanded.

He looked pensive. "Still working on that. I'll let you know." He eyed her again. "You won't tell Kemen?" She met his eyes, slowly shook her head. She didn't trust him, but she knew Kemen would never agree to this - and it was her job to protect him, even if he didn't want that protection. That had always been her job.

"What about Freeman?" she asked. "Do we bring him in?" She wanted to. If Radek really was on their side, then he might be the only one who could kill Sierra.

It was Carlisle's turn to shake his head. "I don't think so. If he lied to us, then we'll need to kill him, too. If he was taken in with the rest of us, then including him benefits us nothing. It's just you and me. For now."

Swinth nodded. She would go along with this for the time-being.

* * * * *

As Radek walked into the Chateau au Lac - the castle on the lake, in some old language or another - he got the distinct impression that he was not welcome to the staff and patrons there. He walked briskly past security as if he had urgent business to attend to; he slipped by the information desk, busy with some complaint. The restaurant was not far from the lobby, but he was seen by more people than he would have liked. Still, a public-but-private place - she likely did not mean to kill him. That was reassuring.

The maître d' grabbed his arm as he tried to slip by. "I don't believe you're supposed to be here," the man declared in a clipped Coruscanti accent. He eyed Radek up and down, a special look of disdain gracing his chiseled features. "Or... anywhere."

Radek scowled. "I'm part of the Corbolan party. I was invited."

The man looked down his nose at the poorly-dressed Radek, sure that such a lowlife was not appropriate to this fine establishment. After a quick check, however, he saw that only one guest had arrived for the Corbolan party. He forced a smile. "Of course, mister...?"

"Freeman," Radek finished for him. "Private room, right? I'll find it."

With that, he was away, leaving the arrogant host twitching his nose in a mix of anger and disgust.

After he had left the host behind, his datapad beeped at him. He slipped into a side corridor and pulled out the small device. It had been linked to his comlink so that textual messages could be sent in moments when a conversation was impractical. He silenced the device so that it would not interrupt his upcoming conversation, but glanced at the message in case it was urgent.

It was from Swinth. It read, Imperial a Knight. Did you know?

Damn. The wench had revealed herself instead of sticking to the plan. It was possible she had seen through his ruse, or had done some research on the original Sargon, but whatever the reason, he would have to deal with her eventually. But one problem at a time. Pocketing the datapad, he resumed his search for the benefactor.

Radek passed two private rooms before he found one that was quiet enough to be his meeting place. He opened the door and slipped inside.

His heart caught in his throat. There was a woman who was undoubtedly a Sith. Swinth had implied as much, but Radek doubted that a woman like this could walk down the street on Bescane without drawing attention, so he further doubted that Swinth had seen her like this. The swirling black cloak that seemed to move even in the still air of the dining room, the glossy black armor on her torso, the tattoos on her face, and most notably, the lightsaber on the table. He suppressed the urge to swallow and gently calmed himself, regularizing his breathing.

He smiled. And realized exactly how he could solve both of his problems at the same time. After all, if Sierra was the sort of Imperial Knight that would reveal her identity and not kill the target of her mission, she was the sort of weak tool that could easily be destroyed by the task it was sent to complete. And a Sith looking for a powerful, external influence on the rebellion just might have the gumption to take her out for him.

"Miz Corbolan?" he asked, already knowing that was not her name. "I'm Zachary Freeman." He walked right up to her and held out his hand. He gave no indication now that he had noticed her lightsaber. Surely his ragged clothes and dirty flesh would be unpleasant to both sight and smell, too, but Radek was not here to make friends. He was here to destroy the Empire. And using a Sith to destroy the darkness that haunted him? He could savor a special pleasure in that kind of irony.

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Beorht » Tue Oct 04, 2011 8:16 pm

Skavi had evaluated Swinth as someone who Knew What She Was Doing, and had no doubt whatsoever that Swinth had seen the same in her. Thus, she expected anyone who showed up to be possessed of a similar level of survival capacity, or else Swinth's superiors or employers were fools. What form that capacity might take was another question. A witty or clever person, like Giles P. Freeman, could survive just about anything without the usual kind of world-shattering psychokinetic powers or well-honed martial skills. An influential person - 'cross me and reap the consequences' - might have a similar capacity. But on average, when you suspect your mysterious benefactor is a heavy hitter, you send heavy hitters until you're fairly sure they're trustworthy.

So when Freeman, Zachary, came through the door she evaluated him as one predator does another, without regard to whether or not he could touch the Force. There were ways to test that, some more direct than others, but the set of his shoulders, the lines of his neck and ribs, his posture and the way he moved his hands and set his feet, all testified to the fact that this fellow knew who he was and knew how to fight. His Force-sensitivity or lack of it was beside the point. This was someone she could respect on a gut level, even - rare for her - a sexual level: he had presence, hygiene issues or not, and she suspected those were either well-earned or a superb cover.

"Miz Corbolan? I'm Zachary Freeman."

She stood and shook the proffered hand without hesitation. Her presence and attitude were all business. Skavi had not been raised by Zeltrons: she had the biology but not the culture. "Corbolan is my employer, Mr. Freeman. I'm Darth Consecrai. I've been asked to look into your movement and determine whether off-world influences are spurring it to its new heights; as you could guess, my contribution was nothing more or less than a way to approach the rebellion for this reason. Depending on the nature of the off-world influence, if it exists - and I believe it does - I'm tasked to help your rebellion, or bring it to its knees.

"Enlighten me, Mr. Freeman."

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Pryde » Wed Oct 05, 2011 2:40 am

Sierra was actually quite surprised and a little relieved. She began to wonder if Kemen was even taking this seriously, maybe things weren't as bad as he claimed. I ask to see the hardships his people face and he takes me to a bar. Does he think this is a joke? "Excuse me, Mister Kemen, but I fail to see how this has any relevance. People drink themselves stupid all over the galaxy that doesn't mean their lives are harsh."

Alcoholics weren't anything new to her. She had grown up around rich folk and if there was one thing all rich people had in common it was that they had no restraint. It was not unusual to see some noble or another make an absolute fool out of themselves after drinking just a bit too much brandy.

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Archangel » Wed Oct 05, 2011 3:56 pm

Kemen placed a hand on her arm, lacking any aggression. Both of them halted. "Please, milady," he said, offering her a title she seemed to own, whether she asked for it or not. "Allow me to set the stage for you. This is not the last stop on our journey. It is the first."

He removed his hand and indicated with his eyes that she should keep moving. Again, she gestured for him to lead the way. He swallowed, smiled, and did so. "In my experience, milady, men are the most stubborn of our species. They refuse to break down and weep, even when it is appropriate. When we have left here, I will show you, too, the plights of our women and our children. Men may be broken anywhere; they may turn to alcohol under the slightest of circumstance. But you must keep your eyes open. Be willing to see the whole picture."

The Pick Your Poison was not far. It was a meager place, little more than a hole in the wall. Kemen made for the door and opened it. "See for yourself," he said, "How Bescanean men live - or so they call it."

They entered. The place was dark and dusty, befitting its place in the basement of whatever run-down building this was. Below them, at the bottom of a flight of stairs, a single light shone on the bar, revealing a greasy, balding barkeep and one scummy patron. As their eyes adjusted, Kemen gestured to the shadows beyond, where tables and booths were shrouded in gloom. At one table, two men were passed out in a heap. At another, one man sat alone, nursing a large mug of some ale or another.

Sierra looked a little impatient. "I still don't see how this--"

"Listen," Kemen interrupted, softly.

She frowned, but she did as he asked. In the back of the room somewhere, two men were fighting. Words were exchanged - not all of it was clear, but theft was clearly involved. Closer to the stairway entrance, a man could be heard monologuing into his mug. His drunken slur mentioned a weak paycheck and an empty home.

Kemen turned to Sierra. "You can find this in any bar across this whole world. The people are hopeless. They do not live because they have no reason to live. It is up to us to give them that, us who have the means and the influence to bring peace and joy into their homes."

* * * * *

Radek swallowed, making a show of nerves, although when he heard the nonchalance of her voice and saw the surety in her eyes, he began to suspect that his show was no longer for her benefit. But he held to his persona; either she caught on to his ruse, in which case, his falsehoods caused no harm, or she was as oblivious as he had hoped for her to be, in which case, they kept him from discovery. He quickly fabricated his information as he laid it out. "A few weeks ago, I guess, we first started noticing unusual increases in our supporters. Mr. Kemen's speeches started to have more sway with people. We thought - we hoped - it was just the movement picking up speed.

"But we didn't yet have all the facts. About a week ago, a woman came to us. Dark hair, green eyes. Short little thing. She claimed she was the daughter of one of the industry bigwigs - said her name was Peria Barnes, and she had the answers to all our problems. She said she would provide us with credibility and finances so that we could take our movement all the way to the top.

"When we did some digging, though, we came across what we already suspected was true: Peria Barnes, the real Peria Barnes, died as a little girl. I don't think she - the impostor, I mean - could have altered those records so easily. We decided that she had to be working for... somebody's Intel. Imperial Intel didn't make much sense, 'cause she was helping us, and all, but... Why go undercover if she's working with the New Republic? Wouldn't it make sense just to work with us?

"Anyway, Mr. Kemen and Miz Swinth told me to keep an eye on her. I'm supposed to be her... escort or guide or something. So I've been around her a lot the past few days, and she... she seems to know things she's not supposed to know. Like how somebody feels during a conversation, or whether or not they're lying. It sounded to me like... some of those stories I've heard about the Force. So when Miz Swinth came back from your meeting, talking about someone who volunteered to join us, who had a lot of influence, maybe a lot of power... well, she fit the bill. So Miz Swinth decided it would be safer if they kept an eye on her and I came and told you about her."

He shrugged. "I don't know if that's who you're looking for or not, but from what Miz Swinth told me, she sounds like she might be your... the person you're looking for." He avoided making eye contact. "I'd be happy to help you track her down. I don't want any harm coming to Mr. Kemen or Miz Swinth. They've been good to me. When I... I got fired from the plant, well, I... I didn't know where to go. I tried applying to a couple of academies and such for the Empire - I used to believe in them so, you see - but they all rejected me on account of the bad health here. I kinda turned to the clubs for an answer. But Mr. Kemen, he found me, and he made me useful." He smiled weakly.

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Pryde » Wed Oct 05, 2011 5:18 pm

Sierra was not entirely convinced or at least a part of her stubbornly refused to see. "If money is tight then spending it in a place like this won't help. It's hard to feel sympathy for people who spend what little they do have on liquor rather than trying to support their family. Take him, for example," she indicated the man making the monologue, "It's possible his house empty because he spent all his nights here instead of at home. This is hardly a convincing display, Mr. Kemen."

She started to turn towards the door. "What else are you going to show me," she asked, her hand reaching for the door release.

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Beorht » Thu Oct 06, 2011 5:25 am

It's a maxim across the length and breadth of the civilized galaxy that you just don't lie to a Sith Lord. Unfortunately, too many Sith rely on that reputation; and as for Skavi herself, regardless of Velok's despairing tutelage, she had never been overly skilled at that sort of thing. Violence, yes; she could make armies blink. But as she paid attention to the Force and to Freeman, she realized she had no idea whether he was lying or not. A half-truth could explain it. On the face of it, his words sounded about right.

She felt inclined to trust Freeman.

"There are other possibilities. The Crimson Empire and the Sith Empire could easily be behind this. If she is a Force user, which sounds likely-" Belatedly, it clicked that based on Freeman's apparent level of knowledge, the possibilities narrowed down to three. A: he was telling the truth. B: he himself was the Forcer. C: he knew what a Forcer looked like because he knew who the Forcer was, knew he or she wasn't this Peria, and was protecting the real one. Which could mean Jedi involvement. She shook her head and resumed after the briefest pause. "-if she is, she'll follow either the Dark Side or the Light Side, which will narrow down the possibilities further. If I startle her properly, she'll use the Force and reveal something about her allegiance.

"Lead me to her, Mr. Freeman. And never fear. If the influence is just one person, the worst that I can do to your group is kill her, and I could just as easily decide to help her. I am not your average Sith Lord. I've been known to work hand-in-hand with Jedi and assassinate Darksiders."

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Archangel » Fri Oct 07, 2011 4:04 pm

Kemen eyed Sierra for a moment. "Forgive me for saying so, miss, but I do not understand you. You say it is hard to feel sympathy for these men - I believe it should be difficult not to pity them. They are not villainous men. They are broken men. They are ill. We must help them heal, not condemn them for their symptoms." He paused, then smiled mirthlessly. "But I expected this reaction. Which is why this was only the first stop on our tour. Follow me," he told her, and they left the bar.

This walk was longer. The warehouse district of the capital city was a significant distance from their next stop. They walked for two or three blocks until Kemen hailed a taxi. The bright yellow landspeeder pulled over and Kemen and Sierra entered it. Kemen indicated their destination to the driver as the corner of a street and an avenue. The roads had numbers, not names, which was typical for a grid-patterned city like this one. As the landspeeder departed, Kemen turned to Sierra. "Have you ever lacked anything in your life? Have you ever truly wanted for anything?"

* * * * *

Well, hell. If he had known that, Radek likely would not have bothered with the whole charade. He was in it now, though, and he could not simply back out because she suggested that she might not kill him. If she decided that Sierra was not a follower of the Dark Side, though, they might get to comparing stories about him. If that happened, his only recourse was likely to be an expedient escape. Perhaps he would be able to convince Swinth to go with him. She had guts and could handle a weapon. But the mysteries that surrounded her would surely trouble him too much for them to work together long-term.

His mind churned, but his face kept the same stupid expression. He nodded dumbly, then finally said, "Okay. I'll... take you back to our base of operations. That's where she was when I came to meet you." He looked her up and down briefly. "Is, um... is that what you're gonna wear?" Expecting offense, he quickly shrugged and gave her an innocent expression, explaining, "I mean, I don't have a problem with it, but it'll probably attract attention, you know."

He really didn't care what she wore. And he didn't care if she attracted attention. Hell, as far as his opinion took him, she could walk down the street with nothing on except for a belt to clip her lightsaber to. But if she took the time to change, even to apply make-up, before they left... he might have time to retrieve his own lightsaber from its hiding place near the spaceport so that he would have a ready defense, in case either this Darth Consecrai or Sierra Pryde discovered him and turned against him. But he would have to be quick. The spaceport was not across the street, and Darth Consecrai did not seem like the kind of woman to take an hour to fix her hair. Assuming she even took the bait.

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Pryde » Fri Oct 07, 2011 11:17 pm

Sierra had a feeling she knew where this was going and she felt chagrined about it. Of course she hadn't lacked anything, she had been provided with everything and more. Her father spared no expense when it came to his daughter and anything she wanted she got. She knew Kemen was trying to make a point. Someone like her could never fully understand what poverty is, not until she's experienced it for herself.

"I suspect you already know the answer to that," she said evasively.

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Re: Being Trodden On

Post by Beorht » Sat Oct 08, 2011 8:54 pm

Maybe it was something about his eyes. She couldn't quite place it after the fact, couldn't tell what tipped her off to the incongruity, if there even was one. With his final words, however, she made a tentative decision: he was faking something. He wasn't as stupid as he made himself out to be, for one thing. Maybe it was nothing more than gut feeling, which comprised the backbone of her Sense abilities. Skavi considered herself in touch with her instincts. Sometimes they just took a little while to kick in.

She was fully aware that her suspicion flickered across her face; there wasn't much she could do to suppress the microexpression, and if he was paying attention, he'd likely see it.

The issue distracted her momentarily from the whole question of her appearance, which seemed rather inconsequential as a result. She pulled her thoughts together and decided that she didn't care. She was no stealth operative; she knew her limits.

But had Velok sent her here to stretch her boundaries? Should she at least attempt to do things the quiet way for once? It occurred to her that she could put the hated makeup on, wear something else, and all anyone would see would be Zeltron, early thirties, long hair, killer muscle tone. Maybe she didn't need to be perfect at stealth to be stealthy. The thought cheered her, and she brushed aside the thought that maybe he was setting her up for something. Just to be on the safe side, she'd grab her repacked bag and duck into the second hotel room, a floor down and two rooms over, booked remotely under a different name. She could change and do her makeup there.

And listen to her gut the whole time.

"Give me half an hour," she said, rising. "Then meet me at the front door. You're quite right. Wouldn't want to attract attention, would we."

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