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End of the Line

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End of the Line

Post  Kasia Thorn on 30th December 2013, 10:32

I could always tell when a ship entered the atmosphere.

Call it a gift, an intuition, or simply the result of a lifetime spent amongst the stars. Call it what you want, I don't much care. All I know is, when a ship I'm on slips into the embrace of a world's gravity well, I can feel it somewhere in the very core of my being, like someone's running a sliver of ice down my spine.

This time, the sensation was enough to stir me from my restless slumber, and I opened my eyes the merest moment before the intercom buzzed and crackled, emitting a burst of static and gibberish, followed closely by the dull monotone of the captain's voice as he announced the arrival of our ship, a battered old liner with the woefully inappropriate name of Graceful Lady that'd been due for the shipbreakers sometime around the point where the Trade Federation had decided it was a good idea to blockade Naboo, at its final stop on this journey between the stars.

Swinging my legs over the edge of the narrow bunk, I rose and stepped carefully across the floor, my bare feet picking their way around discarded clothing with the ease of countless years practise as I made my way across to the viewport. I caught a glimpse of my reflection as I did, and frowned at the fierce, emerald eyes glaring out beneath waves of hair the colour of gleaming copper. I was looking as tired as I felt, but that was hardly surprising when I'd spent much of the last month stuck aboard this festering hulk, wondering if the tarnished rivets in the hull would last long enough to see me to my destination. Obviously they had, and now my destination was just coming into view beyond my reflection, a dull, greyish brown sphere that hung heavy in space, much of its surface obscured by thick clouds of polluted smog.

Terminus. The end of the line, in more ways than one.

Staring out at it, I found myself wondering if I'd made the right choice. In truth, I still didn't know why I'd chosen it. Something about the name, I'd guess, some little something that had drew my eyes to it amidst the hundreds of other possible destinations. But whatever that something had been, it wasn't stirring now as my eyes lingered on the ugly ecumenopolis, the cityscape covered planet that was little more than a pale and pathetic reflection of the distant grandeur of Imperial Center, and I found myself sighing irritably as I turned my gaze from the window and glanced back at my cabin.

We'd be landing soon. I needed to dress. Terminus was, not to put too fine a point on it, the sort of hive of scum and villainy that even the Imperial Travel Bureau warned travelers about. It was the sort of place where opportunities to lose credits, virtues and lives lingered in every shadow, whether you sought them or not, and where the opportunities to gain vices were more common still. It was, in short, exactly the sort of place my father had warned me about.

My father... the thought of him conjured up memories, summoning his spectre to the forefront of my mind as I retraced my steps across the cabin. His stern features, those stormcloud grey eyes beneath carefully cut hair only a few shades darker than my own, and of course the finely tailored uniform of an operative in one of the Emperor's less well known agencies. I hadn't seen him in over a year now, and as I crouched down beside my bunk to pull a black and crimson bodyglove from my pack, I found myself wondering where he was now. Still out in the depths of Wildspace? Or back at his Emperor's side?

It didn't matter. Wherever he was, it didn't matter. I shook my head violently, dismissing his spectre from my thoughts, and began to pull the bodyglove over my tanned legs.

My father belonged in the past. I needed to keep my thoughts on the future.
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Re: End of the Line

Post  Kasia Thorn on 30th December 2013, 13:53

I'd barely finished fastening my bodyglove across my chest when the intercom crackled and spat once more. I didn't listen; it'd be the same garbage the captain, a man with an insufferably and unjustifiably high opinion of his own wit and knowledge, spouted on each planetary approach. The need to secure your possessions, to ensure you were in an appropriate position, to make sure you weren't going to get squashed into a puddle of bloody goop if the dampeners glitched and you found yourself sandwiched between a Hutt and a bulkhead. All stuff I'd heard about a dozen times before and had neither the need nor the desire to hear again.

Instead I busied myself with collecting the few belongings I was traveling with, mostly clothing that had seen the inside of the ship's erratic autovalet a few times too many, and tucking them back into my pack. Once that was done, there were just two things of mine left lying. The first was my belt. Simple, but practical, and I'd always been told to put practicality before sentimentality. There was no blaster on the belt as one might have expected, but a serrated knife was sheathed to hang down from the left hip. It wasn't much, but it'd seen me through some events that'd turned nasty faster than I'd imagined possible.

The second thing was were sentimentality came into it. A slim silver chain, the links laced with fragments of pearlescent shell from the all too distant ocean world of Deyer. Once, long ago, it'd been my mother's. At least, that's what my father said. I wouldn't know; my memories of my mother were little more than the fuzzy recollections of a babe in arms, mere half-remembered flashes that surfaced in the depths of night and vanished by the following morning. When my belt was securely fastened about my waist, I took up the necklace, holding the links gently, perhaps almost reverently, before fastening it about my neck so that it gleamed above the neckline of my bodyglove.

"Okay," I murmured, turning on the spot to survey my room, and catching a glimpse of the looming bulk of Terminus as it flashed by the viewport, "That everything?" It looked like it, thank the Force. I had little desire to have to come back to this wretched ship later to retrieve something I'd left behind, not when I'd been counting down the days, hours and minutes to my chance to final abandon this wretched deathtrap since the Inner Rim.

Speaking of... I hesitated, glancing first at the viewport and then up at the battered chronometer that hung from the bulkhead. We were running behind schedule - no surprise - but it looked like we'd be kissing dirt within five minutes. That was fine; it gave me plenty of time to get over to the airlocks.

Slinging my pack over one shoulder, I stepped to the door and thumbed the access panel. Nothing. Not a beep, nor a chime, and certainly no movement from the door. Just what I'd come to expect from the Graceful Lady. Muttering a curse against the ship, its designers, its crew, and pretty much anyone else who'd ever even been peripherally linked to the ship or its running, I slapped my hand against the panel. The door opened, and I stepped through, rubbing my palm irritably. Beyond the portal, the corridor was deserted, although given that we were about to arrive at the liner's final destination, in the absolute rear end of the galaxy, that was both expected and welcome as it meant I wouldn't be fighting to be first off the ship.

Cheered only slightly by that thought, I made my way through the corridors of the liner, past the closed up refreshment stands and the vendors that had sold pathetic trinkets at ridiculous markups. A couple of the crew - aliens, mostly, probably because they were generally cheaper to hire than humans since they couldn't get jobs on Imperial or Corporate transports - spoke a few words of greeting as I passed, but I didn't answer. Why bother? There was no sincerity in their words, just obligation, and I felt little inclination to draw out that particular charade.

No, better by far to hurry onwards so that I could set about the task of burying this journey in the depths of my memory.
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Re: End of the Line

Post  Kasia Thorn on 31st December 2013, 07:04

Aboard the Graceful Lady, they called the chamber atop the boarding ramp 'the lounge', although I couldn't help but imagine 'the cesspit' might have been more appropriate. The walls were stained a dank brown, except for the foot or so above the decking that the few working utility droids aboard the liner had scrubbed to a grimy grey, and a thick, pungent miasma, the scent of a hundred years of sweaty, unwashed travelers, seemed to cling to every surface. Few others joined me in that dimly lit room - a twitchy human man who tugged nervously at the collar of his synthleather jacket every few seconds, and a one eyed Rodian male who seemed to be trying to divine the future in the layers of filth on the walls. Neither was worth my time, and I busied myself by checking through my pack once more as the Lady shuddered and juddered through the smog 'Clothes? Check. Creds? Check. Comm-'. The ship jolted, either catching a particularly bad bit of atmospherics or losing an engine, and I steadied myself against the bulkhead, before glancing down in disgust at the oozing filth that now coated my finger.

"Wonderful," I growled, yanking a towel from my pack to wipe my hand, "Absolutely sithing wonderful." Tossing the now worthless towel into the corner, I raised my head to glance out the viewport once more, and was rewarded with the sight of lights emerging from the parting smog. I wasn't impressed - compared to Imperial Center, the best that Terminus could offer was nothing more than a distant second - but nonetheless I was grateful for the sight, for it told me that my time aboard this filth encrusted joke of a passenger liner was about to come to a long overdue end.

As though to confirm my conclusion, the intercom crackled, and the captain's voice broke through with little more clarity than I'd enjoyed in my own cabin. "Ladies and gentlefolk," he crowed, altogether too proud of such a simple landing, "I'm pleased to announce that we will be landing at Terminus Starport within the next thirty seconds. I hope you've enjoyed travelling aboard our fair Lady and will fly with us again soon."

'Not if all the hunters in the Rim are after me,' I retorted silently, straightening up and slinging my pack back across my shoulder. Across the room, the other human had already taken up station by the door, ready to run the moment the ramp hit dirt. Idiot. If I hadn't guessed before that he was running from someone, he was making it clear as daylight on Tatooine now. And given where we were about to land, that meant he had a life expectancy of... oh, say thirty standard minutes?

Pushing a wayward strand of my coppery hair away from my eyes, I sauntered across the chamber to stand just a few feet from him, responding to his nervous stare with a withering look of my own. Behind me, the Rodian grunted something in his own tongue. Somehow, I doubted it was complimentary, but I hadn't a chance to pay it much thought before the deck lurched beneath us, and the distant whine of the engines - a constant companion on this long journey - began to fade away. Tempted though I was, I didn't glance at the viewport again, but instead kept my eyes fixed on the man, a hint of a smirk touching my lips as a bead of perspiration began to form on his forehead and his eyes flicked across to the hatch. Suddenly, the release engaged with a shriek of tortured hydraulics, and for a moment I was sorry the captain hadn't graced us with his presence - it sounded like the servos could have done with a little of the grease that oozed from every fibre of his being.

Still, for all their noise, the systems seemed to work well enough, and not a minute had passed before the ramp kissed the concrete. Ten seconds later, the man was gone, his feet pounding down the metal. I watched him for a moment, wondering if he'd make it through the starport before he caught a blasterbolt, before shaking my head and setting off in his wake, murming to myself as I did, "Twenty nine minutes and counting..."
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Re: End of the Line

Post  Kasia Thorn on 2nd January 2014, 07:25

How can I describe Terminus to you?

Any number of words spring to mind, but even I blanch at some of them. And the rest... well, they're just different words for the same thing. Cesspit. Crudbucket. Filthole. Terminus, in short, isn't the prettiest place. Maybe it was, once, before the tradelanes shifted. Maybe it was a bustling world of gleaming spires, laced with gleaming walkways and edenesque boulevards.

Somehow, looking at the crumbling, sinister starscrapers that stretched upward toward the roiling smog clouds overhead, I doubted it. No, way I saw it, Terminus had always been a pit. It was just possible it hadn't known it until relatively recently.

Still, I hadn't come here expecting beautiful scenery. There was plenty of that back home, half way across the galaxy. But this place had something else, something... something intangible that seemed to linger just beyond sight and hearing. It was a tingle in the air, a hint of a whisper on the wind.

And it had called out to me across the blackest reaches of space.

As I struggled to identify just what it was about this decaying cityscape that had drawn me here, my feet were carrying me through the spaceport. Though I had never been here before, the path I traveled was a familiar one; most spaceports from the era of the Republic were set out to broadly similar plans, and, were it not for the forbidding sky and general sense of rot and ruin, I might easily have imagined myself on Imperial Center or Kuat. Yet Imperial Center this was not, as was attested by how many of the people I encountered either turned to stare, openly wondering what brought someone like me to such a secluded part of the galaxy, or took great care to shield their faces from my sight. No prizes for guessing just what sort of work brought the latter group here.

Amused by their obvious lack of talent - but then, why on earth would one of the big smugglers like Karrde or Solo bother with a place like this? - I felt a grin touch my lips as I strode on, out through the vaulted entrance to the spaceport and onto a cold, duracrete street. Bleak, grey buildings loomed on either side, except for a narrow gap almost directly opposite which offered a glimpse down through the vertiginous depths toward the ancient undercity. I paused there a moment, gazing down toward the city below. There was little to see; putrid clouds of pollution swirled even beneath the upper city on which I stood, so I was forced to content myself with trying to pick out glimpses of the world below, and trying to imagine what it would be like to live in that world of darkness.

Honestly, I can't say the prospect appealed. In fact, the very idea made me feel like I needed a drink.

That, at least, was something that Terminus could offer.
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Re: End of the Line

Post  Kasia Thorn on 3rd January 2014, 06:48

Eventually, I settled on Afterglow, a sleazy little spaceport bar that might almost have qualified as a dive on any other world - a fact which meant that, here on Terminus, it was the closest thing to a slice of heaven as I was likely to find.

I hesitated a moment in the doorway, bathed in the flickering neon glow of the sign. It wasn't that I was nervous about what lay across the threshold - far from it - but you know what they say about fools charging on in. Better to wait a minute to get an idea of what lay beyond, and if that minute gave me a chance to steel myself for what lay beyond, so much the better. So I let my eyes adjust to the relative gloom, took a couple of deep breaths - which the stench of stale alcohol and bodily fluids caused me to immediately regret - and with a mask of casual indifference plastered across my features, stepped inside.

It was like another world.

Powerful, pounding scrak music filled the air, drowning out the buzz of conversation from the dozens of sentients of every species and colour that clustered around the tables, booths and bar. A few glanced at me as I entered, but most were quick to lower their eyes, knowing all too well the cost of excessive curiousity in place like this. One or two were bolder - human men for the most part, although there were one or two aliens amongst their number - and their gazes held a wide mix of emotions, and suggested a still wider array of thoughts behind them. For my part, I did my best to ignore all of them, although I couldn't help but feel a flash of surprise as I caught a glimpse of my companion aboard the liner sitting at a table near the door, apparently deep in conversation with a particularly unsavoury looking customer.

'Small world,' I found myself musing as I continued past him to perch on a vacant stool at the bar. The bartender - a Gran - was busy at the other end of the bar with another customer, but that was fine; it gave me time enough to run my eyes over the various grubby bottles arrayed behind the bar, and to essay an aside glance at the glasses set before those sat on either side of me.

None of it looked particularly appealing.

"What'll it be?" the bartender grunted, his business at the other end of the bar concluded for the time being.

Good question. Nothing here looked particularly appetizing - or sanitary. Still, I had to choose something, or I'd be standing out like a sore thumb. "Give me a stimcaf," I told him, choosing something fairly innocuous, only for his incredulous look to encourage me to add, "With a shot of Namana to give it a kick." That seemed to appease him, and he nodded, grunting something thankfully unintelligible as he turned to gather up the ingredients. I shook myself mentally as he did, knowing that I'd just given anyone watching a fairly solid indicator that I didn't belong here.
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Re: End of the Line

Post  Kasia Thorn on 4th January 2014, 08:20

Whatever else he was, the bartender wasn't slow; less than a minute later he slopped a glass of steaming stimcaf down on the bar, followed by a tumbler of thicky,syrupy Namana. The glasses were barely cleaner than the bar itself, but I didn't comment, instead choosing simply to toss a few credits - enough for the drink and a reasonable tip, since it rarely hurt to be in good with a barman - to the Gran. He caught them deftly, grunting a thanks as he saw the amount, and I offered him a wan smile as I took a sip of my stimcaf. It was hot, but not too hot, and I gratefully took a deeper swig, washing away the dust of the road, before placing the half empty glass down on the bar and raising the tumbler to my lips. "Emperor's health," I offered sarcastically, saluting the barman with my glass before downing the contents, grimacing as the sweet fire chased down the stimcaf and sent a buzz through my veins.

"Quite the kick," I managed to croak through a suddenly hoarse throat as I slapped the tumbler back down on the bar. I wasn't joking; the mix of the alcohol and the barely legal stims in the stimcaf made it feel like electricity was racing through my nervous system, and I dreaded to think how I'd feel once my body'd really had a chance to get to work on absorbing it.

I didn't have time to dwell on that thought, however, for at that precise moment a shadow fell across me. Unseen eyes bored into my back, and I stiffened involuntarily, wondering if a blade was about to follow the path that gaze was boring into my spine. But when the expected blade did not materialise, I found myself relaxing just slightly, though my muscles remained tense, ready to spring me from my seat as I half-turned, twisting in place to glance back toward the source of the gaze.

It was the man, the one who'd travelled across the stars aboard the Graceful Lady, although now I was getting a clear look at him, I could see he couldn't have been much older than I was. Not a man, then. A boy. Just a boy. But boy or not, he was staring at me with undisguised malice burning in his eyes, and his hand was hovering just inside the front of his jacket. Resting on a weapon, no doubt.

But why was he watching me? And why was such hatred evident in his gaze?

I had no doubt those were important questions, or, at least, questions which would plague me if left unanswered, but they were also questions best left for another time. For now there were more important things to worry about, and the questions that floated to the forefront of my mind were along the lines of 'What's he planning?' and 'Can he use that blaster?' and, perhaps most importantly, 'Just how drunk is he?' That last one, I felt, would be the key to everything; if he was sober, the man wasn't all that likely to try anything without provocation. But if he was drunk? Well, that was a different story entirely, wasn't it?

Sadly, from the look of him, my erstwhile companion had been deep in his cups since arriving here.

"Knew it was you," he slurred, cementing the status of his sobriety, "Been followin' me since the ship. Why? You got nothin' to do with me." He was shaking slightly as he spoke. A mixture of nerves and the effects of alcohol, I imagined, but that was hardly reassuring.

My mind raced. What could I say to calm him down, to defuse the situation? A thousand ideas whirled through my mind, but I discarded each, judging that they would do little to shake this drunken idiot from his paranoia. And as I grasped wordlessly for a solution, he took a step toward me, his hand creeping just a little further from beneath the folds of his jacket, revealing just a hint of the blaster he was gripping. "I'm talkin to you," he growled, his tone darkening, anger seeming to well up from nowhere as he glared across at me.

Okay. No time for fancy words, then. Much as I hated to admit it, perhaps, here and now, honesty really was going to be the best policy. "Hey," I answered softly, struggling to keep my voice level as I spread my hands, letting him see that they were empty, "You've got it wrong. I'm not following you. This was just the first half-decent cantina I spotted. Guess we just had the same idea after being stuck on that rusting old wreck for so long." Even as I spoke, letting the words roll off my tongue, I kept my eyes locked on his. It'd be there that the first signs of any decision would become apparent, and sure enough I caught a flash of anger in them as I spoke.

"Liar!" came his roar, but I barely heard it - my attention was fixed on the blaster pistol he'd wrenched out from beneath his jacket, and which was now pointed unsteadily toward me. Its appearance was enough to encourage those sitting near me to vacate their stools, and I found myself wishing I could join them as I stared up the barrel of his blaster.

Strange; I knew it was just a few centimeters big, but, from where I was sitting, the muzzle of that blaster looked big as the Maw itself.
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Re: End of the Line

Post  Kasia Thorn on 7th January 2014, 07:00

With my heart thumping out a staccato rhythm against my ribcage, I caught not a word of what the man said next. Truth be told, even had my terror not been deafening me, I had no doubt that the blaster pointed at my face would have entirely occupied my attention anyway.

"Listen," I said, keeping my hands spread before me as I rose hesitantly to my feet, "I don't know who you are, and I don't care to." Small words, petty words. I knew they wouldn't be enough to vanquish to paranoid madness that I had seen flashing in the man's eyes. But what alternative did I have but to try? I had no blaster of my own, and even if I had I wouldn't have had a chance of drawing it before he shot me dead.

No, discounting a miracle - and those were all too rare in this hate filled galaxy of ours - a silver tongue was my only hope.

"I haven't asked your name, have I?" I continued, forcing myself to tear my eyes from the muzzle of his blaster so that I might meet his gaze. What I saw there sent a chill through my soul, but I forced myself to keep going, adding, "Even on the ship, I never bothered. Know why? It's cause I don't care. Coincidence might have brought us to the same world, the same bar, but that's as far as it goes. Your business is just that, and I've no inclination to go poking into it."

Did my words have an effect? Perhaps, just for the briefest of brief moments I might have sworn I saw uncertainty in my assailant's eyes. But then it was gone, swallowed once more by madness and a fear of his own, a terror every bit as deep and chilling as my own. It was in that moment that the tiny spark of hope I was nurturing died.

"Shut yer mouth," came his snapped response, just as I had feared it would, "You're lying. Don't lie to me!"

He was beyond reason, that much was apparent, and for the life of me I couldn't imagine how I was going to get myself out of this. I was trapped, my back up against the bar and with no prospects of escape, and not a soul amongst those nearby looked inclined to intervene.

Wait!

A flash of my memory surfaced in my mind, a quick glimpse of the bar as it had been when I entered. I remembered my surprise at seeing the man, and I remembered... I remembered the man he had been talking to! Quickly, desperately, I cast my gaze about. Was he here? Emperor's bones, let him be here, for I was surely damned if he'd used the commotion to slip out. But no, there he was, lingering on the fringes of the crowd with a disgruntled look upon his ugly features. He noticed me watching, his eyes holding mine a moment before he took a step backward and began to turn, obviously intending to slip away into the crowd whilst his cohort finished his dirty deed.

"Wait!" I cried, echoing aloud the silent plea that had torn through my mind a moment prior, "This how you want it? With you people murdering anyone that looks at them the wrong way? How long'll it be before the security forces come down on you?"

The man froze, feeling the eyes of the bar's patrons descending upon him. He didn't turn back, but I could see from the stiffening of his spine that he knew what this development meant; if I died, every person here would not associate my death with him. Like as not, that didn't much matter to him, but I was willing to bet a lot - hells, I was betting my life - on him being in the sort of profession that wouldn't appreciate any sort of extra scrutiny from the security forces.

"Vitor-" began the gunman, his eyes flickering across the figure in the crowd.

"Enough," came the snarled response, accompanied by a stare that carried all the venom of a Malkite Poisoner's kit, "There has obviously been a... misunderstanding, yes? Put your weapon away. I am sure this..." he paused once more, allowing his hateful eyes to fall upon me as he turned, before continuing, "...young woman is no threat. I imagine we will never see her again, hmm?"

That last was obviously directed at me, and I simply nodded as I sunk back down onto my stool, oblivious to the retort from the would-be gunslinger. Whatever it was that he said, it couldn't have been important for he followed it by holstering his blaster and, casting one last suspicious gaze my way, stalking off to rejoin his companion.

I barely noticed him go.
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Re: End of the Line

Post  Kasia Thorn on 8th January 2014, 07:04

For all his sins, the bartender certainly knew his trade; when I turned back to the bar, barely suppressing the tremble of relief that was twitching at my palms, another drink was already waiting for me. I didn't know what it was, and, after that confrontation, I didn't much care. I took it gratefully, swallowed it in one gulp, and nodded my thanks to the Gran whilst fighting a grimace at the bitter taste. "What do I owe you?" I asked as my voice, momentarily stolen away by the harsh sting of the liquor, returned.

"Nothing," he replied, waving a stubby hand dismissively, "Last round is on the house."

Last round? I couldn't say I liked the sound of those words, but even as I opened my mouth to ask what he meant, a hefty green hand slammed down on my shoulder with force enough to bounce me off the bar. "Out," its owner grunted. His breath was foul, a fetid, noxious cloud that brought a tear to my eye and left me fighting the urge to gag. Turning, I stared up at him, taking in his monstrous form with mounting apprehension; he was a Gamorrean, more than half again as tall as I was, and three times as wide. His blackish green skin was mostly covered by thick, crude armour crafted from the hide of some creature I was grateful not to have met, although the armoursmith had uncharitably left the alien's porcine features uncovered, allowing me to stare him straight in the face as he glowered down at me, struggling to form words around his broken, yellowing tusks, "You done. Leave."

It wasn't a question. I wasn't being asked. But I had questions of my own. Questions like 'Why am I being forced to leave?' and 'What's going to be waiting for me outside?' Somehow though, I doubted I'd be getting any answers out of the bouncer, even if I did manage to find a way to reduce my questions to words of one syllable.

"Alright," I sighed, reasoning that it was best to leave on my feet, rather than to be thrown out. At least that way I've be in a position to go for my knife if my fears were realised and somebody was waiting for me out in the grey twilight that seemed to linger so on Terminus. So I rose to my feet, shaking my head in wordless disgust, and slung my pack back across my shoulder as I began to pick my way back toward the entrance. I could feel the Gamorrean following close behind me, his lumbering footsteps audible even over the pounding music, but he kept far enough back that I wasn't particularly worried about him, at least. No, even if there was a Gamorrean alive subtle enough to want to take an opponent from behind, they'd do it up close. Anything else was anathema to them.

Well, I suppose every species needed at least one redeeming feature, however small it might be.

As we reached the entranceway, the porcine creature stopped, and I glanced back to catch a glimpse of him planting himself firmly in the doorway, arms crossed as best he could across his bulging chest and stomach. "Don' come back," he growled, piggy eyes glaring at me with indecipherable emotion.

Whatever. There were plenty of dives on this pit of a world, so I merely shrugged, turning back to survey the street. It was empty. Utterly deserted, in fact. That should have been a relief, but something felt wrong. Surely there should have been something? A drunken spacer making his way back to his ship? A joygirl waiting for her next trick? Even a security officer on the beat? But no, the street was as empty as the Queen of Ranroon and twice as sinister besides. I could feel eyes on me, boring into me from every direction, and my muscles tensed, ready for that oldest of all instincts - fight or flight - to kick in.

But still there was nothing.
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Re: End of the Line

Post  Atretes Rhoujen on 9th January 2014, 05:08

"I-... what's going on over there?" I had been deep in conversation with a Devaronian that claimed to know where to get a custom vibrosword made when commotion started. I took a sip of my drink and peered over the glass, and my conversational partner did the same. We watched as the kid aimed his blaster with shaky hands, but I knew that look. It was one of determination and wild abandon. Then her eyes shot and she called out to another. I couldn't hear the spoken words, but the mood of the place changed instantly upon his call. The young man who brandished his weapon and the older one who tried to slip away exchanged words and they returned to their table. I reclined back in my seat and took another sip of my drink and as I set it down the liquid rippled with vibration.

"Oh what now?" I muttered with annoyance, but upon seeing the Gamorrean bouncer stop his statuesque charade and take movement, I had a pang that no good could come of this. My mind raced with possibilities, and when he stopped near the girl who'd nearly been assaulted, I watched with interest while others averted their eyes from the authoritative situation.

"Cheers." I said to the Devaronian when the girl was finally outside, and downed the last of my drink in one gulp. It burned like hell, but I kept from choking by force of will alone. I stood, and my black military-style garment was in full view, complete with blasters, stun  baton, and shined black boots. I stretched from sitting for so long and made my way toward the exit. I cleared my throat to get the bouncer to move, but he played hard of hearing. "Alright then," I thought to myself.

"Pardon me, my hulking friend, but I have business to attend to that involves leaving this fine establishment. Now, if you wouldn't mind vacating the area I'd very much appreciate being allowed to exit." I threw a much refinement and puffery into that sentence that an Imperial diplomat would be impressed. Every syllable rolled off the tongue with false refinement, and when I finished the Gamorrean shot me a venomous stare but shuffled to the side just enough for me to slip past.

"Many thanks, my fine compatriot." I winked to him as icing on the cake, and then stood out of arm's reach from him but within the shadow of the cantina. Something about the abandoned street was unnerving, and I decided to watch rather than act for now. I may have been naive, but I wasn't that foolish.
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Re: End of the Line

Post  Kasia Thorn on 11th January 2014, 06:05

Noise behind my drew my wary gaze back toward the cantina. Would that be the direction from which the inevitable attack came? Perhaps. Certainly, the man who stepped past the hulking brute of a bouncer fit the mould of an enforcer; tall and dark, with sinister hawklike features and a dark, brooding brow. But his expression... no, his expression wasn't the emotionless mask of a professional killer, or the sadistic sneer of a natural sociopath. No, it was a look I had become all too familiar with during my formulative years, for it was the look many of my father's contacts and colleagues had worn upon their features; a smug, self-congratulatory smirk.

This was a man who was most assuredly pleased with himself.

I might have rolled my eyes, or perhaps demanded to know what it was that he found so amusing, but that very moment brought a hand down upon my shoulder, and I found my breath suddenly stolen away.

"Excuse me, my dear," murmured a voice, clearly intended for my ears only as it was little more than a whisper on the wind, "But I must apologise for the... unpleasantness... in the cantina."

I turned, but the figure before me was not a familiar one. He was tall, but thin with it, and his lean, patrician features were topped with carefully cropped black hair that was just fading to grey at the edges. He was well dressed, too - a suit that bore the clear marks of Core fashions - and his accent betrayed more than a touch of education. In short, he was just the sort of man who should have stood out like a rampaging rancor in a place like this, but there was something about - some indescribable quality that I couldn't quite put my finger on - that allowed him to almost fade into the background.

"I usually take care to ensure that my associates meet a certain standard," he continued, smiling a thin little smile that went nowhere near his eyes cold grey eyes, "But clearly Mister Helark was... shall we say 'lacking in certain qualities'? However we phrase it, allow me to assure you that it will not happen again." His eyes seem to flash with anger as he spoke those final four words, but the rest of his face remained sculpted into that perfectly pleasant facade.

I wanted to speak, to ask who he was or what he meant, but his eyes held my spellbound, stilling my tongue and leaving me helpless to resist as he thrust a wooden box into my hands. "As I say, my dear," this strange man continued as I tore my gaze from his to stare wordlessly down at the box, "You have my assurances that this will not happen again."

With that, he inclined his head in half-bow and spun on his heel to stride away. I barely noticed, for my attention was fixated upon the box.

"I have a bad feeling about this," came the whisper, and it took a moment for me to realise that it had slipped from my own mouth.
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Re: End of the Line

Post  Atretes Rhoujen on 11th January 2014, 06:34

I feigned disinterest just as well as I feigned arrogance. Circumstances required certain finesse, and in my travels I had to quickly learn to put on many masks to avoid getting entangled in... messes. That was, perhaps, the only thing I was presently good at. Conjuring illusive expressions to further my lifespan. At any rate, I waited until the man turned to leave and dropped the self-confidence mask. At this point I looked particularly bored and lacking for something to do. In reality, I was paying close attention to the girl, and whatever lie within that box. It was none of my business, certainly, but perhaps there was information to be gleaned here.

With that, I made a mental note. Perhaps with my skill set I would be better versed in selling and trading information. That could be a fun occupation. I shook the idea from my head for now. I needed to be able to adequately defend myself before I decide on a dangerous line of work. After all, the best at their job die easy when they don't know how to fight.

I moved further away from the cantina, slightly closer to the girl but not conspicuously so. At least, I didn't think so. Being new at being sneaky, I wasn't entirely sure of what I was doing.
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Re: End of the Line

Post  Kasia Thorn on 11th January 2014, 07:16

A shadow fell across me, but I barely noticed. My eyes - my entire attention - was focused upon the box. It was plain wood, unpainted and unadorned, with no lock and two simple, gleaming metal hinges set into the side. There was a scent coming from it, something simultaneously vaguely unpleasant and worryingly familiar.

I didn't want to open it. I knew I didn't, knew I just wanted to throw the damned thing away and forget about it. But I couldn't. It was as though it was a black hole, and I was caught in its gravity well, steadily being drawn in to my destruction without even the slightest chance of escape or respite. "This is ridiculous," I found myself muttering, even as my fingers gripped the lid of the box, "It's just a box. Ain't nothing to worry about. Just a box." The repetition did nothing to convince me of the truth of my words, and I found my hands trembling as, with baited breath, I lifted the lid and peered inside.

It was a hand.

A human hand.

Blood oozed from it, staining the inside of the box. Bone, stark white against crimson ichor, gleamed. And from it all, came the smell. The fetid, pungent smell of death. Of flesh necrotising, and of spilt lifeblood.

I gagged, the liquor I had ingested at the bar returning to my throat, and the box slipped from fingers suddenly devoid of feeling as I doubled over and violently emptied the contents of my stomach over the duracrete.

"Emperor's black bones," I cursed hoarsely as the stream of bile tapered off, my eyes flickering down to where the box lay on the ground, its lid cast back and contents on display to the world, "Black bloody bones."
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Re: End of the Line

Post  Kasia Thorn on 14th January 2014, 07:06

Bile chased the curse to my lips, and I spat it weakly onto the duracrete. My stomach was churning, threatening betrayal at any moment, and I was briefly grateful that I'd skipped breakfast before a fresh surge of bile drove such thoughts from my mind as I retched and heaved.

"What sort of person..." I mumbled, wiping the spittle and bile from my lips with the back of my hand, "What sort of sick, twisted bastard, sends some a frakking hand in a box?"

No answers sprang to mind, but, honestly, I was kind of glad of that. Bad enough to have to see the damnable thing - and trust me, I figured I'd being seeing it in my dreams for months to come - but to understand the sort of diseased mind that came up with it? No, that was one piece of knowledge I'd not lose a wink of sleep over missing out on.

With my stomach empty, albeit still protesting, and my throat burning from the vomit, I stared down at the box. It was speckled with the former contents of my stomach, and a thin stream of slowly congealing ichor was oozing out from beneath the flap that thankfully concealed its contents from view. My mind was a maelstrom of thoughts, each strand whirling and twisting as they fought for my attention. Who sent this to me? Why did they send it? What did it mean? Whose hand was it? Did I even want to know?

No, in truth I truly didn't.

And nor, I realised, suddenly remembering that I was standing on a main strip on an ecumenoplis occupied by a billion souls and ten times that many actual sentients, did I want to be standing here when the security forces came asking about where it had come from.

It was long past time to be gone from this place.
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Re: End of the Line

Post  Atretes Rhoujen on 14th January 2014, 08:48

I couldn't see, and I wasn't sure I wanted to see. The sight was a bit too gruesome, even without seeing whatever was in the box. Then the smell hit me. It wafted along the faint breeze and brought the recently-consumed liquor back up to my throat, which I forced back down.

I took a couple steps toward the landing pad, my heart racing with anxiety. I didn't want to start my association with death today, and I'd rather avoid those it decided to hang around. As inconspicuously as possible, I made my way through the shadows, down the road, toward where I docked my ship. There was nothing left for me here and I wasn't about to play hero and save this mysterious girl from whatever misfortune apparently haunted her.
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Re: End of the Line

Post  Kasia Thorn on 14th January 2014, 09:54

A single footstep reached my ear, snatching my attention away from the box just in time to offer me a glimpse of the man from before. His smug smile was gone now, stolen away by the scent of death on the breeze, and the look that had replaced it betrayed little more than a desire to be somewhere - anywhere - else.

It was a desire I could understand.

My attention didn't linger on him, however, but instead passed on to the ominously empty doorway just beyond, the doorway that had so recently been occupied by the towering Gamorrean bouncer. When had he gone, I found myself wondering. Had it been before I was given the box, or after? Had he seen the contents? If he had, had he cared? Even had he been human, rather than a savage brute of an alien, it would have been impossible for me to guess; there was just too much I didn't know.

But one thing I did know was that I had to get moving, and quickly too.

So, taking more than a little care to skirt around both the box and the stinking puddle of regurgitated liquor that had formed a moat around it, I followed the lead of my erstwhile shadow and turned my back on the box and its mysterious message.

I walked quickly, trying to keep a mask of nonchalance upon my face, but I knew I looked nervous. There was no helping it; the hand had unsettled me greatly, and tremors still threatened to wrack my body as the memory of it tried to force itself to the forefront of my mind. I imagined guilt - for what I don't know - plastered across my features, and knew without a shadow of a doubt that I'd be ending this night in a cell if I didn't get off the main street quickly. That in itself was easy enough; I just picked a likely looking alley and stepped into it, letting it lead me where it would through the maze of backstreets and alleyways, losing myself in the unfamiliar streets and hoping against hope that anyone who might be watching might lose me too.

How long I walked for I couldn't tell you. Maybe it was hours, maybe mere minutes. But when I stopped, I was alone at a shadowy juncture in the backstreets. Darkness surrounded me, undisturbed by the penetrating, eye-searing neon signs that occupied the walls of many alleys, proclaiming the joys of the drinks, drugs and girls contained within the various unsavoury watering holes that seemed to occupy every building in this fetid place. I was glad of that; the cloak of darkness felt like a friend, shielding me from the eyes which I imagined were probing the night for me. Somewhere in the distance, barely audible if I listened intently, a siren wailed. Was it back the way I had come? I couldn't say. It didn't matter, anyway; even if they weren't already aware of the hand, it would only be a matter of time before someone reported it to the security forces.

Or before they found the person it belonged to, I reflected bleakly, the thought sending a chill through my body.
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Re: End of the Line

Post  Kasia Thorn on 15th January 2014, 02:14

How long did I linger there, my mind snared in a mesh of my own confused thoughts? Long enough that the darkness was absolute by the time I stirred myself from the madness, and for the chill on the night air to have raised goosebumps on the exposed flesh of my forearms.

"Get a hold of yourself," I whispered, giving myself a mental shake. "You're tougher than this. What'd he say if he could see you now, huh?"

Now that was a sobering thought.

I closed my eyes for a moment, letting memories of old failures surface in my mind. From the memory of a thousand arguments, I could picture his face perfectly. The frowning brow, the stormy eyes... I'd always been able to see the anger there, a cold, hard emotion so very different to my own fiery passions. He never even raised his voice, though. In a way, that had been the worst of it; the way he could suggest with a disappointed glance that I wasn't even worth his ire.

That look had been why I've left; to prove myself, not to him, but to myself.

So far, I didn't seem to be doing that well.

It was time for that to change. I'd come too far, and sacrificed too much, to give in to self pity now. "I am my father's daughter," I muttered, clenching my fists so tightly that my nails bit into the flesh of my palms. Pain washed over me, but it was a relief, a cleanser that submerged the memories of my grisly gift, and fresh determination gleamed in my emerald eyes as I opened them once more. "Time to start acting like it."
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Re: End of the Line

Post  Kasia Thorn on 15th January 2014, 08:57

First up, I need a plan.

No, scratch that. First up was finding a place where I could come up with a plan, since trying to do so here, in a dark alley on an unfamiliar world, was as close to suicide as made no difference.

So, where could I go? I'd picked out a few places in advance, of course, but those were back by the spaceport, and I was far from confident that I'd be able to find my way back there in the dead of night. Besides, did I really want to be near the spaceport when there was a pretty good chance that the security forces would already be searching for a murderer?

No, I did not.

What were my options then? Did I, in actual fact, have any? Perhaps, but only if you counted sleeping on a street corner as an option, which I sure as hell didn't. No, my path was clear; I needed to find a bunkhouse. Nothing fancy, of course, because the fancy places would be the sort to ask questions of a lone girl wandering in at this time of night (and I didn't have enough credits for the really fancy places, the ones were the staff were paid enough to pointedly fail to observe any unusual comings and goings), but equally not the sort of pit that could see a girl waking up with unexpected - and unwelcome - company. The best place to find such an establishment was back toward the spaceport, but, since I hadn't a clue in which direction that lay, I just picked the best lit path, reasoning that it would lead back to whatever approximated for civilization on this world soon enough.

Sure enough, just a few minutes walk was enough to bring me onto a street marked with dim, flickering signs. Shadowy figures made their way unobtrusively from building to building, while a pair of ten-cred joygirls on the opposite corner were making a point of being as obtrusive as possible. I made a point of not letting my gaze linger on any of them overlong as I glanced about - though it was still enough to draw an obscene gesture from one of the streetwalkers - and kept moving down the street, searching for a sign that stirred the slightest measure of confidence in me.

That took a while to find.

Still, eventually I found myself standing in the doorway of a place whose sign announced it as the Spacr's Rst. I figured it was supposed to be called the Spacer's Rest, but time and a lack of maintenance had left the E's on the sign dark and lifeless. Despite that, the place looked clean - at least by Terminus' standards - and the Bothan at the desk looked like he'd at least want a few credits to slit my throat, as opposed to the ones in the other bunkhouses who'd looked like they'd have done it for fun.

Oh, to be damned with such faint flattery...

I found myself laughing softly at the thought, and shook my head even as I stepped across the threshold and into the coldly lit lobby. The Bothan didn't even look up from his datapad, but that was fine. The less he saw of me, the better. "Hey," I called, stepping up to the desk, "Any rooms left?"

"One or two," came the reply from the distracted alien, "Ten creds a night. Get your own food an' drink, an' nothin illegal in the rooms. Good?"

"Good," I echoed, fishing a fifty credit chip out of my pack and flipping it onto the bar, "Twenty for two nights, and the rest so you let me know if anyone comes looking for me, yeah?" I'd wondered if that last part was a good idea - it was bound to catch his notice, at least - but the Bothan's attitude toward illegal activities had been enough to suggest that helping the authorities wasn't exactly high on his list of priorities. As it was, he barely glanced up, eyes displaying a blatant disinterest as he nodded and made the credchip disappear. Moments later, the keycard for the room was in my hand and I was making my way down the corridor, looking forward to a chance to throw myself onto a bed more with each passing moment.
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Re: End of the Line

Post  Kasia Thorn on 20th January 2014, 02:37

I hadn't intended to sleep when I entered the room. I'd meant to examine my surroundings, to check the windows, to sit and try to sort through my thoughts, to try and make some sort of sense out of all that had happened. I had intended to plan.

Somehow, it didn't end up working out like that.

Maybe it was the near hypnotic allure of the bed, the first real bed I had seen in more than a week. Or maybe my brain, finding itself finally in a place of relative safety, decided it was simply time to shut down. I don't know and, honestly, does it even matter? Knowing the reasons won't change what happened, or what came next. And what came next, well, that's the interesting part, because, when I escaped my haunted dreams and my eyes fluttered open, I found myself gazing up at the face of a woman who was entirely unfamiliar to me.

"She's awake," the woman called, her cold, clipped tones a stark contrast to my own startled utterance. The voice suited her, though; her features were every bit as cold her tone, with glacial blue eyes set in a narrow, angular face above a small, thin-lipped mouth that looked like it'd fight every attempt to make it smile. Her hair was dirty blonde, and severely tied back into a braid that fell across her shoulder and trailed down across the front of her tunic, partially obscuring the sector security identity tag pinned to the breast of her tunic. Kemren, it said her name was. Annah Kemren.

"Yeah?" came another voice - a male voice - "Be right with you."

Bolting upright in bed - noticing as I did that I hadn't bothered pull the covers over myself last night, and that, thank the Force, I hadn't bothered undress either - I risked a wary glance at the source of the second voice. It was a man, as I'd suspected, but not the sort of muscular bruiser I'd have expected from Sector Security. He was average height, but slim and athletic. He had brown hair, worn in a fashion that was a couple of seasons out of fashion in the core, so probably fairly popular out here on the rim, and though his skin was as pale as that of any denizen of this lightless, smog-swallowed world, it didn't carry the sickly pallour that many did. He was speaking to the Bothan from the desk, who glanced across as he felt my angry glare burning into his skull. "Oh," he muttered, "These two came lookin' for you."

"Thanks," I answered snidely, shaking my head in disgust, "I never would have noticed without you."

"No need for that, Miss," the man noted, turning away from the Bothan to reveal a face that was, if not handsome then at least a close enough approximation to pass under Terminus' poor light, "Mr Rya'leh here was merely doing his civic duty." I arched a skeptical eyebrow at that, but he ignored it and continued, "I am Agent Wilder, of the Terminus branch of Imperial Sector Security. This is my partner, Agent Kemren." ISS. Well, I'd guessed that much from Kemren's uniform, but hearing it aloud was enough to send a chill through me regardless. The ISS were a division of the Imperial Security Bureau that had authority in the Rim territories, particularly out toward the Unknown Regions and Wildspace where Imperial Rule wasn't as strong as it might be. Their powers were many and varied - they had to be for them to have any chance of keeping the peace - but that wasn't what worried me.

No, what worried me was the fact that they often tended to have at least as much loyalty to whichever local scumbucket was padding their wage packets with bribes and backhanders as they did to the Imperial Throne.

"We'd like to ask you some questions," the agent continued, padding softly toward me across the dirty floor, "In relation to a murder which we have been... informed... that you might know something about."
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Re: End of the Line

Post  Kasia Thorn on 26th January 2014, 04:40

Murder. Well, that was hardly a surprise. It wasn't like I'd believed anyone was likely to live a long and prosperous life after someone crudely hacked off their arm and threw it in a box.

Still, to hear it said aloud like that sent a chill down my spine.

"Looks like she knows what you're talking about," the woman commented, her tone dull and unsurprised, as though the conclusion to this discussion was already foregone and we were just playing out our allotted parts. Which, I realised as I stared at her in steadily dawning horror, was exactly what we were doing.

"Perhaps," answered her partner, though his tone betrayed a wariness that wasn't present in hers, "But I'd like to ask anyway."

"Why?" came the answer, "We had the tip, we've got the prints, she's just gone and confirmed she knows about the murder. What else is there to ask about?" There was irritation evident in her voice now, and just the faintest suggestion that this was a conversation they'd had more than once previously, and one she was growing increasingly weary of.

"Because it's my call," was his answer, equally terse, "And I say we do things properly." He glanced back at me as he spoke, and his creased features coloured just slightly, offering me just a glimpse of the irritation he was feeling at being forced to have this argument in front of a suspect. Fortunately for him, and for his blood pressure, it seemed like his partner had no desire to press the argument, but instead made a wordless noise of disgust before pulling a deathstick from her jacket and stepping across to the window, making it clear she wasn't wasting her time with questioning me as she turned her back on the room, lit the narcotic and took a deep drag.

Wilder glared at her back for a moment longer, then shook his head and returned his focus to me. "I apologise for that, Miss," he remarked, continuing forward until he was standing before me, just beyond my reach, "My partner and I sometimes have... disagreements on procedure, but it was unprofessional of us to allow them to occur in public."

I waved a hand dismissively. What else could I do? Tell the ISS officers that their behavior would've been enough to get them knocked back down to cadets back on the core? Doing that seemed like as much of a good idea as simply inviting them to put a blasterbolt in my back.

"We appreciate your understanding," Wilder continued, not smiling even slightly, "Now, to return to the matter at hand, I would advise you formally that we are investigating a murder which occurred earlier this evening. We have a number of witnesses who indicated that you had an altercation with the deceased shortly prior to his death, along with evidence of your involvement in his death. In light of these facts, is there anything you wish to say at this time?"

Shaking my head, hardly believing what Wilder was saying, I answered simply, "I think this is the point where I ask for an advocate."
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Re: End of the Line

Post  Kasia Thorn on 27th January 2014, 09:18

The next few hours - how many? I couldn't tell you, since my chronometer was one of the first thing the bastards took off me - passed in a blur of activity. I was escorted, not exactly impolitely - although I got the feeling that was only due to Agent Wilder - down to the secterhouse, a towering building of obsidian and durasteel that seemed to glower down at all who approached it. Details were taken, scans conducted, questions asked and asked again, and through it all there wasn't even a glimpse of the advocate I had requested.

Not that they had to provide one, of course. That was one of the supposedly great things about Imperial law; there were dozens of laws and regulations they could invoke to steal away my rights to an advocate, or to anything else really. They hadn't yet, though, which was a small mercy, but I wasn't about to lay credits on how long that'd last.

Instead they just placed me in a cell; a single unit, thank the Force, not one of those fetid group arrangements you see on all the quarter-credit holos they churn out down in the undercity. Wilder and Kemren had vanished, no doubt going to finish their argument while they wrote up their reports, leaving me to pace the confines of my cage irritably. Trying to distract myself quickly proved pointless - apparently there's just something about being charged with murder on a hellish backwater a thousand parsecs from the nearest person you know that just does a wonderful job of keeping your mind focused - and soon enough I was sinking down onto the hard, unyielding bunk, my face buried in my shaking hands. Emotionss... emotions I'd thought long beaten and buried proved they'd merely been biding their time as they came rushing back to engulf my mind.

"Shit," I whispered, my voice hoarse, "This isn't good."

"You have a talent for understatement."

I won't lie; a cry of surprise escaped my lips, and I sprawled back onto the bunk as the voice answered mine, for I'd have sworn to the Emperor himself that I'd been alone. Certainly, I hadn't heard the door open. And yet, when I steeled myself and turned to look, there he was; a man clad in a black suit of the very finest cut, the sort of thing you'd find in one of the upper spire boutiques on Coruscant. I'd cheerfully have wagered it cost more than the clothes of ever ISS agent in the sector house combined. His hair was short, chocolate brown in colour, and his eyes were of a similar shade. "Who the hell are you?" I managed to spit, glancing about desperately for a weapon as I did.

"Your advocate," he answered simply, "Unless, of course, you have decided you no longer require one."

For a long moment, I simply stared at him as my mind raced, trying to make sense of what he was saying. It seemed too good to be true. Force above, I knew it was too good to be true, because there was no way in hell a man'd make enough money to buy a suit like that working sector house duty. No, that was the sort of clothes worn by a man who made serious credits, the sort of credits you could only make with powerful clients, clients like the Black Sun, or...

Oh. Frell.

"He sent you, didn't he?"
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Re: End of the Line

Post  Kasia Thorn on 28th January 2014, 10:09

The smile was enough of an answer for me. The small, smug, self-satisfied little smile that I'd seen so many times before on people like him. I groaned at the sight of it, shaking my head in disbelief.

"My employer was most concerned to note your present circumstances," the advocate remarked, his words underlined by the snapping of the catches on his attache case, "Most concerned. I am advised, in fact, that he considered attending to this directly, though the distances are regrettably prohibitive for that." I had to thank the Force for that, since the last thing I wanted was to find that he'd chosen to involve himself in my affairs. And that was even assuming that he'd simply want to free my from my captivity, rather than punish me for my supposed transgressions. No, with him as the alternative, I'd happily take this prissy little advocate in his ten-thousand credit suit.

"I will be blunt," the man continued, adeptly translating my silence into agreement, "They have witnesses to your argument, your DNA on the box containing his hand - a lovely touch, by the way - and they've tracked down a couple of spacers who're happy to testify that you followed the victim from the ship you both arrived on to the cantina. The case would be a strong one even if the local cartel weren't throwning credits at it. With the cartel pushing it... well..."

"Are you saying I've got no chance?" I snapped, in no mood for games.

Unflustered, the advocate smiled again. "Before I arrived? Yes. Now? Possibly. We shall see."

Hardly reassuring words, but the advocate didn't seem much to care whether I was at my ease. Actually, the opposite seemed to be true; he seemed to relish the power he held over me. But that was always the way, wasn't it? The powerful lording it over the weak, the helpless. And in this situation, it was certainly he who held all the power.

"I see from the notes that you have told them little," he continued after a moment, consulting a datapad he'd withdrawn from his case, "That's probably for the best. Everything you've said has likely already been relayed to the cartel by one of their operatives here. The fact that you've not mentioned their agents will at least stop this from escalating."

Escalating? I almost laughed at that, almost demanded to know just how it could escalate, but I stopped myself; questions like that had a tendency to have disturbing answers. Instead I sat there silently, staring at the be-suited figure as he considered the contents of his datapad. "Very well," he noted after a moment, nodding as though all the pieces were clicking into place in his mind, "Yes, I see what we have to do here." He smiled again, a gesture that put me in mind of a nexu I'd once seen, and suddenly I found myself wishing the ISS officers would return...
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Kasia Thorn

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Re: End of the Line

Post  Kasia Thorn on 30th January 2014, 07:13

"Do you know the penalty for murder on Terminus?" He asked the question without warning, that predatory smile still etched onto his features. It was unsettling, no, more than that, it was downright disturbing, and once more I found myself wishing for a weapon. "It's quite simple. Execution. Unless you have the connections, or the credits. Do you have either?"

I didn't know where he was going with this, but, by the way that all too familiar feeling was starting to stir in the depths of my stomach once again, I couldn't help but fear I wasn't going to like it. Nonetheless, what choice did I have but to play along? So I found myself shaking my head, answering simply, "I don't. You know I don't. What's your point?"

The advocate sighed, a deeply affected gesture that betrayed not a shred of sincerity. "That's too bad. Honestly, it is. I mean, we're not out of options - particularly for an attractive young lady such as yourself, if you follow me - but those really were the easiest options." He was hamming it up now, throwing out every disgusting insinuation and lecherous expression he could think of to draw a reaction out of me, and damn but it was working, for though I knew this all to be part of some ridiculous farce, I couldn't help but want to knock his teeth back into his throat. "Listen," I snarled, stepping toward him, my fingers curling so tightly against my palms that my nails drew trails of crimson from the pale flesh, "Enough games. Just do your damn job."

I had expected my outburst to silence him, at least for a moment, but my words did nothing but draw a smile from the advocate. "Ah," he chuckled, "There's that temper I was warned about. Not the worst I've seen, but you're young yet." Sensing that I was about to answer, and that my words weren't likely to be complimentary, the advocate threw up a hand to forestall me, before continuing, "Oh, very well, to business. I will begin by reiterating - the penalty for murder is death, unless you have the credits or the connections to get out of it. You have neither, and therefore you are going to die."
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Re: End of the Line

Post  Kasia Thorn on 5th February 2014, 07:45

He wanted me to react. I knew he did.

Well, he got his wish.

"What's the point of you, then?" I snarled, anger rising in me as my heart sank, "What kind've advocate are you that you'd just decide your client's going to die based on a single frakking minute of conversation?" I wanted to continue, wanted to relieve my frustrations at this situation - this stupid frakking unfair situation - by screaming in this smug , suited bastard's face, But I didn't, because as the angry exclamations leapt like daggers from my tongue, he smiled.

It wasn't a reassuring smile.

In all honesty, I don't know what it was that made the look so unsettling. Maybe it was how the edges of his lips just seemed to twist upward to reveal a glimpse of his too-white teeth, or maybe it was the gleam of sadistic amusement that flashed in his eyes. I don't know, and honestly, I don't care. All I know is it stopped me in my tracks, and left me uneasily swallowing my unspoken insults.

"Now that you've managed to get that out of your system," he continued, voice as smooth and unruffled as silk, "I would highlight that the permanence of death is sometimes... shall we say 'open to interpretation?'" He shifted slightly as he spoke, tugging at one immaculate cuff gently, and offering me a glimpse of a tiny white capsule as he did. Suddenly, he stepped forward, clapping a hand down on my shoulder with surprising care, before raising his voice and speaking again, noting, "We must also consider that there are many sorts. The security forces will not take pains to make you suffer, but neither will they be gentle, and the inevitable execution will come at the end of a long, drawn out process. It will be unpleasant, both for you and... well, for those who maintain an interest in your wellbeing." He paused a moment, letting me absorb his words and the meaning that lay beneath them, before adding, "Some would consider that a quick, painless death would be best for all involved."

Stepping back, he glanced down at his wrist chronometer, before raising an eyebrow and noting, "Well, look at that; we seem to have used up all of our time. I trust you will think on my words? Of course you will."

With that, he turned on his heel and strode toward the door, barely slowing as it slid open before him and swished shut in his wake, leaving me once more undeniably alone.
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Re: End of the Line

Post  Kasia Thorn on 12th February 2014, 07:07

Yes, I was utterly alone, and trapped within the cold, unyielding confines of the cell. I should have felt despair - no doubt that's what my captors were expecting me to feel, at least - but as I ran my hand across the spot on my shoulder where the advocate had laid his hand, I felt a smile creeping across my lips.

"So," I whispered softly, drawing my hand away and staring at the tiny white capsule I'd plucked from my shoulder, "The permanence of death can be open to interpretation, huh?"

I'd seen tablets like these before. My father always carried one, as did pretty much everyone who worked within the shadows of the Imperial system. Of course, I'd always thought they were a coward's way out, but now, as I found myself staring straight into death's grinning features, I had to admit that perhaps I'd been just a little hasty in my decision. It was funny how quickly you could change your mind once old grim was hot on your tail.

Still, could I really bring myself to...?

Did I even have a choice?

"No," I answered myself, "I don't have a choice." Closing my eyes, I tossed the capsule into my mouth and swallowed it down, a task that wasn't particularly easy with a throat that was suddenly as dry as a bone. I managed though, and held back the temptation to retch as it settled in my stomach. "Now what?" I wondered, glancing down at myself expectantly, "How long do these even take to..." I trailed off as my stomach lurched, then lurched forward, steadying myself uneasily against the bunk.

"Guessh that anshwers my queshtion," I slurred, my tongue thick in my mouth as I fell to my knees and embraced the darkness that was sweeping in.
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