Log:Array Consortium: Cloak and Dagger, Part 4
It's been a while since Pash spoke with the mysterious Aline, who last told him that the Mathalls wanted to deal - and now, a new message. But who's really responsible for the summons this time?
Another message from Aline - first in a week or so, at least not since the General of the bloody Resistance showed up on Adhar's doorstep. But it comes, and this time, it is very interesting.
COME AT ONCE. SYNDICATE READY TO DEAL. WANT TO ISSUE TERMS THROUGH YOU.
Well, if that's not good news, what is? Her usual coordinates, her usual flirtiness. Well, sort of. There's a sort of urgency in that message you've never seen before. Hopefully there isn't trouble for her.
Pash has been waiting for this message ever since speaking with Adhar. Something about how this 'mission' has turned out excites him, and he's eager for the long trip to meet Aline. Not that he'll admit that to anyone. No, he'll grunt along until he's in hyperspace, just him alone.
Before he knows it, his ship has popped out into real space, made the initial maneuverings toward the larger craft, and settled into the bulky hangar. "See you in a jiffy," he announces over comms, completing his initial approach.
But this time, there is no hangar. There is no corvette. There is, instead, an old-fashioned Nebulon B frigate, heavily modified with armor plating and bristling with guns, it and a small swarm of TIE fighters are what greeet you upon arrival. You are directed into the bay of the ship, via starfighters and tractor beams - pulled in by force, not by invitation. The by is heavily loaded with the ship's remaining complement of fighters, several yachts, and a small swarm of beings in black security armor.
So. This is exciting.
Pash readies himself for what he assumes will be a very rude personal greeting once he steps off his ship. He's had to deal with such things before, and so he steels himself in a way he feels is proper.
He drops his ladder and climbs down, slowly, announcing to whomever is meeting him, "I'm alone! This is one hell of a welcome party."
Out of the mass of troopers, a pale Twi'lek in a long golden robe, his eyes replaced with savage-looking prostheses that look more like jutting golden cones than optical sensors, gestures toward the back of the hangar where a turbolift awaits. "It will go where it is told," the fellow says, his voice not coming from his mouth but from somewhere under those robes. "Now."
That said, the disturbing majordomo glides away toward the turbolift. The troopers make an aisle for you both.
Pash drops to the hangar floor and is greeted with..."Whoo boy," is his initial reaction. Even he can't hold that back. So, he straightens up into his usual upright posture, an audible pop of some joints, weary from being seated for so long.
Soon enough, the spacer reaches the turbolift and makes a move to board it once it's available. "You got a name?" he asks the robed Twi'lek, almost apprehensively.
"It will not speak," the creature says as it waves a hand over a metal plate and the turbolift hisses open. "It will speak only when told to. Enter." Assuming you do so, the creature enters after, waving his hand over the metal plate inside that replaces any other controls. The turbolift seals, and you head upward...slowly.
Pash let's out a highly-audible sigh and presses his lips tight together, clearly annoyed at the Twi'lek. "Doesn't sound like it won't," he grumbles, stepping into the turbolift. Inside, he turns to face the door and holds his hands at the small of his back, waiting. He'll ride up in silence, though his mind is racing.
After another minute or two, the doors open, revealing a starship corridor draped with rich red bunting. A bit like theater curtains in its way, the corridor runs down through what must be the spine of the ship, punctuated by heavy security doors. "It will come this way," your demented cyborg guide says, shuffling along ahead of you. "It will come, and not speak until spoken to!"
Pash looks past the Twi'lek and into the other room, releasing his hands before he follows along. "Well, it sounds like it's being spoken to," he pushes, adding a glare to his array of facial features. "Now why don't you cut the crap and tell it what's going on." He takes a few more steps. "I mean me. Tell me." He's feeling exhausted already.
That gets the majordomo's attention. The monstrosity turns, the horrible cone-like sensors that have replaced its eyes literally vibrating in their sockets. "It. Will. Not. /Speak/," the Twi'lek hisses between clenched teeth, each one a hooked blade of some glittering crystalline material. That's...not right.
That said, the thing wanders off down the hall, finding one of the many doors there, and turns to point at you. "It will enter. The Masters await it!"
Pash stares down the monstrosity with his own version of hate burning across his face. And when it walks off? He stands still, taking long, deep breaths until he's able to calm himself down, else he tries to rip out the majordomo's throat. Eventually, he's well enough to enter the door pointed out to him.
You pass through the door, leaving the beast behind and entering darkness. Like a surrealist holovid, the room you enter is entirely black, short of a large pool of light shone on the floor from above, a simply metal chair resting in the center. Well.
So, this is it, Pash thinks. He must have died on his way to meet Aline. Hit a rogue piece of space debris along the way or blown something in the hyperspace tunnel. Something quick and unnoticeable. Because this? This is screwed up. Nevertheless, he walks toward the chair, tentatively at first, then more quickly. "Let's move it along, then," he calls out, stopping short of the chair, but still within the spread of light, if possible. He doesn't sit, but instead places his hands impatiently on his hips.
This is apparently sufficient for the lords of whatever dream realm you've entered, post-death; as you stand there, a quartet of holograms appear, each one of a different figure - two humans, one an honest-looking man with short black hair, the other a very pale creature that was human but is so riddled with bionics that most of its features are obscured, short of a cluster of bright blue-white 'eyes' that burn over a respirator mask. The others are an Ithorian with a bionic eyestalk, its eye black with a tiny pinpoint of white, and the last a Devaronian woman who like the first image is completely undamagd.
"Pash Danigo." The honest man speaks first. "We are the leaders of the Mathall Syndicate. You have served as go-between for our organization and yours, in the guise of a turncoat."
Well that's a start.
Pash remains where he is, hands planted where they are, as he studies the holograms carefully. "Glad to finally make your acquaintance," he says, voice still dry, yet not without a tinge of respect. "And, yes, that's how things have turned out, it seems." He drops his arms to his sides and adopts a more diplomatic posture, which doesn't seem entirely unsuitable. "This must be important, then."
"You have been told that we wish to negotiate with your organization," says the Ithorian in its strange double-voice, seeming to come at you from all sides.
"That is not true." The Devaronian's voice is not sultry like Aline's, but haughty - however, there is an unremitting wisdom there you cannot shake. Like a mother's over her children.
The man in the cybernetics, however, is possessed of no such subtlety. "We would prefer to drown you all in your own blood," he emits rather than speaks, in a horrible droid-voice that is far worse than the Twi'lek's. Like a thresher learned to talk.
"But we must, for we have lost many millions of credits thanks to your chief." The honest man's smile is almost apologetic. "However, the price of peace will be high."
Pash's gaze follows each of the Mathall leaders in turn as they address him, and he does his best to maintain a neutral gaze, even in the face of such strong rhetoric as that used by the cypernetic man.
"Uh huh," is first response, as if none of this is news to him. And, honestly, it's not. While he may have once, briefly, held out hope that both sides would want to seek peace, it was clearly a long shot. "Well, you can save your threats and any embarassing reasons for coming to the table with me. I'm a businessman. What have you got for me?"
"He is interesting," says the Devaronian woman.
"He is a bug to be smote," hisses the cyborg monstrosity.
"Nevertheless...." The honest man looks at you for a long moment. "We /do/ have an offer."
The Ithorian looks at you for a long moment; its mouths seem to crawl faintly, and its eyes of flesh and durasteel regard you coldly, but not with apparent malice. "The woman Aline was one of us," it says in that doubled voice. "But she seeks control over this Syndicate."
"It will not happen," roars the cyborg. "We will kill her first! All of her traitors!"
"No," says the Devaronian woman. "/We/ won't."
"Your organization wishes peace," the Ithorian continues as if not interrupted. "Destroy them, or barring that ensure they no longer threaten our business. Do this, and we will have peace. Your organization may offer terms, and we will hear them - but before that, this task must be completed."
"Otherwise we will rain fire on you all, Hutts be damned." The cyborg lets out a hissing metallic laugh. "It will be glorious!"
Pash hears this, patient as ever, and ends up focused on the foul-tempered cyborg. His patience, reads his face, is just about up. "You know what I'm tired of?" he asks of the group. "People treatin' me like some kind of errand boy." He knows exactly when it started happening and he could kick himself for letting it. "So here's how's it's gonna be. I'll play ball, but it's gonna be on my terms."
He lifts a fist up close to his face and extends the thumb. "First, you're going to give me all the info you got on Aline and this group of so-called traiters." Another finger is added, "Then, you're going to fuel up my boat and give me a little something as a sign of goodwill, because that one," he thrusts his arm out toward the bloodthirsty cyborg, "needs to be apologized for."
Finally, he drops his arm and says, "Then I'll figure out what needs to be done. But I won't be murdering anyone for anyone. You can be sure of that."
"Murder is not the question," says the Devaronian woman. "This is already war. They are simply the enemy - your captain understands that."
"But your terms are acceptable," the honest man says. He is about to say more, but the Ithorian breaks in. "We will fuel you," the alien says in its ponderous way, "And give you information that you speak. But there will be no reward. Your faction has wrung enough from us through its attacks."
The cyborg does not speak, but its anger is plain on its...well, it's plain. The Devaroanian speaks next. "When you are done," she says, "Contact us with the holonet address that we will give you in the data capsule. Remember, Captain, that peace is its own reward."
That done, the holograms vanish, leaving you standing in the pool of light. The door behind you opens, and the Twi'lek horror speaks once more.
"It will leave now. Its ship is already fueled. Its computer is already educated. The Masters desire that it leave now."
Pash stands there, fuming. "I am /not/ my captain," he says under his breath. And he's no man's thug. That much he's sure of, though he's not sure how he's come to end up like one. Whirling around, he comes face to face with the Twi'lek just as it gives its orders to him. "Just take me to my goddamn ship," he says in response, walking off toward the door.
It leads you back, down the turbolift - which moves quickly this time - and then you are in the hangar bay once more. The cordon of armored soldiers remain here, awaiting your return to your ship.
Pash bounds into the hangar bay, a tense bundle of nerves and muscles, and makes a beeline for his ship. He huffs - literally - in the face of anyone who gets in his way and doesn't let up until he's in the guts of the Special Deilvery, which is when he plants a fist into the hull. "Goddamn it, Pash! How the hell did you end up here?"
That'll be something to think about on his way back to wherever it is he's heading. Not home, if he even has one. Somewhere, though. Somewhere he can calm down and think things through.