Log:Sweet Rot and Wine
Thundershowers dominate Bastion. Each flash reveals the shadow of the looming mountains, and the chill in the wind threatens that if the air gets any colder, there could be snow. Aryn Cole, /Lady/ Aryn as she is most known for answering to here, is seated near the hearth at a table by herself. Before her lay a series of datapads with their holo-images projected above the screens showing various maps and streaming bits of old language information.
A glass of expensive brandy sits untouched as the young brilliant blonde doctor reads. The light from the crackling fire illuminates one side of her face; the side bearing the scar over her eye and cheek.
Thunderstorms are perhaps appropriate weather - Oran is a man who knows how to darken a door, and given his general appreciation for and application of theatrics and melodrama....a roll of thunder and a flash of lightning won't go amiss, either. He seems in a relatively good mood, however, probably owing to the fact that he's about to walk into a shop selling extraordinarily expensive, rare, and exclusive liquors. No better way to spend the time between bouts of subjugating the galaxy. He has managed to traverse the town without being unduly affected by the weather, sweeping off a cloak just inside the door to hand it off to whatever coat check, peg, or helpful staff or droid might serve such a purpose. A few more steps into the room and then he pauses, for a moment off guard -- but only for a moment, before he greets, dryly, "I trust the Ramishi sword met with no disappointment."
The fair face angles up so that her blue eyes could focus on his face. It takes a moment for her memory to recall the voice to the face, and she rises from her seat after a measure to curtsy. "Lord Oran Arcantael." She announces, straightening to stand proper. "It served. My grasp of swordsmanship is growing to my foes' dismay. Tell me; have you a date this evening, or just passing through?"
A subtle wave of her hand sees another chair added to her table, and an empty glass is set before it, with a staff member ready to accept his order. Meanwhile, Aryn stands with her hands clasped, wearing all white to include her cloak, which is trimmed with the silver of Alderaanian nobility.
The curtsy is returned by a bow, and it is, of course, excruciatingly correct -- not too deferential, not too supercilious, a gesture for an equal and executed with an ease created by a long childhood spent with tutors who didn't spare the rod. Used more rarely these says, perhaps, but the ingrained manners from a lost world high in the sky of Coruscant -- they'll always be there. "Forgive me for casting aspersions on your honesty, but it's quite impossible to believe you've ever caused anyone such dismay as to acquire foes." He sounds amused, maybe dryly so, as he says it -- and she's getting a long, thoughtful, somewhat inscrutable look, moreso than she did last time. Far more so.
But no comment there, at last not yet, to shed light on whatever dark thoughts are rattling around his cobwebby brain. There is a chair, he accepts, and doesn't thank or even notice the staff. They did what they're there for, noticing them is for when they're in error. "My schedule is unoccupied," he replies to the date question with an easy, one-shouldered shrug. "I find D'Qar... quaint. Imagine my surprise when a sommelier on Taris recommended a purveyor of spirits of which I was previously quite unaware?" Another pause, another long look, then one corner of his mouth curls into a smile. "And now, you. Another surprise."
"Quite right. I'm not made of the stuff to harbor enemies, but lift your gaze for a moment and you will find a relic from my endeavors." Her hand unclasps from her other and touches the spot on her cheek where the light from the fire dances. The scar is more noticeable now than before. "An unfortunate transaction. Surely, it won't put you off your appetite?" At the mention of his schedule being open, she gestured to the seat.
"My family is known throughout the galaxy for their spirits. Shall that be your choice? A brandy? Our wine?" Aryn brushed her cape back and finally seated herself.
A scar! Oran raises a brow. "Well, what've you gone and done that for? You're quite completely ruined now," he replies, though again -- there's an undercurrent of wry amusement that comes naturally to his banter. "All the other daughters of silver men thirty years past the days they did anything notable are going to take one look and say 'oh, my stars, Lady Aryn Cole, you look a proper thug now.' Then you stab them," he adds conversationally, and moves along smoothly. "I came here for Alderaanian wine and I don't mean to be disappointed, but I will defer to you regarding the appropriate vintage."
Seated now, he inspects the quality of the crystal for a moment, before setting the glass down and looking back up. "Surprise me. Impress me."
A look to Lady Aryn who nods, and the servant unveils an older vintage of Alderaanian wine. It's uncorked, and the chilled contents fill his glass. "The bottle is yours now, my Lord. A gift, for your kindness." His likening her to a thug made her laugh. When his glass is full, Aryn reaches out to take her own brandy, and lifts it for a sip. The familiar taste is met with no expression at all, but her eyes stayed trained on him, curious for his reaction to the wine. Her glass is set aside again, and her hands fold atop the table, nothing to hide. She seems content in his company.
"Kindness is not one of my more notable attributes," Oran states for the record. "Did you ever attend, as a child, to all those classic fables and stories wherein some wicked man mistakes kindness for weakness? I am that man quite completely." Again that crook of a smile. "I will say it's worked out rather well. Someday some wise hero will set me straight, without a doubt, but for now I am absolutely flourishing in the error of my ways." They look as usual like opposing chess pieces, his bespoke Coruscanti tailoring is always black and charcoal in opposition to her crisp white. Easier to hide the dirt, maybe.
The wine is met with a reception that suggests he's a man who just likes wine. He likes tasting notes, he likes finding fault in perfection, he likes finding perfection in the obscure, this is entertainment and art, not just a drink to be knocked back in some anywhere-bar in a random corner of the galaxy. "Interesting," he eventually pronounces, "I would say this ends on a mineral note rather than a fruity one, which might in something crafted with less care be harsh, bleakness without depth. There's a cloying end of the scale, and a bridge too far the other direction. But this... lean, elegant and balanced rather completely through the finish." He won't come out and say he's pleased, but he seems pleased. "We should all aspire to be thus."
Aryn is aware of the limits of his cruelty. Perhaps unknowing that it was him. It took her a week to fix Mr. Black. -- She quietly observes his reaction and listens to the tone of his voice. He knows wine, she can tell. His inspection of it is thorough, even the smaller details. Any other noble would preen, but Aryn nods her head, silently agreeing to the aspiration with a pleasant smile. Another sip, and her glass is set aside.
"Lord Oran, you are a learned man. Perhaps you can spend a moment helping me with this puzzle?" It was not an actual puzzle, but a collection of clues. Rather than shove him into the raging stream of information overload, Aryn selects a particular datapad and sets it aside. The others are moved away to one side of her table. The one Aryn set aside? It is taken back, queued and offered to him. "I have been chasing a ghost across the galaxy; and it's no ordinary fabled kind of ghost either. It's terrifying, and it's showing up in pockets all over the mid-rim. I've confronted it on many occasions, and at first you might find it harmless. A pool of dark goo, but then you catch a hint of the sweet rot, and it moves. One drop.." Emphasized with one finger. "..gets on your skin and it infects you. Enters your body through your pores and reaches your brain, devouring you from the inside until it controls 'you' and you no longer exist."
"I am absolutely not learned any more than I'm kind," Oran dryly replies. "Do recall - enthusiast. Not scholar. I never attended to any studies I could pay someone to conduct for me, and I had an obscene amount of money." He must have been really impressed with the wine, however, not to mention the gift of the whole bottle because it's earned her enough good graces for him to accept the datapad and review its gruesome contents. Oran listens... listens... brow raise... listen, and then eventually looks back up a moment after she finishes speaking.
"What /have/ you been up to, porcelain paladin," the Coruscanti accent is carrying a certain amount of disbelief here, "Such that the last time I spoke to you, you could scarcely bear the sight of a sword leaving a scabbard much less countenance what one is meant to do with the pointy end, and now you've literally handed me a datapad full of something so grotesque and shocking that it gives me pause? ME, known connoisseur of the grotesque and shocking?" His eyes drop back to the datapad, fingers stroking over his beard for a moment. "Go on about the nature of this 'puzzle,' then. Why are you chasing this ghost?"
"I am a Doctor, and I have an obligation to help those who need it. When I encountered this ghost for the first time on Umgul, it was deep in a mine. We were all in a lift, and all at once,.. humans ran from the pitch black depths of the mine to swarm our lift. They reached through the chain linked fence, broke their fingers, wrists, dislocated their arm in an effort to just touch us. Then-- They just ran back into the darkness. I've watched these..husks literally tear a person into pieces before my eyes. I am chasing this ghost because I intend to stop it. And to do so, I need /dangerous/ people to help me. And if this stuff is not stopped? It will saturate worlds and devour them. Everything from the wind to the blades of grass will die." Aryn leans back in her seat, tucking strands of blonde back from one side of her face.
"I had a colleague who worked at Theed University. After capturing just a small sample of this substance, I took it to her for study, but it escaped. The entire campus had to be put on lock down until we could find it. Even in a controlled environment, it savaged 6 guards. We had to incinerate them, and my colleague, when the spread nearly became too difficult to control. During my encounter with it, the substance spoke like a hive mind. Using we, us -- It's called Mnggal Mnggal, and I have been scouring the galaxy for any mention of it in archives and ancient texts. And I've found.. nothing. No point of origin. I need help."
Oran watches the terrible footage on the datapad again, one more time, then sighs and sets it on the table, no doubt traumatized by how extremely thoroughly these things can ruin a person's tidiness and good looks. He is not a good man, but he's a lawful one, and those things are chaos incarnate. The Force isn't necessary to read how thoroughly he detests the thought of them on even a cursory review of their existence.
Oran drinks again, though perhaps the exquisite wine has lost some of its glow in the shadow of the horrific creatures. "I've never heard of such a thing before now, and I am no expert in ancient texts. While I'm not unwilling to help you, nor do I disagree that it ought to be stopped, I suspect we have wildly different opinions of..." Oran pauses delicately, continues dryly. "Acceptable collateral damage."
"I think it depends upon the scenario. The more dire the situation, the more catastrophic the response. But none of the sacrifice matters if you do not stop its source. /That/ is my goal. You kill the source, and the rest is just clean up.-- I may not agree; but I've seen the alternative. I'll press the button myself if it means a world will be saved." Conviction is in the woman's voice. She is being genuine. "I'm to visit a colony in wild space where reports are surfacing about seeing husks of sentient beings tearing apart others."
"I would glass an entire city-state, an entire /continent/ from orbit if it meant preventing /that/," Oran touches the datapad with one forefinger bearing some kind of signet ring, "From threading its way into innocent people living their lives peacefully in the rest of the galaxy. Source or symptom, I don't care, and if the uninfected die along with it, they're being spared the end they would have got were it not the case. You cannot cut out a cancer without taking some of the surrounding healthy tissue. People are going to die, and it's unfortunate, but they must, or this gets worse fast."
He does raise a brow when she says she'd push the button herself and remarks, "You're not what I imagined you were," but there's no elaboration on that point. Just a crisp, clean pouring of additional wine that manages to seem somewhat exasperated, and Oran shakes his head. "Just destroy the colony /from/ space. If it was the source, well done you. If it wasn't, it'll crop up again somewhere else but you stopped it spreading. If it wasn't Mnggal Mnggal, well... people ought not to tear each other apart, star's sake. Win win, Cole! You can be home in time for tea!"
Oran Arcantael notably doesn't say he'd kill a whole planet over this. Probably because he can't, what with Starkiller getting ruined and all. Dangit.
"If it stops the spread, then it is necessary. Unfortunately, my trip is not to see the infection, but figure out its origin point. Did it come from somewhere else? But my people have no such weapons capable of.." She gestures. "But I know that cutting out a cancer still requires the accuracy of a steady hand. You need to know what you're shooting at first." Aryn sighs, clearly wrestling with the stress. "What did you imagine of me, exactly?" Her lips perk up in a slight grin. It's attractive on her.
"That you were a little millaflower," Oran answers the question. "And you are, but you're a millaflower made of razor wire." He sips. "I genuinely, fervently advocate destroying the entire colony. If I hadn't had my soul surgically removed six years ago, I would believe to the very depths of it that to do anything else is grossly negligent and an endangerment of innocent lives. Can it at least be destroyed /after/ you go knocking on the door asking nicely where the nightmare abomination is from? Assuming it doesn't eat your lovely, very slightly marred face first?" See, compromise. Kill all the people /after/ the research.
"I am what I need to be, Lord Oran." She does preen a bit. Compliments seem rare coming from Oran, and she took his observation to be just that. She had been told more than once now that he was not kind; so there was no mistaking it this time. "When I have what I need, I'd tell you exactly where to fire; should you have the weapons and capability to do so." There'd be an effort to save the innocent, of course but he was right. People would die.
Oran's much more likely to approve of razor wire than he is of delicate, pretty Nabooan flora, so it probably is a compliment to the extent that he parts with them. Millaflowers are also toxic enough to kill if prepared correctly, but whether he knows enough botany to have hit that level of additional meaning in the metaphor, difficult to say. He seems unlikely to know a lot about flowers, but maybe far likelier to know a few things about poison.
"I don't agree with your tactics," he shakes his head. "I don't agree that the knowledge likely to be acquired is worth the risk of becoming the vector that spreads the plague, and I think 'mindlessly savaging the innocent' is a poor look for you, despite the scar. I do have additional questions -- are you, plainly, asking me to help? And if so, what leads you to believe that I can? All you've seen me do is part with artifacts, bask in moral turpitude, and appreciate wine. Unless of course -- my reputation precedes me."
"There's nothing mindless about it, I assure you. I've seen the results of this Mnggal Mnggal; I've spoken to it. Bombing from orbit is a mercy." Aryn says, sitting back and clasping her hands again. His disagreeing with her tactics and the risk she was taking was met with a straight face. She had an answer prepared, but he continued. "What reputation?" She follows up. "I was going off the presumption you could help. You seemed to insinuate some experience with a measure of fire power that could prove beneficial with my pursuit of this ghost. Was I mistaken?"
"Sooner or later I'm going to stop making the mistake of thinking 'this can't get worse,'" Oran dryly replies when she says there's nothing mindless about it, "And just accept that it can /always/ get worse, and that the powers of my imagination are unequal to the grotesqueries of reality."
She gets a long, even look at 'what reputation' and it's met with the response of, "I'm a bad man," tone rich with no attempt whatsoever to pretend that there isn't more to the story. "Considering that your current metrics for bad things include Mnggal Mnggal, I'm pleased to say that I probably look absolutely lovely, but just consider it stated for the record. I am an agent of the First Order and a zealot to the cause of burning out chaos and rot -- so yes, I have firepower at my disposal. But there are plenty who mislike where I apply it. I will help you with this colony, if you like, on the condition that nothing is left of it when your work is complete."
"I see." Answers Aryn, who glances down a moment before looking back up. "When I am done on the surface, Lord Oran, what you choose to do with your ships is your prerogative. I won't pretend to have any influence in that decision. It is just imperative that I be granted some leave to search the surface for answers before they are erased." A Jedi, working with a zealot of the First Order. Heresy. "I should say this; the last transmission I heard on one of the recordings I have, was a Coruscanti patrol taking in infected escape pods to haul back to Coruscant for medical attention. If I can determine if the source of this is that ship; then Coruscant is saved. Otherwise.."
"Oh, stars sake. Coruscant. Of course it would be," Oran sighs, then pauses. "Well, what levels of Coruscant, exactly? Some of the low levels, you know, down below where any of the working lifts still go, honestly no one would notice. It's not going to be a problem until the service industry organics in low-rent levels start turning into uncontrollable monsters, and given the size and depth of Coruscant that will probably buy a year, 18 months, at least." He mulls that over through the last of the wine in the glass then adds, "Joking, of course," in a tone that suggests he absolutely /would/ let mutants take over the Coruscanti poor if he thought it wouldn't be economically destructive.
He stands, and raises a brow. "Very well then, we have an agreement. Search until you find what you need or die trying, then the colony will be cleansed. And we shall hope, most fervently, that you acquire what you seek."
Aryn stands as well, brushing her cape aside to draw an ident calling card from a pouch to hand it to him. "We have an accord, my Lord." She extends the card out to him and nods. "I will see you soon, then. Be well and don't forget.." A gesture to one of the staff offering the Lord a wrapped bottle of wine. ".. for the trip." The young noble manages a smile.
Oran Arcantael returns the ident calling card with one of his own, equivalent exchange, and then replies, "Perish the thought," to even the notion that he might forget his wine! Not hardly, it's what he came to this rock for! Something harder might be needed to forget the sight of 'things' moving under the skin of strangers' faces on Aryn's datapad... but the wine is still a good start. He collects it without particular acknowledgement that the staff are people, again, and he would probably be appalled if someone pointed out they are. "In the event that we both survive, I'll assume you owe me another," Oran warns, and then collects his cloak, dons it, and sweeps on out the door with a well-timed roll of thunder to mark the exit. Theatrics. Never hurts.