[ACC-CM] 'Guests' of the Matron

Opening Fiction


Chute Town
The Godless Matron
Shroud Nebula - Antei system fringes

The streets of Chute Town were bustling with activity, as was the norm, yet there was something off. What that something was could not be said. It was a feeling that stood out even to those who merely frequented the superficial storefronts and didn’t delve into the politics of the town. The people carried themselves differently. They were on edge.

Something was off in Chute Town.

The echoing clack of boots on metal could be heard over the din of the streets. The crowd surged and shifted, giving way for the woman that held command over the Godless Matron. The Herald of the Brotherhood’s face was locked into a scowl as she advanced. She was flanked by her first mate, C’ree, who’s stalking form — for there lacked any better term to describe the manner in which the tribal carried herself — belied her constantly simmering aggression. Their presence alone would have been enough to clear their path, but they weren’t alone. A contingency of the Matron’s crew formed a wedge and placed themselves between the captain and the vagabonds that frequented the vessel.

“Were there any others?” Morgan asked without looking at her first mate.

“Yes. Pilot, locked down in hangar,” C’ree responded.

The group turned the corner and continued on before finally coming to a stop outside one of the main shanties that had been converted into rooms for rent. It was there that Morgan’s crew had brought their captive before alerting her. “Stay here,” the Herald ordered.

C’ree gave her a quizzical expression only Morgan could read.

“Stay here,” Morgan repeated with a stern glare that could shatter the most stalwart of men. “I can handle it myself.”

The first mate’s eyes narrowed for but a moment, the edge of her lip twitching as she fought off a snarl. “Fine.”

Morgan didn’t say anything else, but she knew the crew was becoming uneasy. The Godless Matron was still new and the expanded domain was taking some time to become accustomed to. With so much scum in one place, things were bound to become tense. It was something the Herald needed to address before it became a problem. She held her ground against C’ree just long enough to make her point before turning away once more.

Despite its outward appearance, the shanty was surprisingly well constructed on the inside. If not for the unstable illumination panels that insisted on flickering, it could pass for a proper guest room. It was that inconsistent lighting that forced Morgan to wince while her eyes took longer than normal to adjust. The captive sat calmly in the center of the room, cracking the knuckles of his right hand as he fought back a yawn. The majority of his features were hidden by the wide-brim hat sitting firmly upon his head and the long, dark brown trench coat that hung over his shoulders. No matter how he changed his wardrobe, the one thing the man couldn’t disguise were his grey-gold eyes.

“The hell are you doing on my ship?” Morgan asked bluntly.

“Hello to you too,” Atra replied with a raised eyebrow. “Does everyone get such a warm greeting or just your favorites?”

“Folk out there aren’t the Voice’s pet Combat Master.”

Morgan could feel the Umbaran bristling beneath the surface in response to her words. It was a fleeting sensation before he managed to lock it down, but it hadn’t escaped her notice. “You’re on my ship, Ventus. It’d be best not to make me repeat myself,” she continued.

A pregnant pause held between them. Neither looked away, nor did they break eye contact. The Combat Master seemed to be weighing the odds of the situation. Morgan didn’t care either way and, frankly, wouldn’t lose any sleep over having her crew end him. Beyond that, she was the Herald. The advantage of the situation was firmly hers. The silence was broken by a heavy sigh escaping Atra’s lips. “Is it a family trait or do I just have bad luck with Sorenns?” he asked rhetorically. “Alethia Archenksova,” the Combat Master declared after a moment while rising to his full height. Well, as close as he could considering the low ceiling in the shanty.

Morgan watched while carefully controlling her features. She knew Alethia, in passing at least. They didn’t like each other much, but the Herald wasn’t going to give anything away easily to the Umbaran. She merely waited for him to take the hint and continue.

“One of your brother’s operators, high ranking at that, within his so-called ‘Sentinel Network’,” Atra elaborated. “The trail has led to your little operation here.”

“I don’t see how that’s my problem,” the Herald pointed out.

“Oh, it’s not. Not really.” Atra shrugged and adjusted the brim of his hat. “I mean, unless you want to add a few more wrinkles to that lovely face of yours?”

Despite the Umbaran’s smirk, Morgan refused to rise to his remarks. She was the one in the position of control after all. “Get to the point, Ventus,” the Herald stated flatly, “if you even have one.”

“Fair enough,” Atra consented. “The way I see it, you spot one vermin and you’re sure to find more. They’d be under false names, of course, but… By your leave—” The mocking tone in his voice practically dripped off his words. “—I’d like to shake up the nest.”

Morgan shifted her weight to one side, jutting out her hip slightly as she folded her arms across her chest. Her mind worked over the Combat Master’s words as she played the angles. She couldn’t just space him, there would be too many questions left in his wake. Especially if there were questions as to the Resistance using the Godless Matron as a staging ground. The Herald wasn’t about to roll belly up for the Brotherhood either. The Matron was hers.

Perhaps there was a way for her to benefit as well.

“All right,” Morgan finally announced, “but it gets done my way.”

Atra inclined his head, a subtle motion of acknowledgement. The Herald knew exactly what she was going to do, and it would allow her to put her crew back in line. It wouldn’t due to keep them wanting. A little entertainment would get the blood flowing once more, and help them all to remember that aboard the Godless Matron the Herald called the shots. “You’re not going to be leaving 'till you’re satisfied, I take it?”

“That’d be a safe assumption, Sorenn,” Atra said, the lilt of his voice thicker than normal.

“That’s ‘Captain Sorenn’ to you.”

Atra’s smirk turned into a full grin though he didn’t test his luck further with another remark. He had gotten what he wanted after all.

“Looks like you’re going to learn exactly how we treat our ‘guests’ on the Matron,” Morgan declared.

Ooo! Interesting. What exactly does the Herald have plan? Guess we’ll find out. :wink:

Command Deck
The Godless Matron
Shroud Nebula - Antei System Fringes

The bridge of the Godless Matron was one of the few sections of the ship that could still be considered ‘intact’. Naturally, the pirates had given it a bit of a facelift that brought it in line with the dark and foreboding atmosphere that befell the rest of the ship. Gone was the cold and sterile decor that had been a trademark of the Trade Federation, and in its wake was… well, personality would be one word for it.

Atra exhaled slowly through his nose before turning his gaze towards the monitors once more. The wide-brim hat he had donned for the excursion spun in a circle upon his right finger while he rolled his wrist absentmindedly. “Remind me never to accept an invitation to be one of your ‘guests’,” the Combat Master stated flatly.

“Don’t worry,” Morgan replied with audible displeasure, “you won’t get one.”

“Thank the Force for small miracles,” he answered mockingly.

The Herald shifted her weight between her feet, affixing the Umbaran with a glare while folding her arms across her chest. Her patience with Atra was slim to begin with and, frankly, booting him out the airlock was looking more enticing with each passing breath. “Well, are you satisfied now?”

Atra took another deep breath, exhaling before he turned his attention towards Morgan, then glanced down to the datapad in his left hand. “Other than the maelstrom your crew kicked up in—” He paused and pulled the datapad closer as he read off the information. “Murder Alley?” Atra continued, glancing at the Herald with an incredulous expression in response to the name. “Satisfied would cover it.”

The Combat Master stopped spinning the hat and put it on, taking a step back from the main console at the same time. He took a quick scan of the room, his eyes meeting those of Morgan’s first mate: C’ree. The corruption of the Dark Side was strong in that one, her eyes seeming to glow with violent power. Atra needed to be careful not to overstep his bounds. It wouldn’t do to forget, for even a moment, who the Matron belonged to.

Now, Atra couldn’t say for certain what exactly set off his instinctual warning bells. Whether it was the pair of crewmen still confidently blocking the entryway, or even C’ree’s sudden lip licking, didn’t really matter. The only thing of consequence was the volatile atmosphere around him that had become almost tangible. The Herald’s boots seemed to echo within that change of presence, click-click they announced as her heels met the floor. Atra turned back towards her, his grey-gold eyes focused and sharp. Morgan ran her gloved fingers along the arm of the captain’s chair before seating herself upon it. She folded one leg over her knee and met the Combat Master’s gaze evenly.

Her expression seemed almost tired and annoyed when she sighed. The whole ordeal took longer than expected, and her patience was wearing thin but still very much in check. In fact, from Atra’s point of view, she was likely the only one that was not ready to violently assault him on that bridge. Ever since he came aboard, her crew was itching to start something with him, especially her first mate who seemed to look at Atra with depraved interest. Both he and Morgan knew what situation he was in and who had the last say. No shows of force were necessary. It was likely Morgan who was keeping him from fighting for his life at that moment, so he didn’t push his luck further. “Let’s recap then, shall we?” the Herald inquired with a fake smile.

The Combat Master inclined his head in acquiescence, bringing up the first of the scans they had managed to compile during the course of events within the Godless Matron. The diminutive figure of a Ryn formed into existence, the blue glow of the hologram stuttering and distorting with the occasional static surge. Fur-lined skin and a chitinous nose were the most defining features on display. His hair stood tall upon his head while the Ryn’s tail flicked from side to side. “I presume you’re familiar with Kordath Bleu?” the Umbaran asked.

On a scale of honest to rhetorical, Atra’s question clocked in at an eleven. Morgan’s eyes narrowed and any pretense of niceties gave way to malice. The murderous aura the captain of the Matron radiated would give even C’ree some competition. The Combat Master made a mental note of the response alongside a smirk that tugged at the corner of his mouth. “I’ve had a few run-ins with Arcona’s rollmaster. He has a knack for finding trouble and he did so here,” Atra explained. “Current location is unknown but—”

“He will be found,” Morgan managed, containing herself once more and waving her hand dismissively.

Atra raised an eyebrow quickly with a slight tilt of his head as affirmation before glancing down at his datapad, almost feeling bad for the Ryn for all of a moment. “It’s possible he was attempting to make contact with informants at the Sinning Den but made a mess of things before he could,” the Combat Master explained. “Sildrin is probably not too thrilled about that,” he added under his breath.

Atra sighed and eyed Morgan once more, trying to get a gauge on her current mood. With her fake smile securely back in place, she seemed comfortable but he wasn’t about to test those waters. Instead, he switched to the next subject. “Then there’s your would-be assassin,” he declared as the hologram shifted.

“Andrelious,” Morgan stated. She leaned to one side of her chair and pressed her fingers against her cheek as genuine amusement showed on her face. The aged man stood tall as the image flickered, a mixture of anger and focus mingling on his face.

“Indeed,” Atra confirmed. “Mimosa-Inahj managed to kill a few of your men before his capture. Stepping stones on the warpath towards you in a misguided attempt at revenge. The attack on Karufr ring any bells?”

That brought a derisive scoff from the black-haired pirate captain. “Misguided hardly seems a fitting word for it.”

“And then the Aedile found himself assuming the role of ‘in-flight entertainment’,” Atra continued with a chuckle.

“He did kill my men, after all. Can’t be too forgiving.”

The Combat Master nodded and scratched his chin. “It’s quite the elaborate arena you’ve established in Hangar Zerek.”

“Pale man. Give try?” C’ree breathed from behind Atra with a mocking grin. She was far closer than he had expected, and beyond what could be considered comfortable.

The Combat Master opened his mouth and paused, blinking a few times before glancing over his shoulder at the first mate. “You know what they say about the crazy ones?”

A dangerous growl reverberated deep in C’ree’s throat as she hunched over with her arms spread. Her fingers curled into tight fists and her knuckles whitened under the strain. Meanwhile, Atra’s hand disappeared beneath his long jacket and gripped the hilt of the alchemically treated dagger sheathed at the small of his back. His stance remained casual but the readiness in his muscles spoke otherwise.

“Enough,” Morgan declared. She didn’t shout and yet her voice echoed throughout the bridge. C’ree snarled but controlled herself, shifting back into her standing position but clearly still on edge. Her eyes never deviated from Atra as her hand extended to trail a finger along the man’s chin as she walked past, licking her lips like she had earlier.

Perhaps she hoped for a reaction of some kind from the Combat Master. For his part, the Umbaran didn’t flinch. Instead, he let go of the hidden hilt and allowed his arm to fall casually to his side once more. “So,” the Herald continued, “Andrelious put on his little show for us and won the prize.”

“Safe passage off the Godless Matron,” Atra nodded as he glanced over his notes.

“And the threat of execution if he ever has enough gall to show his face here again,” Morgan stated flatly. It was clear she found Andrelious’ attempt amusing, but not so much the goal. “What of Alethia? That was your claim was it not? Tracking her?”

Atra raised his eyebrow, working his jaw from side to side. “We both know she didn’t make an appearance.”

“No, she didn’t,” Morgan stated, a hint of genuine amusement showing on her face.

“There was one last surprise, however,” the Combat Master continued as he queued up the final holo. The woman that appeared within the blue haze stood confidently with a smug smile upon her lips. It was a fine line to differentiate arrogance from its fellow, but smug was the only thing it could be. There was a confidence to it that seemed sincere. The way she carried herself held that same quality as she donned robes that accentuated the more attractive qualities of her appearance while preserving her modesty. At her hip was the recognizable hilt of a lightsaber, bearing twin serpents in a helix around its emitter.

“Selika Roh, of Plagueis’ upper summit,” Atra stated with a sigh. “It seems she still hasn’t given up her crusade regarding your brother.”

The Herald said nothing as she looked on. She did an excellent job distancing herself from the reality that her brother stood prominently at the helm of the resistance movement against the Iron Throne. It was exceedingly difficult to get a read on her where Turel was concerned. Even as the image shifted to a scene of the Plagueian questioning some of the Matron’s crew, Morgan seemed disinterested at best.

“To their credit, they didn’t give up much in your regard,” Atra pointed out.

“Not that they know much to begin with,” the captain interjected with a wide grin.

“Nor do they know anything about Turel,” the Combat Master added with a slight scoff. “Now Selika knows the path to one Sorenn doesn’t lie with the other. I could have told her that.”

That remark brought Morgan’s sharp gaze towards the large Umbaran, who didn’t so much as wither under it but did offer up a dismissive shrug. “I’ve met the man. You came up. It wasn’t very effective.”

He sighed and paused the looped feed before he continued. “What’s of note here is that there are no records of her arrival, or departure for that matter. The method is unclear but we can draw a conclusion based on her tactics.”

“Illusions and trickery,” Morgan stated. “I won’t allow such easy entry the next time,” she added under her breath.

The Combat Master nodded, disengaging the holofeed before slipping his datapad into the pouch on his belt. Atra, despite failing to locate his initial target, had not come away from the excursion empty handed. Information was a tool of warfare as much as any weapon. That was what he had accumulated upon the Godless Matron. Gripping the brim of his hat, Atra gave a slight nod towards Morgan while raising an eyebrow mockingly towards C’ree, giving in to the urge to continue their mutual antagonization.

There was no further information to be shared between them, and the Herald knew that just as he did. Still, Atra was no fool. He wouldn’t depart the bridge until he was granted leave to do so. Not that he could guarantee a smooth departure even with the captain’s acquiescence, but there was a better chance for it if he played by the Matron’s rules. The Umbaran merely stood and waited, the silence making his intention clear.

“Assuming you have nothing else to add,” Morgan declared contently but with a threatening undertone, “get the hell off my ship.”