[ARC-COU] Co-Op: Team Lekku & Wheelchair

(Tali Sroka) #1

Tali Sroka (#14782): https://www.darkjedibrotherhood.com/character_sheets/7595
Tamashi Delat ( #13529): https://www.darkjedibrotherhood.com/character_sheets/7591

Canto Casino, Corporate Sector,
Canto Bight, Cantonica Outer Rim Territories


Laughter filled the large dancing area, different notes floating and bouncing off the superb acoustics of the hall. Loud guffaws booming from larger throats and dainty tinkles of laughter echoing amongst the immaculately dressed ladies. Whirling couples dipped in and out of the dance floor to the sound of beautiful and haunting melodies or sat huddled in groups amongst the many couches and tables set around the walls.

The casino itself was a dazzling architectural marvel, culminating in an enormous dome that housed the main hall and it’s dancing occupants - along with four long hallways bisecting it on the four cardinal corners of the compass. Cleverly constructed and designed machines blended seamlessly with the decor, almost invisible to the uninitiated - leaving the facade of a classic dance hall unobstructed by the gambling dens.

As in all places in the Corporate Sector, greed was the ruler of the day and it was in these halls that the ultra-rich of the galaxy gathered to see and be seen. The gilded halls of the casino a ruthless battleground for status, prestige and prominence, while the exotic and flamboyant dress of its inhabitants their arms and armor.

Striding through the entrance to one of the private corridors a beautiful purple goddess entered the VIP area at the side of a wheelchaired Pau’an. Her attire, a deep royal blue that glittered as if inlaid with microscopic sapphires, hugged her slender build caressing the narrow waist and pronounced hips before cascading down her long legs in a muted waterfall of silken fabric. In contrast to most of her peers, the Twi’lek carried only a few, modest pieces of jewelry, rings of silver and gold placed along her lekku with the left ending in silver cup that disguised a missing tip. Far more prominent than the gold and silver were the topazes of her eyes, a pair of amber droplets that shone with a flicker of unnatural fire.

Tamashi was dressed as usual in his bespoke three-piece suit, the jet-black silken jacket blending in perfectly with the other guests, although it’s slight bulkiness betraying the armorweave woven into its fabric. Sitting comfortably in his hoverchair he glided smoothly forward into the hall and made his way towards the table that Tali had discreetly marked for him.

The Twi’lek guided the chair-bound Odanite through the throng of people, clearing a way with polite words and soft gestures. Most of the other patrons gave way when prompted or beckoned, though a few did so with drawn-out exasperations and only the slightest of motions. The proud Twi’lek had to use all her training to stay her tongue, the dismissive sneers and long looks she got for assisting a man who apparently couldn’t even afford the surgery or cybernetics to walk were chafing the former slave more than she cared to admit. The same sorts of pricks and prickettes had given her plight as much sympathy back in the day.

“You are doing well, remain calm.”

The soothing words caressed her mind like a fresh ocean breeze, instilling a sense of pride within her and lapping away the swelling anger. She turned to glance at the Pau’an, but said nothing, her sentiment clear enough for her fellow Jedi.

They arrived at the table, laid out for expensive rounds of Sabaccarrat, a local variation on the common game, and Tali assisted the Pau’an to his seat in her guise of an aide. The distinction of this had been very important prior to their coming here and the Twi’lek kept her head up high and neck exposed, proudly showing nothing around it. Even so, the concierge had assumed she was but an escort or high-end slave, almost leading to a sudden and brutal end to their mission.

She would have to learn to control her flaring temper and under normal circumstances she might have, but ever since she’d learned about being with child, she’d found her moods harder and harder to control.

“Vill she come?” Tali whispered to Tamashi as the dealer droid began shuffling cards.

“I would hope so,” he replied, inclining his head minutely towards her. “You did send the invitation, did you not?”

“Of course I didt! Vhy vouldt you…?” she never got further when a sharp cough sounded behind them.

A tall, almost absurdly so, woman stood behind them with hands crossed expectantly across her lap. The female Sakiyan’s features were gaunt, elegant and obviously Collective, the dark skin mingling with the polished chrome of her cybernetics that fused with her bulbous head while glittering gemstones dangled from her expensive earrings, a far cry from Tali’s meager accoutrements. She was dressed in a gown of sturdier fabric than hers as well, its color a stylish grey and knit so finely that the subtle armorweave thread was almost impossible to detect.

She offered a polite, if cool smile and gestured for Tamashi to offer her hand. “Doctor Delat, I presume?”

(Ossk) #2

Taking her hand in his own and folding it smoothly, he brought it to his lips and kissed it with a practiced ease while inclining his head in respect. “Professor actually, my Lady, and might I say that you look radiant in this dress. I hope you will forgive me for not rising to greet you, but alas my… condition doesn’t allow me for much freedom”

Smiling at the sakiyan, he motioned for her to sit opposite him at the table and idly waved his hands towards Tali. “Ms. Sroka here is my Executive Assistant, she has proven invaluable to my research and work and I don’t know what I would do without her. I know that my parents dearly regretted assigning her to me from their own administrative staff on Utapau.”

Flashing a smile at Tissflorin that didn’t reach her eyes, Tali grasped her hand and shook it mechanically before stepping back and standing at Tamashi’s side. With a few quick and efficient movements, she called over the tables assigned croupier and waited as the game began.

=============

Ru’g En despised places like this. The heat and glitter were getting on his nerves and no number of free drinks seemed to quell the sensation of irritation he felt against his suit collar. He was not above the types of people around him, of course, he merely disliked the setting. Under other circumstances, he might have actually enjoyed himself. Like if the casino had been shifted ten meters below water.

The thought bringing a feline smile on his colorful face, Ru’g downed another free cocktail and turned back to observe his matron. Lady Tissflorin was not a particularly high-ranking clerk in the grand scheme of things, but she had enough influence to indulge in her vices. On a certain level he could respect the woman’s desire to prove her intellectual superiority, but why she chose to do so over a game of chance eluded him. Would not a game of chess been more of a challenge?

He shook his head and returned to observing. The pair she was engaging with seemed harmless enough, and that was what worried him. Of course he’d been briefed on the savage warriors of Arcona and Odan-Urr, along with their other cronies, but he’d always considered a warrior who carried himself as such in the open a far lesser threat to the warrior who concealed motive and means alike. Though he couldn’t state so with certainty yet, he had a sinking suspicion about the two.

Snapping a pict of their faces, he sent the images over to a field command base for analysis. Maybe they had something on these two. In the meantime, where had that waitress wandered off to?

(Tali Sroka) #3

Carte,” Tissflorin stated with a flicker of intrigue, the mechanical dealer droid flicking out a new slip from the deck and handing it over to her with the aid of an elongated spatula. The Sakiyan deftly slid it into her hand without even looking and continued to drill her gaze into Tamashi’s. “Your move, professor.”

The Pau’an did his best to retain a cool and collected exterior, a trait he’d found quite useful while taking part in the family business. A calm mind was also essential in meditation and now it would be put to the test in a pursuit far less noble, yet nonetheless vital despite it. Glancing at his hand, he took a moment to estimate the odds and decided he’d be better off as is.

Reaching out to tap the soft velvet of the gaming table with his knuckles, the droid turned its attention towards the Sakiyan, giving a blank yet inquisitive look. Tissflorin glanced at the automaton and flexed her elegant jaw minutely. Her gaze shifting to peer into the Pau’an’s eyes, she sought to extract some hint at his standing in the game, but could glean nothing. She would have to pursue other means.

“Had enough already, professor?” she inquired with a hint of a feline purr. “I had hoped you wouldn’t be quite such a cautious man. I must admit I find their company rather dull.” Her snow-white eyes, narrow streaks of milk on an oil slick pavement, shifted minutely as she observed his reaction.

“I assure my, lady Tissflorin, I am anything but. However, if you prefer the company of more risque males, I am sure this establishment keeps fine stock around. Such as that dashing Nautoalan over there,” Tamashi replied and gestured lazily towards the impatiently drinking Ru’g En who was trying his best to covertly observe them.
“Oh him?” Tissflorin sighed with disdain. “He’s really not my type.”

“So you’ve met him? I hope the exchange was civil enough. Few would bother carrying two rapiers to a place like this.”

“He is – an old acquaintance of mine,” Tissflorin lied through her teeth. “And yes, he can be a bit overbearing at times. But I wouldn’t be bothered by him, if I were you.”

“Oh? How come?”

“Because the real danger sits closer than an arrogant count’s blade, professor,” she replied with a cold smirk before laying her cards on the table.

Tamashi upended his own collection and sighed as the dealer droid pulled the pot over to the Sakiyan’s side. “I believe you’re correct in that assessment, milady,” he nodded.

==========

It didn’t take a Jedi to notice the Nautolan was in cahoots with the Sakiyan and the way Tissflorin had berated him seemed to indicate there wasn’t much love lost between the two. However, despite his brash nature and odd appearance, the man could potentially pose a threat to their operation and they didn’t have time to waste. Tamashi would have to kick things into high gear, but he couldn’t well do that while under the watchful gaze of the mildly inebriated man.

That was where she would come in, though something at the back of her mind chafed at that particular turn of phrase. Taking a quick glance at her appearance from the polished side of a gilded slot machine, she gently tugged at the hem of her dress for that little extra help and sat off with a pair of drinks in hand towards the annoyed noble.

“Goodt evening,” she smiled, offering the other of the two glasses to him. “Vith compliments.”

“From whom?” Ru’g En inquired, his glittering eyes taking in the Twi’lek’s tempting form while his lips searched for the brim of the cocktail glass.

“Me,” Tali winked playfully, her tongue darting out momentarily to fish the straw between her painted lips, amber eyes never leaving his while she took a sip of her own beverage.

“Hrrmh, well, I suppose I should thank you, then,” the Nautolan replied, tipping his glass ever so minutely. He’d been caught wrong footed, but even so the obviously narcissistic personality shielded him from her opener.
Tali realized she would have to try harder. “Are you not curious as to vhy I vouldt offer you a drink?”

“Not really,” he replied with a dainty sigh, “If I were you, I’d be buying drinks for me too.”

The flash of anger that sent a wave of heat rushing to her cheeks almost manifested itself, but Tali caught herself before the instinct to fully voice her thoughts reached her lips. Swallowing the venom, she kept up her pleasant facade and gave a humorous giggle instead, taking on the expected role of a ditzy Twi’lek. “You’re funny!” she giggled, feeling daggers sinking into her pride.

The compliment seemed to find a mark where mere flirting had failed. The grin on Ru’g En’s leathery features widened into a typically Nautolan visage before suddenly growing colder and crueler. “I see your master is paying for your keen intellect, rather than your haggard looks. I hope he isn’t being overcharged.”

Again, the instinct to assert her status as a sentient creature rather than some glorified piece of arm candy reared its head, but Tamashi’s words still echoed in her mind. Suppressing the anger from the obvious slight and resigning herself to the role she’d been given, Tali let herself stare in silence before giggling again. “Oh no, I’m paidt hourly,” she smiled, doing her best airheaded voice. “How didt you know I vas vorking for someone?”

“Oh please, a girl like you in a dress like that? You couldn’t have afforded it yourself and a girl in loaned clothing probably owes more than that to her master,” Ru’g replied with aloofness, sipping his drink with a gusto that seemed at odds with his calm demeanor.

“Oh! You’re so smart!”

Again, the compliment seemed to elicit a response as the Nautolan adjusted his pose to stand slightly more upright.

“Vouldt you like another drink? Looks like you’re running empty andt I really enjoy your company,” Tali offered with a blissful smile, tilting her head towards the bar.

Ru’g glanced at her and then at the pair at the table. They wouldn’t be going anywhere, especially with the Pau’an being wheelchair bound. “Yes, why not?” he agreed, emptying the dregs from his glass and leaving it atop a slot machine.

(Ossk) #4

The game progressed fairly predictably, in that Tissflorin’s winnings grew while Tamashi seemed almost indifferent to the wealth that he was seemingly just giving away. After a half dozen rounds of this, Tissflorin felt her interest in taking in easy money wane and she wrenched her mind from the thoughts of what she would buy with her newfound financial windfall. Eying the Pau’an with some suspicion and puzzlement she put her cards down and gave him a piercing look.

“This charade has gone on long enough, I think. No one in their right mind would lose so much money and be so calm about it. Please, why don’t you tell me why I am really sitting here - and please, your invitation sounded like it was written by a droid. And who even calls himself ”

Smiling to himself slightly Tamashi saluted her with his crystal goblet and put his own cards down as well. “I was wondering how long it would take you to notice my little game, and if I may be frank - for someone of your business acumen my faith in you was not displaced. Consider it a ‘slight’ test, my Lady.” Before the Sakiyan could retort and noticing her displeasure at his words Tamashi raised his hand in a conciliatory gesture. Leaning forward in his hoverchair, consciously adopting a more conspiratorial air in an attempt to lend more mystery to his next words.

“As you no doubt already know, my work for the University of Bar’leth has taken me to many different worlds, and this time I have caught wind of a potential discovery on Saki that has me positively intrigued. Alas, it is located in a unique location - one that just happens to be within your power to grant me. The potential for this dig is immense and who knows what artifacts we might unearth? I believe that the impact that this find will have on galactic anthropology will be ground shaking - perhaps even worth a Valorum Prize!”

Tamashi could almost see the wheels turning in Tissflorin’s head as she assembled all the information that she had in her mind and tried to fit all the pieces of this puzzle together. I hope she takes the bait the Jedi thought to himself because the Force knows I can’t do much else to get her to come with me. And now to add some honey to the pot.

“Also, my estate on Utapau is…” he paused slightly “…extensive and i’d be honored if you allowed me to host you and your Company for a business retreat in my Manor. I’m sure that we could come to a very satisfactory agreement, and we can also perhaps try our hand at a more challenging and real game than … cards and luck”. Tamashi let his scorn for gambling and games of chance show and he was delighted to see it reciprocated in Tissflorin as well.

Raising a hand to her chin and leaning forward slightly, Tissflorin clearly was intrigued and Tamashi had to consciously stifle a sigh of relief when the Force sang to him subtly of her growing interest and slowly allaying suspicion.

“So tell me, my dear Professor. How exactly can I help you in this endeavor?” Tissflorin almost purred with interest as she drained her glass. “Please, I’m interested in hearing your proposal and how we can both mutually aid each other.”

Smiling at the Sakiyan, he signalled the croupier that the game was over and motioned for a valet to come over. “How about we retire to my private wing? I can show you my plans for the archaeological dig and we can discuss in greater privacy the nature of your assistance. What do you say?”

(Tali Sroka) #5

Tali let out yet another ringing round of faux laughter, giggling approvingly at another cruel joke the Nautolan had shot her way. Had she not been doing this for her Clan, the man would have been picking up his teeth from a ditch by now and it seemed the drinks were only making him more insufferable.

“… and so I snatched the spoon from him and scooped out his own eyeball and…” he paused to chuckle, clearly enjoying the story of debt-collection far more than her, “…Well, I guess you had to be there, but the point is, he was a total di–”

“Fascinating,” Tali groaned, sipping her drink and hoping Tamashi would get on with it. She was running out of patience and willpower to keep up this facade.

“So, how much do I owe you?” Ru’g asked suddenly, the question startling the Twi’lek by its directness.

“Owe you?” she repeated the question with genuine perplexion. “I’m not sure I follow.”

“For your company,” the Nautolan smirked, drawing out his pocket book. “It’s what you’re here for, isn’t it?”

“Uh, no. Not at all. Like I saidt, I enjoy your comp…” It was at that moment she realized she’d walked into a trap.

“Oh yes, I’m sure you do,” Ru’g smirked, the expression suddenly sober cold, before pulling out a credit chit and placing it on the table. “For your time and company. But now I must return to my – mistress.” The last word was laced with a mix of disdain and begrudging habit. “And tell your master that it will take more than an over-enthusiastic floozy to dist…” He paused to look around and cursed. “Where are they?! Where did they go?”

Tali glanced over her shoulder and realized the same as he had; the table where Tamashi and Tissflorin had sat by was now vacant and there was no sign of the two. “I… don’t know,” she replied truthfully.

“What do you mean you don’t know?! He is your master and…”

“He is NOT my master,” Tali spat back, letting go of her act as it was clear the man had already seen through it. Though to what extent remained unclear.

“Hmph, clearly not, seeing how poorly you’re keeping an eye out for him,” Ru’g sneered. “Nevermind, I’ll find her myself.” He let out an annoyed grunt and tried to shove her aside, but found the Twi’lek not budging an inch. “Out of my way, wench! I’ve just about had enough of you for one lifetime.”

“Vench?!” Tali spat, her amber eyes finally flashing with the bottled-up anger she’d been harboring for the better part of an hour. “Call me that again andt your mistress vill be scraping you off the pavement, you insufferable oaf!”

“Big words for a lousy…” Ru’g En paused as his communicator beeped, the response coming in from their orbiting command barge. He opened the two files and read out the designation Collective Intelligence had given them. The words left his lips in a hush of disbelief. “Jedi…”

Acting faster than him for once, Tali let herself do the one thing she’d been fantasizing about for far too long and slammed her knee up into his groin. The smug Nautolan doubled over with a pained expression, eyes wide in a mixture of agony and surprise.

Before he could reach for a weapon, the Twi’lek had already bolted and was sprinting past tables and slot machines towards the private quarters. Growling, a mix of anger and pain coursing through his entire being, Ru’g tapped open a link to his mistress to warn her about the duplicitous Jedi, but found only static in response. Jammed. He realized the pair had obviously planned ahead and that whatever their angle, he couldn’t let their scheme succeed. Opening a secondary channel to the covert security detail, his lips curled into a sadistic grin; the hunt was on.

==========

“Hurry up, Tamashi, ve’re running out of time!” Tali muttered to herself as she made her way towards the secure room he’d hired for this leg of the plan. The diversionary route she was forced to take was making taking longer than she cared for, but with Ru’g hot on her heels, she had little choice. Brushing past servers and staff, she blurted out hasty apologies before diving past a trolley and arriving at the unmarked door she knew held her impromptu companion and the Sakiyan noble. Rapping her knuckles on her door, she warily glanced over her shoulder to make sure no-one was pursuing her yet.

The door opened momentarily, allowing Tali a look at the dazed Tissflorin and the clearly strained Pau’an who struggled to eke out the information they were after. “Please hurry, he’s on to us,” she managed before tapping the door controls and closing them off once again into their soundproof pod.

Turning back to face the way she came, Tali drew her saber from the leg holster she’d carried it in, the choice far from typical but the only one that would match her dress without tipping the Collective off. Hurried footsteps already filled the corridor and she figured the situation would soon come to violence.

Looking down at her evening gown and considering her options, she sighed and whispered a soft apology to the Goddess of Fashion for the crime she was about to commit, before igniting her saber and trimming the hem to not snag as easily. The next moment a slightly winded Ru’g En and a trio of cybernetic servants rounded the corner no visible weapons drawn but judging by the extent of their enhancements they were probably packing heat all the same. Swerving into view behind the four humanoids came a dark sphere that had only marginally been disguised as anything but an interrogation droid. How that had managed past security was anyone’s guess.

“Step aside, miss Sroka, and I promise I’ll kill you myself before letting the bio-engineers hack away at you,” the Nautolan called out, drawing his rapier and uncoiling a crackling electro-whip from his belt. The three henchmen spread out as wide as the narrow corridor would allow, aiming their cybernetic forearms at her as plates clicked and whirred out of place to expose the barrels of concealed blasters.

“Sounds like you’re scaredt,” Tali spat back, doing her best to look confident even as she became increasingly self-aware of her leggy attire by the slightly distracted gazes of her foes. “If it’s lady Tissflorin you’re concernedt about, don’t be. Killing is not the Jedi vay.”

“Concerned? Me? Oh my dear, her health is of only momentary concern to me. As soon as she’s served her purpose, I will gladly see her perish and take her place, and perhaps that time is already upon us.” His voice trembled minutely with forbidden excitement. “Of course, bringing in two Jedi scum would seal off any inquiry into her ladyship’s demise…”

“Hmph, I don’t do collars.”

“That’s fine, I’ll just put you on a leash!” Ru’g spat as he lashed out with his whip.

Side-stepping the attack, Tali ignited her saber with a snap-hiss, spinning the weapon down and slicing off the tip of his whip in a hiss of sparks. Eyes now nailed to the Nautolan, she lowered into a crouch and brought her saber around in a reversed grip by her side. “Oh I don’t think so…” she hissed, amber orbs flashing with defiance.

Ru’g’s lips pursed into a tight line, his reddish eyes narrowing ever so slightly. “Very well then, miss Sroka. Have it your way.” He gave a dismissive gesture that his cronies could not possibly have seen, but the electronic signal was spoke to their minds as loudly and clearly as any commanding shout.

As one, they opened up with their blasters, filling the air with a flurry of bolts that lit up the corridor with emerald light. Acting beyond the precipice of the present, Tali willed a shimmering field before her, the bolts slamming into the almost imperceptible barrier and dispersing with nary an impact.

“Keep firing! She cannot keep that up forever!” Ru’g growled, pulling back his whip for another attack once the barrier fell. He could already see the Twi’lek straining to maintain her fancy shield and within moments it would collapse before the might of Collective arms.

BANG!

A shower of sparks spewed from the forearm of one of the lackeys, his cybernetic blaster overheating from the repeated firing and cooking off something vital and energetic. The man, still in possession of some higher brain functions, screamed in sudden panic as his sleeve caught fire, panicking as a secondary capacitor overload snapped his mechanical ulna. His nerve failing, the man flailed around while on fire, distracting his cyborg compatriots, before suddenly letting out a sharp gasp and coming to a dead halt with Ru’g’s rapier stabbed through his heart.

“It’s so hard to find competent henchmen nowadays,” he complained without any real emotion as he pulled the weapon free of his slumping carcass, drying the blade on the man’s overcoat while more steam rose from the two remaining cyborgs’ weapons. Neither had flinched and continued to fire, the weight of shot making the Twi’lek’s mind weary and finally the barrier shattered.

Her blade danced forth in a heartbeat, spinning left and right in a figure-of-eight as she deflected the stream of emerald bolts with unerring form. Ru’g suppressed a growl at the cyborgs’ inefficiency and stepped up to lash with his whip once again.

The crackling tip of the damaged whip lashed out at her like a vicious viper, hissing and spitting electrical venom. Panting, but far from exhausted, the Twi’lek threw herself to the side in a tight roll to evade the whip lash, emerald bolts trailing her every motion. Feet finding purchase at the edge of the wall, she let her legs flow with the cooling power of the Force and bounded off in the opposite way she’d rolled.

The machine-like staccato of bolts continued tracing her path through the air, a saber slash deflecting one that would have struck her thigh, before the second cyborg’s weapon overheated, followed almost immediately by the third. Tali landed against the wall opposite, bounding off it and sending herself hurtling towards the distracted Collective agents with lekku flowing in her wake.

His both henchmen out of action, their weapons hissing and spitting sparks while they frantically tried to smother the flames, Ru’g dashed forward with a lunge. His weapon skewered thin air as the Twi’lek twisted her body in mid-air, narrowly dodging the pointed tip of his sword and landing with a roll beside him.

The Nautolan whirled around, lashing the whip at her while a minute twitch crossed his cheek. The weapon crackled with agonizing power as it arced towards her, forcing the Twi’lek to raised her blade in a two-handed parry, but it wasn’t enough. The weapon coiled around her plasma blade, the damaged tip lashing across her back and jolting her for the short moment it was still connected to the base of the cruel weapon. The next instant the lightsaber had severed another piece of the electro-whip, but the scent of burned hide was all too pungent in Tali’s nose. Not to mention the stinging, cold pain running down her spine.

She realized the peril at the last moment, dropping down and lunging her saber up high. It struck the hovering form of a dark orb, slicing clean through Ru’g’s interrogation droid before it could deliver its dose of lethal sedative. Letting out a stream of pained beeps and whirrs, the droid fried as its repulsorlift burned out and dropped to the ground like a metallic beach ball. Pulling her saber free, Tali took a moment to collect and recenter herself, leaving only herself and the narcissistic Nautolan standing.

“Annoyingly impressive,” Ru’g began, considering his options. There was one card he hadn’t yet played, but there was no telling if it would even obey his command protocol. Still, he wasn’t beyond tapping into her mistress’ resources, if need be. “I’m sure I will enjoy probing your mind for… ACK!”

Ru’g dodged to the side as the droid’s metallic corpse suddenly flung at him, propelled by a burst of invisible energy. Tali glared at him with a weary, but satisfied smirk. “You talk too much…”

The slight seemed to hit some yet-unseen nerve and the Nautolan let out a roar which Tali had not known his race was capable of before launching himself into a savage charge. His rapier flashed faster than the sabers she was used to, darting forward in a vicious lunge which she barely dodged as the tip of his blade glanced off one of her lek-rings. Before she had time to recover, the severely cut-down remains of his shock whip came down overhead, the power core giving out just before the weapon raked across her shoulder.

Even without the added perks of an electric jolt, the whip scored a nasty welt on her purple skin, drawing a weeping wound that bled into the fabric of her dark blue dress. In a moment’s flashback, the sensation of a whip on her back sent the Twi’lek through a state of horrified shock and into a blind panic-fueled rage.

Heedless of the risk, Tali dived at him, headbutting Ru’g in his smug face though taking it almost as badly as she dealt it as her lekku throbbed with pain. Too close for him to use his weapons properly, the Ru’g sent a sweeping elbow at her face, but the Jedi pulled back and leaned beyond the scything blow.

Curling her hands to her sides, she poured all the panic and anguish of her memories into a swirling vortex of raging power before unleashing it in a tidal wave at the Nautolan at point-blank range. The concussive blast knocked the wind out of his lungs, sending the man flying across the corridor and into the opposite wall with a hard thump. His head cracking against the solid duracrete slab, the sand-pale Nautolan slumped down in a heap like a ragdoll with its strings cut off.

Tali stood stock still, frozen in the moment as she still heard the echoes of leathery wings flapping in the air behind her, every nerve tense and on edge as beads of cold dread ran down her spine. Her eyes were wild with panic and there was nothing but a barrier of will keeping her from bolting and abandoning the mission.

She did not wish to be here. She just had to get out, away, flee. To be somewhere else, to be alone, or held by someone she… No. She let out a lungful of air and steadied her racing mind. No, she repeated the order to herself. That skittish girl was no more, she was the master of her own destiny and a free Twi’lek did not run from her demons.

The crunch of something organic beneath a metal foot sent her spinning around with saber in hand, stopping mere inches from decapitating a protocol droid that had somehow snuck up on her. The machine stared at her with its unblinking photoreceptors and gestured at the door.

“Inquiry: Is this the location of her ladyship, Tissflorin?”

Tali blinked, twice, before managing to wrap her head around the droid’s words. “Uh, yes? But she is occupiedt.”

“Statement: This unit was summoned. Imperative: This unit must gain access to her ladyship, Tissflorin. Urgency code Alpha.”

“Like I saidt, she’s… Vait, vho summonedt you?” Tali furrowed her brow just as the HK-unit slammed the back end of a riot-control baton into her gut. She let out a pained grunt as she doubled over, gasping for air as tears streaked from her eyes.

“The duplicitous meatbag you just pulped,” the droid replied coldly as it brought the crackling weapon around for the coup de grâce. “Time to die, Jedi-scuuuuuuuuuu…” The droid shook violently as its servos overloaded, a probe sticking to the back of its cranium where an industrious analysis droid finished its slicing.

“My master wishes to inform that he is finished with the interrogation of miss Tissflorin,” JJ-8BRAMS informed her in a cool, slightly upbeat manner that defied the life-saving act it had just pulled off.

Teary-eyed, Tali could only offer her winded thanks as light flared from its lenses and the droid turned away to return to its master, leaving a frozen HK-droid standing in the middle of the blasted corridor, riot-baton still held over its head.

==========

Her dress in tatters and still bleeding from her shoulder, Tali limped inside the room where a trio of Tamashi’s associates were finishing their dealings with her ladyship. “So, how didt it go?” she sighed.

“She was more resistant than I would have preferred, but she came around eventually,” Tamashi replied, not wishing to recall too much of the unsavory work he’d been a part of. Expediency was one thing, but he was still a Jedi at heart.

“But you got the intel?”

“Yes, or at least I hope so. Here,” he pulled out a data chit and levitating it to her. “Inform your strike team of these co-ordinates and bring your man home.”

She plucked the chit from mid-air and nodded. “Ve didt goodt today, I think.”

Tamashi gave a mellow look which she couldn’t quite decypher. “Yes, let us think so.”