Andrelious had grown to hate Port Ol’val. He found its chaos to be incongruous with the ordered environment that he had come to prefer in his years serving the Empire. Despite guidelines requiring otherwise, Inahj had insisted on keeping his lightsabers, not convinced that merely his blasters would be enough to keep him safe during his business on the Shadow Port.
The information that Edraven had equipped the Warlord with indicated a part of Port Ol’val that Andrelious had not visited since taking part in a mission with his apprentice, Incendus. Much had happened since that day – Inahj was now Rollmaster, whilst Incendus was officially missing in action.
Andrelious slowly wandered around the area that made up the well-known Jerem Plaza. He remembered many familiar locations, even noticing some familiar faces as he headed towards his destination. The Rollmaster had dressed in civilian clothing, again wearing the long beige coat he had used whilst on Corellia. The coat, whilst it did not fool any scanners, was thick enough to hide the Sith’s weapons, whilst also allowing him to blend in with the other denizens of the Shadow Port.
“Care to browse my wares, young man!?” an old crone questioned of Andrelious. She grabbed him by the wirst and pulled him quite roughly towards an old stall. The items were mostly bric-a-brac, of little value to anyone. On further examination it was also clear that a lot of what was for sale was damaged or outright broken. The female even had the audacity to try and sell an obviously wrecked datapad for six hundred credits. As Inahj pretended to look over the stallholder’s ‘stock’, she picked the broken device up.
“Five hundred credits for you. You have nice eyes!” the woman crooned.
“I’m afraid I don’t have that sort of money with me. Not to spend on such accessories, anyway.” Andrelious replied, starting to walk away.
“Four hundred, then! Such a fine datapad would suit you SO well, young man!” the older Human badgered, thrusting the datapad into her unwilling customer’s hands.
“I’ll give you two hundred and fifty if you leave me alone. I’ve got things to do and they don’t concern the likes of YOU.” Inahj snapped, tossing some credits at the female’s feet. She immediately started to gather them, leaving the Arconan alone.
She’s clearly several dozen lasers short of a Star Destroyer. I almost feel sorry for her next victim. Andrelious thought, blending back into the crowd. He resumed his search for his destination. As he wandered past what appeared to have once been a small ice-cream parlour, he smiled to himself, remembering the events that had transpired there during his time as Gatewarden. Today, however, his mission was of a different nature. The previous contracts that Andrelious had undertaken had generally resulted in a large number of deaths. Even an infiltration mission that was supposed to be free of such things had ended with one man losing his life at the hands of the Arconan. Inahj had also been reprimanded for abusing the expenses system on that mission to Corellia, but laughed it off. In his eyes, the expenses he totted up were a fair exchange for the work he had done.
After a few minutes of casual searching, Andrelious spotted a bright blue sign. It proudly declared that the building it was adorning was the Club Alaye Haven. Inahj’s target. The club did not appear to be a very classy establishment. A large Gamorrean stood by its doorway, apparently acting as a bouncer.
Good. Those stupid pigs are so weak minded that I could have an Acolyte fool them. Inahj mused as he moved towards the Club.
The porcine bouncer was operating a small scanner. He ran it over each potential customer, turning away those that were found to be carrying weapons. Though Gamorreans were not known for their intelligence, nobody was stupid enough to challenge the large beast – they were well known as powerful fighters, even if unarmed. Andrelious joined the back of the queue, which was moving fairly quickly as the Gamorrean continued to scan people.
After a short wait, it was the Warlord’s turn. The bouncer ran the scanner along the Sith’s body. The scanner buzzed, indicating it had detected weapons, but the Gamorrean idly waved Inahj into the club anyway, apparently oblivious to this fact. The Rollmaster started to make his way in, whilst the bouncer moved on to the next person. The scanner buzzed again, but this time the Gamorrean grabbed the individual.
“You let that other guy in! What the frak is he so special for?!” the man asked as the giant bouncer hurled him away from the club, ignoring the protests. Andrelious did not stop to witness the continuation of the event, and moved deeper into the establishment. The Sith took great care to take in all he could, reading between every line and dismissing nothing as impossible. Gentle mind probes of nearby customers generally revealed nothing exciting, with the majority caring about nothing other than their drinks, their work or their family lives.
The Warlord reached one of the bars. The area was chaotic, with a throng of people gathered waiting to be served. Frustration had clearly started to set in as a few taller customers began waving credits at the busy bar staff, who were rushed off their feet. Andrelious could sense annoyance on both sides of the bar – customers were getting tired of waiting to be served, whilst staff just wanted a few minutes away from the growing queues. None of these staff, however, seemed to know anything about the actual operation of the Cantina, aside from its opening hours and the names of their colleagues and supervisors.
Some twenty minutes of wasted time later, Inahj was finally served. He ordered six Ebla Beers. The barman, slightly bemused at the request, loaded the beverages onto a tray, charging Andrelious one hundred and fifty credits for the order. Inahj paid up, annoyed at how high the price had been for what was usually a cheap, if enjoyable beer. The Sith barged through the crowds of queued customers, eventually finding an empty chair. He had just begun to enjoy his first drink when a tall, thin Human approached him.
“You. You’re new? Have you brought the thousand credit entry fee?” the stranger asked, holding out a large but bony hand as if to take some money from the Rollmaster.
“Entry fee? What the frak are you talking about?” Inahj shot back, confused as to the other man’s actions.
“This table is reserved for the entrants of our nightly Sabacc challenge. Did you think you could just pitch up and get wasted at any old table, you filthy drunk?” the tall man hissed. Andrelious wanted to extract one of his lightsabers and execute the man where he stood, but the implications of such an action would reverberate deep into Arcona’s standings.
“Of course I’ve come for that. Except I wasn’t told about an entry fee. Just a lot of people playing a lot of Sabacc.” Andrelious replied, fishing out the demanded credits. The mission was beginning to be costly, but the Sith was beginning to realise something. There were a lot of people, mostly Humans, gathered at the nearby tables. A quick head count estimated around fifty people. With just the entry fees alone, that was fifty thousand, although Inahj guessed that the majority of entry money went to whoever won this ‘challenge’. Where the club stood to make its money from the assembled gamblers was apparently through the amount of drinks that they purchased.
Inahj quietly waited for the Sabacc to begin, engaging in little more than a conversation about recent happenings on Port Ol’val with his neighbouring competitors. Another dozen or so came to join in with the game, too, meaning there were around sixty players. For such a relatively small club to be able to attract so many customers suggested that whatever prize was on offer was very tempting.
“So. Let’s say for a moment that I’m totally brainless and I don’t know what the prize is. What would you tell me?” Andrelious queried, turning to the neighbour on his left – the one on his right was a Wookiee.
“I’d assume you’d had far too many of those. You know why you’re here,” the man responded. Inahj identified the man’s accent as being from somewhere coreward, but his lack of knowledge in such an area prevented him from ascertaining exactly where.
“Like I said. Let’s just PRETEND I’m brainless. Or drunk, if that’s what you’d prefer. What exactly is the…” Inahj continued, determined to find out exactly what had drawn so many to Club Alaye Haven for what appeared to be a smalltime Sabacc tournament. He was, however, cut off as the lighting was dimmed.
“Ladies and Gentlemen. Welcome to another Sabacc challenge. I can even see one or two new faces here tonight. Now, without further ado, I give you our Champion. Undefeated now in six hundred and eighty-five tournaments, he’s dined out on all your credits time after time, it’s Panert!” an announcement declared from somewhere in the dark.
A heavy-set figure, not too dissimilar in build to Inahj, but a lot taller, entered through a side door. He was flanked by several others dressed in the dark garb of security men. Andrelious noticed the tall, thin man that had harassed him earlier was among them. Finally, a droid entered. The Warlord had expected it to be carrying stacks of Sabacc cards, but instead, it carried some simple looking datapads. The droid scuttled around quickly, handing a datapad to each ‘contestant’, before disappearing back into the side door.
Andrelious watched as the datapad booted up. It immediately displayed what appeared to be a large sabacc table, with what the Warlord assumed was a list of the other players on one side. One name, ‘Panert’ was marked with a star. From the fanfare that his arrival had brought, Inahj inferred that he was the man to beat.
The game started in earnest. Andrelious tried to remember his father’s tips for playing Sabacc, but found himself relying more on the Force to probe the minds of his opponents. He found them all to be exceedingly confident, but even as a relative novice to the game, the Arconan could see that they believed they were far better players than their skills suggested. Frequently they appeared to miss elementary moves. That was, except for Panert. Every move he made improved his score phenomenally. Aside from this skill, the Human also appeared to be incredibly lucky, having already secured an Idiot’s Array to win the first hand, to the anger of several players who had managed a pure Sabacc.
As the ‘challenge’ continued, Panert’s luck and skill allowed him to win five of the first six hands. At each win he simply smirked, saying nothing. He appeared to have a single-minded focus on the game. Andrelious was sat far enough away that probing Panert’s mind would prove difficult. Instead, the Warlord bided his time, trying his utmost to win the Sabacc hands. Panert, however, appeared almost unstoppable as he got another Idiot’s Array.
The constant losing had been getting to the Kashyyyk native next to Andrelious. Now, he was livid. He had achieved a pure Sabacc, and was sure that he was going to win the hand. With a loud roar, the giant alien charged at Panert. The security team quickly moved to protect the Human, taking their eyes off of the rest of the competition. Most of the contestants, particularly those near Panert, began to flee the area in a panic. Inahj made the most of the confusion and headed for the now unguarded side door. The Warlord easily manipulated the door’s primitive locking system by nudging its mechanism with the Force. Seconds later, he was in.
Andrelious smiled. Wookiees, though known for their temper, rarely flared up in a situation where the odds were against them. On this occasion, the Force had helped persuade the furious furry creature that the situation demanded action. The alien had helped create the distraction that the Rollmaster needed to sneak into the inner workings of Club Alaye Haven.
The corridor in front of Inahj soon turned into a downward staircase. The Sith snuck as quietly as he could to the bottom of the stairs. He could sense a number of beings nearby, and so moved cautiously. As powerful as he was, Andrelious did not like the idea of being caught: he was in an unknown location and for all he knew, the Club could be a front to allow a rival clan to operate in Arcona’s backyard.
Coming up to a nearby doorway, Andrelious stopped. He crouched next to the doorway, just out of sight of anyone inside. He could not see inside, but was within earshot of a heated conversation that was taking place in the next room.
“The guards dealt with that frakkin’ walkin’ carpet?” a voice asked. From the sound and tone, Inahj guessed it belonged to a human male in his late fifties.
“Yes. Don’t worry. He won’t be troubling us again,” a much younger voice responded. The Warlord inferred its owner was around twenty-five.
“An’ how is Panert? Did the furry bugger get ‘im?” the first man queried.
“He’s fine. I’m going to wrap it up, though. I’ll give him another Idiot’s Array. That should be enough to guarantee a win, especially with most of the contestants gone,” the younger man stated.
So, that’s what they’re doing. They’re rigging Sabacc games and taking the locals for mugs. Andrelious thought, noting the conversation down on his datapad. The one that he had been playing Sabacc on had continued to bleep away, expecting the Sith to carry on playing. Inahj decided to keep hold of it. Whilst it was an incredibly cheap model, not much good for anything other than low-demand games, the DIA were likely to want to slice into it.
Inahj realised that his mission was not yet complete. Whilst he had the information that he had been sent for, escaping would be no easy feat. He could not hope to rely on another distraction large enough to allow him to sneak out of the side door. He would have to find another way out. The Warlord moved swiftly past the doorway. The corridor reached a t-junction. With nothing jumping out either way, Andrelious chose the left hand turn. He was a little surprised at the lack of guards, but simply assumed that they were all needed should the fixed gaming cause tempers to flare again.
The first three doors that Andrelious tried were locked. Normally he would have just sabered through them, but the mission parameters required he do as little damage as possible. He already suspected that his tampering of the side door’s lock would be discovered, but that he would be long gone by the time anyone would think to check. The fourth door led to what appeared to be a large storage cupboard. Inside, were more Sabacc datapads. Andrelious left them where they were, again doing nothing to make his presence as unnoticeable as possible. In one corner of the room, the droid that had distributed the datapads was stood, deactivated. A closer examination revealed that it was a damaged protocol droid. The Sith felt around the droid’s chassis, finding its activation switch. The droid’s left eye flickered on, but the right eye remained dark.
“Collect or give out?” the droid asked in its monotonous voice.
“Give out.” Andrelious ordered plainly. He inferred that the droid was damaged enough that it now performed only the single function. His suspicions looked to be correct as the droid slowly gathered together the spare datapads, before heading out of the room.
With the relatively slow speed that the droid was walking at, Inahj had about five minutes before it would be spotted by the two men who were fixing the card game. With that in mind, he headed back to the corridor and tried the next door. As it slid open, the Arconan found himself in what seemed an empty room. The only feature of note was an extremely large grate on the far wall. To the side of the grate was a toolkit. Andrelious smiled. He examined the toolkit and found what he needed. A minute or two later he had managed to undo enough bolts to open the grate, and enter the Club’s cooling ducts.
The ducts were fairly narrow. A larger being would have struggled to fit, but Andrelious’ short stature served him well. Though the air inside was chilly, the Sith was soon moving fairly easily along the metallic ‘tunnels’. Having clambered upwards, he moved along, passing over a grate that led to the ‘hacking’ room. He stopped for a few seconds to listen to the conversation, but found it to be disinteresting and irrelevant. Moving upwards again, he found a grate that would allow him to drop inside a fresher. Kicking at it a few times, Andrelious cursed as the thin strips of durasteel refused to give way. With the Force, he pushed at the grate, whilst trying one final kick.
With an audible thunk, the grate broke. The pieces dropped to the floor, quickly followed by Andrelious. He wasted no time in flushing a nearby toilet, before leaving through the door, to the disgust of a smartly dressed Human who was headed the other way.
The Club was a little emptier than it had been when Inahj had arrived, but there was still a large crowd watching the last few moves of the Sabacc game. Andrelious casually headed towards the Club’s exit.
For once, Andrelious J. Inahj had completed his mission without a single casualty.
Unless one counted the Wookiee.