[Lucine and Vodo] Beauty and the Beast

(Vodo Biask Taldrya) #1

Galactic City
Level 5127
Coruscant System
37ABY

Few would notice it but Vodo was feeling particularly smug. His normally stern visage was no less the perfect mask of stern discipline and fearsome determination but within he was nearly jubilant. Plans, years in the making, were all coming to fruition at nearly the same instant. His quest of vengeance and retribution had been completed and a bitter rival had removed from his warpath by the strength of his own two hands. His Apprentice was nearing the time of his Dark Jedi Knight trials and would soon be a man in the full of his youth and vigor. Vodo proud of the boy, his son, something the Sith Warlord would never voice aloud. Then there was the item, the entire reason he was present on Coruscant, and what it ultimately would mean for his future.

Vodo Biask Taldrya was at his heart an academic. Self-taught, self-educated, and self-motivated he’d delved into the tomes of the Shadow Academy as a Journeyman in those early, halcyon days. As Aedile of Ektrosis he’d spearheaded the construction of the magnificent Library of Lears on Karufr, an architectural marvel of his own design, from which he’d spent many years furthering his studies into the mysteries of the Dark Side and the history of those enterprising Arcanists from the forgotten pages of history. Nearly a decade ago the story of an alchemist had captured his imagination and it had become among his few obsessions to find any traces of that man’s work. Here, on the glittering jewel in the crown of the galaxy, he would finally have his most tangible relic of that man and the final piece required for his plans to come to their culmination.

A nearly 7 foot tall Twi’lek standing atop a gruesome pair of cybernetic legs would have stood out in this crowd, though not by much. Beings of every size and shape, planet of origin and background, were present in their finest. For his part Vodo was disguised. He did not wander far from the ranks of the Brotherhood since the crash had paralyzed him from the waist down and he’d chosen to shed the weakness of his flesh for his utilitarian prosthesis lest stories of the man atop those legs, the one with the gnarled and blackened scars up and down his lekku, proceeded him. His disguise was not one of cloth and makeup but rather of the mind. With practiced ease his will stretched across the crowd and informed them he appeared to be nothing more than an average man of average height and build. Some would recall him as a human, others as a Zeltron, and some perhaps as a Twi’lek even but no one saw him for what he was. Sith.

The auction had not yet begun so the patrons, invitees all, mingled in little clusters sharing drinks and stories to pass the time. He passed these groupings without interest, swiping a flute of some sparkling drink from a serving droid as he walked past. The droids would see him as he truly was, his illusions being ultimately useless against their electronic sensors, but he had the proper credentials to be there and they rose no fuss. He sipped from his glass and found it was a variety of Corellian wine though not particularly to his liking. He strolled slowly examining the displays of artifacts, treasures, and curiosities behind their transparasteel enclosures until he came to the only one that held any significance to him.

He stood before the Mask of Oman Rah and devoured it with his eyes like a man starving to death. He could feel its presence in the Dark Side of the Force, whispers of its long dead owners calling to him from the far reaches of his hearing. At times he felt he could almost see small black tendrils of the Dark Side slithering across its surface, waving in some unseen breeze to him, calling out for him to seize the Mask and depart this polluted city-planet and assume his mantel as the scion of a new Sith Order. Vodo’s iron will resisted the siren’s call of the Mask and he took another measured sip from his wine flute.

Of all the trillions of sentients in the galaxy Vodo was perhaps the only one who knew what this treasure really was. All that remained of its legend, lost to time even before the Great Galactic Cold War 3500 years ago, were fragments and rumors. Writings on tomb walls alluded to its existence but rarely mentioned it directly. Holocrons of long dead, long forgotten Masters spoke of its creation as though it were already a myth. The countless souls that had been sacrificed to create this thing, this unremarkable ceramic mask, and the horrific acts that had been committed to fulfil the ritual necessary for its creation were so committed to the annals of time that they might well have never existed at all. Except the mask did exist and the radiance of its presence in the Force told Vodo that everything he’d learned about it was true and if they were true then so too would be the powers it granted him.

Casually he checked his datapad. His accounts were ready, bankers on four trade worlds were waiting on his word and had unlimited lines of credit ready to be extended. They did not know who he was, he interacted with them through shell companies and proxies, but they knew the value of his business. There would be no one in this room who would be able to outspend him. He did not care what the cost would be for it was worth all the credits in the galaxy. No one would stand between him and Oman Rah’s greatest creation. Then he saw her and a tingle of warning, a gentle whisper of the Force, ran over the skin of his lekku.

(Lucine Vasano) #2

Lucine hated Coruscant. The planet of her birth held nothing but memories of humiliation and pain for her, so she avoided returning there as often as possible. But, sometimes business brought her back, and there was nothing to do but to make the most of it.

She had chosen her outfit carefully. The black and green silk dress was of an appropriate cut for an early afternoon party, and it hugged her curves in a manner that drew many second glances. She had gathered her copper locks into an elaborate style on top of her head, with a few spare curls allowed to fall free, to draw attention to her neck. There, a sparkling necklace, combined with other pieces of carefully chosen jewelry, drew attention to other assets. In truth, she was not one to utilize disguise. Instead, she used her clothing, makeup and jewelry to distract and draw attention exactly where she wanted it to be.

Her eyes were constantly moving, surveying the room with all of the scrutiny of a general surveying a battlefield. In this way, she found likely targets, people who potentially could be useful. She had already taken the precaution of securing a list of the invitees and had done thorough background checks on each of them. If done correctly, the auction could turn into a quite profitable venture.

In this way, she moved through the assembled crowds. Most of her attention was directed toward those present, whom she lavished with charm, wit and the occasional gentle push with the Force to ensure a favorable response.

The durasteel cases containing the items on display received little more than a glance, though she was careful to look at each one in turn. Occasionally, she would glance back at the Chiss clad in a butler’s uniform, and give him an almost imperceptible nod. Even though he was following from a polite distance, he caught her signal each time and made a note on the datapad that he held in a gloved hand.

She felt Vodo before she saw him, as his chosen method of disguise created a veritable beacon of dark Force energy. She had not seen any familiar names on the guest list, but it was likely that he was there under an assumed name. At last, her eyes fell upon him, standing in front of a particular case. The opportunity was simply too good to pass up. She murmured a sufficient excuse to the spoiled and dreadfully boring son of a shipping magnate and approached the illusioned Twi’lek.

“Well, this is a pleasant surprise,” Lucine said in low tones as she drew nearer. She gave him an appraising look but gave no indication as to whether she was looking at him or simply his illusion. “I must say, it is a rare treat to find someone of such august company out and about,” she added as she glanced at the Mask. She paused and leaned over to study it closer, before quirking a brow up at him with a feline smile.

(Vodo Biask Taldrya) #3

His face remained cool and composed even as he recovered from being so startled. The Galaxy was enormous and yet the smallest coincidences seemed sometimes almost trivially common.

“Yes, a surprise to be sure”, He gave her a smile which while pleasant was without warmth.

His eyes quickly scanned the crowd for any other faces he recognized. He flitted over every face in view and hovered on a blue skinned man, a Chiss, only momentarily as he became sure it wasn’t the one Chiss in the large galaxy that he did not want here. This woman was that man’s lapdog and a rising star within Clan Arcona-- was there something afoot here? Vodo searched her face suspiciously.

“What brings you back here to Coruscant, Ms. Vasano?” He asked in a conversational tone.

Vodo felt her pace quicken momentarily through the force as she realized he knew something of her background and found he liked the idea of winning that round.

Her smile looked convincingly genuine as she turned to the crowd, “Oh, I come here on business occasionally. What was it you said you were doing here? Shopping?”

“I didn’t say” Vodo responded with finality, “You’ll have to excuse me, the auction is about to begin.”

Sure enough the room lights dimmed twice as notice to the crowd to begin taking their seats. Most sat in the theater seating closest to the stage. Here the amateur buyers and people posing as buyers for the concealed patrons sat and displayed their bid number on holographic displays before them. Around the edge of the auditorium the brokers had desks hooked up with terminals, displays, and datalinks so they could do business with the greatest possible efficiency. They represented firms and acquisition groups, people trying to buy up bulk to flip and sell for a profit on the open market. Up a staircase at the rear of the room, guarded by a bouncer droid, was the hallway to the mezzanine where private booths sat overlooking the auction. Vodo stepped into one such booth, having paid a handsome sum for the privilege.

From here he could look down at the items from behind one-way glass as they were marched across the stage. He had high speed data uplinks to the holonet relays in orbit so that his connection to his bankers was faster than anyone elses’. He’d paid handsomely for that as well. The booth was comfortable and while on the low end of luxurious could still be described as ample. He took a seat in the padded chair at the small room’s center and released his illusory disguise. There was no reason to light this booth in particular up as a beacon in the Force when no one could see him from the outside.

He searched the crowd below for the Arconan woman as the auctioneer took the stage and introduced himself. Vodo settled into his chair and prepared for the culmination of his plans. The lights in the auditorium flicked off for a moment and then came back up before going off again. Similarly the lights on the displays in the booth flickered back to life as the room’s private back up power source tried to cut in and that too cut out leaving the Sith Twi’lek bathed in darkness. A moment passed before muted explosions popped off in the auditorium before him, punctuated by small, brief white flashes.

Leaping to his feet Vodo reached for the lightsaber at his hip. It wasn’t there though. It was safe aboard the Karufr Knight at the spaceport.

“GOOD EVENING LADIES AND GENTLEBEINGS”, the amplified voice filled the auditorium and came through the building’s public address system as well, “HIT THE GROUND AND REMAIN STILL IF YOU KNOW WHAT’S GOOD FOR YOU.”

Arcona, Vodo sneered while leaping to the most obvious conclusion in his mind.

(Lucine Vasano) #4

The thieves had come equipped with illumination devices. As Vodo observed from his place in the private balcony, two of the thieves began to circulate among the gathered guests, helping themselves to any jewelry or valuables that caught their attention. Within a few minutes they arrived upon Lucine. Her face looked especially pale in the dim light, and she looked to be trembling. All in all, it was a convincing performance.

The thief’s head tilted to the side as if he was hearing something, before speaking to Lucine a moment later. “Hey, babycakes, give me that pretty necklace of yours, huh?” The thief’s leer was audible in his voice as he reached toward the sparkling necklace that hung at her throat. The redhead’s hand lashed out to slap his face, the sound of the blow audible even at Vodo’s vantage point.

The thief’s response was almost reflexive. He backhanded the redhead, sending her sprawling backwards. He roughly hauled her to her feet and drew a slugthrower from his belt. “All right, doll face, just for that, you get to be my human shield.”

He turned to address the assembled crowd. “You hear that, folks? Any of you try anything funny, and I’ll blow her brains out!”

“Err… I don’t think that’s how human shields work, boss,” said the other thief from the other side of the auditorium. His thick Corellian accent was clear despite the fact that his voice was muffled from the mask that obscured his features.

“Shaddup!” The apparent leader glared at the one who had just spoke, before glancing around to make sure that all of the accumulated guests.

Vodo shook his head is disgust at the little tableau, wondering it the Arconan could have been any more obvious. The plot was made even more obvious by the fact that the woman’s Chiss butler was nowhere to be seen. Still, the other patrons were not Force users, so it was highly likely that they were oblivious to the clear signs that the woman was directing the thieves using the Force.

But he had bigger problems. He was so close to obtaining the Mask of Oman Rah that he could taste it. He had no intention of allowing the the redhead to interfere with his plans.

He cautiously opened the door to the private booth and peered into the hallway. There was no one there. Clearly, these thieves were a pack of amateurs. He stalked along the hallway and crept down the stairs. He was taking great pains to ensure that his growing ill humor did not cause him to act too rashly. Not with so much at stake.

He peered through the doors of the stairwell to see that most of the transparisteel cases had been opened and emptied of their contents. One of the thieves, a massive creature whose features were obscured with a cheap mask, was leaving, carrying two crates in his bulky arms. Still more crates were scattered around the floor, where packed with treasures from the cases. Vodo’s gaze immediately went to the case that held the mask, but it was empty.

At that moment, the two thieves from the gallery burst in, one of them hauling Lucine by the arm. While the lackey turned to secure the doors with a massive lock and chain, the apparent leader of the thieves barked orders at those present. “Come on, hurry up! We’re almost done here.”

For her part, Lucine remained silent, pale and trembling. But her head turned slightly to look at Vodo out of the corner of her eye, and her lips quirked in the barest of smiles. It was gone a moment later, but the challenge was clear. What, oh what, are you going to do now?

(Vodo Biask Taldrya) #5

There were three of them: Two humans and something larger.

Vodo found it queer that Vasano was still acting her part though all the guests had been confined in a seperate room. The Force whispered speechlessly to him to trust his growing suspicion about her, urging him to act. It was the man not holding her who saw him first. Topping seven feet tall above his cybernetic legs, Vodo Biask Taldrya had broad shoulders and and his dark countenance was punctuated by the blackened scars running the length of his lekku. He had etched those runes into his own skin following the directions of an ancient tome kept by the old Krath Order. His legs were striking as well; they were reverse articulated at the knee and ended in five falciform talons.

The man took a moment to process what it was he was seeing before acting. He began raising his blaster rifle to a hip fire when the soft of his neck collapsed under a telekinetic punch. The clatter of his weapon falling to the tile floor attracted the attention of the other two. The big one grunted in aggression before an invisible hand threw him into the wall opposite. The big guy hit shoulder-blades first with a loud thud. Even dazed the alien scrambled to his feet to charge the stranger.

Vodo mocked disdain as he lazily flipped his wrist over and the large alien flew again into a wall, this time head first and this time with a sickening crunch. The first man was still alive and on his knees grasping at the collapsed windpipe in his throat with growing urgency as Vodo slowly trod past him. The last man, a human, held Lucine Vasano firmly by the upper arm with a blaster held to her temple. Her mass, though small, was held protectively between them. This man was the boss.

“Come any closa and I blast her brains across the room. Who the frell are you? Some sorta Jedi?” His face covered by a black helmet shield Vodo could see the man cock his head, “Use any o’ dat magic on me an I’ll kill ‘er.”

The Twi’lek Warlord smirked, “You’d be doing me a favor.”

The Boss blinked and there were three tenticle-heads where there had only been one a moment prior.

The man was quick-witted and he nodded his head in appreciation, “Okay, new plan then.”

He shifted his aim from Lucine’s pretty head to the Vodos. His blastor’s bolt past through the face of the one at the center of the trio and impacted the wall behind with a thud and a sizzle. Lucine wasted no time and made her move. She grabbed the man’s arm coming over her shoulder with both of her own and by jackknifing her body succeeded in dislocating his elbow. He dropped his weapon and screamed in pain while the woman followed up by throwing the man over her shoulder onto the ground using the same arm.

“This robbery isn’t part of your business then?” Vodo asked as he walked up behind her.

She knelt atop the captain and pressed her elbow into his throat as she fought off his good arm like a practiced wrestler, “I had briefly wondered if this was your doing.”

(Lucine Vasano) #6

“Not mine,” Vodo replied as he cast his senses about, searching for the mask. While this was not part of his plan, he had to admit that it would make acquiring the object of his desire so much simpler if he could simply reach out his hand and take it.

But it was not there. The oh so familiar presence of the mask was not in any of the containers that remained strewn about the floor. He frowned, before turning his attention back to the thug that Lucine kept restrained. “Well, at least I can get some answers,” he said.

Lucine glanced up at him, before something on her hand caught her attention. A look of outrage briefly shadowed her face. Abruptly, she released the thug’s arm, grasped his head in both her hands and twisted sharply with Force augmented muscles. The sickening crack of the man’s neck breaking was audible even where Vodo stood. “Why did you do that?” he snapped, feeling his irritation and suspicion rising.

“He caused me to break a nail,” the redhead replied, holding her hand up so that he could see the jagged edge of one of her lacquered nails. She rose to her feet, casually dusting off her hands. “Besides, I was not in the mood to do you any favors,” she added, throwing his words from earlier back at him.

“You… you fool!” the Twi’lek hissed.

“Sticks and stones, darling,” Lucine replied in an offhanded tone. “My my, you seem really upset! Could it be that you really wanted this auction to take place?”

Vodo snapped his jaws together as he glared at her. The woman was untrustworthy, and he had no interest in sharing any more information with her than he had to. The woman smirked as she drew her assassin’s datapad from the folds of her dress.

“Where in the world were you keeping that thing?” Vodo asked, quick to change the subject.

“A dress can hide many things, both pleasant and not,” Lucine replied philosophically. “Now, as it happens, I may have sent my droid to follow those noxious thugs when the robbery first started. But I must say, darling, I really am at a loss as to why I should help you. You really have been quite rude to me since we met.” She offered him a wicked smile. “Shall we make a deal? Just how badly do you want that mask you were salivating over?”