1.10: Mrlsst’s Poisons
Chronicle Day 66-68: 1 yr. Pre-ANH
From the hotel window, Brendaron observed the hustling city of the University, the traffic going in and out of the star port, the air traffic flying between the huge Greenstalks, and wondered – how could something so peaceful and orderly hide something so chaotic and fanatical as JAN. His return to the group after his promotion ceremony was greeted with news that they had encountered JAN, a fanatical terrorist group that made the Rebel Alliance look like civil servants.
Rex was supposed to watch Arkeld, one of the three conspirators in this intrigue. Their plot had to do something to the torpedo sphere and as ironic as it seemed, the old professor from the University was apparently the muscle of the operation, through the use of JAN. Here on Mrlsst, the population was largely academia and their primary trade was knowledge. This kind of environment tends to foster fanaticism. Arkeld didn’t come across as one, but his night life revealed and associates revealed more about him then he let on. He was quite a busy man lately – busier than one would expect a university professor to be.
Two new players had come to light that were of interest to them. Jaxin Dro’een – antique dealer and treasure hunter. Arkeld has several meeting with him, and contacts with in the University that Brendaron and the others could trust, didn’t know who Dro’een was. Large sums of money were being transferred to Dro’een’s store account from the university though.
Arkeld was also having secret meeting with a Duke Dyron Morel of House Barnaba. Morel had been seen handing Arkeld a data pad. Brendaron and Jarnak both knew this man, and new his significance. He was an assistant to the Moff, and when you see him, the Moff isn’t far behind.
In order to maximize their resources, Sir Jarnak was sent out to investigate Morel while Brendaron went out to seek Dro’een. Kragar decided to contact his house to report, while Marks, along with Remmy, needed to contact “his people” – the enigmatic Archive. Rex rested from his ordeal in the hotel room billed to Pyre’s account. Pyre, on the other hand, was away on business again, dealing with arranging for the secure download of the “gift” Annora Calandra left him.
Jarnak had found very few sites of true interest in the University City of Mrlsst. From the Grand-stalk Gardens to the Pools of Endless Knowledge, the whole city was a university campus. On the outskirts was the industrial complexes and a few landing fields, but that area was still too hot from the “terrorist” activity earlier in the week. It took Jarnak most of the day to find the University City’s true underground – above ground.
Hidden in the greenstalks high above the city, was a elaborate society of eclectic individuals. Some called them outcasts from the mainstream academia, others called them freaks. To him, they were a means to an end. he needed to know more about Morel and why he is here and what Arkeld might have to do with it. here might be the best place.
He ended up in a cantina, carved in the trunk of one of the greenstalks. There he met with an old friend of his – his former Executive Officer from House Pelagia before the fall – “Captain” Barat Meed. Since the Pelagian fall, he hadn’t faired well, obviously falling into a pit of alcoholism and illegal activities. He was told by a contacts that he had inside information on Morel.
“Morel… oh yeeeeaaa… I know the guy. Helped him out on a few deals when he needed it…” Meed said, through him semi-sober state.
Almost ashamed, Jarnak inquired further, “Deals? What sort of deals?”
“Don’t look at me like that, Sir. Not all of us have faired as well as you. Some of us have lost everything… many of us…”
Meed anger took Jarnak off guard. “Barry, I haven’t faired as well as it seems. The humiliation I suffer daily foes worse damage than those indulgences you partake in now. Please excuse me. I am only concerned about an old friend…”
Meed paused and took another drink… “Morel is an addict. He has a taste for a special spice called Ara’untri Spice. It’s highly narcotic, but is said to give the user a photographic memory. There are only a few sources of that spice in the Tapani Sector. I only know one personally…”
“… Fizo Riddom, Captain of the Sunrise … he’s a VERY discrete man, and has many connections. Trustworthy, but also a man who can be bought. Good ship too… one of the best smuggling ships in the sector. Last I heard, he’s docked on Mrlsst for re-supply and business. Just ask the part authority about the Sunrise. They’ll point you in the right direction…”
Jarnak thought for a moment while Meed ordered another drink. Much as Jarnak disliked the thought, he knew he could use this to get to Morel.
He left Meed a few extra credit and a few words of advice, and headed back to the ground level to find Captain Riddom.
Brendaron had found Dro’een’s antique very quaint and interesting. He stood examining a map of some kind on the wall when the clerk came in – a near-human female. “Can I help you?”
“Nope, just looking…”
“Well, you’ve picked a fine piece there. It’s the Map of the 12 Stars of Adrios, dated back before the Old Republic. It is said that is showed the original positions of all twelve of the Stars of Adrios….”
“Really?” Brendaron raised an eye-brow. Interesting, indeed. The map was encased in glass, framed. It seemed to have been drawn on some kind of ancient parchment, but it had some very odd qualities to it.
“They were discovered in this system, in the asteroid belt around this world, by ancient Herglic traders. They are said to have great power.”
I could use this. That little Herglic would owe me big for this one. “I’ll take it.”
“Very well… that’ll be 5000 credits.”
Brendaron stifled his shock as best he could, but removed his cred-stick all the same. He’ll owe me REAL big.
“So tell me, where is the proprietor of this establishment?” He asked while she packaged the item up.
“He is out, meeting other dealers. he said that he has a line on some new artifacts.” she said pleasantly.
“Well, Perhaps I can help him with that. Is there anyway I can reach him.” Brendaron said in a hopeful tone.
“I can call him on his comlink and set up an appointment.”
“Do that. That would be fine. ”
“Who may I say is calling?”
Moments later, Brendaron was leaving the shop, with his package and an appointment to meet Dro’een at a cafe’ near the university. He apparently has a meeting there with someone else and would talk with him afterwards.
Marks was sent out to follow Arkeld. He seemed to be no where in site. In his frustration, he started making contacts with the local students, asking around campus about Arkeld.
Frustrated, he got into a taxi to head back to the hotel. The driver was a Ranat. After a few moments and getting stuck in university traffic, the Ranat spoke.
“So you’re lookin’ for Arkeld, are ya?” he said in a high annoying voice.
Surprised, he turned to the furry rodent “Yea… who’s asking?”
“The name’s Riktak. I’m somewhat of a connoisseur of information around the University. You name and face ahas come up in some places I tend to frequent. You wanna find him or not?”
Marks was very suspicious of the Ranat, “Yea, how can I find him?”
“He’s got a meeting at a cafe’ on Central later today.” the passenger’s Comp-terminal lit up with a map and the time of the meeting. “You can find him there at that time.”
The Ranat chattered for a few moments then said something about Rex ” You are one of those guys hanging around with Lord Rex of House Adrios, aren’t you?”
“Yea, as a matter of fact. Is he well known around here?”
“Yes, he and his twin brother.”
Marks was surprised, “Twin brother?”
“Yep, you didn’t know? Rumor has it that his twin brother is the reason his house is deposed and he seeks to disrupt any attempts Rex makes to bring his house back under his power.
“Rumor also has it they have some kind of connection… what one experiences, the other does too in some way…”
Marks took a few moments to absorb this information. This wasn’t totally new to him. He had heard Rex mention a brother occasionally. But nothing about Rex’s past with him.
Moments later, he pulled up to the hotel the group was staying at.
Jarnak had found Captain Riddom near his ship, in docking bay 43, south side of the star port. He was unloading cargo with help of starport service droids.
“I have need of your services, Captain Riddom.”
“Of course you do. Everyone in the Tapani Sector comes to me with some sort of need.” the dark skinned man smiled wryly. “What is your pleasure?”
“You know of a man named Morel?”
“Morel? Morel? Can’t say I have. But if I had, I wouldn’t be able to say either. I work on the strictest policy of confidentiality because of the items I deal with and the people I deal with.” Jarnak handed a Cred-display to the captain, displaying some funds he borrowed from Pyre’s coffers. The captain paused after seeing the number of zeros on the amount. “Well, if you put it that way…
“Duke Morel. Yes, I do know him, and I do supply him with a certain amount of substances that are very rare.”
“Can you supply me an amount?”
Suddenly, Riddom looked nervous, peering over Jarnak’s shoulder. “Yes, but we must leave now. Meet me later at the Sideport Cantina, west side, one hour” he shuffled over towards a door as he started speaking into his elaborate wrist-comlink “D5, lock down now.”
Jarnak caught the glimpse of white armor through a door on the other side of the hangar and knew he had to leave soon too. Even though he knew hadn’t done anything, being in the company of one like Riddom probably wasn’t good for his credibility.
Brendaron grabbed a cab to return to the hotel. The driver was a Ranat, who identified himself as Riktak.
“Comin’ from ol’ Dro’een’s place, are ya?”
“Yes, I just made a fine purchase of this map? Something about the Twelve Stars of Adrios…” Brendaron said just to make conversation.
“Yea, Dro’een’s been getting into that part of Mrlssti Herglic folklore. I’ve been kinda helpin’ him since I got some angles into some of the old trade houses. In fact, I found him one of the Stars… got it right here. I gotta deliver it to him pretty soon. Couldn’t find the other eleven. Seems someone’s snatched them up….”
Brendaron raised his eye brow at the sight of the gem. He made a mental note to find this rat again.
“Arkeld is going to this coffee meeting as well?” Brendaron thought intently. He wanted to interrogate Arkeld as soon as possible. He wanted to know more about his part in this whole plot, and how to stop it.
Breaking his train of thought, Rex belched through his blowhole again. This reminded Brendaron of his present for the Herglic. It wasn’t the best time to present it but when was a good time with this Herglic. “Here, I found something in the antique place Dro’een runs. Thought you might appreciate it.”
“By the Gods!” No one had seen so much energy surface in the Herglic. “One of the Maps of the 12 Stars.”
“What is this about the 12 stars that makes them so important to you and your House, Rex?” Bored, Marks was eager to change the subject.
“House Adrios is the Guardian house of the 12 Stars, to ensure they will never be placed back to their original position. The 12 Stars a gems of great power that House Adrios at one time had possession of, until my brother stole them.”
“Your twin brother?”
“Yes, Mr. Marks, my twin brother.”
Brendaron was interested more in the legend of the 12 Stars. “So what are the twelve Stars and what do they have to do with the asteroid belt around Mrlsst.”
“Legend has it that Mrlsst didn’t always have the asteroid belt. The asteroid belt is the remains of moon that originated from the other side of the galaxy. A great battle between good and evil took place there, thousands of years ago. It is said that a Dark Jedi named Kar’reez Nar had summoned up dark armies to fight the early Jedi, using a powerful crystal.
“The battle was so great, it ripped time and space open and shattered the crystal as well as the moon. The remains were teleported to a position around Mrlsst. Early Mrlsst legend speak of this event as a religious epiphany. It brought on their first dark age, raining ash down on their world for a century.
“The twelve Stars are said to be the remains of the Dark Jedi’s crystal. No one knows what happened to Kar’reez Nar. Most believe he died in the catastrophe. The Stars were found in the asteroids centuries later by traders of my house, who took it upon themselves to be Guardians of these great treasures.”
“Of course, … out of the kindness of your big Herglic hearts. I’m sure the apparent value of these gems weren’t part of that decision.” Marks said.
“Our mercantile nature is well known, Mr. Marks, I do realize this, but I assure you that something else drove my ancestors to these gems, something deeper.”
“And your destiny lies there in those asteroids, my friends.” a voice came to all of them from nowhere.
Marks and Jarnak looked at each other with recognition. The Judge. Why he was on Mrlsst was unclear, but he was obviously watching them somehow.
“Who was that?” Brendaron said. Marks and Jarnak attempted to explain who the Judge was. “You recruited the help of what you think is a Sith assassin??!! Are you crazy?”
No one had an answer for the Marquis. After a few uncomfortable moments, Brendaron returned to the subject at hand. “…And I know where one of these Stars is. That Ranat taxi driver, Riktak, has one.”
“You met him too?” Marks said.
“Yep, annoying fellow, but he seems to know a lot.”
Rex hadn’t spoke, but his eyes showed a hint of recognition. “That scoundrel! That back-stabbing little rodent! His family served mine as highly respected advisors!”
The door suddenly swung open, and in walked Jarnak. he looked disheveled and tired.
“Well, Sir Jarnak, good to see you. Any news with Duke Morel?” Brendaron inquired.
After taking a moment, Jarnak described his journey to meet Captain Riddom. “The Imperials are shutting down the Starport. They have impounded all out going ships for the next 56 hours. Captain Riddom’s ship is one of them. They are only letting a select few out, and keeping everything else under a tight lid. They are deliberately limiting the amount of traffic off Mrlsst to a bare minimum.”
“A VIP is arriving.” Marks stated. “Very secretly.”
“What does that have to do with Arkeld, Morel and Dro’een?” Brendaron needed to know. “Well, we can use the Ranat. I want to chat with Arkeld and Dro’een. What we can do is ….” They proceeded to formulate a plan to kidnap Arkeld, force his hand. Something was going on and it was beyond just the plans to attack the torpedo sphere.
Marks and Jarnak waited at the cafe. Brendaron was to arrive at the cafe at the same time as Dro’een, usher him back into the Taxi and ride off while Arkeld remained at the cafe to be handled by Marks and Jarnak.
Arkeld was already at the cafe, drinking a heated beverage, while observing all around. He sat alone, a brief case at his feet. Jarnak had noticed something odd about the man, but couldn’t figure it out. It was when someone bumped into his chair that he saw the flicker. It wasn’t Arkeld, it was someone else wearing a holo-screen.
Then he looked at the brief case, felt something stir in him he had never felt before. He immediately grabbed Marks.
Riddom had decided to go to the Sideport Cantina a little early to take in a few drinks and re-aquaint himself with a few of the young college-student barmaids. He was turning a corner around the Sidestreet Corner Cafe when it lit up light a super nova. He saw Jarnak caught in the fury.
Brendaron and Rex sat in the taxi up the street awaiting Dro’een’s Taxi, while Jarnak and Marks sat at the cafe. Brendaron specifically picked Riktak’s taxi because he knew Dro’een and Arkeld. The Ranat suddenly appeared nervous. Without warning, he slammed on the accelerator, pulling away from the cafe. A bright flash came from behind them, flames and debris carpeting the streets.
Brendaron pulled his blaster, just as the Ranat pulled onto a suspension bridge across a small river. Shortly after wrestling with the Ranat for a few moments, Riktak was stunned and the taxi was careening out of control. Before the taxi went over the edge of the bridge, Brendaron gained control of the vehicle. With the other hand, he held onto Riktak, who had almost fallen out the door and over the bridge.
Rex snatched up the jewel that hung around the Ranat’s neck. “By the Gods! It is one of the Stars! It’s the 12th Star!”
Soon after, the returned to the cafe. Local authorities were swarming all over hte place. Jarnak was unconscious, while Marks has a few cuts and bruises.
“Arkeld is dead. The explosion got him.” Marks said.
“Well, our little friend here seemed to know something about it.” Brendaron said, pointing to the Ranat, who lay still unconscious over Rex’s shoulders.
“Let’s get Jarnak to a Callipsa Hospital, and have a few words with our friend Riktak.” Marks looked at the Ranat taxi-driver angrily.
Once they returned to the hotel, and were able to extrapolate the information from Riktak, they had determined that JAN set up the meeting to take them and their fake-Arkeld out. Jarnak was able to tell them through his partially mediacted state that the Arkeld at the cafe was not real, but a patsy- fanatic, probably believing he was dying for a righteous cause. However, Arkeld’s death was posted all over the newsnet. Whatever was happening on Mrlsst, Arkeld needed to fake his death.
Riktak defended his actions, saying he wasn’t sure what JAN was going to do, just that he couldn’t be there if he knew what was good for him. He was only doing what he was told to do. With some prodding and painful ear pulling, the Ranat was convinced to work for them.
Despite his injuries, Jarnak was determined to have his meeting with Riddom and then Morel.
After aquiring the special spice, late at night, Jarnak was able to track down Morel after another imprtant meeting at the University. He was just getting out of his taxi when Jarnak approached.
“Duke Morel!” Two body guards stopped Jarnak, and searched him. All they found was his sword. “I am here for a word. Nothing more. I am Sir Tarsus Jarnak of House Calipsa … I have something for you.” He waved the bag of pinkish powder in the air.
Morel turned to his guards. “Leave us! I have no need for your services tonight.” They obediently left sight, but Jarnak knew they weren’t far away.
“What is it you need, Sir Jarnak?” He looked hungrily at the bag.
“Information.” He paused a moment “What business do you have with Arkeld?”
Morel froze. For a long moment, he looked genuinely frightened. “How…? What… ? I can’t. They’ll kill me.”
Jarnak snatched the bag into his fist. “I’m sorry to hear that.”
Morel looked pale. “He needed a cooridor through the asteroid’s sensors!”
“What?” Jarnak was confused.
“The Asteroid – the secret Imperial research base in the asteroid belt. Arkeld needed to get a small ship through the sensor array at a specific time, to the asteroid.”
“Probably to get at the Moff.”
“He’s paying a secret visit and presiding over a special ceremony. Something about hte 12 Stars of Adrios and a secret test.”
“Do you have the coordinates of the asteroid and the sensor cooridor?” Jarnak said insistently.
Morel, totally controlled by his addiction, paused a moment to search through his breif-case. “I should have a copy here. It took a lot to program….. ahh… here it is.” He handed a datapad to Jarnak. He examined the data.
“I’ll need one more thing.” Jarnak waved the bag again in front of the Duke. “Captain Riddom’s ship the Sunrise is impouned. We will probably need it released. Can you take care of that now?”
“With one call.”
Once hte Duke deactivated his comlink, Jarnak, with a sense of urgency, turned away to run back to the hotel and the group. Before doing so, he tossed the open bag of spice to the ground and on the Duke’s cloak. Like a starving child after a falling bar of chocolate, he scrambled to save what he could.
“Arkeld is sending an assassin after the Moff. The Moff is arriving in 20 hours on a secret research base here. We have to get to him first.” Jarnak debrifed the group over a holo-map of Mrlsst and its asteroid belt.
“My ship won’t fit through this cooridor and it couldn’t maneuver it if it could. You need a smaller ship.” Brendaron said.
Jarnak smiled. “I know just the person.”
Captain Fzo Riddom walked into the room, through the front door at Jarnak’s cue. “I want to express m deepest appreciation and humbleness that I get to work with THE Marquis Brendaron of ICS Corporation. I am at your service.”
“How much did this cost Pyre?”
Jarnak showed him the bill. “I like it. He’s in.”