Commander Derek Atio was dressed in the
outfit of a common smuggler. His brown leather flight jacket seemed old,
worn, and a size too small. His trousers had various grease stains from
heavy maintenance on his shuttle and he looked very much the ragged
smuggler type. The middle-aged man's smile was seemingly ceaseless and
found its way onto his face in seemingly any situation. He had gotten
aboard Staark's station easy enough, but now was the hard part ... the
audience. There was always a risk when dealing with these criminal types
that he could be sold to the Empire.
Staark's audience chamber, so to speak,
was located at the relative center of the massive, nonsymmetrical
Cardan V-class space station. Security was decidedly strange aboard
this station of cutthroats and thieves. In places it looked like it was
nowhere, with no guards to be seen and virtually everyone armed with
some kind of weapon. No heavy weapons, however. Those were apparently
restricted from being carried aboard the station. Here in the
antechamber of where Staark held court, however, things were decidedly
different. The station's security was out in force, although they looked
calm and had an air of invincibility around them. They were easy to pick
out from among the riff raff, clad in Phase II Clone Trooper armor
painted in onyx, their helmet clips at their side. One in particular
seemed to be standing in front of the blast door and was apparently used
to speaking to potential visitors.
Well at least it was not a battle droid,
Derek thought to himself as he looked over the security forces aboard
the station. The last time he dealt with a major criminal he was forced
to deal with battle droids and that often reminded him of unpleasant
memories during the wars. "Hello, there," he began as he spoke to the
much larger trooper standing in front of the imposing blast door. "I
request an audience with the mighty Staark," he said, nodding his head
politely at the mention of the crime lord's name. "I represent a group
of freighter captains and wish to welcome him to the Ringali Shell.
There is also the matter of a business proposition..." he said slowly,
as his hand moved to his pocket to flash a stack of credits he had
brought with him for just such an occasion.
The eyes of the security trooper
narrowed slightly. He wasn't young. Obviously they'd put him in this
position for having a bit of a discerning demeanor. After a short while
to process his request, he would slowly nodded and move to speak
discretely into a comlink. His free hand he held in up in order to
indicate for Derek to wait. It was then that the Commander would get a
good look at a standard part of the security forces gear. His armor's
gloves had been replaced with Pallandrix Personal Protection Gear stun
gauntlets. All of the security forces had. That, in addition to a
N'Gant-Zarvel 9118 heavy carbine, seemed to be their loadout of choice.
It was all uniform, as was their training, an unusual way of doing this
for a criminal enterprise.
"I must say, I rather fancy your
tailor," Derek said with a soft chuckle as he sized up the guard. All
the man had on him was a QuickSnap36T blaster carbine that had seen its
better days strapped at his right side. All he could do was wait for his
turn to speak to the fearsome Feeorin crime lord.
If Derek had tried that on a Hutt thug,
it might have gotten him an angry glare. This security trooper seemed
used to this kind of reaction. He merely nodded to the side arm that the
Commander had. "You get a private audience. Gun stays." Apparently
Staark was more cautious than Hutt crime lords, although it may have had
something to do with this being a private meeting. The trooper had
indicated for Derek to enter through the blaster door, Staark having
apparently cleared his schedule for them.
Derek slowly unholstered his QuickSnap
36T and offered the carbine over the security guard. "Please be careful
with it," he implored, offering a quick smirk. "...it being a family
heirloom and all," he sarcastically explained, as he moved through the
blast door and into the audience chamber. He had no idea what to expect,
but he usually found these types to be quite theatrical.
"Unbelievable." The trooper grimaced as
he took and secured the man's weapon. The blastdoor opened to allow the
Commander entrance into Staark's audience chamber. In this case it was
up to the individual to determine whether this crime lord in particular
was theatrical. The massive chair that he sat on was much like a throne,
and both decorated by and constructed with trophies. As a concession to
practicality a large holographic display was in front of him. He was
armed with a truly massive blaster pistol and he had a sword sitting
across his lap. Not a vibroblade, a sword. The Feeorin was old, but with
his species that just meant he was far stronger and more vibrant than
younger members. He was silent, instead just watching to take stock of
the man who had entered.
"Welcome to the Ringali Shell," Derek
said as he came to a halt in front of the throne, and bowed accordingly.
"My name is Derek Atio and I represent a group of freighter pilots that
operate here in the Ringali Shell," he explained, as he slowly rose back
up to a standing position. He reached into his jacket pocket and
produced a stack of 10,000 credits and placed it on a nearby table. "We
offer you this tribute out of respect for your power and as a ...
welcoming present," he continued, heaping on the platitudes as he hoped
to ingratiate himself to the criminal.
"Flattery will get you nowhere..." The
Feeorin swiftly rose from his throne as he picked up his sword. As he
began to stride across the room he would swing the vessel over one of
his shoulders. Like Valeria he had a variation of the Blazing Claw
tattoo, common amongst pirates. "I am no Hutt." There was a slight
pause. "..but the credits are appreciated. Now..." He ceased in his
pacing, his hand clenched shut around the hilt of the sword, as his head
turned towards the Commander. Those eyes focused in on him like lasers,
and the next words out of his mouth came in a voice that boomed. He had
a very powerful voice. "...Tell me why you are really here." Something
about that demand made it clear that dancing around the subject was not
going to be a successful course of action.
"I can see there is no fooling you,
Staark," Derek continued, as his eyes caught the gleaming metal of the
blade that the crime lord seemed to so expertly wield. "Weapons. I need
weapons," he said, rather bluntly, as he turned his rotund frame so that
he was now looking directly at the man. The Black Sun had shot him only
a week ago ... perhaps now he was going to be stabbed.
"...And...there is more than you are
telling me about who it is you represent." Staark sheathed his blade
behind his back, though of course he still had that blaster pistol at
his side. "I did not come into this 'Shell' of yours blind. This
station..." He gestured, indicating the bulkheads around him. "...was
never meant to move. It took a lot to bring it here. My choice was
"I guess you could say we're a coalition
of the unwilling," Derek said with a coy smile, as he took two steps
slowly towards Staark. "Unwilling to live under the tyranny of the
Empire," he continued, as he folded his arms in front of his chest. He
was playing a dangerous game and this was the point in the discussion
where he felt the most vulnerable. For all he knew he was about to be
asked to leave, turned over to the Empire, or flushed out the nearest
He nodded slowly, and it looked like he
was not at all surprised by this revelation. "I operated under the Old
Republic for centuries, and I had no more love for it than I do for the
Empire. Your credits will spend just as well here as any
others...provided you don't get found out. You do and someone else on
this station wants to kill you, I won't lift one finger."
"Do not concern yourself with that. I
have a good track record of blending in," Derek said, as he adjusted his
ill fitting jacket and once again smiled at the man. "I am very rarely
suspected given my appearance and pleasant demeanor," he explained, as
he moved closer towards the Feeorin once again. "I think you will find
the turbulence in the region to be a great financial benefit for you,"
he concluded, nodding his head emphatically at the statement. Indeed ...
with the war, the criminal infightings, and the various need for
supplies the underground economy was doing better than ever.
"There's more." Staark reclaimed his
throne and pressed some buttons on a panel installed on one of the arms,
bringing up a non tactical map of the station they were on. It was for
merchants, basically, a list of them and the services they provided on
the station. "I own the station, not the business that provided services
or merchandise here. You Rebel types have a reputation for disliking
slavers. That won't work here. Disrupt one of the business here, slavers
or no, and my security forces will eliminate you."
Derek cringed for a moment, but then
quickly remembered himself and feigned composure. The truth was he
detested slavers, but he had his orders to entreat with this crime lord
and that meant playing by his rules. "Very well," he said, begrudgingly,
but honestly. Once the war was one they could worry about things like
slavery. For now they had a bigger problem to overcome. In a way, they
were all slaves, from his point of view.
"And of course the same goes if you see
an Imperial counterpart to yourself here trying to see the same aims
achieved. You understand I can't allow this station to become known as a
haven for Rebels." His shook his head slowly as he began to bring up the
weapons shops, starship repair facilities and other places onboard he
might have interested in. "If you abide by my rules, it will be better
for both of us."
"You have my word that while I am on
your territory I will abide by your laws, Staark," Derek said in an
honest, sincere tone, as he bowed his head to the man. "I predict a
wonderful business relationship between our two parties," he said, as
his smile widened further as he considered the position he had no put
himself in. Dangerous times called for difficult choices if he was going
to continue keeping the Rebellion equipped.
Staark looked at the Rebel sternly. He
had laid out his rules clearly. It wouldn't blow back on Staark if the
Commander decided to break them, that much was made clear. "We can help
each other. By moving here I know I'm already the most significant
criminal force in this sector. You know I'm willing to deal with you,
but I'm willing to bet there are other existing elements who aren't.
It's in your interest to help me absorb..." He clenched his fist
tightly. "...or crush them."
Derek swallowed slowly, his throat
bulging visibly against the collar of the shirt that he wore beneath his
jacket. Indeed, he was eager to be done with the Black Sun element that
seemed to be playing both sides and had only recently put a slug in his
belly. "Of...of course," he stammered, not having bargained for such a
thing. Surely sector command would have their own thoughts as to
involving the Rebellion in the petty squabbles of criminal warfare.
"I can see I am not quite what you
expected." He grinned as he watched the Commander, those eyes of his no
doubt imagining him squirming underneath his gaze. Staark was ruthless,
but according to what he was saying, he was also fair. "Consider what I
have proposed. This would not be an alliance between our two forces,
just a business arrangement. By cooperating with me you will be dealing
with a criminal syndicate that does not play favorites between the
Rebellion and the Empire ... and that's the best you are likely to get
in this life."
Derek paused for a moment as he
considered the crime lord's words carefully. "Of course. I can see how
playing favorites at this stage of the game might prove difficult," he
said, as he took another look around his surroundings. "Is there
anything further?" he asked, as his eyes darted down at the chronometer
on his wrist. In the event that he was detained he had set a rendezvous
that he did not want to be late for.
"Ask questions now, if you have them.
And between now and our next meeting ask anyone you wish about my
pirating days...I believe the tales are still on the HoloNet. You'll
find I'm fair." His mouth spread wide as he smiled. "If an ship
surrendered in the given time period I always honored the terms of the
surrender...and once I offered no quarter no mercy was ever given."
"I find in these situations the less
that one says ... the better," Derek replied briefly as he bowed to the
man respectfully. "I will leave a list of the items we are looking to
purchase with your man at the door," he said, as he waited for
permission to depart.
He shook his head and indicated the
still active holographic display. "I own the station, not the business
within. I will, however, send a communiqué to the ones you'll be needing
to deal with. Just make sure you don't advertise your...businesses."
"Discretion has kept me in the game this
long, Staark," Derek said, sounding rather confident as he reached into
his jacket pocket and produced a small datapad that contained a rather
long and complicated shopping list. "I am confident in your ability to
attract the caliber of businessmen who can meet our needs," he
explained, as he forced another smile upon to his pudgy face.