Marick read over the report from Ronovi's last mission. At a few points, he either shook his head and chuckled, and at one point even winced slightly.
Yup...If forced to choose between fighting a rancor or Ronovi Tavisaen...I'd take the rancor any day... Marick mused to himself.
Looking up, he saw Ronovi standing tall at her full height, hands clasped casually behind her back, obviously studying his face to see his reaction to the report. He sighed, put it down and pulled out a new data pad.
"Well, as I said in my debriefing, good job."
The female nodded her head in a slight bow.
"However, there is a bit of damage control I'd like you to run following that last mission."
Ronovi lofted a brow, her interest now piqued.
"While your methods may have been discreet, there was a man drunkenly strolling the alleys that reported seeing a "clash of bright energy swords". As I'm sure you've heard me say over and over again, like a broken holo-record, we can't have anyone knowing that a House of Dark Jedi are among the groups of crime lords running Ol'val." Marick stopped, rotating his chair away from his terminal to look at Ronovi.
"The man has been dealt with, but not before he was able to get word to Kurt Mengtis. Kurt is a former Bounty Hunter working for the Black Suns. My sources peg him as currently deciding who best to sell his information to. Obviously, that cannot happen."
Ronovi nodded, starting to get the picture.
"You are to eliminate Kurt Mengtis, and wrap up any and all loose ends to the sightings of these "energy swords."
Marick tossed a portable data-pad. "Good luck."
Ronovi nodded her head, her mind already thinking two-steps ahead as her body exited the office.
<< Data Pad /begin >>
Mission Type: Assassination
Mission Rank: C-Class
Name: Kurt Mentgis
Former member of the Bounty Hunters Guild.
Specialties: Demolitions, Explosives, Brawling
Strength: ***** (4/5)
Dexterity: ** (2/5)
Melee: *** (2/5)
Ranged: ** (2/5)
Brawl: ***** (5/5)
Demolitions: ***** (5/5)
Force Aptitude: NFU (Non-Force User)
Affiliation: Black Suns
<< Data Pad /End >>
It was predictably warm in the Besadii Entertainment District, the buildings emanating body heat amidst the clattering of glasses and the snap of cards on worn down tables. A trace of ash from a wrecked cigarra would be left on a bar for a waiter to clean up, a half-chewed piece of icefish dropped to the floor when a fight burst out over a forgotten tip. It was all very familiar and routine, save for some of the recent gossip.
Chrai Dewal, hunched over the bar nestled within the stifling atmosphere of Hot Hands Casino, caught fragments of each murmur, soft breaths like droplets clinging to her earlobes as she stirred ice in ale. The most common words being used was "light show" - the rumor was that some drug addicts had decided to have a demonstration during a bad deathstick trip, using makeshift tubes and pyrotechnics to light up a nearby alleyway with all the colors of the spectrum. At least, that's what they thought happened. And to some people, it would be the prevailing story.
Chrai knew better. She had been there for the event, seeing the flash of sabers in the night. She had been told to keep quiet for a good amount of credits and a job as an agent. She preferred being a markswoman, but that was a promise still lingering in her mind. Letting go of the conversational tidbits around her, she began to fade away in the tinny classical music playing over the cheap speakers. Her chest lifted slowly with a lost breath. Her left eye twitched.
"What do you want?" she whispered in a relaxed tone when she saw the tall silhouette settle down beside her.
It was Ronovi, dressed in her usual Ol'val attire, smoking a cigarra. Her organic brown eye glistened under her cap. "I haven't seen you around Jerem tonight."
"I'm on my break."
Chrai saw Ronovi's hand shoot forward, then stop in mid-air as her knuckles turned pearl white from the tension. The woman smiled. The Dark Jedi, despite all the anger and malice she sensed from her, never seemed to be able to threaten death on the young redhead. She couldn't tell if it was due to repulsion or something else entirely.
"Did you need something?" she asked, her teeth lit in the light of the nearby chandelier. She watched Ronovi's fingers curl as she lowered her arm and pulled the cigarra from her mouth, putting it out beside her.
"You've done bounty work before. Scrounged around here for leads. Am I right?"
"Yeah. I didn't come up with anything."
Ronovi leaned back on the stool, her hand massaging her utility belt as if it were an extra appendage. "What if I told you I had something for you to do?"
Chrai raised an eyebrow. "Like what?"
"Like a job besides being a security guard. Exchanging some credits for some information. That whole deal."
"You're kidding," snapped Chrai. "I'm trying to get cash, not give it away."
A soft laugh oozed out from between Ronovi's teeth, and she reached over and lifted the glass of ale from the table. After taking a large swig and wiping her mouth with a gloved hand, she murmured, "So how about I tell everyone a funny story about one night when you got your sorry ass stuck in a..."
"Okay, okay, okay!" yelped Chrai. "I'll do this job if you really want me to. Just tell me what exactly it entails."
She was becoming somewhat uncomfortable with the glazed expression Ronovi was casting over her, sharply contrasted with the glare of her eyepatch. At the same time, she felt strangely aroused by the look and the way the Epicanthix suddenly yawned and stretched, the bones in her fingers and biceps popping into place.
"I need you to help me kill someone."
"And in other news, maintenance work along the Docks continues due to a ship mishap close to the Pride of Corellia. It appears that a young pilot was allowing his son to handle the controls when the wings caught onto a platform and sent three freighters crashing down into the darkness of the asteroid - "
He turned off the Holonet on that note, stopping to open a wooden box and withdraw a rather chubby cigar from its chasm. Striking a match, he grinned as the thing lit between his teeth, then shot an impressively large ring of smoke toward the window. It led to a lovely view of the garden below, where several visitors to Ol'val appeared to stroll every morning and evening.
"I could get used to this," Kurt Mentgis thought to himself, puffing away at his stogie as he collapsed into a nearby chair.
And truly, he could. The hotel was luxurious enough, and he loved splurging when he saw a good deal coming his way. If the information he had could sell for enough, he could be rich for the rest of his life. And he wouldn't stop with one person. He'd go all around the port looking for men with big enough pockets to deliver this interesting piece of news.
Energy swords. If this was what Mentgis thought it was, then he would die a wealthy man. Drops of perspiration beaded his dark brown forehead as he propped his feet on the ottoman, his smile hidden under his large black beard. He let a meaty finger dance along his belt where his blasters and lovely explosives all waited for him, nestled in their spots like young hatchlings among brush.
The sound of a buzzer from outside his room startled him, and with a leap Mentgis wrenched himself out of his seat and leveled two SSK-7s at the door, bulging arms heaving. "Who's there?" he demanded.
The door hissed open as a small droid-server rolled in, clearly unfazed by the weapons pointed at its wired face. "A-guest-is-waiting-for-you-in-the-lobby-sir. Wants-to-speak-to-you-specifically."
"I don't want no guest," Mentgis rumbled, the snap of a barrel being cocked sounding soothing his head.
"What's her name?"
A rush of air seemed to enter Mentgis's chest like a hand reaching for his heart. The sweat turned cold on his brow. He didn't lower his blasters, but he recognized that name. Chrai Dewal.
"Send her up."
The droid complied, whistling as it departed, before the doorway darkened from Dewal's shadow. The grin that peppered her face was disorienting, but she held herself with a great air of cockiness. Waltzing into the suite, she extended a gloved hand, her red hair bristling in the breeze wafting from the window.
"Kurt Mentgis, I take it," she said, never stopping that sneer as she doffed her pork pie hat to him. "Care to talk over dinner?"
The Fat Butterfly was certainly a nice enough place, but Ronovi wrinkled her nose at the frivolity of it all as a Zabrak waitress set down a heaping bowl of Gungan fish soup before her. She picked up the large spoon and dipped in, trying to shut out the clunky jazz being hammered out by a drunken Kalzerian trying to be musically talented. Still, young Human women fawned over his clumsy fingers and his balding black crown, which caused the Epicanthix to furrow her brow in a subtle gesture of puzzlement.
With the salty taste of Gungan fish on her tongue, Ronovi let her vision flutter toward the door. It had been over an hour since she had sent Chrai off to Jerem Plaza to find Mentgis, and she was beginning to worry that the location information she had been given by agents was faulty. Still, it was quite a walk to and from the Besadii District, and she had learned to be somewhat patient over the years. Still, it did make her sigh with relief to finally see Chrai saunter into the restaurant with a large dark-skinned bounty hunter beside her.
Ronovi let her mind zoom in on the target. Kurt Mentgis could easily be mistaken for a massive brown brick in beige and green clothing, save for the narrowed eyes and the wild facial hair. The Exarch gulped down a large portion of soup as she saw Chrai and Mentgis hover over a table, where a young couple bickered over the bill.
"I don't care if the Berbersian crab cost more, I had to pay for your five bowls of Likryt stew at the last stop!"
"Well, I'm sorry if I try to keep hearty meals, but this seafood costs a fortune. And the wine!"
"You drank half the damn bottle, Charles. You don't get to complain about - "
"Charlie, just pay the damn bill yourself and be a good boy for the rest of the night," Ronovi muttered, her fingers unfurling from her soup spoon.
There was a short silence at the table. Then the young man lifted himself slowly from his chair and repeated, in a dazed fashion, "Uh, look, honey, I'll pay the damn bill myself and be a good boy for the rest of the night, okay?"
The simultaneously shocked and satisfied look on the woman's face amused Ronovi, and Chrai seemed happy as well. She cast Ronovi a look of approval as the couple departed and Mentgis and she sat down, barely glossing over the menus before the Zabrak waitress sashayed past their table.
"Hey, beautiful!" Mentgis barked, his deep voice resonating in the space. "Rummy tonic for me and my partner-in-crime here."
The Zabrak's face seemed to burn with humiliation, but she came back with the drinks quickly. Ronovi smirked. From the very start, she could sense what Mentgis was like: Loud, brash, reckless, and a huge lover of money. Now was the time for bargaining. Slurping the last remains of Gungan fish from her soup bowl, Ronovi set her sights on the bottle of Corellian whiskey before her as she let her Force senses break into the conversation from several yards away.
"...from the wanted posters. Thought I seen your face before."
"That's what they all say." This was followed by Chrai's light laugh. "But enough about my history...I want to help you out a bit."
"Yeah? How so?" grunted Mentgis. His beard was already glistening from the tonic that had spilled from his glass.
Chrai leaned forward against the table, her boots shuffling against the floor. Ronovi raised her eyebrows. She was experienced at this. She wasn't just a scavenger.
"Some say I got washed up after a while, thought my life was over at sixteen," she murmured. "But this protégé is still a good shot...and has some spare credits lying around to boot. But one thing's for certain, she's a bit bored, and she would like to...get some connections up on top, you know?"
That got the bounty hunter listening. "Whatcha got?"
"More than enough," Chrai grinned. "How does thirty million credits sound for some good information?"
Mentgis stiffened. Ronovi could see the veins tense up in his stump-like neck. "What makes you think I got information that good?"
"Simple." Chrai peered into his face. "Like I said, I'm not washed up yet. I can read people's faces like a holo-novel. And you might as well have the word 'secret' scrawled all over that rough old face of yours."
The waitress returned at that moment to take orders. Mentgis gruffly demanded the biggest cut of Lambro shark steak that thre place could offer. Chrai stuck with the tonic, which she had barely touched. It was then that the conversation got quieter and more difficult for Ronovi to understand. She leaned her chair forward, whiskey cold on her lips, as she listened to bits and pieces from both hunters.
"If I git this info to the right people, they'd know..."
"Yes...energy swords, then? If that's what I think it is..."
All she had to do was wait for the exchange, and then she'd begin the next step in this plot. A wave of the hand sent her bill off presumably "paid" according to the waitress, and a final swallow of whiskey began a fiery brew in her stomach. Ronovi felt her knuckles crack as she gripped the edge of the table. The adrenaline was beginning to thrum in her chest like a swoop engine. She began to hear the conversation more clearly.
"I'll be damned," Chrai whispered, and it was clear that she was also a good actress. "That's gotta be worth forty million credits at this rate. I couldn't find information like this anywhere else in Dajorra."
"It's good, huh?" Mentgis rumbled, chewing away at his steak like a wild animal. Then he emptied his glass, ice and all, into his gaping mouth, crunching away as bits of ice flew out from between his lips. "You betcha it's good. Been holdin' onto this for some time now. Waitin' for the highest bidder."
"It's certainly a good bid, isn't it?" Chrai asked. "Forty million?"
Mentgis grunted. "I dunno, kiddo," he said. "I bet I could give this to some'un who could give me fifty million."
Chrai's face hardened. A haggler. She should have expected this. "Forty million."
"No, no..." Ronovi whispered. She saw Mentgis's face began to go a deep shade of crimson.
"I'm guessin' you didn't hear me. I want fifty million."
"Take it, damn it," Ronovi hissed. "Don't piss him off."
But Chrai wasn't paying attention to Ronovi. She had gone straight into bargaining mode, and there was no sign of her snapping out of it. She leaned her face closer toward Mentgis's purpling leer, inhaling sharply.
"Forty-five million. That's my final offer."
Ronovi cursed under her breath when she heard the click of a blaster. In the next moment, the barrel of an SSK-7 crept into view, the end pushed into Chrai's chest.
"Fifty million credits," Mentgis buzzed, "or you're going home in a body bag."
"F--- you," Chrai's voice rose in the space.
The sound of a blaster bolt severed the beam holding up a ceiling lamp, which plummeted to the floor and shattered in a burst of blue and green. Mentgis was wrestling with Chrai now and clearly overcoming her, his fists flying out in a boisterous flurry against her skin. He couldn't aim well, but when he did hit, it was powerful, as one fist landed against the woman's chest and knocked the wind out of her.
Chrai tumbled to the floor, wheezing, clutching her bosom as her hat slid off of her fiery head. The entire restaurant was quiet - not even the waiters were moving to call security. But Ronovi was moving. Jumping onto the table, she drew out her own SSK-7 blaster just as Mentgis leveled his toward Chrai's face, inciting gasps from all perimeters of the vicinity.
"Hey!" the Exarch roared. "You done disturbing my meal or am I going to have to shut you up myself?"
The look on Kurt Mentgis's face was priceless as he stared upward at his opponent, similar in height but not so much in weight. She hovered over him with the remains of the lamps lighting her in a cerulean hue, mostly from the weird piece of blue glass glued to her face. Her face was ruddy under her cap, her arms tense as she brandished her weapon. Ronovi listened to Mentgis's laugh - a slow, almost stupid sound.
"Sorry, darling," he mocked. "But business is business."
"Yeah, well, your business is now my business," snapped Ronovi, "so take this outside or I take this matter into my own hands."
She ignored Chrai's pleading look, knowing she'd handle her later. Her unwavering stance seemed to affect Mentgis as he removed one hand from the grip of his blaster. Ronovi watched his movements warily, the Force pulsing around her.
"Okay, then," he snorted, his hand clapped at his belt. "Guess it is your business now 'cause I'm killin' you first!"
Ronovi was on the floor before she saw the thermal detonator fly, rolling toward the bar as the wall split open from an angry inferno. Pleased with her rudimentary precognitive abilities, she ignored the screams as customers began to flee from the restaurant. Instead, she raced over to Chrai and hoisted her to her feet.
"Get out of here. Now!"
Chrai complied, much to Ronovi's relief, and began to run out with the rest of the patrons. The pivot of Mentgis's heel caught the Dark Jedi's attention, as he twirled his blaster in the direction of Chrai's head. Ronovi was quicker, letting one arm latch around his as she felt his blaster drop to the floor.
"No, you don't," she hissed into the bounty hunter's ear. "We take this outside."
The Force shove that Ronovi implemented was not as strong as she hoped. First of all, she still had to mask her Force ability to an extent, for fear that someone nearby would notice her potential. Secondly, Mentgis was a heavy bastard and more stumbled out of the restaurant rather than felt himself being launched from it. Still, the effect was somewhat the same - the hunter still tumbled through the doorway to the ground, his head grazing stone as a gash opened like a portal and allowed a funnel of red to burst from the wound.
Ronovi saw him get up quickly, his hands racing to his belt. A sonic concussion grenade rolled into his palm, and his eyes bulged as he let it fly and saw it miss by a long shot, reverberating the wall of the Fat Butterfly instead and shattering the glass in its windows. A crowd had begun to gather, many whispering about the assumed brawl among rapscallions that was going to happen.
"Play fair, boy!" Ronovi growled. "You want to fight, then do it with your fists!"
"You like to brawl, girly?" taunted Mentgis.
"I like to pummel," retorted the Epicanthix. "Especially cocky fat bastards like you!"
The response sent another sonic concussion grenade speeding toward her face, and she leapt out of the way just in time. The laugh that burst from her felt alien. "C'mon, can't handle fighting someone like me? Show me what you got!"
"Let me help!" Chrai shouted from the sidelines, but she was instantly silenced by Ronovi's resulting snarl of disapproval. Mentgis, again, looked enthused...and somewhat horny.
"If that's the way you want it," he growled, ripping the loaded belt off his pants and readying himself in a boxing position, "that's the way you'll get it!"
Ronovi let her body fall into a Broken Gate stance as Mentgis charged at her. She let her hips thrust and pivot as she struck, her fists glancing off the bulky chest and arms of her opponent. She let bruises form on her shoulders and cuts bleed from her cheeks and near her eyes, but she didn't care. Her pencil-thin smile lingered on, teeth hidden behind brown skin, as she knew the fight would be over as quickly as it had started:
The man was too irrational. He had dropped his weapons and left himself open for the slaughter.
Her arm flailing like a blunt club, Ronovi swung her off-hand across her chest and caught Mentgis in the forehead. Her fingernails scraped against his skin, having broken through the tips of her gloves, as her strong hand collided with his mouth. The teeth split under her knuckles, fragments that were sprayed in a foamy mess and pieces that were swallowed harshly in a gasping throat. Her boots found kneecaps, aiming to crack the patella, while Mentgis's hand smashed into her right ear.
In all the disorientation and in all the confusion, Ronovi still knew how to coordinate herself. Her bloodied and scratched hand reached for her side. She let the vibroknucklers snap against her fingers. Cold blades shone from tight veins, her blood constricting as she punched again. She hit the throat. She split the jugular.
Gurgling blood, Mentgis toppled to the ground, fountains spraying from his neck as people shrieked in horror and amazement. Before red pooled in his eyes, the bounty hunter gazed upward at Ronovi, the words emanating from her mind becoming clear in his thoughts.
That's what you get for taking information that wasn't yours.
But the words that came from her mouth was, "Everyone step back!" and the people complied like sheep, almost "baa"-ing from the movement. And the next words sunk in like gospel verses, taken to be the honest truth, as Mentgis slowly and painfully died.
"Self-defense. He tried to kill me. Clean up the mess."
Chrai was becoming used to her back being slammed against walls as Ronovi pinned her to another building. After all, she had endured such a thing for the past few weeks.
"Sue me for trying to play up the role," she said, but Ronovi wasn't having it.
"You nearly cost us the bargain, and the info. You nearly cost me my secrecy. You have any idea how much energy it took to persuade that many people that it was just a stupid fight?"
"To be fair, you could've made the whole stabbing thing a little more subtle."
"Damn it, Chrai!" growled Ronovi. "I hired you to be efficient, not snarky. I don't care how much experience you've had as a bounty hunter - "
"More than you can guess," Chrai interrupted, which garnered a smack in the face.
"- but you do as I tell you! And do so without getting your head blown off!"
The young woman suddenly started to giggle, which startled Ronovi. "Really? That's what it's about? You don't want me to die?"
"I'm saying that..."
"Awww, Ronnie cares!" cooed Chrai. "She cares about me!"
"Knock it off!"
"It's okay, hon," she continued relentlessly. "The way you look out for me, the way you talk to me...this isn't just about keeping my mouth shut about your oh-so-evil business. No, this is about you and me. Isn't it?"
"I have no idea what you're talking about," Ronovi breathed, wishing she could use another mind trick on Chrai if she wasn't so damn tired.
"C'mon," Chrai teased, with a smile that stopped Ronovi's heart. "You love me and you know it."
The response was an unceremonious shove, and Chrai laughed as she sank to the ground and watched a bloodied Ronovi disappear down the alley. If this was a permanent gig, then she was beginning to enjoy it.