Where's Rum Gone?
“Underling, get to my office.” Ordered Tra’an down Koryn’s commlink. “I’ve got an important job for you.”
“Yes boss” Sighed Koryn. Another ‘important’ job. Great. Just what he wanted. The last ‘important’ job had been to change a light bulb and before that to start Kalak’s speeder for him. The Rodian was dreading what the next job would be. It would probably be to lick clean the new Quaestor’s and Aedile’s shoes. Koryn shuddered at the thought. And made his way to the Quaestor’s office.
The Rollmaster knocked on the door and a voice summoned him inside.
“It’s about time you got here.” Chided Tra’an. “Now to business.” Koryn braced himself, expecting the worst. “I need you to hide the House’s rum. Apparantly someone’s looking to steal it from us.” Koryn nodded. Finally, a job that wasn’t a waste of time.
“Don’t worry. I’ll hide it so well even I won’t be able to find it.” Assured the Rodian.
==== 1 Week Later ====
Koryn once more found himself in the Quaestor’s office.
“Well, the rum crisis is over, Koryn.” Explained Tra’an. “So if you could tell me where the rum is…”
“No problem. I can’t remember the exact location, but I attached a tracking device to the cases.” Koryn pulled a remote from his pocket and pushed the button. A loud beeping filled the room. The Rodian looked at his datapad. His brow furrowed. “I didn’t hide the rum in this room…” He muttered. Looking down at his robes, Koryn noticed a small device. He picked it off and saw what it was – a tracking device. Tra’an sat down behind his desk and stared at Koryn.
“Please tell me you know where the rum is.” He pleaded.
“I know it’s on Antenora. But I took a strange path to hide the rum and can’t remember the exact location.” Tra’an sighed and activated his commlink, opening a channel to the House.
“Ok, people. Long story short, Koryn has already managed to screw up. He’s lost the rum. We know it’s somewhere on Antenora, we just don’t know where. First person or group to find the rum gets a few bottles, free of charge. Now get out there and find our rum!”
Rum. Kriffing rum. Draco Maligo stood dumbfounded as he listened to the announcement, and the promised blandishment offered for a successful recovery. Some of the other members of Acclivis Draco hooted with delight and anticipation, clapped their hands or alien appendages, and bragged about their soon-to-be victory.
Perhaps this was a test. A spurious goad to testing one’s abilities on a seemingly mindless task. After all, how could someone be so inept to lose a hidden cache? And with so few clues to proceed with, this must be some kind of drill for the members. Regardless, it was his duty to try.
As the other beings of the House scattered to the four winds, Draco spent a moment considering the information. A strange path to the cache. That probably meant wilderness, as opposed to part of Suzel. And the stash was meant to be recovered, so hiding it in the desert was unlikely. So Maligo grabbed his speeder bike and headed toward the foothills north of the city.
With the merest hint of danger from the Force, the bike disintegrated as it passed the buried sonic mine. The momentum carried the Dark Jedi Knight forward along the trail, tumbling through the air with the plasteel pieces of his transport. Draco used the Force to cushion his fall as he snatched the saber hilt from his belt and ignited the yellow-orange blade, just as the blaster bolts began raining in.
“How do you lose a container of rum? That has to be the most irresponsible thing you can ever do…aside from getting some Twi’lek pregnant in the midst of a drunken stupor…Although, one supposes that could be fun too, but the rum!”
Shaking his head in disgust, the newly promoted Dark Jedi wondered about any sort of excuse that can defend the Knight against such an action – nothing came up - there simply was no rational or irrational reason why someone could be so completely daft. His mouth watered and the memories of the sweet nectar were almost real enough to taste. Rum…hmmm. The last time he had the pleasure, was right before Koskian man-handled him off to Antenora, ever since then there simply hasn’t been time to spend an entire weekend in the haze of drunkenness that he so loved.
He thought about all he had heard of this misplaced article. A strange path. That wasn’t terribly helpful, Karean was still new enough that everything seemed strange to him. Getting lost in corridors, ending up on the wrong side of the compound…missing meetings and training session had become part of his daily routine. Direction has always been a problem for the young man, the auto-pilot and droids saving him from ill-fated decisions more than once.
Footsteps thundered past the young male as the other members of the house made it their primary aim to find the hidden fortune. A speeder bike or two started up and raced off in a multitude of directions. The whole place had taken on an air of anticipation, almost like one would find at a festival. A treasure hunt – that was what that was, with a reward worthy of the best of them.
The protector had not yet decided which direction he would take, but aimed away from the crowd, not wishing to get caught up in the frenzy. He ducked into an open door as a large group of Apprentices came running past.
The blade was a whirlwind of light as it intercepted and redirected the energy packets that lanced in at the Dark Jedi Knight. Draco stumbled away from the ambush toward the rocky detritus that littered the hill and skirted the path. The Force showed him his tormentors, embers glowing faintly in the ethereal realm, cowering behind rocks and trees and popping out to take potshots, like the rodents in whack-a-mole.
Maligo darted behind a boulder and wiped the sweat from his brow. Since becoming a member of the Dark Brotherhood he, for all intents and purpose, had become a nocturnal creature. So it was with some discomfort that he endured in his black robe and combat suit under the blazing sun on this arid world. He slipped out of his simple robe and shut down his saber for a moment, the blaster bolts zinging into the rocky tor with less frequency now, as the dark Jedi assessed the situation.
Apparently the locals weren’t impressed with a lightsaber, and therefore not dark Jedi. But they were part of a primitive tribe, betrayed by their weak impression on the Force and their lack of tactics in their assassination attempt. Draco spared a moment to look around. This part of the trail wound around a cliff face as it headed up into the mountains. The beings who would see him dead were spread out in a loose arc, their flanks on each side butting up against the cliff side.
Maligo looked up and reached out with the Force. He felt around for the weakness in the crags, finding several fault lines in the rock. He fed the rage in his soul, bringing out the raw might of the Force. The seams in the hill quivered, spread and grew. The cliff rumbled and cracked, first sending a cloud of dust followed by pebbles showering down. Then the larger rocks began to flow and Draco ignited his saber to splinter any of the dangerous ones that fell at him.
The brief landslide had the effect that Maligo desired, in that it caused the natives to flee. He couldn’t tell whether or not they would filter back toward him, but this was definitely the time to leave. He dashed forward up the buried trail, leaping from boulder to boulder through the dust clouds that still roiled from the hill as he spotted the cave that yawned open up over his head.
A scaly green hand tapped the screen, monitoring the progress of the Dark Jedi. So far, only one of his Knights had made any progress in locating the Rum. A rare smirk crossed the Aedile’s face for a second, knowing that they would never find out that it was he who had planned the whole thing. Inserting a dummy tracker into the robes of the Roll Master had been simple and it had been placed with the rum just as he had hoped.
The fools didn’t realise that he was merely testing them. The Falleen swivelled round in the green leather chair and activated the smaller holoprojector set into his desk. The monochrome image of the Quaestor sprung up, flickering on occasion.
“What is it Kalak?” asked the Quaestor, looking rather stressed
“I thought I’d let you know about the Rum” replied Kalak
“You’ve found out where the Rum is?”
The Falleen smiled, inwardly this time. The man was obviously suffering from lack of Rum.
“I am the reason the rum cannot be found. I’ve done it in order to test the determination of the House members…when they are motivated.”
“I don’t give a damn about your ridiculous schemes and manipulations. I need a kriffing drink of Rum”
“Calm yourself my friend. Go to the chair on your right and unzip the cushion. In there you’ll find a bottle of Rylothan rum. It’s an extremely expensive drink and very rare. That is your compensation for 'my schemes and manipulations’. You’ve only lost a day or two of no alcohol and I think you’ve more than gained by getting that.” replied the Aedile.
Tra’an nodded, relieved to know that he could soon drown his many sorrows and terminated the connection.
Kalak leant back and sipped his glass of Gold wine, enjoying the little gam he'd set up. He returned to his monitoring of the search.
Uzbad grumbled as the message over the commlink. His annoyance turned to genuine concern after he heard the messages contents. Lost rum was a catastrophe as far as the Zabrak was concerned. He tried to remember if such a misfortune had occurred before. People had been lost, but never such an important item as rum. He vaguely remembered something about ice-cream being lost after a mishap with the coolant in the freezer. But this was a disaster like nothing since the unfortunate engineering of the Death Star.
The Zabrak hurriedly dressed and made his way outside. As he did so he noticed a few individuals heading out on speeders and zigzagging merrily across the terrain.
“Woo! Free rum!” one of them called. Uzbad scowled. Rum would not be found that way. In the distance he spotted some sort of commotion: blaster fire and the faint glow of a lightsaber. Uzbad did not want to trouble himself with fighting, not when there was rum to be found.
Everywhere he looked individuals were making their own paths to find the rum. It was disorganized chaos. Blinded by the prospect of a few free bottles of rum the entire House seemed to be streaming out without any sort of planning. An important enterprise such as finding missing rum needed to be carefully planned and executed flawlessly.
Turning around, Uzbad went in search of someone to help him organize those who had not torn off across the landscape on an unorganized quest.
With a quick Force-assisted leap the Dark Jedi Knight was at the mouth of the cave and ducked inside. He relished the sensation of the cool air as it wafted over him, caressing his sweaty skin and enveloping him in its quenching embrace. He stood to the side, ensconced in shadow, gazing out over the plains. He could no longer see the tribal warriors, who effectively melted away into the countryside.
But that no longer mattered. Draco slipped a glowstick from the pocket of his pants, rapped it against his knee, and stepped into the cliff’s maw as the gloom retreated from the bright white light. He proceeded carefully down the gullet of the cave, the dank air stifling the sounds of his footsteps on the rocky floor.
At first there was a slight tang to the air, but as Maligo further descended down the tunnel, and found it enlarging noticeably, he could discern the stench of some horrible beast. Quietly, without invitation, the icy grip of fear climbed from his belly up his spine. Draco laughed mirthlessly, savored the dark feeling for a moment, then unclenched its hold on him and waved it away.
A rustle of animal flesh against the rocks reverberated through the walls, then a bone-chilling screech echoed down the cave. The dark Jedi switched the glowrod to his left hand while gripping the hilt of his saber in his right. He reached out through the Force, feeling an intense hunger, an animal craving filling the etheric void. Whatever was down there was huge and it wanted breakfast. If ever there was a great place to stash something of value, this was it.
Timbal Palpatine looked around in a daze. The multitde of empty alcohol bottles certainly didn't help in clearing his line of sight to help identify where he was, but the sight of the sleeping naked female Twi'lek on her side was a surprise and unexpected. He looked down at his fully clothed self and wondered, but then he caught sight of too many limbs intertwined with the female, and by unsteadily following the limbs that didn't belong, he saw a near naked Cooch, which explained lots. For Krath's sake, even when drunk he couldn't get laid, Timbal thought resignedly to himself.
Timbal started to move, but then he was assaulted by a massive headache. Ah, the joys of a hangover. Then his ears were assaulted by a the sound of tearing sheet metal, but by hastily not trying to move around too fast, he turned to realize that the female was just snoring. Cooch's out-gassing at the same time also didn't help, and Timbal thought a hasty retreat from the bio-war area he was now inside of was prudent.
He staggered away, looking for more alcohol, but nary a bottle with the precious fluid was found anywhere. It took a few seconds to think of a place of where he could find the life-giving liquid, and then he continued his staggering, this time headed towards the cantina.
He was about half-way there when the blaring announcement about the rum came over the public address system. Timbal was shocked sober for a moment. No rum? What the hell?
"What the hell!?" he decided to shout out loud at the previously mentioned public address system, instantly regretting the noise. He decided that grumbling and shaking his fist at the public address system would be far less noisy and take less effort, so he went with that, then made his way over to the hangar.
There would be hell to pay, that was for sure. In the middle of a rebellion, and with the clouds of war gathering about, how the hell are you going to lose the rum? Might as well like, not have bacta or something!
Oh, yes. There would be hell to pay....
Koryn stared out of the window at the chaos below him. The House was frantic to find the rum, all of them hoping to receive a bottle or two as a reward. The door slid open behind the Rodian and Tra’an entered the Rollmaster’s office. His presence felt surprisingly calm considering the rum was missing, and it put Koryn on edge; something suspicious was afoot, he could feel it.
“Koryn, I can’t afford to hand out rum.” Stated the Quaestor. “Go out and find that damn drink for me.” Koryn bowed in response and left his office. When the Rodian was out of sight, a silken robe-clad figure slipped into the office.
“Do you think he suspects anything?” Asked the Falleen. Tra’an shook his head.
“He is suspicious of us, but he doesn’t yet know of your scheme.” Kalak moved to the window and watched the Rodian as he left the Dragon Citadel and merged with the throngs of Dark Jedi.
“Good.” Smiled the Aedile. “This will perhaps be more of a test for him than the rest of the House; he feels that he has some trust to win back."
Koryn was surrounded by multitudes of Dark Jedi, some bickering as to where the best place to look for the rum would be, some running to speeders and riding off in a random direction. The Rodian smiled inwardly; he had an advantage over everyone else. He may not have been able to remember exactly where the rum was, but he would be able to recognise landmarks leading to the alcohol.
Pushing his way through the mob, Koryn found somewhere that he could freely look around and work out his bearings. To the west was a rock formation that held some vague memory in the Rollmaster’s mind. He decided to head towards the rocks and begin his search from there.
Draco paused for a moment, wondering if this was such a good idea. “All this for a bottle of rum?” he asked aloud. But then again, he had come to the conclusion that this was all a test anyway, and whatever respect he could earn from the summit would more than compensate for the effort involved. Unless he got himself killed, that is.
So he proceeded toward the gallery buried deep in the mountain, much like a carbon dioxide bubble trapped in a hunk of Swintowian cheese. The beast was definitely stirring from its slumber, and Draco had to quell a sudden sense of panic. He reached out with the Force, reaching for the creature’s primal mind, and sought to meld with it. It was a strange sensation. The beast, whatever it was, was no emotion, no intellect. Merely raw biological drives – eat, sleep, reproduce. Difficult urges to direct.
The light from the glowstick began to illuminate the dragon. It was a good thirty meters. Its long scaly neck towered above him, black eyes staring at him, unblinking. A red ruff fringed its head, and a row of sharp teeth lined its gaping jaws, a pair of elongated bicuspids jutting down and dripping saliva. The beast pushed itself up from its nest of rock and debris on somewhat short legs, the long talons on its feet clacking against the stone.
Maligo glanced behind him and saw the faint light of day filtering down through the long tunnel. He slapped the rod against his leg, shutting it off. He used the Force to plant in the dragon’s mind the veritable smorgasbord of tribal villagers it could have. “Why settle for one skinny morsel?” he muttered aloud as he gestured with his hand.
Though invisible in the now darkened chasm, he could sense the creature pondering the situation. Draco dove to the side of the cave as the beast lumbered past, wings unfurling, heading for open sky and a rich hunting ground. The Dark Jedi Knight relit the glowstick and headed for the dragon’s nest.
Koryn climbed the rock formation. The wind was unnaturally strong and sent his cloak dancing around him. There was a hill to the north-west that looked familiar to the Rodian. He set off towards it. Climbing it, he felt a nearby presence. No, not a single presence; there were many surrounding him. Koryn’s hand hovered over his belt, ready to snatch his lightsaber without a moment’s hesitation. He closed his eyes and focused on the feelings of his stalkers. He moved his hand away from his belt; they were not preparing to attack him. At least not yet.
Looking around from the peak of the hill, Koryn spotted a cave to the east. He specifically remembered travelling through a cave to hide the rum. Yes, he remembered now. Through a cave and two or three klicks to the north.
As he was looking at the cave, a great dragon exploded out of it. It let out a thunderous roar and flapped its leathery wings, taking it into the air. Through the Force, Koryn felt his prowlers flee in all directions. Looking up again, he saw why. The dragon was bearing down on his position. The Rodian pulled his lightsaber to his hand and ignited it. The blade cast a violet glow around the area. Koryn attempted to influence the dragon’s thoughts to make it fly away, but it was currently single-minded. It was hungry and it appeared that Koryn was the beast’s starter. The reptile landed close to Koryn, its face barely a foot away from the rollmaster. It roared at the Rodian sending saliva flying at Thraagus. It shut its mouth and bared its teeth. Koryn wiped saliva from his face and stared up at the dragon.
“Sorry pal.” Muttered Thraagus. “This restaurant’s closed.” The dragon slashed at Koryn with a claw. The Rodian back flipped away from the dragon. The behemoth opened its jaws and bellowed at the Rodian. Koryn ran towards the gaping maw. As the dragon was about to lunge forward, Koryn leapt onto the dragon’s head. The Rodian attempted to persuade the dragon against eating him one last time, but failed; the beast’s instinct to feed was too great to overpower. Koryn stabbed his lightsaber into the beast’s skull. It gave one final roar of pain and collapsed. The Knight jumped down from the corpse and headed towards the cave.
The bubble of light, limited in its scope, cast its illumination through the inky blackness of the cavern, turning night into gloaming. Detritus littered the floor, shed scales, undigested bones of humans and various creatures, mounds of excrement. Maligo walked briskly ahead, not knowing whether the dragon would be returning to its home soon.
The only sounds he heard were the squeak of his shoes on the rocky floor and the faint drip of water echoing through the gallery. Soon he came upon the circular aerie the flying reptile constructed for itself out of rocks and branches. Mottled green egg shell fragments crunched underfoot in the eight meter wide roost. Draco shined the glowrod all around, then found what he was searching for – the crate, wedged up against the side of the nest.
The Dark Jedi Knight dropped to his knees beside the box, noting the claw marks across the acacia wood of the case. He pried open the lid, fearing the discovery of a pile of glass shards at the bottom. But the chemifoam insulation did its job well, nestling the dusty bottles in its safe embrace. But how to get the treasure back to Suzel without a transport?
Just then the cold dark tendrils of malevolent intent snaked their way across the void, the humming of a lightsaber buzzing in his ears. Draco looked up as the purple glow approached, then made out the shadowy Rodian as he stood at the edge of the nest, his saber gently weaving a pattern between the two beings. “I see you found my cache,” said Thraagus.
“I’ll just be taking it off your hands now.” Koryn said. Draco stared up at the Rodian, icy hatred clear in his eyes. The Rodian circled Draco, the lightsaber levelled at the human’s neck. Briefly glancing backwards, Koryn picked the cache up with the Force. It was heavier than he expected and after a few seconds the strain showed on his face. Draco saw this as an opportunity and ignited his own lightsaber with a snap-hiss. A golden glow joined with the purple already illuminating the cave. The human swung his lightsaber batting aside the Rodian’s. Draco struck for the momentarily defenceless side of the Roll Master. Koryn dropped the crate and it came down with a dull thud; he needed his full concentration on the ensuing battle.
The Rodian spun to parry the yellow blade with his own lightsaber. Koryn disengaged himself from the duel. The two combatants circled each other, each looking for an opening. Koryn attacked with an overhead strike, which was easily blocked by his opponent. The human spun in a circle, golden light arcing around his body. Koryn parried the attack and countered with a left slash. Draco swung his lightsaber to connect. The lightsabers locked together with a fizzing sound.
“You aren’t leaving with that rum, Maligo.” Threatened Koryn.
“Just walk away, Thraagus.” Hissed the human. “Walk away and I’ll let you live.” Koryn briefly glanced behind Draco. He picked up a bottle of rum with the Force and pulled it towards him, or more specifically Draco’s head. At the last second, Draco rolled away, avoiding the bottle. Koryn grabbed the rum and pulled the cork out with his teeth. He spat the cork onto the ground and took a swig of the rum.
Koryn held out the bottle to Draco. “Drink?”
Draco paused for a moment, shocked at the sudden reversal. He quelled the blood lust that had percolated through his body and lowered his saber to a defensive position. The Rodian looked at him for a moment then pulled another swig from the bottle. Was it a trap? Thraagus was no fool, and if he thought a trick would enable him to kill his opponent with little risk he would take it.
But if it was a sincere offer of a truce . . . Maligo shut down his saber and stepped toward his foe. The rum bottle floated across the short space and into the human’s hand. He took a quaff, feeling the warm spicy liquid course its happy way down his throat. “That case is heavy. We can carry it back together,” Draco said. “It would also help to have an ally in case any of the other members spot us and try to take it away.”