[SWAW] Honey, I'm home (20)

edited February 2015 in SWAW
Ladro,

Once you get back to Gristone, Amarath gets her head examined. There was, in fact, no thermal detonator. Factory Control took very thorough pictures because Amarath did not believe this. FC did reveal, however, that the codes did allow you to effectively "shut her down". For a brief period, the cybernetic cortex will shut down, and she'll drop into a sleep-like state. What's the codeword for this, Ladro?

How long is it before you head to Sullust to see Ahji Dar? Do you fly on the Profit Margin or take some other ship?

Did you give her any forewarning?

Sullust

Sullust

Factory Control Planetary logs:
One of the outer systems of the Brema sector, Sullust holds
claim to three planets, two moons and a single star. The system
is well known for its main inhabitants, the Sullustans. Excellent
navigators and extremely impressive architects, the Sullustans
have made a name for themselves in the annals of galactic history.

Of the four planets within the Sullust sector, only one is home to
a large amount of life. The home planet of the Sullustans, also
called Sullust, is a volcanic world filled with caverns in which the
Sullustans live. The closest planet to the Sullust Sun is known as
Losval and is better known for its hot temperatures and an
extremely thick atmosphere. The other two planets are similar;
Adnuir and Araron are both composed of rock, volcanoes and
ice caps. The fact that the orbits are the exact opposite of each
other and they pass within several thousand kilometers of each
other at least twice a year.

Economically the Sullust system survives off the trade of random
minerals and other items not often found in the galaxy. The most
notable of these exports is a strange spice from Losval that is
mined on an irregular basis. Large mineral deposits can be found
on both Araron and Adnuir. The planet of Sullust itself has a high
income which results from visitors with an interest in the great
caverns of Sullust. The caverns are the actual cities of the Sullustan
species and their architecture is amazingly beautiful to the casual
visitor to the planet. The only moon in the system is Sulon, a satellite
of the planet Sullust. Similar to other moons it is marked by several
craters and generally used for mining purposes.

There are many training academies for Sullustan who wish to join
the galactic community as navigators and pilots. Specializing in
freighters and other small to medium craft, this valuable resource is
used extensively by many corporations that require transportation
specialist. Also, the occasional Sullustan architect will be hired to
help plan a future underground colony.
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Comments

  • edited February 2015
    image

    The code is "somnipathy 4731". Amy knows that I know, and it's killing her.

    I turn around on the first flight I can find that will get me to Sullust, leaving (to much grousing from all concerned) Hosk in charge of the business side of things while I'm gone. "Try to keep her in the black, and I'll make sure you all get some time off, yourselves."

    I don't forewarn my kitten. She said she'd be there, and I said I'd make it to her.
  • edited February 2015
    Oh, you're rather sure Hosk is going to make some profit somehow. He's angling for that First Mate thing he slipped in on you like a knife between the ribs. Yes, you remember that bit. Also, the Zeltron, who was at least gone in the morning, leaving a Jojee who made jokes about being sore.

    Back to Sullust.

    Using the codes she sent to the high rise apartment she's rented for the last fifty days, you enter her place, which has a view of a wide expanse of caverns.
    AD-apt

    The place is meticulously clean. And this room, at least, is empty. You head past the spacious kitchen and deeper into the place, into a small corridor. At the end of the corridor is an open portal into a spacious bedroom that is softly lit. And there, lying on the bed, a blaster lying on the sheets beside her, is Ahji Dar, reading a datapad, completely nude.

    What do you do?
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    Because I don't want to be shot, I back up a few steps into the corridor and growl, low in my throat. It's not convincing, not Cathar, but she's heard it before. I wait for a reaction before I proceed.
  • edited February 2015
    image
    Her expression before was sedate, almost contemplative. Her ears had drooped slightly, her shoulders as well. It was the calmest you've ever seen her.

    The growl hits her like a shock. Her entire body starts and her eyes search the room, datapad falling to the bed. The hand that almost reached for the blaster stops when her yellow eyes fix on you. She freezes for a moment, then whispers with surprise and elation, "Ladro..."

    In a single, acrobatic effort, she rocks up to her feet, on the bed, then springs off of it, her trim little body flying onto you, hands wide, then wrapping around your neck, legs closing around your middle. She licks her rough tongue along your right ear and whispers, "My Tom." Then kisses are planted on your neck and she holds her body as close to yours as she can.

    What do you do?
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    I return the hold, of course. Tight, and with equally eager kisses. "My kotenok, it has been too long." I walk her back toward the bed as she clings to me. "How has your vacation been?"
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    She doesn't let go, so you walk with her clasped around you like a cloak you'd put on backwards. When you reach the bed, she pulls you down with her, answering as she gently works at loops and buckles and whatever impediments there are between her and your naked body, "Relaxing and tranquil. I have found peace, entered various states of boredom, explored the caverns several times, got into a bar fight, won a swoop in a dice game, and now, at the end of my vacation, you are here. Which makes it perfect."

    By now, she's coaxed you out of all of your clothes except one item. What is it? She gently reaches down to stroke you, her body eager for you, "How has your time away been, my Tom?"
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    It's my shirt, of course. She's waiting to shred it as she did the very first time we were together, I can tell. Regardless, I'm as eager as she, and I brought others. "Eventful, kitten. I have faced down both my mother and a supposed Imperial Intelligence officer that is secretly working on behalf of the Alliance. I have jumped off a cliff a kilometer high. I have reached a 7.5 on the Galactic Drunkenness Scale without vomiting either during the process or the aftermath. And at the end, I am here. Which makes it perfect."
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    As if she senses your permission, her claws slide out of their sheaths and she carefully peels your shirt away by tearing it off your back. She scoots herself under you, spreading her legs around your hips and kisses you with urgency, "We are officially caught up, yes? Now you must make me see stars, my Tom. Whatever you want, however you want it, take it or I will give it. I am yours."
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    I do my best to make my kitten see stars that aren't on any map. Tongue, hands, my grip on her neck, her breasts. It is a combat, desperate but not truly seeking for dominance. That, we both concede, is somehow, miraculously, shared. Tom and kitten, in turns. In the end, the battle lasts for hours, over many skirmishes, and we both win.

    I am exhausted when I offer to make klava. But I offer.
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    Reclining on the one pillow still on the bed, Ahji Dar purrs, "Yes, please. There are some new flavors, you'll find. And, Ladro. Thank you."
  • You'd passed the klava set while searching for Ahji Dar. It was just inside the kitchen area, a new set. The kettle and cups matching, each of them handmade and beautiful, glazed with deep browns and greens, earthy and simple. The box of herbs and spices is unmarked and filled with delights, each section holding another treat. As it has come to you, it is an art to Ahji Dar, knowing the perfect combination of each ingredient to make the whole something unique and wonderful.

    What do you do?
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    After a moment to just look at her, I move to the klava setup, look over the new spices and flavorings. To suit the moment, I add dark brown sugar (for a touch of caramel), delicately smoked nuts from a native Kiffu tree, and sharp ginger for spice. The ritual and the smell of the brewing helps return my heart rate to its normal steady beat, and I smile as I bring the cups back to the bed.

    "I guess I should say, 'Surprise!'? Bit late, though."
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    She takes a cup and drinks it eagerly, "It was a wonderful surprise. I nearly gave up on you, Ladro." Her eyes say differently.
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    "I don't think you did, kotenok. I think you have too much faith in gravity." I take a sip of my klava. "I left the ship's business in Hosk's care, by the way. I am all yours. Do you think you can stand having me to yourself for a week?"
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    Her eyes flash and her smile grows, "An entire week? I can stand this, yes. There are some interesting things we can do, some places to see." She takes another drink. "An entire week" she says again, savoring the klava and the time.
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    I raise my cup in a toast, eyes still soaking in the casual sensuality of Ahji Dar stretched out on the bed. "To time, my love. To time." I lean my back against the headboard and savor the klava. Our thighs are touching and I feel her warmth.
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    She taps her cup to yours and enjoys the brew and your proximity. After a few moments, she says quietly, "This brew is very good, my Tom." Her hand sneaks over to touch yours.
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    I stroke her fingers lightly. "Of course it is, kitten. I learned from a master." It is delicious, not having to rush on, just being here. "Tell me, why did you choose Sullust? Have you been here before?"
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    She answers while watching your hand on hers, "Fulluusub is as free from the Sorosub Corporation as anywhere, but close enough to be hidden from prying eyes. Also, the caverns here are incredible. So many places to explore."

    There's a break in her speech as she takes another drink. "Also, an old crewmate settled here. She begs me to come visit her, I can only refuse for so long." She looks up at your eyes, "You know me, Ladro. Sentimental."
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    Exploring with Ahji Dar sounds like just what the doctor ordered, truthfully. "And have you seen this old crewmate yet, my sentimental one?"
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    "Yes, of course. More times than she deserves, but just as many as I can stand." She takes the last drink of her klava, then sits up, begins working her way off the bed for a refill. "Do you wish to meet her?" Her eyes gleam with mirth, she thinks this is amusing for some reason.
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    I raise an eyebrow. "I'd love to, as long as she's not family. You know we don't do family."
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    Ahji Dar hops up to her feet and turns to look over her shoulder at you. "Hmmn. She's close. We may have to discuss an exception." She twitches her way to the door, hoping to draw your eye, then adds, "I want to show you off."
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    Hoping to draw my eye. She knows she is. "I am both decorative and functional. I'd be happy to be put on display for you, my darling." I follow with my own now-empty cup and put an arm around her from behind.
  • You both refill your cups of klava, and in a much more relaxed manner, catch up more fully. Unlike you, Ahji Dar has effectively put the Nexus in a hangar and left it there. You get the feeling there's a bit of a reason for that choice, but she doesn't dwell on it. Over the past couple months, she has gambled, partied and explored. She asks many questions about your crew, surprised that Amarath joined it. Do you tell her about the Rebellion?
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    I fill her in on Sark and his supposed allegiance, then I do bring it up. "So, it seems I'm a Rebel. Maybe not full time, but Hosk and I talked. We can't just close our eyes and go back to... before. Everyone else has agreed. Amarath is actually enthusiastic, I think." I give her a serious look. "Does that change anything for you?"
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    Ahji Dar, still nude, and incredibly comfortable being so, sits back on the couch where the two of you have settled. "Ladro. I am blockade runner. Do you know who normally sets up blockades?" She arches a brow, waiting for your answer with a smirk.
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    I answer with a kiss. "I do, kotenok. Just wanting to be open. It could be that I will be almost as dangerous to know as you, some day." I poke her in the shoulder with a finger as I say that.
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    She chuckles low, "Yes. Some day soon, I am sure." Her tone sounds a bit like she believes it. "I am not a Rebel, but I work more for them than the Empire." She slides over to lay in your lap, her fur tickling the inside of your thigh. Then she reaches up a hand to rub fingers along your ear, "Why are you a Rebel, Ladro?"
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    I enjoy the rough pads of her fingertips for a moment before answering. "I was brought up to be a woodworker, did you know that? I learned to look at structure, at how the legs support the body. Right? The Empire is HEAVY, and it's pressing down on legs that can't support it, and punishing those legs when they buckle. That cannot stand. We need new carpenters. We all need new carpenters."
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    "Well said, my Tom." Ahji Dar purrs from your lap. She lays there for a while longer before asking, "Do you wish to eat soon, my Tom?" Her yellow eyes watch you, curious if you wish for a night in, or out.
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    "My dear, I am famished, and we have the luxury of a week together. Let us eat. You're buying, of course... I've got too much debt to be throwing creds around on a fancy meal."
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    Ahji Dar gives a delighted purr, "Yes, yes. The problems of life as Rebel. Their slogans are priceless, but their pay is der'mo. Worry not, Talia will happily treat us. I have told her many things about you, Ladro." She continues to softly stroke your earlobe and smile that devious smile.
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    I enjoy the finger on my ear for another long moment, giving my own version of a purr. "Shall we see Talia naked then, love? That would be one way for me to make a first impression."
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    "Oh my Tom," she laughs with genuine mirth, gently rubbing her head across your thigh and smiling up at you. "That would be a sight." She lets go of your ear and sits up, heading over to get her comm.

    After a moment, you hear an accented female's voice, "Yes?"

    Ahji Dar says clearly, "Talia, it's me. I am coming to dine with you one last time."

    "The last two times were the last time." Talia replies dubiously, but not with any bitterness.

    "Dah, dah," Ahji Dar says smoothly, "I have a certain person with me. He wishes to see who would deign to serve on my ship and actually retire."

    The female voice laughs a short laugh, "Ah. The great Ladro? Yes, give me three hours and we will feast." There is a pause, then her voice softens, "I told you he would come."

    Ahji Dar replies quickly, "Dah, dah, you did. So you did." She ends the conversation, striding towards the bedroom again, "We have some time. I am going to the bath." She twitches her walk as she does so.

    What do you do?
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    I follow her to the bath, of course. If there isn't room for two, I will sit and watch before I take my turn. And help. I will definitely help.
  • The large tub is enough for two. Your help is required.

    We'll skip ahead. You arrive at Talia's, which is a lovely apartment with a view equal to Ahji Dar's. Talia is a Pau'an, standing over six feet tall, with those striking striped of black on her white face, and sunken eyes. She towers over Ahji Dar when the two embrace. Her greeting to you is more formal, a bow of her head and a tight grin.

    "Dinner is served," Talia announces after formal greetings are made. The dining room is much larger than the one at Ahji Dar's apartment, though it is set with many courses only for the three of you. The entire apartment is filled with a variety of strong aromas.

    "Our meal is a selection of familiar Sullustan cuisine staples." Talia shares as she hands you each a small plate. On the plate is a particular species of lichen that she has roasted. The result is a crisp, nutty wafer that you can dip into any of the eight cups of sauces that are nearby. The sauces are used to compliment one's mood.

    What sauce is your favorite? It reflects your mood. Ahji Dar has chosen a savory sauce, one that reflects her contentedness, according to Talki.
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    I examine the sauces with eyes and nose. Choose one with a bit of heat from peppers and something... floral? In the nose. It's a deep red. I dip my bit of roasted lichen into the sauce and pop it into my mouth.
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    Ahji Dar smiles as you eat, looking to Talia, "He is happy... and curious. Perhaps about you? He wanted to come here naked, to impress you."

    Talia chuckles lightly. "He is very interesting, Ahji Dar." She rises to serve the second dish, an edible crystal that takes on the appearance of rock candy cylinders of pale blues and greens. They are slightly sweet and sour, with a distinctly not-unpleasant mineral tang,

    Ahji Dar bites into a crystal, and she grins as you hear the tones from the crystals as she chews on them.
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    I've never had food that sings as you eat it. I grin with surprise and experiment a bit with different tones I can make. "Talia, thank you for this! What a delight. How long have you and Ahji Dar known each other? You worked together?"
  • Talia-header
    "Ahji Dar and I have been acquainted from the moment she first seized her own ship. I was on the boarding party with her." Talia answers with an enigmatic smile. She gestures to a set of covered plates, then reveals them, "Shif T'lan. A simple flash-seared fish, very fresh and light, almost no seasoning needed, eaten with the hands and shared." She brings a plate to you and Ahji Dar.

    Ahji Dar begins eating the fish immediately, this seems to be her favorite dish. Talia asks, "How did you come upon a ship of your own, Captain Shade?"
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    Seeing these two together, it's not hard to imagine them taking a ship under arms.

    After accepting a bite of delicious fish from Ahji Dar, I answer. "Would you believe an imaginary Hutt loaned me the money?" I tell the story of making up a Hutt to scare some sleemos and then later encountering him. From there, through to the loan and the Profit Margin.
  • They both chuckle at times during the story, while Ahji Dar laughs out loud. She's drinking some spice wine with her food, and quickly begins showing signs of giggling and touching your forearm. She rarely lets her control slip, she must really trust Talia. And you, of course.

    Talia-header
    Talia takes away the uneaten dishes of food and comes back out with the next course. She brings out bowls of round orbs and places shakers of spices in the middle of the table. "A Sullustan treat. Bahg Glak. The eggs of a cave-dwelling rodent creature, boiled, diced, and strewn with roasted blue tubers. You'll both find it a tad bland, so I suggest the spices here."

    Ahji Dar reaches for a peppercorn spice shaker and quickly begins digging in. The innards are several colors. How does it taste to you, Ladro?
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    Just for the experience, I taste before spicing it. The dish is mild, and the texture of the eggs is a bit off-putting at first... somehow creamy and firm at once. After I season it a bit with black and red pepper, it's fairly tasty. Not likely to be on the menu for my last meal, though. "What brough you to Sullust, Talia?"
  • Talia-header
    Talia walks over to the small autochef and bends down, her lean frame moving stiffly as she pulls a few bottles of mineral waters from the cooling unit. She brings them back over. "Try these mineral waters. Each has its own tang. I think you'll like the goldenrod one." She sits, the first time she's done so in a couple courses. "I bought amnesty here. I'm wanted on several systems. Just like Ahji. I just decided I was tired of the running. Now I hide in one place."

    Ahji Dar, for her part, laughs a little. She offers no rebuke, just enjoys the look you gave Talia just now. What was that look, Ladro?
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    Despite my earlier thought about how Ahji and Talia seemed natural to board a ship together, Talia's presence is so... calm. So steady. It's difficult for me to imagine her living the sort of life that requires amnesty. That's the look.

    The goldenrod mineral water is really refreshing. Whatever salts are dissolved give it a distinctive effect, effervescence carrying the taste up into the nose. After a few sips, it truly is as if my palate has been cleansed, set back to a neutral state.

    "Thank you again, Talia. This is lovely. What do you do with yourself here? Have you found something new to occupy you, or are you just living the life of leisure?"
  • edited February 2015
    Talia-header
    Talia sits back, smiling as she sees how the two of you have enjoyed the meal. "I dabble in things that interest me. It's a life of leisure, hard won through blood and strife. I'm not proud of what I've done, but I cannot change the past. I can only change the now, and hope to alter my course for the future."

    image
    "Ha!" Ahji Dar says over a purplish bottle of mineral water, "Don't let her fool you, Ladro. She runs a gambling den here! Quiet contemplation! If I didn't know you, I would believe you!" Ahji Dar slaps the table, giggling.

    Talia-header
    Talia sighs at Ahji Dar, shaking her head, "Can't I pretend to be a refined lady to at least one being, Ahji Dar?" She grins. "Yes, I run a small gambling den. It's profitable, it keeps me here, and my employees, who are a crew of ex-criminals and cons as well, they love their work. I guess a gundark cannot change its nature." She reaches over to pat Ahji Dar's hand. "She is special, isn't she, Captain Shade?"
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    I shake my head in amusement. "She is, Talia. I feel so fortunate..." I turn to look at my kitten with fondness.
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    Ahji Dar ducks her head, a tad embarrassed. "Please, you two. I'm right here. If you have a long con, just tell me what you want. I will give it."
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    I turn to give Talia a wink. "Our plan is finally coming together, Talia. Quick, compliment her outfit and she'll be putty in our hands." I rub my hands together and give my best villainous laugh.
  • Talia-header
    "Ahji Dar," Talia says as if she just decided to announce an observation, "You look very fetching this evening. I think you are a bright star, fallen from the heavens, down to this lonely cavern."

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    That gets Ahji Dar to throw her head back in disbelief, "No!" She throws her hands forward on the table, giggling before she holds it in. She slaps the table again, "No! I am weak from your onslaught, please. Mercy, mercy on me, you two evil beings. One master, one pupil. You are Sith!" Talia laughs, trying to match yours but not quite as theatrical.
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    I consider taking the joke farther, but this unexpected levity is too delicious not to just start laughing, and once I start it escalates into full flown bellows, guffaws even. I can't help it.
  • The rest of the meal is filled with quiet moments, light bits of laughter, and more drinks. Talia brings out a bottle from Naboo, an oddly umami wine, with aromas of salt and chestnut, and a hint of something almost beefy. Ahji Dar doesn't drink it, but seems to think you'll like it. Talia brags she has a case of the stuff. How does it suit you?

    Eventually, the three of you end up sitting out on the balcony, which has an amazing view of the luminescent lichen on the opposite side of this cavern. Talia has a small flute that she plays with you each sit in reclining chairs. The lichen respond to the sounds of the flute. Ahji Dar is obviously tipsy and appears to be getting very sleepy.

    What do you do?
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    This wine is puzzling, to say the least. At first, I truly hate it, but my kitten thinks it's something I will enjoy, so I soldier on without making a face. At the second sip, it begins to open up, the savory elements leading to a kind of integration with the fruit. Rather like the way the aromas of roasted Marrovian pig combine with the sweet-tart apple compote that is a traditional accompaniment. By the end of the glass, my palate has adjusted, and I am truly enjoying it.

    Leaning back, watching the lichen and listening to Talia's flute, I feel contentment in a way I rarely have since I was a child. Realizing, though, that Ahji Dar is about to fall asleep here and now, I decide it's likely time to go. "Talia, it has been such an honor and a pleasure meeting and dining with you. This is certainly the most interesting meal I've ever eaten. I think we should take our leave, though."
  • Ahji Dar turns over in her chair, pulling an arm up to rest her head.

    Talia-header
    Talia looks over at her, fondly, then to you, "She may sleep if she wishes. It is no imposition for me. I am glad to see her relax."

    Talia hands you the flute, "We have lost count, the number of scrapes we barely survived. I think I'm one up on her on who saved who's life more, though."

    image
    With a sleepy drawl, Ahji Dar says without lifting her head, "Another lie. I am two up on her. She wants to count bribing Imperials as saving a life. She loves her credits so much. Lie, lie, lie..." Then she snuggles up and you think she's out.
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    I make an experimental toodle on the flute, find the fingerings. I manage to eke out an old Kiffar lullaby, keeping an eye on the reactions of the lichen. After once through the tune, I stop. Speaking quietly, "Talia, tell me something about my our Ahji Dar. Something she wouldn't want me to know, of course, but something good."
  • edited February 2015
    Talia-header
    Talia purses her lips, considering for a moment, "There are so many secrets I hold for her. A good one?" She looks over at you, "Once, she dropped cargo to make room for a derelict ship's crew and passengers. Saved fifty three lives. Lost a hefty haul and thousands of credits. Took us six months to earn it back. We lost two crew-members who decided it wasn't worth the loss of pay. No medals, she refused any reward. But there are fifty-three souls, none of them Cathar, who breathed another day because of her."

    There's no small amount of pride Talia has in telling that story. Her gazes fixes on you, "Tell me a good story about you, Captain Shade." She tilts her head, chin up slightly, waiting.
  • edited February 2015
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    "Talia, the stories I tell are usually about amusing failures. Self-deprecation is the greatest social lubricant other than alcohol itself." I shrug. "So, normally I'd tell you about the time I got scammed by an Ewok, or the time I wound up running from a black-market droid salesman in Mos Eisley without my pants, which were still on the floor in the bedroom with his wife." I shrug again. "But I won't tell those."

    I take another modest sip of this strangely compelling wine. "I left home when I was young, cast aside my clan name and took the clanless 'Shade' as a moniker. But before that, there was nothing I loved more than working with my baba, my father, in his wood shop. Such a wonderful thing, to pay attention, to flick a finger against a plank of wood and hear the tone that means it's sound through to the core, to follow the grain with your eyes and know how it continues beneath the surface." Another sip. "One day, when I was fifteen, maybe? Baba had a supply of hazina-mbao, treasure-wood, for a commission from a client. It was for inlays in a fine table he was building. I didn't know the wood, hadn't ever seen it because it was so rare. But it was so beautiful! Like gold in the sunlight from the window, and the grain made me think of shape of a woman, which I'd only recently become aware of."

    I take a moment to remember, even savor, before I go on. "Mind you, this one piece of wood, maybe a hand's width across and as long as my forearm at the time, this one piece was worth a month's income for baba. He wasn't there, though... I was alone, practicing my strokes with the fine plane on a piece of scrap from his last project. I saw this piece of treasure-wood and thought, 'Such a small piece, that's got to be a leftover I never noticed before,' and I picked it up."

    I look over to Talia, see that she's intent on what I'm saying. "It felt so warm, so right, and I could see that it had beauty inside it, so I picked up the draw-knife and started carving. I was almost finished making a statue of my mother when baba came in and saw what I was doing. I can't express the emotions that flashed across his face. Anger, of course. Frustration. But then, somehow, love. 'Son,' he said, 'I wish you hadn't done that.' He explained that it was special, the treasure-wood, and set aside for a commission. He explained that it was very precious, and that I shouldn't have touched it, especially when he was gone. But... he let me finish my carving, and it's still there, in the home I abandoned and only recently returned to."

    It must be the wine, because I feel tears well up as I finish. "It was only years later that I realized he could still have used that wood for his inlays, that he didn't need to replace it. He could have planed it fine and cut the shapes he needed out of the statue that remained. But he didn't. He sacrificed because he thought I'd made something beautiful."
  • Talia-header
    "Do you... have a holo of it? The statue?" Talia asks in a soft tone, hopeful to see what you and your father deemed beautiful, to look on the visage of your mother.
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    Fortunately, I brought a few data crystals with me, in case conversation led to a need for "show and tell." I find one with the few holos I captured on this last trip home. The one of Darkal, mama and me is more than a little awkward, and baba is inexplicably bad at finding a good angle for group portraits, but the holo of the statue came out well. I'm fairly sure that it wasn't there in the living room the first time I returned home, suspect it was part of a campaign on baba's part to break down mother's resistance.
  • Talia-header
    She rises from her chair to come over and look closely, peering at the statue. "It is beautiful, Captain Shade." She looks at you with admiration for a moment.

    Talia moves away from you, to the railing on the balcony, looks out over the caverns. "What are your plans, Captain? For you and Ahji Dar, I mean."
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    I half-expected that to be the first question, once Ahji fell asleep. "We are betwixt and between, Talia. We see each other only rarely, but every time deepens the connection. We're obviously not going to start a family, and I think it would work poorly for us to share a ship, a business." I see an opportunity, so I ask. "Do you have any thought as to what she wants?"
  • Talia-header
    Talia listens to your answer, not looking back. Her posture is calm, though, which has to be a good sign, "I would not speak for her desires. That is a conversation for the two of you. As you know, she does not trust easily, she does not open her heart to any but a select few."

    She turns around, leaning slightly against the railing, "I can tell you know how rare a gift you have. I am glad to see she chose wisely."
  • image

    I smile quietly at her wording. "I believe I have chosen wisely, as well. I trust that she and I and the universe will find a way for it to make sense."
  • Talia nods, letting the conversation go. She seems satisfied, and despite her recent grilling, she doesn't seem like the kind of being to ask so many direct questions.

    How much longer do you stay there chatting with her before you carry Ahji Dar back to her flat?
  • image

    I'm fascinated by Talia, her path and her relationship with my kitten, so we chat for some time. An hour? Mostly inconsequential things, but every tidbit increases my sense of history and depth regarding Ahji Dar and the one other being I know she cares about.

    As I cradle her in my arms and carry her back to the rented "vacation" flat, I can't help but wonder, "Why me?" I'm small-time, nothing to match Ahji's history. Most of my life, I've been all about the odd-job, the short con. Again, nothing, compared to her unwillingly-storied career. I don't wish to be a legend, any more than she does, but she is one, in some small sense, at least.
  • Ahji Dar sleeps soundly. Her bed is large enough for both of you, of course. How do you sleep, Ladro?
  • image

    I wish I could say that I sleep well, nestled up against my kotenok. I don't. I can't help but wonder how Hosk is doing with my ship. I can't help but turn over my questions about Ahji Dar and me in my head. I can't help but wonder about where I go from here, Rebellion or no, now that I've resolved my issues with so-called 'Sark'. Eventually, though, Ahji's purring snore and the wine lull me to sleep. I won't be as rested as she is, in the morning, but I don't think I'll be hungover, at least.
  • image
    At some point during the night, Ahji Dar kicked all the covers off her body and slept against you for warmth. She wakes to look into your eyes, her face open and well rested. She leans forward to push the side of her face against your shoulder, her hand closing against your back for a brief embrace.

    After that, she rolls off the bed to stand, "Stay there, please. it is time for morning klava."
  • image

    "Da, it is, kotenok." I watch her walk to the klava set with less lust than appreciation, and wait for the klava.
  • The smells of caramel and cinnamon fill the air with the roast, and well before she arrives with the tray and cups, you can practically taste the stuff. She comes in carrying a porcelain tray and cups, steaming klava in each. She takes care to offer you the first cup, allowing you to choose whichever one you prefer. Only then does she take the other cup and sit beside you, sipping lightly at hers, watching to see how you like this much sweeter brew.
  • image

    It's different from the spicier blends that I usually make, but comforting. Caramel and cinnamon remind me of the breakfast my mama used to make with leftover grains from the previous night's dinner. I sigh with contentment and meet Ahji Dar's eyes. "Thank you, my dear." The part of my brain that needs to keep moving wants to ask what's on the agenda for today, but the other part, which wants to simply enjoy the moment, shuts that down.
  • image
    After drinking the klava together, she rises, taking your cup, "I will have the autochef fix us some breakfast. We can talk about this morning's excursion." She heads out of the bedroom into the small dining area, adjusting the autochef's dials and toggles to begin the process of the morning meal.

    "I want to take you out into the lower depths of the caverns, on my swoop." Ahji Dar announces as you come into the room.
  • image

    Ooh! "That sounds like fun. I assume there will be speed, danger and natural beauty involved?"
  • image
    Ahji Dar smirks, ticking off each item on her fingers, "A swoop. You. And then... me. So yes, all three."
  • image

    "Your beauty is far too great to be natural, my dear. My danger, however is wholly earned. I'm looking forward to our excursion." I wink, then dig into the breakfast Ahji Dar has conjured up. I suspect I'll need my strength.

  • image
    Just before she takes a bite of her hunk of bread, Ahji Dar says playfully, "If I weren't charitable, I'd say you just accused me of being unnatural." She takes a bite, laughs a bit.

    ---------------------------

    We pick up with the sounds of Ahji Dar's swoop as you dip down into a deep cavern, like this:
    cavern

    image
    Over the roar of the swoop's engine, she calls back to you as you hold her waist, "I found this place, but I haven't gone inside. They say it is haunted!"

    She brings the swoop down to a large, flat stone, letting it settle to the ground before dropping the kickstand and turning off the repulsors.
  • image

    "If it's haunted, then we have to explore, right?" It's been years since someone challenged me to explore a "haunted" place, since I was a kid. And it does feel like this is a challenge. I'm up for it, for sure.
  • image
    She chuckles, "Yes. That is what we must do." Ahji Dar opens the storage compartment, pulling out a small pack and some supplies. What's one item that she hands you, Ladro?
  • image

    Ahji hands me several things, among them a headlamp and a coil of thin, strong rope. "Let's do it." I'm eager for this, spending some time exploring with her.
  • You both walk slow and calm along the floor of the cave. There are small stalagmites along the ground here, enough to feel them through your boots, but not so high that you need to walk around them.

    Rising above you is this ancient temple. Eons have smoothed the stone, What was once sharp edges is now gentle slopes. Several areas look unsafe, broken slabs of stone, shattered columns holding a crumbling roof.

    image
    As you gently pick your way up into the place, Ahji Dar asks in a low voice, "What do you think this building was?" Her voice echoes lightly into the darkness.
  • image

    I keep my voice low, as well. It just seems right. "A public building, for sure. Maybe a temple or a court?"
  • image
    "A temple. That feels right." She replies as you see the columns reaching well past you, into the darkness. "Do you hold any gods dear?"
  • image

    "None in particular. The old Kiffar religion was animistic, mostly, and most families keep ancestor shrines in the home. There are still some nature shrines scattered around the forests, but it's become more culture than religion now. Nothing else has ever really caught my fancy. What about you, kitten?"
  • edited February 2015
    image
    You enter the ancient building, switching on the headlamp while Ahji Dar switches on a small flashlight. Just after the columns, you see the floor has fallen. Pieces of ceiling fell from a hundred feet up to crash through the chipped tile and further down. This structure was build on top of some deeper cavern.

    As she pulls out the coil of rope, she answers, "On Cathar, my people practice a ritual known as the "Blood Hunt." Warriors travel one by one to fight entire nests of giant beetles called Kiltik in order to gain honor and purge themselves of inner darkness." She smirks, "I just chose to control my inner darkness."

    She attaches a small hook, then looks to you, asking, "Across? Or down?"
  • image

    I peek over the edge into the darkness. "I think down."
  • edited February 2015
    image
    Ahji Dar nods, a little smile, "Yes, my Tom." She affixes the grappling hook to some stalagmites, then stomps it deeper into the rock, testing the line before she begins climbing down.

    This cavern is dark, but darker than the structure above. There is no phosphorescent moss, no reflective pools of water, simply your two lights. The line is strong, but it seems like you could climb down by hand, given time. The rock is porous, like an igneous. The place smells of sulfur, and the scant bits you see below with your light show what look like passageways in the rocky surface, like an uneven honeycomb.

    Let's see you roll+Sharp here to successfully navigate your way to a ledge or passageway without incident.
  • Rolling +Canny

    (Rolled: 2d6+1. Rolls: 5, 2. Total: 8)

  • You both scale down a few hundred feet before dropping to a ledge. There's an opening here, big enough to crawl through. Ahji Dar doesn't wait for permission, she drops to all fours and starts crawling in, her light shining a path.

    I assume you follow your headlight helping greatly. This tunnel is unnaturally smooth, Ladro. It doesn't look hewn, but it doesn't look like some kind of lava bubble.

    What do you do?
  • edited February 2015
    image

    Given the opportunity to follow Ahji Dar, shining a light directly on that tight space heinie, I certainly do. "What do you think this is?" I'm hoping she doesn't say the word "sarlacc" when she answers.
  • image
    "Some large worm, I would wager." Ahji Dar relates this without much worry as she continues winding through the tunnel ahead of you until the tunnel widens into an underground cave. It's very damp here, and chilly.

    The cave has a small pool near the center, and lying in the pool, wriggling on top of each other, are a host of large worms. They're on some bed of husks and what looks like silk. Lots and lots of silk.

    What do you do?
  • image

    I watch quietly, seeing if the worms react to our lights or whatever small sounds we are making. I reach a hand out, place it on the small of Ahji Dar's back, not wanting to talk, but wanting the connection.
  • Why don't you Check Out the Scene here?
  • Checking out the Scene

    (Rolled: 2d6+1. Rolls: 6, 1. Total: 8)
  • What am I missing here?
  • Ahji Dar wants to try and get some silk. It will be quite dangerous, you realize, because you see one of the worms opening its orifice, and its maw gleams in the dim light. Also, several of them are large enough to swallow you whole.
  • image

    I'm willing to take the chance, if my kitten does. I will sneak, I will shoot, I will do whatever is needed. "I'm with you, kitten. What's next?"
  • image
    Ahji Dar's ears are alert, her body poised for action. She fixes her eyes on the silk, "We get some silk, my Tom."

    Moving slow and easy, she starts skulking forward in hopes of taking her thin blade and cutting free some of the ropy strands without disturbing the large worms.

    Why don't you Act Under Pressure here (take a +1 from your read earlier)?
  • Act Under Pressure (+1) (+1XP)

    (Rolled: 2d6+3. Rolls: 5, 3. Total: 11)
  • Ahji Dar creeps forward, dropping to all fours, her butt raised up slightly as she stalks her prey. You watch over her, ready to protect her if needed. She senses you near anticipates where you are as she reaches a large mass of the stuff strung over a small pool. She takes her knife and quietly and slowly slices a huge bolt of the silk.

    The worms are aware of your presence, but they don't see you as a threat. After thirty seconds of cutting, Ahji Dar gathers the silk in her arms, sheathing her knife and scooting back away from the worms. The dim light from your head lamp causes her eyes to glow slightly as she keeps a watchful eye on the worms.

    You notice before she does that there is a very large worm lowering itself from the upper reaches of the cave. It is headed towards her, moving straight down to where she's backpedaling.

    What do you do?
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