The Sith had told him that all things happened in cycles and that eventually these cycles were bound to repeat themselves. For all they'd gotten wrong, Talak actually thought they might have been right about that, and while he knew that was a reference on a macro level, it had turned out true for him. He'd returned to Serenno, to the same cantina - the Krayt Flagon - that he'd been to all those years ago, and even sat at the same table. It had slowly come back to him after reviewing his meticulously kept mission after reports.
The cantina had not improved in his absence. It was grubby, nasty, and somewhere he didn't actually want to be, but it was close to the meatman, and that meant it was as good a place as any for him to meet the others.
His lightsaber and sword had been left behind from his regular equipment and there was no evidence of his ties to the Jedi. They'd gotten enough flack for existing lately, they didn't need any more. After all, the Knight was just here to poke around. He could do that easily enough.
He nursed the fruity, non-alcoholic drink he'd ordered as he waited for the other two to arrive before they got started. After all, no reason you couldn't take a bit of time to relax so long as you kept a clear head. @Wit@Arclight
Ariadne had been to Serenno before, perhaps twice distantly in the past. A wedding if she remembered correctly, some distant cousin that her parents probably needed something from him at some point in the future. Cold people with cold minds. She was glad to be away from all that and a Jedi Knight instead. There had also been that Academy trip, she remembered.
An interesting assignment, one she wasn't sure that she was ready for. Though that seemed to be the most common thought that passed through her mind these days as she stumbled into knighthood. There wasn't exactly a manual for this. She'd looked. She was however a little more in the know on being somewhere you weren't supposed to be, and not wanting to be recognized.
She had died her hair a soft brown, her colored contacts just a few shades of the color lighter. Her makeup was done to contour her face in slightly different angles, making it appear a bit sharper, leaner. It certainly wasn't a disguise that would hold up against any sort of sophisticated facial recognition databases, but for a meeting in a dodgy cantina where she didn't want anyone to recognize her as Ariadne Harro, it would do. She was dressed for the locale, belted tight black pants with the ankles cuffed above light boots and a close fitting leather jacket over a white crop top.
Well, she thought she was dressed for the locale anyways.
Entering into the Krayt Flagon, Ariadne tried not to meet anyone's eyes as she walked over to the bar and ordered a virgin bespin fizz. Glancing around while she waited, she was beginning to think that maybe she hadn't 'dressed down' enough and was glad for the small stun glowrod that resided inside her jackets pocket. Spotting her fellow Jedi during her sweep of the cantina, Ariadne accepted her drink from the barman who gave it to her with a grunt and then turned to walk over to the Jedi.
The Jedi leading this mission was none other than Talak Rand. The name had given her pause when she had been briefed. She knew the name, almost everyone in the order likely did. What she knew about him was sparse, except for the fact that he had formerly been a Sith. Which meant she trusted him about as far as she could throw him. Maybe just a little farther than that, he had been with the Order for a while.
"Lovely place you picked here." She said with a lack of enthusiasm as she slid into the seat across from him. Eyeing the tabletop in front of her, she gave it a sweep with her hand, sending a few stray crumbs tumbling to the floor, before setting down her drink. A smudge of something sticky caught at the edge of her hand as she swept the table clean and she looked around for a napkin box at the table, her eyes settling on it. Quite empty. "Lovely place." She repeated again with a sigh as she settled in to wait for their third, debating whether to make a quick trip to the refresher to clean off her hand and doubting that the place even had the capacity for handwashing.
Vinry had never been to Serenno, so she was glad for the opportunity to visit the planet. Dressed in simple clothing, trousers, shirt, comfortable boots, and a poncho that helped hide her missing arm. Like the others she had left her lightsaber behind, being effectively unarmed, but was a Jedi ever really unarmed? The Force was with her, that would be enough.
Having made her way to planet on a passenger shuttle, not really equipped to fly anymore, she was the last to arrive. Thankfully it didn't take her too long to find the Krayt Flagon. While she had heard a great deal about the planet, the cantina at least felt just like any other establishment of similar stature stature across the Galaxy.
Spotting Talak and Ariadne, she began making her way towards them when she noticed the drinks the two had already ordered. Catching a passing server, she ordered a drink and made her way to the table. "Didn't keep you waiting long," she said as she slipped into the vacant seat, "did I?"
"Ofcourse the Catscratch is up to the task!" an indignant voice cried out from the table next to that of the three incognito Force users. Davik Lorso had come all the way to Serenno for a pick-up, spending his own well-earned credits on fuel and maintenance, to find that the goods for transport was five standard tons heavier than his ship was designed for and the potential employer, having read up on the smuggler's ship and the year it was built, wasn't inclined to employ Davik as a result. "Your ship's too small, you kriffing Ossein," the Serenno native bit back, his hand gripping his mug even tighter as if he was trying to retrain himself from causing a scene by smacking some piece of lower-class nomadic scum.
Well well well, Davik leaned back in his chair, clearly defeated. "So that's it, isn't it? Don't trust an Ossein to transport your the stuff you want to hide from your wife during the divorce proceedings?" his voice became louder and louder, making sure that at least those three people at the neighboring table could hear. In truth, the nobleman was trying to hide sensitive old republic artwork and symbols that the current political climate was beginning to frown upon, but it wasn't like he could own up to that in a public bar.. problem was, his wife and him... well, they weren't in a good spot either.
Frowning, the nobleman's clenched fist was starting to turn white as he refused to relent and accept defeat by someone of such low birth. "You're a third-rate transporter with a fifth-rate ship. I wouldn't even trust the Catscratch to transport my stuff if you offered to do it for free."
Kriffer. Davik took his own cup of fresh lima juice and gulped it down in one go. Sighing, "Elitist bastard," he rose up from the table and motioned for the three sitting at the neighboring table. "Offworlders? Follow my example and get the kriff out. With the attitude of these Serenno folk, this place is gonna be the next Eiattu 6." Not many people would actually understand the reference, after all, what was Eiattu 6 but just another planet the swallowed up in recent times by the Sith Order and on the other side of the galaxy at that.
Talak knew who he was looking for in the cantina, which made spotting them both relatively simple, though it appeared Ariadne had opted for some additional concealment that Talak could appreciate. Not an unwise precaution.
He sipped his drink as she made her way over and he could practically feel her skepticism as she looked at him. But it was a sensation he'd grown accustomed to. He assumed that most any Jedi he didn't already know wouldn't like him or at least be suspicious. He certainly would have been.
Isn't it? he said sarcastically. In fact, Talak didn't even like this place, so why did he pick it? One part nostalgia, one part practical proximity to their target, and one part anonymity. This wasn't a vacation after all.
Vinry arrived next and he shook his head as she asked if she'd kept them waiting. No, he added simply and was preparing to stand to leave when a scene began to unfold at the table next to them. In a place like this, it wasn't necessarily anything to write home about until the man started addressing the Jedi directly, and then mentioning Eiattu 6. Now that was a comment that caught Talak's attention, though his face remained neutral.
What do you mean? he asked, quirking an eyebrow curiously. More likely than not, it was a nothing statement, but on the off chance it wasn't, the question got him more information without implying that he actually keenly followed the Sith expansion. @Arclight@Eccles@Wit
Ariadne's eyes narrowed ever so slightly at Talak's response. Was he being serious? No. She could detect the slight tone of sarcasm in his voice. So he had other reasons for picking such an upstanding establishment besides the lovely decor and... smells.
Sipping her fruity drink, she found herself disappointed with its mix. The juice was definitely artificial and the absence of liquor left the drink lacking in every way. She was more than happy to see Vinry enter and join them, which meant they could be on their way and free of the depressing atmosphere of the cantina where the less than desirable denizens seemed content to while away their days.
"Not long at all." Ariadne replied to Vinry with a slight smile. Thankfully not much longer. She thought to herself, Talak seemed eager to leave and Ariadne couldn't blame him as she was itching to get out of the place. The thin layer of grime and dust on everything made that itch more than just subconscious and she worried that if she spent too much longer here it might turn into a real one.
Their exit from the cantina was brought to a halt however as a neighboring patron spoke directly to them, mentioning the ill fate of Eiattu 6. Ariadne froze for a moment as she was reminded of her homeworld's neighbor. She knew it had recently come under control of the Sith, a bloody tyrant by the name of Darth Asminys, and the people likely suffered for it. She didn't want to think about how the people of Eiattu, or even Eriadu suffered under Sith rule, or how her parents fared. Likely they were maneuvering and politicking for power just the same as before, with new rulers, but still.
She remained quiet for now however, letting Talak take the lead in what hopefully wouldn't turn into a sticky situation as she absentmindedly rubbed at the sticky spot on her hand. She didn't want her closeness to the worlds in question give them away, but she waited for the scruffy looking strangers response with bated breath.
Vinry gulped down her drink, and immediately regretted the decision as the frozen drink sent a sharp pain racing though her head. So when the stranger spoke up about Eiattu, she replied instinctively as she squinted an eye and shook tilted her head in reaction to the brain freeze.
"Can't be any worse than this, can it?" She said as he put the empty tumbler down on the table. She got a glare from a passing server. "Sorry, brain freeze." She mumbled after the server as he walked away. She glanced around towards the bar, where she got a dirty look from the barkeep, as the server had shared the news with her. She sheepishly looked away, returning her attention to the conversation between Talak and the stranger.
Painful though it might have been, in a way it was good that she had been distracted when the stranger had brought up Eiattu. She, like the others, knew what had happened on the planet, and she wasn't as confident in her ability to keep herself from giving that away. So the little incident with the drink had given her an opportunity to compose herself.
Not having expected a response, Davik was startled by the sudden question and made it plain by stopping abruptly and jerking his head towards one of offworlders (@Phoenix). "Bombed Eiattu 6 from orbit. Sith Order did-" he suddenly realized that he could try and convince that elitist kriffer to hire him after all, "-Jedi Order ran," he waved the back of his hand across his head as if to say that Jedi running away from a fight was their modus operandi. "I smuggled a Jedi through the Sith blockade and let me tell you," his voice amplified slighty to make sure the Serenno nobleman could hear, "Their ships. Their fighters. Never seen a more coordinated armada and I'm Ossein." That was obviously high praise and unfortunately for most of the galaxy also a stiff warning as well. The FWA and the Republic didn't have battle-tested navies, the Ossein fleets have mostly abandoned the Jazaq Yassa and then the Sith show up and they swallowed worlds up in the blink of an eye. "No way ordinary pilots can run a blockade like that."
He looked back at the elitist bastard and while the latter seemed a little more desperate he still made no indication he changed his mind, further irritating Davik. "You all think you're safe because you're civilized. Let me tell you, those Sith far from it. You wanna make sure you survive what's coming? Kowakian Devil Fleet is near Ossus. You can fly with us anytime."
Having said his due, Davik nodded a respectful goodbye, his eyes lingering for a moment on a poncho (@Wit), thinking that something was missing underneath, maybe and arm.. maybe the good sense not to linger, he couldn't be sure. If no one engaged him in further converstaion, the Ossein pilot would simply walk out of the bar and leave Serenno.
Talak opted not to think that the man's speech about bombing from orbit and Sith navies was a foreboding prophecy about what they might experience here. Just some spacer talking about the bad things he'd seen, right? Yeah, that was what he was going with.
He gave a nod as the man left, still getting the impression that most of what the pilot had said was directed more at the man he'd been arguing with than the trio of Jedi.
He got the stink eye the waiter was giving Vinry now, and given none of them seemed to be enjoying existing in this space, Talak tossed some credits down on the table and stood.
Let's go, he said, flicking his head toward the door and heading in that direction.
The evening air was cool and refreshing compared to the smoke-filled cantina and the sun was finishing its descent below the horizon. He started heading down the street in the direction that he knew the meatman's shop was. He doubted the man had packed up after literal decades in the same place, which worked to their advantage. @Wit@Arclight
A chill ran down Ariadne's spine as the spacer spoke of the Sith orbital bombardment, preached his fear of the armada that had hovered above the planet. A coordinated attack. She let her worries for friends and family that may have been on the planet that day go however. There was nothing she could have done, only what she could do now.
She wanted to thank the man for smuggling a Jedi away from the Sith occupation, but also knew that would blow their cover. Jedi, running. She liked to imagine that she wouldn't run in that situation, like to imagine that she would stand and fight against the Sith until she no longer drew breath, falling in the heat of battle against the vile creatures.
She liked to imagine that she wouldn't turn tail and run... but she didn't know.
Giving the man a nod as he left, she looked past him to the man he had been talking to and saw his expression change as the blockade runner left the cantina. He fidgeted in his seat for a moment before standing up to hurriedly follow the spacer out of the cantina.
Perhaps the man would get his good due after all.
"Lets." Ariadne nodded in agreement as she followed Talak's suit, standing and placing a credit on the counter for her as of yet untouched drink. She looked at it for a second before placing another credit down on the table. She felt rude having not touched it, and after Vinry's earlier faux pas with the server...
Glad to be free of the grimy cantina, Ariadne took in a breath of fresh air as they stepped outside. Following Talak, she wondered if the man had a plan. He walked with a purpose that made it seem to her at least that he knew where he was going. That was encouraging at least.
"So... Where are we going?" She finally asked after walking in silence for several moments. She wasn't sure how other Jedi operated, but her years in military academy had accustomed her to... well some sort of briefing or information on the operation beforehand. The Jedi seemed to play much more fast and loose with things. Important things like intel and planning. There never really seemed to be a plan with the Jedi, and it often seemed as if they were just playing things by ear, Force, or whatever flight took their fancy.
Vinry, beginning to get used to getting lingering glances because of her missing arm, spotted the oh so slightly longer than usual time that the stranger's eyes lingered on her. But as he left she tried to push it away, she needed to focus on the task at hand. But as they left the cantina, she kept an eye out for anyone else that might have taken interest in her "disguise". That paranoia served them well, as not soon after she noticed a figure moving behind them through the crowd.
She might have missed it otherwise, but the stranger's lingering glance had made her own eyes linger as they had exited the cantina, and she had spotted a figure sitting along the far wall who had seemed inconspicuous enough that normally no-one might have given him a second look. But looked she had, and now that he was following them she was able to catch on.
"Wherever we're going," she said softly to her companions as Ariadne questioned Talak about their destination, "let's take the scenic route. We seem to have picked up a tail," she gave a slight tilt of her head to the side, letting them know where to look, "probably best to lose it first. Unless you want to figure out why he's after us." Maybe the stranger at the bar hadn't been the only one to notice they were off-worlders, this might just be an opportunist looking to pick some tourist pockets. Or he had more sinister motives, motives that might not serve them well.
Talak kept making his way down the sidewalk when Ariadne asked where they were going. He mentally chastised himself for not having explained this to them because he was a terrible partner.
Right, sorry, he said. There's an informant working out of this district. If we can... and that was as far as he got before Vinry mentioned they were being followed. He forced himself not to look back at whoever was following them, but his mind started churning through their situation. There was no way it was Sith, they had all come in incognito to an entire world. No, it had to just be a criminal or general troublemaker.
He was having flashbacks to the last time he was here, and knew that the meatman had a tendency to have eyes everywhere. Last time they'd killed the man following them, but that was another life.
Let's lose them and if we can't then we deal with that, he said. He still doubted it was a meatoperative, but if it was, he didn't want to be followed.
He took a turn down an alley, eyes scanning the doors on either side, looking at the fire escapes strapped to buildings, and seeing the next street down. There were several options available to them including trying to grab a cab on the next street. @Wit@Arclight
Ariadne was actually surprised when Talak actually apologized for leaving them in the dark. And then he even started to explain what his plan was. She had yet to trust the Sith turned Jedi, yet to believe he wasn't just a Sith-cum-Jedi who was waiting for the opportune moment to stab them all in the back and return, laughing, to the dark embrace of the Eternal. Before the man had time to get more than a sentence out however Vinry interrupted to inform them they had a tail.
"I suppose the plan will have to wait." Ariadne sighed as she pulled a compact out of her jacket pocket, opening the case and pretending to adjust her makeup while they walked, holding the mirror case so that she could see behind them for a second as her eyes scanned the crowd behind them, catching sight of a fellow who seemed just a little bit 'too' uninterested in them as he followed along at an even pace. Snapping the makeup case closed, she stowed it in her pocket again.
"Human of middling height, brown hair. Has a nasty looking scar over his right eye, like he took a punch from a trandoshan or something." She said quietly to the others as they turned the corner into the alleyway. "I only saw the one, but he doesn't look like the type to work alone." She continued as they began to make their way through the alley, the tail would likely be hot on their trail and he would have to take the turn into the alley.
Unless he's not working alone.
The thought popped into her head. It was possible that he might be in communication with others, let them know they had taken the alley and fresh eyes would pick them up on the other end. Perhaps she was just being paranoid, but it was worth consideration. "This informant of yours wouldn't happen to have a vast network of eyes in the area would he?" She asked Talak quietly, her eyes glancing up towards the rooftop as she searched for spotters. Perhaps they needed to disappear.