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  1. #21
    No one in the household would fault Neva for her reaction. It was difficult to see anyone so gravely injured. Especially a child. Especially when the damage had been so deliberate, and so gratuitous.

    Visper followed her toward the doorway to offer... what? Platitudes? Encouragement? She hung back when she realized there wasn't really anything she could say. Neva presumably needed a moment.

    At that particular moment, though, a visitor was approaching. A tall, blonde Sith woman was walking up the path to the front door. Visper was startled, but too far away to act - Neva would be the first to come in contact with her.

    "Hello!" the Sith said pleasantly. "I'm looking for..." Her eyes settled on the unconscious twins. "Oh, yes, there they are."

    Visper moved to block the girls from the newcomer. She didn't draw her lightsaber - the Sith was neither threatening, nor holding her own weapon - but her hand hovered near it just in case, waiting to see what happened.

    Then Maialin darted in from the kitchen, saw the Sith standing just outside the door, and beamed. "Aunt Lana!" she called out with delight. She barreled past Neva and hit the Sith at a run with arms outstretched. The Sith - presumably 'Aunt Lana' - smiled back and hoisted the little girl onto her hip. "It's good to see you too," she told Maialin. Surveying the room, she added, "It's very good to see all of you. Truly. It's more of a relief than you can know."

    "You're always welcome, Lana," Siralai said with a smile. Pointing at everyone new, she made introductions. "Neva, Visper, Felix..."

    "Pleased to meet you," the Sith replied. She seemed to see nothing unusual about seeing the Mahr household full of extra people. "I'm Lana Beniko."

    "I'm surprised the Empire took an interest in finding the girls," Siralai said, with curiosity but no malice.

    "Erm... they didn't," Lana replied. "I wasn't sent here. This is... well, call it a personal project. Theron is helping too. He's up at the docks, going through customs forms and cargo manifests. A dull job, but an SIS agent does have some ins in that department."

    Jasper blushed ever so slightly at the mention of Theron's name.

    If Lana noticed, she was tactful enough not to say anything. She added, "Truth be told, you've saved us quite a bit of effort, Siralai. We were planning to bring the girls to you once we found them, actually. We knew your family would keep them safe without concern that they're Sith, and would help them with no expectation of personal gain. Needless to say, clearly we were right."
    Last edited by Monkey Kitty; 04-25-2020 at 03:16 PM.
    "Sleep to dream, and we dream to live..." -Great Big Sea

  2. #22
    Pyrran Onyk
    Kaas City, Dromund Kaas

    Pyrran couldn't sleep. Not an unusual state of affairs, these days. Whenever he closed his eyes, whenever his mind wasn't focused on another task, images rose in his head. Tortured bodies. Agonized faces. Screams of pain. And then the memories of his own helplessness. Of the times all he could do was watch. His master was a monster for inflicting the torture, yes. But surely Pyrran was too, for not being able to stop it. He wasn't sure he would ever get a full night's sleep again.

    Eventually he gave up on wakeful tossing and turning, rolled out of bed, and padded quietly to the holonet terminal in the hall, careful not to make too much noise as he passed the closed door to the other bedroom. Hopefully at least one person in this apartment was getting some rest, and he didn't want to disturb her.

    The hall was an odd place for a computer terminal, but it was a small apartment. The main room was full of their living room and dining furniture, and it would have been awkward to have it in either bedroom - which left just the hallway, so the hallway it was. Pyrran toyed with the idea of purchasing some outdoor space someday; that wouldn't help with the furniture placement issue, but it might be nice to have a garden. He'd have to talk to Vette about it.

    He pulled up the same holonet entry he checked every day. Photos of a pair of smiling twin girls. The word MISSING plastered above their images, with a description of them and their last known whereabouts below. Then mention of a REWARD offered by their brother - a pathetically small reward, apparently not enough to entice a bounty hunter to search for them, but it was all the credits he had been able to scrape together to put in the escrow to try to secure their return.

    To his surprise, for the first time in almost three years, he saw that his holonet entry had a response. Pyrran's hands shook as he pulled it up. Could it be? Had someone finally located his little sisters? Even a starting point would give him far more than he'd had to go on so far...

    I think I have a lead on your sisters. I'm not interested in the reward, so save your credits, but meet me on Rishi as soon as you can. I'll find out as much as I can in the meantime. -Lana Beniko

    He wasn't sure who Lana Beniko was. He thought he might have heard the name in passing, but it didn't ring more specific bells. Whoever she was, if she had truly located the girls, Pyrran would be eternally grateful. He was a little worried about what she would demand in exchange. If not credits, what sort of service would he be expected to provide? If she knew who his master was, she might be expecting something cruel and distasteful from the apprentice too...

    Well. That would remain to be seen. First, he had to get there. Then he would see what it would take to save his sisters. He would do almost anything for them.

    It was almost a reasonable hour of the morning, by now. Vette would be up soon. He closed down the holonet terminal and went to start brewing the morning caf. Not long after, Vette emerged from her bedroom wrapped in a fuzzy bathrobe. Pyrran poured her a cup of caf and said, "I have a favor to ask. Will you come to Rishi with me? I... I think someone found my sisters..."

    Vette didn't hesitate to agree. A few hours later, Pyrran's ship touched down on the Rishi docks.

  3. #23
    Count / Countess Quaxo9 is offline Quaxo9's Avatar
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    Jun 2004
    The Great White North

    She had been focused further away from the house, so the newcomer was much closer to the steps than Neva would have liked her to be by the time she was noticed. Still, Neva made no move until the woman expressed what she thought was familiarity with the kids under the field. If she knew about these kids - was she involved? Did she do this to them? Lowering her body, and unconsciously baring her teeth, Neva was prepared to launch herself at the newcomer when Maialin zipped past her and into the woman's arms. She paused in surprise, then stood and moved out of the way to allow Lana to pass into the house. The Zabrak never took her eyes off the Sith, but Lana would hopefully see the plain curiosity in Neva's eyes and conclude that she did not mean to attack though Neva also issued no apology for the rude welcome.

    Nodding when she was introduced, Neva watched the interactions between Lana and the Mahrs with the same crooked half-smiled she'd worn when Trystan informed her of a 'new development'. Siralai really was the most interesting Jedi she'd ever met. She knew enough to know that Lana was Sith and that ne'r the two should meet without a crossing of light sabers, and yet, here they were. Lana was clearly a loved member of the household. It seemed the Mahrs shared a rare gift to see people as people instead of who their race or occupation made them out to be. Again, she counted herself lucky to have fallen in with such good people.

    Her ears pricked up at the mention of a SIS agent going through customs reports and such - not to mention the point made that the girls were being looked for. That meant that someone out there - perhaps family - was looking for these kids...but if the plan was to leave them with the Mahrs...oh. The Sith homeworld wasn't exactly a forgiving place - especially for two sick kids. She couldn't do anything about that last part, but the first...

    "So, if you have someone looking for evidence of them being brought here, does that meant you'll know who did this to them?" The look in her eye made it plain why she was asking.
    Winner of the dubious Vaarsuvius Award for Verbousness!

    I support altruism.

  4. #24
    Lana Beniko

    Lana did not begrudge Neva the initial caution. It was only to be expected - and the smart response. Had she been approaching anyone but the Mahrs, Lana would have been much more circumspect. She'd taken a shortcut because it was Siralai and Trystan, but she would never fault their friends for remaining watchful. Lana herself would have done the same, had their positions been reversed. Wariness had a tendency to keep you alive.

    She nodded in response to Neva's question. "We're working on that," she replied. "We picked up the trail with a slaving outfit based on Mek-Sha. That problem will need to be addressed, along with the buyer - and the original perpetrator. We suspected this was beyond the capabilities of Mek-Sha slave mongers, and that has proven true - and to be a metaphorical wormhole of its own. " She added with a wry smile, "So Theron and I have our work cut out for us, it seems."

    "Of course we'll help in any way we can," Siralai told her. "I assume that goes without saying."

    "I thought you would," Lana agreed candidly. "I also know you have the skills to help the girls heal. And I don't just mean Jedi abilities. What was done to the girls was intended to inflict maximum psychological trauma. They will need to recover from that too - and we could think of no one better to help. Speaking of which, there's another little wrinkle in this that I should share from the outset. I found out about the girls through a holonet posting their brother made."

    "So they do have family..." Trystan said. "In the Empire, I assume?"

    "Yes," Lana replied. "Which is why Theron and I didn't intend to just pack them up and send them home. Their brother is a Sith - both Pureblood, and by profession. He recently passed his trials on Korriban, and was brought by his master to Dromund Kaas. The brother poses no danger to the girls. He seems to care about them very genuinely. I invited him to Rishi, so he can reconnect with them."

    "But you don't plan to send them home with him?" Felix asked, curious.

    Lana shook her head. "Only if he insists. But I think he won't. His concern is for them to be safe, and that won't be possible on Dromund Kaas. He'll know that better than anyone. They'd be shipped straight off to Korriban if they're able to get on their feet, and left to rot if not. Kaas City isn't exactly rich with therapists or civilian medical clinics."

    Trystan nodded experienced acknowledgement of that.

    Lana went on, "I had a bit of an ulterior motive for bringing him here, rather than meeting him in Kaas City. I did some background research on the brother, and he seems to be in a rather tight spot. He's apprenticed to a very harsh man even by Sith standards, and seems to be on very thin ice with his master. He's young. Only twenty-one. His future is... not looking bright, if he stays on his present course. Could you speak to him? Could you.... do what you do?"

    Siralai looked a bit amused at this description, but nodded. "Yes. I will do what I do."
    Last edited by Monkey Kitty; 04-27-2020 at 10:47 AM.

  5. #25
    Pyrran Onyk

    The trip to Rishi did nothing for Pyrran's nerves. Before leaving, he'd hastily dashed off a holomail to his master saying he needed to leave for a short time on urgent personal business. That... had not been well received. The response had been terse, the threats barely veiled as his master demanded that he return to Dromund Kaas immediately. Pyrran deleted the message after merely skimming it. This would have consequences for him. Maybe dire ones. But he had to save his sisters. He was all they had. He couldn't let them down.

    Finding out information about Lana Beniko didn't improve his mood. She wasn't hard to learn about. Words like "Sith" and "Imperial Intelligence" immediately caught his eye on the holonet. The first was potentially concerning but to be expected. The latter... could be a death sentence on its own. Put together, Pyrran wondered if he had finally strayed too far, and his overlords had decided to end him. The only thing that made him question that there was anything more than murder in store for him was why they would bother luring him to a neutral world. He lived in the heart of the Empire, after all - easiest to take him out in Kaas City where Imperial Intelligence had completely free reign, rather than send him on some wild goose chase to somewhere the locals had equally little love for both the Empire and the Republic. The fact that it was Rishi gave him a small glimmer of hope that his sisters were really waiting for him; Rishi made so little sense otherwise.

    Still, he wanted to make sure there were no misunderstandings.

    "You don't have to do this, Vette," Pyrran told her gravely. "I think there's a high likelihood it's a trap. You may be risking your life if you come along. You can just take the ship and go. I'll find my own way back to Dromund Kaas after it's over..."

    But the Twi'lek already had her hands on her hips and a defiant set of her chin. "Of course I'm coming along! We're a team! What would you do without me?"

    She was more right about that than she knew, Pyrran admitted to himself.

    Vette went on, "If it's a trap, we'll handle it. And if it's not, I wanna be there when we find your sisters."

    Pyrran tried to hide what a relief that was, but she knew him too well. As a modicum of tension eased from his body and she saw how just tightly he'd been wound up, she hugged him.

    It was the first time such a thing had occurred. Pyrran was scrupulously careful about avoiding unnecessary physical contact with Vette. He was all too aware of the power dynamics in their respective positions, and the last thing he wanted was to make her uncomfortable.

    Not that he didn't want to be close to her. Quite the opposite. He loved her. He could admit that to himself... but not to her. Never to her. It wasn't rejection that he feared. He could have handled that. No, he was afraid that she would go along with it because she felt she had no choice. That she would say yes to him because an unwanted relationship with him was slightly less distasteful than the perceived alternatives. He didn't want to be the lesser of evils.

    But the hug... the hug felt good. He hadn't realized how much he needed comfort until her arms encircled him.

    "Thank you," he said, sounding a little choked up. "Your support... means more than I can say."

    "We can do this!" Vette promised him. "But we better be careful. Start with the usual charade - mean scary Sith lord and his obedient little fawning Twi'lek slave."

    "Just don't get too obedient," he joked lightly. "It'll be creepy and I won't even recognize you."

    "Oh, I don't think you need to worry about me getting too domesticated just yet," she joked back with a grin. "You have my solemn word that I will never stop giving you a hard time."

    "Good," Pyrran replied - and meant it.
    Last edited by Monkey Kitty; 04-27-2020 at 08:01 PM.

  6. #26
    Count / Countess Quaxo9 is offline Quaxo9's Avatar
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    Jun 2004
    The Great White North
    Neva Xolte

    She'd left the Mahr's that night with heart heavy and still pounding madly in her ears. Sleep didn't come easily and it was plagued with images of the broken bodies of two young Sith girls and her own plots of vengeance. The latter bit surprised her. Neva was never the type to go looking for a fight or carry a grudge, but here she was plotting the demise of someone she'd never met. That unsettled her and sent her pacing through her ship until the morning light. It was probably because her blood was running hot from the sudden push in training - she allowed that thought to be truth and put the matter out of her mind. Today, she had to train and she had to fight.

    A swim loosened her muscles and she ate a light breakfast before heading to the training grounds. She sparred a few light matches, nothing crazy, reserving her energy for the afternoon. She would have been wise to take the time of day into account. The sun beat down on the pit, causing the sand to hit lava-like temperatures. Not wanting to hand over a weakness, she hadn't worn her sunglasses and was regretting it as she squinted at her goggled opponent. There were a few things that had been left out of the orientation. Like the ravenous crowd, for example, and the fact that at the start of each match, weapons were selected based on a spin of the wheel by that match's chief benefactor. The sun overhead wasn't the only star cast against her.

    She managed to get back to the ship without wounding her pride much further. Her opponent's victory stung more than the burns inflicted on her skin. The strategic hits she had made and clean strikes on his person were momentarily forgotten as she recalled all the missteps and missed opportunities. It wasn't wallowing - it was necessary for growth. Neva's face certainly didn't reflect that of someone who was moping. Grim determination made her features all the more savage, which earned her a wide berth on the route back to her ship. She showered. Treated and bound her injuries. Stretched out. Rested.

    Walking along the beach to the Mahr's, she felt surprisingly rested. She should have been physically resting, as she'd been asked to put in a match that night as part of a 'showdown', or whatever they called it. Still, she wanted to check in with her friends and check on the new kids. There was time enough to get ready for the night. The laughter of the Mahr kids put a smile on her own face as she approached. Her stair climb was a little on the slow side, but her smile never dipped as she greeted everyone inside. It was funny how she felt just as much at home here as she did on her ship. Easing herself down onto a stool, she turned to Siralai.

    "So, how are they doing today? Big bro turn up yet?"

  7. #27
    Pyrran Onyk

    Pyrran had never been to Rishi before. Vette had a better sense of direction than he did, but it wouldn't fit their masquerade for her to take the lead, so he just bumbled along, trying to figure out how to get in contact with Lana Beniko without drawing undue attention.

    He wished he'd worn lighter clothing - or at least some lighter colors. His clothing befitted a Sith of his station, but sweat was dripping down the back of his neck. Maybe they could go swimming later? He wondered if Vette liked to swim. The subject had never come up.

    They passed some sort of arena - a combat club, it seemed, but apparently a nonlethal one. Pyrran had no intention of going inside; blood sports were not of interest to him, and he had no time for diversions. He needed to find out about his sisters as quickly as possible. A shady-looking merchant leaning against a nearby lamppost seemed to have identified him as a potential mark nonetheless, though. The stranger peeled himself away from the post and sidled out of the shade to fall in step with Pyrran, just ahead of Vette.

    "You going to the match, m'lord?" the peddler asked.

    Pyrran shook his head. "Perhaps later," he replied, lengthening his steps to try to avoid getting locked in conversation.

    But the man was not so easily deterred. "Pretty Twi'lek you got there. I could find a good buyer for her in no time flat. What do you say? I'll make you a good deal."

    "She's not for sale." It was all Pyrran could do to keep his voice calm. He wanted nothing more than to punch the man - but that wouldn't do. There were too many people around. Impulsive violence would start something he probably couldn't finish... putting both Vette and his sisters at risk. He kept walking.

    "Hey, I don't blame you. Hang on to what you've got, right?" The man persisted, "You know what's more fun than a Twi'lek girl?"

    "I can't even begin to imagine," Pyrran replied in a tone that heavily implied that he could not care less what the answer was.

    "The only thing that's better is two of 'em," the man said with a wicked grin. "I could sell you another. Make you a pair of 'em."

    Pyrran's heart was beating faster. He couldn't start a fight... but he also didn't want this man to go abduct some poor Twi'lek woman off the street to fulfill what he imagined was Pyrran's shopping order. "No, thank you. I really have no need of another slave."

    "You sure?" the man replied, sounding a little downcast. "She's real pretty..."

    Pyrran almost ran into a column, startled as he was. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Vette go pale. Slavery wasn't technically legal on Rishi, as a neutral world... but it happened in the shadows, in places like this. So this man was an actual slaver, not just a would-be one. He had some Twi'lek woman hostage already. Pyrran's hands went to his lightsabers. But he looked around again... and knew he couldn't. One Sith apprentice couldn't take on this many people, and he wasn't sure anyone would take his side.

    "Fine," he said. "Let me see her."

    He didn't want to look. But he had to at least pretend to examine the 'merchandise.' "How old is she?" he asked in a grim monotone.

    "Eighteen," the man replied - just a beat too fast.

    I doubt that, Pyrran thought, and cursed his rotten luck. Why couldn't he just walk away?

    "Fine. You've convinced me. I'll take her. What's your price?"

    A few moments later, Pyrran was short a lot of credits and had an extra Twi'lek. The man grinned as he ambled back to his post. "Pleasure doing business with ya, m'lord!" he called to Pyrran amiably.

  8. #28
    Siralai Mahr

    "The girls' condition is improving," Siralai replied. She indicated the water pitcher and a glass, asking if Neva wanted a drink. "They've both woken up a few times. They're still resting - but not unconscious anymore, which is a major step in the right direction. As far as we can tell, they no longer have a connection to whoever has been draining them, thanks to Visper's shield. Neither of them have spoken yet. That may take time. Theron stopped by last night to update us on the search for the culprits, but that's still slow going too."

    Jasper was a little awkward and tongue-tied around Theron during his visit, Siralai had noticed. Theron didnít seem quite sure how to respond Ė but he was also giving Jasper a lot more attention than you would give someone you wanted to discourage. Before he left, Theron asked Jasper a complicated technical question that could only be answered by going to look at the speeder bikes together, and Siralai began to suspect that Theronís obstacle was also awkwardness, not lack of interest. Well, good for them if so. Jasper deserved to be happy.

    To answer Neva's other question, Siralai replied, "Nothing from the brother yet. Based on the travel time from Dromund Kaas, I would assume we'll hear from him at any--"

    As if in response to her words, her holocom chimed. Siralai opened the display. "Hi, Theron," she said. "Any news?"

    "Uh. Yeah. You could say that." The image showed Theron glance behind him briefly, then return to his call with Siralai, speaking in a lower voice. "Your Sith is here. And he... definitely laid his cards on the table from the get-go. He showed up with a Twi'lek slave girl trailing him, and the first thing he did after stepping off his ship was buy another one. If Lana encouraged him to have fun on Rishi, could you ask her not to do that next time? Because this is getting a little complicated."

    Siralai wasn't sure what to make of this. She'd been starting to form an image of the young man in her mind. A desperate apprentice, trying to escape the evil he was steeped in. But this behavior... suggested the opposite of a desire to escape.

    "I'll come... deal with it." Siralai didn't specify how she was going to do that, because she honestly had no idea. She would just have to trust in the Force, heed her emotions, and wing it.

    "Thanks. If you could stop him from abusing slaves on our watch, I'd appreciate it." Theron's tone was light - typical of him, in such situations - but Siralai could tell he was upset too. "He's down on the beach by the pier. As soon as you can get here would be great."

    Siralai nodded. "See you soon," she promised. Turning to Neva, she asked, "Do you want to come, or do you have other things going on?"

  9. #29
    Pyrran Onyk

    As the adrenaline of the encounter wore off, thoughts of What am I going to do? increased exponentially in Pyrran's mind. How was he supposed to take responsibility for another person? This Twi'lek girl was young, truly a girl rather than a woman - maybe a little older than his sisters, but not by much. They were already going to be hard-pressed to find room for twin teens in the apartment, let alone a third... and that one a stranger. How were he and Vette going to pay to feed all these people? And was bringing her to Dromund Kaas even an option? Even giving her his personal protection as he had Vette, she would be mired in slavery forever if she ended up on Empire soil. Maybe he could find some neutral world and leave her there - but how would he guarantee her safety? He hadn't bought her out of slavery just to see her thrown back into the slave pens as soon as his back was turned.

    It didn't help that she was clearly, utterly terrified of him. That was to be expected, of course. Anyone would fear the person they had just been told owned them, body and soul. And he was a Sith, to boot. He knew the sort of stories she would have heard. And that reputation was... not unearned.

    Once they had moved away from the crowd, he told the girl, "We need to talk. Let's go down on the beach."

    He couldn't let anyone overhear what he was about to say. Any bystanders watching them go off together would assume he was planning to give his new purchase a harsh lesson on obedience - or worse. But that could not have been farther from the truth.

    "What's your name?" he asked when the three of them stood alone in the shade of a stand of palm trees.

    "Evanni, master," the girl whispered, staring at the ground.

    "Nice to meet you, Evanni. We won't be having any of this 'master' talk, though. My name is Pyrran. This is Vette. I need you to understand that I am not going to hurt you. I know you don't believe me. But you'll see in time. Try not to be afraid. You are not property. I bought you from that man to protect you. I'm going to make sure you're safe."

    How exactly he was going to do that, he had no idea. But he would. Somehow.

    Reaching slowly toward her, Pyrran said, "I'm going to take off your shock collar now..."

    But she flinched instinctively, and he withdrew his hand.

    "Never mind," he corrected. "Change of plans." He tossed the collar controller to Vette, and said, "Can you take it off her instead, please?"

    Vette nodded, and Evanni seemed much less frightened of letting another Twi'lek approach her. Once the collar was off, she looked relieved. Truth be told, Pyrran was too. The metal around her neck was like a weight on his own heart, accusing him of being the source of her oppression. Not that it still wasn't true, with the collar off. He couldn't change what he was.

    "Now then, Evanni. I... suppose have some things we need to figure out..."
    Last edited by Monkey Kitty; 04-29-2020 at 04:56 PM.

  10. #30
    Count / Countess Quaxo9 is offline Quaxo9's Avatar
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    Jun 2004
    The Great White North
    Neva Xolte

    She gratefully helped herself to several glasses of water and nodded in response to Siralai's positive report. It was better than she'd expected, really - last night they'd looked nearly gone and now they were awake. Hopefully they'd be able to keep making those steps back to being healthy kids. When Theron popped into view via holo, she listened with interest. She couldn't help but allow herself a snort of disgust. Slavery was never something she could support - and barely tolerated out of courtesy for her life when in the company of slave masters. Mostly, she went out of her way to avoid being near such cretins and when opportunity showed itself, released a few people here and there. It wasn't much, but it was what she could do. And now, it seemed, another opportunity presented itself.

    "I have a date tonight, but I have a few hours until then - I'm with you." She paused, then clarified, "Not a date, date. I joined a gym - I'm slotted for a match tonight." Her physical state likely told Siralai all she needed to know about Neva's "gym", but the zabrak's nonchalance suggested nothing out of what she would consider the ordinary. "I should say, though, that I'm not supposed to fight outside the gym until my matches are done - I signed a waiver. If something nasty goes down, of course I'll back you up, but I'm not planning on starting anything. You know, unless something needs to be started."

    As they approached the deserted area of beach and the party in question came into view, Neva was regretting not bringing a blaster. At least she'd look a little more threatening - and maybe convince the Sith not to fight based on her bark rather than bite.

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