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  1. #41
    Vette

    Vette accepted the knife and fruit, and carved the melon with a practiced hand. Apparently this wasn't her first experience with this particular exotic fruit. She passed slices to Siralai and Neva.

    "That's kind of you to offer," Vette said. "Really. Not a lot of people would bother getting involved like that. But... I'm fine. I really am."

    She glanced around reflexively, careful not to be overheard. No one else seemed to be paying attention. She internally debated what to say. How much to say. But if the Zabrak cared enough to offer to help, surely the truth wasn't a present danger.

    "I'm not really a slave. I used to be. Pyrran's master gave me to him as a gift. But Pyrran never... he didn't treat me that way. Ever. He's always been kind to me. He's always treated me like an equal. No... more than that. He puts me above himself, without even thinking about it. He's a good man. Too good, sometimes; that can get him in trouble. But I promise you, he's not hurting me. I'm not scared of him. I'm not his slave. We have to act like I am, because of other people. But I'm not a prisoner. I could leave any time I want. I stay with him because I choose to. We're a team. We're friends."

    She looked at Neva and Siralai appraisingly. Should she leave it at that? Maybe she could at least test the waters...

    "There's one thing, though. Pyrran won't treat Evanni as a slave, either. He would be kind to her. Unfailingly kind. But the thing that worries me is... he's taking on so much responsibility. He would never complain about it. I don't think he would ever ask for help - not for himself. I'm just not sure how he's going to manage taking care of all three of them. It's a lot, and he's pretty young himself. Maybe... if you really want to help, that's where it's needed. Not for me. Not to protect Evanni - she doesn't need protecting from him. But to help him give the three of them a good life."

    "Of course we'll help," Siralai promised.
    "Sleep to dream, and we dream to live..." -Great Big Sea

  2. #42
    Pyrran Onyk

    Vanity leaned her head against her brother's shoulder. "Are we going back to Father?" she asked in a soft, timid voice.

    Pyrran shook his head. "No. We're never going back to Father. You don't have to have anything to do with that man anymore. We'll figure things out on our own from now on."

    "Good," Vanity said, still in a whisper but sounding more reassured.

    Pyrran felt a stab of guilt. He should have taken the girls and fled long ago. But how could he have done that? He'd been a child himself for most of it. Where could they have gone? How could he have kept them safe? Even with these questions unanswered, Pyrran hated himself for not finding some way to do more. He'd tried to protect them as best he could in their father's house - to become the sole target of his father's anger, to distract the rages, to take as many of the beatings himself as possible. It hadn't been enough. The girls hadn't been fully spared the violence, or the resulting emotional scars. And for that, he blamed himself.

    With his thoughts elsewhere, he watched idly as Shalmus walked by with a plant he'd just dug up and put in a small pot. The boy was distracted by his gardening adventures and wasn't watching where he was walking; he tripped on the door frame and tumbled, landing on the floor with the broken plant pot beneath him. Tears welled in Shalmus' eyes and started to roll down his cheeks.

    Pyrran's breath caught, and although he said nothing, he felt both of his sisters tense beside him. "It's alright," he whispered to the twins. "Just look away."

    Should he intervene? Could he intervene? He reminded himself sternly that he couldn't save everyone. It seemed inevitable that Shalmus would be beaten - both for breaking the plant pot, and for crying afterward. Pyrran felt for the little boy... but would he be able to stop this? Or would he make it worse if he tried? Perhaps it was better to get it over with than to risk letting more of the parents' anger build up...

    Even as Pyrran was trying to figure out what to do, Trystan noticed what was going on. Pyrran reflexively shifted so he could protect his sisters if the situation spilled over. But Trystan... wasn't doing what Pyrran expected. Trystan helped Shalmus up, wiped his tears away, and told him he was going to be okay. He cleaned and bandaged the scrapes on his son's palms, then helped him clean up the mess and find a new pot for his plant. Within moments, Shalmus was smiling and cheerful again, sweeping pottery shards and dirt into the dust pan and then putting careful thought into which pot would make the best replacement.

    Pyrran was dumbfounded. He had just assumed a beating was imminent; that was what his own father would have done, without hesitation. For the clumsiness, and because Sith weren't supposed to cry - and boys weren't supposed to cry. Pyrran couldn't help imagining how different their lives would have been. How differently they would see the world if they had memories like this, instead of the feeling of their father's fists.

    It was too late for Pyrran to know what that life would have been like. But his sisters were still children. He would make this happen for them. Somehow.
    Last edited by Monkey Kitty; 05-10-2020 at 07:55 AM.

  3. #43
    Count / Countess Quaxo9 is offline Quaxo9's Avatar
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    Neva Xolte

    So that was it. That was the reason for the Twi'lek's stance earlier on the beach and for her casual disposition now. Neva accepted the slice of fruit gratefully and sat back to listen to the rest of Vette's story. Interesting.

    "I'm glad that you are in a good situation. If I might make an observation - your friend is very lucky that his sisters ended up here. There are none better than the Mahrs in the way of helping." Having heard their life story, how they acquired two Sith children, their work for people they did not know - yes, the Mahrs were very much impressive in the way of helping. "I don't know how they do it, really."

    Neva chuckled to herself and pushed off the stool to stand and stretch. "I have a match later today - I'm trying to get the obligatory ones out of the way as quickly as possible so if we need to head somewhere, I'll be free to go. If everyone's settled and you want to come watch, I'll send coordinates to your holo." Her grin turned a bit savage, "Apparently I go up against some hotshot today. Should be fun. Tickets at the door."

    At that, she settled herself back down on the stool - clearly in no rush to leave. Today, she was just happy to be here with the people who were quickly becoming like family.
    Winner of the dubious Vaarsuvius Award for Verbousness!

    I support altruism.

  4. #44
    Count / Countess Quaxo9 is offline Quaxo9's Avatar
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    Teizi Lin

    The ship shuddered and tossed erratically, the landing gear groaning under the weight of a heavy landing. Dallyn fairly flew into the cockpit, breathless and clutching at the consoles as he passed.

    "Master, you told me that..."

    "That I would wake you when we arrived." Teizi finished, the firmness with which she disengaged from the controls the only evidence that she was aware of the poor landing. "We've arrived."

    "Surprisingly alive." the Padawan breathed as he plunked down and began checking the landing permits. Already there was a fine to be paid for damages. He breathed a sigh of regret for his ill-timed rest. Still. the ship was in one piece and neither of them were injured, so he considered a simple fine an improvement.

    "The reason for our rather...sudden landing was that this is the area where I lost the signal from the other ship."

    "Interference?"

    "Perhaps. Or they found the tracer. We'll have to act quickly. I want you to try to ascertain where exactly that ship landed and get the identity of the occupant - or occupants - from their records. I am going to see if I can pick up the trail on the ground. With any luck, there will be some Republic operatives or SIS active in the area. They may have information on our quarry or on these rumours the General spoke of." Teizi was already tucking her personal holo into her belt and making ready to leave. "Get in touch with me when you find something. May the Force be with us."

    Dallyn nodded and began the work he excelled at - data slicing. If the tracer was still active, he'd find the signal buried in the mess of the busy spaceport. Teizi walked out the door into the bright sun and paused to look around. A few dock hands had begun approaching, hoping for work, but seemed to disappear like mirages as they noticed the owner was a Jedi. There was really no hiding it, after all. Teizi's lightsabers were hanging out in the open as she wore no robe, nor did she have a hood to hide her features. Her bearing was unmistakable. After a moment of what seemed to be indecision, Teizi started walking in the direction of what looked to be a market. Merchants made good informants.

  5. #45
    Breakfast was a leisurely affair, with plenty of chitchat and anecdotes of past adventures. Vette told the group a story about a particularly exciting treasure hunt, with Pyrran chiming in occasionally.

    "...So it seemed like we were finally going to escape!" Vette went on with a dramatic arm gesture. "But then genius Sith boy here decided that we'd fill the oil barrels with kernels to make a massive explosion of popcorn as a distraction..."

    Trystan tensed in his chair, concerned about the young Sith lord's reaction to this seeming disrespect. He was prepared to leap into action, shielding Vette from harm if Pyrran made a move to attack her for her insolence.

    But Pyrran didn't stir from his relaxed posture, comfortably draped in his chair. In fact he looked... amused. Trystan was surprised - pleasantly so.

    "That was not a bad idea, Vette," Pyrran replied with a chuckle. "I just didn't count on the eels..."

    "Sure, sure." Vette rolled her eyes with good-natured teasing. "No one ever counts on the eels..."

    As they finished their food and Siralai poured another cup of caf for those who wanted it, the conversation took a more serious turn.

    Visper had not been quite sure how to bring up the subject of potentially adopting Evanni. What order did you approach things in? Ask Pyrran for permission? Ask Evanni if she even wanted to be adopted in the first place? Ask the others for their blessing? It seemed every step should have another before it; there was no clear starting point. She had been watching Evanni out of the corner of her eye all morning, waiting for the opportune moment - but it never came. Finally, she decided the easiest solution to the dilemma was just to address everybody at the same time.

    "Can we... talk about Evanni's future?" Visper asked hesitantly.

    Evanni stared down at the table, looking resigned. Of course, she had known last night's respite wouldn't last forever. It had been pleasant to have a friend, to have the temporary illusion of a normal life - but she couldn't pretend to be just like everyone else for long. She was owned. She waited silently to see what new future would be assigned to her.

    Pyrran, meanwhile, looked panicked. He was supposed to have a plan for this. He'd been trying to plan. But no clever ideas had yet presented themselves. "Erm... well. I don't think Dromund Kaas is a good option. I thought maybe... a school? On some neutral world...?" He was flailing, kicking himself for not being more self-assured. For sounding like he had no idea what he was talking about. Which to be frank, he didn't.

    "Well," Visper said cautiously. "Felix and I wanted to offer our home as an option. If you would want to stay with us, Evanni?"

    Evanni looked up and gave them a cautious, measured glance - especially Felix. "What do I have to do?" she asked in a carefully neutral tone.

    "You don't have to do anything," Visper said. "We'd give you a home. And Pyrran is right that you should go to school. If you ever wanted... we could adopt you."

    "Adopt me?" Evanni repeated. She knew the meaning of the word 'adopt,' but wasn't quite sure how it would apply to her.

    "Yes, adopt you..." Visper replied nervously.

    "That would mean you would be our daughter," Felix clarified. "If you ever want to. But you don't have to. You can stay with us either way. You'll be safe with us. We would never hurt you. I promise."

    Evanni was not quite sure what to make of this. Of the options on the table, though, this seemed the most promising. "Okay," she replied.

  6. #46
    Count / Countess Quaxo9 is offline Quaxo9's Avatar
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    Neva Xolte

    Neva was fully enthralled by tales of treasure-hunting derring-do. The two of them made quite the pair, really. It was funny, but she hadn't quite pictured Sith going out and having fun. Perhaps it was because she tended to run into Sith while on the job...when they were also on the job. The beach was definitely a better way to meet people. Though, her eyes drifted over to the Mahr family, sometimes you lucked out and met good people while on the job too.

    Speaking of good people you meet on vacation...Neva was a bit surprised by Visper's question, though clearly not as much as Pyrran was. Poor guy didn't know what he was getting into buying a slave girl he never intended to treat a slave. Evanni didn't seem to know exactly what o think, which was much less surprising. Kid had probably grown up in the trade.

    "It's a good deal, kid." Neva butted in, leaning over so she could make eye contact with the young Twi'lek. "Family is kind of the best thing ever. And these two? Great people. They're good for their word. Congrats!"

    While not the most eloquent speech, it was heartfelt. After all, the girl wasn't all that much a 'kid', but she hoped that in some way she'd get to experience some of what being a daughter felt like. Being cared for, looked out for, protected, taught...all those good things. She drained the rest of her caf and lifted herself off her stool to carry the cup to the wash basin, ruffling Shalmus' hair along the way. "Good luck with your plant, guy." she whispered. She loved when kids took an interest in things and wanted to care for them on their own. Plants - droids - animals - whatever. It was healthy.

    "Alright - I gotta head - maybe see some of you later, hey? " She gave the lot finger guns as she walked backwards out the door into the sunlight. Time to come up with a strategy to beat the heat - and her opponent.

  7. #47
    Pyrran was embarrassed to admit how relieved he was. It wasn't that he didn't want to care for Evanni himself. Although his decision to pay for her freedom had been neither well-planned nor fully considered, he genuinely wanted what was best for the girl. He was smart enough, though, to understand that the best for her was beyond what he could provide.

    "Thank you!" He told Visper and Felix sincerely. They seemed like good people. They would provide a good home for her. A simple thanks didn't seem like enough, but it was the best he could do.

    He excused himself, and followed Neva out into the sunlight of the advancing morning. "Excuse me!" he said. "I know you have to go, and I won't keep you. But I just wanted to say thank you. For what you tried to do for Vette, and for Evanni. I'm grateful that you had their backs. Good luck with your match!"

    Visper and Felix were practically walking on air - elated at the thought of being parents. Siralai smiled, seeing how happy they were. Evanni still seemed rather baffled by the whole thing, but that was to be expected. Siralai was sure that with time, once she'd actually been able to experience her new life, Evanni would be very pleased with where she had landed.

    It was Siralai, Rossi, and Lana who showed up in the stands to watch Neva's match - Siralai having talked Lana and Theron into taking a break from their investigation before they wore themselves into the ground. Lana had agreed... only on the condition that she would go along to watch Siralai and Rossi's backs. Theron had decided to take a break on the beach; Siralai suspected that the fact that Jasper was also spending the day down by the shore was perhaps more than a coincidence.

    Yes, it was going to be an interesting day...

    ***

    Gaius was in a panic. When he had returned to the cottage and discovered that his expensive purchases were gone, he'd been beside himself. He assumed they had escaped, but quickly realized that was impossible. Someone must have stolen them.

    He was shocked and angry that he had been robbed!

    Asking around town had yielded two potential suspects. Both Sith. Great. How exactly was he supposed to fight Sith, in his weakened state? What was he supposed to do? Hope a convenient Jedi came by?

    As impossible as it would have been to imagine, the situation got worse for Gaius. Abruptly, he felt his connection to the first twin disappear, as if severed cleanly by a knife. How was that possible? Even has he checked his cybernetics and ensured they were in working order, there was a second severing and he lost his energy tie to the other twin.

    He could no longer call on their power at all!

    And he had matches scheduled...

    Of course, he wasn't helpless. Gaius was a trained physical combatant, and his height and bulk exceeded those of many of his competitors. But the loss of his edge... unacceptable. The Sith who had robbed him were going to pay.

  8. #48
    Count / Countess Quaxo9 is offline Quaxo9's Avatar
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    Teizi Lin

    It seemed that the General had been correct. According to the locals, Rishi was all but crawling with Sith. Of course, if she'd seen any herself, it would have been more believable. Perhaps the locals were looking for some Jedi assistance and thought that the only way to keep her interest was to feign a Sith invasion. She found the crowds oppressive and made her escape through the seemingly one open avenue which led to a somewhat quieter stretch of beach. As she stood under the palm, stilling herself and readying to reach out with the Force for a more intuitive search, a small voice echoed at her elbow.

    "Excuse me? Master Jedi? Ma'am?"

    Teizi opened her eyes and looked down at the small girl who gasped lightly and backed away from her. A familiar pang touched her heart, but outwardly the Jedi made no effort to soften her features. The girl swallowed and seemed emboldened by the attention, as stony as it was. "Are you looking for the scary Sith man?"

    "I may be. What can you tell me about him?" Her tone was neutral even as her response was carefully parsed. After a moment, she had some interesting information and a heading. A Jedi had met with the Sith and his slave girls...and they had gone peacefully further down the beach. Now her curiosity was piqued. A planet that seemed to think it was over run with Sith, yet no Sith to speak of, and now a sighting of one with a Jedi? It was almost too much - but it was strange enough that Teizi thought it warranted at least some attempt at follow up.

    Suddenly the rumours made sense.

    Ahead on the beach, was not one but four Sith Purebloods - appearing, for all intents and purposes, to be playing in the sand. Teizi almost stopped and turned around, but she had her orders. Who knew that a Sith could just up and leave battle formation for a beach vacation with his children. She had never thought the Empire to be so...family oriented. It occurred to her that she should attempt something like pleasantries, like a wave or a nod in greeting, but that thought was fleeting as the little group on the beach caught sight of her.

  9. #49
    Pyrran Onyk

    With the healing they had received, Vanity and Apathy seemed well enough to spend some time on the beach. There wasn't much they could do there, weakened and injured as they still were, but they could enjoy the fresh air. Even the calm of the beach was sensory overload after being trapped in darkness and silence, but it seemed to be a welcome one. The girls smiled and trailed their fingers in the sand as they watched the activity going on around them, and were delighted when Shalmus undertook to build them an elaborate sand castle.

    Pyrran was more relaxed than he'd been in a long time, sitting under the beach umbrella with them and watching them experience the simple joys of life again. And speaking of simple joys... he hadn't been quite prepared for the sight of Vette in a bathing suit. Or for her offer to help him rub sunscreen into the difficult-to-reach parts of the backs of his shoulder blades, left exposed by his tank top. He hoped she didn't notice that he was a bit scrawny, without robes to make up for his lack of natural bulk.

    Lulled into a sense of security by the leisurely beach day, Pyrran almost didn't notice the Jedi approaching. When he did, his heart dropped. Did it really have to be here? Did it really have to be now? Could there be no respite - at least for his sisters, if not for him?

    Aside from Siralai and Visper, who had been so inexplicably kind and helpful, Pyrran's experiences with Jedi had generally not been good ones. There was a certain pattern. The Jedi would identify him as a threat, and wait for him to attack. When he didn't, the Jedi would attempt to goad him into striking the first blow, to justify a claim of self-defense. Failing that, the Jedi would accuse all Sith of being deceivers and inherent dangers, and still claim self-defense while going on the attack. Sometimes there were variations, of course. The occasional Jedi who actually stood down and managed cooperation... but also on the negative side, like the one who had tried to provoke Pyrran into an attack by targeting Vette. He would never forget what it felt like to watch her fall. She'd only been temporarily paralyzed - but he hadn't been sure if she was alive until the fight was over. The Jedi had still tried to invoke the moral high ground.

    In a smooth motion, Pyrran rose to his feet. His lightsabers - never far from him - were in his hands, but not ignited. His heart pounded.

    "Jedi," he said warily. "There are children here. There is no need for conflict."

    He wasn't sure how much that would matter, if the children in question were Sith Purebloods. There were certainly times in their shared history when it wouldn't have.

    Pyrran looked reflexively for Vette, making sure she was aware of what was happening and could help him defend his sisters and Shalmus - but of course she was. Vette was rarely caught unawares by anything. In an instant, she was at his side.

    But it wasn't just Vette. Pyrran wasn't used to relying on anyone but her and himself... yet now, there were other allies. He hadn't noticed Visper moving, but suddenly she appeared at his other side, swift and silent. None of the other adults changed their positions, but they were all watching.

    "Hello," Visper said amiably to the newcomer. "I'm Master Visper Averrod-Iresso, of the Jedi Order. How can we help you?"
    Last edited by Monkey Kitty; 05-16-2020 at 10:49 AM.

  10. #50
    Evanni

    Seeing the Jedi, Evanni was scared for a different reason. The Jedi were supposed to be enforcers of law and order in the galaxy... and Evanni knew that Apathy and Vanity were stolen property. Was that why the Jedi had come? To return them to their rightful masters? To their boxes?

    Evanni hoped not. That was no life for anyone. It seemed to her like a fate worse than death.

    But she also worried about her own future. Her hand drifted to the back of her neck, where the shock collar she'd worn for so long was absent. Suddenly she felt very exposed, in the swimming outfit Rossi had given her. Would the Jedi notice she was supposed to have a collar and it was missing? Would Evanni be mistaken for stolen property too? Would they believe Pyrran that he had paid for her? Or... would the Jedi force her to go back to the Hutts?

    She couldn't let that happen. Whatever lay ahead of her with Visper and Felix - and she still wasn't quite clear on that - it was better than what lay behind. She had to get away. To hide. But how, on this stretch of beach?

    An idea came to her. While the Jedi's main focus was presumably on the people with lightsabers, Evanni did her best to fade into the scenery, to become unnoticed. Then she hastily shimmied up a palm tree, scraping her knees the whole way but not caring. She did her best to hide herself in the foliage at the crown - not easy, with red skin, but it was the best plan she had. She couldn't let the Jedi send her back to the Hutts, whatever it took.

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