Varik read enough about Lanthrym to prepare for the cold, yet still, now that he’d arrived his all-weather coat and gloves were sadly inadequate as the sudden chill of the starport hanger took his breath away.
This is a mistake… Varik grimaced inwardly as another grumpy passenger grunted at him to continue stepping down off the boarding ramp. Varik sighed nervously. All this way and this is where I opted to make my fortune? He chided himself. Yes it was remote, yes it had a thriving black market and no imperial garrison, but surely some other world out there also offered tropical sandy beaches and friendly locals. Perhaps he should renegotiate with the smuggler about a longer journey…
The boarding ramp was already rising as he glanced back at the tramp freighter. Varik frowned but expected nothing less. He’d only been here twenty seconds and was already ready to leave. Resignedly, he headed out of the hanger area glancing around observantly as he walked. Of all the starports he’d ever visited, Fuar settlement was the most cramped, miserable, and generally run down that he’d ever laid eyes on.
Yes the usual loading droids, maintenance techs and spacer crews were going about business like anywhere else… but the generally bitter, shivering, dour countenance of all involved complaining about frozen equipment, broken tools and a hundred other gripes was sad to behold.
Even the local starport officials (which was a generous title by the look of them) looked grim, warily eyeing new arrivals for signs of trouble. Varik guessed they didn’t take most of their duties very seriously besides keeping a warm drink handy. Cargo inspections and permits could all be signed off promptly for the right bribe (or possibly avoided altogether with enough intimidation.)
All manner of thugs, thieves, prostitutes and sketchy looking aliens lingered in every which corner; leering, coercing, threatening and cajoling whoever walked past. Of course they spotted him as an off-worlder immediately. Hints of his past in circles of high-business were evident in how he dressed and carried himself. Even so, Varik smirked knowing they had no idea who he really was.
Back in the Core Worlds, the Wulframs of Abregado-Rae bested outer rim trash like this for centuries at their own games. Extortion, slicing, smuggling, espionage, etc. It was all business as usual… until the Empire.
Now he was stuck out here on the fringes of civilized space with only his wits, a blaster, a false name (with accompanying fake ID) and several kilo’s of Ryll spice to pursue a new future with. Still beats arrest by the ISB he admitted, knowing how lucky he was to have got away at all. No doubt several goons in this very spaceport would gladly kill him for what he carried. All the better reason to find a shady establishment to sell it in as soon as possible. He thought matter-of-factly, heading towards a kiosk offering official identification. (Which of course would only be an official version of his fake identification).
As he approached a pair of ladies sauntered over dressed enticingly (which clearly meant they had some sort of heating elements sewn into their skimpy outfits). “Hey stranger, first time on Lanthrym? How about we find a nice warm place to have a drink?”
Varik smiled, playing his handsome charm for all its worth. He was only 26 but these two could barely make 40 between them. “The three of us?” He asked looking over them both.
“Yeah baby, we’re both plenty of fun.” They confirmed sweetly.
“Sorry I couldn’t possibly, I usually start with four and finish with six.” He says shaking his head.
The ladies stare as one of them gasps. “Well, we can ask around and see if our friends…”
Varik cuts her off. “No no that’s just being silly. How many people do you think can possibly share ONE drink?! I need at least four, at a MINIMUM!” He scoffs and steps past as they stare at each other, very confused.
Jeril Rain stumbled down an interior walkway of Fuar Settlement Station with a terrible hangover. Despite the fog of his aching skull he notes the blizzard has abated, affording a view of Lanthrym’s surrounding icy landscape through the transparisteel windows.
With the storm gone, trains should get through. My contact may arrive on time after all, I better get my head right to meet him… Jeril thought as he paused to lean against the wall, shutting his eyes and steadying his mind, allowing the force to flow through him absorbing its healing powers.
Much better! He thinks to himself, blinking away the fog. Damned power-rationing to the climate controls is in effect again… per usual… Jeril cursed inwardly, stuffing his hands deeper into fur-lined pockets of his grey overcoat and quickening his pace a bit to keep his blood moving.
Lanthrym was a poor, miserable world full of poor, miserable inhabitants. Some of the richer mining settlements actually heated their interior corridors to a more tolerable level but Fuar wasn’t one of em. The administrator of this particular station was stingy, even by Lanthrym-standards.
Mining settlements like Fuar excavated beneath craters on Lanthrym’s frozen crust seeking sodium deposits, the only mineral worth anything on this doleful ice-ball. Facilities like this one were only interested in one thing, profit from the misery of its laborers. Heating interior corridors above freezing was a secondary concern. The fact Fuar’s mines were nearly spent didn’t help the cause either. Most miners here rode the Repulsor trains elsewhere for work.
As he reached the boarding lobby for Repulsor-trains Jeril glanced at the status monitor. The arrival of his mysterious guest appeared to be imminent and on schedule. Repulsor-trains were the regular means of travel across Lanthrym due to the frequency and severity of its storms. Airspeeders were a risky prospect at best with winds in excess of 200 kph and temperature drops as low as -60 centigrade.
Occasionally smaller starships, piloted by novices, ignored warning broadcasts on the METOSP channel attempting takeoffs or landings during a storm. Search-parties usually never bothered to search for wreckage or survivors until the storm passed, which might be several days, sometimes weeks. Locals referred to most fools caught in a blizzard as ‘corpsicles’ and pilots as ‘flying corpsicles’.
Even during a calm between the storms the surface of Lanthrym was a treacherous place. Avalanches, hidden-crevasses, and a multitude of dangerous predators kept surface exploration to a minimum (except by droids) Every local Jeril met stayed indoors or underground as much as possible.
Only once did he strike out into the snow-drifts and glaciers on foot seeking help after the Repulsor train he boarded was de-railed by a particularly sudden and violent gust leaving him stranded and many others injured. The creatures he encountered out there kept his lightsaber busy to say the least…
Jeril felt a chill come over him with the memory of that day and unconsciously groped through the hidden slit in his pocket for the hilt of said lightsaber at his waist. Best not to dwell on that… fear leads to the darkside… He reminded himself.
The arrival of the repulsor-train brought his attention back to the present. A throng of miserable laborers stirred around the lobby, many of whom were fiercely-strong, tusked, Gamorreans. At times Jeril envied them, the heavier layers of body-fat around their porcine-bodies served as natural insulation against the cold. They rarely complained as much as the other species.
The trains outer doors opened with a hiss offloading a crowd of several dozen laborers, a few droids, and perhaps a dozen irritable spacers seeking to cross the threshold between the train and the warmth of the facilities interior in vain. As the crowd surged through the boarding gates Jeril finally spotted the elderly off-worlder he was waiting for trailing behind them.
Unfortunately a pair of settlement law enforcement officers also took note of his contact and meandered towards him. The local’s knack for spotting an offworlder never ceased to amaze him. Jeril knew he had to distract them or they’d likely spook his guest into really making a target of himself.
Jeril glanced around and noted a particularly tired-looking tech-specialist clutching a steaming thermos in shivering fingers taking sips while he waited in line to get his facility repair permit. Sorry about this friend Jeril thought as he reached out with the force. As the officers pass by the techie his thermos inexplicably hurls its contents unto the nearest ones chest!
“Ahh! My uniform! You got a problem with the law buddy?!” The Lanthrym Law Enforcement officer curses, reaching for his stun-baton.
The techie grows very pale as the offending thermos clatters and rolls unto the dura-crete floor. “It-it wasn’t me! I swear!” he stammers.
The second law enforcement officer pulls out his stun button reaching over to grab the techie by the collar. “You’ve got some nerve! On your knees!” He orders shoving the tip of the baton into the techies stomach.
The shock debilitates the poor techie instantly. As he collapses several bystanders in the crowd look at the scene with mild-amusement or mild-irritation at the excessive use of force. Meanwhile, Jeril uses the distraction to stroll up to the older man near the boarding gates.
“Lovely weather today isn’t it?” Jeril says in a low voice.
The old man stares suspiciously at Jeril, but answers with a pre-arranged remark of his own. “Only if you prefer the cold to the suns of Rodan III.”
“The suns of Rodan are eclipsed this time of year. Lets go get a drink.” He answers.
The old man nods and falls in beside Jeril as they walk out of the boarding lobby into the same interior corridor Jeril used to enter.
Jeril hands over an identity badge- “Take this… it’s your new ID badge. Forged of course. It gives you access to all the upper levels of the facility as a visiting representative of an offworld mining guild. Nobody likes off-worlders here of course, much less competing mining interests. You shouldn’t be bothered so long as you wear that.”
The old man glances at Jeril. “You don’t have a badge?”
“I don’t need one, I’m a local, or at least I’ve lived here long enough to be considered such. I have ID papers to prove it.” Jeril explains.
The pair continue to walk in silence around the interior corridor until they get to the other side overlooking the huge crater. Near the rim, a dozen starship hanger bays are excavated into the rock shielded from storms by heavy blast-doors.
The old man stares down at the yawning crater pockmarked with at least a dozen mining shafts surrounded by huge loader droids carrying salt-ore to the refinery depot. Jeril notes a twitch in his eye and a tenseness in his face that makes him wonder what this crater reminds him of?
Jeril attempts an ‘Empathy Check’ with the force. (The target is not aware of this mind probe)
Old Man: (Will Save, DC 12: = 19, Saves)
Unfortunately the old mans will is far too strong for Jeril to sense anything besides the obvious. He decides to simply make an inquiry.
“What the matter?”
The old man swallows. “Have you ever been to Derilyn?”
“I’m afraid not.”
“If you do, be sure to visit the ruins of Paran. It has more in common with this crater than it should.” He says with a underlying crack in his voice.
Jeril frowns. “I don’t understand?”
“Paran was Derilyn’s third largest city, the birthplace of Senator Wuxod who dared to speak against the supreme chancellor’s power grab to be emperor. After his mysterious disappearance the emperor targeted our world for ‘reconstruction’. Orbiting Star Destroyers effectively leveled Paran into smoking rubble. We sent aid to the blast sites, looking for survivors. That’s when squadrons of TIE bombers deliberately targeted the helpless civilian shelters, leaving nothing but craters in their wake.”
Jeril lowered his eyes. He didn’t need the force to sense this mans pain. He knew it all too well. “Your part of the resistance aren’t you? That’s why you came here looking to buy arms.”
“Aye, I won’t deny it. Will you help me?”
Jeril pondered his answer carefully. As the right hand man for Sawthawne, a local crime lord, he really wasn’t supposed to offer more help than his boss was willing to give. In this moment however, Jeril felt the sting of guilt piercing his heart. How can I go on avoiding the empire all these years when men like this risk everything to resist them? Jeril took a breath and looked him in the eye. “I will try, but first lets get that drink…” He says gesturing to a spacers bar nearby called ‘The Icebreaker’.
To be Continued_____________