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The Plaza -- Tier City: Valentine's World

        The sheer, vertical face of a great mountain soars from the gently rolling, golden plains, overlooking the city of Tier nestled into the valley below. Its towers, marked by graceful curves and elegant architecture, are the same hue as the pale rock of the steep slopes that gleam in the sunlight, seeming to have been carved straight from the face of the mountain itself, and are capped by colorful domes that in turn mirror the azure of the sky. Through a grand archway carved of shining white stone lies a broad plaza limned on one side by a languidly drifting river fed by cascading waterfalls and glittering rivulets that follow the sharp drops in terrain from the mountain's crest. Organic designs and patterns are carved decoratively into the walls of most of the buildings, and in the plaza itself are larger-than-life statues of lithe figures in elegant and supple poses. On a typical day the plaza is busy with pedestrians, droids, and speeders that whizz past the passersby.

The players: Asene, Izara, Galvin, Malideus

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Asene

This is a young near-human woman, standing about 5'7" tall, with a slender physique, almond-shaped brown eyes set under thick lashes, very fair pale-colored skin, and extremely long dark black hair hanging past her waist. The hair is decorated; braids, beads and jewelry have been woven into it, and it likely takes a rather large amount of time to care for, or even dry. She has a long slender neck as well as dangling silver earrings that match the polish on her nails. She wears no necklace of any sort, but does have a light chain woven through the top of her hair and stretching about her forehead.


She usually prefers full, airy dresses that manage to be simple, as well as elegant, ideally in fabrics that don't stain easily. She often wears practical boots meant for outdoor use.

Izara

        Tall and lanky with long limbs, the woman moves like a predator in calculated steps. A mass of black curls flow in spirals framing her carmel complexion. Her face is oval but long with a strong jaw, prominent chin, exquisite cheekbones, and a slightly high forehead. Her nose fits her face perfectly and her lips are full and plump. Large eyes of aquamarine take in every detail of her surroundings, with arched brows shaped perfectly. That being said, her natural beauty is somewhat challenged by her attitude and unrelenting gaze. This near-human is an Epicantrix but her connection to her culture was severed long ago.

        Clad all in black, her long reaching arms are bare, a loose fitting black tank top over a black bandeau is tucked into leather-belted black canvas pants that are well worn-in. A blaster holster is strapped to her right thigh and a large knife is displayed at her waist on the left side. Her feet are clad in worn black combat-style boots.

Galvin

Throughout the Slice, there are smiles and then there are *smiles*. This fellow is capable of the latter, boasting a wattage the would light up the room and overload any sensor attempting to measure it. Galvin is the very picture of a well polished, easy on the eyes sort of spacefaring human gentleman; standing at a height of roughly five feet and eleven inches in an easy, confident stance with a clean, close shave. Moderately long dark hair is parted and allowed to fall almost naturally. Surely he just woke up that way! Blue eyes sparkle with a youthful exuberance and excitement for all that they manage to capture.

True to form, thus human is clad in the latest styles. A slim pair of dark blue trousers taper into a pair of black boots made from some manner of rare animal hide. A vibrant belt clashes with panache, breaking from the darker colors for a crimson shirt left open at the top for breathability. Topping the look off, he sports a cape of a brighter blue with gold chain, draped over one arm and shoulder. Yes, it is always perfect cape weather in space!

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Dusk is upon the great Tier City, casting the landscape in wonderful tones of purple, pink and blood red. It's not quiet, either; with the festival nearing, the planet just keeps getting busier and busier.

A young woman, cybernetic in nature by the appearance of her head, wanders out from the Ward Bazaar. Thin trails of black smoke follow her, from some sort of item she appears to be smoking. It's long on one end, fat on the other, and burns with small sparks of white crystal.

A quiet sigh is given as the young woman watches the sunset with ease, but sadly, it isn't meant to last.

"YOU!!!"

With a heavy eye roll, she takes a long drag from the bila-stick (a harmless, mild stimulant akin to smoking a cup of espresso), before snuffing it out upon the back of her gloved hand.

"Siika Gast!!!" the angry voice is coming from a spacer, human by the look of him, with glowing red eyes. Near-human it is. The man is stomping toward her, pointing an accusatory finger. "You swindled me!"

Whipping about, the young woman sneers. "Wait..." She lifts a hand, eyeballing a finger. "Doesn't one have to, like, //receive// payment in order to be a swindler?" She waggles her finger back and forth, then points it at the spacer. "Did I miss it? The transfer."

The spacer stops and stares at her, angrily and yet seemingly confused.

"The //credit// transfer!" Siika points at him again. "You know, when you were one cycle late, I figured, okay. But when you hit two, well, you know, it's funny, but it seems like it's //me// getting swindled."


        For as much natural beauty as Valentine's World has to offer, from its thick forests to its fields of tall grass bursting from rich soil, the man in black keeps returning to The Plaza of Tier City, the one place on the planet that defies the natural order and embraces the genius of technical minds. Speeders whiz along designated paths and a few droids wander among the locals, with so many natives garbed in the bright, vibrant colors that mark the beginning of the Grand Festival. The man in black moves among them as if shielded, neither their vibrance nor their exuberance touching him.

        Still carrying his cane and tapping the ground from time to time, the man shifts in his course at the appearance of the cyberneticly enhanced woman. Whether it's the commotion from the 'transaction' or some other aspect that draws his interest is unclear. He is not dressed in the fashion of local law enforcement. He has more the look of a bounty hunter, and his no-nonsense, purposeful stride in her direction invokes the image of a predator stalking its prey.


Asene is here, clad in a very loose-fitting dark purple dress, made out of comfortable fabrics. It even has pockets, and goes down to her ankles. She was looking upwards, towards the clouds and the purple-pink sunset, appreaciating the beauty of it, when the disturbance catches her attention - and the attention of several others, apparently. Her gaze shifts towards the cybernetic woman, and the angry human spacer, she looks at each in turn, her gaze shifting between the two. After a moment, she purses her lips, nodding in appreciation, before stepping forward. "My apologies for interrupting, you two seem to be having a disagreement. Do you require a mediator? I'm more then happy to assist." Her waist-length dark black hair marks her as a native. They tend to be easygoing sorts.

"You fried my nav droid!"

"Mm hmm."

"I'm //stuck// here!"

Siika answers the spacer by flipping her wrist, revealing a small computer interface built into the cybernetic 'bones' that embrace her wrist. A holo springs to life with a messy signature in green. "This is your signature."

The spacer stares at it, dumbly.

A flick of her finger, and the signature is replaced with a whole bunch of Aurebesh in very, very small letters. "This is a service contract. Which you signed." A twist of her thumb, and the text zooms in to a particular article. "This is the 'Anti-Swindler' article, which clearly states that if payment is not received by the chronological end of the second cycle, local time, then the serviced machinery will be rendered inoperable by the servicer. Which, to translate into Idiot-Speak, means that you gave me permission to fry your nav droid if you didn't pay me by yesterday. Which you didn't!"

She throws her hand down to her side, clearly upset.

The spacer is about to retort, but instead, he turns to glare at Asene. "You stay out of this! It ain't your business, honey!"

"Watch your mouth, Slin!" She casts a look to Asene, giving her a brief gesture; hang on, as it would seem, before turning back to the spacer.

"We can take it up with the constable. Or, you can render your payment, plus twenty percent for parts and labor to un-fry your nav droid. Otherwise? Yeah. You're stuck here."

The spacer stares at Siika for a long moment, before begrudgingly retrieving a data pad and punching in some commands.

A happy chirp comes from Siika's wrist, and she forms a smile. "Nice doing business with you." She then turns toward Asene, grinning. "I might still need some mediation later," she remarks, while remaining blissfully unaware that she's being hunted. Surely, this has nothing to do with outsmarting her way into a nice, legitimate paycheck.


        Clusters of local festive goers move at across the path of Malideus, man in black. Without laying a hand or the tip of his cane on any of them, they part in front of him, like the stream cleaving before the prow of a ship. Ten paces away, Malideus stops. His red eyes slide from Siika to tje braided woman approaching. He nods his head at the word 'mediation.' Some kind of Wise Woman? Malideus places the cane in front of him and rests both hands on its head. Even on this strange world with all of its perversions, the man in black knows how to be respectful and do what is Right.

        Quick, purposeful steps carry Galvin on around a corner and closer to people. Glorious people! Salvation! The man's eyes brighten as they take in the scene, even as his hands rapidly set to work. In a quick movement, his cape slides off his shoulder and flutters about in the air as he turns it inside out to reveal and entirely different color! Like a performer on stage, he flicks his wrist to continue the movement so that it spins again and comes to rest around both of his shoulders where he clasps it into place. A sidestep has him sliding on closer to a vendor of various artisanally crafted hats and jewelry. One hand flips a hat end over end as he slides it into place atop his head, it's partner begins taking up a necklace to hold in the air for inspection, and he flashes a smile toward said vendor. "My, my. Such rare finds. My most sincere compliments! Tell me, is all of this locally made?" Blue eyes flash off to the side, taking the briefest of glances back in the direction he had come. Where two larger fellows now emerge in a hurry to then stop and look all about the area. Blast!


"A prudent policy." Asene observes towards Siika. "One that apparently enforces peace upon itself." She nods her head slightly. "Let me know if you do need help later, though it seems you have things well in hand on your own." Her gaze looks warily towards the spacer, but after a moment she nods her head and smiles politely in his direction, not that she's expecting anything but bile in return, or perhaps indifference. Her gaze shifts towards the sky and the distant rivers, before the face paced movements and sidesteps of Galvin catch her eye. "Now that's interesting." she mummers to herself, before shaking her head and refocusing. "Again, my apologies for interrupting. But if you need any mediation later, I'll be happy to help. I'm just waiting for the festival and appreciating the beauty, so its not as if I don't have the time."

Slin the spacer is wandering off toward the docking bays, grumbling to himself. No more problems from him, it would seem; at least not for now.

"Thanks," Siika tells Asene, and her attitude seems to fade in favor of genuine appreciation, on more than just one level. "You kinda have to play smart with folks like that. Always looking for some angle, some way to screw you. So, you gotta think like them, sometimes, and do the screwing first."

It is then that a darkly clad figure catches her eye, and a small gasp might be noticed. She turns and positions herself as if to walk with Asene, with or without her consent, offering a smile. "Maybe you could come along when I go out there to fix up his nav droid? All I did was set his motivator to blow. Nothing bad really, makes a big light show though." She shakes her head. "Hate doing that to a poor droid, but a girl's gotta make a living somehow." She smiles again. "I'm Siika."


        The acknowledgement Siika offers of Malideus's presence sparks the hunter into motion once again. He shifts his cane into his left hand and approaches, his eyes continuing to focus on the Mediator. He cocks his head and listens to Siika's words to Asene. Not as deferential as one of her station would demand, but not outright rude, either.

        "Mother's Honor," Malideus says, addressing Asene with a slight bow. He moves to walk on Siika's other side and addresses his next words to the cybernetic girl. "I require your assistance finding someone."


Assistance in finding someone?! The words cause the hairs on the back of Galvin's neck to stand on end as he hears them from... somewhere, but he plays it as cool as he can at the vendor's makeshift booth. "Truly? Worth every credit, though I confess that space in my case is woefully limited." As the two pursuers move further out toward the festival, Galvin slides around the booth to keep inspecting different items. "Oh my, no this piece clashes. Though, I suppose I am tiring of it..." His cape is off with less fanfare than before and the man turns to smile upon a passing couple. Bowing toward them, he tucks it onto the fellow's shoulder to present it with a flourish of his hand. "My compliments to such young love! May it bring you good fortune on this night and many more!" A step is taken back toward the booth to let the fine young couple continue their evening stroll as he gives the brim of his new hat a tug to settle it at a rakish angle. Which happens to shield his face from those he wishes to avoid.

"Certainly." Asene replies to Siika, not seeming to mind the company but not seeming to have any destination in mind as she walks. "I'd feel nervous about being alone in that situation too." she agrees. "I'm Asene. I-." And she pauses whatever she was going to say when Malidues bows to her. She returns the bow, and is silent as the imposing man addresses Siika. Her gaze flits again towards Galvin, and she smiles slightly, but remains otherwise silent.


        Standing next to the vendor, Galvin takes in a breath and lets out a heavy, wistful sigh, jerking his chin up toward the couple as they wander away. "It's like... releasing a bird, no?" Of course, the pop of color draws the two fellows away and a note of amusement slides into the gambler's smile as he spots them taking the bait. Taking off the hat with a hand, he holds it out and away, turning it over to look at it with the vendor. "Tell me, do you have this in a darker color? Midnight blue, perhaps? I'll stop by tomorrow to check, hmm? Save it for me if you do?" He hands the hat back to the vendor as his other hand drags back across the table of the display and back into his pocket. Withdrawing, with his smile in place, Galvin catches a glimpse of Asene's smile and replies with a sly wink before spinning on a heel and wandering off and away to get lost in the crowds somewhere.

        Something in the way Siika's pace quickens a step at Malideus's presence gives the hunter pause. He cocks his head to one side again, listening, and opening himself to the revelatory power of The True Source. For a brief moment, he can hear the slush-slush of Siika's organic blood moving through her veins, quickening with what he can only imagine is anticipation or fear. It is clear, then. He could press the cybernetic girl for information, but it would be unwanted. And she is not his target. Not yet, anyway.

        With another bow to the one he thinks of as The Mediator, Malideus says, "But I can ask someone else. Mother's Honor." Again, the odd honorific is directed towards Asene as he stops and lets the two walk off together.

        It's then that Malideus turns his crimson gaze towards the vendors. In that moment of perception, that clarifying, crystalizing second of connection and purpose, something else caught Malideus's attention.

        "A thief?" Malideus asks. He begins tapping his cane lightly on the concrete as he strolls purposefully towards Galvin and his colorful cape.


        Weaving in and out of beings gathered before vendor tables and booths, a tall Epicanthix woman with caramel skin is eyeing the goods here and there. Izara pauses at a place selling some kind of tangy meat on a stick and purchases one. With her predator-like movements she pockets the change and tears into it filling her mouth before her comlink goes off. Some grunting and squealing emits from the device and she rolls her big brown eyes. "What? Mmmow much? What's the price for ten?" More noises and a more clear set of numbers are enunciated by the being on the other end of the come. "Offer him eight percent of that. Don't be desperate but we need those parts before the next Mech battle rolls through Orum."

        A bevy of colorful natives in flowing robes pass between Malideus and the colorful Galvin. In the moment of fabric and colors, the bounty hunter loses track of the possible thief. With the sun going below the horizon and the festivities accelerating, several men inhabited the area in similar garb.

        "Not my world. Not my job," Malideus growls. He turns towards another set of vendors, his nose pulling him towards the scent of cooked meat with spices and sauces unfamiliar to him. Surely nothing he would ever ingest -- not in this place -- but he remembers that the one he is pursuing is thin. Perhaps hungry. Perhaps he would find her simply by waiting where there is food.

        He stands not too far from where the Epicanthix has placed herself and rests his hands on the head of his cane. His eyes, glistening red, frequently land on the food in front of her as she works to make it disappear.


        Izara finishes her meaty treat and licks the sauce off of her finger then wipes her hand on her pants. She scowls slightly, looking around the pretty place with the pretty flags and the pretty people selling their pretty wares. The black clad woman unzips her leather jacket, finding it a bit warm. Summarily and Ugnaught runs up to her. "What?!" she addresses the being shortly. "Why are you here and not loading my parts onto the ship, Nugga?" Nugga squeals and grunts as Izara crosses her arms perturb. "Oh, so he's playing it that way? We'll just have to go shopping after hours then," she grumbles, unhappy to think she'd have to liberate a dozen autotracking fire controller units. She send Nugga on his way with a shoeing gesture. "Well, go prep the crew."

        Malideus watches the exchange between Izara and the strange creature. He doesn't understand the grunts and squeals of the Ugnaught language, but the master-servant relationship is clear to the hunter. At the words "prep the crew," Malideus moves forward, stepping around the long limbed woman to stand as he had before: his cane planted in front of him, both hands resting on the wolf-head top.

        "You have a crew." Malideus's voice is like a rockslide, a rumble that erupts from the deepest part of his chest. "You do business. I think you and I can trade services."


        Izara eyes the intruder to her larger than usual personal orbit. She cocks her head to one side letting her dreads fall that direction as she regards the figure. Taking another moment she lifts her feet and plops two black boots onto the table, crossing her feet. "Sorry pal...I don't really run a passenger business, if your looking for a ride." She looks him up and down with a suspicious demeanor. Taking in the fact that every bit of his skin is covered except those red eyes, she clucks her tongue. "What's wrong with you? You got some sort of skin disease. I wouldn't want that on my rig."

        "I have a ship," Malideus rumbles. His eyes narrow as he considers _The Stark Contrast_ with its vines, its tree bark, and its complex root system. "A proper ship," Malideus amends. "And my affliction is my own. You are not one I will share it with."

        The man in black looks down at Izara's boots on the table, a short distance from the greasy plate of food she so recently used. "I am a hunter by trade, and there is one here that may need to be put down. If that's what she chooses. You..." Malideus trails off and gestures with one hand back the way Nugga departed. "You have crew, but not like me. I can offer you my talents for a time, in exchange."


        Izara shrugs off his answer about his 'affliction' and considers the figure where he stands. Not because of the look he gives but because she's a bit bored so this conversation is intriguing, she lowers her heavily clad feet and leans with her elbows on the table. Narrowing her cinnamon eyes she asks, "And what is it you'd expect from me, exactly?" she asks intently. After a beat she adds, "I got no feud with nobody." She rolls her eyes slightly. "Well, not today, anyway."

        Malideus studies Izara, a cold, emotionless assessment taking in her clothing and mannerisms with equal weight. Gruff. Shrewd. Reluctant to commit to battle she knows little about, which makes her wise. Red eyes move once again in the direction of the Ugnaught. Command of a crew always merits consideration.

        "You will not be required to fight," the man in black says. "All I ask is that you bring to me Sarna Valios Starker. We will speak, away from monks and lawmen and other passers-by that might interfere with her destiny. Then, I will help you with a job."


        "So let me get this straight...." Izara begins, now sitting back in her seat and folding her bare arms over her chest. "You want my crew and me...to kidnap some woman...so you can have a conversation with her?" Izara pulls back with a suspicious regard. "Then what? You let her go? What if she fingers us for nabbing her?"

        The man in black squeezes his eyes shut and a trickle of blood leaks down his cheek and over his mask like a macabre tear.

        "Everywhere I go..." Malideus mutters. He opens his eyes, which fill with blood again. "I am not asking you to kidnap her. Talk to her. Bribe her with food, if you like. She is often hungry, I think. I wish to converse with her, but I..." As Malideus trails off, he gestures to his attire, including his hood and mask. "Perhaps I look like someone she shouldn't speak to alone. Do not attempt to kidnap her."

        Malideus's eyes go distant. He remains silent for a moment, seeing something that isn't there. He shakes his head. "I think it would go badly for you if you tried to take her by force."

        Dark brows arch in surprise at the hunter's response but she listens intently. Izara isn't exactly the most approachable type herself, despite her rather average spacer-type garb in comparison to the hunter. "Hey...hey," she says with concern at whatever is going on with those eyes of his, gesturing with her palm downward in his direction. "I didn't mean to hurt yer feeling, buddy. Uh...." Her own brown orbs flicker and she sets herself for a different tack. "What makes you think this woman will talk to me? I'm not exactly a pretty, pretty princess." Izara gestures to herself with the back of her hand. "So you want her to come to you or you just want to know where to find her? You want us to let her know that we're being...what's the word...oh yeah, advocates for you?" She pauses then adds, "So she's the dangerous sort, eh?"

        "I don't know what a pretty princess would look like," Malideus says. He raises a hand and traces something in the air. "From what she's told me, I don't believe she knows what a pretty, pretty princess is, either. If you think that would work as a disguise, it might work."

        Malideus's mind tracks back to the vision from before. Sarna defeated, but not before Malideus was cut down himself. He shakes his head again. "She is dangerous. Cursed, as I am, though she does not see it that way. Forget what I said about deception. She may try the unspeakable and... no. There is no forgiveness for that. You are resourceful. You command a crew. I think you can find a way to convince her to follow you to your ship without resorting to violence."

        Izara considers for a long quiet moment. Slowly she nods. "Alright. I'll give it a shot," she says finally. She checks her chrono, an essential piece for one who lives on a space station. Making an assumption about the being behind the mask, judging him for his walking stick she says, "Okay old man. You got a holo of this woman? C'mon...day's a wasting!" She grabs the dish her meat stick was on and tosses it into a receptacle within easy reach then wipes some sauce off her face with the back of her hand. "Oh! And then...." The woman grins widely. "You'll owe me, right?"

        The visible portion of Malideus's brow draws down into a V at the words "old man." Old! But then, this strange alien can't know that he is a Selas. She probably doesn't even know what a Selas is, or how there is no such thing as an old Selas. The thought sobers him, and he relaxes.

        "Where I am from..." Malideus says, his gravelly voice taking on the qualities of a gaffer getting ready to offer a wise lecture. Perhaps he WAS getting old. He clears his throat. "Where I am from, we do not need your technological poison to describe someone. We have sharp eyes and keen minds. I will tell you what Sarna Valios Starker looks like, and that will be enough."

        Malideus holds his hand at a hand comparable with his shoulders, than raises it a few inches. "About this height. Young enough that she might still climb trees, but old enough that she should have received her True Name through the Sacred Rite. Eyes with the qualities of leaves in the Spring. Dark hair unbraided. And she is always followed by a small droid, a detestable abomination in the eyes of the All Mother. That should be a good enough description for anyone to find her."


        The near-human woman wipes her nose with a knuckle then sniffs. "Cool. My ship is the the Paradise. It's on the beach." This world really should get a proper landing area. All that sand can't be good for her landing gear. It gets everywhere! She stands to her full height and her lanky form is taller than she looked sitting down, about half a head above the hunter himself. She pulls her comlink from a pocket and thumbs it on. "Slev. There's a guy gonna show up. Let him in and have him wait in the crew room. I'll be there eventually." Turning off her com she nods at the hunter. "Just tell 'em Izara sent you." With that she scans the plaza and begins her search, beginning to walk away. "Let's find this Sarna..."

        With the agreement seemingly settled, Malideus bows his head to Izara as she begins her search. In another time and place, he might have scooped dirt into his palm and before clasping Izara's, the deeds and agreement consecrated by the All Mother. Malideus looks down at his gloved hand, then beyond it to the concrete at his feet, covered in the detritus of the food stall. This was not the time, nor the place, and he dared not grasp anyone's hand.

        "May you always find shelter." The man in black takes a step back, then saunters away from The Plaza. He continues to carry the cane in his left hand, never using it to support his weight. In fact with each step away from the buzz and drum of the technological heart of Tier, his steps seem to get lighter and lighter. When they reach soil, earth capable of holding water and sustaining life, his steps are so light as to not leave any footprints.

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