Grandfather and Arden Jett loan Pushka the Greater 10,000 credits, with the understanding that they will be paid back within 36 standard days. Pushka thanks them and hurries off to pay the Duresian Shipwrights Guild the admission fee for his nephew.
After acquiring the survival gear necessary for their journey to Rhen Var, the crew makes for the Tion Cluster once again. Sias Oppal's life hinges on their finding a large Corusca Gem for Aruk the Great.
The Ootman Pabol Hyperspace Lane is the most direct from Hutt Space to their destination, but the crew finds out that the way has been sabotaged by Indrexu Spiral Pirates. Large asteroids have been towed into the common path, which forces starships out of Hyperspace and into a possible collision. The ship's sensors blare a loud and sudden warning. Bixel Anderon pulls his nimble vessel up but still he bounces the bottom of the craft off of a particularly large space-rock. The vessel's bottom Laser Cannon turret bore most of the force but the seals seem to have held and the weapon remains functional.
Before them is a large Gozanti Cruiser which is sending out distress signals. Six Cloakshape Starfighters have descended upon the vessel and they are picking its limited defenses to pieces. Nearby a HWK-290 Transport that has been modified to fill a small Fighter Carrier role waits. Over an open Communications Channel their leader Captain Gavian Du Pol declares that they are enemy of the Hutt Cartels due to their ruthless practice of slavery. He has a Socorran accent and seems very friendly and full of mirth despite his unrepentant criminality.
Bixel Anderon hurls the vessel directly into the heart of the fight and three Cloakshapes peel off of the Cruiser to meet the new threat. Salmith Chejel, Darius Bel and Grandfather heavily damage all three Fighters, though they leave them capable of fleeing the battle. Captain Du Pol asks for quarter for his damaged vessels and soon calls off the attack, with the Pirates fleeing in all directions.
Aboard the Gozanti Cruiser, the crew helps make repairs and rights the listing vessel. Arden Jett and Salmith take the ship and work to clear the asteroids from the path of the Hyperspace Lane. One of the Gozanti's crew members was injured, but the 2-1B Medical Droid comes on board with the crew and saves her life.
The Captain Artecal Visaj is a Corellian through and through, he seems like a man of honor and he wears the Corellian Blood Stripe down the side of his pants. He looks almost exactly like Darius save for that he is ten years older. Captain Visaj thanks the crew for their help and explains that he can not afford to pay a full crew compliment. Many of his trade routes have dried up and the Ootman Pabol is the only thing that pays off for him anymore. He offers them a 10 ton container of Bacta and promises to keep their secret of having ever helped him.
Finally having reached Rhen Var the crew descends to the surface and prepares to meet with Commander Milon Landem at the Imperial Listening Post and Snowtrooper Barracks. They have reliable information that he is a fairly corrupt individual and regularly allows expeditions on "his world". Darius is disgusted by the lack of discipline on display at the facility and he quickly figures out that Rhen Var is a punishment post for recruits and out of favor Officers. The crew puts on air of being in the employ of a Galactic Historian. In the staryard a civilian scout ship lays at rest, it seems to have suffered some damage.
The Commander agrees to let them survey some of the historical sites on the planet and asks for their help in discovering the fate of a research team that went missing. Doctor Willic Orbo and his team went missing a few months ago and the Commander wants to know what happened. He feels compelled to discover their fate so that he may contact the appropriate relations and so forth. Many have died on Rhen Var, due to the brutal cold and savage storms. His office is decorated with many prizes and skulls, he has three stuffed Wookiees who are posed with weapons in aggressive postures. The Commander's COMPNOR assistant schedules them for a week stay at the estimated cost of 10,000 credits, he will also expect that all research material be shared with the Imperial Listening Post before departure. They are permitted to download the archive of research material that has been collected throughout the years and are given recent planetary topographical surveys.
The crew first searches an ancient Harbor that was recently the site of a great battle between the Grand Army of the Republic and Confederacy of Independent Systems. Rusted scrap of droids and vehicles is strewn around the area exposed to the weather for years. A violent snow storm suddenly comes on and the crew shelters their starship inside a massive natural sea-cave. Thunder rumbles above them and they had no choice but to remain on-planet and shelter themselves until it has passed.
Exploring the cave further in their Arrow-23 speeder the crew discovers a small community of natives to planet. The meeting is a little tense at first after a misunderstanding, but cooler heads prevail and one of them offers to trade for food. The crew receives information about Doctor Orbo, learning that he used to be seen here and that he might have went to the place called "The Retreat". They explain that the Retreat changes a person and that those who go there are sometimes changed to their very core. They become evil. After they are asked about the Sith and Jedi they grow very closed and tell the crew to leave immediately. Arden leaves the Speeders consumables behind and the group returns to their ship.
As they work to replace the Speeders consumables Salmith feels the very odd sensation having dreamed this moment previously. He has been to this very place before, surrounded by grey and hearing familiar voices. That night he sleeps waiting for the storm to pass.
Salmith sees himself holding the Corusca Gem, he is not outside in the cold or snow, he seems to be in a small closet made of stamped Durasteel that forms some kind of manufactured pattern. He is deeply satisfied for having found the gem but he cannot say why. When he awakens he tries to replicate the pattern of the Durasteel, but his rendition is pathetic.
The storm passed and the crew explored the Temple, a ruined site located high up in the mountains where the air is very thin. The structure is oddly placed because it would have been very difficult to build at this elevation. Inside the Temple Arden takes note of ancient hieroglyphs and explores the rooms. Inside the basement of the abandoned place she is struck by an odd sensation of remembrance to her early childhood. She is in her father's study and he is ignoring her because he is so absorbed in the strange book he is reading. She can remember his eyes and she was scared of them then.
The crew makes it way to The Retreat and discovers it amidst the mountains. It is secluded and difficult to get to on foot, they park the starship as close as they can and get out of the vehicle. During the hike over the crusted snow they realize that if a storm comes through that they will be exposed. Hurrying as best they can they see a strange cave, shaped like a Hutt's crooked mouth at the top of a steep slope of snow.
As they approached they encounter a half dozen Battle Droids that emerge from the snow at the cave's mouth. One is of the dreaded IG-100 Bodyguard Series and the rest are B-2 Series Super Battle Droids. A brief but intense fire-fight ensues. Grandfather and Salmith sustain light injuries as the crew guns down their mechanical foes. Grandfather burns a gaping hole in the IG-100 with his Baragwin Blaster Cannon.
The crew enters the cave having scavenged for droid parts. The first room is a make-shift hangar that is currently unoccupied. Diagnostic equipment is powered down and there is evidence of recent repair work that took place here. Small pools of fuel and tools are on the floor. A tunnel leads further into the make-shift facility. The place has the gore-tainted smell of a meat locker. Investigating further they discover several rooms and datapads that are covered with frost.
The floor of the main chamber is covered in smeared blood. It is of both alien and human origin and trails until it abruptly stops in a sharp line. Arden restores power to the damaged generator and they search the facility. From the datapads they learn of the researchers holo-diaries.
The datapads seem to support the idea that the Doctor was onto something or had made some kind of discovery. Increasingly however he became incredibly secretive and started to believe his students were working against him and that they had stolen something of value. The situation in the bunker grew to be very divisive and before long it escalated. Their diaries speak of some kind of gross change in the doctor's behavior and attitude. They write that he is no longer recognizable as the dignified man they knew on Coruscant. After one of their number was hurt (or killed?) by Scavengers, the Doctor began to act irrationally. He worked on reactivating the droids they had found earlier in the planetary surveys. He was obsessed and he rarely ate, and when he did it seemed that meat was the only thing that satisfied him. After a while he didn't even bother cooking it. If the Researchers gained something here, it is no longer present.
Salmith discovers a freezer tucked away in a corner alcove. It contains the bodies of four researchers, they were mutilated and stored in clearplast bags possibly for future consumption. Upon leaving they examine the diagnostic computer in the hangar and discover that the ship has suffered hyperdrive damage and that the repairs were not sufficient.
The crew returns to the Listening Post. Salmith and Arden sneak aboard the long parked Scout Ship believing it to be the Doctor's research vessel. Salmith discovers a hidden compartment and opens it by some unknown instinctive means. Inside there is a small durasteel closet compartment with a small shelf. A large Corusca Gem, sits beside some broken pottery and a datapad. Salmith takes the gem and he and Arden catastrophically fail at leaving the ship unseen. The two of them trip over one another and draw the attention of two Snowtroopers who approach them and soon question if they interested in purchasing the ship.
Darius and Bixel go inside the Listening Post and loiter around waiting for a meeting with the Commander who is not present. They gain entry to the archives once again and eventually find themselves near the Brig. They had heard strange sounds here on their previous visit. They ask the Guard for entry and to their surprise their request is granted. The Snow-trooper shows them the pathetic form of who they alone know to be Doctor Willic Orbo. The guard says that he will only eat raw meat and that he bellows in strange languages at different times of the day and night.. His prisoner truly unnerves him and he has never seen anything like it. Darius and Bixel leave the facility with due haste upon learning that Salmith was successful in finding their prize.
The Imperial Listening Post is on high alert as the group starts their engines and attempt to flee the planet. A large turret emplacement tracks them through the air but Salmith is careful to stay beyond its arc in a bout of fancy flying. The turret slams them with a single blast before they are able to escape up into atmosphere, the Imperial Commander is howling over the Communications channel for them to surrender and land. Perhaps he sensed that they stole away with something important or perhaps he was just upset that they never paid him properly.
Taking a round about course the crew returns home to Nar Shaddaa only to discover that the Meeting of Lieutenants is currently taking place. Bixel Anderon and his second Darius Bel are shuttled off to join the discussion which is already under way. Salmith, Arden and Grandfather go to visit with Sias Oppal in his jail cell, who is very surprised to see them.
Given the gem Sias Oppal releases himself and seeks out his master to repurchase his freedom and regain his previous favor. Aruk the Great is ecstatic to see his first Corusca Gem of appropriate size, although it is hazy and obviously flawed. He returns Sias to his office of Chief of Lieutenants and the Devarronian names Salmith as his second for the meeting. The two take Sias's speeder and make their way to the meeting with all haste.
The Ngant Zarvel Factory
The site where Bixel Anderon and Salmith Chejel had their accident that left them in debt to Aruk the Great, seemingly a lifetime ago.
Screams of Rolos can be heard coming from below. He is chained in unbreakable Neutronium and is being eaten alive by a diminutive breed of alien insectoids, commonly known as Butcher Ants. The grated floor of the meeting place reveals the horror of the Chevin being slowly and meticulously consumed from the inside out by an imported colonial hive of the blood-thirsty creatures. A being of his size and vigor might last several days this way before death by this method. The patient creatures were in no rush.
When they reach the bleak distribution center of the old Ngant Zarvel factory. They see the human Fast Tony Corellian, the Weequay O'Garn – Son of O'Gar, the Cyborrean Mandible Kexx, the Jilruan Lysos Ajodan the Heartless, the Gamorrean Rott Okk, the Dashade Logriss, along with two dozen other spies, information brokers, guards masters, guilds officers, flesh merchants, spice craftsmen, swoop gang leaders, gun runners, mercenaries, slave masters, lawyers, bankers, investors, gamblers, priests and emissaries from trusted allies such as the court of Zavaal the Pious.
The current issue up for debate is the acquisition of additional large Corusca Gems. Not nearly enough have been gathered thus far and few are even close to appropriate size. There is some argument over where they might be found and who possesses them. Several have suggested that the vault-worlds of the Criminal Syndicates of the Black Sun and the Tenloss Corporation need to be hit with overwhelming force. Estimates for casualties may number in the thousands or more likely tens of thousands.
Additionally such a bold strategy will surely arose unwanted attention from the Galactic Empire, which while permissive of Aruk's enterprises; are not without their own insatiable greed.
Another possibility is the vaults of "The Wheel", an infamous space-station casino and playground for the wealthy located within a special Exclusion Zone of Imperial Law. Corusca Gems and other rare oddities are often featured as prizes for the contests and gambling that takes place there. The Wheel Administrator, a human named; Simon Greyshade is known to have contacts amongst the wealthiest individuals in the Galaxy. If anyone can get their hands on something so rare and valuable it is him.
Then of course there are Museums on Coruscant and within the Core Worlds which display oddities of the Galaxy. These however are immensely well-defended and many of the items are merely holograms or replicas, to discourage thievery. The real articles being safely stored elsewhere, often in the labyrinthine banks of the Corporate Sector or perhaps the Imperial Citadel.
Now that Bixel Anderon is present and accounted for the votes may be cast for the next Chief of Lieutenants, however the final decision of course remains with Aruk the Great and the Besadii Hutt Elder Council. O'Garn Son of O'Gar currently has the most supporters, though some have abstained and may form a last minute coalition. Logriss stares at Bixel Anderon, his expression: a naked threat.
Mandible Kexx says that the traitor Sias Oppal has corrupted certain individuals now within the room. He claims that Fast Tony Corellian's and Bixel Anderon's votes should be disqualified on the basis of their untrustworthy Core-Worlds origin. He says they are both cowards who hide within the laws and customs of the enemy.
Bixel Anderon reveals that they have a discovered a gem of appropriate size. This information comes as something of a shock to the gathered lieutenants and there is a moment of tension and threats around the room.
The appearance of Sias Oppal derails the vote that the emissary of Zavaal was trying to conclude. Bixel Anderon votes for Fast Tony Corellian, placing him in a tie with O'Garn Son of O'Gar. Sias announces that it is by the will of their Master that he resumes his position as Chief of Lieutenants. It is time to complete the will of the Master and there can be no more delays. Those who will not take part are to be arrested and will likely suffer from a similar fate as poor Rolos below. Treachery will now be met with most depraved cruelties imaginable.