Coruscant is huge and over whelming. The Industrial sector is, well, pretty industrial. Lots of power supply and relay stations and Plasma generators, waste management systems and manufacturing plants. It is a pretty grim place really, but people live in I-sec and it has the reputation for being on the fringe, which was Palace slang for both really cool and really dangerous. You needed to know where to go and what parts to avoid. Shiv told me, people vanished sometimes when they came down into I-sec on their own. The lower levels were bad places to be if you didn’t belong and didn’t know what you were doing. It sounded like Mos Eisley on a good day I told him, but as we flew over some of the parts he told me were rough I knew there were places far worse than the back end of Tatooine.
The club we were headed to was on the border between I-sec and one of the Alien sectors where mainly Twi’lek and Mon Calamari lived. Seemed an odd combination to me but I didn’t ask. I was still learning about the Emperor’s dislike of non humans and I wasn’t sure how it sat with me.
The taxi driver maneuvered in between the towers and the other strange looking buildings and docked us at the front door of the club, there was no line up yet. Shiv paid the taxi and took me by the arm. He gave the bouncer a flashy smile and said. “Hi, Yaak.”
The bouncer, a really mean looking Zabrak just nodded and waved us in.
“Friendly.” I said.
Shiv just grinned. “He doesn’t win points for being friendly.” He said and tugged me into the club.
What looked seamy and run down on the outside was the exact opposite form the inside. This made the Cantina back home look like a slop hole. The pain was all a tasteful soft glow-paint and the lights shifted every few seconds running through the spectrum of colours. The furnishings were all some exquisite black sort of acrylic polymer that had holograms inlayed in it, every time you moved your eyes the something within the dark furnishings twinkled like stars. The music was loud and modern. It had a slightly dark edge, heavy on the electronics and bass, with a female vocalist who could hit the high notes with an ease that was almost surreal. Every now and then she would hit a note that made me shiver, as if that single note was being driven into my spinal cord with a nail. Right in the center of the club was the largest dance floor I had ever seen, complete with the most modern lighting system ever. It was pretty spiffy.
Shiv, who still have a grip on my arm, tugged at me and we headed over to the far corner, up some stairs into a smallish room with a good view of the dance floor and entrance.
“VIP room.” He said. “Palace always has one in every club, just in case the Emperor wants to go dancing." he rolled his eyes. "We get to use them, so it’s cool”
We slipped through the very interesting holographic waterfall, like doorway cover and joined another four people in the corner couch section.
Shiv sat down and yanked me down to sit beside him. “Everyone this is Merlyn.” He said and everyone waved and said hi.
The he started the introductions going from left to right. “That’s Maxxi, Yynyth Bobbyn who likes to be called B’byn for short, and Antygra. We all basically work in the same department.
I smiled and said hi back. Bobbyn, Maxxi and Antygra were all male, I think, and Ynyth was female, and everyone was human. A few moments after the introductions and hullos were done a waitress popped in and took drink orders that is she took Shiv’s order. He ordered for all of us, a large pitcher of a Corellian cocktail called a BH, the BH being short for bounty hunter. I had never tried this particular cocktail, being a straight up sort of girl, I liked my alcohol straight out of the bottle, not mixed with other things and usually of the distilled sort. Typical pit-mech stuff, I guess.
The drink and glasses arrived and I was leery. It was a violent blue colour with glowy things in it. Shiv just shook his head when he saw my face. Poured everyone a glass and we toasted and drank. It looked blue, it was blue and it tasted like blue. It was almost sickly sweet and had a vaguely fruity flavour and once you had one sip you wanted more.
At first it was small talk, mainly everyone bitching about their day and who or what they were working with or on. When Maxxi asked me what it was like to work with Him. I had shrugged.
“It’s okay.” I said,
They all shook their heads at the same time it was unnerving.
“Really?” asked Antygra, “I was always under the impression He was a real jerk to work for.”
“Well, so far I am still alive.” I said with a grin, “So, I guess that counts for something.” I sipped at the more some drink and added. “He has his good days and bad days.”
“Yeah I hear that!” agreed B’byn, “I had a real run in today with you know who!” he said.
I glanced around. “You know who?” I asked thinking he meant the Emperor.
“One of the courtesans, been at the palace for ever, since she was a child. One of the Big E’s chosen, totally spoiled rotten, throws an absolute hissy fit every year right before the Grand ball wanting changes to this and that and the next thing.” He said.
I waited for a name but none came, I looked at Shiv for an explanation.
“We don’t mention names.” He said. “There is surveillance everywhere. Don’t mention names, ever. You’ll get used to it. We just have our own names for everyone.”
“Yeah, safer that way. B’byb’s talking about our resident Princess. A real winner, hope you don’t end up on her wrong side, she can make life hard for you.” Maxxi added.
I nodded. I was feeling a little out of my depth. Shiv leaned in and whispered in my ear. “I’ll point them all out at the Grand Ball, but you want to stay alive at the palace, you will learn to stay out of the Courtesans' way. They are a little witchy, if you get my bend”
I nodded and wondered if I also came under that heading, a little witchy, but no one said anything so I let it go.
“Do you ever see the Emperor?” I asked.
Antygra shrugged. “It’s rare. He used to be more accessible in the old days, but the last six or seven years now he’s been keeping more and more private. Only his trusted advisors and the chosen ones get to spend time with him. He makes public appearances for larger functions, gallery openings and the Opera, of course, but mostly we deal through his Personal Assistants and the Office.”
“Wow. Sounds very mysterious.” I said.
“Yeah well, you know who is even more mysterious?” said Ynyth.
“Oh do tell.” Shiv grinned pouring everyone another glass of the BH.
“That alien captain that’s been seen around the palace, you know the one with the blue skin.” She said. “No one knows anything about him. Apparently the Big E is quite impressed with him but no one has a clue where he even came from. I just heard from Kat, you know that slicer in Intel, that he is super intelligent and cold as ice. Comes and goes like he owns the place.”
I took a sip of my drink and said nothing but I knew who they were talking about and it seemed I knew a lot more about him than anyone else.
“Yeah, totally weird given that the Big E doesn’t like aliens, you know.” Said Ynyth. “I heard that he could read minds or something and he has these evil, red glowing eyes. Kat said the guy was totally intimidating.”
I had to stop from giggling. I turned it into a coughing fit. Shiv obligingly banged me on the back, till I waved at him to stop.
“So what is he doing at the Palace then?” Antygra asked.
Ynyth shrugged. “Probably seeing one of the girls, you know how it is. Half the Imperial navy is doing someone at the palace, It’s scary.”
“He better hope he doesn’t get caught then, if that’s the case.” Said Shiv.
“Why is that?” I asked.
“Big no no inter-palace relationships. It’s not written any where though. But still the Big E doesn’t like it when the Imperial Navy mixes with the Courtesans or even employees, although we have it a bit easier than the courtesans do.”
I nodded. “Okay, always good to know.” I said.
“You know he’s probably seeing our Princess. I mean she’s always vanishing off somewhere for a day here a week there! Bet you, they’re having an affair.” said Antygra.
Maxxi shook his head. "If that's true then I pity the guy." he said.
Shiv just rolled his eyes. “Antygra is into the big conspiracy theory thing.”
Antygra gave Shiv a wounded look. “Well everything is a conspiracy…. Speaking of, say, Merly, where you there when Alderaan blew? Shiv says you were assigned to Him on board the Devastator at the time.”
“Yeah, I mean no, well sort of." I shrugged. “I was on board the ship but we weren’t near when the planet was destroyed, felt the shock wave though.”
“No kidding, was it dangerous.” B’byn asked.
I blinked a few times. “Have you ever been in space when a shockwave that big hits?” I asked.
They all shook their heads at the same time.
“You ever seen a Krayt Dragon?”
Antygra nodded. “I have at the zoo. Huge, man!” and he made a 'this big ' gesture with his hands.
“Well imagine something hurling that at you and you are the size of a small cat.”
They all nodded slowly.
“That’s gotta hurt.” Said Maxxi.
“It was big, but the ISD is build to withstand that sort of thing so it bucked once then rolled with it, Captain turned her head into the wave and we rode it out.” I explained.
They all looked at me like I had two heads. So I explained a bit about ship piloting.
“You’re a pilot?” B’byn asked.
I nodded. “And a qualified mechanic.”
Antygra shook his head. “So how did you end as His PA?”
I shrugged. “Just lucky, I guess. I have done office work too and speak a few languages and I can dance.” I said but it all sounded lame.
“Well, I am sure the dancing helps.” Said Maxxi after a moment and everyone, including me, laughed. I did not tell them I was force sensitive, or that Lord Vader had picked up on that and was nudging me along in some sort of a direction.
“Sucks about the rebels.” said Maxxi. “I mean they destroyed a whole planet. Why would they do that anyway? Alderaan was a peaceful place.” Everyone looked at me for an answer.
I shrugged. “I don’t know anything about rebels, that’s Intel’s job and I don’t have clearance that high and it’s not like He tells me anything.” I said getting into the spirit of things, two BHs later and my head was getting a little fuzzy.
Everyone nodded solemnly.
“You got a bum deal, getting that job. I think.” B’byn said.
“Someone has to do it, right?” I said. “And it wasn’t like I could say no, was it?”
They all shook their heads and we drank.
“Well, this is too serious for our night out, we should go down and dance!” Shiv said and he pulled me to my feet and dragged me out of the VIP room down the stairs to the dance floor. Everyone was right behind us and for the next three hours we danced.
I have no idea what time I crawled into bed but it was on the later side of early rather than the other way around. I lay in bed with my head spinning. I have no idea what exactly is in a BH but I knew I never wanted to have them ever again. I am pretty sure I only had three but they were enough.
When I woke up a few hours later to go to work I was greeted by a pounding headache the likes of which I have never experienced before and a mouth that resembled Tatooine. I showered and stopped by the med-lab for something against the pain and then crawled into the office. It was not even nine, I had not had my coffee yet and already there was a message from Lord Vader waiting for me. The day was not starting out so well, and I had a bad feeling it was only going to go down hill from there.