Nolann knew very well that he and the crew would need to get moving soon if they were going to do the job for Schlick. Of course they needed information. They needed to know how to locate the Starlit café. But it was only 8:00 in the morning Coruscanti time and the day still held plenty of hours. Beside’s Barlamoe’s would be a great place to earn some credits and relax before things started getting heavy. The 24 hour galactic clock guaranteed that the cantina would be hopping any time of day. Mara had recommended Barlamoe’s as a good place to gather information, though Nolann, Fern, and Dax were already well acquainted with the business. The proprietor Barlamoe, a human with a gruff disposition, was one of the few business owners in the area that still allowed aliens into his venue. It wasn’t that most of Coruscant’s inhabitants were intolerant, or even xenophobic towards members of the other species; the high tariffs and continuous harassment from Imperial officials successfully barred many alien species from enjoying a free public life. Most non-human activity was found only in segregated ghettos or deep within the lower levels of this unnatural stone and duracrete planet. Ord City served as a transition zone between one of many large alien freezones and the human habitation areas. Barlamoe’s cantina lay almost exactly on the dividing line.
Walking through the dimly lit doorway the adventurers ignored the Imperial segregation mandates on the first level and proceeded down a steep stairway into the Alien-free zone. Most places on the fringe who still hosted non-humans were divided in this manner. After walking through the lower level door a sickly green light struggled to find focus through the smoke-filled room while female servers weaved throughout the denizens to the beat of a pulsating bass-heavy-music. Deep booths with dim yellow lights, hiding secretive faces, lined the circular room to the left of the main entranceway. Gaming tables, backed by large holoviewers showed sports from across the galaxy as scantily clad Twi’Leks danced on a glossy black stage. Fern left the group to order a dark-side daiquiri at the bar, while Nolann sat down with a friendly looking Quarren and two Gotals for a game of sabacc. Dax split from the others to walk slowly around the room.
“Sit down, sit down! my male friend. You are male aren’t you? I have trouble determining the sexes of some species. Kaolin’s the name” the old Quarren greeted, not aware that he may have offended the newcomer with his forward but amiable mode of speech.
Nolann immediately took a liking to the squid-faced creature, “can you deal me in?”
“You bet, time for some friendly company. These two gotals don’t seem to have much personality. Don’t worry, I don’t think they speak very good basic.” Neither alien showed a response to Kaolin’s jibe.
At the quarren’s signal a small dome-like dealer droid with a translucent grey top dealt the electronic sabaac cards with its tiny servo hands. At the beginning of play Nolann was the first to contribute his ante to the hand-pot, then to the sabaac pot. He then laid down his cards onto the round gaming table.
Since this was not a professional sabaac table there was no interference field for the electronic cards. Rather, the cards themselves became deactivated when they were pushed into the table. This deactivation barred the cards from spontaneously randomizing; though only certain cards were allowed to be deactivated based upon the players choosing. As the players settled in Dax leaned up against a support pillar to watch the game from a short distance.
Incidentally it occurred to the bluish humanoid that he stood directly behind the two gotal players. The fools were no good at hiding their hands he surmised. Perhaps, he thought, he should practice some of his force powers to stave off the inevitable boredom. He wasn’t much on cards.
After the first deal Dax watched the aliens intently. Their hands were not bad to start with, but stupid decisions left them lacking when the cards face up on the table switched values. Noticing their change in luck both aliens shifted in their seats. Dax smiled.
Closing his eyes he felt the force reaching out from his mind like thick smoky tendrils. Feeling the lifeforce of all creatures large and small within the club he narrowed his focus upon the four sitting around the sabaac table. In the center he could feel the small dealer droid putting around the table giving instructions to the players as it went. Touching lightly upon the Duros mind, Dax thought of a suggestion to help his friend.
With his eyes set intently upon the electronic cards before him Nolann was startled to hear the voice of Dax echoing inside his head “bid again.” Looking up from the table Nolann saw a smirk on the chiss’s face and a slight nod indicating “_yes, I did say it._” Emboldened by this new information Nolann bid again trying hard to conceal the devious grin attempting to take over his face. Round and round again the chiss man gave the duros helpful instructions on the next move. Sometimes he was told to bluff, other times to bluff harder. Nolann found a very useful attribute in his new friend that he had not realized before.
When the final round of bidding took place and it came time to show cards, Nolann had no more power to hide the smirk that lit on his thin lips “A pure Sabaac” he said with a grin. Splaying the cards out in front of him he showed The Evil One, The Star, a five of staves, and a four of coins. Kaolin watched the little Duros with increased interest, holding his right hand to his tentacles as if in deep thought. The gotals conversed rapidly with a great degree of harshness in their own languages as if they were berating the other for not making a better show. Each simply nudged their upturned cards to the center of the table.
Almost as if returning from a daze, when it came his turn, Kaolin’s face tentacles undulated in a sign of pure pleasure as he laid down his hand to reveal The idiot, a two of flasks, and a three of staves . “An Idiot’s array beats your pure Sabaac friend” he said in a friendly tone, while visibly measuring Nolann’s face. The smile on the duros lips remained but disappointment flashed in his round red eyes.
Round and round again the players at the table played, though the order of winnings stayed consistently throughout. Nolann and Kaolin battled it out neck and neck every turn, while the baffled gotals watched their pile of credits dwindle. Only on rare occasions was one of the horned creatures able to win second place in the winnings.
Dax continued his aid though its effects were minimal against the talents of the quarren card-slinger. He could have rounded the table and attempted to spy on the quarren’s hand, but he considered the foolishness of such an action since he might be noticed. He also suspected, correctly so, that Kaolin was good at hiding his cards.
“Filthy squid-head!” the gotal nearest Nolann managed in a garbled accent, throwing his chair to the ground as he stood up placing his fists knuckle down on the table, “that was the eighth pure sabaac in a row you’ve won!” he yelled throwing his finger into the quarren’s face.
“So you ridiculous tube-heads do speak basic,” Kaolin cracked with an even tone, unmoved by his opponent’s obvious agitation. The standing gotal exhaled sharply, throwing his remaining cards at the mocking Quarren before storming away.
“Aren’t you leaving too?” the Quarren leveled coldly at the remaining gotal.
Cursing in his foreign tongue the second alien rose quickly from his chair never once looking back. “Well, I’m sorry friend but it seems that our game of cards is at an end.” Nolann could almost see the glee in Kaolin’s clever eyes, “But I tell you what, have you ever flown a Corellian YT-1250?”
“I can hold my own in most starships, yes.”
“Good, confidence, I like that in a pilot. Most Duros are good pilots though. I have a job off-world that needs completed but unfortunately I have other pressing matters to attend to. Would you be interested in talking more?”
“What kind of work are you talking about?” Nolann clasped his hands on the tabletop and slumped into a conspiratorial pose.
“Your blue friend there is welcome to join us too,” Kaolin waved a webbed hand at Dax.
Dax’s subtle face movements betrayed his surprise at the quarren’s acute perception. He thought the old quarren would never suspect the connection between he and Nolann. Nolann sat unmoved while Dax took a chair on the other side of Kaolin across from the Duros. “Do you remember the Lucrehulk class starships flown by the trade federation during the clone wars? Great big round ships with a spherical command module suspended in the middle. I believe the fabled Anakin Skywalker single-handedly destroyed one at the Battle of Naboo before even reaching the age of ten.”
“I’ve heard the story.”
“Well anyway, those ships were the primary remote control transmitters for the Federation droid armies. A friend of mine has located the remains of one somewhere between Cato Neimoidia and Talasea. Based on sensor scans at least one hangar bay is still intact, full of cargo. Somewhere deep down inside I bet you will still find a functioning remote processor. That is what I want you to find.”
“How much are you offering?” Dax spoke up for the first time.
“Straight and to the point, I commend you my blue friend. 2,500 if you bring back all of the reclaimable items and cargo still intact. However, you bring me back a remote processor and you keep all of the cargo AND the 2,500. How does that sound?”
“Sounds like you might need to offer more. Is anyone else looking for this thing?” Nolann continued.
“Well, here’s the real catch, I’m getting the coordinates secondhand, and the fellow who is selling them isn’t exactly the most trustworthy creature. I bet he has at least two other buyers on the line. Unfortunately I won’t be able to get the coordinates until later this week, so the job will need to be done real soon.” Kaolin turned, slightly surprised to find a beautiful white-haired women standing at his side.
“Nolann, Dax, I have the address for our job. We had better go.” Fern said as she approached the table, her purple eyes penetrating into the collaborating threesome.
Without a question or acknowledgment to the cold female human Nolann stood up and turned directly to Kaolin “Can I find you here later this week? I need to converse with my companions before a decision is made.”
“I will be right here where you found me. Nice to meet you Nolann, and you too blue man” the quarren made the closest approximation of a human smile, “we’ll talk price when I see you again.”
Nolann slightly winced at hearing the perceptive alien speak his name. As the trio left, Dax noticed that the old quarren was intently looking at a small datapad.