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Saga - PT Everyone Comes to Doran's Place: OC, Repost

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Raissa Baiard, Jun 12, 2014.

  1. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard FFoF Artist Extraordinaire star 4 VIP - Game Host

    Nov 22, 1999
    This is a repost of my favorite story from when I was on the boards 10 years ago. I'm editing and tweaking it a little to try to ease myself back into writing fic after my extended hiatus. I'm also working on an AU which I hope to post soon. Hope you enjoy.

    Title: Everyone Comes to Doran's Place
    Author: Raissa Baiard
    Characters: original characters
    Timeline: approximately 17 years BBY
    Genre: drama

    Sometimes Raissa Baiard wondered if being Vice-Prefect of Merkesh was an honor or a punishment.

    Lately, she was convinced it was the latter. She frowned to herself as she skimmed the contents of one of the datacards she’d found shoved in the back of Prefect Ari Renau’s desk. It was a dubious manual of how to cheat at sabacc. She took the card out of her datapad and tossed it aside. That made, what, thirty-five datacards full of worthless information so far and another boxful to go. Raissa had little hope of finding what she was looking for on them, either. Nothing had gone right for her in a Hutt’s age, not since the day she found Renau dead in the alley behind the Merkesh Imperial Garrison.

    Raissa had been emptying Renau’s shredded flimsies into the trash receptacle—even on a good day Vice-Prefect translated as Renau’s personal lackey—when she discovered him lying face down, a blaster shot drilled through his chest. He looked surprised, which was more than Raissa could say for herself, not when Renau was only marginally more trustworthy than those he was supposed to protect Merkesh against. He'd enjoyed his vices, much to Raissa’s chagrin, and gambling was the foremost among them. Too often, she’d had to drag Renau away from the sabacc tables at Doran’s Café Alderaan when he was supposed to be on duty. The Prefect had been an indifferent player at best, and heliked to use his positon as a way to wriggle out of his debts, telling his buddies he would gladly pay up, if only they would stop by the garrison the next day. So to Raissa’s mind it was only a question of which irate card sharp had taken him up on that offer.

    Or it would have been, if not for the mangled package Raissa had found in the trash receptacle.

    Inside were two wadded up brown cloaks and a datacard. The cloaks were blaster scorched, hanging in tatters, and Raissa wouldn’t have used them to polish Renau’s boots. But she’d seen them before and knew that even though they didn’t look like much, they were part of the most valuable shipment of goods ever to be seized at Merkesh customs, a collection of Jedi artifacts.

    They were Jedi robes, and according to the datacard addressed to Grand Moff Tarkin, they were the least part of the collection. “Palpatine will surely be interested in these fine specimens!” Renau gushed in the letter. “I know he’ll want these knick-knacks for his collection.” Raissa had been puzzled when she read that. Renau might have been vain, selfish, and lazy, but he was no fool. Even he couldn’t have imagined the Emepror would have been impressed by a couple of ratty cloaks. Making promises to the Emperor you couldn’t deliver was an invitation to have Vader turn up on your doorstep. He made some vague allusions to the items promised in the earlier manifest, and mentioned that a second copy was enclosed, but neither the inventory nor the treasures Renau had planned to send to Coruscant were anywhere to be found at the scene of his death. Someone with a Blastech-30 had decided they would look better in his collection.

    Someone who was familiar enough with the Prefect to shoot him at close range.

    Raissa had rounded up the usual suspects from Doran’s place and grilled them ruthlessly. As ruthlessly as she possibly could, anyway, without knowing what it was she was trying to recover. Just to make things a little more interesting for her, Renau’s copy of the inventory of the confiscated artifacts was also missing. She’d torn apart the hideous disarray of Renau’s office, rifling through the huge stacks of flimsies on the Prefect’s desk with a growing disgust. It was like emptying the contents of a womprat’s nest. A million times during the fruitless search, Raissa wished Renau would have let her catalog his private files the way she had the garrison’s main database.

    Her fellow officers were absolutely useless in the investigation, too, about as much use as tanning lotion on Hoth. They were Imperial to the very core, with all that implied, and none of them liked the idea of a woman being their boss. When Renau was alive, they had grudgingly accepted her. Raissa knew what they said behind her back, about how she had gotten her position. None of it was true, though; Renau just preferred to delegate tedious administrative tasks to her. She was good at that sort of thing and it gave him more time to play sabacc. Not that Renau hadn’t made a few suggestions to her about the two of them “working more closely”, but Raissa let him know in no uncertain terms that passing flimsies across the desk was as close as she wanted to get to him. Fortunately, he’d taken no for an answer, because using a stun blaster on your superiors wasn’t the best way to advance your career.

    Raissa’s comlink chimed, bringing her thoughts back to the present. She was glad of the interruption because some of what was contained on the next card would have made her hair curl if it hadn’t been bound back into a tight regulation braid. She’d had no idea just how many vices Renau enjoyed. And wished she hadn’t found out. Raissa took a deep breath, and turned away from her datapad. “Baiard here.”

    “Message for you on the holonet relay,” came the answer. No “Vice-Prefect,” no “ma’am,” no trace of respect. Raissa drummed her fingers against her desk. “Thank you, Private. Patch it through.” The holonet receiver at her desk shimmered to life, presenting the miniature image of a man in full millitary garb. Raissa sat up straighter, and cursed the private mentally for not telling her who was calling. She’d never been privileged to meet him in person, but from the insignia he could only be one person. “Moff Cassius, what a pleasant surprise.”

    Cassius indeed looked surprised, but not pleased in the least. “You are the officer in charge of this garrison?” But you’re a woman. The words were unsaid, but the Moff’s expression clearly stated he couldn’t be less happy if he’d found a Kowakian lizard monkey in charge.

    “Yes sir,” Raissa answered, biting back the annoyance she felt. Shavit, she was a good officer, she’d served the Empire well; being female didn’t make you a simpering moron incapable of thinking about anything besides the latest fashion in the Imperial City. “Vice-Prefect Raissa Baiard, at your service, sir.”

    “Yes, well,” the Moff continued to regard her suspiciously. “I’m not pleased with the way you’ve handled the investigation of Prefect Renau’s death. The stolen artifacts should have been recovered by now. Coruscant is very anxious to have those Jedi relics turned over to the proper authorities and safely contained.”

    “I apologize for the delay, sir,” Raissa replied. “Unfortunately, the investigation has been hampered by the loss of….”

    “I don’t want your excuses!” Moff Cassius shouted. “And neither does the Emperor. I merely called to inform you that my staff and I are coming to Merkesh immediately. We will be taking over the investigation.”
    Raissa felt the blood drain from her face. This was going to look bad on her transcripts. If she hadn’t already been doomed to spend the rest of her life serving on this festering sandpit, she was now. She forced herself to smile. “The Merkesh Imperial Garrison will be very pleased to have your guidance, sir.”

    “I’m sure you will, Vice-Prefect,” Cassius sneered her title. “Good day.” The holo image winked out with a crackle of static. She let the frozen smile fade from her lips and dropped her head onto her desk. “Shavit, shavit, shavit,” she muttered. Just when she thought things couldn’t possibly get worse.
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  2. Kahara

    Kahara FFoF Hostess Extraordinaire star 4 VIP - Game Host

    Mar 3, 2001
    I enjoyed seeing Raissa try to bring some order to the chaos her predecessor left. Not an enviable place to be, especially if the people she works with are "about as much use as tanning lotion on Hoth." ;) All these... artifacts of Renau's reign that she finds make for a funny picture. Though she'd probably better get rid of the guide to card-cheating before someone thinks it's hers.

    *gasp* There's a girl in your garrison, Moff. Getting her cooties all over the place. :eek:

    The remnants of the Jedi uniforms are very mysterious. Why the other things and not those? Must have seemed less useful. Hmm.
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  3. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard FFoF Artist Extraordinaire star 4 VIP - Game Host

    Nov 22, 1999
    “No tables, what part of that don’t you understand?” The pot-bellied Toydarian hovered in the doorway of
    Doran’s Café Alderaan, arms crossed over his chest. He eyed the couple in front of him belligerently. They were obviously not native Merkeshians; their coveralls weren’t nearly dusty enough, and they had the hopeful, greedy look associated with the spacers who stopped over on Merkesh on their way to strike it rich in the Corporate Sector. The man smiled at the Toydarian. “Look, let’s be reasonable about this,” he said reaching into the hip pocket and pulling out a stack of credit chips. “There must be something you can do for us.” He let the chips fall slowly from one hand to the other.

    The Toydarian’s snout twitched. “What, you think all you have to do is flash your money at me, and I cave in? Just because I’m a Toydarian? This is Doran’s place, and things don’t work like that here.”

    The woman tugged on her companion’s arm. “Let’s go, honey,” she whined. “I’m hungry. This place can’t be as great as Bhob said anyway.”

    “Not that great? “ The doorkeeper’s voice ratcheted up another strident notch. “This is Doran’s Café Alderaan. Doran’s Café Alderaan,” he repeated slowly, for emphasis. “We got the hottest sabacc games in town, we got Sem Yarba, and his jizz combo here nightly. And we don’t water our liquor. Yeah, The Azure Kroyie’s good enough for you!” he called as the spacers finally retreated before the irate Toydarian flew in their faces. He shook a pudgy, three-fingered fist at them. “Ha! Tell ‘em Haaz sent you!”

    Doran Blayne, owner and proprietor of the Cafe Alderaaan, watched the scene from his favorite seat at the bar. "Good old Haaz," he chuckled. "I think the Azure Kroyie must give him a percentage for every customer he kicks out of here."

    The bartender, Sascha slid a Corellian whiskey over to him. “Good old Haaz,” she repeated wryly. “You really ought to think about getting a nice service droid to mind the door.”

    “What and lose our floorshow?” Doran answered. “You’ve got to admit, almost as many people come to watch him bully the outsiders as listen to Sem play. No. Haaz belongs here; he’s part of the ambiance.”

    Sascha rolled her eyes as a customer at the far end of the bar called her away, leaving Doran alone with his whiskey. He took a swallow and surveyed the room. Haaz was right when he said there were no available tables. The evening crowd was starting to gather; many of them were watching the bandstand in anticipation. Sem Yarba, the chubby Ortolan keyboard player, tuned up his Red Ball Jet organ, while munching on a handful of yub nuts. He looked up at Doran and waved cheerily. Doran nodded back. Yarba was an enthusiastic and uncomplicated fellow, who gave the phrase “will work for food” new meaning. He was also hands down the best musician in Merkesh City, and though that wasn’t really saying much, Doran had been around enough to know that Sem could have found better gigs on planets that were civilized enough to appreciate his music. Like so many of the beings who lived on Merkesh, Sem had originally been trying to leave the Empire for the Corporate Sector when his money ran out. Fortunately, the Ortolan had been more than happy to stay on the arid planet indefinitely once Doran said the magic words: “all you can eat.”

    Doran looked out across the room, taking in the cross-section of Merkesh City represented by the crowd, from the spit-shined off-duty Imps drinking flameouts to impress their girlfriends to the patchy furred Talz trying to cadge yub nuts off of the band. Likewise, emotions in the Café ran the gamut from the jaunty Ortolan on the bandstand to depressed gamblers sabacc tables. As he surveyed the Cafe, Doran had the sudden feeling of being watched, accompanied by a cold prickle of dread. He whirled around, one hand dropping automatically to reach for his blaster, but there was only a sad-eyed Sullustan behind him-- Pter Lorr, second rate gambler and third rate con man. “Oh, it’s just you,” Doran said, reholstering his gun. “You should know by now sneaking up on me is a good way to get your jowls singed.”

    The Sullustan gave a tiny, obsequious laugh as he slid onto the barstool next to Doran. “I beg you pardon, Doran,” Lorr said. “But I need to speak with you most urgently.”

    “Lucky me,” Doran sighed. Even without the premonition he’d just had, he doubted he wanted to be involved with anything Pter Lorr had to suggest. Doran was studiously neutral in local politics; his café was open to anyone, no matter how sleazy, as long as they had the credits to pay for their drinks. But there was something about Lorr that always set his teeth on edge. Maybe it was the way he was always so earnest, trying hard to be everybody’s pal while plotting the best way to profit from them. To Doran’s way of thinking, the only thing worse than a thief was one that wanted you to enjoy being robbed. “To what to do I owe this unexpected pleasure?”

    “Because you are the only being in Merkesh City who I can trust with a very important task,” Lorr said, his floppy jowls quivering with emotion. “The only one I know who has a shred of decency, of honor.”

    Doran nearly choked on his drink. He swallowed with difficulty and then drained the glass of whiskey, signaling Sascha for another round. “I think you must have me confused with someone else.”

    “Come now, my friend, don’t try to deny it.” He held up a hand as Doran rolled his eyes. “Everyone knows. All of the fringe may come here, but we know you aren’t one of us. You could be rich from all the opportunities we could give you; I know you’ve had offers. You could have sold us all to the Imps; Renau must have asked for your cooperation. But you did neither.”

    “That proves I have scruples?” Doran asked with a snort. He took another hefty swallow of his whiskey. All he needed was Lorr’s gushing admiration. “If I sell you out, I won’t have any customers. If I go in on your offers, the Imps shut me down. That’s just business sense.”

    Lorr smiled enigmatically. "As you will, Doran, but whatever you call that quality, that is what I need. Someone I can trust to watch over a certain very rare, very valuable item until my client is able to claim it.”

    “Not interested, thanks.” Now go away.

    “Ah, but wait until you’ve seen the object in question,” Lorr said, pulling something from the overstuffed satchel that always hung at his hip. A few flimsies fluttered to the floor as he did, but the Sullustan ignored them. He presented Doran with a small cube that just fit in his hand. It looked like it had been carved out of crystal, etched with strange figures, and it glowed with a soft pink light. Doran’s jaw dropped, and his hand reached out of its own volition to touch the cube before he yanked it back. He knew why he’d felt so cold when Lorr came up behind him. This little knick-knack had the power to get him in a lot of trouble. “Are you crazy!” Doran hissed. “Put that thing away before someone sees it. If the Imps catch you with one of the missing Jedi relics….”

    Lorr’s smile broadened. “So you recognize it for what it is. Very few beings would, but I thought you might. Then you must surely see what a great opportunity this could be.”

    “An opportunity to meet an Imperial torture droid,” he growled in response, still unable to take his eyes off the holocron. “That’s what they killed Renau for, isn’t it? Baiard’s been in here every day for the last week, dragging my customers up to the garrison for interrogation. She gets word that I have this thing, the Imps will swarm in here like gravel maggots on a dead bantha.”

    “The Vice-Prefect will not know, I assure you. She would never suspect that you of all people would have it. You’re a being of scruples, remember?” Lorr said. “My client arrives in Merkesh tomorrow, the next day at the latest.”

    Two days was too long to keep anything connected with the Jedi. The Imps were already hot on the trail, and Doran thought that Lorr grossly underestimated Baiard’s intelligence. Unlike her amoral predecessor, the Vice-Prefect was single-minded in the pursuit of justice. She was tenacious and uncannily skilled at tracking down law-breakers, even when she had only bare shreds of evidence to go on. “I told you, I’m not interested. Now, put that thing back, go play sabacc, and pretend we never had this conversation.”

    “Please, Doran.” The Sullustan’s eyes seemed to grow even wider and more mournful, a feat Doran would have sworn was impossible. “I’ve been robbed twice since I came into possession of this treasure. Someone picked my satchel today and only sheer luck kept them from taking the holocron. I don’t dare keep it at home anymore, and you are the only being in Merkesh City I trust not to take it for himself.”

    “I’m not going to put myself in the Imps’ blaster sights just so you can make a few bucks off some snotty off-world collector,” Doran said. “I stick my neck out for no one.”

    “You wound me!” Lorr exclaimed clapping one hand over his heart theatrically. “I am not going to make a profit off of this priceless jewel. I merely return it to its rightful owners.”

    A second jolt of foreboding shot through Doran. Lorr was going to turn the holocron over to a Jedi. A Jedi, here in Merkesh City. As bad as it would be to have the Imps overrun his café, a Jedi would be worse. He could fool the Imps; most of them weren’t particularly observant or very smart, but there would be no deceiving a Jedi. Doran had created a life for himself here on Merkesh. Maybe it wasn’t the best life, but it was stable and he liked it. The Jedi would only destroy what had worked so hard to build. He shook his head emphatically, fully intending to refuse to become involved in Lorr’s cause.

    But then he noticed an unfamiliar light shining in the Sullustan’s round eyes. It took him a moment to realize it wasn’t greed or cunning or any of the other unsavory expressions his customers usually wore. It was hope. Lorr actually believed he could make a difference by giving the Jedi back their holocron. He still thought they had a snowball’s chance on Tatooine of winning against the Emperor and his unholy minions. Doran wanted to laugh and tell Lorr what a complete and utter fool he was.

    He couldn’t.

    Doran hadn’t felt hope for a long time; he had stopped believing in anything on a world whose name he couldn’t remember and wouldn’t want to if he could. But there was no way he would destroy someone else’s faith, even if that someone was a fool and a second rate criminal. Cursing himself for an idiot, Doran muttered, “Ok, ok.”

    Lorr beamed. “Thank you, Doran. I knew I could count on you.” He started to pass the transparent cube to Doran. “Wait,” Doran said. “I’ve got a better idea. Sascha, you got a rag back there?” The bartender gave him an odd look, but tossed him one of the towels she used to wipe down the bar. Doran gave it to Lorr. “Wrap the holocron in this and give it to Haaz when you leave. Don’t tell him what it is; just say it’s for me, and to put it in my office. Got it?”

    “Brilliant,” Lorr nodded enthusiastically. “That way no one sees me give the holocron to you. I can never thank you enough, Doran. Without a doubt you are the most honest man in all of Merkesh City.”

    “You think so?” Doran growled to himself as Lorr slipped away to the sabacc tables. “‘Cause right now, I feel like the biggest sucker on the planet.”
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  4. Kahara

    Kahara FFoF Hostess Extraordinaire star 4 VIP - Game Host

    Mar 3, 2001
    [face_laugh] Nope, sorry. Pathetic life forms at your doorstep forever, Doran.

    It was fun getting to know the inhabitants of the Café Alderaan through Doran's eyes. Really liked his inner thoughts on Pter Lorr (great name; I'm not likely to catch all the refs, but even I saw that one!) I liked seeing Doran try to cling to his determination to not get caught up in the mess, only to relent and feel like the "biggest sucker on the planet."
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  5. aleja2

    aleja2 Jedi Master star 2

    Aug 4, 2005
    Of all the cafes in all the planets in all the galaxy, she had to walk into Doran's....

    I bet this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship ;)

    And I'm so happy to see your name! I remember you and your writing very, very fondly from ye olden days on TF.N (I, too, took a very long break, so long I lost my original account and had to start a new one. And even then I dip in and out. But I'll stick around to read your work!)
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  6. pronker

    pronker Force Ghost star 4

    Jan 28, 2007
    I'm enjoying the references and am glad you reposted - that must be fun to get new comments.
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  7. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard FFoF Artist Extraordinaire star 4 VIP - Game Host

    Nov 22, 1999
    Hi aleja2! I wondered if any of my old friends were still on the boards; it's nice to see you again.

    pronker, yes, I'm really enjoying getting new comments on this story. Casablanca and Star Wars are my 2 favorite movies, so putting them together was a natural. Plus it's getting me in the right frame of mind to work on my AU and giving me time to researche Corellian Corvettes, the royal houses of Alderaan and other bits and pieces. :)

    Would anyone be interested in having a guide to the Casablanca references in the story? I could add story notes like Kahara has in Shark Kibble ( an excellent story, read it you must)
    Moff Cassius and his men invaded the Merkesh City Garrison the next day. Raissa trailed after them, marching double-time to keep up with the Moff as he strode through the Garrison’s halls, flanked by four lieutenants. They were all as shiny and stiff-gaited as protocol droids, and their parade ground perfection made Raissa surreptitiously brush the sand off her uniform. The Empire didn’t bother to manufacture clothing suitable for female officers-- there were hardly enough of them to make it worth the effort—so she had to cut down the smallest uniform she could find. They never seemed to fit her properly, and they were always coated in the thin film of dust that clung to everything on Merkesh. Another fault for Cassius to mark against her. Added that to her failure to recover the Jedi relics and discover Renau’s killer, as well as the heinous offense of being a woman, and she’d be lucky if he didn’t dismiss her outright. “Sir, I’ve made copies of all the information from the investigation of Prefect Renau’s death,” she said as the entourage stopped at the Prefect’s office. “The holograms of the scene, the death report, transcripts of my interviews with the suspects—they’re all waiting for you on the Prefect’s desk, along with what information I could find on the missing relics. If there’s anything else you require, please let me know, and I’ll get it for you immediately.”

    “Good work, Vice-Prefect.” It might have been a compliment, except that the Moff's expression suggested he was going to pat Raissa on the head and tell her to go play. “See that my men receive duplicate copies of everything you’ve given me, and bring the information to their offices at once.”

    “I beg your pardon, Moff Cassius,” Raissa said. “But this is a very small garrison, and the only other office is mine.”

    “Then go clear it out so my men can get to work.”

    “Sir,” Raissa began, but she got no farther. The Moff rounded on her, his steely gray eyes trying to bore holes into her forehead. “Did you hear me, Vice-Prefect? Perhaps you expected my lieutenants to share the common area with your petty little Merkeshian militiamen? My personal assistants were trained at the Imperial academy on Carida; I think their hard work and dedication to the Empire has earned them the right to your tiny little office at least.” He sneered at her. “But I wouldn’t expect someone like you to understand that.”

    Oh no? You should consider yourself lucky I remember the first lesson they taught us at Carida: never contradict you superior officer unless his life—not yours—is at stake. And even then think twice. Raissa smiled to cover her clenched teeth. “Of course, sir.” She pivoted smartly on her heel so she wouldn’t have to see the insolent grins Cassius’s men were wearing. A high-pitched snicker came from behind her, but she kept marching.

    “Oh and one more thing, Vice-Prefect,” Cassius called after she was halfway down the hall. She turned and forced the gracious smile back onto her face. “Sir?”

    “Make arrangements for us to have dinner somewhere tonight. My men and I can hardly be expected to eat the swill you serve in the mess hall.”

    Raissa’s smile tightened at the edges. “Yes, sir.”

    Doran lounged at his usual table, partially shaded by a stand of artificial ch'hala trees, watching people come and go. It wasn’t even mid-morning, but the cantina was teeming with business. Doran hadn’t realized before he bought the Café Alderaan that there were some beings who considered Norvanian grog an acceptable breakfast, the sabacc players, for instance. They were always the first to show up; Doran suspected they’d play all night if he and Haaz didn’t kick them out. They came back as soon as the doors opened, bleary-eyed and looking--and sometimes smelling – like they’d slept in the alley. After the gamblers settled down to a hand of sabacc and a glass of their favorite intoxicant, the information brokers arrived, staking out their tables with a mug of caf in hand. Some of them dealt in more than data; Doran knew which ones to approach for the best price on everything from cheap jewelry to second-hand starships.

    A movement by the door caught Doran’s eye. He glanced over to see Haaz flutter deferentially to the side to admit a slim figure dressed in Imperial gray-- Vice-Prefect Raissa Baiard, and he’d seen her look happier when she’d had to drag a half-drunk Renau away from the sabacc tables to attend to duty. Doran groaned, wondering which of his patrons she planned to accost today. It wasn’t that he disliked the Vice-Prefect, she was smart and generally amicable, since he stayed on the right side of the law. He even suspected she would be a good-looking woman if she ever let her auburn hair out of its tight braid and put on something besides a severely cut uniform. But the way Baiard kept coming back to the Cantina, dragging one or another of his best customers away for questioning was going to hurt his business. Doran slipped out of his seat as she passed his table and followed her up to the bar.

    “To what do I owe the pleasure of your appearance?” Doran asked, propping one elbow against the bar and setting down his own mug of caf. “Come to question some unsuspecting drunk again this morning? Maybe you should make this the garrison’s new headquarters and save yourself the trouble of traipsing across town.”

    Baiard was plainly not amused. She gave him a look that would drop a bantha at thirty paces. “I’m here to get a drink,” she said tartly. “But if my credits aren’t welcome any longer, I can always traipse across town to the Azure Kroyie.” She signaled Sascha, one hand slashing the air.

    “Credits are always welcome here,” Doran replied as Sascha hurried over, glass and bottle already in hand. “The usual, Vice-Prefect?” she asked.

    The officer nodded sharply, her lips compressing into a harder line. “I would love to have something stronger,” Baiard said with the edge of a sigh in her voice. “But I’m on duty.” Sascha smiled sympathetically and passed the glass of Ralla mineral water over to her. Baiard took a long swallow and stared down into the contents of her glass, as if she could touch the Force there if she just looked hard enough. Finally she set the heavy tumbler down on the bar with a thunk, and turned back to Doran with another pointed glance. “You don’t have to worry about me bothering your honest customers from now on, Doran. I’ve been taken off the case.”

    The mug of caf stopped halfway to Doran’s mouth and hovered there for an instant before he took a slow sip. "Oh really?” Baiard was the highest-ranking Imperial officer in Merkesh City since Renau’s untimely death; no one should have had the power to remove her from an investigation. “Renau’s ghost come back to demote you?”

    The Vice-Prefect laughed, but it had a hollow ring to it. “Even being haunted by Renau’s depraved spirit would be preferable to working with Moff Caius Cassius. At least Renau occasionally treated me as if I might be human. Cassius acts like I'm something he found in the nerf paddock." Her grip on the glass tightened until her knuckles turned white. “That’s part of the reason I’m here,” Baiard continued, her smile full of poisonous sweetness. “His Moffness demanded that I find someplace suitable for him to eat tonight. Someplace that doesn’t serve swill. Naturally, I thought of you.”

    “I’m honored,” Doran said dryly, turning his grimace into a mocking smile. Wonderful. He’d received a cryptic message from Pter Lorr early that morning, informing him that Lorr and his client would be meeting at the Café Alderaan tonight receive the holocron. But what else could he say to Baiard? You didn’t refuse a Moff, not unless your idea of a pleasant vacation was living in dank Imperial dungeon until he felt you had learned proper respect for the Empire. He’d told Lorr he didn’t stick his neck out for anyone, but now he was walking between a Krayt dragon and a sarlaac. Either way he went, he was lunch. Doran took another hefty swallow of the thick, dark caf to clear his head. No. He could handle this; it would take skill and timing to keep the Moff and the Jedi away from each other and both of them away from him, but he could pull it off. All the diplomatic training he’d received in his past life had to be good for something. “So, I’ll put you down for, what, sevenish?”

    “Fine,” Baiard answered, her shoulders relaxing visibly. “Table for six.” She emphasized the number as if afraid he was going to dispute it. Doran nodded, and watched her thoughtfully as she sipped at the Ralla mineral water. Know the players; that was the cardinal rule in these situations. If he was going to keep the Café from erupting into battle tonight, he needed as much information as he could get about this Moff. Too late to find out about the Jedi, but he knew the type, if not the individual. He doubted any problems would come that corner. “What do you think of this Moff Cassius?” he asked.
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  8. taramidala

    taramidala Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Jun 18, 1999
    Ohhh, I remember this fic now! [face_love] This is going to be fun to revisit! Casablanca is one of my favorites, too. :)
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  9. pronker

    pronker Force Ghost star 4

    Jan 28, 2007
    Nice chapter - the intrigue gathers sweetly!
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  10. Kahara

    Kahara FFoF Hostess Extraordinaire star 4 VIP - Game Host

    Mar 3, 2001
    Cassius is a grotesque example of the kind of person who works their way into power at all costs, so that they can have the joy of stomping on those under their “guidance.”Very effectively nasty. He's clearly used to lording it over all he surveys. Especially if he surveys some female imposter in his territory.

    I liked Doran's observations on the crowd that comes to his café. Sounds like it's just a bit more high-class than the Mos Eisley cantina, but not enough that it doesn't have a certain ambiance. Bet Cassius and his men will just love that ambiance. :p They may have to run customer disposal early if those stuffed shirts are coming to visit. Great for business, I'm sure.

    The meeting with Raissa was fun; it's obvious that they have a long-running and not especially happy association. Their annoyances mostly come from other factors, though. I can feel their irritability at the whole situation very well.


    BTW, I would welcome a field guide to the Casablanca references.
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  11. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard FFoF Artist Extraordinaire star 4 VIP - Game Host

    Nov 22, 1999
    This post took longer to edit than I expected, and then my internet died... *sigh* It is a nice long post, though, so I hope you'll forgive the delay. I will try to post the guide to Casablanca references later tonight, once the Youngling gets to bed. Sadly, Jedi mind tricks don't work on her. ;) You see, she neeeeeeeds the iPad for the vital task of looking at My Little Pony...

    Raissa managed to swallow her mineral water before she either choked on it or spit it at Doran. “What do I think about him? He’s the most inflexible, egotistical, dictatorial laser-brained stuffed shirt I’ve had the ill luck to meet since I was a cadet at Carida. He makes my drill instructor seem like an Alderaanian nursemaid. He’s a nerf’s….” Belatedly, she clamped her mouth shut. As satisfying as it was to vent, she could be called up for insubordination if the wrong person heard her. Raissa glanced over to see if any of the information brokers were taking notes on their conversation. No one seemed to be paying any attention, but she might not find out if her instincts were right until it was too late. At least she knew Doran could be trusted not to sell her out. Whatever he knew—and Raissa suspected that was everything of importance in Merkesh City—he kept strictly to himself. Doran might have been just this side of honest, and there were gaping holes in his file at the Garrison, but he was one of the few beings on Merkesh who wasn’t on Raissa's list of the usual suspects.

    He was watching her over the brim of his mug, amusement crinkling the corners of his eyes. Raissa felt her mouth quirk up in reply, though why she should want to smile at the moment was beyond her. Doran was a puzzle to her sometimes. She’d never been able to figure out quite why she liked the man. His caustic sense of humor didn't faze her, but she always felt that he was keeping the world at arm's length. He never drank with his customers, not even the regulars, and though his employees were loyal to a fault, none of them could ever say what Doran did when the cafe was closed. It suddenly occurred to her that he might be cynical, aloof and only marginally trustworthy, but he was probably the closest thing she had to a friend on this worthless rock.

    Raissa set her glass down with a heavy thunk and shrugged. “It doesn’t really matter what I think of him. Coruscant sent him to take over the investigation…. with Jedi artifacts involved, they’re not taking any chances," she said. "I could almost feel sorry for the culprit. There won’t be two consecutive molecules left of him after the Moff is finished. But I can’t see how Cassius is going to solve this case. I’ve been over the evidence a hundred times or more. He’d have to use Jedi mind tricks to pry the answers loose.” Doran winced, which struck Raissa as odd ; she'd never known Doran to be picky about a joke. She wished she had mind tricks at her disposal so she could figure out what was going on beneath that blasé front he kept up.

    The comlink on her belt chimed loudly, and Raissa snatched it up with a sigh of disgust. “Vice-Prefect Baiard,” she answered. Static crackled over the line for a second. “Your assistance is required in the marketplace. Captain Donal has apprehended Dev Brey’lya and needs back up,” came the dispatcher’s reply. “Repeat….” Raissa stifled another sigh. “I heard you the first time. Any idea why Donal can’t handle a Bothan pickpocket on his own?” Dispatch was silent for a moment, then answered uneasily, “It isn’t so much the Bothan he needs help with. It’s the Togorian whose wallet Brey’lya was trying to lift. Apparently she doesn’t trust Donal.” Smart girl, Raissa thought. Donal was exactly the type of officer who would let the pickpocket go for a small fee. Renau had looked the other way when his officers became independent businessmen, and some times even taken a cut of the bribe. That was going to change on her watch, though; justice was for everyone not just those who could buy it. Raissa grimaced. At least it would change if the Moff didn’t summarily dismiss her from her post. “Tell Donal I’m on my way. Baiard out.”

    Raissa shouldered her way through the mass of beings jammed in the market square. She picked out the tall, ginger striped Togorian, who held Dev Brey’lya's arms pinioned behind him. The drunken Bothan’s dust colored hackles rose and fell as Donal relieved him of his day's take. Everyone in Merkesh City knew Brey’lya was a pickpocket; his favorite target was unwary off worlders. Today he must have had a few too many at the Azure Kroyie to think that the feline would make a good mark.

    “Nice work,” Raissa said, more to the Togorian than to Donal. She inspected the pile of goods on the ground: two ancient Blas-tech 30’s, a vibro-shiv, assorted datacards, and four wallets, one genuine nerf-hide. Raissa picked up the wallet and leafed through it. “That’s mine,” Brey’lya protested.

    “Really?” she commented. She held up the identification card that was still inside. “This is you?” The image showed a two meter tall Wookiee with deep brown fur.

    “It’s a bad picture.”

    Raissa rolled her eyes. Strong drink had apparently dulled the Bothan’s mind as well as his reflexes. “Nice try. Looks like we finally got enough evidence to convict: all of this, plus an eyewitness. You will testify, yes?” she asked the Togorian who was watching the proceedings with interest. She bared an impressive set of gleaming, sharp teeth. “Most assuredly.” Raissa nodded; at least something had gone right today. "Cuff him, Donal.” She bent down to retrieve the rest of Brey'lya's loot.

    “You hear that? You’re gonna be going away for a long time, Brey’lya. A long time.” Donal grinned and slapped a binder cuff on one of Brey’lya’s wrists, harder than was strictly necessary. Raissa heard it crack wickedly and winced. Donal really didn’t need to take this much enjoyment in his work. She looked up to see Donal wrench the Bothan’s other arm behind his back. Brey'lya's face contorted, but the captain either didn't notice how much pain he was inflicting or didn't care.

    "Donal, stop," Raissa warned, putting more than a touch of stern command in voice. She could sense that whatever self-control Brey'lya had left was fraying faster than a nerf-hide rope in a pit of nek battle dogs. To her amazement, Donal listened for once and paused to wait for her next instructions.

    Brey’lya took advantage of the momentary distraction; he whipped around with a feral growl, and sent Donal, who was still holding onto the Bothan's wrists, crashing into Raissa and the Togorian. The three of them fell to the ground in tangle of limbs. Raissa scrambled out of the pile first, avoiding the Togorian's needle sharp claws and teeth. She pushed herself to her feet as the hissing Togorian shoved Donal roughly to one side. The market place had erupted into chaos around them, a stream of indignant shoppers and shouted profanities marking Brey'lya's trail. Raissa pulled her stun blaster and sprinted after him.

    The crowd opened up around her, and she caught sight of Brey'lya's retreating form. She put on an extra burst of speed, drawing energy from her determination. She would catch him, shavit, if she had to chase him all the way across the marketplace. Even if she had to chase him the length of Merkesh City. He glanced back at he and grimaced, the fur around his neck standing out in wild disarray. A wizened old Twi'lek held out a blum fruit as the Bothan dashed past, and Brey'lya shoved him aside, sending him sprawling on his back into his fruit stand. The Twi'lek's wares bounced into the dusty street, a miniature avalanche of round, red fruit. The vendor wailed feebly, struggling to get up, his wrinkled lekku twitching. Several young Rodians loitering at the edge of the crowd took the opportunity to scurry forward and start shoving the pricey blum fruits into their mouths and their satchels. The Twi'lek's moans grew louder as he made faint shooing gestures at the vagabonds. They just grinned at him, blum fruit juice dripping down their snouts; one lobbed an overripe fruit at the Twi'lek.

    They scattered as Raissa darted forward; the impudent Rodian who had hurled the blum fruit at the old Twi'lek reached back for one last fruit. He changed his mind as she scowled and waved the stun blaster at him. Raissa pulled the merchant to his feet, brushing pulpy bits of blum fruit off his robes. "Are you hurt?" she asked; he didn't seem to be, but she would see that Brey'lya served time for assault if he had injured the old man. The Twi'lek shook his head, lekku swinging violently, as he mumbled incoherent thanks to her. He grasped her hand and shook it, until Raissa managed to pry it away from him and sidle away with a reassuring smile. She glanced around for some indication which way Brey'lya had gone, but the crowd in the marketplace had returned to their business, as if fugitives were chased through everyday. They probably were, she reflected grimly. The shoppers seemed to ignore her now; no one so much as twitched an eyebrow to point her in the right direction. Never mind. She would catch Brey'lya. He couldn't have gone far; she could still almost feel him. Raissa set off down the street at a brisk lope.

    The street curved off to the left and narrowed as it reached the edge of the marketplace, and still no sign of the runaway Bothan. The crowds had nearly disappeared, too, leaving only the occasional passerby to stare curiously at her. Raissa ignored them and pressed on, following what she hoped was still the trail. The street turned another corner and ended abruptly in a Y. The right fork was narrow, lined by rows of crumbling lath and plaster houses-- cheap housing in a not quite reputable are of the city. The other fork was just as narrow, but dimmer, little more than an alley full of discarded packing crates and disused droid parts. Raissa took half a step to the right, then stopped. It was the logical choice; what fugitive would run headlong into a dark alley if there was a chance he was still being followed? But her instincts pulled her to the left. She thumbed the setting on her stun blaster up a notch higher and stepped into the alleyway.

    Raissa paused for a second, letting her eyes adjust to the dim light. The smell of alcohol and something else acrid and less identifiable assaulted her senses. She ignored the stench and continued to scan her surroundings; she had a feeling of being watched. Something shifted in depths of the alley, a movement only half-seen in her peripheral vision. Raissa's attention snapped to what had seemed to be a pile of rags only moments before. Now she could see the glint of sunlight of the binder cuff still dangling from Brey'lya's wrist and the shapeless pile resolved itself into the silhouette of a Bothan crouched in the shadows. He was reaching for something behind a dented crate. Raissa leveled her blaster at him. "Drop it Brey'lya, unless you want to add attempted assault of an Imperial officer to the list." The Bothan snarled weakly, and his hand went slack. "Good. Now come out--slowly-- and keep your hands where I can see them." He hung back for another moment or two, then complied, shuffling out of the corner. The smell of soured liquor increased the closer he came; Raissa wrinkled her nose. Now she knew why he'd staggered into the alley and why most the fight seemed to have gone out of him.

    "Vice-Prefect?" a shaky voice called from behind her. She turned just enough to see Donal stagger into the alley, panting heavily. "Cuff him," Raissa ordered, gesturing with the barrel of her blaster. "And this time, be careful." Donal dropped his satchel to the ground and muttered something about the females of all species, rubbing at the four parallel scratches that ran down the side of his face. Raissa kept her blaster trained on Brey'lya as the Captain clicked the binders securely shut. This time she waited until he had a good grasp on the Bothan and started leading him out of the alley to pick up the sack containing their evidence. Raissa inspected the satchel's contents; she didn't trust Donal not to leave the wallets and pocket the credits as a tip. As she flipped through the datacards, her fingers brushed against a design embossed in the top right corner of one. She didn't have to look to recognize it as the Imperial insignia. However, a quick glance confirmed it, and showed what she had hoped to find -- the letters AR entwined in the middle. Renau had come up with the insignia for his private files in a moment of supreme egotism; no one below Grand Moff Tarkin branded their datacards that way. For once, though, his conceit served a useful purpose. Raissa smiled as her fingers closed around the datacard, her first real clue in weeks.
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  12. Kahara

    Kahara FFoF Hostess Extraordinaire star 4 VIP - Game Host

    Mar 3, 2001
    Aww, Raissa. Probably the sweetest thing anyone's said about him. :p

    The pickpocket scene was nice for another look into the locals and how things run on Merkesh. That the police aren't trusted and Renau was skimming off the edges -- unfortunately not surprising. I liked that Raissa was insistent on seeing the Bothan treated fairly, but hauled off instead of paying a bribe. She's good people. Although, I suspect her evidence may not lead as far as she wishes with a blockhead like Cassius in charge.
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  13. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard FFoF Artist Extraordinaire star 4 VIP - Game Host

    Nov 22, 1999
    Kahara, I'm glad you like Raissa; she's obviously special to me. :) When I was reading "Shark Kibble," Lydia and her mother reminded me a bit of Raissa-- Imperials who believe in the ideals of the Empire (if not the reality), and act according to their duty.

    As promise, here's the guide to the "Casablanca" references thus far:

    The title " Everyone Comes to Doran's Place" is taken from "Everyone Comes to Rick's Place," which was the original title for "Casablanca.""

    Prefect Renau: Borrowed from Prefect Louis Renault, chief of police, in Casablanca, with the notable difference that Louis is a major character while Renau dies before our story even begins. Raissa takes over most of Louis's role. Louis Renault clearly enjoyed his vices as well, gambling and using his position to hit on pretty girls, but he's not nearly as sleazy as our late, un-lamented Prefect Renau.

    Moff Caius Cassius: analogous to Major Strasser, the German officer, in Casablanca. Strasser comes to investigate the murder of a German courier and the theft of two letters of transit. Cassius's name is a Shakespearean reference: "Yon Cassius has a lean and hungry look" (Julius Caesar) Caius was another of the conspirators against Caesar.

    Sascha: The bartender in Casablanca, except in the movie, the character was a Russian man.

    The Azure Kroyie: The other bar in Casablanca, "The Blue Parrot." Sadly, I couldn't find a way to bring Sidney Greenstreet's character, who owns The Blue Parrot, into the story. I suspect in the GFFA, he might be a Hutt. :)

    Doran Blayne: Blayne is borrowed from Rick Blaine, Humphrey Bogart's character in Casablanca. Like Rick, Doran "sticks his neck out for no one."

    Sem Yarba: My sister was quite disappointed that I didn't work in the line "Play it again, Sem." (Although "Play it again, Sam" is never actually said in Casablanca.) Yarba has no meaning, just sounded Ortolan to me.
  14. Tyria_Sarkin

    Tyria_Sarkin Jedi Master star 1

    Dec 9, 2000
    I think you must be Force sensitive. I've just gotten back into SW fandom after eons away (honestly, I'm amazed my account here still exists) and was browsing through the classic JC fanfic board today when I remembered this story and went to go look for it. I can't remember if I ever left a review on the original and if not I'm sincerely sorry about that, because this story is fantastic! I'm so glad you started reposting because the posts on the original thread are each cut off half way through. I was despairing of ever reading the complete story, and the only thing I could think to do was Google it to see if it was hosted somewhere else, and lo and behold, you just started reposting it! It's been so long since I first read this, and with my terrible memory it's like reading a new story again! Can't wait for more!
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  15. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard FFoF Artist Extraordinaire star 4 VIP - Game Host

    Nov 22, 1999
    Tyria_Sarkin, welcome back, and thank you for the wonderful compliment! :) The only (in)complete copy of Doran's Place is here; my sister and I used to have a fanfic site, but it is sadly defunct. Guess I'll have to that to my list of things to do. ;)

    Brey'lya's datacard turned out to be the manifest of Jedi artifacts that had been stolen from Prefect Renau's body. Moff Cassius' spidery eyebrows crawled halfway up his forehead when he read it: two lightsabers, still fully functional, three sets of Jedi robes, three Jedi medallions and a holocron, whatever that was. "Well, it seems wev've found our murderer," he declared. " That wasn't so hard, now was it, Vice-Prefect?"

    Raissa schooled her features and took a deep breath before replying, "Withh all due respect,sir, I don't think Brey'lya is a the killer. He makes his living off of careless off-worlders; he's not the type to shoot a high ranking Imperial in cold blood."

    The Moff gave Raissa a look that would have sent womp rats scurrying for their nests. "Oh please, he's a known criminal in possession of the Prefect's missing property, and a non-human to boot. What other logical conclusion should I draw? Verrine, arrange transport for the prisoner to the processing facility on Helska IV so we can leave this light-forsaken planet." He strode out of the conference room, the heels of his polished boots clicking against the worn floor.

    "But, Sir," Raissa insisted, following. "Imperial law clearly states that suspects are due an impartial investigation before..."

    Cassius rounded on her with the speed of a charging bantha. "You dare to quote Imperial law to me, Vice-Prefect?" he snarled. "Fine, bring the Bothan scum in here and let's get the truth out of him."

    Brey'lya was more than a little hungover when one of the lieutenants dragged him in. He swayed in the hard backed chair even as he tried to look defiant. Cassius, still in a fury, bellowed at him like an enraged Hutt "You're in a lot of trouble, Bothan. The Empire doesn't take it lightly when scum like you assault their officers."

    Brey'lya's fur rippled uncertainly. "I didn't touch her!" he slurred. "I put the pipe down when she said! Tell him!" He glanced at Raissa in appeal. "I didn't do nothing to you! You tell him!"

    "I'm not referring to the Vice-Prefect," Cassius said. His tone of voice left little doubt that Brey'lya could have beat her senseless in the alley, and he wouldn't have cared. "I'm talking about the murder of Prefect Ari Renau."

    "Murder? Renau? I didn't have nothing to do with that!" The Bothan's hackles rose.

    The Mofff picked up the datacard and waved it under Brey'lya's muzzle. "This was in Renau's possession when he was killed. If you didn't take it off him, then how did you get it?"

    "I.." Brey'lya clamped his mouth shut. "I never saw it before."

    The interrogation dragged while Cassius paced, ranted, bullied, threatened-- all but physically shook Brey'lya. The pickpocket maintained his innocence throughout, and Raissa believed him. She knew he would never have admitted to killing an Imperial officer, but his denials were more than just pat answers. Raissa prided herself on being able to read expressions, on being a good judge of character, for aliens as well as humans, and she saw the ring of truth in Brey'lya's bloodshot eyes. While Moff Cassius stepped aside to get a glass of water for his throat, parched from screaming, Raissa intervened. "Where'd you get the datacard?" she asked quietly. "The sentence for theft is a lot lighter than it is for killing an Imperial officer." She leaned forward against the creaky old table and looked straight into the Bothan's dark eyes. "Brey'lya, do you want to go to Kessel? Cassius will send you there for murdering Renau if you don't work with me." The Bothan stared blearily at her, then broke down, alternately sobbing about Kessel and gibbering about the datacard. Despite Moff Cassius's pointed scrutiny, Raissa managed to make sense of the Bothan's tale; he had lifted the datacard from a Sullustan named Pter Lorr the day before.

    "I knew he wouldn't have killed Renau," Raissa told the Moff as a lieutenant marched the trembling Brey'lya back to his cell. Cassius glared at her again, a look that conveyed a range of contempt and scorn. She wondered how long it had taken him to get scowling down to such an art.

    "You can't trust such vermin," Cassius retorted. "He would say anything to save his wretched furry hide. We'll see what this Pter Lorr has to tell us." He snapped his fingers and one of the ubiquitous lieutenants hurried forward. "Find this Sullustan-- Pter Lorr," Cassius told him. "Find him if you have to search all night."

    Raissa almost smiled. She knew Lorr, knew exactly where to find him. "That won't be necessary, sir," she said. "Lorr is something of a gambler, a sabacc player. He'll be at the Café Alderaan tonight for the games. We have dinner reservations there tonight, and you could combine business and pleasure, so to speak."

    "You're certain?" Cassius's ominous tone made it plain that she had better be.

    "Yes, sir" Raissa answered. She might not be a moff, but she knew Merkesh City. "Everyone comes to Doran's Place."
    Notes: I feel like this repost is like the "Director's Cut" of Doran's Place. Most of the changes I've made so far have been to cut extra verbiage or clarify things. This the first scene I've reworked to a greater degree. I added some dialogue to show more of Brey'lya's interrogation, instead of summarizing it. I hope the scene works well now.
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  16. Kahara

    Kahara FFoF Hostess Extraordinaire star 4 VIP - Game Host

    Mar 3, 2001
    I think the interrogation scene was good, and I had forgotten enough that I had no idea it wasn't in the original. It's certainly relevant to how Raissa perceives her employment with the Empire.

    Rather unflattering snapshot of just how the Empire works outside the places where someone ethical is in charge. It's interesting -- Raissa's been around long enough to know what a mess a lot of it is, and doesn't expect much good of fellow officers, but she still insists on doing things the right way. Having someone like Cassius come in and make an eopie's posterior of themselves all over the place has got to feel like a slap in the face.

    Thanks for posting the Casablanca references; there is so much reference to that film in pop culture that I recognize a quote or something here and there, but I've never actually sat down and watched the whole thing. It's interesting to see where the various names/personalities are repurposed here! I did catch one by myself. (Merkesh is after Marrakesh, right? That name was familiar because of an old Loreena McKennitt song. :p)

    I like Raissa's insistence on being honorable and just, as much as she's able. There is something about the weariness and determination there that is really appealing. And thank you for the compliments. I think we actually see quite a few "good-guy Imperials" in canon -- it's just that most of them are like Han, Corran, and Mara; they've already had the moment of truth that says this thing you're working for is not just flawed but irredeemable. We meet them shortly before or long after that moment.
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  17. Tyria_Sarkin

    Tyria_Sarkin Jedi Master star 1

    Dec 9, 2000
    This might be the first time I've ever felt sorry for a Bothan. :D
  18. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard FFoF Artist Extraordinaire star 4 VIP - Game Host

    Nov 22, 1999
    Cassius and his men sneered at the citizens of Merkesh City as Raissa guided them through the marketplace. The lieutenants drew back from the shoppers, as if they were going to catch the plague if they came within a meter of one of the scruffy natives. Raissa struggled to keep a straight face; perhaps Merkesh City wasn't Coruscant, but there were places in the Empire that made Merkesh look like a bastion of peace and prosperity. Even the depths of the Imperial City were considerably less civilized. Raissa thought that all the Empire's cadets were required to do a tour of duty in the seamier parts of the galaxy to cull out the faint of heart; she'd done three such assignments consecutively. The Moff and his men must have put that all behind them when they got promoted to desk jobs that let them dress like recruiting posters, or maybe they'd bought their way out of the nasty jobs. She'd heard that happened quite a bit among the upper class. It would explain a few things about the right honorable Moff and company.

    Doran's Café Alderaan came as a surprise after the dusty bedlam the of the market. The dirt-colored buildings around it slumped as if they'd been left out in the heat too long, but the Café stood straight and tall, it's meticulously whitewashed facade shining like a mirage. The massive double-doors were made of dark, oiled wood, bound with brass fittings and polished to a high gloss. They swung open noiselessly at Raissa's touch. The five officers stepped out of the glaring sunset and into the cafe's coolness, blinking as their eyes adjusted to the dim interior. Cassius looked down his hooked nose and sniffed. "Well, who would have thought to find someplace like this on this dismal pile of sand?"

    "Thank you," a wry voice answered. "So nice to be appreciated." A figure detached itself from the shadow of the artificial ch'hala trees flanking the doorway. The man was unremarkable--average height, brown hair neither particularly short or long, clothes that were neat but not fashionable-- but his bearing was supremely confident, almost insolent, as if every table, chair and potted plant belonged to him. Which, of course, they did.

    "Allow me to introduce Doran Blayne, owner of the Café Alderaan," Raissa said. "Doran, this is Moff Caius Cassius of the Hydian Sector, and his associates, Lieutenants Gressil, Verrine, Carreau, and Rosiere." She still couldn't tell which of the lieutenants was which. They seemed largely interchangeable, each as stolid and solidly built as if they'd been ordered from central casting for a holo vid.

    "Gentlemen," Doran answered, his nod to them so slight as to be infinitesimal. "Vice-Prefect, always good to see you. I have our best table reserved for you and your friends."

    "Thank you, Doran," Raissa said, following as he lead them to their seats. him to a large circular table near the bandstand. Cassius surveyed the restaurant as if he was a Corellian lord conferring the honor of his presence on a mere nerf herder. "This is quite an establishment," the moff said as they reached a large circular table near the bandstand. One of the officers pulled out a chair for him and stepped back with a crisp bow "But the Café Alderaan? I should think that Alderaanians would be offended by the presence of so much fake greenery. They're quite keen on having the real thing everywhere they can possibly manage to put a plant. Something about the sanctity of life, I believe."

    "Yes, well, it's a bit hard to come by anything other than scatterweed and the odd fruit palm on Merkesh," Doran replied smoothly. "Besides, most of my patrons have never been to Alderaan, likely will never go there either. They're simply glad to sit in any available shade and see a color besides brown."

    Raissa took seat between two of the lieutenants-- Gressil and Verrine? -- a seat which unfortunately placed her directly across from the Moff. Cassius unfolded his napkin and spread it across his lap. "I'll take a Correllian whiskey and the same for all my men," he told Doran, who raised an eyebrow at the Moff. "Your waiter…" Doran began, but Cassius continued, "And what about you, Vice-Prefect? Whiskey as well? Or maybe something more befitting a woman?"

    "Ralla mineral water," Raissa answered, twisting her napkin in her hands and wishing it was the Moff's stylus-scrawny neck. "I don't drink while I'm on duty."

    Cassius gave an isn't-that-precious sort of chuckle. "Make it five whiskeys and one water for the lady." Doran raised both eyebrows this time, and slipped into the aisle without further comment. The look he gave Raissa as he passed Raissa expressed his deep and profound regret that she had to associate with such a presumptuous ass. She watched as Doran approached the bar, and gestured vehemently at their table. Sascha laughed as she poured a round of whiskeys, but by the time Doran returned with tray in hand, he seemed as detached as ever.

    Cassius accepted his whiskey and inspected it carefully, perhaps concerned that this establishment served swill after all. He glanced over the rim of his glass at Doran. "Your file at the garrison mentioned that you served in the Alderaanian reserves during the Clone Wars, but it was rather vague as to where you are actually from."

    "You mean Renau hadn't dug up my third grade transcripts? Shame on him," Doran said, handing Raissa her mineral water. "Anyway, I prefer to consider myself a citizen of the galaxy."

    "You mean a citizen of the Empire," corrected the Moff.

    Doran shrugged. "I suppose it amounts to the same thing."

    "Hmm," Cassius murmured as he finally tasted his drink. "And how did a citizen of the galaxy such as yourself end up on this backwater planet?"

    "Like everyone here, I ran out of luck."

    Cassius looked around the café with a disbelieving smirk. "Some people would like very much to have this kind of bad luck."

    "I decided to make my own luck once I arrived on Merkesh," Doran said. He tucked the oval tray under one arm. "If that will be all…sir."--Raissa noticed the pause before the last word even if the Moff seemed-- "I have other business I need to attend to." Doran bowed to Cassius, but, half-hidden by the tray was a gesture that was considered quite rude in Mon Calamari and Quarren. Raissa stifled a laugh, choking on her drink, while the Moff glared at her, stupid woman who couldn't even handle mineral water. She was saved from whatever barbed comment he was about to make when she spotted a familiar droopy figure from the corner of her eye. "That's him," she murmured, jerking her head in the Sullustan's direction. "That's Pter Lorr."

    The Moff rose, and with a crook of his finger the lieutenants were on their feet as well, heeling like a pack of well-trained hunting hounds. Raissa stood slowly, lingering at the back of the company, her napkin dangling limply from one hand. Six on one seemed like overkill for one seedy con man, unless Lorr had a thermal detonator hidden in his satchel.

    Cassius tapped the Sullustan on the shoulder. ""Pter Lorr?"

    "Yes?" Lorr replied, turning. "What can I…" His voice trailed off when he saw the impressive array of officers that had encircled him. His floppy jowls quivered, but he gave the Moff an unctuous smile. "What can I do for you, officer?"

    "I am Moff Cauis Cassius, and I have some questions to ask you concerning the murder of Prefect Ari Renau."

    "Of course, of course," the unfortunate Sullustan stammered. Panic flashed through his wide brown eyes, but Lorr kept the amiable smile in place. "I'm always glad to help in the pursuit of justice. If you would please let me exchange my sabacc chips, first?" He held up a double handful of the brightly colored disks, nodding towards the cashier's window.

    "Very well," the Moff replied with a sneer of patrician contempt. He waved curtly, dismissing Lorr for the moment.

    "Thank you," Lorr said, and made a fawning little bow. The lieutenants were only a pace or two behind him as he approached the cashier droid and handed over his chips. The droid sorted the various denominations with automated efficiency, spitting out a stack of credits. He murmured his thanks to the droid and began putting the credits into his satchel. A prickle ran down the back of Raissa's neck, and time seemed to suddenly expand and contract, playing like a bad holovid. She saw Lorr reach deeper into his bag for something that reflected the light dully. "Look out," she began, "he's got…" The Sullustan pulled the blaster free of its hiding place before she finished. At the same time, all four Imperials tackled him, knocking Lorr to the ground. He clutched the trigger spasmodically, and the laser bolt went awry, splintering bits of shrapnel off a vine wrapped column. Screams rang through the café. Doran charged forward, pushing through the crowd of panicky diners, looking angry enough to spit blaster bolts.

    He reached the edge of the scene as the lieutenants hauled Lorr up, his blaster clattering uselessly to the floor. "Doran!" Lorr yelled, struggling against the strong arms that pinioned him. "Doran, help me! Please! Doran!" The café manager's eyes slid from the captive Sullustan to Moff Cassius and back. "Sorry, Lorr," he said gruffly. "I don't put myself in the blaster sights for anyone." Doran turned away, leaving Lorr still pleading and squirming in the lieutenants' grasp, but not before Raissa saw the anger glowing in his hazel eyes.

    Raissa leaned against one of the columns, fighting off a wave of vertigo as time returned to its normal dimensions. Her instincts were still quivering like a tree frog in a Hutt's grip. Why did she still feel something was amiss now that the officers had apprehended their suspect? And why was she more concerned for Lorr than for her investigation? "I'll take him back to the garrison," she offered when Cassius's men had finished securing his hands behind his back.

    "Nonsense," Cassius replied. "Carreau and Rosiere can handle that quite well. You, Vice-Prefect, must stay for dinner. Why, you're almost the guest of honor."

    "Thank you sir," Raissa managed a sickly smile. I should have known I couldn't escape that easily. The Moff waved her back to the table, and she sat as far away from him as she could manage, smoothing the wrinkles from her linen napkin. Raissa tried to pay attention to Cassius's harangue about the depravity of every species but humans and the need to impose strong order upon them, but gave up, managing only to murmur "Yes, sir. How fascinating, sir" in the appropriate places. She sipped at her Ralla mineral water and glanced around the café as Cassius droned on. Haaz had taken his usual place at the door, and was conducting a striking couple to a table at the far side of the room. The man was tall and gaunt, his cloak slightly threadbare. His wavy hair was streaked with gray and he had the tired look of someone though recovering from a long illness. There was a air of serenity about him that suggested whatever he had been through had not defeated him.The woman next to him was beautiful; her honey-gold hair rippled down to her shoulders and her ceris red lips curved in a sweet smile. She was considerably younger than the man, but she had some of the same composure. There was something about them that drew Raissa's attention and made her want to study them closer.

    "Are you listening to me, Vice-Prefect?" Cassius's petulant voice sliced into her thoughts.

    "Of course, sir," Raissa answered, pulling her attention back with difficulty. The Moff had apparently started another diatribe, this time on the terrorist group who called themselves the Alliance to Restore the Republic. By the time she was able to look around again, the couple was lost in the crowd.
    Notes: The more I work on this story, the more I sympathize with George Lucas and his Special Special Editions. I really thought all I was going to do was repost this story, maybe tweak a phrase here and there, but I keep finding places where I think, "hmm, I could make this better." I wonder if I come back in 6 months or year (or 10), I'll think the same thing. Right now, I'm working to heed the advice of my old Jedi master writing instructor to "show, don't tell." (MTFBWY, Professor Foster, wherever you are.)

    The main changes in this section were to add some more banter between Doran and Cassius (which mirrors Rick's first meeting with Strasser) and the description of that mysterious couple at the end, to make their appearance match Paul Heinreid and Ingrid Bergman more closely.

    Kahara, yep, Merkesh is taken from Marrakech (the only other Moroccan city I know besides Casablanca :) )

    Brey'lya is based on the pickpocket you see early in "Casablanca," who warns the refugee couple about "vultures everywhere," while he is relieving them of their money. Brey'lya, however, chose his mark poorly. :D
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  19. Kahara

    Kahara FFoF Hostess Extraordinaire star 4 VIP - Game Host

    Mar 3, 2001

    Yeah, I think she’s right. They’re a bunch of spoiled monkey-lizards. On the plus side, that probably means they’ve never had to use their gray matter a day in their lives.

    Liked that intro of Doran from others’ perspective. We’ve already seen into his point of view, and from Raissa (who knows him well enough that she doesn’t bother thinking what he looks/seems like.) It’s a nice look at what his usual persona is, as seen by others. The Café is definitely his element, the place where he feels at home. I could empathize with his annoyance at dealing with Cassius and company, and having to be polite all the while.

    Beware of the lady, Moff. One more straw… though I suspect that, sadly, she’s probably accustomed to various degrees of the same kind of contempt. The Empire’s general disgust with women is very effectively strewn throughout the story so far, so we get a pretty good sense of how crummy Raissa’s position is.

    Heh. Nice. I like that Doran can’t resist being a bit challenging here.

    Cassius is lucky that Doran is probably too careful of his establishment’s reputation to spit in the food.

    And here we see that someone is very protective of their home ground, and perhaps of its usual patrons. Bit of a contrast to the " don't put myself in the blaster sights for anyone" a little later. More like he doesn’t admit to it. Though he does let the Imps take Lorr (but seems rather reluctant.)

    And I suspect that everyone on Merkesh is counting the days until this idiot goes back to whatever “higher” civilization he came from. Especially Raissa.

    The mystery couple does seem rather interesting – and I liked the notes on who they are supposed to resemble.
  20. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard FFoF Artist Extraordinaire star 4 VIP - Game Host

    Nov 22, 1999
    Kahara, I'm glad Doran's description worked in that post. It was originally in Doran's first appearance, but since that was told from his POV, it was kind of awkward there. I wanted to work it in before The story progressed too far.

    And now more about that mystery couple.....

    Doran stalked to the bar and slammed the empty tray down. "Give me the strongest drink we've got back there," he barked at a startled Sascha. "Make it a double." She frowned at him as she ducked under the bar, but emerged with a bottle of dark blue, faintly noxious looking liquid. Sascha set two large tumblers on the bar and poured the thick liqueur into them. They seemed to steam slightly as she slid them over to Doran. He picked up one, took a hefty swallow, and nearly gagged. It tasted like fermented whaladon blubber with a liberal dose of dirty Wookiee fur and it burned going down like drinking speeder fuel with a lit striker for a chaser. It did, however, drown his anger under a wave of pure agony.

    When the raging fire in his throat subsided, Doran stared pensively at the remaining glass and a half of the foul stuff. He wondered if forgetting his troubles was worth the money he'd have to pay for the services of the 2-1B droid at Merkesh City's rundown medical clinic. He took another experimental sip, spluttered and decided that stewing in his own juices was far better than the short-term effects of his drink. Doran pushed the glasses away and drummed his fingers against the bar, angry at Baiard for bringing the Moff here, angry at the Imps for disturbing his Café, angry at Lorr for getting him into this mess in the first place. Angry at himself. Lorr's panicked screams still echoed in his mind. "What could I have done?" Doran muttered. "If I tried to help, they would have taken me too, and a fat lot of good that would have done either of us."

    The faint whir of Toydarian wings made Doran look up from his self-pity. Haaz bobbed in mid-air behind him. "Mister Doran, Lorr's friends are here," he said in his gravelly voice. "I put them at table thirty, as far away from the Imps as I could. Just like you said."

    Doran pushed himself up from the bar. "Thanks, Haaz." The Toydarian nodded, fluttering back to his station at the door, just in time to keep a party of tipsy looking Twi'leks from entering. Table thirty. Lorr's friends. The Jedi. Right. Doran inhaled deeply, and grimaced when he realized what he was doing. He didn't need to calm his nerves. They were only Jedi; he could handle them. Maybe they wouldn't know….

    One look at the couple at table thirty, and Doran's plan to tell them Lorr's plight and leave died instantly. The man seemed vaguely familiar, but he wasn't the one who concerned Doran-- it was his companion, the woman with honey blonde hair. Alyse Bergeine. He never thought he would see her again. He'd thought he never wanted to. Doran started to back away from the table, but she looked up first, lips parting in surprise. Doran cut her off, knowing the first words she spoke would be the name he could never use again. "Welcome to the Café Alderaan. I'm your host for this evening, Doran Blayne," he greeted them with forced cheer, emphasizing his name.

    Alyse's brows drew together, the picture of innocent puzzlement. "Why thank you, Doran Blayne," she said, giving the name similar weight. Very well, I can play along with your game her tone seemed to say. "Would you tell us where we can find a Sullustan named Pter Lorr? He was supposed to be joining Paolo and I here tonight."

    Doran winced, devoutly wishing that he'd drunk enough of the mystery liquor that he wouldn't care about looking Alyse Bergeine in the eyes. "You're a little late," he replied bluntly. "The Imps hauled him out of here on suspicion of murder less than half an hour ago."

    "Murder?" Alyse's companion said, frowning. The fitful light of the table's glowlamp etched the lines on his face deeper. Doran studied him; it was easier than facing Alyse. The man wore a dusty gray cloak, the worn and patched attire of one of the refugees fleeing the Empire for the Corporate Sector. His face showed the marks of illness and hardship, but his eyes remained undimmed. The eyes of a Jedi Master, Doran thought; he'd seen enough of them to recognize the look of imperturbable calm. Well, well, Alyse, moving up in the world. "That sounds like a story we ought to hear." He gestured to an empty seat. "Why don't you join us?"

    "I never drink with customers," Doran told him.

    Alyse gave him a beseeching look. "Please, Doran." He could hear the old name touch her lips before she caught herself. Please, Doran, she said. A new name, another life, but the golden sound of her voice was the same as ever. Doran's hand touched the back of the chair before he realized what he was doing. Sucker, he cursed himself. So much for not putting himself in the blaster sights. It was a good thing the Moff was as observant as a blindfolded blurg or they'd already be on their way to Kessel. In pieces. If they were lucky. He flagged down a passing waiter and commandeered a glass of Alderaanian wine from the astonished Rodian's tray. Doran took a long, stiff swallow of the wine.

    She smiled fondly at him as he sank into the empty chair next to her. "It's been so long since I've seen you," she murmured. "You look a bit different, though. As I recall, your eyes used to be a rather unusual shade of green. They were quite beautiful."

    "You still look just the same as you did on-- what was that planet, anyway? I remember that day. You wore blue; the Imperials wore gray." Doran took another drink. This was venturing into dangerous territory. One wrong step and all his carefully buried memories would explode into shrapnel. The Jedi master -- what had Alyse called him? Paolo?--was watching them, chin resting on his steepled fingers and looking at Doran far too thoughtfully for his comfort. Fine. He'd give the Jedi something to think about. "You've picked a bad time to visit Merkesh, an even worse time to visit the Cafe. One Moff Caius Cassius-- that's him by the bandstand-- was dispatched to our little planet to find the murderer of the late lamented Prefect Renau. The Imps hauled Lorr in to question him. He protested his innocence with a Blastech-30, but the Imps didn't find Lorr's argument convincing." He swirled the contents of his glass, adding, "Cassius was sent to catch Renau's killer and find a few missing … historical artifacts, but I'm sure he'd love to impress Tarkin by bringing in someone really big."

    The prospect of facing Imperial justice didn't seem to faze Paolo. He regarded Doran with the same bland expression. "Did Lorr ever say anything to you about these…artifacts?"

    Doran shrugged and drained last of the Alderaanian wine before answering. "And why would he do that? I'm just a cantina owner; I sling booze for a living. Hardly the kind of person to be interested in any artifacts."

    "That may be," Paolo commented. "But I sense you do have an interest. You knew Pter Lorr well, didn't you? You have great sympathy for his plight"

    "There are few things I care about less than the fate of a few dusty old trinkets," Doran said. "And Lorr was just another customer to me. Sure, I feel bad for him; I wouldn't wish the Moff's tender mercies on my worst enemy. But that's as far as it goes." He set the wineglass down on the table with a loud clink and pushed himself away from table thirty. "Thanks for the drink, but I have other business to attend."

    "Doran . . .." Alyse reached out and touched his wrist, a feather-light brush of her fingertips, but it stopped him cold as a blaster set on stun. Doran glanced down at her slim, pale hand, torn between shaking her off and pulling her hand into his own. Instead, he just stood there, like a fool. "Please, if you should hear anything about the items, let us know. It would mean a great deal to me."

    "Would it?" Doran asked, finally drawing away from her touch. "How much, exactly?" Alyse frowned prettily at him, as if she didn't quite understand him. "Everything has a price on Merkesh. Or hadn't you noticed? But I may be willing to negotiate." And we'll have plenty of time to discuss my price, he thought as he walked away, leaving Alyse and Paolo to exchange frowns behind him. You'll be back, Alyse. Doran felt it in his gut. The idea might not have even crossed her mind yet, but she would be back. Maybe he'd settle for hearing the truth from her. She owed him that much, at least.

    Notes: Alyse Bergeine and Paolo L'szelo are based on Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) and Viktor Laszlo (Paul Heinreid). Their names are mash ups of the characters and actors. In "Casablanca," Ilsa and Viktor are members of the resistance against the Nazis.

    Doran's line "you wore blue; the Imperials wore gray," is a paraphrase of Humphrey Bogart's line "you wore blue; the Germans wore gray."

    Ilsa and Viktor sit at table 30 at Rick's place. :)
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  21. Kahara

    Kahara FFoF Hostess Extraordinaire star 4 VIP - Game Host

    Mar 3, 2001

    Had to grin a bit at Doran's misfortune there. I don't think he'll try that particular drink again. :p Reminds me of a quote from Avatar: The Last Airbender: "Your future is full of struggle and anguish. Most of it -- self-inflicted."

    I vaguely remember Alyse from the first time, but have forgotten enough to find her and Doran's past something of a mystery. Got a chuckle out of Doran's reflection that she was "moving up in the world" traveling with a Jedi Master. Such a sourpuss. ;)

    Very interesting. [face_thinking]
  22. Tyria_Sarkin

    Tyria_Sarkin Jedi Master star 1

    Dec 9, 2000
    And the plot thickens!

    I love the little hints you give here and there about Doran's past. Doling out tidbits a little at a time to tell us about him, but not enough to paint a complete picture yet. Always leaves me wanting more.
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  23. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard FFoF Artist Extraordinaire star 4 VIP - Game Host

    Nov 22, 1999
    Doran poured himself another glass of Corellian whiskey and downed it in a gulp. Better, much better, than that blue stuff Sascha had given him earlier that evening, even if it took more of it to get the same effect. He was working on draining the bottle, trying to drown thoughts of Jedi masters and arrogant moffs, of hapless Sullustans and holocrons, but most especially he wanted to forget Alyse Bergeine. It wasn't working; no matter how liberally he applied the whiskey, she pushed her way through the alcoholic haze. "Of all the cantinas on all the worlds," Doran muttered to the half-empty bottle in front of him. "She had to walk into mine."

    And yet it was appropriate that she should simply turn up on his doorstep one day. Fate or the Force or something had thrown them together in the first place, and then apparently decided they weren't meant to be together and torn her away from him just as suddenly. Doran stared into his glass and realized it was empty. He fumbled with the bottle and managed to fill it again without sloshing too much onto the table. The chronometer over the bar sounded the hour; it was almost late enough to be early. Alyse still hadn't come. Doran scrubbed a hand over his bleary eyes. Maybe he should go to bed. No. He shook his head and downed another hefty swallow of whiskey. He'd wait; she was coming. He knew it. He felt it. She was coming. Doran could almost hear her voice, could almost hear the sound of…

    …Chaos. Coruscant was in chaos, and the Jedi Temple was in flames. Skywalker-- no, he'd been Vader even before he'd hidden himself within that black armor-- had killed the Temple's gate master and led in the clones who were supposed to be their allies. They swarmed the Temple, shooting everything that moved, master, padawan, or servant. The Jedi fought back against the betrayal, but Vader had numbers on his side and the troopers had the best weapons the Republic's credits could buy. They fought on, heedless of their casualties, and it was clear they'd keep coming until the last Jedi was dead. Outnumbered, out maneuvered, and outgunned, there was no way for the Jedi to win the battle, so some of them decided discretion was the better part of valor. They fled to the network of passages within and beneath the Temple, hoping to make their way free to fight another day.

    Screams and the sound of heavy artillery rose up even to the skyhooks above. Doran stood in the shadow of his master's yacht, the Freedom's Song, and looked for stragglers. They had to take off soon if they were going to leave Coruscant in one piece, but he wasn't going to leave anyone behind, not if he could help it. Master Blayne Onfroi had given his life to buy time for a handful of Jedi to escape; Doran wouldn't let that sacrifice be in vain. A stray movement off to Doran's left caught his eye; he raised the blaster rifle he'd pulled off a fallen trooper. It felt odd, clunky and heavy, not at all like his graceful emerald-bladed lightsaber, but he'd seen Jedi killed by the same rifles, falling before they could even free their lightsabers to defend themselves. He waited, for a moment, tense and ready to fire, but whatever had moved in the shadows was still. Doran edged closer to the ship's ramp. Time to go.

    "Wait! Please, wait!" A woman dashed out from behind another of the ships, panting and clutching her side. Doran's first wildly inappropriate thought was that he'd never seen anyone as beautiful, even though her golden hair was in disarray and her face was streaked with soot and grime. "Master Onfroi?" she gasped.

    Doran's chest constricted. The memory of his last moments with his master replayed in his mind: Onfroi blocking a narrow alleyway, his lightsaber ablaze as a dozen soldiers approached. The few Jedi they'd managed to gather on their flight from the tower scurried down the alley towards their last slim hope for life. "Lead them to the ship," Onfroi told Doran, his voice deadly calm. "Take the Song and fly them as far from here as you can. May the Force be with you." Doran started to protest; he was only a padawan, who was he to lead? His master cut him off, "Go!" That shout was Onfroi's last word. Doran ran after the Jedi and made it out of the alley just as the sounds of blaster fire started. He shook his head, banishing the memories for now and focused on the woman standing in front of him. "No," he told her in a dry rasp. "Master Onfroi's… gone. But you're just in time."

    Doran filled his glass again and drained it in a gulp. Coruscant melted away under the flow of whiskey. The screams from the Jedi temple changed into the noisy babble of a hundred alien tongues; the complete chaos roiling through the streets of the Imperial Center faded into a crowd jostling its way through the squalid marketplace. Nar Shaddaa, the Smugglers' Moon, made an unlikely refuge for the three Jedi and two padawans. Given its nature --a miserable, vice-filled society built on the ruins of equally depraved societies hundreds of meters deep-- it was a wonder they weren't all killed their first day there. But it was Hutt controlled and had only a minimal Imperial presence, so the Jedi tried their best to fit in.

    That proved to be harder than teaching a manners to a Hutt. The Jedi had lost everything they'd valued and been thrust into a lifestyle that was the antithesis of everything they'd stood for. Nine-tenths of all the business on Nar Shaddaa were illegal or immoral, so the Jedi were reduced to the most menial of tasks. The only master in their group, a venerable woman rumored to be over a hundred years old, became a rag picker, sifting through Nar Shaddaa's garbage bins for recyclable material. One Jedi oversaw the droids that swept the streets; another hawked used speeders--badly, because he didn't have the heart to swindle the customers. Doran found work as a waiter in a nearby cantina called the Nal Eosa. Its name meant The Glorious Dawn in Huttese, but despite its name, it was nothing more than a dank, vermin-infested hole-in-the-wall. Still, spending his days serving up watered booze was almost preferable to coming home at night to four other mourning Jedi crammed into a tiny, filthy apartment.

    During those first weeks, the only thing that kept Doran from wallowing in endless misery was Alyse Bergeine. He found himself drawn to the beautiful padawan, who had also lost her master in the battle at the Jedi Temple. Doran made a fool of himself, trying to make her smile, anything that might break through her loneliness. Slowly, Alyse responded to his friendly gestures, though she was still so grief-stricken over the loss of her master that she couldn't bring herself to speak of him. All she would tell Doran was that they had been separated during the battle and that was the last time she had ever seen her master. "No more questions about the past," she implored.

    Doran nodded. "No questions," he promised. He vowed he would see her safe and happy, somehow. If he could no longer preserve justice in the galaxy, he could at least watch over one woman.

    And if Alyse brought out Doran's strength, she also gave strength back to him. She visited him at the Nal Eosa, chatting on his breaks and bringing him dinner. Alyse sat in one of the corner booths and smiled at him as he passed; it made his night go faster just to know she was there. She even tipped the cantina's talentless jizz combo to play his favorite song, "The Sequential Passage of Chronological Intervals." She just laughed when he lectured her for wasting her credits on him. "It's not a waste," Alyse replied. "Seeing my friends happy is worth whatever it costs."

    Then came the day that Doran was forced to sell the Freedom's Song on the black market. They couldn't afford to keep it docked any longer; the five of them were barely scraping by as it was. It pained him greatly to part with the last tangible reminder he had of Onfroi. Alyse listened quietly while he wept and raged that night. She held him, twining Doran's padawan braid around her slender fingers. "You will always have Master Onfroi," she reminded him gently. "He lives inside you, in your memories, in everything he taught you. He is one with the Force, and you have only to reach out to feel him there. The Imperials can never take that from you." He looked up and saw more than compassion in her eyes. In that instant, their relationship, their lives changed forever as they reached out to each other.

    Not long afterwards, Doran heard the first rumors of Jedi hunters at the Nal Eosa. Palpatine, now the self -styled Emperor, wasn't willing to rest until every last Jedi was dead. He sent Darth Vader out like a scent hound on the escapees' trails and distributed their descriptions to every bounty hunter from Coruscant to the Outer Rim, promising huge rewards for anyone who could bring back proof of a Jedi's death. Citizens were encouraged to prove their loyalty to the Empire by turning over all suspected Jedi to the proper authorities. The cantina's scruffy clientele was quite interested in the hefty sums of money and some of them were simply attracted to the challenge of killing a Jedi. Doran brought the grim news home, and he and his companions regretfully decided that the time had come to move on.

    They broke into two groups so as not to attract as much attention, and headed to opposite corners of the galaxy. Master LoRijn, still in the guise of a ragpicker, accompanied Doran and Alyse to the spaceport where a battered passenger liner was waiting to take them to an agricultural world called Ton Mumd. She gave Doran a poignant smile. "Thank you for giving us another chance, young man. Master Onfroi would be proud of you indeed." The old woman took one of his hands and one of Alyse's and squeezed them. "May the Force be with you both."

    Ton Mumd was as calm as Nar Shaddaa had been corrupt. It seemed the perfect place for Doran to start a new life with Alyse. The planet was sparsely inhabited in a few dozen farming communities among giant fields of towering grain. The harvest had just begun when the two padawans arrived, and they passed unnoticed in the influx of seasonal workers. Doran went to work with the harvester droids that scaled the great stalks and cut down the ears of grain, while Alyse was one of the many who processed the grain. It was hard, tedious work, and if it lacked some of the excitement of the Smugglers' Moon, well, Doran was alive and he was with Alyse. He'd learned to be thankful for the small things after losing so many of the big things. Seeing Alyse's smile at the end of a long day always reminded him of that lesson. And sometimes, when they stopped at the village's tapcafe for dinner, Alyse had the lone Bith musician play "The Sequential Passage of Chronological Intervals."

    Even Ton Mumd's pastoral paradise proved unsafe for Jedi. Palpatine made sure that holos of the Jedi made it to the Outer Rim, and their images fell into the hands of a sharp-eyed grain merchant. He tipped off the local Imperial garrison, and Doran and Alyse narrowly escaped the soldiers that infiltrated the village. They stowed away on a freighter, and wound up on tiny, forested world; Doran never had learned its name.

    They had escaped with only the barest necessities and just enough credits to rent a room in the spaceport's sleazy hotel and subsist on stale ration bars. But that wasn't the biggest problem they faced; a tremor in the Force told Doran they were being pursued. He had the unshakable conviction that something terrible was going to happen. It made him edgy; Doran bought an ugly little snub blaster off a dealer in a shadowy tapcafe, and found himself fingering the trigger too often. Alyse was anxious, too. Her eyes roamed restlessly whenever they were in public, searching every stranger's face. Doran was in the marketplace one dismal morning, replenishing their meager cache of supplies, when the Force set off alarms in his mind. Doran glanced around and saw the gleaming white troopers out of the corner of his eye. He dropped the ration bars and headed back to their room as fast as he could. "They're here," he told Alyse. "We've got to go, now"

    Alyse gasped. "No, no. It's too soon." She looked past him, staring out the room's single, grimy window. Her head fell, as if in despair, but when Alyse looked up again, she wore an expression of grim determination. "We have to split up," she told him. "We'll circle around and meet at the docking bays in the village. No," Alyse continued, putting a finger over Doran's lips as he tried to protest. "It will be better this way…safer." Suddenly her resolve vanished. She pulled him to her and kissed him as if it were the last time. "Oh, Doran," Alyse sighed when she finally let go. "Why did it have to be this way?" She blinked away tears and squeezed his hand as she slipped out the door.

    Alyse wasn't at the docking bays when Doran arrived, so he waited. And waited. And waited. A thousand horrible possibilities flashed through his mind. Was Alyse dead? Was she hurt? He couldn't feel her distress in the Force, so he had to assume she was all right. And if she was, then he'd wait here as long as it took. Doran's hand fell to the blaster at his side. He'd stay right here until she arrived, if it meant he had to shoot his way through a squadron of stormtroopers. If he had to fight Vader himself.

    Doran very nearly blasted the droid that trundled up to him. "Message for you, sir" it intoned mechanically and spat a sheet of flimsy at him. It beeped expectantly until Doran shoved a credit at the thing. He read the flimsy anxiously. "Dearest," it said. "By the time you receive this, I will already be gone. Do not try to find me; I do what I must for the Jedi and for your safety. Perhaps we will meet again someday, until then, please believe that I love you. May the Force be with you always. Alyse"

    Notes: This story was conceived and written before AotC, when Jedi could have romantic relationships and marry. For the purpose of this story, I'm assuming that such relationships were allowed, but discouraged. I changed some of the details of the siege of the Temple to be consistent with RotS, but kept the idea that some Jedi escaped (since there were a truckload of them in the EU).

    The song "The Sequential Passage of Chronological Intervals" is, of course, "As Time Goes By" (Credit A. C. Crispin's story "Play it Again, Figrin D'an" )
  24. pronker

    pronker Force Ghost star 4

    Jan 28, 2007
    Excellent post - the Purge details are always interesting. And Alyse's actions are consistent with a Jedi's.
  25. Tyria_Sarkin

    Tyria_Sarkin Jedi Master star 1

    Dec 9, 2000
    I remembered that Doran was a Jedi, but I'd forgotten all that had happened with Alyse. Poor guy.

    Also, "The Sequential Passage of Chronological Intervals" never fails to make me laugh. Yes, I'm easily amused. [face_laugh]
    Kahara likes this.