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For the Right Price

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Reformation Year 988.02.13
Raxus Secundus

 

"Table in the back, opposite the entrance."

"Are you sure?" Rex squinted against the bar's dimness, feeling grossly under-protected in the rough civilian disguise. The table General Skywalker had indicated with a jerk of his chin was occupied by a single armoured and masked figure. The other patrons were steering well clear of the shadowed corner, regardless of their level of inebriation.

"Got a feeling."

"Uh huh. They're radiating threat."

"Everyone here is, welcome to Raxus. C'mon." Skywalker collected their drinks from the bartender, pressing one into Rex's hand. "It'll be fine, trust me."

"I've heard that before." The booze was watery with a slick like oil on the surface and smelled like industrial window-cleaner; Rex grimaced as the ethanol fumes burned the backs of his eyeballs.

The armoured figure barely shifted to acknowledge their approach. A half-emptied bottle of something along with an empty glass sat on the table in front of them; Skywalker tilted his head and gave the mercenary a calculating look. "Kind of hard to drink through that helmet, isn't it?"

A sarcastic snort, filtered through the helmet's electronics, answered him. "There's a trick to it." Male, most likely humanoid. The accent was muddled by the tinny vox.

"Really," Rex drawled. "Maybe we could join you and you can tell us all about it."

The mercenary leaned forward, propping one armoured elbow on the table. Rex got the distinct impression of being sized up through the inscrutable dark lenses.

It felt like having his soul inspected for flaws.

"The trick is that someone needs to offer a contract; we negotiate terms. Then the helmet comes off and we drink." The man sat back in the booth. "Are you offering a contract?" His tone suggested he found that unlikely.

"As a matter of fact, we are." Anakin offered a broad grin that seemed a bit forced. Rex could sympathise: if any of the other Generals knew what they were up to, they'd be in shit up to their necks. Well, one General might be forgiving, but the others would crap baby Banthas.

"Hmm. Have a seat, then, and tell me your particular tale of woe."

Rex sat back, letting General Skywalker take the lead. They were a long way behind enemy lines, disguised as traders to meet with a double agent. The false skin which changed the shape of his face just enough to hide his identity as a clone itched, and only long experience wearing a helmet for hours on end kept him from rubbing at it. He briefly allowed himself to wonder how the Commander was getting on without them, laying a false trail of faked voice comms suggesting Rex and Skywalker were still with Ahsoka and the 501st.

Their contact hadn't shown, but a message had, indicating the agent's cover was blown. Only quick thinking had kept Rex and Skywalker from being caught by Separatist forces lying in wait. Now they needed someone familiar with Raxulon's underbelly to help locate the agent and get the three of them to safety.

Not that Skywalker was saying a word about that.

The mercenary scoffed. "Your cousin is missing? Pull the other one, it's got bells on." He leaned forward, and the general air of threat suddenly focused in their direction. Rex felt the hair on the back of his neck spike in alarm.

"If you two are going to sit here and waste my time, I have a blaster you can talk to."

Oh. Rex gripped Skywalker's shoulder as the General's mouth started to open in protest. "If you want more than a sob story, we're going to have to talk somewhere less public."

The helmeted head tilted and Rex again felt like a bug under a microscope. "Not just a pretty face, then, are you?" The mercenary claimed the bottle and rose, clearly expecting them to follow him through a door at the rear of the taproom. Up a flight of stairs lay a series of small rentable rooms -- bed, table, two chairs and a closet-sized 'fresher; nothing particularly special, but clean.

The mercenary dropped the bottle almost carelessly on the table before pulling a device from his belt. Rex twitched in reaction as the high-pitched hum of a dampener climbed beyond the range of human hearing.

"Private enough for you?" he sneered, dropping into one of the chairs.

Skywalker nodded and claimed the other one. "Alright. Here's the deal."

The mercenary listened in silence as Anakin explained without too much detail what they needed. Rex leaned against the wall with his arms crossed, hoping fervently his General hadn't just got them both killed.

"That's not a little thing you're asking, kids. It'll cost you."

"Of course it will. The question is, can we trust you to not accept a higher amount from the Separatists in exchange for stabbing us in the back?" Rex growled. Skywalker winced, but the mercenary seemed amused rather than insulted.

"I daresay that while I have little love for your side, I have less for the Seps. It's a personal thing," he added when Rex raised an eyebrow in question. "How about this: I don't turn you in to your enemies. And you don't tell the Republic who helped you out."

Underneath the bucket, the mercenary was human, pale and lightly tanned with long copper hair pulled back in a tail at the nape of his neck and a neatly trimmed beard framing his jaw. Blue eyes regarded them warily above an elegant smirk.

Rex glanced at his General and tensed as Skywalker blanched in shock.

"It can't be," the Jedi breathed. "Obi-Wan?"