"...Hmhm..." Leila blinks and sits up straight as she realizes that it is finally over. She had been trying to pay attention - this was important information after all - but there were something soothing about the androids monotone voice. Hopefully she hadn't snored at least ... Hmm. I should get Prospero to voice an audio trid. If I ever have trouble sleeping!
"No questions. *Ah-uhm* Could you send me the raw list? Just in case I need to double check something!" Leila chirps and then hops over towards Astri. "Oh I love displacer-lasers!"
"Mmm-hmh. Hmm-mhm." Leila hums to herself as they move trough the protesters. And then the reporters. Something was clearly going on. She just wasn't sure what. "I don't think 'StSW' usually get these many reporters right? Well, unless of course, they *actually* broke someone out of the zoo. Oh - does this University have a zoo? That would be cool!"
As Astri goes off like an attention seeking missile Leila tries her best to both follow in her wake and get her pocket computer to tune in to the local news. Hopefully if would tell them something about the situation! (And hopefully that wouldn't be too terrible...)
Yeah, I do work in IT :)
There should be walls. Any area suitable for living should be contained with walls, floor and roof. Then you can know where you are, and where you can go. So how the heck these planet dwellers can stand this nausea from all this open space. When Prospero-4 looks ahead, the ground reaches on forever, before disappearing into horizon. He was warned, he knew it was going to be horrible, but still he thought the vast reaches of Absalom station had made him more resilient against the horror. So best keep eyes locked down, and try not to think the surrounding space. Luckily he doesn't need to eat any longer, as it would be very hard to keep his lunch inside.
The android follows the others, eyes closed or fixed to his feet. Most of the time he relies on exocortex' telemetry for locating the other Starfinders, only glancing very quickly up to confirm their location visually.
He mumbles a short greeting to Whaloss, and just keeps following the group. The promise of getting inside somewhere - anywhere - does lighten up his mood, however. Of course, this hope is quickly shot down as the receptionist denies them entrance.
"Let me know if you need to disperse this crowd. I'd like to get in, soon." the android sends to the team-mates on internal comms, in unusually stressed voice. After all, he has seen plenty of historical news-trids to learn how protesting students are usually handled. However, standing in the reception is much better than out there in the open, Prospero-4 starts already relaxing a bit.
"What are they shouting? What is 21-2?" he asks Whaloss and Ikimsi, his mind returning to normal analytical state.
Astrianna's display succeeds in diverting the reporters attention from the harried receptionist onto her. Some of the reporters are a bit cowed but others advance on the half-elf. Ikimsi seems relieved to have microphones shoved in someone else's face and mops his brow. Of course yes, The Professor has actual important work to be done! And the rest of you will just have to go talk to the media relations person whose contact I have already given you.
Ikimisi flounces towards the elevators and gestures to the four of you to come in. Some of the other reporters howl in outrage at the preferential treatment but others block the group wanting to know what Starfinders are doing at QUXAX. The group can push through or promise an interview to get them to back off.
As the elevator rumbles up the fifth floor of the building Ikimsi taps on his data slate to make an official appointment for the group. There. I do appreciate your help down there. Bunch of pack animals... On the fifth floor Ikimsi collapse onto a bench and continues to peck away at this pad. It doesn't seem like he's in any hurry to go back down.
Well good show there I think. You fellows do know how to get things done! I'll take you in. Whaloss seems amused as he leads the way to Professor Muhali's office. Twenty One Two, most probably refers to Professor Ailabiens 21:2. Tenured staff member, quite a... character.
The office is clean, roomy, and orderly. A large desk stands imposingly before a broad window that offers a charming view of a nearby park, and a small table in one corner has a quarter of chairs arranged evenly around it. Near the door is a wide examination table covered with broken fragments of stone, many of which bear incomplete words or letters written in a spiraling text. Several tiny fountains throughout the room burble soothingly and shimmer with soft light.
Professor Muahli is a striking looking damya lashunta woman with tanned skin and metallic purple eyeshadow and hair colour. The purple is reflected in accents on her flowing coat and corset though the main colours are the electric blue of her skintight pants alongwith very industrial shades of white. She seems waay to stylish to be a high ranked Professor of XenoArchaelogy.
But that's Lashuntas for you.
She looks up from her desk with a stern expression on her face. Yes? Whaloss? Who are these people?
Ah Professor Murali, please permit me to introduce you to Astrianna Sparacello, Leila BlueThistle, Prospero-4, and Cueta Guiding Star. They are the Starfinders I mentioned to you a few days ago. You said it would be good publicity for QUXAX to assist them with the whole 'Drift Rock' business.. Whaloss makes the introductions.
Yes well that was before we we were blindsided by this latest crisis The Profesor sighs as she rubs her temple and allows her antennas to droop momentarily. Very well, I can spare a few moments. But please be quick about it.
When Whaloss looks he's going to hang around Professor Murali raises a perfectly arched eyebrow at him. Thank you Whaloss, that will be all.
Ah yes of course Professor! Whaloss grins at the party and makes a hasty exit.
Astrianna handles the sudden swarm of reporters with the expertise of a animal handler. She pushes up her giant sunglasses, making a simple and loud statement. "Any further information on the starfinder's involvement at QUXAX will be found on my Roccer account @SongbirdAstri. Thank you."
Shamelessly plugging her own social media account, the half-elf glides through the crowd and escapes with the rest of her crew on the elevator.
"They're not so bad if you know how to direct their attention. It's like laser pointers and displacer beasts. Give them something to focus on and they'll go wherever you want." She expounds to Ikimisi during their ascent.
The whole business with Professor Ailabeins 21:2 really didn't interest her at the moment, instead focusing on the disturbingly attractive academic they had been seeking. Shelyn's t#~@... Why do all lashunta have to be so good looking? It's infuriating.
ONce they have the Professor's attention, Astrianna states their case with surprising focus; it seemed she really wanted to be the first on this. "Thank you for yoru time, Professor. We're here to discuss the xenoform symbols we discovered on the Drift Rock outside of Absalom station, which we originally believed to be a never-before-seen langauge. Our linguists in the Spire informed us that records of these symbols have appeared before in the works of the infamous xenoarcheologist and filmmaker Zan. We were told you have copies of his notes and were hoping to use them to gain some kind of insight into the writing."
Leila continues to tweak her computer as they ride the elevator. She was having some trouble getting any reception. Who even puts drm on local news?! Woah - maybe they really *do* hate outsiders ... She had assumed that was just Astri's assumption since they didn't immediately fawn all over her. (Leila suspected the reason for that was closer to the squirrels in nature ...)
"'Quite a character'? I thought androids got more then one letter these days! Sorry couldn't help myself!" Leila coughs up then casts a guilty glance at Prospero before returning her attention to her glowing screen. Maybe she'd manage to sneak a peek before the meeting ...?
Does computer work as a knowledge check? Worth a shot at least!
Computer: 1d20 + 12 ⇒ (10) + 12 = 22
Culture: 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (10) + 11 = 21
Leila knew enough about professors to quickly put away her computer once they were in the office. Her teachers hadn't taken kindly to such distractions! Although this one seems quite distracted herself? "It would be very helpful if you could help Professor! Wait that's a bit redundant isn't it ..."
|Cueta Guiding Star|
Cueta had little use for academics. Well, more precisely, she'd never actually met one, but she'd seen enough trids to know a high-maintenance professor when she saw one. This lady certainly looked the type to passively agressive, and Cueta preferred simply agressive. And the pilot hadn't engaged in a good bit of the ultraviolence in what, three days?
The talk of the xenoform symbols was mildly interesting, Cueta had to admit to herself, though she did her best not to show it. Yawning mightily, Cueta found herself wondering about her breath, and quickly shut her mouth.
Zan? Halukeem Zan Muhali says incredulously as she sits back taking a drag from her tacstick and letting the smoke expel from her nostrils before continuing. I have neither the time nor the inclination to discuss the... works.. of that old hack. However my colleague Doctor Olmehya Solstarni has a strong interest in the same ruins in Ukulam that Zan plundered and sensationalised. Muhali taps on a screen and scrolls through some data. That is odd, according to my records, she departed on personal leave two days ago... I don't recall approving that... BAH. Too much bloody stuff to deal with.
She turns of her screen with a wave and huffs with frustration Well. I am sorry to not be more assistance to you but for now I must ask you to leave so I can go back to dealing with this irritating crisis which is taking up all of my mental bandwidth. Perhaps in a few days I will be able to devote more time to your research.
|Cueta Guiding Star|
Yep, definitely high-maintenance.
Cueta's brow furrows, confusion showing plainly on her face. "What's the problem, then? Nostro just need to look at Zan's research, chinney? Or should we go talk with Solstarni - wherever she's at, yeah?"
Look Muhali rubs her forehead as her antenna quiver I can see you're persistent, and you managed to get through the blockade of reporters that's been bedeviling me so maybe you can help me. I will let you into Dr.Solstrani's office IF you can resolve this problem I have with Professor Aliabiens 21:2. That damn Contemplative gave a speech yesterday to rationalize and justify the genocide of the Formian Race. Even before The Lashunta city states and Formian Colonies signed peace accords thirty years ago such brutal conclusions would have been dismissed. Now he is fomenting hate crimes under the guise of 'pure logic' and anthropology. He's tenured so I can't fire him but what the University needs is a public apology from the stuck up brain. You get that and I will get you access to Dr.Solstrani's research in her absence.
Contemplatives are natives of Akiton who accelerated the evolution of their brains thousands of years ago and achieved tremendous psychic powers in the process.
They rely on their powerful psychic abilities for basic functions, such as movement and speech. They float through telekinesis and communicate through telepathy, with most knowing at least Akitonian, Common, and Ysoki. Lacking typical humanoid sensory organs, they instead use their mental powers to sense their surroundings, allowing them to "see" and feel others' presence even when there is little or no light.
Formians are an ant-like insectoid race that lives on Castrovel, where warred with the Lashuntas for thousands of years. Many live on Castrovel's continent known as the Colonies.
Anyone reading this except for Cueta would know that thirty years ago a landmark peace deal, brokered by the Shirrens, between the Lashuntas and the Formian 'OverQueen' ended hostilities. Now the Formian colonies are an industrial powerhouse.
"Wow!" Leila exclaimed and shook her head. "Just ... wow. Did he ever contemplate that the logical response would be a punch in his face for that?"
Culture: 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (3) + 11 = 14
Culture: 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (3) + 11 = 14
Astrianna seems very disturbed when Muhali says Dr. Solstarni was not only interested in the ruins, but had taken personal leave two days ago. Chiskisk was right, but I didn't expect to compete with one of the only experts that could help us. Typically that brand of crazy academic joins the Starfinders instead. We need to know where she went, she's two days ahead of us.
culture: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (3) + 9 = 12
The self-proclaimed trid star rolls her eyes at the mention of Contemplatives, before contemplating herself for a few moments. Ugh. I don't want to talk to a contemplative in this life or the next. This guy sounds like a floating scumbag, we don't have time for him and Prospero to argue about logic circuits or whatever. Besides, who the f!@+ does she think she is, trying to get us to do her job and clean up this mess?
Astrianna reaches to the bridge of her nose, taking off her sunglasses folding them in one hand with a satisfying click. "Professor Muhali, I sympathize with the position you're in, but we don't have time to extract apologies out of contemplatives that have regressed into their own vestigial a@#%**~." She says plainly, placing one hand on her hip while the other calmly gestures.
"We are Starfinders, and we're onto something very big. I know the media, so trust me- they have very short attention spans. We're on the trail of what could be an entire undiscovered civilization, and it's time sensitive. So if you give us access to Dr. Solstrani's research now we'll credit your university for being the key to figuring this all out, and the resulting media attention will completely blow all of this over." Astrianna counter-offers, really, really, not wanting to waste any more time.
Diplomacy: 1d20 + 9 + 1d6 ⇒ (19) + 9 + (5) = 33 Yeah, how's that stack of waffles?!
Leila waited patiently to see how Astri's evasive manoeuvre would work. In the meanwhile she tried to figure out how to compel a creature of pure logic to change its ways, if it came to that. She considered simply grabbing its atrophied arms and doing the whole 'stop hitting yourself' until it relented, if only because that idea was actually physically viable for once, but that seemed mean. And she really wasn't sure how powerful its psionic strength would be...
Professor Muhali narrows her eyes at Astrianna's refusal to go along with her request before reluctantly nodding. Fine. she says But let's be quick about it so I can continue to try to put out this damned fire 21:2 started. She stands up and strides out the door. Well, come along.
Her leather boots click smartly on the polished hallway floor as she leads the group down a set of steps and on to Dr.Solstrani's office.
She's talking on her personal comm as she goes Hello. Mesia? How are you? Just wanted to see if you've seen Olmehya around. No? How odd. No I'm sure it's nothing.
She walks a little faster after the call ends and taps on her wristkey bracelet when she gets to the heavy wood composite door that leads to Dr.Solstrani's office. The door swings open and Professor Muhali gasps!
The rest of you look around her to see the office is in disarray. Cabinet doors are ajar, several stone artifacts lie scattered across the floor from open archival drawers. A travelling bag lies on its side open and half-packed. The computer on the desk at the far end of the room is dark, but a diode at its base blinks regularly.
I have to call the authorities The Professor mutters, a bit of a quiver in her voice and her antennas as she starts to tap on her comm unit.
|Cueta Guiding Star|
Cueta's (metaphorical) antenna raise as yet another one of Muhali's staff are found to be absent without notice. Academics didn't apparently run a very tight ship. Not as tight as warlords at least. If Iago couldn't find two of his soldiers, heads would roll...
And so, she's not surprised to find this Solstrani's office ransacked. Cueta steps into the room, pulling her doshko from her backstrap as she goes. "You or Solstrani got any enemies, Professor?"
Probably not of course. The thief was more than likely after Zan's things. But Cueta hoped that wasn't the case.
perception to look for bad guys and clues: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (15) + 9 = 24
sense motive on Muhali: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (7) + 8 = 15
Cueta can tell that Muhali is not the kind of person to panic but that she is incredibly worried. She looks up as her emergency call starts to connect and says Of course, Starfinders... Olmehya Solstrani had no enemies whatsoever. Look, you have my permission to start investigating this, just be gentle and take pictures before you disturb anything so Qabarat police have a starting point to work from as well.
Then her comm connects and she turns to start talking to the authorities.
Per check results later.
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"Oh no! This looks bad! ...Now that I think of it, this might actually be an accurate representation of my flat ... Hmph." Leila made a mental note to clean up if she ever returned and wanted to have guests. Also - buy some oversized furniture so they wouldn't crush hers.
Since Cueta seemed to have the visual under control Leila hopped over the broken and scattered things to get to the computer. Hopefully it would have a clue! "Maybe a long shot but you don't have cctv or something here do you?"
Mess with computer?: 1d20 + 12 ⇒ (18) + 12 = 30
Ha, we're above your dirty work, Professor. Astrianna thinks smuggly as Muhali relents to their request, though her face reamins a carefully controlled mask of polite concern.
When the Professor opens the door to Solstrani's office and reveals the absolute sacking, she groans. "By Besmara's bouncing bosom, you're kidding me!" She exclaims, gesturing at the raided office. "Chiskisk was right, someone else made the connection about those runes, and now they're ahead of us.. by two days."
The half-elf steps into the room, and as usual, starts telling people what to do even though they're already doing it. "Cueta, look through this mess and see what clues you can find. Leila, check the terminal for any indication as to where Solstrani has gone. We have to catch up, and fast."
Astrianna sets about her own contribution- she looks up the contact information of the sentient named Mesia that Professor Muhali mentioned and called a few moments before, intending to call them on her comm while the Muhali was distracted.
Astrianna finds that Mesia is unforuntatly a pretty common Lashunta name and a quick search indicates there are a fair number of students and staff at QUXAX with that name.
Cueta goes through the office with the trained eyes of a mercenary. She finds one of the cabinets is ajar and a set of basic lashunta tempweave, fitted for a Kasatha, is lying on the ground as if it it had fallen from its hangers. There is also a slight dent in the same carbon fiber cabinet. In some places this wouldn't be worthy of comment but all of the other furniture in the room is in perfect shape.
There is also a scrap of paper that seems to have been stuck behind a cabinet and some scattered notes lying about the place.
Once Muhali is done with calling for help she nods at Leila and calls up Ikimsi Nothing in the private offices but elsewhere of course she says. The receptionists antenna starts quivering when he sees the state of Solstrani's office and connects immediately to the security cam footage for the last few days. Leila takes over from the distraught staff member and is able to identify a timeperiod in the late evening 2 days ago where a trio of korsha lashuntas carrying heavy backpacks and wearing uniforms entered the building. Unusual Ikimsi says There is no staff working at that time usually.
What is even more unusual is that there is no video footage of them leaving. Leila is able to scrub forward in time to find that some of the video footage has inconsistencies that seem to indicate that video of an empty hallway had been looped over other footage to hide something. Whoever did this wasn't terribly good at it as it wasn't hard for Leila to spot and, of course, they hadn't hidden the three Lashunta entering the building.
Astrianna silently curses as her line of reasoning meets a time-wasting dead end. She instead gathers around the security footage, watching it with Leila.
"Oh good, we're being scooped by a bunch of amateurs." Astrianna scathingly comments at the poorly disguised attempt to scrub the security feed. "Fours days ago the broadcast of the Drift Rock went out to Absalom Station, and with it the symbols we're trying to decipher. Three days ago we left for Castrovel. Two days ago, this happens. Someone figured out Solstrani, and Zan's notes, are a clue in all this."
She turns to Muhali to ask some questions. "Did Professor Solstrani have any graduate students? Anyone she could have talked to in the past four days? You said she was interested in the ruins that Zan studied, do you know where they're found?
Muhali rubs the base of her antennae as Astrianna questions her. Of course... all faculty have students and Solstrani was no different. I can get you a list she says to the first question. To the second she says No one has been interested in studying anything connected with Halukeen Zan for centuries just to avoid being associated with that charlatan. There was a lot of concern when Olmehya started delving into his trashy novels to aid her own research. So no, I have no idea where in Ukulum Zan's ruins are. The only other researcher who's bothered to go through Zan's work is... her expression changes Ailabiens 21:2!
|Cueta Guiding Star|
Cueta fishes the paper from behind the cabinet and grabs the nearby notes and makes her way back to the others, leafing through them as she goes. She wasn't the best reader - heck, last time she read anything was probably about 77 years ago - but they should be gone over none-the-less.
Catching the end of Muhali's conversation, Cueta scowls. "Zan's stuff was in the cabinet back there. Also, seems we need to visit this Ailabiens 21:2 then."
Cueta finds the scrap of paper to be an invitation by someone named Eyrub Paqual to some place called the Five Arches.
The notes seem to be printed out copies of Halukeem Zan's original notes annotated by someone in red ink, probably Dr.Solstrani herself. It's obvious that most of the notes are missing and only a few pages are left behind.
"If only the ambassador hadn't decided to live-stream everything. It's *almost* like he wanted plausible deniability..." Leila mused as she saved the security feed data onto her computer. Having the pictures might come in handy later, if only so they could identify the kidnappers. "At least we sorta know which way they left. Maybe there's another set of cameras that captured their vehicle? I don't think they could carry Sol that far and they probably didn't have access to things like traffic cameras or random stores. Worth checking out after we talked to 21:2!"
Damn it I thought I got us out of talking to the contemplative.
"Ugh." Astrianna grumbles when Muhali says 21:2 had also studied Zan's work. "Fine, we'll talk to him. I don't forsee a very productive conversation." She continues to complain, before taking the scrap of paper from Cueta.
"Eyrub Paqual? Sounds like a made up name to me." Astrianna comments, not letting up on the scathing critiques.
Does Astri know anything about this Five Arches place?
Culture: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (10) + 9 = 19
Astrianna has spent enough time in Qabarat to know the Five Arches as a cantina located off the beaten path in the Gateway District near the east end of the city. According to its advertisements, the Five Arches is "a cafe dedicated to serving the discerning palettes of a dozen worlds." Online reviews suggest it's an eclectic dive with wildly variable food and drink quality combined with bizarre food pairings for the daily specials. Not a great reputation for the cuisine certainly.
21:2 will not be a problem. Muhali says with new determination in her voice. It seems like the obvious signs of violence has changed her mindset considerably on what needs to be done. Come with me
She leads the group down another floor to another office whose door she opens unceremoniously and strides into a disorganized office where dust, debris and discarded papers litter the floor. A single chair stands in the corner, and the desk and shelves are crowded with books, scrolls, statuettes, and loose computer hardware.
Ah, our esteemed department head comes to visit, and with a retinue. a voice thinks telepathically into the groups head. Have you come to your senses in this matter Professor Muhali? Will you take leave of your folly in locking me out of my own research!?
Floating above the chair is the massive humanoid brain and vestigal body of Professor Ailabeins 21:2. Two if his four fly like arms are crossed over a spindly chest.
Listen to me 21:2. Muhali snaps back with steel in her voice I was willing to humour this nonsense of yours but no more. Solstrani is in trouble and I have no more patience for your antics.
Excuse me? the Contemplateive tries to interrupt What does Solstrani have to do with my foolish..
Shut up and listen for once in your life Ailabeins. Her research seems to have attracted some attention and she has been missing for two days. It seems to be connected somehow to Halukeem Zan's notes and you are the only other sentient in the department who has any knowledge of it. Now this is what is going to happen. I am going to restore your access to the university's resources and IF you provide the Starfinders with what you know of Halukeem Zan's expedition then I will lift your academic suspension IF you apologize for offending the people of Qabarat with the insensitive manner in which you relayed your conclusions. Muhali puts her hands on her hips and glares at the Contemplative who has floated back slightly in the face of the verbal assault.
Apologize? I hardly... Ailabiens tries to rally but quails as he finally notices just how enraged Muhali seems to be. Yes, yes alright, the apology is acceptable, I suppose, though it is an insult to rationality. I will have you know that I agree to this only to assist with whatever seems to have happened to Olmehya. I quite like her. Ailabiens floats to his computer and accesses it. I did annotate my own copy of Halukeem Zan's original notes though it will take time for me to translate it into a format that these Starfinders of yours will be able to use. I will annotate and summarize them as best I can. I estimate it will take me the rest of the day if I do not suffer anymore interruptions.
Forward it to me and I will send it on to them. Muhali says shortly as she taps a few times on her personal comm and then turns to you. What we know will be yours in a few hours. What do you plan to do meanwhile?
We really don't have time to be following esoteric clues. Astrianna thinks as she lowers the scrap of paper Cueta found.
"Sure whatever." Is her only response as they walk out of Soltrani's office, her mind whirling with all the possibilities of the sudden roadblock they've hit. "We don't even know who we're up against. All we know is that they're sloppy, in a hurry, and like to use muscle." She monologues as they walk down to halls of the university. "Maybe it wasn't Astral Extrations that sent that hit squad after us, though I'm still going to blame them regardless. It could have been whomever recognized the xenoform symbols."
Astrianna places her hands on her hips and impatiently taps her foot to the beat of an unknown song while Muhali and 21:2 have some kind of weird lover's spat. The half-elf sighs when 21:2 says it's going to take a few hours, running a hand through her incredibly luxrious raven tresses. "Well if that's the best we're going to do then we'll take it, thanks." She says off-handedly.
Lifting up the note Cueta found, Astrianna explains their next move. "Dr. Solstrani recieved an invitation to Five Arches by someone named Eyrub Paqual recently. Do you know the sentient? If they left a paper invitation I take it they didn't have Dr. Solstrani's contact information...?" She speculates, shrugging. "In any case, since our unknown competitors have seemingly resorted to kidnapping, we'll go to Five Arches ourselves and do our best to track down Solstrani and bring her back safely." After she's helped us.
"Yes that sounds like our plan. I'd like to see if there's any cameras that might have caught the kidnapper's vehicle too. Maybe ..." Maybe those cameras could be persuaded by her and Prospero to share what they knew. She just didn't want to say that part out loud; maybe they weren't quite as liberal with those things here as they were back on her level.
"Oh! A good description of Sol would be handy too! And if there just happen to be some secret phrase only they would know so we could get a positive id might be useful. Just in case..."
No, I have no recollection of anyone named Eyrub Paqual Muhali responds.
From some of the outside cameras there are glimpses of workers in the same uniform carrying a crate away from the University grounds. Seems like the scrubbing job was careless here but the kidnappers were at least smart enough to not park right next to the University.
You learn Dr.Olmehya Solstarni Wehir of House Raimar, Echo of Inshirisi's Dream (full name) is a soft spoken Kasatha. Kasahtas aren't very common in Qabarat so that makes her pretty distinct already. The identifier most unique to her though is probably her traditional body markings which are pastel blue and more elaborate than most as they adorn her arms as well as her elongated skull. The traditional mask she likes to wear is pretty small as far as Kasathan mouth masks go which indicates a pretty open attitude towards non Kasathans.
It's not hard at all to travel to the Five Arches, and it's not hard to find either as it's marked by a glaring neon sign suggestive of portals leading to far off lands. Inside a riot of different worlds' souvenirs plasters the interior's walls, and each table, booth, and bench bears the name of one of the Pact Wolds' planets or habitable moons.
It's evening time now, making it even easier to find the restaurant. There are about a dozen patrons nursing drinks alone or in pairs. The daily special is an unidentifiable avian cutlet smothered in a fig like fruit compote and served alongside a mashed bitter tuber from Triaxus.
|Cueta Guiding Star|
Cueta takes a look around the restaurant, which not surprisingly, is pretty nice. No dirt floor, no ragtag looper band, no visibly janked up patrons. Still, that didn't mean there weren't threats.
"Nobody's eating a thing, yeah? Not good music for the kitchen."
Taking another look around the room, Cueta concentrates on the staff and the guests, trying to tease out any threats, or if anyone is looking at them with more interest than they deserve.
Which, come to think of it, may difficult. They were famous after all.
perception: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (14) + 9 = 23
Astrianna sighs at the camera footage of "workers" carrying a crate out of the university. "Well I'm guessing they didn't put a tracking number on that "delivery", so we've hit a dead end. At least we'll be able to ask around about Soltrani and Eyrub."
What kind of name is Eyrub Paqual? Can Astri glean any possible species/cultural origin from it?
Culture: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (14) + 9 = 23
perception: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (5) + 8 = 13
Astrianna was quite familar with Five Arches, often dragging anyone ranging from friends to acquaintances to the establishment. "They're not eating because they're whimps." The half-elf says with passion, leading the group to a table. "Okay, honestly sentients usually don't come here to eat because on any given day the food is questionable at best and absolutely disgusting at worst."
She holds up a finger to punctuate her next statement. 'BUT. I have never seen their kitchen serve the same daily special more than once. Ever. So every day it's a new and unique dining experience. How exciting is that? So I always try the special whenever I'm here."
Waving down a waiter, she puts in an order of the special for herself and a plate of fried pickles for the table. "By the way." She says casually to the waiter, tapping a few buttons on her comm unit to protect a holographic image of Solstrani Leila managed to isolate from her faculty photo. "Have you seen this Kasatha here lately?"
Astrianna can't really figure out what kind of cultural origin Eyrub Paqual might hail from. There's a lot of variety in the Pact Worlds and beyond though so it's not very surprising. Still, Astrianna is familiar with a lot of different cultures so it is a little.
Cueta can tell that pretty much everyone in the room is sizing her and her group up in the same manner that she's scoping them out. Seems like The Five Arches has been adopted as a watering hole by shady operators. There's a fair bit of eye rolling and smirking at Astrianna's exuberant ordering of actual food while Cueta's doshko and Prospero's arsenal get the side eye.
The waiter scrutinizes the holo-pic. Nope. Sorry. Would you like some Suncheese from Verces on your pickles?
"No thanks." She responds to the waiter's question. Who the hells put suncheese on fried pickles? Gods this place is weird, I love it.
Looking over the gathered patrons, she realizes something. Though... "...it seems different from what I remember." She comments out loud to the group after the waiter leaves. "More rough around the edges. I mean it's always been a dive, but people used to actually eat here."
She shrugs and sighs, getting up from the table. "I"m going to ask around about Solstrani. If someone tries to knife me or something, pop them in the head." Astrianna starts to saunter away before turning back. "And save me some pickles! Seriously. I actually want some of those."
diplomacy to gather information: 1d20 + 9 + 1d6 ⇒ (8) + 9 + (1) = 18 Hmmm going to use Slick Customer and try again.
diplomacy to gather information: 1d20 + 12 ⇒ (7) + 12 = 19 Cool, dice. Cool.
Bascially going around showing Solstrani's picture and asking if anyone has heard of/knows Eyrub.
|Cueta Guiding Star|
Squinting, Cueta gives the waiter the once over, trying to suss out whether or not the waiter was being truthful.
sense motive: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (6) + 8 = 14
Then, distracted, Cueta pictures a plate pickles, in her homeworld made from chopped and brined cactus leaves. A low rumble escapes from her belly. She'll avoid the special, but pickles? That's impossible!
"Got it; we'll save you a pickle and you if you are in one! A pickle that is ..." Leila cheered and eyed the weird menues once more. She didn't even know what half the things were. Hmm. Astri was a bit odd at times but her stomach was in the right place. Maybe it would be wise to stick to the pickles!
As she waited for their 'food' and/or someone trying to shoot Astri Leila takes a moment to look around in the restaurant. Security camera? Bored looking employees that would love to spill some beans? Or just cool curiosities. Anything interesting really!
”Affirmative.“ Prospero-4 nods to Astrianna and taps the rifle by his side. He scans the crowd quickly for any shady characters or dangers. But since pretty much everyone in the bar could be considered a potential criminal type, pinpointing anyone as source of trouble is difficult.
The danger, however, is much closer. The android considers mentioning the cocktail of microflora and -fauna in the pickles being carried to their table, but decides to stay silent. The others seemed to know what they were doing, and organic creatures consider very odd things as delicacy. He has heard moldy cheese is an expensive product in some parts of the known worlds, so maybe the same applies to pickles.
Let the eaters eat, Prospero-4 concentrates on covering the half-elf.
There's a fair number of bored looking employees, not any security cameras though which is odd considering how common they are elsewhere in Qabarat.
Astrianna doesn't have any luck when asking about Solstrani or Eyrub. The tough looking android at the bar cocks her eye at Astrianna though and says to the half-elf No trouble... in here nodding at Cueta and Prospero-4 as she does.
When Astrianna returns to the group's table in a huff she gets approached by a Korasha Lashunta. He pulls up a chair backwards with a grin and sits down on it, arms resting on the headrest.
You're looking for some info hey? he says in a low voice What's it worth to ya?
|Cueta Guiding Star|
Cueta rolls her eyes as the Lashunta approaches them with an offer. Really, pickles or not, this bar was no different than any other bar back on 9. Just a bunch of desperate grifters that may or may not have anything of use to offer. Best to do the merrygo-around-and-around with this piker.
"Depends on what information tuyo got, chinney? Tuyo know Eyrub or Solstrani, then?"
Busy so quick post!
"Not much, really." Astrianna says, feigning disinterest. She taps away at a screen on her comm, updating some of her social media profiles with her latest accomplishments.
"This is a side-job we thought we could knock out while we kill a few hours waiting on a far more important job to develop." The half-elf says with the cool and detached attitude of an experienced mercenary. She casts a sidelong glance at the Lashunta. "We're not getting paid much for this, so our info budget is pretty low. Afraid we can only spare about 150 credits, max, and still turn a profit on this."
mixed reactions: 1d100 ⇒ 23
Bluff: 1d20 + 12 + 1 ⇒ (17) + 12 + 1 = 30
200 and you've got yourself a deal hot stuff. The Lashunta leers at Astrianna.
Either way if he gets paid he starts to talk. He pitches his voice low to keep anyone from overhearing.
Well.. you didn't hear it from me but the Paqual fella wanted to transport some things to Turhalu Point in Ukulam. And since I'm in the transporting business.. real good at it too... I helped him do exactly that. It ain't easy to get into that nature preserve you know. Believe that. But I know my way around the Qabart Dope Authority, hah, Port Authority, and I arranged the right paperwork for him and fourteen others to walk right through those dope's aiduara gate and right to Turhalu Point with all their stuff.
Paqual is obviously really pleased with himself. You guys need anything like that too? I'll give you a discount. Get you anywhere the Port has gates too.
Aiudara are Elf gates. Pretty common knowledge
|Cueta Guiding Star|
sense motive: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (7) + 8 = 15
"You heard the captain," Cueta pauses, "er... whatstuyoname anyways? Anyways, nostro got solo 150 no more."
Cueta listens, nodding her head along as the Lashunta talks. A smuggler. Of course. She had only one burning question when he was finished.
"What's a nature preserve?"
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Since she wasn't familiar with this particular brand of shady people and Astri plus Cueta seemed to be on top of things Leila stayed quiet for that conversation. Instead she focused on consuming her fair share of the pickles before the others huge ravenous mouths would consume everything - good thing they were busy with something else!
"What's a nature preserve?"
"Ooh I know! It's like jerky only freeze-dried berries instead!" the halfling beamed.
sense motive: 1d20 + 6 + 1d6 ⇒ (19) + 6 + (2) = 27
"One-fifty." She says flatly, reaching into her pocket for an AbadarCorp credstick.
A few presses on her comm unit later and she casually tosses the money to the their new informant.
Leaning back in her seat, Astrianna pops some fried pickles into her mouth while listening to the Lashunta. Ohhh. So Paqual tried to get Solstrani to come here to make a deal... I bet she refused, so they kidnapped her. She thinks, several pieces clicking together in her mind. Which means... ugh, we're going to Ukulam too.
Astrianna guffaws at Leila, before quickly erasing her smile and remaining in character. "A nature preserve is like a big park, except it's left completely undeveloped. No houses, very few roads, just.. wilderness, where native species can go about their usual lives killing each other and crapping all over the place without anyone trying to build a mall in their swamp or whatever. There's a lot of them on Castrovel, but Ukulam is the biggest and most dangerous. You don't want to go in unarmed, that's for sure. If you wander around the wrong part of the Station you'd just get mugged, but on this planet if you wander into the wrong part of Ukulam, something is going to paralyze you and lay its egg in your a~@*$$& while you're still alive."
With her introduction to Castrovelian ecology out of the way, she turns back to their informant. "You actually gave me more information than I was hoping for, thanks. Tell you what, we might prioritize this mission because it coicides with something else we're tasked to do. I need to talk to someone to see if they can get us into Turhalu officially. If they can't, we'll take you up on your offer. So wait around a little bit, have some pickles, and you might have yourself a customer."
Popping open her imail, Astrianna selects a nearby pay-by-message inter-planetry communication service to composes a quick message to Chiskisk.
We have a lead and need to go Ukulam, Turhalu point. There is an aiudara in Qabart that can take us there, but we need access permits. There is someone else ahead of us by at least two days, and we're playing catch up. How quickly can the Starfinders get permits?
She knew that even with the drift beacons relaying the message across the vat emptiness of space it would still take a few minutes for Chiskisk to reply.
"How quickly could you get us theese passes?" The half-elf asks of their new, highly useful friend.
The Lashunta grins widely as he pockets the creds. It seems like this was exactly what he had been hoping for. He leans forward.
Since we're already set up. Won't take long at all. How many will you need? 250 credits per visa, and no negotiatin' on that. I'm already giving a discount.
The reply from Chiskisk comes in.
Ukulam is highly controlled and usually we plan expeditions well in advance to get all the paperwork our agents will need in order. However we have gotten help from our contacts in QUXAX and Qabarat security to expedite the process quite considerably if circumstances demanded. -Chiskisk
There's also a message from Professor Muhali. Apparently the Detective from the Qabarat police force would like to interview the group.
"...Mhm..." Leila mumbled. She couldn't decide if this new information made a trip to such a 'nature preserve' more or less enticing. On one hand it would clearly be awesome. On the other, she prefers to be the eater rather then the food. Hmm...
Astrianna's fingers fly across the holo touch screen as she replies to Chiskisk.
We're going to need the expedited visas. If you can help please do so as quickly as possible. We have it on good authority that the expert on Zan's notes, Dr. Solstrani, has been kidnapped by the group that's ahead of us and taken to Ukulam. Another QUXAX faculty member is annotating notes for us and should finish them in a few hours.
The Qabarat police want to speak with us about our findings, we'll try to petition them for access as well.
Tabbing over to the other message, the half-elf replies to Professor Muhali, asking when and where the detective wants to meet.
She sighs and looks over at their shady Lashunta friend. "I have my people working on proper, expedited authorisation , but if it takes too long and we need to get to Ukulam fast we'll be interested in your services."
She pops open her list of contacts, which numbers in the hundreds. "What's the best way to contact you?"
While her comm was still open, she pulls up Dr. Solstrani's picture once again. "By the way, did the group you helped go through the aiudara have this Kasatha with them?"
The Lashunta's smile drops off when Astrianna mentions 'proper, expedited, authorization'. He scribbles a few letters and numbers on a napkin and flips it across to Astrianna It's a burner account. Lemme know if you want 'em with a mugshot pic of everyone who needs one and I'll get it done in a few hours Then he pushes away from the table. He glances over at the picture and goes Nah before winking and moving away.
|Cueta Guiding Star|
sense motive: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (15) + 8 = 23
"Pukker's lying," Cueta whispers, real quietly to those right by her. "Let's arrange to meet him somewhere more deserted and find out what he knows."
Unaware of what she's doing, Cueta cracks her knuckles, the thought of beating the information out of the smuggler bringing a scowl to her face.
Astrianna rapidly enters the contact information under the heading "Ukulam visas" before showing him the picture of Solstrani.
Sense motive: 1d20 + 6 + 1d6 ⇒ (12) + 6 + (2) = 20
Clearing her throat as he starts to walk away, Astrianna glances to Cueta, shaking her head before drumming her lilac-painted fingernails on the table. "Hey, pal..." She addresses the Lashunta in a commanding tone, "We paid you for information, and I think you'd like to provide us with accurate information, or else we might decide we've been ripped off. We don't want to have to... ask for our money back." She intones, staring up at him with cold emerald eyes.
She folds her hands into a triangle near chin height. "I'm going to give you a chance to start over. You have seen Dr. Solstrani, and...?"
mixed reactions: 1d100 ⇒ 13 Erf, that's a -2
intimidate: 1d20 + 9 - 2 ⇒ (16) + 9 - 2 = 23 Using Veiled Threat