Author's Note: Another piece of backstory to the Space Odyssey universe, this one cooked up by the intriguing Quiz topic. For the historians in us all, this story takes place three months after the events of the Riasa Deal and four before the start of the main Odyssey
Disclaimers (and there are a few): significant adult content, nudity, bad jokes, a few naughty words. I think that's it..
A Space Odyssey: Afterburner Lounge
Leaning against a corroded bulkhead support, Bran looked down at his wristcomp, waiting for the confirmation signals to go green. One already had, Minsc and his Lilracor 900 were in position in case they needed emergency back up. The other two still hadn’t checked in. They still had another ten minutes, so he was not concerned. Impatient, but not concerned.
Finger tapping the wristcomp, he looked up at his partner. The half Seldarian woman stood ramrod straight against the far wall, arms crossed under her breasts. One foot tapped on the corroded deck, a sign of her own growing impatience. Smiling inwardly, he let his eyes play over her, savoring her beauty. She was dressed in a dark leather trench coat that just gently brushed against her calves and concealed the two pulse pistols strapped to her thighs.
More intriguing was what was underneath the coat. Matte black boots reached to her knees. Glimpses of curve hugging black leather pants caught his eye as her coat shifted in the breeze of the envirosystems. As his eyes moved up her body, he reveled in the tantalizing display of beautifully tanned cleavage afforded by the green leather of her vest. He even envied the emerald that lay nestled so perfectly in the soft, lovely valley by virtue of its short gold chain.
Dragging his eyes from the wonderful sight of her sunkissed flesh, he looked up into the face of his partner. One corner of her mouth was turned up in a half smile and one elegant eyebrow arched as she returned his look. Her moss green eyes twinkled with wicked amusement as she asked lightly, “Do I pass inspection sir?”
A broad grin spread across his face, “Oh yes, yes you most certainly do, Jaheira.”
Lifting a hand to readjust her braids, she replied, “Good to know Bran. I’d hate to think I wouldn’t pass muster at one of your reviews.”
His smile took on a wicked edge. “And once we’re done with our business down here, I think maybe we could retire to one of the moonview suites and I could maybe conduct a more thorough inspection.”
“An intriguing proposition, sir,” she said, hooking her thumbs into her belt, pushing her coat open wider. A devilish smile teased her lips as she sauntering close to Bran, her hips swaying and her voice sultry. “A very interesting proposition.”
Stopping scant millimeters away yet completely out of reach, she traced a finger slowly down his maroon leather clad chest. Like a snake, she slid closer, her face hovering next to his, close enough so that Bran felt the blood boiling heat radiating from her cheek, and whispered, “And you do know how much I love to celebrate a moonrise.”
“But not until we’ve finished our business down here,” she said, suddenly breaking contact and stepping back to the other side of the corridor. Readjusting her trench coat, she asked, her tone businesslike and completely bereft of even an ounce of the heat that just moments before seared her words into his brain, “So, have our backups checked in yet?”
Only the barest hint of a smile colored her now carefully neutral features. Pointing to his wristcomp, she asked again, managing to sound exasperated with his absentmindedness, “Our backups? Have they checked in yet Bran?”
Taking a deep breath and shaking his head violently to clear it of distracting images of Jaheira, hot tubs, and moonrises, Bran looked down at his wristcomp’s display screen. It took a moment’s concentration before he could read the little indicator lights. All three now read green. All of their backups were in place. Looking up, he said, “Everyone checked in. We’re good to go.”
“Good,” she replied with a nod. “Let’s get this done and quickly. This part of the station is disgusting and our client isn’t much better. I can already feel the filth settling.” Dragging her fingers through her braids, her lips slipped into a slight, wicked smile as she added with just a hint of a tease, “When we’re done I’m going to need a long, hot bath.”
Better prepared this time, he simply arched an eyebrow and laughed. Pushing off the bulkhead, he wrapped one arm around her waist and kissed her on the cheek. “You know, you can be down right evil sometimes?”
“Yes,” she replied, smiling beatifically up at him.
Laughing, he kissed her again. “Completely. Now lets go.”
Letting go of his delectable executive officer, Bran smiled and waved her down the corridor. With a nod of her head, she strode down to the agreed meeting place, Bran pacing alongside her.
Human inhabitation of the unaligned Independent Westgate System dates back nearly 1500 years, and Westgate Station has been in orbit over Westgate III from day one. In fact, the system draws its name from the deep space explorer ship that first found the system. A catastrophic Mectrix drive failure left the ship unable to reenter hyperspace and the ship’s complement and crew became the system’s first inhabitants. The ship itself became the seed for the organic growth of a station now the size of a medium sized moon.
In fact, it is said that somewhere at the core of Westgate Station lies the original Westgate. Some lifers claim that the original Westgate is the headquarters for the mysterious Guild of the Wrench, the station’s long time independent maintenance staff, constantly changing and repairing the station. Others posit that the ancient ship serves as the headquarters for Westgate’s thieves guild. A few old and addled spacers even claim that the ship’s old bridge serves as the meeting place for dark and twisted powers bent on galactic domination, even if they aren’t sure who these dark and twisted powers might be.
They are all wrong.
The original Westgate was destroyed almost 600 years ago in M.E. 981 during a civil war between the various factions that rule the Westgate system. However, by that time, the station had grown so much that the loss of that original root part of the station mattered little. The old hulk was nothing more than a storage facility and the housing for the waste recycling system.
Even without its old core, Westgate Station flourished as one of the central hubs of trade and commerce in the sector. Merchants, miners, speculators, spacers, colonists, ‘privateers’, mercenaries and drifters constantly flow through the Station’s massive space ports, keeping its marketplaces and clubs busy and its repair facilities constantly working. The Station caters to all races, creeds, religions and tastes, from the exalted to the debauched. Such is the case that Westgate’s unofficial motto is that ‘If you can’t find what you’re looking for at Westgate Station, you simply don’t have enough credits.’
One such location that does its best to cater to the whims of spacers, traders, and any one else with a large amount of money who is looking to spend it, is the infamous Afterburner Lounge. Located in a part of the station that would take two decades of dedicated rehabilitation to even be called seedy, the Afterburner Lounge boasts they possess the most comprehensive beverage and stimulant selection and the finest, most talented, and most accessible erotic dancers on Station. These enticements, combined with absence of any Station Security personnel makes the Afterburner Lounge an extremely popular destination.
The Afterburner Lounge was Bran and Jaheira’s destination as well. Striding out of one corridor and onto the deck’s main thoroughfare, they caught sight of the garish and gaudy display that advertised the presence of the notorious club. Looking up at the lurid pink neon letters and the stylized image of a naked woman riding a rocket, Jaheira grumbled, “Why this place. Of all the bars and clubs on this station, why did he have to pick this one.”
Bran shrugged. “Well, you know his tastes. Alcohol and willing, naked women are two of his favorite things. This place provides both. And he’s certainly not above mixing business with pleasure.”
“Still..” Jaheira replied, her voice betraying signs of one of her infamous rants.
“And,” Bran quickly interrupted, “he’s going to be paying us a large amount of money as well.”
Jaheira still looked unconvinced, so Bran added, “An obscene amount of money in fact. And when he sees the second package, it might get down right blasphemous.”
Slowly, she nodded in grudging acceptance. “You do have a point. But lets keep this business. No staying to simply sightsee.”
“Why? Jealous of the dancers?” teased Bran.
Jaheira simply snorted, refusing to dignify the comment with a response.
Reaching the entrance, they stopped in front of the two massive identical bouncers that worked the main door. Bran immediately dubbed them Left and Right. Both were dressed in all black with silvered goggles and comm pieces and both sported wicked looking stun rods. They were obviously products of either hormonal or genetic manipulation, because while they looked human, either one would have dwarfed Minsc. On the off chance they had been natural, Bran seriously pitied their mother.
Reaching into his pocket, Bran slowly produced the club pass that his client had delivered this morning. He offered it to Left along with a few discreetly hidden bills of Station currency, westmarks. Left took the money and the pass, sliding the cash into his pocket and the pass into a scanner while Right scrutinized the two of them. The scanner pinged and Left said a few quiet words into his mike. Pulling the pass out, he handed it back. In a careful, clipped tone, the bouncer said, “Have a nice day, sir and madam. I hope you enjoy our hospitality.”
“I hope so as well,” replied Bran with a nod.
The two behemoths stepped aside, with Left holding open the matte black durasteel door. With a final nod, Bran and Jaheira walked into the Afterburner Lounge.
The Lounge itself was a multi tiered affair, with a large central stage on the lowest level and stages on each of the higher tiers. The walls were a dark red except around the stages where the metal was covered in some sort of mirror like substance. Hidden speakers thumped with the deep beat of electronica. A few recessed lights put out a very dim light with the only bright lights focused on the stages and the dancers. The limited visibility was further impaired by the perpetual haze of exotic scented smoke that permeated the room. It was perfect for what it was supposed to be, an escape.
When Jaheira and Bran walked in, the club was mostly full, men and women of many different races lounging at the tables. On the main stage, three nude Seldarian women danced with each other, their sinuous bodies undulating in time with the sultry beat. Multicolored lights pulsed in time with the erotic music, caressing their cream colored skin. Bran’s steps faltered as his eyes were drawn by their hypnotic dancing, the movements of their intertwined, taut bodies bewitching him.
A sharp elbow to his ribs broke the spell. Blinking away images of the dancers, he shrugged and smiled somewhat apologetically. Once again, Jaheira shook her head and snorted, “Yes, I can definitely see why He likes it hear. It is just His type of place.”
“Yeah. I can definitely see the appeal. The décor is quite lovely. Good music too.”
Jaheira shot him a glare and sighed. “No comments about the scenery, dear?”
“Oh? That? Not bad.” Smiling, he looked into her eyes and said with complete sincerity, “But I’ve seen much better.”
Jaheira arched an eyebrow, then gave him a full smile. “You old rogue,” she said, giving him a kiss.
Sweeping off an imaginary hat and bowing with a flourish, he took her hand, gently kissing it. Looking up at her with a roguish smile, he said with faux formality, “Bran Varnas, rogue, adventurer, explorer at your service, my lady.”
“If that is the case, how about we find our client and retire to more appropriate surroundings, my noble rogue?” replied a smiling Jaheira.
“To earn just one more of those beautiful smiles, it shall be done fair lady,” he said, straightening. Offering his arm in escort, Bran led the two of them to the host’s station.
A well groomed middle aged human stood there, dressed in a silver tuxedo. His dark hair was slicked back and a small comm unit hung from his right ear. Seeing them approach, he looked up from whatever displays he was examining and fixed them with a smile. Nodding in deference to the couple, he purred, “Honored guests, how may I be of service?”
With a nod of his own, Bran replied, “Good evening. My companion and I were hoping to get a seat on the fifth tier.” Retrieving his pass, he surreptitiously handed it to the host wrapped in several one hundred westmark bills. “A friend of mine told me that it held the best views in the house and that the service there is unparalleled.”
With practiced ease, the host accepted both. “We pride ourselves on our service in all aspects. However, I will admit that the views from the fifth tier are especially breathtaking.” He placed the pass into his stand and quickly scanned the readout. “And, sir, it does seem we have a table available on the fifth tier. Narin will show you up and if there is anything we can do to make your stay more pleasant, do not hesitate to ask sir.”
Almost as if by magic, a chiseled, golden haired human man appeared by the host station. He too was dressed in a silver tuxedo, but his was of a much different configuration. His uniform consisted of a short, tight fitting jacket that not only hugged his muscular chest but revealed a statuesque pecs and a rippled stomach. The man’s pants seemed painted on, accentuating powerful thighs. Smiling brightly, he gestured to a lift and said, “Greetings, I am Narin. If you would follow me?”
The waiter strode off to the lift with Bran and Jaheira behind him. Jaheira found her eyes pulled to the sight of Narin’s muscles flexing beneath the tight fabric of his pants. Especially intriguing was the way the light reflected off the metallic cloth that covered his taut buttocks. With each swaggering step the light moved from side to side, framing his near perfect backside. His broad powerful shoulders were also worthy of study. Unable to decide, Jaheira’s eyes split time between both excellent features.
The three climbed on the lift that rapidly brought them to the fifth tier. Plush chairs and luxurious booths lined this level. Reproductions of ancient erotic statues rested in niches in the velvet draped walls. Two smaller stages stood on the flanks of the tier, one with a solitary raven-haired women slowly peeling off a latex bodysuit and the other with a dark-skinned couple performing a very intimate version of a ‘passion play.’ Only a few customers occupied this level, most clustered around the stages or reclining in the booths.
Narin escorted them to one of the tables near the balcony for the tier, genteelly pulling out one of the overstuffed chairs for Jaheira. Once she took her seat, he slid it in then stepped to the side and bowed, asking, “Will there be anything else? Or shall I summon your server?”
Bran, an odd, amused smile on his face, answered, “No. Thank you Narin.”
Smiling politely, Narin excused himself and headed for the lift. As soon as they were alone, Bran couldn’t help but laugh. “They have some most impressive scenery here, my love, don’t they?”
“Indeed,” replied Jaheira, cheeks slightly flushed. Gathering herself, she asked, “Now, where is he?”
A quick scan of the back wall of the level revealed their client. He sat in a booth at the back, flanked by three attractive Amazonian companions. Bran’s trained eye quickly assessed that all three were bodyguards and well armed. A half smile tweaked his lips as he mused on how his client believed that his bodyguards should be interested in protecting all of his body. Nodding with his head towards the booth, Bran said, “Right there, along with part of his ‘harem.’”
“Good,” said Jaheira, standing up and tugging at her vest to straighten it. “Shall we?”
Bran stood with a nod and the two of them headed for the corner booth. As they approached, two of the Amazons stepped into their path, hands just hinting towards weapons hidden under their loose jackets. With a wave of their client’s hand, the Amazons parted, allowing Bran and Jaheira to pass.
Their client was an immaculately groomed dark haired man who affected a well-oiled goatee. He was dressed in his usual manner, a perfectly tailored long blood red jacket and matching trousers with a black metallic mesh shirt that served to both show off his physique and as an emergency energy shield. Placing his drink back down on the silvered surface, he smiled and gestured for them to sit with one elegantly manicured hand.
As Bran and Jaheira slid into the booth, their client said in greeting, “Varnas.”
Bran returned the greeting, “Odesserion.”
Odesserion smiled. “You have my information?”
Bran reached into his jacket and extracted two crystal data wafers. Holding them between his fingers, he smiled as well. “Of course. And you, of course have my payment?”
“What do you take me for, some simpering halfwit. Of course.” Odesserion gestured to the third Amazon, who extracted a credit wafer from the depths of her jacket.
Bran’s smile widened. “Of course not, Odesserion. I don’t do business with half-wits. They make for very bad business and far too much risk.”
“Yes. Thankfully you have proven to at least have a modicum of intellect and skill, Varnas. So, you managed to extract all of the required data?”
With just a hint of sarcasm, Bran replied, “Thank you for the compliment, Odesserion.” Tapping the crystal wafers together, Bran continued, “All of it. Draven family shipping routes and plans for the next month. Base locations, key suppliers. Weapons and troop locations. Ship locations. All of it.”
“As per our arrangement. These are the only copies,” Bran didn’t add that the originals were still stored in the Gorion’s mainframe. “My payment?”
Odesserion nodded again and the Amazon handed the credit wafer across the table. Jaheira lifted it and slid into a small palmcomp, watching as the information scrolled across the screen. “Banking Guild and Ihil Bank signatures are valid. The amount is correct, all five million.” Payment confirmed, the brunette slid the credit wafer from the reader and secreted it deep within her jacket.
Once Jaheira tucked away the wafer, Bran passed the two crystal wafers to Odesserion. He closed his manicured fingers over them and quickly passed them to the sitting Amazon. She slid the crystal wafers into her own comp, watching the data scroll across her screen. After a quick review, she looked at her employer and nodded. Smiling and rubbing his hands together, he chortled, “Excellent. Most excellent. Those pathetic simians won’t know what hit them.” Turning back to Bran, he said, “Our business is concluded, so be off to what ever you two do,” even adding a dismissing gesture to emphasize his point.
Bran simply smiled. “I’m not so sure it is,” he said, pulling another crystal data wafer from his jacket. “I think you might find this little piece of information to be very interesting.”
Odesserion looked down at the wafer that Bran was idly flipping from knuckle to knuckle. “And what could you have that would be of interest to me? You aren’t trying to double charge me, are you simian?” he asked, his voice betraying annoyance.
Bran leaned back, same smile in place. “Odesserion, you should know better than that. I don’t double charge people for what they’ve paid for. Its just I happened to come across some other information and I was wondering if you’d be interested.”
Eyes narrowing, the red clad man scrutinized both crystal wafer and the man holding it. “I dislike games Varnas. Make yourself clear or vanish from my sight.”
“No games?” replied Bran innocently. His smile widening, he continued, “But I think you still are interested. Here, take a look. Free of charge.” Eyes never leaving Odesserion’s, he extended the wafer.
A moment’s silence passed as the two sized each other up. Finally, Odesserion grabbed his associate’s comp and the crystal with a muttered curse. Disdainfully, he slid the crystal into the receiver port and waited for the contents to appear on the screen. It didn’t take long.
The haughty look disappeared as he read the contents, to be replaced with a mixture of surprise and glee. Amused giggles escaped his lips as he absorbed the information. Coming to the end of the file, he looked up from the screen and said, “Amusing, but what you have here is nothing I don’t already know. Its not even worth the wafer its stored on.”
“Indeed. But you don’t think I’d give you the full version before you paid, did you? I’m sure your reader is rigged to copy all the data run through it. And if not, I’m sorely disappointed.” Reaching into his jacket, he produced another crystal. “This one, however, contains the full information. Business deals, suppliers, assets with locations, and some fascinating personal information. And considering your past history with one Mr. Tehoran and your greedy smile, I’d say you’re more than interested.”
“Tehoran is a cheat, a scoundrel, and villain. Absolute scum, cheating me and my business out of legitimate and lucrative opportunities,” Odesserion cursed through thinned lips.
“You mean, somehow scooping you on smuggling and gun running deals across the sector for the last 2 years?”
“That’s just what I said, you pedantic fool.”
Bran’s smile was almost predatory as he held the crystal up in the dim light. “Exactly. And right here, right here is enough information to put him out of business permanently. Are you interested?”
Glaring at the crystal as if he could wrench the data out by vision alone, Odesserion grumbled, “Of course.”
“Good. And for the bargain price of.. say 10 million credits, its all yours.”
“Ten million? Has all this fine flesh melted that pathetic brain of yours?” came Odesserion’s reply. “Five hundred thousand.”
Bran laughed. “I offer you the keys to kingdom of one of your greatest enemies, and that’s you insult me? Who is the hormone addled fool here, Odesserion? You know, more than a few of your competitors would pay handsomely for this.”
Fists flexing, the smuggler cursed, “Two million.”
“Nine point five.”
“Three point five.”
“Eight and that is my final offer. I know for certain the Rielevis will easily offer that much.”
“The Rielevis are a pack of incompetent, bootlicking Seldarans that wouldn’t know a profitable business deal from prison rape.”
Nodding in agreement, Bran admitted, “You’re probably right. But they have plenty of credits for this sort of information. Do you?”
Watching Odesserion’s teeth grind was an added benefit to this part of the deal. The nasty smile on Jaheira’s face showed that his lovely second in command was getting just as much pleasure from watching Odesserion squirm as his desire to destroy an old foe warred against his gluttonous greed. Bran knew there was no way Odesserion would let this kind of information slip through his fingers. Not with such a chance to wreak revenge. It was just a matter of how many of his precious credits he would give up for this weapon.
Scowling viciously, Odesserion spat, “Seven million, you filthy villain.”
Victory was at hand. “I said eight or I walk. Going once..”
Odesserion’s glare could have sliced through three feet of durasteel.
Gesturing for Jaheira to get up, Bran started to slide the crystal back into his jacket and said, “Going twice..”
Odesserion’s eyes never left the wafer as it made its slow journey towards Bran’s jacket pocket. Just before it disappeared and his face the same color as his jacket, he snarled, “Fine. Eight million, you thrice cursed bandit.”
“Temper, temper my friend,” Bran admonished with a tight, friendly smile. It took all of his control to keep the gloat from his voice. “You wouldn’t want me to increase the price due to adverse working conditions, now would you?”
Odesserion looked like he’d swallowed a quart of engine coolant. Grimacing, he growled, “No. And this data is complete? If you are trying to run some scam, to try and cheat me..”
The smile disappeared and Bran’s eyes went as cold as deep space. “Cheat you? We’ve done a lot of business together Odesserion,” he interrupted in a flat tone. “I’ve always been on the level. I’ve never foisted shit data on you before and I’m not going to start now. You don’t like the price, don’t think its worth it, fine. We don’t do the deal. But don’t insult my integrity. Now, do we have a deal or not?”
“You have a point, Varnas,” replied Odesserion after taking a moment to regain some of his composure. “Very well. Eight million.”
Another credit wafer was loaded with the appropriate funds and verified by Jaheira’s palmcomp. With the second wafer now secured, Bran handed the crystal to the still seething Odesserion. Getting up, he said coolly, “A pleasure doing business with you, as always.”
Sliding the data wafer into his computer, the irate trader simply grumbled, “Yes, yes indeed. Now leave me be, brigand.”
“My pleasure,” he replied, then turned to Jaheira, “Shall we, my lady?”
She simply nodded, and the two quickly exited the booth, leaving Odesserion with his new data and his lighter pockets. Making their way to the lift, Jaheira remarked, “I am not sure which was worth more. The extra eight, or watching that pompous fool bluster and cave.”
Bran flashed a wicked smile as he punched the recall signal into his wristcomp. “The credits were nice, but making that self important braggart agonize between his precious coin and revenge, that was a thing of beauty. We need to celebrate. I say we go to Eduards, book their best suite and order up some rare steaks and their finest Tethyrian wines. There is still an inspection I need to perform, if I recall.”
“Now, that sounds like an excellent idea, my Captain,” laughed Jaheira.
“It is, isn’t it?” replied a smiling Bran as they stepped into the lift. As the doors closed, he added, “And I say we also switch off our comms.”
Wrapping her arms around his, she asked lightly, “Why, so that Imoen can’t bother us with her antics?”
Bran turned to her, a triumphant smile splitting his face. “No my lovely. So that we aren’t interrupted by Odesserion’s screaming when he realizes he paid eight million credits for the information on Tehoran, and didn’t make sure to purchase exclusive rights to it.”
Slowly, a wicked smile spread across Jaheira’s tanned face. Dragging one finger along his bearded chin, she purred, “You are delightfully evil sometimes Bran. Delightfully so.”
Bran nipped at the teasing finger. “I know,” he chortled softly, “Care to find out how wicked I can be?”
“I could be convinced,” she replied, arching one eyebrow.
“Wonderful,” he replied. “Then we have a date?”
“Looks like..” she grinned and again ran her finger down the length of his chin.
The doors opened and hand in hand, the two lovers stepped out of the lift and departed the Afterburner Lounge, heading for their own, private, celebration.
A Space Odyssey - Afterburner Lounge
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