This chapter written by Weasley-Detectives and Caith, edited by Weasley-Detectives
Namek Quest: The Gathering
People came to the planet Terrada to seek out their fortune. Unfortunately, other people sought it too. Ultimately, this meant that the most successful business to embark on revolved around the funeral industry.
The Kold Empire had never invaded Terrada; at least, not in the technical sense. The planet freely welcomed invaders with cash in their pockets to dispose on a game in one of the myriad casinos that dotted the city-world's glittering surface. Invading the planet would be like crashing a Halloween party and finding everyone was wearing the same costume as you.
The city-world's capital, Delta, was a prosperous city whose founders believed that when it came to architectural wonders, one must think outside the box. The problem with thinking outside the box is that there must first be some evidence of thinking going on inside it. Delta, though prosperous, was constructed upon the Terrada's Great Mire, an immense swamp encompassing one hundred square miles and fathoms deep, which continually threatened to consume the city. Ships had been known to crash-land into the Mire without ever leaving a single trace, the skeletons of which lay at the bottom of the swamp perfectly preserved. An intricate network of pillars, platforms and scaffolding, layered level upon level like a cake, supported the entire city while ongoing repairs kept it from sinking into the relentless sucking swamp. The upper levels of the city housed some of the galaxies most famous theatres, casinos and nightclubs, a bustling, buzzing, hectic society that never slept. The dark, murky depths of the lower levels saw little of the wealth above and was home to some of the seedier characters and dangers of the galaxy. Puddles of sewage gathered in murky street corners and shabby black market shops and inns attracted all manner of life-forms, most of them dangerous and harbouring a personal grudge against your life. Here, on the lower levels, there were no public health laws or law enforcement. The crime rate was so high that introducing a police squad would be like installing smoke detectors in Hell.
Here, tucked away in a particularly dingy street on the lower levels of Delta, was Nam's Nevertheless.
The old proprietor of the Antiques shop had been a self-proclaimed witch who had left her wears and business to fulfil her dreams of becoming a famous mystic on the glittering top levels of Delta. For all her fortune-telling powers, old Nam had not foreseen the knife in her assassin's hand before it struck her dead en-route to the upper levels. Her shop assistant, Deceptedo, had never heard from her again. In the long run the grim situation had worked out quite nicely for him. Old Nam had been kind to him, taught him the careful eye of a merchant trader and after her disappearance the shop was left in his hands. He knew how to haggle and took no nonsense from cheapskate traders, however often they threatened his life.
Out of the dark and stormy night that evening, one such trader entered his shop. The stocky figure filled the doorway of Nam's Nevertheless, whistlers of night breeze pushing grit across the threshold and swirling across the damp, wooden floorboards of the shop. Deceptedo looked up from the odd relic he had been puzzling over and wrinkled his nose as the acrid smell of the Mire drifting in with the breeze nuzzled his throat.
Traders were getting younger and younger these days, he mused. This one could not be older than himself - nineteen at the very most. The Warg stood on the threshold, a large duffel bag thrust over her shoulder and looking for all intents and purposes like a wet dog. Her silver hair was short and shaggy, and dripping puddles of water onto the floor. He wrinkled his nose again.
"We're closing shortly," he said politely, eyeing the mop in the corner.
She stepped into the light and closed the shop door behind her, a toothy grin on her face that wasn't at all comforting. "This won't take a minute."
His dark eyes ranged quickly over her, searching for hidden weapons as his own hand reached for the blaster he kept in the second drawer of his desk. There was a utility belt around her waist, various trinkets and pouches attached at varying intervals. His eyes stopped as they alighted on the handle of what appeared to be a weapon, though it more resembled an ancient relic opposed to the modern technologically advanced weaponry today's black markets sold by the thousand. The weapon looked something like a very large and ancient stone hammer, inscribed with little squiggles and lines that were most likely runes of some sort. The academic curiosity in him twitched to life.
"Uhm, are you a collector, miss?" he inquired timidly while she prodded a very delicate tapestry non-too gently. As she turned towards him, her hammer swung within an inch of a row of priceless Ice-jin pottery. Deceptedo cringed.
The trader cocked an eyebrow, then grinned that same unsettling wolfish grin and said, "Something like that." She paced the rows of cluttered, dusty shelves, poking and prodding her nose into one artefact after another while her wagging tail left a trail of water and matted fur, seemingly oblivious to his growing irritation. "More of a trader. Pick up a lot of things on my travels," she explained. "Best time to pick up a real gem is the in-between period."
"The in-between period?" he repeated in a questioning tone.
"Always a few days between the Planet Trade turning a world to rubble and the Empire cleaning it up for new clients," she explained nonchalantly. "Find some real treasures in the rubble, that is if you can avoid a few run-ins with the Imperial squads. Nasty fellows, pack a good punch, but I won't bore you with my scars. Ooh! Shiny. What does this do?"
"I see," he said, grimly. "You're a grave robber."
Her grey-blue eyes smirked at him. "Grave robber's such a grim word. I prefer academic opportunist. Rolls off the tongue like poetry, don't you think?"
"It's certainly a title much less likely to get you arrested, shot and tried," he said, pushing his thick-rimmed glasses up his nose primly.
"Fine words coming from a black market seller," she leered. "You've acquired some very interesting things in this shop yourself. Now how does an up-standing, specky git like you come about some nasty cursed items like these, I wonder?"
"Your approval is neither desired nor required," he retorted, curtly.
She laughed. "Heh. You're an odd sort for a place like this. Bit frilly round the edges, but I like you." She stuck out her hand towards him. "Saku Ookami, the Humble."
Meek, I suppose," he replied with a wane smile and shook her hand politely.
"This your place?"
"It is now."
Saku nodded as if she understood. Her eyes alighted on the strange relic Deceptedo had been puzzling over sitting amongst the scattered papers on his desk. "Here, what's that?"
Instinctively, Deceptedo pulled it towards himself. In all truth, he had no idea what the strange artefact was. An old man of unidentifiable alien origin and obviously staggering towards death's door had brought it in not two days previously. All he had asked Deceptedo in return for the object was enough money to see him with a roof and a bed for the night (with someone to warm it, naturally). Deceptedo was an academic by nature and what he didn't know usually wasn't worth knowing, but even he was stumped by the strange contraption before him. It was crafted from an unfamiliar bronze coloured metal, which gave off a multicoloured sheen in the light. It had eight triangular faces and six square faces, and embedded in each square face was a large, dull-green gem.
He was about to scoop the relic into a drawer, away from the trader's prying eyes, but she was far too quick for him. In a flash, the bronze cuboctahedron was in her hands, which were twisting and poking the relic with merciless curiosity.
"S-Stop that at once!" he cried, fumbling over the desk towards her. "You'll break it!"
"Rubbish. You can't break something that's already broken," she said, waving her hand airily while the other rattled the instrument close to her ear. "Maybe if I just give this a light knock-"
But it was too late. The artefact slipped from her hands and fell to the floor with a dull clunk, followed closely by a leather-booted foot. Deceptedo wailed helplessly as he watched the trader kick the relic repeatedly and covered his face with his hands when he could not bare to watch any more.
And then there was a click, followed by a low, distinctive humming. Deceptedo frowned and peered through a crack between his fingers. The noise was coming from the artefact.
"There you go, works like a charm," said the trader, beaming, but Deceptedo was not appeased.
"Now see here you...you, you brutish pirate!" he spluttered, rising to his feet.
She laughed nervously. "Now, now, don't have to thank me. Was entirely my pleasure. I'd love to stay and chat, but I've got a ship to get back to and-"
Suddenly, the shop exploded in a fantastic shower of green energy and sparks, shattering shelves of curios and throwing Deceptedo and the trader from their feet. The green light flashed and filled the room, the blazing glow lighting up the length of the rain-soaked street outside.
A good few minutes had passed before Deceptedo dared to peek over the edge of his desk and what he saw forced a strangled, gurgling yelp of surprise from his throat. Through the green gloom, images were beginning to appear - golden threads of energy zooming through a vast space wilderness, through galaxies both familiar and strange, like a map treading the universe. He caught the expression on Saku Ookami's face and saw that it mirrored his own, transfixed on the spectacle caught in the beam of green light shinning from the old relic. The gold thread whirred through space, dancing past one world after another until suddenly it stopped and a huge image filled the room, dwarfing everything in its shadow.
Now glowing in the darkness was a planet, emerald green and vast as a sun, bobbing beside a tiny pale moon in the blackness of space.
"It's...It's..." He stopped in amazement.
"It can't be!"
"That's Planet Namek!" She got to her feet and stalked around the image of the emerald world hovering above them. "The legendary Planet Namek!"
"Astronomically impossible!" said Deceptedo, flustering to his feet. "If the legends are true, considering the gravitational pull of a planet that size it would have been discovered long ago. People have been searching for Namek for...for...EONS!"
She grinned without looking at him. "Bigger worlds have been discovered on the Outer Rim, mate! Bloody damn, well I'll be," she whistled. "This is a map - a map to Namek. Gotta be!"
"The ancient Namekians? The legendary Porunga?" he said, dabbing his forehead with a handkerchief. "Why this means...this means..."
"That the fulfilment of every wish you've ever had is one flight away," she said, rubbing her hands together with a greedy glint in her eye. Then suddenly, her body went rigid and the canine ears on either side of her head snapped forwards in alert.
"Quiet," she muttered, raising her hand to silence Deceptedo while she turned towards the rain-splattered shop window behind his desk. Outside, the street was dark, empty. Her nose twitched as she sniffed, her acute senses picking up the faint smell of tobacco lingering in the air outside. She turned to Deceptedo sharply, her lazy, laid-back manner having dropped completely.
"Someone's been watching us."
Just across from Nam's Nevertheless, a man stood under an overhang, smoking. Around him the crowds of vagabonds and thieves left plenty of empty space, not because his face was recognized but because it wasn't. He was dressed as any pirate or ne'r-do-well, in serviceable boots and patched pants. There was a bo pole in a long holster across his back which stood out against a dark coat. He didn't seem any different than the other scum that wandered about Delta, yet there was an air of regal irritance about him, as though every living being who passed was not only not worth his time, they were below the piece of ground upon which he stood.
He inhaled deeply, and the fading ember of his cigarette revealed a pale, sharp face set with bright violet eyes that seemed to glow long after the filter had been lowered by a long-fingered hand. If one squinted at precisely the right moment, perhaps they would notice that his brown belt seemed to twitch, like it had a mind of its own.
The man ignored everything his twitching belt, the nervous passersby, the small piece of paper that ignited when he dropped the remains of his cigarette. When a shadowy shape inside of the dirty shop windows moved, he stepped backwards. Not a great feat, certainly, but he stepped backwards into nothing. The shadows of the wall seemed to swallow him whole, and by the time anyone got a good look at the street, it was as if he'd never been there at all.