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The Aery

- - - - - Lhao PrajiIsobel Mattis Coruscant

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#1
Isobel Mattis

Isobel Mattis

    Coruscant First

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Location: Coruscant [Uscru Entertainment District] - The Aery

Tag: Lhao Praji

 

Long nails tapped the tinted transparisteel glass that hid her visage from view. There were rumblings that something was amiss in the governmental structure that she had only barely gotten to know. Her thoughts were pulling, this way and that, wondering what would become of the ventures that she had been exposed to. War. The left-overs of a two-pronged effort against the Clans of Mandalore and their Corellian neighbors. Coruscant was more stable than it had been in recent years—But it was not yet whole. The attacks that had torn her beloved world asunder years prior still left visible scars.

 

There were still homeless, hungry, and distraught Coruscanti people that required more than they had been given. Her organization could only do so much without support. Non-Profit business ventures could only hold on with adequate provisions. Isobel had friends in high places, however, she needed more. She needed the wealthy of the Core to see what they were missing. To see what she saw. To know, without a doubt, what she knew. Coruscant was…Struggling.

 

Somewhere along the way the tension that had gripped her eased. The reports from her brother Grayson mad her routine all the more imperative. Moving from event to event. The Omni Prime group had their hands in everything. The specialized in privately making problems disappear while providing for the people as a public face. One had rebuilt homes and sky towers while the other would see obstacles and dangerous elements removed without a whisper. Whole sectors would find themselves devoid of crime overnight.  

 

The driver parked the sky-taxi, then waited, while a tall man in a black suit exited the building. Nathaniel. Isobel didn’t have many enemies, though, it was mostly because the unsavory parts of her enterprise were hidden. Even still. It was wise to make sure that nothing seemed amiss. He came to the passenger door on the landing pad and opened it. “Ms. Mattis.”

 

The greeting was stoic. Isobel exited, sliding smoothly, so that only delicate ankles peeked from beneath a wine-red dress. Nathaniel walked with her, at a distance, but not so far away that he couldn’t do his job as a bodyguard. “Has it been busy tonight?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“More than normal?”

 

Nathaniel paused to open the door to the side entrance. “Perhaps. Are you concerned?”

 

He wasn’t asking about the number of people, moreso, the potential for risk. Isobel simply smiled briefly in return. The dark-haired woman ducked under his arm after a moment and slipped inside, whilst he shook his head, and followed quietly after her. He was a shadow. Professional, watchful, rarely seen, and never heard unless he wanted to be. There was no turbo lift that led from this entrance to the main veranda. It was a casino of which only the most influential were allowed entry, however, it was located in the underground. She had to go down. 

 

Paparazzi and holo-journalists liked to try and track the comings and goings of Coruscanti Elite and Isobel liked to remain discrete. Hence, taking an indirect entrance, and also the glute workout she was soon to endure in a pair of painfully tall high heels. The entryway was practical. Long. Lots of stairs. It meant that if unsavory parties tried to enter through the less guarded path, they would also have a long, long walk. It took time. And it only had one turn the whole way so that security could sit at an angle and shoot up at the enemy, at the door, and down below. Guards at the top and the bottom could take turns firing volleys into anyone the Aery didn’t want coming in.

 

By the time Isobel made it through and passed another check point she was ready for a seat and a drink. Regardless, she pressed a pleasant smile on her features. Her eyes looked almost black in the overhead lights, but, there was a gleam that seemed to leave them with a topaz hue. She was carrying a small black clutch that went well with everything else. Her clothing was something she had been poured in to while her hair fell in ebony waves. The scent of death sticks and some sort of overhanging perfume from incense filled the air. There were dozens of tables with people gambling, betting, playing sabacc, and all manner of gilded debauchery.

 

Isobel moved through the crowd as if she owned it. Her confidence made it hard to fault her, though, she did recognize a few faces. Some would be happier to see her than others.

 

First stop?

 

A tall, though thin, Cyclonic Highball. No one would trust her or talk to her if the bartender hadn’t served her. She wasn’t a spy, not exactly, but information was power. She coveted it in spades.

 

“You can open a tab…”, she paused, before giving her name, and appropriate debit code. Isobel leaned against the bar, quiet for a moment, while she took in the atmosphere. She hadn’t been to the Aery in a long time for a variety of reasons. Regardless, it was where she needed to be.

 

Now—She just needed her next project to show up.

 


Edited by Isobel Mattis, 09 October 2019 - 09:32 AM.

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#2
Lhao Praji

Lhao Praji

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Isobel Mattis

 

A long time ago Lhao had learned that social calls were important.

 

Let your face be seen.

 

Your money spend.

 

Voice heard.

 

Those were the ingredients to be known as a quantity. Someone of measure. Oh, there were those that didn't need to. The rich scions, old money and even older blood, whose name was already engraved in everyone's mind. But new money? No, new money didn't have that luxury. Foot in the door, then smash it open so they could never close it on you again. Always with a smile. An encouraging pet on the shoulder, always. They should see you as a friend instead of a conqueror. At the end of the day it was about patience. 

 

Luckily Mister Praji had plenty of that. 

 

The security was tight. It always was in these sort of places. Where money was only an appetizer. Here words (those spoken under blooded oath) meant much the more. Luck had it that Lhao understood blood. And oaths for that matter. He settled himself in against the bar. Right next to one dark-eyed woman. Only the rustle of snow white textile betraying his passage there. 

 

"Do you have lemonade?" Lhao asked curiously and with that bright smile. Disarming. Slightly amusing, perhaps. "Oh, I know, I know, but it is what I like." A shrug there.

 

Once the order was taken he turned around.

 

Back against the edge. Watching the crowd milling about with only one glance spared at the woman next to him. 

 

Without a word glancing away again. 

 

Sometimes it was necessary to hunt. Other times? Well, Lhao was interested to observe for a while. That fancy of oversight. To see what people would do around him, before dipping his own toe in. It was a caution that had served him well over the years. 


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#3
Isobel Mattis

Isobel Mattis

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Location: Coruscant [Uscru Entertainment District] - The Aery

 

The haze in the air pulled at her vision. Not enough that she couldn’t see her reflection in the mirror behind the bar, but, just enough that it seemed to slide. Just a little. Obviously, a trick of the light. She could see the bartender speaking with a few dolled-up waitresses near the payout terminal and caught the furtive glances that were tossed in her direction. He hadn’t recognized her. His coworkers did.

 

Lovely.

 

When he returned with her drink, she took it graciously. Her smile was practiced, with a faint curve, that would have been called lovely were it not for the subtle disinterest. As much as she appreciated the prompt service the last thing she had on her mind was playing twenty-questions. Her face was plastered all over Coruscant. That—Or the logo of Omni Prime. Everyone wanted to know. Wanted to see behind the curtain. How did they always know where to go? How did she always get exclusives that no one else could? High volume air-time on the Holo Net?

 

If it wasn’t practical…Interest was simply generated by baser instincts. A pretty face, was a pretty face. She wasn’t hard on the eyes and seemed to be alone. What harm would it do to approach?

 

The bartender took a hint and eventually moved toward the customer beside her. Isobel had heard him arrive but his business was his own. He wasn’t the one she had come all this way for. Instead, she settled in and stirred the overpriced liquid with the bird-topped swizzle stick. The mirror let her see who was coming, going, and just passing through without actually having to feign interest.

 

Unable to help it, hearing the patron beside her place his order, a soft chuckle escaped her. Such an innocent request. Lemonade in a place like this?

 

Bartender was perplexed, but, after reaching up to run a hand through his hair he nodded. “Uh, yeah. I think I can rustle that up. We might have it as a mixer…?”

 

Isobel turned her head a little to hide her expression and cleared her throat. A brief glance made him seem all the more out of place. Dressed in white? So calm. There was a buzz in the air, a touch of excitement, of potential, but somehow, he seemed above it all. Peace in a frenzied storm of laughter amongst the sound of rolling dice. “You don’t seem like you’re from around here.”

 

Looks could be deceiving. Why did she speak at all?   

 

Her eyes caught those of Nathaniel. She didn’t know how. But, his expression was less than pleased. Should he intervene? A small, subtle shake of her head, caused the bodyguard to pass. Back into the shadows he seemed to blend into so effortlessly.

 

“Most scenes in this district would throw you out the window for ordering that. Be careful.”

 

None of her business. None.

 

She slid away from the bar and began to make her way toward the lifts. Part of her was worried that her window had already been missed. Frack. Isobel let her eyes flicker from table to table. Gambling, debauchery, and credits falling like snow…But the mogul she had come to secure?

 

Not here.

 

Frack.

 


Edited by Isobel Mattis, 13 October 2019 - 03:56 AM.

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#4
Lhao Praji

Lhao Praji

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Isobel Mattis

 

"Mm, no, I am not. I usually find myself in the nicer districts." Lhao had no difficulty in admitting that. This entire business was rather sordid. And yet... and yet there was profit to be had. The Confederation was slowly spinning out of control. Imperials losing their grip. Tight grip. Loosened ever so slightly. The riots increasing by the day. Protests everywhere. The antique vintage of Imperial dominance was losing its allure to many. It wouldn't take long. Not long at all, before past sympathists would fade out. 

 

Start to claim that no, of course I never truly supported the regime! Truly barbaric

 

In this space there was money to be made. 

 

"But if I wasn't here, I wouldn't be able to study the woman interested in a meeting with me, would I, miss Mattis?" Amusing how she had discounted him from the get-go. That was part of the power though. Being such a fixture that people simply miss you. Unnoticed. Those were the times you were the most dangerous. 

 

Part of him had been toying with the idea of letting her go.

 

Let it drag out for a while longer.

 

But truthfully Lhao didn't enjoy this place. No sense in dragging it out for himself too. There were far more pleasant places to be. 


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#5
Isobel Mattis

Isobel Mattis

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Location: Coruscant [Uscru Entertainment District] - The Aery
 

The voice that floated toward her ears over the white noise in the Aery caused her to pause in her departure. It wasn’t familiar. She didn’t know it from anyone else in the room, but there was something, perhaps just the tone, that kept her from sashaying away. The admission that he didn’t frequent the area didn’t come as a surprise. He was too clean. Crisp. Wearing white in a place that hadn’t seen that color aside from the checkered panels in the VIP lounges. Even then—They weren’t the crisp ivory they had once been. Age, smoke, and neglect…

 

It changed things.  

 

Isobel didn’t turn around though she did listen. She never gave too much away. His next sentence caused her to stop idly stirring her drink. Her weight shifted from one foot to the other while she slowly turned. Not fully. Dark eyes flickered, glinting in the light, with flecks of topaz making themselves known when exposed to fluorescents.

 

Something was amiss. Perhaps, not wrong, but it left her guarded. He knew her name. So did most of the people in the room. Coruscant was home to millions, but, they weren’t blind. Especially, in the lower levels. They knew the grit, the truth, and were often exposed to all that the sky-dwelling upper-class were able to blissfully ignore. He wouldn’t be the first to call her out in a dimly lit establishment. “…You aren’t what I expected.”

 

He did not match the description that her contact had provided. It wasn’t the first time that intel was a little off, however, she wasn’t completely sold yet. “So…You know my name. Most consider it polite to offer an introduction in kind...”

 

Lhao Praji.

 

She had never seen his likeness clearly. It wasn’t through a lack of effort—It simply was what it was. Not everyone found comfort in the spotlight. Isobel hid in plain sight. It was the easiest way to accomplish her goals. The young woman was just surprised that her brother hadn’t prepared for this. Usually, his data packets were sound. The man she was looking for had made to seem older and not quite so poised.

 

The raven haired Galidraani let her gaze drift toward the face of the stranger. Searching. Examining. As if she could pick him apart with the precision of a laser scalpel. Briefly, a small smile lit the kiss of her mouth before it faded away. “And if you are who you say you are…”

 

“You know why I’m looking for you.”   

 


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#6
Lhao Praji

Lhao Praji

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Isobel Mattis

 

By the time good woman Mattis turned around his attention was elsewhere again. 

 

Lightly running through the room -- specifically the band playing on the stage. This was not the haunted look of a grizzled veteran. Nor the smooth scanning of an operator. Instead the confidence of a ruler. The kind of confidence you couldn't buy or learn. It was something to be born with. Something a young mother whispered in the ear of the youngling. When the babe was still in its crib. 

 

You are meant for great things.

 

"I get that a lot, which is presumably for the best." That soft drawl. Something that coaxed, pulled in, it made people lean towards the voice. Just so they could hear it a little bit better there. 

 

Introduction?

 

His eyes met hers. 

 

Intense all of a sudden. A message there. You know who I am. "Lhao Praji, miss Mattis." And now did the man look at her. Once her attention became his, his became hers, at least for the moment. Taking in the dress, the lines and curves, the river of hair in a smooth wave. This is where Lhao took his time. It was bold in its own way. Not the sneaking of glances, furtive and safe. 

 

The silence drew there after her last words. 

 

And he took his time with it. 

 

Until he didn't anymore.

 

"I might." The taste of the lemonade was grand. Refreshing, light, it sizzled just the right amount. Most of all his mind didn't slow because of it. "But I already made the looking easy for you. Speaking your desire as well? Hmm, no, I think not." Oh, miss Mattis was a busy bee alright. It was inspiring. If he wasn't playing his role here, he would have even clapped for her. Maybe crafted a poem. Sadly, this was not the time to be genuine. This? Was a place for the game. She had the momentum, the force of will, and her name was already out there. 

 

But capital and connections were truly important in a place such as Coruscant.

 

Have the name. The old friendships. 

 

And doors opened where they were first closed.


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#7
Isobel Mattis

Isobel Mattis

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Location: Coruscant [Uscru Entertainment District] - The Aery
 

Still guarded. Perhaps, more than she had been before.

 

Isobel didn’t like feeling as if she had somehow lost a battle of wits before it had even begun. Her hair gleamed like black pearls beneath the artificial lighting. Even if she remained still, the light moved, and everything about her seemed to soften in a demure haze. The soft response he gave to her off-handed observation caused gooseflesh to crawl all over her arms. Crimson lips pressed firm to ward of the almost alluring nature of his reply. Her smile disappeared as if it had never been. This toil of the cat chasing the mouse… It was a game she had not come to play. Not, tonight.  

 

His tone changed. The very air around him seemed to bend and brighten—As if he were all she ought to focus on in the smoke-filled gloom. The sudden change in how she viewed him couldn’t have been the drink she’d scarcely taken a sip from. In the end she blamed it on lighting and his demeanor. He stood straighter. Spoke stronger. He no longer lazily viewed her in passing.

 

He appraised. His eyes bore holes—Until he dropped her like a stone into a fathomless pool.   

 

Isobel remained where she was. Distant. He gave the name she wanted to hear, but, that still wasn’t enough. Not for someone who knew how the underbelly of the city operated. He had presence and a way with words. He was a stranger. She hadn’t found a foothold in Coruscant and held it for so long by blindly trusting just anyone.

 

And yet…The Galidraani had come for him. If this truly was Lhao Praji she had no choice to bend.

 

Bend. Not, break.

 

A soft sigh rolled through her while she took a few steps forward. Not too close—But not too far. It was just enough to be considered exactly professional where he wouldn’t have to strain to hear her over the music. “Searching the entertainment district to find the one that doesn’t belong, that possibly, doesn’t want to be found is hardly easy.”

 

The bowels of Coruscant were a place to hide. If someone didn’t want to be found?

 

They wouldn’t be.

 

“You and I may have significant use to each other. Already, our work has begun to cross.”

 

His expeditions in providing housing for certain enclaves was not unknown to her. Omni Prime controlled the flow of information to and from Coruscant. Everything in. Everything out. Their efforts began in non-profit and slowly began to spread into other mediums. Like the roots of a tree, they grew, and they grew strong. “I came to discuss a possible proposal with mutually pleasing benefits.”, her words carried, easily enough, without a shred of hesitation. She was strong-willed and it showed.

 

“And I prefer to do that face to face.”

 


Edited by Isobel Mattis, 03 November 2019 - 06:48 AM.

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#8
Lhao Praji

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Isobel Mattis

 

He waited.

 

Patiently, one might add.

 

This wasn't a part where you could be impatient. That could ruin things. Scare away a prospect, make it more coy, if it knew the hunger behind the peace. One did not claw their way out of the underworld by being all peaceful. That simply didn't happen. Lhao had never wanted to be part of the Triads. That had been thrusted on him. Just as it was still being thrusted on him to this day.

 

Family, eh? Such things were to be understood.

 

It is the way it is.

 

"Isn't it?" An absent murmur there. Like he didn't know, because confessing otherwise? Gave Isobel the upper-hand. "I will have to take your word for it." He smiled softly there. One could mistake him going back to that elegant softness.

 

Until she brought back up exactly the purpose.

 

The sharpness returned there. Like a switch of a... well ... switch, one supposes. 

 

It was there that Lhao turned face her. Elbow still leaning against the bar, but his attention regained. "I do believe I could have a use for you." The pause at the end there just a bit too long. A bit too stretching. You could fill a lot of meaning in a silence put at just the right place. "And I do so enjoy mutual pleasing ventures." Sliding off the stool with drink in hand. 

 

Offering his hand to her. 

 

"Face-to-face then. Perhaps we should retire somewhere more quiet to speak of these benefits."


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