Hoersch-Kessel Drive Lucrehulk Class Freighter Profiteer
Nute Gunray made his way through the corridors of the ship toward the starboard hangar bay, knowing that at this moment, someone somewhere had just done something that had terribly wronged him. It wasn't surprising that he should feel this way. Life as a Neimoidian, especially one of his high status and position, had built up within him a sense of paranoia, cautiously skulking around shadows and seeing things where others did not.
It was a feeling he had tried to ignore for much of his life. Ten years ago, however, the various deities of the universe had seen fit to give physical form to that feeling, making his already too obvious for words state of perpetual nervousness and anxiety induced paranoia that much more difficult to ignore.
Gunray brought his arm up, looking once more at the prosthesis that adorned the spot where his right hand had once been. It was, naturally, the best of its type that money could buy, with little outward hint that it was a mechanical appendage other than a slight discoloration of the skin. That was something that could not be helped. What also could not be helped was the fact that it had an unfortunate, and rather annoying, habit of locking up whenever he got overtly emotional, particularly when he was either angered or nervous.
Much like he was at this moment, though this time, it was more his overall irrational emotional state than any real tangible, specific emotion that kept the fingers of that hand from moving at his command. He might be able to blame that on his nervousness were it not for the fact that his other hand, not bound by those same restraints, was behaving very much in a similar manner.
It was obvious why he was acting this way. It was because of his anger at being treated as little more than a message courier for Count Dooku, and having to do so in order to deliver a message to one of the few people in this galaxy who he could honestly say he despised more than Senator Amidala, which was no small feat, considering what she had done to him ten years ago, or the one that had dealt him this injury. It certainly was ironic that the one who had taken his flesh had been the daughter of the one who had, intentionally or not, put him on the path to where he was now.
"Like father, like daughter," Gunray thought as he stepped through the blast door and into the primary hangar deck, where his personal shuttle, the Lapiz Cutter, awaited him. Also awaiting him were a par of Neimoidians that had become important to the day to day running of the Trade Federation. One was Settlement Officer Rune Haako, his aide for the past ten years who had, much like himself, played a part in the Naboo disaster, though he had been lucky enough to escape without suffering any real harm against himself; the other was Gilramos Libkath, a promising young Neimoidian that served as Gunray's aide and contract scribe. Both of them made showy signs of respect as Gunray approached, and moved to join him onboard the Lapiz Cutter, the ship lifting off and heading for the surface of the planet shortly thereafter.
The trip down to the arid surface of Geonosis had been rather uneventful, Haako and Libkath taking the quiet time to bring him up to speed on events that had transpired on the world since his departure to Nar Shaddaa days ago, neither of them daring to bring up the reasons why, out of fear for their own safety.
Haako had said that the foundries were working at top efficiency, producing thousands of droids at a record pace, a pace the three of them saw for themselves when they had first seen the massive machinery at work. Gunray couldn't help but be impressed by the amount of product that was being produced in such a short time. The Geonosians were, if nothing else, skilled at the art of droid construction.
The Geonosians...and the heads of the Techno Union that kept them employed at the factories they owned there, along with the factories on countless other worlds, such as Mustafar, Hypori and Metalorn; worlds that had no great love of the Republic, and were more than willing to throw their infrastructure into the burgeoning Separatist war machine.
It was the formation of the ruling council of that war machine, which would make them the political force necessary to be the spear that thrust the armored tip of those armies into the Republic's heart that had brought Gunray and others to this world, along with whatever ships they could reasonably spare without drawing too much attention to themselves. It all had to be done in secret; after all, even in the Outer Rim, there were those that were more than willing to take advantage of a supposedly weak force of cargo ships and freighters, even if the Republic themselves could never touch these outlier worlds.
Gunray couldn't help but be amused by the fact that his actions had sent the worst elements of both together on a far away world, where they would most likely remain occupied well after they would begin the strike that would see the source of their livelihoods crumble around them. He may not have liked to do it, but thinking about it in those terms alleviated his disgust somewhat.
But as much as the Jedi and Kieran Maclay troubled him, they were insignificant compared to the trouble that Senator Amidala had brought down upon him. The embarrassment of the Naboo debacle, even after ten years, continued to hang around him like the unpleasant aftertaste of rotten fruit. It was made all the worse by the fact that he had been in command of the operation, while the conflict with the Jedi and Kieran's small band of smuggler outcasts had occurred at a time when all that concerned him was getting the most credits out of the small sphere of influence he held within the Federation.
After he became Viceroy, however, that sphere grew to encompass more than he thought he was capable of controlling, and there were those, both within the Republic and within his own people, that were willing to make sure he suffered for that. But somehow, despite all the potential trouble and possible hardships, Gunray had escaped with his life, though the Trade Federation which he commanded was left a shattered husk of its former self, its droid army forcibly, and rather grandiosely, disbanded and their influence within the Senate diminished.
Gunray had been assured that by joining the growing Separatist movement, the Federation and the Neimoidians would regain the status they had once held throughout the galaxy. It was a tempting offer, but he had made it clear that he would not join until Dooku had brought Senator Amidala to him.
The Lapiz Cutter touched down in the hanger, and the three Neimoidians got to their feet, moving towards the landing ramp and out to join the group that had assembled there.
Stalgasin Hive, Geonosis
Making his way down the corridors of the ruling Geonosian hive, Gunray turned to look at his companions; a motley assortment of former Republic Senators, corporate businessmen...and a former Jedi.
To this day, Gunray could remember the first time he had met the Count of Serenno. It was during his final trial for his role in the blockade of Naboo, and though he had kept it a secret during his trial, he confessed rather easily to Dooku the fact that it had been a Sith Lord by the name of Darth Sidious that had been the true mastermind behind the blockade. Dooku had promised to tell the Jedi Council of this, though whether he ever did was something Gunray did not know. The fact that both he and Dooku were still among the living proved either that he had not, or that Sidious had gone deeper into hiding, choosing to spare them both for the only reason Gunray could discern: that in their current roles, both he and Dooku were of use to him.
After several more minutes, the group entered a spacious conference room, where they were greeted by several more dignitaries, former senators and corporate heads seated at the table, along with three individuals that stood against the far wall. Gunray could easily tell that the male was a warrior, by the way he composed himself more than the armored suit he wore. The female was a curiosity, her blue skin, blue-black hair and glowing red eyes immediately marking her as an alien, yet of a species that Gunray couldn't identify.
The third...well, the third appeared to be nothing more than a highly elaborate droid, no doubt a bodyguard to one of the people in the room, the two standing beside him not appearing at all to be in need of one like him.
Taking a seat near the head of the table, Gunray watched as Dooku moved to sit beside him, and addressed the assembled group. "Now, friends, as I explained to you earlier, I am quite convinced that with your support, ten thousand more systems will rally to our cause. By signing this threat, you will not only be ensuring support for our common goal, but will bring you profit beyond your wildest dreams." He turned to Gunray. "Our friends from the Trade Federation have pledged their support, and when their battle droids are combined with yours, we shall have an army greater than any in the galaxy."
Gunray knew that the others would not believe this, but that didn't matter. If they had even the faintest idea that the Federation would become part of the group, they would willingly join as well, if only to ensure that the credits were split equally among themselves rather than have them all lumped within the coffers of the Federation's private money holes.
It was a few moments more before anyone spoke. The first was Passel Argente, Magistrate of the Corporate Alliance. "I am authorized by the Corporate Alliance to sign the treaty."
"The Techno Union army is at your disposal, Count," the stentorian voice of Wat Tambor, Head Foreman of the Techno Union, added some moments later.
Dooku nodded in approval and looked at San Hill, Chairman of the Intergalacitc Banking Clan. As he was one that Dooku knew would benefit the most out of this arrangement, in addition to being the one whose feet had been the first to proverbially soak in the dangerous waters that this enterprise represented, his assurance in this matter was all but certain.
It was thus a shock when the Muun's nasal voice said, "The Banking Clan will sign your treaty, but only if we are granted a nonexclusive arrangement."
The armored man moved a hand to his holstered blaster, but stopped himself midway from drawing it with a gesture from Dooku. "Explain."
Hill's thin face broke out into a smile, despite what had just occurred. "Do not misunderstand, Count Dooku. The Intergalactic Banking Clan wholeheartedly supports you in your endeavor, but we also feel that it would be in our best interest to support both sides. After all, in a war, the control of finances will be important, and there are no better money launderers than those employed on Muunilinst."
Dooku smiled at that. If there was one thing Hill and his kind were known for, it was milking as much credits as they could from others. "Very well, then."
After going around the table and gaining the support, either financially or militarily, of the organizations the assembled individuals represented, Dooku brought his head up to the three standing beyond the table. "Now that that's over with, allow me to introduce to you three individuals with whom you will be spending a great deal of time with from now on." He tilted his head towards the armored male. "First, allow me to introduce to you Jango Fett. He is a...freelance businessman recently hired by myself to perform a service for Viceroy Gunray."
Gunray scowled at that, knowing that Dooku had just revealed to the others, whether intentionally or not, the lows he would sink to gain that which he desired most.
Shu Mai also took notice. "It is like you to associate yourself with that kind of scum, Gunray. Neimoidians never get their hands dirty if they can get someone else to do it for them. You would never see the Commerce Guild associate itself with people like him."
"Nice to meet you, too," Jango replied, his tone so sarcastic that were it a liquid, it would fill a dozen tumblers of Whyren's Reserve.
Taking no apparent notice of the bickering, Dooku indicated the female. "Next, I would like to introduce you to the one that will be leading our armies into battle. Ladies and gentlemen, meet General Sev'rance Tann."
The blue skinned female gave a military bow at the mention of her name. "I will be honored in leading your forces to victory over the Republic, my Lord Count."
Gunray could barely contain his composure at hearing what he had just heard, but did so out of fear that voicing what he thought at that moment would be a disastrous mistake. A woman leading the armies of the Confederacy? Impossible.
He knew that a change in topic was necessary at that moment, and turned towards Poggle the Lesser. "Archduke, I must compliment you on the fine craftsmanship of your droid foundries once again."
The Geonosian blinked turned to look at Gunray. "What do you mean?"
Gunray made a dismissive gesture towards the hulking droid form standing between the armored male and the alien female. "I mean in crafting an exquisite piece of machinery. I must admit, it looks as if it could easily kill anything that dared cross its path."
Gunray had no sooner spoken those words than he found out for himself just how true they were, for too quick for anyone to see, the droid was across the room to stand directly in front of him, one of its metal arms reaching down to grasp him by the neck, and hoist him into the air. Gunray tried to struggle against the grip, but found his efforts to be in vain.
It was then that he noticed something about this droid. For a creature that appeared to be one hundred percent droid, he had surprisingly organic eyes, eyes that were even now boring themselves into Gunray with the intensity of blaster bolts. They reminded him so much of the Sith Lord Sidious had sent to assist them on Naboo ten years ago. Not unlike the situation he now found himself in. Then he had been caught in the grip of a powerful enemy that was meant to be a friend. But then he had the comfort of knowing that he was worth more alive than dead, something he had no way of knowing this time.
"Do not call me that," came the electronically processed voice of the one being kept alive by this droid exoskeleton. "I am Grievous, warlord of the Kaleesh and Supreme Commander of the armies of the Confederacy. And I am not a droid!"
"That's quite sufficient, General," Dooku said, the only one who hadn't been surprised by the actions that had just transpired. "Viceroy Gunray meant no disrespect. He is unaware of the actions that resulted in your condition. I would believe that if he were, he would be more sympathetic towards you."
"It is not a condition," Grievous replied, the processed words hiding the venomous gall Gunray knew they no doubt contained.
"Be that as it may, General, your point has been made. Now release him."
Grievous held his grip for several more seconds before finally releasing it, dropping Gunray to the floor beside his chair. "As you wish."
As Grievous made his way back to where he was and the others murmured among themselves, Dooku turned to look at Gunray. "I trust we will not have a repeat of this incident in the future?"
Gunray composed himself as best he could. "No, Count Dooku."
"Good," Dooku smiled in reply. "Now, what of our other business?"
"The message you sent me to deliver was given to its intended owner," Gunray replied, refusing to speak the man's name. "He seemed...rather surprised to receive it."
"No doubt," Dooku admitted. "I would have thought he would be more grateful to have me arrange for his release."
"I gathered the impression that he would have done the service you had asked for free," Gunray countered.
Dooku stroked his beard. "Perhaps, but with the incentive we have given him, do you not think he would do so with more...expedience?"
Gunray allowed a rare smile to cross his face. "Yes, and in the long run, that benefits us all."
"More than you know, Viceroy," Dooku thought. "More than you know."