It has been way too long since I got an opportunity to eat here again.
Picking food from the buffet like a child gathering sweets in a shop, Bentre moved along one of the long tables. He knew that Tasha’vel was watching his with some measure of bemusement. Though he hadn’t sensed her presence so clearly before, her emotions were very evident in the Force.
She probably didn’t understand why he was so methodically shoveling food atop of so many plates. Finally satisfied with his selections, the Shadow proceeded to balance his six plates upon the tray. He stepped across the floor intently, determined not to trip or drop anything.
“Why so much food?” his Twi’lek companion inquired as he approached the table.
“You just have to try the lasagna here. I loved coming to this place as a child. It is really popular so the food is almost always fresh.” He motioned for Versea to grab one of the plates. “That right there is some of the tastiest portions of fish you will enjoy this side of Coronet. They catch it fresh every Monday.” Nodding, the Marauder began to unload the other plates from the tray onto the table.
“So why are you treating me to this lunch date?” The blue-skinned Sith winked.
“Oh no-” Bentre’s expression fell for a moment. “I just really li-” he stuttered, “I mean I just, um-” Turning red, the Human became silent.
“You are cute when you blush.” Tasha’vel poked a fork into the fish and smiled before taking a bite. “You are right, this is pretty good.” She chewed for a moment before looking pointedly at the blushing Shadow. “So seriously now, why are you here on Corellia?”
Stahoes opened his mouth to speak, but no sound came out. Running a hand through his hair, he looked rather sheepish. “I guess I would be lying if I told you I wanted to come back home. A few weeks ago, I sent a message to my folks. I haven’t been home since I was a kid. I couldn’t stay on Sepros after Atra died. I just needed to get away for a while.”
Tasha’vel nodded as she watched the emotion well up in his eyes. “I can understand that.”
“Well, I tried to get in touch with my parents. I figured it would be a little bit of a shock hearing from me after all these years. I suppose I thought they wouldn’t have expected I would ever show my face here again. I knew it would be tough, but I felt it was important I let my parents know what had become of me.” The male Sith shook his head. “That is where it got weird. When I called my parents, all I got was an out-of-service message. So I tried to send some letters through physical mail, and they were all sent back unopened.” Reaching into his bag below the table, he fished out several large envelopes and dropped them on the table. Each bore postal markings and Return to Sender stamps.
“Did you try checking some records, Bentre? See if maybe they changed residence or something.”
“That is where things got even stranger. When I made a records request for my family, it came up empty. It wasn’t just my parents either. My uncle, my grandparents, my cousins were all missing from their databases.” The Human shook his head. “I don’t mean they left the planet. I mean it was as though none of them had ever been on Corellia.”
“So do you think somebody erased the information?”
“That doesn’t make any sense. Dad was a banker and Mom was a homemaker. We didn’t have anything to hide, and we were quite open in the community. There were lots of little social affairs I got dragged to. I looked through both public records and even spliced into some private records. I got nothing. If somebody was trying to wipe out our existence, they did a damn good job.”
“Maybe your parents ha-” Tasha’vel was silenced as Stahoes raised a finger. The Shadow pointed to the doorway. One of the tenants of the apartment complex was standing there. Looking back to her old rival, the female Marauder’s eyes were wide.
“We might need to continue this later then. "
“No,” Bentre growled, looking intently at the middle-aged Bothan who was scanning over the crowd of people. Without breaking his intense stare, Bentre rummaged through his small duffle bag. Glancing once at Versea, he raised the pommel of his Guardsman-hilt lighsaber briefly. “I am going to get some answers.” Standing to his feet, the Corellian Knight drew to his full height. He strode forward toward the man without a word.
“Don’t!” Tasha’vel called after him in a hushed voice.
The Bothan did not seem to see Bentre until the Sadowan was almost within striking distance. When their eyes met, there was little fear to be seen in either man’s eyes. The apartment tenant glanced at the lightsaber hilt, then back into the Sith’s eyes.
“You might want to hide that before somebody notices it,” the Bothan hissed, tilting his head at the lightsaber. “I think you might want to know a little about your parents before you try to strike me down, boy.” There was challenge in the words, but for the first time since joining the Brotherhood, the Corellian Knight actually felt the urge to back down and listen. “My name is Gyril and you may want to sit down, young man. We have a lot to talk about.”
Feeling numb, Bentre walked back toward the table. As he sat down, he dropped his lighsaber back into his bag. Tasha’vel’s glance shifted between her fellow Sadowan and the older Bothan. Gyril in turn gave her the slightest of bows. This solicited a smile from the Marauder.
“So you claim to be from the same family as the folks who disappeared from the building about five years back?” Gyril mumbled as he sat down in the chair beside the Twi’lek. “An odd circumstance to be sure.”
“What do you mean?” Bentre tilted his head curiously. “What was so strange about it?”
“It isn’t that often that most of a floor is moved out of a building.” The Bothan paused for moment, raising an eyebrow at the multitude of plates sitting in front of him. After a moment, he shrugged, and continued. “The old woman you bothered today, Estrasia, for example. She is as senile a woman as you can imagine. Her children left the poor old gal alone to deal with her dementia. She was moved in about three months after the previous family left.”
“How terrible,” Versea spit, “for a child to abandon her mother in a time of such need.”
“As you say it,” the Bothan gentleman shrugged slightly. “The others moved in in the weeks following. It was really the oddest thing. A few weeks later still, Estrasia began to get some odd calls from some woman. She just kept insisting she needed to talk to Sophia Shay.”
Bentre shook his head at the man’s words, unsure what to make of them. The Bothan looked between the two Sith before attempting to get up. Looking up, the Corellian Knight raised a hand. “Don’t go just yet.” Standing up, the Shadow extended a hand. Clasped in the hand was a small pile of credits. “I know it isn’t much, but I appreciate you coming to tell me.”
Gyril clasped his hand, shaking it. “It is quite alright, young man. Any man who comes home to find himself without one deserves answers of some sort.” Giving a brief nod, the Bothan turned around. He stopped for a moment and turned back.
“By the way,” he spoke in low tones, “I saw the manager pull a blaster on you. Some might not agree with me but as near as I figure it you were acting in self-defense. So you don’t have to worry about me calling the authorities on a Jedi and his lovely companion.” He gave another nod at the pair as Tasha’vel smiled back at him.
As Gyril strode away, the Twi’lek leaned in toward the table. “He thought you were a Jedi?” She snorted in disbelief.
“Not like I was going to argue with the old timer.” Bentre shrugged. “Well, at least now I have a lead of some sort.”
“We can go back to the room I have rented for a few nights then and get started.” The Marauder nodded.
“ Which brings me to a very interesting query, Tash’.” The male Sith’s eyes narrowed. “What brought you to my home planet just now? You can’t tell me you were here to see the sights.”
“You-” Versea paused, “You see- well- you-” she sighed. “I saw how badly you were affected by Atra’s death. I wanted to keep an eye on you. I wanted to make sure that you were going to be okay. I wanted to make sure you weren’t going to do anything too stupid in your grief.” There was a pain in her words.
Bentre shook his head. “By the gods, woman, what did you expect I was gonna do?” He paused for a moment, his eyes flashing in a moment of humor before he snorted. “You know what, don’t bother answering that. I can imagine a number of things already.” The Human tried to force a smile.
“You are in pain, Stahoes. We all are. We all need to draw together as we come to terms with our loss.” Tasha’vel spoke the words gently as she stood up. Before the male Shadow realized what she was doing, Versea drew her fellow Sith into a gentle embrace, laying a soft kiss upon his cheek.
When she drew away, she saw the tears in Bentre’s eyes. Picking up his bag from beneath the table, the Twi’lek pointed toward the doorway. “Let’s get of here, and get working on your lead.”