[COU: Tipping Point] The Worst Detectives
Ethan Martes Post 1
Ethan Martes Snapshot: https://www.darkjedibrotherhood.com/members/14873/snapshots/735/2002
Palioxis Station was always busy and everything was always open. It was almost maddening to those who were not used to living on a space station. Ethan Martes stood in one of the side hallways of the Odan-Urr quarters, holding a CommLink with a soft smile on his face. A female voice on the other end, the two whispering to each other. There wasn’t many people walking around in this area right now, most of them were winding down to get some sleep. Sure the lights were always on, but one can just turn them off for a few winks.
“Sure thing love, I’ll be back as soon as I can.” Ethan chuckled and clicked his CommLink off. He shook his head as he put it into his pocket, and his hand brushed the hilt of Kritim. “You done eavesdropping stranger?” He turned to face someone at the corner of the hall.
“Ethan Martes, I’m guessing?” The figure spoke before walking closer to the Grey Jedi. “Ka Tarvitz.”
“Tarvitz… Oh!” Ethan smiled and pulled his hand slowly away from his holster. “I think I remember you from one of the briefings. Wait… Are you who they sent for backup?”
“‘Fraid so,” Tarvitz said with an apologetic shrug, “You did call for help, and I was the only one they could send.”
“Yea, but I expected someone from Shan, not Hoth. No offense, you guys are better at beating things into the ground.” Ethan kept that smile going.
“Exceptionally so, thank you,” Tarvitz laughed, “Most of us are probably busy doing that. I’m guessing someone nominated me for this rather than trying to keep pace with a trickster like you. I’m afraid you have quite the reputation about the Clan.” While he was smiling, Tarvitz kept his gaze locked onto Ethan, remembering that he was warned of Ethan’s skill as a lying con-artist who will pick your pockets.
“Right. So let’s go to Happy Landings.” Ethan moved past the Hothian, “I need a drink.”
“For pleasure or work?” Tarvitz followed, “Or is this an excuse to do both at once?”
“Well, the way I see it is this. If you want someone dead, you start with who’d benefit the most with them out of the way.”
“Then shouldn’t we start with Vatali Nobles? If anyone wants to claim the throne, it’s usually the person only a few relatives away from taking it for themselves.”
“I thought that too, but something was bugging me. When Satele Shan dealt with that incident on Daleem, it was the guilds. It was more of an open declaration, but this was way more subtle.”
“One person ends up poisoned, there’s no clear culprit, and this all happens just as Archenksova is sitting right with her. It’s subtler than a dagger at least, and good enough to cast suspicion on us. You really don’t think it was one of the other resident highborns though?”
“I don’t think it was boss lady. I might be wrong and it was a dignitary or noble, but I’d rather work where I’m best at. We hit the Happy Landing, if we can’t find anything leads there, we go to Voraskel and start hitting some of the shadowy places.”
“Right then, lead on. Is this going to be an evening of punching people until we find the right person, or do you have someone in mind already?”
Ethan turned to his companion and the Jedi could swear that Ethan’s grin got bigger. “Oh we have a target. You see, the best way to find out who would benefit the most, is to hit their subordinates.”
“We’re shaking down a staff member of the Vatali then?” Tarvitz cocked his one good eyebrow.
“Bingo. Just look tough, let me talk, and we will be in and out in no time.” Ethan patted Tarvitz on the shoulder and ushered him to the Happy Landings.
The bar was one of the more recognisable locations on Palioxis, as much for the small group of battle tarnished Clone Wars era droids which guarded the front doors as its more unique decorum. The owner, though neither had yet to learn his name, seemed to have developed an obsessive tendency of picking out any and all trophies. No one had yet to learn the origin of most of them, particularly the gargantuan Rancor skull which hung suspended over the multitude of game tables. The bar was as vibrantly packed as it ever was, with the usual mix of drinking, gambling and swearing it was known for. The bar wasn’t overly busy, the two Odanites figured it was due to it being so late and the recent events, everyone just wanted sleep.
The two scanned the crowd that was there before Ethan nudged Tarvitz and motioned to a table with three Sephi men playing sabacc. “The one with the white and green jacket on.”
Tarvitz nodded and the two strode on over, hearing the three dour men groan about how everything is so hectic right now with the nobility arguing over whether or not Odan-Urr should rule in the Queen’s place.
Ethan slid up next to them at their table, “Hello there gents. Mind if we join you for a game? Ask how your day has been?”
The three men tensed up and look at the two before dealing them in a game, “So strangers, what are your names?”
“Tarvitz will do, thank you.”
“Ethan Martes, we are from Odan-Urr.” He watched as the three men froze. “We honestly wanted to ask a few questions.”
“We aren’t talking to some filthy Jedi who killed our Queen.” One sneered, before turning back to his drink. Tarvitz looked at Ethan, shrugged, and then slammed the man’s head into the table. The Jedi then grabbed his arm and twisted it, pinning him in place while he bent their arm behind their back.
Ethan’s slugthrower Marri filled his hand as he brandished it against the closest one, his eyes dead locked on the last Sephi. “Both of you, hands on the table or I will shoot you in your manly bits.” He pulled the hammer back on his slugthrower as if to make his point.
The five of them sat there, on edge as Tarvitz kept the one man from moving. “Now, you three went and made Tarvitz mad.” Ethan smirked as he reached over and took one of their drinks for himself. “And you know, he might be thinking this friend of yours is a little too attached to that arm of his.” He downed the drink in one swig and winced, “Oh frak, that tasted bad… Right. So either you are going to give us some answers, or…” Tarvitz twisted the man’s arm more to get a yelp out of him. “Well you get the idea.”
Ka Tarvitz Post 1
Ka Tarvitz Snapshot - https://www.darkjedibrotherhood.com/members/14751/snapshots/995/2003
The Sephi, those who were not being pressed against the table, looked between the gun-wielding scoundrel and the giant currently accosting their comrade. Both looked as if they were trying to decide which of their options was riskier; running for the door and potentially getting gunned down in the process, or giving the Odanites a wrong answer.
“I should point out we’re only doing this because we have a schedule to keep,” Tarvitz spoke up as one leaned forward, tensing up as if he was ready to bolt from his chair, “Really, we can’t waste time with the mix of insults, attempting to convince you otherwise and then prizing free a few details. Just tell us what we want, and we’ll be on our way.”
The man beneath him groaned.
“And we’ll leave behind something to help dull the pain, of course.”
The Sephi each nodded at this, with some understandable caution but they at least did not look as if they were ready to risk a bullet in order to escape the Jedi. One even eased back in his seat in an effort to feign apparent relaxation.
“Glad we’re all on the same page,” Ethan said, gesturing with his pistol for the two to begin talking, “You can start by recounting the day leading up to the poisoning, and then we’ll go over any fine details once we’re done.”
“Is… Is there anything you would like us to specifically mention?”
“Oddities, strange events, perhaps last second changes in staff. Anything which might allow for a deadly poison to get into someone’s drink. The sooner you finish, the sooner we can leave.”
“What, all of it?” the leftmost Sephi asked, and then flinched as Ethan swung the pistol his way.
“Yes, all of it. The breakfast you ate that morning, the order in which the staff arrived, the public speeder which was too late, all of it.”
“Are you sure?” the Sephi asked, sounding more dubious by the second, “Really? You’ll be here all night if we try to recount everything, including bits we barely remember.”
“Then you had best get started,” Ethan said, resting his thumb on the pistol’s hammer.
The near farcical start to the interrogation did not get any better as the minutes dragged on. While the two Odanites were certainly capable of pinning people down and getting them to talk, it was evident that neither was skilled at asking the correct questions. More than once one or the other would halt the conversation, trying to prize details from some largely irrelevant part of their story, or even confirming basic facts over and over again.
Each Sephi’s tale was more or less the same. They were part of the same shift serving in the entourage of one of the noble houses directly supporting the Empress’ rule. While little more than caretakers and cleaners, their tasks ensured that they witnessed the daily schedules of the nobles they served and often had eyes on them. From what they outlined, little to nothing seemed out of the ordinary. There were no questions, no abrupt departures, nor even a few unannounced communiques or efforts to establish a private holonet link with another group. For all intents and purposes, what they outlined was just another day at work. Even after resorting to employing telepathy, utilising mind tricks to try and force the truth from them, all that Ethan had been able to confirm was that their employer was shocked by the news, and seemed immediately concerned for his own safety. Before the hour was up, the two were swiftly departing the Happy Landings, leaving the trio to enjoy a large bottle of Corellian Whisky.
“I think that went well,” Ethan said as they left, looking over his shoulder at their former interrogates, the first of who had started to down shots.
“As wastes of time go, perhaps.”
“Yeah, I’m better at seducing answers out of people.” He was silent for a moment, and then added, “But did you really need to give them that? My tab was bad enough without adding a full bottle of Denendre’s Finest to it.”
“Why not, it’s the good stuff.” Tarvitz replied, starting toward the station’s main hanger and waving for Ethan to follow, “The way I see it, either they know something and they’ll be too merry to resist another interrogation when we come back, or they’ll be too drunk to remember us holding them at gunpoint tomorrow if they don’t. It’s less trouble in the long run.”
“Why do I get the feeling you’ve done this before,” Ethan said, following behind him.
“No more than you have, I just happen to know some suspects are easier to handle when they’re crocked.”
The continued in silence for a few minutes, following the steady flow of people moving toward the hanger and the awaiting ships ferrying people to and from the planet below. Amid the press of bodies, there was a noted sense of apprehension among the crowd, with more nervous glances than either would typically expect. This was especially notable to Tarvitz as they were not being directed at him.
“There is one thing,” Tarvitz said, in part to pass the time as they slowly pushed their way through the station’s main corridors, “Why’d you pick that group to start with?”
“Because they were on the station,” Ethan said, as he sidestepped between a pair of Omwati.
“Not entirely. The house they served - Keldra - had a few higher ups directly assisting the Empress with a few public matters today. Now they’re off of the hook, we just need to work our way down the list of other suspects.”
“And all of these would just happen to be located in bars?” Tarvitz said, with some bemusement.
“We can only hope.”
Opting to take the public shuttles over personal transports to avoid drawing further attention, the two found themselves packed into the back of a ship departing toward Kiast. It was hard not to note as they left that far more ships were departing the station rather than arriving at it, and the accompanying whispers of the Queen’s fate hardly helped matters. No one seemed to have all the facts just yet - with some attributing the Empress’ fate to a heart attack, assassin or even simply fatigue - but Archenksova’s sudden rise to power had left most suspecting the Jedi of foul play.
After a brief hyperspace jump, the ship briefly entered orbit over Kiast, before heading down through the atmosphere toward the floating baroque disc which was Voraskel Palace. By the time the departed the small spaceport, the whisper of rumours had become a firestorm of accusations and conspiracy theorising. Both had thankfully avoided being drawn into such accusations - or worse still, drawing the attention of someone looking for a fight - but it was evident that they were running on borrowed time. Someone, somewhere, was going to point a finger and accuse Clan Odan-Urr of foul play if no culprit could be found.
Ethan Martes Post 2
The pair of Odanites staggered off the ship, Ethan rubbing his lower back, “Why is it that all public transports are always crowded and have awful seats?” The darkness of night had fully taken over the sky, leaving the city as the only source of light.
“I kind of like public transits. You get to see people in their everyday life.”
“You are an odd one Tarvitz.” Ethan muttered as they began to walk. “With the Keldra House off the list of suspects, we should start thinking of a new possible benefactor to a sudden shift in power.”
“Do you think the Ghalor House would have done it?”
“My gut says no.” Ethan stood there, holding his chin as he thought. “I got to speaking with Barad Ghalor once. It was a rare occasion that I just happened to be in the right place at the right time drinking. The feeling I got from him is that he’s all business, plus he’s pretty distant from the political spotlight.”
Tarvitz mulled over those words for a moment then nodded, “I suppose that it wouldn’t make sense for him to try and jump straight to the top from so far away. So that means all that is left is House Etlina.”
He nodded, “Yep, that’s what I’m thinking. From what I’ve heard, she’s a gossipy woman. So even if her house didn’t do it, there’s a chance one of her staff might have heard something.”
The two started making their way through the streets of Voraskel, neither spoke for a long moment before Tarvitz finally broke the silence, “I have something to ask you about.”
“Oh? What’s that?”
“I have heard a number of rumors and stories about you around the base. Sticky fingers, locking down the entire west wing’s bathrooms, pranks a many. Though, I’m mostly curious about the [REDACTED] incident that occurred a few months back.” Tarvitz watched Ethan physically shudder at the mention of the incident.
“Oh man, that was a horrid moment of my life, aside from the fact that I don’t want to remember it, I’m pretty sure Boss Lady would kill me for repeating any mention of it. She was the one who had punished me over it too.” Ethan suddenly began rubbing his arms, as if trying to comfort himself over some dreaded memory.
“I heard rumors that you did something so bad that you were forbidden of speaking of it ever again, though I thought that was just a rumor.”
“No, that’s pretty accurate. If I recall, Boss Lady’s exact words were a very descriptive and slow death with dull cutlery.” Ethan’s face was kind of pale, eyes wide as if he was remembering the words and the glare that he received. “It was an event, and let’s just leave it at that.”
“Very well, I suppose finding a staff member of the Etlina House would be a better use of our time. Any good ideas where to start? Or is your plan to hit another drinking hole?” Tarvitz raised his one good eyebrow while a smirk played across his face.
Ethan stretched his arms wide, “Well if you are offering to buy a drink, who am I to say no? I know this one hole in the wall that’s got some of the good stuff.”
It turned out that Ethan knew of several holes in the wall which served beverages of a dubious origin. Each one in turn was a bar which would not have been out of place in any hive of scum and villainy, were it not for the general cleanliness of the place and a lack of blasters. Besides one which took issue with their presence thanks to an outstanding tab, most offered help, directions or the odd person to interrogate. Yet, for all their efforts, little knowledge of the assassination attempt seemed to have leaked out into the public. Most people were at a complete loss, and the few who had any direct link to the Empress’ staff failed to mention anything truly out of the ordinary.
“Well the last one was definitely a bust,” Ethan said as the two walked down a narrow set of stairs, going into the underside of a larger building “But you know what they say, fourth time’s the charm.”
“Third time.” Tarvitz corrected with a chuckle, “Honestly, if we don’t turn up anything with this one we should call it a dead end.”
“Alright, alright… Last call is in thirty minutes, so we get in and get out. Afterwards, we go home.” Ethan knocked on the door in the dimly lit corridor. A hatch on the door slid open to show a set of eyes staring at the two from the other side. Ethan gave him a sly grin, “A Shark and a Joker looking in the hill for a Ping.”
Tarvitz had noticed at each shady cantina or speakeasy that hit, that he’d used the same line each time. And just like the others the door man replied, “Yea, this hill has a Ping or two. You two ain’t Uncles are ya?”
“Nah. Just a Shark and a Joker.” Ethan chuckled, and after a moment the door opened to let them in. The air was thick with a smog of cigar and cigarette smoke, the neon lights of the room barely piercing through. A single Twi’lek female sat behind a piano, playing slow and easy tune.
Tarvitz had noticed that this place, like the last one didn’t have a sign, meaning only certain people knew of this establishment. The place seemed clean, that or the low lighting made it impossible to see the stains, while the thick air of smoke made it to where you couldn’t smell other things. The tables were dinged and scratched up, and one of the chairs he could see was obviously put back together recently with duct tape.
As they glanced around Tarvitz leaned over and whispered to Ethan, “I’ve noticed that way you spoke to the guard, same way as before. What does all that mean?”
“Oh that? It’s Smuggler’s Speak. A Shark is a Smuggler, a Joker is a Pilot. Uncles and Aunts are Jedi. Pings are gossipers.” Ethan kept that grin on his face the whole time. “Speaking of which, I think I see our Ping.” He motioned to one man sitting at the bar by himself. “Sleeve of his coat has the symbol for House Etlina. Let’s go make a friend.”
Ka Tarvitz Post 2
Even without the symbol of his employer, the associate of House Etlina was hardly a difficult man to pick out. Gaunt even by the standards of Sephi, his rigid posture and neatly combed white hair put him at odds with most in the establishment. The only thing which prevented others from marking him as an outsider was his apparent familiarity with the place. He looked up as the two approached, but didn’t run. If anything he looked exasperated.
“No, I don’t know.”
The two Odanites exchanged looks.
“Well, that’s not suspicious,” Ethan said, not bothering to hide the sarcasm in his voice or lower his tone.
“I’m cutting to the chase here, because you’re going to ask the same thing everyone else has this evening,” the servant answered, turning back to his drink, “I don’t know who poisoned the Empress, I don’t know what the situation with our new ruler is, and I don’t know how stable she is.”
Word was getting around then. Tarvitz flagged the barman and, after a brief exchange to confirm that he was serious, ordered two pints of water.
“Right then! If that’s the case, what do you know, and what will it take for you to tell us?” he asked, leaning against the bar and drumming one armoured gauntlet against the surface.
“Simple - What can you tell us about the Empress, your service in the past day, and what kind of payment will it take for you to speak up?”
The servant looked at him suspiciously, and then at the two pints as they were set down. In truth, Tarvitz had simply ordered them because he didn’t trust Ethan to remain effective with any more alcohol in his stomach. That and his own heightened resistance to toxins made consuming most beverages pointless. Yet, it was out of the ordinary in somewhere which was clearly familiar to the servant, and that usually put people on edge. Tarvitz waited as the servant looked between the pints, and the scarred giant before him, and allowed the gears to turn in his head.
“I… I would rather not…” he started, after a few seconds, starting to back away from the two.
“We’re not asking for security codes, details on the Empress’ plans, or your own life,” Ethan chipped in, pulling one pint toward him, “Just cover all that happened today and anything which might have been out of the ordinary.”
Tarvitz waited as the servant considered this, before pulling both pints toward him and waited. When combined with extreme stress, people tended to think up all sorts of weird and wonderful theories. The implied threat of poison, torture or truth serum were usually the big ones. Quite how they ever thought up the last two was beyond Tarvitz, but he was happy to sit back and let their minds do the work for him.
“Would it help if we said we’ve got a deadline? And if you cooperate we’d never need to see you again?”
More silence followed this, as the servant’s pale eyes kept darting between the two. Then he sighed.
“Probably,” Tarvitz nodded, “Anything at all would be of help.”
“I see,” the servant said quietly, looking down into his own drink, “If I’m going to be honest with you. I wasn’t there for most of the day.”
Ethan rolled his eyes, cursing something under his breath as this news came to light. They’d had too many dead ends by far today, but he stayed silent and allowed their “Ping” to deliver his story in full.
“I’m one of the few tasked with managing supplies. The sorts of things collected and delivered on short notice, and arranging their transportation. Given the importance of this meeting, most of my time was spent arranging deliveries and collections, along with dealing with one personally.”
“And that’s out of the ordinary?” Tarvitz asked.
“It’s not common, but this one was a special situation,” the servant admitted, before reluctantly expanding on the point as Ethan waved for him to continue, “To commemorate the arrival of the Jedi on Kiast, someone made something for the Empress. A set of teacups I think, high-quality ones for the meeting.”
“Any idea who commissioned them?” Ethan said, clearly interested in this new development. It was more of a lead than anything else they had had over the evening.
“I’d need to check the records,” the servant muttered, “It’s an anniversary, the Houses all look to display their wealth at these things, large or small. It’s a chance for the Empress or someone higher up the totem pole to take note of them. Admittedly, most are usually dispatched well ahead of time, not sent at the last minute. I can give you the address if it’ll me get back to drinking in peace.”
“Of course,” Tarvitz nodded, removing a datapad from his belt and setting it down on the desk, “Add it down on here, and we’ll check it out. We’ll hear about the rest of your day first.”
The remainder of the Sephi’s information, while detailed, seemed largely inconsequential. Most of it related more to internal politics among the staff and long-standing issues with suppliers. While he mentioned several issues with the Empress’ own quartermaster closely guarding the more recent deliveries, little stood out. Save for his own personal journey, which saw him traveling deeper into the city in the few hours before the Empress meeting with Archenksova, it was business as usual.
As it became clear that there was nothing more to gain from pestering the House Etlina servant with further questions, the two departed the building, leaving the servant in the solitude he so desperately desired.
“It’s not much to go on,” Ethan said as they walked out into the streets once more, “A single address and someone’s word that they collected something from there. Are you sure this’ll be worth it? Actually, scratch that, are we even sure it’s a real place?”
“It’s real enough, the street name belongs to one of Voraskel’s major districts,” Tarvitz confirmed as he looked over the datapad, “I visited it once before when someone dragged me down there. Irritating business that, but it’s a tale for another time. As for being worth it, someone made a tea set delivered to someone on the same day that they were poisoned. That alone makes it worth following, even if all we end up doing is confirming it’s a dead end. It’s also not all we got off of him.”
He held up the datapad after thumbing a file, showing a clear and quite distinct image of the Sephi they had just interrogated.
“There’s a camera built into this thing. Asking for his exact name might have spooked him, but a face gives us something to work from if we need to find him again.”
“Huh,” Ethan said, surprised at this display of ingenuity, “You’ve done this before, haven’t you?”
“Only when the solution couldn’t be immediately resolved with violence,” Tarvitz answered, sliding it into a pocket on his belt “Or when someone was asking for their face plastered all over the Holonet.”
The conversation continued as they headed through the floating city toward the address. The “street” in question was several spires along, the city, linked to it only by a few of the broader sky-bridges which connected the various towers of the palace city. Even at ground level, the city more than lived up to its nickname of the Steel Star. Stretching upward rather than outward, the city was condensed into a series of vast monuments and durasteel towers. The logic was likely intended to avoid adding additional strain to the vast repulsorlift engines situated beneath its large hubs, was difficult not to think of them as a collection of insect-like hives.
Eventually, the two made their way to the city’s larger commercial district, following the address to its uppermost levels. It was little more than an unremarkable door in one wall, advertised only by a holographic sign declaring it as Malisan Pottery and Ceramics. It was followed by a series of quotes, dates and years in service.
“Popular place then,” Tarvitz said, inspecting the numbers.
“It’d need to be, to cover the rent up here,” Ethan agreed, “You find a few shops like this about the city, most of them doing small professional jobs catering to the Houses. Without the nobility, they’d go bankrupt overnight.”
Nodding, Tarvitz hit a small button next to the door, hearing an electronic buzz on the other side. After a minute, he hit it again, but there was no response.
“Shouldn’t somewhere like this be open at this time of day?” he wondered, hitting it for the third time.
Ethan didn’t answer. Instead, he closed his eyes, reaching out with the Force and concentrating. A soft series of metallic clicks emanated from somewhere within the frame, before the door’s lock pulled back and it slid open.
“That never gets old,” he smirked, walking in, and then abruptly stopped.
The interior of the store, was exactly as one might have expected. Several shelves lining the walls displayed finely shaped crockery and the odd statue, many of which were engraved with elaborate details. A few pictures, and even a carving machine stood nearby, perhaps as an example of their accomplishments. Neither of the Jedi were paying much attention to that. Instead, they were drawn to the man in front of them, slumped over his counter, lying in a pool of his own blood.
“Throat’s cut,” Tarvitz said, kneeling down to examine the body, “He’s long dead.”
From the far end of the shop there was an odd scuffling sound, and Ethan looked up to see something moving at the far end of the store. Someone clad in black, with a hooded outfit masking their face. The figure froze as they realised Ethan had caught sight of them, and dropped the files they had been rooting through. Ripping something from an outer pocket, they hurled a small disc-shaped object at the two.
“Grenade!” Tarvitz warned, reaching out with the Force and shunting it back toward their assailant. It struck the far wall, blasting it open in a shower of broken porcelain and wooden splinters. The figure stumbled as they were caught on its edge, before staggering out through a back door.
Ethan Martes Post 3
The two took some cover from the explosion, though both were far enough to be out of danger. As they stood back up in time to see the assailant leaving. Ethan’s hand reached out to slam the figure with the Force, but they slipped out of the way and he only smashed the door, breaking it off track. “Kark! He’s getting away!”
The two Odanites barreled through the remains of the back door and chased after the assailant. Ethan’s shorter legs meant that Tarvitz out paced him easily, but the constant turns and the windings of the back alleys and streets made catching their prey harder. “Go left, I’ll bring him to you!” Tarvitz called to Ethan as he picked up speed.
Ethan cut to the side, crashing through a door that was just opening for someone else. “Excuse me! Comin’ through!” He yelled as he knocked one man over and ran through the building.
Tarvitz noticed a split in the path the two were on, and he was still several strides behind his target. He whipped out his pistol and let out a shot, purposely missing to where the bolt would spook the individual and make them turn left.
As they rounded the corner, the individual turned on Tarvitz, firing his own blaster back and forcing the Odanite to take cover. Everytime Tarvitz popped his head out to see, another shot went past his head or into the wall, forcing him to take blind retaliation shots. After a couple seconds the shooting stopped as the runner had gotten farther away, causing Tarvitz to sprint after him.
The other Odanite had his own difficulties as he attempted to cut through another building as he tried to keep up. Instead of easily cutting through, there was some sort of gathering going on and he could barely push through. “Oh come on! Move! Let me- I mean- Son of a-… GAH!” He then pulled out his slugthrower Marri and discharged a shot into the ceiling, causing everyone to panic and get out of his way. “Official business! Sorry, just cutting through!”
As Ethan stumbled out of the building into the main walkway, he could see the figure running across the street with Tarvitz still on their tail. “Kark this running.” He pointed his slugthrower at the runner and opened fire, the first two shots barely missing and causing Tarvitz to slow down himself, thinking someone was aiming at him. The third shot cut through the runner’s calf muscle and dropped him to the ground.
“Ethan! Why are you discharging your weapon?!” Tarvitz yelled, catching his breath. “You could have hit me!”
“I got tired of running.” Ethan spoke as he walked closer, reloading Marri. “Now, let’s do this the easy way. You will tell us your mission.” He spoke with the Force behind his words, attempting his usual Mind Trick and dominating the man.
The injured man rolls onto his back, holding something to his chest as Tarvitz yanks his hood off to show that he was a Sephi. He glared at the two Odanites before the sound of a grenade being primed could be heard. “For the Vauzem Dominion.”
“Get down!” The two yelled in unison, both having the same idea to Force Push the other out of the way, causing both Odanites to fly backwards out of the blast area. They hit the ground in unison, Ethan flat on his back and Tarvitz on his hip.
With a groan they both started picking themselves up off the ground, the ringing in their ears from a second explosion reminding them that they are indeed alive. Tarvitz and Ethan both limped closer to the smoking remains of the Sephi and let out a defeated sigh.
“Can’t believe he resisted my Mind Trick. Must have been one dedicated karker. Well, maybe there’s something back at the shop?” Ethan offered as the two started limping back, his flask coming to his hand to wash down the bitter taste of defeat.
“Here I was hoping we’d have living evidence.” Tarvitz muttered, “But I’m also hopeful that we stopped him from destroying the evidence back at the shop. Provided the grenade he set off there didn’t destroy anything important.”
The two walked into the shambles of the store, security already there. Ethan waved his hand with an easy Mind Trick to get them in. They picked up files and try and make heads or tails of them, but neither really having the investigative know-how. It took time but eventually they stumbled upon something of interest.
It was a ceremonial tea set that was engraved in a way that when someone picked it up by the handle, it would open a hidden compartment and taint the contents of the tea cup with poison. After more digging they found the how, unfortunately they had no idea on the who or why. The only other piece of information was what the Sephi declared before turning himself into the crappiest firework.
Ka Tarvitz Post 3
“Not much to go on,” Tarvitz said, at length, carefully examining one of the cups before setting it back among the rest, “It’s odd though, that’s for sure.”
“Can you think of anything besides poison someone might use this for?” Ethan answered. He was walking through the shelves, going through one after the next, and double checking their findings. The grenade had shattered much of the delicate finery, some into more pieces than he could count.
“Smuggling?” Tarvitz said after a moment’s thought “But there’s easier and much more profitable ways to do that. I’d say theft of some sort, but you typically go into line of work to make cash, not spend a few thousand on a small tea set.”
“And you would run into the trouble of giving it away every time someone tried to drink from it,” Ethan agreed, shaking his head and walking back over to where the other man was standing. He picked up one of the mugs looking over it himself. The mechanism was simple, using a series of heat sensitive substances as a base for the set. At the right temperature it would cause areas around its base to retract, opening a series of small partings to allow the poison to be mixed into the tea. Once it dropped even half a degree below that level, they would expand, sealing it again. Ethan repeatedly turned it over in his hands, and then frowned. “It’s not the original.”
“You’re sure?” Tarvitz asked, looking between Ethan and the item he held.
“The filigree is only half done,” he pointed out, and then tapped the underside, “And look at this printed on the underside: ‘Incorrect Detail - Cancel and Restart’.”
Tarvitz stroked his chin, considering this for a moment. It meant that there could have been a link with Empress’ assassination, but more importantly it implied that whoever ordered it had been in contact with whoever had commissioned it some time ago. He could certainly see why. While only half-finished, the emblem was clearly wrong, depicting the outline of a Household sigil rather than the Empress’ personal heraldry.
“That gives us something to work with then,” he muttered, and then stepped back pointing to one side of the room, “When we came in, the person raiding the shop was standing about there, yes?”
“There abouts, but you were the one who saw him first,” Ethan answered, knowing that they had already gone over that area. Most of it had been scorched by the grenade’s blast radius, and what little had not been burned had seemingly been raided before they arrived.
“Yeah, and we assumed he found whatever he was after,” Tarvitz continued, stepping over to the same area and looking about, “But suppose he didn’t. Just suppose for a moment, that he was interrupted by us before he could locate whatever he was after.”
The area itself was a workbench, or what remained of one. Steel reinforced and lined with wood, much of it had been burned black by the grenade. Remnants of other objects, perhaps files or even incomplete pieces, were scattered about it, too charred for any of them to be of real use. Fixed to the wall and with its underside filled in by a wooden surface, it ran half of the length of the store. Tarvitz looked over this, and began knocking on the table.
“Are you going to clue me in on just what you’re doing?” Ethan asked, setting the tea cup back down and joining him.
“Something doesn’t add up here,” Tarvitz said, knocking again and again on the surface as he slowly walked up it, “For one thing, who keeps files and delicate parts on a workbench they use for crafting - Someone professional I mean. The other is simply that this is someone that the Houses were willing to deal with directly, on a personal level. Do you really think that sort of person would keep their files out in the open, where anyone could see them?”
To emphasise his point, as he hit the workbench again, the impact resounded with a different tone. Tarvitz knocked a few more times, and then looked at Ethan with a grin.
“Hollow,” he explained, stepping back and savagely kicked the underside of the workbench. It splintered inward after several blows, revealing a blocky armoured shape within. One with multiple running lights and connectors across its surface. Tarvitz reached down and pressed one button, and the machine hummed into life. Immediately, part of the wall slid away, revealing a computer screen with a full keyboard beneath it.
“Are you any good at slicing?” he asked, as the screen brought up a request for an encoded password.
“No, but I know a few people who are, and if they can’t do it then there’s always droids.” Ethan said, as Tarvitz shut down the machine once more, “Think we can safely remove it?”
Tarvitz answered by removing a hydrospanner from a belt. Two minutes later, they were leaving through the back door, with Ethan leading the way and Tarvitz carrying the items inside a small crate.
“Won’t they miss this?” Tarvitz said, “I mean, this place is being investigated.”
“And for all we know, those doing the investigating might be helping cover things up,” Ethan explained, as one of the security personnel approached them, only to be warded away by another mind trick, “If we let them take this, there’s a good chance they mysteriously end up getting lost. We take them, and get them back to Pharos station - or, better yet, the Solari - that’s something we can keep an eye on, decrypt and then use as our ace in the hole.”
“Really? Surely you can’t think that the assassin will have commissioned this man directly though.”
“Directly? Definitely not.” Ethan agreed, “But it’s a start, and if we’re lucky they might have left something incriminating in their messages. Or, if the Force is really with us, perhaps they used the wrong banking account to pay him, and someone can trace them through that.”
Tarvitz decided to leave the conversation at that. This was ultimately a matter for someone else. They had done their part and found something of worth, now it was time to step aside and let someone better suited to investigating mysteries to take over. He just hoped they were someone who worked fast. In the time that they had been in the city, Tarvitz had begun to notice a growing sense of caution among its residents. Exploding thieves aside, there was a guarded sense of suspicion and hostility, as if all there suspected everyone else of some involvement in the Empress’ assassination. As they headed off to find a ship to ferry them back to the station, each man felt that this was going to become much worse before it became better.