Rod almost dropped the datapad as he walked out of office. First came confusion, then understanding, and then rage.
Sight knows, he thought, that son of a bantha has to know.
“Everything alright?” Turel asked.
Rod realized that he had been standing outside the door staring at the datapad long enough for it to seem strange.
“Of course master, everything’s fine.” The protector replied.
“Ok then, where are we headed?” The Templar asked.
“Home.” Rod replied.
The cargo bay of the small freighter was dusty, and smelled like a mix of booze and spice. Rod shifted uncomfortably, he would much prefer to be in the cockpit. Turel on the other hand seemed perfectly content sitting in the drug and alcohol ridden cargo bay.
“I still don’t understand why we couldn’t just take a pair of X-Wings.” The Protector whined, “You are the Aedile after all, I’m sure you could have ‘found’ some for us.”
“True, I probably could have. But I’m fairly certain that datapad Sight gave you said this mission was not to be traced back to the shadow clan. I’d say flying shadow clan ships into the system would make us
fairly traceable.” His master replied.
“Ok fine,” The protector replied “But I’m damn sure we can afford a better charter than this. That nerf-herder of a pilot is going to make barf if he doesn’t learn to fly right.”
“I like it, this ship is nice and cozy.”
“You call being surrounded by spice and booze ‘cozy’? Oh, right, Nar Shadda.”
The Protector had almost forgotten that his master was a native of the smuggler’s moon, and this dingy blockade runner probably felt a bit like home.
“So, when are you going to tell me what upset you so much about that datapad?” The Templar finally asked.
“It’s not-,” The Protector started to lie, but a cocked eyebrow from his master told him he wouldn’t fall for it.
“It’s my sister.” Rod said after a short pause. “Sight is sending me to kill my sister.”
“Hmm,” Turel paused “you two close?”
“We were,” Rod answered, slightly taken aback by his master’s detachment from the situation “She pretty much raised me until I joined the Army. Dad was a bit of a drinker, and mom just hid in her room to avoid the beatings, so he ended up taking it out on me and her. She always got the worst of it though, I think sometimes she would goad him on just so he wouldn’t have as much energy left to beat me.”
“Why’d you lose contact?” The Templar asked.
“Well, she joined up as soon as she was old enough. She said she would come back and take me away but that never happened. Six years passed and finally I was old enough, so off I went. I haven’t heard from her since I enlisted, I guess she just didn’t know how to reach me after I left Almania.”
“I see,” His master replied calmly “So, are you going to kill her?”
“Of course I am.” Rod replied, wishing his thoughts were as sure as his voice.
Rod was glad the streets were so crowded, he forgot how cold his homeworld was and had not dressed accordingly, but the body heat kept it bearable. The Protector had also forgotten just how impoverished his planet was, you couldn’t take more than two steps without being asked for some spare credits.
Turel had stayed back at the docks to allow his apprentice to deal with his sister alone. He did however verify that his apprentice had his communicator just in case he needed some assistance.
The young journeyman turned a corner and saw what he was looking for, Nicolai’s Own, his sister’s bar. He approached the place slowly, not sure what to expect inside. He took a deep breath and stepped in.
The place was dimly lit, and the smoke was so thick he almost wished he had a breathe mask. He was surprised at how crowded the place was.
I guess poor people have more of a reason to drink than anyone else, he thought to himself.
The Protector approached the bartender, who finished pouring a glass of Juma Juice for a Twi’lek and turned to the young Human.
“What can I get for you son?” The old human asked.
“I’m looking for Darlene,” Rod answered “is she around?”
“Yeah, her office is in the back, right next to the
Rod made his way to the back of the bar, pausing in front of the door. His hand slid down to the blaster holster on his thigh, and he stepped through the doorway.
His sister was sitting at the desk, her silver eyes scanning a datapad in her hand. She didn’t even look up when Rod walked in, and upon seeing her his hand came right off the grip of his DL-18.
“If you’re here to complain about-“ his sister looked up, and immediately recognized her younger sibling “Nicki?! Is that you?”
“It’s me sis,” The Protector replied “and it’s Rod now, I haven’t gone by Nicki since I was ten.”
Darlene shot out of her chair and ran across the room to embrace her brother. Rod was caught off guard, he honestly couldn’t remember the last time someone had hugged him.
“Where the hell have you been?” She asked “I lost track of you after you were discharged from the hospital on Coruscant. I wanted to come visit, but my commander wouldn’t let me go until that whole Killik situation was cleared up, and by then you were long gone.”
“I had a rough time after Tenupe.” Rod answered “After I got discharged I kind of just floated around a bit, I didn’t stay anywhere for very long.”
“Why didn’t you just come home? I came here as soon as they would let me, I’m the Mortex Sector’s chief analyst now, so I can work from right here on Almania. I would have found you eventually if you came back.”
“Yeah, I didn’t really want to be found.” The younger Human answered, looking down at his boots.
“Oh, I think I know what this is about.” His sister replied “Take a seat bro.” She said as she pulled the chair in front of her desk out.
Rod sat down, the chair was comfortable, very plush. His sister walked around and returned to her seat.
“Look, I read the report on Tenupe.” She started “I know what happened with Cass, I know what he did for you, and you should know that it wasn’t your fault.”
“What the hell would you know about that ma’am.” Rod shot back “When was the last time you set foot on a battle field?”
“Hey, don’t get smart with me kid.” Her motherly instincts kicked in “You weren’t the only one who lost someone they cared about in the war, regardless of whether or not I was on the front lines, I know what it’s
like to lose a friend. And trust me, hopping around from planet to planet drinking your sorrows away is no way to live your life.”
“Yeah, I realized that.” The Protector replied “You don’t have to worry about me, I got my act together, I’m somewhat settled down now.”
“Yeah, I noticed.” His sister replied “You’re in the Dajorra system right? On Selen?” His sister smirked at the look of surprise on her brother’s face. “I’m an Intelligence officer, you think I can’t find my kid brother if I want too? So what’s this ‘Shadow Clan’ business, you join some kind of weird fraternity?”
Sithspit, Rod thought, she was just looking for me, that’s why she came up on the DIA radar.
“I wouldn’t exactly call it a fraternity, look I really can’t talk about it, the more you know the worse off you are.”
His sister cocked an eyebrow, a look she had given her brother many times before in their younger years.
“Explain.” She said authoritively.
Rod looked down at his boots again, contemplating his next move. He knew what he had to do, and this talking was only going to make it harder. He slowly started to slide his hand towards his blaster. Before he knew it, his sister had hers pointed right in his face.
“You care to explain why you were about to draw on me?” She asked, her tone had changed from motherly to hostile in a heartbeat.
“The people I work for don’t take kindly to intelligence officers digging through their records. They sent me here to take care of the problem.”
“They what?” She exclaimed “What the hell kind of people do you work for? Who sends a brother out on a mission to kill his own sister?”
“Dark Jedi do.” The Journeyman said flatly.
The look in his sister’s silver eyes was one of confusion.
“Dark Jedi, you mean, wait… what?”
“Yes, I mean I’m studying the Force, the ‘bad’ side of the force.” Rod replied.
His sister paused for a second, then lowered her weapon and burst out laughing.
“Good one bro.” She said wiping a tear from her eye “So seriously, what are you doing on Selen.”
The expression on Rod’s face didn’t flinch. She quickly realized he wasn’t kidding.
“You’re serious?” She asked “You’re seriously working with Dark Jedi? Do you not remember where you come from? What Kueller did to this planet?”
“No, I haven’t forgotten.” Rod replied “Have you forgotten how weak the Jedi are? You were at Tenupe weren’t you? We could have destroyed the Killiks, they would have paid for everything, and then Skywalker talked the GADF out of it.”
“We still WON the war kid, who cares if we slaughtered them or not?”
“I care!” Rod yelled furiously “Every one of those ugly bugs should be dead, they never should have been allowed to leave Tenupe.”
“You can’t blame an entire species for Cassius’ death Nicolai.” His sister responded “And last time I checked, it was a Chiss grenade that killed him.”
“We never would have been on that planet if it wasn’t for those frakking bugs.” The Protector spit back, clearly set in his decision.
“Fine, you don’t like the Jedi.” His sister continued “That still doesn’t justify joining the Sith!”
Rod sighed to himself, it didn’t seem like he was going to be able to make her understand. It was time to do what he came here to do. With an inhuman speed, he drew his blaster and rose it up to eye level. His sister dove out of her chair just as the shot left his barrel. Before he knew it she was out a back door and off into the streets.
Shutta, he thought, guess I’m not the only one in the family with some force assisted instincts.
Rod took off out the door in pursuit of his sister. He turned the first corner just in time to see her making a right on the next block. The Protector took off in a dead sprint, he couldn’t let her get out of his sight. Just as he made the right his sister took a left, she was fast. She obviously hadn’t slacked off on her physical training regimen at her new post.
Just before Rod took the hard left into the next alley something told him stop, he halted and skid a few feet, stopping just inches short of the blaster shot that flew in front of his face. He quickly got back behind the cover of the corner. His sister was set up with her rifle on the far side of the alleyway. He remembered from the dossier that Sight gave him that she was a good shot, and he didn’t plan on testing the DIA’s intel.
He needed a plan and he needed one quick. The longer he stayed behind the corner the longer his sister had to make an escape. Suddenly the Protector felt a buzzing at his hip. His comm was going off.
“Everything ok out there?” His master’s voice came through “People are freaking out over here, something about shots being fired in the street.”
“Nothing to worry about master, I’ve got it under control.” Rod replied, panting. He needed to quit smoking, he could hardly catch his breath.
Ok, he thought, if I can just get her to miss the first shot I can close the gap.
The Protector took a second to gather himself, then dashed out into the alleyway. Just as Darlene was about to pull the trigger, her scope filled with a bright white flash and the shot went wide. Before she knew it, her brother was on top of her, throwing his elbow into her chest. She fell on her back and immediately went for the twin knives on her calves, but it was already too late, her brother had her mounted, his blade now ignited and hovering just over her neck.
“Don’t make a move sis, it’ll be your last.” He said, smirking at the fact that he had outsmarted his cunning sibling.
“Nicki, please, don’t do this.” She begged “This isn’t you and you know it.”
When their eyes met, Rod was shocked. His sister’s eyes were filled with something he had never seen in the silver wells before, fear. All the beatings she took as a child, all the hard times they had been through, he had never once seen fear in her eyes.
Before he knew what he was doing, Rod disengaged his saber and rolled over on to his back, tears filling his eyes. His sister slowly stood up, confused and relieved.
“Guess you’re not so ‘Dark’ after all huh kid?” She laughed, relieved that her brother had had a change of heart.
“Shutup” Rod replied, wiping the tears from his eyes as he stood up. “This is a problem now.”
“Why’s that?” She asked.
“I have orders to kill you, and it would be too obvious if I said you got away.” He replied “They need to think you’re dead, or else I will be.”
His sister smirked, “How many times do I have to tell you kid, I’m an Intelligence officer, I know clandestine operations. If you need dead, I can be dead.”
Rod smiled, he had forgotten just how amazing his sister was.
“Go to Kessel.” He said “It’s not far from the Dajorra system, and I’ll be able to find you once it’s safe.”
His sister smiled, then reached around her neck and unclasped her small star necklace.
“Take this.” She said “Tell them you got it off my dead body, there’s some of my blood on it from when you shoved that elbow into my chest. That should be all the proof they need. I’ll be on Kessel keeping a low profile. If you’re ever looking for me just use ‘Nicki’ as your name on the manifest, I’ll know it’s you.”
His sister hugged him one more time after he put the necklace on.
“I’m glad you had a change of heart kid, don’t let those Dark Jedi fool you, you’re a good guy.”
Rod wiped the tears from his eyes as his sister strode away, and before he knew it she was gone in the crowd. He stood there alone for a few seconds before his communicator buzzed.
“How’s it going Soldier?” Turel asked “I’m getting a little cold, I’d like to be back romanticizing the ladies of Port Ol’val fairly soon.”
“It’s done.” Rod replied “I’m enroute now, could you tell that nerf herder to get the ship ready? I’d like to be off this cesspool as soon as possible.”
The door to the ACB office swung open violently as the Protector hurried in with his report, his master toe in heel. Rod shot Sight an angry glance before turning towards the desk to drop the datapad. As he placed it on the desk, he spotted Celevon’s pack of cigarettes. He promptly picked it up, took one out, and lit it as the three Equites watched open-mouthed. He then turned and abruptly left the room, all three of his seniors still staring blankly. As the door closed, Sight and Celevon turned their eyes towards Turel for answers.
“He uh….” The Templar stammered “he had a long day.”