Estle City Outskirts, Selen
Day 1, 1100 hours
The small shuttle quietly passed through the underground tunnels on its way to the spaceport. Most of the inhabitants remained silent, huddling themselves and their belongings close to the door, no doubt eager to move on to the next transport. From their fairly modest dress, one might guess them to be prospective miners, off to seek fortune harvesting the various precious resources littered across the Dajorra system.
Only two passengers were not among the cluster, instead quietly sitting in the back, occasionally regarding each other in tones that the others couldn’t hear, and likely didn’t care to.
One of the duo was a tall, imposing figure wrapped in a tattered olive drab and brown cloth, lightly patterned amongst the numerous small holes in the worn wrappings. Most of its body was concealed in the cloak, save for two luminous yellow lights emanating from its head. Its gaze was unfriendly and piercing, and spoke to no one but its master, a human male who sat opposite to the droid.
By comparison, the young Corellian man cut a much more inviting figure than his partner, his lightly handsome features usually forming an easy smile upon being stared at, before returning his gaze to the datapad in his lap. His clothing, a long coat wrapped around a flight jacket, had some passengers assuming him to be a smuggler, though others pointed out the apparent lack of a blaster on his person. Some noticed the oddity of a chain wrapped around his left wrist, but quickly arrived at the conclusion that they were better off getting off the transport as soon as possible and forgetting this man and his frightening companion by the time they had loaded all their belongings onto their next ship. The pilot of the transport had noticed the paralyzing quiet, and had even attempted to play tour guide and crack jokes on the trip, but soon he too was consumed by the tense atmosphere and went silent all the way to the end of the line.
Finally, the shuttle stopped and opened its doors to the right, the other passengers quickly filing out the door, the last stumbling out as they took a final glance at the droid, only to find its penetrating amber gaze glaring right back at them. The Corellian man sighed, stowing away his datapad.
“You make rides like this an absolute chore,” Adam Bolera finally said to the droid as he stood and stretched his lean, athletic build.
“I enjoy making organics uncomfortable,” the droid explained in a seemingly amused monotone, “it provides a quiet atmosphere.”
“You want quiet,” Adam replied as he moved up the shuttle, dropping a handful of credits into the lap of the surprised pilot, “consider going where people aren’t. Might be less chance of someone calling the police.” The droid followed, taking the suggestion under advisement as they stepped out onto the landing pad. The air smelled of a coming storm, the sky preparing to open up and release its content of cleansing rain. Dozens of other ships were coming or going at a more feverish pace in anticipation of inclement flight weather. A few cargo workers infrequently dropped packages as they struggled to move fast enough to offload new arrivals. The tall droid seemed fascinated with the sea of motion that surrounded it, as it circled its gaze with curious intent. Adam needed to regain its attention.
“Echo,” his voice snapped the droid back to reality, “give me the mission one more time.”
“Treyu Alber,” the droid responded right on cue, having practiced reciting the mission several million times in its own head, “package is to remain secure throughout three day stay in system. Have taken the liberty of slicing into several crime databases in which her name has been recorded.Target of several recent assassination contracts. Thirty two attempts by second rate hired guns, eight by professionals, two by top-tier bounty hunters…” A popular woman, must have been into some dangerous things to have drawn such attention. Adam had read the dossier a few times on the way, interested in the esoteric personal details of his charge. Celevon had mentioned her attraction to Marick, and Adam wondered whether or not he was going to be pulled into the swirling pit of intrigue, deception and violence that was his Clan leader’s practically non-existent romantic life.
“Master, her last three bodyguards have all died in her service within a year.”
“Not bad runs.” Adam said, paying the warnings little heed.
“Within the same year. All three of them.”
“Mehhhhh…When’s her transport coming in? What’s she flying?”
“Within the next five minutes. Lambda class shuttle.” the droid deadpanned the statement, while Adam whistled, impressed. Anyone who could both find and afford an unaffiliated T4-A shuttle almost four decades after the war was well off indeed. Sure enough, the telltale folding wings soon cut their way across the sky as Alber’s arrival grew closer at hand. It had been painted differently from the bone-white the Empire preferred, now striped with blue and black and what appeared to be a crest, though Adam could not make out its details from his distance.
“Cursory scans indicate no explosives present.” Echo chimed in again, “our charge is not yet in danger.”
“I expect that to change within the next hour,” Adam replied, the cynicism in his tone a product of some experience with escorts. The wings folded up in their unmistakable manner, and only moments later did the ramp lower to the landing pad.
A long, lean figure was wrapped in blue and gold, an elegantly crafted garb that flowed with the movement of its wearer and covered with patterns indicative of a master tailor. The slender length of woman the cloth swaddled was a masterpiece herself; deep hazel eyes were set in an angular face that wore a confident, almost arrogant expression, framed by long strands of thick scarlet hair. Her strides were deliberate, almost measured, as though she had planned every walk of her day with precision and care. Her eyes bore straight into Adam’s skull, to the point he had paid no attention to the exit of any other occupants of the shuttle. Treyu Alber had arrived in force.
“You’re the bodyguard?” she asked, finally stopping between Adam and Echo, the droid leaving the answer to its decidedly less focused master.
“That’s the rumor.” Adam did his best to shunt anxiety with humor. Something about this woman aside from her beauty stirred him, in ways he loved and loathed.
“I was expecting someone…”
“Marick. I was expecting Marick for this job.” Well, she did think highly of herself.
“He’s a busy man, Lady Alber, I’m sure he would if he could spare the-”
“Relax!” she laughed, her approach to humor having now sufficiently rubbed Adam incorrectly, “You’re taking me far too seriously. Come, I’m going to treat you to a favorite tea house of mine before I run my errands here.” She spun on a heel, walking quickly to a transport into the city. Adam quickly followed with Echo trailing closely behind, the curious droid preparing a menagerie of questions on organic interactions.
“Master,” it asked with the innocence of a child, “you seem disturbed.”
“It’s not a problem Echo,” Adam answered, “it’s just…”
“This assignment may prove more difficult than anticipated?” the droid suggested eagerly. Echo really wanted to shoot something, and soon.
“No, the assignment should take care of itself.” Adam laughed, and considered for a moment
before answering, “I’ve just determined that Marick is out of his mind.”
The first rain droplets slowly dotted the pavement as the trio approached their destination, distant thunderclaps suggesting they get inside soon. A half-hour shuttle ride back into the city was filled mostly with awkward silence, during which Adam and Echo busied themselves repeatedly checking the transport for bombs in order to avoid talking to Treyu. Adam felt disrupted by this woman, and he was attempting to work out exactly what it was with the silence. These efforts ultimately proved fruitless, as they passed through the doors of the teahouse and Treyu reserved a back room merely by holding up two fingers to the startled Twi’lek barman, as though the place owed her something. They were led behind a thin set of curtains where the floor shifted to soft carpet, Treyu motioning for Adam to remove his boots and sit at a small table that sat mere inches from the floor. Echo waited just outside the curtain, leaning against a post and watching the door. Treyu sat as though she were a satisfied cat, upright and eyes narrowed, perfectly at home. Adam shifted a few times in a vain effort to get comfortable, then reluctantly met her eyes.
“Oh, this simply won’t do,” Treyu began, finally tiring of Adam’s reticence, “are you familiar with tea?”
“More than you’d think,” Adam replied, tired of dodging his charge. He had two and a half more days with her to go, after all. “Jedi training meant that most of what you’d drink was water and dirt.”
“Crude, but fairly accurate, by my understanding. I’ll order something to relax you; a favorite Corellian blend of mine.”
“How did you-”
“Don’t play coy, I hand-picked you for this job, all the joking aside.” Treyu’s earthy eyes almost seemed to be challenging Adam now. “Read what the Arconae were willing to provide on you. I can’t think of anything they don’t have at least an awareness of, what with all their resources. My wealth is modest in comparison to their dominion over the system.”
“They’re getting by. Somebody mentioned you’d contracted us for work before?”
“Oh, Celevon is an absolute dear, not who I’d request as a bodyguard though.” She crossed her legs and began again. “An assassin’s brand of subtlety is not benefited by publicly defending someone like myself. He does better when anonymously slipped information on someone I deem an undesirable for a variety of reasons, and within a few days, no one speaks their name again.”
“Speaking of you,” Adam shifted the interrogation, “what’s your story? What exactly have you done to be such a popular woman in the underworld?” She leaned back to consider for a moment, before quietly thanking the server that arrived with the pot and cups.
“I suppose it’s safe to say that I didn’t come by my wealth very honestly. A few fortunes and Hutt hoards have disappeared during my time, and I may have had something to do with a handful of them a few years ago.” She took a long sip from her cup, before lowering it again and smiling with a certain
nostalgic satisfaction. “Time was, I had a knack for slicing systems and keeping myself from harm, and the skills I have today just came with a few more years.” Adam had a difficult time imagining this woman, who had the look of Hapan nobility, pulling herself up by her criminal bootstraps, but he didn’t sense a trace of deception. He took a sip of the tea, still hot in his palm. It tasted of home, the grasses he smelled outside the bustling Corellian cities. He drank in longer, before lowering it to the small table again.
“So, why am I here? What are you doing, and who will be coming for us?”
“On to the business already? Just like one of Marick’s.”
“What?” She cringed at the use of the word, believing such phrases to be patronizing.
“Your little crush on him.”
“Oh, come off it, now we’re definitely moving on to business.” Treyu rolled her eyes, unamused at having the teasing tables turned on her. “Essentially, I’m preparing a soiree of sorts at my estate on Gethsemane come the day after tomorrow. I’ve come here to ensure my operations are running smoothly,” she pulled out a datapad concealed somewhere in her dress, “which they are, and make sure the traps are in place.”
“Oh, it’s simple, really. Every noble in the system has been invited, you see. It means that they’ll all be inside my home, where I can access the electronics available on their person and in their ships, and scrounge up countless details of personal information, which can be used to our advantage.”
“Our advantage?” This sounded rather far fetched, and extremely dangerous to Adam. He knew little about slicing and slicers himself, aside from the fact that they were the deadliest people in the galaxy from an economic, electronic and political perspective.
“It’s a mutually beneficial relationship for us, as I pass useful information on to Arcona, as payment of course. In return, you protect me and my interests from those who… harbor some ill will for me.” Treyu smiled once again, taking another victorious drink and finishing her cup as she imparted her plan. “Those parties, I believe we’ll meet in the next few minutes.”
“That so?” The Force helped Adam’s mind to spread itself around the room like a net, searching for hostile intents or emotions that had recently come inside. Nothing had come yet.
“I don’t expect much here, aside from the amateurs, maybe one or two professional assassins. You should make short work of them today. Tomorrow will be spent mostly in transit, traveling slowly across the system is better for hiding, you understand. The gathering itself will be where the real fun begins.”
“You have an interesting perspective on fun.”
“Don’t pretend we don’t share it.” Still confidently smirking, Treyu was pleased to see that Adam smiled back at the remark. He tensed up again as the Force net he spread across the room was disturbed by hostile intent.
“I think we’re about to meet your friends.” he said, reaching for the hilt of his lightsaber.
“Human, tattoos all over his head, face only a mother could love? Accompanied by an equally ugly Zabrak wingman?”
“How did you-”
“I sliced your droid’s visual input,” Treyu answered, waving her datapad. “Try to avoid using the very conspicuous Jedi tricks, please. For now, just crack a skull or two, standard bodyguard job description. I can handle myself, worry about staying alive on your part.” Now she was taunting him, asking Adam to prove himself with a show of force. She’d get it. He slipped his boots back on, and raised the teacup to his lips one more time, slowly drinking in the last of the warm, grassy Corellian blend as the Force laid out the next split seconds before his mind.
Exactly as Adam anticipated, a hand ripped down the curtain partitioning his and Treyu’s table from the rest of the teahouse. Adam hurled his now-empty cup with additional telekinetic force, shattering it on the face of the human aggressor. Treyu hired an Arconan, and Adam sought to remind her what she would sacrifice by contracting anyone else. Echo had already moved on the Zabrak, lifting him in the air with a single arm and smashing his head through a table. The human was staggered and scarred by the porcelain shards he was trying to pick out of his face, but doggedly continued his mission. One blood spattered hand produced a vibroknife, which he began clumsily jabbing at Adam in the way that most knife fights appear. The Jedi was done humoring the would be hitman, wrapping an arm around his wrist and twisting his shoulder and the weapon behind his back, hearing the sickening crack of dislocation. The sound of blaster fire shattered the remaining quiet as bolts of superheated tibanna ripped into the thug’s chest, slumping out of Adam’s grasp. Treyu stood with a DH-17 in hand where she sat only moments before. Full of surprises indeed.
“I’m sure they have friends coming, check the street outside.” she said, not bothering to elaborate on her shooting abilities. Adam supposed they spoke for themselves, before the Force telegraphed the actions of another aggressor. One of the walls near the entrance was especially thin, easy to shoot through with any weapon. This would have been the course of action another hitman would have taken, had Adam not crashed through the same wall and slammed his face into the rain-slick pavement. He flicked out his chain, swinging it in a sweeping, wild arc at an arriving Rodian gunman, who was unable to get a shot on the erratically moving target in time to avoid being cracked across the face and telekinetically thrown through a window.
“Master!” Echo loudly verbalized just before a blaster bolt ripped into the street just inches from Adam. The droid immediately tracked the trajectory to the point of origin, and produced its favored weapon; a modified DC-15 rifle, fitted for longer range shots. Two rounds leapt from its barrel, ripping into the distant sniper, and he slowly rolled over the edge of the rooftop he fired from and crashed down onto the street. Echo lowered its rifle, and Adam smiled at it briefly as Treyu dusted herself off and walked out onto the ruined storefront. The irony of the use of a clone trooper’s rifle did not escape Echo, but its effectiveness was undeniable.
The sound of repulsor engines filled the street when two swoop bikes appeared at one end, rapidly barrelling towards the group.
“Want the guy on the right?” Adam turned to ask Echo, who gladly raised its rifle to aim. Adam rushed forward towards his target, who clumsily fired blaster shots while flying the swoop, amazed that the Jedi was actually charging the vehicle. Adam projected a telekinetic field to slow the vehicle as they approached each other, with the thug furiously revving the bike to try and counteract the effect as he watched Echo’s shots tear through his partner. Adam let the Force carry him forward as he leapt towards a wall, kicking off of it and flying toward the remaining rider, chain in hand. The links wrapped around his neck as Adam sailed over his head and yanked him to the ground with great force, the whiplash immediately snapping his neck on the way down. The bikes crashed to the wet street and skidded to a halt.
“Fancy a ride back to the shuttle?” Treyu suggested, lifting one upright. “I think we’re done here.”
“I’m driving.” Adam said, smiling greedily at the bike.
The storm had picked up, and so had the Estle traffic near the tunnel leading back to the spaceport. The bikes bobbed and weaved through the lines of speeders, Adam and Treyu on one and Echo on the other. Somehow, word of the violence had not yet reached police forces, but it had certainly drawn the attention of more of the assassins in Estle that still hunted Treyu. A speeder bike slashed through traffic to try and get close to Adam and Treyu, only to have the rider swiftly cut down by precise, measured shots from Echo. Another sidled up to them on the left, aiming a Westar and grinning smugly as he lined up his shot. Adam wiped the grin off his face with a swipe of his chain, smashing his teeth and sending him screaming off his bike and crashing into a speeder several stories below him.
“Forget what I said earlier,” Treyu shouted over the fugue of the chaos around her. “the Jedi tricks will scare most of them out of action, conspicuous or not.”
“You’ve seen nothing yet,” Adam chuckled, reaching for his lightsaber as two more speeders, one of them car sized approached. The sage glow of the blade snapped to life just as Adam telekinetically hurled it towards the rear engines of the larger speeder. The whirling loop of plasma cut straight through one, causing the vehicle to shudder and lose speed, before the weapon swung wide again and changed trajectory for the assassin on the bike, cutting his head clear from his body.
“Hm,” Treyu said, speechless upon witnessing Arconan capabilities.
“Not finished,” Adam yelled as he relinquished the controls. “Hold this for me, would you?” He stood up on the bike, eyeing the larger speeder again as it grew closer.
“Are you insane?” Treyu asked, dumbstruck for once in her life as she grasped for the handlebars.
“Likely so!” Adam replied, leaping from the bike and taking to the firmament as he twisted through the air. His saber whirled back to his hand as he fixed his vision on the speeder again, reaching his free hand into a pouch for the ball bearings inside. A telekinetic shotgun blast ripped into the windshield the two assassins sat behind. While unharmed, they couldn’t see anything through the spidery network of cracked glass. The passenger looked to his left to laugh at the luck of himself and his driver, before something else crashed onto the hood and a sliver of emerald light pierced right through the glass and punctured the driver’s chest. Before the passenger could even reach for his weapon, invisible fingers reached through the cracked glass, wrapping around him and hurling him out of the vehicle to his end.
Adam leapt back to the swoop bike and Treyu with a Force assisted jump, retaking the controls as Treyu attempted to hide being more impressed than she’d ever been. A look to the distance snapped her attention back to the situation at hand.
“Kark!” she yelled.
“Hardly how a lady should speak, princess.”
“Police are on the way, trying to cut us off before the spaceport.” she said, pointing at an upcoming intersection. “Head there; I have an idea to get them off our tail.”
“I won’t kill police.” Adam growled.
“So we won’t. Just stopping them, trust me.” she reassured Adam, while pulling out her datapad, of all things. Adam gunned the bike as they rushed through the intersection, when the traffic indicator in the center began acting strangely, giving the signal to proceed in all four directions. Police speeders wailed from one of the directions, before they were consumed by the lines of vehicles careening into each other in the confusion. The disarray of countless accidents bought the odd trio of Dark Jedi, Magnaguard and criminal royalty ample time to slip into the tunnel leading to the Giletta Spaceport, and disappear from Estle City.