Mysteries of Aliso, Epilogue
Arden drummed his fingers on his desk as he pored over the datapads in front of him. Flanking him to his right was Ronovi, her hands tucked behind her back, her eyepatch glinting in the sparse light of the Dread Lord’s personal office. TuQ’uan stood across from the Dread Lord and the Wrath, presenting several Plagueians who had brought the information and reconnaissance data straight to the Pinnacle. Malice and Gaius Julius Caesar were two of the many brought in, Malice’s amber eyes bright and Caesar’s slightly wrinkled face clean shaven despite his drawn out excursions on Aliso’s surface.
“Tell me what you learned,” intoned Arden, still perusing the data on his desk.
Caesar went first. “My lord, I have discovered a suitable site for some of our military operations.”
“So I see,” replied the Dread Lord. “Cordana Valley, isn’t it?”
“Correct,” said Caesar. “By the Braun river. The mountains would do wonders for our sniper training. And the land itself is well suited for our infantry.”
“Might be good to check it out further,” added Ronovi. “We could use some more barracks outside the city. A weapons depot, too.”
Arden pondered this. His fingers ran across the edge of his upper lip, before he picked up a datapad and examined it. “Cordana Valley,” he repeated, his voice low and tinged with humor. “I’ve always known it to be a thrill seeker’s paradise. Lots of camps there.”
“Those can be easily dealt with,” Caesar replied.
“Perhaps,” sighed Arden, “but I do find recreational markets and facilities to be useful. Especially for our coffers. Still, you make a fair point about our military. I’ll send more men to the valley to plot out potential buildings and structures.”
Caesar nodded and stepped back, opening the floor for Malice. Her announcement, however, was more somber. “My lord,” she declared, “I found what appears to be an abandoned Geonosian weapons depot.”
The Dread Lord raised his eyebrows. “Where? Near the former enclave?”
“Not even close to the city, my lord,” Malice replied. “I went south with a few of my droids. I’m not sure when or how the Geonosians built it, but it was in a hollowed out hill. The security system was non-existent, so I managed to enter easily.”
“And what did you find? Besides weapons?”
Malice swallowed. “Bodies, my lord. Dead bodies. Most stripped of skin by now.”
Arden leaned back in his chair and folded his hands in front of him. Ronovi was silent; so was TuQ’uan. The five of them stood in the office and let the tension wash over them. No one would speak even if they dared to: the Dread Lord had the floor.
“So.” The word more dropped from Arden’s mouth than slipped out. “Some decomposing skeletons in an abandoned weapons bin. Well.”
In truth, there was not much to say on the matter. The Geonosians had been known to kill, and with their queen now beholden to Selika and the rest of Plagueis, it was clear that they would not do the same again. Still, some questions remained, perhaps better posed to the Geonosians directly. Arden suddenly considered a trip to the Valneikian Spire.
“That will do,” he finally stated, waving his hand toward the two Plagueians. “You’ve done well and will be rewarded justly for it. Do we have anyone else waiting outside?”
“Vivackus Kavon di Plagia, my lord,” replied TuQ’uan. “He has notes on the Pearl Islands.”
“That’s the place with the natural hot springs, right?” asked Ronovi.
“Perfect,” sneered Arden. “I’ve always wanted to build a resort.”
One thing that struck Sevrin Arce as intriguing was how consistently chilly it was on Aliso. It was as if someone had cast a permanent shadow across the sun, making even its beams sting the bare skin with an autumn-esque frost. He looked across the frontier city from his vantage point with squinted eyes, the ball of his hand propped against the butt of his scoped blaster pistol that was positioned on his left hip.
It had been easy for Kel Zar to get the two of them up to the roof of the nondescript and vacant building. Despite whatever developments had been initiated and executed across the many military barracks and outposts initially abandoned by the Confederacy of Independent Systems, there were still plenty of edifices that remained untouched, practically condemned. You could see the extent of this negligence - at least, that was what Sevrin decided to call it - from the multitude of holes and crevasses that remained of the Valneikian Hive’s former enclave, which was guarded day and night by Aliso law enforcement.
Of course, Sevrin knew all too well whom those scattered police officers and soldiers were really beholden to. He had done his research, scoured his contacts and resources for clues and answers. For a unit that demanded secrecy, it was certainly easy to discover its proceedings through both military and economic channels. These “people” were not subtle, and whatever holes the man had in regards to his knowledge, the Zabrak was able and incredibly eager to fill.
“You can see where they house their guests,” she quipped, once again using the term “guests” ironically. She pointed to a gaggle of buildings and what appeared to be storage units.
Sevrin blinked. He tried to figure out what she was pointing at. “I don’t get it,” he admitted.
Kel smiled. She gestured for him to sidle up closer to where she knelt on the roof, and he followed her pointer finger as she directed his gaze to what seemed to be some sort of groove or bump in the asphalt below. In fact, there were several of them grouped together. Sevrin let his eyes focus on that strange deviation, and he thought that they almost looked like large tubes or pipes - like a network of tunnels that had managed to show themselves from the ground. He was confused, but he figured that Kel would explain.
“When you were doing your reading,” she asked, “did you ever learn about something called the Medina?”
“No,” replied Sevrin.
“Figures,” sighed the Zabrak, scratching at her one red horn. “That’s one thing these people keep under wraps pretty well. Most of it is underground, though no one’s quite sure why it was built in the first place. No notes on it that I could find.”
“How did you manage to learn so much?”
Kel grinned. “There’s a pun here,” she snickered. “Let’s just say the Collective is very good at collecting information.”
Sevrin stifled a groan. A slight change in the wind’s direction caused his brown hair to bristle on his head. His dark, simple clothes did the trick of keeping him warm, though, as he scanned what he could see of “the Medina” as well as whoever was guarding it. These security personnel were different than the Alisoan law enforcers, though. They wore dark armor - helmets, too. As if stormtroopers could appear any more sinister.
“The Medina,” Kel informed Sevrin, “is where you’ll find your brother. And every other poor soul who got caught in the Dread Lord’s clutches.”
Sevrin felt his eye twitch at the title, “Dread Lord.” An image of his smiling brother flashed in his head. His stomach churned.
“He was on a mission, you know,” he murmured. “A humanitarian one. He was all about helping people, aiding them in times of need. But then those Trandoshan bastards…”
“There’s no sense in getting worked up over it now,” chided Kel. “Your objective is clear. If you want to get your brother back, you’ll have to infiltrate.”
The Zabrak nodded.
“How in the galaxy am I gonna do that?”
“Simple!” Kel retorted. “I told you the Collective would assist. I’ll just need you to follow my lead for a bit.”
Sevrin swallowed. He was not used to taking other people’s directions or orders anymore, not since he left his company. He remembered the tattoo he bore on his shoulder - five overlapping pentagons, a permanent reminder of his mercenary status. Still, he was so close now, and he and the Collective jointly benefited from their newfound pact. He would do almost anything to get his brother back.
“Okay,” he said, a bit gruffly. “What’s the plan?”
Kel smiled. “Do you want to know what it’s like to be a Plagueian slave?”