[Shadow Gate: Run-On] - “Gatebusters!”

When there’s something strange…in the neighbourhood. Who you gunna call? (Shadow)GATEBUSTERS

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Encrypted message
Gatekeepers,

This is the information I have been given and the task we must complete. I will direct you to the encrypted holo-message from earlier today which contains the classified document.

Due to the “sensitive” (That is a thing, believe it or not) nature of this mission, you will need to rely heavily on your DCA’s (Yes, that means all of us). Anyone who still has not locked down their alias without will be made into honorary members of the 27’s: my lovely gang of drug dealers, prostitutes and informants that I have gathered over the last year to help me keep an eye on the petty rival gang activity in Port Ol’val and the dealings within.

I will meet you all in Thanatophilia for a full briefing. Don’t make me wait.

  • Gate Wardeness, K’tana

Port Ol’val
Thanatophilia

Koekie Donder walked into Thanatophilia with all the arrogance and pomp of a rockstar. She wore a shiny, skin-tight bodysuit that was adorned with buckles and straps that cinched over the contours of her body. The outfit covered from her clavicle to her fingertips and down past the top of her thigh-high, spike heeled boots. Straps of the same material wrapped around her ear-cones and over the top of her head to spiral down her lekku.

Her browless face and pupiless violet eyes did not change her appearance for the worse, but the loss of several of her key features, however, did make her look far more alien and exotic. Yet anyone who knew her would easily recognize her as a member of the Brotherhood even if she did lack a lightsaber and Jedi weapon of choice.

From behind, her entourage consisted of two vastly contrasting humanoids. Koek, the gatherer of intel, was a Zeltron girl of slight frame, crimson hair, quick eyes and quicker reflexes. She wore bright contrasting colors of pale blue, light pink and yellow. Strutting alongside Koek like a puffed up bird was Koekie’s body guard, Hi-Tek. Hi-Tek was a very large Human with a bald head and a long braid that draped over one shoulder and swung over his burly bicep. He dwarfed the Twi’lek and was large enough to make Koek look like a young child.

The three drew stares as they strut through the main room. Koekie rolled her shoulders as she walked past a staring patron, giving him a quick wink and a gentle flick against his jaw as she made her way towards the bar and the smiling woman behind it.

“Hello, Koekie. One of your…guests has already arrived.” Sere smiled at the Twi’lek but a flicker of anxiety passed quickly over her face as she nodded towards a large table at the back. As Koekie’s eyes wandered over to her reserved table, she noticed a familiar form.

Chud,” she whispered under her breath,” Hi’ya, Sere. Where’s Copper and how long’s’ee been here?”

“He’s in the back, restocking some of the favorites. As for him…not too long.” Sere glanced sheepishly at the lithe man until the amethyst woman manoeuvred her way to being the focus of attention again, “He’s scared out several handfuls of clients. Please, do what you need to and get him out.”

Koekie stifled a giggle as she nodded at the unnerved woman before Sere went back to scurrying around the bar with a faulted smile. As the Twi’lek looked over towards the table she inhaled deeply and grinned wide as her Master watched her approach with his ice-cold gaze. She felt a sudden chill, her lip twitching into a slight frown as she moved to sit across the table from the statuesque man. Forcing a smirk back over her lips, Koekie exaggerated the illusion of her sharpened teeth.

“Oh hai, Mastimeros!” she said with a wrinkle of her nose, “Didn’t think I’d see you here!”

“K’tana. Someone needs to supervise and assess your actions.” His level tone teetered towards bored as he looked back down at his datapad.

“Huh, di’a.” she smiled as she indicated her small posse. “Mi’Lord of Grumpiness, I’d like ya to meet my friends! Hi-Tek and Koek. Don’t be shy, say hi frangface!’

Hi-Tek gave a quick nod to the man, which was regarded coolly and without any reciprocation. In excitement the young girl - not knowing better - ran up to the blond man and snatched the datapad from his loose grip.

“Coo! I haen’t seen one’a dees bef-”

Timeros’ face was a still lake, but his eyes shot terror inducing daggers at the girl and she felt each one press violently upon her. Koekie pushed her palm against an eye as she watched the Zeltron’s olive eyes grow wide just before the datapad clattered to the floor. With a sudden shriek Koek ran from the table and out of the building.

Karking-frazlat, Timeros! Could you not! Ugh!” Koekie gave an exasperated sigh as the Entar’s brow twitched. She decided it prudent to lean over and grab the datapad, passing it back to the man without so much as glancing at its screen. He took it calmly and without another word, but gestured towards the door.

Koekie flailed her arms towards Hi-Tek and he quickly moved out of her vision, a smirk playing on his lips as he shook his head. She kept waving her arms frenetically as a greasy looking Miraluka, heavily robed man and a suited Kaleesh made their way over to the table. She scooched her way around the table to sit next to Timeros, her lekku twitching from the proximity of the Elder.

“Ruva, Maakz and Malikie, I take it?” Koekie bit her lip and raised her hairless brow as they nodded. Skar, Mks, Revs… “Good. Sit the kark down. You’re the first to arrive. Order a drink or…whatever.”

Koekie lost track of her words as she watched the Kaleesh and Hi-Tek size each other up. She could sense Skar’s discomfort as he looked up at the giant of a Human. Revs’ mouth twitched in discomfort as he ushered his compatriot into the seat next to the Twi’lek before Mks moved to a chair at the end.

Casting a sidelong glance at Timeros, who still sat tapping his datapad, Koekie decided no introductions were needed and she waved her arm at Sere, catching the woman’s attention and flagging her over.

“Something to order, Miss?”

“A glass of Ryl wine.” Koekie smirked and leaned across the table towards the other woman, “put it on his tab.”

“What’s Ryl wine?” Mks’ asked, the first he had spoken, in an exuberant manner befitting that of a child.

“Ooh! You should try it! It’s from my homeworld of Ryloth and it’s super kar-”

Without looking up from his work, the Elder said his apprentice’s name in a soft, but threatening, manner. She rolled her eyes, stuck out her tongue at him and sighed as a wave of chills crept up her spine. She shrugged at Mks and looked back to Sere, pulling herself back into her seat and away from the table.

“Fine. Put it on mine.”

“As you’d like. Anything else?” Sere looked around the table and took Revs’ order when the other three men shook their heads. As she walked away a young, waifish Human male walked over to the table with a smile. At his side was a stern looking woman who eyed Koekie with contempt and suspicion.

“Greetings!” He gave a charming grin to the party, one that was not returned by any but the sharp-toothed Twi’lek, before going onto introducing himself as Dralin and his wife Fiana. He was one of the few members of Shadow Gate that Koekie had not yet met in person and she made a mental note to keep an eye on him as well as the uninvited Fade.

Several moments later, Sere returned with drinks and offered her service to Dralin and Fiana. Both smiled politely but passed on beverages, more keen on finding out the reason they had been called to this meeting. Just as Koekie took a breath to think of where to start, a distantly familiar presence entered the bar.

Violet eyes flickered momentarily to green as the Twi’lek’s concentration faltered and she looked up to see someone she had not seen since long before she was Knighted. As she looked upon the Chiss, a chaotic wave of images fluttered through her mind along with the face of one she wished she could forget. Her breath caught in her throat as she stood up.

Koekie was suddenly a purple blur as she leapt from her seat, handsprung over the morbid table and came to her feet at a dead run. The Gatekeepers watched as their Wardeness made a flying leap and threw her arms around the Chiss woman.

“It’s nice to see you too, K’tana. Glad to see you’ve been little changed.” Fet’ai’narun whispered in the Twi’lek’s ear as she worked to keep her balance. “But, your team is watching.”

The two women slid apart, grins plastered on their faces as they walked back to the table.
“Darlins’, I like to introduce you to an old friend. This is Lachesis. One of the longest standing Knights among us” Koekie said, giving a sly wink to the cobalt woman.

The Wardeness then went around the table, giving proper introductions of Deep Cover Alias’ to her Gate Keepers.

“I’d like to thank you all for joining me today, “ the violet woman started, but stopped to scowl at her Master, “Except you, Mastimeros. I figured you’d be off murdering Tooka cubs for whatever gives you kicks. And…for the love of the Goddess! Could you please blink! You’re hurting my brain every time I look at you!”

The gaunt, blonde man raised an eyebrow at the Twi’lek’s glare. “K’tana,” he spoke, voice glacier-cold, “I take no joy in the slaughter of children. You should be grateful: it has been significantly to your benefit.”

“Y-wait, what?” She stammered, her eyes flickering between colors again before she inhaled a deep, angry breath and regained some of her composure. “Nevermind, as I was saying! Thank you all for meeting with me today. As you have seen the holocomm and the attachment, you know the basis for what we are doing here.”

“Do we?” a cool voice came from behind her, causing Koekie to spin around mid jump. She came face-to-face with an attractive man with stark white hair and an aristocratic air about him. She guessed that part of the alias just came naturally to the undercover Combat Master. To be frank, she hadn’t expected him to show up in the first place, but she was glad for his presence nonetheless.

“Oh. Hello, Rick.” Koekie’s tone dropped to a cool and detached level as her pupiless eyes narrowed at his smug smirk and he flowed around her to take a seat at the table. Her lip twitched in a repressed sneer as she watched the two Elders give one-another a nod of respect.

Koekie opened her mouth to say something but stopped short as she saw another new woman making her way towards the group. Her eyes went immediately to the woman’s prominent chest, then quickly back to her pale blue eyes and deep red lips. Her raven hair was shaved on one side and flipped over and down to her chin on the other. Before she could welcome Socorra back to Shadow Gate, Rick was on his feet and moving to greet her.

He pulled over a stool and gestured for her to join him. She offered a polite smile to Koekie and gracefully accepted the seat. Timeros’s eyes passed methodically from the the former Herald to the former Consul and then finally to the new Wardness of Shadow Gate. He shrugged a shoulder, as if silently reminding her about the gravity of the members she was now ‘responsible’ for leading. She shivered, and had to use every ounce of training to steel her nerves.

“Any-karking-body else?! No? Good!” Pressing her palms to her temples, Koekie once again took a deep breath and went on.

“I’m gonna make this quick. Ol’val has some…” she paused for dramatic effect while she twisted the tip of a headtail between her fingers in a coy and girlish manner, “…Well, gang issues. You are all coming with me to eliminate this threat before these schuttas decide to try and team up against Qel-Droma…again. We will be working in tandem with the 27’s gang. My gang. Hi-Tek here will be emissary of the 27’s…”

“So you want us to start a gang war for you?” Rick’s voice was placid, but his underlying tone of disapproval was evident.

“Not really.” Koekie said, turning her head to grin at him, “I want you to finish one…with me.”

“So why did we need to leave our weapons at the base?” Ruva’s baritone voice was loud, even in a hushed whisper. This caused many of the group to turn their towards him with distress. Koekie’s smile remained, however, and she nodded her head as she slipped her fingers through a cinched belt, pulling out a long, thin dagger.

“Oh that’s simple, Huk-face. Only those with the gift can use the lightblades.” her flat eyes turned towards her Master as she spun the blade around her fingers. “Which we also cannot use. At least not in the view of civilians.”

At this the group began to talk at once in hushed tones that portrayed their distaste over the Wardeness’ instructions. She let them continue for several moments before holding up a hand and standing still, her demeanour demanding silence.

“We will be breaking off into two teams. One set will be continuing on with Hi-Tek. He may look like a big brute, and you may struggle to understand him, however, do not underestimate him. He is a proficient killer and has been able to slice through everything I’ve sent him at.” she giggled for a moment as she smiled over her shoulder at the brown eyed giant, “And you should see the size of his hand cannon!”

Socorra and Fet’a both chuckled and the three women exchanged coquettish smirks as most of the men sat with blank stares or unamused frowns.

“Anyway, we will be going after two separate targets, thus the split groups. I’ve already assigned your teams and team names. Mastimeros,” Koekie gave a slight gesture towards the Elder’s datapad, “could you pull up the map of Ol’val and send it to the rest of the group?”

Without looking up, the Entar gave a slight nod and moved his fingers rapidly over the screen, nodding once more when he was done. Koekie gave a brief smile and borrowed Lachesis’ datapad, bringing up the map and quickly circling three main points of the city.

“Group Aurek will be going into the Ducts and fishing out one of the leaders who has made his lair there. Thesh will be going to the Minefield and assessing if the rumors of activity there have any basis in reality. We will be meeting upon completion of this task in a club called the Lucky Lekku. It is located on the outskirts of the Besadii district and is controlled primarily by the 27’s and Qel-Droma. We must also remain in constant contact through the duration of this mission and I will expect a progress report upon every hour.”

Koekie’s face had taken an aloof and cold visage. The quirky smile she usually donned was gone and no trace of it remained. Her flat, purple eyes took in each member and she bared her teeth threateningly as she spoke through a clenched jaw.

“Now, I assume you’re going to have questions and opinions. Good! See the napkins on the table? Take them, write your questions and whatever on them, fold them up and jam them into your windpipes. Or read them, because your assignments have been written on them. IN GLITTER PAINT! Ugh, Mastimeros, you’re making me shiver, ya’ got somethin’ to say before we head out?”

“I will join you eventually,” the Adept replied, voice even. “However, as it stands, I feel I should await my brother’s arrival.”

“Your bro- oh, Strat! I suppose letting him walk around Ol’val unsupervised would be, uhm…”

“Disastrous,” Timeros finished, just as Socorra piped up with “–really funny?”

“Uhm, that,” Koekie finished. “Anyone else have anything to add, or…like, can we go? I’m itching to stab something.”

“I’m sure there’s a cream for that.” Fet’a added with a smirk.

Revs looked from the napkin in front of him to the other Miraluka seated diagonally and to his left. “Well Maakz, want to go to the Besadi district and tear up the stripclubs and Casinos?”

K’tana let out a loud cough, drawing attention to herself before saying through gritted teeth. “Malikie, you have your orders and I expect you to start carrying them out immediately.”

“Apparently not,” the Miraluka smiled as he held up the napkin that clearly said “Aurek” in big glittery letters. “I cant see anything written on this.”

The Mystic glared at the Knight for a few seconds moving her jaw up and down, trying to form words and looking like a gasping fish. Suddenly, she slammed her face onto the table and burst into a fit of laughter.

“That’s right you’re blind!” K’tana laughed as she realized the issue. "OK Blindy. We’re goin’ into the ducts. I know you’ve got the whole area bugged with surveillance, so finding information on the target shouldn’t be a problem. Now get on it, I want updates!”

“Sure thing. As soon as I finish my drink.” The Assassin stated with a smirk as he looked over his glass. The Twi’lek, choosing to ignore him, turned to Maakz. “You will be going with him.”

K’tana then shifted her gaze to the Kaleesh.

“Ruva you will also be going into the Ducts. Everyone else, well I’m sure you can guess where you will be going. Any question?” The Twi’lek gave a sharp look around the table as all of her Gatekeepers nodded in acknowledgment.

Downing his drink, Revs stood up to leave the nightclub, only to be stopped by the cutting voice of Marick Arconae.

“Apprentice. I expect you to take out this Mark yourself.” The elder said in a tone that made the hairs on the back of Revs neck stand on end.

“Of course I will Master. When I’m done, I will come do your job too.” The Knight’s voice dripped with sarcasm even as he tried to still his hands from nervously shaking. “Come on Maazk. I’ve done this before. It’s easy. We find them and then send the Kaleesh in the front as we slip in the back. Let’s go find out who this guy is.”

The Shadesworn could hear his GateWarden behind him snickering. “Slip in the back, get it!?”

Marick Arconae blinked twice as he watched his apprentice saunter off. Behind the mask of Rick Alstot, his easy smile hid the disapproval of Revs’ arrogance. Confidence was good. Important, even, but too easily did it lead to rash thinking. And rash thinking was not of the Shadicar.

His mind actively took in the venue that K’tana had chosen as a meeting place. Despite his utter distaste for the establishment, she had chosen wisely. Without consciously registering the action, the Shadicar took note of the three potential exists, including the back door that lead to the storeroom. He glanced up and filed away the overhead ventilation system and the grates that covered the openings. He noted two undercover bounces disguised among the patrons, and had to tip an invisible hat to how the place was, in its own way, efficiently organized.

Shaking his head slightly, Marick turned to his remaining group. “Well, I guess we should get going. Shall we, ladies?” the Hapan asked casually as he rose slowly to his feet and took up his walking cane.

Socorra’s ruby lips quirked into a familiar grin as she laced her arm with “Rick’s”, pretending to help him rise. Rick nodded appreciatively and flashed a charming, aristocratic smile that caused one of the passing servers to nearly trip and spill her tray.

Showoff,” Socorra whispered harshly into the Hapans ear.

Rick shrugged so nonchallantly that it would have made a cat jealous. Socorra rolled her eyes. . Feta rose as well and stretched casually, her eyes attentively sweeping the room as if looking for someone she knew she would never actually spot. Marick tried not to think about who she was looking for, as he realized that was not a conversation he wanted to have anytime soon. Invictus was gone…

A flicker of light. White fur. Blood spilling into the coarse sand. Tears, agony, pain. Betrayal.

Marick blinked away the flashes of memory, jarred by Socorra’s words beside him.

“Tim, good luck finding Strat,” the bronze skinned woman said as they turned towards the exit. The Entar gave her a frank look, then met eyes with Rick and simply nodded. Marick, Timeros, and Socorra had been through hell and back together. Words were hardly needed as understanding passed silently beneath the steady, ambient metronome of the Thanatophilia speakers.

Kanis and Maa’ka did not seem to be paying attention. “Dralin” as he was known as on Port Ol’val’s underworld had apparently been dragged into a circle of dancers with his Fade tight on his heels. In a different time, the former Shadow Lord would have gone to retrieve the boy and reeled him in. That time had passed, however, and he did not have time to babysit. There was work to be done. Besides, the name ‘Dralin’ held thoughts that threatened to open old wounds that had long been seared away to distant memory.

This just left the unique looking member of K’tana’s gang. Hi-Tek and Koek, she had called them. Hi-Tek looked like he belonged in the “Lusty Lekku” and carried a natural swagger that let him blend in without much effort. He was armed in a quiet manner, which wasn’t to say he wasn’t packing heavily. Marick noticed the various bulges around his attire that marked his assortment of weapons and gadgets. The Shadicar trusted the man as far as he could see in a dark room, but knew he could, at the very least, be useful if things got messy.

“Right then,” Hi-Tek said, idly thumbing his nose and looking around at the group to make sure everyone was paying attention. “Yer all comin’ with me. Ya heard the boss, let’s get goin’.”

-=x=-

The streets of Port OI’val were familiar and alien at the same time. Marick had spent the majority of his efforts as an upcoming leader in the Shadow Clan working the Shadowport. It had been his task to integrate Arcona into the underworld economy, all without revealing the presence of a House of Dark Jedi. Some things had changed, and others hadn’t. Thus was the nature of active hubs. One store went out of business after losing the lease on their space and was replaced with another. Sometimes the change was good and other times it was bad.

Most members of the Brotherhood felt naked without their Lightsabers, but Marick Arconae was perfectly at ease. Maybe it was his a tribute to his ability to organically maintain his cover alias, but he almost seemed to be enjoying casually walking along the streets flanked by the first two women he had ever come to respect.

As they turned down a sidestreet that would lead them on the straightest course to the ‘Mines, Marick felt the hairs on the back of his neck prickle. Always in tune with his surroundings, the Shadicar casually stretched his sphere of awareness outward and spotted the tail.

“Excuse me ladies, ‘Tek, but I think I left something back at the establishment,” Marick said out loud, his voice carrying just enough to sound casual but projected enough that anyone listening from the alleys could hear as well.

Socorra quirked a brow, but Feta nodded her agreement. Hi-Tek met the Hapan’s eye and nodded.

Marick shuffled off, his cane tapping out a staccato beat as he melted into the crowd of passerbyers and out of view.

Hi-Tek, Socorra, and Feta continued onward, turning twice and crossing over an artificial bridge that arched over a crater. As they turned a third corner, they saw Rick Alstot leaning casually against a wall, a vibrant smile on his handsome face.

“Ah, ‘Rick. Nice of you to join us,” Socorra said with a wry smirk.

“Pleasure is all mine,” the Hapan said easily as he fell into step with the former Herald.

Hi-Tek blinked once and looked around, as if expecting someone to still be following. He managed to disguise the effort by stretching his corded shoulders and idly scratching at his side.

“Anyone else gunna be joinin’ us?” the gangster asked quietly as the group made their way to the entrance of the ‘Mines.

“Not anymore. Our friend had to cancel, unfortunately,” Marick explained, letting a sliver of disappointment creep into his voice.

“How did you even…”

“Shadicar,” Marick said with a wink.

Socorra and Feta exchanged sidelong glances and exchanged mental eyerolls.

Hi-Tek rubbed his hand over his face and just shook his head and muttered something about “Koeki and her crazy karkheads”.

Mks gulped down the last of the light, fruity liquid and coughed his appreciation. The bottle was one of many that the Miraluka had attempted to take, the barkeep eventually just handing him something to try with a sharp glance at K’tana. It had been the last thing he had paid attention to before the contents of the bottle had taken his full attention.

This caused confusion when he looked up.

He was moving through a stream of people, the faces usually contorted to the smell of human excretion and their temperament appearing to be closer to faeces than anything else. Directly in front of him, was a temperament that stood out and clearly was sensitive to the supernatural. The man in front turned his head to regard Mks for a moment, smile and turn back forward.

“I was wondering when you’d notice.”

“Err, where are we? And who’re you? And where is this?”

“Down by the Port. Have a man to see about some surveillance.”

“Ohh, who are we surveilling? Anyone interesting?”

The man turned to show a look of irritation, “Weren’t you paying attention at all-”

“What’s your name again?”

The man turned around to shake his head before answering over his shoulder.

“It’s Revs. I’m your Sergeant.”

“Ohhhh, I remember now. But wait, why are we the ones to go do surveillance work? I’m pretty sure everyone other than us is suited to it.”

Revs made a sound and Mks was sure he was blushing a little, “I have a contact. There’s a busy repair shop up ahead with a lot of equipment for us to use. Not to mention short, curvy and purple will be waiting for us there.”

They meandered down the boulevard for a time when a squabble of people began hurtling towards them. The Miraluka whisked themselves out of the way with ease, watching a small, wretched looking child run by with a small cloth sack. The crowd parted with little concern; it was clearly an often occurrence. But then a rather angry looking Sullustan parted the ground, carrying a rather heavy looking hammer and headed with speed in the location of the boy.

Revs shrugged to Mks but he wasn’t paying attention, “There’s often a few urchins around the Docks. Word is that there’s a small cadre of homeless and poor over in the next district, but when the amount of older members rises they kick out the young ‘uns to fight for themselves. Can’t be helped I gue- hey, wait! Where are you going?”

Mks slid back into the crowd with expressionless haste. He flicked up his hood and let the shadows of his face grow and swirl about his dull, ocular implants. The crowd parted much faster after that and he picked up his pace. The sides of the boulevard were filled with both occupied and run down establishments, the area obviously being unsafe to burglary and the likes. A flicker in the Force drew his eye to one particular worn down building and he quickly moved towards it, gently pooling telekinetic energy in his hands before jumping through the boarded windows. Everything exploding outward in the shop’s display room. A voice came from somewhere further inside and he stalked through it, face blank but jaw firm. He walked through an already open door and moved into what appeared to be an old storage room and immediately saw the Sullustan.

Rotund and glistening like a hog, he held the boy’s arm in one hand and brandished the cleaver high up in the other. it took some effort to appear breathless, but his body did as he commanded.

“You don’t speak basic.”

It was a statement rather than a question and the Miraluka looked unhappy about it. The Bullistan spat out some phrases as the Gray walked towards him casually, the cleaver lowering little by little. Mks regarded his emotions rather than his words: I was only going to hurt him a little and scare him so he doesn’t steal again.

With a slight gesture the cleaver flew from the wart-of-a-creature’s hand and into a far wall. Now he stood at exactly a heads distance away, eye to eye. It took all of a breath for the blob to crumple and apologise in it’s language and skitter away. It was only then did the Mystic realise how many children there were.

Behind the boy, who had begun to silently cry, were three others. One hid in the darkest part of the room wrapped in blankets, her red eyes staring fiercely at him. Two were side by side and shared a single blanket, their faces flushed by illness.

“You brought them food?”

The crying boy cringed at the sound of the question but nodded with fervor.

“Well done, that was very noble of you,” the boy’s eyes shone for a moment before he grabbed the bag and walked over to the two huddled together. Mks followed and looked them over. They were running fairly high fevers that looked like they would eventually claim their lives before spreading to the other two. They were just too weak to fight off anything, much less an adult Sullustan. Their potential suddenly became obvious when Revs entered the building rather carefully.

“What the frak did you do?”

“The Feng Shui was off. Heh.” Mks pointed down to the the children who were now recoiling at the sight of a new face. Revs looked at them and back to Mks. Mks looked at them and back to Revs.

“You can’t be serious.”

“Put it on the Erinos tab, I hear they’re a thing still.”

“But we’re with Qel-”

“Everybody’s someone to somebody -yadda yadda. I thought you were a Sergeant, brother.”

It was the ‘brother’ that did it and he brought out a braille pad to make notes of it.

“They’ll have to come with us to the shop.”

“Oh yeah, come on kids! Pack up your…yeah. C’mon, we’re going to improve your life 100 times over! And have those little carriers of pestilence cleaned and refreshed!”

Thankfully the children responded to his tone rather than his words and left for Malikie’s Repair Shop.

Had anyone ever worked up the courage to ask, Timeros would have staunchly denied that he was, in any way, obsessive-compulsive. Certainly, the Elder acted with a rigidity of purpose and method. Certainly, he enjoyed order in all things, and desired for all things around him to be easily classified into distinct category. And he most certainly desired a similar level of personal discipline from his subordinates in the Dajorra Intelligence Agency. He was not obsessive. Simply…thorough.

As such, when a man left his Selen City apartment building that day and found himself recognized on the way, a police surveillance team immediately reported the incident to the Agency. When the same man then filed an itinerary with Selen Space Control, taking a shuttle from the Citadel for his brief trip, another monitoring system sent a discreet alert. And, when the shuttle tripped a deep-space sensor system on its way to Ol’Val, Timeros’ datapad received its third and final confirmation.

It was, therefore, a surprise to no one - and least of all to the hapless traveler - that, when Strategos stepped from his shuttle, he found himself being awaited by a tall, lithe man, standing stock still on the launch pad.

“Ah,” the DIA’s Chief of Operations remarked, voice a whiskey-smooth baritone of characteristic nonchalance. “I see my porter is there. My bag is in the shuttle.”

Timeros raised an eyebrow at his fellow Elder. Strategos had changed little from when they had last met. Brown haired and brown-eyed, he was dressed casually, hiding a well-framed body, several hidden weapons and surprisingly few scars. He was smiling in what seemed to be slight amusement, but the blond Entar knew his fellow too well to be fooled; that expression may as well have been engraved on the Chief’s face. He was, perhaps, a little older than Timeros remembered but then - the Director recognized with a certain weariness - they had both been doing this for a very long time, indeed.

“Brother.” he finally remarked, voice clipped. “You did not bring any bags.”

“Good thing, too,” Strategos responded glibly. If he had noticed the espionage implicit in his fellow Arconae’s words, he paid it no heed. “You are looking more skeletal by the day. Have you considered my suggestion that you take up eating?”

“I do. You received my message?”

“Well,” Strategos glanced around the launch pad, eyes lingering on a mixed-species gang who were taking turns kicking at a cowering Rodian, “I’m certainly not here for a vacation. How is your latest student handling matters? ”

“She has things in hand, despite the limited information we provided her. Although she does seem quite enamored with one of the gangs.” Timeros turned on his heel, baleful aura parting the crowd around him. Behind him, the other man caught up immediately, falling in stride with the Director.

“I hear,” Strategos said softly, “that that is not the only thing she is interested in.”

Timeros did not so much as break his stride but, for an instant, the aura of fear surrounding him intensified, causing the crowd to scramble without knowing why, and prickles to crawl over his friend’s skin. When he finally managed to speak, it was a single phrase. “Who told you?”

“Timeros…” the Chief’s voice lilted with amusement, “a blind man could see it.” Seeing his brother’s hardening face, he hastily added, “which does not in anyway imply our Miraluka were the ones who told me.”

Slowly, the Director’s aura faded, until he finally nodded. “Nevertheless. We should make haste. I want to be present before the others.”

“Present…where?”

The taller man resisted the urge to shrug. “A place called the Lucky Lekku. We’ll wait for them there.”