- Atyiru #13486
- Turel #13830
- Uji #13561
- Kordath #13593
“Why, exactly, are you here?”
“Because a Consul is exactly where she means to be, exactly when she means to be there.”
“That’s not a frakking answer, you sonuvaban—”
“I swear to the frakking gods I will choke you with your own motherfrakking braid.”
“Don’t you ‘shimai’ me, kyodai! Lemme ask you real nice, what’s the frakking point of the Consul giving us a mission if she’s just going to do it anyway?!”
“Well, so I can have good company, of course,” Atyiru answered far too cheerily for the way she was strapping a medkit and saber to her frame.
Across the Command Center cabin, Satsi promptly pulled off her red jacket, balled it up, and screamed into the leathery fabric. Uji pinched the bridge of his nose. Their Miralukan leader, at the table’s head, tsked at them, holoscreens of calculations fluttering away as she waved her hand.
“Oh, hush! I hardly get to go on missions any more, all cooped up and Consuling in the Citadel—”
“That’s not a verb.”
“—and after so much Consuling I think I ought to get down in the trenches with my darlings again! Besides,” that cheerful tone disappeared, somberness chasing after it. Atyiru gave them all an eyeless stare. “Those are our people down there. It doesn’t matter if we don’t know them. It doesn’t matter who they are. The Dark Council expects all of us to go and slaughter them like we’re purging a disease — no. We have to save them. I will never turn my back on those who need me.”
The Fade soldier threw up her hands, but grumbled in acquiescence. “Suit your frakkin’ self, Atty, but don’t go foolin’ like we’re all heroes here. We’re doing this cause you’re pointin’.” Her eyes slid sideways, to her twin. “Well, and for some payback, eh, brother?”
Uji’s cool gaze glinted with a spiteful look, flashing between his sister and their formerly Krath Consul. “The Inquisitorus has a debt to the Obelisk and the Krath that needs to be paid back in kind. I intend to collect on that debt.”
“As you like, you silly Obby. Oh, wait.”
“Now, now,” the blind woman waved her hands again. “Enough doom and gloom. There’s no need for it. I don’t want us getting too serious. We have our mission in mind, and by Ashla and Bogan and the Force above, we are going to get in there, make some new friends, take them somewhere safe, and for once, FOR ONCE, be. Bloody. Happy. Understand?”
The siblings shared a sickly look and nodded.
“Good! Now, Nav station says we’re only a half hour out from Lyspair’s orbit. We’ll drop nearby and activate the cloak. After that, it’s a nice silent surface drop. Finish getting ready, and slap on some smiles. This is high risk, sure, but it’ll probably be fun! What mysteries await us, hmm? Come now! Off we go!”
Shadow Academy, Lyspair
“Shadows, all your sparkfinger planets suck.”
“Hey now, it’s very lovely a place.”
“I’m still certain it’s lovely.”
“It’s karkfrakkin’ ugly as the inside of a Hutt’s sewer, Pigtails! No wonder you all burned the other one to slag, my frakkin’ gods!”
“Ladies,” came their male compatriot’s quiet steel voice. “You do realize this is a stealth operation?”
“Sorry,” Atyiru mouthed over her shoulder, while Satsi merely made a universally understood rude gesture.
The trio paused in a derelict hallway, crouched behind some tumbled bookshelves that looked to have been used previously as barricades. They’d passed sentries and Inquisitorius agents on their way in, along with too many bodies.
Uji, silent as a shadow, paced over to the corner and looked out, cloaked in the Force. A moment later he moved back and dropped his guise, making a gesture to let them know the hall was clear. They advanced on quick, quiet feet, loose weaponry taped to their bodies and robes whispering across the dirty floor.
No more than a few meters down the passage, Atyiru stopped dead, head tilting towards a nearby door. Satsi nearly ran straight into her, snarling softly.
“Shh!” hissed the Miraluka, head tilting the other direction. “Do you hear that?”
“Ain’t hear nothin’—”
“Look, I can’t hear far as you sparkies an’ your frakkin’ space magic. You tell me.”
“Voices, I think. Scuffling. It’s actually very familiar…”
“I don’t hear anything either,” Uji murmured. “But it does smell…ugh…like rat.”
Satsi snickered. “It’s not nice to talk about Kordy tha’ way.”
“Talk about me what now?”
The Fade gave a startled scream that cut off as her brother slapped a hand over her mouth. The trio turned to find their fellow Arconan standing, somehow, right behind them.
“What are you doing here, Bleu?!” Atyiru exclaimed furiously, advancing on the Ryn. “Is this where you’ve been? You’ve been AWOL for weeks! Rollmaster my bloody backside! And why did you sneak up on us?!” The blue-furred alien flinched at the tirade, gave a shrug, and whistled through his chitinous nose.
“Old habits, luv. See, people don’t like me much here, heh, snatched me up, but I gots a bit of a stake in things, wanna keep me tail and all. Did some runnin’ and hidin’. Oh,” he said, and rubbed his hands together. “But guess who I found? Around here somehwere, he is, wanders off too much, looking for kiddies and things to save. Damned silly lighties.”
Nearby, Satsi groaned and dropped her head into her hands. “Oh, no, no no, please, frakking please, no.”
“Oh, what, didn’t you miss me, psychobitch?” came a painfully sarcastic call as a green-eyed Human in dark and nondescript, sturdy gear came sauntering out of the door they’d stopped by. He put one hand on a cocked hip and smiled at the rest of the group. “Nice to see you guys again, sort of.”
“Turel!” the Miraluka cried, throwing her arms around the Odanite Proconsul. The moderately consensual embrace gave the man pause, but he quickly hugged her back once he recovered. “What are you doing here, my dear?”
“Probably same as you, sista,” answered the Guardian. “Protect and serve, help the helpless. I got a tip on this location about some ‘undesirable’ refugees.”
Kordath, at the back of the rapidly-growing group, gave a lazy wave at that.
“You’re a frakkin’ paragon of your kind, Preacherboy,” Satsi scathed, glaring with hands on her pistols.
“And a pretty one at that.”
“Everyone,” Uji interrupted again, his expression looking less stoic and more like he was suffering from a migraine brought on by exposure to terrible idiocy. “We need to get out of sight and regroup. Atyiru, at the order?”
“Right, right, yes,” muttered the Miraluka, dropping her voice as she stepped away from Turel and Kordath, gesturing at the entryway from whence they’d come. “This room, it’s clear?”
Man and ratman nodded in unison. Atyiru tapped at her commlink. “Alright then, everyone in. We’ll go over party specifics — but first, I want the whole story. How’d you two get here? Why are you together?”
“Welllllll, luv,” the Ryn started as they all shuffled into what appeared to have once been a study room, soundproofed and full of mostly broken tables and chairs. “It went like this…”
Kordath righted a chair and sat down, patting at the jacket he was wearing until he produced a pack of smokes. Lighting one and offering one up to the group at large before lighting first his own, then Satsi’s. Turel waved him off, keeping an eye on the door even as he leaned against another table.
“So, it goes like this, yeah? They called me up cause of the whole ‘You’re a bloody Grand Inquisitor type’ and all that dosh, yeah? Figure maybe they got some kinda mission for me, like ya do. Instead I show up and three bloody idiots in armor try and jump me, sayin’ the Grandmaster don’t want ‘my kind’ abouts anymore. Racists.”
The Ryn took a pull on his cigarette as he rubbed his eyes. The Krath looked tired. “So I gets a move on, yeah? Lost ‘em in the tunnels here and found a bunch o’ refugees hidin’ out from the Inquisitorial folks. Bloody morons nearly tried to kill me as well till I got them convinced the same folks were after me.”
“Right, that’s what stopped them,” piped up the Jedi, still staring at the door with a little grin.
“I was gettin’ to that!” snapped Kordath. “Also Sorenn spoke up and said I was alright by him, apparently they’re more trustin’ of a Jedi then lil ole’ me, hrm.”
“How long have you been down here?” asked Uji, watching his friend nearly drop his cigarette as the Ryn’s head nodded towards his chest.
“Uhh, call went out a few weeks back, like Blinky said, I’ve been gone a minute, eh? Kinda lost track o’ time down here, been raidin’ the Academy commissary for foodstuffs for the poor blokes further down in the tunnels. We be waitin’ on our ride outta here, but we still gotta go and uhh…acquire the payment,” finished Bleu, glancing at his Jedi compatriot.
“Riight, payment.” The Odanite exhaled deeply in obvious discomfort at the thought of what acquiring the necessary payment would entail.
Uji cast a judgmental gaze toward the Jedi and Ryn. “What do you mean by payment?”
An awkward silence permeated the disheveled classroom as Bleu bit his lip and Sorenn sheepishly ran his fingers through his hair. Finally the Guardian cleared his throat and spoke, “We might have promised a Besadii cartel smuggler one hundred thousand credits to get us and the refugees off this rock.”
The sound of a metal chair sliding backward interrupted the Odanite as Satsi stood up abruptly. “One hundred thousand credits?! Did you hit your head in those tunnels, frakhead?” The Fade crossed the room in a huff, never breaking eye contact with Turel. “I don’t suppose you have the creds just sitting around in your offering plate somewhere?”
“We don’t have the creds on hand…exactly.”
“Oh, ain’t that just peachy.” Her hands unconsciously tightened into fists. “I’d say we could just sell you into slavery, but I doubt I’d get five creds for your scrawny arse.”
Bleu raised his left hand to block the advancing Fade’s path. “Simmah’ down now, Red, lightieboy got his fine sister on the line and she cut the deal for us. The Besadii guys were the only ones crazy enough to take this job.”
The Human female’s eyes narrowed as her piercing gaze shot to the Ryn. “Quiet, fluffnuts, or I’ll make you into a rug! I’d get a few more creds for that than I could for Preachaboy.”
“Hey! People would pay good money for this.” Turel punctuated his sentence by running his hands up and down his torso in a suggestive manner.
“Both of you stop!” the Shadow Lady scolded in a hushed tone that still conveyed authority. Once the room fell silent and the combatants pouted like whipped puppies, she continued, “Now I’m assuming you two had a plan to pay these smugglers.”
Turel lit up. “That’s the best part, we don’t pay them in credits. We pay them in artifacts from the Academy vaults.”
“Isn’t putting Sith artifacts on the open market dangerous?” Uji inquired flatly while covering the doorway Turel had previously vacated.
“All the really dangerous ones were taken to the flagship after the war, all that’s left is some powerless trinkets that collectors will pay a fortune for. We sell what we need and keep the rest.”
Atyiru tapped her lip in thought. “How do you plan on getting past the Inquisitors and into the vaults?”
The Jedi wrapped his arm around the Ryn and both gave their best roguish grins. “Trust us.” They said in unison.
The duo’s sales pitch was interrupted by Uji pulling his saber from his belt. “Looks like a three man patrol heading this way.”
The entire group fell into a smooth pattern, Atyiru moving to the back of the room, her breathing coming to a still pattern as she reached out through the Force. Satsi slipped behind the cover of a nearby table, drawing her blaster and aiming towards the door, staying near to the Consul. Kordath and Turel fanned out to either side of the room, the Ryn somehow managing to nearly disappear in the open, whereas the Jedi slipped closer to the door alongside his former Aedile.
Uji stayed near the door, mentally counting the moments down until the group would arrive at the doorway. The entire group tensed in preparation, the echo of footsteps drawing closer.
“Stop! They’re refugees! Inquisitors not far behind them!” Atyiru’s shout startled the entire party.
Turel and Uji moved in unison, both muttering simultaneous curses. Uji opened the door, allowing Turel to step out with a smirk and the comment, “Such a gentleman.” Then, the Jedi raised both hands, showing he didn’t have any weapons drawn and motioning for the refugees “Quickly, into the room, we can keep you safe!” Uji felt the Jedi’s use of the Force, persuading the three undesirables to stop They hesitated for only a moment before following the Proconsul’s command.
“Are you bloody kidding me, I told ya lot to stay downstairs!” Kordath scolded the three as he recognized them: the leader, a Chiss student of the Academy, led two former cleaning slaves, their arms full of what appeared to be rotting food and leftover scraps.
“Quiet!” Atyiru hissed, her concentration centered on tracking the incoming patrol.
Kordath pulled the refugees back, placing them behind what cover he could provide them within the confines of the study hall and placing himself between them and the doorway.
Muffled voices down the corridor alerted the rest of them to the location of the patrol. The sound of a doorway being breached caused each of them to tense as they heard another door crash open, closer this time as the Inquisitors searched for their targets.
“Sista,” Atyiru called in a soft, urgent tone, moving to the center of the room. “Why don’t you give the nice men with the hoods a view of four more corpses and four less targets, hmm?”
The Odanite crouched to one side of the door gave a two-fingered salute, a half-smirk creeping over his features. As they watched, Kordath and the refugees disappeared, replaced by more strewn rubble and some crumpled, nondescript alien bodies.
“Good. The rest of you, at the ready, but don’t attack—”
“You’ve got to be kidding—”
“Quiet!” hissed the Consul at the Fade as Satsi glared out from where she crouched. “Now come here and look discrete. Turel, you too. Uji, stay where you are. Now!”
The two Humans she had named moved to flank her as the Miraluka stood straight and tall, pulling up the hood of her cloak and draping it over the upper half of her face. A door very close by crashed open in the hallway. Uji stepped back into the shadows near the entrance, and there was a collective pause of breath.
The doors flew open, thrust by careless and cutthroat hands. A pale man in Inqusitorious robes blinked, appearing half-startled by the sight presented to him. He recovered quickly, though, straightening up as four fellows moved into the room past him, all armed with blade and blaster, executioner’s tools. A woman, Human like her comrades, stalked up and stopped several feet before Atyiru, sharp eyes sweeping the chamber, lingering on the ‘corpses’ before darting back to those she faced.
The four other Inquisitors fanned out behind the woman. She crossed her arms behind her back, thin lips pressing into a line. “What is going on here?” she demanded, tone lashing like a whip crack.
Atyiru smiled easily, gesturing around and speaking in a slow, syrupy tone. “Don’t worry,” she insisted, something powerful behind her words. “Lower your weapons. You were looking for undesirables, but there are none left here. Go. Move on. There is nothing here you need to concern yourselves with or remember.”
The woman, a Chief Inquisitor by her uniform, blinked slowly, touching her head, as her followers looked to her for direction, appearing confused. “There’s…nothing?”
“Yes,” the Seer murmured, stepping closer. She put a hand on the woman’s arm and gently pushed her towards the door. “Do not worry, there is nothing here. Forget this. Go. Just go—”
The shadows whispered near the door. A white pillar of flame erupted into existence with a snap-hiss and lunged for the nearest Inquisitor.
“UJI,” Atyiru cried. ”NO—”
Two men fell before she could even form the protest. Chaos, brief but bright, erupted. Turel’s illusion dissolved as he ducked away from a stray spray of blasterfire, his celestial saber in hand, while Kordath and the refugees gave a cry. Satsi launched herself at the startled Inquisitor woman, tackling her to the ground with hands around her throat.
And even as they all moved, so did Uji, cutting down the remaining men. Not three heartbeats had passed since the Miraluka’s cry, but the dead lay around them, faces contorted in the final vestiges of surprise.
“We need this one for anythin’?” Satsi asked into the stunned silence, looking not to the Consul, but her twin. Something passed between the pair, and a moment later, the Fade’s arms jerked as the Inquisitor’s neck snapped.
Atyiru stood perfectly still. Though she had no eyes, it was evident she was fixated on the Aedile staring grimly back at her. The tension was too thick for even a lightsaber to cut. Uji’s own blade deactivated, finding its home on his belt.
“You didn’t have to do that.”
“They deserve it. You can chain me for it later if you wish.”
“Kinky—” Turel started, and then stopped as his former clanmates both turned to him at once. He held up his hands. “What? Someone had to break the tension.”
“Or your teeth, we can break your teeth,” Satsi sniped, moving to stand by Uji as Kordath and the refugees came near. Atyiru sighed, rubbing her temples.
“It’s done, and we will address it when we’re all home and safe,” the Consul stated, dropping her hands. She grew quiet for a beat before turning to the Odan-Urr Proconsul. “You two were saying there’s somewhere we can go, down below? I propose we combine our resources and get these people out of here with your…smuggler friends…as quickly as possible. Before the reinforcements coming this way find this mess.”
Turel gave another quick salute to his former Consul. “We got this, sista. It just so happens I acquired a map of the old tunnel system from Solari before heading out. Bleu and I scouted an abandoned passage that leads to the surface.”
Resolved, they all arranged themselves in careful formation, directing the refugees to the middle of the group with Kordath, Uji and Turel taking the lead as Satsi and Atyiru brought up the rear. The party ventured on fear-quickened feet out into the hall, doubling back the direction from which the Consul and company had originally come and making a series of swift turns.
Two more hallways led them to a staircase to the basement level, and then down another corridor. They moved past a set of double doors carved with Sith runes when the Force-touched in the party all gave a jerk, just as those same doors swung open and a large cadre of armor-clad, masked Inquisitorius stepped out. A large man, nearly as tall as the entryway and bearing a familiar, enchanted dagger on his belt, stabbed a finger in their direction and shouted.
Without a word needed, the Arconans, Odanite, and refugees all took off sprinting in the opposite direction. With a many-throated roar, the zealots burst from the room and chased after them.
“STOP, NON-CANON SCUM!” shouted the mail-plated Inquisitor at the pack’s head. The group — those with eyes — shared glances.
“The…frak did they say?” questioned Satsi between breaths.
Kordath huffed, “Something about…'bout some lass name o’ Shannon?”
“None of the refugees are named Shannon,” called Turel.
“Of course you’d know that, Preacherboy.”
“Hey, I pay attention to ladies like a gentleman!”
“And here I thought that was just you admiring the latest fashions, prettyboy.”
"You’re just jealou—”
“SHUT UP AND RUN, YOU BUMBLEFLUFFS!” Atyiru screeched at the bickering pair while Uji sprinted at the team’s head in silence, the refugees still clustered in their center.
“QUIT CHASING US!” Kordath yelled tiredly over his shoulder at their pursuers. He panted, flagging behind. A gleaming saber swung close to his tail, and he yelped, wrapping it around his middle.
“YOUR PETITIONS OF PROTEST FALL ON DEAF EARS, HERETICAL SCUM!”
“AND GET SOME BETTAH INSULTS WHILE YOU’RE AT IT!” Satsi cried, slowing her run to grab onto their Ryn companion’s arm and drag him along, legs pumping. “Atty, can’t ya do something about this?”
The Miraluka made no vocal reply, but her jaw locked in concentration, and the group soon found themselves free of their burning lungs and aching muscles, the fatigue a muted note in the backs of their minds — still there, but ignorable. The hodgepodge party picked up their pace, gaining a few feet of precious ground on their zealous hunters.
“Sorenn, Kordath, do you know where we’re going?” Uji demanded, looking ahead to where the hallway they ran down split three different directions.
“Yeah!” the duo responded, nearly at the same time.
“Then take the lead. Kord, give us some cover, now,” commanded the former Obelisk, falling back as Turel moved to point.
“Bloody…” grumbled the Ryn, before he rubbed his hands together. “Aye-aye, Capt’n. Watch your eyes, kiddos!”
No sooner had the warning left his mouth than a blinding flash enveloped the corridor, turning scorch-marked stone and tattered banners into a silent white note of nothingness. There were cries from the group of Inquisitors behind them, and from the younger fugitives in their midst, but the Jedi, Dark and otherwise, huddled close and pushed on. A whisper in the Force sped their steps after their shepherding friends, turning hard around a corner and stumbling into a run as a tumult of colors flashed over their seared retinas. Only Atyiru, eyeless, remained immune, taking their Force-blind compatriot by the hand to guide her.
Kordath, squinting his black eyes, wove his way to the front, joining Turel as they ran and ran, quick and quiet. The sound of pursuit faded fast behind them, but every gaping doorway they passed, lifeless with the Academy’s students long gone or dead, yawned like an open maw, threatening to swallow them all.
We need to get below, the Arconan Consul murmured in all their minds. It’s not safe. Hurry up, lovelies.
“Do you know where we’re going, Fluffy?” shouted the redheaded woman from the back.
“Course I do, luv, now hows abouts ya keep it down before ya bring another patrol down on us!” called back Bleu from the front of the group.
The Ryn shook his head, taking the ‘Fluffy’ nickname in stride as he hoofed it down a deserted hallway. Whatever Atty had done to wash his fatigue away had helped keep the Ryn in the lead, his senses sharper than they’d been in days. He waved an arm over his head moments before ducking into a side passage, glancing back to make sure the refugees were keeping up.
“Are you well, Kord?”
“Yeah, Blinky, just felt a patrol that way, dinnae worry, I know where we’re goin’.”
“As long as you’re certain. It’s so dark down here I”m not sure anyone can find their way around,” stated the Consul.
Kordath waited a few heartbeats before glancing back at the Miraluka woman, taking in the wide, mischievous grin she was sporting. “Why do ya feel the need to do that, luv?”
“Just making sure you’re awake, dear.”
“Well keep sharp, Lady, the Inquisition’s been tryin’ to flush out anybody down below. Watch yer step, we’re going down this flight here.” The Ryn paused mid-speech to wave the group down a darkened set of stairs. “Like I was sayin’,” he began again as he pushed his way back to the front with Atyiru, “they’ve been tryin’ to flush out the folks down here. So some of the tunnels ain’t real stable, see? Blowing up supports and…and…oh kark.”
A flash of Force-driven insight caused the Krath to grab his Consul and pull her to the ground despite her protests. Behind them, he saw Uji take the cue and tackle the trio of refugees as the tunnel violently shook. One arm over his own head and Atty pressed to his chest, the Ryn waited for it to settle down. The sound of rubble crashing down around them began to die down after a few long moments. Coughing could be heard from the group as dust fell upon them in the eerily quiet aftermath, people helping one another up.
Kordath brushed at some dirt on his coat before attempting to help his Consul, who held up a warning finger that shook back and forth even as she grinned at him.
“Right, right, just tryin’ to help. Like I said, they’ve been blowin’ the kark out of everythin’ tryin’ to find folks.”
“Oh no, no no no,” they heard the Obelisk behind them start to mutter as he began digging at fallen rocks.
“Oh, kark me,” mumbled Kordath, running back to help.
“They’re fine,” stated Atyiru, head cocked slightly to the side. “Satsi and Turel are on the other side of the collapse, but Turry says they’re okay.”
The two Arconans collapsed on the heap of fallen rock to catch their breath. Kordath could sense relief from his friend.
“Tell the Jedi to keep his hands to himself,” growled Uji.
“Well, that’s fine, Turel knows his way around well enough. Let’s keep movin’, they’ll catch up. Come on then, the camp ain’t far ahead, but keep quiet, we don’t wanna spook ‘em.”
Dusty and paranoid, the group continued down the tunnel, Kordath leading them through several more side passages seemingly at random. Finally a light and some noise could be heard down one of the tunnels and the Force Sensitives of the group perked up, feeling life ahead. When they got closer, a group of people suddenly stepped into view, armed with scavenged blaster carbines, leveling them threateningly. Kordath and Atyiru both held up a warning hand to Uji, who glared at the pair of them for assuming he needed to be reined in.
“Till we got yer sister back in hand, mate, I don’t wanna take any chances,” growled the Ryn lowly before turning to the guards. “Oi! It’s Bleu! Brought home a few strays, how bout ya let us in now, eh?”
The men, who were of various species that had been put on Pravus’ kill list, parted grudgingly. Kordath watched as the trio of refugees ran off to rejoin their own family and friends, sharing out the scraps of food they’d managed to snatch. An elderly Quarren, stooped with age and skin darkened from lack of moisture, hobbled their way with a cane helping him along. HIs dark robes spoke of past work as a librarian within the very Academy he was now hiding in, the purple trim suggesting why he was among the refugees.
“Eh, Master Fiss, ‘fraid I didn’t bring any food back this time, mate. Ran into, uhh,” the Ryn paused, the gears in his brain churning as he tried to decide how to introduce the pair of Arconans. Officially, the Clan was among the forces hunting these people, he realized. “Friends of Sorenn,” he finished lamely.
“More Jedi?” garbled out the old aquatic librarian, hope and distrust warring clearly on his visage.
“Yeah, Jedi, they’re Jedi,” stated Kordath, bluntly. He felt disapproval from his Consul at the lies and glanced back at her.
It ain’t a lie, Blinky, just a bit o’ a stretch.
We’ll talk about this later, Bleu.
Aye, aye…wait where’s Uji goin’ off ta?
Atyiru turned to pursue the straying member of their little group, leaving Bleu alone with Fiss.
“Master Fiss,” he began, before the librarian waved a hand at him.
“I told you, Thief, call me Gol.”
“And I told ya ta call me Bleu,” muttered the Ryn. “Transport Sorenn arranged oughta be here by mornin’, I’m gonna have ta go off and collect the payment soon.”
“Distasteful as it may be to see you loot what I once called home, I understand. We must get off Lyspair post haste.”
“Aye, now I should go see what the angry lookin’ one with the lightsaber is on about before the blind one rips his ear off or somethin’.”
Turel opened his eyes to find his face firmly entrenched in Satsi’s bosom. Normally, he would have savored lying on top of a beautiful woman, but the ruby-haired Fade was no ordinary woman. Swift and terrible retribution was coming, even if he had saved her life in the collapse. He didn’t need the Force to sense her flash of anger as she realized the Jedi had landed on top of her after pushing her out of the way of a large chunk of ceiling.
“GET THE FRAK OFF ME, YOU SLEEMO!” Satsi exclaimed as she threw Turel off her with the force of a bucking nerf. She stood up, dusted herself off and pulled a small light out of one of her belt pouches.
The Jedi groaned for a moment as he had landed on a sharp rock. “That’s a fine way to say thank you.” He slowly rose and pulled out his lightsaber, bathing the tunnel in an amethyst glow.
“Thank you for what? Getting us separated? Great work, numbnuts.”
“For saving your life, you mean. You’re welcome.” Turel paused for a moment as he reached out to Atyiru through the Force. He shook his head and made a face as if someone had told him something repulsive. “Like I’d ever touch her,” he muttered quietly before regaining his composure. “The others are fine by the way…and Uji is worried about you.”
Satsi seemed to breathe a sigh of relief before walking up and smacking Turel on the back of the head. “Well quit standing around playing with yer glowstick and find a way to ‘em.”
The Jedi rolled his eyes. “If you’d just give me a second I could get my bearings.” The collapse had occurred just before a split in the tunnel, and the pair stood at the intersection pondering which way to go. Turel pointed his saber down each path in turn to illuminate them, looking for anything that seemed familiar. “We need to go left.”
“You’d better be sure.”
Turel smiled. “Guy with the map, remember.” Satsi huffed in response.
The pair took the left fork, winding tunnels slowly giving way to a durasteel reinforced chamber that was clearly intended for storage. Turel deactivated his saber as lighting fixtures strung throughout the chamber provided illumination. The room was a complete mess, with open crates and their contents left in disarray, clearly picked over.
The Jedi pulled a small datapad from his belt and examined it while studying the room. “Yep, we’re in the right place. The others should be on the other side of that door on the left wall.” The Arconan and Odanite traversed the chamber to the indicated door. Turel frowned. “Who shut this door? I’m pretty sure I’ve got the lock codes stored in here somewhere.”
“And if you don’t have the unlock codes in that magic map of yours?”
Turel patted the lightsaber on his belt. “We cut our way out, but that would be noisy and take a hot minute.” Satsi left the Jedi to fiddle with his datapad with a dismissive wave to explore the chamber.
A few moments passed with the Proconsul standing at the door, searching through the datapad while occasionally stopping to check the door panel for identifying serial numbers. “I think I have it.”
“Thank your bloody Force,” Satsi said sarcastically. “Any longer stuck with you, and I’d have to put a pistol between my teeth.”
The Jedi lowered the datapad and turned around with a fed up look on his face. “What exactly is your problem with me, anyway?”
“Besides the time you broke a bottle over my brother’s head?”
“Oh, come on, is that really all? You had your tongue down my sister’s throat.”
“And she tasted fantastic, which is a nice change from the bile I get in my mouth whenever you’re around.”
Turel looked, for a moment, like he’d be sick himself. “I really, really don’t wanna know.”
“You asked, Preacherboy.”
His hands subconsciously went to his hips in a defiant gesture. “No, pretty sure I asked you what your problem is — but then I remembered, you’re a parasitic psychobitch born of a vornskr.” He gave a faux sigh. “The tasty only runs on one side of the family, I guess.”
The Fade closed the distance between them in a few tense moments. Satsi gave an unhinged grin, meeting the Jedi’s annoyed gaze through her dust covered bangs. “Oooh, lookie, the pup’s got teeth. Finally done yip-yapping?” she scoffed, continuing, “My problem with you, Sorenn, is that I don’t frakking like you.”
“What’d I ever do to you?”
“Oh, sorry, sweetcheeks. Not all of us can share a womb. My bad.”
In less than a heartbeat, Satsi reared back and cracked a sucker punch straight to the man’s jaw.
In most instances Turel would have had enough warning through the Force to dodge the blow, but the woman caught him off-guard. She wasn’t trying to seriously injure him and didn’t bring her full strength to bear. Still, nursing a now-swollen lip, the Jedi got the message.
“You don’t know a single damn thing about me and him, so you shut your frakking mouth before I reach down your throat and rip your lungs out, you piece of Hutt slime,” she spat.
Turel lowered his hand from his face and moved his jaw around in an exaggerated motion. “I probably deserved that one.” His piercing gaze didn’t waver from the Arconan. “You never did give a reason why you seem to hate me so much.”
“You deaf as well as stupid, fraktrain? I said I don’t like you, big difference.” The ruby-haired woman scoffed at the Jedi. “If I hated you, you’d be dead.” Turel nodded thoughtfully then folded his arms, intent on receiving an answer. Satsi sighed. “I don’t like you because you’re a fake and a coward.”
“Excuse me?” Turel inquired with genuine surprise in his voice.
“You like to act self-righteous and pretend you’re this high and mighty Jedi. A big damn hero. But that ain’t you, not really. You come from frakkin’ dirt, Turel Sorenn. You think I don’t see it? I’m made of it. It stains you and it don’t ever come out. But you’re too much of a frakking wimp to face your poor little feelings and too desperate to hold onto this pretty frakking dream of the pretty frakking savior boy. The Jedi,” she spat the word, full of disdain. “Here’s the latest bloody holo! You ain’t. You ain’t no preacherboy. You’re a vigilante. You’re dirt, and you’re a knife, and you’re the guy that sees all the big bad in the world and makes it go away. No matter what.” The redhead leaned close, snatching his hand and placing it against her own throat. “You’re the guy that puts people like me six feet under and follows ‘em down. You AREN’T some peaceful, clean little monk, pissin’ his robes and preachin’ peace. But you can’t face that. You’re too afraid. You just keep on a’runnin’, but guess what, you can’t run from you. You can’t ever. And sooner you accept that, sooner you quit being such a damn coward, sooner you’ll make somethin’ real of your stained frakkin’ self - hero, killer, don’t matter. But til then?” The Fade scoffed and wrenched away, her face disgusted. “You make me sick.”
Turel stood silent as he carefully weighed Satsi’s harsh judgment. The truth of her words cut deeper than any blade. “You’re right about me, I am a coward. I do fear the darkness and hate what I was … what I am. I’m weak. I try and fail at the most basic parts of being Jedi.” He looked up to lock eyes with the ruby-haired woman.
Satsi could barely contain a look of shock on her face — she wasn’t expecting such a frank admission. “So why fake it? You said yourself you’re terrible at it. Just embrace who you really are.”
The Odanite’s gaze hardened on the Fade. “I said I try and fail, but I won’t ever give up. I can’t. I can’t go back to those days.” Turel’s voice cracked and he had to avert his eyes for a moment. “There was no doing what I had to, there was no greater good, there was only evil things done for evil men in the service of greed and a lot of people got hurt by my hands who didn’t deserve it. You know the worst part? Part of me loved it, the fear I inspired in others, and the power that gave me. It was intoxicating.” He took a deep breath, waiting for a reply that never came, so he continued. “I see them you know, in my nightmares. Every single person I hurt … You spend a few years trying to drown out the ghosts of dead children by chasing the bottom of a whiskey glass and tell me how not scary the darkness is.”
“They don’t ever drown, pretty eyes. They can’t. We already did that to them ourselves.”
“Well, I’ve got enough of em’ following me around. I’m not about to let these refugees join them, not while I can do something about it.”
“Anyway," She shook her head and turned away. “Get that door open, Sorenn. I ain’t staying stuck with you any longer than I have to.”
“That was unnecessary and dangerous, Uji Tameike! We are here to save people!” Atyiru’s scolding tone was akin to that a schoolmarm speaking to a child.
“You asked me to come here knowing my intentions, Atyiru. I made them clear before we ever left Selen.” Uji kept his back to the Consul, ignoring the all too familiar disapproval covering her features.
“You truly find it so easy to endanger children and your clansmen?” The smaller woman crossed her arms, the presence of the Consul filling the room. The nearby refugees backed away as the Miraluka’s displeasure permeated her surroundings.
The Aedile took a calming breath, biting back the immediate response that came to mind, knowing better than to give her any additional reason to be angry. Turning to face the diminutive leader of his entire Clan, he forced himself not to smile at her appearance.
“While I trust in your talent, Atyiru, what would you have done if any of the Inquisitors had recognized and remembered us? The Con-”
“Quiet!” Atyiru’s tone silenced the older man without hesitation, her irritation exerting itself as she unintentionally bent his will before her, her strength within the Force forcing his compliance immediately.
“Really, you two?” Kordath’s voice cut through the surrounding quiet that had filled the hideout. Master Fiss and Bleu were the only two remaining standing, the other refugees finding any excuse to pretend the two quarreling Jedi didn’t exist. The Ryn and his Quarren companion were looking at the both of them incredulously.
“Mommy and daddy are fighting again!” whined what appeared to be a Kaleesh child from a makeshift hovel. His nearby guardians quickly hushed him. Atyiru scowled, eyebrows scrunching as she fumed, turning in time to sense Uji slipping out of the doorway and into the corridor beyond.
Following him out, he only managed a few steps beyond the doorway before she caught hold of his wrist, forcing him to turn and face her. “Uji! Where do you think you’re going?” she demanded, her prior compulsion finally wearing off.
“Satsi is out there with a handsy Jedi surrounded by psychopaths dedicated to the Grand Master’s Inquisitors. In case it slipped your mind, that cave-in could have been rigged, in which case every Inquisitor in these tunnels will be converging here!” Atyiru knew immediately that the Aedile’s anger was an attempt to mask the intense worry he was feeling.
Squeezing his hand for a moment in sympathy, she nodded, a smile returning to her lips as she tried not to worry in return for her friend. As she began to respond she was interrupted by their remaining companion.
“Sorry, mate, much as I’d enjoy letting you run off to get your saber wet… I think you’d be betta off with me leading ya upstairs — and ya know the two of us can’t get anywhere without drawin’ attention.” Kordath stepped out of the hideout to catch up to them.
“Bleu, you don’t really have the right to make that deci-”
“Rollmaster nowadays, mate, I outrank you in case you forgot.” The Ryn’s grin grew as he watched the war of responses play across his friend’s face.
“With your leave of course, Blinky.” The two turned to Atyiru to receive their orders.
The Miraluka woman sighed and rubbed her forehead before throwing both hands up in the air. “Fine! Find your sister and Sorenn,Uji. Kordath stay out of trouble.”
“Oi, when do I get in trouble?” asked the Ryn, giving the woman a lopsided grin. Atyiru’s lack of response as she stalked off towards Master Gol Fiss was enough to cause Kordath to tug at his collar and glance at his friend. Uji simply shook his head and turned to head into the tunnels. Bleu shrugged and scampered off after him.
A few minutes of tense silence followed as Kord waved at the occasional passageway entry to take. The Krath glanced at his comrade every now and then, noticing the stalking manner he walked with and the set of his shoulders.
“You’ve gotta cool down, mate, or yer gonna get in trouble,” he said quietly.
Uji glared at him, saying nothing.
“Seriously, Satsi ain’t gonna be helped by you goin’ off and gettin’ yerself stuck with some Inqy’s saber, eh?”
More silence followed, Kordath checking his mental math, noting the little marks here and there on the walls that he’d left over the past week of plotting.
“So…” he began again.
“I’m fine,” growled the Obelisk.
“Right right, not going on about that again, was gonna pitch an idea is all. Ya know how well me stories have been doin’?”
“The Blind Chicks serial you’ve been putting out? The one Atyiru keeps threatening to flay you over?”
“Hey now! I’ve said more than once, haven’t I, that the Miraluka woman in that ain’t based on her!”
“You say that sober, yeah.”
Kordath paused for a few moments, the pair walking in silence. “What do I say when I’m drunk? Ya know, don’t worry about it. Thinkin’ about doin’ a new story about an ex-ganger guy and a female Jedi, what ya think?”
“Bleu, do not start writing smut stories about my sister,” said Uji with a sigh.
“Well now, I’ll admit certain similarities, aye, but…”
“Fine,” said the Ryn with a pout. An intersection up ahead caught his attention, causing him to reach over and place a hand on Uji’s arm.
“You head on left and you’ll find where their patrols are gonna be comin’ in from, mate.”
“I’m looking for Satsi, not—”
“Don’t bother tryin’ to put that load past me, mate, you’re out for blood with this lot. I get it, your Order was important to ya. Satsi is with Sorenn, he’ll be fine…I mean she’ll be fine. Whatever. I’m headin’ to the storerooms. Be careful, eh?”
Kordath turned and headed through the passage opposite of Uji’s, leaving the Obelisk standing in silence. Now stealth became more of a necessity as he crept down the darkened tunnels, senses sharp. He tried to ignore the crawling sensation of fatigue in the back of his mind, the feeling between his shoulder blades that said go lay down for two days of rest. Whatever Atty had done to refresh the tired Ryn had reenergized him, but he knew it was temporary. With a sigh he closed in on a storeroom he’d scouted out earlier in the week with Turel, one they’d determined could pay off the Hutt ship coming to get them.
Pausing near the end of the tunneled-out hallway, he closed his eyes and reached out with his mind. He let a small smile show on his tired face as he sSensed nothing within the chamber before finding himself leaning against one damp wall of the tunnel. Shaking his head as a wave of dizziness passed over him, Bleu grunted and pushed himself back up.
More bloody exhausted than I thought.
Kneeling, he felt about in the dark corner near the entrance until he came up with a sack that he’d stowed there prior. Opening it, he pulled out the few bags that were within and entered the storeroom, whistling slightly as he surveyed the piled up crates and boxes covered in dust. Pushing off the lid of one old wooden box, he began pulling out contents and stuffing them in bags: scrolls, idols, random small boxes of strange design. He and Turel had checked around the room before and found nothing that would be of real use to a Force-user, but to a collector? If he didn’t feel indebted to Sorenn, he might have debated trying abscond with as much of the junk as he could and making a go at it alone.
Sticking bags filled with ancient Sith and Krath relics into the bigger sack, he slung it over his shoulder and gripped the end with both hands. Walking back out of the room, he began to retrace his steps, heading back to where he’d split off from Uji. As he neared the intersection, he heard the sounds of blaster fire and shouting from where the Obelisk had gone. Kordath paused, leaning himself forward a bit to peer into the dark tunnelway. A new sound came echoing down the corridor.
“Sounds like…” the Ryn began to mutter to himself before a bright, white light came blazing out of the shadows. “Runnin’. Sounds like runnin’.”
Seconds later a blur of hair and dirt that Kordath thought was a little Human girl ran past him at full tilt. The confusion was evident on the Ryn’s face as Uji came running out of the darkness, saber in one hand, a little boy in the other.
“What the frak, mate?”
“No talk! Run time!” shouted Uji, grabbing Bleu by his coat and pulling him along after him. Kordath adjusted his grip on the sack and began trotting along after the Obelisk with another exasperated sigh.
“Bloody blasted bantha-brained bumblefluffs,” Atyiru muttered to herself, flashing a reassuring smile at a Rodian refugee, little more than a boy, guarding the camp entrance. One she’d moved past him, her scowl returned. “Don’t you know you never split the karking party?! Ugh. Every single time. If it’s not brooding and dramatics and cutting off each others’ bits, oh, it’s chaos and a crazy field day! Ashla and Bogan grant me patience—”
“You should watch your language, girl.”
The Miraluka paused in her step, head swiveling to turn her ear to the voice, dry and scratched with old wisdom like a piece of parchment. It did not, as time and familiarity had led her to expect, have a simple, wry blub to it, and she felt her heart squeeze for the allies like Trouty they had lost over the last year. She tucked the old ache into her chest like a babe and summoned up a smile, dipping her head to the elder.
“My apologies, my friend. My frustrations are getting the better of me. I just want to see us all out of here safe and unharmed.”
“No one will leave here unharmed, youngling,” rasped the Quarren, nodding briefly to a Zabrak boy waiting by his tent. “Kjoi, go help your mother finish reloading the blasters and eat something. Cold rations. We move at a moment’s notice, remember it.”
“Yes, Master Fiss,” said the child, smudging dirt from his cheek and rushing off.
Fiss turned back to Atyiru. “Going to lose a father, that one. Man has a limp from a shot leg. He’ll be left behind or trampled. The mother knows it. She does not cry. Bah.” He smacked his chapped, thin lips, sending his face-tentacles in a flopping rustle. “Too dry here for any of that. Too dry at all.”
The Seer reached out, grasping his wrinkled arm. “We’re not leaving anyone behind. We’re going to save all of you, on my gods I swear it. I’m a healer. Take me to that boy’s father and any other wounded or infirm you have, now, before we lose any more time.”
The Quarren grumbled, a sound like stirring pebbles on a beach. “There, at the camp center, in the hut with the blue tarp…” She could hear his disgruntled frown. “Hmph. Come, I’ll take you. Do what you will, child, but keep your foolishness quiet. We know what we face, and we needn’t your idealism now, just your ship.”
“Respectfully, Master Gol—”
“Respectfully, Master Fiss,” Atyiru began as they started walking, offering him her arm for support that he might let her carry his cane. He leaned against her heavily, his grip on her wrist vice-like, the suckers on his flippertips sealing with a hiss. “I know what we face, and I know we’re going to get through it. It may hurt more to hope and to care, but you must never stop caring.”
The man shook his squid-like head. “‘Care?’ Child, I have served this order, in this Academy, for forty-six years. Twelve years before that, I watched everything I knew, comrades, allies, worlds, go up in flames under the Empire’s creed. I was already old then, an old clerk the younglings and Padawans borrowed their holos from when they came to study. I watched generations of them grow.” His voice grew brittler. “All of it, purged. And now again it happens. You do not have eyes, girl. You will never know what it is to gaze into the mirror and see a corpse looking back. To know that you are nothing, as they have made you so.”
They stopped before a tent that smelled like sickness. Atyiru felt the pain from within, a tumult of agonized and frightened lights huddled in the underground dark. She swallowed, then exhaled a deep breath.
“I can’t know all that you’ve witnessed, Master Fiss. But what I can do, and what I’m going to do? Help these people. We’ll get you to safety. Out of the Antei system — out of the Grand Master’s reach entirely. You and everyone here.”
The Quarren carefully peeled his aged flippers away from her arm, quiet with consideration. Finally, he shook his head.
“You and your thieving companions and these other children all should go, young girl, but I will not. I left my home once, and I will not do it again, even as it turns against me. The Inquisitors may hunt all they like. My knowledge and I will remain like all old things do. You go your way in the Force and I will take mine.”
The Miraluka sighed and then smiled. “My parents taught me to always respect my elders’ wishes. Perhaps unfortunately, the galaxy could only corrupt that so much. Don’t think I won’t try to persuade you otherwise.” She patted the medical kit on her back. “For now, though…I need any boiled water and cloth you can spare. Maybe some assistants in the children. We’ll get this camp raring and ready to run by the time the others are back.”
She thought of Kordath and Uji running off, and of Turel and Satsi’s separation, and felt her gut churn. I hope…
“Hah!” cried the Jedi, a smirk spreading wide across his features as the locking mechanism in the door gave a click in response to the keycode his datapad had offered. “There, you see?”
“Congratulations, you can read!”
Turel turned around, arms crossed, and gave a half-shrug. “One of many skills. I even open doors for ladies…if one is present.”
The redhead glared, shoving past him hard enough to bruise, and reached to open the door herself. “Don’t sell yourself short, sugah. You’re a very pretty girl—”
Her insult died in her throat as the portal slid open, her eyes widening. The Odanite glanced ahead, gaze landing not on a welcoming refugee camp or the yawning mouth of another tunnel, but a solid sheet of stone, the same immovable gray as the rest of the rock under the durasteel around them.
A beat of shock passed.
“ALL THAT KARKING MONOLOGUING AND THIS ISN’T EVEN THE WAY OUT?! DAMMIT, SORENN!"
“HOW is this my fault?!”
"You HAD THE MAP!"
“I didn’t make the damn thing! It’s not on me that some stoopa decided to put in a door that doesn’t go anywhere.”
“That door is gonna go through your skull if you don’t get to fixin’ this sithspit!”
“What do you expect me to do, psycho?”
“Cut through it, ya moron! What good are you frakkin’ sparkfingers and your laser blades if you can’t use ‘em for anythin’ besides compensatin’?!”
“It’s stone, and who knows how thick? Lightsabers don’t work that way. You live with a bunch of Dark freaking Jedi, sweetcheeks. Pick up a holo sometime,” he paused, taking a hand off his hip to place it on his chest in a faux gesture of sympathy. “Oh, I’m sorry, I know I can read, but can you? We should get you some help for that.”
“We can get you some help for removing my boot for your a—aaaargh,” growled the Fade, slamming a knuckle-popping punch into the rock half an inch from his head. “Frak this. Frak you, an’ frak your map. I’m getting out of here and finding my brother.”
Satsi spun on her booted heel and stalked back the way they had come. Turel found himself watching appreciatively for a moment before his eyes moved back up to meet a glare trying to burn holes through him. She snarled over her shoulder and stomped off.
Eesh, if looks could kill, thought the Jedi, sighing over their situation and looking back at his datapad as he paced after the woman. He raised his voice, calling, “We had better head back and take that other intersection around to— YOUCH! Holy sithspit, you psychotic koochoo! What the hell?”
The Human stuck his seared fingers in his mouth and looked between the smoking remains of his datapad on the floor and the blaster in Satsi’s hand.
“Frak. Your. Map,” repeated the redhead, holstering the weapon and moving away.
“You’re insane,” fumed the Jedi.
“Walk or talk, frakjack.”
“Oh-ho, believe me, crazy, I can do both. I’m quite the multitasker.”
“So that’s how you manage to look and talk like an idiot at the same time. Shadows, what a revelation.”
Turel’s lips peeled back in a sneer as he unclipped his lightsaber and thumbed it to life, lifting the magenta flame high to light their way as he trotted after her, into the unknown.
Waiting a few moments as the Ryn walked away, Uji ensured that he could no longer see the Krath before moving in the opposite direction. The Shadow’s movements were nearly silent as he navigated the tunnels, stopping frequently to listen for any sound of Inquisition patrols. Each turn lead him further into the sewers as he searched each tunnel for a way to circumvent the cave-in and make his way back to where they had entered.
Not wanting to give his presence away with a stray light source, his progress felt like that of a snail’s. He had to stop and wait at each intersection, hesitating, as each alcove or corner could hold an ambush waiting for him. Uji’s past gave him a considerable amount of experience hunting his prey — he found, however, that when his prey was hunting for him, it took a significant portion of the enjoyment out of things.
The Arconan stopped for a moment as he heard sound ahead of him, the echo coming from around a curve in the tunnel. Moving slowly to avoid any refuse or any of the debris scattered throughout the vicinity, Uji crept to the edge of the bend, peering around the corner to find three forms standing over two children huddling within an alcove. The robes of an Inquisitor cloaked the woman in the middle, while the two guards accompanying her wore uniforms denoting the Clans from which they had been acquired to serve the Inquisitorius.
“Where are they hiding, you little bastards?!” The older of the two children, what appeared to be a girl, screamed as the Inquisitor delved into her mind, the Seeker tiring of questioning the two. The Arconan sensed as she began resorting to the use of the Force to pull the answers from them.
Uji moved without thought of the matter, his pace quickening as he drew closer though his footsteps remained barely noticeable until the last second. The woman turned, the light her guardsmen held illuminating her look of surprise as he leapt between the two escorts, his palm striking out, catching her flush on the upper left cheekbone. He felt the crunch of bone and cartilage as she crumbled.
He landed within striking distance of his other targets, sensing the first’s attempt to raise and fire his weapon. Uji pivoted in place, a series of precision strikes landing on his next target, each blow striking a nerve to send the man stumbling back before he collapsed.
“Look out!” the little girl shouted just before the sound of an E-11 thundered throughout the cavern.
The shots covered the distance before he could react, a momentary panic settling in as he prayed. His will manifested, the translucent shimmer surrounding him as he felt the bolts absorbed through the Force. The guardsmen, to his credit, barely hesitated for having expected to see the Dark Jedi fall, though it was enough for Uji to draw and activate his pale white saber, One strike separated the man’s arms from his torso, the next silencing him before he could scream.
“Traitors… in the tunnels… send… reinforcements.” The Inquisitor held the communicator in her hand, hesitating as she witnessed both of her men fall. “Arc—” The younger child sprung forward, a rock slightly larger than his fist crashing down into the Inquisitor’s face, once, twice, again and again until his sister pulled him away as he began to cry.
Uji’s heart raced as he realized how close he had come to ruining everything. The two children held onto one another, terrified. Neither of them appeared teenagers yet, but their forms showed signs of their training. Through the layers of dirt and dust, they seemed unharmed.
The communicator continued beeping, the signal being sent to reveal their location to every Inquisitorious in the compound. Damn it, Satsi where are you?! Uji mentally growled as he realized he would have to turn back now.
“Can you two run?” His voice hushed their whimpering for the moment as the girl turned to look at him.
“We were looking for Master Fiss, but I had to find my little brother first. He got lost and hurt himself. I can carry him though!”
Uji shook his head as he sheathed his lightsaber and reached down to lift the boy, a look of concern crossing both children’s features as he separated them. “Do you know the way? We need to hurry. I will take care of him, but if I tell you to take him and run, you do so without question, understood?”
Further down the tunnel he heard the sound of booted footsteps approaching, many footsteps approaching. Without any further hesitation, the girl began running, her shorter legs pumping as fast as they could while doing everything she could to avoid tripping. Uji followed, measuring his pace and keeping himself between her and their pursuers.
“Hold up,” Turel whispered as he and Satsi rounded a corner down a durasteel hallway. “There’s a small group nearby, might be soldiers, I can’t tell. All mundane.” The ruby-haired Fade cocked her eyebrow at the less than flattering term for non-Force users. “You know what I mean.”
The sound of rustling and shouting emanated from around the corner. “Someone’s coming, get that E-Web hot!”
Frak! the Jedi thought as he unconsciously gripped his unignited saber tight and threw his free arm across his unwilling companion’s chest to push her against the wall.
Satsi slapped Sorenn’s arm down. “Keep your hands off me, frakker,or I’ll cut them off,” she seethed through gritted teeth in a low voice.
The Jedi didn’t even have the time to fire off a witty retort. His mind raced as he heard soldiers scrambling into position just around the corner. There was no other way to get back to the others — they had to go through this junction. He needed a plan though. Taking on a heavy repeater like an E-web head on was near suicide, even for a Jedi. The volume of fire was simply too high, especially in such tight quarters. They’d have to sneak by somehow. “I hope they don’t have a droid with them,” the Sentinel muttered under his breath.
“Whatcha talkin’ about? Can’t we just go around them?” the Fade inquired in a whisper.
Turel turned around. “No this is the only way I know. If only someone hadn’t destroyed our only map.” He punctuated his last sentence with as much venomous sarcasm as he could muster without raising his voice.
“Very funny, Preacherboy. Well, what then? We can’t sit here all day.”
The Jedi flashed his trademark roguish grin. “Trust me, I have a plan.” Ignoring a very skeptical look from the Arconan, the Odanite continued, “It’s simple, we walk past them.”
Satsi had to stop herself from raising her voice. “That’s your brilliant? You really are a frakin’ moron.”
Turel held up a hand for the Fade to be silent. “Look, just follow my lead, okay. Now I need a high ranking Inquisitor, but not too high ranking, someone recognizable.” He stroked his chin thoughtfully for a moment before suddenly raising his index finger and raising his head in a eureka gesture. “I got it! Quick, turn around for a second.”
“Turn around? Are you mental?”
“Just do it, I need to test something.”
The Arconan exhaled in resignation before complying. “Fine.” She spun around to face the hallway they had just cleared.
“Annnd turn around.”
When Satsi faced where Turel had been standing she almost broke the silence at what she saw. Instead of the familiar and very male Jedi she saw an olive-skinned Human female with shoulder length black hair accented with a single lock of deep violet on her left side. The strange woman before the Fade was seductively beautiful, wearing what could generously be described as tabard shaped robes that left most of her chest and legs exposed and with thigh high boots, all in matching lavender leather and silk.
“So, how do I look?” the purple woman inquired in a smooth, feminine voice as she pressed her breasts together to enhance the outfit’s already revealing cleavage.
“Frak you, Sorenn, this isn’t time for your stupid mind games!” Satsi hissed. “Who the hell are you supposed to be anyway in that outfit? Only a horny idiot like you would dream up something that absurd.”
Turel’s new female form pouted in a mocking fashion. “Aw, don’t you find me appealing? I’m Chief Inquisitor Roh.” His voice a near perfect pitch for his Di Plagia nemesis.
Satsi bit her lip, playing along. “Well, you are a little easier on the eyes like this. I don’t feel nauseous every second I look at you.”
“Follow my lead, sweet thing, and be ready to attack if things get too…naughty.” The disguised Jedi walked back to the corner swaying his hips with a feminine grace that accentuated every curve of his chosen form.
“You are almost too good at this, Preacherboy.”
“You there, guardsmen,” Selika’s voice thundered with authority around the corner. “Stand down, I’m passing through this checkpoint.”
Turel sashayed around the corner under cover of his Force-powered deception and stood facing down four crimson-armored soldiers of the Grand Master’s guard with all the trademark royal presence of the Plagueian. “I am your superior, whelp, and if you impede me I shall have your entire squad flayed.”
“Chief Inquisitor Roh…I wasn’t aware you were on Lyspair…I—”
Turel cut off the bumbling guardsmen. “That’s because you didn’t need to know of my mission. Now lower your weapons. My servant and I are coming through.”
“Servant?” Satsi hissed. “When this is over I’m going to throttle you.”
Turel motioned for the Fade to follow and almost floated down the corridor toward the checkpoint, exaggerating the femininity of every movement. He couldn’t see the guardsmen staring under their mask, but he could feel their growing lust. I should do this more often, he thought as he approached. The stronger the soldier’s desire grew, the more their minds wanted to believe the lie the Jedi was feeding their senses through the Force. He and Satsi glided behind the E-web position — it was almost too easy.
“Guardsman, I need you to move this position down the hallway I just came from. There’s a storeroom I need you to secure.” Normally Turel would have pushed at the squad leader’s mind through the Force to urge him to comply, but maintaining the illusion for all the soldiers was taxing his full concentration.
“I’m sorry, Chief Inquisitor, but we have orders to hold this position to keep the undesirables from attempting to flee.”
‘Selika’ tapped the squad leader’s chestplate. “I don’t care what your orders were, I’m giving you new orders.”
The soldier hesitated for a moment as the increasingly irate woman in front of him glared. “You heard the Chief Inquisitor, pack it up!”
I can’t believe that worked. Turel regained his composure. “Come along, slave, we have work to do.” Satsi fell into line behind him, rage giving way to genuine respect that the Jedi was pulling this off.
Just as the Odanite thought his plan was working, a tarnished silver protocol droid bumbled out of an adjacent room. “Sergeant, I have finished searching the databanks as you requested and—” The droid’s rambling was cut short when he nearly ran into Turel. ”Oh dear, who is this gentlemen? I’m afraid I don’t recognize him.”
“Gentlemen?” the squad leader’s confusion gave way to intense scrutiny as he gazed directly at Turel. The facade was crumbling. “You’re not Chief Inquisitor Roh!”
Turel shrugged as the connection to the four guardsmen slipped. “Uh, surprise.” He shoved the droid out of the way and dove into the dilapidated classroom the automaton had just exited. “I think we’re busted!”
Satsi gave no reply as she pulled out her talon knife and, with a continuous motion, drove it between the collar bones of one of the two guardsmen disassembling the heavy repeater with a splash of hot blood shooting onto her face. The unaware guardsman collapsed to the ground with a yelp of pain as the Fade lept off him and tackled his dumbfounded partner, initiating a rolling struggle amidst a pile of E-web parts.
The squad leader and remaining guardsman had chased after Turel before Satsi attacked. The Sentinel had flipped a desk on his way to the back of the ruined classroom to form a makeshift barricade in case he needed it. A cloud of dust disturbed by the shifting furniture and debris nearly choked Turel. He pulled out his lightsaber and ignited the lavender blade as he waited for the inevitable reprisal.
The junior guardsman rushed into the room first with an E-11 blaster at the ready, firing wildly at the Jedi. Turel flicked his blazing amethyst saber in a snap series of motions which deflected the guardsman’s errant bolts with tight saber orbits. One of the deflected bolts caught the hapless newbie in the right side of the torso, sending him spinning to the ground.
Within the span of two heartbeats the squad leader burst through the doorway behind his fallen subordinate. He paused for a moment to examine the smoking hole in the now deceased soldier. Turel could feel the squad leader’s rage reach a slow crescendo. The crimson-armored guardsman calmly threw his rifle aside and pulled a Force pike from off his back. He ignited the melee weapon and twirled it around with elaborate flourishes in a display of martial skill.
“TRAITOR!” the soldier cried out as he brought the pulsating energy pike to a halt into a ready position, a clear challenge to the Jedi.
Turel’s stance visibly relaxed as he rested his free hand on his hip with a look of mocking disbelief on his face. “You can’t be serious. Wow. I just can’t even right now. You’ve been watching too many holovids, bro.” He started to chortle at his opponent’s superfluous display.
The squad leader let out an angry war cry and charged toward the Jedi. Before he could take two steps, the roar of a single slugthrower shot stopped him in his tracks. The guardsman slumped forward with the last of his momentum, dead.
“Hey! I had him!” Turel exclaimed at Satsi who calmly blew the smoke off one of her pistols before holstering it.
A taunting smile crept across the woman’s now blood-splattered face. “We don’t have time for your little dick dance or whatever it was you were doing. I’m going to find my brother and your refugees — are you coming with me or not?”
The Jedi deactivated and holstered his saber. “Fair enough, let’s go.”
She felt it in the back of her skull, in the very fabric of her bones. It rose like the tide of a ship slowly sinking, waves breaking, washing away her colors. She could feel the shadows all around her as the depths swallowed her whole, pitter-patting little dances around and around inside her head, slithering their little bodies down her spine — little shadows of drowned children, crawling through memories turned to seashells and sinking their fingers into sloughs of pink flesh.
They chattered, anxious, so very, very anxious, whispering some secret to her.
“They’re coming,” Atyiru whispered to herself, a chill settling in her skin.
“What, mum?” asked the young Cathar girl that had been following her with a bowl of water and rags.
“…nothing,” said the medic, standing abruptly. “Kikia, go find Master Gol, right now. Tell him it’s time to go. Now!”
Wide-eyed and flat-eared, the child dropped her tools, spun, and scampered out of the tent. Atyiru hid a grimace behind professional dispassion and began pacing rapidly throughout the space, directing the men and women who had just been her patients to gather their things and go. Some coughed or groaned as they went, but all moved.
She met Master Fiss outside, stepping into a miniature galaxy of orderly chaos. The entire camp was a flurry of practiced motion, belongings and shelters being abandoned as families and groups gathered, carrying what they could of clothes, rations, or smaller bodies. The Miraluka nodded to the elderly Quarren.
“How soon can we move?”
“As soon as need be.”
“Then start. Is the ship—”
“I do not know.”
“Damn,” cursed the Consul, gripping her braid. “Then we at least need to find somewhere else to wait, because—” She stopped and turned, an expression like a smile breaking across her face. “There you are!”
Turel and Satsi came sprinting up from the main passage, brushing past the busied sentry boy. They seemed tired, but no worse for wear.
“Sista,” called the Odanite, huffing. “Sorry we’re late.”
“Where’s—” Satsi began as they draw close, but the Miraluka cut her off without needing to hear the question.
“Not here. He and Kordy ran off to look for you two and get our payment.” She paused. “They’re on their way back, I think.”
The Fade gave a mingled sound of frustration and relief, shoulders sagging. Turel rolled his eyes and stepped closer. “Speaking of our little operation, I got a comm from Morgan on our way here. The Besadii ship is here, on the surface. They’re waiting for us just outside that,” he pointed behind them. “Tunnel. Thankfully I remembered that without a map.”
“Oh, shut up,” Satsi muttered. “Y’know, you’re good in a fight, and I can see why Vorsa’s googly for ya…but goddamn do you whine too much.”
“You’re not so bad yourself…when you channel some of that psychosis at the enemy and not everything that didn’t slither of your mother’s lady parts.”
“Good, that we’re ready” the Miraluka commented brusquely, not bothering to mind the tension there between the still-bickering pair. “The gods must be watching over us, all this incredibly convenient timing all around.” She gestured over their shoulders. “Look who’s back.”
“BLINKY!” came the harried, high-pitched shout of a very familiar Ryn, running into the cavern with a sack bouncing over his shoulder. A little girl followed on his heels, and Uji just behind her, an extra body in his hold. “BLINKY WE GOT A WEE BIT O’ A PROBLEM!”
“I KNOW!” shouted the Seer, reaching over to slap the Ryn over the head as they drew close. “Now how about you stop panicking the refugees with it?”
“Right, right,” Kordath gasped, obviously out of breath and exhausted. “Red, mate, good ta see ya,” he greeted the other two of their party. Satsi shoved past him and threw her arms around her sibling, nearly knocking him, her, and the two children flat.
“Benati, Sugai, there you are,” Master Fiss scolded. “Why did you run off?”
“Mister F-fiss, we—”
“Got lost looking for each other,” Uji answered for the younglings as his sister released him. He glanced around with hard eyes. “There are Inquisitorius following us. We lost the majority of them, but not all. We need to go.”
The Quarren huffed his tentacles. “Can’t you see we’ve already begun, boy?” He gestured at the line of aliens and students of all sorts filling out of a tunnel near the back of the cavern. “Thief, give me the relics. I will pay these men of yours and assure everyone boards.”
“Uh, sure thing, Gol ol’ buddy.” Unslinging his haul a little sadly, the Ryn handed the elder the bags and watched him hobble off, heavily assisted by his cane.
The group of Jedi, Dark and Light alike, turned to one another. Atyiru spoke first, “None of you are hurt?”
“Could use a drink, and me feet are sore, but no, Blinky,” Kordath replied, the others shaking their heads. Turel dragged a hand down his face, glancing worriedly between the camp entrance and the milling refugees.
“How close did you say those bastards were?”
“Well, what are we gonna do? Tuck and run? Fight? I bet you we could work it just right and make them think we’re not even here.”
Atyiru shook her head. “The others still boarding, and we can’t hide a group this large all by ourselves, mind tricks or not. No, we need a moment. The force incoming doesn’t seem large, so we’ll have to hold them off. We have to—”
The Miraluka stopped dead. Her head tilted, and a visible shiver ran up her body.
“What?” questioned Satsi, tense by her twin’s side. “Atty?”
“Run,” the Consul snapped from under her hood, hands white-knuckled on her saber as she drew it. “Ashla and Bogan, we have to run. We can’t fight her—”
“Who her?” Uji snapped.
“Darth Necren,” gasped the Consul, recognizing the incoming beacon of power in the Force. “I encountered her once, on Begeren, she— we all have to run, now.”
“But the refugees,” Turel protested, stepping forward. “We need to buy some time, even a little. C’mon, sista, there’s five of us and, what, one of her? We can do this.”
“No, we can’t,” replied the Seer. “But you’re right, we have to try.”
Someone cursed softly.
Uji turned to Satsi abruptly, pushing the children still clinging to his pant legs at her. “Take them and go, shimai.”
“What?” cried the Fade. “Didya hit your head? Like frakkin’ hell I’m leavin’ you when some big bad is on the way.”
“It’s not an order!” he snapped. “Please, Satsi.”
The redhead stared at her sibling, expression torn. She glanced from him to the children at her feet, clutching at one another, and spat a curse.
“You bettah catch up, you dumbfrak, or so help me—”
“I will. Go.”
“Gimme your saber first,” his sister said, not waiting for a reply before she snatched it out of his hand and clipped it to her own belt. “Too recognizable, sugah. Here, found it in the tunnels. One o’ the kiddies’, I think.”
Uji took the unfamiliar, standard-looking weapon she passed to him, eyes flickering over the dirt and dried blood formerly of some color on the hilt. He nodded once. With a last, long look, the Human woman snatched up one of the younglings under each arm, turned, and jogged for the exit.
“You think we’re all gonna bite it, don’tcha, mate?” Kordath sighed after a moment. Uji glared at him and thumbed the saber to life, a red pillar erupting forth as he moved up beside Atyiru.
“How much of a chance do we have at playing this off?”
“As I recall, she’s mentally weak—”
“Hah,” Turel laughed. “So—”
“—but she’s incredibly fast and strong and…here.”
“Here! GET DOWN!”
The Miraluka dove to the rocky floor as an angry storm of scarlet light ripped through the air. Uji stepped smoothly in front of his Jedi compatriot, a translucent bubble of willpower flickering into existence. The blasterfire broke against the barrier he held around himself, gleaming plasmic motes dissipating even as the protective shell itself shattered. By some divine providence, the stray bolts missed Kordath entirely as the Ryn ducked, weaved, and scampered behind a tent for cover.
The moment the deluge lulled, the group sprang into action. Turel pivoted out from behind the Shadow, raised his slugthrower pistol, and with but a breath to aim and a vicious crack, fired. A single bolt of violet lightning chased the round, shot from Atyiru’s fingertips as she got to her feet. The two armed Inquisitors on either side of a darkly robed figure dropped to the ground.
Said figure stood, motionless and unruffled, a long-hilted lightsaber in hand.
The amber-skinned, horned Sith woman answered only in motion, there before them one heartbeat and then gone. She hurtled into the air like a bullet from its chamber, the black edges of her robes trailing as comet-tails that grazed the tips of stalagmites twenty meters above.
“Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me…that’s so overpowered,” Turel whispered in breathless horror.
“Look out!,” Atyiru yelled as the contorting banshee completed her meteoric arc, cloak discarded, and began plummeting towards them as if thrown by a god’s hand, blade raised high.
It was instinct that saved them, instinct and a good deal of luck. Necren impacted feet-first into their midst, her saber scintillating over her head, her body twisting. Turel and Uji rolled out of the way, and Atyiru stepped forward to avoid the reverse lunge that would have severed her spine. The world turned with the pivot of her heel as she spun her own blade, activating it just in time to barely deflect another strike. She brandished her spinning weapon, warding back the assassin.
For the space of that single heartbeat, it worked.
Atyiru’s foot slid back across stone too slow, and Necren far, far too fast, lunged at her, the pistoning of her cyclonic lightsaber keeping the others at bay. The assassin’s fist thrust into her side with incredible strength, breaking ribs. The Miraluka was thrown back with a cry, rolling across the dirty floor and smashing into the hut where Kordath had ducked. The Ryn darted to her side as sticks and scrap cloth rained down over her, catching in a still-hot fire pit and kindling to flame. The Savant gave a whistling yelp and beat at the cinders on his robe before trying to drag his Consul away from the advancing reaper.
Necren stalked towards them, encased in a terrible riptide of rage and darkness, but a figure hurtled at her from behind. Crimson crashed on crimson as the Sith dashed Uji’s saber away, whirling on one foot to plant a kick into his gut that sent him toppling. Between one heartbeat and the next, she completed her pivot, blade raised to catch Turel’s pinked blade in a shower of disharmonious crackling, plasma crying against plasma. Expressionless, the Iktotchi shoved off their locked sabers like a springboard, slamming a foot into the underside of the Human’s jaw as one palm touched stone. She flipped back to her feet as the Jedi hit the crumpled in a boneless heap, moaning quietly and clutching his head.
The woman looked over them all with merciless citrine eyes and scoffed. She lifted her lightsaber, intent on dismemberment.
“Don’t just stand there in the blasted fire, children,” came a dry and exasperated voice from whence the refugees had fled. “You’ve got good legs that do not ache, the lot of you lazy thieves. Get up and get out of my classroom.”
Necren’s burning gaze landed on Fiss, the Quarren approaching at a steady gait, as if his limp had never been. Her lips pulled back from her fanged teeth in a rictus of fury, and she bolted forward, reaching for the elder like lightning clawing the earth.
“MASTER FISS—” Atyiru screeched through blood-wetted lungs.
The scholar gave a grumpy sigh, lifting a flipper.
The Darth’s airborne assault abruptly ceased as an invisible hand swatted her into the cave wall as if she were a bug. She crumpled to the ground in a shower of disturbed rock, loosening a strangled keen.
“…whoa.” Kordath breathed. “Hells, fishy, couldn’ta done that earlier?” he exclaimed as he pulled his friend to her feet, supporting her by an arm. Uji helped pull Turel up, obviously having shut out the pain of his internal injuries with the Force.
“The lesson isn’t over yet, little delinquent,” snapped the old master. He waved at them. “Go on, get moving. I won’t tell you a third time.”
“But she,” Atyiru started, holding her sides as she concentrated on knitting bone back together. “She’s not done.”
Gol Fiss sighed and lifted his arms, his aquatic features twisting fearsomely. “What did I just say, girl?”
A pause. Necren climbed to her feet with a yowl and a burst of flame erupting as her saber reactivating. Fiss huffed. The ground shook…and then shook harder. They gasped. The cavern trembled, and they all trembled with it, from the Arconans to the Odanite to the dead around them. It all trembled—
The party clapped hands over their ears or flinched and hit the ground as the ceiling gave way nearby and rained stone and dust down around them like some second coming of a wrathful god. A lone caterwaul of shock and pain tore from Necren before the rubble swallowed it whole. Dust boiled forth in a supernova, filling the room and stealing any air they’d managed to clutch in their lungs. They coughed, staggering to their feet, relying on the Force to keep their hearts steady without breath.
Master Fiss lowered his extended flippertips, sighing heavily as he rubbed his back and sagged to the floor. Atyiru gestured, and Kordath’s tail lashed as he hurried to help the Quarren to his feet while Turel stared agape. Uji lifted his borrowed saber to illuminate the dusty clouds around them, and they all stumbled towards the tunnel through which the others had fled.
A few minutes in eerie silence passed before they were finally far enough away to find clean air, advancing steadily towards the surface.
“H…how did you…the Inquisitorius spent weeks and tons of explosives collapsing just a couple of the tunnels!” the Jedi amongst them asked at last, genuine admiration in his tone.
The elderly Quarren helped along by Atyiru and Kordath fluttered his face-tentacles in a huff. “Children these days never listen, or listen too much. You do not think. I said I have been here for nearly fifty years. This is my Academy, more even than it was the Headmaster’s. You think I do not know its every twist and turn, its ways and wants? The old magics are here. But I am old too, and knowledge is powerful.”
They all limped into gray-washed daylight, the roar of ship engines and blast of air from her vents nearly deafening. Two familiar Human woman and a handful of mercenary-looking men were waving the last of the refugees up the ramp.
“OI, HURRY IT UP,” shouted Morgan Sorenn, black hair whipping around her head. She ducked inside the cargo bay upon seeing them emerge, shouting orders to someone or another.
“Come on!” Uji yelled, leading the way over the short stretch of exposed cliff. There was a commotion from the back of the group as Master Fiss pulled himself from Atyiru and Kordath’s hold.
“I told you,” said the old alien. “I am not leaving. That witch below, the Inquisitors, the Grand Master, none shall drive me out. It is time for you all to go though.”
Ignoring their protests, the Quarren turned on dogged steps and shuffled back into the mouth of the cave, quickly disappearing into darkness. With a roar of rock, the tunnel imploded after him.
“NEVERMIND HIM! HE’S DEAD! COME ON ALREADY!” Satsi shouted, hands cupped over her mouth. Faces grim, the Arconans and Odantie ran, tramping up the ramp just as the hydraulics hissed and groaned to raise it. It sealed behind them with a hiss, and suddenly, all was so much quieter, nearly deafening in its silence. The moans and groans of the displaced and downtrodden punctuated it, peppered with the snivelling of children and gasping of breaths.
Kordath began to laugh. A chuckle at first, then something full-bodied. He dropped promptly to the durasteel decking and sprawled flat on his back, grin wide and disbelieving.
“Holy kark we actually made it,” he said as the ship lurched with the familiar and sickening rush that came from defying gravity as they climbed through the atmosphere. “Now, ‘scuse me.”
With that, the Ryn rolled onto his side, grabbed the nearest bucket-looking item, some Besadii mercenary’s hat, and vomited. Turel made a face, but the other Arconans merely rolled their eyes — those with them — in fond exasperation.
“Yes,” Atyiru murmured as Satsi dragged Uji and the children she’d helped along aside and bullied them into sitting, kicking off her boots. Her fellow Dark Summiteer gave her a nudge, his cocky grin wide and bright with relief, at least until his own sister came over to nag at him. The Miraluka gave a last thought to Gol and those who hadn’t made it, a last prayer, before smiling for the fact that she was surrounded now by the living. “We did.”
Estle City, Selen
Three Days Later
Despite the time passed since their hectic escape from Lyspair, the quartet of Arconans sitting about the table in the Tipsy Rancor still looked tired. Their wounds may have healed since the harrowing encounter with Darth Necren, but the memories were still fresh. They sat in relative silence, nursing drinks. Kordath was staring off into nothingness, Atyiru sat in quiet contemplation and the Tameike twins were leaning against one another looking as if they were nearly asleep.
“Still can’t believe we made it out of there alive,” murmured the Ryn.
“Hope Sorenn can come up with some kind of an excuse,” piped up Uji.
Satsi snorted, “Preacherboy can lie, don’t worry.”
“Poor Master Fiss,” spoke Atty, getting a round of grimaces from the others. “I wish we could have saved him. He did so much for the refugees.”
“To Master Gol Fiss!” Uji lifted his glass in a toast, the others doing the same. Kordath held his glass up for a moment longer as he mouthed the old Quarren’s name silently and shook his head.
“Amazed we didn’t get made, eh?” he chose to say instead. This was received with a round of nervous laughter before the group quieted back into silence.
“…didn’t get made, eh?”
“Fools,” hissed Necren as she gestured for the audio playback to be stopped. Turning her glare away from the officers and instruments of the bridge, she settled it on the new arrival. “Master ‘Gol Fiss,’ how did they not make you to be a plant?”
The Quarren let out a bubbling sound that may have passed for laughter for one of his kind, his face tentacles twitching in amusement. “They were easily duped, more concerned with the refugees than their own safety. It was not difficult to misdirect them, tell a few sad stories and point out the worst off of the victims. Child’s play. The plan would have worked if the blasted Miraluka hadn’t shown up.”
“Yes, the plan. Why did things not go to plan?” growled the Iktotchi. “Do tell us.”
“As you know, I was to direct the rescue vessel to take us to a certain system, in which we would find an Inquisitorius vessel waiting for us. I had more or less dealt with the Ryn when he showed his face, asking for asylum. The forces we would be meeting with would be more than a match for that one in an enclosed space, with nowhere for the slippery little rat to run. Then the Jedi showed up,” said the Quarren with a sigh. “Saying his ‘beloved sister’ was on her way with a ship in just a few days time. This is when I learned the Jedi and the Ryn knew one another, and kept them busy helping the refugees lest they spend too much time with me.”
“Manageable, annoying, but manageable,” spoke Necren, grudgingly.
“Indeed. The day their ship was to arrive is when things went to hell, the rodent bringing in more blasted soft-hearted, would-be Jedi! One had hate in his heart, so it was easy enough to simply leave him be and let him go off hunting on his own, but the woman! That damnable Miraluka would NOT leave! I recognized her after she prattled on about saving everyone for a time, and realized that my plan was no longer a real option. The Consul of the First Clan had dropped into my lap and I had no idea what to do with her!”
“Kill her?” asked the Iktotchi, eyebrow cocked.
Fiss barked a laugh in reply, “Oh? Really? The Consul of Arcona goes on a mission to Lyspair with a few lackies and disappears? She is well loved by her people, Darth Necren. They would come looking, and they are annoyingly persistent from what I understand. Arcona would lose if they started a war with us, if only because the Grand Master would rally others to our cause, but it would be costly. My report was sent up to Lord Pravus. The Miraluka and her allies will be watched now, and when enough evidence piles up to bury the blind girl, he’ll make an example of her.” The Quarren who had been known as Fiss gave a nasty smile to the Iktotchi woman, “All will learn that none are above the Inquisition.”
“What of the refugees, then?”
“Ah, the ship took them to…what was it called, Ol’val I believe. Arcona’s little shadow port full of mercenaries, thieves, and smugglers. As far as many of the refugees know, their benefactors put together a collection and chartered a shuttle for them to the Core worlds, well away from all of this.” The Quarren’s vicious grin shone through once more. “They are in for quite the surprise when the pilot brings them to us. We may have lost some, yes. But we did not lose all of them.”
“Hmph, it will have to do for now. We shall increase surveillance on the Arconans. The Jedi are another problem altogether, and spreading to other clans. But as you said, none are above our law. None are above the Inquisition.” Even Necren had a hint of a smile as she contemplated punishing those who’d been bold enough to stand against them.