Targon awoke in a police station. Apparently, someone had found him lying in the streets and had alerted authorities. When he was up, an officer told him he was clear to leave if he was feeling all right. He didn’t seem to have suffered any serious injuries except an easily treated blow to the head.
No questions. No procedures. The lack of any sort of inconvenience was disturbing. But Targon found that nobody would even answer any of his questions. He was free to go, and it looked like they wanted him to go.
So he left. Finding a public map and asking a few citizens for directions, he made his way back to the hangar and to the ship. The long walk took most of the morning. When he arrived, he found Greyhawk sitting at the top of the ramp with a blaster in his hands. He sighed with relief when he saw Targon.
“There you are!” he exclaimed. “What happened? You look like you’ve been mugged.”
“I was – they took Rick.”
The old soldier sighed. “We need to get after him.”
“Do you have any idea who they were that attacked you and took him?” Targon asked.
“They were a crime boss’s thugs, I’m sure of that,” Greyhawk said. “Spending time around them on Ord Mantell leads to spotting them right away. Even if it’s dark and they got the drop on you.”
“Well, do you have any idea who their boss is?” Targon asked.
“No way to tell,” Greyhawk sighed. “We’re going to have to do some snooping.”
Targon posed his thought. “Do you have any idea where to start?”
“Nope,” Greyhawk stood up. “Not a clue as to where to go. But I’ve been in enough situations to know basic ideas that should help us. First off, I think we’re going to need weapons and equipment.”
“To that point,” Targon said, “I don’t need anything. I’m a Jedi – and we’re not on a hostile world.”
“That depends on your definition of hostile,” Greyhawk winked. “But I guess you do have your saber, and that will do plenty good. But I don’t have armor, and I need a better weapon than this.”
“Do we have any money to buy adequate equipment?” Targon asked.
“I don’t know. We may have to be clever.”
“Okay,” Targon nodded. “Then what about Rick? How do we start looking for who has him?”
“Cantinas,” Greyhawk said simply. “That’s where people get drunk and spill their secrets. We should be able to get some leads, and maybe an ally.”
“It would appear we are both out of our league in this matter,” Targon said. “Rick would be the better man. And we’re looking for him.”
“Well,” Greyhawk started down the ramp. “We’ll have to do without our charming captain. Come on, Targon – what can a young Jedi Knight and an old soldier not accomplish if we use our heads?”
Targon smiled and followed. The sooner they started looking, he figured, the sooner they might find Rick – before he was too seriously hurt.
They left the port and started searching for an equipment shop. There didn’t appear to be many around in this part of the city. It was nearly an hour of tired walking before they found a store.
Walking in, they noticed that the shop owner, as thin little man, was nervous to see customers. His stock was light, and dust had settled on most of the equipment. There were signs that there hadn’t been anyone coming in here recently.
That is, coming in to shop. There were pieces of glass littering the floor and plenty of shattered items. The owner himself had a broken arm.
“Good day to you,” Targon greeted.
The owner gave a hesitant nod. “I’m not going to give you anymore trouble. Take what you want…just don’t hurt me.”
“Hurt you?” Targon was incredulous. “Why would you think we would hurt you?”
Greyhawk lifted his hands in a sign of peace. “You probably think we’re hustlers or harassers. I assure you we aren’t. We are here to shop.”
The man didn’t seem to believe them. But he stood up straighter. “Is there anything I can help you find?”
“I’m looking for some body armor,” Greyhawk said. “My last suit was…lost.”
“What sort of man are you?” the owner asked.
“Does it matter?”
“Yes, as a matter of fact. I don’t want to deal with more illegal things than I have to. Also, if you’re a mercenary, a cop, or a man on the run, you’ll be looking for different kinds of things.”
“I’m a soldier,” Greyhawk answered. “A soldier without an army. What do you have that can suit my needs?”
“How much money have you got to spend? High class mercs can afford the larger stuff – simple men who fear for protection can usually only look to the lighter suits.”
“I guess it depends on how willing to bargain and trade you are.”
“Not many customers have come in, and fewer still are willing to make bargaining deals.”
Greyhawk placed the blaster on the table. “How much is that worth to you?”
“It’s not much,” the man looked at it. “Most folks have something like this. I could give you a hundred credits for it.”
The old soldier searched himself to see how much he had on him. “Hmm…” he smiled. “It looks like all those thugs – last night and back on Calpronica – didn’t do a good job at taking my stuff. I’ve got about three hundred credits here.” He pulled out the money, kept in a secret pocket beneath his clothing, next to his skin.
“Four hundred…” the man rubbed his chin. “I have two suits left that could do you some good…” He went into the back room.
Targon paced around the shop, looking at the sparse items around the shop, and studying where things had been damaged before. Either this shop was robbed several times a week – or collectors came in here and just took what they wanted.
The owner returned with the armor. One was a brown suit, a newer brand and in fair condition. The second was a dull gray, and it was obviously used before. Greyhawk looked at them both for a moment and picked the second.
“This one?” the owner asked. “Sure it’s cheaper, but…”
“It will be fine,” Greyhawk said. “It’s been used, so I know it won’t have problems.”
“That doesn’t really…”
“Besides,” Greyhawk walked over to a shelf. “I’ll take this and this,” he pointed to a blaster and a knife. Both were used, and both were of lesser quality.
“Those?” the man asked.
“Yes,” the old soldier nodded. “I need a weapon – or two – along with the armor. These will all do nicely.”
“They’re rather worn,” Targon pointed out.
“The condition or quality of the equipment isn’t important,” Greyhawk stated. “I’ve been in my share of battles with lesser things than these. A good soldier knows how to use whatever he has.”
Targon nodded, understanding the soldier’s meaning.
“Alright then,” the owner said. “I guess we have a deal. It feels nice to have a paying customer. I’ll throw in a belt for the knife.”
“Thank you,” Greyhawk smiled. He left for a while to put on the armor, and he returned looking a lot like the soldier he was back on Ord Mantell. Except now he seemed far more mercenary than officer. “One more thing,” he said. “Do you know a cantina around here that would be a good place for unwinding and finding people?”
“The only place around here is The Showtime Affair,” the owner said, his attitude was evidently hostile towards the place.
“Thanks again,” Greyhawk saluted. He and Targon left the shop and headed out. They walked for another hour, searching around until they found the cantina at last. It was definitely not what one would consider “around here” as they were hoping.
They both looked at it with the same indescribable expression. They didn’t know what to make of the brightness of it. And once they went inside, they couldn’t believe how pink it was.
Taking a seat, they watched the crowds with disappointment. These were all drunks and simple civilians. None of them looked like the kind of people they would expect to have information about crime bosses. But there was something about the shows on the viewscreens. The Firm provided them all…and the current program was a gladiator fight – on swoop bikes.
While they were sighing and worrying that there would be nothing to be had from this joint, a cheery Zeltron sat down next to them.
“Gentlemen,” he said, “I naturally can tell if someone is not having a good time, and it’s a big deal to the me, the owner of this establishment. How can I be of assistance to help you both enjoy yourselves?”
“If you could help us find our friend,” Targon shrugged.
“Well, I see a lot of people. My name’s Alen Heigren, and I will help you in whatever way I can. Tell me about your friend.”
Greyhawk sighed. “He’s the captain of our ship. His name is Rick Orlan and he wears a red jacket.”
The enormous grin on Alen’s face dropped. “You’re friends of Rick?” he asked.
“Yes,” Targon nodded. “Have you seen him?”
Alen coughed and pointed to the viewscreen. “Yeah, he’s…um…there.”
Targon and Greyhawk followed his finger to the screen, where they saw a familiar person strapped on a bike and zipping around. Getting shot at, no less.
“What’s he doing there?” Targon gasped.
The Zeltron’s face was solemn. He pointed to a door with his head. “Follow me.”
They followed him through the door, down the hall, and into a room. Alen locked it behind them.
“I can be getting into deep trouble for telling you this,” Alen said. “But I’m an old friend of Rick’s, and I don’t want him getting hurt.”
“What happened?” Greyhawk asked.
“Rick has been taken by the Firm – a criminal enterprise that stretches across the Core Worlds. Unlike most cartels, it’s run as a company – and it’s business is everything. One of their biggest moneymakers, besides drugs and trafficking, is gladiator games. It’s a disgrace to the gambling world.”
“Would you cut to the chase?” Greyhawk asked impatiently.
“The man in charge is Lycos Quinn, someone who also knows Rick. He controls this entire sector of the city – you may have noticed the lack of law enforcement?”
“Yes,” Targon nodded.
“Rick has been taken by Lycos, just like quite a few smugglers and citizens have. They’re put in the games for popular entertainment and for Quinn’s deals with other criminals.”
“And the authorities do nothing?” Greyhawk asked. “This is the Core, for crying out loud. I knew crime was big here on Corellia…but this?”
“How can we get to him?” Targon asked Alen.
The Zeltron sighed. “If I tell you, I’m a dead man.”
“We can protect you.”
“No…” Alen shook his head. “I’ll take my chances on my own. Besides, if you’re going to challenge the Firm, you’re probably as good as dead yourselves. Quinn has mastered the art of crime – he knows how to make people disappear and nobody can even suspect him.”
“We’ll see about that,” Greyhawk growled. “Now, how do we get to Rick?”
“There’s a chop shop down the street,” Alen said. “In an old warehouse. The man that heads it has direct connections with Quinn’s headquarters. If you get there, you’ll find Rick. He owns a big complex – no big secret – and the authorities can’t do anything about the illegal activities he operates there. The gladiator games are held in his large arena.”
Greyhawk stood up and asked that the door be unlocked. When Alen complied, he stormed out, heading towards the exit of the building.
Targon remained behind, still a little unsure of everything he had just heard. “Are you sure you’ll be able to handle yourself?” he asked Alen.
“I’ve survived other situations…though they weren’t quite as big as this.”
“Thank you for helping us,” Targon bowed.
“If you free Rick,” Alen cracked a smile. “Tell him that he owes me big – if I’m still alive.”
He shook the Jedi’s hand as the young man left. Then he pulled out a long-range communicator. The call he was making was a great distance away indeed.
“Hey, it’s Alen,” he said. “I’ve just gotten into deep bantha fodder with Lycos Quinn. I getting of Corellia, but, um, I’m probably going to need some protection.”
He paused as he listened to the person on the other line.
“Go there? I don’t know, I mean… Oh, that’s a better idea. Yeah, I’ll meet you where we used to, back in the old days… You heard about Rick? Turn on a viewscreen… The Firm has put him in the games… I thought you would be interested.”
Targon hurried after Greyhawk. The old soldier had already left and broke into a run when he was outside. He found the warehouse and barged in, gun and knife in hand.
Stopping for a moment, Targon heard blaster fire and shouting inside, much more than he expected. He grabbed his lightsaber and charged in.
He found that the entire first room had been cleared. The men that guarded the place, and those that dismantled the vehicles, lay dead on the ground. In the next room, he could hear more shots and shouts.
Targon followed the noise, finding more people recently dispatched. He came to the next room and finally caught up with Greyhawk.
The old soldier was tearing the place apart. His age did not seem to slow him at all. He shot, dodged, slashed, and kicked at the men. Nobody could stand against him, and it appeared that nobody was able to hit him. That might have been caused by lack of skill or the influence of drugs. But it was, beyond a doubt, a testament of what Greyhawk was capable of.
Targon found himself a target by some of the thugs, who thought they might have a better chance taking out a kid than a soldier. After all, Targon wasn’t armored, and he wasn’t bearing heavy arms. How mistaken they were.
His lightsaber hummed as he swung it, deflecting blaster bolts and slicing through obstacles. A few of the more daring men, bearing knives, came at him. But Targon’s blade stopped them in their tracks.
The garage’s head, a Devaronian, was found hiding beneath his desk. Greyhawk threw it aside and pointed his blaster at his head.
“Please don’t kill me!” the man whimpered.
“Don’t kill him!” Targon urged.
Greyhawk sighed. “I’m not going to kill you, criminal slime. I need to find Lycos Quinn’s headquarters, and you’re going to let me know how to get to it.”
“You’re a fool,” the alien spat. “Quinn will have you butchered.”
“Listen, filth,” Greyhawk shoved the gun into the alien’s temple. “I’ve had to endure countless machinations of criminals – and I’ve borne the brunt of their attention. But you’re not going to take our friend. I’ll blow your brains out – after I’ve shot your kneecaps, your hands, and your genitals – if you don’t tell me what I want to know.”
“Marc!” Targon exclaimed.
“It’s Greyhawk,” he rebuked. “I won’t let your boss hurt our friend, filth,” he growled at the man. “Now, talk!”
“Alright, alright!” the man cried.
“How do we get there?”
“I’ve got a speeder…it’s programmed with the destination so I don’t have to pilot it. I take it when I report my earnings and progress…”
“I don’t care about your business workings or your history,” Greyhawk snapped. “Do you have anything else of relevance to say?”
The man said no more.
Greyhawk smacked him on the back of the head, putting him out cold. “Come on, Targon, let’s get going.”
Targon’s mouth gaped. “Marc…what’s with you?”
“Nothing! Now let’s go!”
“No,” Targon said firmly. “There’s something wrong, Marc, and I want to know what.”
“We don’t have time.”
“Then you will tell me on the speeder.”
“Alright,” Greyhawk conceded. Together, they found the vehicle and started it up. It knew where it was supposed to be headed and took off. When they were seated, Targon faced Marc.
“What was that back there? Why the violence?”
Greyhawk sighed. The rage that was fuming from him back at the garage had dissipated. “You weren’t there.”
“What do you mean?”
“On Ord Mantell, after you left to give us time to escape.”
“I remember,” Targon nodded. “What happened?”
“The government sent bombers…they found the separatists and their families while they flew overhead. The crime lords knew about the raid, and they knew that they were part of it. The started…”
“They killed them?”
“All of them…Jethro and his men, women…children…”
“I…” Targon felt his heart sink. He remembered that night, facing the officers…and hearing the sounds of explosions in the distance. So they had attacked them after all.
A tear formed in Greyhawk’s eye. “I’ve seen many battles, Targon, but never have I seen such a senseless slaughter. I’ve seen the effects of a massacre…but I had never had it happen to people I had known…my friends.”
“I’m sorry,” Targon’s voice was weak. “I’m sorry I didn’t stop them.”
“No, it’s my fault, not yours,” Greyhawk said. “I couldn’t help the attack, and I lived when dozens of women and children did not. I could do nothing but watch Jethro and his people die. Killed by their own government…puppets of heartless criminals.”
They were both silent for a while. Targon could not find any words to say. There didn’t seem to be anything he could say.
Greyhawk breathed deep. “So I will not allow Rick Orlan to suffer the same fate – an expendable tool to be used for a crime lord’s greed and self-centeredness.”
Targon reached over and touched the soldier’s arm.
“We’ll free Rick,” he said softly.
“Or die trying?”
“There is no try.”