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12.26.2012 , 11:53 AM | #2
Chapter 2

15 days ABDK

Darth Nox–formerly Lord Tran’thar, apprentice to Darth Zash–entered the Dark Council chambers and took his seat. Around the room, he saw Darths Marr, Mortis, Ravage, and Rictus move to their own seats.

Nox tended to wear loose-fitting black robes with hoods, unlike the other Council members, who wore armor in variations of reds and grays. This was partly because his fighting style, which was made up of a combination of Force-based abilities and acrobatics, did not allow for restricting armor.

However, another reason was that he, unlike the others, was not a human or Sith Pureblood. He was a Twi’lek, and while he was not ashamed of it, that fact tended to bring him scorn among the Empire–most often from the loud, boisterous Darth Ravage.

Nox glanced up as another figure entered the room–Darth Vowrawn. He was second oldest on the Council, falling behind only the ancient Rictus. Nox glanced in contempt at Rictus–who might actually be too old for the Sith Order.

Nox decided he might have to act on that.

“We are all here,” Marr rumbled. “I believe it is time to release Darth Jadus from his imprisonment.”

“Outrageous,” Darth Mortis hissed. “He betrayed the Empire–why should he ever be released?”

“Cipher Nine should have killed him!” Ravage snarled.

“No,” Mortis replied. “Doing so would have killed thousands–millions–of Imperial citizens. Our agent did the right thing arresting him.”

“Why should he be released, Darth Marr?” asked Vowrawn calmly.

He had always been a voice for reason in the Dark Council, Nox knew. He would listen to all sides of an argument–and whichever side he chose would likely be the victor. Nox decided to wait this out.

“Jadus brought up many issues with our Empire which made sense,” Marr said darkly. “Our bigotry against other species has been taken too far.”

“Hear, hear,” Nox said sarcastically.

“Our speciesism has made us what we are,” said Mortis. “If one species rises up, what stops the rest? If the slaves rebel, we will be warring within our own borders and unable to fight the Republic.”

“True,” Marr conceded. “But slaves are slaves, whether human or alien. Our own Darth Nox is not a human or pureblood.”

Nox inclined his head at the mention of his name but decided to remain silent for the time being. Any decisions here must be made impartially, and being a supposed impure species definitely prejudiced Nox.

“Fools,” Rictus snarled. “Aliens are impure! Ugly! Inferior!”

Nox changed Rictus from possible assassination target to definite target. He now only needed to find a way to do it that would not be traced back to him–but even Darth Karrid had killed her rival, Darth Gravus. Any number of Council members could send an assassin.

“I agree with Marr’s assessment,” Vowrawn said. “Jadus’ seat is empty with the death of his daughter, Zhorrid. None other has the intelligence skills that would be required.”

“Imperial Intelligence has been dissolved,” argued Ravage. “We need no one.”

“We are still looking for a leader for the new Sith Intelligence, though,” Marr replied.

“What about the agent that dismantled the Star Cabal?” Vowrawn asked, examining the situation from all sides. “He would be most qualified.”

“We have lost contact with him and his entire crew,” Marr said. “It can be assumed they have either been killed or deserted.”

“I see no other option,” Vowrawn said. “I agree with Marr’s assessment–Jadus should be freed.”

“I second that,” Mortis said.

Nox grinned behind his hood at Rictus and Ravage. Soon, the former would no longer be among the living members of the Dark Council.

“Dismissed,” Marr said.

Standing, Nox exited the Council chambers and took a shuttle to his Fury-class interceptor. Xalek, his apprentice, met him at the entrance. He had a double-bladed lightsaber clipped to his belt.

“Master,” Xalek rumbled.

“Apprentice,” Nox said. “I have a mission for you. It will involve your…special talents.”

Nox saw Xalek’s grin behind his ceremonial Kaleesh mask, and he knew his apprentice had taken his meaning.

Nexus Room, Dromund Kaas
15 days ABDK

Dha crossed his arms and glanced across the table at the man in the dark cloak. Normally, that would have been a sign of a Sith Lord, on Dromund Kaas. But Mako had triple-checked this guy’s ID, and he was nearly nonexistent–not a Sith, then.

“So,” the man said. “Darth Tormen is dead.”

Dha glanced around sharply. “Shut up,” he hissed. “You want me to lose my head?”

“Relax,” the man replied. “I’m not the kind to be overly suspicious. I know what happened, and I am actually glad the old guy’s dead. He was just one more obstacle in my–our–way.”

“Who are you?” Dha asked.

“A friend,” the man said. “I represent a faction of Imperials who believe our Empire would be better off without the leadership of the self-destructive Sith and their Dark Council.”

“That’s pretty treasonous talk sitting in the center of the Empire,” Dha noted.

“Obviously,” the man replied. “I’m not stupid. There are many of my people in this cantina alone. If we were discovered…well, those who overheard would be better off having never done so.”

Dha considered. He was a big talker, certainly. Dha took a quick look around the cantina, trying to catch a glimpse of anyone suspicious. He could see no one, but of course that would be the point.

“Continue,” he said.

“We know it will take years,” the man said, “and maybe even decades, to get the Sith out of power. We are a patient people. With your help, the whole thing might just proceed faster.”

“I’m already sticking my neck out showing up here,” Dha shot back. “Darth Tormen was known to have survived the Battle of Corellia, and I was the last one in his presence. Why shouldn’t the Council be suspicious of me?”

“They have no proof,” the man replied. “All they know is that he was killed attacking the Founder, and his entire ship was destroyed in that battle. No way his death could be traced to you.”

“No,” Dha replied. “I suppose not.”

Still, he thought, he didn’t like it. He disliked being here in this cantina without Mako or Torian to have his back even more, but he did it anyway.

“I’m listening,” he said finally.

“It’s nothing big,” the man reassured. “Nothing too large. Certainly not worthy of a Mandalorian, but you’re most qualified for the job–figured I’d ask you first.”

“I am a Mandalorian,” Dha said.

“I know, I know. But you know something about revenge–I’ve done my research. The real reason you were so willing to kill Tormen was because he led the attack on your home.”

Dha pulled his blaster on the man before he even realized what he was doing, but the comment had not been in good taste. The man sat back calmly.

“No offense meant, of course. Listen, I don’t want you to make a snap decision. Here’s my comm code–call me once you’ve chosen.”

“You haven’t even told me the job yet,” Dha said.

“Nor will I. Contact me when you’re ready.”

Anchorhead spaceport, Tatooine
18 days ABDK

Dankin grunted as the fist landed in his gut. He was about to make a move, but he decided against it. His father had been a Mandalorian–but Dankin had never been a fighter. If he tried to fight back he’d probably end up with a knife in his back in a gutter.

Grunting, he took the next blow and the next, and grinned as he heard the reassuring voice in his ear comlink. Help was coming.

He knew why these guys were beating him–ever since Corellia he’d been, unofficially, a privateer in service of the Republic, and word must have gotten around. Now he couldn’t even do a little smuggling without getting the stuffing beat out of him.

“We know what you are, Mirialan,” one of the beaters said. He was stupid–he had an Exchange logo on his sleeve. Now Dankin knew whom he was going after, next. “How dare you show your face here, you stupid traitor?”

He threw another punch, and Dankin grunted. The bullies holding his arm dropped him, and he rolled with the blow, landing on his hands and knees. In his peripheral vision, he saw two figures entering the alley behind the Exchange thugs.

With blinding speed, he stood and brought his foot between the first beater’s legs. The man squealed in pain, and the other two withdrew vibroknives from their belts.

“Freeze!” a voice said.

The men whirled and Dankin grinned as their expressions slackened. Akaavi Spar was a terrifying sight in her full Mandalorian armor sans helmet, and her red and black tattoos and cranial horns. Beside her, Corso Riggs presented an equally fearsome sight in his bootlegged Republic soldier’s armor and his rifle, nicknamed Sergeant Boom-Boom, cocked.

“You heard ‘em, boys,” Dankin said. “Beat it.”

The thugs wasted no time rushing from the alley, leaving their companion groaning and gasping on the ground. Dankin threw an affectionate arm around Akaavi’s shoulder.

“Darlin’, you have perfect timing,” he said.

“Why, thank you!” Corso joked. “But what about Akaavi?”

“Shut up, Corso,” Dankin said good-naturedly.

“Who are they?” Akaavi asked.

“Exchange,” he replied. “I think we may need to pay ‘em a little Voidhound visit.”

“Why?” Corso asked. “I mean, I love working for the Republic and all, but I thought the privateer thing was just a hoax so the Republic overlooked our, ah, more questionable activities.”

Dankin rolled his eyes and kicked the thug on the back of the head, knocking him out and hopefully giving him short-term memory loss.

“Corso, not in front of the marks,” he exclaimed. “Vrblther’s vibroblade! It is just for show, but we do have to actually do something for the Republic now and again or they’ll dump us like last week’s flatcake and forget about us. And besides, taking care of the competition can only improve business for us.”

Corso nodded. “All right, I’m on board. Let’s do it!”