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12.13.2011 , 09:07 AM | #1
The Barely Legal Jedi is a series filled with puns.
You have been warned.

Chapter Guide:
01 - Backroom Face Time
02 - Indecent Explosion
03 - Taken from Behind
04 - The Business
05 - Conception.
06 - In Vitro Veritas.
07 - Inspecting Erectus.
08 - Going Down
09 - Taking the Head.
10 - Hard to Swallow.
11 - Exploited.
EP - Shadowy Seconds.

Successive: A Primal Vice.

Chapter One: Backroom Face Time.

Of all the places she had been told to go during her tenure as a member of the Jedi Order, this was perhaps the one least expected. A blanket of smoke covered the floor, acting no differently than miasma might within a bog. Given the sluggish mannerisms of the occupants and their often times unpleasant sounds, she would have not at all been surprised to find that the denizens were in fact some form of swamp creatures. The only sense of culture that came from the establishment at all was a thin, willowy sound from the local band playing what had to be a snake charmer’s tune to keep the brutes and ruffians in line. When she considered some of the silhouettes she saw, she realized that was not at all a bad idea to possess.

Finding the location had been difficult enough as it was. While being told to do to Ord Mantell was strange enough in itself, she had expected to be given directions to the nearest Republic holdout position. The Imperial forces were growing ever bolder as she had learned, and although the Treaty of Coruscant should have prevented them from taking further liberties in the galaxy she was hardly surprised that it had not. Their offenses were far too grievous for “liars” and “breaker of oaths”, to truly be labels they feared. The Council had made a mistake in suing for peace with them, and that had been a mistake she was more than vocal of when it occurred. Perhaps, too vocal. That might explain why she was sent to the cantina in the first place.

There were many lives that had been touched by the sacking of Coruscant. She knew that her grief, while genuine, was hardly unique in its status. Former padawans, friends, and masters had all lost valued companions when the Sith led by Darth Malgus stormed the temple with such audacity that even to that day she could hardly fathom it. While losing Master Ven Zallow may have been a blow to the Order’s pride, it was the losses that surrounded his that truly opened wounds in the hearts of those she knew. But as Jedi they were not to allow those feelings to corrupt their thoughts, nor to attach themselves to the notion of vengeance.

In her opinion, they were not to allow fear to control them either, and the Council…

A large Aqualish passed by her, drawing her attention away from her happenstance brooding and toward the fore. She felt a glint of acuity pass between them in that moment; the Aqualish attempting to discern whether or not she was someone that might prove lucrative to his need for money or casual mayhem. Although she wore robes to conceal her identity, she knew that the look was becoming familiar enough that Sith sympathizers would simply assume she happened to be a Jedi. In the distance she could feel more eyes falling upon her; each sizing her up and more importantly waiting to see what the lead did. The situation had all the potential for a fight and it would not be the first time that a Jedi met an unseemly end at the hands of Imperials and their agents.

“This is an Imperial cantina, reppie,” the Aqualish stated as he snorted through his nostrils, a sound that that brought to mind a geyser exploding. She did not doubt that it very well could have been an Imperial cantina, but she knew that it mattered little to the Aqualish. Had she been an Imperial walking by at that same time he would have accosted her in any regard. They were, after all, a feckless and pugnacious people. “Maybe I could get a lot of money for you.”

She realized that to say most anything at that point would be to further encourage confrontation, and yet not to act might come across as ignoring the testosterone driven thug. Minding her situation and all but exposed in terms of her cover, she lifted her hands to her hood and slowly lowered it. Her green eyes, near feline, focused upon the Aqualish in what could be considered a manner of appraisal. He was larger than her by nearly half a meter and had more muscle mass than she could ever hope to compensate for. More importantly, at his side was a blaster whose grip looked just worn enough to indicate he was a quick draw, if his meaty arms didn’t solve problems for him. The cantina was crowded and she knew if he landed a solid hit on her then his comrades would swarm in as well. All told, the odds were hardly in her favor.

But she knew she could take him – she could take them all.

It was a thought that birthed upon her lips a surprisingly resplendent smile, whose existence seemed more to placate than to demean. In the realm of her human interactions she had several times been considered attractive, though if that was born from her affinity with the Force or her physical attributes she was uncertain. Of course, such charms and favors might well be lost upon a bruiser whose only purpose was to bruise. She smiled in spite of this fact though and the Aqualish hesitated if only for a moment. That moment was all that she required to do what was necessary.

She extended her hand, palm exposed, and brought it to the muscular arm of the irate man before her. “There is no need for violence,” she said in a calm and even tone. While her voice was in itself of a fair and sincere quality, what was more important to her statement was that as she spoke the Force was slowly working upon the pickled brain of the one before her. Aqualish may have been notoriously violent, but they were not inherently resistant to the Force and a mind well soused was a mind easily converted. “We are all friends here.”

“Friends,” the Aqualish repeated with a level of incredulity that bespoke his awareness of the sudden change in demeanor, but not enough to know what she had done. “You ain’t my friend,” he clarified. Another tense second emerged between the two before he snorted once more and brushed past her. Doubtlessly if he was not going to pulverize her then he would find someone else to attack. Perhaps she had a duty to mollify him further, but if she stopped to pacify every uproarious brute that she ran into then this meeting would never come to pass.

With the Aqualish taken care of, she offered a cursory glance about to those still present and found their interest in her had waned. Some looked to her with an interest different from violence, but theirs were lust addled minds that she had little time for. Jedi did not go to dive cantinas when they required that sort of attention – at least, not the ones that she knew.

“You must be the one that I was told to talk to,” a shifty Rodian male said from behind the bar. She looked in his direction and found that his jittery nerves and swift manner of speech was a note faster than his people were known for. More than likely he had ingested spice recently. Excellent, she thought with derisive contempt at no one in particular. My contact is a spicer.

“There’s a fellow that wanted to talk to you – booked the backroom until you got here.”

Backrooms were never good things to be told to go into; especially not when the majority of the patrons were more than likely squirrely and spiced thugs like the bartender or the one she had recently sent outside. She considered probing the Rodian’s mind for any details on what would be waiting for her, but just as it was simple to plant a thought into the mind of an addict, so too was it difficult to navigate through the jumbled mess of ideas that flowed through them. Instinctively she lowered her hand to her side and felt the long, cylindrical and metallic object that she kept at hand in case a situation became too much for her to handle with mere words.

“Thank you,” she responded without looking back to the bartender. The chances of an ambush having been set for a Jedi were high; during the current day she knew that several had been lured into traps only to never be seen again. Yet to avoid duty for the sake of fear was a folly that she would not encourage, and if the Imperials felt that she was worth dragging away from the frontlines in order to assassinate, then perhaps t hat should have been taken as a marker of pride. Whatever the case may have been, she knew that she would not allow it to go unanswered. Without fear, the Jedi proceeded past the sea of lustful eyes and made her way into the backroom. It was time to face whoever had set all of this into motion.

The doors slid apart and allowed her to enter the backroom. The moment that she stepped inside, they closed behind her and sealed – never a good sign. Mindful of her immediate area, she observed several crates and a wall that led into a distant corner. Though the Force was as always her guide, she could not help but wonder if perhaps her guide had gotten lost at that point in time. To turn around was no longer an option though, and try as she might to think of a scenario where the steps that she was taking would not lead her into an inevitably dark situation, she continued on her path without fail. Hand near her lightsaber, she turned the corner.

“Verra So’Quan,” a male voice said from behind the table that was before her. The umbra presented him with enough shadow to conceal his appearance beyond the silhouette that loomed before her eyes. Hearing her name was hardly something that surprised Verra; however, that the tone was not at all unfamiliar did. When the person rose and approached her, the shadows parted from him and revealed a dusky man wearing robes not much different than her own. Most important of all was the smile on his face; a reassuring expression. “It has been too long since last we spoke.”

“Master Doris?” Verra asked, her voice almost revealing the surprise that she felt. Moments prior her breathing had increased; blood vessels increasing their flow, and eyes taken on a new level of awareness. She had all but been prepared to fight and much to her dismay she actually felt somewhat let down that she would not be able to. Passing up the Aqualish as stress relief had been a mistake she knew, but to even consider fighting simply to alleviate tension was an act that carried grave implications with it. Rather than worry over her mental state, she stepped closer to the Jedi and embraced his forearms as he did hers. “I did not expect to find you here.”

Master Doris laughed and shook his head. “And why would you? Not many expect masters to be found in dingy cantinas.”

“I was unaware that there was a type other than,” Verra said with a winsome smile. Master Doris chuckled, a sound that she had once heard filled with mirth but now tempered at its fringes with sorrow.

“Please, be seated. We have precious little time to discuss the matter at hand.”

There was always precious little time, Verra knew. While the galaxy as a whole believed that for the most part the Jedi did nothing more than meditate and prevaricate, in truth theirs was a task that was more about preventing problems than solving them. She moved as she had been instructed to and sat gracefully at the table. The hand that had previously been prepared to pull her lightsaber at that point lifted and brushed her platinum blonde bangs behind her left ear. It was a slight action, but enough of one to give her nerves time to calm.

It had not been the first time that she was told to sit before Master Doris, Verra noted with some amount of amusement. As a youngling she was known to be too quick to anger, and although she had never given her masters cause for serious concern, there were times when she was told that her greatest weakness was her desire to care for too many people, too readily. In doing so, Master Doris had told her, she was only allowing herself to be drawn into a multitude of directions that could only end in frustration and disappointment. His words had proven true and over time she learned to form relationships that had a goal beyond simply being relationships. Of course, at the time Master Doris’ face had been a bit less wrinkled, and the lines around his eyes hardly pronounced. It would appear that just as time had changed her, so too had it changed him.

“As you well know, the Sith Empire has returned in a way unconscionable,” Master Doris began as he placed a small, glowing orb before himself. “Our defeats in the beginning of this newly minted confrontation pale in comparison to the ones that will surely be incurred in the future. The sacking of Coruscant was but a symptom of the illness that plagues us.”

“Illness?” Verra asked, a finely structured eyebrow lifting but a notch.

Master Doris compressed the cube and from it, a projection emerged of the galaxy. “Ignorance,” he stated solemnly. “The Republic is now shattered, splintered into competing sectors of influence. Many planets are only nominally within its control.”

As Master Doris spoke the projection began to shade various locations either red or blue. The key that fluctuated at the side of the map indicated that the red were Sith and the blue Republic holdings. Whereas a few years ago everything would have been colored blue, Verra could understand the concerns that might emerge when once loyal sectors were now torn between the two.

“Our problem,” Master Doris said. “Is that we know next to nothing about our enemies. Clearly they know us; the Sith have had centuries upon centuries to study and perfect the art of killing Jedi, but we have been so… driven in our pursuits for peace that we allowed our duties to the Republic to lapse in that regard,” he said with what could be considered a note of personal failure.

Verra cleared her throat softly. “Master Doris, we could not have possibly known that they would attack us so brazenly – so recklessly…”

“Couldn’t we have?” The senior Jedi asked with a sorrowful sigh. “To the contrary, Verra; we knew that the threat existed and simply did not address it. Three hundred years before this day, did Darth Revan not return in a fashion no less audacious?”

Darth Revan, she thought. An enigma tucked comfortably within a mystery if ever there was one. The existing holo-records had placed him as the returned hero of the Republic, marred by the Dark Side and an agent of an unknown force. His was a story of depravity and redemption; of failure and success. A cautionary tale to be certain, she only wished that she knew how the Republic had stabilized itself after his tyrannical assault. That would have been very pertinent information to know, for in that perhaps the Republic might correctly unseat the Sith from their positions. Unreliable historians, she fumed inwardly. How dare they not record pertinent history?

“We have had…” Master Doris trailed off for a moment as he thought of the word to use. Verra knew that whenever such occurred that it meant there would soon be a half-truth spoken. “Agents,” he said with relative self-satisfaction, “exploring old Sith ruins and ensuring that their taint did not spread to impressionable minds. Theirs was a task that dealt primarily with prevention over investigation.”

Verra’s eyebrows furrowed, for this was information that she had not been privy to. Certainly there had to be someone that ensured that the Sith did not rise again, but for all of her missions and duties they had dealt with preventing local disturbances up until the return of the Sith Empire. That there were Jedi specifically selected for the task of specifically hunting down Sith artifacts was not only news to her, but somewhat startling.

“Forgive me, master, but I do not know why this information necessitated a meeting here.”

“Then allow me to speak with more clarity,” Master Doris said. “The Council, after experiencing the losses that we did, could not continue to ignore the threat of the Sith. So it was that we sent several of these agents into the Outer Rim in hopes of gathering more information on our adversaries. These agents, known as Shadows, were specifically tasked with sending information back to the Council at weekly intervals.”

Verra canted her head slightly. “And one of them did not?”

“Precisely,” Master Doris confirmed. He pressed another position on the holo-cube and the map centered upon a single planet. “This is Thorne IV, the location that our operative’s latest dispatch came from. We have reason to suspect that he may have been captured, killed, or worse.”

“Or worse,” Verra said softly to herself. She feared to know what the Sith would do to an infiltrator, and yet knowing that one of her brethren was trapped without assistance raised within her an ire that knew no consolation. Normally she would have expected Master Doris to warn her against her emotions, but he sat silently and watched her. She drew her attention from the map back to him. “What can we do?”

“I am afraid that this task will fall solely upon you,” Master Doris stated. “The Shadows are an organization that are permitted liberties most other Jedi are not afforded. The Council has already spoken of your case in particular and we believe you will be the perfect candidate to venture to Thorne IV and discover what has become of Master Zi’los.”
She thought to ask what made her the perfect candidate, but she supposed she already knew. Hers was a record that was clean enough, but that did have infractions that might lift eyebrows. If she was expected to act in accordance with the Code completely then the need for secrecy would not have been mandated. No, they selected her because when the time came she would do what needed to be done. The name ‘Master Zi’los’ meant relatively little to her, and so she instead focused upon something more pressing. “You said that the Shadows are granted liberties?”

There came a look of uncertainty to Master Doris’ face then that spoke more to his unwillingness to continue than his desire to do so. Yet, the glimpse vanished within the blink of an eye and he offered her a nod of his head. “Yes,” he started. “There are actions that would be legal to citizens of the Republic that we Jedi do not condone. Because Shadows must be prepared to confront untenable situations at all times, we simply believe that... that are granted privileges that allow them to perform actions that are barely legal.”

Barely legal? Was that a half-truth? Something was either legal or it wasn’t to most people, but she supposed this cryptic message would be a lucrative spin for any of the Jedi that had moral doubts about what they were being told to do. Verra knew that the decision was out of her hands, if the Council had already discussed it and agreed then she was as good as on the mission. She felt no resentment for that fact, though. How many other Jedi were given the chance to venture into the darkness and retrieve a brother? How many other Jedi could say that the Council felt they were trustworthy enough to send against the Sith, alone?

“I will find him,” she stated. “No matter the cost.”

Master Doris paused then and gave her a smile that was surprisingly sorrowful. After its manifestation though, he slid the cube toward her. “Programmed into that databank is the identity you are to assume. Because truths are easier to express than lies, we have applied as much truth as possible to your cover.”

Verra rose from her seat and accepted the cube. With Master Doris also standing they embraced forearms once more, before she looked into his eyes. “I shall not fail the Council.”

Master Doris nodded once more, but in his gaze she saw something that she knew would never leave his lips. After their embrace had come to an end she turned about and made her way toward the door once more, which slid open expectantly. Perhaps she had misread what she felt upon the old man? It was possible that she had projected her own thoughts onto him, after all. But there was still a small sting that came to her mind as she made her exit; a tiny seed of doubt that refused to allow her to forget that look. It had but a single message to it, but one with grave ramifications.

That is what Master Zi’los said, as well.