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The Voyages of Targon Karashi


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TargonKarashi
03.13.2012 , 01:51 PM | #11
Chapter Three

Targon didn’t like the looks of the other rooms – they were full of gambling, fighting, illegal dealing, and crowding over exotic dancers. Such things were not what a Jedi Knight should participate in. However, he was here, so he might as well rest in the lobby for a little while. There was only drinking going on there.

Reentering the lobby, he sighed in dismay. It apparently was time for some entertainment to liven the mood of the customers. A scantily dressed troupe of girls had been brought in, and they were dancing on just about all of the tables.

Targon ignored the swooning onlookers and made his way over to the bar. He sat in a chair and studied the vast assortment of drinks to choose from. He wanted cheap – and preferably nonalcoholic. There weren’t many that fit his criteria.

“So what’ll it be?” the bartender asked.

“Water,” Targon said simply.

The alien balked. “Water? You want water you can dunk your head in a puddle.”

“Surely water is free?” Targon asked.

“A cheapskate, are ya?” The bartender shook his head. He poured a glass full of the simple liquid and squeezed in a wedge of a fruit. “Here, maybe you’d like some sort of flavor.”

“Thank you,” Targon took the glass. The bartender moved on to other – more prolific and paying – drinkers.

Targon sipped his glass of water and tried to shut out the noise of the cantina to gain some calm in his mind. He had many things to think about – what he would do, who he could help…above everything, though, he was asking the question of why he came here in the first place. He was on a world controlled by two unfriendly powers, both quite dangerous to Jedi.

But he had come here to help people…so he scanned the area, wondering if any of these folks were in a situation he could help them with.

---

Rick sat alone at a booth. There was an empty glass in front of him, but his attention was towards the nearest dancer. She was a human, and Rick was wondering if he might be able to ask her out.

Of course, he would be leaving soon, so there was no room for a significant relationship. He might get lucky though, and not with cards. She might be the type…but if he was wrong… What if she wasn’t that kind of girl? The memory of seven hard slaps on his cheek from seven furious women came to mind. He wasn’t in the mood for an eighth.

He was about to stand up to get another drink when a heavy hand pushed him back in the booth. Then a man sat down across the table from him. He was a Kiffar, but he wore the armor and insignia of a Mandalorian recruit. But there was another mark that differentiated him from the clans – a black handprint.

Rick winced. Not again…

“Well, Rick Orlan,” the man smiled with malice. “I hope you got our message earlier this week.”

“You mean the trashed apartment?” Rick nodded. “Yes, yes, very nice. I would never have figured it was you if your symbol hadn’t been painted all over the walls. Couldn’t you have stayed and chatted a while?”

“Let’s cut the bantha fodder,” his guest leaned forward, making sure Rick noticed the blaster he held under the table.

“The money, right…” Rick scratched his whiskers. “Well, you see, it’s like this…I knew from your visit to my apartment that you were in town, so I came here to win a fortune to pay Algayne by playing cards. But wouldn’t you know it, these bums I was playing with got upset because I beat them and they started calling me a cheater. Me! A cheater!”

The Kiffar’s face was stoic and uninterested.

Rick continued, “So, they started trying to pick a fight, and the security comes and punishes – who else? – Me! They take my money and I’m the one who’s out of luck. Even though I won fair and square.”

“Touching, really. But I don’t give a frell. Algayne doesn’t give a frell either. He wants his money – the money you borrowed for an investment that turned sour. We’ve given you plenty of time, now it’s time to pay up.”

“Plenty? That deal went down less than a month ago. I would have thought you’d have given me a few weeks more.”

“You thought wrong. Algayne can’t have has-been smuggler scum losing his money and making a fool out of him.”

“A fool? That’s a bit harsh. I lost money just as he did.”

“Only he’s the one who is sending the collector,” the Kiffar pulled the blaster up and held it to Rick’s face. “Now, how about that money?”

“What if I don’t have it?” Rick felt sweat start to bead on his forehead.

“Do I really need to answer that?”

“No, not really.”

Rick gulped. “Can I please ask for an extension? Two days, maybe? I can get the money by then, I promise.”

“And then lose it again, most likely. Algayne sends his regards, Rick Orlan,” he started to pull the trigger.

The blaster suddenly left his hand and landed on the table. Both men looked up and saw a cloaked man standing over them. He was young – barely looked out of his teens. Rick and the collector both studied him with a hint of contempt.

“Is there a problem here?” Targon asked.

“None of your concern, stranger,” the Kiffar snorted. “Mind your own business, kid.”

“I’m not sure about rules here,” Targon persisted. “But I don’t believe violence is welcome in this cantina.”

“After I fry this mudlicker, I’ll be long gone before anyone can say anything.”

“Well, I’m saying something right now.”

Rick swallowed. “Look, man, I appreciate your concern, but you should really butt out of this…”

“Shut up, Rick!” the Kiffar picked up the gun, still staring up at the interloper. He stood and then started looking down on the young man. “I don’t like troublemakers, and my boss doesn’t like them either. Clear out, fool, or your blood can join this scum’s on the table.”

“There’s no need to get hostile,” Targon held up his hands. “I’m sure we can resolve this issue without any trouble. If this is an affair of money, perhaps I can assist?”

“This isn’t about money,” the Mandalorian growled. “It’s about honor and image.”

“That’s not how it seemed to me,” Rick said. “I’d say our talk was about money.”

“I told you to shut up, worm!” The Kiffar turned the gun on Rick and prepared to fire.

Targon grabbed his arm and pulled him away, causing the shot to scorch the wall above Rick’s head. Then the young man pushed the Mandalorian backwards with his shoulder.
Recovering as he bumped into a table, the Kiffar growled. “You’ve got a death wish, kid. First you, and then the fool!”

Targon’s hand pulled out his lightsaber from his cloak. The green glow and the recognizable humming silenced the entire cantina. Everyone – drunk or less so, dancer or watcher – stopped and was staring at the man who revealed himself to be a Jedi.

The Kiffar was unimpressed. “Algayne has killed dozens of Jedi, and he teaches his men to kill them too. I’ll gain great honor by bringing him your head.” He fired his blaster four times.

Targon blocked each bolt, sending the last one into the shooter’s leg. The Mandalorian’s armor was punctured by the powerful gunshot, and he gripped his wound in pain. He cursed and glared at the Jedi.

Maintaining a defensive pose, Targon realized his expression was a little more severe than it should be. He should have been calm and clear, but the Mandalorian’s disrespect and desire to kill Jedi had evoked a sense of agitation in Targon’s mind. He tried to clear his emotions, and made a personal note to work on his attitude and expressed behavior.

The Mandalorian did not choose to shoot again. He started limping to the door. Once there, he turned and shouted, “This isn’t over, Jedi. For you either, Rick. Algayne will see you both dead – I assure you. But your head will be my trophy.” He pointed at Targon. Then he left.

Targon sighed and deactivated his lightsaber. There was a long and awkward moment of hushed silence. But soon enough, the patrons of the cantina returned to their business of drinking and the watching the dancers continue their performance.

With the music starting up again, Rick sat still a moment, gaping at the Jedi. His hand was still gripping hard to one of his twin blasters in the holsters at his side. The situation had been going the direction of needing his guns, but the stranger’s intervention now made them unnecessary.

Ideas and thoughts rushed through his head. Should he get out of there? Jedi meant trouble – they were trouble. Then again, a Jedi could be a good bodyguard to keep the thugs and creditors away. But that would mean he would have to pay him, and Rick didn’t have money on him. Wait…didn’t Jedi work for free anyway?

He shook his head and exited the booth. Facing the young Jedi he stuck out his hand. “I guess thanks are in order,” he smiled. “The name’s Rick Orlan.”

The Jedi shook his hand and replied, “I am Targon Karashi.”

“Well,” Rick clapped his shoulder. “Can I buy you a drink?”

“I’m really not much of a drinker,” Targon shook his head.

“Nonsense!” Rick guided him to the bar. “Barkeep, how about a round for my friend here and me? How about two?”

“That’s not necessary,” Targon protested.

“Alright then, two for me!” Rick announced. “Let’s have…um…a Corellian scotch for both of us. That shouldn’t be too distasteful should it, Targon?”

“No, I suppose not,” the Jedi conceded.

“You heard him! Corellian scotch!”

The bartender grumbled and poured the beverage into two glasses, which he handed to the pair.

Rick held up his drink. “To the wonderful timing of this fine young man. Without his arrival, the janitor would be cleaning up my mess.” He tapped his glass against Targon’s and took a swig.

Targon sipped his slowly; even still, he coughed several times. It was strong stuff.

The buyer pounded his emptied glass on the bar’s surface and sighed with satisfaction. “Let’s have that second round!” When his cup was refilled, he chugged it faster than the first and announced his satisfaction in the same manner.

He turned to his drinking partner. “So, Mr. Karashi, what brings you to Calpronica V? It can’t be the atmosphere or the locals. Last I checked, Jedi weren’t on good terms with the Sith or the Hutts. And, frankly, both are the bosses on this rock.”

“Quite true,” Targon nodded. “Maybe it was the hopes of finding a nice fellow like you, Mr. Orlan.”

Rick laughed. “No, that can’t be it. Nobody goes looking for Rick Orlan…unless they’re trying to get money out of him. Not even the ladies come a calling anymore.”

“I’m sorry,” Targon said. “I take it you weren’t always so solitary?”

“Are you kidding? In my smuggling days I was a top dog. The spacers couldn’t quit asking me for tips and autoprints, and the lady-folk couldn’t get enough of me.”

“What happened?” Targon asked. “You can’t have retired – you look only a few years older than me.”

Rick sighed. “Nope, not age, not boredom…I’ve decided to go straight. Become a model citizen again. No more breaking laws and getting into trouble for this man, no sir!”

Targon raised an eyebrow. “Is this a goal you made recently?”

“Um…well, no. I got out of my business two years back.”

“And you’re still ‘going’ straight? I didn’t realize it took that long to turn your life around.”

“Sometimes it takes longer,” Rick replied. “It’s not easy, I can tell you. Plenty of folks still trying to get you doing a job or fly them around. Then there are the folks who you crossed…most of those fellows keep grudges for a long time.”

“So I imagine,” Targon said. “Who was your pal giving you trouble?”

“Him? Oh, that’s one of Algayne’s boys. A nasty lot, as you no doubt noticed.”

“I did,” the Jedi nodded. “Who’s this Algayne?”

“You haven’t heard of him? Well, I guess most wouldn’t have. He’s the head of a Mandalorian splinter cell, though he’s starting to become a rising crime boss. A dangerous man he is, quite deadly.”

“Are all the people you associate with like him?” Targon inquired.

“No…not all. I mean, I’m here drinking with a Jedi. You’re not going to go and try to hit me up for credits and dump me in an alley, are you?”

Targon simply raised an eyebrow.

“Yes, I know it’s a stupid question, and a poor joke. This appears to be an off day for the most part.”

“The day’s not over yet,” Targon smirked.

Rick chuckled. “That’s true, but don’t make me regret buying you a drink…speaking of which…” He pointed to the entrance. The door opened and with the new arrivals, all music, chatter, dancing, and drinking ceased at once.

Half a dozen Sith soldiers marched in, headed by a lieutenant with the foulest sort of primness in his clothes and in his face – at least according to Rick.

Targon sighed in dismay. So much for laying low. Only one thing would bring Sith troops in here. Him.

The lieutenant spoke. “There is word of a Jedi in this establishment, and I want to know where he is.”

Through the hallway came a pair of security droids and Leedo, holding a blaster pistol. They planted themselves in the path of the soldiers.

“What do you think you’re doing, Sith?” Leedo sneered. “You’ve got your area of the city – and the Hutts have theirs. The contract specifically stated you stay off out turf and stick to your jurisdiction.”

“I am in my jurisdiction,” the lieutenant stated.

“What? You can’t come in here…”

The lieutenant pushed him aside, and the troops had their guns up and aimed at the droids. “On the contrary, alien, the contract has been changed.” He spoke loudly, addressing everyone in the lobby. “Calpronica V is now under Imperial control. Lord Orgys is now governor, and all areas of the city fall under Sith law and jurisdiction.”

The drunken crowd was too shocked to be outraged. There was nothing that could be done. More troops would come if they resisted – and no one was willing to lose their lives over the their rights.

“Now,” the lieutenant continued. “I want the Jedi. The one who hands him over will be rewarded by Lord Orgys himself.”

Silence.

But before anyone could start pointing fingers and revealing the Jedi, Rick stood up from his seat and walked over to the lieutenant. The officer regarded his simple garb and appearance with overt contempt.

“I suppose you know where the Jedi can be found?” he asked Rick.

“That could be true,” Rick nodded. “Actually, I came over here to give you some advice.”

“And what is that?”

“You didn’t bring enough men.”

“Enough men? You think my contingent is insufficient to handle as single Jedi?”

“Not even that. They’re not enough to handle me.”

Before anyone could react, Rick drew his twin blasters from their holsters and fired off two shots from each gun. The lieutenant and three of the men went down. The remainder started firing at their attacker.

Rick dove for the bar, pulling Targon along with him as the shots whizzed overhead. The bartender and a few patrons were hit.

“What are you doing?” Targon asked.

“Starting a fight and paying a debt,” Rick smiled at him. “You saved my life, now I’m saving yours. I’ve got a ship at a dock not too far away. You can come with me, and get off this world.”

“But I just got here…”

“It looks like your welcome wore out early,” Rick said as he emerged from the counter and opened fire on the remaining soldiers. With quick precision, he gunned the last of them down. The lobby had become chaotic, with people ducking for cover and starting fights with each other. He glanced down at the Jedi. “Let’s get out of here before their friends show up.”

“The entrance is probably covered,” Targon pointed out.

“Hmm, you’re probably right,” Rick holstered is pistols. “Come on, we’ll take the back door.”

Targon stood up and followed Rick through the halls. An alarm was ringing, and panic was starting to spread to all the other lounges and rooms. Drunkards started getting aggressive, dancers started screaming and bolting for their dressing rooms.

“I take it this place has a system of handling these issues?” Targon asked.

“Well, it used to, but it’s under new management.”

“That would leave things in disorder, and something like this so soon…”

“Exactly,” Rick said as he opened a door. It was a docking bay. “Oops,” he muttered. “Wrong door. I guess it’s been a little too long…”

There was a large airspeeder getting loaded up with valuables, slave girls, and important staff. Leedo was heading the operation, but he was taking orders from a massive Hutt.
“Gardogga? Getting out of here so soon?” Rick asked.

The Hutt turned to him. “Imperials cause problems for everyone, and I need to vacate myself before an investigation starts.” His brown eyes narrowed. “This had better not be your doing,” he rumbled.

Rick laughed uneasily. “Me? Of course not! Why would I get myself mixed up in this nasty business?”

“Who’s your friend?” Gardogga asked, pointing to Targon.

“My new first mate,” Rick answered.

“Don’t forget our agreement,” the Hutt said.

“Forget? Never!” Rick threw up his hands. “In fact, I’m headed to my ship right now. And I’ll get that shipment off right away.”

“I knew I could count on you,” Gardogga smiled. He then barked to Leedo, “Get all the trinkets and girls on! I don’t want anything of real value lost to Imperial confiscation.”

“Of course, sir,” the Rodian bowed. “What about the prisoner?”

“Yes, yes, him too. I don’t want the Empire taking my special guest away.”

Leedo nodded just as two of the Hutt’s men came through a door, dragging a battered man between them.

“Come on, Targon, let’s get going!” Rick grabbed his companion’s arm and pulled him through the door.

Targon resisted for a moment long enough to see the face of the beaten prisoner. His hair was gray, and he was wearing a Republic insignia. When he saw he caught the glimpse of his face, Targon’s gasped. But then he was pulled through the door and he continued to follow Rick through the halls and out the real exit.

They didn’t stop for a moment in the alley. Speed was important – speed to stay ahead of the Imperial response. No doubt there had been a report of weapons fire and a missing patrol.

Targon simply trailed in Rick’s wake, not thinking of direction for himself. His mind was focused on the man he had seen being dragged like a sack to the speeder – a prisoner of the Hutt.

“Marc,” he whispered softly. “You’re alive… What happened?”

The feeling the Force had brought him here became stronger.
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The Imperial Inquisition and The Voyages of Targon Karashi

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TargonKarashi
03.13.2012 , 01:56 PM | #12
Chapter Four

Targon and Rick came out of the garbage-covered alleyways to the not-quite-so trashy streets. There were few people about, which Targon felt was odd as he remembered the streets earlier.

“What’s with the lack of folks?” Targon asked.

“I imagine it has to do with the Sith suddenly taking things over,” Rick replied.

“That is likely. But won’t being out here – alone – make us more of a target to the Sith?”

“You of course are assuming that they even know what we look like or who we are?” Rick glanced back at him.

“They could get names and descriptions from the witnesses.”

Rick grunted. “Good point, but we shouldn’t worry about it too much. Now…” he stopped at an intersection in the road. “Which way to the dock?”

“You don’t know?” Targon asked.

“Sure I know…I’ve just lost my direction for a moment,” Rick said.

A blaster shot hit the ground next to their feet. Looking up, they saw the shooter – the Kiffar that they had confronted back in the cantina.

Rick pulled out his pistols and fired back. The man took cover and shot several shots, forcing the pair to get protection as well.

“Are you really still doing this?” Rick shouted to their attacker.

Targon added, “Can’t we talk about this?”

More blaster bolts hitting the dumpster they were hiding behind and the shout “No talk!” was the reply.

Rick sighed. “And to think I was worried about cheating at cards not too long ago.”

“What’s the plan, Rick?” Targon asked. “He probably knows we’re headed for your ship and is going to try to make sure he keeps us from it.”

“Don’t worry, I have a plan…or rather, I’m coming up with one.”

“That’s encouraging,” Targon sighed.

“Here’s an idea,” Rick said. “Why don’t you pull out that lightsaber and cut him in half? That is what you guys do best, isn’t it?”

Targon raised an eyebrow. “Are you seriously asking that?”

“If you’ve got better ideas, I’d love to hear them,” Rick replied.

The blaster fire had stopped suddenly. Rick and Targon risked a peak over the dumpster to check out what was going on. The Kiffar was gone.

Seeing no more Mandalorian, the two of them stood up and hesitantly started down a different street.

“We’ll take a longer route to the dock,” Rick said. “Better to get there late and without incident than with a blaster shot in the ribs.”

“A wise plan,” Targon answered.

“Whatever,” Rick shrugged.

They continued through the eerily empty streets. No beggars, no pedestrians, no gang members, and no Sith patrols. There were only a few speeders a long ways above them, but those didn’t count. It wasn’t that the area had been abandoned, Targon noticed, but rather it had been vacated very quickly. He could sense the presence of frightened people all around him. The citizens were probably inside the buildings, peeking out of the windows. News of the Empire’s move to take over the planet had apparently moved quickly.

Nearly a half hour of silence had passed as they walked. Rick was feeling uncomfortable, so he opened his mouth to start a conversation.

“So, Jedi, how’s your first visit to Calpronica V going?”

“Very funny,” Targon replied. “And I’d prefer that you used my name, instead of the general term of what I am.”

“Oh, right, sorry,” Rick coughed. “I guess I’m not used to being – you know – up close to one.”

“It’s alright,” Targon nodded. “You probably aren’t a big fan of Jedi, anyway. Not many are, apparently.”

“No, I like Jedi…the one I’ve met.”

“That one being me?”

Rick smiled. “Exactly. However, I am still forming my opinion, so we’ll see what I end up thinking about you. You did, after all, save my life.”

“We haven’t seen the last of our collector friend,” Targon sighed. “What is this money issue that he wants you dead for?”

“Well, I don’t know if he wants me dead, but his boss certainly does.”

“Algayne?”

“Yeah. A little while back, I got a good deal of money from him to invest in a spice running scheme. It was supposed to make us both rich, but it turned out to be a scam. The bum who took our money – Algayne’s money – is probably dead now. But the Mandalorian appears to skin me for the credits I lost.”

“Was this all before your plan to go straight?”

“Well…no. Actually it was after. I just needed to get the money to take care of things. It was honest as far as I was concerned. All I was doing was investing money.”

“Someone else’s money,” Targon pointed out.

“Yeah, you don’t have to tell me. Having a blaster in my face and an angry Kiffar trying to tell me has proven it was all a bad idea. Problem was, nobody else would loan me the money.”

“Not even your Hutt friend?”

Rick shook his head. “Gardogga isn’t the kind of guy to give money – unless you’ve done a specific job for him. That entails either smuggling or bounty hunting. Neither of which I want any part of…anymore.”

“So what did cause you to decide to get out?” Targon inquired.

Rick was silent for a while. “I’d…prefer not to talk about that.” His tone had the tinge of remorse and pain.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Targon said quickly. “I didn’t mean to pry.”

There was silence for a moment again. Then Rick perked up, changing the subject. “Enough about me, what about you? I understand you’re a Jedi Knight…and you probably don’t have gripes or problems like me.”

“Not quite,” Targon assented. “I’m afraid I haven’t had my share of run-ins with criminals.”

“And you might hope to keep out of their business,” Rick said, and then added, “However, it could be unavoidable if you hang around me.”

“We’ll see,” Targon smiled.

“Whatever you say, I’m just issuing a friendly warning.” Rick thought a moment. “Say, you mentioned a name – Marc – I think, after you saw that man…who is he?”

Targon winced. “I believe that was Marc Avis, a Major in the Republic military. I met him a few weeks ago on Ord Mantell. We, uh, had a little adventure.”

“You believe?” Rick then shook his head. “What would an officer be doing as a prisoner of Gardogga?”

“I don’t know…he was a supporter of the separatist cause, and an enemy of the cartels that run the government on the planet.”

Rick frowned. “Then it’s pretty clear.”

“What is?” Targon asked.

“Gardogga is a guy of many interests – and connections. He’s got a slimy hand in just about everything…and from what I understand, he has family that runs things on Ord Mantell.”

Targon winced as though in physical pain. “I’ve got to free him! It’s my fault he’s in trouble.”

“Rescue him? How in space are you going to do that?”

“Well, where can I find Gardogga now that he’s left the cantina?”

“Where?” Rick was incredulous. “That slug’s got a hundred places to be! Don’t you know that Hutts are the builders of criminal empires?”

“It doesn’t matter, I’ve got to do it.”

Rick scoffed. “Well then, you go ahead.”

“I…” Targon realized the situation he was in. “I think we’ll need to get off this planet first.”

“A wise plan,” Rick smirked. “Now, we’ll just head down this street, and then down a few more…and then we’ll be at my ship and we can leave, and we can…”

He was interrupted by a voice from behind a helmet shouting.

“You there! Stop!”

Turning around, Targon and Rick saw a Sith patrol coming their way. There were nearly a dozen soldiers, three battle droids, and an officer.

“Oh snap,” Rick groaned. “Got an idea?”

As much as he hated it, Targon replied, “Yes, I do. Run.”

He activated his lightsaber and pulled down an advertisement sign to distract the troops as the two of them dashed for an alley. They got in and started climbing over the fence that blocked it off from the backyard of an apartment complex.

“What’s the plan now?” Rick asked.

“Well…” Targon thought for a second. “We take an even more indirect route to the dock – maybe up on the roofs?”

Rick glanced up to the tops of the buildings. They looked close enough together that he felt he could jump the distances. And he was with a Jedi, after all.

“That’s better than anything I’ve got,” Rick shrugged. “And I don’t have anything.”

“Alright then,” Targon said, heading towards the entrance to the nearest apartment building. “You point the way to the dock, and I’ll see about making sure we can get there.”

Rick shook his head, sighed, and joined up with Targon. Hopping from roof to roof, avoiding Sith patrols that were definitely looking for them, an angry Kiffar still hunting them…and to think that earlier today he was worried about having been caught cheating at cards.

For all the good, this Jedi seemed like a catalyst to a string of bad luck. Then again, maybe it was the planet, or just a bad day. Whichever it was, Rick wanted it to stop. Now.

---

Marc was dropped on the ground quite unkindly. The brutes that carried him remained in their position, looming over him with menacing and cruel grins on their faces.

He looked up and saw he was kneeling before the bloated slug. His chief of security and a couple slave girls that submissively rubbed his slimy skin with oils accompanied the Hutt. It made Marc sick to look at him, and he tried to avert his eyes, however, the slug was so big he was present wherever he turned his head.

Gardogga chuckled. “We haven’t had the chance to get formally introduced. I know what you are – but I don’t know who.”

“The name is Greyhawk,” the soldier spat.

“And I am the great and glorious Gardogga,” the Hutt smiled. “You’ve cause quite a bit of trouble for my constituents on the planet of Ord Mantell. I find this odd, since you are an officer of the Republic and therefore an ally of the planetary government.”

“I don’t ally myself with criminals,” Marc said.

“It would appear so,” the Hutt rumbled. “Listen, Greyhawk, I’m a reasonable Hutt. I know a good time to make a deal when I see one. Your superiors are fully aware of your collaboration with separatists, and your rank and position have been thrown out. I believe the military term is court-martialed.”

Marc frowned, and his soul sighed in anguish. He knew that was inevitable, but the pain was nonetheless potent. If he was to be dishonorably discharged, he had hoped he would have died honorably to make up for it. Not a prisoner of a bloated worm.

“Your life with the military is over,” Gardogga continued. “But I recognize talent – and your escapades on Ord Mantell have drawn my attention. I could use a man like you.”

“I don’t work with Hutts,” Marc stated. “Especially ones that have their thugs beat the snot out of me.”

Gardogga laughed. “But you’re still alive, and in relatively good condition regardless. I’d say that’s a valuable person.”

“What sort of spice have you been chewing that makes you think I’ll work for you?” Marc asked.

“Great one,” the Rodian chief of security interrupted. “This is pointless. We should shoot him and dump his body back on Ord Mantell as a message to any other troublemakers.”

“When I want your opinion I shall ask for it,” the Hutt gurgled. “Come here, Leedo. I wish to discuss something with you.”

Leedo made a gesture for the guards to take Marc away, but Gardogga held up his hand.

“Leave him,” he ordered. “I’m not finished with him yet.”

“Sir?” Leedo asked. “If you wish to discuss important matters…”

The glaring cat’s eyes of the Hutt silenced him, and he subserviently approached his master. Gardogga beckoned for him to come closer, and still closer until he was almost touching the Hutt’s face from being so near.

“You failed me,” Gardogga stated. “Several times today.”

“What do you mean, great Gardogga?”

The Hutt breathed in a massive gulp of air, and exhaled a nasty wave of rancid breath.

“You have questioned my orders, you allowed Sith troopers to barge into my cantina, and let a shootout erupt in the lobby, and you continually contradict my wishes. I’m beginning to think it was a mistake to keep you signed on.”

Leedo’s insectoid face showed a wash of concern, and it intensified when a burly guard stepped forward from the rear door and loomed over him.

“Illustrious Gardogga, the events of today were completely unforeseen,” Leedo stuttered.

“True, and so was your former employer’s untimely death,” the Hutt licked his lips. "Things didn’t settle well when he went down, but I hope it will be better with you.”

“Sir, please…” the Rodian whimpered. “This is not necessary…”

“Do give Hondor my regards when you join him – whatever’s left of him, anyway,” the Hutt smiled. He then opened his massive and gaping mouth as the guard grabbed Leedo and lifted him up and put him in.

The Rodian’s horrified screams were muffled within the cave-like orifice. His waving legs flailed about as though trying to run through the air to escape. Slowly, Leedo descended deeper through Gardogga’s throat until there was no more sign of him.

Gardogga licked his lips in satisfaction and belched. Then he patted his stomach. Disgusting gurgling rumbled from his gut.

Marc could feel his insides churn, and he would have thrown up if there had been anything in there to expel. His mouth, dry and agape, hung down in horror at the barbaric display he had just witnessed.

The slave girls then resumed to rub and pamper the Hutt as he reclined. “Well, Greyhawk,” Gardogga grinned. “It would appear I have a vacancy in my business – my chief of security is…digesting. Have you reconsidered my offer of a possible job?”

“I ought to shove a thermal detonator down your gaping hole, you sick monster,” Marc spat. “You should just shoot me now, because I won’t have anything to do with you.”

“Shoot you? And get blood all over this nice upholstery?” the Hutt laughed. “No, you’ll be my guest for a while longer. There is still possibly valuable information to be gained from you – and I’ll need dinner before too long. I hear humans are especially tasty…although we’ll have to dress you up. Already I can feel Leedo’s metallic piercings and outfit disagreeing with my stomach. Take him away,” he waved to the guards.

He lay back and smiled as the slave girls continued their work over him. He had them dressed up in scanty outfits to be a pleasure for the eyes, and to make them easier on the stomach when the mood took him.

The Hutt’s thugs dragged Marc out, and the old soldier continued to feel dry heaves coming. He was going to need to get out of this. And there probably was no chance for any sort of rescue to come for him.

He had lost his rank and station, he was a prisoner of a ravenous crime lord…and nobody knew where he was or probably even cared. Maybe, he thought, it might have been better if Old Greyhawk had followed protocol a little more and ostracized himself from others less.

However, if he didn’t get out of here, he wouldn’t have long to regret his past.
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The Imperial Inquisition and The Voyages of Targon Karashi

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TargonKarashi
03.14.2012 , 09:12 AM | #13
Chapter Five

Rick glanced down the structure he stood on. The ground was a long way down – and if he fell there wouldn’t be much of a chance of surviving. He felt his heart beating faster as he looked back up to the roof he was supposed to leap to. The distance seemed to be growing.

The Jedi was already on the other side. He had made the leap as though it were a simple task. But he was a Jedi and had his cheating ability.

“Come on, Rick,” Targon called to him. “We’ve got to keep moving.”

“Easy for you to say,” he called back.

“You handled the last three roofs without a problem,” Targon stated.

“This is wider,” Rick countered.

Targon sighed. “I can help you get across.”

“How?”

“I’ll catch you if you fall.”

Rick groaned. “What do you mean if? It’s a certainty that a normal person can’t make this distance.”

“It’s only assured if you believe it is,” Targon said. “Come on, after this it shouldn’t be much farther.”

Rick nodded. He was right – only a little ways more and they would see the dock. Then it was just a matter of getting to his ship and getting past all the Sith.

But that seemed so distant. Staring him in the face now was a chasm that mocked his fear and waited for his fall. In his mind, he could already picture his broken body on the pavement below.

“Rick, would you just jump?” Targon pleaded.

“Alright, alright…” Rick swallowed hard. He took a few steps backward, breathed deeply, and then ran towards the edge. Upon reaching the end, he threw himself forward into the air. He felt the emptiness around him, seeing the other building come closer.

He was falling too fast, the ledge was getting higher and he wasn’t there yet. Reaching out with his arms, he tried to get a hold of the building. But it didn’t look like he was going to make it.

Just before he was about to scream in panic, he felt himself stop falling. Looking down, he saw his feet dangling high above the ground – he hadn’t landed on anything. Then he looked up and saw Targon with his arms stretched out, and his face concentrated.

Rick breathed a huge sigh of relief as he felt himself awkwardly being pulled towards the Jedi. It looked like those stories weren’t as exaggerated as he had personally believed.

Targon groaned with strain as he kept his mind focused on lifting his companion. The weight and pull of gravity struggled against him, and his thoughts were hard-pressed to be constant and contained. Finally, though, he set Rick on his feet in front of him. The astounded man gripped his head and pulled his hair in shock of the experience.

“That was nuts!” Rick gasped. “I didn’t…I didn’t think the Jedi could…” he changed the subject. “Don’t ever make me do that again!”

Smiling, Targon replied, “I will, if at all possible.”

Rick slowly began to relax, and noticed the large complex not far off to the north. He pointed it out to Targon. “There’s the dock,” he said. “My ship’s in there, and once we’re to it, we can leave this dismal place for good.”

“From what I can tell,” Targon observed, “It seems to be under heavy guard. The Sith must have tightened security when they learned of a Jedi on the planet.”

“Hmm,” Rick noticed the Imperial shuttles flying in. “Yes, that’s a high possibility. But we can get in.”

“How?” Targon asked.

“Hold on, I’ll think of something,” Rick said. “Maybe you can think of something too, with your sense of precognition.”

Targon put a finger to his chin as he thought, but something tingled his senses. He looked around, and he saw a familiar object flying overhead. Grabbing Rick’s shoulder he pointed.

“Rick, look! Isn’t that the Hutt’s airbus?”

His companion looked up and saw it. “Yes,” he said slowly. “What does that matter…?”

“There’s our chance to rescue Marc,” Targon smiled.

Rick shook his head in astonishment. “What? Of all the things – what sort of odds are these?” He then caught Targon’s notion. “Wait, wait, wait… This isn’t my rescue; it’s not my job to break some stranger out of a flying transport. I have no desire to make an enemy of Gardogga?”

“What are you talking about? You’re helping me, aren’t you?”

“That has nothing to do with it,” Rick stated. “I’ve got a shipment of Gardogga’s spice on my ship – and you’re asking me to suddenly attack his vessel and steal his prisoner? Sorry, bud, you’re on your own.”

Targon frowned. “Come on, Rick, it’s the right thing to do.”

“Your misguided notions don’t concern me,” Rick said. “It definitely isn’t the smart thing to do.”

“Maybe it doesn’t have to become violent?” Targon suggested. “Maybe the Hutt can help us get past Imperial security and get to your ship? He wants you to make your shipment, after all.”

Rick thought for a second, and then groaned. “You’re probably right…and if you’re going off on this little adventure, I won’t be able to get to my ship alone.” He sighed. “Alright, let’s see about freeing your friend…”

No sooner had he said that, than Targon swiftly took a laundry line and launched it up at the over passing airbus. Using the Force, he made sure it was securely fastened to one of the door handles. Then he grabbed Rick and the two of them were pulled up into the air.

Targon started to climb upwards, and Rick grudgingly followed. It was an unpleasant experience to be flying through the air while inching up a line. They both slipped a few times, and they groaned as the friction of the cable burned against their hands.

Finally, they were up to the door. Targon waved his hand, and the door opened. He quickly climbed in, grabbed Rick’s arm, and pulled him up and through. Closing the door, they both sighed.

“That was fun, wasn’t it?” Targon smiled.

Rick shook his head and then noticed a guard walk by the room. The thug noticed them and shouted in surprise. Instinctively, Rick pulled out his gun and shot him.

Targon rushed to the fallen guard and looked him over. “You killed him?” he asked in surprise. “I thought we were trying not to make an enemy of Gardogga.”

Putting his gun away with a look of regret, Rick answered softly, “Sorry. Old habits and reflexes.”

“From your days before going straight?”

“I’m afraid not,” Rick shook his head. “You’ve got to be quick to survive in this world.”

Targon nodded slowly.

“Let’s get going,” Rick said, taking the lead through the large transport’s hallway. They tried to keep out of sight whenever one of the Hutt’s men came by. There came a point where they heard footsteps coming towards them and there was only one door around to hide. They both tumbled in, and the sound of frightened girls greeted them.

Closing the door, the pair noticed the several ladies in the room. Some were on beds, others were doing their hair. They were several different races, but they all shared the look of alarm.

Rick coughed. “Um…hi, girls.”

“What is this?” Targon asked.

“It’s the slave quarters, what does it look like?” one of the girls said.

Rick recognized a bunch of them – he had seen them in Gardogga’s chamber back at the cantina. “We’re, uh, sorry to disturb you…”

“Give us one good reason not to call the guards!” another girl said. Her tone did not reflect the boldness of her words. They all seemed completely fearful, and Rick considered that they might not even have the strength to call for help.

“We just, um, took a wrong turn,” he said.

“Get out!” the girls shrieked.

“We will,” Targon assured. “But first, could any of you tell us where the prisoner is being kept?”

Confusion replaced fear on the girls’ faces. “Why? Who are you?”

Rick answered, “We’re just here to get him out, and then we’ll be on our way.”

“If we help you, our master will be most displeased.”

“Just tell us where he is,” Targon pleaded, “and we won’t let him know you had anything to do with this.”

“No!” a girl cried. “He’ll hurt us! He’ll hurt us!”

“What if we got you out of here?” Targon asked.

Rick gave him a little whack on the arm. “Don’t make promises you can’t keep, Jedi. How could we possibly get them out? It’s foolish, and it’s a bad idea to get their hopes up.”

“It’s not about being smart, it’s about doing what’s right,” Targon countered.

“You’ll get us in huge trouble,” Rick scowled. “More than we already are in.”

Answering Targon’s question, one of the girls said, “You’re lying! You can’t protect us or free us from Gardogga!You’ll just be put with the other prisoner, and served for the Hutt’s dinner!”

“Served for…what?!” Targon’s mouth dropped. He turned to Rick, “What did she just say?”

Rick’s face was grim. “Gardogga…” he began, “…has strange…appetites.”

“And he’s going to eat Marc?” Targon nearly shouted. He looked to the girls. “Please, where is the prisoner? You won’t be harmed, I promise.”

“Lies!” the girl shrieked again.

“Please?” Targon begged. “He’s my friend!”

A small and frail girl looked up at him. “The prisoner is down the hall on the second level, the third cell on the right.”

“Shut up!” a larger girl slapped her.

“Hey!” Rick said. “Lose the violence, sister!”

Targon stepped forward and shook the informant’s hand. “Thank you,” he said kindly.

There was a pounding on the door. “What’s going on in there, girls?” the guard asked. “Who’s in there?” He pounded harder on the door.

“Um…nothing!” Rick called out in a terribly fake feminine voice.

“Who is that?” the guard demanded. “I’m coming in!”

The door opened and the thug started in. Before he could react, Rick’s pistols were out and he dropped him.

“More killing?” Targon asked.

“We don’t have a choice anymore, Jedi,” Rick replied. “Let’s get your friend and get out of here.”

“It doesn’t have to be this way,” Targon said.

“I’ll leave the negotiations to you, then,” Rick said. “Let’s go.”

“What about them?” Targon asked. “We can’t just leave them.”

“It’s either we save your friend or end up prisoners like him. Sometimes you have to do what you have to do to get the job done. Now let’s go!”

Targon sadly glanced at the girl who had helped them. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I wish there was something I could…”

“Get out!” the other girls were upon him and clawing at him. “Get out! Guards! Guards!”

Rick helped get Targon free from them. He batted the harpies away. “There’s nothing we can do for them,” he told the Jedi. “You can’t always dole out the justice. Come on, your friend is counting on you!”

They left the room. Once they were gone, the girls turned on the snitch, their faces angry. “You’ll get us all in trouble!” they said. “We won’t take the fall for you, Gardogga will know that you’re the one!”

Another guard arrived, having heard the blaster shot and the girls’ cries. He saw the dead man on the ground and demanded an explanation. The girls all pointed at the one who had helped the intruders.

“They wanted to know where the prisoner was,” she said weakly. “I told them.”

The guard stepped forward, and the other slaves backed away, leaving the frail girl alone. She kept her head down and her eyes closed. Tears trickled down her face as the guard’s hand smacked against her, sending her to the ground.

“Gardogga will deal with you later,” he hissed. “All of you,” he pointed to the girls, “If you ever fail to let us know about an intruder, I’ll kill you all! Slaves are replaceable, especially girls!”

---

Targon pounded his fist against the wall as they made their way down to the steps to the second level. His eyes were burning with hot and angry tears.

“We shouldn’t have left them!” he roared. “I shouldn’t have left them!”

“Look, Targon, there’s nothing you could do anyway,” Rick grabbed his shoulder. “You dragged me into this escapade, and by goodness, I’ll drag you out of it if I have to. There are a lot of slaves in the galaxy, and many far worse off than those girls. You can’t stop something that’s been going on for thousands of years.”

“I could try!” Targon said. “It’s a Jedi’s purpose to help others. They need my help!”

“Well, if you didn’t happen to notice, they didn’t want your help.”

“That’s not an excuse!”

“No it’s not, but it’s reality. Come on, now, before more guards show up. At least we can save your friend and get out of here. There will be time for regret later.”

Someone appeared at the top of the steps – the guard that had visited the slaves. “Hey!” he shouted. “You’re the blokes who contaminated the girls! I’ll see you fried for damaging the goods!”

Targon felt a surge of anger take him. Goods? Women weren’t property. No one was property.

As the guard fired his blaster at them, Targon activated his lightsaber and reflected the shot back at the shooter’s head. He suddenly became aware of what he had done. Deactivating his saber, he dropped to his knees and grabbed his hair.

“Okay, so you killed someone,” Rick shrugged. “I’ve killed people before too. It stinks…but we need to get going!”

“You don’t understand,” Targon said. “I’m a Jedi!”

Rick pulled him up to his feet. “Look here, Targon. People enslave each other and people kill each other. Take it from someone with a little more experience in the big world than you – nobody can be a perfect person, not even a Jedi. That’s just the fact of life. Now, you can make amends for today when we’re safe tomorrow. Right now, you’ve got a friend that’s in big trouble, and a Hutt who’s liable to kill us if we get caught. It’s time to pull yourself together and save your friend!”

Targon took three deep breaths, feeling his anger and remorse slowly fade. “You’re right,” he said softly. “Let’s go.”

“There,” Rick smiled and patted his shoulder. “You catch on quick.”

The young Jedi then followed Rick to the door that they were told the prisoner was in. To no surprise, the cell door was locked. Rick took a go at trying to bypass the security codes, but with no success.

“So much for the subtle approach,” he shrugged, stepping back and gesturing to Targon.

Sighing, Targon activated his saber and cut through the door. In a moment, they were through. They stepped in and saw the beaten man lying face down on the ground. There was another person lying on the ground as well – but he was a guard.

Coming closer, Targon knelt down to check Marc, when suddenly the old soldier turned himself over and shoved a blaster in the Jedi’s chest.

Marc’s eyes widened when he saw that it wasn’t another guard he was looking at. Instead, it was a person he was really not expecting to be seeing again since he last saw him back on Ord Mantell.

“No,” he said in disbelief. “I must be losing my mind in my age.”

“It’s me, Marc,” Targon smiled. “I’m here to get you out of here.”

“Old Greyhawk, you’re a lucky old man indeed,” Marc said to himself. “You’ve gone and made a friend of a Jedi that’s willing to come and rescue you from the hands of evil and deliver you to safety.”

“Um…is he alright?” Rick asked. “He seems like he’s not altogether here.”

“Who’s he?” Marc asked.

“He’s Rick Orlan,” Targon replied. “And he’s going to help us all get off this world.”

“Well, son,” the old soldier said to Rick. “If you’re a friend of Targon’s you’re a friend of mine.”

Rick nodded, then set his sights on the guard. “Is he dead?”

“You didn’t think I’d be sharing a room with the likes of him, did you?”

“No,” Rick shrugged. “I just didn’t think that…”

“…That an old man can still take on a simple thug?” Marc finished.

“Um…no, that’s not what I was thinking,” Rick frowned in embarrassment. He changed the focus. “We should get out of here now.”

“Can you walk?” Targon asked.

“I’m afraid my age and the Hutt’s hospitality has sapped my strength,” Marc sighed.

“That’s alright,” Targon smiled. “Rick will help you.”

“Me?” Rick asked. “Why not you? This is your rescue plan, anyway.”

“And I’m the one with the lightsaber,” Targon countered.

Rick sighed. “You sure know how to make a good point. Alright, Marc, let’s get you out of here.”

As Rick lifted him up and took him by the shoulder, Marc said, “Call me Greyhawk, son, that’s my name now.”

“What do you mean, major?” Targon asked.

“And don’t call me that, either. My rank’s been stripped, I’m out of the army now. And too many folks know and despise my name. I’ll be going by Greyhawk. It’s time I started a new life, and kept the name that suits me better.”

Rick sent a questioning glance at Targon, who shook his head and shrugged.

“All right, sir,” Targon said. “You’ll forgive us if it takes some adjusting.”

They left the cell, and glanced down both sides of the hall.

“So what now?” Rick inquired. “How did you plan on getting out of here?”

“Well, I don’t think we’ll be able to make any deals with Gardogga,” Targon sighed. “His guards are sure to shoot us on sight.”

“And I won’t let you make any deals with that monster!” Greyhawk said. “I saw him eat a person, and he was planning on doing the same to me. I’ll be a kath hound’s chew toy before I talk to that slimy beast again!”

“I see you know him as well, gramps,” Rick smiled. “So what is the plan, then?”

Targon felt an urging to find a window. Upon finding one, he took a look outside and smiled. “There’s our way out,” he said as he activated his saber and started cutting a hole around the window large enough for them to fit through.

The airbus was flying low, preparing to land on a docking pad outside the spaceport. Just below was a bunch of cloth roofs of a local market.

Rick saw the scene and guessed the Jedi’s plan. “You can’t be serious,” he said.

“I am, and it’s our best bet,” Targon replied, finishing his cutting. He pulled the slab of the hull inward, and set it on the ground. “Let’s go,” he said as he jumped out.

Rick hesitated, shaking his head.

“What are you waiting for, sonny?” Greyhawk asked. “An invitation?” The soldier then held tight and threw them both out together.

The three of them landed with a thud and a series of rolls as they bounced off the tarps and hit the ground. Though not a soft landing, it definitely wasn’t a harmful one.

Rick groaned. “Remind me not to leave the plans up to you if they’re all going to be as reckless as that.”

“You’re still alive, aren’t you?” Targon asked. “I’m just taking after you, I guess.”

“If you think I would come up with something like that…” Rick began indignant, and then sighed, “…You’re probably right.”

“Is Greyhawk okay?” Targon asked.

They both checked him. He was wincing in pain. Seeing their concern he said simply, “I guess I was a little more battered inside than I supposed. If feels like our trip has opened up some internal damage.”

“Well then, we’ll get you to my ship,” Rick said. “I’ve got a bacta tank and everything you need to get back on your feet.”

“I’ll carry him this time,” Targon said.

“Thanks,” Rick smiled. “No offense, gramps, but you’re a heavy fellow.”

“Nah,” the old soldier chuckled. “You’re just out of shape.”

“Let’s go before any Imperials spot us,” Targon said, helping his companions up. Old Greyhawk wasn’t joking about being hurt. He couldn’t walk, and he continually groaned in pain. Targon prayed that they could get him to safety before the damage was irreparable.
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The Imperial Inquisition and The Voyages of Targon Karashi

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TargonKarashi
03.14.2012 , 09:17 AM | #14
Chapter Six

A large ship, with heavy plating and armed to the teeth, landed in a docking bay. There were numerous Imperial guards patrolling each hangar in the port – inspecting every person coming in and going out. Using numbers to display power and exert a sense of intimidation over the people, ten to twelve men awaited the ramp of this ship to lower and the occupants to come out.

Out of the ship came six men – six large and armed Mandalorians. Their helmets concealed their faces. Their armor was green, with red paint splattered over them to represent blood. And on their chests were a uniform black handprint.

The last man emerged and moved past the others to lead them. He was larger than the rest, his armor thicker and his more bristling with weaponry. On one wrist gauntlet was a rocket launcher, on the other was a flamethrower. There was a tattered, blood red cape hanging from his back.

The security detail stopped them. “We’re going to need to check out your passes,” the officer said.

“We got clearance to land, isn’t that enough for you uniform-types?” the lead man asked.

“I don’t like attitude,” the officer frowned.

“And I don’t like primroses. Now, I’ve come a long way so I’ll be brief: which port is the ship The Lone Eagle docked?”

“I’m afraid we do not disclose information or services to those who refuse to cooperate. Furthermore, we have a strict policy that those who do not have official business with the owners of a docked ship are not allowed access to it unless they can prove relations or connections.”

The Mandalorians laughed, their leader loudest of all.

“Did you hear that, boys?” he asked. “This pencil-pusher thinks he can dictate whether or not I have direct business with Rick Orlan and his ship!”

“If you do not stop such disrespect, I will be forced to detain you,” the officer said.

“And if you don’t get out of my way, little man, I will be forced to kill you.”

“Nobody forces you to kill anyone!” one of the Mandalorians said. “Show this shrimp who he’s dealing with!”

“Good idea,” the leader nodded. Pulling out a heavy blaster, he shot the man in the face, and then shot his detail. With smoke rising from their corpses, the man chuckled. “That will teach you to get involved in my business,” he said.

“We still have to find Rick’s ship, Algayne,” one of the Mandalorians said. “And we’ll have to deal with any other security who decide to get in our way.”

Algayne nodded. “No problem there. You boys spoiling for a bit of killing?”

His crew heartily assented.

---

Targon and his companions waited long enough for a large party of people to come walking by the port security outside. When the crowd blocked the guards’ view, they rushed to wall and hoisted themselves up into a ventilation shaft.

Once in, they crawled slowly through the narrow tunnel, being careful with their wounded soldier. Greyhawk was thankfully disciplined that he did not moan or cry out because of his pain. That most certainly would have echoed through the channel and alerted any guards to their infiltration.

For several minutes they crawled, winding through the massive port. Silently, they passed halls that were occupied by Imperial patrols and cleaning droids.

They paused when they reached another access point, this one leading into a wide hall leading into a series of terminals. There were small crowds spread throughout the area – inattentive guards, janitors and port workers, and crews of vessels either having landed or were waiting for clearance to leave. There was an unsettling silence among them all.

“This is almost too easy,” Rick whispered.

When they felt sure that no guards were looking their way, they opened up the grate and slid through. Apparently, nobody else noticed them either. That was most disturbing of all. It wasn’t as though they had been very sneaky.

“Something feels wrong,” Targon shivered.

“You’re right, this is too easy,” Rick nodded. “Then again, it may just be good luck for once today.”

“Don’t be celebrating just yet,” Greyhawk winced. “Do you hear that?”

“What?” Rick asked. “I don’t hear anything.”

“Neither do I,” Targon said.

“Come on, I’m the old man and your young ears can’t hear that? Maybe it’s just because I’ve been fighting for so many years. It’s blaster fire.”

“What?” Rick scoffed. “If there was shooting going on, we’d know about it. There’d be alarms ringing and people screaming and guards racing…”

“I know shooting when I hear it,” the old soldier growled.

“Marc,” Targon said softly, “Rick has a point. This is a secure area and we’d know if there was a firefight.”

Greyhawk sighed. “I’m telling you, there’re men with guns and they’re shooting people. That way,” he pointed towards a dock.

“Um…that’s the way to my ship,” Rick said slowly. “Are you saying…?”

A blaster was shoved into his backside. “The old man is right, Rick,” the familiar voice of the Kiffar said. “I made some calls and someone came all the way out here to see you in person.”

Targon was about to pull out his lightsaber when he too felt a gun in his side.

“Don’t try anything,” an unfamiliar voice said. “We’ve made sure security is down so there’ll be no authorities interfering. But if you make a scene, people will panic, and many will probably die.”

Rick groaned. “Do we really have to go through this? I mean…”

“Enough talk, Rick,” the Kiffar said. “Algayne’s waiting, and we don’t want to try his patience, now do we?”

With the blasters still shoved into their sides, the three were led to Docking Bay 3B, which Rick knew to be where his ship was docked. There appeared to be no interference from any of the security as they went straight through lines and stations.

Targon was getting a sick feeling in his gut. What kind of person could take control of a spaceport that none of the security – Imperial security – could do anything to oppose him?

The doors opened, and he could suddenly see what sort of man this Algayne was.

Inside the dock, there were six heavily armed Mandalorians. All of them had a uniform appearance with green armor and the mark of a black hand. The head one was quite apparent, leaning against a stack of crates.

“Ah, there’s my pal, Rick,” Algayne stood and walked towards them. His bulk was intimidating, though it was impossible to tell if that was really him or just his suit of armor. Either way, the weapons were real and frightening enough.

Rick couldn’t hide his fear of the man glowering over him, but he nobly tried anyway. However, it failed rather pathetically. “Hello there, Algayne. Nice to see you were good enough to make sure nobody bothered our little…meeting.”

“I always prefer to conduct business in private,” the Mandalorian said. “And these Sith conscripts are so easily intimidated. I hardly had to work at all.”

“How many of them did you kill?” Rick asked, trying to keep the conversation casual.

“Twenty, but that’s not important. What is important is our little deal to settle. You haven’t forgotten the money you stole from me and lost, have you?”

Rick was conscious of the Kiffar that held the blaster in his kidney. “How could I possibly forget?”

“So where is it? And why are you causing my collectors trouble?”

“Trouble? Trouble? I know nothing of trouble…”

“You’re a funny man, Rick,” Algayne leaned in close to his face. “But I’m not. I want my money – and my honor – back restored right now.”

Rick’s mask of forced calmness shattered. “Look, I don’t have the money – but it’s not my fault that it was lost. We were both scammed! We both lost! I was going to pay you back, I had won the amount easily in a game of cards, but it was stolen by Gardogga and his thugs and…”

A huge Mandalorian fist to his face shut him up. “I don’t care about your excuses!” Algayne shouted. “I don’t care for anything about you except my money. Hand it over now, or I will kill you most dishonorably.”

Targon broke in, “He can’t give you what he doesn’t have!”

Algayne didn’t look at him. “Then I guess I just take your life, Rick, and those of your friends.”

Sweat was dripping down Rick’s panicking face. Suddenly, a thought came to him and he screamed, “Spice! Spice!”

The hangar went silent.

“What spice?” Algayne asked.

Rick’s voice was frantic. “On my ship! Spice! A load of spice I was supposed to ship for Gardogga. You can have it! They loaded it onto the ship, and it’s worth at least three times what I owe you!”

There was a long and tense moment of emptiness as Rick’s voice echoed off the walls.

Algayne holstered his gun and patted Rick on the head. “There, that wasn’t so painful, was it?” He pointed to two of his men. “Get the spice off Rick’s ship, and load it onto ours. Boys, let them go.”

With a huge wave of relief, Rick and Targon felt the guns remove themselves from their backs. Algayne’s set to work fulfilling his wishes.

“I guess we’ve taken care of our unpleasant situation,” Algayne said. “The debt of money is repaid, Rick, and you get to keep your life – today. But there’s still the debt of honor you have to deal with.”

“What debt?” Targon asked.

“It’s none of your concern, Jedi,” the Mandalorian pointed his large finger at him.

“It is if you’re threatening my friend,” Targon said. “You have a problem with him, then you have a problem with me.”

Algayne took a step back. “You’re bold, Jedi, I’ll give you that. I highly doubt your ability to offer a worthy challenge, but if you want part of Rick’s debt on your shoulders that is fine with me.” He turned to Rick, whose knees wobbled. “The spice you’ve paid me has bought you a few days of reprieve, Rick, but I will come for you, and you will fight me in a duel on a field of honor. Only to the death will my honor be repaid.”

“What if I don’t see you again?” Rick asked weakly.

“You will, Rick. I’ll hunt you down.”

When the spice was unloaded from Rick’s freighter, the Mandalorians left. The hangar was suddenly filled with emptiness. But the huge sigh from all three men filled the void soon enough.

Rick’s senses had returned to him fully. He turned to Targon, “What are you thinking? Algayne will kill you too, now.”

“You stuck up for me, so I’m sticking up for you,” Targon said.

“We already settled this debt,” Rick pointed.

Targon smiled. “Then I guess you owe me again.”

Greyhawk chuckled at the pair but suddenly winced and dropped to his knees. Rick and Targon struggled to lift him up.

“Quick,” Rick said. “Let’s get him on board and treated. And we can get out of here.”

Rick’s ship, The Lone Eagle, was a relatively nice ship – though a bit battered and in need of a new paint job – and obviously a smuggling vessel, or former smuggling vessel. It had a large cargo hold, a main hold with an old gaming table, a medical room, two bunkrooms, and a single room with a large and comfy bed. Rick pointed out to his guests that the bedroom was for the captain only.

Targon took care of getting Greyhawk treated and put into the bacta tank. Meanwhile, Rick went up to the cluttered cockpit full of papers and pastry wrappers. He started up the engines and smiled fondly as they purred to life.

“She missed me,” Rick grinned. Rubbing the dashboard he said, “I missed you too, baby.”

As he started taking off, Targon entered the cockpit.

“Well, my Jedi friend,” Rick reclined in the pilot seat. “Welcome aboard The Lone Eagle. Please take a seat,” he gestured to the co-pilot chair. “You are, after all, going to be my first mate.”

“First mate?” Targon raised an eyebrow.

“Of course. You got somewhere else to be?” Rick asked.

“For the moment, no,” Targon replied.

“Well then, take a seat.”

Targon sat, and was surprised how comfortable the chair was. He wasn’t expecting such luxury in a smuggler’s ship.

They started leaving the planet’s atmosphere. Targon took a look back to catch a brief glimpse of Calpronica before they left. He turned around earlier than he would have liked when a voice came over the speakers.

“Departing vessel, this is Imperial Orbital Control,” the voice said. “Transmit your departure codes now or you will be fired upon.”

Rick stuck out his lower lip. “Departure codes?” he muttered. “I don’t think I got any…”

“Well, you’d better think of something,” Targon said.

“Any ideas?” Rick asked.

“You’re the captain.”

Rick growled. “I can’t tell you how annoying it is when someone says that…”

The ship rocked as a laser blast struck the shields. “I say again,” the control voice said, “transmit your departure codes or you will be destroyed.”

“Not much for being decent,” Rick shrugged. “I’m probably going to regret this…” He then breathed deep and got on the intercom. “Please, please don’t shoot us!” he cried in a weak and helpless tone. “Please! Mandalorians attacked the spaceport, they were killing everybody. They…they took out the control tower and stopped anyone from sounding an alarm. We were just barely able to escape!”

“What was that? Please repeat,” the voice ordered.

“Mandalorians! They’re killing everyone down there!”

There was silence on the line for a long while.

“I don’t think they’re going to buy it,” Targon said softly.

“Hold on,” Rick made a motion with his hand. “These are Imperials…they’re a little slow.”

The voice came over the intercom again. Hold position while we ascertain the validity of your claim.”

Rick nodded. “See?”

“What are you talking about?” Targon asked. “That doesn’t mean they bought it.”

“No, but that’s not the point” Rick winked.

He pushed hard on the throttle, and the full power of the engines roared. They zoomed past the guarding ships even as their late reactionary laser fire started erupting from their cannons. Rick had a set of hyperspace coordinates already in the navicomputer and he shot them into hyperspace. Stars turned to lines and then erupted into the blue mottled swirls of faster-than-light speed.

“Ha-ha!” Rick laughed. “See? We’re home free now!”

Targon gasped. He had really done it – Rick had gotten them through the orbital security without a scratch. It was incredible, and Targon started to put away all thoughts in his mind that he had come to Calpronica V for the very reason of meeting Mr. Rick Orlan.

---

Algayne tapped his feet impatiently as his men were loading up the crates of spice onto their ship. It was taking a lot longer than he liked. He wanted to get off this worthless planet as soon as possible. Before the Imperials started poking around and asking questions about things that didn’t concern them.

Finally, the last canister was being taken up the ramp. That was when Algayne heard a great many footsteps from behind.

Into the hangar marched what he thought was a full battalion of Imperial troops. All of them had their rifles at the ready, pointed at the group of Mandalorians. A vicious scowl curled on his lips.

“What is the meaning of this?” he demanded from the officer that approached.

“You are under arrest, Mandalorian, for the invasion of a public spaceport and for the possession of illegal substances.” The officer had a couple guards check the canister to be sure.

“This is outrageous! Do you have any idea who I am?” He snarled at the scrawny man.

“I know that you are easily outnumbered and outmatched,” the commander said in a confident tone. “Submit quietly and you won’t have to be gunned down.”

Algayne removed his helmet, glared at the man straight in the eye and spat at him. “I will make you pay for this,” he growled menacingly.

“Arrest this man,” the officer commanded his troops. They did so, and Algayne reluctantly was forced to surrender.

“Rick…you son of a murglak,” he bared his teeth as the cuffs were put on his wrists. “I’ll hunt you down and gut you like an animal!”

The rest of his men were put in cuffs as well and carried off out of the spaceport. The troops surrounded the lot completely, both to block the witnesses from getting a clear view of the Mandalorians, and to ensure the detainees knew who was really in charge on this planet.
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TargonKarashi
03.14.2012 , 09:20 AM | #15
Chapter Seven

Greyhawk was resting peacefully after a long bath in the bacta tank. It was likely going to take several more dips in order to fully recover.

Leaving the old soldier to his rest, Targon came into the main hold of the ship where Rick was sorting through a deck of cards. He looked up when he saw the Jedi come in.

“Well, how’s our friend?” Rick asked.

“Resting,” Targon answered. “But hopefully he’ll be on the mend. I feared it might have been too late and his injuries too severe.”

“Nah, he looks like a fighter,” Rick said. “I doubt a little internal bleeding and bruises would keep him down for long.”

“You’re probably right,” Targon sat down on a chair across the playing table from Rick.

Rick started dealing out the cards between the two of them; only after a few seconds did he think to ask, “You play?”

Targon nodded, “A little. My master liked to spend a few hours of the day playing games – and he was especially good at cards.”

“Was?” Rick asked.

“He was killed only a few weeks ago,” Targon sighed.

“Oh, I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine,” Targon smiled weakly. “The Council always says not to fear or grieve over those who become one with the Force. At any rate, death comes to us all, doesn’t it?”

“Hopefully not to me for a long, long time,” Rick finished dealing. He picked up his cards and glanced at them, betraying nothing of what he had.

“I won’t catch you cheating now, will I?” Targon asked.

Rick grinned. “Haven’t you figured it out yet? I’ve gone straight.”

“Right,” the young Jedi laughed. He looked at his own hand and then back up to Rick. “Where are we headed, anyway?”

Rick drew a card. “Well, my navicomp is set for Corellia. I was going to go somewhere more friendly and comfortable after my visit to Calpronica. And after today’s events, I think you could use it just as much as I. And our friend, Greyhawk, too.”

“Corellia’s a nice place,” Targon nodded, drawing a card himself. “Might that be your homeworld? I hear a lot of significant people are from Corellia.”

“Significant? You’re calling me significant?” Rick scoffed. “No, I’m just a scoundrel who’s trying to start over in the universe.”

“You forget that you’re talking to a Jedi,” Targon smiled smugly. “We are very good at spotting people with a mark of destiny.”

“Oh, I have a knack for it too,” Rick winked. “I’ve seen a lot of folks become masters of their fate – and you are most likely one yourself – but that’s not for this chump. I’m just Rick, a man who left the criminal world. Or trying to leave, anyway.”

“So what will you do now?”

Rick flipped a few cards on the table and nodded. “I don’t know. I’ve got two angry crime lords upset with me, a soldier in my medical room, and a Jedi as my first mate…say, how long might you be sticking around? Tython is near Corellia, you going to be heading back soon?”

Studying the cards a moment, Targon replied, “I’m not sure. I left the Temple to start acting like a Jedi and coming to terms with my feelings. From the events on Calpronica, I believe I’ve got a lot more to do.”

“Well then,” Rick stuck out his hand, “I’ll shake your hand and offer you the position as first mate for as long as you like. We can probably do more good together than alone. You can help me get straight, and I can help you deal with the less-savory elements of the galaxy.”

Targon shook the captain’s hand. “It’s a deal.” Rick leaned back with a slight smirk on his face and Targon sighed. “You just looked at my hand!”

“What? Me? No, you must be mistaken,” Rick shook his head defensively.

Targon smiled. “It’s alright, I happened to take a peak at your cards too.”

The two of them laughed and showed their hands. Rick’s cards won, and he gathered the cards to reshuffle.

“What about the Empire?” Targon asked. “Are you worried they might be coming after us?”

“Pfft!” Rick scoffed as he ran his hand through his hair. “The Empire doesn’t concern me – after all, we’ve long since left their space now and entered Republic territory. Unless they’re willing to go to war over us, there’s nothing they can do. And, like I said, nobody cares about some nobody like me.”

“First off,” Targon said as Rick dealt. “You’re not a nobody. You’re my new friend.”

“Well, that makes two of us,” Rick grinned as he finished dealing and took a look at his cards.

Targon continued, “And secondly, what about the trouble we caused? And the fact that I am a Jedi?”

Rick alternated between looking at his cards and looking at the Jedi. “The Empire has to deal with hundreds of issues and planets every stinking day. What will they care that two men – a young Jedi and a former smuggler – made a ruckus of a new world they annexed? No, they won’t even bat an eyelash…except maybe to replace some incompetent officer that failed to detain a couple of fugitives.”

“I’m not so sure of that,” Targon said.

“Hey,” Rick shrugged. “If you want to fret about that, it’s okay with me. You’ll just be less focused and that makes it easier to beat you at cards.”

They laughed again and continued the round. Rick kept a confident smile on his face. He was sure he could win just as easily the first round and he casually showed his hand when Targon called.

When he saw the Jedi’s hand his eyes widened. A triple pair – How? Rick was certain he had stacked the deck perfectly this time.

He shook his head. The Jedi must have known and corrected the tampering with the Force. Sighing, he resolved that he was going to stop cheating at cards. Starting now.

The played several more rounds, and the victories were divided between the two of them fairly equally. Rick was pleased, he finally had someone who was actually good enough to play with fairly. Targon was glad simply to have someone to spend some time with.

---

The skies above Calpronica V were filled with dozens of Imperial ships. Not small cruisers, but massive capital ships, each coughing up swarms of fighters that roared over the city in perfect formations.

From the lead ship, a shuttle descended down to the Imperial command center. Waiting at the landing pad were squadrons of soldiers lined up in neat and orderly rows. The governor and his staff stood nervously, and they shook as the shuttled folded up its wings and set down on the ground.

A ramp extended and a contingent of twelve guards, dressed entirely in black, slowly stepped out and lined up in a path between the shuttle and the governor.

Then came down the awaited dignitary. He was dressed in a stark white suit, complete with the Imperial insignia and all the badges that displayed his rank as one of the highest officers in the Empire.

He was a Chiss, and his red eyes sparkled in contrast to his cold blue skin. The eyes stared contemptuously at the governor.

Bowing and stepping forward as the visitor approached, the governor greeted, “This is a great honor to be graced by your presence, Moff Taan.”

“Governor Orgys,” the Moff said coolly. “You may dispense with the pleasantries.”

“But…”

Taan held up a hand. “I am not here simply because I have a desire to inspect the newest addition to planets under my jurisdiction. I am here because I received some disturbing news of a Jedi causing havoc and chaos in the streets – all while you were getting comfortable in your new office.”

“Sir,” the governor bowed, “I had only been given the office a few days before and disorder is bound to ensue a change in the government.”

The Moff ignored his useless excuse. “Furthermore, I have learned that the Jedi escaped with other fugitives. Not only did you allow such a debacle, but also you did not resolve it. What good is a Sith that can’t handle the first day on the job?”

“I don’t think you’re being fair,” Orgys said dejectedly.

“Fairness is irrelevant,” Taan said sharply. “Any failure is unacceptable, and it is an abuse of the trust the Emperor has placed in you over this planet and its citizens.”

Orgys bowed submissively. “I understand, and I shall devote my efforts to extracting information from the men I have in custody and tracking down the fugitives.”

“Such measures are useless now,” Taan said. “Your rule is over this world, and the Jedi has since left – according to orbital security reports. You didn’t even get the ship’s name and registry. I am quite disappointed.”

The governor’s face grew into a scowl. “How dare you speak down to me? You may be a Moff, but I am Sith! I have power you could not even begin to comprehend!”

“Yes, and you certainly displayed your abilities today,” Taan said expressionlessly. He did not even twitch as the governor’s hand started to inch towards the lightsaber at his belt.

“I assure you, Moff,” Orgys said between his teeth. “I will not fail the Empire again.”

“No, you will not,” Taan said simply.

The two guards nearest to the Moff turned their guns on the governor and fired. Having kept his focus on Taan, Orgys was unable to respond fast enough before two blaster bolts struck his chest and he fell to the ground.

Stepping over the relieved governor, Taan pointed to the dead man’s aides. “Clean this mess up, and take me to these prisoners that are being detained.”

The aides obeyed, dragging Orgys’ body away. One of them bowed and led the Moff and his entourage away from the landing pad and through the compound to the holding cells.

Taan made no expression as he inspected the area as they walked. He was not impressed. There could at least be a few cleaning droids to make it look presentable, even if his arrival was on short notice. There was, after all, time between the ships entering orbit and his landing, so they could have at least given the appearance of working.

More of Orgys’ failure, apparently. He would make sure the new governor was one he picked personally, and thereby, more competent.

They arrived at the holding cells. Each of the prisoners – Mandalorians, no less – was held in separate cells. Taan was directed to the leader, and he bid them bring him to the interrogation – no…interview room.

It took several men – and several minutes – to get the Mandalorian to cooperate and sit in the chair. During that time, Taan reviewed the sketchy, and pathetic, reports of the day’s events.

He walked into the room and sat across the table from the detainee. His guards stood silent and alert against the walls behind them both.

“Hello there…” Taan glanced back at the report to see the name, “…Algayne.”

“You must be the Moff that I was hearing the guards whisper about,” the Mandalorian supposed. His armor, helmet, and weapons had been taken from him – but his build was still large and imposing. The scars on his face bore testament to many fierce battles he had faced.

“I am indeed,” Taan interlocked his fingers. “But we’re not here to talk about me, we’re here to talk about you.”

“Feh, I’m in a cell, but I’ll be breaking out soon. What else is there to tell?” Algayne shrugged.

“Perhaps I can spare you the trouble?” Taan said. “The charges against you are less than acceptable, considering that the governor who issued them has been removed and the reports are full of holes.”

“You’re willing to let me out?” Algayne asked.

“Of course, but first…” Taan leaned forward, “…tell me about these troublemakers – the Jedi and the smuggler.”

“What business are they to you? When I find them, I’m going to kill them.”

“I’m interested in a great deal,” Taan smiled. “We may be able to help each other in more ways than you can suppose. Let’s start with their names…”

Conclusion of Episode Two
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TargonKarashi
03.18.2012 , 08:25 PM | #16
Episode Three – The Art of Crime

Chapter One

Targon and Rick sat in their pilot chairs as they approached the gleaming planet of Corellia. Orbital stations and ships sparkled as they reflected the light of the planet’s sun.

They both felt a peace as they sent in their request to land on the planet. This world was not an Imperial prison – this was the heart of the Republic’s free spirit. While Coruscant and Alderaan struggled with major issues, Corellia appeared calm and prosperous. At least, that’s what it had always been before.

Rick smiled as they were cleared for landing – but they were going to have to wait in line for a little while. There was a larger number of ships coming in than out. That was fine to him, though.

“I suppose we can just listen to some tunes while we wait,” he said as he pressed a few buttons and turned a dial. Music erupted from his speakers and Rick’s head started bobbing to the beat and he started tapping his fingers on the console.

Targon raised an eyebrow. “Don’t you think you have it a little loud?” he asked.

“What?” Rick pretended not to hear. “Are you kidding? I need to crank it up – it would be selfish not to let the other waiting ships enjoy the song while we’re all up here in orbit.”

Shaking his head, Targon stood. “I’m going to go check on Marc,” he shouted over the music.

Rick nodded. “Suit yourself. I’ll take care of things up here.”

Targon left and closed the door behind him. The music was dampened a little, but the beat still echoed through the walls and floor. He made his way through the ship to the medical room, where Greyhawk was sitting up – thrust awake from his rest.

“What’s going on?” he asked. “Is there something wrong with the hyperdrive?”

“No, that’s Rick’s stereo system,” Targon smiled.

“That bass could shake the whole ship apart,” Marc muttered.

“How are you feeling?” Targon asked.

“Well, before I was rudely awoken by this racket, I was resting well. My ribs still hurt, they could still be damaged. But I should be up and ready for the world by tomorrow.”

“That’s good to hear.”

“Where are we?”

“Corellia,” Targon replied.

Marc nodded. “Nice planet, it is. A little independent and fake, but it’s a great blend of industry and nature.”

“Fake?” Targon’s eyebrow rose. “What do you mean by fake?”

“Oh, there’s a layer of corruption right below the surface of all the niceness. It was there during my younger years, and I doubt anything has changed since.”

“Care to explain?”

“Not really – crime is rampant on just about every world. But Corellia…it’s not quite up to the standards that the Republic keeps.”

“I was not aware any single planet really was,” Targon said.

Greyhawk sighed. “You may be right about that. Still, I’d wager we’d be at least a little more comfortable here.”

“It’ll be better than Ord Mantell or Calpronica,” Targon nodded.

The old soldier’s face was solemn. “I wouldn’t be too sure of that. Comfortable doesn’t exactly mean enjoyable.”

“I hope your pessimism isn’t justified,” Targon said. “I’d rather we didn’t have another adventure like on Calpronica.”

“Bah,” Marc lied back. “What does Old Greyhawk care? If there’s a fight here, I’ll be ready – and if there’s a party, I’ll be ready for that too.”

“You don’t care however things play out?”

“Nope. When you get to my age, you learn to just take everything when it comes and stop worrying about whether it’s good or bad.”

“Well,” Targon began, “I know some Masters that are far older than you and don’t think that way.”

“When you get to my age, you’ll also be able to form your own opinions on the world and life in general. I’ve had my experience, so I’m entitled to my view. The Jedi Council is welcome to have their own.”

Targon laughed. “The Council probably won’t approve of your ideals rubbing off on me.”

“Hah! They might learn a thing or two,” Greyhawk yawned. “Now, when we land, I think I’ll stay here while you’re out and about. For a while, anyway.”

“Stay here?” Targon was surprised. “Won’t you be bored and vulnerable?”

“I’ll be able to catch up on my sleep and recovery,” Marc smiled as he closed his eyes. “It will actually be quiet with you two gone.”

Targon shook his head. “I don’t like the idea of leaving you here by yourself. While there’s still time, you should let the bacta heal you some more and then you can come with us.”

“Now see here,” Greyhawk opened his eyes. “I’m not in the army anymore, so I don’t take orders, and I’m more than twice your age, so don’t think to boss me around. I’m fully able to make my own decisions without the assistance of a young lad.”

“I’m sorry…I was only…”

Greyhawk laughed. “Come on, lad, I’m teasing you. Mostly. In all seriousness, though, I am entitled to my own decisions as well as my own opinions.”

Targon sighed. “Alright, you win.”

“Don’t worry,” Marc closed his eyes again. “I won’t stay here all the time. Even I’m not that boring. I’ll go out and get fresh air and some sort of diversion while you guys do…what are you going to do?”

“I’m not sure,” Targon shrugged. “My thought was rest up, but I might find some people to help and Rick could probably get a job.”

“A job of gambling?” Marc supposed. “If you’re going to help everyone who needs aid on this world – or any world – you’re going to be here a long time.”

“What else is a Jedi supposed to do?” Targon asked.

“Hmm…” Marc nodded. “That’s a good question. Okay, I guess you’re stuck doing community service.”

“You could help any time you wanted to,” Targon moved to the door.

“I could, but you’re the one who needs the work, not an old man like me.”

Targon smiled and left Greyhawk to his rest. He walked to the main hold and sat down. The captain’s music was still pounding through the metal of the ship, but he had gotten used to it and it wasn’t bothersome anymore.

The thought occurred to him – Greyhawk had a point in asking what exactly they were going to do. Helping people was a broad subject…

Maybe they all just needed a rest. That seemed the most plausible idea, and it was the one he would stick to. Something might come up eventually. And when it did, they would see how things would develop.

---

Rick was jamming to the music, pounding his fingers on the dashboard as though it was a drum, and nodding his head with intensity. He didn’t hear the beeping on the intercom. Only when he caught the flashing light signal did he realize that someone was hailing him.

Turning down the music, Rick clicked the mic and said, “I’m terribly sorry, I must have dozed off there for a second.”

“This is docking control,” the voice said. “You are cleared for landing in docking bay three, grid nine six.”

“Already?” Rick asked, looking out the window to see the amount of waiting ships had not lessened. “There’s still a line out here.”

“You were moved up the waiting list,” the voice replied. “It would appear someone is anxious to see you.”

“Well, isn’t that nice?” Rick smiled. “Alright, I’ll be coming in.”

He leaned back in the chair and put his hands behind his head. This was turning out to be a good day.

Turning on the ship’s internal intercom, Rick said, “Attention, Targon and Greyhawk, we will be coming in for a landing. I hope you both are ready to go, because we’ll be embarking within the hour.”

Targon walked into the cockpit and asked, “Eager to get everyone off the ship?”

“Well…” Rick turned to face him. “No, but we shouldn’t want to be cooped up in here, now should we?”

“Marc is going to stay and rest on the ship when we land.”

“What? No, I’m not leaving my ship unattended with anyone inside,” Rick shook his head emphatically.

“Are you afraid he’s going to steal it?” Targon asked.

“No…not necessarily,” Rick said. “But…”

“But what?”

“I lost my last ship because I left a man on it alone.”

“Oh? How?”

Rick sighed. “He was a man I had hired to be a crewman, and he asked to be left on my ship when we docked because he wasn’t feeling too well. Then I get back and my ship was gone – and his corpse was lying on the landing pad.”

“What happened?”

“Well, I later found out that a gang of thieves – I’m not exactly sure who – knew that there was someone onboard and so they pretended to be me and the man let them in. Then they killed him and stole the ship.”

“That’s a little hard to believe,” Targon raised an eyebrow.

“There are a lot of stories in my life that you would find hard to believe,” Rick shook his head. He suddenly changed his tone and subject. “But anyways, we’re going in for a landing.”

“Landing? Already?” Targon was shocked.

“I know. I’m surprised too. But hey, that’s a stroke of good luck for us, isn’t it?”

Targon was unsure. “I suppose it could be…”

“Oh,” Rick waved his hand. “You’re just over thinking things. It’s probably a friend of mine in the government that noticed I was coming in and wanted to hurry us up.”

“You have friends in the government that abuse their power over the system?” Targon asked.

“Well…I don’t remember anyone on Corellia. Maybe things have changed…I haven’t been here in a while.”

“Are you not bothered at all by this?” Targon asked.

Rick replied, “I take an opportunity whenever I see one – and this, my friend is an opportunity. No getting old while waiting in line. Isn’t that a good thing?”

“It’s not exactly fair,” Targon stated.

“No it’s not, but neither is life. Look, Targon, I’m sure there’s a good reason for this, and we’ll find out once we’re down.”

“You are the captain,” Targon submitted. “What about Marc?”

Rick sighed. “If he wants to rest up and be a boring old coot, there’s nothing I can do or say that will change that. He can stay on the ship, but he’d better not make a mess of things. But if he stays, he has to stay for certain, and only allow me to unlock the ship. I’m not losing my baby again.”

“I see,” Targon nodded. “I’ll tell him he can choose to stay or go, but he has to stick with his decision no matter what. At least until we come back.”

“You’re a good first mate for a beginner,” Rick winked. “Well, the other captains in line might not like it, but here we go…” He turned up the music again.

Deaf to the shouts of annoyance and indignation of the crews of the ships still waiting in the slow line to land, The Lone Eagle made its way through the atmosphere and down to the surface of Corellia. Soon they were flying over the sparkling water, vibrant landscapes, and glistening towers of the planet – appearing a much better and more welcome sight than Calpronica V.

Appearances can be deceiving.
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The Imperial Inquisition and The Voyages of Targon Karashi

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TargonKarashi
03.18.2012 , 08:29 PM | #17
Chapter Two

The Lone Eagle was comfortably docked in a hangar – and Greyhawk was lounging comfortably within.

Rick and Targon entered the streets of Corellia, taking in the clean air. They looked around and started pondering what to do.

“Well,” Targon said, “we might find a hotel or something…”

“A hotel?” Rick punched his arm. “We’ve got the ship. We don’t need a hotel…besides, I haven’t the money for that.”

Targon sighed. “So I suppose the first thing we need to do is get some money?”

“You would be right,” Rick nodded. “I’m sure there’s a cantina or a casino around here somewhere. Using what I do have, I’m sure I can get into a high stakes game and…”

“You’re going to gamble your money away?”

“Away? Are you kidding? I’ll make triple what I’ve got in the first few rounds and then…”

“And then you’ll get caught cheating and be thrown out and you’ll have lost all the money you got, and what you already had.”

Rick bore a hurt look on his face. “Have you so little faith in your captain?”

“I have only what I’ve seen to go on,” Targon said.

“That’s all anyone really has – and then there’s the blind faith in trust.”

“Should I go with you?” Targon asked. “To make sure you don’t have any trouble with Mandalorians or anyone that wants to kill you?”

“Nah,” Rick shook his head. “There’s nobody like that on Corellia. Nobody that’s after me, anyway.”

“How very reassuring…”

“Why don’t you go help somebody? There’s probably an old lady crossing a street or a kid who has lost his dog.”

“You’re a funny man, Rick,” Targon smiled.

“Always have been,” Rick winked.

The young Jedi watched his companion walk off to the south, looking like he knew exactly where he was going. Targon figured he probably didn’t, but it wouldn’t hurt to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Then he turned around and started scanning for anyone he might assist, or at least something to catch his interest… He stopped and realized he should use this time to meditate and focus. But on what?

Targon saw a park not too far away – and it looked plenty peaceful to sit and concentrate. He walked along its paths and took in the shade of the trees, the aroma of the flowers, the gurgling of the fountains, and the chatter of others in the park. It was calming, and he breathed deep and easy.

He knelt in an open clearing, away from the paths and therefore out of the way of people. Closing his eyes, he felt his connection to the Force strengthen as he let his mind leave the confines of his body and drift in the currents of life on the planet. He heard the voices of hundreds of people – their words were indiscernible.

There was something underneath the level he was on, as though he were on the surface of a pond, and this…thing…was lying on the bottom. He tried to dig down and see what this feeling was. It wasn’t difficult to reach it, and when he found it, the voices – that had been whispers – became screams and cries for help.

Targon winced and tried to subdue the noise, but he couldn’t. The emotions swirled around him: fear, anger, grief…and another thing that overshadowed them. Greed.

He tried to isolate one of the voices to find out what it was worrying about. After a long effort, he found a single voice. Its focus was on a major debt – and a fear of men coming to take away his home. That person suddenly was replaced with another. This was a woman, desperate to feed her children, wanted to break the window and steal the loaves of bread.

Targon heard a dozen more voices, all of them similar in their hopeless desperation. His ears pounded as they suddenly merged together as a single crying shriek of pain. Behind that was a jeering crowd.

Finally, he broke out of it and panted. He glanced around, and it appeared he hadn’t been meditating very long…and nobody else noticed anything. Calming himself, Targon then returned to his trance – this time focusing on other things, though he kept the thought in the back of his mind for further investigation.

---

Rick found that much had changed on Corellia during the years since he had last visited – and he didn’t like the changes. Especially that his favorite cantina had been torn down and replaced with a…library.

How dare they? That place was a quality establishment, with the best drinks and service in the Core. And there were plenty of dumb rich people that frequented the cantina and were always willing to lose credits at the card tables. How was he supposed to have a good time and make some money if there wasn’t the old Gin City?

He sat down on a bench and sighed. “I guess I’ll have to go find a new joint,” he muttered to himself.

Rick heard a noise and looked up. Some teenager was breaking into a parked speeder. The kid got in, hotwired it, and drove off to a nearby garage down the street a ways.

“A chop shop?” Rick was surprised. “Right here? In this part of town? There’s a library right here and a bunch of regular folks…”

He happened to notice a pair of police officers walking down the street. They were fully aware of what had just happened – they had even seen it. Yet, incredibly, they just kept walking and turned the corner without a word.

“Okay, now there’s something wrong here,” Rick frowned. “Gin City was not in a crime infested part of town. In fact…nothing around here even suggests that there should be crime. Yet…I just saw…”

Rick stood and walked towards the garage that the stolen speeder was taken into. Upon arriving, he glanced through one of the windows – and it was definitely an illegal operation going on in there. The stolen vehicle was already being disassembled.

Rick turned around and walked back, hoping he wouldn’t have been spotted by one of the workers. Looking up, he heard a man shouting and saw what appeared to be the owner of the ill-fated vehicle. The fellow was circling where his speeder had been and asking if anyone had seen anything. Nobody answered him and he could only storm off on foot.

Discomfort twisted inside of Rick’s gut. It looked like there was a major presence here that kept things hushed up. He didn’t like what all he was seeing, so he decided he was really going to have to find a new place to drink.

Not too far off, there was a brightly lit establishment. It glowed with bright, fluorescent pink lights. The sign said The Showtime Affair, and from the music and the drunks stumbling out the door, it looked like a cantina.

Rick smiled and nearly ran to the door. There were on bouncers and no line. He walked in and was greatly impressed.

Everything was bright and cheery. The colors of the furnishings were warm shades of red, blue, yellow, white, and pink. Lots of pink.

The tables were nicely set and prepared – almost as though it was a fine-dine restaurant. There were viewscreens on the walls, all tuned to a single station called The Firm. On it was various programs: music, races, sporting events, game shows, newscasts…and all of it provided by The Firm.

Rick regarded it with a bit of confusion, but he shrugged and figured that since the Republic was a capitalist society, it shouldn’t be too strange to have a company monopolizing parts of the entertainment industry.

He walked up to the bar, which was right next to a large stage. The curtains of this stage were drawn up, and there was a pair of musicians. Musician was not the proper classification of these men, Rick figured. They were performing some sort of babble that was supposed to be…hip-hop or rap? It sounded like the banging of pans together mixed with a burned out engine.

Rick sighed as he sat on a stool. “Some people start putting out trash and try to pull it off as art,” he groaned as he waved his hand to signal the bartender.

“It’s bad business if someone isn’t enjoying the show,” a voice said next to him.

Rick turned his head and spotted a face he hadn’t seen in years.

“No,” he rubbed his eyes to make sure he wasn’t imagining. When he looked again, the bright pink face with the fantastic blue hair was still there. Rick was amazed. “Alen? Alen Heigren?”

The Zeltron grinned and laughed. “The one and only.”

For a moment, all Rick could do was gape. Then he gathered his senses and shook the man’s hand. Alen returned the handshake vibrantly, nearly shaking Rick off the seat.

“Goodness,” Rick shook his head, smiling. “It’s been – what – eight years?”

“Any length is too long,” Alen said.

“How have you been?” Rick asked. “What are you doing here?”

“I’m great,” the Zeltron replied. “I’ve been making lots of money.”

“Sure you have,” Rick winked. “Stealing it right out of people’s wallets, right?”

“No, they give it to me freely,” Alen laughed. “I ran a country club here for a few years, but things changed. Now I own this fine establishment.”

“You own this place?” Rick was surprised.

“Sure. Folks needed a place to drink after Gin City closed down three years back. I opened up this place, and we haven’t seen a dull night since day one.”

“What happened to Gin City anyway?”

“Oh, things went sour for a little while – I was caught in it too. Most of the entertainment places closed down, and the government took them over to put in public services. Like the library down the road you probably saw.”

“I did see,” Rick nodded. “But it looks like you’re doing well.”

The Zeltron nodded emphatically. “I am indeed. A new business called the Firm moved in, and they’ve been fantastic in getting everything running great. Not only my business, but just about everyone on Corellia – and much of the Core.”

“Really? I’ve never heard of this organization.”

“Well, you wouldn’t have, being in the outer regions of the galaxy for so long.”

Rick scoffed. “I’ve kept in touch with things…and it’s not like I was out on backwater worlds…mostly.”

Alen clapped him on the back. “Come on, Rick, I’m only teasing you. I see you’re still a lot of fun to josh around.”

“Some things never change,” Rick said.

Alen snapped and brought the bartender over. “Some drinks for my friend here – Scarlet Firewater.”

“What’s that?” Rick asked as the bartender went to fulfill the request.

“A specialty of mine,” Alen smiled. “You won’t find it anywhere else.”

“Is it something I’ll like?” Rick inquired.

“Have I ever given you something you didn’t completely enjoy?” Alen countered.

“No, I suppose not,” Rick responded.

The rappers on the stage had finished, and to Rick’s surprise, the patrons applauded them. When they exited, the curtains came down and the lights dimmed.

“Those guys might not have been to your liking,” Alen said as he slid one of the drinks to Rick. “But I think you’ll enjoy this next performance. You’ve come at a special night, you lucky scoundrel, to see Gabrielle perform.”

“Oh?” Rick took a sip. He took a moment to take in the taste, and then he swallowed and grinned. “Well, if it’s as good as this drink, I may have to make an investment in your little business here.”

The cantina went quiet, the lights went low and a spotlight shone on the curtain. Silence continued, building up a certain suspense and anticipation.

A smooth, blue leg emerged, followed by the rest of an incredibly attractive Twi’lek. She had leggings up to her mid thigh, laced with shimmering gold. She wore a sleek, black leather coat, with a pair of coattails that lightly flapped as she walked out onto the stage.

Her face was brilliant, her intense eyes pierced the dark room and into the hearts of all the customers. The pair of long, silky lekku swayed behind her, and the audience swayed with them.

From her lips came a golden, seductive voice. The light music that accompanied her was almost entirely ignored and unnecessary, for she held her audience’s admiration from the first sound. Rick included.

He gazed at her, gaped at her, and took in every gorgeous inch of her. He had seen a lot of lovely women on many occasions – and a lot of Twi’lek eye candy among them – but he hadn’t seen one quite like this. Her fantastic blue skin appeared like the sapphire glory of the ocean, and her eyes seemed just as endlessly deep.

The woman continued her performance, walking slowly down the stage. When she reached the end, she merely stepped over and mounted the bar counter. The gazes of the whole audience followed her.

To Rick’s surprise, she stopped her strut right above him and Alen. Looking up, he thought he was staring into the sky – if it had been in the shape of a beautiful woman.

She slowly slipped off her coat, holding it in her arms for a while. Then she let Alen take it for her, and she nodded to him. Her newly revealed outfit was pearly white and a more typical dress for a Twi’lek dancer or performer. White sometimes makes one appear unattractively bigger, but such was not the case for her. The cloth was cut professionally and perfectly.

Still singing, she bended her knees, and stooped down to look Rick directly in the face. She tapped his nose with her finger, and then closed his gaping mouth. The paralyzed man felt his heartbeat try to break his ribcage with her so near. Her eyes were as incredible as her breasts – which were most considerable.

Alen helped her step down, returned her coat, and smiled at the astonished Rick. The audience – Rick more devotedly – followed the singer as she navigated through the tables, returned to the stage, and finished her song. Then she vanished behind the curtain, and the lights rose as the music ended. The applause was thunderous and awed.

Rick was caught in a trance, his eyes continuing to replay the image of her. Only after a quick shaking of his shoulders by Alen did he snap out of it. He breathed hard for a while, taking a large gulp of the drink.

“Who was that?” he asked softly.

“Amazing, isn’t she?” Alen grinned. “That’s Gabrielle Vao – the hottest star that has graced my stage. I’ve got to admit that I’m jealous of you, Rick, you lucky dog. I’ve been trying to hit on her for ages. You know how I’m usually so successful with the ladies, right?”

“Uh huh.”

“Well, with her, nada. Nobody sparks her interest, I swear. She seduces the entire crowd, but she doesn’t care about a single one of them. Never before have I seen her actually stoop and make physical contact with someone.”

“Are you saying…?” Rick stuttered.

“Yes, indeed,” Alen nodded. “I think you’ve got her attention.”

For a moment, Rick smiled. Then he shook his head and scoffed. “Nah, that can’t be true. I’ve had zero luck with the ladies for a long while now. It always ends badly. She can’t possibly be interested…”

“Excuse me,” an angelic voice interrupted from behind them.

Rick slowly turned around, his face and hands frozen in their position. She was there, standing next to them, in her outfit. Rick could feel his breath shorting out.

“Care to buy a girl a drink?” she asked him.

Alen clapped him on the shoulder hard. “Well, I think I’ll see to some of the other guests,” he said as he walked off.

Rick struggled for words, but he kept his trained suave he had created for women. “I...I think I’ve had a little too much to drink, ma’am. Perhaps you should avoid me before I do something stupid…or get any sort of…temptation.”

“That looks like your first,” she stepped closer, leaning against the bar. “I don’t think you’ve had enough.”
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The Imperial Inquisition and The Voyages of Targon Karashi

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TargonKarashi
03.19.2012 , 07:01 PM | #18
Chapter Three

Rick took another swig of his drink. He looked at the woman, admiring what he could see as subtly as possible. Laying down a few credits, he ordered her a drink of whatever she would have. As soon as it was brought, he tapped his glass against hers and drank again.

“So,” he said. “I don’t know anything about you and you don’t know anything about me.”

“How do you know that?” the Twi’lek asked.

“Well, I you were someone who knew me, you’d probably be slapping my face.”

The woman laughed. “If that’s the case, then I guess I don’t know you.”

“Not yet, anyway,” Rick felt his confidence grow. Now that he had got her a drink and started talking, he was feeling much more comfortable. Still, the beauty of her kept him on edge.

“I haven’t seen you around before,” she said.

“That’s because I just arrived – and I haven’t been to Corellia in many years.”

“What brings you here, then?”

“Whoa,” Rick put down his glass. “First off, I think you should ask for my name before you ask for my business.”

“Alright then,” she sighed. “If you want to keep things traditional – I’m Gabrielle. What’s your name?”

“Rick Orlan, pleasure to meet you.”

“Likewise,” Gabrielle smirked. “And what is it that you do, Mr. Orlan?”

Rick took a drink. “I’m the captain of a freighter.”

“Would this be a smuggling vessel?” she asked.

“Nope – not anymore.”

“Oh, you’ve gotten out of the criminal world.”

“And I don’t plan to be going back,” Rick stated. “Hmm…speaking of my ship, I should probably head back and see to it.”

“Don’t you have a crew that can do that for you?” Gabrielle asked.

“Yes…but I don’t like to leave my lucky ship in other people’s hands. It’s just a little quirk of mine.”

“I’ve always liked men with quirks,” she smiled. “Why don’t you show me your ship? You might find more luck on it than usual.” Her soft hand rested on Rick’s and her eyes pierced into his.

Rick smiled. “I suppose I could…though it is a bit of a mess.”

“I don’t mind a mess – it shows a certain personality.”

“In that case,” Rick finished his drink, “let me escort you to my ship.”

With the entire cantina watching, Rick waved to Alen and led Gabrielle out of the building and walked with her down the street. It had grown dark and the streets were nearly empty. The stars and the lights of the city were a sight Rick hadn’t seen in a long time…and he had missed them.

He went through the usual chatter – and it seemed she was more receptive and interactive than other ladies he had talked with. Whereas he had done most of the talking in those other cases – leading to just random and foolish babble – Gabrielle responded and posed questions of her own. A decent and sustained conversation with a woman was something Rick hadn’t experienced for years. He liked it.

They reached the port and entered the hangar. Rick pointed to his ship proudly, speaking as though he were showing the finest ship in the galaxy.

“There she is, The Lone Eagle. Quite a beauty, isn’t she?”

Gabrielle nodded. “That’s a class I haven’t seen much. An X-5 Defiant, if I’m correct.”

“You sing, dance, flirt…and you know starships?”

“I’m into a lot of things,” Gabrielle replied.

Rick was impressed. “Yep, there weren’t too many of these made. Not cost effective to mass-produce, I suppose. I’ve made a great deal of modifications to her. I know she’s in need of a few repairs, but she’s plenty fast, fancy, and comfy.”

“We might find more comfort inside,” Gabrielle suggested.

Rick sighed. “Well…I’ve got a hurt man inside…not exactly private…”

Gabrielle moved closer to him. “I don’t mind company. We can find a room and lock the door anyway.”

Her warm breath was stimulating, and Rick felt his kneecaps wobble for a moment. He sighed. “Alright, let me open her up.”

Rick walked over and punched in his security code. The ramp lowered and he escorted his guest up.

Inside, things were not as he had left them. The place was a bigger mess than when he and Targon had left. Things were tossed aside carelessly, and things that weren’t even supposed to be out of place were far from where they should have been.

“What is this?” Rick gasped. He turned to her. “I am so sorry about this…Greyhawk! What did you do to my interior? It looks like you had a fight…”

There had been a fight. Across the main hold, lying next to the overturned card table was a man on the ground. Greyhawk. He was tied up, a cloth tied around his head and stuffed in his mouth, and he looked like he had suffered another beating.

The old soldier struggled to look up, and when he saw Rick, he gave out a muffled yell and tried to speak. However, the cloth made his noise indiscernible.

Two men emerged from opposite corridors. One was a Gamorrean and the other was a burly man. Both were dressed like common thugs – but it appeared they each had suffered an even greater beating. Greyhawk had given them a run for their money.

Rick’s hands went to his pistols. He shouted, “Gabrielle, get out!” The strangers came forward.

He felt a hard blow against the back of his head and everything went black. He dropped to the ground as Gabrielle stood over him.

---

Targon stood and looked around. It was early in the night – he had been meditating the entire day. The park was empty.

He felt something strange…a disturbance in the Force. It was something connected with Rick and Marc…they were in trouble. He didn’t stand around to ponder questions. Breaking straight into a run, he headed towards the docking bay. His feet glided silently across the soft grass and then onto the cool streets.

When he was nearing the entrance to the port, he slowed down as a group was coming out. Two large men carried a smaller man between them, his arms on their shoulders. It was dark, he couldn’t see any of their faces, and he wasn’t trying to.

“Excuse me,” Targon nodded, waiting for them to pass.

A Twi’lek in a black coat followed the men. She shook her head. “Our friend here is drunk,” she said. “We’re getting him to a hospital.”

Targon didn’t pay much attention. As soon as there was room enough, he squeezed through the doorway and rushed to the hangar. The ship’s ramp was lowered. Bounding in, he found the place trashed, and Greyhawk tied up and lying on the ground.

He hurried over to him and knelt down, lifting up his head and inspecting his injuries. Greyhawk was trying to say something.

Targon removed the gag and asked, “What happened? Are you hurt badly?”

Marc growled. “I’m fine! It’s Rick! They took him.”

“Who?”

“Those thugs, with that Twi’lek woman.”

Targon’s eyes widened. He had just passed them…and he hadn’t paid attention to that man they were carrying. That had surely been Rick.

“What happened?” Targon asked.

“No time!” Greyhawk barked. “They took Rick!”

“But you’re hurt…”

The old soldier shoved the young Jedi away from him. “I’ll be fine! It’s Rick who needs help. You can still catch them! Go!”

Nodding that he understood, Targon stood and rushed back out of the ship. He was back out on the street, and he frantically looked for any sign of them. They had gone, and there was no real way to tell which way they had gone.

Targon breathed deep and focused. He let the Force tell him the direction…west. He scampered off in that direction, letting the Force create a trail for him to follow. He bolted through the streets and winded through the city blocks.

Before too long, he found them – the two large men and the woman. They were getting into a speeder. A flop of a limp body suggested Rick had been thrown into the front passenger seat.

Targon shouted, “Hey! Stop!” Blaster bolts heading towards him was the immediate reply.

He dodged the shots by diving to the ground. Standing back up, he started running towards the speeder. The engines were firing up, and one of the men – a Gamorrean – was aiming a blaster at him. Targon had to jump back to avoid two more shots from the alien’s gun.

The speeder rose into the air and ascended up towards the tops of the buildings. Targon bended his knees and leaped up, calling upon the Force to assist him. He caught a hold of the side of the speeder and started to pull himself up.

He looked up and gasped. The Gamorrean had put aside the blaster and pulled out an axe. The pig lifted the weapon up and brought it down towards Targon’s hands.

Targon swung himself away, holding onto the engines of the speeder. The Gamorrean took a moment to realize where he had gone, but then started towards him.

He heard the woman shout, “Don’t hit the engines!”

The Gamorrean ignored her and swung the axe downward. Targon heaved himself up and kicked the pig back, knocking him into the second man.

Both men now were coming at him – the woman was piloting the vehicle. Targon dove away from the Gamorrean’s axe, but the man swatted him away. The confined space of the speeder made it difficult move around, and the three men were almost crawling over each other.

Suddenly, the speeder swerved hard. The driver was trying to knock them off balance. Targon smacked into the man, and the pig landed on top of him. Straining, Targon managed to push the Gamorrean off of him. The second thug shoved him off subsequently.

The Gamorrean grabbed Targon’s arms and held them behind his back. The Jedi struggled, but he couldn’t get himself free before the other man threw a punch to his gut. Though it definitely hurt, Targon noticed that the blow wasn’t as hard as it should have been. With only a moment, he noticed that the man had taken an earlier beating, and was showing the signs of fatigue.

As the man pulled his arm back to prepare a second punch, Targon swung up his legs, walked up the man’s chest, and flipped himself out of the Gamorrean’s grip.

He then shoved the green pig into the man, and both stumbled. They regained their balance and came at him together. Targon deflected the man’s fist with his arm and ducked as the Gamorrean’s axe swung toward him.

It was then that the pilot decided to pull another jerk, but this time Targon was ready for it. He dropped to the floor as the two men lost their footing. Unexpectedly, though, they ran into Targon’s body and tripped over him.

The Gamorrean squealed as it tumbled over the edge and down toward the street below. Grabbing the edge with one hand, the second man barely held on.

Targon stood and activated his lightsaber. Its bright green glow illuminated the entire vehicle. He held it up towards the pilot.

“Stop the vehicle,” he ordered. “Hand over my friend.”

He noticed that the man’s grip was weakening. Targon held out his hand and offered it to him. But instead of seizing it, the man drew a blaster with his other hand and pointed it at Targon. His eyes told the young Jedi that he wasn’t about to accept the help of the enemy. Targon could only sigh and prepare to block the shot.

The pilot swerved again, trying to shake the Jedi. Targon’s footing faltered, and his feet tripped over themselves. His saber cut through part of the speeder’s engine, and an alarm started ringing.

The jolt of the vehicle caused the man’s head to hit the side. His hand let go and he fell with a cry. His voice faded away as the vehicle kept zooming forward.

With smoke billowing out of the rear, the speeder descended in altitude. The driver struggled to keep control of the vehicle, but there really was no chance. Targon was about to stand up when the bottom of the speeder struck the ground and he was thrown out.

He slid and rolled along the street, coming to a stop about ten meters away from the vehicle. Taking a moment to wince in pain, he then attempted to stand up. His strength was sapped, so he could only get to his knees.

Flames covered the speeder, but the driver climbed out of the wreck – apparently fine. She dragged Rick’s unconscious body out of the vehicle.

Targon strained every muscle and once again tried to stand up to face his friend’s captor. However, a force came down on his shoulder and shoved him to the ground. It was a person’s hand.

“What are you doing here?” the Twi’lek asked.

Before Targon could reply, another voice answered. This was a voice completely unfamiliar – cold, harsh, and distant.

“I’ve been watching your little ride,” it said. “Looks like it was a good idea to keep an eye on you.”

Targon turned his head to see the speaker, but he couldn’t see anything. He lifted himself up to his knees again and looked around. Still, he could see no one else besides the Twi’lek and the unconscious Rick. The woman’s eyes were following someone, though, and he could hear heavy footsteps.

Then Rick’s body lifted into the air. His upper and lower body arched and dangled, as though he was slung over a person’s shoulder.

“Who else would have been able to carry him, since your muscle seems to have hit the road?” the voice asked mockingly.

“I could have handled him,” the woman hissed.

“Let’s just get going,” the voice said. Rick’s body moved through the air, rising and falling with each loud footstep. “We can debate this little change in plan when we’ve delivered the fool.”

The steps drew nearer to Targon. He could feel a strange presence, but his just couldn’t see anything. Just some strange movement in the air, like a faint shadow or wisp. The coldness of a dark soul was quite detectable, however, and Targon knew something was standing over him.

“As for you,” the voice snarled. “You should learn to stay out of affairs that don’t concern you. That way you might live to become a man.”

Something hard and big – that felt like a giant foot – struck Targon’s head and he fell to the ground. His sight became blurry, and he couldn’t move. He could only watch the fading shapes of the woman, Rick, and the mysterious other move off into the night.

Then everything went dark and he lost consciousness.
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The Imperial Inquisition and The Voyages of Targon Karashi

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TargonKarashi
03.19.2012 , 07:06 PM | #19
Chapter Four

Rick awoke with a searing pain in the back of his head. He tried to raise his arms to check it, but he found that he was restrained.

He was in a dark room, fettered to a cold metal wall. The cuffs that chained him to the wall were tight and thick. They beat him easily when he tried to resist their hold. He shivered from the frigid air. It felt like he was in a meat locker.

A light from across the wide room revealed an opening door. A man walked in, flanked by three people. Rick couldn’t tell who they were.

The man looked around at the area. “This is a little dark, isn’t it?” he asked. “How about putting up some lights for our guest?”

A second later, bright lights flashed on, bathing the room in a blinding white. Rick’s eyes took a while to adjust, but he soon was able to tell whom his visitors were. Of the three followers, two were large musclemen, and the third was Gabrielle.

But it was the lead man that caught Rick’s attention. He was dressed in luxuriously expensive clothing. His suit – that could practically pass for a tuxedo – was bright red and laced with gold. The well kept, precisely parted black hair and the cruel smile were a dead giveaway of his identity.

Rick swallowed. “Well… Hello there, Lycos Quinn. It’s been many years.”

The man lifted his arms and walked towards him. “Rick, Rick…how have you been? Why haven’t you ever called?”

“I would have,” Rick forced a smile, “but I’ve been busy. You know, getting out of the smuggling business is a lot harder than people realize.”

Lycos looked him over. “I see the years haven’t been kind,” he observed.

“You don’t look so well yourself,” Rick countered. “I couldn’t help but notice the scar over your eye.”

“Yes, a little trouble here and there is expected in my line of work.”

“So,” Rick swallowed again. “Why the immense urge to bring me here? Unless I’m mistaken, you’re one of the few people to whom I don’t owe money.”

“No, you’re right,” Lycos nodded. “This isn’t about money – as far as you’re concerned.”

“Oh, well, if that’s the case…how about you let me go and I’ll be on my way?”

Lycos laughed. “I’m afraid that’s not in the cards. You’ve been away for many years, so I think we should spend some time catching up.”

“Good idea,” Rick fake smiled. “Why don’t you go first?”

“Gladly. I’ve built a new company, Rick. I think you might have heard of it.”

“If by company you mean criminal empire masked by a monopoly, then I assume you are the owner of the Firm?”

“I see you haven’t lost your astuteness, Rick. That’s something I’ve always admired about you. You probably would have even figured out that I let you skip the line, given enough time.”

“I’m flattered. So this Firm is – what? Exchange? Black Sun?”

“Certain branches of it, yes,” Lycos nodded. “I have dealings with them, and others. But I do a lot of my own work as well. Here on Corellia, and several other worlds.”

“Why are you telling me this?” Rick asked. “If I happen to escape I’ll just report you to the authorities.”

“I know even you aren’t that stupid,” Lycos chuckled. “First off, they wouldn’t believe you – and most of authorities are under my payroll. Second, I don’t think you’ll be leaving any time soon. But don’t worry, I’ll get you out of this miserable cell.”

“Oh, at least you’re a good host,” Rick muttered. “Why am I here? What do I have to do with anything of yours? Why did you send her after me?” He pointed to Gabrielle.

“Ah,” Lycos regarded the Twi’lek. “I am sorry about the poor treatment, Rick. But I had to send my second best bounty hunter to get someone as great as you.”

“Second best?” Rick asked. “She could take any man down with her looks alone. Who’s your best?”

“You’ll likely meet him soon enough.”

Rick pursued the major question, “Why?”

“This is nothing personal, let me assure you,” Lycos said. “This is just…”

“Business, I know.” Rick growled. “The first step in the art of crime is business.”

“Oh, you remember?”

“There are some things you don’t forget,” Rick sighed.

“Well, Rick, since we know each other so well – I figure I can give you some information. That’s a big advantage over anyone else, let me tell you. The Firm has a hand in the entertainment industry, and the highest paying form of entertainment is sporting events.”

“So…are you shanghaiing me into swoop racing?” Rick asked. “If you wanted me to play games you could have just asked me.”

“I am not in the habit of asking for things,” Lycos responded. “And I’m afraid this isn’t quite what you think. Believe me, I don’t like the idea of bringing you into this – but business is business.”

“Care to explain?”

“You’ll find out,” Lycos snapped his fingers. The big men behind him came forward and unchained Rick. They then took him by the arms and led him out of the room, followed closely by Lycos and the girl.

Rick tried to crane his neck back and look at them. “Does it really have to be this way, Lycos? Do we really have to make this all…?”

“Yes,” the man cut him off. “Yes, I’m afraid it’s necessary.” He glanced at his watch. “It’s almost time for your debut, Rick. I have things to attend to, but Gabrielle will fill you in on the details.”

Rick glanced at the Twi’lek. She was in the same outfit, but there was a distinct change – she had a pair of blasters holstered at her hips.

“I understand that you have other places to be,” Rick said to Lycos. “I’m sure I’ll manage with just her to keep me company.”

“See you on the stadium,” Lycos smiled and then walked off down a hallway.

Rick was led to a large equipment room. The guards let go of his arms, but kept their hands at their weapons if Rick made any moves.

Looking around, Rick noticed lots of odd things. There were guns, staffs, boots, gauntlets, armor padding, helmets, swoop bike parts, and other objects that he wasn’t exactly sure what they were.

“So…what sorts of games does Mr. Quinn want me to play?” Rick asked.

Gabrielle pulled off his jacket and shirt, pointing to a flight suit. “Put that on,” she ordered.

“A little brusque, don’t you think?” Rick asked, reacting to his missing attire. “Couldn’t we at least have a little privacy?”

“Put it on,” she snapped.

“No,” Rick folded his arms. “Nobody takes my jacket away. Nobody. You can just forget it…”

Gabrielle pulled out a pistol and shoved it up against his head. It was an older design, resembling a six-shooter revolver with a few significant adjustments.

“Umm…” Rick crossed his eyes to see the gun. “I don’t think Lycos would appreciate you shooting my brains out before he tells you to.”

“I could make all sorts of lies about how you tried to escape,” she countered.

“Sure, you could,” Rick shrugged. “But how would it look that you let a prisoner get out of control and had to kill him? I imagine Mr. Quinn and his associates would not be impressed.”

The bounty hunter scowled. There was a long moment, and Rick was starting to fear that she might actually pull the trigger. But then she put her gun away and handed him his clothes back.

“Thank you,” Rick sighed. “I could take my time with putting these back on if you want. Most folks like what they see…”

“Clothes. On.”

“Alright, alright…” Rick complied. “So what sort of thing am I going to do?”

Gabrielle grabbed his arm and dragged him to a door. They went down a short hall, followed by the guards. Through a door, Rick found himself in a garage. Sitting in the middle was a speeder bike. It was small, but it was modified with weapons.

“What’s this?” Rick asked.

The answer he received was Gabrielle thrusting him on and strapping him in to the bike.

“Now listen,” she said. “These bikes can’t climb high enough to get out of the field, and there are auto-turrets that will fry you if even try. Just drive and follow the rules.”

“Thanks for the tip,” Rick smiled uneasily. “But um…what are the rules? What am I supposed to do?”

“Last one standing wins,” Gabrielle replied and then started leaving.

Rick gaped. “Wait…wait! What?! Last one standing…Wait!”

She stopped and turned. “Drive around and kill the other riders before they kill you. It’s that simple.”

“And this is legal?”

“Of course not. What part of crime boss did you not understand about Lycos Quinn?”

Rick swallowed hard. “And if I win?”

“Then you get to live. Live long enough, and we’ll see about letting you go. You should probably start that up now.”

She disappeared, leaving Rick alone, strapped to an armed bike. He started up the engine, and the vehicle roared to life. There were bright red lights along the bike’s sides.

“Huh,” Rick nodded. “Red is my favorite color.”

The garage door opened. Sighing, he revved the engine and headed out. There was a bright light for the moment, and then the sound of a massive, cheering crowd filled the air.

Looking up, he saw that he was in a massive arena, and thousands of people were lined in seats high above him. The field was a bright grid, and there were twelve other riders already zooming around it.

Loud techno music blared over the crowd’s cries. Then a voice came over the speakers – Lycos’ voice.

“Welcome ladies and gentlemen,” he said, “to the sixteenth annual Gaming Tournament! We’ve got a great show for you tonight. The energy suppressor fields will drop in ten seconds – I hope your bets are down.”

A series of beeps signaled the timer. Rick didn’t take long to figure out what would happen when they reached the end. It would be gladiator games…on bikes.

He happened to look up at the VIP box, where he could make out Lycos, with a bunch of other guests. There was only one other that he could definitely identify from this distance. A large, fat slug – one he had seen many times and could never forget what he looked like.

Gardogga.

A deafening buzzer went off and it was followed by a roaring scream of excitement from the crowd. Then came the sound of blaster fire, from the other riders. Some came Rick’s way, and he did his best to avoid them. He wasn’t interested in shooting people…he’d just stay out of the way.

He saw some of the other riders. They weren’t hardened fighters or swoop riders. They looked like…smugglers. Yes, most of these men were fellow smugglers. One looked like a cop, and another looked like a shop owner. He could tell because he knew what people usually were by looking at them…and he glanced up at a massive roster board. It listed them by titles – apparently their occupation. His name, he assumed, was Lone Eagle. Figures…since it was his ship.

A rider came towards him, guns blazing. Rick gasped and veered to the left. The man followed him, his blasters trailing him.

“Stop it!” Rick shouted. Nobody heard him.

He swerved in different directions, zigzagging across the field. Another biker was coming his way, and if he kept his vector, the two of them would T-bone each other. Rick choked on the engine, causing his bike to fling into the air a bit. Just enough to clear the incomer.

His pursuer happened to be too close to Rick. Instead of him, the other two riders crashed. Their bikes exploded into a massive burst of flame. Apparently the bikes were made to make as big a bang as possible. For show.

Rick found himself trailed by two more riders. He tried to outrun them, but there was no way to lose them on a flat and empty field. Blaster bolts zipped above and on either side of him.

All around, the other riders were killing each other. Explosions lit up the field, and with each fatality, the crowd roared with delight.

He couldn’t believe the inhumanity. How could these people be so entertained by people killing each other? Sure, there were gladiator fights all over…but this seemed a little much. Maybe most of these people weren’t even from Corellia. There had after all been a larger than usual line to land…

There was no time for pondering. He was in an arena, with a bunch of men apparently much more eager to kill – or at least survive – than he was. There were these two men on his tail…and if he didn’t do something, then he was going to die.

Rick decelerated suddenly, letting the two riders pass him. Then he turned around and headed into a different direction. They shot at each other with him gone, but another man came after him.

Groaning, Rick tried to lose him as well. However, that wasn’t happening. He felt the rear of his bike get hit, and smoke started streaming behind him.

The man behind him was blinded, and when he veered off, he wasn’t able to stop before hitting the wall.

Seeing an injured biker, several of the others converged towards Rick. He saw them and gasped. They were coming in on all sides, and they were coming at full speed.

Rick spun around, creating a massive screen with his smoke. It grew and became a massive blotch on the grid. The riders couldn’t stop in time before they entered the murk.

Leaping with all his strength, Rick landed on the hard ground and rolled as a massive explosion erupted from the smoke. At least two of the riders had crashed, and the explosion had caught the other riders, destroying their bikes and adding to the flame.

The crowd’s cries filled the air. Apparently, Rick was the last one of the combatants alive. As he stood up, Lycos’ voice came over the speakers again.

“It looks like we have a winner!”

Rick shouted, “Alright, I’ve played your game. Now let me out of this madness!”

Floor panels opened up and guards came out, their guns pointed at him. The lead one motioned for him to follow them back down. It appeared he wasn’t going to be let out.

Sighing with resignation and exhaustion, Rick obeyed. There wasn’t really anything he could do to resist. He wasn’t about to throw his life away because he was displeased with the situation. He would play along…until the chance to escape presented itself.

Rick had been in situations like this – well, not quite like this, but he knew how things worked. If he survived, he would find a way out. After all, his Jedi companion would be looking for him, wouldn’t he?

The dark thought came to mind. What if he couldn’t find him?

Then he would have to handle himself alone. And he had been alone for many years.

---

Lycos smiled as the guards led Rick away. So he had proved a contender as Lycos had hoped. That was good. He had used quite a few resources to bring him here and get him into these gladiator games.

He turned to his guests – Gardogga the Hutt, several representatives of the Exchange, Black Sun, and other cartels, and a Mandalorian leaning against the wall on the far side of the room.

“Well,” he clapped his hands together. “How was the first game to you?”

“It was rather short,” Gardogga rumbled.

“Yes, but entertaining,” Lycos nodded.

“The winner,” a man from Black Sun stated, “who is he?”

“A former smuggler – though there are many smugglers in these games,” Lycos answered. “His name is Rick Orlan, and he’s a special entry.”

“He’s the whole reason I came,” Gardogga said. “If you get him killed in these games, I’ll be sure to consider a trade agreement with the Firm.”

“And you can be sure I intend to see to your every desire,” Lycos said. “Only the best for future business associates.”

The Mandalorian scoffed and walked into the light. His green armor glinted. “So you want him dead for a load of spice,” he growled. “That’s hardly a good enough reason.”

“Watch your words,” the Hutt frowned. “I know full well that Rick handed the spice over to you.”

“You only have faulty suspicions on that note,” Algayne sneered.

“It’s not just the spice,” Gardogga growled. “He robbed my ship, with me on board! He broke one of my prisoners out and tampered with my slaves. Him and his new crewman.”

“Oh, such an offense!” Algayne mocked. “Spice and slaves…what do those compare to besmirched honor?”

“You and your misguided honor…” Gardogga gurgled. “Mandalorians always were rather foolish and stupid.”

Algayne’s hand went to his blaster. “I’d kill you right now, worm,” he said. “However, I know better than to make a scene in front of my host. You should learn some manners, even if you are a slug.”

“Gentlemen, please,” Lycos raised his hands. “This is about business, not grudges. If we shot everyone who ever crossed us, then the galaxy would be very lacking in businessmen. Both of you want Rick dead, and are willing to sign my contracts if he dies in my arena. I’m here to see it through…but you two need to hold up your ends of the bargain. There will be no trouble in my presence. When these games are over, you can kill each other on your own turf. But this is my estate.”

“You’re right,” Algayne’s hand left his pistol. “I’ll honor our deal for now. But I don’t want to hear this Hutt’s stupid rambling while I’m here.”

“I’m sure we can work things out civilly,” Lycos said. “Now, I’ll have my men escort you to your rooms. The next game is tomorrow. We’ll see how Rick fares.”
I'd love you all to read my stories and tell me what you think!
The Imperial Inquisition and The Voyages of Targon Karashi

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TargonKarashi
03.19.2012 , 07:11 PM | #20
Chapter Five


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.”
I'd love you all to read my stories and tell me what you think!
The Imperial Inquisition and The Voyages of Targon Karashi