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(L,F&E 42) Trails


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kalenath
06.27.2012 , 06:01 AM | #1
<Dosha, the homeworld of the Trandoshan race>
The human woman walking through the streets of of the city of K'pult would have drawn attention almost anywhere else. But here, on the homeworld of the Trandoshans, they looked at her, saw her armor and weapons, checked their databases for outstanding bounties, shrugged and went about their business. Humans were not unknown on this world, if rare. Most humans found the planet to be savage and a bit smelly. This one didn't seem to notice, One particularly repulsive example of street life attempted to accost her. When she didn't even break stride as she gunned the fool down, few eyes followed her. The few that did were apprising. She made her way to a guarded entry way and stopped near the guards who stiffened. One spoke in very rough Basic.

“Human, go.” When guard snarled at her, she nodded. Without a word, she handed the guard who had spoken a package. And when she spoke it was in rough Dosh.

<For Elder. Contact when available> Both guards stared at her as she turned on her heel and stepped away. They looked at each other and shrugged. One went inside to checked the package for traps, poisons and other nastiness. When it had been cleared he took it inside and gave it to a servant. Then he resumed his post, wondering.

The Elder of the clan was old, for a Trandoshan, at least sixty standard years. The scars of a lifetime of hunting and fighting were proudly displayed on the scaly hide and the trophies of countless battles were arrayed around his chair. He hummed a bit as he opened the package, but then froze. The servants and guards froze as well, but then the Elder shook his head and they relaxed. He reached into the package and pulled out a small object. It held a credchip, and a slip of flimsi with a com number on it, that was all. He looked at the denomination and smiled. One hundred thousand credits...

<I will speak to her...>

<Two hours later>

The human woman sat in a comfortable chair. Surprising. On a world of reptiles, a chair comfortable for a human would be rare, and costly, but this Elder was being generous. Of course, so was she. They had exchanged pleasantries, and now it was time for business. The Elder spoke first. The conversation was in Basic, mainly because 1) She had money, so she had power, and 2) her Dosh was awful and she knew it. It came from not having the right kind of tongue. The Elder's Basic was not much better than her Dosh, but he was trying and she acknowledged that. And she could understand him, and he her.

“Hire you wish?” The Elder asked. The woman nodded.

“Your clan is highly recommended.” The fair haired woman replied with a smile, carefully keeping her teeth covered. Teeth bared was a challenge in Trandoshan society. The Elder did not shown any emotion at that, his clan was a well thought of one, with many successful hunters. So, this was not flattery, simply the truth.

“What is job?” Instead of answering the woman opened the folder she was carrying and slid a picture across the table between them. The Elder looked at it and froze.

“Recovery. You know who this man is.” She said slowly, quietly. It wasn't a question, but the Elder nodded anyway. “This is a problem. The Trask clan has stolen this man's daughter. Revenge on him is one thing for lost clan members, or loss of respect. Revenge on his family, on his clan? That is another.”

The Elder winced slightly. Clan wars had started over just such things, brutal, bloody affairs. He had lived through several. There was little honor found in such things. “He has said, that he will hold that clan accountable.” At that every Trandoshan in the room froze. “I cannot speak the word in Dosh, but it translates into Basic as 'Vendetta'.”

None of the Trandoshans moved but the Elder nodded slowly. For kin, that he understood. For the death or hurt of kin, that he understood very well. The Elder looked at the picture and shook is head slowly.

“Trask clan, many hunters." The old lizard said sadly. "No wish war here. Scorekeeper would not be pleased. No hunts.” The human nodded.

“I understand and so does he. He has no wish to destroy entire cities to make his point. Many enemies would die, but many innocents as well.” The woman said with a frown. The Elder nodded. Innocents did die, all the time. It was regrettable, but it was a fact of life. What that human would do however... Trandoshans knew about the horrors of war, and this man personified them. They reveled in pushing themselves, to their limits and beyond. But some things were too far, even for them. They did have honor, most of them. The Elder sighed.

“What wish then? Fighting lead to war.” Several of the guards hissed at that but the Elder shook his head. “War we would lose. No praise to Scorekeeper in failure.”

"Agreed." The woman nodded. “My client understands that. He wished to hire a hunter. The best hunter. To hunt. To find, so he can kill.” The Elder looked at her.

“Your 'client', many T'doshok killed." The Elder stated to make it perfectly clear. "Much honor to the one who kills him.” The woman nodded.

“They attacked him.” She replied coldly. The Elder nodded, a bit dubious. Some of the reports... He shook his head slowly.

“Costly.” The Elder said after a moment. The woman nodded again.

“We need a Dassk clan hunter or hunter team. And we will pay one and one half the normal rates.” She nodded as the Elder looked at her. “We want the best and we will pay for the best.” The Elder looked closely at her and smiled slightly.

“If this man had other daughter...” He broke off as the woman smiled thinly. He nodded. Like she would walk into such a situation without being prepared. She smiled, an expression any Trandoshan would recognize as on a kindred predator.

“That person would be stupid to walk into clan of hunters unprepared, if she had any bounties on her, or did not have a business proposal that would benefit the clan." Helen Regina, daughter of WIll Kalenath replied easily. "And Trandosha as a whole.” Now the Elder grinned, a toothy expression.

“Professional." The old Dosh said with respect. "Good for business. Bad for enemies.” The woman nodded. “This... important. More than one clan.” She nodded. “Remain here?” She looked at him and he nodded. “If leave, no kill, good guards expensive to replace.” She laughed.

“I will remain here as you wish, however...” She shrugged. The Elder nodded. It didn't need to be said what would happen if anything happened to her.

“Helen is true daughter of queen. We return when can.” Helen nodded and sat back as the Elder stood up and walked quickly out of the room. She shook her head. This might actually work. Maybe...
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kalenath
06.27.2012 , 06:07 AM | #2
<A day later>

Helen was not quite sure what to make of this. The Trandoshans were fair hosts. More than fair, they were courteous, thoughtful and quiet good at making her feel at home. And they were obviously taking Will's less than subtle hint about her safety very seriously. Which was good, since he was not in the habit of bluffing. But... This was decidedly odd to her. The various clans were competing. She hadn't quite known what to expect when she had arrived her. Part of her had almost expected to be blasted on sight, or as soon as they realized who she was. Instead, they were acting as if she was, well, royalty... She wasn't sure what to make of this. Finally, she asked.

“We not aid you.” She blinked at the Elder's words and wondered if she had heard right, but the Elder smiled a toothy Trandoshan grin. “How you say...? Officially?” She thought about that and smiled.

“I see. If you were to aid my client, questions would be asked, problems created." Helen mused. "The government would not approve I believe.” The Elder nodded.

“Much problems. Large problems." The Elder grinned at her. "But, if contest, find who greatest hunter of select clans? Much jagganath made, much honor gained. Business done during contest. Is our way. Who say who hired by who?” Helen grinned now, rose and bowed formally to the Elder, who bowed back. She resumed her seat and sighed.

Trandoshan contests were not for the faint of heart. They involved endurance contests, hunting, tracking, and more than a bit of fighting. At least three contestants had been evacuated with life threatening injuries before the noon meal. After the noon meal, the remaining contestants began what could only be described as a huge brawl. The entire contest grounds became one huge mass of reptilian flesh that moved and heaved. More than few of the contestants were trampled in the melee. But then they got up and dove back in. Helen watched in amazement as one, whose arm had been torn off completely by careless claws, got up and, swinging the arm as a club laid into the ones who had maimed him. She leaned over to the Elder.

“That would be a life threatening wound to most species." Helen said dubiously. "Will he continue to fight?” The Elder snorted.

“It grow back, not quick, but it grow back.” Helen shook her head in amazement and watched the finalists, the ones still standing. The Dosh who had lost his arm continued to fight, until three ganged up on him and he fell finally. Helen looked at the Elder.

“Name of that one?” She asked. That one had guts. Maybe too much, but she needed guts. The Elder nodded.

“Cradassk. Good hunter, stubborn.” The Elder said with a snort. Helen raised an eyebrow and then nodded. The hunter was from the Elder's clan and was obviously tough, good and willing to do whatever it took.

“I would speak to him.” The Elder nodded.

<Nearby>

What is SHE doing here? Is she crazy?

The shadowy figure shook his head and slipped back into the shadows. This was getting worse and worse.

<Two hours later>

Helen sat at the table and tried not to wince as Cradaask ate. His arm was gone, leaving a stump that had been roughly bandaged. As he ate, he looked at her. As he did not speak Basic and her Dosh was rough, she had employed a translator droid. The droid was speaking.

“...he agrees that you can hire him, but Mistress, his injuries...” The droid stopped speaking as Cradaask snarled at it, and Helen smiled. It spoke again. “I refuse to translate that...” Helen laughed.

“I don't think that needs translation. But... When can he be available?” The droid spoke to Cradaask in rapid fire Dosh and then seemed to hesitate as the Tradoshan spoke back. Cradaask made a threatening gesture and the droid spoke quickly.

“He says he and his team can leave whenever you wish.” Helen nodded. The droid spoke quickly. “Mistress, the injuries he has may mean he cannot....” The droid froze as the Trandoshan's huge fist swung and stopped perilously close to the droid's face. Helen snorted.

“I think he disagrees with that.” She slid a paper across the table. “Account number and com code. I or one of my trusted associates will be at that number at all times. One thing...” She looked the huge Trandoshan in the eye. “This is a hunt, not a kill. Find and report, clear? And excessive extra damage will be levied against the fee.” The droid translated and the huge Trandoshan nodded slowly. Then he extended his hand. Helen nodded and let him grasp her hand. She didn't wince as his claws drew blood. She gripped his arm tight and he did as well. They released each other at the same time and Helen stood. “I will be in touch.” With that she left the room.

The Eldest of clan Daask came in a few moments later. Cradaask was finishing his meal.

<Well?> The younger Dosh nodded silently. The Elder sighed. <Our race has much trouble. Outsiders see our kind as savages, evil brutes, devoid of honor.> Cradaask looked the Eldest in the eye and spoke in a respectful tone.

<The human female does not. She does not flee from pain or blood.> He contemplated the red streaks on his claws and snorted. <She would be a worthy foe.> The Eldest nodded. But then the old Trandoshan, in defiance of protocol, sat beside the younger one.

<I do not know why she came here, to me. But I am glad of it.> Cradaask looked at the older Dosh and the Eldest sighed. <Once, long ago, our people were enslaved by the red blades, and fought for them. The Scorekeeper was displeased. No honro was to be found. No jagganath earned.> Cradaask nodded, this was known history. <Many of our litters were taken, to serve the red blades. To serve them and die for them. Some escaped, most died. And in recent times, the red blades, the Sith did so again.> Cradaask winced. The Eldest had been one of those enslaved until he had escaped.

The eldest looked far far away for a moment, and then focused on Cradaask. <We of Daask understand about honor, about debts. I owe his family a debt.> Cradaask stared at the Eldest. <I would not have escaped the Sith without the aid of her father's father's father, who died so that I might get away.>

Cradaask stared at the Eldest, then at the door Helen had left through. The Eldest spoke softly. <It is doubtful they know. None of the Republic troops who freed us survived their mission. But I remember the name I saw on the plate of the slain warrior who shattered my chains and told me to flee. Kalenath is not a common name.> Cradaask nodded slowly.

<The clan debt will be paid, grandfather> The Eldest nodded. <I swear it.> The Eldest nodded again and rose. Cradaask quickly rose and bowed to the Eldest who bowed back. Then the ancient Transoshan left quickly, leaving Cradaask to his thoughts.

I will pay the debt we owe and any who stand between me and paying the debt shall die...
My stories in order:
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kalenath
06.27.2012 , 06:09 AM | #3
<Later>

Helen was aware of scrutiny. It wasn't the Force, she had been tested at an early age, as almost all of Naboo's population was. She had spoken with Jedi, during her stint as a princess, and had inquired at times. They had stated that she had the same connection that all living things had, but nothing more. By and large she was happy with that. She saw Jedi as manipulative beings who descended from their lofty perches to cause trouble. And then leave other people to clean up their messes. She knew she was biased, but generally, she didn't care. No, this wasn't the Force, more her trained instincts telling her someone was watching her. She smiled slightly.

The royalty of Naboo were not, by any stretch of the imagination, common royalty. If there actually was such a thing. Trained from birth to serve their planet, their people and their culture, the royalty of Naboo were taught by the best tutors available. Sometimes having been yanked into the classroom kicking and screaming, but taught. Helen smiled slightly in fond memory. She had not been the best of students, but then again, she had wanted to join the Militia from the time she could remember. But in order to be an officer, she had known that she had to study. And not just things like history and mathematics either. Like it or not, royalty were targets. Disenchanted nobles, revolutionaries, terrorists, agents of sedition from other governments, even unwanted suitors had stalked Helen during her formative years. So she had learned early on to listen when that little voice inside her head started saying 'Someone is watching you'. And to always have a backup plan.

She finished her lunch and started off. She had to make it back to the spaceport eventually. But, if she was being tailed, well, whoever it was either knew exactly who she was and the dangers involved with following her, or had no clue at all. And would likely soon be very dead. As she walked through the streets of K'pult, she looked from side to side, stopping at a few open air stalls and actually purchasing something from two of them. It wasn't every planet where you could buy a military grade weapons in an open air stall, but then again... This was Dosha. World of hunters, and prey. As she did, she carefully did not look around and also carefully did not notice the being in the shadows watching her. Not massive enough for a Trandoshan, she caught a glimpse of brown, and sighed silently. Probably a Jedi. Again...

Ever since that mess on Alderaan, she had been seeing brown robes. Never the same one and never for very long, but it seemed that she was under surveillance. She shook her head minutely. There really wasn't anything she could do. She snorted as she resumed her pace towards the spaceport. She wasn't 100%. The damage she had done to herself would take a great deal of time to heal. And nothing could really speed that up. It was worth it though, she reminded herself. 20 children had lives again. It was worth it. She entered yet another narrow street and her froze mid stride. She couldn't figure out what was wrong, except... no passersby. She froze and dodged towards the side of the street but grimaced as a stun bolt came flying out of a shadowed archway. As she lost consciousness she sighed, melancholy.

What is it with my family?

<Nearby>

“Wonderful...” The shadowed figure sighed as Trandoshan forms started converging on the fallen woman and then shook his head and stepped out of the shadows. He spoke to the group of five Trandoshans who were looking at him now.

“Who hired you?” They responded by raising their weapons and a blue blade appeared from the emitter of his lightsaber. They spread out and he smiled grimly. This would not be easy, but penance never did come easy. And Markus Sigmundson needed penance. For all the horrible things he had done, and what he was about to do.

<A couple of hours later>

Helen woke to the sounds and smells of medical equipment. She tensed, but she wasn't restrained. She cracked her eyes and looked around carefully. She sighed as she saw the brown robed from sitting in a chair nearby.

“Well, you got me." She asked sourly. "What are you going to do with me?” The human male jerked and looked... sheepish?

“I wanted to make sure you were all right, and then you can go on your way.” Helen blinked. She hadn't expected that. But the Jedi was speaking again. “The ambushers were hired by a slaver named Ha'kalt. Their plan, such as it was, was to hold you for ransom. I guess he hadn't heard you are not a princess anymore. Or maybe this Ha'kalt figured out who your real dad is. Not that it would have helped him in the end.” Helen snorted at the dark amusement in the Jedi's tone. She cataloged herself. Her elbow and knee hurt, likely from impacting the ground, but other than that, she felt good. Then she looked at the Jedi.

“I guess I owe you then. Thank you.” The Jedi nodded. “You know who I am...” She broke off as he grimaced.

“I will tell you my name, but then you won't trust me. An I don't blame you in the slightest. All I can say is that I was wrong to do what I did, and I am trying to make amends. My name is Markus Sigmundson.” Helen froze. That name...

Markus Sigmundson had been the Jedi in command of the Republic defences of Coruscant during the Sith's surprise attack. Once the size of the attack had become clear, he had fled, along with a sizable portion of the planet's wealthy, leaving many soldiers to die. The Stormhawk's commander, Mace Shin, had disobeyed a direct order from him to leave the battle and cover the withdrawal. Doing so had branded the Stormhawk and her crew deserters. After that, Sigmundson had hunted the Stormhawk, capturing various members of her crew on occasion and turning them over to the Republic navy for trial. None had ever been executed, which was the normal punishment for desertion, but... He had tried to pressure the Naboo government once. Once. Helen's eyes narrowed dangerously, and the Jedi stepped back. When he spoke it was quiet.

“I can't undo what I did. All I can do is try and make things right, as best I can. I...” he broke off and backed another step away. Helen shook her head. This man DEFINED treacherous in her eyes.

“Why were you following me?” Her voice was flat and Sigmundson sighed.

“I was here, looking for information on where the Stormhawk has been seen. The ship hasn't popped up since that mess with the Fate Shatter.” Helen shuddered. Just the stories about that were bad enough. “I know you don't trust me, but I swear to you I have not put anything in or on you. Nolikas would flay me. Slowly.” Helen had to smile a little at the. The Rakata would. He sighed. “Nolikas asked us, the Order, to keep an eye on you. She wasn't sure you had recovered fully. I am leaving now. Your weapons and equipment are in the locker. All I ask is that if you do encounter any of the Stormhawk crew, tell Boss... 'I'm sorry. And I will make this right'.”

With that he was gone, leaving her to stare after him. It wasn't everyday she heard that tone from a Jedi. Then she snorted. Likely another trick. But she did have a schedule to keep, and people who would get very upset if she didn't.
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

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kalenath
06.27.2012 , 06:14 AM | #4
<72 hours later>

“You have got to be kidding me...” None of the beings in the room as much as flinched. Part of it was the low tone. Part was that the speaker was obviously not angry, just amazed. But mostly it was because they were all bone tired. Essentially rebuilding a starship was no small feat. Rebuilding one away from commercial shipyards was no joke at all. The speaker turned to the Trandoshan doctor and shook his head slowly. “Are you sure she isn't carrying anything?”

"Boss..." The doctor sighed. “It's impossible to be one hundred percent sure. But every scan I have done comes up negative. No trackers, no bugs, no nothing.” All of the people in the small briefing room looked out the window to where Helen way unconscious in a bed. The doctor continued. “Her injuries are consistent with her story, not that she has reason to lie.” The first speaker sighed.

“I know, but... This...” All of the personnel in the room nodded at Boss' words. This was no small thing. Ten years on the run, from both the Sith and the Republic, had taken its toll. The crew that had started off as almost three hundred was now down to twenty. Oh, they had replacements, but it just wasn't the same. Stormhawk Boss sighed again.

After Coruscant, the Stormhawk had been branded a pirate ship. They were not however. They only attacked Sith shipping. That made them privateers. Technically. They had support from various factions, and even a couple of planetary systems. Places to hide, to get more personnel, something they were chronically short of even before the insanity spawned by Zelkin Infinium had thrown them into a maelstrom. After that battle, the Stormhawk had been a mess. Her entire starboard aft quadrant had been vaporized when the Fate Shatter's main gun had hit it. Boss winced a bit in memory. If that shot had hit square... As it was, they had lost a lot of people in that horrendous battle, including two thirds of their pilots. Something they were not overly well endowed with before. And even the ones who were left were not in the best of shape. The whole crew had been hammered. So it was with profound relief that they had limped into one of the minimally equipped depots that they had set up in an uninhabited system to make repairs. And then hadn't moved. Because the repairs were taking a lot longer than anticipated. It hadn't helped that the two true mechanical geniuses, Val Sunrunner and Jikirt, were both on extended leave from the ship. Val was a mess. And Jikirt couldn't have been torn from her side with a tractor beam. Boss shook his head. This was getting him nowhere.

Markus Sigmundson was one of the major reasons that his armor didn't have republic markings anymore. Being ordered by a Jedi of all people, to cover the evacuation of wealthy, basically to save his own skin, had been too much of a burden to bear. The Stormhawk had disobeyed the direct order to leave the rest of the Republic fleet at Coruscant to die. There was simply no way they could have. And since then, the Jedi had hunted them, using fair means and foul. More than a few of the crew had encountered him over the years. On several occasions dying rather than being taken. Of course sine the punishment for desertion in time of was hadn't changed in thousands of years... He looked at the one member of the command staff who hadn't spoken at all and tilted his helmeted head to the side.

“Will...?” Boss asked quietly. All of the murmurs in the compartment died aborning as Will sighed. He was the only one left who had actually been an officer at Coruuscant. “What do you think?”

“I have had my own run ins with him." Will shook his head slowly. "Jina said that he had changed, and he fought hard at the Centurion. It isn't his fault that they were outgunned. That said, I don't trust any of what he says. He has his own agenda. Perhaps he is serious about bringing us back into the fold, perhaps not. Either way, if we go back...” All of the others nodded. The penalties for desertion and piracy were bad enough, but the ship had made some VERY powerful persons unhappy with their activities over the years. Another being spoke up, a bit timid. And who could blame him? Jedi were not liked on this ship, but Hawkir Strum had proven himself. Bigtime.

“What little contact I have had has said the same thing." The Consular said slowly. "He is trying to get the convictions overturned.” Boss snorted.

“Convictions he rammed through in the first place.” Boss snapped. Hawkir nodded. The more the consular learned about the ship's past, the more he was determined to be part of it's future. The Jedi order had messed up big time with the Stormhawk. And to let someone like Sigmundson vilify them to such a degree...

Hawkir had been on Tython with the initial exploration team during the events at Coruscant. He had only records to guide him, but what he had found shocked him to the core. These were good people. Stuck in a very bad situation and trying to make the best out of it. And help as and when they could. That was something that any Jedi who wasn't blind could recognize and appreciate. And to find out that the ship was run mostly by droids now because of the constant drain on manpower... Small wonder Boss had jumped at the chance to get Mandalorians aboard to help out. Speaking of Mandos...

Another voice came. All eyes turned to the woman seated with her back to the wall. Even on a ship full of allies, Trava Kalan was not one to relax her guard. Ever. “What options are there? The way I see it, if you..” She waved at the crew in Stormhawk uniforms. “...go back, they will try and execute you. I would take exception to that.” More than one person snorted but Boss chuckled.

“Then you would get the ship.” Boss quipped. But it was the wrong thing to say, Trava was on her feet and everyone froze.

“Don't you dare say that!” From her voice she was mad and an angry Trava was a frightening one. “I don't wnat this bucket of bolts. I want my kin and friends alive and well.” The tension was thick enough to cut with a knife, but then it was broken by a laugh. Will was chuckling. Darkly amused.

“You think any of us did? We had no choice and our families paid the price.” Trava nodded, reluctant. But Will was still talking. “You have been a hunter and the hunted Trava. But after so long... Even I, who have nothing to go back to... I wish sometimes... I really do...” Sharra, his wife laid her arm about his shoulders and nodded. Trava slumped.

“The Enclave is secure. The fleet and shipyard is at your disposal. I... I don't want to lose any more of you.” The whole group looked at her and she shook her head savagely. “We may be Mandalorians, we are not stupid. We know losing kin is a fact of life, that doesn't mean we like it. And you are all kin.”

"Well? What do you all say?" Boss looked around, gauging the reaction. Then he sighed. “If we can make contact, safely, we will. I am sick of running.” A nod went around the room. “For now, we are almost done with repairs. And you and Sharra have along ways to go, Will. Helen should be awake soon, and she is your contact with that Trandoshan. Keep us appraised. If you need us, call.” Will stood and nodded to all of them. He and Sharra quickly left the room. Boss slowly shook his head as he turned back to the medic. “Can the Daask clan be trusted?”

L'trask nodded slowly. Clan honor was strong, even after having been exiled and nearly killed for being different. For being a pacifist. “Yes, of all the clans. They can be trusted I think. To honor their contract.”

“As long as someone doesn't offer them more money.” Boss said sourly. L'trask nodded. There really wasn't anything he could say to that. It was simply the truth.
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

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kalenath
06.27.2012 , 06:21 AM | #5
<At nearly the same time, Tython>

“I cannot believe you just let her go.” Jedi Knight Anya Hadas did not flinch at the tone of the Council member who had spoken. She stood impassive in the midst of the council chamber. She had been called to report on her activities on Coruscant, Tatooine and then on Coruscant again. She had anticipated problems, but not this...

The partial Jedi Council -Masters Satele and Kayden were absent- was composed of some of the wisest beings in the galaxy, all learned and well versed with the Force. Which should have meant they deliberated, considered, and then recommended. Not this... She had been grilled for two hours, and not on the events on Coruscant, where a rogue Jedi had been apprehended, but on the whereabouts of Jina Darkstorm! Suspiciously, none of the beings that she considered friends on the Council had spoken at all. It had been four masters, only them. The others had been reserved, quiet even. She didn't let her eyes narrow as she studied them. Two humans, a Kel Dor and a Quarren. The human female looked at her.

“Well?” The female council member demanded. Anya shrugged.

“Well what?” The Jedi asked reasonably. A sound suspiciously like a snicker came from where Thokal Melan was sitting. But the woman looked decidedly unamused.

“What have you to say for yourself?" The woman snapped. "In defense of your actions.” Anya did not respond for a moment, and when she did it was calm.

“I was not aware I was on trial, Council member.” Anya had emulated Nolikas in this regard ever since she had been called in. Rigid formality helped her control herself, and control was what she needed right now. It was the talk of the Enclave that Nolikas had not only drawn on the Council, but fought them. Admittedly, she had been subdued quickly, but to get the kind, compassionate healer to be ready to fight, indeed, to die... That had taken some doing. The female human did not, barely, snarl at her.

“You found the subject of your pursuit and then let her go." The woman replied sourly. "Even though the pursuit had cost the life of a Jedi Knight.” To her credit, Anya did not flinch. When she spoke, it was cool and unemotional.

“Arathos left us to finish the fight we were in. We had it in hand. But we could not pursue him. Partial responsibility for his death lies with me, as I was unable to reach him in time to render aid. Blame however...” She broke off as more than one of the Council flinched. She continued in the same cool tone. “I was not aware that Jedi punished failure.” She looked the older woman in the eye and surprisingly, the woman looked away first. “As for my 'letting' Jina Darkstorm go... I was allowed in to see her. I was escorted back out by four Ubese warriors. Several of you can challenge odds of that nature, but I know my limits. Add to that the fact that she explained, in detail, exactly why I had been ordered to capture her.” At that the Council tensed. Anya slumped. For the first time, emotion entered her words. Sadness. “What have we become? Those things hurt her, nearly destroyed her. And you want to... What was it Nolikas said? 'Play' with them. You are the wisest group of beings in the galaxy, why are you not acting it? Those things were a menace, even the Sith saw that.” Several of the Councils at up at that, but there was no bite in her words, there was sadness and honest question. The female human who had been questioning her slumped.

“There is question as to whether the Sith created them.” The older woman said with a sigh. Another voice came as Melan sat up and shook his head slowly.

“I have just received new information." Everyone sat up straighter at his words. "Vandar has checked in. He is unhappy. He cleared me to access some of the sealed files. The Sith did not create them.” All eyes turned to him and he shook his head slowly. “We did.” Every being in the room froze at his quiet words.

<Stormhawk Enclave, an undisclosed location, at almost exactly the same time>

Kona sat at her desk and sighed. She loved teaching. She loved the kids. But this wasn't her... She shook her head slowly and stood up. She activated her comlink.

“I would like some training time, if there is space available.” A quick affirmative came back and Kona smiled slightly as she reached under her bed for the box of gear.

She hadn't intended to go to Coruscant, it had been a massive risk. But Maria was just as stubborn as ever. She was absolutely sure that the rogue who she had apprehended and turned over to Special Forces had told them about her blade, which was distinctive. She hadn't thought to change the crystal before going. She just hoped that nothing bad would come to the Enclave because of it. Something good had come of it. Maria was, well, not better, but beginning to show signs of improvement. And even Sara was a bit happier with some closure. And the promises from a group of Senators that the people responsible for the pain her family had endured not enjoying the rest of their lives. Not that she had seen Sara for a while. All the kids for the Dia's Gift had disappeared at the same time, so...

Something was up, but she had no idea what. She shrugged. It really wasn't any of her business. She slid into her armor and smiled. It felt, good. Right, almost. She shook her head. She knew that wasn't the right feelings for a Jedi, but right now, she couldn't have cared less. She picked up one of Mikol's lightsabers with a wince and examined it. A flip of the activation switch and the red blade shot out. She shook her head and deactivated it. She would change the crystals, sometime, but for now... She slung it from her belt anyway. She would remember him. The stranger who had been her brother. She moved a bit to settle the armor in place and smiled. Then she stepped out to go to the training room.

The Enclave had a lot of equipment. Understandable of course, since the Stormhawk's predations on Sith shipping had been going on for more than ten years. But she had been shocked to find Jedi training droids in a storeroom. Apparently a Sith had managed to grab some, and then the ship they had been on had been snatched by the Stormhawk. The droids really were not good for much other than teaching lightsaber fighting however, so... Kona blinked and slowed as she saw someone standing outside the door to the training area. A little Cerean girl. Kona shook her head slowly. Even in a Republic filled with many species, Cereans were rare, and young ones far more so. Kona walked up to the girl and stopped. The girl bowed. She could not have had three or four standard years. Kona returned the bow wondering. The girl spoke, quietly, but well modulated. Extremely so for such a youngling.

“I had heard there was a Jedi here." The girl stood carefully, as if aware of Kona's discomfort. "I am pleased to meet you. I am Ina-Ta-Mal.” Kona nodded, but her mind was flashing quickly. The girl was strong in the Force, but Kona wasn't a knight anymore...

“I am Kona, I am pleased to make your acquaintance, Ina-Ta-Mal. You know you have the Force.” The girl nodded at Kona's calm words. “You will need training, training I cannot give you.” The girl nodded again. “What is it you wish of me?”

“I knew..." Ina-ta-mal asked slowly. "That I was different. But not how. If you cannot train me... Where must I go?” Kona nodded.

“You must go to Tython. Ask for Anya Hadas, I heard she was looking for a Padawan right before I left. If she has found one, they can find you another Master.” The girl nodded, and would have turned to go, except Kona smiled. “I cannot train you, but I can show you some things... If you don't mind...” The girl's face lit up and Kona smiled as she led the way into the training room. This would complicate many things, but the girl had to be trained. For her own sake, and others.
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06.27.2012 , 06:26 AM | #6
<Two hours later>

Kona sighed as she finished her exercises. Ina-Ta-Ma was bright and a very quick learner. She looked at the child and shook her head.

“How did you wind up here?” She asked the Cerean girl quietly as Ina -as she preferred to be called- finished the simple exercises that Kona had demonstrated for her. The girl nodded somberly.

“I was rescued by a team off the Stormhawk. I was a year old.” Kona nodded. “I don't remember my family, just here. The people here are kind, but...” Kona nodded. The Stormhawk had little love for Jedi. And small wonder, having been hunted by the Order for ten years. Kona smiled and Ina smiled back.

“You will need more training than I can give you. We will see about getting you to Tython. If they can get ME here, they can get you there. It may not be comfortable, but they can do it.” Ina looked nervous, but Kona laid a gentle hand on the girl's shoulder. “You have taken your first step into a larger world. Beware the Dark Side, Ina. It lurks in emotion, remain calm, stay focused to avoid its pitfalls.” the girl looked at her with an obvious question in her eyes and Kona smiled. “I don't bite. Ask.”

“If I get angry, that is bad. What if... I get sad? Or...” Ina paused, unsure and Kona sighed.

“Emotion is a fact of life. Sadness, fear, anger. All of these are normal for living beings. Feelings these is not a bad thing, it makes us realize we are mortal. But if we let our emotions rule us...” Ina winced and Kona nodded. “You have to decide where to draw the line, and it is different for every different person.” Ina shook her head slowly.

“I can 'feel' things. A lot of different things. I know it was looked down on here, so I suppressed them...” The girl broke off as Kona sighed.

“You feel the Force naturally. This is a good thing, and a bad one. You see clearly. But...” Ina nodded. “In the Force is temptation. To use it.” Ina nodded slowly. “Always look at what you are trying to do. Look calmly, rationally. When you are calm, at peace, you will see what you need to do, to achieve a harmonious outcome. Beware anger, fear, aggression. The Dark Side lurks close in those emotions.” Ina nodded again and Kona rose to her feet. “This is a gross oversimplification, but... That's all my training time for today. I will ask about sending you to Tython.” Ina bowed to Kona and left quickly. Kona sighed as she locked up the room, her life just wouldn't get uncomplicated. Well, easy wasn't for a Jedi...

<Later>

Kona sat at the Administrator's antechamber and tried not to stew. She had been waiting for almost an hour, time she could have put to almost any other use. But a casual observer might have been forgiven for missing the subtle signs of tension. She had spent most of her life working on her skill at controlling her emotions after all, so this was nothing new. Lives and jobs might come, lives and jobs might go. But the bureaucracy stayed the same, even on a planet far removed from Republic control. She did not jump as the secretary, an old female Mon Cal, came up to her.

“The Administrator will see you now.” Kona nodded as she stood. She was sure the Mon Cal looked at her funny, but then, she got a lot of funny looks here, especially since she had started carrying her lightsaber again. Maria had been adamant. She could still hear Maria's tart words.

'What good is a tool you have to go back to your room for if you need it? If you need it, you will need it now.'

Kona grimaced just a little. Maria. Ever since Coruscant, Maria had been... difficult. The fact that she was actually talking about what had happened now, instead of holding it all in until she exploded was better. But it would take time, and not a little of it, for healing to truly get underway. And as for actual recovery? Kona had hope, but nothing more. Maria was volatile. One moment, she would be kind and gentle, the next arrogant and obnoxious. But all they could do was being done, and Kona thought she was helping, if just a little bit. The Mon Cal opened the door and Kona walked through and immediately froze. She was sure her jaw made a loud noise as it hit the floor and her eyes had to be the size of dinner plates. She was dimly aware of two other people in the room, but the one in the comfortable looking chair held her attention.

“Hello Jina.” She heard the door shut behind her and the being in the chair sighed and jumped down. “Come on in girl, we need to talk.”

Without a word she followed the small green form and sat where indicated. She was dimly aware that Maria was sitting in another chair, but she couldn't take her eyes off the form in front of her. Jina opened her mouth, closed it, and then opened it again.

“Master... I...” She broke off as the green skinned form shook his head slowly. When he spoke, his voice was sad.

“I didn't know about your dream, until one of Melan's messages caught up to me. I was... travelling. I am sorry.” He sighed. “I understand what happened. And why. And what the Council thought they were doing. Jedi are not always wise, or kind.” This was to Maria, who nodded. “The Sith did not create the beings who hurt you.” Kona froze.

“Master...” Kona's voice was quiet. The small being in front of her spoke with sadness.

“We did.” At that Kona froze solid.

What?” She couldn't keep the incredulous shout from escaping past her lips. The Jedi Master shook his head slowly.

“Jedi are not always wise, or kind, I said. Matter of fact, some of the worst monsters in recorded history were Jedi, before they fell. It was about the time of the Hundred Years Darkness when a Jedi named Jolaban came across a race of primitive insect sentients on one of the planets orbiting with Correllia, one that would later be called Tralus. The Sith had been driven into exile, but no one knew if they would return. So he, with the aid of a few others, molded that race into living weapons. Designed to fight the Sith.” Kona drew a deep breath. But the being was speaking again. “When the Order found out, they were horrified. Slavery, genetic manipulation on such a scale, all were evil. He acknowledged his guilt, but others fled. He was punished, and served the rest of his life trying to undo the mess he had created. As you know, he did not succeed.” Kona shook her head, trying to get her mind around it.

“Then the reason they took me...” She brroke off as the being in front of her shook his head.

“They had been searching for centuries, millennia, to find a host that would work for them. One strong enough to survive what they needed to do, and one who had the Force.” Kona shuddered and a warm arm encircled her. She looked up into Maria's face. “they found you. They hurt you. And without the bravery of a number of people, they would have succeeded then.” Kona nodded.

“Then now what?” Kona asked softly, unsure. The Jedi Master sighed.

“Now, if you want, you can take Ina-Ta-Mal as an apprentice. It would be good for a Jedi presence to remain here.” Kona flinched. She wanted to, that was clear, but her luck with Padawans had not been the best. But the green form wagged a finger at her. “It was not your fault, Jina, Kona, whatever you want me to call you.”

"Kona, for now... I..." The stunned woman shook her head slowly. "She should be with other Jedi, I...” She broke off as the small form sighed.

“Understood. I do not agree, but... I will take her with me when I leave. And I think you are right, Anya might make a good teacher.” Kona raised an eyebrow. “You don't think we just sat here for the last hour did you?” At his wry tone, all the people in the room laughed. Kona smiled.

"No, Master Vandar, no I don't..."
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kalenath
06.27.2012 , 06:33 AM | #7
((And now, we go in another direction. It will make sense, eventually. I promise. Mwahahahahahaha))

<Somewhere>

It had been a long day. The middle aged human woman sighed as she started up the path to her house. The jobs she could get with fake IDs were borderline at best. But... To use her real ID was a death sentence. And not just for her. She slumped for a moment as she fumbled with the door, but then she smiled fondly as a small two legged tornado swept towards her.

“Mommy.” He exclaimed as she swept the little boy in a hug and then looked closely at him. She sighed in fond exasperation. He had dirt under his fingernails. Of course, he was all of six, so that was part of the package deal.

“Karl, I swear you can find dirt anywhere.” She said with a grin that faltered as he froze. She did as well. Something about him was... She blanched. “Where have you been Karl?”The fear in her tone had him freezing as well. He shook his head slowly. She petted his head slowly, carefully. She couldn't quite keep a snarl off of her face as she felt the old surgical scars. Some things never healed, especially if they were done before someone was born. Luckily, she had managed to get him out before they... He stared at the floor and spoke quietly.

“I didn't mean to.” His voice held fear and she blinked as he squirmed. She set him down carefully and knelt so that she was on his level. She looked him in the eye and spoke carefully.

“Didn't mean to what, Karl?” She asked quietly. He flinched away from her, but she caught him in a hug and held him as he shuddered. After so long on the run, fear was completely understandable. He had absorbed the fear she tried to hard to hide. He always tried to move past it, to be brave for his mom. Even now, he didn't completely. And how could she blame him? It was her fault, what had happened...

“Mommy, don't be mad at them." Karl said quickly. "They didn't know. They were just curious. I mean...” She shook her head slowly and his stream of words petered out.

“Karl. You left the house?” She couldn't hide a surge of fear. He nodded. “With who?”

“Marc, Jak and Hila. They live two blocks down. They saw me and came to the door. I...” He was obviously distressed and she sighed. She scooped him up again and carried him to the couch, where she sat, holding him. She held him as he shuddered. It seemed to be hardwired into him not to cry. It took some doing, but eventually, she managed to get him calmed down.

“I am not angry with you Karl.” She said quietly as she smoothed his curly brown hair. “I am scared.”

The little boy nodded. “I know... But... It was fun. We had fun. They are just kids though.” She controlled a shudder through the ease of long practice. He acted so grown up at times, it was somewhat frightening. When he spoke, it was calm, his brown eyes holding hers. “I am sorry. I didn't think until after what might happen.”

"Not your fault, Karl..." She said, kissing his cheek. Then, with the ease of long practice, her mind started moving in overdrive. “We will be leaving tonight.” He slumped, but nodded. The last thing either of them wanted was for the people who had made him and employed her to catch either of them.

“I am sorry, Mommy.” Karl said, abject. She smiled sadly at him.

“It's all right, Karl. We needed to move anyway. We have been here too long as it is. Did you finish your lessons?” He grimaced at her and she smiled. Like he wouldn't... It had been instilled in him, literally since his birth, to obey orders. And while the woman known as Joan Kollins, Major, Republic Intelligence and the boy known as subject 8410-132 no longer existed, Simone Jacs and her son Karl did. And would for a long, long time if Simone had anything at all to say about it.

<Later>

She sat at her desk and tried not to sigh. They had been in the house too long. It was ingrained in any intelligence person that any safehouse was only safe for a short period of time. And she hadn't intended to stay. But then her money had run out. The nest egg that she had intended as her retirement fund had served the two fugitives well, but, it hadn't been infinite. And while she had learned to pinch credits till they squealed, there simply was not a lot of market for a middle aged mother with a kid. Karl was sleeping, they both knew that neither would get much sleep tonight, so he was doing the smart thing and napping. Both had packed already. She froze as sounds came from the bedroom. She was on her feet and moving towards the door before the sounds registered fully. She was at the bed and holding Karl as he thrashed. She was careful to keep his hands away from her body however. For a six year old, he was strong. And she didn't need to be explaining to any public security forces why she had black eyes tonight. She held him through the worst of it, then released him.

She froze as her hand brushed his forehead. She laid a gentle palm on his skin and blanched. In a few steps she had run to the refresher and gotten the first aid kit. A quick flip and the thermometer was taking a reading. She slumped as the reading came through. High fever. The automated systems attached to the thermometer advised seeking medical care, and she scoffed. Going to a hospital was a one way ticket to a unmarked grave for her, and back to a cell in a laboratory for him.

Over my dead body...

She shook her head slowly. They were not going to leave tonight. She filled a hypo and tried not to wince as she saw the level of medicine left in the bottle. There was so little left. And no way to get any more. She deftly injected the medication and in moments, Karl's body had cooled a bit. And he relaxed into normal sleep. She arranged him as carefully she could on the bed and then, with a kiss, left him to sleep.

Simone tried not to cry as she sat in front of the holoviewer. All this time, all this effort and he wasn't getting any better. She couldn't take him to a hospital. But if she didn't he would die. And while he technically wasn't her child, he was in every way that mattered. She felt tears coming and, with no one to see, finally let them loose. So much effort, so much pain. For nothing...

More to distract her from her grief than for any need to see anything, she keyed the viewer on. Sometimes it helped to pull her out of her funks. For along moment, she just stared at the screen, not seeing it. And then, she froze solid. She hit the pause and rewind system on the viewer. Luckily it was a fairly new model. She was sure her jaw was hanging at least to the level of her waist as she watched a news report of something that had occurred a few weeks ago on Coruscant. It took a while for news to travel across the galaxy, even with the Holonet.

She watched the whole thing, then replayed it, just to be sure. The information didn't change. Anyone seeing her right then would not have recognized her as the kind, gentle compassionate mother of a six year old. No, this woman was older, harder. And at the same time... sadder. When she spoke, her voice held disbelief and hope.

“Maria...”
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06.27.2012 , 06:39 AM | #8
<Two days later>

She was tired. It had been a harrowing journey. Not the least of which because she had to act as if nothing at all was wrong. Every time she saw a uniform, she had to control her flinch. And there were a lot of uniforms. This path that she was following was dangerous, no question. But...

She hadn't known, when she had arrived at the Intell facility eight years in the past. She had been fresh from a tour on the front lines of the conflict on Ord Mantell. She hadn't had a CLUE. She should have. Even now, years later, she hated herself for not seeing the information that was right in front of her eyes. It had taken almost a month for it to sink in, what was occurring in the facility she had been posted to. And even then, she hadn't believed. It had taken seeing an older woman, one she found out later went by the name of Maria, battered into unconsciousness by four orderlies for Major Joan Kollins to finally understand exactly what was going on. She had tried to change things, she had tried to help. And for that, she had been selected as...

She shuddered. Even thinking about it hurt. But she controlled herself and smiled at the slumbering form beside her. Taking a liner was a risk, no doubt. But with so many people on a liner, it was fairly easy to hide. Even with a kid. She smiled tenderly as she brushed a lock of hair out of Karl's slumbering face. He slept a great deal now. And to her mind, that was a good thing. Some of what she had asked for at the ship's small medical facility had raised a few eyebrows, but they had provided what she needed. And with a bit of effort, she could fabricate the rest. Which was what she was doing. She wasn't about to take Karl to the medics aboard. Not that they would have a clue what to do for him. Long hours spent watching the doctors work had paid off. She wasn't a medic or doctor by trade, but she was very observant. And it hadn't been like she had been blessed with anything else to do at the time. She watched the makeshift blood pressure monitor carefully as she administered the serum she had concocted. Then she sighed in relief as his blood pressure fell into the normal range again.

She shook her head slowly. This trip... She had to find Maria. She had to. If Maria had survived what had happened to her, maybe, just maybe, someone could find a cure for Karl. Simone didn't doubt that Maria would gladly kill one of the hated Intell people. But she hoped and prayed that the hate wouldn't extend to Karl. And she also hoped for time to apologize before the older woman cut her down. She had tried. She had tried so hard, but in the end, it had been all she could do to flee. She had been so doped up at that point that she hadn't even realized that she had been selected as a surrogate for Karl. Luckily, Joan Kollins had maintained some less than reputable contacts, people who would do whatever was needed as long as the money held out. She shook her head again. This woolgathering was dangerous. She had to stay sharp. Or... She froze.

“No...” Her voice was horrified as she saw the blood pressure reading falling sharply. Without thought, she was on her feet, grabbing her son from the bed and running with him out the door.

<Twenty minutes later>

“Ma'am?” Simone was crying. And it wasn't feigned. Karl lay surrounded by medical gear. He looked so... The kind voice came to her again and she turned her bleary eyes to see the doctor who had been on duty when she had run into the medical bay, hysterical. She had calmed a bit since then. These people were professionals. “Ma'am?” The doctor repeated and Simone shook her head.

“Yes doctor?” Simone kicked herself. For the life of her, she couldn't remember his name.

“Your son is alive Ma'am.” She nodded. But he was continuing. “Why didn't you tell us?” She sighed.

“I don't have the money to pay you.” She said sadly. It was her standard cover story, and usually it worked. It was also true. However... The doctor looked at her.

“Ma'am." Thw doctor said sternly. "If you had been ten minutes slower, he would have died. Do you think I care about money right now?” She had to shake her head at that. The doctor sighed. “Ma'am... I know you have problems. Anyone with eyes can see that. But I can't help him any more than I have. We are passing near Tattooine. It is odd that an Outer Rim planet has a first rate medical clinic, but...” He broke off as she shook her head. “Ma'am... Do you want him to die?” Simone shook her head slowly.

“Doctor, I can't...” She froze as the hatch opened and a pair of security guards came in. the doctor froze, looking for her to the guards.

“Duterow, what is this?” The doctor demanded. The guard with rank insignia spoke to the doctor, but didn't take his eyes off Simone.

“We checked her ID." The guard declared. "It's fake.” Simone blinked, and then slumped. “Anything you want to say Ma'am?” She sighed.

“Anything I say will just get you and yours in trouble." She said sadly. "So no...” The guards moved closer. And Duterow spoke again.

“You are in big trouble Ma'am." The guard said slowly. "I don't know who you ticked off, but there is a 'specialist' coming for you and the child.” At that, she froze solid. She didn't resist as the guards cuffed her and escorted her from the room.

<A few hours later>

“Well, well, well...” Simone didn't immediately look up at the voice. She knew it though and she worked hard to keep the anger off her face as she turned her head to see the door. “Major Kollins, as I live and breath.”

She looked at the small male human and tried not to snarl. “Korban. What a pleasant surprise.” Whatever he had been expecting, her calm acceptance of his appearance obviously had not been on the list. He sneered at her.

“You have led us one hell of a chase Major. But all for naught.” She nodded silent. And he shook his head slowly. “What makes you say its a pleasant surprise?” She grinned at him.

“This.” With that, she pulled her hands up from her lap. He had a moment to see the stun cuffs hanging loose on her wrists before the tiny blaster in her hand spat. He tried, his shot was just a few moments after hers though. As he fell, he heard words. “You and your scum are never touching my son again, you son of a barve” And then darkness claimed him.

<A few more minutes later>

“I don't care who you are. I don't care what credentials you throw around. You have no authority here. Especially since if you take that child off the ventilator he will die in a few minutes.” The doctor had dealt with a lot of different types, but these obstinate fools were trying his patience. The large human snarled and the Trandoshan with him reached for a weapon, but everything stopped as a blaster shot sounded. The Trandoshan collapsed, half his head gone, and the human spun. Two shots sounded in quick succession. The doctor looked up from the floor he had landed on as soon as he had heard the first shot and froze as he looked into the muzzle of a blaster, held by... “Miss Simone?” He blanched as he realized she was wobbling. He jumped up to help her, but froze as she raised her blaster. “Ma'am, you are hurt, let me help.”

“You can't help me doc.” Her voice was weak, but fierce. “Get out of here.”

“I don't leave my patients, Ma'am.” He glanced to where the boy was lying, still asleep. He watched as she slumped, first to her knees, and then to a sitting position on the floor.

“You don't know what you are getting into doc...”
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06.27.2012 , 06:41 AM | #9
<Eight hours later>

The tac team moved with precise skill through the corridors of the liner, ignoring the stares and whispers from various of the passengers. They came to a intersection and with a wave, half of the team moved off. Another quick gesture and the remaining half, minus the commander, moved into a ready position near a sealed hatch. The commander walked to where an obvious impromptu command post had been assembled and waited to be acknowledged. The crew member with the most braid on their uniform, probably the captain, nodded to her. She nodded back to the Nautalon.

“Commander.” All conversation stopped as the heavily armed woman strode forward.

“Captain. Situation?” Her voice was clipped, calm and professional. The captain nodded towards a small map that was projected out on the table. She walked to it and nodded as her trained eyes took in the layout. The captain sighed.

“Unchanged. She won't talk to us. And from what we can gather via microphones, the doctor refuses to leave.” At that the team commander looked nonplussed. The captain shrugged. “He... The child is still critical.” At that, the team commander showed the first sign of emotion since she had arrived aboard. Anger. Then she stilled herself.

“I am assuming that you have tried gas.” At the captain's curt nod, the woman sighed. “Then we have two options. Wait her out. Sooner or later either the wounds she has or simple exhaustion will knock her out.” The captain flinched and the tac team commander pursed her lips. “I know. You are already well behind schedule. If you get too much further behind schedule...” She broke off as the captain sighed.

“Even the owners would understand this, but yes. I would like to get moving again, and sooner rather than later, but...” She nodded to him.

“If we go in, there is no guarantee what will happen. This woman is dangerous. And she is obviously bonded to this child.” At that, all of the observers snorted in unison. Both statements were patently obvious to anyone who had watched the recordings. It had taken a team of five studying the scans of the interrogation chamber to determine where she had hidden the hold out blaster she had produced. And even now, some of them still disbelieved she could have done that, while under observation. It wasn't everyone who could rip a hole in their own body to get at a concealed and inert weapon. The fact that the body count stood at three was simply because no one had tested her willingness to kill since.

The team lead shook her head slowly. They had few options now. If the woman wouldn't talk... They had exactly one option if they were to save the child. She looked at the captain. “With your permission captain?” He slumped and nodded. As she walked off, she spoke quickly into her com, getting her people ready. She didn't want to do this. Too much hinged on the mental state of a woman that the team lead had very good reason to hate. She moved to where her team had stacked for entry and nodded to her XO. The Bothan looked at her.

“You ok, Aleesa?” She shook her head, trying to calm herself. She handed the Bothan her blaster.

“You need to take this, if I go in I will shoot her out of hand. Child killing scum.” The XO looked at the weapon and then at Aleesa. Another figure came up, the medic.

“Something is odd here. She was Intel, but so were the guys she killed. And she is obviously protecting the kid.” Aleesa nodded, trying to hold herself. The medic handed her a stim. “Here.”

Aleesa stared at the hypo for a long moment and then in a swift move, injected it. It would work for a time. She relaxed as the drug swept through her system, giving her clarity. Something she dearly needed at that moment. When she spoke it was calm.

“Get the drone into position. That kid doesn't have a lot of time. We kick off in two minutes.”

<Inside the Medical bay>

“Ma'am. Please, let me help you.” Simone shook her head for the fortieth or fiftieth time. She had lost count. But it didn't matter.

“It won't be long doc. It can't be. They can't just leave me in here.” Her voice cracked a bit from as she looked at where Karl was still sleeping. “Don't let them take Karl...” She broke off as a three things happened. A noise came from the ventilator shaft and she flinched as she heard high pitched whines came from two directions. She moved. She knocked the doctor to the floor and found a hole between two pieces of heavy medical gear. Just as she did, both doors burst open and small devices exploded with the distinctive cracks of flashbang munitions. As she shook her head to clear it and focused on the armored figures pouring in. She had cover and concealment. So she took a bead with her blaster, but... She blinked. These were not Intell people, were they? The team moved to surround the area she was in, it was the only concealed place in the room.

“You can't get away. Surrender.” Came the command from one of the soldiers. But she shook her head. She half expected them to shoot even not seeing her, but none fired. She saw two of them manhandling the doctor away, despite his struggles. But then... All activity stopped as the blaster shot tore a hole in the floor in front of the being moving towards the bed with Karl in it. All eyes and blasters were pointed at her now.

“Stay... Away... From him...” She managed to gasp out. One of the figures, one of two not carrying an obvious weapon, moved so it could see her. The merc studied her, and she snarled. “He has been hurt... enough...”

“That is rich coming from one of you Intel saps.” Simone froze at the harsh tone that emanated from the woman, yes definitely a woman under the armor. She blinked, as disparate pieces of information started to coalesce in her mind. And then, to the utter amazement of all in the room, she dropped her blaster. Two of them moved up and grabbed her by the arms. The pain was excruciating, but she didn't cry out or resist as they dragged her out of her cover.

“I am sorry.” She shook her head, her eyelids were so heavy now. “I thought you were with them.” She felt rough hands searching her and she didn't resist. But then she heard a muffled exclamation. And then, the hands became gentle. She knew it was important that she stay awake, but it was so hard. A worried voice came to her ears.

“Ma'am. Ma'am, look at me...” She managed to get her eyes to open. It was so hard. The face of a Cathar was inches from hers. “You have to stay with us. We can help you. But you have to stay with us.”

“No you can't.” The simple words had the medic rocking back. “I caught one in the liver.” The medic stared at her. “Intel training and implants can hold it, but... I am dead.” The Cathar's eyes were glistening. “Not... Not your fault. Tell Maria... Maria Kalenath... I am sorry. I am so... Sorr.....” As darkness claimed her, she heard crying.
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kalenath
06.27.2012 , 06:47 AM | #10
<Some time later>

Her eyes blinked open. For a long moment, she couldn't understand what was wrong. Everything was fuzzy, seen through a haze of... She blinked slowly again. The feelings, she recognized them as her brain woke up. She was drugged. That was what it had to be. That, she could understand, so why was a part of her mind saying this was not what was supposed to happen? Then she tensed, er, she tried to, but her body wouldn't react. For a long moment, she felt panic. But then, a face she recognized came into her field of view. She wasn't sure WHERE she recognized the Cathar from, but she knew the cat woman. The furred form spoke, kind and gentle.

“Easy. You gave us quite a time, Joan.” The woman froze. She hadn't used that name in more than six years. She felt a gentle hand take hers, which didn't seem to be working right. She shook her head, trying to get words out, trying with all her might to get a question out. The Cathar smiled. “It's all right. We were in time.” Joan/Simone slumped in relief. She opened her mouth again, but nothing came out. She realized when she looked down that there were tubes coming out of it, and she sighed into them. The Cathar smiled again, in sympathy. “Yep, time to get you unhooked...”

<A few fairly nasty minutes later>

Simone, she refused to call herself the other name now, sipped from the straw that had been offered to her. It was only water but right then it tasted like the best beer she had ever had. She tried again to get her mind wrapped around what had happened. She knew part of it was still the drugs in her system, but part was the sheer surprise. She hadn't expected to survive. When Korban had shot her, he had obviously missed his target, but it still should have killed her. She wasn't completely unhooked of course. She could see tubes coming from under the sheets and was sure that did not bode well for her, but she could talk again.

“Thank you.” Her voice was scratchy and weak, but clear. The Cathar, who had introduced herself as Katherine, smiled.

“I am glad to have been of help. But... there is someone who has been waiting very impatiently to talk to you. Better brace yourself.” Simone looked at the Cathar and froze as the door opened and a small form ran in. She was sure her heart was going to leap out through her chest as she beheld her son. Alive, whole and very, very agitated.

“Mommy...!” Karl ran to the bed and would have jumped up onto it, except Katherine grabbed hold. He was crying and Simone felt her own eyes watering, but it didn't matter. Karl tried to squirm out of the medic's grip, but Katherine spoke softly.

“What did I tell you, Karl?” The boy froze and then to Simone's amazement, stopped struggling and nodded.

“That she is still sick, and I might hurt her.” Simone extended a slow hand and Karl took it carefully, as if he was afraid she might break. “Momma...?” She pulled him into a weak embrace.

“It's all right Karl. It will be all right.” She held him as he sobbed into her shoulder, but when she met the Cathar's eyes, she knew. Simone nodded slowly, and the Cathar left the room quickly. To give them time. “You look better...” Karl looked at her and smiled.

“There are other kids here Mama, and they are all like me. And the people here are nice to us.” Simone nodded slowly. She had been almost sure when the mercenary leader had spoken so harshly to her, that this was not an Intel operation. She wasn't sure who was running it, but it was obvious now that this was no Intel op. “Momma...” She looked at him and ruffled his hair. When he spoke it was quiet. “Are you going to die?” Simone sighed. She had never lied to him and wouldn't now.

“Yes, Karl. But I don't know... I don't know how long...” He embraced her then, tightly. And while it hurt, she didn't give any indication. It was more important to her to comfort her son. She rocked him gently until he nodded off. A few minutes later, the medic came back in and gently, extricated the slumbering boy from the bedridden woman. A few minutes after that, the medic returned. Simone looked at the medic and the question was obvious.

“We put him in the next room over, he wouldn't go any further away.” Simone smiled, but then winced as something hurt. Katherine came over and ran a scanner. It was obvious she wasn't pleased by what she saw. Simone spoke quietly.

“I am assuming an artificial liver.” Simone said slowly. Katherine nodded absently, but she paused as Simone spoke again. “How long?”

Katherine didn't want to answer, but Simone didn't speak again. Finally, Katherine spoke. “A couple of days. We can't keep up with the cell loss.” Simone nodded.

“Thank you." Simone said with a smile. "You have given me a priceless gift. I wanted the chance to say goodbye.” Katherine shook her head.

“I...” The Cathar shook herself. “A couple of other people want to talk to you.” Simone looked at her and the medic sighed. “You were out for a week, plenty of time for people to arrive.” Simone nodded and Katherine spoke quietly into a com. But when the door opened, Simone felt all breath leave her body.

Maria Kalenath walked in followed by Sara Kalenath. Simone felt the eyes on her and shook her head slowly. Then, although it hurt, a lot, she bowed her head. An age old symbol of submission. She owed this woman. But instead of a blow, gentle fingers tilted her jaw up until she was looking into the eyes of the older woman. She was startled to see tears in Maria's eyes. And Sara's were glistening as well. Simone was shocked into speech.

“No, don't cry for me. I... I don't... deserve...” Both of the others sat beside her bed. Maria spoke first.

“You have suffered, if not for as long as we did, then just as badly." The old woman's voice was kind and gentle. "They used you, just as they used us.” Now Simone was crying.

“No, I should have done more." The former Intel operative said harshly. "I tried, I tried...” Sara took one of her hands and Maria took the other. And Sara spoke.

“What they did to us was horrible, and what they did to you was as well." Sara's voice held old hate, old pain and new grief. "I remember you. You were kind to me. You were loyal to the Republic. But you saw what they were doing and tried to help. And for that...” She broke off as Simone flinched, a flinch that turned into a rasping cough. Maria and Sara held her as she coughed. When she could finally talk again, her voice was quiet.

“They said I was 'Contaminating their experiment'." Simone said after a moment. "So they used me in another. I didn't know, until later. Until after I managed to get away. About Karl.” Maria nodded. “Is he...?” She broke off as Maria nodded again.

“The docs here are probably the best in the galaxy with those particular problems." Maria said with a nod. "His therapy is continuing. But he will be fine.” Simone relaxed as a great weight left her shoulders.

“It means nothing now, but I am sorry. I am so.... So... sorry.” She was crying hard now and the other two women were as well. Three battered and broken souls, sharing their pain to try and lessen it. It took awhile, but finally, Simone controlled herself. “I have to tell you, before...” Both women looked at her. “I am not stupid. Even artificial livers won't work forever. My information will be six years out of date, but some of it may still be useful. I am going to tell you everything I know, so that you can find all of them. And when you do: Don't make it quick.” Her voice was fierce and the three women shared a look of total understanding.

The girl and the older woman looked at her and nodded. Maria activated a recorder and then Simone started to speak. Calmly and professionally. “The man in overall charge of Operations as far as I knew was named Ton Arrac, he started in the Hutt Cartels as an enforcer and then wound up in Intelligence...”

She made herself talk slowly and clearly. This would be her only chance to say everything that needed to be said.
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here