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(L,F&E 59) Slavery Doesn't Pay


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kalenath
07.03.2012 , 06:17 AM | #1
<Planet Averum, Saswenna Sector, Outer Rim>

The human shook his head as he walked through the small spaceport. Security was tight. Tighter than almost anywhere else he had been recently as a matter of fact. Admittedly, he hadn’t gone down to Drumond Kaas, but this was insane. He had passed through three checkpoints in the last five minutes. Each time, he had presented his ID and been scanned. Not that he was hiding anything. Well, anything but his identity. And his IDs were not fakes. They were genuine Imperial IDs.

There are benefits to working for the Bladeborn The man who looked nothing at all like Cole Shanas thought with an inward grin. He saw the exit of the spaceport and sighed as he saw yet another checkpoint. This one with two assault droids standing guard as well as the squad of troops. And yet again, he presented his ID.

“Mr. Aos, what brings you to Averum?” This from a trooper in red armor, probably a sergeant.

The man whose ID proclaimed him to be Fergal Aos nodded politely. “Research. My company is studying the effects of the mineral content on the manure here. We think we may be able to duplicate conditions elsewhere.”

The sergeant nodded politely. “There have been some incidents recently. Security has been increased. We ask that you report any suspicious activity immediately.” He extended the ID back to Aos, who stood and waited while another trooper scanned him. The scanner beeped and all the troops tensed. But the sergeant shook his head. “Your ID says you are cleared to carry concealed, but… May I see that sir?”

Aos nodded and gingerly removed his blaster from its hidden holster and presented it, handle first to the sergeant, who whistled. The sergeant examined it and shook his head. “Aratech C-5, modified?”

Aos nodded. “Scope and laser sight. I like to hit what I aim at.” The sergeant chortled and sounds that might have been muffled laughs came from a few of the other troops. An Aratech C-5 could drop a charging Ronto with a well placed shot. Let alone what it would do to armor…

The sergeant shook his head and extended it back carefully. “That is some blaster sir. But I don’t need to tell you…” He broke off as Aos smiled sourly.

“Give me a break, I know better than to point guns at soldiers. Could get hurt.” At that, all of the troops laughed. Aos holstered his blaster and looked to the sergeant who nodded.

The sergeant became professional again. “You can go about your business. Security is very tight at the moment. And again, if you see anything suspicious, report it immediately.”

Aos nodded. “Anything I should know about?”

The sergeant shrugged. “All we have been told was that a wanted fugitive came through here. Apparently he killed a family out in the boonies, as well as three squads worth of troops and an apprentice to a Lord Oulan, whoever that is..” Aos’ brows lifted at that.

When he spoke it was cool. “Someone bad news then. Well, for what it’s worth, I hope you get him.”

The sergeant nodded. “We will get him, sir. Will Kalenath can’t run forever.”

At that, Aos’ eyes went wide. “HE is here? I… uh… I heard about Korriban…” It wasn’t every day someone blew a nuke on a Sith tomb world after all. Admittedly, the man had been given reason. Good reason. But that wasn’t something Fergal Aos would know, so he schooled his features into a mask of worry.

The sergeant winced and nodded. “He was here. HQ is about 90% sure he is gone. We are here just in case.”

Aos nodded. “Keep up the good work, sergeant.” He sighed. “Now I need to get to work.”

The sergeant nodded. “Move along. Next…”

Aos smiled thinly as he stepped out of the spaceport into air that smelled of spacecraft fuels, wood smoke and… Manure. Averum was a farming world with little in the way of automation. As such it had fallen fairly quickly to the Sith war machine when the initial Imperial offensives had stormed the Saswenna sector. And the rustic scene that greeted him on exiting the spaceport was different from what he was used to. Small buildings lay scattered about. Animals set up for riding were interspersed with landspeeders airspeeders, speeder bikes and swoops. Two cantinas were within easy walk of the entrance to the spaceport, but he ignore them. He had to maintain his cover as a respected businessman doing a very nasty job.

He smiled as he walked towards the piles near the closest building. As he walked he pulled out a small scanner and datapad. As covers went, this one would be fairly nasty. And his hidden gear and weapons had passed security without a hitch. So he was well on his way, hopefully to vengeance.

For just a moment, he saw his little boy’s face again, crying as he bled out. He knew that the beings who had taken his wife and daughter, killed his boy, were scum. Slavers as a whole were not socially acceptable, but the Roylio Slaver Cooperative or RSC was even worse than most. The force that had hit his world had been well armed, well equipped and well organized. And the woman leading it… He wasn’t totally sure, but he was almost certain that Cos Miran was the leader who had attacked his city. Her forces had slaughtered all resistance and then…

He shook his head. Dwelling in the past wouldn’t help. He stared his scans of the manure, aware of eyes on him from all around, but as long as he stayed in character nothing could go wrong. Right?

<Half a block away>

“Who the heck is that?” The black haired woman carefully didn’t stare at the newcomer who was now up to his knees in the pile of manure.

“Dunno. He be crazy. Who in their right mind want to wade through osik?” The brown haired boy stopped talking as the black haired woman hissed at him.

Her voice was pitched for his ears alone. “Watch the expletives, Marcus. Farmers are unlikely to know Mandalorian.” He flushed and then nodded, picking up his drink again. It looked and smelled like lomin ale, but was non-alcoholic. And a good thing. Marcus didn’t want to get caned again. His dad had no tolerance for ‘what happens on the missions stays on the mission’. And the one and only time Marcus had been drunk, well, he didn’t want to repeat it.

“Sorry, Serge… I mean Megan…” He ducked his head to hide his embarrassment and Megan nodded.

She smiled a little. “Mistakes happen Marcus, especially when people get stressed. But watch yourself. Three o’clock…”

Their eyes went to a small group that was walking down the street. The RSC logo was prominent on their jackets. Jackets that were likely body armor as well. Six in the group. A Weequay, a Nikto, two humans, an Aqualish and a Trandoshan. All armed and mean looking. Marcus looked away, his blood boiling.

Megan’s voice was hushed as the group paused looking at the crazy human in the manure. “Good boy. Hide it. We will get her back, Marcus.”

<The manure pile>

Aos had been aware of the group before they had stopped. His blood had been boiling as soon as he had seen the logos. But killing these morons was not his goal. He focused on his scans until one of them spoke in broken Basic.

“You, human. What you do?” Aos looked up and met the eyes of the spokes being, the Aqualish stood a little in front of the others.

Aos smiled, but there was no friendliness in it. “My job.”

The Aqualish laughed. “You like play in dung?”

Now Aos stood up straight and only someone truly paranoid might think that his hand floated very near a concealed blaster. “Better to play in dung, than to be dung. Wouldn’t you agree?”

It took a moment for all the assorted beings to realize they had been insulted, but when they had, all reacted the same. They reached for weapons, but Aos just smiled and pointed to the side. All of the beings looked and froze. The squad of Sith troops who had been standing guard at the entrance of the spaceport had their weapons trained on the slavers. The assault droids whirred as they focused on the slavers as well. For a long moment, no one moved.

Finally, Aos relaxed and smiled viciously. “Go away, dung for brains. I have work to do.”

The slavers walked away, some looking at Aos with glares that slid off of him, but most watching the Sith troops whose weapons followed them until they were out of sight. Aos nodded to the sergeant, who nodded back before resuming his guard position. Aos sighed and started scanning again, aware of scrutiny from all around that he ignored. He had to maintain his cover. For now. Soon, he promised himself, very soon, he would tear these slavers a new one.

<Down the street>

“Wow…” Marcus’ voice was hushed. Awed even. When the human had stood off the slavers, he had been one small step from running up and joining the fight. Now he was glad he hadn’t.

Megan’s voice was troubled as she drank carefully from her glass. “That man is more than he seems. Much more. You saw where his hand was? He is armed. And the Sith backed him up.”

“What do we do?” Marcus asked as he sipped his own drink and tried not to make a face. It looked and smelled like ale, but it tasted like garbage.

Megan sighed. “For now, we sit and finish our drinks. We stay in character. We continue the mission. And we report this as soon as we can. Things just got complicated. Very complicated.”

<Later>

Fergal Aos found himself a room for the night and set up his gear. First was the jammer, which came up clean. Second was the secure module to attach to the room’s terminal, allowing it to send and receive secure transmissions, as well as piggyback undetectably onto Sith military channels. Third was to take a long, hot shower. When he had finished, the com system had finally connected and he sat down in front of the terminal. His entire demeanor changed, from the studied and slightly bookish Aos to the cool and dangerous Shanas.

His voice was clear and precise. “I have made contact, Trugoy. They are here.”

The voice of the Bladeborn’s grandmaster came from the speakers. “Be careful Cole, I can’t seem to get any support at the moment. I am working on it.”

"Understood." Cole nodded. “Security is very tight. Apparently Will Kalenath came through here recently and made a mess as he always does.”

Trugoy made a noise of agreement. “Yes, Vorren said he hit the… Hmmm… Shipping records…”

Shanas nodded slowly. Will was looking for his daughter. That was both good and bad. Good in that he was long gone by now and likely wouldn’t be back. Bad in that everywhere he went chaos and destruction followed him. In Cole’s line of work, chaos was bad. He liked to plan things. Working by the seat of his pants, while he was good at it, never sat well with him.

"Yeah." Cole sighed. “I will be in touch nightly.”

"I know." Trugoy sighed. “Be careful Cole. I don’t have to remind you that these beings are dangerous.”

Cole snorted. “So am I. But I have spent five years looking for this witch, I am not about to ruin it now.” The terminal shut down and Cole stared at it, unseeing. Once more he heard his boys wails. Felt the life leaking out as the air leaked out of the escape pod that he sat in cradling the cooling body. Once more, he heard the woman laugh as she took his wife and daughter from him.

Soon... Very soon...
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

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kalenath
07.03.2012 , 06:19 AM | #2
<The past>

They were coming. Cole Shanas had been away from his family’s home when the slaver ships had appeared. His job as an airtaxi driver took him some odd places. The fare that he had taken had paid well though and he had been on his way back when the com lit up with warnings of unidentified ships and airspeeders. He had managed, through skill and more than bit of luck, to get back unscathed. His brown hair shone with sweat as he pulled weapons from the hidden locker that his father had built into this house. Owning weapons was forbidden to private citizens in Sith space, but his family had always adhered to the idea that it was always easier to ask forgiveness than permission and it had worked. The Sith cared about results generally, not methods. Xera took the blaster rifle he handed her with reluctance but obvious skill as she checked the charge indicators. The he looked to his children. Juli was steady, at nine, she was strong fast and capable. And a fair shot. Jac on the other hand was staring befuddled at his parents, worry clawing at his two year old eyes. They were such good kids, but they needed him to be strong. Xera met his eyes, her blue ones piercing deep into his soul as he sealed the locker again. He smiled sadly and stroked her short blonde hair. The kids took after her, thank goodness. The nicest that had ever been said about his own features was ‘craggy’. He handed Juli a blaster and she nodded. Then he patted Jac’s head. He smiled sourly as he hefted his weapon.

The initial reports were that the garrison, such as it was, had been overwhelmed in minutes by a coordinated air and ground attack. And that left the civilians to their own devices. Some of the civilians were trying to set up a coordinated defense near the town square, but Shanas knew that if the slavers had taken the garrison so easily, no jury rigged, half shebbed defenses were going to hold them out.

“The shelter?” Xera asked quietly. Shanas nodded. His parent had built a covert shelter in the basement of their living quarters for just such eventualities. It was illegal, mind you. But Shana had never really minded. Itw as small and cramped, but proof from sensors, supposedly.

“We can’t fight. And if they take us…” Xera nodded and scooped Jac up as he started to cry, sensing somehow the emotions that ran through the air. Then they ran, Juli’s hand in Coles and Jac hanging on for dear life as Xera kept pace with her husband.

They almost made it. They were less than two hundred meters from the safe zone when a loud voice called out. “You there… Freeze!”

Cole gave his wife a shove and dropped into cover as blasters started sounding. No, not blasters… the beams were not red. Stunners. The slavers wanted prisoners. No credits for corpses after all. Cole’s weapon however…

He drew a bead on the first slaver he saw and a bolt flew true to take the scum between the eyes. Then he switched to full automatic. Repeating blasters were highly illegal for civilians to own and he had often wondered how his father had acquired this one, but the light repeater drove the slavers away from his position, leaving several of them in cooling piles on the ground. His heart froze as he saw the logo of the Roylio Slaver Collective on their uniforms and armor. The RSC was not a nice group. Likely, the slavers would take the adults and either shoot the children or leave them to starve. No money in kids after all, they couldn’t work. Cole focused on what he could do. Every time he saw a part of slaver anatomy, he put a blaster bolt through it. Twice they tried to rush him and both times, he drove them back.

Then he heard it. A whirring. His heart froze as he saw the droid shoulder its way through a wall and start toward shim. His blaster wouldn’t penetrate. He tried anyway, but his shots just bounced off. A noise and he was falling…

<Later>
Pain woke him. Hands rolled him until he was sitting upright and then another blow sent him sprawling. His hands and feet were bound and something clinked around his neck, but he looked up into cold eyes.

The woman sneered. “This? This pathetic scum cost us twenty men?”

Cole snarled. “Who are you calling scum, scum?” A kick landed on his ribs ad he curled up as more blows pummeled him.

The woman shook her head. “Well… You might actually have made me some money in the arenas with fight like that. But not now. Discipline must be maintained.”

Cole laughed. “Discipline? Among slavers? Wow, times have changed.”

She kicked him again and this time he heard something snap. “I have something special in mind for you. Bring him…” Rough hands picked him up and carried him. He thought he saw the corridors of a ship, but was too groggy to be sure. But then his head cleared.

“DAD!” the cry had his heart lurching as he saw Xera holding Juli nearby. Both wore manacles and slave collars. He looked at the woman who now held a bloody mass in her hands.

“We might never have found them if this brat hadn’t run to you. It took us a while to find the hidden compartment, but we did. Put him in.” The hands tossed him through a hatch. The woman looked in and smirked. “This pod is defective. It has an air leak, a slow one. Enjoy your last few hours. Oh, and you are not going alone.” She threw the bloody bundle at him and his heart seemed to stop as he realized it was his son. He heard Xera scream his name as the hatch started closing

Before it closed he shouted. “I will kill you! You slaver scum, count on it!” Then a powerful acceleration threw him to the wall of the pod. And all he could do was hold his son’s weeping body close. It was some time later when he realized that his son wasn’t breathing any more. His scream reverberated through the pod. And he was still crying when the Bladeborn found him, two hours later.



<The present, Averum>

Shanas woke, his pulse pounding. The dream… again… It had felt so real. It always did. He sighed and moved towards the refresher. Might as well start the day, he would never be able to get back to sleep. And today, hopefully, he would find out where to go next. To find his vengeance.

<Later that day>

Fergal Aos stood in line at the records office, wondering if this was really going to be worth it. After all, the slavers were here, and obviously they had a sizable presence on planet. He had seen three more groups of them so far, strutting around as if they owned the area, typical. They were all bluster until someone stood up to them, then like all bullies, they slunk off, looking for a way to strike from hiding with no danger to themselves. He knew that his presence was noted, that he was under surveillance. And that was good. He wanted the slavers to see him, to note him, to think he was a potential threat, but not enough of a threat to warrant immediate elimination. After all, slavers were always after one thing, credits. Take him as a hostage maybe, maybe take him and sell him at one of the slaver markets. Either way, he had to get inside, and the easiest way was to allow them to take him.

So, once he had finished his business at the records office, which took three times as long as it should have with all the increased security, he started back for his rented room. And he carefully ignored the shadows that followed him. Until one of them blocked his path.

“You, human.” It was the Aqualish from the day before.

Aos put just the right tone of indifference in his words. “Oh, it’s the dung for brains. What do you want?”

The Aqualish snarled. “You come.”

Aos smiled thinly. “I don’t think so.”

The Aqualish snarled louder. “You come. Now.”

Aos thought about that for a moment, and then smiled again. “Well, since you ask so nicely… No.” His hand flashed and came up with his blaster as he ducked for cover. He had the pleasure of seeing the Aqualish fall before stun bolts hit him from three different directions. He kept a grin off his face as he collapsed.

So far, so good…
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

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kalenath
07.03.2012 , 06:21 AM | #3
<Some time later>

When Aos woke, he wished he hadn’t. He had been subjected to stunners a number of times in his life and it always seemed that slaver stunners were nastier than anyone else’s. Maybe it was the fact that the idiots usually didn’t know how to maintain their weapons. He was careful to regulate his breathing in sleep rhythms as he cracked his eyes and looked around. What he saw didn’t surprise him. A slaver stockade. Beings of various races were packed in like animals, and to the slavers that was exactly what the beings in the pen were. Money on feet. Aos sat up and looked himself over slowly. His head hurt from the stunner and he has several new bruises as well as a pain in his foot that said possible fracture. Manacles clinked on his wrists and ankles and a collar was around his neck. He looked around and blinked as someone spoke.

“Easy mister, they messed you up good.” Aos turned to see a young girl, maybe eighteen, sitting nearby. She held her arm awkwardly as if it hurt to move it. Her dark hair might have been brown, maybe dark blond, it was hard to see in the poor light, was caked with mud and filth, but her hazel eyes were steady as she looked at him.

“How… long…?” He asked carefully as he sat up.

The girl shrugged. “Dunno. One meal.”

Aos nodded slowly. It was easy to lose track of time in a cell with no clocks or ways of counting. “Two meals between the time the light comes on and when it goes out?”

The girl nodded, her expression puzzled. “How do you know that?”

Aos shrugged. “Not the first prison I have been in.” He extended his manacled hands. “Fergal Aos.”

The girl took one of his hands in her uninjured one and shook gently. “Miriam Chines.”

Fergal sat back and grimaced as sore muscles protested. “Well, Miriam Chines. How did a nice girl like you wind up in here?”

Miriam sighed. “It were my own dumb fault. I was visiting, see. Friend had new kids. Wanted to visit. Pa said it was okay. So I went. They hit the farm. Took everyone, I think. Ain’t seen any of the little’uns. Should have run. But couldn’t just leave her. Only slug guns, but we tried.”

Aos nodded soberly. “This group routinely takes only adults. The kids are either still there…”

Miriam shuddered. “Or they done been killed. How long you think they keep us here?”

Aos shrugged. “If they are anything like other slavers I have heard of, they will wait until the pens are full to send a shipment off.” Miriam and Fergal stared around. The pens were maybe half full.

Miriam looked at him. “You is awfully calm, seeing how you been snatched like the rest of us.”

Aos just smiled thinly. His voice was quiet. “You better get what rest you can, Ma’am. Might be a long night.” Miriam looked at him and then shook her head slowly and sank back down to her spot on the floor.

<After lights out that night>

Aos hadn’t been sure of this part of his plan. Getting into a cell was easy. Getting out, by definition, was always harder. And then there was the problem of the other inhabitants of the cell. He had hoped for separate cages, but this made more sense for a security standpoint. One way in, one way out. He tensed as he heard voices.

“Come on, you seen the one I want…” He didn’t move of flinch as two shadows came close to the bars. “That one, the cute little number with the busted arm. Lotsa fight in her.” It wouldn’t have been so bad, except the speaker was female. “Boss likes it when they fight. I wanna a piece of what’s left.” He could see by the stiffness in her body that Miram was awake and could hear just as well as he could. “Dose ‘em.”

Aos tensed as he heard a hissing. Then he nodded. It made sense for them to use gas. For any slavers to enter the pen without making sure the prisoners were either unconscious or secured in some other way was foolhardy to say the least. Of course they hadn’t searched him very thoroughly when they had brought him in. If they had, they would have found the nose plugs that allowed him to stay conscious when everyone else in the pen fell into deeper sleep. But he slowed his breathing, conscious of the door to the pen opening, the two forms approaching. It burned him that he had to let them take her, but if either of them sounded an alarm, everything was for naught. They picked Miriam’s unconscious form up and carried her out, oblivious to the deadly shadow that stood up behind them and followed carefully. When they reached the hatch, they shut it and strode off, never realizing that the hatch hadn’t locked. Aos moved to the outside of the pen and shut it. This time it locked. While he burned to help the beings in the pen, he had other duties. But first, he had some justice to administer. And even if he hadn’t, there was simply no way he could leave Miriam to those two scum.

<A few minutes later>

Miriam writhed in her bond and fought as the two scum in front of her hurt her again.

“Come on girl, all you gotta do is scream. You know you want to. Let it out, you will enjoy it. And then we can enjoy you.” The slaver’s voice was almost kind as she applied pressure to the hurt arm. If it hadn’t been broken before, it definitely was now. Miriam bit back a groan and the slaver grinned wider. “That’s it girl… fight… I like it when they fight.”

Miriam was panting from the pain now and her vision as getting fuzzy as the other scum cut off her air again. He would do that for a minute then let up and let her breath. It didn’t hurt badly but it did make it very hard to concentrate. But then another voice came.

“You morons…” Miriam didn’t react. She didn’t know this voice. But it sounded female and older. But both of the scum who had been hurting her froze in place.

“Uh… Doc…Ah…” The female stammered, but a female in a white tunic came into Miriam’s field of view. The newcomer’s face was as cold as space itself and against her will, Miriam shuddered. But her gaze wasn’t on the prisoner, not, her gaze was on the two cringing beings in front of her.

When the medic spoke, it was cold and clear. “I have told you and told you and told you. If you damage the merchandise, we don’t make as much money and the Boss takes it out on us. But you just can’t control your urges, can you?” Now the female looked fearful. But the medic grinned. “Oh, don’t worry…” the female tried to run, but the hiss of a stunner sounded and both collapsed. “You won’t feel a thing…” The sheer malice in the woman’s voice had Miriam whimper before she could stifle it. The medic turned to meet Miriam’s eyes. “Ah well… Let’s get you out of that…”

The medic’s hands were gentle and professional, but no less strong and the droid she summoned was well beyond Miriam’s ability to fight. Truth be told, Miriam didn’t have the energy to fight. The droid lifted her and carried her easily to another room, this one brightly lit. The droid set her down on another table and Miriam tensed, but the woman was standing there and her smile was gentle now.

The woman’s voice was no longer cold, no now she was warm and kind. “I am give you something for the pain, and then I am going to set your arm. Okay? Don’t fight me.”

Truth be told, it was unlikely that Miriam could have. What little energy she had kept seemed to have fled. She managed a shallow nod and the woman nodded back. A quick sting and Miriam was floating. She felt gentle hands on her arm and then a sharp pain had her crying out despite her best efforts then another pain brought tears to her eyes. Her eyes burned, but then she felt a pat on her shoulder. “Good girl. Let me get a cast on this…” Miriam stayed quiet as she felt her arm taken in gentle hands, an odd feeling surrounded her arm and then it froze into immobility. “That’s it, good girl. Now, I need you to stay here and stay quiet, okay?” Miriam managed a nod again, whatever drug was running through her veins had her disinterested. The medic patted her shoulder again and then disappeared from Miriam’s line of sight. Miriam turned her head slowly to see the medic working at another table, muttering to herself.

“Stupid Force be damned fools, damaging the merchandise. I warned them.” Miriam felt all the blood leave her face as she realized where the doctor was working. Waist level on the unconscious form of the woman who had hurt Miriam. “See if she has those urges now…” the doctor turned away from the table and saw Miriam’s eyes on her. The doctor shrugged. “I warned them what would happen if they did it again. See if they feel the same way after being fixed.” Miram felt her guts clench at the sheer malice in the woman’s tone. But the doctor turned to another table and snarled. “Awake are we? Good, I want this to hurt…”

A shriek came from the table and Miriam closed her eyes, trying to get the horrible images out of her head and mind. Eventually, the screams taped off to pained whimpers and Miriam cracked her eyes again. She shuddered as the doctor came over to her table again, her gloved hands slick with gore.

“You will sleep here tonight. I want to make sure there are no complications before we put you back in the pen. Nasty conditions…” the doctor broke off and blanched. “Who are…?” Miriam bit back a scream as the muffled report of a slugthrower sounded and a thump was heard. A hand touched hers and Miriam looked up into the eyes of Aos.

She was shocked into speech. “Who are you?’

"Nobody usually." Aos smiled sadly. “Today I am someone who hates slavers. Are you okay?”

"Drugged." Miriam said as she tried to shake her head and managed, slowly. “Painkiller she said…”

Aos nodded. “Okay. Let’s get you up and we can get out of here…”
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

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kalenath
07.03.2012 , 06:23 AM | #4
<A few minutes later>

Aos was kicking himself. Miriam was weaving badly. He could have left her there on that table, he probably should have left her there. But there was really no way he could have. Not after what happened to his family. He checked his weapons, the slugthrower had an almost full clip and the blaster he had appropriated from a dead guard. He smiled grimly. So many people made such mistakes. When you took a prisoner, it was downright stupid to store whatever they had on their person anywhere near them. He had found his gear, minus his heavy blaster pistol which was probably some slaver’s trophy by now, in a sack in the nearest storage room. Slugthrowers had a number of disadvantages compared to blasters. For one, they had a much smaller number of shots. For another, they had nowhere near the range or power. But slugthrowers had one huge advantage. Another wandering slaver came into view and after checking the area, Aos took aim and fired. This time, Miriam didn’t even wince as the popping sound came and the corpse fell. Silencers were such a wonderful thing. Aos darted forward and pulled the still warm body into a storage locker, riffling the pockets quickly. A few credits, a hold out blaster which Aos took and a wad of deathsticks which Aos discarded.

Miriam was leaning against the wall right where he had left her. “Come on, darling….” He pulled her gently and she fell over. A quick check showed she was still breathing, but her breathing was labored as if… He cursed and checked her eyes. Sure enough, they had rolled up into her skull, showing she had been given a powerful sedative. “Damn…”

Aos thought hard for a long moment. But then he sighed. He didn’t have a choice. He couldn’t carry an unconscious woman with him out of this place. He would have to stash her somewhere and then come back for her. He moved her as gently as he could into the storage locker, rolling the corpse so it would provide some cushioning. Then he shut it on her, hoping it wasn’t airtight, but the vents in the door reassured him. He sighed and then he walked away.

He wasn’t all that great at fighting stand up battles. What he was good at was sneaking into places and persuading people to let him do things. He walked by three sets of guards on his way to the communications room. He strode into the room as if he hadn’t care in the world and after a moment the two techs went back to their work. He walked up to the one with less on her screen.

She looked up and snarled at him. “What you want?”

Aos shrugged. She snarled again and turned back to her console and when she did, he struck. The small blade in his hand penetrated the thin neck covering she wore and into her carotid artery cleanly. She slumped without a sound. The paralytic poison on the blade guaranteed a silent death, the victim literally wouldn’t be able to move a muscle. And in moments the woman’s heart would stop, also paralyzed. Something warned the other tech, there hadn’t been any noise, and he spun to see Aos withdrawing the blade. The tech didn’t waste time crying out or anything else useless, just leapt for the alarm switch but collapsed as Aos shot him. The popping sound was loud in the confined space, but no one investigated. Aos nodded slowly and then moved to the communications console. He keyed in a series of codes and stepped back. Then he emptied the depleted clip of his slugthrower into the com system. It sparked feebly as he reloaded.

He sighed and made his way to the door. This place was going to get very noisy fairly soon. He started off, back towards where he had stashed Miriam, but then he froze as a voice sounded. “As I live and breath. Cole Shanas…”

He turned slowly to see the corridor behind him filled with beings in armor. At their head, the face of the woman who had haunted his nightmares stared at him. He smiled grimly and nodded to her. “Cos Miran. Long time.”

The woman shook her head slowly. “You know, I hadn’t quite believed it when my employers said you had survived. And who you were working for.”

Shanas smiled thinly. “What can I say? The pay is good and there are some very cool fringe benefits.”

Miran shook her head. “You know, I could make space for you in my…” She broke off as Cole snickered. “Something funny?”

“Yeah.” Cole was chortling quietly, but it had an edge of malice to it. “I am assuming your alert went out when someone found the medic.”

“Our pen count came up two short and while those two morons were a known factor damaging the merchandise, having two vanish at once was a bit… odd.” Miran stared at him and Cole nodded slowly.

His voice was mocking and more than one of the armored forms stirred angrily. “Yeah, I knew it was just matter of time until even you idiots figured out that something was wrong.”

Miran shook her head. “He is trying to make us shoot him. And we want him alive. You are worth an awful lot. To the Republic, to a couple of Sith, even to a Hutt or two.”

Cole smiled. No one sane would have called it a friendly smile. “That limits your options here and now. And unfortunately for you… I am under no such compunction. And I want you dead. For what you did to my son.”

Miran was visibly startled by his defiance. “Shanas, look, you have no chance at all. Look at the firepower…” Shanas looked at the other end of the hall and the team that blocked it. He smiled. “Your corpse is worth a lot, but it’s triple for a live delivery. Drop the hardware.”

"Since you ask so nicely..." Shanas looked at the Weequay who held Shanas’ heavy blaster pistol and grinned before turning back to Miran. “No.”

He darted into the scant cover provided by a storage locker as Miran cursed and shouted. “Alive, I want him alive! I want him to hurt!”

He hit a small remote attached to his comlink and smiled as the small thermal charge in the handle of his old pistol went off. As thermal charges went, it was fairly minute. But it was more than enough to completely obliterate the entire team of slavers that had been around the Weequay. The carnage seemed to shock the other slavers and Shanas was in motion.

Two quick flips and grenades flew into the midst of the slavers packing around Miran. Screams sounded but Shanas’ eyes were ice cold as he reached out from his cover and started spraying the area with his borrowed pistol. Another flip and a smoke grenade went off in between the combatants. And when it cleared… He was gone. The remaining slavers stared around wildly and then screamed as one of them fell. A popping noise came from nowhere and they scattered for cover.

A mocking laugh came from... nowhere. “I have learned a lot. From the best, Miran. I can see you, can you see me?” Another pop and another slaver went down screaming, clutching a shattered arm. Another and this one hit the floor silent, a bloody hole between the eyes of the Bothan.

Miran cursed. “Come out and fight, coward!”

Shanas’ voice was cold. “Coward am I? Yeah, I am such a coward. I attack people who can actually fight back. That’s cowardly. I attack people who deserve it. That is cowardly. I make war on people who steal parents from children, who leave kids to starve slowly because there is no profit in taking them.” Another pop and one of the slavers who tried to run made about three steps before falling in a heap and not moving again. “How does it feel, slaver? To be completely overmatched. To know that no matter what you do, you are going to die?”

Miran snarled at the disembodied voice and grabbed for her comlink. She had contingencies. Then she froze as a small metal cylinder landed nearby. It didn’t look like any grenade she had ever seen… She screamed as it hissed and then the world turned black.
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kalenath
07.03.2012 , 06:26 AM | #5
Cole Shanas stared at the unconscious body of the woman he hated more than any in the galaxy and he had to force himself not put a round through her head. But he needed information now. So he sighed and secured Miran and the other slavers tightly and left them where they had fallen. They would wake in eight hours or so with a heck of a headache. He had a headache himself, one did not lightly use nerve gas, even low lethality ones. But he had taken the antidote, so he would be fine. He smiled as he heard a recognizable noise, a breaching charge. His backup had arrived. Armored troops poured into the corridors followed by two figures in black. He stood, his weapon pointed down as the troops approached. They had obviously been briefed, he noted sourly, as he saw all had breathers on.

He shook his head. “Epicenter of nerve gas release over there…” he nodded to the canister in the midst of the fallen slavers. “The woman is mine.” His cold words had more than one of the troops flinching but one of the black garbed figures stepped up and he smiled as Ona dropped her hood. The troops ignored them both and started collecting the unconscious bodies.

"Nerve gas..." Ona’s voice was tart. “Cole, what is it with you and overkill?”

Cole just shrugged, but winced as something hurt. Ona sighed and came close. He let her touch him, and there were not many he would let touch him. She cursed and suddenly he felt better. He smiled at the Bothan. “Thanks Ona.”

"Idiot." The black furred being shook her head. “You are crazy, Cole. Utterly, totally, completely crazy.” Cole shrugged again and Ona sighed. Her gaze fell on the unconscious slavers and one in particular. Miran had an expression of horrified surprise on her face. “Do you want us to handle it?” Cole looked at her and Ona shrugged. “You know you would get carried away. You want information, not just her death.”

"Uh..." Cole sighed, but what she said made sense. He was too close to this. He shook his head. “Take her, but I want her when you are done wringing her out.”

"Right." Ona nodded. “She will be alive, awake and lucid when we are done.” She grinned evilly and Cole shared it.

“Thank you.” He sighed again. “Three pens that I saw. All about half full. One was gassed. Oh, yeah, there is a young human female in a storage locker nearby. She has a broken arm and was given something. I am not sure what.” Ona winced.

“And do I want to know why this young human female is in a storage locker?” Her voice held a long suffering note but it was spoiled by the grin on her face, a grin Cole shared. A bunch of slavers dead and a many slaves rescued. A good day. Then Ona had a different look on her face, speculation.

"Ona..." Cole sighed. “Stop trying to match make me. I’m not… I am not ready…”

Ona laid her arm around Cole’s shoulders as they walked. “I know Cole, but… I worry about you. You have more rage in you than anyone I have seen since Shar. You have reason, but…”

Cole sighed and nodded. He looked at each storage locker they passed and then stopped at one. He keyed it open and Ona gasped.

“You didn’t say there was a corpse in there with her, you evil, evil man…” Her voice was teasing as she knelt down beside the girl, checking vitals. Cole just grinned, but remained silent as Ona worked. Finally Ona nodded. “Yeah, a strong sedative, probably to kill the pain of her arm…” the Bothan touched the flexicast and shook her head. “…and keep her docile. Do I want to know what you did with the people who did this to her?” Cole shook his head and Ona nodded. “Good. Lets get her out of there and somewhere a bit more comfortable. The ship won’t be back for eight hours, so… they have a medical unit here I take it?”

"Yeah, but..." Cole winced. “It’s a mess.”

Ona sighed. “Why am I not surprised. Well, you got her here; you can get her to the medical area.” Cole snorted as he picked Miriam slumbering form in careful arms and carried her gently.

<Some time later>

When Miriam woke, she felt good. She didn’t hurt at all, which was odd. Her arm throbbed a bit, but it didn’t hurt. She felt weird, but good. She opened her eyes and screamed. She couldn’t help it; she was back on the table in the medical area. A startled voice came to her ears.

“Whoa… easy there young lady…” Miriam looked to where the voice came from and froze solid at what she saw. The black furred form was bent over a medical scanner, but straightened slowly as Miriam’s gaze fell on it, er… her… Miriam felt all the blood leave her face as she saw the black robes and the lightsaber hanging from the being’s belt. The furred being stood slowly and raised a hand, an empty hand. “It’s okay. No one is going to…”

But Miriam had seen enough. She bit down, hard, on one of her teeth and then slumped back to the table as the capsule inside the tooth cracked and the potent toxin swept through her body. Dimly she heard cursing and felt something take her hand, but it was all far away, distant. And then darkness claimed her.

Cole could only watch in awe as Ona poured power into the girl. Then he shook his head. Ona was weakening… He looked at the scanner and blanched. The readings were ones he knew, a powerful toxin. Why would this girl try and suicide on seeing a healer? He worked the controls, and a droid hovered close. It quickly administered an antidote to the poison. He sighed in relief as the girl’s vitals stabilized, albeit very low and Ona slumped away from her with a groan.

The Bothan’s voice was strained. “That was… weird. I have never had a patient try THAT before. One who wasn’t a prisoner anyway.”

Cole shook his head slowly. “That was a suicide capsule. In case of capture. But why on seeing you? You are a healer.”

Ona sighed. “What am I wearing Cole?”

Cole blinked and then nodded slowly. “She thought you were a Sith.” Common enough even among servants of the Empire. Black robes and lightsaber always equaled Sith.

Ona shook her head. “I could feel her fear the moment she woke. She hid it well. But when she saw me… It was like dam broke. She was scared out of her mind. But not for herself…?” The Bothan blinked trying to make sense of what she had felt. “For her family?”

Cole nodded. “Her family is probably up to something illegal and you know how the Sith react to such things.”

Ona nodded slowly, not convinced. “There was more to it than that. But I need to think on it. She will be out for a while. The poison and antidote both were toxic. Her body will need time to recover.” A tap at the door and both turned to see a trooper standing there.

The trooper spoke in a respectful tone. “Your pardon, Bladeborn, agent Shanas. We have secured the base and are ready to leave.” The trooper motioned to the woman on the table. “Should we process her as well?”

Ona’s face became a mask. “No, she is our problem. There is something odd about her. We will handle her. ” The trooper saluted and left.

Cole looked at Ona. “You are not going to do what I think you are going to do. Are you?”

Ona shrugged. “What can I say? She‘s hurt.”

Cole groaned. “Ona, we have too many people on the ship already.”

Ona snorted. “Then you better find her family. It will take time to go through the records anyway.”

Cole just groaned louder. “Why is it that every time you get these wild hair days… I wind up changing diapers?” Ona slugged him on the arm and then they started preparing the girl for transport.
My stories in order:
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kalenath
07.03.2012 , 06:35 AM | #6
<Ten hours later>

Cole sat in the small room and tried not to stew. He had known that the Bladeborn would keep him from the interrogation, but basically he had been told to get lost. Mama and Trugoy had been polite, but firm. So he had found himself back here. The girl, Miriam, hadn’t woken yet. Ona was a little worried about it. After all, the toxin that she had tried to kill herself with had been very potent. The antidote to the poison as well had been more than slightly toxic in its own right. He stiffened a bit as the girl stirred slightly. He checked himself quickly, no signs of black anywhere on his person. Just in case. He wasn’t a Sith and didn’t wear robes or carry a lightsaber, but he didn’t want to take any chances with this girl of mystery. The room likewise had been cleaned of anything remotely Sithlike. Not that it had had much to begin with. It was a fairly standard recovery room. Medical monitors, a small basin, a small refresher, and the bed. Nothing else.

“Uh… hello?” Her voice wavered a bit as she tried to move and couldn’t. The bonds that held her were soft and padded, but firm at the same time. This wasn’t even close to the first time that the Bladeborn had dealt with a suicidal being. Her broken arm was secured slightly at wrist, elbow and shoulder to keep it from being strained.

“Hello.” Cole’s voice was quiet, gentle and the girl turned scared eyes to face him. He raised empty hands. “You are in no danger here.”

The girl shook her head slowly. “I…. Who are you?”

“I called myself Fergal Aos, But my name is Cole Shanas.” He watched as the girl thought about that for a moment. Then he tensed as she shook her head again.

“I don’t know you. I…” She tried to move again and winced. Her voice was scared now. “Why am I tied up?”

"We were worried about you."Cole spoke slowly and evenly, trying to keep her calm. “You tried to hurt yourself, Miriam.”

"I...?" Miriam stared at him, her eyes wide. “I what? Miriam… Is that my name? I… I don’t remember.” She tensed and suddenly she was crying. “I don’t remember… Who am I? Why can’t I remember?”

Cole moved to her bedside and after a moment, undid the straps and lifted Miriam up into his arms. He held her as she sobbed. “Shhh… Shhhh… It will be okay Miriam. No one will hurt you.”

"What has happened?" Miriam sobbed into his shoulder. “Why can’t I remember?”

It's okay, girl... It will be okay." Cole stroked her hair. “I don’t know, but I will find out Miriam.”

<An hour later>

The medical bay was quiet barring the hissing and whirring of equipment. They had finally had to resort to a mild sedative to get Miriam to sleep again, and now she was resting on one of the tables while scanners whirred around her. Ona’s face was pensive as she perused the latest scans. Cole sat nearby, his own face a mask.

Finally Ona sighed. When the healer spoke, it was sad and resigned. “A reaction between the sedative the slaver medic gave her and the poison. The sedative suppressed neural tissues and the poison attacked them. Together… Many of the chemical receptors that form memory were wiped clean. The antidote didn’t help matters either. It saved her life, but… I may be able to do something with the Force, but it is highly unlikely she will remember everything. We can retrain her, but…”

"I know." Cole sighed. “She will never be who she was.” Ona nodded sadly. Cole shook his head. “I don’t understand. Why would she react so strongly to seeing you in black? I know Sith are scary, but… Lots of people wear black. Even black robes.”

A throat cleared behind them and they turned to see a grey uniformed being step into the room. Commander Vorren’s face was a mask of indifference. But then again, it always was. His voice was quiet as always. “I can answer that, partly.”

"Oh?" Ona nodded. She wasn’t entirely comfortable with this agent of Imperial Intelligence, but his loyalty was unquestioned. “Go ahead.”

"Right." Vorren walked to where the screen showed Miriam’s sleeping face and sighed. “Miriam Chines died when her family homestead was destroyed in an explosion.” On and Cole both stiffened and Vorren continued. “I had my suspicions at the time. Will doesn’t kill innocents if he can help it.”

"Yeah..." Cole nodded slowly. “The guards said he was there, that a family had died. Her family?”

"Indeed. Father, mother and brother." Vorren nodded. “The recovery crews found four ID tags and enough DNA for four bodies and called the case closed.”

"So...." Cole looked thoughtful. “Her family may still be alive.”

Vorrn looked at him, and a hint of emotion showed through the mask. Worry. “Cole, don’t even think about it. Imperial Intelligence has had suspicions of a Republic cell operating on planet, but they haven’t done anything we can track. Not in decades. We will eventually find them and eradicate them even so.”

"A Resistance cell..." Ona looked worried now. “If they have hidden for this long…”

"Yeah." Vorren nodded. “If they have hidden for this long, then they have done so by being utterly ruthless. What happened to this girl may have been an anti interrogation protocol.”

Ona and Cole looked at each other and then Ona shook her head. “No… None of the markers are there…” She pulled up a scan of the girl’s brain and shook her head. “Unless II and RI have come up with something new, in which case we wouldn’t know. Would we?” Her ironic words actually brought a small smile to the agent’s face.

"No." The agent replied flatly. Vorren looked at the scans and shook his head as well. “As far as I can tell, this is a totally normal reaction between a powerful sedative and a powerful poison. But there is no way to know. I would like to debrief her.”

"Medically, there is no reason for me to say no." Ona shook her head slowly. “If you want to, you are welcome to. But I can tell you, without a shadow of doubt, that most of the chemical receptors dealing with memory, short and long term, have been wiped clean.”

"Indeed?" Vorren looked at her and then at the screen. “Hmmm… A blank slate? That might be useful.”

Ona stared at him. “What?”

"If..." Vorren’s voice was thoughtful. “If she truly can’t remember her loyalties, we can use her to try and ferret out the cell on planet.”

"You... What...?" Cole stiffened and Ona stared from the agent to the smuggler. Cole’s voice was soft. “Let me get this straight. You want to program her as a sleeper agent, to ferret out something that might not even exist. And then you throw her away of course.” His words were calm. But Ona looked worried.

"It's not like that." Vorren shook his head. “We wouldn’t throw her away, we would find a use for…” he broke off as he realized Cole wasn’t listening to him.

"Use her." Cole’s words were quiet. Too quiet. “You want to turn her into a slave.”

Now Ona looked scared. “Vorren, get out of here.” He looked at her and she shook her head. “Now.”

Vorren shook his head. “She wouldn’t be a slave. She would be an …” He broke off as Cole moved. As fast as the agent was, he was totally unprepared for the swift kick that caught him below the belt line. Any being, no matter how well trained, would recoil from being kicked in the genitals. His armor blunted the blow, there was no way it could stop it and he doubled over. When he looked up he froze. Cole’s blaster was poised, the aim point between Vorren’s eyes.

Ona hadn’t moved from her spot, and Vorren wondered about that but then he saw what was in the smuggler’s other hand. He blanched as the thermal detonator ticked.

"Cole, calm down." Ona’s voice was careful. “Cole, he is just doing his job. He is playing the angles. He doesn’t know how you feel and he doesn’t care. It is his job to find and eliminate enemies of the Empire. By any means necessary.”

Vorren prided himself on his control. But he looked up into Cole Shanas’ face and felt fear. Fear the likes of which he hadn’t felt since he had faced Will Kalenath’s blaster. The two men, the soldier and the smuggler, shared one thing in common. Both were death walking. Both hated with every fiber of their being. In Will's case he hated the Sith. In Cole's case... slavers and anything to do with them. Vorrren met the man’s gaze and nodded. He had underestimated the smuggler, that wouldn’t happen again.

Cole bit out words. “You. Leave. Her. Alone.”

"I want to. She has suffered enough." Vorren said quietly.. “Until and unless I am ordered to interrogate her, I will. I am sorry. I didn’t understand.” For a moment, his mask slipped and a tired, heartsick man shone out from behind his armor. But then it was gone. He sighed. “Cole, interrogations do not have to be brutal. Contrary to popular belief, brutality doesn’t help. Gentleness works better. And an interrogation might help her remember things.”

Cole’s face worked but his blaster vanished. “No.” He turned away and stopped.

The small brown form of Trugoy stood in the door, his face impassive. “Vorren is right, Cole. Interrogations don’t have to be brutal. I…” For once, the grandmaster looked, unsure and then his long ears drooped. “I have news.” Cole nodded, his face the impassive mask he habitually wore. “Cos Miran spent the last year and a half looking for your wife and daughter to gain leverage over you. Your wife was sold to a Sith spice mine on Kessel. According to the records Miran found, she died two and half years ago.”

Cole recoiled as if struck and Ona reached out a slow hand to touch his shoulder. His mask remained. “And Juli?” Teh smuggler asked softly.

Trugoy sighed, his face sad now. “The ship that your daughter was being carried to Nal Hutta on was struck by pirates. For a time, to was thought that the Stormhawk had hit them. But it wasn’t. It was a group called H’ran. According to the records Miran found, there were no survivors. I am sorry. I wanted to have better news for you.”

Cole stood still as a statue for along minute. Then a single tear tracked down his face followed by more. He turned away, but Ona was there, she held out her arms and Cole went into her embrace. They cried together, never seeing Vorren and Trugoy leave.
My stories in order:
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kalenath
07.03.2012 , 06:41 AM | #7
<The next day>

Cole Shanas stood at the edge of a crater and tried not whistle in awe. The devastation was total. He had been told that a single family house, a barn and a small storage shed had been on this land. But now the only thing here was the crater. At least three hundred meters in diameter, it was partly filled with water from recent rains, but it was obvious that whatever had exploded had done so with considerable force. He glanced into the crater and sighed before turning away. Whatever had been in there was gone now. Way gone. He snapped a few pictures on his pictorecorder anyway, partly to stay in cover, he still was Fergal Aos, sort of anyway, and partly to show Miriam in hopes of jogging her memory. Fergal Aos had a reason to be here, he was researching the soils that made the manure so explosive. But Cole had a reason as well. He wanted to see where Miriam had lived, when she had been Miriam. He had ditched the tail that someone, probably Vorren, had sicced on him and come here. But he hadn’t known what to expect. He slumped as he walked and scanned clumps of material. Some of it organic, some of it not. He passed a tail fin that had been blown off of a Sith assault shuttle and smirked a little. Will Kalenath did nothing halfway, nothing at all. But when he returned to his speeder, the door was ajar and a young human was sitting in the cab waiting for him.

Cole sighed as he approached. “Hasn’t anyone ever told you that to take a joyride, you have to go somewhere?” The boy just looked at him and with a start, Cole realized the young man looked like Miriam. Matter of fact, a lot like Miriam. Cole sighed. “This is a very bad idea, whoever you are.”

The boy spoke softly. “Your speeder is clean. I need to know. Is she alive?”

Cole eyed the boy. But then his gaze went to the surrounding area and he tensed as he saw several clumps of bush that hadn’t been there when he landed. He didn’t need to see inside them to know that several blaster rifles covered him. The smuggler sighed. “She tried to suicide. She is alive, but her memory is a mess. And she is unlikely to recover it. Her memory was, in the words of a healer, wiped clean chemically. The poison and something the slavers gave her reacted badly.”

The boy didn’t move. “You work with people who wear black.” It wasn’t a question.

"I do." Cole shrugged. “It’s a living. And I get to kill lots of slavers.” Something in his voice shook the young man, but Cole didn’t move.

“Why?” The boy asked quietly and Cole sighed.

“In the end, who cares about a few dozen humans? In the end, who cares if a few families get wiped out or stolen into slavery? Why should the Empire or the Republic give a flying flarg about the little guys? We don’t matter. We have no power, no voice.” Cole met the boy’s eyes and saw something there. Something that seemed very like the rage that burned in his own veins. But then Cole smiled savagely. “Well, some of us do care. And no matter what, we try and make a difference.” His comlink beeped and the boy tensed but Cole stared at it and blanched. “Get out of here, all of you! My tail is coming and he is bringing friends.”

The boy looked at him. “I have no reason to trust you. 'Fergal Aos'.”

"My name is not Fergal Aos." Cole snarled. “My name is Cole Shanas, I work for the Order of the Bladeborn and there is an Imperial Intelligence team about thirty seconds out, you have to get out of here...” Cole blinked as the bushes around the area simply melted back into the underbrush. But the boy remained where he was. “Go...”

“I want to see my sister.” The boy said simply as he sat back in the seat. Cole stared at him and then snarled.

“Don’t do a force damned thing unless I say, okay?" Cole snapped. "And for goodness sake, keep your mouth shut.”He said quietly as an unmarked airspeeder van appeared in the distance and swooped into land nearby. The boy looked at him and Cole sighed as the van’s doors opened and a heavily armed squad of troops emerged. Leading them...

“Hello Cole, a merry chase you have led us.” Commander Vorren’s eyes roved the area, lighting on the boy before looking around. Cole snarled at him, seemingly oblivious to the multiple blasters that were a hair shy of pointing at him.

“What is it with you people?" Cole demanded, his posture angry. "You are supposed to understand about being sneaky. I try and maintain my cover and you come in all loud. Well, that cover is dust.” If Vorren was discomfited by the smuggler’s ire, it was not apparent.

“I see you found one of our missing persons. Hello Marcus, how is the leg?” Marcus didn’t look at the agent, no his eyes were on Cole.

Cole looked from Marcus to the agent and suddenly the warm air seemed to chill a bit. “You used me as bait.” It wasn’t a question.”

"Of course we did." Vorren smiled. “This is the first break we have gotten into this cell in ten years. You should be proud Cole, you are helping make the Empire a safer...” He broke off as Cole’s hand dipped into a pocket. “Cole...” His tone held warning.

"Wondered about that." Cole said with a smirk. “Tell me something Vorren. How good are your suit seals these days?” He tossed a small object at the agent who cursed and backpedalled. The agents who had been drawing beads on Cole all scattered as the cylinder started hissing. Cole ran to his speeder and jumped in, the boy moving to the other seat. He started the engines. “Strap in, they will figure out that isn’t nerve gas in about...”

Blaster fire started coming towards the speeder and Cole cursed as he hauled it into the air. The boy, Marcus looked a bit green as Cole stood the speeder on its side, trying to avoid fire from the van that was now pursuing them. He danced the small and nimble ship all over the sky avoiding the fire effortlessly. But...

“We don’t have a lot of time." Cole snapped, throwing the speeder across the sky in an erratic evasion pattern. "They have certainly called for backup by now. And this thing can’t outrun a starfighter.”

Marcus spoke softly. “Head north.” Cole didn’t argue, just danced some more with the sparkling bolts of death that flew towards them, and then kicked in the small speeder’s booster. The speeder shot forward like a scalded womp rat and for a moment, no one shot at them. But when Cole looked back, he cursed. Three speeders were chasing him now. Enough to box him in and force him down, which was their probable intention.

Marcus pointed ahead. “There.”

Cole stared at the small ridgeline ahead of him and shrugged. One place was as good as another. But then he grinned. He saw it.

<A klick behind>

“...I know he is evading, that guy can fly, no question. But we have support coming from high orbit. All we have to do is keep him in sight until the fighters get... here...” Vorren’s voice broke off as the speeder ahead dove for the trees and vanished in a titanic fireball. “Aw flarg...”


<A hidden trail>

“Good flying mister.” Marcus’s voice was barely a whisper. And Cole smiled. They didn’t really need to be quiet. The sounding rocket he had fired had brought down the cave mouth nicely. While it had been designed to work in water, the bang had been more than enough to simulate a speeder exploding on impact. And now they were making good time away from where the three airspeeders were hovering, likely trying to find a landing spot.

"You are Marcus, Vorren said your name was?" The boy nodded and Cole sighed. “ I can take you to your sister. It won’t be easy mind you, but I can get you in to see her, after that...” He broke off as the forest around the two walking humans seemed to come to life. Several forms appeared. All were pointing blasters at Cole.

"Don't move mister." Marcus shook his head. “You are going to come with us.” Cole didn’t resist as Marcus took his blaster and vibroblade.

"Well..." Cole sighed. ”When you put it like that, how can I refuse?"
My stories in order:
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kalenath
07.03.2012 , 06:48 AM | #8
<Quite a bit later>

Cole swam back to consciousness and immediately regretted it. He opened his eyes and was not surprised to find he couldn’t see anything. Probably a hood. Something struck him and a harsh voice came to his ears. “You awake traitor?”

From the voice, probably an Imperial Intelligence goon, and a not quite bright one at that. Cole snorted. “If that is the best you can do, moron? Go back to knocking over convenience stores. If that is the best Imperial Intelligence can teach you to hit…” Another blow came and Cole just laughed. Now the strikes were coming in regularly, but no matter they did to him, it had to be more than one person, he just kept laughing.

Finally after an eternity, maybe five minutes of pain, a loud voice came. “What the? You imbeciles, stop that at once!”

The hood came off and Cole looked up into the eyes of Cipher Vorren. The imperial agent stared at the smuggler and the smuggler just grinned. His nose was broken, both eyes were blackened and he was missing several teeth, but his grin was wide. He looked around. The small room looked like an interrogation cell. Figured.

“Hello, Vorren. Fancy meeting you at an idiot convention.” The smuggler quipped. More than one of the circle of goons surrounding the mismatched pair raised fists, but Vorren snarled and they all backed off.

"You..." Vorren’s voice was hushed, almost awed. “You are crazy. What the hell were you doing?”

"Didn't have much choice." Cole shrugged. “You were going to take the kid. Couldn’t let you.”

"Cole..." Vorren sighed. “There is a Republic cell operating on this planet. We have suspected it for some time. Now we have proof. They had to be protecting Miriam and her family. We will find them and you are going to help us.” At that Cole snorted and Vorren looked at him.

“Am I?” More than one of the goons looked angry again at Cole’s mocking tone, but Vorren just shook his head.

"Cole..." The agent’s voice was soft. “It doesn’t have to be this way, Cole. We are not enemies.”

Cole sighed. “Ah, now the soft approach. Nice. And if I tell you to go jump in a black hole, you start the rough stuff again. Well, I will save you some time, I didn’t see anything. I heard two voices in addition to Marcus. An older male and an older female. I didn’t hear anyone else. It might be that the only place they exist is inside your empty head.”

Vorren actually grinned at the insult. But then he sighed again. “Cole… The trackers that were on you were disabled. That bespeaks resources.”

"Trackers?" Cole just smiled wider. “Oh you mean the one you attached to my cloak and the one in the ration bar? That thing tasted foul. They need to work on that. I disabled those myself.”

"I don't believe you." Vorren slumped. “I can’t believe you.”

Cole just grinned even wider. “I don’t particularly care, Mr. Imperial Bootlicker.” One of the goons drew back a leg to kick but everything stopped when a cold voice came.

“If that kick lands, your leg will land a meter from your body.” Ona pushed her way through the throng and everyone made way for her. Her demeanor was cold and her face… Scary didn’t begin to do it justice. Vorren jerked his head and the goons withdrew. Ona knelt beside Cole and shuddered a bit. “Cole, what the flarg…?”

"Ona..." Vorren sighed. “A patrol found him fifty kilometers out. He was lying right smack dab in the middle of their patrol path. Unconscious. He refuses to tell us anything.”

"Oh?" Ona looked at the ceiling of the room they were in and seemed to be praying for patience. “Did you ask?” Vorren stared at her. “Oh, never mind, you never ask, you just demand, don’t you? That doesn’t work with him…”

Vorren muttered under his breath something that sounded like ‘So I see…’

Ona returned her focus to Cole and shook her head and she gently moved his jaw a bit. “It’s not broken this time. Cole… What happened? We got word you crashed.”

Cole winced a little as Ona probed a sensitive spot, but otherwise could have been made of stone. “Didn’t crash. Small cave. Landed after firing a sounding rocket. Had those to test water density.” Ona frowned as she focused on his injuries and he continued. “Was walking when something hit me from behind. Woke up strapped to a bed, blindfolded. What was I supposed to do, fight?”

"Well..." Vorren said with a snarl. “You could have let us track you.”

Cole made a noise more suited to a rancor than a human as Ona touched something and then he focused on Vorren. “I have a minor problem with people tracking me without my knowledge. Nice way to set me up for a backstab.”

Vorren snarled back. “If you had just listened, none of this…” But Ona had heard enough.

The Bothan’s words were angry now. “Both of you shut up!” Both of the males looked at Ona and all of her visible fur was ruffled. She took a moment to smooth it. “Vorren… Back. Off.

The agent took one look at the Bothan’s eyes and did as ordered. An angry mutter swept the ranks of II operatives, but a glance from Ona had all of them freezing in place. Probably praying that she would look anywhere else. She turned her gaze to Cole, who stiffened.

“Do you want to die today, Cole Shanas?" She asked coldly. Then her voice turned soft and it filled with pain. "They will kill you. They are within their rights to do just that.” Ona’s face was remote though.

Cole shook his head. “I don’t care Ona. Let them. What have I got to live for now…URK!” He broke off as a furry hand clamped around the front of his throat and jerked him to his feet. Ona may have been small, and her mechanical legs may have slowed her a bit, but she was strong. Even without the Force.

The Bothan looked him in the eyes and her voice was cold and menacing. “Is that what you think? That since your wife and daughter are beyond your help that you have nothing left to live for?” She dropped him in a heap. “Fine.” Everything in the room stopped as she drew her sword. She lowered the point until it rested on his exposed adam’s apple and spoke quietly. Tears were falling now, but her sword didn't waver and her words were still cold. “I am sick of putting you back together. I am sick of every single time I put you back together you go out and tear yourself up again. If it isn’t the slavers it’s the Hutts, or the Republic and now Imperial Intelligence. How many times must you try to die, Cole Shanas?”

Vorren stared at the Bothan, shocked out of his mask. Then his gaze fell on Cole and something like sympathy was in his eyes. He motioned and the troops filed out until Vorren was the only other being in the room besides Ona and Cole. For his part Cole met Ona’s eyes impassively, but Ona just sighed. “Choose Cole. Now. Live or die.”

Cole’s head fell until Ona had to withdraw her sword a bit to keep from cutting him accidentally. When he spoke it was quiet. “I don’t know Ona." The smuggler admitted softly. "I just don’t know. What the hell have I got to live for?”

Surprisingly it wasn’t Ona who spoke. It was Vorren. “Cole, I have seen a lot of bad stuff in my life. I have done a lot of bad things. The end always justifies the means, but… Then we have to live with what we do. I have executed criminals, hunted traitors, killed enemies. I have killed innocents, in accomplishing my missions. I regret that. I have allowed the innocent to suffer, because I had to stop worse things from happening. What happened to your family was bad, no question. And if I am ever in a position to kill any of the scum who did it, be sure I will take the shot. But you have a chance now to be something different. To make something different of yourself. To make their deaths mean something other than more death and destruction.”

"I..." Cole stared at the agent for a moment and then met Ona’s eyes. His voice was quiet. “I don’t want to die.”

"I don't believe you." Ona shook her head and raised her sword. “You lie as easy as breathing and you know how to manipulate me.”

Cole slumped. “I want to kill the scum who destroyed my life. I want this burning ache in my gut gone. I want… I want…” Tears stared falling and he collapsed in a heap. “I want to live.”

"Oh Cole..." Ona sheathed her sword and knelt beside the human she called friend and embraced him. “Then live.”
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kalenath
07.03.2012 , 06:56 AM | #9
<About thirty minutes later>

It was a very different scene now. Cole sat in a chair, his injuries treated. And Ona sat nearby. Another chair and a table were the only furniture in the room, and there was no one way mirror or anything else, just bare walls. The only Imperial Intelligence person in the room was Vorren and he was sweeping the room with debugging gear. Every so often her would stop and pick up something small, then place it in a sack. Finally, the agent was done and he too, sat down. He nodded to Cole and Ona and set a datarecorder on the table and hit a control.

The agent spoke slowly and carefully. “Data record 518965A01RT, Cipher agent Vorren investigating.” He looked at Cole. ”Can you tell me what happened when you arrived at the former Chines homestead?”

“Yes." Coel replied in an even tone. "I found the crater and nothing else. I performed scans to maintain my cover of an executive sent to investigate the possibility of replicating the mineral density in the soil that allows Averum nerf manure to be so explosive. But I wasn’t looking for that. I was looking for signs of Miriam’s family.”

"And?" Vorren nodded. “Did you find any?”

Cole sighed. “No and yes. I found no signs of anyone around the crater. But when I walked back to my speeder, Marcus Chines was sitting there waiting for me.”

"You recognized him?" One of Vorren’s eyebrows went up and he spoke slowly. “Was the boy armed?”

"I didn't know him, but he resembled Miriam." Cole replied and shook his head, “And the boy was not armed that I could see.”

"And?" Vorren looked Cole over and spoke again. “You knew we were looking for him. Why did you not attempt to take him into custody? You were more than capable of doing so.”

"Not my problem." Cole shrugged. “I had no interest in hurting him. And contrary to some people’s thoughts, I had no interest in dying. I had at least five weapons pointed at me at the time.”

"Five?" Now both of Vorren’s eyebrows went up. “Who?

"No idea. They were good though. I never saw them approach. Camouflaged soldier maybe." Cole shrugged again. “From the look of a couple of the weapons, they were slugthrowers, so maybe a few of the farmers? I don’t know.”

"Okay,..." Vorren nodded. “And then we arrived, and you threw that canister of aerosol deodorant at us.”

"Yes." Cole nodded, but didn’t smile. “It made an effective diversion.”

"Well..." Vorren did smile. “Considering what you did in the slaver base, yes, it did. I thought you were really trying to kill us all.” Cole just remained impassive and Vorren sighed. “Ok, you took off and led us a merry chase while we tried to disable or box you in. Where did you ditch the speeder?”

"You were there." Cole nodded. “The speeder is in a small cave almost directly underneath where the explosion went off. I saw the cave, Marcus fired the sounding rocket and we flew in.”

"Ah..." Vorren stared at the man in disbelief. “You flew into a cave through a landslide?”

"Big bang." Cole said with a shrug. “Most of it went up.”

"You are crazy." Vorren shook his head in disbelief. “What then?”

Cole took a deep breath. “There was no way to get the speeder out. It will take some heavy equipment to dig it out and there really isn’t anywhere to land heavy equipment there, so it’s probably a write off.” Ona groaned and Cole shrugged again. “Tell Trugoy he can take it out of my pay.”

Vorren bit back a chuckle. But then he became businesslike again. “And then?”

“I got suckerpunched…”

<A day or so previous>

Cole woke up sighing. “Every time I turn my back someone takes a swing at me…” He had surrendered his weapons without a fight, and then something had hit him. A harsh laugh came from a male voice.

“You got balls, mister. I will give you that.” Cole opened his eyes and was not surprised to find that something was covering them. He was also not surprised to find his hands were bound and so were his feet. He was kind of surprised he had woken up at all. “What have you done with my girl, Mister… Aos is it? Or Shanas?”

Cole sighed. “Either. Cole Shanas is the name my parents called me so I guess that works a bit better. Fergal Aos is the cover I came here under, looking for the slaver scum.”

The man’s voice was a bit dubious now. “Heard some chatter. Troops said that the slavers got stomped by one guy. Guy who look like you.”

"It was me." Cole shook his head and winced as something hurt. “I took them by surprise. They wanted me alive, I was under no such compunction. It helps not to care whether you live or die.”

“What happened to Miriam?” This from another voice, female and angry.

Cole slumped. “I was taken by the slavers, as I had planned.” Sounds of disbelief came from around but Cole focused on where the two voices had come from. “Miriam was in the pen when I woke up. She had been hurt, her arm. Two of the scum came and took her. For ‘entertainment’.” The word entertainment came out heated and hisses came from around the area. “I followed them, got her out of their clutches. But she had been drugged. Her arm was broken, and someone had set it and splinted it. Maybe they had drugged her for the pain, maybe to have their way with her, I don’t know. I couldn’t carry her out, so I hid her and made my way to continue my plan.”

“And then?” the male voice was harsh still, but a bit calmer.

Cole sighed. “My backup arrived, and they started processing the prisoners for transfer to hospitals. But a friend of mine who is a healer had arrived and treated Miriam. She said that the slavers had given the girl a powerful sedative. She just wanted to make sure Miriam was okay. But when Miriam woke up, she saw my friend’s robes, and crushed a poison tooth.”

The woman’s voice was horrified. “Oh my god, she’s dead? My baby girl’s dead?”

"No." Cole shook his head, even though it started to buzz. “We were in time. For that anyway.”

The male voice started to speak. “Why would she…?” Then it turned hard. “You a Sith.”

Cole sighed. “No and yes.”

Something round and cold pressed up against his head. No imagination was necessary to imagine what it was. The barrel of a blaster. The man’ s voice was close now and cold. “Talk fast, sith scum.”

Cole sighed again. “We didn’t know until she woke up again. We didn’t know. The poison reacted with the sedative in an odd way.” He licked his lips. “It wiped her memory.”

The woman screamed. “You did what to my little girl? You…” Strong hands grabbed him by the throat and squeezed. Cole didn’t fight back, didn’t react at all. Suddenly the hands were pulled from him, tearing skin.

“Get her out of here, boy.” A torrent of verbal abuse colored the air and a hatch slammed, cutting it off. The man’s voice was soft now, but no less cold. “What you mean ‘No and yes’? You either a Sith or you ain’t.”

"I am not a Sith." Cole pursed his lips. When he spoke it was slow and careful. “I work for an Order of warriors who work for the Sith Empire. But they are not followers of the Sith Code. They have their own Code. I don’t have the Force, but I am a reasonable pilot. And I work cheap for them because they saved my life. And because they point me at slavers.” Now his voice held hate.

The man’s voice was quiet. “Who you lose?”

"Wife and daughter." Cole’s voice was low now. “Son they killed. If you are who I think you are, your daughter’s alive.”

The man’s voice was husky now, as if fighting tears. “If what you say true, then she don’t remember being my daughter.”

“But she is alive, Mr. Chines.” Cole sighed deeply. “They will take care of her. I… I don’t know whose fault it is. Hers, mine, the healer’s, I don’t know. But since she was hurt because of our actions, she is our responsibility now. We will take care of her, help her find her way, get her training in whatever she wants.”

"What?" Now the man’s voice was quiet again. “You would do that? For a girl you don’t know?”

"Yeah." Cole nodded, and his head was spinning now. “If you are going to kill me, do it. They will take care of her.”

A hand found his and gave a shake. “I like you Mr. Shanas. You remind me of someone I met a while back. He was also tore up inside. His name was Will. You take care of her. Tell her... Tell her we love her and we think about her. All the time.”

“I will.” Cole promised. “But… if you see her again, stay away from her. Imperial Intelligence wanted her. I told them to leave her alone…”

The man who was probably Jon Chines snorted sadly. “Like they would listen to you.”

Cole smiled, it was not a friendly smile. “No they won’t, but they will listen to the Bladeborn if they have any sense at all.” He slumped back to the bed and was floating now. He thought he heard voices, but none were intelligible.

<The present>

“And then I woke up in your care.” Cole stopped talking.

"So..." Cipher Agent Vorren sighed. “You have no idea where you were, how many people were there, how long you were there or even who the people who talked to you were. Just surmises. Excellent tradecraft, but...”

"No leads." Cole shook his head. “From their reactions, the ones who talked to me were almost certainly Miriam’s mother and father. But… I thought I heard other people at times, but I can’t be sure how many or even if there were. Could have been three or twenty. I don’t know. Heck, it could have been all faked.”

"Dang it!" Vorren shook his head slowly. “I know there is a cell operating on planet. We have had too many shipments go missing around this system. And when we scoured the computers we found datataps. Datataps that used Republic tech and codes. But it doesn’t make any sense. They are not doing anything.”

Ona spoke for the first time. “Waiting?” Vorren stared at her. “What would they accomplish if they started attacking now?”

“Right.” Cole nodded slowly at Vorren's ashen look and continued. “If they attacked openly, they could cause damage. But then the Empire would send a fleet and they would be right back where they started.”

“Man…” Vorren stared from one to the other, his face crestfallen. “If they stay underground, we may never be able to find them.”

"So you stay vigilant.” Ona said softly and then she sighed. “Are we done here?”

"Yeah, we are done." Vorren nodded and turned to Cole. “For what it is worth Cole, I am sorry for the treatment you received.”

"That?" Cole shrugged. “I have had worse.”

Vorren laughed as he shut off his recorder. “I bet you have. You two good to get back to the ship?” They nodded and Vorren sighed. “I have to finish this report and then I will be up as well. I need to follow Istara anyway.”

Cole snickered. “Good luck with that. Oh, and um… Stay out of her way if she is flying…”

Vorren scowled at him. “Thanks.”

The Bladeborn and the smuggler walked out leaving Vorren to stare at the table. Then he hit the recorder again. “Recommend strong Imperial presence within one jump of Averum system. Presence of Republic cell on planet verified. Likelihood of locating said cell next to nil until cell attacks. Damage may be extreme, but planet will remain property of Sith Empire. Vorren Cipher, investigating, end.”

He keyed the recorder off, picked it up and strode from the room. Unseen by him a small, almost invisible wire snaked back into the drain that it had snaked out of when he had finished his bug scans.
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07.03.2012 , 07:07 AM | #10
<Later that day>

Miriam was awake and sitting up in her bed when Cole knocked on her door. She smiled on seeing him, but her smile held worry. “Hello, Cole.”

Her dark eyes were sad. But her smile was genuine. Her dark hair was cut shorter than usual so that Ona could do scans and such, but Cole didn’t think it detracted from her presence. Of course he was a bit biased, seeing as how he had seen her first covered in filth sitting in a slave pen. Anything would be an improvement. He looked around her room and smiled. Mama Lizard had apparently been through. The stateroom that had been bare walls and floor was now warm and inviting. A wall hanging that depicted a scene of Kanduu grazing hung near the door to the refresher and a rug was on the floor nearby that he thought looked like Wookiee work. The pattern was fairly distinctive. Two pictures, one of a spacescape and the other of an ocean with animals playing, hung on another wall. He shook his head slowly. Any of those things would be worth a lot of credits, but to the Bladeborn, they were just things. Unimportant. Sometimes he just couldn’t figure these beings out.

“How’s the girl today?” Cole’s voice was gentle as he sat in the sole chair near her bed. The room didn’t have a lot in the way of furniture, and that was intentional. They were not sure if Miriam was still suicidal. So it was better to be safe than sorry. And he liked Miriam.

Miriam gave a sad smile. “Better. I think…” She shook her head and indicated a pile of datapads. “Ona brought some books. I don’t understand. If I can’t remember who I am, and what has happened to me, how can I remember how to read or talk?”

“No idea." Cole shrugged and smiled at Miriam. "Ona explained it to me, but her explanation went so far over my head I am still lost in cloud cover.”

"Oh?" Miriam snickered. “Why do I doubt that?” Cole gave her an old fashioned look and Miriam just snickered harder. It was hard to believe that this vibrant girl had been a teary wreck just a day before. Ona and Mama Lizard had done marvels with her.

"Its the truth actually, I am no healer." Cole smiled again. “What are you reading?”

Miriam snorted. “At the moment sappy romances.” Cole cringed dramatically and Miriam smiled. “I… I can almost… I think I liked them before, but I can’t be sure…” Her face changed and Cole hastened to divert her. She was mercurial at times, and who could blame her? Losing one’s memory had to be hard.

“Miriam…” His voice was quiet and she looked at him with glistening eyes. “I found them. I found your folks.” Miriam blinked, her face working. Cole continued slowly. “I am pretty sure that they are working for the Republic. Technically, that makes them the enemies of the people I work for.”

Miriam tensed, but then thought about what he said. “Technically?”

"Yeah." Cole smiled a little. “They are no enemies of mine. I don’t know where they are, what they are doing or even if it was them. But I told them about you. They know you are unlikely to ever be able to see them again. So they sent their love.”

Miriam stiffened and then the dam broke and she was crying. Cole stood up, moved to the bed and sat down beside her. He took her in his arms, careful to avoid the IV tubes and the medical sensors and held her as she sobbed.

<A couple of hours later>

Cole watched through the transparisteel viewing window as Ona worked. He knew better than to interrupt healers, especially this one. A throat cleared behind him and Cole turned. He didn’t react on seeing the dark haired human standing behind him. He just shrugged.

“Sneaking up on me is a bad idea, Jon.” The second half of the Bladehome’s medical personnel nodded. He had become a lot less annoying ever since he and Ona had, well… What happened on the ship stayed on the ship. Cole nodded again. “What do you need?”

“Trugoy said you were needed in Detention Two.” Jon shrugged as Cole looked at him. “That is all he said. He wanted me as well. He said I should find you and bring you.” Jon looked through the window and sighed. “She will be out at least an hour while Ona tries to make the neurons fire in sequence again. Maybe she can. But even if she can, the memories are still gone.”

"I know." Cole nodded. “Let’s go, don’t want to keep the Grandmaster waiting.”

Jon shuddered. “Heck no.” The mismatched pair, one in a dirty mechanic’s coverall and the other in a dark gray medical tunic started off. It was odd, Cole reflected. He had detested Jon almost from the minute they had met, but now, now he was actually starting to like the man. Most of the time anyway…

<Detention bay two, five minutes later>

Cole and Jon entered the detention bay and nodded to the Bladeborn on duty who waved them towards a cell. Cole opened the door and froze in mid stride. His voice exploded from his throat when he found his tongue. “You idiot boy…”

“Cole, Jon.” Grandmaster Trugoy’s long ears arced to Cole and the small brown form let out a sigh. “You know him then.”

He turned back to the other being in the cell and Cole sighed deeply. The full attention of Cole and the two Bladeborn was on the young man who was stretched out on a restraint frame.

The dark haired human on the rack looked scared and who could blame him? Surrounded by horrific looking and smelling equipment. Strapped to a painful device of Sith origin and now scrutinized by an odd looking creature in black. Trugoy, Grandmaster of the Bladeborn, at first didn’t seem one to inspire awe and fear. He was short, barely the height of a human child. His three fingered hands and three toed feet seemed to inspire more comedy than fear. His wrinkled skull and long ears might have been comical in anyone else. But there was something about him, something that spoke of sheer power and violence barely repressed. Anyone who had ever seen him fight knew he was one of the most lethal combatants in existence. Size truly didn’t matter. Not when speed and viciousness were present, which Trugoy had in spades. And his large blue eyes were cold and hard now.

"Yeah." Cole said soberly as he nodded. “I know him. Grandmaster Trugoy, meet Marcus Chines. Marcus, this is Grandmaster Trugoy of the Bladeborn. Talk straight and fast or they will throw you out the airlock in pieces. Small pieces.” That was not a euphemism. Not here. Not now. Marcus met Cole’s eyes and defiance shone from them.

“Where is she?” The boy’s voice was even and against his will, Cole was impressed. Even here and now, totally in the power of powerful and usually merciless beings, this kid had the guts to stand up straight. That was rare. Of course he also didn’t have a lot of sense.

“Idiot…” Cole repeated. He looked to Trugoy who met his gaze impassive. “I am assuming you have checked him.”

“We did.” Trugoy said impassively. “No bombs, no bugs, and the poison tooth is gone.” Marcus’ eyes went wide at that and his brave facade cracked, just a bit. Trugoy didn’t seem to notice. But very little escaped that being’s notice. “Jon…?”

The medic stepped forward and swept a scanner over the boy, who flinched, but relaxed a bit as nothing happened. Jon perused his scanner and nodded. “Minor concussion, and…” He stared at his readings. “He is showing signs of vacuum exposure. Where the heck was he?”

"What the...? Vacuum?" Cole answered slowly. “He had to stow away on the shuttle Ona and I took. It’s the only one that has been up today. But… Oh you moron…” Trugoy and Jon looked at him and Cole just groaned. “He must have gimmicked the security system in a landing gear well. That is the only place that is not scanned regularly. He must have had an airpack to breathe, and a hold tight to keep from falling out when the gear lowered. It can be done. Just not easily by someone my size. Who found him?”

"The reaction team did." Trugoy sighed. “The guard in the hangar bay heard something odd, but sent for backup instead of checking themselves. The search team found him hiding in the pile of spare parts.”

"The expensive ones?" Cole demanded. Trugoy nodded and Cole snarled. “If you broke any of those I will have it out of your hide.” Marcus met his eyes and Cole was near tears. “Why? I told you she was alive.”

Marcus’s words were low, but clear. “She is my sister.”

Cole looked at Trugoy but the Grandmaster just shrugged. Cole spoke again softly. “And what good do you do her if you get yourself killed? Or caught by Imperial intelligence? You know they will wring you out, and whatever is left might make a good doormat someday. They will use whatever they learn from you to find your parents. They will find them and kill them as well as everyone with them.” Marcus’ brave front collapsed and naked fear shone from his eyes. “Finally, you understand, you idiot boy.”

"I..." Marcus stared at him and the realization of what he had done dawned. His face worked. “She is my sister. I had to see her. Let me see her, please?"”

Trugoy nodded to Cole and Jon and left the room. Cole slumped. “I can’t Marcus. This is the only secure place on this ship. No wonder Trugoy moved you in here. Is Vorren back yet?” This to Jon who shook his head and Cole nodded. “Well, thank goodness for that. If he had seen you all hell would have broken loose.”

Marcus shook what little of his head he could. “What are you going to…” He broke off as Cole drew his blaster. “What…?”

"Idiot boy..." Cole’s voice was sad. “You leave me no choice. If Commander Vorren of Imperial Intelligence finds out you are aboard, all hell will break loose. You and your sister will wind up in their tender care, spilling what guts she has left and what brains you have for their perusal. I promised your parents I would take care of your sister. I gave them my word, Marcus. I will protect her from everything I can. Even idiot brothers. Close your eyes boy, it will be quick.” He shook his head and raised the blaster, but he stopped as Jon laid a hand on his gun arm

“There is another alternative, Cole…”
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here