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The Imperial Inquisition


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TargonKarashi
07.22.2012 , 12:37 PM | #1
Hello all! My grand series of the Voyages of Targon Karashi is wrapping up with the last two episodes that should be pretty awesome...I hope.

Anyway, I've been busy working on them. But I thought I'd quickly repost the successful Imperial Inquisition, the semi-prequel. Old readers will recognise it, and new ones should find it at least helpful in more understanding certain things in Voyages.

WIthout futher blabbering...

The Imperial Inquisition

Chapter One

Lord Viruul stared at the pathetic excuse for a Sith that knelt before him. His contempt for the man was concealed by the shadows from his hood. Viruul savored the fear he could discern from the man’s physical features, not to mention the vibrations through the Force.

“I’m almost insulted that I found you so soon,” Viruul snarled. He knew that to the man before him, Viruul appeared as a wraith in the darkness of the room. It was just how he liked it.

The quivering Sith said nothing. His tongue was stilled by Viruul’s menacing presence. That was fine. There was nothing he could say that would do him any good.

“Of course, now that we’re having this conversation, you might lessen the work I’ll have to deal with by confessing now.”

“I have nothing to confess,” the man croaked.

“Indeed?” Viruul stepped close to him. “I beg to differ, Darth Krull. You have pledged yourself to a new master – a heretic and a traitor to the Empire.”

“Lord Toxeti is no traitor!” Krull tried to sound defiant, but the conviction of his voice failed him.

“And now he has embedded his lies in your mind,” Viruul sighed. “Such a pity. Had you confessed and sworn yourself back to the Dark Council’s guidance, you might have had a clean and honorable death. Yet you elect the path of suffering and shame.”

“Toxeti sees past the lies of the Dark Council, past the lies of the Emperor himself!”

“Silence!” Viruul’s voice boomed. “Your blasphemies against us shall end this day. I give you one last chance…repent!”

He knew what the answer would be, but he felt he should at least no one could accuse him of being irrational and deaf to the cries of the penitent.

Krull looked up into the hidden, yet glaring eyes of his oppressor. “I shall not shirk in fear of death anymore! My misguided loyalty to the Empire blinds me no more! Lord Toxeti is my master, and he shall show the Sith the true power of the Dark Side!”

“So be it,” Viruul reached out his hand. Krull rose into the air, vainly grasping at his throat as if to pry away the fingers that enclosed his neck. Soft gurgling noises were uttered from his mouth.

“Where is Toxeti?” Viruul asked. “If you tell me, your suffering shall end.”

“I will not reveal my Master,” Krull rasped. “You and the rest of the Dark Council shall never find him. He will end your reign over the Empire.”

“Toxeti shall die,” Viruul stated matter-of-factly. “None oppose the Empire and live. Your new master shall learn the punishment of betrayal at a greater scale than you.”

“You…will never…find…him…” Krull gasped, the constriction of his throat was nearly complete.

But Viruul was not about to let him die so easily. His grip released and the traitor dropped to the floor. Then bolts of lightning erupted from Viruul’s fingertips, surrounding Krull in the torturous energy of the Dark Side.

“Your master cannot save you,” Viruul said. “Nor would he. He has left you to die for him, yet it shall avail to nothing, except your death as well as his own.”

The traitor writhed in torment, he attempted to scream in agony, but his lungs were unable to. Eventually he went limp, save for the spasms of his limbs from the lingering electricity.

Lord Viruul left the dark room, leaving the body of the disgraced Sith crumpled on the cold floor. He slipped through the halls like a shadow, his long black cape creating a tail behind him, like a dark comet. He came at last to the elevator doors. Two guards saluted him profusely as he approached.

“Take Krull’s corpse to the refresher. His physical remains might yet have some use,” he commanded. The guards silently and immediately complied.

Viruul went into the lift and ascended from the dungeons below the citadel. Upon the lift’s stop, he exited and made his way through halls to an immense conference chamber. Two other Sith Lords awaited him.

“Lord Viruul,” one of them said, “did Krull offer any sort of information?” This man wore a red cloak, liberally adorned with jewelry and trinkets.

“None that serves my purpose, Lord Zelos,” Viruul replied. “But I now see the fullness of Toxeti’s hold over his followers. He has bent their minds to him until they serve even unto death.”

“Then Toxeti has become a far greater threat than we imagined,” said the other Sith. He was a Twi’lek with some hideously sharp teeth.

“Do not give the man too much undue credit, Lord Tiburon,” Viruul said calmly. “Though a threat he may be, his rebellion will not come close to igniting the fires of civil war.”

“Only if he is dealt with swiftly,” Zelos said. “If his influence is allowed to grow, more Sith shall be seduced by his lies and the Empire will tear itself apart.”

“That shall not happen, my friends,” Viruul answered. “Toxeti shall die the traitor’s death, as will all who follow him. I shall see to it.”

“How?” Tiburon asked. “How will you find him? He has gone underground; his forces are mobile and hidden, and he strikes from the shadows.”

“Toxeti’s cowardly tactics leave us in a difficult situation, but I know that the agents to handle this man lie not in the subservient Imperial military or Intelligence, but in the galactic underworld.”

“Bounty hunters?” Zelos was incredulous. “You would trust the task of hunting this heretic in the hands of those scum?”

“I have no intention of hiring the mainstream filth that swarm when we open a pocketbook. There are only four that I would hire for such a potentially dangerous target as Toxeti.”

“And you intend to pay them how? If they are some of the best, they’re price will be unreasonably high,” Zelos said.

“Oh, there’ll be no worry there,” Viruul smiled. “There’s enough jewels on you right now that would satisfy their hunger. And I’m sure you’d be more than happy to part with a few.”

Zelos said no more.

“Who are these men you intend to hire?” Tiburon asked.

“Leave the details to me,” Viruul replied. He pointed to the door. “You two have other matters to attend to, and I have deals to make. Be gone.” He waved his hand and they silently left.

Darth Viruul, member of the Dark Council, breathed deeply. He had much work to do. There was a rogue Sith Lord in the shadows, with goals to undermine the Empire for his own gain. His heresies had to be silenced before they got out of hand. Viruul already had little patience for the dissenting voice of Darth Malgus; he didn’t need another upstart threatening the Council…threatening his goals.

Viruul had his own agenda, and he wasn’t about to let some fool like Toxeti screw it up with his blasphemies. An inquisition was in order.

And, unfortunately, bounty hunters were the agents needed to see it done.
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The Imperial Inquisition and The Voyages of Targon Karashi

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TargonKarashi
07.22.2012 , 12:40 PM | #2
Chapter Two

The Abyssal Asylum was aptly named. An inconsequential space station it may have appeared on the outside, but within were some of the most horrible villains and psychopaths the Empire had ever known. It was headed by the warden Quixa, a strange little man that perhaps needed to be locked up in a cell as much as the inmates themselves.

Viruul was reminded how much he detested this sick place as his shuttle landed in the hangar. A troop of fifty guards was there to greet him, along with the warden himself.

As he walked down the ramp, Viruul could feel the tension and awe-struck fear in the minds of his welcoming committee. That was just as well; it would have really bothered him if they weren’t nervous about his arrival.

Quixa scuffled up the Sith Lord. His face was haggard, reinforced by the dark spots under his eyes. The man looked on the verge of hysteria, even if it wasn’t a Dark Council member he was greeting.

“Lord Viruul, we are so very honored by your presence,” he said.

“Where is the rest of your garrison? I would think that you would prepare more for my arrival,” Viruul said.

“Oh, my lord, we have no more men. The rest of the prison’s security force is entirely mechanical and controlled from the central system in my chambers.”

Viruul’s eyebrows rose. “Your guards are droids? Why aren’t there more men?”

“Why, because droids do not get bothered by the inhabitants of this slice of paradise,” the warden replied. “And we don’t have to worry about anyone aiding an inmate in an escape attempt.”

“I see,” Viruul nodded. “I wish to speak with one of the prisoners.”

“A prisoner?” Quixa’s voice cracked. “My lord, what would you possibly want with one of those animals?”

“My business is none of your concern, warden,” Viruul stated. “Take me to the prisoner named Krys Falkko.”

The blood ran out of Quixa’s face, and he turned a deathly shade of pale. But instead of foolishly protesting, he bowed and led Viruul into the complex. Through the halls lined with cells, Viruul listened to the pathetic moaning and maniacal laughter emanating from the walls. As if the very structure were alive…and insane.

A Sith Lord know no fear, but Viruul definitely wanted to get out of this disgusting place as quickly as possible. It was no wonder that the warden appeared the way he did. He had been head of this prison for perhaps thirty years.

Thirty years to lose his mind several times.

It was a painfully long walk through the complex. Appropriately, Falkko had been deemed dangerous enough to warrant his cell deep in the prison, far enough that should he escape, the guards would at least have a chance to stop him.

Arriving at the cell, Viruul notice the pair of guard droids on either side of the cell door. The door itself was heavy durasteel with a small opening with bars across it. And in front of that was a ray shield. Viruul was impressed with the security measures the guards had taken.

“Deactivate the shield,” Viruul commanded, and it was done without protestation. Good, at least this place still understood orders despite the madness.

Peering through the bars, the Sith Lord saw a man sitting in the far corner. He was covered in rags and his hair hung down over his head like a filthy, black mop. But despite this, Viruul could sense the prisoner’s eyes staring soullessly into his own.

“Greetings, Falkko,” Viruul smiled. “I am Lord Viruul of the Dark Council. I have a special job I need taken care of, and I am aware of your reputation.”

The prisoner said nothing.

“I can hardly imagine the pain you have suffered in here, starving for so long, and I am sympathetic to your plight. Here’s a proposition for you…”

Before he could go on, Quixa interrupted him. “I beg your pardon, my lord, but you don’t understand. Falkko is convicted for life, his crimes prove he can never be released.”

“When I require your insignificant knowledge I shall ask for it,” Viruul glared at the man. “Would you please excuse us?”

The warden bowed and left.

When he was gone, Viruul continued. “I am willing to set you free and offer a great reward for your services.”

“Even if you had the authority, why should I work for you?” The prisoner’s voice was a hiss and a growl.

“Anzati live many years, and they starve slowly but surely when denied their nourishment. Your services will see that you never starve again, my friend.”

Falkko raised his head slightly, and his eyes shone like a cat.

“You will release me?” he asked.

“I offer the means to, but you’ll have to do the work yourself. I have other things to attend to.” Viruul began to walk away but he shot back, “You will know when the time for your freedom has come.”

Viruul returned to his shuttle. The warden was there to see him off.

“I take it the prisoner wasn’t interested in your offer?” Quixa supposed.

The Sith Lord replied, “That serial killer needs tighter security. When I have gone, download this into your security system.” He handed the man a small computer chip. “It is a program to boost the power of your droids and shielding without drawing too much additional energy.”

“Thank you, my lord,” Quixa bowed.

The Sith Lord ascended the ramp and took off in his shuttle. He smiled to himself. Well, that was one hunter acquired.

---

Within the hour, Quixa downloaded the files into the security.

A guard on patrol made his miserable trip through the higher-security halls, and noticed something odd about the guard droids. They were limp and the occasional spark zipped out from their joints. The guard went in for a closer look, and he noted that the ray shield was deactivated. Going in for further inspection, he looked through the bars for the prisoner. He wasn’t where he could see – and the prisoner hadn’t moved from where he had sat for over a year.

He turned on his comlink and prepared to call it in when he felt breathing down his neck. Two snaky objects grabbed his face and crawled up his nostrils. The guard was unable to move or speak. It felt as though his brains were being melted and sucked out his nose.

A thin pale hand reached down through the bars and grabbed the guard’s keycard. When the guard fell to the ground, completely drained, Falkko opened the cell door.

No alarm went off. The droids remained still and slumped. “The Sith was true to his word,” he muttered to himself.

Without taking any time to enjoy the sudden openness around him, Falkko picked up the dead guard’s gun and made his way through the hall. He felt so full of energy; he hadn’t eaten for longer than he cared to remember. Now his freedom was at hand, and there was food to be had beyond this blasted space station.

Upon entering a hall, he found two guards, suddenly aware of his presence. The first drew his blaster, but Falkko fired first and he fell.

“Drop it!” the second guard shouted. His blaster was already out and pointed at him.

Falkko pointed his weapon right back.

“I said drop it!” the guard yelled again, and then fired. Falkko dove to the ground, rolled, and then shot his opponent.

The complex rocked from an explosion, and the alarms sounded. Not of an escaped prisoner, but from fires in the living quarters and stations of the guards. Falkko smiled. This Sith had thought of everything.

He continued making his way unhindered to the personal hangar, where the warden’s shuttle rested. He entered the hangar, finding Quixa rushing to his ship. Falkko shot him in the leg and the sickly man screamed as he dropped to the ground and saw the Anzati.

“No! NO!!” the little man screamed.

Falkko grinned hungrily. For the chance to dine on the prison’s warden, he was ready to do this job for the Sith Lord.
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The Imperial Inquisition and The Voyages of Targon Karashi

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TargonKarashi
07.22.2012 , 12:43 PM | #3
Chapter Three

Viruul’s shuttle was cleared for landing as it approached the moon of Nar Shaddaa. As far as the Sith Lord was concerned, the planet of Nal Hutta was the manure from the galaxy’s rear end, and its moon was the swarm of flies that circled it. He felt he could smell the rank pair even from this distance.

His companion seemed to think likewise.

“Lord Viruul, if I may,” Tiburon began, “why do you need me to come along with you? I’m sure you’re more than capable of taking care of yourself on the Smuggler’s Moon.”

“Don’t flatter yourself,” Viruul responded. “I don’t need you for protection, and if I did, I certainly wouldn’t have brought you along. No, I need you to contract the second man. There are two of my prospective agents here, and I don’t have time to track them down one at a time.”

“You want me to hire a bounty hunter?”

“Incredible, isn’t it?” Viruul gave a sarcastic smile at the Twi’lek. “Don’t worry, it shouldn’t be too hard. You’ve got your natural charm to work to your advantage.”

“Well, who is it? And how would you like me to proceed?” Tiburon asked.

“Do you need me to hold your hand?” Viruul asked.

Tiburon became indignant. “I’m not a diplomat, I’m an instructor at the Academy. I’ve never worked with criminals before.”

“Well, consider this your first pointer, my friend – don’t refer to bounty hunters as criminals. It gets them riled. As to your man, his name is Hel Katarn, a Zabrak you’ll find in the nightclub called Asarii’s Rave.”

“I guess from the name…” Tiburon began.

“You would be right, “ Viruul interrupted. They had landed and Viruul pointed to the ramp. “Off you go, and be quick. We don’t want Toxeti to get stronger while we’re busy hiring.”

“And what if he’s not interested? How should I persuade him?”

“Bite him,” Viruul smiled. "You're good at that, and it will make your point clear."

Tiburon bowed and left. Viruul left a little later, locking up the shuttle as he departed.

---

The club was everything Lord Tiburon expected, plus some. The lights flashed on and off in a wild assortment of colors. The patrons danced and drank and made love continually, and then switched to another of those activities, and then again, and again. It was enough to make Tiburon sick. But he endured.

It was difficult trying to navigate through the orgy, and to concentrate on his task with the music blaring. He felt the beat in his heart, and he might have a seizure from the bass – and the lights too.

There was a large crowd gathered at the far end of one of the bars. A crowd made mostly of women. Tiburon made out the sound of a loud voice in their midst, and with a little focus through the Force, discerned the subject of the speech as a boasting tale of successful hunts.

Tiburon smiled. Well, he had found the bounty hunter.

He made his way over and waited for the Zabrak to finish his story and the crowd to disperse. Which meant he was waiting a long time. Yet finally his opportunity to speak with the man presented itself.

“Mr. Katarn, I presume?” he asked.

The bounty hunter turned with a drink in hand. He raised his eyebrows in response to seeing the man before him.

“Whoa, dude, you gotta leave,” he said drunkenly.

“I beg your pardon?” Tiburon cocked his head.

“Hey man, ugly people need to stay away from me in at least a twenty meter radius. They drive the good chicks away. And you, pal, are ugly.”

“My name is Lord Tiburon.”

“I don’t care what you call yourself, buddy,” Katarn put a hand on Tiburon’s chest to push him away. “All that I care about is my drink and the lovely ladies, neither of which I can enjoy if you’re contaminating my space.”

Tiburon’s eyes grew angry. He grabbed the bounty hunter’s hand. “You should rethink how you speak to a Sith Lord.”

“Oh, what, you’re going to pull a saber in here? Pal, you’d be dead in a minute flat.”

“No,” Tiburon snarled. “No sabers.” And with that, he suddenly shoved the Zabrak to the bar’s surface, holding one of his arms up in an awkward position. He then proceeded to bite the man’s hand.

Katarn shrieked. “Argh! What are you doing? Ow! Are you crazy? Ow! OW!!! Stop it!!”

“Are you ready to listen?” Tiburon asked.

“What do you want?” Katarn asked, his face still held against the counter.

“My superior, Lord Viruul, has a job for you. You will be contacted by my master with the details of the task. The pay will make it well worth your time.”

Katarn said nothing, and Tiburon let him up.

The Twi’lek left the club, feeling oddly refreshed at his domination of the bounty hunter. He wondered how he seemed more capable when he was angry – empowerment from the Dark Side, no doubt.

Maybe that was why Viruul spoke so rudely to him. Perhaps he understood how to access Tiburon’s strength through his anger?

---

Viruul stood still and silent in the grim alley. The only sounds were the exterior vents of the buildings around him and the faint sirens in the distance.

But the Sith Lord knew he wasn’t alone. He noticed the shadow moving subtly through the air. It came to a rest on the roof of the structure to Viruul’s right, and it remained there waiting.

“Hello there,” Viruul waved to the shadow. “I am Lord Viruul of the Dark Council, and I have come to seek your services.”

There was a brief and brooding silence.

“How did you find me?” a cold voice asked. “Even the Sith cannot locate what they cannot see.”

“You underestimate our abilities, bounty hunter. But we have more important things to discuss – like a job.”

The shape dropped to the ground with a loud thud. Loud footsteps approached Viruul, but to the common eye, there was nothing before him. Suddenly a surge of electricity outlined the shape of an extremely tall humanoid. It towered over the Sith Lord.

“I’m listening…” the giant said.

“The details of the job are on this datapad,” Viruul held out his hand. The screen was lit, with the file already opened.

The bounty hunter took the datapad with a bit of a snarl. “I’ll consider it.”

“I’m sure you’ll be very interested,” Viruul said. “Oh, and I’m afraid I didn’t catch your name. You leave no trace of your previous jobs for me to easily look you up.”

“I like to keep it that way, Sith. I am called the Phantom.”

Viruul smiled. “A fine title, fitting for such an enigmatic fellow such as yourself.”

He walked off, and the Phantom faded back into the shadows with his cloaking device. Viruul could still feel his presence lingering. “He will take the job,” he said to himself. “He’s too good to turn it down.”

Viruul reunited with Tiburon back at the shuttle. He was glad that Tiburon’s first hiring task had been successful.

“Now there’s just one left,” Viruul muttered, with an uncharacteristically pessimistic tone.

“What’s the matter?” Tiburon asked.

Viruul sighed. “The last one will be the hardest one to convince to signing on. He has other priorities and motivations…far greater than money.”
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The Imperial Inquisition and The Voyages of Targon Karashi

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TargonKarashi
07.22.2012 , 12:46 PM | #4
Chapter Four

Viruul sent an unimportant acolyte to approach the bounty hunter known only as Shazzar. The Sith Lord knew well that if approached at the wrong time, the bounty hunter would flatly refuse halfway into the second sentence. And that refusal usually entailed a blaster bolt to the face. Such character was what Viruul really wanted; he just had to entice it the right way.

He may have known how Shazzar would respond, but he had no idea just to what degree the bounty hunter would reply to a really bad time.

---

Shazzar stood in the middle of the cleared room. All the furniture had been moved towards the walls. He had undressed himself to all but his undergarments. His serpent tattoo on his arm appeared more prominent on his tanned skin. His eyes were closed, and the hair he had let grow out was slicked back and tucked behind his ears.

His wife was sitting across the room, mixing up some sort of body paint. She soon rose and walked towards Shazzar. She too was dressed in the bare minimum, though far more covered than he was – for propriety’s sake.

The Togruta dipped her fingers in the white liquid and then ran them along Shazzar’s skin. She maintained a strict pattern across his chest, backside, and shoulders. Slowly and gently, she replicated her facial markings on Shazzar’s face. Thick around his eyes, and three dots running down his cheeks.

She then put down the bowl and grabbed a small vial. In it was a blue compound, which she dabbed on her fingers and adorned more decoration on Shazzar’s face and around his tattoo, so that the snake became blue, instead of black.

Shazzar smiled pleasurably during the process. The soothing touch of his beautiful wife eased the passive tension of his muscles. He was struck with sudden ecstasy when she suddenly began rubbing his head, bleaching his ebony hair with the paint, and then running streaks of blue through it.

“I’ll be sure to plan more trips to Shili, my dear Vaala,” he said softly.

“The ritual of cleansing off-worlders is a great honor,” his wife responded. “More so for the one who initiates the visitor.”

Shazzar reached up and petted one of her head tails, stroking it lovingly. “The greatest glory in all the galaxy is loving you,” he said, without opening his eyes. He didn’t need to see to know that she had dressed him up so that he came as near to a member of her people as a human really could be.

She was finished, and she breathed gently on his skin to help speed the paint drying. Shivers ran through his body, his nerves perked up in excitement.

He opened his eyes and looked at her, smiling ever so kindly. She returned the smile, and they embraced. Shazzar kissed her more passionately than usual – which was an incredible feat. But for the first time, she was more intense than he was; Shazzar thought it all the better.

Shazzar was about to lead her towards where the bed had been moved to, when the unthinkable shattered his sacred moment. A sacrilegious, wicked pounding on the door, that echoed through the room like an abominable howl.

At first they tried to ignore it, but when it repeated, Shazzar – with immense reluctance – grabbed his blaster and headed to the door.

---

Viruul was surprised to learn the messenger had returned so quickly. He anxiously waited for him to come into the conference room. Zelos and Tiburon stood at either side of his chair.

Two soldiers carried something covered on a stretcher, and another followed with a curious package.

Viruul ordered Zelos to remove the sheet over the stretcher, and the Sith Lord obeyed. When he did so, he almost lost his stomach.

Standing in shock, Viruul took a closer look for himself. The stretcher held the acolyte’s body, but his head was missing. The trooper holding the box handed it to him, and Viruul felt immense disgust rise in his own interior.

The acolyte’s head, with a big black hole in the middle of it. Alongside it was the datapad Viruul had sent with the job details. Written in the unlucky messenger’s blood said, “Try Again.”

Viruul then smiled. At least he hadn’t completely refused. He was going to have to go himself.

---

Shazzar was waiting for him, dressed in his complete regalia – clothing, armor, turban, rifle slung on his back, and blaster pistols in their holsters. They met in a public park on Dromund Kaas. Viruul’s optimism rose. The bounty hunter had actually made the trip himself.

“Greetings, Shazzar,” Viruul nodded. “It has been quite a while.” He noted how, while concealed by his clothes and turban, Shazzar’s visible skin on his face was colored.

“Were it anyone other than you,” the bounty hunter said grimly, “I would have completely ignored them. Maybe even killed them as well. Don’t you dare call on me again at a time such as that.”

Viruul was perturbed by the bounty hunter’s boldness, but that was what he liked about the man. He didn’t feign weakness, even in Viruul’s presence. He was strong.

“I’ll cut the formalities,” Viruul said. “I have a problem with a traitorous Sith named Toxeti. Left unchecked, he could threaten the Empire. I want him taken care of.”

“Yeah, like it usually is,” Shazzar shrugged. “Dead or alive?”

“I’d prefer if he weren’t entirely dead, so that I might exact the Dark Council’s judgment on him. His heresies must be brutally squashed. Publicly as well.”

Shazzar nodded. “And have you contracted others?”

“Yes.”

“Then why do you need me?”

Viruul replied, “Four hunters can flush the tukata beast out easier than only one.”

“Metaphors again, eh? I don’t think I’m interested. I’ve got other things to do, and I told you before I have my priorities.”

“I see,” Viruul said.

Shazzar started to walk away. Viruul had to think quickly to keep him from disappearing. “How does ten million credits sound?”

The bounty hunter stopped short and turned on his heel. “Excuse me? Do you think that a ridiculous amount of money is going to change my mind?”

“You’re still here, aren’t you?” Viruul smirked.

Shazzar walked back to the Sith Lord and stared him straight in the eye. “I’ll tell you what – make it one million, and the Empire kills Grand Moff Kilran.”

Viruul’s eyes widened. “What? How dare you…?” he stopped from getting angry. “I’m afraid I can’t promise you that. Imperial politics are much more complicated than you might think. Why would you want him dead anyway? He’s done nothing to you.”

“He butchered my wife’s people,” Shazzar growled.

“Oh, I see…” Viruul mused. “I can only promise you one thing – Kilran won’t harm the Togruta people without my extreme opposition.”

Shazzar sighed. “That’s probably the best you can do.”

“My support is worth more than it appears, my friend.”

The bounty hunter shook Viruul’s hand. “I’ll get rid of your heretic problem. But you’d better not interrupt my evenings again.”

“You have my word,” Viruul smiled. Now he had his four bounty hunters. It was only a matter of time until Toxeti was dealt with. The price to pay was irrelevant to the ultimate result.

Viruul left the meeting, and headed off to resume his more tedious political work. And he had to come up with a lie to give to the rest of the Council. Nobody else was to know of this inquisition, for now – so Toxeti would never have an opportunity to prepare.
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The Imperial Inquisition and The Voyages of Targon Karashi

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TargonKarashi
07.22.2012 , 12:48 PM | #5
Chapter Five

Hel Katarn was upset that he hadn’t been given even a single lead to start on. And unknown to him, it was because Viruul didn’t have one to give.

But Katarn knew someone who would probably have information to get started. A Weequay by the name of Xum was Katarn’s most reliable source for all activity in the underworld. A former pirate, Xum knew all the space lanes, and he kept tabs on any ships that traversed them even now. If anyone knew where a rogue Sith Lord might be hiding a small fleet, Xum would.

The only problem was, Katarn remembered, was that they had recently had a falling out.

Xum’s hideout was in a restaurant on Coruscant, where he could hack into the Coreward Database and get all the information someone wanted – for a price. Katarn wasn’t one that he was likely to do business with anymore.

Well, Katarn thought to himself, that didn’t matter much. He’d just stick a blaster in the guy’s face and there shouldn’t be any problems.

It was evening when he arrived at the Orochi Grill. Already it was getting full of patrons and diners. Katarn easily bypassed the security that had the odd notion that he wasn’t welcome. It took a broken nose for the guy to realize that Katarn was going in, wanted or not.

Spotting the Weequay watching the diners in a doorway across the restaurant, Katarn made his way as smoothly as he could. However, a waitress droid rolled by, carrying a mountain of dirty dishes. The two collided, and the dishware fell with a might crash to the floor, the droid apologized in an annoying synthetic voice.

Katarn tried to get away from the accident, but Xum had already seen him. The Weequay’s face grew frightened, and he rushed off, closing the door behind him.

Great, Katarn sighed, now he was going to have to chase the guy. He really wasn’t in the mood for pursuing, but it’s what the job called for.

He pulled out a blaster and made sure that everyone stayed out of his way. He then followed the Weequay’s trail to the back door to the restaurant. He spotted Xum climbing into a speeder he had parked near the garbage canisters. The engines fired up and before Katarn could do anything, Xum had sped off.

Wasting no time, Katarn fired a wrist cable up to the top of a nearby building and pulled himself up. He waited until he could jump onto a passing speeder. The Duros driver exclaimed in surprise.

Pointing the blaster at his face, Katarn said, “Out,” and the driver fell screaming to the pavement. Then Katarn took the controls and with engines screaming he pursued after his former associate.

Putting on his tracking visor, he pinpointed his target dead ahead of him. Instead of gunning straight on his tail, he pulled upwards and hovered above Xum’s speeder. He accelerated to match the Weequay’s speed – which happened to be slowing down, as the fool was deceived into thinking that he had lost him. Katarn stood up on the seat and prepared.

He was probably going to regret this.

Katarn leaped, and he was airborne for several nauseating moments. His hijacked speeder crashed into another passing vehicle, but Katarn was well clear of the explosion. With a painful thud, he landed on the hood of the Xum’s speeder.

The Weequay screamed in fright. He had been taken totally by surprise. Swerving the vehicle, he tried to shake off the bounty hunter.

Katarn activated the magnetic clamps on his gauntlet, so he remained on the speeder, though the rest of his body was flailed about violently. He struggled to direct his blaster towards Xum, shouting, “Stop this! I just want to talk!”

“Then talk!” Xum shouted back, still swerving like a drunk driver.

“I need information on a Sith Lord keeping a fleet of stolen ships – where he’s hiding and how to get to him. If you stop this…” he felt himself almost throw up. “If you stop screaming and help me, I’ll cut you in on ten percent of the bounty.”

“Fifty percent!” the Weequay demanded.

“Twenty-five.”

“Thirty!”

“Twenty-five, and I’ll hook you up with some of my lady friends!” Katarn shouted, desperate for his ride to stop.

Xum’s eyebrows rose and he stopped his mad driving. Katarn heaved a sigh of relief. He slowly climbed his way towards the window of the speeder and climbed into the passenger seat.

“You have a deal,” Xum said. “Now, I don’t know anything about any Sith Lords. But do you have a name I can work with?”

“The man’s name is Toxeti, and he deals in the underground. I figured he’d probably crossed your path.”

“No, not exactly. I have heard the name before. There’s a guy that goes by the name of Crage. He’s Sith, though he tries to hide it. He represents some mysterious fellow called Toxeti. Probably your guy.”

“What does he do?” Katarn asked.

“He contracts mercenaries, borrows from loan sharks – and then kills them, and they say he’s recruiting Jedi and Sith that are disenfranchised with their parties.”

“Sounds like a connected fellow,” Katarn smiled. “Where do I find him?”

“Usually he comes to you… I don’t know how you’d get a hold of him, but Alen Heigren might.”

“Heigren? He’s a bookie. What would he have to do with the Sith?”

“Well,” Xum lowered his voice. “Word is Crage collects ‘protection’ from Heigren. He’s killed anyone who doesn’t pay him what he demands. He probably takes the money he collects from criminals and helps fund your Sith target’s fleet.”

The speeder came to a stop at a crowded platform. Katarn prepared to get out.

“Thanks for the info, Xum. When this job’s done, I’ll see that you get your cut. And your date with one of the better girls.”

Xum’s face seemed contemplative. “It’s odd that you showed up asking these questions when you did. I already had someone else inquire on the same thing – though they didn’t go about it like you did.”

Katarn frowned. “Someone else was asking about Toxeti? Who? Did you tell them what you told me?”

“No, I didn’t. They weren’t as devoted to catching me as you.”

“That’s good, Xum, but I can’t take any chances.”

Katarn raised his blaster and fired at the Weequay’s head. Screams abounded on the platform. He pushed Xum’s body out of the driver’s seat and watched it tumble to the bottomless depths of the city. Then he fired off the engines and thought about what he had just done. He had just sealed a potential leak of information to the competition, he told himself. After all, it wasn’t like they were friends anymore.

Katarn just hoped nobody else knew what he had learned.
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The Imperial Inquisition and The Voyages of Targon Karashi

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TargonKarashi
07.22.2012 , 12:49 PM | #6
Chapter Six

Shazzar walked into the country club on Corellia that was an illegal gambling den run by his old friend Alen Heigren. It wasn’t as nice as he remembered it. The furnishings were old and needed to be replaced, and the utilities desperately needed to be repaired. That was incredibly odd.

Alen never kept the same appearance in his club for more than three months. He always bought new stuff to change the place’s image. Was he running low on funds?

A greeter stopped him. “Sir, do you have a membership to this club?” he asked.

Shazzar replied, “Please let me through. You’ll live a whole lot longer.”

“Threats are not taken kindly here,” the man said. “If you don’t leave now, I’ll have to call security.”

“Just try it,” Shazzar smirked.

“That will not be necessary,” a familiar voice said from behind. A smiling and handsomely sharp Zeltron walked up. His hair was a mesmerizing blue, just as Shazzar always recognized. And the warmth of his pink skin gave him a glow of cheeriness.

“Do you know this man sir?” the greeter asked.

“Know him?” the Zeltron replied. “Why this is my friend, Shazzar. And do make a note that from here on he is always to be admitted.”

The greeter took this time to depart in shame at his foolishness.

“Thank you,” Shazzar said. “It’s good to see you again, Alen.”

“Come!” Alen clapped his old friend’s back. “Let me take you to my table.”

The Zeltron took Shazzar to the exclusive areas of the club. However, to Shazzar’s dismay, they too were in disrepair. Something was highly suspicious about this.

“How have you been Shazzar?” Alen asked. “It’s been far too long since you last visited,
almost two years!”

“I’ve been well,” Shazzar answered. “I’ve been more than successful.”

“That’s great, just great!” Alen grinned. Shazzar noticed that his smile was taking extreme effort. Like Alen was forcing it.

“Is something wrong?” Shazzar asked.

“Wrong? Why would you think a thing like that?” Alen denied. “And to prove it, why don’t I bring a couple of girls over here and watch how today’s races go on the viewscreen. People are betting the same as they always have.”

“And you’re still fixing the races like you always have?” Shazzar supposed.

“You know me too well. So, how about those girls?”

Shazzar shook his head immediately. “I don’t have an interest in wanton girls, my friend. You go ahead and have your fun.”

Alen’s eyebrow rose, and he sensed his guest’s feelings through his empathy. “What? Did you go and get married, Shazzar? You?”

“Is it all that surprising?” Shazzar asked.

“Well, no…” Alen stopped and noticed the little skin he could see around Shazzar’s eyes. They weren’t the proper color. He reached over and pulled the cloth off Shazzar’s face and smiled when he saw the white paint, and the dyed hair. “Are we going Togruta these days?”

“I got married a little while back, Alen, and we are going to Shili.”

“Well I’ll be!” Alen laughed. “I would never thought it of you.”

Shazzar took a sip of a drink Alen had a waiter bring for him. “Unfortunately, I’m doing a job right now…for the Sith Empire.”

“The Sith are bad news,” Alen said solemnly. “What do you need from me?”

“I’m looking for a rogue Sith named Toxeti, do you have any connections that might lead me to him?”

Alen’s face tried to keep on a mask of cheerfulness, but it was failing.

“What’s wrong?” Shazzar demanded.

“What? Nothing.”

“Come on Alen, I’m not an Zeltron, but even I can sense when my friend’s distressed. What’s the matter?”

“There’s a man who works for some fellow named Toxeti. He’s been bleeding my winnings dry. Maybe you noticed how everything is not up to standards?”

“I did. What is he? Exchange? Black Sun?”

Alen’s face grew sullen. “No, he hits up them for credits too. His name is Crage, and the rumors say he’s Sith.”

“I see,” Shazzar nodded. “I’ll take care of him for you.”

“You will?”

“Of course, now point him out to me.”

It was then that a dark faced man walked into the club. He was dressed in unimposing clothes, and he didn’t appear to be armed. His blond hair was pulled back into a small braid. Shazzar didn’t need to hear it from his friend. Alen Heigren’s problem had just walked into the room.

Standing up from the table, Shazzar whispered, “You’re definitely going to need new furnishings.” He then walked on an intercept course to Crage. The man was overtly irritated when Shazzar approached him.

“Get out of my way,” the man growled.

Shazzar didn’t move. “You and I need to have a little talk.”

“I don’t talk to scum that I can wipe off my boot,” Crage sneered. He then tried to go around him.

“Where is your master?” Shazzar asked. “Where is Toxeti?”

Crage stopped and whirled around at him. “Bounty hunter filth!” he barked, and then thrust his hand at Shazzar’s chest. Shazzar was hurled through the air and landed on a table. In response, Shazzar then pulled out two of his pistols and opened fire. Such confined spaces were not the place for his rifle.

The Sith revealed himself by drawing his lightsaber, deflecting the shots at him. He then charged forward, ready to chop Shazzar in half.

Shazzar got off the table and backed away to put distance between him and Crage. He continued to fire at him, piling on the pressure. However, this Sith was able to block every shot, not only frustrating Shazzar, but also causing panic to grow exponentially among the guests.

Crage leaped to close the distance, and Shazzar leaped out of the way. But the Sith didn’t arrive at his intended location. A cable wrapped around Crage’s leg and yanked him to the ground. Shazzar turned to see the interloper. It was a Zabrak, covered in gadgetry, and his eyes were concealed by a shady visor.

Another bounty hunter, Shazzar sighed. Not one he recognized…but then, Shazzar didn’t know many others – and most he knew he had killed.

Crage recovered quickly, cutting the cable from his leg. The new bounty hunter tried to fire at him with his pistol, but again he was able to deflect it. Shazzar bounded across the room and kicked Crage’s arm, knocking the lightsaber out of his hand. But then Shazzar felt himself be knocked aside by an invisible force. But it wasn’t Crage’s magic, it was something physically strong and hard.

Shazzar landed on yet another table, and he refrained from getting up immediately so that he could appear less of a threat as he saw who his competition was.

He noticed Crage was struggling under the weight of something on his chest. But there was nothing there that his eyes could see. However, the Zabrak – with his visual amplification visor – was taken aback by the enormous person holding Crage down with his foot.

“Where’s Toxeti?” the giant demanded.

“I’ll never tell any of you!” Crage shrieked.

The newcomer deactivated his cloaking generator and the retractable blades on his gauntlet sprung out like two massive switchblades. “I carve the information out of you, then,” he said.

“You kill him and I’ll kill you!” the Zabrak shouted. “I caught him!”

“Did you? From what I can tell, he’s the one who’s holding him down,” Shazzar got up and moved forward.

“Stay out of this, bud,” the Zabrak said. “You didn’t do anything!”

It was then that Crage caused a burst in the Force and released the Phantom’s hold on him. He fled from the club and out into the nearby woods. He ran fast enough that he lost his attackers before they could pursue. Once he was well into the trees, far enough away from the country club, he pulled out his comlink.

“We’ve got a problem,” he whispered. “The Dark Council has sent bounty hunters to hunt for Toxeti.”

“There’s nothing to fear,” the voice on the other side replied. “They will never find our master. Viruul hunts for him in vain.”

“They found me,” Crage said. “There are at least three of them…”

Something knocked him to the ground. His comlink shut off when it struck an outgrown root. Crage moved to grab his lightsaber, but when he caught a glimpse of who his attacker was, he was unable to move.

His face was pale, but eerily handsome. Most of his long hair hung down like a willow tree, but some was up in a stiff braid. His teeth were sharp and animal-like. He wore a teal body suit that was sensuously smooth, like the most expensive silk. In everything, he appeared pleasing and horrifying at the same time.

“You’re going to make a fantastic delicacy,” the man’s voice said softly. Crage was completely mesmerized, washed entirely with sheer terror. “Would you like to tell me where Toxeti is?”

Crage didn’t answer.

“Oh well, I’ll have to find him later,” Falkko shrugged. “But for now…” his proboscis’ emerged from his cheeks like two eels from their caverns. They snaked their way towards Crage’s awaiting face, and then probed up through his nasal cavity to the source of the Anzati’s soup.

The forest was deathly silent.
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The Imperial Inquisition and The Voyages of Targon Karashi

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TargonKarashi
07.22.2012 , 12:53 PM | #7
Chapter Seven

The three bounty hunters eyed each other angrily in the now empty club. The guests had all fled from the scene of battle – as had their target.

Shazzar studied his competition. The giant was absolutely huge, not to mention armed to the teeth. Stealth generator, retractable wrist blades, stun rifle mounted on his shoulder, covered in armor, blasters of all sorts of make dangling in holsters; Shazzar had to admit to himself that he was intimidated. But not enough that he couldn’t fight this guy if he had to.

The other man – a Zabrak, was a more typical kind of bounty hunter. He had the granted pistol, and also a wrist cable, magnetic gauntlet, body armor, baggy pants, two belts, targeting visor, and a full pack of other stuff. Typical. He was ripped with muscles, his face was “perfectly chiseled” and decorated with a few cultural tattoos. His horns were sharpened and healthy. From what Shazzar could tell, this fellow looked like the textbook, self-made ladies-man. Everything a loose girl could want. He and Alen would likely view each other as major competition.

For a while longer they glared at each other, unsure of what anyone would do. Would they kill each other? Would someone propose a truce? Shazzar knew what he really wanted, and he voiced it.

“Alright, we’ve lost our mutual lead, and the authorities are undoubtedly on their way to arrest the participants in this mishap. I suggest we all just walk away and continue our hunt.”

“Just walk away?” the Zabrak asked mockingly. “What? Are you afraid to fight? Too much of a helpless bantha?”

“I’m not eager to get in a pointless firefight,” Shazzar replied, not allowing the insult to get to him. “I’ve got a job to do, and I’m going to get it done. Are you two as devoted to your job?”

“What kind of stupid question is that?” the Zabrak said in a most irritating tone of arrogance.

“A pointed one,” the giant said softly. “Obviously since you’re still out to argue and fight, little horned man, you’re not interested in finishing the job.”

Shazzar sighed with relief that the large bounty hunter was more insightful than the Zabrak. “Well then, I’m leaving, and I advise you two to leave as well.”

He waited a moment, watching what they were going to do. The big man turned on his cloaking field and his footsteps could be heard leaving the trashed club. The Zabrak remained a while longer.

“We’re not finished,” he pointed at Shazzar. “Nobody robs Hel Katarn of a job. The Sith Lord is mine, and you’d better just drop the job.” He then turned around and left as well. Shazzar was finally alone.

Actually, not alone. “It’s alright, Alen, you can come out now.”

The frightened Zeltron emerged from behind an overturn table. He stared aghast at the carnage that had taken place in his establishment.

“I’m ruined!” he moaned. “Nobody will come back and bet on the races after this!”

“It’s not so bad,” Shazzar said. “Just find a different way to rip people off. You’re clever, you’ll be back on your feet in no time. And that Crage is never going to bother you again, I promise you.”

“How can I repay you?” Alen asked.

“Do you have anything else I can go on to find Toxeti?”

Alen thought for a moment. “I’m not sure, I mean, Crage was the only person I’d ever heard the name from. But he probably had help – he couldn’t be everywhere at once. I could ask around for you.”

“No,” Shazzar shook his head. “I can’t be having too many questions asked, otherwise Toxeti will go deeper into hiding.

“Well then, how else can I help you?” Alen asked.

“For starters, could you forgive me for the mess?”

“Of course, of course! It wasn’t you who started the fight anyway!”

Shazzar smiled. “Thanks, my friend. An understanding friend is more valuable than credits to me. If you wanted to come along…”

“Oh, I don’t know about that,” Alen replied. “I’m not the violent type. I’m a lover, not a fighter. You know what I mean?”

“Yes,” Shazzar sighed. “Well, keep an ear out, and if you do come across any helpful information, be sure to let me know.”

Shazzar shook his friend’s hand and left. He put on his comlink headset and called his employer.

“Don’t tell me you’ve found him already,” Viruul’s voice said.

“Would you mind informing me about the hunters you’ve contracted? You’ve got an arrogant Zabrak named Hel Katarn and a massive tower of a man. Anyone else?”

“That’s really none of your concern, Shazzar,” Viruul replied. “All you need to worry about is taking care of Toxeti.”

“Who else?” Shazzar’s tone was that of demand, not request.

Viruul sighed. “Please don’t try my patience, Shazzar, you’re too good of a hunter for me to throw away.”

“Fine,” Shazzar growled. “I’ll play your little game, Viruul, but I don’t like being kept in the dark.”

“Believe me, you know all that you need to,” Viruul disconnected.

Shazzar shook his head in frustration and kept walking.

---

It was only a few hours later, and Shazzar was prepping his ship for takeoff, when he got a call from Alen Heigren. His voice was excited and yet frightened.

“Crage is dead!” he said quickly.

“What was that?” Shazzar asked, confused.

“Corellian authorities found Crage’s body in the woods. No signs of wound or anything that might have killed him. Except his brain…”

“What about his brain?”

“Well, what was left of it was just mush. It sounds disgusting. I’m sorry, I guess your lead is gone.”

Shazzar’s eyes widened. Not from the loss of the lead, but from what he heard about Crage’s death. He knew what caused such horrifying deaths – there was only one race in the galaxy. Anzati.

“Viruul, what have you gotten me into?” he muttered to himself.

---

Katarn was grumbling his whole walk back to his ship. He was furious, and he had forgotten why exactly. Ah, now he remembered. It was because that stupid man in the turban had allowed Crage to escape and then had walked away from a fight he knew he would have lost. Such cowardice.

He would catch up to that man, and he would make him pay for it. But for now, he had to go and find some other way to find Toxeti.

The thought crossed his mind. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to have killed Xum…

How was he going to find the elusive Sith now? Xum didn’t have any hyperspace lanes that he could find the fleet, and Heigren could only lead him to Crage. What source could he use? He had many, but none that he could think of that would help him on this sort of job.

Katarn decided to find himself a nice nightclub to relax and think better. He found one, though it was difficult. All the kinds that suited him were illegal on Corellia. Such stingy rules and morality, he thought about the world. Not like Nar Shaddaa, where anyone could do anything they could possibly want to.

In the “illegal” club, Katarn found his relaxation in flirting with a pair of young ladies. It was going well, then a brusque and forward Rattataki woman thrust herself upon him and started dragging him – albeit willingly – to the back door for a bit of privacy. Now things were going really well.

That is, until she stuck a hard, metal cylinder in his gut. A lightsaber.

“You and your pals are stirring up trouble,” she breathed into his ear.

“Come on, baby, let’s not ruin a great evening…” Katarn kept his cool.

“Do you have any idea who you are dealing with? Who you just killed?”

“Killed? Crage is dead? Well then, would you mind taking me to Toxeti then?” Katarn said smugly.

“I guess I’m going to have to kill you in order for you to understand…” she snarled.

Katarn suddenly grabbed hold of her arms with one hand, twirled her around, and held his arm around her throat with his other hand. “No baby, it’s you who needs to understand. You’re going to take me to Toxeti…”

“Never!” she hissed.

“Yes you are,” he started to squeeze tighter for emphasis.

Suddenly both of them were heaved up into the air, gripped hard by their throats as though hung by steel cable. A menacing and familiar voice echoed in the dark alley.

“Correction,” the Phantom said, “she’ll be taking us to Toxeti.” A blue flash lighted up Katarn’s view, and then there was blackness.

---

Katarn awoke on the cold floor of a ship. Lying next to him was the Rattataki, unconscious. He smiled. Maybe now he could continue where things should have gone…

But he found that he was bound by electric cuffs. When he tried to get free, a horribly painful shock ravaged his body. He cried out in pain. The Sith girl woke up, and she too tried to struggle against her bonds – receiving the same punishment.

“You’ll be more comfortable if you stop that,” came their captor’s voice.

“What is this?” Katarn asked incredulously. “Why don’t we work together, big guy? We can split the money…”

“You’re only saying that because I have the upper hand,” the Phantom replied. “But I’ve kept you alive because I may want your help. And if you survive, I’ll share the bounty.”

The Sith said, “You’re both fools! You’ll both die at my master’s hand!”

“Oh shut up, schutta,” Katarn nudged her harshly.

“I’ll kill you myself!” she shrieked.

The Phantom pressed a button on his wrist and both of his prisoners screamed in agony from electrocution. “Until you tell me where to find Toxeti, young lady, you’ll both be getting used to that sensation.”

Katarn’s eyes widened. “What?! Why would you do that? Why am I getting punished too?” he wasn’t even ashamed his voice was whining.

“You’d better help her be cooperative, then,” the Phantom answered. “A little incentive, if you will.”

“Blast it, woman! Tell us where to find Toxeti!” Katarn struck at her again.

“Never!” she screamed and struck him back.

“Then this is going to be a fun but tedious evening,” the Phantom shrugged. “For me, anyway.”

He continued to press the button and listen to their desperate screams throughout the night.
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The Imperial Inquisition and The Voyages of Targon Karashi

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TargonKarashi
07.22.2012 , 12:57 PM | #8
Chapter Eight

Shazzar was surfing the holonet, searching for anything that might lead him to some sort of clue in finding the mysterious Toxeti. After exhausting the places most people would look – such as newscasts and communication sites – he started turning to the random frequencies that made up the static white noise of the interconnected galaxy.

It was tedious, but Shazzar didn’t have anything better to do…that is, in his current situation. He couldn’t abandon the job and return to Vaala. Not yet, not while Viruul had him on a contract.

Continually changing frequencies, he suddenly happened on something that sounded peculiar. It was a series of patterns in the useless static. Something so uniform and constant, yet so subtle and quaint, that Shazzar knew it had to be a message encoded in the noise.

He tried to triangulate where the source was originating, or where it was directed. The signal was strong, and it appeared it was crossing a vast expanse of space. But he came close enough to pinpointing one of the specific locations, and once he knew it, he punched in the coordinates into the navicomputer. It was a place where he had already been recently, and the irony was insulting to him.

Dromund Kaas.

Shazzar worked on hacking into the signal, to find out what sort of message was being sent. It was too hidden and remote to be anything official of the Empire’s, but it wasn’t beyond any of the Sith or Imperial Intelligence to use such underhanded signals of communication. It was, however, the only thing he had to go on, and he was going to follow it until he found what he was looking for or he was proved wrong in his assumptions.

“Back to the Imperial capital,” he muttered to himself he was about to engage. It wasn’t going to be easy finding anyone on Dromund Kaas – since the whole blasted planet was swarming with Sith and soldiers. To only find one miscreant among so many…

All of a sudden, his attempt at working his way into the encryption succeeded, though he had absolutely no idea what exactly he did to accomplish that. He heard two distinct voices, and their conversation drew his full attention at the first name mentioned.

“Toxeti, is displeased with recent events. He has lost contact with two operatives now, both on the planet Corellia.” The voice was gruff and formal, sounded like an officer.

“Do you suppose the Republic could be looking into things?” another voice asked.

The first replied, “The Republic is incapable of even suspecting any of our activities. No, it must be covert Imperial Agents at work.”

“Not Agents, Admiral. Bounty hunters, hired by the Dark Council.”

“Indeed?” the first voice said. “Why would they turn to such ragged scum? They have a vast network of resources to draw upon that are far more effective. I personally would have turned to the military before hiring mercenaries.”

“That is your preference, Admiral. I have heard that Lord Viruul is hoping that underworld specialists would be able to work better at locating our master.”

“Then he is a fool.”

“Oh, quite surely,” the second voice agreed. “But things are getting dangerous in the Empire. Viruul has started having many rounded up and questioned. His inquisition is interrogating and killing Sith, agent, officer, and citizen indiscriminately.”

“Such barbaric measures will only drive us further underground, and will strengthen our resolve,” the “Admiral” stated boldly.

“True, but the longer it takes to prepare, the longer Viruul’s slaughter will continue against the people of the Empire. He must be stopped.”

“We could attack now, take the capital by surprise.”

“An attack on Dromund Kaas? Where the Emperor and the Dark Council reside behind legions of loyalist soldiers? Admiral Grimm, are you such a fool?”

“Don’t take that tone with me! I am at least fighting the Council, while you cower in their citadel, acting like an obedient dog. We will marshal our fleet, and we will recruit allies on Eriadu. You continue leaking your useless information.”

The transmission was abruptly ended and Shazzar halted his hyperspace jump. He cancelled the current location and put in the new coordinates. Eriadu, it appeared was his location. He was, however, going to be sure to send a message to Viruul regarding the latest development. Perhaps Viruul knew this Admiral Grimm?

---

The Council’s session had already started, and Viruul was late. He flew through the empty hallways like the specter he so usually appeared to be. His face was adorned with a conservative mask that was shaped like a skull. It nearly glowed a ghostly white amid the blackness of his cloak and hood.

He reached the Council chamber and walked in, uncaring of how the attention suddenly turned to him.

“I apologize for my tardiness, gentlemen,” he said casually, taking his seat. “I had business to wrap up, and I tried to hurry as fast as possible.”

“Interrogating another suspected traitor?” one of the Council asked. A few chuckles followed from some of the others.

“His crimes were discovered and he was duly punished for his disloyalty to the Empire. He even yielded names of some of his constituents before he died. I have much work to attend to – after this meeting, of course.”

“We were actually just talking about you and your…business,” another of the Council stated. “We’re more than a little concerned at this zeal of yours in rooting out possible enemies of the Empire. You aren’t exactly using subtle procedure.”

“I have no intention of convicting our enemies privately,” Viruul replied. “Treason must be dealt with publicly, so as to send a message to other malcontents.”

“Or it could embolden them,” the first Council member suggested. “The Council is debating whether or not to allow your inquisition to continue. Your methods are stirring quite a lot of fear in the Empire’s loyal citizens.”

“You above all should understand that fear is what keeps the citizens in line,” Viruul countered harshly. “We are the highest archons of the Empire, and our word is law. Those with the audacity to defy us must be punished with the most effective means.”

“But your actions may incite riots and further rebellions,” the second Sith Lord said accusingly. “You need to understand, Viruul, that with every decision comes a consequence. And your inquisition will likely have drastic repercussions. Also, do not forget that you are a member of this Council, not the Emperor himself.”

Viruul rose, furious. “Do not suppose to lecture me!” He glared at the Council members that watched him. Many of them he detested, partly because of their condescending attitudes and illusions of wisdom, and partly also for the fact that many of them were dressed like clowns and wizards. Only a few actually had an intimidating dress and appearance, and Viruul was glad to say that he was one of them.

“Do not think to lecture me!” he repeated his outburst, this time with more severity. “I am on this Council just as you! And I have results to justify my actions. Can you all say the same?” He scanned the chamber and the Lords on their seats. No one spoke or moved, and the silence after Viruul’s rage was deafening.

Viruul then continued. “Lords of the Council, how long shall we suffer dissidents and upstarts to work behind our backs and undermine our authority? How many men like Malgus must rise up and challenge us before we take action for ourselves and put them back into their place? By the Emperor, we are the Dark Council!”

“Is Malgus the man you intend to destroy?” asked a different Council member. “You should be aware that he is not one we can move against, even if we were fed up with his disregard for regulation. He is too valuable and powerful.”

“I am not speaking of Malgus,” Viruul hissed. Then he added, “For the moment… I want things to go back to the way they’re supposed to be. I want the Empire to be unchallenged.”

“Then continue your inquisition,” said one of the silent voices of the Council. His statement brought no more opposition from the rest of the Sith Lords.

“I will, Jadus,” Viruul nodded at the speaker. And with that he left the chamber and the Council’s session was adjourned.

Later, Viruul answered the call from Shazzar.

“What is it now?” he sighed.

“I’ve got a new trail to follow on this hunt,” the bounty hunter’s voice replied.

“Really?” Viruul sat in a chair. “Tell me.”

Shazzar said, “I decrypted a covert transmission from two of Toxeti’s servants. One is a leak on Dromund Kaas.”

“Who?” Viruul asked, anger in his voice at the thought of a traitor nearby.

“I don’t know, but the other is a man named Admiral Grimm.”

“Yusef Grimm?” Viruul clarified. “Are you certain? That’s a bold accusation, almost as bold as demanding Kilran’s death.”

“I’m sure of it,” Shazzar answered. “I take it you know him?”

“Yes, he’s one of the Imperial Navy’s most admired commanders. He has been gone on assignment for several months.”

Shazzar chuckled. “Nope, he’s been working for your friend. He’s meeting some mysterious allies on Eriadu, and I’m headed there now.”

“Well done, Shazzar, do be sure to keep me updated.”

The call was disconnected. Viruul sat back and yawned. One step closer, he thought to himself. One step closer to finishing this.

---

Shazzar hadn’t meant to cut off the connection so suddenly. But he had no choice when he heard a footstep behind him. He whirled around in the pilot’s chair and had a pistol out and ready to fire. It was kicked out of his hand.

The intruder was slender, had long hair hanging down his head, and was covered in a blue-green bodysuit.

Rising from the seat to fight off the attacker, Shazzar made a punch to the face and scored. But the man was quick to recover and struck him back. Shazzar stumbled against the chair. He caught himself and sent a kick upwards to the intruder’s stomach.

The man fell backwards, landing on his rear. He scrambled toward the blaster lying a little ways from him, but Shazzar pounced on him to hold him down. However, the man’s suit was so incredibly smooth that he slipped out of Shazzar’s grip and had the blaster.

Shazzar was quick to roll away from his location, but the man didn’t fire. He pulled out his other blaster and pointed it at his enemy. The intruder threw the pistol at Shazzar’s face and stood, drawing a cold, sharp, expensively crafted vibrosword. He had two held on his back.

For a brief moment, Shazzar felt at the man’s mercy. Yet with his own swiftness, he drew his own blade and swung to get the sword out of his face. He then got up himself and prepared for melee combat.

And fight they did. The man took the offensive, but Shazzar parried each strike he made. It was a long and exhausting dance with blades. Finally, Shazzar gained the momentum and began to back his attacker into a corner. His curved blade sung as it twirled through the air and glanced off the man’s blade.

However, his offensive was soon halted, as the man drew his second blade and caught Shazzar’s dagger between the two. He then yanked all three weapons out of their hands and head butted Shazzar, discombobulating him for long enough for Shazzar to lose his footing and fell to the ground.

The intruder then landed on top of him, getting his face very close to Shazzar’s. From his cheeks, two proboscises emerged and slithered through the air towards Shazzar’s revealed face.

Shazzar kicked into the man’s glossy abdomen to push him away just far enough to free his right hand. He then reached up and grabbed the Anzati’s brain straws and constricted his fist until his attacker screamed in pain.

“Keep your feelers out of my nose,” Shazzar snarled. “I know what you are, and your hypnosis will not work on me. My will is too strong.”

The Anzati cried out again, kneeling at the mercy of his would-be meal. At length he gathered the words to speak. “There’s no need…to be uncivil…”

“Civil?” Shazzar raised an eyebrow. “I’m not the vampire who snuck aboard a dangerous man’s ship and tried to feed on him. I know this hurts…” he yanked hard on the Anzati’s proboscis’. “Who are you, and what are you doing here?”

“I am Krys Falkko. Like you, I’ve been hired by Lord Viruul.”

“Viruul hired an Anzati? Why? And just what did you hope to gain by attempting to attack me?”

Falkko groaned in pain. “You have a new lead to Toxeti, and you’re a threat to the job.”

“The bounty is mine,” Shazzar snarled. “And you’re going out the airlock.”

“Wait!” Falkko’s eyes widened. “You don’t have to kill me. We can help each other. Together we can take Toxeti down.”

“I don’t need help,” Shazzar said. “Nor would I trust a predator like you. The moment my back was turned, you’d have your tendrils up my nose again. No, you’re a risk I wouldn’t take even if I did need assistance.” Shazzar began to make a step in the airlock’s general direction.

“How can I deter you from opting to kill me?” Falkko pleaded. “I swear I will not harm you…”

“Your word is meaningless!” Shazzar replied. Then he stopped for a moment. He began to consider if this man might actually be more valuable alive. “What help could you offer me?” he asked, rather rhetorically.

“When I fed on Toxeti’s servant, Crage, I learned some of his memories through his connection through the Force. I know secrets that will be of great assistance to the both of us.”

“You’re Force-sensitive? Then that makes you even more of a threat.”

“I swear I will not harm you if we work together!” Falkko exclaimed.

Shazzar growled. He pulled out of his pack a pair of restraints. He clasped them on the Anzati with his left hand, while still holding him with his right. Then he let go of the proboscises – which receded back into their pouches – and Shazzar dragged him slowly to the cockpit, keeping a blaster trained on him.

“I’m not a monster,” Shazzar said softly. “I’m not a serial killer like you. We’ll work together, so long as you remain true to your word. But I’m watching you carefully, and by the bones of my father, if you so much as hint at another attempt against me, I will space you without a second thought.”

“You are rational and clever,” Falkko bowed his head in respect. “I am true to my word – I shall not harm you. We shall be unstoppable against Toxeti and his servants.”

Shazzar nodded suspiciously. For the rest of the flight, he never took his eyes off his new companion. He didn’t trust him, and he knew that the man was willing to take any opportunity that presented itself. But while it was against his better judgment, Shazzar decided that two bounty hunters would have better success than just one.

He only hoped he wouldn’t regret his decision of mercy.
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The Imperial Inquisition and The Voyages of Targon Karashi

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TargonKarashi
07.22.2012 , 01:01 PM | #9
Chapter Nine

Katarn was still shaking throughout his body, his muscles continued to spasm after the long exposure to electric currents running through them. He tried to keep still, but he trembled as though he were sitting in a freezer. Which wasn’t all that far from the truth, considering that the heat levels in the Phantom’s ship were borderline icing level.

But thankfully, his captor had released him from the cuffs. The girl had talked, and now he was working with the big man. Katarn had considered killing the Phantom once he was released, but he soon realized that his body was in no condition to fight such a massive opponent. No, he was going to have to take on his new partner.

He glared down at the Sith girl. She was unconscious; having received even more punishment after Katarn had been released. She lay there like a defeated vampire, white skinned and near lifeless. Katarn was hard pressed to detect whether she was still breathing.

She had spoke of the planet Eriadu, which Katarn found a suspicious place to find Toxeti. Surely he wouldn’t be that close to highly concentrated civilization? Well, maybe he was that stupid. Katarn didn’t know.

All he cared about at the moment was that he was shaking, sore, and freezing in this ice hole. The sound of loud footsteps made him perk up and begin to thaw his tongue to speak.

“Do you think that you could turn up the heat?” he asked as the Phantom entered the room. “It must be well-below freezing.”

“I like the cold,” the Phantom replied. “What? Can you not handle it?”

Katarn breathed into his quivering hands. “I prefer to be comfortable if I can help it. I charge a lot of money for my jobs because it pays for my comfort.”

“A bounty hunter isn’t supposed to get comfortable,” Katarn’s new associate said. “I should have known you weren’t tough enough to work this kind of assignment.”

“Really! I have caught more than thirty bounties, high-threat level I might add.”

“How many have you killed?”

Katarn hesitated. “Usually they pay more for alive than dead.”

“I’ve caught over eighty bounties, little man, and I’ve killed just about all of them. You obviously don’t have the taste for blood or a real challenge.”

“To each his own,” Katarn shivered. “Are we nearing Eriadu?”

“We should be there in half an hour. You might want to wake her up and get her ready to lead us to the target.”

“You don’t really think she’ll be cooperative, do you?” Katarn asked skeptically.

“Of course not,” the Phantom headed towards the cockpit. “She’ll try to lead you into a trap, and I’ll kill them. I thought you knew that.”

Katarn felt another spasm ripple through his body. One caused by electricity, cold, and nervousness of what the Phantom had intended.

---

There was nothing out of the ordinary in orbit around Eriadu. Just the typical kinds of traffic – and a high security space station.

The Rattataki directed them to dock in a specific hangar on the station. She informed her captors that the station was run by Admiral Grimm, one of Toxeti’s leading officers. When the ship was hailed and commanded to give the docking code, she did so – at the behest of Katarn’s blaster shoved into her side.

Upon landing, Katarn kept the Sith in front of her as they headed towards the loading ramp, with the Phantom behind him. The ramp lowered and they began descending. Then Katarn noticed a dozen troopers waiting with guns aimed directly at him.

“Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me…” he sighed. A captain in a excellently trimmed uniform stepped forward.

“Lay down your weapon, miscreant,” the captain commanded.

“Miscreant? That’s not a nice thing to call a giant…” Katarn turned and noticed that the Phantom was nowhere to be seen. And none of the soldiers seemed to have any indication that there was anyone else other than himself and the girl.

“I am Captain Jayden, and you will submit and be taken into custody, bounty hunter. Release the woman at once!” His tone was terser with that final command.

Katarn figured he had no other alternative other than be gunned down, so he did as he was told and surrendered. He figured the girl had sent a warning to the docks instead of a clearance code. How could he have been so stupid?

The Sith was released from her restraints and she wasted no time in kissing the captain affectionately. Her white skin and dark clothes brightly contrasted his dull uniform and peachy skin tone. “It’s good to see you safe, Miraj,” the captain whispered to her.

“I guess you’ve already got a fella,” Katarn sighed, his hands behind his head. A Sith trooper moved forward to place him under arrest, when suddenly he rose unnaturally into the air, gasping in shock and pain. Blood oozed from two holes in his chest. He dropped quickly and another soldier fell dead with massive gashes running diagonally up his body.

“It’s the other one!” the Rattataki shouted, grabbing her lightsaber and ordering the troopers to engage the unseen assailant.

Katarn grinned, grabbing his gun and proceeding to shoot at the guards around him. The troopers were swiftly dispatched, and the captain and the Sith fled the hangar, locking it down as they exited. An alarm sounded, echoing off the walls with its shrill screams.

“Got a fusion cutter?” the Phantom asked as he emerged from his cloak.

“Of course, any decent bounty hunter has…”

The Phantom cut him off by shouting, “Then get that door open!”

“Couldn’t we use explosives?”

“Quit arguing and get it done! We don’t want to draw more attention then we have too!”

Katarn complied and hurried in the task of cutting through the doors. The shadow of his partner looming over him made his hands tremble occasionally. But soon he made it through and they slipped into the sterile halls. Guards were rushing their way, firing as they approached.

The Phantom and Katarn returned fire, and their aim was far better. They killed the guards and continued to navigate their way through the halls, killing any other resistance they met.

“Don’t have the stomach for killing, do I?” Katarn sneered at his associate after shooting another guard.

“Quit yapping and keep shooting,” the Phantom replied. “If your body count comes near to mine, then you’ll earn some respect.”

Katarn thought that was fine, and so continued to work with his new partner advance through the station.

---

Captain Jayden and the Sith arrived in a large conference chamber, where several persons were in the midst of a meeting. Admiral Yusef Grimm – with his short white hair, trim uniform, and glittering medals and ribbons – rose when the two interrupted.

“What’s this alarm sounding in Hangar Six?” he asked bluntly. “Don’t you see we’re in an important meeting?”

“Bounty hunters, sir,” the captain replied.

“Well, captain, why don’t you and Miraj see to them? I have more important business here.” He indicated the major figures with him. There was a Mandalorian commander, covered in his bright, massive gold armor; a cowering and fretful Neimoidian noble; and an aggressive, hissing Trandoshan mercenary. All three of them appeared annoyed at the disturbance.

“Yes sir,” the captain saluted. “I just wanted to inform you.”

The Admiral waved them away in a rude dismissal.

The pair left the chamber and closed the door behind them. Once out of sight of the Admiral and his visitors, they exchanged another passionate kiss.

“I’ll check the security cameras to locate the intruders,” Jayden said. “You lead security to engage them. I’ll inform you of their movements on the com.” With that, he headed off, and she went the opposite direction.

She ordered every trooper she encountered to follow her, and soon the large posse she had formed heeded Jayden’s directions and located the pair of bounty hunters holed up in a corridor. A corridor crowded with bodies of soldiers they had killed. They were using them as cover and shields when they tried to move forward.

Miraj was sickened by such disrespect for the dead and ordered the troops to fire in volleys, sending a wall of blaster fire down the hall. Katarn barely got himself completely concealed before the air around him was singed and reeked of ozone.

Then Katarn and the Phantom emerged from their wall and fired back. They had to fire quickly, so their aim was poor. Another web of red light shot at them again. A pattern developed, and for several minutes, it didn’t look like it was going to change any time soon.

Katarn pulled out a thermal detonator from his pack. “This ought to do the trick,” he muttered to himself. As soon as the volley passed him again, he emerged to lob the grenade at the enemy.

“What are you doing?” the Phantom shouted.

Miraj saw it coming, and with the Force, she sent it right back at its owner. Katarn’s face turned pale and he swore.

“You idiot!” the Phantom tried to leap as far as he could, but it didn’t help.

The detonator exploded right in front of the wall of corpses and the whole area lighted up in a blinding explosion. The walls and ceiling of the corridor collapsed, and when the smoke cleared, all Miraj saw was a giant pile of debris. No movement, no sound…No more bounty hunters.

“Good work,” Jayden’s voice said on the comlink.

“Shall we go report to the Admiral that the intruders have been dealt with?” she asked, knowing the answer.

“No need to disturb him again,” Jayden replied. “I’ll be in my chambers…”

She smiled and headed there herself, ordering the troops to take care of the mess and make sure that the bounty hunters were dead.

The turbolifts were locked down still from the alarm, so Miraj had to wait nearly an hour in irritation for them to come back into service. The attackers had caused a great deal of confusion and damage in their romp through the station.

In the lift, she wiped off the sweat and dust from her skin and clothes, settling herself for her anticipated evening. She had been gone far too long from him, and her passions had been held at bay for far too long.

Finally, she entered his room. It was completely dark, and she didn’t bother to turn on the light.

“Don’t tell me you’re sleeping,” she smirked.

“No, I’m here on the bed.” Jayden’s voice sounded strange, but Miraj figured it was merely the contrast in sound from the firefight in the corridor.

She slipped in next to her lover, surprised at the curious texture of his undergarments. They were lusciously smooth, like glass, but she wanted to feel his skin.

His hand began stroking her bald white head softly. She was growing impatient at the foreplay. “What’s with the wait?” she whispered. “Why don’t you slip off that…?”

She was cut off when the light unexpectedly switched on, blinding her for a brief moment. In the now opened door was a man in green and brown armor with his head wrapped in a turban. Miraj, startled and alarmed, sat up quickly, putting herself in a protective stance in front of Jayden.

It was then that she saw Jayden’s body in the corner of the bedroom. She turned around to see who had dared to pretend to be him…

And was immediately paralyzed and seized with fear when she discovered the Anzati grinning sadistically at her.

The last thing she heard before the life was sucked out of her was the man in the door say, “You’ve got a real disgusting sense of humor, Falkko. Try another stunt like this, snot vampire, and you’ll have eaten your last.”

---

Admiral Grimm apologized to his guests at the disturbance. They were not quick to forgive, but they were eager to get back to business.

“As I was saying,” Grimm continued from where he left off. “Toxeti’s fleet is comprised of three fully armed Star Destroyers and a dozen escort frigates and cruisers.”

“That’s not much of a threatening fleet,” the Mandalorian scoffed. “It probably couldn’t maintain any sort of decent engagement, or even a blockade.”

“Under normal circumstances, you are correct, Krayno,” the Admiral nodded. “But ours is not a normal fleet.”

“Would you care to enlighten us or drag out the drama?” the Neimoidian asked.

“Not at all, in fact, my Star Destroyer and escort are right outside that window if you’d like to take a look.”

“There’s nothing there,” Krayno said, regarding the viewport.

“All I sssee isss ssspace,” the Trandoshan concurred.

“That is where you are wrong, gentlemen,” Grimm smiled amused. He then pressed a button on his comlink and sent an encoded signal. A few moments later, a massive Star Destroyer and three frigates appeared. The Admiral’s guests were awed.

“A cloaked fleet?” the Neimoidian couldn’t believe his eyes. “I had no idea!”

The chamber’s holoprojector emitted an image of a pale man with dark eyes, garbed in lavish clothes and a large cloak. The blue tint of the hologram concealed the colors. Everyone was surprised at his sudden arrival.

“As you can see, my friends, we have the advantage against the Empire and the Dark Council with this simple feature,” the image said casually.

“Lord Toxeti,” Grimm bowed. “Your timing is flawless.”

“I make a habit of entering important conversations at the proper moment,’ the Sith smiled. “Well, gentlemen, there’s no need to drag this out with simple diplomacy and formality. With your support, the Empire will collapse and we all shall take our place as leaders on the galactic stage.”

Krayno nodded. “My warriors and I shall fight for you, Toxeti, for we know of your honor and prowess in battle. Despite these…cowardly techniques with your ships, a victory is still a victory.”

The others were quick to concur, and with that, they signed a treaty that the Admiral gave to them, pledging their allegiance to Toxeti and his cause. Grimm then led them to a door that would take them to them to their ships, and asked that they dock on Grimm’s Star Destroyer. When they asked why, Grimm replied, “So that you may meet Toxeti in person, and for protection should the station be compromised.

With that, the party left the conference room. Just a moment later, a door opened and in walked a battered and dusty Phantom, dragging a moaning Katarn behind him.

“Those are Toxeti’s ships,” the Phantom stated.

“Where did they come from?” Katarn asked, grimacing from the pain of a possibly broken rib.

“Does it matter? We need to get on one of those ships,” the Phantom shook his baggage.

Katarn cried out. “Why are you just dragging me around? Shouldn’t you just leave me to die?”

“Normally I would, but I’m not willing to throw away an asset just yet.”

“I thought I was your partner, not an asset.”

A door on the other side of the room opened. Shazzar and Falkko entered.

“Well, isn’t this ironic?” Katarn tried to make a joke, but it hurt to laugh. “If I weren’t hurting, I’d wring your neck, buddy!”

Shazzar shook his head in frustration. “I don’t know by what sick humored spirits, fate, or that flaming Force brought us together, but it looks like we’re all going to have to work together.”

“And why would we do that?” Katarn asked.

“Because the ships are leaving soon,” the Phantom answered. He understood what Shazzar meant, and he agreed. They would need to work together…for now.

“My ship has a bacta tank,” Shazzar said, regarding Katarn’s damaged state. “We’ll attach to the Star Destroyer’s hull and hitch a ride straight to Toxeti.”

There was a moment of distrustful glances between the four of them. But they all realized that they would be losing another lead if they allowed the ships to leave. Reluctantly, they followed Shazzar to his ship.

Shazzar was fuming inside. He really didn’t want to have to work with his competition, but it’s what the job called for. Viruul’s assignment was getting more ridiculous with every advance.

He would simply charge more for the job when it was completed.
I'd love you all to read my stories and tell me what you think!
The Imperial Inquisition and The Voyages of Targon Karashi

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TargonKarashi
07.22.2012 , 01:05 PM | #10
Chapter Ten

With a ship unnoticeably clasped firmly on the Star Destroyer’s exterior, the small portion of Toxeti’s fleet left Eriadu’s orbit.

Shazzar made sure there was a place for his two new guests – one in the cargo hold, the other floating in a bacta tank. He then found his Anzati “friend” and punched him three times, once to the face, then to the gut, and then to the face again. Falkko fell to the ground, sliding a little on the floor panels.

“You want to explain to me what that was back there?” Shazzar asked. “The moment we get on the station, you slip off to do your own little thing, leaving me to deal with the guards. Then I find you in someone’s chambers, having murdered two people for no other reason than to satisfy your appetite! How exactly did you plan on helping me?”

Falkko did not answer. He simply licked his lips with a smirk and wiped the blood off his face from Shazzar’s blow.

“Alright, that’s it,” Shazzar growled. He grabbed the Anzati by the hair and dragged him through the hall to the airlock. Falkko tried to claw him off, but the hard scales of his gloves protected his hand.

Throwing him in the airlock, Shazzar sealed the door and spoke through the window. “You’ve got ten seconds to tell me what secrets you know before I space you.”

“I thought you said you weren’t a monster or a killer,” Falkko answered.

“Seven seconds.”

Falkko’s eyes widened when he suddenly became aware just how ready Shazzar was to kill him. He had before this time assumed Shazzar was simply a bluffer and not truly devoted. The new look in Shazzar’s eye showed his true willingness to kill.

“Alright,” the Anzati exhaled heavily. “Toxeti’s servants are highly passionate. He devotes a great deal of effort to fire up their emotions far beyond what the Sith would consider practical. He promotes relationships and trust, and his followers are fully devout to him.”

“And how does that help us at all?” Shazzar asked without inflection.

“It means we can use their instability to our advantage,” Falkko replied. “When I killed the Rattataki back on the station, and her lover, I was testing just how far their attachments and emotions went. They’re not like the other Sith – so we can’t fight them the same way.”

“Curious conclusions from someone who devotes his time and energy in hunting other sentients. How would you know about Sith and personal passions?”

“I know plenty about the Sith, probably more than you. You don’t feel people like I do because you’re not Force-sensitive. Those Sith I devoured have yielded their secrets to me. I have had a glimpse of Toxeti’s methods and powers. He is far more than you alone could manage.”

“You could easily be lying to me,” Shazzar scowled. “How do I know you really know about a person’s passions? You hunt people, you don’t socialize with them. From your perspective, all of us are just dinner. Do you even know how a person feels?”

Falkko peered through the window at the man who held his life in his hands. “I know that you hunt people too, but not for sustenance. You hunt because it’s a job.”

“So does every bounty hunter.”

“But you hide something beneath your comfort with blood and your sternness. You conceal a deep passion behind your rage, just like you conceal that painted face behind cloth.” He pointed to Shazzar’s revealed skin. “You have a wife,” Falkko stated, closing his eyes for clarity. “You love her more intensely than you love yourself. And you harbor a deep fear that she might be harmed. You’re even willing to give up your life for this Togruta named Vaala.”

Shazzar was about ready to punch the button and space this man who dared to peer into his mind. He rose up every mental barrier technique he knew of and tried to shut out the intrusion. It was like water flowing through a crevice, trying to spread into every little opening. At last he completely dammed the flow and Falkko’s probe withdrew.

“Convinced?” Falkko asked, a small smile twitching on his lips.

“And how do I know you won’t try to kill me? You’re not exactly trustworthy.”

“I’m not…but you don’t have any other option. None of us do. We’re going to have to work together, like you said, if any one of us will survive this job.”

Shazzar thought for a moment. His finger came mere nanometers from the button to start the depressurization sequence. But he sighed, and released the door. He watched the huge sigh of relief from the Anzati, who obviously was just as afraid to die as anyone else. That was at least one “human” characteristic that Shazzar could rely on.

“Go to a room, and stay there,” he said bluntly. “I so much as see you wandering the halls or hear one stomach growl out of you, and you’re slag.”

Falkko complied. When he was gone, Shazzar sighed with great frustration and tension. He didn’t like any of this at all. If these bounty hunters got the notion that he was what they considered “soft”, they might very well try to remove him from this little game. And that he could not allow.

Hurrying to the cockpit, he made sure all power was down, save for the bare minimum. That would lower their chances of being detected. They were already in hyperspace. Then he locked down all the doors throughout the ship.

“What the…?” he heard Katarn’s voice on the intercom. He had apparently finished his bacta bath. “What’s with the door?”

Shazzar accessed the comm. system and said, “I’ve taken the liberty of locking down the ship. Nobody leaves their current locations – so as to assure our mutual survival from each other. If anybody tries to get out, I’ll kill him. And if you do anything drastic, well then, the folks we’re hitchhiking with will be sure to detect us and we’ll all be killed.”

“You can’t do this!” Katarn shouted indignant.

“On the contrary,” Shazzar answered. “It’s my ship after all. Just sit tight and put your clothes on.”

He then leaned back in his seat and thought a while. He realized they had no idea what they would find when they arrived. There could be a massive fleet, or nothing at all. And surely they would find Toxeti – whom he figured must be a tough krayt dragon to take down, since they were assigned to get rid of him by a member of the Dark Council. And they were supposed to be able to deal with any threat against them. If they couldn’t handle Toxeti…?

Shazzar started to doze, even with four dangerous men on his ship. He lost track of time when the dropout from hyperspace suddenly awoke him. What he saw caused him to momentarily forget his discipline and gape.

---

Viruul sat amid the Dark Council, listening to a report from Darth Mobius – a Wiphid and supposedly one of the more successful Sith Lords. Next to him was his apprentice, a female Chagrian named Zilja. Viruul frowned at the pair standing in the center of the audience chamber, surrounded by the silent Council.

He was not pleased with what he heard. None of them were. The master and pupil had been on a covert assignment to assassinate a prominent Jedi Watchman in the Mid Rim. Mobius spoke of how they killed three squadrons of Republic soldiers and fought the Jedi in single combat. However, they had been defeated, and were forced to flee. Mobius was trying to downplay the failure by pointing out the successes they did achieve, like obtaining Republic fleet movements in the sector.

“Yet the Republic is aware of the stolen information?” one of the Council supposed.

“Well…” the Wiphid hesitated. “Yes, it wasn’t a secure extraction.”

“Then the information is useless,” another Council member said. “The Republic will change their movements and rearrange their garrisons.”

“Not necessarily,” Mobius countered.

Viruul spoke. “Do you presume to know better than the Council?”

The Wiphid stuttered. “No, of course not, my lord…”

“Then what did you mean to say?” the Sith who spoke prior asked.

“I…merely proposed that their changes might not be possible…considering how far stretched the Republic is.”

“That is a foolish assumption,” Viruul sneered. “We of the Council understand the workings of the galaxy, Mobius. Do not try to place yourself on the same level.”

“He doesn’t!” the girl blurted. Her master glared at her to be silent.

“Do you also train your students to interrupt?” Viruul asked.

“My pupil’s outburst shall be dealt with, my lord,” Mobius replied. “I assure you, it shall not happen again.”

“To disrespect the Dark Council brings the penalty of death,” Viruul stated. “I am sure you are aware of that, child?”

“Yes, my lord,” the girl bowed in complete humility, ready to submit to her punishment.

“Mobius,” the second lord on the Council said. “If we command it, will you kill your student?”

“Without question,” he replied.

“Young one,” Viruul said. “Would you kill your master if we commanded it?”

Her eyes widened in shock. “Why?”

“Don’t ask why!” Viruul snapped. “Answer the question.”

“I would submit myself to the death I deserved at his hand.”

Viruul sat back, closed his eyes, and breathed deep. “You have not trained your apprentice properly, Lord Mobius,” he said softly.

“I beg your pardon?” the hairy, broken tusked Sith asked incredulous. “I have taught her to embrace the Dark Side and the ways of the Sith. Except for her lacking discipline, she is flawless!”

“Foolish mongrel!” Viruul rose in a rage. “I will tell you what a true Sith is! True Sith will fight to their last moment to preserve their power! They would not submit helplessly like an animal to a butcher!”

His accusations had angered the Sith Lord, who lost all propriety and drew his lightsaber, igniting it before all the Council. “Your inquisition has gone too far!” Mobius roared. “You see treachery where there is none and weakness behind every word. You will bring the Empire to ruin!”

Viruul’s empty hands rose, pushing back the immense black sleeves that hung from them. “Am I to consider you too a dupe of heresy? To raise a blade against your masters is to consign yourself to death.”

“Then my student and I shall take you with us!” the animal shouted, and his feeble apprentice joined him in arming herself.

“What is this madness?” one of the Council rose. He made a step forward to intervene, but Viruul sent a wave that shoved him back down into his chair.

Many of the Council were shocked at this sudden turn to violence, while others remained still and silent, probably intrigued at the development.

“You failed to fulfill your mission, and you failed to teach your apprentice properly,” Viruul thrust his hand forward and the Chagrian girl dropped her lightsaber. She was grappling with the invisible hands at her throat.

Mobius snarled like the beast he was. “The Council will have a vacant seat to fill today.” He leaped forward, roaring. His lightsaber neared Viruul’s neck. But the Dark Lord summoned his own blade to his hand and blocked the attack, a few inches away from his skin.

Viruul shoved back and slashed at his assailant. Mobius blocked it and counterattacked with a thrust to his abdomen. In response, Viruul parried and swatted the blade away. The Wiphid recovered and tried to attack again with a downward strike above the head. His attack was painfully obvious, and Viruul had no trouble intercepting the blow with his blade.

As swift as death, Viruul then swung his crimson blade down and cut Mobius’s crude lighsaber handle. It had not fineness about it at all, just a metal cylinder with a few markings along it. Such a pathetic weapon wasn’t worthy even for a Jedi to wield.

Disarmed, Mobius made for his pupil’s unused saber, but he suddenly found his feet leaving the ground. He rose high into the air, turning about to see Viruul’s hand raised as though it were lifting him – but it was the Force, for no man could lift someone as immense as him with his strength alone.

Mobius shoved a mighty wave through the Force at Viruul, who was sent sprawling back into his chair. Dropping to his feet, Mobius then gripped Zilja’s lightsaber and charged at the still recovering Sith Lord. A few steps and he was on him.

A deathly snap-hiss made him stop short. He glanced down and saw Viruul’s saber sticking in his chest. No hand held it.

Viruul rose, brushing down his unsettled cloak. He glared at his defeated attacker, now with a glint of contempt. The fool had failed to kill a Jedi. How could he possibly stand against a master of the Dark Side?

Grabbing his hilt, Viruul withdrew the saber from the Wiphid’s hide and watched the beast collapse to the ground. Slain.

A cry of anguish came from his apprentice. She rose and sent a burst of lightning at her master’s killer. Viruul was admittedly surprised at her power. Her level of mastery was much greater than he had supposed. But not strong enough.

Viruul held up his hand and stopped the lightning, creating an invisible wall before him into which the dark energy was absorbed. He could see the fear and desperation on the young one’s face. But she was also full of rage, and it strengthened her to continue her assault. Viruul felt some strain on him as he continued to protect himself.

He then focused his power and sent the energy straight back to its source. Zilja was able to utter half a scream before she was launched through the air and slammed against the wall of the chamber. When her broken body clattered to the ground, the immense silence engulfed the room. Viruul sighed and sat down in his chair again, glancing at his fellow Council members. He smiled as he looked at the result of the quaint little mishap.

“Well, shall we continue to other matters?” he asked. No one spoke for a while, but then one broke the silence.

“Never before have we had a Sith attack another within our chamber, Viruul. Would you like to explain this event?”

“I don’t think there’s anything to explain,” he answered. “Does anyone feel that they would have handled anything differently were it them instead of me?”

Nobody replied because nobody disagreed.

“One must ask though,” the speaker pursued, “has your inquisition perhaps gone too far that you accuse Sith Lords before the entire Council?”

“Now you see why I am so adamant about this issue,” Viruul stood. “If enemies of the Empire are now bold enough to attack us in the light, everything we’ve built may soon collapse. Our rule will no longer be absolute, and anarchy will destroy us. And the Jedi will simply watch our self-destruction and laugh. They won’t have to lift a single blade. Can we allow this to continue? In the Emperor’s name, I will root out our enemies from within and destroy them before all the Empire!”

With that, he waited for anyone to bring up any other matters that deserved attention. Obviously, there were none. So Viruul excused himself and ordered someone to come and clean up the pathetic mess in the Council chamber.
He felt a call for him through the Force. He made his way to his personal chambers and found Zelos and Tiburon eagerly awaiting him. There was something about their faces…

“Lord Viruul,” Tiburon greeted him with an excited, toothy grin. “We’ve received word from the bounty hunters.”

“When did you receive this message?” Viruul asked.

“Almost half an hour ago,” Zelos replied.

Wrath exuded out of Viruul like steam from a boiling pot. “And you didn’t contact me sooner?”

“You were in your session with the Council…” Tiburon said uneasily. “…We decided not to disturb you…”

“Idiots!” Viruul rose his fists into the air and lightning exploded from them like a supernova. His lackeys shrunk and cowered, raising their arms and turning their faces to protect themselves from the blast. “I am your Master! You obey my commands to the fullest! When I say that I want immediate notification of their progress I mean at once! Dim-witted mynocks!” His voice thundered as if it were the Dark Side itself.

The lightning dissipated and Viruul calmed himself.

“We are so humbly disciplined, my lord,” Tiburon shook in terror. Zelos was no better off. Both trembled before their fuming master.

“What did the message say?” Viruul hissed.

There was a pause. Tiburon hesitated to relay the information right away – fearing it may lead to an even greater outburst than before. “They’ve found Toxeti and his fleet.”

No explosion. However, the heat seemed to vanish from the room and everything became as cold as death. Viruul’s eyes appeared to have stolen the warmth, as they were glowing white and intense like a pair of stars. His voice came out quiet, but icy and just as terrible as his eruption of rage.

“Give me the coordinates and prepare yourselves. I will assemble a fleet and we shall obliterate Toxeti’s defiance from the galaxy.”

He then left like the wraith he usually presented himself to be, appearing to float above the ground as he walked.

Tiburon and Zelos silently followed.
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The Imperial Inquisition and The Voyages of Targon Karashi