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Spy Vs. Spy


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Lunafox
12.05.2015 , 01:51 AM | #1
Notes and Disclaimers: Sort of a sequel to The Foundation of All Desire, but focussing on my agents and the SWTOR spy world. ‘Spy Vs. Spy’ takes place in the unknown years before KotFE. All the usual disclaimers apply and as always my thanks to Star Wars and Bioware/EA for letting me play with their Barbies in their sandbox. Some spoilers for Imperial Agent stories. Hope you enjoy. 

Spy Vs. Spy (Part One)


Cipher One strode past the twelve, or as he called them, ‘the jury’. Silent, unmoving and identical, they were created in their Master’s image and served as his Grey Council.

The jury wasn’t really a council—that would imply they had minds of their own and opinions to share. In truth, the greys were a shadow of what once was, and their only verdict was agreement.

One scowled. Mindless automatons.

Darth Jadus stood on the dais at the far end of the conference room aboard the dreadnaught Apocrypha.

“Lord Jadus you wished to see me…” His tone carried a hint of gravelly warmth, despite it’s blasé timbre and his question was more of an observation.

“I have been patient these last months, agent. I trust the subject has acclimated and is primed for induction?”

“I believe so. You know I have a preference for what I call old school methods. Chemical solutions, while initially promising, were shown to be inadequate, as you’ll remember in the case of Cipher Nine. My methods require time and precision, but in the long run, I’ve little doubt you’ll be pleased with the result. I have a few minor details that require my attention, but final testing is set for tomorrow. Would you care to observe, Lord Jadus?”

“I leave it to you agent, but know this,” Jadus wagged his index finger in warning, “If he fails the simulation again, I will have no choice but to terminate the subject, and the trust I place in your methods and ultimately in you, will be re-examined.”

“Of course, my lord, but rest assured your trust has always been my primary motivation. I won’t fail you.”

“See that you don’t. I am the embodiment of destiny, and you, as my chosen, are the extension of my will and that is not a gift to be taken lightly, agent. The time has come to effectuate my vision of a bold new Empire, second to none. Deliver my enemies to me. Succeed and your authority will only be exceeded by my own. Failure is not an option.”

“He won’t fail.” One’s lip crept up at the corner and his smile curved like a scythe.

One returned to his quarters and froze in the doorway. Candles covered every flat surface, their golden glow throwing undulating shadows on the walls.

The scent of Alderaanian nectar hung in the air and a bottle of fine Daruvvian champagne sat propped in a silver ice bucket. A round table for two, decorated with ivory roses and fine plates and cutlery graced the corner. Domed entrees awaited his appetite and fragrant rose petals blanketed the bed like snow. The myriad scents competed with each other as if someone was trying too hard to please.

He chuckled, “What’s all this?”

“Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten!” Raina emerged from behind the decorative screen in the corner, clad in expensive Corellian lingerie.

“Well, it’s not my birthday…and it certainly isn’t yours…I’ll go out on a limb…could it be our anniversary?”

“You’re such an awful tease. You knew all along.”

One closed the distance between them and drew her into his arms. “Of course I did.”

“I know you’re busy…how was work today?” Raina gushed.

“You know my motto…no day without progress. But let’s not talk about that…I have a gift for you…right pocket”

Raina dipped into his suitcoat and withdrew a keycard. She eyed it quizzically, “What’s this?”

“Wrong pocket. Your other right.” He slipped the card from between her fingers and tossed it aside on the nightstand, “Just my clearance, nothing to concern yourself with.”

“All right…” She plucked a flat rectangular box from his pocket and beamed. “Can I open it?”

“I would hope so.”

“You’re awful!”

“So I’m told—almost daily,” One deadpanned.

Raina waved him off playfully and tugged apart the white ribbon to open the gift. She gasped at the contents. “It’s beautiful…put it on me?”

“Of course darling.” He plucked the fine platenite chain from the satiny folds and slipped it about her throat, until the pendant dangled above the cleft between her breasts. She turned the blue-green krayt dragon pearl between her fingertips and smiled. “I’ll always treasure it.”

She spun about and locked her wrists at the nape of his neck to draw him close. He lingered at her cheek, breathing in the floral perfume she wore, the scent nearly luring him into a trance. He pressed his lips over hers to sample the sweetness he usually tasted there, and urged her backwards toward their bed.

“What about dinner and the champagne?” She murmured.

“It’ll wait…you know I’m more of a dessert first sort…” He claimed her lips again, stripping out of his suitcoat and shirt without breaking the kiss.

Her fingers travelled over his pale toned chest and powerful arms. He loomed over her, easing her onto the field of rose petals she’d strewn about. He smelled of fresh cut cedar and Raina breathed in the scent until she thought she’d get high on it.

The keycard glinted on the nightstand in the candlelight and she closed her eyes.

One trapped her beneath him and with urgent hands he flayed the lingerie from her body.

*****

Balkar strolled into the Slippery Slopes Cantina with a pair of adoring blue-skinned Twi’lek showgirls clinging to him. They fluttered their false lashes and fawned over him with almost single-minded devotion.

He scanned the lounge, his attention finally fixing on a darkened corner, highlighted by a mop of golden hair he recognized.

Lana lifted her chin in subtle acknowledgement as he drifted toward the table. “I had hoped we’d have our privacy.” She eyed the showgirls with icy disdain and stood.

Balkar chuckled, “And we will. Just one moment.” He favoured each girl with a wanting look and kissed them in turn, his fingertips strumming against the exposed flesh above their hips. Subtly he pressed a fifty credit note in each girl’s hand, and his gaze followed them longingly as they sashayed toward the bar.

“Was that really necessary?” Lana muttered.

“Maybe. You stood me up the last time. Bliss and Jewel were my back up plan in case you did it again.” Balkar held her chair as she sat, and then slid in across from her.

Lana rolled her eyes.

He’d secretly hoped she’d dress up for their meeting, but as usual she wore the dignified deep olive toned business attire she seemed to prefer.

“Apologies, it couldn’t be helped. Korriban was under attack. I meant to com you, but it was madness. Thousands died. Much of the academy was reduced to rubble.”

“And what about Theron?” He blurted.

“I promise you, given the choice I would have preferred to meet you. Seeing Korriban levelled in a day, only months after we’d finally managed to restore it—”

Balkar held up his hands. “Okay, okay. Let’s just get down to business. That seems to be what you want.”
Lana’s brow peaked. The glint in her eye suggested she wanted to argue his insinuation, but thought better of it. “It is. Now let’s get on with it.”

“A’right. First things first. Who was that guy?”

The server set a cup of caf before each of them and left promptly.

“I took the liberty of ordering…”

“Cantina caf? You’re braver than I thought,” Balkar muttered and took a sip.

“As I was about to say Agent Balkar, the man who abducted Theron is known to Sith Intelligence as Cipher One…a counterpart to Cipher Nine. He was also known as The Hand of Jadus. I believe the SIS referred to them as Alpha and Omega. And Nine was also known as Legate while she worked under Arden Kothe.”

“Legate was Cipher Nine? I’ll be damned.”

“Anyhow, up until that security capture you sent me, I’d believed One was dead.”

Balkar narrowed his eyes, “Is it me or…wait a minute…you had something going on with that guy…didn’t you?” He leaned over his cup of caf and grinned devilishly.

Lana averted her gaze and pursed her lips. “In the interest of full disclosure…yes, but that was a long time ago. I was fresh out of the academy, long before Darth Arkous hired me on as his advisor.”

“Sounds like there’s something still there…am I wrong?”

“Will you focus please?”

“You could say I have a sixth sense about these things,” Balkar shrugged. “So why’d you think he was dead?”

“He was aboard the Dominator with Darth Jadus…One said he was a part of his grand vision…as was Cipher Nine.

“Then why wasn’t she with them?”

“Jadus needed her to give validity to his disappearance. He knew she would search the ends of the galaxy to bring justice to the terror cell that caused his death.”

“Was there something between them?”

Lana sat back and shook her head appalled. “Why is that always the first thing you think of?”

“It just sounded to me like he mattered to her.”

“He did, as her better.”

“You know I really hate it when you Sith say that.”

“Fine. Apologies, I meant in a working capacity. He was her…superior…her employer, if you will.”

“You still didn’t answer my question.”

“Do I believe there was something between Jadus and Nine?” Lana shook her head. “I don’t know. I don’t think so.”

“Tell me more about Nine.”

“She works with us from time to time…she’s a ghost. Nearly impossible to track down…Darth Marr had the means…but regrettably we’ve lost him.”

“Lost him…Darth Marr is dead? What about Liatrix? She’s still alive, right? Right?” Balkar pressed.

Lana shook her head. “It’s unlikely. She was with Darth Marr aboard the Erinyes. I sensed his passing. Near as we can determine, they rammed the Erinyes into an enemy craft. Their bodies haven’t been recovered—we’re investigating but we’re not optimistic. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news. I know you and Theron cared about her deeply.”

“Theron thinks she died on Dromund Kaas. What about Scourge? And Lia’s children?”

“We found him adrift in his personal craft. His condition…well suffice it to say, it could be some time before we have any solid answers.” She stared down into her cup, “As for the younglings, they remain in the care of Darth Marr’s staff, until such time as Lord Scourge can resume his role as father and guardian.”

Balkar looked away. He forced his attention to a dancer gyrating about a pole at the next table. He kept his gaze locked on the lithe Nautolan’s moves until they became a blur. “Do you think Nine would be in on this?”

Lana shook her head. “I don’t think so. Nine,” she hesitated, “is in my opinion, a soft heart. Her methods are unusual for those in our field. I find it rather astonishing that she’s still alive, or that she was accepted into Intelligence in the first place, but owning the galaxy’s secrets…well, I suppose that serves as a potent insurance policy. She’s not the sort to misuse them. That and her companions, while an eclectic band, are rather formidable in their own right and they are loyal to her alone.”

“So...what happened to Jadus?”

“Nine outmanoeuvered him. She exposed his plan…millions were saved…but he’s still out there. I have the dossier here…if you wish to acquaint yourself with the events that followed. Needless to say, it’s against our security protocols, but if we are to work together, we must learn to trust one another.” Lana reached into her case and slipped the disc across the table.

Balkar dropped it into his inside breast pocket. “We’re no closer to finding Theron than we were before. I don’t suppose you have anything in that file about One. We need more about him…like where to find him.”

“I realize that.” Lana cocked her head, noting that he hadn’t made eye contact in at least ten minutes. “Are you all right?”

“What the hell do you think? Everyone I care about is dead or missing…probably dead,” he snarled.

Lana shirked back into her chair and blinked. Her lips parted as if she were about to speak but nothing came out.

“Kark…” He hissed and ran his hand through his hair. “I’m sorry—you didn’t deserve that.” He shook his head, “I haven’t been sleeping…it’s making me short.”

“Don’t misunderstand, I’m not unsympathetic Agent Balkar,” she began, “But I must admit I’m not the most adept at communicating emotion…it’s difficult for me.”

“That’s the most human thing I’ve ever heard you say,” Balkar murmured. “And please…call me Jonas. The last thing I want right now is to be formal…”

Lana smiled apologetically, “And formality is all I know…but given the circumstances, I will try.”

Balkar sat hunched over his caf for a long time. “I appreciate that…” He drew a deep breath and met her eyes. “We need a plan.”

“Agreed. With so little to go on, I think the only one who could help, is Nine.”

“But how do we find her?”

“If I had the answer to that question, matters would be far less complex.” Lana straightened and fell silent. Her gaze shifted between the entrance and exit, to the kitchen and restrooms. Men and women clad in dark garments flooded the lounge. “Jonas…we’d best be going now,” she whispered.

“Aw hell…” His gaze shot towards the ramp leading to the second floor lifts. “This way…C’mon.” He clasped her hand and drew her toward the crowded dance floor.

*****

Raina watched her husband sleep. His breathing was deep and slow, and even in the dim light, she could see his eyelids quiver with REM sleep. She pushed herself to the edge of the mattress, deliberately, carefully, to avoid jostling the bed.

She winced as she rose, her inner thighs tight and achy. She felt where he’d been with every step she took. After she dressed, she swiped his clearance from the nightstand.

She held her breath when the door hissed open to the bright hall outside their quarters. When he didn’t stir, she backed away from the entrance and started for the lab.

Thick dark glass separated the lab from the confinement cell. She peered through the glass and watched the test subject. She recognized the man as one of the SIS’s best field agents. While she’d never met him personally during her brief stint on Yavin 4, she knew his reputation.

He sat in the center of the bright room. He held his head between his hands, with his elbows planted over his knees.

“Best not take any chances…” She took the only remaining pistol in the locker and stowed it under her belt.

She slipped the access card into the reader. The doorlock clicked and slid open just enough to allow her entry.

The agent lifted his head and blood shot eyes stared at her. “Don’t come any closer. I mean it.” His voice and hands shook.

“Agent, I’m not here to hurt you, I promise.” She crept closer, and extended her hand. “My name is Raina. I want to help you.”

“I know what you want.” He shook his head incredulously. “Stay away.” His gaze strayed from her face to the pistol tucked under her belt.

“It’s all right, I won’t hurt you. Your name is Theron, isn’t it?”

His gaze shifted, and then he nodded slowly. Beads of sweat dotted his brow.

“Look, I was afraid you’d hurt me, that’s why I brought this with me. But look, I’m going to put it down. You’re safe.”

She drew the weapon from under her belt and set it on the table.

“No…I’m not safe. Neither are you. Go away, I’m begging you.”

“Listen to my voice Theron. I’m here to help you, but I must tell you something first.”

“What?”

“Whatever they’ve said, or done, you need to know that Nine is not the enemy. You mustn’t hurt her. Do you understand?” Raina waved her hand before him.

“You lie.”

“No Theron it’s the truth. Let me help you.”

“I don’t want your help. Get away from me.”

“You need help…I was sent to watch Darth Jadus, but this is wrong…keeping you here like this.”

“You’re a liar.” He dove for the pistol and turned it on her. “Get out of here, while you still can.”

“You won’t hurt me. And you mustn’t hurt Cipher Nine.” She passed her hand between them again.

“That Jedi trick isn’t going to work on me. You’re one of hers…”

“No…I promise Theron, I’m her friend and I want to be yours too.” She took a few steps closer and smiled.

“You have kind eyes…” His breathing quickened, “But it’s all a trick. That’s what this is…you’re not even real. Not real.”

“Give me the pistol Theron. You won’t hurt me.”

“I can’t…” His hands shook. He turned the pistol on himself, notching the end of the barrel against his temple.

“Please, put it down. You don’t want to do that.”

“No…you’re right. I don’t.” He lowered the pistol.

“That’s good. It’s the right thing to do.” Raina took another step closer.

“No…but this is.” He trained the pistol on her and pulled the trigger. The air between them shattered with a deafening zing and scarlet sparks.

Raina stood before him, her gaze dumbfounded. Blood trickled down her forehead between her eyes and over her nose. She collapsed and stared up at him, her eyes wide as if death hadn’t registered yet.

Theron lowered the weapon and cocked his head. “You’re still there…” He knelt beside her and dabbed at the dark puddle spreading under her head and shoulders. “You’re still there…you were supposed to vanish,” he muttered under his breath, still staring at the wetness staining his fingertips. He pointed the pistol at his head and pulled back the trigger several times in fast succession, but nothing happened. He hurled the pistol across the room.

The door to the lab slid open and One strode in. “You see? I told you, you’d know what to do when the time was right.”

“She’s still here…why?”

“Because this time…she was real.”

Theron shook his head, “No…no, I didn’t just kill her.”

“Oh yes…how else do you explain the blood?”

“Who was she?”

“No one important. Just my wife.”

Theron stared at the pretty young woman at his feet.

One slapped Theron’s shoulder, “Don’t fret my friend. She was a problem. And that’s what we do, we solve problems. Come—join me for tea…Corellian breakfast…your favorite.” He urged Theron out of the confinement unit and led him to the office adjacent to the lab. “Tea always makes you feel better.”

“Didn’t you love her?” Theron murmured.

“Hard to love someone whose been playing you from the off. Oh look…biscuits,” One pushed the plate toward Theron. “Go on…take one, and lets discuss the future.” One tipped the aurodium trimmed tea pot and filled a cup for each of them. “I prefer mine clear…you?”

Theron eyed the biscuit warily and then took it, as if expecting it to bite.

“You’re one of us now. Revel in it. That was inoculation.”

“I don’t understand…why?”

“Simple. Because of you, I lost someone very dear to me.”

Theron stared at the blood tainted biscuit in his hand.

“You really don’t understand do you?” One brought the tea cup to his lips with tapered long fingered hands. He blew at the steam and watched Theron through his opaque rectangular cybernetic spectacles.

Theron shook his head, but as he did he caught a glimpse of One’s pale ice blue eyes from behind the specs.

“Two years ago you cornered a woman…your government took her into custody. Your people questioned her…but she was in no condition to answer. It seems they were too stupid to realize she was damaged—they chalked it up to Imperial conditioning. She was no threat to you or the SIS. Come to think of it, she was no threat to anyone. She was brilliant once…until my associates systematically destroyed her mind. It’s an injustice that simply can’t be allowed to stand unanswered…so this is your due reward. Understand now?”

Theron nodded.

“Good. Now drink your tea. Few things are more foul than cold tea.”

((To be continued…))

PraetorianGuard_'s Avatar


PraetorianGuard_
12.05.2015 , 10:56 AM | #2
Oh wow....what a start!

bright_ephemera's Avatar


bright_ephemera
12.06.2015 , 10:00 AM | #3
Aaaaand subscribed. I have a deadly weakness for Imperial spies of all stripes.
the Short Fic Weekly Challenge - 100+ authors to date. 2600+ stories. New prompts weekly!
Bright's Fanfic Threads
---(Ceterum autem censeo, Malavai esse delendam.)--- DELETA MALAVAI EST

eonhazuie's Avatar


eonhazuie
12.06.2015 , 10:17 AM | #4
all I have to say is: Cipher one is cold as Hoth.
Red Eclipse
Eonao hatred/Eonhazuie Operative Medicine
Mirlah: seer/telekinetic /Ila-reim Kinetic Combat
The Dark Side, The Light side. It's just a moral system to me.

Lunafox's Avatar


Lunafox
12.06.2015 , 11:25 AM | #5
Quote: Originally Posted by PraetorianGuard_ View Post
Oh wow....what a start!
Thanks I'm glad you liked it! Starting is always a bit nerve-wracking.

Quote: Originally Posted by bright_ephemera View Post
Aaaaand subscribed. I have a deadly weakness for Imperial spies of all stripes.
Happy to have you with me I love the spies too, they're a lot of fun. SIS, Imperials, yum.

Quote: Originally Posted by eonhazuie View Post
all I have to say is: Cipher one is cold as Hoth.
He is a lovely one isn't he. Brrrr!

Lunafox's Avatar


Lunafox
12.11.2015 , 10:07 PM | #6
Spy Vs. Spy (Part Two)


Balkar tugged Lana behind him as he wove through the crowd of gyrating bodies on the dance floor. “S’cuse us, pardon us…comin’ through.”

“So sorry…apologies,” Lana called over her shoulder.

The glitterball hovering high above them spat speckles of blinding white purple light in all directions and the music booming from the speakers on the stage made Balkar feel like it was throwing off his heartbeat.

A pair of Gamorrean bouncers wielding spiked clubs, thundered down the stairs leading to the lifts. Balkar swore and searched for an opening. “There…the stage.”

“Are you mad?” Lana protested.

“D’you see another way?” Balkar hurtled toward the stage. “Jump!” He leapt onto the stage, half amazed that Lana landed gracefully beside him. “Have to say it, I’m impressed,” Balkar grinned. “This way.”

The five man Duros band swayed out of the way without missing a beat. The kloo player tore into a fantastic riff and slid across the stage clutching the instrument to his belly as he groped the squeal out of it.

A Twi’lek dancer clad entirely in black mesh writhed to the rhythm and Balkar screeched to a stop to admire her. “Has anyone told you how gorgeous you are? Hi, I’m Jonas…” He thrust his hand at the amused dancer, but before she could accept it, Balkar felt himself being dragged back stage. “Wha—?”

“You are insane! We have no time to socialize,” Lana hissed.

“Hey, just bein’ friendly.”

“Too friendly,” Lana snapped.

Balkar sing-songed, “Someone is jealous.” His gaze darted high and low as he searched for an out. He barely heard Lana growl in protest.

“There!” He dragged her toward a dangling rope, half amazed she hadn’t let go of him by now.

He twined the rope about his leg and gripped it tight with one hand. “Hold onto me,” he barked as he pulled out his pistol.

Lana swore under her breath and when he felt her arms around him, he shot a pair of rounds at the knot that anchored the lighting array. As it crashed down, they shot upwards to the catwalk.

“Are you done playing the hero yet?” Lana huffed.

“Why? Did you want a turn?” Balkar teased, as he planted her onto the narrow walkway.

“I swear you think this is funny. It isn’t, I assure you.”

“Is being grouchy gonna make it hurt less, if they catch us?”

Lana averted her gaze, “No—but…”

“There you go. C’mon. We need to get to the roof.”

“Why do people always run up when they’re in danger? There’s no where to go…”

“Conventional thinking.”

“Sane thinking, you mean,” Lana hissed.

Balkar ignored her gripe and kicked the service door to the roof open. The wind rushed around him, fluttering his clothes and sending shivers up his spine. Nar Shaddaa’s air was warm, stale and heavy with exhaust fumes. “Helluva view from up here.” He stalked out onto the service deck, seemingly marvelling at the bright colourful lights.

Lana followed, practically on his heels. “Bit garish for my liking.”

“You just can’t appreciate the beauty in anything can you.” He peered over the edge and watched the taxis below, docking on the upper promenade.

“Now what?” Lana glanced down at the decks leading to the upper and lower public levels. “We’ve no where to go…” The wind pulled her hair, its wispy fine strands like spider silk across her face.

The door to the roof swung open and a legion of dark cloaked figures emerged. “Get them! Don’t let them get away!”

“They’re upon us!” Lana hissed and was about to reach for her lightsaber.

Balkar scowled when an idea struck him. “Do you trust me?” He thrust his hand at her.

“Do I have a choice?”

“Well, you could take your chances with the darkness brigade…”

“I think not.” She clasped his hand and yelped as he tugged her over the edge to free fall through Nar Shadaa’s hyperlanes. The air rushed around them and Lana tightened her grip on Balkar’s hand.

Lines of speeders swerved and honked to miss them. The wind tugged at their skin and a rapid string of profanity reached Balkar’s ears. He laughed as he fell, and then he caught sight of what he was hoping for, and not a moment too soon.

We’re going to die, Lana thought. She expected visions of family and moments of regret as they plummeted. A multi-coloured flashing ark loomed below. Shards of pink and green light cut through the pollution from under the canopy of the party barge. The driving rhythm of the hit band, Eloo and the Stinky 7 curled around them.

“Music to die for!” Balkar shouted.

“What?! No!”

“Doncha like top forty?”

“How can you joke?” Lana squeezed her eyes shut before impact. She shrieked as they bounced across the canvas, and as if matters couldn’t get any worse, she lost her hold on Balkar. She scrambled for a hold, but anything she reached for slipped out of reach.

Balkar tumbled and pounced on her before she shot over the edge. “Gotcha! You don’t get away from me that easy…”

She glared up at him breathlessly, “You idiot! We could’ve been killed!”

Balkar hovered over her and smirked. “But we weren’t. Hey is that your lightsaber…”

“Well it certainly isn’t yours!”

His eyebrow twitched, “It could be if you were a little nicer.”

“Get off me,” Lana warned.

“You sure you want me to do that? We’re pretty high up.”

“Get off! We can’t stay like this.”

“Why? Are you as turned on as I am?”

“No!” Lana’s cheeks flushed as red as Coruscanti blood roses. “We need to get out of sight.”

“Hold tight. Just a couple more blocks and we’ll be fine, you’ll see.”

“I hate you Agent Balkar.”

“Damn…and just when I thought you were warming up to me.” He snapped his fingers in mock defeat.

*****

One clasped Theron’s shoulders and turned him to face the mirror. “That’s much better, don’t you think?”

Theron’s gaze ran the length of the reflection before him, but what he saw there wasn’t him. His face was his own, so was his posture, but the expensive custom suit, complete with thin leather gloves could’ve belonged to a politician or a Sith, or an assassin. “It’s not me.”

“Of course it is…it’s just a part of you, you haven’t acknowledged yet. It’s always a bit surreal when you come face to face with your ultimate potential.” One fussed with Theron’s lapel and affixed an elegant aurodium pin, and then moved on to adjust the shimmersilk pocket square to the left of his heart.

“Surreal…yeah that works,” Theron muttered.

“Enough with the scraps from the SIS. Haven’t you wondered what it might be like having the best of everything for once in your life? Come, come, now—be honest.”

“I suppose…who hasn’t?”

“Now we’re getting somewhere. You know working with me isn’t so different than your previous post…I suppose the most vibrant difference would be that I’m going to allow you the freedom the SIS and the Jedi never did. They never understood what it takes for men like us to get the job done. You remember the time you were censured for investigating the climate on Ziost?”

“You know about that?”

“Of course I do. You should have been promoted and praised not scolded like an untrained akk dog. Were it not for you, both the Republic and Empire would have been lost. And yet that woman had the audacity to reprimand you for using her precious Jedi to get to the truth…”

“She was my mother…”

“Was she really? Ask yourself, what did she ever do for you since bringing you screaming into a war torn galaxy? Did she acknowledge you? Love you, clothe you? Feed you?”

“No…”

One nodded sympathetically. “No. Instead she gave you away. You didn’t matter to her. Nor did you matter to her Jedi. They all thought themselves above you. What did they do when they learned you had no power? They cast you out—sent you to that hall of lessers,” he snorted. “The SIS—where the Jedi send their rejects and problems. You’ve been cast aside your entire life. There has always been something or someone more than you. But no longer.” One clasped Theron’s shoulder and gave it a squeeze. “You’ll come to see that working with me, is the best thing that could’ve happened to you.”

Theron frowned. “But you said that I was the one who arrested your…”

“Shara yes,” One nodded. “You arrested her by order of the SIS. And that is why you’re here now.”

“I don’t understand…”

“Cipher Nine and our old Keeper destroyed Shara’s mind. She was bred and conditioned for loyalty and they turned her into a renegade. She wasn’t made for that. You were a renegade…but the balance has been restored now.” He leaned in close to whisper, “Now, you’re loyal to me. I do hope for your sake, you’ll abide by the training I’ve given you. There’s something I wish to show you…come with me.”

“All right…” Theron followed One to the display monitor.

“This is Shara…” One tapped the access code to the feed. “Our old Keeper and Nine decided she should have deconditioning…to live a normal life away from the Empire. Even if it had worked, it would have been torture for her. Imagine turning one of our foremost minds into an average one…suffice it to say, it would be hell.”

Theron leaned in closer to watch the feed at the asylum. “She’s not moving.”

“No, of course not, she’s paralysed. The surgery…failed. All her hair gone—eyes vacant now. She doesn’t even know me anymore. Is that any way to live?”

“Why don’t they…” Theron took a breath, “Why don’t they euthanize her if there is no hope?”

“She’s no longer a citizen of the Empire…well, not our Empire.”

“Then whose?”

“The Zakuul…this is an example of their mercy. Keeping her like this…awake but aware of nothing.”

“If you know where she is, why don’t you help her?”

“It’s not as easy as that. You see…there are obstacles. Tell me…would you like to help her? Make right what you did?”

Theron’s gaze fixed on Shara’s image once more. “Help…yeah. That’s what I do…I help people…” His brows furrowed and he stared off into the distance as if he had something important to remember, but couldn’t.

One’s lips curled up at the corners. “Excellent. We’re going to help a great many people, you and I.”

The com unit chimed, and the image of one of Jadus’s twelve automatons sprouted up from the device. “Lord Jadus desires a word with you,” he said in a robotic monotone.

“Of course, I’ll be there momentarily.”

*****

“Get ready to jump. That roof is our stop.” Balkar warned. He stood and shifted his weight to counter the wobble and bounce of the canvas underfoot. “Take my hand.”

Lana teetered and winced at the lack of a stability. “Fine,” she muttered and clasped his hand. The wind whipped her hair in front of her eyes. “It would be easier, if I could actually see. Blasted wind.”

“You’re fine. On three…we drop. One…two…three!” Balkar leapt off the canvas roof of the party barge, Lana at his side.

Balkar landed with a grunt. “See? That wasn’t so bad, was it?”

“Let’s get out of sight, shall we? Before all this is for naught…”

“Don’t gotta tell me twice. C’mon.”

Ten minutes later, Balkar edged open the door to his safehouse. “Stay back…” He put his finger to his lips. He drew his blaster and ducked into each of the three rooms and then nodded. “We’re clear.”

“This is your safehouse?”

Balkar shrugged, “Yeah, home away from home. I know it’s not much but I’ll give you the grand tour.”

Lana shut and secured the door behind her and explored the sparsely furnished apartment. “No need, I think I can figure out the three rooms all by myself.”

“Well, just in case, the refresher is through that door. The pleasure palace is through there,” Balkar winked.

“Let’s just get down to business shall we?”

“Yes ma’am.” He shucked his coat and slid in next to her on the chesterfield. “Drink? I’ve got a great vintage of Corellian brandy stocked…” He snatched up the bottle off the caf table and tilted it back and forth, as if trying to decide if there was enough for two drinks.

“Not that kind of business Agent Balkar…”

“Jonas. Remember?”

“I wish I didn’t,” she muttered.

“Wow, Theron never mentioned how much of a buzzkill you are.”

“I imagine that would be because he’s a gentleman. At any rate…we need a plan.”

“Sure, but tell me first…what the hell was that at the Slippery Slope? They weren’t comin’ after me…they were after you.”

“It’s complicated.”

“I think I can keep up. Try me.” Balkar poured himself three fingers of brandy and sank back into his end of the chesterfield.

“After Darth Marr’s passing…others took it upon themselves to usurp his authority over the spheres he governed, Sith Intelligence being one of them. I had hoped Lord Scourge would have taken his place...but that seems unlikely, at least in the interim. Darth Ravage and Darth Mortis remain unaccounted for…I’ve little doubt they’d have taken control were they able…”

“So who’s running the show in the Empire then?”

“That…would be Darth Acina,” Lana forced the name through her teeth.

“I’m getting the vibe you and she don’t get along.”

“She’s insufferable. Needless to say, she had her people ransack Intelligence…and when she discovered my communications with you, my past dealings with Theron…and…” She lowered her gaze and stared at the lurid purple rug under her feet.

“And what?”

“It seems one of her people has a capture of that time when I released you and Theron from Lord Scourge’s custody, back on Dromund Kaas.”

“So…Acina’s branded you as a traitor and you’ve been sacked from your position as Minister. Right?”

“Yes…that about sums it up, quite neatly in fact. She has the gall to call herself Empress now. So…I’m unable to return home, my assets have been seized, and now to add insult to injury it appears she’s having me hunted by her own personal death squad.”

“You need this more than I do.” He pressed the untouched brandy into her clasped hands. “Go on drink up…I’m not going to try to take advantage of you after one drink…I usually try after three or four, it ups my chance of success.”

Lana stared down at the quivering amber liquid in the glass. She cracked a grin and laughed in spite of her resolve. “I suppose I needed that…thank you.”

“Look…it’s not the end of the world. We can hole up here for as long as we need to…sort out how to get Theron back safe…and then…we’ll see? We’re all in the same boat really…we’re actually in a pretty good position.” Balkar poured himself the left over brandy.

“And how do you see that?”

“We can do whatever the hell we want.”

“I suppose you’re right. No one to answer to but each other.”

“Now you’re getting it.” He clinked his tumbler against hers.

*****

“Lord Jadus.” One clasped his hands behind his back and waited to be acknowledged. The conference table usually surrounded by the jury was empty and the chamber echoed with the slightest movement by either of them.

“Agent, I understand the subject performed as expected. Your methods of indoctrination have proven effective and you have earned my esteem.”

“Thank you Lord Jadus. The subject grows more devoted with each passing moment.”

“I would see you continue your work on a grander scale.”

“Preparations are already underway,” One tilted his head in deference.

“The dawn of my ascension is upon us—a new epoch, agent—an epoch—pregnant with enmity and loathing the likes of which the galaxy has merely sampled. Upon my advent, I will expunge every faithless recreant nibbling at the crumbs of the Empire’s majesty, and the devoted, will be uplifted and know that I, and I alone am their patriarch.” Jadus grasped the air in his fist and held it fast.

One stifled a yawn and paced, his brows pursed. “My lord, as always I am inspired and elevated by your vision, but there is something that has come to my attention…Darth Acina has declared herself Empress…over the remains of the Empire…an easy assertion when any who would challenge her are dead or missing. Shall I make Acina the first note in your grand opus?”

Jadus stood over him. One could feel the familiar dark side oozing from the Sith as if sifting through a membrane to coil around him, unseen censors probing his devotion.

One’s expression remained constant, a skill he’d perfected after years spent in Jadus’ proximity. Jadus prided himself in affecting his charges to the point of nausea and panic.

My body will not betray me. My blood will not boil and my heart will beat as it always has. I am already tainted, One thought, careful to conceal the mantra in the depths of his mind.

“Remove the usurper as you see fit, agent. Dismissed.”

“Of course my lord. With pleasure.” One bowed slightly and after three backwards steps, he turned his back on the Sith lord and smiled.

*****

Theron took a swallow of his tea and slowly lowered the cup to its saucer. He cocked his head and listened.
Nothing. He shook his head as if this would clear his mind. I heard something…whispers?

He explored the new quarters One had assigned him upon his promotion and something in the mirror caught the corner of his eye. What the hell was that?

Theron crossed the room and stood before the mirror and stared at his reflection. The more he stared, the more he appreciated what he saw. The suit draped him fluidly. Visual perfection. I look good, he thought.

Look closer…

The voice wasn’t Theron’s, but it was in his head. Who is that? The voice wasn’t unfamiliar, but like a distant echo.

Look closer Theron…go on son, look closer.

Theron scowled, but couldn’t resist the invitation. He peered into the mirror, until his nose practically touched the surface. A scarlet fleshed monster donning the same black suit Theron wore leapt out at him and he scuttled backwards and gasped. He dared a glance at the mirror again. The creature was no longer there, but the memory of it was seared into his memory.

“That wasn’t a monster…it was…me,” Theron murmured.

It’s what you’ll become…the strange voice warned.

“Who the hell are you…who’s in my head?” He clasped his head in his hands and growled in frustration.

Look again…

“If you think I’m going to fall for that again…”

No tricks this time…

Theron dropped his hands and straightened. He looked over at the mirror once more and his mouth fell open.
“It can’t be…Master Kothe…but you’re dead!”

The door to his quarters slid open and One strolled in, tapping the side of his chronometer….

Theron shot a glance at the mirror. Ardun Kothe had vanished.

“What’s the matter Theron? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

((to be continued…))

Coge's Avatar


Coge
12.14.2015 , 12:05 AM | #7
Love the action. The escape through Nar Shaddaa was great. One is a scary SOB. He's got balls if he's scheming against Jadus. Keep it up Luna!

Lunafox's Avatar


Lunafox
12.14.2015 , 11:37 AM | #8
Quote: Originally Posted by Coge View Post
Love the action. The escape through Nar Shaddaa was great. One is a scary SOB. He's got balls if he's scheming against Jadus. Keep it up Luna!

Thanks! Glad to hear you enjoyed it! One scares even me sometimes, he's a real piece of work lol.

RikeG's Avatar


RikeG
12.15.2015 , 04:27 PM | #9
Lana needs to assert herself or Jonas will cheerfully drag her into ever deeper trouble. I'm glad they go after Theron for a rescue. ( Or maybe he has to rescue them afterwards considering how they go about it.)

Lunafox's Avatar


Lunafox
12.16.2015 , 07:33 PM | #10
Quote: Originally Posted by RikeG View Post
Lana needs to assert herself or Jonas will cheerfully drag her into ever deeper trouble. I'm glad they go after Theron for a rescue. ( Or maybe he has to rescue them afterwards considering how they go about it.)
Jonas does love his adventures lol. I'm amazed she's still speaking to him after last week's free fall through Nar Shaddaa traffic lol. I think after that she can pretty much handle anything really lol.