The Sixth Line: Part Two
Surro’s team crawled along the mountain ledge to follow Bowenn’s man on the ground. Garault lagged behind, his expression still one of shock over Danak’s death. But he was moving -- that was all Surro could ask of him. The soldier hurried into one of the grey tents located at the far side of the camp. The crimson banners of the Empire flanked the entrance.
“Ivo must be inside,” Landai whispered.
Surro nodded, pulling out her macrobinoculars for a closer look. As expected, the tent interior was sparse, containing a simple metal desk and a few chairs. Besides the soldier they’d been following, three more Imperials stood around the room. A blue Twi’lek sat in one of the chairs. He had a nervous look, yellow eyes jumping from one soldier to the next in quick succession. From his worn civilian clothing, Surro could only assume this was Ivo.
“Recognize him?” Surro asked, passing the macrobinoculars down the line to Landai and Onok.
Landai shook her head. “Twitchy, isn’t he?”
“Looks Balmorran,” Onok said. “I don’t remember him from patrol.”
Garault took the macrobinoculars numbly, a small tremor in his hand. Surro waited for his assessment, but the Jedi remained silent.
“What do you want to do?” Landai asked.
Surro took a deep breath. She could feel their anxiousness. Even Onok, quiet and unassuming, wanted blood. It was easy to give in to that desire. But they were Jedi. Untraditional, perhaps, but Jedi all the same. Still, Ivo was a problem. He’d been able to uncover her best scout and was obviously in the Empire’s pocket. He needed to be dealt with, but not necessarily by way of a lightsaber.
“He took the credits,” Garault murmured. He held the macrobinoculars tight against his face. Surro was sure they would leave an impression in his fair skin.
“We need more information,” Surro pressed.
Landai sighed and rubbed the corners of her eyes. “We’re not going to find that sitting here.”
“He’s on the move,” Garault said. Ivo emerged from the tent, glancing around as he rushed towards the camp exit.
“Let’s tail him. See where he leads us,” Surro commanded. “Do not attack -- even if you have an opening. I’ll assess the situation. We do what’s best for the mission.”
Ivo was slippery. Surro assumed they would be able to follow the sound of his speeder’s repulsorlift engine, but the Twi’lek preferred to slink through the darkness on foot. After doubling back a few times, Surro worried he was onto them. When he eventually continued forward, it seemed more likely this was a part of a paranoid routine. Not that she could blame him… he was being trailed.
Despite his size and mental state, Garault was as light-footed and silent as the rest of the team. Surro tried not to look at him or remember the way Danak’s head had jerked when Bowenn blasted him. It was done. Surro had known Jedi who spent a lifetime second guessing their decisions, questioning whether they made the “right” choice. Right was irrelevant. Through rigorous training, she had learned to empty herself of emotion. This mental state brought clarity and Surro could act without prejudice or passion. Contemplation only brought doubt -- a gateway for more dangerous emotions.
After two hours of walking, a small hut came into view. Surro signaled the others to hold as Ivo disappeared behind the door.
“Landai, go around. Check if there’s a back entrance.” When the Mirialan nodded, Surro turned to the men. “Guard the front in case he tries to bolt.”
“Understood,” Onok replied. Surro lingered on Garault, waiting for an affirmation. After some hesitation, he gave her a curt nod.
They moved swiftly and without a sound, their steps falling in unison. Once in position, Garault motioned the all-clear for Surro to enter.
Ivo was in the midst of preparing dinner when Surro charged through the door. Time seemed to slow as his yellow eyes widened, then speed up when he jumped for his blaster. But Surro was faster. Stronger. Catching his leg, she yanked Ivo back. His jaw snapped against the ground with a sickening crack.
“Don’t move,” Surro ordered, a crease in her brow.
Ivo went still. Tears formed in his eyes. Surro feared his jaw was broken. She leaned over to confiscate the blaster. “Can you talk?”
“That hurt,” Ivo croaked.
“Good.” Surro relaxed. “Answer my questions.”
Ivo winced as he nodded.
Surro paced the length of the hut. “You turned in a man to an Imperial encampment tonight. Why?”
“He was a spy.”
“You, obviously,” Ivo sneered.
Surro paused. “I don’t ask questions twice.”
Ivo curled into a defensive position and covered his wounded face. “The Resistance! Who else?”
“Who else…” Surro repeated his words softly. “You would turn in one of your own?”
Ivo wrinkled his nose in disgust. “My own are going to destroy this planet. You can’t fight the Empire. It’s suicide.”
“What about the Republic?” Surro heard Garault ask behind her. She inhaled sharply, tightening her grip on the blaster.
“The Republic?” Ivo asked, confused. “No matter how you look at it, they abandoned us.”
Surro could feel Garault’s anger, see the images playing in his head. “How did you capture him?”
“I’m quiet. People don’t notice me.” Ivo spat blood-swirled saliva. “Saw your man poking around the factory. Saw an opportunity and brought attention to myself.”
Ivo shrugged. “Made like I broke my leg. He got close – to help, I guess – and I stunned him.”
Waves of dark energy rolled from Garault’s body. For the first time in years, Surro felt fear, real blood-quickening fear.
“Did you know they would execute him?” Garault pushed.
Ivo didn’t answer.
“He did,” Surro whispered. “You know he did.”
Garault reached for his lightsaber. Surro jumped in front of Ivo. “Garault… There is no contemp-”
“Don’t,” he growled.
“There is only-”
Holding the smooth durasteel grip, Garault ignited the weapon and stared Surro down. “He was my brother.”
“You’re Jedi?” Ivo gasped.
Surro maintained her calm demeanor and offered Garault the blaster. “There is no contemplation, there is only duty.”
Garault’s hand hovered over the weapon, his face knitted with anguish. The tips of his fingers touched the cool metal. Surro’s heart weighed heavy in her chest.
After a long moment, Garault dropped to his knees and waved a hand in front of Ivo’s eyes. “You stumbled on your way home from the Imperial outpost.”
“I stumbled on my way home from the Imperial outpost,” Ivo responded in a mindless monotone. Surro exhaled and closed her eyes.
“You never saw us,” Garault said through clenched teeth.
“I never saw you.”
The garish lights of Coruscant’s streets irritated Surro’s eyes. She hurried through the crowds, seeking the quiet of her bare apartment. Turning down a side alley, she walked three more blocks before reaching the door. As Surro punched in the access code, she sensed something off. She’d left the warzone on Balmorra years ago, but the feeling of the place followed her.
Surro entered the dark room and waited. “What do you want?”
“I’m impressed,” a man answered. “I can usually sneak up on anyone.”
“I don’t have a lot of furniture.”
He chuckled, then moved to turn on the lights. Surro winced at the sudden light. Her intruder leaned against the wall, arms crossed. He wore a red leather jacket and cybernetics adorned his left eye. “Do you know who I am?”
“Call me Theron,” he replied. “You and your team did good work on Balmorra – laid the groundwork for future success. You’re different from other Jedi.”
“You’re referring to our nickname,” Surro said with a hint of annoyance.
Theron nodded. “‘The Sixth Line.’ A missing mantra from the Jedi Code. Pretty bold.”
“Why are you here?”
“I need Jedi with that mindset.” Theron pushed himself from the wall to stand in front of Surro. “That level of devotion to the mission.”
Surro hesitated. She, Garault, Landai, and Onok had left the hut that night with a strong bond. She knew they would follow her no questions asked. For the briefest moment, Surro wondered if they should.
Theron handed her a report. “Ziost.”