Star Wars Infinities: The Warrior
By Christopher W. Blaine (firstname.lastname@example.org)
DISCLAIMER: The characters and situations contained in this story are ©2002 by George Lucas and are used herein without permission for fan-related, non-profit entertainment purposes only. This original work of fiction is ©2002 by Christopher W. Blaine and may not be reproduced in part or as a whole without the express permission of the author.EPISODE II: THE WARRIOR
It is a dark time for the galaxy. The GALACTIC EMPIRE has a firm grip on the populated systems and the rebellion against EMPEROR PALPATINE is being threatened with being extinguished before it can even begin. Using a secret super weapon called the DEATH STAR, the EMPEROR intends on ruling through fear instead of decree.
With the JEDI KNIGHTS all but extinct, a plan has been devised by BAIL ORGANNA to have his daughter LEIA, the twin of LUKE SKYWALKER, trained in the JEDI arts by QUINLAN VOS, the only known member of the JEDI COUNCIL to have escaped the purges. To do so, though, puts the last remaining JEDI in grave danger of being discovered.
Elsewhere, GARM BEL IBLIS, a former senator from CORELLIA, has begun to put together a formal alliance of the various rebellions against the EMPIRE. Secretly funded by both ALDERAAN and CHANDRILLA, he hopes to soon rally many more worlds to his cause.
Now, MON MOTHMA, leader of the people of CHANDRILLA, is meeting with TALON KARDE, a businessman and smuggler, discussing a way to aid the growing REBELLION financially…
Talon Karde smoothed his neatly trimmed beard and crossed his leg again, trying to remain nonchalant about the entire affair. The truth was that he was nervous, as this was his first meeting with so high an official in any world government. Mon Mothma's reputation preceded her like a blast of wind before a firestorm. Smuggling, Talon's principle enterprise now that he was working on his own, was not very welcome here, not being so close to Imperial Center.
There was also the fact that this system was technically Black Sun territory and any business arrangements made here would eventually have to be approved by the local vigo if he were to have any hope of doing his job unmolested. Right now, he couldn't afford to make any huge mistakes; he had everything riding on this venture. All of the money he had saved for the past decade, ever since he had begun work for his first organized criminal group, had been invested into his shipping company.
On the outside, Karde Enterprises was nothing more than a cargo hauling business. Behind closed doors and underneath false deckplates, however, is where the real profits were made. Unfortunately, those profits were not as high as he had hoped to realize once he became independent, but he was still relatively new at all of this and was working on his reputation.
"Mr. Karde," Mon Mothma said as she entered the suite, a warm and gracious smile on her face, "how kind of you to meet with me."
Talon stood up and accepted her outstretched hand. He placed a light kiss on it, something he was roguishly famous for, and returned her greeting. "I do not see how I could refuse such an invitation," he said. He looked her over quickly, making as many guesses about the woman as he could. He filed away each point in his mind for later comparison to what was actually known, just to see if he could still read people.
Her beauty had started to fade and the short hairstyle she sported made her look older than what he suspected she was. It was an act, of course, because her hand had been warm to the touch, indicating someone on the go, someone whose life was filled with adventure.
The again, he supposed, maybe she was just warm all of the time.
Behind her stepped in someone entirely different. He recognized her immediately as Mothma's daughter, Mara, the product of an illicit affair the Chandrillian president had with Viceroy Bail Organna of Alderaan. She was stunning to look at, with deep green eyes and a mane of fiery red hair. She was dressed in a jumpsuit that left little to the imagination as to whether or not she was fully functional, as a tech friend of Talon's liked to say.
Mon Mothma seemed to sense Talon's thoughts. "Mara, dear, please excuse us for a moment," she said. Mara seemed to be annoyed at being ordered out, but she complied easily enough.
"You're daughter is quite fetching," Talon remarked.
Mon Mothma beckoned him to sit down. "Yes, well, she comes from strong blood lineage." They then engaged in small talk, mostly about how Talon had established his business and what planets had the toughest trade laws.
"Ever since the Empire shut down both the Trade Federation and the Hutts, it has been very profitable for those of us in legitimate shipping," he added at the end.
Mon Mothma laughed. "Please, Mr. Karde, let us not…how do you say it…beat around the bush."
Talon's smiled remained but his eyes began to search the room for any secret doors that might open, revealing death clad in stormtrooper armor. Smuggling was a capital offense in the Empire.
Of course, all offenses carried a possible death penalty in the Empire, he mused. "I'm afraid I don't know exactly how to respond to that, Madam President."
"Have you ever met Prince Xizor of the Falleen?" she asked in a sweet voice.
It baffled him that she would even mention the one being in the entire galaxy that Talon was sure had more influence then the Emperor. However, he was sure that she only knew Xizor by his royal title as a member of the Falleen court. There was no possible way she could know of his more important role as head of Black Sun, the largest and most powerful criminal organization in the known galaxy. "I'm afraid I don't travel to the Falleen homeworld very often."
"He said you would say something to that effect," she said with a dismissive wave of her hand. "Mr. Karde, may I be blunt?"
He smiled. "By all means."
"I would like to recruit you to perform smuggling operations for certain…groups of persons. You will be smuggling everything from food to weapons to people." She sighed before continuing. "While I can promise you fair payment, I cannot promise you that by agreeing to this you will have secured yourself a safe position in life. The truth is that by asking you to do this, I'm committing treason and if you leave here right now and report me, you will most likely gain the favor of Emperor Palpatine himself."
Talon again forced his face to remain impassive, but his mind was afire as he considered the knowledge he was gaining. He was now privy to one of the most guarded secrets in the galaxy, the identity of an Imperial government official who was part of the rebellion!
Stirrings of discontent had been around ever since the New Order had been formed by Palpatine, but every smuggler knew that there was a growing, organized resistance movement forming up in the darkest corners of the Emperor's realm. His reward for turning Mon Mothma in would indeed be quite substantial, but the thought of doing it never really got any consideration.
Talon had struck out on his own because he was tired of the cutthroat tactics of the smaller gangs, and he had no desire to become another number in the Black Sun organization. While he was a criminal, he was a criminal with a conscience. Certainly he had smuggled spice before, but he knew if he didn't do it, someone else would; it was a simple law of supply and demand. At the same time, however, he understood that using spice was a choice, whereas slavery was not.
Slavery had been officially outlawed in the Empire shortly after Darth Deceptra had been named commander of the armed forces, but it was still practiced on many planets. Talon did not deal with slaves, nor did he hire himself out as an assassin either. He supplied the pleasures of freedom, true freedom that sometimes flew in the face of so-called moral decency. He was a criminal for sure, but that did not make him scum.
"A tempting offer, my dear Madam, but one I must refuse. I have no desire to become involved in a political struggle," he replied.
"But you already are, Mr. Karde," she corrected. "You are a smuggler because the Empire sees to it that the people are denied many of the things that a free society offers. With the exception of say, spice smuggling, would you venture to say that most of your smuggling business would be legitimate under, say, the Old Republic?"
"Ah, but then I would have to deal with baby-stealing, manipulative Jedi Knights," Talon countered. "You'll forgive me if I don't see that as much better."
"Lies, so many lies have been woven about the Jedi since the purges," she lamented. "Yes, they may have taken their pacifism and loyalty to their order too far, but they were good men and women. I knew many of them, counted them as my friends…"
Seeing that she was about to shed tears, Talon reached out and grasped her hand. "I am truly sorry for your loss, but you must understand that I am not a patriot. I am a businessman trying to turn a profit."
"Then I guess he was wrong about you," she said, pulling her hands away.
"Whom may I ask?"
"Prince Xizor. Oh, don't look so shocked; believe me when I say some of us are more than aware of what really goes on in the galaxy." She stood up, ready to end their meeting. "He told me that you were an honest man in a dishonest trade, that you were someone who could be trusted. Know it or not, your reputation is well-known by many, Talon Karde, and you are respected for your integrity. I will not beg, however; I will find someone else if I must."
Talon stood up as well. "I thank the lady for allowing me the pleasure of her company and rest assured that this conversation will go no farther than this room."
Mon Mothma thanked him. "Be wary, Talon Karde; there is a storm coming to this galaxy. There are things you cannot even imagine out there waiting to become the stuff of nightmares." With that, she turned and left, to be replaced by two large security men who hurriedly rushed Talon out of the presidential palace and back to his awaiting shuttle.
He sat at the controls for a long minute, his finger hovering over the engine start button. To think that Xizor himself had recommended him! What did that reptile hope to gain from all of this? No doubt he planned to exploit this rebellion in some way to benefit Black Sun. He could not possibly have rebel sympathies, could he?
Well, Talon thought, he certainly didn't. Taking on a local magistrate or militia was one thing, but going up against an Empire was something else entirely. Besides, it wasn't that bad under the Empire was it?
"Of course it is," he said out loud. He thought about all of the poverty he had seen and all of the losses he had taken when he just didn't have the heart to say no to someone who didn't have all of the money necessary to pay for a shipment of medicine or food. Of course he always made up the money by marking up the shipments of the people who could afford to pay!
He had plans, though, to start an organization that specialized not just in smuggling, but also in information gathering and so many other lucrative enterprises. So many credits were waiting to be made, but how many of those credits would be had at the expense of others? He had heard the rebel talk of freedom and democracy, a lost notion in the universe of the New Order. He wondered if it really had been all that bad under the Jedi blanket of protection. He had been far too young to remember the Jedi, but he understood many of the things they claimed they stood for.
His body told him to push the button, fire up the engines and head back to the modified corvette he was currently operating out of. His heart told him otherwise.
From a business point of view, it made good sense to get in on the ground floor of the rebellion smuggling game. The rebellion was bound to grow and so would their needs. If he could somehow get in on it, and even deal a couple of blows to the stuffy old military supply officers at the same time, why not?
What had gotten him, though, had been the look on Mon Mothma's face when she had given him that final cryptic warning. It hadn't been a threat for refusing her offer; indeed it had been the opposite. It had been a warning of things that were about to happen and if Talon didn't do something, he had the sinking feeling he was going to end up on the wrong end of a blaster very early in his life.
With a wry grin, realizing that he could learn something about negotiations from Mon Mothma, he decided to shut down and see if she would see him again. Besides, he thought, she had a cute daughter. Who knew what could happen?