Chapter Eight: Delving Part 1
On the second moon of the third planet in the Chembgard System, property of the Royal House of Tarmask, sat the expansive station simply known as Axis. The mid rim port sat at the edge of the Tarmask Empire where special permits were required to travel within their space and Axis was the gateway. A transfer port for cargo and passengers from unsanctioned craft to permitted ones, yet unlike its seedier counterparts scattered about the galaxy, Axis was a reflection of its owners.
Pristine facilities that were constantly maintained by cleaning droid and being alike was a welcoming sight to all manner of travelers, or at least those allowed to land. Luxury hotels surrounded artificial parks, Class-A ship facilities and maintenance stations dotted the moon's surface, for like Coruscant, the Tebben moon was a city unto itself. The Tarmask Royal Gendarme who kept the peace and stifled all illegal activities also heavily patrolled the port.
In the bowels of the Unibis Maintenance Facility, far from the eyes of high class visitors, on the northern hemisphere, in docking bay 1138, sat theSilver Tahka , a Kuat L7-9 light freighter that had seen better days. Its formerly sleek chrome body was battered and dulled with carbon scoring. A patchwork of gunmetal gray panels replaced a number of the original panels.
Members of the young, ashen-faced Senebrak crew buzzed about effecting a number of repairs to the damaged craft. The thin black tattoos of their Buhka heritage that lined their faces only added to the looks of determination as they quickly worked. From three separate points, showers of sparks exploded from welding equipment and hammers thrummed against the body. Two A3 droids, pint sized versions of their Astromech R2 series cousins, zipped about communing with the ship's computer and doing their own repairs.
Overseeing the work was the large Selé, Captain Sapporo. Like his crew, his long silver hair was pulled back and plaited to stay safely out of the way during work. With his arms folded across his chest and sharp black eyes that studied the repairs as well as his horn-crested head, he presented a menacing figure. Yet, his royal blue clothing reflected the grease and grime of sharing the workload with his crew.
A weary arm brushed across his red tattooed face as he wiped the moisture from his pale skin. Slowly raising his hand in the air, he waved at the men while simultaneously calling for a break time in his people's native tongue, the Busse.
The dozen faces look up and smiles of relief erupted over tired faces as they came to a stop.
As the young men broke from their duties and headed toward the nearest exit, Sapporo honored them with thanks for their hard work and dedications. After they were gone though, he allowed a heavy sigh to escape. Break time would not come for him until his ship was in working order again.
The boys, as he often called the young men, needed their time to roam and relax. He understood that. He would give them a few hours to find food, nap or partake in whatever other entertainments they chose, so long as it did not stir up trouble or cause him any embarrassment.
His tall stature was forced to crouch, almost crawl under the belly of his ship as he found the small work area of one of the welders. In the time that they would be gone, he could close up the remaining panels and speed them a little closer to returning to the trade routes. For the longer they sat, the more money they lost in late fees, lost job and hangar costs and loss of cargo as the fresh herbs he carried were slowly going bad.
Just as Sapporo picked up the equipment, the high-pitched squawk of one of the A3 units grabbed his attention. Twisting about on the stool, he spied a figure at the far edge of the ship.
Scratchy eyes narrowed as he strained to make out the shapelessness of a brown cloak. Quietly searching the nearby toolbox, he found a large hydrospanner and slipped it up into the wide sleeve of his work suit.
Moving silently under the ship, at a crouch and never allowing his attention to stray from the still figure, he exited to the far side, away from his visitor. He did not want to get surprised coming face to face with whatever trouble this might be. His ravaged ship was more than enough.
Peeking around the edge of the starboard engine, he watched as the hooded figure pulled a data pad into the folds of his tunic.
"What do you want?" the Selé born Senebrak asked in a cultured Core accent.
"Inigista Lord Sapporo?" returned an equally cultured voice.
The Selé narrowed his eyes as he stepped around the edge of his ship and revealing that his visitor was a Jedi Knight. There was a pause on the Jedi's part before he returned his attention to the data pad. Scanning over some information, he shut it off and returned it too the protective place in his tunic. Once secure, he focused pale blue eyes on the captain.
"What do you want?" Sapporo carefully looked over the ginger bearded face. When the Jedi pushed back his hood revealing an equally color touched mane, the captain eased his rigid stance slightly. After a moment more of inspection, he allowed the hydrospanner to slip out of his sleeve and fall into his tight grip. He quickly discarded the would-be weapon in a nearby toolbox.
Bowing before the Selé, the Jedi said, "I am Obi-Wan Kenobi and I would like to request passage on your ship."
"I transport only organic cargo as my permit from the Tarmask allows. So the answer is no." He turned to go back to his repairs.
"I meant as a crew member."
The captain paused. "I have no credits to spare."
"I require none. Only room and board for my work."
Sapporo turned to stare at the Jedi once more. "What kind of work?"
"Whatever you will have me do. I am capable of mechanical repairs–"
"Will you fight off raiding parties?"
"As a mandate of the Senate I can not."
"But if they attack where you are, you can fight them?"
Folding his powerful arms across his chest, Sapporo's dark eyes carefully studied the quiet Jedi before him. He quietly noted that this one, despite his beard was still quite young. Unless he missed his mark, the Jedi looked to be only in his early thirties for a human, not that he was much of a judge of the pink species. Yet there was no mistaking the powerful presence that radiated from the smaller man.
"We are a ship of the damned," Sapporo finally said after a long silence. "You have seen my crew?"
"Yes," was the impossibly calm reply.
"They are Buhka, the lowest caste. They can never go home, never have contact with their families again. Buhka are forbidden to travel among the stars. That is a privilege of the Selé caste only. Yet these men, all desiring something more as boys left their families, knowing any attempt to contact them would put their parents, siblings and cousins lives in danger. Should they ever choose to return to Senebrak they will be killed for daring to step above their position. Myself? I am a pariah for working with such a crew, for associating with the lower caste. For my actions, my family name is all but ruined." He offered a bitter laugh. "Of course, all the family I have left is a niece."
"Lord Sapporo," Obi-Wan began, "I am unfamiliar with the politics of your world or the caste system that rules it."
The Senebrak's expression hardened.
"I am though in need of becoming fluent in the Busse."
Surprise reflected in the captain's dark eyes. "Why would you want to speak the lower language?"
"Not every Senebrak speaks Basic."
Something deep in the captain's chest caught. "What is it you are hoping to achieve by going to the Buhka?"
Obi-Wan did not answer.
To ask questions, one must be willing to answer them as well.
Sapporo stormed across the duracrete floor only stopping when he was right in front of the Jedi; he glared down at the impossibly serene face. "You can learn that language in your Temple libraries. Is that not how Jedi become so fluent in many tongues?"
After an unnaturally long pause, Obi-Wan looked up, meeting his sharp gaze. "Lord Sapporo, you are correct. The Jedi Temple is a repository of information. One of which is not available to me at this time. I must find other means to achieve my goals."
"Are you rogue?"
"I am on leave between missions, free to do as I wish as long as I do not interfere in Republic affairs." Obi-Wan folded his arms into his billowing cloak sleeves. There was a pause and the calm façade faltered allowing uncertainty to flutter in his soft eyes. "I cannot learn by study, only through emersion until it is second nature. You and your crew are my best hope of gaining this knowledge."
So the Jedi were fallible, Sapporo thought. Though he had little experience with them, except sightings here and there. What he had seen were powerful beings radiating that knowledge, arrogance. Yet this man could be of use to him. "You have not answered my question of why you want to learn Busse. What do you think the Buhka will tell you? They will be afraid of an outsider."
Again the infernal silence took hold between the two men. Obi-Wan's gaze shifted away, staring at the freighter. "My life nearly ended on Senebrak nearly six years ago."
When he said no more, Sapporo tried to fill in the pieces. "And you wan revenge."
"Jedi do not seek revenge," came the quick reply. "It is not in my nature. It is the past and I cannot change it, only accept it and go on."
Obi-Wan faced the tall Selé again. "I lost memories, I lost years from my life and I think I lost something else."
Something clicked in Inigista Sapporo's mind as he stared at the calm figure before him. The thought bloomed into a smile. "So you are the one Anjah has spoken of."
Obi-Wan silently bowed in answer.