Author's Note: This story is an alternative future that takes place 10 years (give or take) after the end of the Yuuzhan Vong Invasion. The focus is on all-original characters, and the canon characters we all know and love are relegated to the background.
Normal space asserted itself after a breeze of hot air ran through the tramp freighter Lucky Streak. Warning lights flashed on the cockpit display, the first sign of trouble in a ship normally filled with hisses and creaks in all the wrong places. Someone used to new ships would have expected the ship to fall apart at any moment. The two crewmembers were slightly less concerned.
Captain Hathes let out a curse, woken up prematurely from his nap. "What in the blasted Rim just happened, Dryden?" he demanded, his feet back on the floor and his attention solely on the ship's pilot.
Rel Dryden checked the console before he stated the obvious. "We lost the hyperdrive." Once he was sure nothing else had shorted out, Dryden turned his attention to the navicomputer.
"This would never have happened if you had fixed the blasted hyperdrive properly in the first place," Hathes snapped bitterly. He was out of his chair and pacing across the cockpit floor in an instant. "Why couldn't I hire a competent pilot?"
Hathes was a buffoon who often took on work tougher than he could handle, and it was Dryden's job to make sure the Streak survived each suicidal attempt. Dryden's certifications were as a combat medic and transport pilot. So far as he was concerned, those were his only skills. "You did." The pilot picked a destination and set the Lucky Streak on its way. "I suggest you buy an astromech." Dryden mentally dismissed the conversation and set a course for the nearest planet with a spaceport.
Hathes glared at the pilot without effect. "Fine." He leaned over a terminal and checked for nearby systems. "We can arrive in Ogden in less than a day, but we won't get the same price for our cargo." Diverting to Ogden meant that Streak would not make it to the Wade System in time to deliver machinery parts for full price. Hathes would have to offload in Ogden to get any kind of profit out of the cargo run. "If the hyperdrive is shot, there isn't anything we can do..." The captain trailed off, and his words were replaced by an evil grin. "If you want to stay aboard this ship, then you had better line us up another job to make up the difference. Without a translator, I'm going to need to buy an LE-series repair droid. Those things don't come cheap."
Dryden made some adjustments on his console to give the illusion of obeying Hathes's command. "Course laid in," he announced. "We'll be at Ogden in no time."
"Fine," Hathes spat. That was as close as he came to thanking Dryden. "It's too bad I can't take the difference out of your check, since this technically wasn't your fault." He skipped a beat. "I can't charge you for the repairs, either." The captain was baiting his pilot into a fight, but Dryden was not playing along. "You had better get us something good," Hathes warned as he left the cockpit with a huff, likely in search of a way to work off his anger.
Life aboard the Lucky Streak was unnecessarily stressful, thanks in no small part to the captain. Any number of captains could have kept the freighter running more smoothly and with fewer headaches. Dryden wondered for the umpteenth time why he continued to work for Clance Hathes.
A robed figure appeared in blue light, hovering above the holographic emitter. "All evidence points to the Mudjarens," the hologram reminded the callers. "So why are you on Ogden?"
Red, glowing eyes framed by dark blue skin made Jedi Tier'lor'nuruodo an evil appearance. Chiss were regarded with suspicion by most sentients in the Galaxy, and it was only through her title of Jedi Knight that she earned trust from many. "Master Roke, I believe that the attack on Das'f'k was more than a border dispute. My apprentice and I suspect that there is evidence to be found here on Ogden."
Jedi Master Quaad Roke visibly relaxed at her words, though he did his best to hide the reaction. Master Roke nodded in approval. "Very well, Jedi Lorna." He did not even try to speak her full name, since most non-chiss butchered the pronunciation. "You exhibit the best traits of your species: patience and thoroughness. The Council trusts your judgment. Keep us informed of your progress." He bowed his head and gave the traditional Jedi parting, "May the Force be with you." With those words, Master Roke blinked into nothingness.
Lorna's apprentice spoke up immediately. "Master Lorna, why did you not tell Master Roke that we already have evidence of a larger conspiracy?"
The Jedi Knight lowered her head ever-so-slightly to take on a more relaxed stance. She was now the humble teacher, not the confident agent of the Council. "Until we discover who is behind the conspiracy, I prefer to keep the details of the investigation to ourselves. We still do not know what resources they have at their disposal, and it would be presumptuous to assume that even an encrypted Holo-Net link is secure." The thought of a stranger observing them sent a chill up the apprentice's spine.
"We have several hours until our final meeting with our contact," Lorna reminded her apprentice. "Be wary, Perhi. Open yourself to the Force and be on the lookout for anything unexpected."
Ogden was a desert world with understandably few settlements on the surface. Though the planet was known for great underground seas and precious gems, the allure of riches was not enough to offset the surface climate. Lucky Streak landed in Ogdenim, the only settlement large enough to be called a city.
Dryden left the spaceport in search of the nearest cantina. Flying for Hathes had taught the young pilot that a cargo hold full of contraband was worth a hell of a lot more than textiles or foodstuffs. The best place to find less-than-legal work was by word of mouth, which meant anywhere that sold drinks was his first destination.
As he reached the entrance one of Ogdenim's cantinas, two familiar figures caught his attention. He did not recognize the face of either female – a chiss and a human – but he recognized their stance. They were Jedi. His hand went unconsciously to a binoc case attached to his belt. It was an unwelcome reminder of what could have been.
The Jedi moved cautiously towards the mouth of a nearby alley. Dryden followed without knowing why, keeping hidden when they checked to see if anyone followed. They must have been anxious, because they did not notice the freighter pilot who had happened upon them. He snuck to the corner after the Jedi entered to watch what transpired.
A nervous twi'lek awaited them. He twitched constantly and kept looking around, as if he expected something to jump out of the shadows. His behavior would have been comical in other circumstances. The twi'lek spoke to the Jedi in hushed, hurried tones that did not reach Dryden. Then he handed over a datapad.
Perhaps several minutes of conversation passed between them before the chiss suddenly took a half-step back and the human stiffened. "Someone is watching us," the chiss announced to the whole alley. The twi'lek took this as a sign to run; he took off in the opposite direction with the speed of one whose life was in danger. Anticipation settled in the twi'lek's absence.
Dryden realized that it was time to come out of hiding. They clearly knew he was there; better that he reveal himself and resolve the situation as peacefully as possible. Just as he stepped into the alley, others also decided it was time to drop the charade. Four black-clad humanoids shimmered into existence with only a spark of electricity and slight hum to announce their presence. It was a technology that had not been seen since long before the Galactic Empire of Dryden's parents' time.
The humanoids held dark vibroswords that would easily cut down the unarmored females. Before the attackers were in range, the females each drew and activated a green-bladed lightsaber. The fight was on, and Dryden had to decide if he wanted to watch or participate.
Out of the binoc case came Dryden's lightsaber. The blade switched on with a snap-hiss as he charged the attackers. His lightsaber cut a deep gash into the back of the nearest sentient. The human female used the attention drawn to Dryden to slice open the thorax of another. Both sentients dropped to the ground with faint cries before life left them.
One of the chiss's opponents was dead by the time the humans checked on her progress. The other came in high with a slash designed to cleave her at the shoulder, but the chiss's lightsaber came up to parry. Dryden expected the lightsaber to cut the vibrosword in two, but to his surprise the two blades met as if both were solid. Skill and speed were in the chiss's favor as she stepped towards the attacker and disemboweled him with the same movement used to stop his attack.
Four corpses surrounded the three sentients with lightsabers.
"We should leave before more assassins show up," the human female advised.
Dryden accepted her logic; there would be time for a full interrogation later, though he would likely be the one answering questions at first. He wanted to be somewhere he did not have to worry about invisible assassins. "Where do you suggest?"
The two Jedi shared a look. "We have a hotel room in the city. We can speak there."
A figure stopped on the deserted street. The hood of a black robe dropped, revealing a middle-aged blonde woman whose face was scarred beyond recognition. She caught sight of a reflective surface out of the corner of her eye and a chill reached the core of her being. There would be time for self-pity later. Something else deserved her attention now. She scanned her surroundings with a neutral expression, more a mask than the scars.
Barely-contained fury faded as a pair of lightsabers dropped from within her robe sleeves and into her hands. It was then that the assassins realized that their trap had been discovered.
They charged in without switching off their stealth fields, but their invisibility dispelled the moment they drew weapons. A battle cry that would make the most aggressive kath hound flee in terror did not even make the woman flinch. Red lightsaber blades snap-hissed into existence.
Four assassins moved in. The woman threw her lightsaber blades in opposite directions, and two assassins fell dead by the time the weapons returned to her hands. Blood and ozone filled the air before the fight had truly begun.
She leapt towards one side, in the same direction as one of the assassins, and neatly sliced him in half mid-jump. Then her lightsaber blades switched off and the hilts disappeared into her hands. One assassin did not warrant a full defense.
The final assassin readied his weapon, a vibrosword, and slowly circled his supposed victim. Hints of a smile were on the woman's deformed face at his hesitation. "If you were sent to kill Darth Gannon, then tell your master that she is already dead," she told the dark assassin. She already knew that her attempt was futile, but some remnant of her Jedi training insisted she try. "Only Seona lives."
Her words meant nothing to him. He charged forward with another yell.
Seona raised her palm in his direction and a wave of kinetic energy hit him with all the force of a moving speeder. The assassin fell flat, the wind knocked out of him. His weapon clattered somewhere in the distance.
She walked up to the downed assassin, her glare enough to keep him from getting up. "I won't interrogate or kill you," she promised. "Just deliver my message to your master." With that, she turned and walked away.
Her boot heels clicked against the pavement in the steady rhythm or her purposeful stride. Behind Seona was evidence of her previous life. She had not lied to the assassin; Darth Gannon was no more, as surely as if she had been slain. Seona was nothing like the monster that had been Darth Gannon, despite the being the same person. Even if the woman could no longer look herself in the mirror.
She pushed aside her doubts and the tears that threatened to appear. Within minutes, the former Sith Lord disappeared into the depths of the city.