W/N - Sorry all. I only have part I for you. I was distracted by writing a "24" fic. This story is for the Honorable Trillian's fanfic challenge featuring an intelligence theme. I hope to bring you a sense of 'cloak and dagger' for this fic. So, who do you trust?
Cloak and Dagger
Onderon – In an Atmospheric Descent to the Planet – The Present
"We're taking heavy fire!" called Mandalore in his gravelly voice as he jinked the shuttle erratically to throw off General Vaklu's blaster turrets.
Or is it General Vaklu? I don't trust Queen Talia either, thought the Exile as energy blasts bounced her out of her seat. "Ow, that hurt," she said as her head banged into a bulkhead.
Mandalore grunted and executed a gut-wrenching turn to starboard. "Quit your whining. We're almost on the deck."
She quickly rubbed the growing bump on her skull and looked around to see Bao-Dur and Visas crouched by the exit hatch, ready to pounce. "I just hope Kavar got to Colonel Tobin in time," she whispered hopefully.
What a mess. I haven't heard from Atton in a week. These turrets were supposed to have been turned off. I have no idea who to trust and we're going in blind.
Mandalore turned back to face her, his head fully covered in his thick, silver helmet. "I'll bet this is that snake, Rand's doing. I knew we couldn't trust him," he said venomously. Then, the feeling of gravity changed in the cabin, announcing an imminent landing. "We're at the LZ. Touchdown in thirty seconds!"
She would have answered, but more blasts rocked the shuttle and the Exile gripped her lightsaber tightly while grasping a pole with her other hand. "Don't worry about me. Just get this crate on the ground in one piece."
The pitch of the whine in the engines changed, letting her know that they were about to land. Mandalorian warriors stood in sharp unison and turned smartly to face the Exile…the General.
"Touchdown in three, two, one," called Mandalore. "The LZ is hot. Incom-" he began to say before a rocket slammed into the shuttle, shattering shields and rending metal. White hot energy rushed at the Exile and she threw her hand up on instinct, extending a shield of the Force around her. Shock waves washed over her barrier, hurling her out of a tear in the shuttle, slamming her on the ground.
Half blinded, she groped about for her lightsaber as screams filled her ears and flames danced in her blurry vision.
Dammit! What happened? Atton and Kavar were supposed to get Colonel Tobin to turn off the defenses. Did they betray us?
Onderon – The City of Iziz - One Month Ago
The star port of Iziz was awash with refugees and those seeking to escape the escalating tension on the planet. Panic gripped the city with people rushing about without purpose, some screaming and yelling for transport away from the impending civil war. Debris choked the avenues and walkways; the signs of discarded lives lay abandoned everywhere.
Through the chaos walked the Exile, flanked by her faithful group of misfits and miscreants that had followed her throughout the galaxy. Her eyes were clear and fixed ahead, full of purpose in a sea of uncertainty.
"What could we possibly need here?" asked Atton Rand impatiently. "This place is falling apart and we best not be here when it happens."
The Exile continued to take long strides, not even looking at Atton. "He's here. My feeling for the Force is becoming stronger. I know he's here, we have to find him."
The aged crone, Kreia, smirked with wrinkled lips, showing the merest gleam of yellowed teeth. "Pay the fool no mind. You know what you have to do."
The Exile stopped for a moment and looked up to see a hole in the gathering clouds where gleaming rays of sunlight burst through. Save the planet, rebuild the Order, stop the Sith…easy enough. Then, dragged onward by the heavy chain of destiny, she resumed her long strides. "It is essential that we find Master Kavar. Master Zez-Kai Ell told me that Kavar is a special counselor to Queen Talia. He'll have insight into what we need to do."
"It is best that we bring stability to the region as quickly as possible," said GO-TO in his annoying monotone as he hovered nearby. The black sphere of his body shifted left to right and back again as his red eye took in the deteriorating situation on Onderon.
"I agree," voiced the Exile. She shot quick glances to Atton and Mira. "You know what to do." Atton returned the glance, his face doubtful as he sucked on his lower lip, but Mira merely peeled off and disappeared into the crowd. The Exile was about to say something when Kreia turned on the rogue with a dismissive gesture of her only hand.
"Begone, fool. Does she have to tell you everything twice?"
Atton rolled his eyes and made a mock bow to the old crone. As he walked by the Exile, he jabbed his thumb in Kreia's direction. "You'd think that she was the Queen of Onderon." With that, he stepped into the mass of people and was gone.
The Exile furrowed her brows in deep concern. It's all up to the Force now. I am merely its servant.
Onderon – The Present
The landing was a disaster.
Charred rubble flew past the Exile as she raised a Force Barrier around her. Ash drifted and swirled around the ruined Merchant's Quarter casting a dark pallor over the plaza. Nearby, the warriors of Mandalore disembarked from their shuttles and ran into a wall of enemy fire. Streaks of light tore into their ranks and great gaps appeared in their lines. She looked up at the source of the blaster bolts that rained down upon them and then dove for cover. "We've been betrayed," she said with a sour grunt to her team. "Those turrets are murdering us. We've got to take them out."
Visas and Bao-Dur crept up to her and nodded. The Zabrak technician coolly took out a blaster and wriggled into a firing position behind some rubble. He turned his head and gave Visas a look, which she instantly sensed through the Force. Without a word, he unloaded his blaster into a nearby turret. "It's not going to have any effect, but I can draw their attention," he muttered in his easy drawl.
Visas darted from cover, using the momentary lapse in fire at her to dash to a new position. A second turret trained in on her, bringing its twin barrels to bear. The muzzles barked, spitting molten plasma at the running Jedi. As if expecting the impact of the bolts, Visas cart wheeled to the side, leaping head over heels as sparks exploded around her.
The Zabrak then took his own opportunity to sprint from cover, rushing over rock and twisted rebar. His breath came in ragged gulps as bolts slashed by him. He could hear the buzz of the deadly streaks, feel the heat as they passed by, smell the ozone from the torn air. "Don't look at them," he grunted to himself, fighting the fear of instant death. "It'll only make things worse," he said in a strained voice as he dove for an open crater. His body slammed into the ground and a jagged piece of metal lacerated his leg. Bao-Dur gritted his teeth, fighting the welling tears in his eyes from the pain.
"Must advance…," he whispered through lips curled in agony. Ignoring the searing fire in his leg, he dug his boots into the dirt and propelled himself forward. A crumping sound caught his attention and he glanced over to see Visas tossing grenades at one of the turrets. Smoke burst from the sphere, obscuring the battlefield and Bao-Dur saw his chance. Good job, V.
Again, the volume of fire slackened slightly and the Zabrak charged up to the first turret. With his prosthetic arm, he bashed his fist into the force field and sparks rained down upon him. With the field down, he slapped a charge on the turret and leapt back into the crater. "Fire in the hole!"
Bao-Dur covered his ears as the blast shattered the enemy turret, hurling great chunks of metal into the air. His body felt like it would fly apart under the impact of the shockwave and he curled himself into a little ball, praying to the Force for deliverance.
Then, all was quiet. Dazed, he struggled to his knees and shook off the layers of dust that had accumulated on his body. His ears were ringing and everything seemed to move in slow motion. He looked down to see the blood caked on his good arm, but he felt no pain. Through the haze of his vision, he saw a woman walking calmly toward him, oblivious to the falling debris.
"General," he said though he could not hear his own voice. "The way to the palace is clear."
She placed a firm, but gentle hand on his shoulder and said something that escaped his ringing ears. He knew it was kind though and he nodded with a weak smile. She pointed up toward the Royal Palace of Onderon and he knew that the forces of the rebel, General Vaklu, awaited them and they were dug in deep.
"And that traitor, Atton, will no doubt make our lives harder."
Onderon – The City of Iziz – Three Weeks Ago
Atton Rand sat in a dark cantina, sipping a watered down Juma Juice from a dirty glass as overhead fans whipped the fetid, sweaty air rising from a hundred sweltering bodies. A clamor of voices filled the room as spectra of light flashed in beat to pulsing music. The rogue glanced over to the wide stage to see the Twi'lek dancers gyrate before salivating crowds. He took another sip and looked away – they were not his quarry tonight.
"Ah, there he is."
A man in a military uniform walked in, surrounded by a small entourage of guards. The man was obviously important as the throng of people parted for him and a hostess immediately sprang over to serve his group. The rank on his epaulettes confirmed Atton's suspicions.
Atton downed the last dribbles of juice and sauntered over to the colonel's table. He stood before them, hands on hips with a smirk that spoke of careless arrogance. Two of the guards seized him by the arms and held him back, but Atton called out, "Colonel, I have something of use to you."
"Wait…," the colonel said to his men and they stopped roughing Atton up. "Speak!" he commanded in his most authoritarian voice while swirling an expensive liquor in a near spherical glass.
The rogue took a deep breath and shrugged off the guards' hands. "I hear that Queen Talia has employed a Jedi as her councilor."
Tobin looked bored at the news, glancing away with a sigh. "I already know that. Do you have something important for me or are you wasting my time?"
Atton smiled and brushed aside his outer robe, revealing a lightsaber. "Perhaps you may need a Jedi of your own?"
At this, Tobin's eyes opened wide and he motioned to an open chair. "Please, have a seat. You have me at a disadvantage, master Jedi."
Atton spun the chair and sat so that the seat was backward. He leaned forward on the chair back and sucked his teeth. "Not a master…not yet in any case. Call me Jaq. I have intelligence that an ally of Master Kavar's, known as the Exile, will intercede for the Queen and either negotiate a peace with General Vaklu or…remove him."
Tobin nodded slowly, keeping a poker face. He seemed to be taking all of this information in. "Why should I trust you? This whole meeting could be a provocation. You could be trying to force our hand and expose us."
"Because I was supposed to disable the aerospace defense grid to facilitate the Exile's landing…with this," Atton said as he tossed a security slicer onto the table. "I worked with her for some time, but she and that withered crone of hers have nothing but contempt for me. Plus, she seems to like that pointed-headed Zabrak over my charms…I can't understand why. Why should I serve them? If I help Vaklu seize power…maybe I could be a governor? It'd be Pure Pazaak, baby."
Tobin quickly passed his hand over the slicer and slid it away. He handed it to an aide and said, "We will have this examined and determine your bona fides. Let us meet here again, tomorrow."
Atton nodded curtly and stood. Just for a second, he made eye contact with a red-haired woman in the shadows, whose look of concern was obvious.
I've changed the plan, yes, Mira. It's my plan now.
Onderon – The Present – The Royal Palace
"We're pinned down at the gate!" yelled the Exile as squads of General Vaklu's troops poured fire into the ranks of Mandalorian warriors that charged the entry into the Royal Palace. With a white-bladed lightsaber, she slashed a pair of bolts away, sending them off into space.
HK-47, the rust-colored assassin droid stepped over a fallen body and took careful aim with his robotic eye. "Informative: Too much of your head is showing, meatbag. You need to take more cover," he said with a sinister edge to his voice as he pressed the trigger. "Oops, never mind. Too late for you."
The Exile took a step toward her droid allies. "HK, GOTO, keep their heads down! I'm going in with Bao-Dur!" she called, shouting over the sound of bolts and explosions." Then, she turned to the Zabrak and waved her lightsaber forward. "Now! Follow me!"
The droids lay down automatic fire, spraying the sentry posts and the tops of the walls, keeping Vaklu's men down. The Exile sprinted from the trench, swatting bolts as she ran. Bao-Dur came next, followed by the Mandalorian line with their armor gleaming in the morning sun. The Exile took a Soresu Form, keeping her weapon close to her body and minimizing her body profile to present a smaller target. Moving her lightsaber in ever so small arcs, she deflected a flurry of bolts.
"We're at the gate! Bao-Dur!" she ordered and the technician slammed his prosthetic fist into the field, shattering the gate into ozone. Mandalorians charged through, but were met with a wall of blaster fire. Smoking, ruined bodies crumpled at the entry as the charge stopped cold.
The massive, silver clad form of the Mandalore moved up and hurled a plasma grenade into a squad of soldiers, screaming, "Death is life!" rallying the flagging warriors. The sphere detonated into beautiful orange and red plasma, engulfing Vaklu's men and melting them like hot butter.
The Exile was next, somersaulting into the halls of the palace into the middle of another squad. She held out her hand and inhaled deeply, drawing incredible power into herself. A small arc of electricity rippled along her fingers to become a chain of lightning that erupted from her hand to link the men together in a deadly coil. The lightning and the men began a macabre dance, screaming and wailing and sizzling until the Exile bowed, exhausted. Charred, the soldiers fell to the ground, smoldering like charcoal.
The Exile took several long, deep breaths to refocus herself and she looked up at the power couplings above them. They had a peculiar buzz that just didn't seem right.
"Get out! Get out now!" she yelled just at the pipes ruptured into death and destruction.
Onderon – The City of Iziz – Two Weeks Ago
Barely contained hostility threatened to boil up again in Mira's heart and she pounded her fist into an open palm to calm herself. "I'm supposed to be a Jedi now," she said over and over, trying to convince herself of such. "I was trusted to watch over that idiot, Atton, and what happens…he goes over to the other side. I'm gonna love seeing his face when my missile hits him."
This was suppose to be easy. Atton and I were just going to find Kavar and tell him that the Exile will only support the Queen through covert operations…basically us...and that she doesn't have the backing for a full force.
She began pacing again and looked up at the Royal Palace where Master Kavar was suppose to be negotiating a peaceable arrangement between Queen Talia and General Vaklu, who was claiming the title of Regent to rule the system. She then looked back to the space port, where the Ebon Hawk should have been. "They were supposed to be back by now and we were supposed to have disabled the defensive grid."
With a long sigh, Mira stopped in her tracks and headed up the road toward the palace. "I'm just going to have to do this myself and take that good-for-nothing lunkhead out in the process."
I've always relied on myself and why should this be no different. I may wear this lightsaber now, but nothing's changed.
With a derisive snort, Mira brushed back her red hair and tucked her weapon under her short cloak. I'd better accentuate my attributes to negotiate with the locals, she thought as she fluffed up her bosom and adjusted her skimpy top to reveal even more flesh. "These haven't failed me yet," she said as she meandered over to the palace grounds.
Mira worked her way into an anti Royalist protest group that was marching near the grand royal compound and took in the conversations around her. She quickly zeroed in on a dark-haired woman agitating the crowd.
"General Vaklu is the only one who understands the needs of the people!" she shouted to the mob. "Queen Talia would sell us out to the Republic! All they know is war and terror!" The woman pumped her fist into the air and the protestors cheered.
Mira bustled through the mass of bodies and sidled up to the woman. "Long live Vaklu!" she yelled, putting on her most angry face. Then, she looked up to the woman and called, "What can we do to secure our planet against the Republic?"
The woman looked down and held out her hand, which Mira grabbed tightly. "Are you a true believer?"
"Then, follow me," the woman said as she dragged Mira and a handful of others from the crowd. They left the chanting throng and made for a nearby cantina. The woman approached a side entrance and spoke quietly through a small hole in the door, which then opened for them.
She walked through the door just as the Force screamed in her head. Her hand shot inside of her robe to grab her lightsaber…but it was too late. Men seized her arms and a heavy bag covered her face. Mira struggled to unleash her weapon, but a man pulled her hand from the silver cylinder.
"Yes, it's her. She's the agent of the Exile." It was Atton's voice.
Mira thrashed violently, but to no avail. The weight of numbers was overwhelming. A man's finger traced a pattern on her exposed midsection and there was a sinister chuckle. "I'll help you uncover all that she knows."
Mira screamed, "Rand, you worthless piece of Bantha dung! I'll kill you, I swear!"
Another chuckle. "That's going to be very difficult in your position."