Libraries were nice, Evlyn decided. They were quiet, and they had computers. Nia, the bookkeeper, had taken care of them from the start. After directing both Evlyn and Sanji to the directory, she even researched a bit herself. Nia knew her ways through the archives better than anyone, and had quickly put them on a search program that was good. Not idiotic like Google, where the only results you would get would be crazy forum members who claim to be everything they weren't. This way was a lot faster, but it didn't tell Evlyn anything she needed to know.
How do you find someone who knows how to hide from the galaxy? Better yet, how do you find a guy that can outsmart Vieux?
It was a tough process, starting at a dead-end as soon as they typed in his name. Strife disappeared five years before his and Vieux's confrontation on Harrun Kal. It was common knowledge that he used the identity Flow while on Harrun Kal, but "Flow" disappeared as well.
Evlyn prided in her tracking skills, but this was beyond her. "Master? Did you find anything?"
A sigh. "No," Sanji muttered under her breath. "I've never had to track him down 'officially' before, so I'm at a dead-end."
"It looks like he's been using untraceable cred coins," Evlyn pointed out. Cred coins were implanted with an electric scanner that let the cashier know who was buying their goods. Having untraceable ones—ones with no scanner inside—was suspicious, but not illegal. "I wish I knew."
"Good point," Sanji said. "There isn't a way to trace untraceables, so he's probably got a whole bank-full just waiting to be spent."
"We could always check out his homeworld," Evlyn said. "Talravin."
"No," Sanji said, frowning. "He had too many bad childhood memories, there. I remember a school I went to when I was a girl. I hated it. The only reason I would go back is if I was dreaming."
Evlyn snorted. "Okay, Talravin's out. I just wish we had some sort of lead…"
"Vieux could have carried you on your back until you were eighteen, too."
"Search programs with dead ends get on my nerves," Evlyn said indignantly. "Because that either means this or Google." She keyed in a command on the consol. "Look! There's over one trillion, nine hundred fifty million, four hundred sixty thousand, eight hundred five results! All brought up in nine-point-two seconds. Maybe if I close my eyes and pick one…"
Sanji gasped. "You know what I just thought of when you said that? A finger landing on a choice! You're a genius!" Evlyn stared at her blankly, uncomprehending. "Land, Evlyn, land. Leela Landyn! She and Strife had a relationship going on by the time of Harrun Kal!" She laughed,
"Nice to know about her personal life," Evlyn said. "Are you thinking what I think you're thinking?"
Sanji nodded vigorously. "We'll figure out if that piece of Intel I eavesdropped from Irving paid off," she said brightly. "I'll call him today and get him to check."
"Who the heck's Irving?" Evlyn asked, puzzled.
"He works at Coruscant Intel," Sanji told her. "He's my best friend, and a pretty good athlete for his age. He can get me the location of Landyn, I know he can. They're way more advanced than us. Here." She filched through her belt and took out the small hand-held comlink. She typed in a frequency and held it out in front of her, gnawing at her lip.
"Call him later," Evlyn said impatiently. "Let's check up on our own little search menu before we make a fool out of ourselves." Sanji laughed again. Evlyn stared at her blankly. "Did I remind you of some reallyreallyreally good break that can tell us exactly where they both are?"
Sanji shook her head, grinning. "No, you sounded so much like Vieux for a moment."
Evlyn snorted, returning to her work. "He's too formal in my opinion," she said lazily. "He always has whatever is left of his nose sticking in the air."
"He's proud of his powers," Sanji said patiently. "And he has a reason to be. Look: give him some time, and you'll come to like him a lot."
"No offense, but there has to be meds involved, ma'am."
Something was wrong. Jaing could feel it, and it scared him. After being rudely awakened by their new Head of Healing, Jaing had been rushed into another small room reserved for dangerous victims. Bonnie White lie on a long observation table, hooked up to several monitors, which monitored breathing, heart rate, and stress levels. It looked surreal to see the fiery old lady lying down on that table, pale, nearly dead. An oxygen mask covered her mouth, pumping air every five minutes, while a tube was placed through a hold in the mask, that seemed to go all the way down her throat. It had to be a feeding tube.
Jaing swallowed and continued to stare, hit with the sudden urge to leave the room. He imagined White's eyes snapping open, much like those horror movies used to scare little kids. What made it worse was when the Chiss left him in the room with her… alone. He gave no explanation to him but to wait, and that he would be back shortly.
Jaing involuntarily shivered. He grimaced. "There's nothing to worry about," he muttered. "Oh Force, is she dead?" He glanced at the monitors, and felt his heart flutter with relief when he saw the results. Running a hand through his coal-black Padawan-cut hair, he hissed through his teeth, much like Vieux would do in his situation… except Jaing didn't have purple steam coming out of his nose.
He reached foreword and touched Bonnie White's bony arm. It still felt warm. He kept glancing at her face, worried that indeed her eyes would snap open and she'd yell at him. Swallowing hard, Jaing glanced at the monitors again, wondering why she was hooked up to these wires. Did she collapse? Nothing looks wrong with her.
Jaing furrowed his brow? What would Evlyn tell him at the moment? Probably something MedSpeak. She was honestly like Jean with computers. Jean could rattle off HTML numbers and signals, mechanical drills, starship names and functions. Evlyn could go on and on about a disease, liver transplants, ailments, tools a surgeon would need, and how to put food through a feeding tube. He desperately needed her expertise now. Wannabe Surgeon that she was, Evlyn was an invaluable tool.
He sighed. The first thing Vieux would do would be to tell him to check her out with the Force. Scratching his ear, he drew upon what power of the Force he had, drawing it upon himself to envelope his entire body. He reached out to touch Bonnie White again; acutely aware of how cold her skin seemed, now.
He was sucked into a black hole. At least, that was what it felt like. He held his ground, trying to feel past the little pieces of darkness that drifted across his vision. The bigger picture, he knew, would be nothing like he was used to.
Jaing was always valued by Vieux for his very advanced danger sense. Sometimes the others joked he could feel a tornado from a galaxy away. He had noticed a while ago that he, Devin, Evlyn, and Jean seemed to have different talents. He was the one with the 'common sense', Devin was the one with the masterful persuading techniques, Evlyn was the tracker, naturally suited with the life around her, and Jean could feel life from various non-living things. They each even carried a small amount of Battle Precognition, though he and Jean had the more powerful of the four.
He was using his common sense and Battle Precognition combined. He had used it enough so he knew when he was doing it. It heightened his awareness and unclouded his mind. He silently probed White's mind, or what was left of it. It was all patched and frayed, as if it had been broken many times in the past twelve hours. She felt broken, somehow, with something hard to explain.
She wasn't right in the head. Jaing knew that from when he first met her, but this was worse.
Deep within her subconscious, Jaing probed, poking things he knew he shouldn't. Flashes of dreams and little details her subconscious had noticed flashed before his eyes, but he payed them no attention. Where are you?
It was getting darker, and the images fading. Jaing carried on, aware that he had probably passed into the very deep recesses of her mind… except this one carried him farther away. His common sense snapped out, full alert. He pulled back, but was suddenly aware that he couldn't. It drew him in, enveloping him, smothering him like water.
Who would help him, here? Who would dare? An invisible noose tightened around his neck as he got closer, and he screamed without hearing it, and tried screaming again. He was washed with a grim satisfaction of another being, one that felt… cold. Like hot ice. A flash of purple eyes, a yell, Bonnie White's scream of agony—
And suddenly, it was over. Someone had cut the connection like scissors would paper. Jaing's eyes snapped open. He gasped for air, returning oxygen to his bloodstream. Lightheaded, he rubbed his temples, groaning with fear and repressed pain.
Vieux's blue-and-purple eyes met his with such an intensity Jaing was thrown back on his emotional heels. His strange, cat-like eyes seemed to pierce through whatever shield he was putting up. Two large clawed hands shook him gently.
Jaing looked at him, breathing hard. Finally, he just had to sit down. Jean stood where he had been moments before, her hand on White's head, eyes closed, stone still. Jaing watched her silently until he felt Vieux's eyes upon him. "It tried to kill me," he said. There was no other way for it. "It just literally took control and squeezed me dry."
(Tell me, what is the square root of one million, seven hundred, eighy-four?)
Jaing looked at his teacher incredulously. "Wha…?" he asked, shaking his head. He made exasperated movements with his hands. "I don't know!"
Vieux turned towards Jean. (He's normal. Get up. The blood won't all rush to your head.) He held out a clawed hand, and Jaing took it. Once again, he was surprised at Vieux's strength. He was able to lift up his entire nineteen-year-old body up in the air with a twitch of one of his four fingers—he had lost at least one on each hand in a freak demolitions accident that he was reluctant to talk about.
"Thanks," Jaing said. He leaned against the wall, and noticed with a sinking feeling Jean did not turn to him. He glanced at Vieux. "What's she--?"
"I found something," she said suddenly. Her eyes were closed tight with concentration. "It's all dark like before, and something's pulling me in. Link up or I'll end up like Jaing."
(It is good you can catch the warning signs,) Vieux praised. He lay a hand on Jean's shoulder, and his own reptilian eyes closed. Jaing lingered for a moment, hesitating at the prospect of going back. Finally, he braced himself and touched Vieux's forearm.
Reaching out to the Force, he located each of the spiraling tendrils of energy that emitted from both Force Users, and joined the link. Vieux was noticeable stronger than the rest of them. He managed to drift the energies closer together until they melded like a chorus of singers. Jaing was once again accompanied by the sensation of losing himself in darkness. Jean's energy was thrusting outward like a spear, jabbing in random directions. Vieux radiated outward, searching in every way possible, and Jaing followed suit.
Finally, Jean joined them after fruitless searching, and they came to the part Jaing had been sucked in at. Through an unspoken agreement, they went in deeper, with Jaing unconsciously throwing up shields around his mind. He felt a sharp pang in his temple from Vieux, and realized he wanted him to lower those barriers.
Jaing tried, but the expectancy of drowning in the Force was too big, and finally he had to slink back while Jean and Vieux continued to look for something no normal person could see. He continued prodding around other areas of Bonnie White's subconscious, unsure of what he was looking for.
Her energy seemed… repressed, as if someone had forced her energy scale back twice. Jaing felt curiosity arise, and poked a bit more, struggling to find the force pushing her back.
He was quite thoroughly freaked out when she grabbed his mind and brought it farther into her own, deeper than Jaing had ever gone, deeper than he meant…
He stood face-to-face with Healer Bonnie White, dressed in a comfortable-looking white smock, enclosed in a dark room where the only light shined on them both. Her eyes were small and menacing, telling him she wouldn't go out without a fight. He held up both hands, stepping back. "Hey, it's okay, Miss White," he said, trying to let calming energies of persuasion trickle from his mouth. Devin had done it plenty of times, but Jaing was too thoroughly freaked out to do it right.
"Did you bring him?" she shot out.
"Who?" Jaing asked.
"Vieux!" Bonnie snapped. "Did you bring Vieux here?"
Trying to ignore the fact he didn't know what here was, Jaing nodded. "He's somewhere else, now. We think there's another person connected to your mind right now, and he and my friend went to check it out."
Bonnie shook her head. Her sharp, menacing eyes had suddenly went sad with grief. "He can't," she said. "He'll kill them both if they get within two millimeters! I tried, I tried…" Her voice went softer as she rambled on. "I tried, but he was too powerful!"
"What was too powerful?" Jaing asked urgently. "White?!"
She shook her head helplessly. "I don't know," she said simply. "All I did was try to figure out what happened to Ghez, and I found this dark spot within his brain. It pulled me out and I couldn't escape. I was drowning, losing air… It felt like hot knives being stuck into my chest." She groaned at the memory.
"What happened?" Jaing asked harshly. "You have to tell me!" She looked at him, dazed, as if she wasn't sure if he was here or not. "You're in a coma in the Enclave! You've got wires sticking down your throat! Please!"
She closed her eyes and weaved on her feet. "Feel like many years, many years…" she said softly. When she opened her eyes, they were a defeated color of blue. "I don't know what he is… He's like Vieux… He's like Vieux…" She placed a wicked arm on his shoulder, which dug tightly into the blade, making him ache. "He knows you're here…" she whispered. "Do as I say! Find Rogan Strife… he'll know everything… He's related to Ghez, he's related to the one killing me—" She moaned and clutched her head.
Jaing stood there, frozen in fear. "Hey," he said shakily, "are you okay? Um, ma'am?"
"Get out of here!" she screeched, and she sounded like a little, tormented girl. "He's coming! Get my message back to Vieux, and don't contact me ever again!"
"How do I get out?" he yelled, glancing around him.
"Run into the dark!" she replied.
He turned around and sprinted for the shadows. Before he felt himself returning to reality, he turned, and saw a bright flash of light, and heard a monster roar.
Jean slinked back to reality unwillingly. A tremor in the Force had disrupted both her and Vieux's concentration, and their own danger senses kicked in, warning them of impending danger. With the tremor, the other creature had grown stronger, and Jean had to withdraw or risk ending up in a worse that than the old lady on the table. She squinted her eyes in the bright light, and rolled her shoulders back. "Master?" she asked.
She turned on the spot, eyes going wide with shock. Vieux wasn't in the room, and Jaing sat down near the wall. His face was pale, with a sickly shade of green tint coloring it. He looked ready to throw up, but Jean was at his side in seconds, using her index and thumb to open his eyes and check them out.
He looked up at her, as if roused from a dream. She noticed with a sinking feeling that the whites around his eyes were red—not Chiss red, but bloodshot and… afraid. When he met her eyes, Jaing seemed to compose himself somewhat. It was as if a band around his brain had been broken, and Jean felt a whole new awareness creeping inside of him. "Hey," he said softly, looking at her dizzily, but looking at her, at least.
"Hey," she replied in an even softer voice that wavered with the fright she had experienced.
"I'm back?" His hand reached out to stroke her cheek. "Yeah," he said, nodding to himself, confirming something she knew nothing about. He withdrew his hand. "Help me stand up, would you? You guys need to know a few things."
"I don't know where Vieux went," she muttered, and grasped his arm. She was about to pull him up when she noticed that his hands were shaking slightly. Swallowing, she hefted him up, and made sure he didn't fall back down.
"Another room," he said. "I don't want to be in here… with her."
Jean bit her lip and glanced at Bonnie White, who lay pale and peaceful on the medical slab. "Um… alright," she said. "Hey, Jaing, are you sure you're okay? You scared me."
He continued walking towards the door, and pushed it open. "I'm not fine," he said slowly, turning to face her. "You won't believe what I saw, Jean. I'm serious."
Jaing told her everything in the adjoining room. When he finished, she stood from her cross-legged position and started to pace. Jaing watched her bite her lip and unconsciously twirl her fingers around a piece of leather cord before pulling her hair into a loose, sloppy bun behind her head. Jaing knew it was a nervous habit of hers, to fidget, but they wouldn't have any of that, now.
"Somebody like Vieux," Jaing said impatiently, drumming his fingers on the floor. "She might mean someone of his species… Kalanese, right?" Vieux had never been mysterious of his kind.
"Has to be," Jean said. She tapped her foot and ran a hand through her dark red hair, tangling it up even more. She made a frustrated noise. "This is way too confusing!"
"You're younger than me," Jaing pointed out. "It's supposed to be confusing at your age…"
She rounded on him. "Excuse me?! I'm seventeen! I've been on loads more missions than you have ever been on, Ghetto, so shut up." She turned around, but Jaing's gentle prodding had caused her to open up.
"What we need to know is what happened to the merc, first of all," he said, counting off of his fingers. "Find out where Vieux went, find Rogan Strife, find Evlyn and Devin, and get the hell off of this planet."
Jean snorted. "Undercover, you mean?" she asked. She paused for a moment, considering. "Could work, but Vieux is pretty noticeable. A Kalanese isn't hard to point out."
"Synth-flesh works wonders," Jaing pointed out.
"No way," she said, shaking her head. She rubbed her temples, and Jaing could relate: his head felt ready to explode. "Well, let's list our priorities: we need to get the news to Vieux, Evvie, and Dev, first. Then we find Rogan Strife, and cross that bridge when it comes."
Jaing nodded in affirmation. "Sounds great," he said. He stood, and placed an arm around the small of Jean's back. "We'll get 'em, Jean, you just wait."
"Jaing?" Jean asked softly.
"Yeah?" he whispered back playfully. He leaned in farther, hoping for one of those 'womanly admissions' when she danced around him and pressed her back to the wall. He noticed her lightsaber in her hand. A single disturbance of the Force, and the door slid wide open, revealing a large, granite-black, reptilian-like male. He had no mouth, and only two snake-like slits for a nose. Purple eyes were lowered in his direction, and three diagonal scars crossed his neck, close to one of the white horns that grew near where a normal human's jaw would be. Jaing's mouth opened wide. "Master?"
Jean's muscles relaxed, and she hooked her lightsaber back to her belt. "You were eavesdropping," she stated plainly. "Why?"
Vieux shrugged indifferently. (I learned what I needed to know. Come: Evlyn and Jedi Master Sanji Taban will be expecting their breakfast. I promised to bring them their meals while they research.)
Jaing was still unsettled by Vieux's surprising entrance. "Why'd you do that?" he demanded.
Vieux's eyes flashed in his direction. (As subtle as a flying vibroblade. Now. Come.)
When he turned and started walking down the tall, narrow halls, Jean hastened to catch up, leaving a grumbling Jaing to quicken his pace. "Master, we need to know more about your species," she began. "Anybody you know who has a grudge against Jedi? Anything that would promote a motive?"
Purple smoke hissed out of his snake nose. Vieux's small eyes closed as he walked. Jaing knew something was up. (The Kalanese of old bear no liking for Jedi. I was outvoted, and outgunned. A Kalanese Grand Master must have ticked them off. That is the only motive I can think of.)
"You were exiled?" Jaing asked incredulously. "But—"
"Why were you exiled? For being a Jedi? For having the Force?" Jean asked.
(I have told you a motive. Do not ask for more: I have none. I have spoken to the mercenary. I find no other.)
Jaing glared at Vieux, but didn't challenge him. You're hiding something. He steeled himself to find out exactly what.
The halls were turned onto a brighter light, directing the throng of students towards the turbolifts. Devin moved elusively through the huge amount of Jedi Padawans, apprentices, and instructors. Class having been dismissed an hour early, Devin felt he knew why. A small bell was ringing in the invisible speakers, telling them one thing:
Get to the auditorium or Vieux will kick your scrawny little Jedi butts.
At least, Devin normally thought that. There were at least fifty students per instructor—the Enclave was a big place—and it seemed every single one was in that hallway. Devin was one of the older Padawans, with more experience than others. He quickly hastened to use this to his advantage to spot the easiest way through the crowd.
"Nell, Jos, wait up!" a familiar voice called from behind him. He twisted around to see Auron, surprisingly well-rested considering what happened the other night. She passed him, accidentally elbowing him as she moved farther ahead to join up with a group of kids about her age. Their leader, a large Zabrak, scoffed at her appearance. "How'd you like that essay Rostori assigned us?"
The Zabrak—Jos—laughed. "Why are you talking to us?" his friend asked frankly. "You're lame, lady. Too much time sniffing crack on Nar Shaadaa, I'll bet." He leaned in and put an arm around her, whispering something in her ear that made Auron stop dead.
"How do you know that?" she asked coldly.
The boy shrugged. Devin quickened his pace to listen in. "We have our sources, slave girl," Jos said. He glared at her. "Don't even have the guts to stand up for yourself. Pathetic excuse for a Jedi if I ever seen one."
Auron, surprisingly, didn't look very angry. "I guess I should expect something like that from dimwitted boys with the IQ results of a dead snail. Too busy playing with your makeup? Your punches felt like you were throwing paper."
"I could beat you any time, any place!" Jos snapped.
"Sure, tell that to yourself when you go to sleep. Maybe you'll wake up one day and believe it." Auron gave them one more nice, polite smile, and ambled off.
Devin didn't bother to cover his snort as he came up behind the group. "That attitude is going to make you black-and-blue," he said off-handedly. "That was immature, and I doubt that throwing you all from this height would knock sense into you. I think I'll just tell Vieux how pretty you look today. Jos—you're Jos, right?—that is a beautiful shade of mascara!"
Arriving at the turbolifts, Devin finally quit the audacious laughter, reduced to a chuckle, and boarded with a Selkath. The doors closed, and Devin felt himself descending at a rapid speed. The Selkath Padawan beside him looked at him with a form of amusement. Deciding it wouldn't be most prudent to tell an older peer how he managed to 'burn' a twelve-year-old, Devin kept silent.
"You are Vieux's new Padawan," the Selkath stated, looking at him through one eye, which, for a Selkath, was a humorous stare. "What is he like?"
"The most crazy-ass instructor you'll ever have," he said. "Sort of arrogant, and loves to torture his young Padawans." He grinned.
The Selkath shuddered. "I'd take Master White over Vieux any day."
He didn't bother to mention Miss Bonnie White was currently comatose in the Med Wing. A small moment of silence endured before he turned and stuck out his hand. "Hey, I'm Dev," he said.
The Selkath looked at it for a moment before smiling. A wet, slobbery fin rested within his palm for a moment, then withdrew. "I am Junni Royal. I just transferred here from the Enclave on my homeworld, Manaan."
Devin nodded. "Great place," he said casually. "Lots of water."
The Selkath made a chuckling sound deep within her throat. "We have our own Jedi Training Centers underwater. It was made since this Enclave took in the Force Sensitive from Kaspir. There was an overpopulation, and Jedi Master Jemayah called upon the funds to build the sanctum. I have returned to help."
"But the attack only happened last night," Devin blurted. "How could you…?"
"I woke up one morning and decided that no matter how crowded this place is, it needs more help than its' inhabitants can provide." Now it was Junni's turn to stare at Devin. "What attack?"
Devin cleared his throat. "You'll hear about it at the announcement," he said. "I don't know exactly what old VeeVee's going to say, and even I don't know the real story. You'll have to ask Padawan Anek or Ghetto for answers, but Jaing got hit on the head, so I doubt he'll remember how to spell 'dirt-crate.'"
Junni smiled. "Dirt-crate," she said. "I think I like that word. Mind if I steal it from you?"
Devin laughed. "Go ahead. I got tons."
"Human's surprise me sometimes."
"Yeah? Me, too," Devin said. The Turbolift stopped and the doors slid open. "Ladies first," he said, gesturing.
Junni's mouth tilted upwards in a smile, and she walked out gracefully, with Devin behind her. The halls, for once, were lighted up like landing lights, leading the way to the auditorium. The crowd was beginning to thin, and Devin had the distinct suspicion that he'd be arriving later than the others. He didn't see anyone he knew walking that way, besides Junni and a large Wookie he presumed to be Razaan. They turned a corner and arrived in the large room, one of the only ones that gave you a view of the outside. A large orange dome encircled them, giving off small heat waves that felt comfortable on his skin.
The place was large for a reason. Many had jumped up to higher ancloves to listen. Devin spied Jaing one of the lower ones. He couldn't see Jean or Evlyn, and almost reached out to the Force to find them. Junni was lost in the sea of warriors. Somebody tapped his shoulder, and Devin turned to see the face of Jean, and behind her, Evlyn. Though he couldn't hear Jean through all the noise, he could lip-read easily enough: We have a lead on Strife and his snaky little friend. She pointed towards the large podium slowly rising, and Devin turned his attention to the speaker, Vieux. The other Council Members sat on high protruding seating areas mirroring the height of the Grand Master's.
Vieux raised his hands, and the room fell silent almost immediately. (I have very distressing news.)
Sanji Taban and Hann sat on one of the seats, consulting with a comlink. As Vieux made his little speech, Hann had keyed in his friend's number. The Cerean at Republic Intelligence, Irving, answered in a bored tone. "Irving Stato, head of Republic Intel, soon-to-be famous Broadway actor in the Galaxy. What do you need?"
"Irving, it's me," Hann said gruffly.
"Me, who?" Irving answered. They heard a yawn over the listening end.
"Me, Hann. Jedi Master. Personally saved your wrinkled Cerean ass more than a couple of times in the last ten years."
"Hann!" The Cerean's tone changed dramatically. "So glad you called! Listen, there's a few deadbeats over on Tattooine who need some tough love. I know you can do it, baby!"
"I'm not looking for more assignments," Hann snapped. "I need answers, and keep this between us."
Hann gave Sanji the comlink. "Somebody has tried to blow up the Enclave," she said tersely, as usual, blunt as a sledgehammer. "Two of our Padawans stopped him in time. He goes by the name of Ghez. We found out he's working for Rogan Strife. We have a small lead: Leela Landyn. Can you find her for us?"
"Leela Landyn?! You're right on time, Taban! I just filed a report that had her name in it! Lemme bring it up real quick…" There was the faint sound of typing in the background. "Hey, Chipolté! You have that file on Leela Landyn? Yeah? Bring it over here, our Jedi friend's waitin'." There was a small fumble on the line as Irving was handed a folder. "Lemme see here, let me see… Ah, yes, Leela Landyn, female Lorridan, and look! On Master Vieux's hit-list. Oh, how lovely for her."
"Yes, yes," an impatient Sanji growled, tapping her foot. "Where was she last seen?"
"Keep your horns on, little lady," Irving said. There was a brief amount of silence as he flipped through pages. Sanji only feigned anger most of the time. Irving was one of her best friends, and Hann's. "Got it, got it… Well, what do you know, eh? Last seen was about three years ago. On Corellia. Says here she pulled a bounty on one of the important stiff guys in their government. Jedi team assigned to catch her, but she disappeared in one of those new, black Deltas. Better than those old Stealth-X's you guys use, I'll bet. Big black market trade. Illegal in most Republican planets and—"
"I suppose you know this all from experience?" Hann asked. He cocked an eyebrow at Sanji.
"I might," Irving answered. "So there you go: Corellia. And since you're going to ask me about Strife, I just got through finishing his file before you called. Talravin, right after Vieux's little, erm… fiasco on Harrun Kal. He was seen in a pizza shop. You know about Moon River? The best pizza place in the galaxy. I went there once when I didn't have wrinkles and—"
"Is this one important?" Sanji asked, rolling her eyes. Irving had the annoying tendency to tell them a long personal story when they found something interesting. He claimed it kept them on their toes.
"Of course! I made friends with the chef, horn girl. He called me and told me as soon as he saw them. Before we got local police there, Chef was dead and Strife was, guess what? Mysteriously missing. Ain't that some shit?"
"Yeah," Sanji said distantly. "It sure is…"
"Anyways, I'll put all the interplanetary guys on red alert. If somebody's bold enough to even try and destroy the Enclave, I'll do whatever it takes to find them. Cross my hearts and addle my brain I will!"
"Thanks, Irving," Hann said. "I'll be sure to repay the favor."
"Happy Hours at the Outlander starts in five minutes."
"Not today, though," Hann said. "Sorry. Maybe when I fly in."
"Yeah, you can get 'em half price! Just wave your little fingers and it's right there in front of you! And nobody notices a thing—"
"All right, then. If you need anything, I'm right here."
"I know," Hann said, smiling a little. Sanji had known for a long time that Irving rarely left his office. A little favor like this for them would probably have massive impacts on his schedule right now. "I'll make sure to get you that drink. Bye."
The line closed, and Sanji rubbed her temples. "Corellia and Talravin…" she muttered. She bowed her head, deep in thought. She wished she had listened to Evlyn an hour ago about checking out the place.
Elsewhere, only fifty lightyears away, Ramm carried his bound-and-gagged test subject into the sealed room. "Down you go," he groaned, throwing the dead weight onto the floor. He ripped off the tape covering his mouth, and the ties binding his arms (not his legs, you see). He took out a small capsule and held it under Rogan Strife's 'gift'. The large man's eyes opened, still groggy. "What the f—"
"Easy does it," Ramm said. "You'll be just fine. You're in a hospital, and our staff is taking good care of you. You'll be fine."
The man's looked at him through half-closed eyes, but relented. Ramm felt bad about lying, but he had to do this: he had no other choice. He closed the door behind him, leaving the man lying on the tiled floor. The airtight pressure locks sealed, and Ramm crossed to a terminal behind the viewing screen. Making sure the session was being recorded, he typed in a command, and almost immediately the room began to blur.
With the toxin being released, Ramm watched.
He knew it was working right as soon as the man screamed.