The weapon is firing at ninety-five percent efficiency, my lord. The engineers are still working on it, but we are hopeful that it will reach beyond three-hundred by the end of next season.
Good. What about the Jedi?
The Jedi is working just as planned, lord. Though we may have to find a new energy source. How many times do you plan on using the weapon?
As many times as necessary.
Then we will need more Jedi. Shall I call in the pirate?
(Three days after Ghez attacks Enclave)
Incinerator, orbiting Nar Shaadaa
Jdu Fisk, first mate to Rogan Strife, turned his head to observe the newcomer. He scowled at the sight of Mammon Hoole, the large, muscular Zabrak that filled up the doorway. "What?" he snapped, glaring at his cousin with his one good eye. Though, he was pretty sure the other one could project the same intensity as the other.
Fisk stood in front of one of the many workbenches on the ship, a large automatic laid on the smooth metal surface decorated with burn marks from the people who had carelessly lay the fusioncutter on its' side while binding up the rest of their gear. Mammon raised his eyebrow ever so slightly at Fisk's weapon of choice, but—thankfully—made no derisive comment. Fisk didn't think he could stomach it if he did. "Strife's on the line. Wants the new code."
"Well give it to him, then," Fisk grumped, turning his back to the overly muscular Zabrak to finish installing the new grip. His shoulder twitched slightly at the prospect of turning his back to his overly-ambitious cousin, even made the hair on the back of his neck stand up. He glanced over his shoulder, noticed that he hadn't even moved from his position against the doorframe. "Well?"
"He wants you, little cousin. Something top secret, no doubt." Mammon's smirk told all.
"Then get the Gurlaninn to give it to him," he snapped angrily.
Mammon sighed, shaking his head. Chuckles reached Fisk's ears. "Zia's already on a ship to Apatros. Why in the Nine flamin' Hells she's going, I don't know. Connected with Strife no doubt. She was not a happy lady when she talked to him."
"If she talked to him, she would've given him the code."
"Stop being obstinate. You're toy blaster can wait a while, can't it?"
"How about I kick your teeth in?"
Mammon snorted. "Come on, little cousin. Strife's waiting." A shadow crossed his eyes. "I mean it. He was in a pretty agitated mood when he called."
Fisk sighed loudly and wiped his greasy hands on a stained rag before setting it back on the workbench. "Where at?" The serious tone Mammon had given locked his mind against anything else.
"You're to call from your quarters. So no one overhears, of course." The smirk was back. Fisk would bet Strife's lightsaber that Mammon was entertaining the prospects of eavesdropping on his little cousin and Captain. But that was now the least of his worries.
The word crossed Fisk's mind before he could blink. He felt himself go pale. "Right." He started out, walking briskly. He slipped past Mammon and jogged down the hall. "And don't you touch my blaster if you value life!"
Rogan's face appeared over the comm, grim and haggard. "Jdu," he said hoarsely. "We've got another assignment from Kelph." Fisk drew in a large breath of air through his nose.
"Yes?" he asked, tensing up.
"Their project needs more energy resources. You're in the best position right now. I'm on my way over right now, but I need you to go ahead and find some leads. Any word on the street?"
"Uh, yes, yes, hold on." Fisk crossed to his desk and pulled out a sheaf of papers. "Our mole's in Intel seem to have a mind of their own. Vieux and a kid are sent out to Talravin, and another Council Member and two other kids are on Corellia looking for your…" he coughed. "Well, Miss Landyn."
"Intel couldn't have gotten that," Rogan said. "Vieux keeps Council records closed like that."
"We have a fish in the Enclave, Captain. Gift from Kalpha. Selkath Padawan by the name of Juuni. She put a tracer on Devin something-another when they met. He's one of the lizard's apprentices."
"Award her my thanks," said the captain dryly. "I want you to send out some of the Guardians to Corellia. Take the Padawans and the Master if you can. And take out Juuni, put her in the group. It's good for effect."
Fisk nodded. "I'll go see to it personally," he said grimly. "What about you?"
"I will be there in about three days. I want you gone by then. Kalpha needs this now."
"Roger. But I have a question." Rogan cocked his head. "Why are we helping Kalpha anyway?"
Rogan's sigh could be heard over the comm. Fisk then knew how stressed out this man must be. "Because I have no choice."
"What about us?" Fisk snapped. "Do we have a choice?"
"Yes," he said matter-of-factly. "You could leave right now if you wanted to. I'll just have to get one of the Medics to wipe your memory before you leave."
"I'm not thinking of leaving," Fisk said bluntly. "But others will once they hear what you're doing."
"You know the current moral of our troops better than me. I love these guys, Jdu. I'll protect them as best I can."
Fisk nodded. "Alright."
"Oh… And tell Coruscant Intel to keep an eye on Irving. I've got a feeling he knows something's up."
"Rogue One out."
The hologram blinked out of existence. Fisk sat down heavily in his desk chair and rubbed his eyes. You're in over your head, mate. Fisk let out a small cry of frustration and grabbed his cup of water. His face twisted in anger, and he threw it hard against the wall. The cup was made out of foam, and didn't shatter, but Fisk imagined the tinkling of glass as it hit the tiled floor.
You could leave right now if you wanted to.
Rogan knew he wouldn't. Everybody knew he wouldn't. Rogan was his best friend, no matter what kind of shit he was knee-deep in. Twenty-five years of his life was given to the HawkBats, he thought glumly. He had lived through three captains who went in over their heads, and they each died the same way. At least Strife was bringing everyone back together. Strife was legend, and at such a young age! He was too smart to fall for the Kalanese's word trap. He beat Vieux, didn't he?
Fisk tried to wrap his mind around what he had to do. The Jedi Padawan, Junni, was being controlled by Kalpha—the Kalense—no doubt. No Jedi would willingly go against Vieux, anyway. The damn fish would be spying on them for her lizard mentors. The god-forsaken Force would be their messaging device.
Rogan's grim smile returned to his head. Jdu, one thing you have to know about Jedi is this: you can't eavesdrop on them.
Ain't that the truth!
Fisk disliked Jedi almost as much as he disliked wampa burgers.
Bad feelings ran deep between the pirates and the Jedi. Most of the Guardians would most likely plot ways of insubordination just to get at the little fishy. "Then I have to go with them…" he said to himself, biting his knuckle. His gaze looked towards the distance. Gears clicked in his head. "Great…" If he went with the Guardians, then Mammon would take over. Fisk hated Mammon, and felt a distinct sick feeling at the prospect of leaving the entire operation in his hands even for a day.
He had left Mammon in the room with his most prized blaster rifle.
(Four days after Ghez attacks Enclave)
Auron nearly sighed in relief when Evlyn and Sanji left the room. Self-conscious or not, Auron loved being the lone wolf in the pack. The tag of the brown shirt tickled the back of her neck, and she finally did sigh. Reaching behind her, she found the tag and ripped it off, dropping it in the waste dispenser in the corner. She almost went her datapad again to talk to her friends. She finally decided against it, and lay down heavily on the single sleepcouch in their room. With a simple mental exertion, her backpack flew towards her awaiting fingertips.
The feel of the backpack brought a smirk to her lips. Sanji's spot of trouble at Imbraani Spaceport would be something the Padawan knew the lady wouldn't live down lightly.
The guard looked at her face and frowned. Suddenly, he was reaching for his comlink. "DTI on line seven." He waited for confirmation, nodded once, then shut the thing off. Auron's eyebrows lifted slightly, too subtle to be noticed. "Random Deep Tissue Inspection," he explained.
"For absolutely no reason," Sanji said. "You should just let me go under the scanner."
The man's head bobbed for a moment, then the beginning of a nod. Finally, he caught himself. "No, no. That line over there." He pointed to a much shorter line hidden behind a security screen. "Move it, lady."
"Hey, don't treat Aunt Melissa like that!" Auron cried, feigning childhood anger. She brought the Force to bear and unleashed it on the man's mind. For a moment, she wondered why Sanji failed with the mind trick. "You should be apologize for being mean." She crossed her arms, daring the man to refuse.
"I shouldn't treat your aunt like that," he echoed. "I should apologize for being mean." As he turned to offer his forced apology, Evlyn put a hand on Auron's shoulder and squeezed hard. Auron twisted her head to face her, giving her a quick wink before moving through the scanner.
Thankfully, the woman behind it was so distracted by some unknown influence that she happened to miss the small ping! Of the lightsaber. Evlyn moved quickly behind, Sanji following in the rear. Auron let out a breath she hadn't known she had been holding and looked up, hopeful for praise. Sanji was shaking her head slightly, a small smile tugging at the corners of her mouth. "Good work, Padawan," she said, patting Auron on the back. Auron grinned.
Why couldn't Sanji mind trick the guard, though? She wondered about it. She had felt Sanji bring the Force to bear on the man's mind, but something more noticeable was the fact that she seemed to be weaker. Even Evlyn appeared weaker. It was unnerving, something she had felt only during her classes. True, almost nobody could match her in a battle of will and the Force, much less fighting, but at least the Masters would be better… trained, anyway.
It was indeed something to ask the Zabrak about later on.
Right now, though, was reading time. Most important, it was time to read about Revan and the Exile.
"Hey, Junni." Devin winked at the Selkath apprentice he had befriended the day of Viex's announcement. Juuni was dressed in the normal Selkath Padawan wear: an orange, yellow, and black wetsuit. Her lightsaber, decorated with small pearls and etches of seaweed, bounced on her hip at her every motion. The handle, he noted, was made out of a hardened rock.
She was already beginning to get up from the Padawans' lunch table when she recognized the voice. Devin caught her eye and nodded, pointing to an empty table. She took up her tray and approached it, if almost hesitantly, he noticed. He sat down and front of her and grinned. "How's it going?" he asked, sticking a piece of baked dru'un slices in his mouth. The warm, honeyed pink fruit slice leaked unimaginably good flavor, and he swallowed, quickly picking up another piece.
"It is going fine," she replied. "I have been called on for my Trials." Her mouth twisted in a smile that didn't reach her eyes. "The Council wishes me to go to Corellia and oversee the elections."
"That's great!" he said with faked enthusiasm. "Wish Vieux would let me take the Trials. You have any tips?"
Her eyes flashed with incredulous light. "Tips?" she repeated.
"Yeah," he said slowly. "I need help with the fourteenth movement form. You guys learn it before us on Manann, don't you?"
Juuni shook her head. "Out curriculum has been… jumbled. The Kath Hounds are attacking us outside, so we cannot connect with nature anymore."
But she was on Manann… Manann's full of water and firaxa sharks, not Kath Hounds.
His curious expression must have shown, because he felt a flicker in the Force, almost a fear. "Did I say that I've trained on other worlds besides my homeworld?"
"No…" Devin said, keeping a frown from showing. "Which planets?"
"Cal'kraknos and Foghat would be two I'd name."
Devin didn't even bother to say that those two worlds were in the Unknown Regions. Something was wrong, that much he could tell. He reached out to the Force and started to scan Juuni's mind to get a hint at where she was going at. Juuni's sudden response nearly made him faint, she pressed so hard. Pain erupted in his head like firecrackers. "You're like the merc," he gasped, jolting bolts of realization hitting him as profoundly as the pain.
He didn't know if those exact words came out or not, because the cafeteria was descending into blackness. He could hear another voice in his mind, like Vieux's, but deeper, rougher…
(You cannot leave the body there, Juuni,) the voice chided. (Put him into a coma… Good girl. We'll just say he fainted.)
Now Juuni's voice. "Master, do you really think the Jedi will buy it?"
(They will buy anything under his rule. But we've lost time. Leave quietly.)
Dev could feel Juuni getting up, the pressure removed from his head. The darkness seemed to recede, and dull pain returned to his limbs. His head throbbed painfully, and he could feel a wet honey-covered fruit slice slide down his face and onto the floor…
Floor. His eyes snapped open. The first thing he noticed was the concerned face of Master Hahn in front of his own. Devin's heart nearly jumped when he remembered about the Selkath. "Where Juuni?" he asked hoarsly.
"Juuni?" Hahn asked. "Come on, boy, get up, we're going to the bed bay."
"No, I'm serious! I didn't hit my head, I swear! She's the apprentice transferred from the Manann academy."
"That academy was relocated to Taris years ago," Hahn replied calmly. "Look, Devin, you're obviously hurt. Let me take you—"
"No!" Devin's voice cut into the air like a whip. The surrounding apprentices widened their eyes slightly at his daring attitude. "She's in league with the Kalanese! Master, listen to me!"
"Are you implying Vieux knows what happened to the Enclave three days ago?"
"No! Listen, where's Jean?"
A small boy of about seven stepped foreword. "Uh, I saw her near the med bay. The Chiss was patching her up." Even an idiot like Devin could tell the boy was lying to help the Master.
Devin nodded slightly, out of breath. He shook on shaky knees. "Master Hahn, you have to believe me. Juuni's going to Corellia."
Hahn's face paled slightly, but he did not relent. "You think that I will allow you to go to Corellia? Or sanction an investigation? No, Devin, Vieux has forbid any investigations into the terrorist matter without consulting him."
"Then consult him! I'll go and rescue the others while you two talk over tatshui and tea!"
"That is it!" Hahn thundered. "You are coming with me!" He tried to grab Devin's arm, but the younger man slipped backwards. "Come here, Padawan."
"No, I won't. I know what I saw!" He glanced into the crowd of Padawans who watched him. He could see a few Knights hurrying their way to see what was going on. Devin was drawing quite a crowd. He pleaded the others to understand. "If we don't catch her, she'll try and kill Master Taban and the others! You three! You were at her lunch table! You saw the Selkath!" He pointed to a trio of older Padawans in their twenties.
One of the women shook her head. "There was no Selkath at the table, Devin."
"There was!" he cried. He looked in the crowd, trying to find a sympathizing face. His eyes suddenly locked on those of Ghez Hoken in the back row. A smile crinkled his eyes. He winked. Go with him, he mouthed.
Hahn moved foreword and grabbed Devin's arm, this time holding on tight enough to stop the circulation. "You're coming with me."
Devin offered no resisistence, though he had no reason as to why he was trusting the mercenary. As Hahn led Devin through the crowd of Knights and Padawans, Ghez Hokan followed at a safe distance. When Hahn led him into a deserted hallway just adjacent of the Medical Bay did Devin realize what the merc was doing. He appeared at Hahn's shoulder and put a hand on his head. Hahn twisted around at the touch, but soon every angry look was replaced by one of confusion. "How did I get here?" he asked.
Devin, quick thinking as ever, sighed and shook his head slightly. "Come on, Master. The Healers will straighten you out."
He looked behind Hahn's shoulder. Ghez was gone.
Hahn scowled. "Why am I going there?"
"You fell and hit your head in sparring, Master, remember?" he asked with the patience of one who was talking to a child. "Halfway here you were acting pretty dazed, but I guess it's a good sign you're talking. I must have hit you softer than what I first thought."
Hahn gingerly lifted a hand to his face, while Devin took his upper arm and gently guided him down the halls. His fingers tensed up as if expecting a bruise, and Hahn's expression became even more confused. "You healed it?"
"Slightly," Devin lied. "At least the knot's gone, though. Can you get to the MedBay by yourself now? It's a left turn from here."
"Yeah… sure. Thanks."
"And if Jean's in there, send her out, will you?"
"Yeah. Thanks, Padawan."
When Hahn ambled off, Devin leaned against the marble wall. "You can come out now, merc," he said. He lifted a forearm to wipe some sweat beaded on his brow. Ghez appeared next to him, wearing a fiber-optic stealth belt. He smirked. Devin just shook his head. "I didn't know you were Force Sensitive."
"My family had been able to wipe memories for a long time, Jedi-boy. And before you ask, yes, I believe you."
"I saw her," Devim muttered. "She sat right in front of me."
"No, a Force-projected phantom sat right in front of you," Ghez said sternly. "Now get up. We're going to find your friend and get to Corellia."
"Then who is projecting the phantom?" Devin asked, but he obliged by matching the merc's fast pace. "The Kalanese?"
"Exactly," Ghez said. "I remember it all now, thanks to your little episode in the cafeteria. I was once like that… sharing a mind with one of the High Priests…" Ghez shivered at the thought. "It is a claustrophobic feeling. In fear that the Preist would find me and examine what I know, I've written down each of my days in a journal before wiping my own mind. You would do good to do the same."
Devin shook his head grimly. "What about Vieux? He's part of… their lot, isn't he?"
"Vieux was exiled and banished for loving a female of a renegade tribe," Ghez said tightly. "Don't ask how I know. I just do. And by the way, I've wiped the minds of your little friends in the cafeteria, too. Though if I pass out from overexertion, at least of the sense of mind to put me on the ship with you. Where's your friend?"
Devin reached out to the Force as they walked. Jean's familiar Force signature was about three levels below them, near the ships. She brushed his mind, humming with anxiety. She had felt his sudden emotions and intent, and already had a ship ready. When he told this to Ghez, he merely looked bemused and said what a wonderful Force Bond they both shared. Devin's face grew red.
The ship Jean had picked out was Sanji Taban's personal one. It looked like a modified, bulkier version of a Chiss clawcraft, gleaming silver and blue. It was longer, allowing two simple quarters (complete with foolproof locks for prisoners), a small kitchen area combined with the smallest Main Hold—also the armory—in ship history. There was no MedBay. Devin felt a glimmer of apprehension in the pit of his stomach, but dismissed it. Master Taban would be thanking them for stealing her ship, he just knew it.
Jean had managed a quick change of clothing—now she wore bulky mechanic's clothing—and had found a closet of clothes in the armory that would fit both Devin and Ghez. When she saw the mercenary come up the ramp, she just nodded as if she expected it. "Can't keep this man out of our lives now, can we?" was her only comment.
She sat at the pilot's seat and direct the mercenary to go check the cabins for food. Transferring her flight codes to the deck-duty Padawans, and fired her thrusters and slowly brought the small craft out of the large hanger. The shields over the opening closed once again, however, before she could even get out.
Devin pursed his lips, knew what was coming. "Hokan, get over here!" he yelled, right before the comm crackled to life.
"Master Sanji Taban left on a mission earlier yesterday," said an adscolent voice. "And she didn't leave instructions that anybody could use her ship. Identify yourself, please."
Ghez entered the cockpit and quickly crossed to the comm. He glanced at Jean, and she nodded. Devin felt her reach towards to the Force, so strongly that he almost thought she and the mercenary were merging their own energies together. "Padawans, my name is Ghez Hokan." His voice was soothing, almost hyptnotizing. "Now listen to me… You never saw this ship leave, understand?"
"I'm calling the… No, we never saw your ship."
"And you'll disable the security cameras."
"And we'll disable the security cameras."
"Thank you for your cooperation. We will leave now."
"You will leave now."
Ghez let go of the comm button. He flashed an daring smile at Jean, something that looked totally different on his face. "You did good, kid. I don't think I can wipe any more memories today."
Devin was at a loss. "You mind tricked them?" he asked Jean. She gave him a halfhearted nod. "Since when were you able the do it to five people at a time?"
"Never mind that," she said, angling the ship out of the hanger and into the upper atmosphere. "What's going on and why are we breaking fifty rules?"
Devin told her.
The first flaw in the story the Jean noted was the phantom. "How can you be melded with the mind of another but be a phantom at the same time?" she asked Ghez. "How do you know so much?"
"I was once part of a Force-Sensitive cult on my homeworld, Sorus," he explained. "There we learned many unnatural abilities… such as where I erase one's mind. We learned much about phantoms and splitting, which is what is going on with Juuni. Basically, she's locked inside her own person and being bent to the High Preist's will. When splitting and phantoms are mixed, they give the dominate one many powers. Such as to appear as an illusion. Now, thinking it out, I know that that's what happened. This Juuni was invisible to another's eye. Except ours. We have met her."
"Met her?" Devin echoed.
"You, on the Turbolift. Me… well, her dominate side is what controlled me for a time."
"We should contact Sanji," Jean suggested as soon as she put to hyperspace. "And soon."
"We'll need her number. Only the Council has that," Devin pointed out. He sat on the floor of the cockpit, arms crossed and thinking. "Hokan, if you rest, can you influence Hahn to give up the contact codes."
"My chances are slim even with rest," the large merc replied. "Unlike your Force, mine is taxed by distance."
"Maybe we could somehow contact her with the Force. I've heard of Jedi doing that before," Jean suggested. "Telepathy."
"Not even you can do that, Jean," Devin grumbled.
"How long is it until we reach Corellia?" Ghez asked.
Jean grumbled and checked the readout display. The answer brought another scowl to her face. "About six days. They're already two ahead of us by now. We're pretty slow ship. Hell, even Vieux and Jaing would get to Talravin before we got to Corellia."
"Because Talravin's closer to Ossus," Devin said reasonably. "Let's all just get some sleep. I'll take the first shift."
"Shift?" The mercenary glanced curiously at Devin, waiting for an explanation.
"We don't know most of the ship's kinks yet. One of us will stay up two hours, rest for four. Me first, Jean next, and then I'll come back on with you."
"You still don't trust me," he said grimly.
"No," Jean said. "Not yet." Her reaprochful gaze made the older man fall quiet.
The bait was set, dangling on a golden hook. The traitor, the two Jedi, and the three on Corellia would be the best supplies of energy the Ilu'faurun would ever get. Juuni's dominate darker half smiled as she boarded a faster ship waiting for her in the forest. As she passed the Padawan's ship in hyperspace, she realized she would get there the same day Rogan Strife's Guardians landed from Nar Shaadaa.
It was time to put the first steps in motion. Taggerung would be pleased.