[[Feb 2013: Minor changes.]]

Apologies. For the last three weeks my life and time has been taken up with a performance of Les Miserables that I was in. We had a total sell-out season, standing ovations every night, an amazing cast, and now it's over and my life seems rather empty… [[Feb 2013: Man, that was amazing. Still fond memories.]]

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Mace Windu steepled his fingers, the fingertips pressing against one another. "What we need is answers. These…bounties must not be allowed to continue, and these missing Jedi must not increase in number."

"Send you, we do, on the investigation," Yoda said from his chair next to Mace. "Careful, you must be. No knowledge we have of what this is linked to."

Before them stood Kit, Obi-Wan and Siri. An unusual alliance, but a welcome one – all three were capable and skilled, and the fact that Siri and Obi-Wan were Senior Padawans would make this mission all the easier: experience here would be invaluable. The team-up was unorthodox, but at this stage of events that was the last thing anyone was thinking about. The three were bound by duty and longing to find their missing opposites, and so were the most deserving and qualified to undertake this mission.

The Council, now only ten members strong, was putting their hope within these three.

"Go to Resht VII," Mace said calmly. "Find the headquarters of House Salaktori, and find answers – who put the bounties on these Jedi, and where they have been taken."

He paused, and then softly spoke again. "May the Force be with you."

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The ship was called the Millennium Falcon. A heavily modified Corellian light freighter, the details of how the Jedi Order acquired such a ship were still relatively unknown. As it was, the ship was moderately sized and easy to pilot, with reasonable living quarters and a point five hyperdrive…making it the fastest craft in the Jedi Temple hangar.

Obi-Wan was sitting at the co-pilot's controls; Siri having beaten him to the Captain's chair. Not that he minded. Much.

Kit was meditating, so the Padawans were taking the ship into hyperspace. Both were skilled in piloting and soon the ship was in hyperspace and en route to the Inner Rim planet of Resht VII.

Obi-Wan leant back in his chair and looked over at Siri, who was putting the ship onto autopilot. Her task completed, she looked over to him and smiled wearily. Obi-Wan could see slight shadows under her eyes that he hadn't noticed before.

"Are you alright?"

"I'm fine – I just didn't sleep well last night. Worried about Adi."

Obi-Wan nodded. "I know how you feel."

"And what about our bond?" Siri ran a frustrated hand through her hair. "It's like…oh, I don't know."

"Like it's muted," Obi-Wan offered simply. "I can still feel Qui-Gon…but can't sense him, if you see my meaning. There are no impressions, emotions, or thoughts coming through it – but I can definitely feel his presence."

"It's the same with Adi. At least we know they are alive." Siri looked out the window. Obi-Wan knew what she was thinking – it was on his mind too.

"But for how long?" Kit softly asked the unspoken thought from behind them. The Nautolan had arrived unseen and unheard by the two younger Jedi and was currently leaning on the doorway, his head-tentacles slightly brushing the roof of the cockpit. "I have the same link to Bant. Silent, yet present." His black eyes watched them both calmly. "Now come, the both of you – there are things we must discuss."

He turned and moved back to the common area of the Falcon, Siri and Obi-Wan following. When they were all seated, Kit leaned forward conspiratorially, his arms resting on his knees. He looked between the two of them.

"What do you know about House Salaktori?"

"They're the biggest of the Bounty Hunter Guild houses," Siri said after a moment. "They don't really have a specialisation, unlike some of the other houses of the Guild."

"They're also the biggest collaborators with other groups," Obi-Wan continued. "Because of their size, there have been multiple reports of their partnerships with OutlawTech, the Zygerrian Slavers Guild, and even the Sabaoth Squadron on occasion."

Kit nodded in approval. "Good. So can you guess our problem? Salaktori is very big and complex, incredibly dangerous, deeply connected, and Resht VII is its major stronghold, where we are travelling to…so what's our problem?" The well-known mischievous glint was in his eye as he raised an eyebrow at the Padawans.

"There's only three of us."

Kit grinned at Obi-Wan. "Exactly. This will be difficult – the information we need is likely to be in the main, if not hidden, control room and major databank. That's where most, if not all, of the hits and contracts have records of some kind – to be used against denying clients, mostly – it's happened before in the courts."

"So how are we going to do this?" Siri asked, mimicking Kit's conspiratorial stance and leaning forward, her arms on her knees.

"There are many ways into a stronghold of this kind, I'm sure both of you know that. The question that remains is which one serves our purpose best, and will have the highest likelihood of success?"

Kit leaned back and counted them off on his slender, green fingers. "One: going in undercover as a freelance bounty hunter. Two: infiltrating the stronghold without being seen, through ventilation shafts and pure skill. Three: finding a weak-minded lackey with low intelligence who has more greed than brains. Four: going in and posing as a client. Five: hacking the central database. Those are the only five I can see that have promise."

"My opinion, Master Fisto, is that we should infiltrate at night," Siri said. "That way we have no possibility of being out of place physically, masquerading under a thin disguise, or having to rely on a third party to complete the mission. It appears to be less risk."

"Only if we're not seen. But I see your point." Kit looked to the other apprentice. "Obi-Wan?"

"I agree with Siri; infiltration seems to be the best; but not by much. But I think that we should attempt to hack into the data first. There's a high possibility it won't work – Salaktori's firewalls and computer protection will be outstanding – but if there is any chance we could retrieve the information that way without having to set foot in such a dangerous area, then I think it best."

Kit nodded, pleased. "Good plans, the both of them. I agree with you both, but will add my own opinion to the mix. My own plan is this: we will attempt the hacking when we arrive, using an external source that is either untraceable or local – either way will block Salaktori knowing who it is should they realise they are being broken into. Should the hacking fail, or we risk being caught, then we move on to the infiltration. This will happen two-fold, at the same time. I will go as a bounty hunter through the front door, while the two of you find a more…secretive way inside. We will have an appointed meeting time and place – which you must turn up to, information or no information. Should this also fail, then we find ourselves a suitable idiot to help us."

Both Padawans nodded. This plan was sound – all it would take was the skill to pull it off properly.

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*Access Denied*

Obi-Wan frowned, typing another combination across the keyboard, and checking the coding of the firewall. This code should be an at least semi-security override, getting the more basic systems out of the way. The data port hummed, changed pitch, and then the symbol flashed green.

*Access Granted*

Obi-Wan grinned. They had only been on Resht VII for about and hour, and here he was, sitting in the corner of a small and dingy data-café. Kit was next to him at another port, helping shield Obi-Wan's work from the unneeded and potentially dangerous view of other customers. He had been at work for the past twenty or so minutes, breaking delicately through whatever blocks the security system around the Salaktori mainframe threw at him.

"How are you going?" Kit asked in a low voice, pretending to read something on his screen.

"Fine, Master Fisto," Obi-Wan responded in a similar tone. "I've got through the basic security and some of the system is open to me now. Hook up your datapad and I'll send you the unlocked information as I get it."

Kit fiddled for a moment with some wires before his own screen lit up with the same information. "So you've got access to the low priority level stuff, but nothing higher?"

"I'm working on it now…there. That's information from the next two levels."

Nodding, Kit began scanning a list of names. Obi-Wan paused from his own work at glace over. "What's that, if I may ask?"

Kit grinned and he continued scanning. "An interesting, if misnamed so hidden list of those Salaktori will have to soon eliminate if their complete trust to the House is not proved…I'm hoping one of these names will be the lackey we are looking for, should his services be required."

"Ah." Obi-Wan turned back to his screen and paused before typing another override code. This was beginning to get very hard, the deeper he went. The computer technicians of the House Salaktori had done an exceptional job on the coding and may times he had found himself at technological dead-ends. Each level was taking longer and longer to crack, too – at this rate he'd crack the deepest one in a matter of weeks…

A few vital instructions to the system had initially provided Obi-Wan with the basic information of the system itself – fifty-two levels, each set at a higher priority, each level with a different firewall and code to crack. Each one holding different information and files; some dead ends, others full of useless information to their purpose. Fifty-two levels.

And Obi-Wan was working on the fifteenth.

Pausing to rest his hands against the console, Obi-Wan stared at the screen. This was a massive task. He hoped Siri was having more luck on the job Kit had given her. He had handed the young woman a list and a lot of credits, then told her to be back within the hour, sooner if she felt she was in danger.

As if she had heard his thoughts, Siri walked through the door, her cloak wrapped tight around her. Not only was Resht VII cold, it covered her Jedi garments. Obi-Wan and Kit had wrapped their cloaks around themselves in a similar fashion for the same reason.

She carried two bags, which she put between her fellow Jedi. Kit opened one and grinned. "Well done, Siri Tachi! These will do perfectly." In response to Obi-Wan's asking look, he pulled up a slightly torn and heavy duty blaster belt, obviously second-hand. "Things to befit my new-found bounty hunter status."

"Any luck with the hacking?" Siri asked, looking at Obi-Wan's screen.

"I'm stuck here, level fifteen – all my tricks haven't worked on this one. They're all different…any ideas?"

Siri frowned, staring at the screen in thought. "No, sorry. You probably know more than me."

Obi-Wan typed for a further ten minutes, trying more risky codes to break the block. Finally, one worked – level fifteen was open, and he loaded it to Kit's datapad. Now…he turned his attention to sixteen. Another level, another new code, another new tangle of security.

After only a few minutes of typing, the data port's hum flickered slightly, as if a power surge had passed through it. Frowning, Obi Wan quickly typed a much shorter code into the system, looked at the result and began shutting down the data port.

"We're being traced."

His soft statement immediately dissolved Kit and Siri's conversation. "Are you sure?" Kit asked as Obi-Wan stood casually.

"The data port hum changed. It's meant to sound like a power surge so no one gets suspicious, but it's a tracking programme. And suddenly the internal matrix for this particular port has a connection being formed externally. We need to leave."

"How did you know that?" Siri asked him quietly as the three of them slipped out and onto the snow covered streets of Resht VII.

"Ask Qui-Gon. We were caught in the same way on a mission, years ago…" Obi-Wan trailed off as he thought of his Master. Qui-Gon…where was he? Was he all right? He was still alive – his presence hadn't wavered – but who had him? Could he be here, Force forbid, in Salaktori's captivity? Obi-Wan broke from his thoughts as Siri laid a sympathetic hand on his arm.

"I'm sure he's fine," she said, immediately knowing his mind.

"And so is Adi." Obi-Wan returned. It had become a mantra for the two of them over the trip. Whenever he wasn't thinking about something important to the mission or focused on a task, Obi-Wan always found his thoughts coming back to the man who was like his father, his family…and Obi-Wan knew Siri was going through something similar.

Kit looked both ways up the small street. "We need to get going. The next part of our plan must be done tonight."

"Shouldn't we wait? They've just had a computer break in – won't they be edgy?" asked Siri.

Kit grinned. "No waiting. Their edginess will make them jump at shadows, therefore making it easier for us to sneak inside: they'll be worried about hacking, not physical infiltration. Their focus will be on the technological, not the obvious."

"Then we had better get ready and do it soon, while the threat is still apparent," said Obi-Wan, pulling his cloak around him tighter.

Kit nodded. "We'll only get one chance. This has to be done delicately."

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Apparently the Falcon was in possession of the Jedi before Masters Calrissian and Solo got their hands on it…the details aren't too clear, but I just had to add the Falcon if I could get away with it in any way…