A/N: This is a side project; it'll go for about three chapters.At the height of the Clone Wars, soon after the Battle of Christophsis…
Nekai Fisto could not see. The ally she had been tugged into smelled of trash and salty, faint-with-age fear. Her kidnapper, though, whom she knew only as hard hands on her shoulders and back, exuded only heady confidence. The young Nautolan tried to cry out, but her mouth would not open, as surely as the leather-scented cloth that was tied around her head would not budge and free her sight. Her breathing was shallow, but her headtails could not escape the smell of feelings gone rancid. She tried to pull her away, but her captor's grip was inexorable. In a flash of thought she dug into her pocket and cast the necklace she had just purchased from a street vendor out onto the ground. It rang metallically, thrice.
Her captor hesitated, its movement uncomfortable straining Nekai's back. But the hands did not withdraw, and she was pushed on again.
The comforting scent of her parents faded away as she was rushed down the alley.
Nekai was being led into a dark labyrinth of crime and refuse, away from her family, who would never find her because they were only on Coruscant for vacation—She fought panic. Although she could not see, she desperately tried to count steps to find out how far from the location she knew reasonably well she was--
Her captor pushed her forward, out into nothingness. For a moment she shrieked as she imagined falling into a bottomless skylane, but her outflung hands caught her on soft cloth. Something at the edge of her hearing clicked as she felt her feet pushed forward. She crawled along, identifying her location; the interior of a speeder, one that smelled of new and emotionless materials. She continued forward, exuding frustration. "Where am I, you—!" She shouted in Basic, language of classrooms, using Nautolan scent-music and the thrashing of her tendrils to emphasize her words. "Let me go!"
But her palms found a vertical sheet of transparisteel, either a viewport or a screen like that between the first and second rows of seats in a police speeder. All she could do was look around without sight, and feel the confining walls.
Nervously she sat back in the seat and tucked her hands beneath her headtails, parting the almost full-grown tendrils and arranging them on either side of her head. The speeder started and flew for a time Nekai could not with surety calculate, although it could have been no more than fifteen minutes, leaving her in tense, frightened silence. Then the vehicle stopped, and again the kidnapper pulled her, by the hand now, onto a flat floor.
Nekai tried to pull away, but her captor's grip was stronger than the girl's. Stamps and kicks failed to find her captor's feet or legs. Again she could not speak, as if the organs that enabled her to had disappeared.
She stumbled along, then was pushed to a seated position, her back against a cold wall. She lashed out with her hands, but somehow her blindfold was gone and her captor was out of reach.
Across the dusty room, a thick door closed and locked. At Nekai's right sat a pile of dented, dusty luggage boxes. On all other sides there were only the rough, gray walls. A red light, the only feature on the wall where the door's control panel should have been, indicated that she was locked in.
Her parents would notice that she was gone. They would contact the police. But how hard was it to find someone in a world as complex as Coruscant? Would the customs here be much different than on Glee Anselm? The Fisto family were tourists, had only been on the capital planet for a few days…
She sat back against the wall, breathing shallowly, wracked with nervousness, and draped her headtails around her shoulders, an equal number to each side.
Coruscant opened its arms to the galaxy. Although many citizens of the Republic thought of crowds and the poor and the criminal when the city-planet came to mind, Coruscant also hosted the rich and influential. With credits that could have been used to succor the beings that lived in near-squalor, attractions and luxuries were built to make the rich feel as important and appreciated as possible.
One such luxury was the Aquala Tower. A skyscraper filled almost entirely with water, it served as a comfortable living and recreation area for aquatic or oceanic sentients. Affluent Quarren, Mon Calamarians, Neelabi, and others spent time there to feel more comfortable than they even could in the dry environments preferred by most species.
The Force alone does not sustain the lives of even the Jedi, and so Kit Fisto occasionally visited the tower, to bow to physiology and luxury in a miniature sea fashioned after the one in which he had been born. Air, while essential and invisible, sometimes felt rough against his skin, and so he stayed in the deepest part of the expansive room dedicated to his homeworld. The seas of Glee Anselm were warm and shallow, so even in the depths the water was brightly-lit blue-green. Coral grey in secluded caves where he hummed to himself with the sounds and smells none outside his species would recognize as music. In the distance, he could see the murkier waters of other habitats, separated from each other by thick transparisteel.
He kicked his way through the open water, past seaweed-shrouded caves where sometimes he rested, sleepy from the pleasant feeling of water rushing past. What could it possibly be like, he thought, to fear drowning? Like the ocean was a lesser relative of space, he supposes.
After the swim, Kit sat on a ledge just above the beautiful faux ocean, savoring the humidity, soon to return to the Jedi Temple.
He rose and returned to the locker where he had left his cloak and gear. A pressor field just outside the ocean-filled room dried the clothes which he had warm when swimming. In the locker room, he unrolled his lightsaber from where it had been hidden in his overcloak. He went back onto the ledge above the aquatic chamber on his way out of the building.
A dim Force presence signaled a sentient being rising out of the water. It hesitated as if waiting for him to turn around.
He did so, and saw a female alien sitting on the edge of the ledge. She wore a complex suit almost like a humans' diving equipment, and was of a species that Kit recognized but could not recall the name of; on the back of her head, beyond the thicket of fleshy spikes which served her as hair there would be two more eyes, on the back of her skull. Her skin was azure, shading to lavender around her cheeks and pointed ears.
"Master Jedi," she approached him and bowed.
He returned the bow slightly, the lightsaber hilt cold in one hand. "How may I help you?"
"I'm Private Investigator Mina Wakani. I've petitioned for help on a certain case from the Temple, but a kidnapping doesn't seem to take priority there."
Kit would not go back to the Temple without a mission and leave a citizen of the Republic in peril, but he also needed more information. He said, "I would be happy to assist you…" But he expressed confusion as well. Why was she here if she was on a case? Her species were vestigially aquatic, but they did not need immersion like Nautolans did to survive, and the water their planet thrived on had a slightly different chemical makeup than that of Glee Anselm—which explained the diving suit.
She was quick to understand his expression. One hand dipped into a plastic-shrouded pocket and withdrew a plastic chip that with a press of her fingers projected a hologrammic business card proclaiming her a licensed investigator. "The victim was a Nautolan, a teenage girl. Her parents brought he here for a leisure trip, but she's fallen off the radar completely. I thought that here I might more clearly think about why someone might have wanted to take her and cover their tracks so thoroughly, and hoped to get more of a feel for the Nautolan community in this district."
They walked toward the turbolift to the outside world together. "How long has she been gone?"
Fugitives could go so far in that time.
The detective radiated confidence, but also trepidation; she was kind enough to worry about her clients, a potentially distracting attachment.
Kit asked, "Where are your clients now?"
"They've rented an apartment not far from here."
"If you would permit it, I would like to visit them."
The nearby apartment was one that the Nautolans were renting for their temporary stay, but it outclassed any hotel. It was large and finely decorated—the family must have been affluent—but to Kit's dermal scent-receptors the place was covered in fear, worry, and the sense of distance from home.
At the Aquala, the investigator had taken a moment to change into streetclothes, then had led Kit to her speeder, where they discussed some of the more specific aspects of the case. The Nautolans had no enemies, had only come to Coruscant to see the famous sights. Kit had told her his name, but only as she opened the clients' domicile's door did she say "Their names are Karef and Aning Fisto, and they are from Sabilon, on Glee Anselm."
The name could easily have belonged to a family unrelated to Kit's, evidence of the repeated names which were bound to occur among the billions of individuals in each species, but Kit smelled them when he entered the apartment. It was as if he was walking into pheromones signed in the same hand as his own, and the Force whispered of import.
The two Nautolans were sitting on a lavender couch in the apartment's first room, and they stayed there while the door read Wakani's credentials and the detective and the Jedi entered, but then came smoothly forward to meet them. Both looked haggard and displeased. The male—Karef--was solidly built, and wore a brown, long-sleeved tunic that looked glum against the bright lime of his skin. Aning displayed one of the rarer pigmentations, blue skin that contrasted favorably with her violet tunic.
"This is Jedi Master Kit Fisto," Wakani said. "He is going to help us."
"Thank you," Karef said, and clasped Kit's proffered hand in one of his own. He exuded the personal scent that was familiar to Kit. A moment later, the scent-message changed—recognition, memory—then was buried in calmness.
These sensations moved by quickly. Kit thought, with a small twinge of fear, that this Naurolan knew how to use his scent-emanations with more dexterity than Kit did; they flicked by faster and contained more information—almost pictures—then had had ever experienced before. I, Kit realized, think like a human. But he had the Force, a depth of its own. These people were as unaware of it as Wakani was of the scent-data. Within it were more feelings, as loud as music; fear and loneliness swamped the parents of the lost child.
Kit paced a few steps away from the group, folding his hands into the wide sleeves of his overcloak. Play the part of the Jedi Master, even if they can sense my concern. He said, "Detective Wakani had told me about when and where your daughter was lost. What I need is something that belonged to her—if possible, something she had with her just before she was taken."
Immediately, Aning stepped forward. She opened one blue-skinned hand to reveal the stone pendant from a necklace; she had been holding it so tightly that it had pressed a shadow of its shape into her skin. Her voice was soft and fluid; Kit fund himself disheartened when she finished speaking. "She had just purchased this, and we found it in the mouth of the alley where…" She looked at her feet.
"I do not wish to take something that has sentimental value to you," Kit said, "but I know a Jedi who may be able to draw information from this."
"No! Here," Aning offered the trinket and he took it. "It's far more important that we have Nekai herself."
"Of course." Kit felt the rounded sides of the pendant in indent the skin of his palm.
Aning bowed her head again, this time in thanks.
"Will this take long?" Karef asked gruffly.
"It is a priority," Kit assured. "We will take action within no more than two days."
There was no relief in their Force senses; not yet. But hope glimmered, like sunken treasure in a dark ocean.
"Excuse me," Aning asked. Although Nautolans were not inclined to breaking eye contact as a sign of nervousness like many humanoids did, the flecks of copper-color in her black irises seemed to convey the same feeling. "We had a son, who would have been about your age, and he was needed by the Jedi…"
The rote answer formed itself into words before Kit could realize what he was saying. "Force-sensitive children could be dangerous to their family or community if they were left with their parents. Strong emotions in young life could cause Jedi to be emotionally unstable in adulthood, denying the Republic the defense that keeps those families safe, or even posing a danger to them."
They all looked at one another, awkward. Surely, Kit thought, they all suspect. The surname—the home region—the scent—were undeniable. None present except Kit knew the proper procedure for a Jedi encountering his family, and Kit had just followed that procedure.
What, he thought, if the kidnapper had taken the girl to get to me? Was this scenario too unlikely to be chance? Aning said, "But do you think that he is happy?"
He had to reply, although the answer inexplicably disheartened him. Perhaps he saw a glimpse of what he could have been, what he could never have gotten to do. The life of a Jedi—the battles—were his light in life. "Yes. Incredibly happy sometimes, as if everything was meant to be as it is."
Anger flared up in Karef, but Aning reached back to take his hand. Karef's jaw tightened. "At least if we lose two children we'll know who to blame."
Wakani stepped up beside Kit, all four eyes narrowed. "We'll do what we can."