A/N: Hi, everyone. Firstly, I want to apologize for leaving this story alone for over a year. There was a lot of crap going on and I lost interest and a whole bunch of other excuses you probably have no interest in. Second, I want to thank each and every person who reviewed. I think you all are fantastic, lovely people and deserve cookies and good karma.
I am restarting this, hopefully updating somewhat regularly, and I am also going back to edit previous chapters. If you find errors, please let me know so I can take care of them! Thank you very, very much!
Nar Shaddaa, 24 BBY
"There ain't no pirates here!" The bartender snarled, and hurled Obi-Wan out into the street. He hit the ground hard, grunting at the impact, and aimed a haphazard glare in the direction of the stocky Zabrak. The bartender bared his teeth at the fallen Jedi and slammed the door shut, the force causing it to rattle, effectively shutting Obi-Wan out of his presence.
Muttering under his breath, Obi-Wan climbed to his feet, attempting to brush off the sludge and filth that he had acquired from the ground.
Several bits of trash, slimly things, and mud tumbled to the alley ground and Obi-Wan stalked out, back into the gaudy brightness of the main streets, wincing and rubbing his leg.
He'd been on Nar Shaddaa, the cesspool of sentient life, in his opinion, for two days. He'd canvassed at least two dozen bars and cantinas, talking to hundreds of patrons, and purchased far too many alcoholic beverages (so far, his favorite had been the Flameout) and he had nothing.
The pirates he was searching for were clever indeed, and unnaturally cunning, to hide themselves as well as they were. No one had heard anything but the rumors and the aftermath—the pirate crew was vicious, was strong, and only attacked Hutt ships, leaving no survivors among the smuggling crews.
It was rumored that they sometimes freed slaves, though none of these slaves had ever said a word regarding their liberators, and it was also said that the pirates had a home base somewhere deep in Hutt territory. None of this really helped the young Jedi, unfortunately.
Yes, it was rather interesting that the pirates freed slaves (perhaps they had been slaves, once upon a time, or had lost family to slavers) and it was telling of their fearlessness that they could have a base in Hutt territory, but Hutt territory was everywhere in the Outer Rim and so were former slaves, and the information was so vague that it was useless.
And Obi-Wan was tired. He was filthy and exhausted and he just wanted to go homeand meditate, wanted to chase out all his un-Jedi-like feelings, but instead he was stuck here, on Nar Shaddaa, chasing ghosts in the wind and getting himself thrown into smelly alleys.
I need a drink.
He wandered down the streets, feeling naked in his spacer clothes—ragged pants, dirty white shirt, battered belt, dinged blaster—and missing the weight of his robes. His lightsaber was still with him, tucked firmly against his waist, but that was all he had to remind him that he was still a Jedi. His hair was now black and cut short, his beard gone, his eyes turned brown by special lenses. A fake scar spanned his nose and a fake burn crept up the back of his neck.
And he wore his usual blank, empty face, his color-changed eyes flat and expressionless.
All in all, he looked very dangerous, hard and wild, a tough man. This had been somewhat useful; since he looked like a pirate, others were more willing to share information (once he'd loosened their mouths with alcohol, but still) concerning pirates.
Obi-Wan continued down the street, his eyes flickering over the multitude of bars that advertised themselves with neon signs and loud music.
It was amazing, really, how much Nar Shaddaa resembled Coruscant on the surface. Both were planet cities, with huge skyscrapers and neon signs. Both were hubs of a sort, and both were teeming with every sort of life imaginable, and as a result, centers of Force-energy.
But Nar Shaddaa was dark and dingy—the skyscrapers were rough and dirty, some literally threatening to fall apart. The inhabitants of the Smuggler's Moon were a wilder sort—the most sophisticated were the gang bosses, eating fine food while someone else died brutally in the next room.
And Nar Shaddaa, unlike Coruscant, was a swirling mass of Darkness. All the fear and pain and anger the inhabitants felt was echoed in the Force energy; it was as Dark as any Sith, and frankly, it was choking.
Which, again, led to Obi-Wan wishing he was home, in the Temple, meditating and letting the Light rush through him.
He felt like a sullen child; he'd been refused what he wanted and now he was sulking.
Master Qui-Gon would be upset.
The thought was enough to jar Obi-Wan out of his moody musings and force him to pay attention to his surroundings. He was walking along another street, this one narrower, the dark doorways of the cantinas spitting out heavy music, unwanted drinkers, and the reek of vomit and booze.
Obi-Wan stopped in front of a hole-in-the-wall and, deciding that it was as good of a place as any, stepped inside.
Instantly, everyone's eyes flicked to him, and the Jedi fought the urge to swallow nervously.
There were close to a hundred patrons in the bar, of all different species—humans and Twi'leks, Krish and Wookies, Bith and Falleen—and every single one, even the prostitutes dancing in the smoky light, stopped to stare at the Jedi-in-disguise.
Each and every individual was ragged, covered in dirt and grime, scarred, and missing either limbs, teeth, or facial expressions.
Obi-Wan actually felt over-dressed.
"What be yer business?" The barkeeper, a weedy-looking Chiss, growled, stepping out from behind the bar and advancing towards Obi-Wan, his red eyes flashing.
"I'd like to buy a drink."
The Chiss sneered. "Little clean t' be buying drinks here, ain't ye?"
Obi-Wan kept his gaze level as the blue-skinned being came closer. "Little poor to be refusing paying customers, aren't you?" He swept his eyes around the cantina—it was small and cramped, the chairs and tables were wobbling, and there were holes in the walls and ceilings.
Clearly, despite the number of patrons in the cantina, the place was struggling.
The Chiss bared his teeth and several patrons, big, muscular fellows, half-stood, rumbling to themselves.
"Take it easy." Someone from the bar called.
Obi-Wan identified a young man, a stout kid with short, spiky dark hair and darker eyes, sitting at the bar, swiveling in his stool, surveying the scene with an air of mild amusement.
"He's with me." The kid continued. "We're talking business."
The Chiss nodded and backed off, though he still glared at the Jedi.
Obi-Wan smirked at him and strode over to the kid, settling down beside him.
"Mudbeer." Said the kid, gesturing at Obi-Wan, and the Chiss sullenly started filling a dirty glass.
Obi-Wan studied the kid curiously. He couldn't be older than eighteen, but he had authority here. The others in the cantina watched the kid, waiting to see what he would do and how he handled Obi-Wan.
It was fascinating.
"Do you have it?" The kid said, authoritively. He turned and the Jedi saw a scar on his cheek and a blaster holstered at his hip. The kid was dark-skinned, not like Windu but definitely not one of the pale humans from Naboo or Alderaan. And he was covering for Obi-Wan, which was interesting.
"Yes." The Jedi said, playing along. The Chiss bartender handed him his mudbeer. He didn't drink it—the Chiss probably spit in it.
"Good." Said the kid. "Come with me." He stood and hopped off the stool, leaving his drink. Obi-Wan did the same, following the shorter into a corner as the cantina came back to life. The music stared and the dancers began to dance again, the low hum of converstation washing over the pair.
The kid stopped and studied Obi-Wan. "What's your business here, stranger?" He asked, short and flat.
The Jedi watched him. "Why did you cover for me?"
"You're different." The kid shrugged. "You're interesting. Not many people like you wander around in this part of Nar Shaddaa."
"People like me?"
"Yeah, people looking for something. No one looks for anything here."
Obi-Wan kept his face blank. "Maybe I'm different."
The kid laughed, short and bark-like. "You are, ootmian, you are." He grinned. "So what're you looking for? Crewmates? Old business partners?"
Now or never, Kenobi.
"Pirates." He said.
The young man shifted, his face curious but still. Through the Force, Obi-Wan felt a sense of thinking; the kid was turning over the words in his head.
"Pirates." He repeated. "Any particular crew?"
"I'm looking for the crew that's been bothering the Hutts." Here Obi-Wan fingered his blaster and let a slight look of admiration slide across his face. "I was wondering if maybe they'd be interested in business with me."
"The Hutt Pirates?" The kid's face went still. He leaned back, studying the Jedi quietly. "I've heard of them. They're the ones who attack only Hutt ships, right? They operate around here, sometimes, catch the spice freighters as they clear the system. But no one knows who they are, what they look like, or even what kind of ships they use. They're ghosts, ootmian, phantoms, nightmares. If I was you, I'd quit looking."
Interesting. The kid was almost defensive, his face shut down, his dark eyes glittering. He seemed protective, almost, of these Hutt Pirates.
"There's no such things as ghosts." Obi-Wan told the kid, gently reaching out with the Force, brushing his mind. "Sooner or later, someone's going to expose this crew, and then—"
Suddenly, Obi-Wan was up against the wall, the kid pressed against him, hands painfully tight around Obi-Wan's wrists.
"I'd be careful," he warned. "Around here, those pirates are something like local heroes. You never know who you might offend with your questions, and some of these types around here can get violent when provoked."
"I'm not looking for trouble." The Jedi said, placating. He nudged the kid's mind, trying to make him let go. The kid held fast.
"You're looking for the Hutt Pirates. That's pretty much the same thing, ootmian. Who do you think you are, walking around here with your questions like you're some sort of Jedi?"
Obi-Wan fought off the urge to run at the kid's statement. He doesn't know, Kenobi. He's just making a point.
"Stop looking." The kid said, slowly and clearly. "You're not going to find anything, and you'll just get yourself killed." He let go of Obi-Wan, backing up, the scar sharp against his face, his eyes serious and glittering. "Bartender!" He called, and the Chiss came over, his crimson eyes venomous.
The kid jerked his chin at Obi-Wan. "Our business is done."
The Chiss shouted something and several of the muscular patrons stood and lumbered over. Obi-Wan leaned against the wall and closed his eyes.
He knew where this was going.
He was lifted and violently tossed into the alley, once again coated with filth as the door slammed shut, the music and lights cut off.
The kid with dark eyes watched until the door slammed.
That was informative. The Jedi thought dryly, once again picking himself up and dusting off the slime and garbage. And it was—the kid was connected somehow, Obi-Wan was sure of it. The Force was pulsing, telling him that the kid, with his dark eyes and his scarred face, was involved with the pirates.
Maybe he'd been one of the slaves that had been freed. Maybe he was a family member of one of the crew. Maybe he hated the Hutts and protecting the pirates was his way of getting back at them.
There were a hundred similar possibilities, but the kid was involved and he was the best lead that the Jedi had gotten so far, so Obi-Wan brushed himself of and lurked in the alley, watching for the kid.
Several hours passed and the Jedi slipped into a light meditation, keeping his senses aware of everyone who entered or exited the cantina. From his place in the shadows, Obi-Wan watched as several of the patrons left, all in varying stages of drunkenness, giving him brief flashes of how crowded the place was.
By 0300 hours, only the kid was left in the bar and the side door was propped open, giving the Jedi a good view through which he observed. The kid finished his drink, said something to the Chiss, and then made his way around the bar—
For several moments, Obi-Wan waited for him to reappear. When he didn't, the Jedi-in-disguise swore and darted around the back. Sure enough, there was a small door swinging shut, and a shadow vanishing down another alley.
As quietly as he could, Obi-Wan followed the shadow, his fingers itching towards his blaster and his concealed lightsaber. The sound of talking filtered through the shadowed alleyways, oddly distorted and more than a little disconcerting.
Finally, a neon sign splashed light into the alleyway and Obi-Wan caught sight of his prey; the kid had stopped, standing in a pool of pinkish light, talking on a battered, scratched commlink.
"Baatu baatu," he was saying. He was speaking in Huttese (damn him) and Obi-Wan understood maybe one word in three, straining to hear, to understand.
"Asking….questions… be…lookout…take…things here." Obi-Wan heard (and translated). The kid started to speak faster, his words blurring past all recognition for the Jedi, and he swore softly, though he had just gained a valuable clue.
"Mee jewz ku." The kid murmured, signaling the end of the conversation, and Obi-Wan felt something cold slide down his mind, and then the young man spun, drawing his blaster and loosing four or five bolts, rapid-fire. Obi-Wan swore to himself and dove to the side, sliding in gunk, the red bolts flying all around him.
"A'chu apenkee?" The kid bellowed. "Hi chuba de naga?"
Obi-Wan didn't answer, instead choosing to lie on the ground, breathing shallowly, praying to the Force he was not discovered.
"Who are you?" He repeated in Basic, still loud and angry. "What do you want?"
The Jedi pressed himself into the deepest shadows he could find, his hand curled around the cool hilt of his lightsaber.
The kid made a derogatory sound in his throat and spat, muttering under his breath, and then turned and bounded swiftly away.
Obi-Wan didn't follow; he knew that the kid wouldn't go to the pirates, not now, when he thought he was being followed. No, the kid would run around Nar Shaddaa, shooting at shadows. Following him would make it worse.
The disguised Jedi waited for his heart to slow, processing everything he had learned today.
The pirates were known as the Hutt Pirates. They freed slaves, who in turn were loyal to them. They found sympathy in those who hated the Hutts. Some were fanatically loyal to them, possibly killing any bounty hunters (or unfortunate Jedi Knights) who came sniffing around. The pirates had a serious grudge against the Hutts, probably because they came from a Hutt-controlled land. They were thought to have a base in a Hutt territory and they spoke Huttese, if the kid's call was anything to go by
And, perhaps the most important bit of information; the dark-eyed kid with the scar on his face most likely knew one or more of the crewmembers personally, because on the comm he had called the other speaker "brother". The "brother" might not be a part of the Hutt Pirates, but the Force was telling Obi-Wan that the dark kid, his "brother," and the pirates were all connected.
Obi-Wan resolved to come back to this area in the morning, ask around, see if anyone knew who the kid was.
He was the link to everything, Obi-Wan just knew it.
Sighing, running a hand through his short, dyed hair, he stepped from the shadows and began the long, muddy trek back to his dingy room.
He got about twenty-five feet before he realized that the kid's blaster bolt had grazed his arm, opening a shiny red weal on his skin.
The wound was short and straight, and, horrifyingly, covered in some type of slime from the shadowy corner in which Obi-Wan had taken refuge.
Gross, greenish, oozing, bacteria-infested slime.
On an open wound.
Obi-Wan closed his eyes.