You are a good man.
Her words reverberated in my mind, louder and louder the longer I sat still. Earlier, Bex had quickly gotten me out of Recero's building through an isolated underground tunnel that put me about half a kilometer away from Tzymo's compound, and I had about ten minutes before another guard patrol came by. It was a long, nerve-wracking walk alone in the pitch black of Malastare's night, but back inside the empty warehouse was even more tense. What if Recero hadn't disabled all of the trips and alarms Tzymo had planted in anticipation of my disobedience? I kept envisioning the entire complex exploding in a spectacular fashion, with only me inside...or maybe dioxis gas being pumped through the enviro system to slowly poison me in my sleep. Tzymo was creative; he'd spare no expense to have me put down for good. I knew too much.
I am a good man, she had told me. But after thinking about it, how would she know? She said she knew about my missions, presumably with the Huxnel, and my encounters with the four from Paneau. How could she come to that kind of conclusion with all that damning evidence? I'm far from good. I'm one of the worst people I know.
So my conscience had gotten the better of me a few times. I knew I shouldn't have gotten involved with Mand Natiyr again, but I did anyway, and only got more trouble for it. And later signing on with Tzymo should have registered as willingly boarding a ship to hell, as evidenced by the introductory mission I had to complete for him, but I was blinded by the chance to find Recero again. My "good" had first come from petty wrongs, so the way I see it, they cancel each other out. At least, sometimes they do. More often than not, the "good" was never enough to negate the original offense, no matter how hard I tried.
I wasn't one to forgive easily, so I didn't expect it from others. But I had to find Max for Recero, or I'd never forgive myself. Where was I supposed to start, though? Soran was Joshua Redgrave's brother, so I might be able to get something from him. He owed me that much after risking my life a hundred different ways to get him the intel on the Huxnel the New Republic wanted. Joshua was a New Republic Commander, leader of the Rallye Squadron, and last I heard, they had been in the Paneau system helping out with some kind of Huxnel remnant problem there. If there was anything to get from someone in that sector, I'd begin my hunt by talking to Joshua.
Of all the places to go back to.
That's where my next mission for Tzymo was supposed to be, too. I was still waiting for specifics, which was why I was spending so much time in his Malastare compound. If Tzymo hadn't had me on such a tight leash, I would have been long gone before he could stop me, before he could find me...
But I stayed, foolishly hoping he wouldn't find out about my infraction. If I acted normal, I thought, he wouldn't get suspicious.
Or would he?
Surely he'd have expected me to do something by now in regard to my sister, so I was surprised I didn't yet have a mouse droid following me around everywhere I went to catalog my movements. But maybe that was how Tzymo wanted me to feel; maybe his mandate was more psychological warfare than anything. I knew he could make good on his threats, though. I'd seen that much. But he had taken a strange liking to me, despite what I thought was my lack of qualification. He seemed to have me figured out, which was more aggravating than waiting around for weeks for his instructions...
Instructions that had finally arrived.
The comm console beside me beeped importantly, and I brought the message up on the display screen. I read it two, three, four times to be sure I wasn't hallucinating...
TARGET: Max Redgrave
AGE: 7 GSY
LAST KNOWN LOCATION: Paneau System
LAST KNOWN ASSOCIATE(S): Soran Redgrave, spice dealer
OBJECTIVE(S): Acquire target. Return to Tzymo Labs on Coruscant. Alive.
PAYMENT: 5 million
I'm not sure how long I stared at the screen, wondering when I was going to wake up from such a perverse nightmare.
What in the universe could Tzymo possibly want with Max? With a seven-year-old boy? Tzymo's dealings were with tangibles, but if he needed people to spill their secrets, he'd get more than a few middlemen to drag out the intel he wanted; he wouldn't do it himself. Even if he wasn't my nephew, I wouldn't bring a kid to Tzymo anyway, no matter what he paid me. Did he know Max's connection to Recero? Was he going to use Max against her? Against me?
I sat in horrified shock for what felt like an hour. I knew Tzymo was crazy, but not child-kidnapping-crazy. How was I going to get around him? I couldn't just send him a message back, Sorry, I don't feel like doing that job; he'd want to know why while he was strapping me to his research table to "experiment" on me. But if he didn't already know that Max is Recero's son, no amount of torture was going to get it out of me.
I swallowed hard. Though my mind was still reeling, I noticed my hands were shaking. I had never been so infuriated and terrified at the same time, and feeling both at once locked me in a weird daze. Before I even realized that I had moved, I was standing at a window, looking across the emptiness at Recero's building as my fist met the solid wall just to the side. The pain of the impact was enough to clear my mind and focus my resolve.
I didn't care that Tzymo could see my reaction on his surveillance cams, any more than I cared that I was leaving a trail of blood on his warehouse floor as it dripped off my split knuckles. Whether he knew it or not, he had sent me over the edge...and I wasn't coming back.
Until I could figure out how to take him down, he had seen his last of Horatio Sheridan.