Back again. Final section here.
Disclaimer: Still own nothing.
Bel-Rius watched him walk away for some time, with Rael's words clinging to him. Finally he steeled himself and stepped back up to the doorway.
Inside was a sight that, on the surface, could not have been more different from the bar he had found Rael in. Spotless surfaces and bright lights swirled over the scene of tables set with chairs that curved with an elegant, almost sexual gentleness. A tiny speaker, set above the central bar, filled the room with a haunting yet intentionally suggestive music. Droids milled at the bar- the first he had seen since his descent.
But he was astute enough to see beyond these surface details. Behind the music, behind the curvature of the furniture, there were the same signs of apathy and indifference. The place was sustained, but only by money; when all that dried up, the place would fall swiftly into disrepair. And, most strikingly of all, there was little noise. Many customers, evidently but, glancing around, the Jedi saw few in fit state. Some were already unconscious. Those not yet so deeply under the drug's effects sat shaking, cradling their laced drinks vengefully.
Upon entry, Bel-Rius was approached almost immediately by a Gamorrean, which grunted stupidly as it took his arm. He followed it round the bar to a booth in the far corner, where he could make out a figure, dressed as ever in black, and heavily bejewelled. The Gamorrean elbowed him and held out its thick fingers. When Bel-Rius failed to understand, it pushed him briefly and pointed at his lightsaber.
"I think not," Bel-Rius hissed; but the Gamorrean pressed against him, trying to snatch it away. Bel-Rius struggled but was no match for its strength. Bringing his free hand up, he was on the edge of using the Force when a voice sounded.
"Leave him be- we don't want a massacre in here."
The Gamorrean stopped, obedient, and directed Bel-Rius to the booth.
"You are Ractuul Wogana," said Bel-Rius, taking a seat.
"Correct," said Ractuul, nodding. "And you are Jedi Knight Bel-Rius. I knew you were coming."
Ractuul was an Umbaran. His voice rolled off his tongue in his sly accent and his hollow eyes stared out from greyed skin. Though he barely moved- except for the occasional tilt of his head as his eyes roamed- the many rings and necklaces he wore shone out in a thousand colours, showing jewels mined on a thousand worlds. Somehow, however, the effect of this spectacle was simply to throw Ractuul himself further into shadow.
He was like an ancient burial rite, bedecked in a finery he had no use for and that no longer brightened him.
It was inevitable that Bel-Rius once again felt himself becoming defensive and suspicious. That was a mode of being, he had found, for him in these underlevels.
"How did you know I was coming?" he demanded.
"Rael informed me by intercomlink as soon as you walked into his bar. I take precautions to be aware of what's happening on my levels of the city."
"You own none of this," said Bel-Rius darkly. "You are laying claim to open ground. But these skyscrapers are owned by the highest authorities you can imagine."
Ractuul snorted at that in amusement. He dropped his head for a moment; the dark eyes were pensive. Then he said: "Do you know which skyscraper we are in, Bel-Rius? Any idea? No? This is Megalon-270."
"Megalon? The trade organisation?"
"Indeed. We are somewhere in the base of its largest headquarters. Millions of credits worth of deals are going on above our heads as we speak."
"Impossible…" Bel-Rius had not intended to say that, but when he thought of Megalon-270 as he knew it- as a towering peak, blurry with height- he couldn't help but glance up into the dark ceiling. Ractuul saw where he was looking and smiled.
"Thinking of what must be happening all the way up there? Well, believe it: below the summit of Megalon's largest facility it is just the same as everywhere else. A nightclub; a bar; another part of the undercity. I imagine the workers above us know nothing of what is going on directly below them, right here, at this very moment."
Bel-Rius had had enough of talking. It was as though he could feel all the weight of the upperlevels crushing down on him; feel the endless expanse of the underlevels bearing in. He wanted out. "What's happening is an arrest," he said tautly. "Ractuul Wogana, you are wanted by the Republican authorities for the murder of a Jedi."
"Ah…" Ractuul parted the side of his robe and patted the lightsaber that hung there. "You're talking about this. So the Jedi have come to claim what they consider their own…"
"You are the second person to have said that to me today," Bel-Rius breathed. "Just come quietly with me to the upper levels and we'll avoid any unpleasantries."
"We we're talking about Megalon," Ractuul went on, ignoring him. "About the millions of credits of trade going on right over our heads. Well, I bring it up because it's ironic, you see- because there's almost as much trade going on down here." He motioned to a table where four figures were sat.
"Those four have come into money at some point. They could have luxurious apartments in the upper levels, but it is easier for them down here. To buy deathsticks, that is. They add them to their drinks now. When that becomes too expensive they'll move on to injection. So far they alone have given me no less than two thousand diactares. Two thousand! Can you even picture that much money, Jedi?"
Bel-Rius knew he was being deliberately incited. There was a power about Ractuul that was typical to an extent of an Umbaran, but at a much deeper level. He was hypnotic, entrancing. Every word he said was galvanising and appalling and inciting in equal measure, so that when he talked it was impossible not to listen.
"Let's go now," Bel-Rius pressed, "enough talk."
Ractuul smirked openly for the first time. "Your hands are shaking, Jedi. Why is that so? People tell me my words are poisonous; but in my opinion what is spoken isn't dangerous unless it reveals what is unspoken. What scares you about them? Guilt? But I can tell you aren't using deathsticks yourself. Maybe it's the fact that…"
And he paused for a moment, with Bel-Rius coiled in his seat with every muscle tense.
"… that just today, you yourself contributed to my business. You gave a boy money to buy deathsticks. You gave money to a known dealer. You have fuelled my business. For that… I thank you."
Bel-Rius sprang to his feet in a flash of movement. The Gamorrean started forward but was thrown against the counter in a blast of the Force. At the same instant Bel-Rius' lightsaber flickered out in his hand. The blade whirled momentarily before coming to rest inches from Ractuul's throat.
For a moment there was fear in his eyes, but that quickly turned to mockery and hatred.
"You could be tried for this unprovoked act of aggression, Jedi! I would consider your next move carefully."
"If that's so, then I'll take you down with me. Tell me where you've hid the body and you may just avoid a death sentence."
At this a sneer erupted on Wogana's face that made Bel-Rius' blood boil to see. It was a sneer of pure insolence and pure hatred, born of a lifetime of avoiding the law, of despising its order and its rationality. It was a sneer born of chaos.
"I doubt there will be a sentence of execution," Wogana scoffed. "For you see, there is no body. This saber was given willingly. In fact it was… offered."
Bel-Rius' jaw tightened around gritted teeth. "You're lying!"
"You know you believe me!"
It was true; Wogana had the power to create truth and lies and make them the same, but this was no trick. Bel-Rius knew that in every cell of his body.
"Yes… you do believe me," Wogana went on. "I can see how it burns you. Somewhere within your temple, at this very moment, is a weaponless Jedi. A weaponless Jedi! How amusing a thought it is."
"But why… why would he give it to you? You, of all people?"
"Can't you guess?"
Bel-Rius' held the lightsaber closer. "Talk! Tell me, or I'll kill you! I'll kill you!"
Wogana threw back his head and cackled. "Can't you see!" he cried, "for deathsticks, Jedi! He gave it for deathsticks! What else would he give it for?"
Bel-Rius was stunned. He tried to speak but no words came out. Wogana continued mercilessly, his voice drinking in the Jedi's fury and despair with every word like a sweet, smooth cocktail.
"To think… to think of all your tenets, all your philosophies, all your training and discipline and wisdom and seeking- swept away in a narcotic haze! There is something so perfect about deathsticks. Exquisite pleasure that leaves you needing more. That, Jedi, is a power greater than any army, any organisation, any religion! Remember that."
Bel-Rius had put his saber away. The acceptance of defeat weighed heavily on his eyes.
"What about the murder?" he asked listlessly. "Someone will need to be taken."
"Arrest some little people," said Ractuul offhandedly. "You know as well as I that no-one would dare attempt to try me considering the… sensitivity of proceedings."
Bel-Rius nodded. He wanted to be angry with Ractuul- so angry. But he found now that all his anger for the undercity was gone.
"Do you want the saber back?" asked Wogana, smirking. "It's of no use to me. I accepted it only out of principle."
Bel-Rius shook his head. "It wouldn't matter. It would never be claimed. Most likely your buyer will build another in secret."
And, for the last time Bel-Rius would see, Ractuul's lips curled up slightly, into a final smirk of victory. It was as though he had been engaged in some thrilling and dangerous game that was only now reaching its conclusion. The drug-baron waved a hand and several huge Gamorrean guards approached. Bel-Rius put up no resistance as they hustled him swiftly across the bar and outside.
Back in the tunnel, there was nothing but a return of silence. The two humans in the corner glanced up as he was thrown out, then rapidly looked away, a slight wariness about them being the only acknowledgement of his existence. Below them, the little black figures moved about just as before, unaware of the proceedings.
As he staggered up, Bel-Rius considered how he could possibly have acted so foolishly. He had directed himself to the wrong side of the city. What Rael had said was true: he was not needed.
There would be no arrests.
Good? Review please. I'd most like to know if you understand why Bel-Rius appears to just 'give up' (as REV put it) at the end of the story. I have tried to clarify it, but I still don't want the reason to be glaringly spelt out as that's the point at which a story becomes a mission statement (e.g. so you don't like homophobes, so let's write a story in which homophobes are brutally murdered). It should be discernible but not immediately obvious. Sorry if that sounds complex. Maybe I'm just being stupid and I should spell it out more. Anyway, hope you enjoyed reading. If you'd be interested in reading any more of these one or twoshots should I do them, do let me know.