End of The Hunt
Hopefully this will be the last chapter of this long arc of my fic. But don't hold your breath.
A revision was made in "The True Assassin" in section three.
Never surrender until you're dead
A tube of glass descended from the ceiling, locking in place on the red velvet rug. Ahsoka came drifting down the shaft on a little platform. Glass doors parted open. Ahsoka stepped into the center of three hallways. The door on the wall beside her had a lone door in the center of the wall. Likely it led to the docking area Anakin was in. The glass doors closed behind her and the elevator disappeared into the ceiling. Ahsoka sighed dismally, scratching the back of her head. Three hallways, dozens of rooms, and a few hours to search them. Which to choose first?
"Someone give me a sign." Ahsoka whined. When there was no answer, she slapped her hands to her sides and utilized the best means for making a decision. "Eeny, meeny, miney, moe. The right." She turned on her heels to head begin down the hall. "May I can use that trick Master Sinube taught me," The door lock panels lit up, "Maybe that'll speed things up." Hushed whooshes of air hissed behind her. Loud clanks from door opening reverberated the walls. Ahsoka twisted around. Her eyes widened.
Eight B2 battle droids emerged from the rooms. "Halt, Jedi!" One of the droids ordered. The droids clicked the hammers of their built in blasters back.
"Not the sign I wanted." Ahsoka squared her feet. The green beam of her saber ignited from its sheath. She narrowed her eyes, waiting for that first shot. Another whoosh of air caught her ear. Chills rolled over her spine. "Please tell me that's the AC." Ahsoka closed her eyes. She turned her head back. An eye poked open.
Eight B1 had their blasters locked onto her. The doors they emerged from closed behind them. "Surrender, Jedi!"
"WHOA!" Ahsoka dove into the adjacent hallway. Volleys of laser bolts screeched shrieked between the connected hallways. Ahsoka tumbled into the middle of the hall, keeping away from the walls nearest the relentlessly flying bolts. A wall of bullets blocked her from passage or escape, trapping in the one corridor with no escape. "THAT'S IT! I'VE HAD IT!" She tossed her hands into the air. Heavy trudges of the battle droids' footsteps shook the floor. "THAT VICEROY IS SONOT WORTH THIS TROUBLE!"
Double doors whisked open, allowing a soaked Anakin to enter into what he made out to be the cargo hold. Water and algae from the scummy water dripped to the metal flooring. Anakin spat lingering water onto a crate. The taste of pond scum, algae, and…mildew lingered in the back of his throat. Fish caps: Breath under water, get a horrible after taste afterward. A large puddle formed at Anakin's feet as he marveled at the storage area.
Crates upon crates of food, barrels of pure and filtered water, and many more cases of life saving provisions lined the walls from the floor to the ceiling. Life preservers, scuba gear – plus a canister of fish caps, flares, blaster pistols, emergency holo-coms. From one end of the wall to the other, the Viceroy had every single, last scrap of necessary provisions for surviving in the wilderness. LONG TERM.
"Looks like the Viceroy planned on staying here for while." Anakin stated. He meandered to one of the crates. The top popped open. It was completely empty. He moved to the next two. They were empty as well. The fourth one was still full. But five packs of dehydrated food were missing. "Looks like he's already BEEN staying here for a while." A logo on one of the neighboring crates caught his eye. Anakin knelt down to it. A year…maybe several months' worth of dust coated the logo. "Hmm…" He wiped the dust away. A chibi sized nun, eyes closed and head raised to the rising sun behind her, with a gold and white nun's cap and her hands clapped together came into view. "Interesting…" He held his holoprojector up to it. A tiny bulb of a lens shined. A fanned beam scanned over the logo. A gleeful tune trilled. "Hey, Rex, I'm sending a logo to you. See if you can find out who it belongs to."
"Right away sir!" Anakin climbed to his feet and meandered along the way. The cargo hold was a bust. Maybe Ahsoka was having-
Anakin stopped. A muffled pops – a barrage of muffled pops – screeched just up ahead. They were coming from the other side of the door. Then he remembered Ahsoka took the access port from the roof to get inside. "Ahsoka?" He ran for the door.
A brown booted foot stepped out into the path. Anakin staggered to a halt. A pale skinned woman, wearing such a malicious grin Ventress would shudder, strutted into the middle of Anakin's path with two pistols in hand. Her beady eyes glared him down. Anakin could literally feel the daggers of her blood lust piercing his skin.
"Anakin Skywalker." The woman purred. "You have quite the reputation for someone so young."
"And you're Aurra Sing." He retorted with disgust. "I may not know much, but given the beating you gave Tanya and how she described you, the title you carry is well warrants caution."
"Aww…" She blushed, "Tanya thinks so highly of me." Anakin shuddered. So this is where she gets it. "But I must digress. The cute little kitten isn't part of this conversation."
"I see." Anakin ignited the blue saber, shifting into his stance. "So what is this conversation about?"
Aurra clicked the hammer of her pistols back and aimed, "Clearing the way so a close friend of mine can finally put a bullet through Mace Windu's head."
"Woo…" Barriss gasped as she pierced the surface of the water, emerging in an empty circular space meant for a one person pod submarine. Flakes of crab shells and fungus fell from her mouth. A nice experience; swimming underwater without the need for a breath apparatuses. But what ends up in your mouth afterward sort of ruined the moment.
She treaded the water, keeping her head above it just enough to scope out the wide area. Luckily – if not suspiciously – the entire submarine port was empty. Maybe a few welding drills, crates of tools, and extension cords lying around. But other than that and the subs, nothing out of the ordinary. Except the lack of security.
"All clear." Barriss announced.
Tanya emerged beside her. Her internal alarm for suspicion blared too. "Does the phrase 'Too Easy' suddenly come to mind?"
"Actually I was thinking more along the lines of 'somebody watching us.'" Barriss immediately glanced to the ceiling. The upper walkway may have blocked the view, but there were visible cameras. "But both are reasonable summations."
"Too bad we don't have time to be careful."
"That we do not." Barriss pulled herself from the water. "But we can still exercise some cautions."
Tanya threw her boots out of the water and slithered onto the metal floors. She coiled her tail, sitting on it like a chair. She closed her eyes and exhaled peacefully. Her elongated ears shrunk back to their original size, widening into their female shape. The talons retracted into fingers, the skin melted away from what were returning to Tanya's fingerless gloves. The spines on the snake tail retracted into the tail. A stream of black glided up the tail, stopping mid way. Tanya's blue and black cat like tail slipped away, creating a gap in the snake tail. Tanya then tore the snake tail away. It came off as if it were held by tape or adhesive. Her blue feet slipped out, touching to the cold floor. Her black tunic tights and skirt were covered in a saliva like gunk.
Barriss bobbed her head. "Most impressive."
"Thanks. Yeck!" Tanya held the skin up like a display. "I forgot how disgusting this is." She tossed the ski into the water. "Ugh…" It was tough standing up, but her land legs eventually came back to her. Her tail flicked the gunk away. "Now then…back to business." The upper walkway led to a wide spread control station. An ops center for outgoing or incoming submarines, no doubt. "How good are you with technology?" She asked, pulling her boots on.
"Pretty decent. Why?"
Tanya guided her finger to the number of cameras, "What are the odds those are being used to watch us right now?"
"Pretty high. They are multi-feed cameras." She clarified. "They send one feed of video to the control center and another to a particular location. It's how security and owners keep equal tabs on their businesses." She rolled her sights over the port station, "I would be confident in surmising there are similar cameras all over this facility."
"Think you could somehow rig those feeds so they show us where they are transmitting?"
"You mean reverse the feed and see if we can discover where the Viceroy might be monitoring us from."
"Think you can do it?"
"I can try. It will go smoother if Gunray has a camera in his sector. I could also try following the signal off the feed to its source. But it might take a while." Her forewarning was ominous in tone. There was a chance she couldn't do it. But the Astro-mechs weren't exactly waterproof. So Barriss was the best they had. "Why don't you scout ahead? I'll join you as soon as I can."
"Sounds good." Tanya pat her on the shoulder. The girls went their separate ways. Unbeknownst to them someone was watching from behind.
Barriss scaled up a ladder to the upper floor. Her boots clopped loudly against the metal, echoing throughout the port. Out of instinct she watched ahead, below, and above her. The eyes she believed watching her seemed to narrow onto her. It was very unnerving. This whole mission was turning her into a hypochondriac.
Tanya, a hand to her saber, stalked lightly and cautiously as she passed each sub or stack of crates. Her ears twitched, flexing in each direction for the slightest irregular noise. It was a facility underwater. Every odd sound would be down there. Hopefully Barriss would pull through and get them some eyes on their prize. That way it would speed up the process and they could get out of there.
Creeaak…"Huh?" Tanya glanced up. A flash of fire roared from the ceiling. "YAH!" Tanya dove out of the way. The barrel of flames rebound, flickering in the air. Barriss whirled around on the ladder to the control room. The fire died down, leaving a jet black scorch mark. A shadow loomed over Tanya.
"TANYA! ABOVE YOU!" Barriss screamed.
Tanya looked up. A blue skinned man plummeted towards her with a pistol in his hand. Tanya scrambled and rolled out of the way. The man landed neatly on his feet. Tanya sat crouched, her fingers curled around her saber. The man then kicked a foot into her back. Tanya flew forward. Her face smacked into one of the subs. The man chuckled at her.
"TANYA!" Barriss jumped from the ladder and lurched over the railing, "ARE YOU ALRIGHT?"
Tanya groaned dazedly, "I'm good…" Blood trickled from her nose, "Bleeding but good." She massaged a hand on her back. She could feel the boot impression. "But I'm going to have to talk to the moron who kicked me."
A menacing chuckle rumbled behind her. "So sorry about dat." Tanya growled irately, turning to face the moron who kicked her. "It's how I say hello." It was a blue skinned Duro with a tacky hat.
Tanya was not in the mood for this. "Barriss, please," Tanya balanced herself on the sub as she climbed to her feet, "Get to the control room." She requested, holding a hand to her head. "I don't want you to see what I'm about to do to this cowboy wannabe!" Her amethyst eyes narrowed into slits. The Duro chuckled mockingly.
Barriss wanted to jump down and help. But they had ten hours left and counting. She needed to move fast. Turning back to the ladder she climbed, glancing back every second as she climbed into the control center. She started up the system. A series of images appeared on the clear glass. Barriss began working as fast as she could. She wished she had an Astro-Mech or at least the Jekyll and Hyde clones down there to help her.
"Tanya Fett…" The Duro purred, licking his lips, "Am I right?"
"That must make you Cad Bane." She droned.
"It does indeed." His red eyes rolled over her body. "Aurra raved on about you like you were de real McCoy." He tipped his hat, "She failed to mention how cute you are."
"Sorry, I'm already claimed by a bald Korun!" She snapped. "I'm sure Aurra told you all about him."
The Duro shrugged his shoulders, "Too bad." He sighed with feigned sorrow. "I have a fetish for cute little kittens."
Tanya's tail jerked sharply, swatting the sub with a loud clank. "I'd be careful." Her voice droned dangerously, "I've been known to bite."
"Ooh…sounds good." Bane clicked the hammer back and aimed his pistol, "Let's see how hard."
Windu crawled from the water into a confined space. A very small room for emergency escape pods. He caught his breath for a moment. The fish caps allowed him and Luminara to breath underwater, but the resistance in the water had tensed the deeper they swam. So he was a little out of breath. He helped Luminara onto solid ground. She rang out her dress and took a much needed breath of fresh air. A refreshing point of entry considering they were wandering through humidity for practically a day. But one that brought them behind a closed door. Never a good start. Least of all since they were trapped in a confined space.
Luminara and Windu put their backs against either side of the door. They sat quietly for a moment, listening into the next room for the slightest indication there was another person in the vicinity. Windu was next to the door panel, so he gave the count on when they moved. Luminara curled her fingers around her saber. She nodded her head. Windu raised three fingers into the air. Luminara dug the balls of her feet into the floor.
3…2…1-Widnu slapped a hand on the panel. Luminara ignited her blade and jumped into a blue carpeted hallway. Windu followed suit, facing opposite her. Luminara's end of the hall fell short. Two rooms across from each other, three little windows facing out to the lake floor, and a couple potted plants. Windu's side had four slopes of stairs ascending upward. A room on either side rested on the flat heads of the slopes. Most likely there were more rooms where those came from. It might take a while, but the best course was to inspect every room.
Keeping their sabers extended, Windu and Luminara skulked cautiously on either side of the hallway with their backs to the walls. The carpeted steps creaked unnervingly. Luminara and Windu found themselves freezing every other step. The mission itself was nerve racking enough. But to succumb to the paranoia would jeopardize their mission and their focus. Using the force they closed their eyes and cast their hearing into the next room. When all was silent they slapped a hand to the door panel and leapt into the room. The first ones were empty. So they crept up the next set of stairs and repeated their movements.
One after the other the rooms were empty. Very curious. The Viceroy must have been expecting their arrival. Maybe not anytime soon, but he should have anticipated their arrival at some point. Why were all of these rooms empty? And if the facility has allegedly been abandoned for quite some time, why did the rooms look brand new? Refurbished? Things weren't making sense. Most of it dealing with the Viceroy's suddenly expedient rescue, the facility he found, and the new looking rooms. Was somebody supplying these furnishing to him? If so, who was it? The Trade Federation? The Toydarians?
"Master Windu." Luminara called to the distracted Jedi. She addressed the forked corridor. A small wrinkle. "It will take too much time to search one at a time. I'll take one hall. You take the other?" She proposed.
"Stay in constant contact." Windu added, urging her to heed his words. Luminara nodded.
Not even ten steps into the divided corridors. Slots opened in the ceiling. Thick slabs of metal doors slammed down, locking in place and barring the Jedi from retreating. However the Jedi still whirled around on their heels, running for the sealed doors. Luminara ran her hands over the metal door, searching frantically for a weakness or release mechanism. Windu pounded a fist on the door. Just from feeling it he could tell it was thick. Hopefully not too thick his or Luminara's lightsabers couldn't cut through the steel.
"MASTER UNDULI!" He put his ear to the wall, "ARE YOU ALRIGHT?"
"I'M FINE! BUT I DON'T THINK WE'RE GETTING OUT THIS WAY!"
"WILL OUR LIGHTSABERS NOT WORK?"
"THEY MIGHT BUT OUR GOAL IS TO MOVE FORWARD!"
"UNDERSTOOD! IF YOU LOCATE THE VICEROY, HEAD FOR THE SURFACE!" Windu turned on his heels and hurried down the corridor.
"ALRIGHT! STAY SAFE!" Luminara slid her hands from the wall. She turned around and started heading down the hall. A forearm pushed to her throat. Luminara was slammed up against the metal door, hoisted up several inches from the ground. A firm body pressed to her waist, trapping her thrashing legs. Luminara pried at the arm. Wincing she fought to see who had her. A Kyuzo with death beaming in his beady little eyes. An Anooba crouched behind him, growling ravenously. A bandage as strapped to its snout.
"Luminara Unduli?" The Kyuzo growled her name.
"That…depends…" She choked, gasping for air, "Who…wishes to…know?"
"No one of consequence." The Kyuzo retorted deadpan. "Least of all to you."
Luminara coughed on her own air. Pressure built in her head. Her vision began to blur. But she fought on. "You are neither Aurra Sing nor Duro…" She rasped, heaving. "That must...make you...Embo." He choked.
"Quite clever." Luminara felt something touch her stomach. Embo's crossbow rifle. He pressed his forearm further into her neck. "A shame you cannot take your brilliance to your grave." Luminara jabbed two fingers into his eyes. "GAH!" He staggered back. Luminara dropped to one knee. Oxygen filled her lungs. The Anooba bared its fangs and charged. Luminara held her hands out. The Anooba, in mid run, floated into the air. Luminara pushed her hands out. The Anooba was launched down the hall, crashing through a potted plant to a halt.
"Forgive me…Bounty Hunter…" Luminara wheezed, struggling to her feet, "But I am certain the force is not ready to receive me just yet."
There was no time to search the rooms. Windu, running as fast as he could, allowed the force to guide him to the Viceroy. He must have past 20 rooms the last three turns. Not s ingle person or indication the Viceroy was close. No doubt he was the one who closed the doors on him and Luminara. The question is: where did operate from?
Windu rounded a corner into yet another corridor. He staggered to a halt. His eyes widened with dread. A Droideka came rolling for him, shattering plants and glass frames on its laden path. Windu whirled around and tried to run the other way. Another Droideka appeared, gunning for him. Windu gritted his teeth. He was trapped. The Droidekas tumbled out of ball form. Their ray shields flew up, blasters locked on target. Windu slammed a hand to a door panel. The Droidekas opened fire. Windu dove into the room, narrowly escaping the laser bolts. He closed the door behind him.
"Things are beginning to get complicated." He rumbled impatiently. Laser bolts pierced the walls. They shot over the door sill and slowly scaled downward for where Windu was crouching. Windu darted his head around, searching for an escape point. There was a restroom to his right. A ventilation shaft was in the ceiling. Keeping low he rolled to the bathroom just as the bolts scaled to his level. Windu closed the door.
The Droidekas curled up and rammed into the weakened wall. The door and several feet of wall toppled over. The two Droidekas rolled into the room. They returned to their armed mode and scanned the room. No sign of the Jedi. They dropped their ray shields and went into ball form, rolling back into the hallway. A ventilation shaft fell in between them. Windu dropped down, his purple saber ignited, and unleash a swift spin. His saber cut straight through the droids. The inner mechanisms shutdown and burned. The bodies of the droids twitched erratically. They sprawled out of ball form and went offline in seconds.
A few seconds later three more Droidekas came rolling up behind him. Windu jumped over the offline droids and retreated into a random hallway. "The Viceroy seems to be getting desperate." Windu stated to himself. "Perhaps we can use that."
Ahsoka kept her back firmly planted to the wall. She slowed her breathing. The feeling of being trapped like a rat gripped at her. The B1 droids were partially in her sights and her back was to the B2 droids. The blaster fire would stop on occasion. The door to the port was her only means of salvation. If she could get that door open – or perhaps take the elevator down into the marina half of the compound – she would be safe.
She peered around the corner regularly into the adjacent hallways to inspect the activity of the droids. The second the droids saw her they opened fire. She was stuck. And she doubted she could get through that door before the droids hit her. She needed an opening. "Hmm…" She glanced to the ventilation shafts. A mischievous grin slithered from ear to ear.
The droids stood stagnate in the two hallways. Their blasters were aimed for the perpendicular hall, waiting to root Ahsoka the second she jumped out.
Two potted plants whisked across and shattered against the wall. The droids got startled and opened fire again on the broken plants. "CEASE FIRE!" A B1 droid ordered frantically. "CEASE FIRE!" The volleys of laser bolts ceased their relentless screeching. "It's just a bunch of plants!"
"Plants." A B2 droid retorted in disgust. "Organic life is too mainstream."
"Okay! You win!" Ahsoka hollered from the corridor, gaining the attention of the droids. "I surrender!" She threw her lightsaber in the middle of the droid squad. "Come and get me!"
"That was easy." A second B1 droid cheered. Two B1 and B2 droids turned into the hallway. It was empty. Ahsoka was gone.
"HEEY!" A third B1 droid whined. "Where's she go?"
A door flew open. A B2 droid was vacuumed up. It howled in agony.
"THERE!" Two of the B1's opened the door. A headless B2 droid was lying dead on the floor. Clearly destroyed by a Jedi. Only there was no Jedi. "What the-"
A door diagonal from them whisked open. A B1 droid wailed as it floated into the air and got sucked into the room.
"HUH?" The remaining B1 and B2 ran for the door. Another dead droid with its head popped off. "What the heck is happening?"
Another door opened behind the curious group. A B2 droid started sliding backwards. "Huh? What?" The opened room was sucking him in. "AAHH!" He screamed, trying to run. It was like a tread mill was under his feet. The B1 droid glanced at him. "HELP ME!" The floor slipped from under his running feet. He collapsed and was dragged along to the opened room. "HELP ME!" The door closed. A scream was heard.
"GET BACK HERE!" The B1 droid forced the door open. It opened fire. Again. No one was in there.
"What the Heck is going on?" Two B1's, and one B2 trudged into the hall.
"It's the Jedi! She's playing a trick on us!"
"Don't be stupid!" The Second B2 scoffed. "Her lightsaber is in the middle of the hall! She's helpless!"
"Not exactly." The B1 disagreed. "Look." There was a laser bolt in the chest of the droid. "She took one of the blasters."
"Then how is she doing this?" Another B1 demanded to know.
Three hallow raps on a door echoed three doors down. "THIS WAY!" The B2 sped for the door. The B1's were about to follow after him. Another door opened. Two B1's were sucked in.
"Not again!" The B1 panicked. The B2 turned to where he heard the scream.
Ahsoka dropped down behind them. She aimed the blaster. "Hey there." The droids whirled around. Ahsoka got off two shots, one in each droids head. They fell like trees.
"It came from over here!" Hearing droids approaching Ahsoka jumped back into the ventilation shaft with the blaster. The grate snapped back into place. The few remaining B2 droids entered into the hallway with their blasters at the ready. Taking a door, each one opened the rooms and peered inside. A couple found the offline droids they heard wailing from the other corridor. The rest found nothing but empty rooms.
The lingering B1's wandered around the elongated hallway, waiting for further action to be needed. "I wonder what's going on." A droid commented. The floored lightsaber shot up to Ahsoka's hand in the ventilation shaft.
"I know. This is so weird."The Second B1 stroked his chin. Ahsoka dropped behind them.
"Maybe she can turn invisible." A third droid commented. Ahsoka rolled her eyes.
"Don't be stupid!" The fourth droid smacked the third upside the head.
"Yeah!" The fifth droid scolded him. "Jedi don't turn invisible.
"Too bad." Ahsoka ignited her saber. "It'd make my job easier." The five droids twirled around. Ahsoka slashed her saber. The heads of the droids fell and their bodies went with them.
The B2 droids turned after hearing their comrades' fall. Ahsoka plunged her saber into the droid's chest. The droid next to it aimed. Ahsoka pulled the saber out and quickly slashed halfway through the second. The next three droids opened fire. Ahsoka stepped onto a falling droid and leapt into the air. The droids bullets trailed after her. Ahsoka flipped her legs around. She swatted the saber, cutting through the tops of their heads. She landed behind the fourth droid and stabbed him the back. The last two droids were prepared to fire. Ahsoka crossed her arms and curled her fingers closed. She then whisked her arms apart. As if pulled on strings the droids bounced off each other and fell over. Ahsoka immediately whirled around cut into their chassis's.
"Woo…" She exhaled, touching a hand to her chest. Dead battle droids riddled the ground behind her. "That wasn't so tough." She switched to her comlink. "Hey Master, what's taking you?" She sniggered. "I'm getting bored waiting for you to catch up. Luckily the viceroy sent neat toys to keep me busy."
"Oh, I'm sooo sorry snips," Anakin replied with the obvious sarcasm, "I just kind of got caught up with this BOUNTY HUNTER, and lost all track of time."
"A bounty hunter?" Ahsoka pretended to be shocked. "Would you like a little help?"
"NAH! You go on ahead. Oh! And Master Windu says look for desperation."
"Desperation?" Windu and Anakin must have meant the Viceroy. Thinking back on the number of droids she had to face in an enclosed space – she figured something must have been going through the viceroy's head. "What does that look like?"
"Fear mixed with apprehension combined with anxiety all stirred into a cocktail of desperation."
"Gotcha." Ahsoka ended the call. "What I wouldn't kill to have Master Tiin here?" A master of sensing and reading emotions…from five miles away.
Aurra fired shot relentlessly at Anakin. A blood thirsty grin plastered to her face. Anakin effortlessly repelled the shots with his lightsaber. For small pistols they held power. He felt the jolts in his arms with each block. Unless he closed the distance, this fight wasn't going to end. Steadily he stalked closer to her. Aurra mimicked him and closed in. Faster and faster the bullets came. Faster and faster Anakin's arms flailed. He missed a few and a couple grazed his arms, causing him to back away.
"Giving up already?" Aurra taunted curtly. "Come on, Jedi!" Her pace expedited, backing Anakin toward s a corner, "I thought you guys were made of tougher stuff!"
Anakin furrowed his brow. He sensed the wall approaching his back. Then a sound filled him with hope. Click! Click! Aurra gawked at her pistols dumbfounded. They were out of ammo. "Whoops!" He sniggered, "Should have loaded up!" He charged with his saber outstretched to the side.
Aurra scrambled to reload. Anakin was upon her. He thrust his saber. Aurra jumped out of the way. Anakin countered with a swift side swipe. Aurra bent back, evading the strike, then sprang back and out of his reach. She popped out two magazines and quickly replaced them. "RELOADED!" The pistols twirled around her fingers, the hammers clicked, and the laser bolts shrieked from the barrel.
Anakin dashed out of the way, running for the leveling stacks of crates. Aurra laughed crazily. She loved watching Jedi run. Anakin climbed up the crates before the shots started to catch up. He turned on the ball of his foot and darted across the stacked crates. He nearly lost his footing on tiny bridges between the crates. But he kept on moving.
The pistol shots narrowly missed his feet and legs, splintering the wooden crates at their tops. "Run, run, run as fast as you can." Aurra crooned. "You can't escape me! YOU'RE A DEAD MAN!" A shrill cackle howled from her throat. A bullet blew a gaping hole in one of the crates. Styrofoam spilled out. Anakin stopped abruptly. Three bullets missed. He jumped back and ducked for cover in a gap behind the crates. "You can't run and you can't hide, Jedi!" She laughed scathingly. She flipped her rifle around, aiming for Anakin's hiding place. "Your ass is going to be on my wall.
Anakin jumped as laser bolts burned through the crates like wet paper. Aurra missed several times but she was growing unnervingly close. Pressing his back to the crates behind him, Anakin drained out the sound of the rifle shots and focused on the wall of crates in front of him. He called on the force, pinpointing Aurra's general location. Another shot pierced the box and grazed his skin. Anakin furrowed his brow. He dug his boots in and pushed out.
First top rows of crates flew out. Aurra gaped in horror and stumbled away. She threw her hands over her head. The crate broke and bounced around her, barely missing. Anakin force pushed another row, causing an avalanche of crates toppled over. Aurra threw her rifle down and retreated to the opposite side of the storage area. The crates shattered and their contents spilled to the floor. Scuba tanks rolled to a halt at Aurra's feet. When the crates stopped falling, Aurra immediately drew both of her pistols and aimed. She gaped in confusion. The Jedi was gone. But…but where? How could he disappear so-
A fist connected with the side of her face. Two more punches drilled into her ribs. Pain splintered from her previous fight. Finally a foot smashed into her nose. Aurra's feet tripped over the scuba tanks. Her face connected with the Styrofoam on the floor. Aurra groaned dazedly. If ever a sucker punch were properly named. A hand grabbed a fistful of her hair, hoisting the disoriented Bounty Hunter to her knees. Anakin sneered his lip, growling rabidly. His free hand curled closed. An unbearable pressure squeezed Aurra's neck. She pried at the invisible bonds. Her feet thrashed frantically as she left the ground.
"How quickly the tables turn." Anakin sent Aurra flying. Her head cracked on the port door panel. The door flew open. Anakin stormed for her. Aurra placed her hands to the wall, balancing herself as she struggled to climb to her feet. That same hand grabbed her by the hair. She was wrenched up. Anakin put his lips by her ear and whispered, "Tanya couldn't kill Mace! You and your friend don't stand a chance." He drove a knee into her back and tossed her into the water of the port. Anakin closed the door and set the locks. He then broke then panel. Just in case. "Snips! I'm making my way to you! Which direction did you head?"
"I went left after the elevator opened. Nothing yet."
"Alright. I'll head right." Anakin ended the call and darted for the door.
It was falling onto the ninth hour. Nine hours were left before the separatists would arrive. Barriss, trying her hardest to reverse the feed of the cameras, felt the pressure of the dwindling time weighing on her shoulders. It seemed as if the success of the mission depended on her fulfilling this task. She was making headway, this much was certain. But it wasn't enough that she believed she would finish anytime soon. Before the separatist arrived? Yes. Perhaps. But her main concern was the fracas taking place below her. And a number of times she was distracted whenever something broke and was knocked over.
Tanya was on one knee, holding a hand to her stitching ribs. She panted and heaved exhaustedly with cuts and bruises all over her body. Sweat beaded down her entire body. Blood trickled over her brow from her hairline. Her lip was swollen. Bane on the other hand barely had a scratch on him. His hat was tore slightly off toward the side. There was a rip in his pant leg. And the real kicker was tiny cut on the tip of his middle finger. Other than that he was perfectly healthy. Tanya hadn't landed a decent blow while he turned her into an Aquatisan Punching Bag. She had taken a beating from the Duro for a considerable amount of time. All so Barriss could have time to locate the Viceroy.
"I have to hurry…" Barriss moved her hands faster, inputting codes and combating firewalls, "I must hurry…"
Tanya rose to her feet. A hand was glued to her stitching side. Her chest rose and fell rapidly in raspy breaths. Her upper body was slumped over. Her hair askew. Bane sucked impassively on a toothpick, completely and blatantly ignoring the fuming Nekal. (Nekaltisan). Tanya growled through gritted teeth. She charged forward. The orange beam of her saber unsheathed. A grin slithered on Bane's face. He put his hands in his pockets. Tanya slashed the saber out. Bane easily weaved out of the way. Tanya moved in and struck out again and again. Bane dodged each strike, not even bothering to remove his hands from his pockets.
WHAT IS THIS? Tanya roared, her saber still swinging out of control. I come at him from every angle! She clenched a hand and pulled back. A power drill flew for Bane. He moved his head to the side. The drill missed and slid along the ground between Tanya's legs. I strike with everything I've got! Tanya sheathed her saber and lunged a fist. Bane slipped out of the way and to the side of her. Tanya gasped, then lashed out with a kick. Bane slapped her foot away. Tanya steadied herself. WHY CAN'T I HIT HIM?
Bane moved in. Tanya gawked up at him. He put fingers to her forehead and flicked her. "OW!" Bane then grabbed her by the ears and smashed her face into her knee. "GRR…" Tanya staggered away. A haze buzzed in her head. "UHH!" She flicked her saber, summoning the beam. She thrust it forward. Bane snapped a hand to her wrist and squeezed. Tanya winced. Bane gave the wrist a sharp twist. Tanya cried out in pain. Barriss's attention shot from the computers to the fight. Her mouth fell in dismay. Tanya's saber fell from her hand. Bane dragged her close. A fist connected with her stomach. "ACK!" Blood spattered from her mouth.
"TANYA!" Barriss cried. The muscles in Tanya's stomach numbed in white hot pain. Tanya dropped to her knees, holding her stomach. Barriss ran for the hatch. "TANYA!"
"STAY UP THERE!" Tanya spat. Barriss stopped. "Find the Viceroy!" Bane swooped behind her. "We're running out of time!" He raised a hand and karate chopped her in the back of the neck. Tanya collapsed onto a small box, breaking it and having nuts and bolts press to her stomach. "Ugh…" She groaned in defeat. Bane put a foot under Tanya's stomach and flipped her over. Tanya lied there on the ground, broken and beaten. Shaky breaths exhaled. Her entire body quivered under the strain. How…is this…possible?
Barriss clapped her hands to her mouth, stifling her cries. Her hand flourished about, frantically searching for the computer station. She couldn't take her eyes off Tanya. Her fingers touched the panel and brought Barriss's attention back to the scouring program. "Wait…" She gasped in a hush. She moved back to the computer. "This is…"
"Security Breach!" A female computer voice blared. "Unauthorized security access detected!" Gunray meandered perplexedly to his desk. "Security Breach! Unauthorized security access detected!" Gunray sat down and answered the alert. He input a special code. Three holo-screens materialized from thin slots on the desk. Gunray input his username and password, copied the security code, and gained access into the security system.
A few keystrokes later a full systems diagnostic took place. A series of green 1's and 0's scrolled over the pages. Numerous rectangles zeroed in on certain sections of the screens. Little pings sounded as the system was checked. It only took a few seconds before the systems detected something. The green 1's and 0's turned yellow, and then turned red. "What on Neimoidia?!" He gasped. ALERT displayed on each screen. "How is this possible?" One by one the numbers evaporated into pixels. Someone was chipping away at his security system. "No, no, no!" Gunray rapidly jotted the keyboard. He transmitted the security breach into the wall of camera feeds. The system followed the line of the breach. Images of the west port came into view.
The young Aquatisan was being battered by Cad Bane. Nothing too special, and certainly not the source of the breach. Gunray sauntered to the wall, inspecting the video with a fine toothed comb. The cameras beeped three times. The mechanisms guided the cameras to the control room. Gunray narrowed his eyes. It was a little grainy, but he could make out a figure in that room. The cameras clicked over into the control room and zoomed. Gunray's eyes widened. He watched in disbelief as Barriss hacked away at his system. "THAT…WRETCH!" Then in a blink the feed cut. All of the videos died. Static covered the screens. "I…I CAN'T BELIEVE THIS!" Panicked started to overtake him. "I'm being hacked!"
Bane wagged a finger mockingly, "Tsk, tsk, tsk, a bold and brazen statement," He stooped to a knee, hovering over her, "Now notin' more dan empty words." Tanya furrowed her brow, growling. Bane trailed the backs of his fingers along her cheek, "But I admire your resolve, youngling." He purred. Don't touch me…His hand slipped behind her ear, grasping her head tenderly and lifted her head up. Stop touching me…!He brought his lips to her ear and whispered, "A shame you chose de side dat hindered ya." Get away…Electrical streams snuck around her knuckles. Bane rested Tanya back on the ground. He sighed dismally. "I hate having to kill such beautiful, raw, talent." Tanya's eyes widened. He swung his leg around, seating himself on her waist. "But I'm being paid." He placed his hands to her neck. "Notin personal." He squeezed tightly, pressing hard. His thumbs pressed to the pressure points.
Tanya's eyes flew open. A gagged choke gargled from her clenched throat. Her chest constricted, crushing her beating heart. NO! She put her hands to his wrist. NO THIS…THIS CAN'T BE HAPPENING! She pulled hysterically at the hands. The hands didn't budge. NOT YET! Her nails dug into his skin. Bane wasn't fazed. Not now…Pressure swelled in her head like it was a balloon. The skull was ready to pop any second. I can't die here! Her vision blurred. Her eyes rolled in the back of her head. I won't die here. Tiny surges of electricity rolled up her fingers. Bane cocked a brow. Tanya squeezed her eyes closed, I WON'T! Her eyes flared open. The purple orbs narrowed into grey slits. Her hands tightened. "GET…OFF…" The electricity gathered at her fingertips, "NOW!" Lightning shot into Bane's wrists, swelling up his arms and throughout his entire body.
"AAAHHHH!" Bane wailed in agony.
"TANYA! I GOT IT!" Barriss cheered, sliding down the ladder form the control room. She leaned over the railing with a holoprojector in her hand, "I GOT THE-WHAT?" Her eyes widened in utter shock
The flashes of lightning lit up Tanya's demonic grin. The lighting electrocuted Bane from the inside out. His muscles jerked violently, spots popped in his vision, his heart was ready to burst from his chest. "NOTHING…PERSONAL!" Tanya drew a foot back and kicked Bane in the head, bucking him off. Bane collapsed limply to the cold, hard ground. Small electric currents scaled down his body. His muscles jerked uncontrollably. "Grah…" Tanya sat up, holding a hand to her head. "This…day…sucks." She fumed.
Barriss approached Tanya cautiously from behind, staying ten feet back. She couldn't see, but the image of Tanya's eyes were that hallow grey coloring flooded her mind. "Um…Tanya?" She extended a hand. Tanya threw her head back. Barriss flinched back. Her eyes widened in surprise. Tanya's eyes were purple. No grey? Could she have imagined it?
Tanya's brow arched confusedly. "What's wrong?" Tanya's brow arched. Her purple eyes blinked in bewilderment. "You look like you've seen a- " The words hitched in her throat. Her attention fell to her hand. A sliver of lightning slithered around her hand. Bane's body twitched as thin currents scaled over him. A tender smile graced Tanya's cheeks. She bobbed her head, understanding what happened. A note of shame resonated from her somber sigh. "You saw? Didn't you?" She questioned hoarsely. Barriss bit her lip, not wanting to answer. Tanya glanced forward, keeping her back to the Miralian. "Yep…" Tanya answered for her. "You're not the only one with a rare talent."
"Tanya…" Barriss rasped. "I-"
"Did you say something earlier?" Tanya interrupted abruptly.
"You said you got something." She clarified, keeping her back to Barriss. "Was it the reverse feed?"
"Y-Yeah…" Barriss pointed blankly to the holoprojector, "I found the Viceroy. I can lead us straight to him. Or at least to where he's hiding."
"COOL!" Tanya jumped to her feet, startling Barriss. A sharp pain pinched her bruised muscles. "Ouch! Let's go!" She darted for the elevator.
"UH! WAIT! TANYA!" Barriss ran after her, leaving Bane unconscious on the floor.
"UGH!" Luminara's front crashed into a wall. The headdress fell to the ground. Luminara's long brown hair spilled neatly to her shoulders. A hand grasped a handful of her hair and smashed her head into the wall. The jolt blurred her vision for a moment, disorienting her. Three quick jabs rapped on her back. Pain rippled up and down her spine. Each strike bounced her off the wall. Her breath left her lungs. "Grr…" Luminara hissed, sliding to her knees. The relation to a punching bag is to kind a simile.
A bloody slit in her lip stung. A thick bruising was visible on her neck from Embo pinning her to the wall. Her tunic was torn up and down, bloody gashes all over her body staining her uniform. The smallest twitch or the slightest movement – a sharp, searing pain throbbed in her muscles. Sitting on her knees alone was painful enough. Standing was practically unbearable. Her breathing was choppy and irregular. Short breathes. Her abdomen felt like it was one fire. Prickles stung her chest if she took too long a breath.
This man…Luminara hissed mentally. He is…much more skilled than I thought.
A hand reached around and grasped Luminara by the neck. Fingers dug into her neck. Luminara heaved dryly, gasping for air. Silent pops cracked as the bones started to give under the power of the grip. "Stand, Luminara Unduli." Embo wrenched her to her feet. "I have yet to finish with you." He twirled her around and slammed her back into the wall. The wind, again, was knocked out of her. Saliva drizzled down her jaw as she choked for air.
Embo released the master, letting her fall to her hands and knees. Luminara choked on the air as it filled her lungs. It was inconceivable to her. How could a Bounty Hunter be overpowering her? His skills could rival Count Dooku's. If not defeat him. Regardless. Count Dooku is able to be defeated. It's been proven. Which means this Bounty Hunter could be defeated as well.
"Your skills merit caution, Embo…" Luminara wheezed, struggling to her feet. Sweat trickled down her brow. "But do not believe that grants you victory." She stretched a hand to the side. Her discarded lightsaber flew into her hand. She pressed it to Embo's stomach. Embo grimaced. Just as the beam ignited he twisted out of the way. Not without a large graze burning into his side. Embo hissed in pain, holding the wound. Luminara countered with a swift sweep of her saber sideways. The saber tore another graze across Embo's stomach. The Kyuzo snarled, stumbling away. I was careless.
Luminara exhaled, slightly relieved she gained a little headway. She forgot all about the Anooba. The iron jawed predator charged down the corridor barking as it neared the wounded Jedi. It's claws ripped the carpet the tatters. Luminara turned away from Embo. Her feet squared, digging into the floor. The Anooba drew closer. She drew her saber back. The Anooba leapt, baring its fangs and claws. Luminara thrust forward. The Anooba howled. The length of the saber and half of Luminara's arm was swallowed. The tip of the saber protruded at the end, burning the tail off. The Anooba's jaw was locked in the open position. Luminara could feel the beast's body quaking. The light gradually vanished from its eyes. The body went limp. Embo's brow furrowed. He stepped listlessly for Luminara. He curled his fingers. The knuckles cracked.
Groaning in disgust Luminara pulled her arm and saber from inside the Anooba. Spit and entrails coated the arm and saber. She wasn't going to be eating anytime soon. Once again a hand gripped her by the back of her neck. The same bone breaking fingers pressed firmly into the skin. Embo could feel the bone at his fingertips. "Stories surrounded around the skills of Jedi circulate the galaxy, reaching the ears of many. Including Bounty Hunters." He smashed her face into a portrait, shattering the glass. "You are greatly overestimated." Shards of glass pierced her skin. Blood trickled out, traveling along the broken glass, staining the photo. Blindly Luminara's fingers pried at the hand. Embo pushed her further into the wall. He felt the neck ready to snap. "I am done with you."
A purple beam swiped down. A numbing burning sensation filled Embo's arm. Luminara collapsed to the ground, Embo's hand still clamped to her neck. Embo blinked in utter confusion. His hand was around her neck. But how was that possible? He glanced down to his arm. His eyes widened in horror. From the elbow down his arm was gone, stuck to the gasping Jedi's neck.
"WHAT SORCEREY IS THIS?" Embo howled outrageously.
"Not sorcery." Something hard pressed to the center of Embo's back. He tensed. "Just overestimated skill." Windu growled. Embo raised his hands (hand and nub) slowly above his head. Windu relieved him of his weapons. Guns, knives, a beaded chain, and even his hat. A specially melded alloy of metals. Almost like a shield. "Are you well, Master Unduli?"
"I am now." She stated weakly, wrenching the severed hand from her neck. "How did you-?"
"I heard you five hallways down." Windu guided Embo to the wall. "I came as fast as I could." Embo put his hand to the flat surface, spreading his legs apart.
"You should have kept searching for the Viceroy." She scolded. In truth she was glad he came.
"You were more important." Windu stated sternly. Luminara snickered under her breath. "Now, Embo – I believe your name is – why not save us some time and tell us where the Viceroy is located?"
Embo released a scornful chuckle. "You have a Bounty Hunter as a Padawan, Master Windu. You should know better than to ask a hunter about his client."
"Hunter-Client confidentiality?" Windu scoffed, smiling disdainfully, "So even hunters have a code of ethics."
"And a code of silence." Luminara furrowed her brow. A rare phenomena. Her patience was wearing thin. "Of course…" Embo slowly turned his head, glaring to Windu out of the corner of his eye, "Any silence can be broken for a price." He informed them slyly.
"I'm sorry!" Luminara spat affrontingly. "Are you honestly expecting us to barter with you?" She howled. "After what you did?"
"My price is a meager one compared to what you'll pay if the Viceroy escapes." Embo countered. "More incidents like what befell your Naboo and Gungan senator will increase should he escape." Windu and Luminara grimaced. Brazen is a common denominator in bounty hunters. Extorting a service from the Jedi in exchange for the Viceroy.
"Master Unduli! Are you there?" Barriss shrieked over the comlink.
"I am Barriss." Luminara responded calmly, hoping Barriss would followed her example. "What is wrong?"
"I have great news! I managed to access the cameras watching us and reverse the feed. I gained knowledge of where they are transmitting from!"
Luminara's face lit up. "You found the Viceroy." Embo growled in the back of his throat. His deal was flushing down the proverbial toilet.
"Yes! The signal is transmitting from the center of the facility. Here underwater!"
Luminara was unable to resist smirking at Embo. "Where are you and Padawan Fett?"
"En route now."
"Alert Padawan Tano and Master Skywalker."
"Yes Master." The call ended.
Windu clicked his tongue, shaking his head mockingly. "It would appear your deal just went down in flames, Embo." Embo growled heatedly. "You have now become worthless to us."
"Rule number three of Hunting," Embo announced gruffly, "Never negotiate without a back up bargain."
Windu arched a skeptically curious brow, "A back up bargain?"
"While the code demands I protect my client, those around him fall under no such formalities. I possess no obligation in the slightest to protect them...or their secrets."
"Oh really?" Luminara questioned dubiously. "And just who is it that the Viceroy is associated with that you believe would be invaluable to us?"
"Enough to make us even consider bargaining with you?" Windu added, warning Embo to make this conversation worth the time they were wasting.
"A member of King Katuunko's council." Luminara and Windu gaped in disbelief. Their eyes exchanged nervous glances. Embo chuckled hungrily, "A missing arm is hazardous to my health." Embo twisted around, resting his back to the wall, "And on a job?" He displayed the burned nub, "Deadly. Perhaps we can negotiate?"
The main elevator lowered Anakin into a luxury lounge area. Circular mini bar in the center, refrigerated alcohol stand in the middle of the bar, couches and chairs neatly placed by live video feeds of the lake's underside. Schools of fish and the Spen-Gahr swam by. Anakin started to grow suspicious of the lounge. What was such a luxurious place doing in an allegedly abandoned facility? More importantly, who was supplying him with the provisions and alcoholic beverages? This mission yielded new questions by the second.
Ahsoka emerged from behind the mini bar after the call stopped. She was happy to see her master finally caught up. She was going to scout ahead, but noticed something suspicious around the mini bar. Around the whole room, actually. She showed him the many empty alcohol bottles and the newly changed trash bag in the receptacle. Then she pointed out the red carpet and the furniture. Wheel tread impressions traveled from one side of the room to the other and circled the mini bar. The furniture showed evidence of steaming and deep cleaning. Given how smooth the carpet was and how clean the furniture was, the Viceroy has cleaners who come visit him frequently. Yet there were no cleaning droids. Only battle droids.
"General Skywalker?" Rex contacted him out of the blue. "Are you there?"
"The logo you sent belongs to the planet Sirrahng. It's a symbol of hope for all who arrive there."
"Sirrahng?" Anakin repeated confusedly. "That's where you said the Viceroy was getting his reinforcements, wasn't it?"
"Yeah. What does that mean?"
"Protection and aid only extends to those on the planet. And a planet like that needs a sponsor, correct?"
"Yes sir…" Rex purred, understanding where this was going. "I'll see if I can't dig anything up."
"Thanks Rex." Anakin ended the call.
"Do you think the Trade Federation is sponsoring Sirrahng?" Ahsoka proposed.
"Maybe." Anakin let out an irritated sigh. "But I doubt we'd be able to link this to them. They're fantastic at covering up their trail."
"Well someone has to be helping them." Ahsoka stressed.
"Yes. And we'll know more when Rex finds out who the sponsor is." Ahsoka scoffed irately. All of this waiting and secrecy. It was driving her mad. Anakin rested a hand to her shoulder, smiling warmly. "Don't worry, Snips. This will all be cleared up in no time."
A dull ding came from the elevator just to the left of the mini bar. The light for that particular floor had lit up red. The elevator was bringing someone up and was nearing their floor. Anakin nodded to Ahsoka who returned the nod. They rushed to either side of the elevator. A low hum reverberated the walls. It steadily grew louder the closer it became. Anakin curled his fingers around his saber. Ahsoka mimicked him. Another ding trilled. The light was green. The elevator arrived. Ahsoka and Anakin dug a leading foot into the ground. The doors part. The green and blue beams unsheathed, The two Jedi twisted and brought them down. Similar orange, and green beams intercepted the sabers, pushing back.
"Tanya! Barriss!" Anakin beamed.
"HEY!" Tanya grinned. "Ahsoka! Master Skywalker!"She and Barriss extinguished their sabers. Ahsoka and Anakin did the same. "Glad you guys are here."
"Likewise." Ahsoka nodded. "Geeze," She grimaced, prodding Tanya's swollen lip. Tanya winced, hissing in pain. "What the Hell happened to you?"
"Your Duro sucker punched me."
"Packs a punch, doesn't he?" She cackled.
"And so do I." Tanya flicked Ahsoka in the forehead. "Don't laugh at me."
"Where are the missing musketeers?" Anakin asked fretfully.
"Tying up loose ends." Barriss informed him. "I managed to learn where the Viceroy is hiding."
"Really? Where?" Anakin gasped.
"He's through there." Barriss pointed to the door just behind them. All eyes turned to the back wall. Reinforced double doors leading into what supposedly used to be sheer rock wall. There was more to that place than what met the eye. Hopefully it meant Gunray didn't have anywhere else to run. "The signal I found is coming from this general direction." Barriss took note of the door panel. "Looks like it requires a retinal key."
"As in 'eye recognition?'" Tanya rolled her eyes. "I'm so not happy."
"Then we'll have to improvise." Anakin ignited his saber.
Languid footsteps sank into the humidity soaked dirt. "Grr!" A pained grunt snarled. Aurra slapped a hand to her side. A sharp stitch pinched a nerve. Climbing a mountain side after being beaten half to death; not a smart idea. But a necessary one. Especially since she knew the mission was over. She grasped onto twigs and vines with her free hand, struggling to get to the speeder which awaited her. "HN!" Her knee caved on the steep hill. Her hand buried itself under the dirt. She hung her head limply, panting heavily. Her entire body ached unbearably. Yet, despite the pain, she laughed. A victorious, sinister cackle shrieked from her wounded stomach. She threw her head back, laughing hysterically to the sky, scaring aware little critters.
"AMAZING!" She blurted through the laughter. "ABSOLUTELY AMAZING!" She flipped over onto her back, gazing dreamily to the sky. "Boba may not like it, but the road the Mace Windu is heavily guarded." She ran her tongue over her lips, thirsting for another battle. "Tanya always did know how to pick 'em. I wonder how much longer she will continue to fool them…and herself."
Back on the cruiser, Jekyll and Hyde worked diligently in scouring the net for sponsors linked to Sirrahng. That way they would gain headway on how the Viceroy was receiving aid and hopefully put a dent in the separatists' forces. All assumptions were on the Trade Federation. But common sense told the clones that not even they would be so stupid as to put themselves in the light like that. No. someone else had to be behind this. Someone who associates with the Federation but is loyal to the Viceroy.
"Hm?" Jekyll's attention shifted to the radar. It was set to five miles out. The maximum range. Thanks to the troopers scouting out ahead, the range was increased to at least…20. Maybe 15. The radar was detecting a ship on approach. But nothing was there. Yet. "Hey, Hyde. Check the scanner, would ya? The radar's detecting something, but I don't see anything."
"One sec." Hyde shifted to the scanner. He cast the scanner's range to that of the radar. A brow arched confusedly on the clone's brow. There was an abnormal anomaly showing up. Those readings spiked the chart drastically. Similar to what a ship coming out of hyperspace would give off. "No way!" Hyde screamed.
"What?" Jekyll jumped.
Rex and Pawns were still hiding away in the briefing room. Their eyes were glued to the hologram of planet, keeping a close watch for the slightest sign of a ship trying to escape. Their concentration was broken when Hyde and Jekyll burst into the briefing room like escaped criminals. There was news to be told and it wasn't anywhere near good.
"WHAT DID YOU SAY?" Pawns and Rex roared.
"The separatist reinforcements are two hours away!" Jekyll screamed.
Rex grabbed Jekyll by the collar, "HOW?" He snarled through gritted teeth. "We should have another eight hours left!"
"The scans were inconclusive the first time around!" Hyde explained, motioning his hands for Rex to calm down. "We found that reinforcements were coming from Sirrahng, which is 12 hours away! But what we DIDN'T KNOW is that it's half that time using hyper drive!"
"How does a planet of refugees have hyper drive?" Pawns spat impatiently.
"The sponsor we can't locate." Rex fumed. "Pawns, warn the Jedi!"
"ALL TROOPERS BE ADVISED!" Rex hollered over the cruiser intercom. "SEPEIS ARE TWO HOURS OUT VIA HYEPRDRIVE! SET UP A BLOCKADE AROUND THE PLANET AND BE READY!"
Gunray ran as fast as his legs would carry him. He glanced behind and around him every second. Be it paranoia or his senses heightening, the Viceroy heard voices all around him, getting closer each second. The long skirt of his gown entangled his legs a few times, making him stumble. He would catch himself on the wall and returning to running. His fingers gripped at corners, sharply rounding him into the next corridor. Red lights lined the crooks of the ceiling, lighting his path and allowing him to make his way with ease to a possible escape route. The Jedi had the main entrances guarded. And making his way through the front half of the facility would end in him being caught.
The Viceroy threw himself against a wall, panting heavily as he tried to catch his breath for a moment. Heavy beads of sweat trickled down his brow. He swept a hand over his face. A numbing throb pulsed in his legs. He slid down the wall, sitting comfortably. His breath started to come back to him. "I need to relax." He laughed at himself. "I'm going to kill myself." He sighed peaceably, closing his eyes for a moment.
"OHHH VICEROOYY!" Gunray's spine turned to ice. "VIIICEROOYY!" A high voice echoed. Gunray flew forward. His breathing quickened. "WHERE ARRREE YOOUUU?" He twisted left to right in search of the voice.
"OLLIE, OLLIE OXEN FREE!" Another voice cackled just to the right of him. From the other hall a shadow erected on the wall. "VICEROYYY!" The voice was just around the corner.
Gunray whimpered and shuffled away. He turned onto his hands and knees, crawling away. The skirt of the gown tripped him, bringing his face crashing to the metal floor. The footsteps grew closer. A dark giggle reverberated against the walls. The hairs on Gunray's neck stood up. When his foot gained ground the gown ripped at the bottom under his foot. Gunray dashed down the corridor, uncontrollable cries howling pitifully. Another shadow glided up the wall two corridors ahead. Gunray stopped then darted left into a short hallway. His hand slapped to a closed door. Frantically he pounded the buttons on the panel. A buzzing noise kept blaring. The door wouldn't open. It was locked. The laughter kept growing louder.
Gunray pressed his back to the door. "AAHHH!" A fist pounded away at the panel. The door wouldn't open. Footsteps got louder. The laughter became demented. Gunray's fist still blindly pounded away at the door. "SOME-BODY-HELP-ME!" Ping!The door opened. "WHOA!" Gunray fell onto his back. It was a large storage. Randomly placed stacks of boxes scattered about the room. Without thinking Gunray scrambled to the door and closed it. The sound of the metal connecting and the locks sealing it shut brought relief to the panicked Viceroy.
"Woo…ha-ha…" Gunray laughed at himself. "Phew…" He leaned against the closed door, putting a hand to his forehead. "That was close."
"And this is closer."
"AH!" Gunray screamed. The tips of lightsabers inches from his face silenced him. A large swallowed roughly in his throat. His quivering sights rose to the figures threatening him at sword point.
Ahsoka and Tanya towered over him, laughing sinisterly. "Howdy, Viceroy." Ahsoka purred.
"You two!" He snarled.
"Did you miss us, Gunray?" Tanya cooed. She bent forward and cupped a hand to the side of his face, "We sure missed you." She caressed his cheek.
"We've been looking for you everywhere."
"And now we have a little under two hours to get you out of here."
"H-HOW DID YOU FIND ME?" Gunray screamed. "HOW DID YOU EVEN GET IN HERE?"
"The vents have been kind." Ahsoka grinned. Attention shifted to both walls. Ventilation grates near the floor were removed. "Whoever designed this place – you should have asked them to not interlink the vents."
"She's a Jedi! One week my senior!" Tanya interrupted curtly. "Why wouldn't she think to use the vents?" Gunray rolled his eyes. The word STUPID pasted to his forehead in big bold letters. "As for how we found you," She displayed a holoprojector with a miniature diagram facility, "Our Miralian friend is quite the techno-geek."
"And as we speak she's piecing apart your entire net system." Ahsoka bragged.
"Video feeds, outgoing and incoming calls, inventory logs, and even the names of whoever pressed those silky gowns of yours!" Tanya listed scathingly.
Barriss had seated herself at Gunray's desk. Her fingers glided in blurs over the keyboard, pressing away at the keys without a single fault. On each of the three holo-screens was a different was a browser. Bank accounts, inventory lists, associates, contacts, calendar dates. From head to toy she ripped the firewalls away. The virtual locks were stripped. The Viceroy's entire life and secrets displayed before her. His computer was an open book and she recorded every single scrap of data to a USB drive. (not sure if they have those. But hey.)
Anakin was off to the side, monitoring the numerous camera feeds – he was shocked to see – watching every inch of the submerged facility. "This guy was thorough."
"Not thorough enough." Barriss boasted, her eyes not leaving the screens for a split second. "In a matter of seconds I'm going to have everything on the Viceroy and anyone who helped him."
"Good. Keep up the good work." Anakin commended. He returned his attention to the wall of cameras. His brow arched curiously. He noticed something odd in one of the feeds. Windu and Luminara. They were speaking with Embo. Windu shook hands with him and they parted ways. "I wonder what that was about."
"Everyone and anyone associated with you is going to be buried!" Ahsoka boomed, relishing in the Viceroy's defeat, "And you're never going to be able to dig yourself out!"Gunray turned away, growling through gritted teeth. He couldn't believe this. Caught by two Jedi barely old enough to drive, and being outsmarted by another young Jedi who probably wasn't eligible to walk into a tavern without questions being raised.
Tanya grabbed Gunray by the collar, wrenching him to his knees. "I warned Dod that I have friends! Each one more talented and dangerous than the next!" Gunray quaked in her grip. His heart beat so fast it was ready to burst. Tanya bore her glaring orbs into his petrified eyes, then put her mouth to his ear. "I may be bound by my word not to harm you, but I fully intend to crush Dod the second I get my hands on him!" She snarled quietly, venom dripping from her words. "Round two goes to me." She tossed him to Ahsoka's feet. "Let's haul his ass out of here! We're losing time!"
Luminara and Windu were the first to escape the facility. Climbing to the roof of the surface compound they sent out a distress signal, urging the clones to send emergency transport cruisers on the double. Rex and Pawns confirmed that a transport team was already deployed. Ahsoka and Tanya were the second to emerge with the Viceroy in hand. The two masters ensured no bruises were on the Viceroy's body. Tanya assured them she kept her word and didn't lay a hand on him…just his clothing. And finally Barriss and Anakin joined them on the roof. Barriss showed them the drive with all of the Viceroy's dirty little secrets neatly and securely tucked away.
Victory belonged to the republic, and with an hour to spare. Word of the Viceroy's capture reached the waiting clones in the cruiser. Loud roars of cheers erupted all throughout the cruiser. Clones hugged each other and hooted loudly in victory. But the celebration would have to wait. There was one more stop that needed to be made before they returned to Coruscant. The King of Toydaria needed to be informed about what took place on one of his planets.
"Master Jedi! Young Padawans!" King Katuunko blurted happily with his arms open. "I am pleased you all returned from Frii-Caah alive. Albeit scathed." He added, noting the bruises on Tanya and Luminara. "But alive."
"Thank you for your praise, Your Majesty." Windu bowed at the hip. "It was our pleasure to rid Frii-Caah of a potential threat." Luminara and the other Jedi followed suit and bowed. "Unfortunately…We did not return here for praise…but for justice."
Confused murmurs exchanged between the anxious Toydarian council. King Katuunko laced his finger together, leaning on his elbows, his concern brewing. "How do you mean?"
"The planet Sirrahng." Anakin started. "You know it?"
"Then, Majesty, you would know that the only way to receive aid is to be on the planet. The minute you leave, their protection withdraws."
"I am well aware of the laws, Master Skywalker." Katuunko retorted, insulted by the lecture. "Please state the valid point in this dissertation before I have you escorted off my planet."
Anakin quickly dropped his head, apologizing for his lack of respect. "During our search, I discovered a mass amount – possible a year worth – of provisions stored. All of which were gifted from Sirrahng." He pulled his holoprojector out and presented the nun logo to the council. "This logo was on each of the crates. On top of that, we discovered separatists refugees from Sirrahng were ordered to retrieve the Viceroy." The council muttered amongst themselves again. This was news to them. Appalling news. Sort of. Sirrahng was under strict orders and guidelines to not extend aid to anyone not on the planet unless special authorization is given.
"At first we thought nothing of it," Luminara proceeded to explain, "But then we found evidence of refurbishing, numerous deliveries which frequented weekly, coupled with the crates – we were confident in assuming someone associated with Sirrahng has been helping the viceroy for quite some time."
"On top of that," Windu stepped forward, "We learned the three Bounty Hunters he hired were amongst the best and deadliest. And with his assets frozen and accounts being monitored, he couldn't afford them alone much less pay them to guard him."
"Master Jedi," The Prime Minister raised a hand, silencing them, "This is all well and good. But what does any of this have to do with justice?"
"Funny you should ask." Windu retorted brazenly. "We were just getting to that part."
Ahsoka, Barriss, and Tanya came forward, bold grins on their faces. "Planets like Sirrahng need sponsors in order to survive." Ahsoka stated as a fact of life. "Someone to provide services, give money, and bring a little attention to people in need. That's how they stay afloat."
"And, incidentally, Prime Minister," Tanya licked her lips, smiling demonically, "You happen to be the sponsor for Sirrahng." Ice formed on the Prime Minister's back. "For the last five years, I believe."
Eyes from his fellow councilmen fell onto the trembling Prime Minister. Gawking at him in shock they gasped silently. The Prime Minister swallowed nervously. "I know not what is it you are implying-"
"Oh you know exactly what it is we're implying." Tanya interrupted viciously . "And more importantly, we know that it was you the Viceroy contacted before those reinforcements started coming."
Barriss produced the drive. The Prime Minister's jaw hit the floor. "This is a complete copy of the Viceroy's call history, inventory logs, and all other information pertinent to our case." She announced firmly. "Though the number was untraceable when he made the, we managed to learn that the number the Viceroy dialed was to YOUR private line, Prime Minister!" Katuunko gawked horrifically at his Prime Minister. "And to top it off, should we ask, we can prove that you've been sending droids and other individuals to help with the Viceroy's living conditions. All equivalent to the number of weeks the Viceroy's been in hiding!"
The Prime Minister moved to protest. "And before you decide to claim blackmail, Prime Minister," Ahsoka scoffed at his title, "You should know that we snuck a peak at your bank account." The Prime Minister's mouth sewed itself shut. "For every week the Viceroy evaded capture, another 5,000 credits was added to your account."
"Not to mention we have confirmation from one of the Bounty Hunters that they were sent by you to keep Gunray safe." Windu stated. Anakin touched his chin. Could that have been why he shook hands with Embo? Did they make a deal?
Barriss approached king Katuunko and presented the drive to him. The Toydarian king just stared at the drive, petrified to even touch it. If he so much as peeked at the information stored inside the allegations against his Prime Minister – his lifelong commandant – will be proven true. "Parkansas…" His voice quaked, "Please…tell me-" When Katuunko looked at his friend, the Prime Minister turned away in shame, confirming Katuunko's worst fear. "No…"
"Forgive me, Highness!" Parkansas pleaded. "I…this…none of this was supposed to go on for much longer." Katuunko threw a hand up. The Prime Minister closed his mouth. Katuunko couldn't bear to look at him. Listening to him try and defend himself only made it worse.
"Your Majesty…" Luminara approached the distraught king with a tender tone, "Our only concern is the Viceroy." She admitted first and foremost. "This evidence presented – should you choose to use it – is for your salvation. We do not wish to see a pillar of the Neutral Party brought down due to greed." She bowed her head, "Please proceed how you see fit."
"And please forgive me for this. Barriss bowed as well. "It was not my intention to bring you heartache." She and her master turned on their heels and strutted for the door.
"Thank you for your assistance, your majesty." Windu bowed. "I hope, under better circumstances, we meet again."
"As do I," Tanya bowed next, "Please take care." She then exited with her master.
"Farewell, Majesty." Anakin bowed.
"Till we meet again." Ahsoka bowed. When those two left the room, the Toydarians sat in a deep silence. However the Prime Minister was able to hear the disparaging remarks and the guillotine that would soon sever his head from his shoulders.
Barriss hid herself away in the sleeping quarters of the cruiser. An arm draped over her eyes, her entire body throbbed – legs especially. Her mind raced with images of the last day and a half she spent on Frii-Caah running for her life, dodging bullets, getting pummeled by a Bounty Hunter, and swimming several leagues underwater to recover Gunray. It was all too surreal. So much action from a simple seek and capture. She was out of breath just recalling it. Her heart pounded against her chest.
Knock-knock. Barriss leaned up. Tanya stood leaning against the doorway, smiling admiringly at the worn out Miralian. "Body pounding?"
Barriss laughed dryly, lowering her head back to the mattress. "Like a drum."
Tanya laughed, entering into the room. "Adrenaline rush. That happens on the first couple of missions." She sat on the edge of the bed beside Barriss. "You'll get used to it."
"Speaking from experience?"
"12 years of it."
"Then you must be numb."
"Nope. I still get rankled from time to time."
"Obviously. That beating by Bane must have shocked you."
"Wounding my pride? How cruel!" The two girls threw their heads back, laughing out loud. The whole situation was nothing more than a laugh now. Being run ragged by Bounty Hunters, playing a game of cat and mouse, and busting a government official. Definitely a story to tell the grandkids.
The laughter gradually died down into a pause for thought. This mission did more than just test their resolve. It revealed certain aspects of themselves to their fellow Jedi. Windu and Luminara striking a bargain with Embo. Anakin's rage pushed to the edge with Aurra. Ahsoka's brilliant use of ventilation shafts. Barriss's force healing and knowledge with computers. Tanya's ability to shoot lightning and her random emotions. It was…all too real.
"You're able to use Force Lightning?" Barriss asked out of the blue. Tanya's ears shot up. Her tail jerked nervously. Barriss bit her lip, cursing herself for such a blunt question.
"Guess the secret's out…" Tanya rasped, shrugging her shoulders," Not that it's really a secret." Barriss sheepishly returned her attention to Tanya. "The Master's and Ahsoka are aware of it. Count Dooku, General Grievous, and Asajj Ventress know." She brought a knee up, resting her chin on top, "I even think Chancellor Palpatine knows."
"Why didn't you tell me?" Barriss asked.
Tanya sensed the betrayal in her tone. "Because…" She sucked shamefully on her lip, "I possess the power of a Sith Lord. I didn't want to scare you." Barriss blinked. "It's stupid. I know. But there's a part of me that I am ashamed of. And I don't want to lose you or Ahsoka because of it."
Barriss recalled the grey coloring in Tanya's eye –she was unsure – she saw and how Tanya tried to hide it. Tanya's personality, mannerisms changed briefly. As if the appearance of the Bounty Hunters brought out the worst in her.
"You won't." Tanya's eyes widened. She turned around, gaping at Barriss. "So long as you keep your inner shames in check," She winked, "You won't lose any of us."
A beaming smile glided from ear to ear on Tanya's face. "Thanks Barriss."
CHEEZEY ENDING! DON'T CARE! BEEN WORKING ON THIS FOR DAYS! I'M DONE FOR A WHILE! LATER!