Alright peeps. I'm back. Sorry for the absence. Let's recap real quick.
Old wounds do not heal, but they can be mended.
Political Corruption Spreads.
After hours and days trekking the harsh lands of Frii-Caah, Jedi Masters Windu, Unduli, and Skywalker - accompanied by their padawans - captured and secured Viceroy Nute Gunray, who will now be tried before the Republic and charged for his crimes.
Opposition from Senator Dod, Aurra Sing, Cad Bane, and Embo - easily mowed down.
Meanwhile, Former Prime Minister Parkansas of Toydaria has been executed for treason against King Katuunko as well as abetting a known murderer and fugitive. But even with the Viceroy in custody and the Prime Minister dead, the Republic still faces relentless obstacles orchestrated by the Trade Federation.
The hour crept upon eight in the overcast morning. The frigid and somber weather gave the impression it was five. The sun of Mandalore unable to poke from behind the thick, grey clouds blanketing the famously blue skies, and warm the still slumbering citizens below.
Wooden blinds shielded the morning light from creeping onto the unsuspecting man slumbering comfortably in his soft bed. Snuggled tightly in the bulky blankets. The cold of the morning unable to ruin the warmth. The man shifted onto his other side, drawing the covers past his shoulders. The short black locks matted and gnarled by the hours of heavy slumber. With his body in the new position, the bed formed perfectly. Sleep consumed him instantaneously once again. The lids of his eyes felt heavy as cinder blocks. His body even heavier.
The curse of his internal alarm clock relentlessly called for him to awaken. His darkly tanned skin paled by the hours of sleep it begged for. He groaned, tapping his head like the button of an alarm clock, "Juss...nother...howwerr…" His Aussie accent pleaded.
A gust of air whooshed as a door opened. Two darkened figures stood in the doorway. Their glistening eyes pierced the hue of shadows. Malicious grins stretched ear to ear. The taller figure ran his fingers along the gleaming sharpness of a triangular knife. Ears and a tail wriggled excitedly. The shorter figure cackled anxiously. His heavy boots shuffled, wanting to jump at how easy this was going to be. The two figures nodded and entered. The short figure walked in first. A large block held firmly in his hands. He positioned himself on the right side of the bed, towering inches over the helpless man. The block hovered over the man's head. The taller figure pinched a string and pulled. The surprisingly bright morning light flooded the room, shining straight in the closed eyes of the sleeping man.
"The Hell!" He grunted and put a hand over his eyes. The taller figure joined the companion. The knife firmly entangled in his grip. Slowly the sleeping man removed the hand. His tired eyes bouncing, gradually clearing his vision. Blurred figures of a boy and girl came into view. Cat ears flapped and a tail wagged on the girl. The boy was laughing uncontrollably. His small body wriggling in a spasm. "What the…"
Party horns blared, startling the man completely awake. "SURPRISE!" He jumped straight up. Two kids, no older than ten or seven - a cat girl with blue skin and a boy with the man's same skin tone - held a box, grinning as widely as their small faces allowed. "HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD!" The kids howled joyously at the top of their lungs. The box opened, revealing a decadent chocolate cake with strawberries and peanut butter chips on top. The signature read, "Jango the Great." Cheesy. But great enough to make the no longer tired man beam with unbridled joy.
"Boba...Tanya…" He hummed, unable to convey how happy he was. And proud. The boy, Boba, nudged the cake his way. Jango accepted the cake. Looking at it he could see the time and effort those two - his kids - put into making this for him. It brought a tear to his eye. "Thank you so much."
"We're not done yet!" Boba assured Jango. He and Tanya crawled onto either side of Jango. Tanya put the cake knife on the end table. Boba set the paper plates and forks down. "You have to make a wish still!" Boba stuck the candle in. Tanya lit it. The glow of the flame ignited, alighting the glee in Jango's eyes.
"Make a wish, dad!" Tanya hugged his arm. Her tail beat the sheets.
"Yeah! Make a wish!" Boba hugged him too.
Jango shook his head and set the cake down, "I can't."
The two children gaped sadly. "Why not?" Tanya whimpered.
"Did we do something wrong?"
"No. Not at all." Jango draped his arms around them, pulling them into a warm hug. "I cannot make a wish because you both entering my life was the greatest wish come true. Nothing I ask for will ever compare to the gift of my kids." Boba and Tanya beamed exuberantly. Light blushes flushed their cheeks. "I love you both."
Tanya and Boba hugged Jango tightly, never to let go. "We love you too, dad." Both replied.
Muffled purrs of a military grade engine roused the slumbering feline Jedi. Crisp sheets wrinkled as she twisted and turned, jostling life to her weary body. "Hmm..." Tanya's brow furrowed. She raised an arm over her eyes. A single light dimly illuminating the sleeping quarters peered past her closed lids, disturbing her peace. "Ugh..." Slowly she opened her eyes. The lighting was dim but Tanya was half asleep still. A flows stick wrapped in cloth would be too bright. "Grah..."She smashed her hands into her face. Blinking rhythmically the haze cleared. A cold, bleak, metal room with two bunk sets came into view. A serious downgrade from the warm, inviting, home scenery. "A dream..." She rasped exhaustedly. A very real dream. She still smelt the cake. Jango's arms...they were still around her. "What a soft hearted fool I am." What would Windu say to her? Something profound, to be sure. She really could use some advice.
The room Tanya was in now was frightfully similar to a prison cell. With her mind still fuzzy, Tanya almost believed she was in prison. Obscuring the room with a hand over her eyes, Tanya thought back. Back to Coruscant. Back to the mission briefing.
That's right. A glaring amethyst eye peered past her fingers. I'm heading to Mandalore. She grit her teeth. An elongating fang punctured the lip. A sliver of blood ran down her jaw. "Damn you, Mace."
"Mandalore?" Tanya questioned the council. Barriss too raised a brow. "W-why do we need to go there? I thought they were decidedly ignorant of the war." Mandalore, by unanimous decision of it's court, was neutral to the war. So neutral that they pretend as if it and its affairs hold no consequence to their way of life. Asking them for help or any other favors would be pointless.
"This visit is not to invite them into war, but to aid them in remaining out of it." Mundi elucidated enigmatically. Barriss and Tanya exchanged bewildered glances.
Shaak-Ti took up the explanations, "Recently one of our Senators - Senator Cabduul Ariim of Tanjeer - has been arrested on Conspiracy Charges." Barriss and Tanya were taken aback. Senator Ariim was a humble business advocate. Tanjeer is a planet famous for its innovative and philosophical thinkers, and agricultural advancements. The medicines they provide to the republic have saved countless lives. Clones, Jedi, and soldiers alike. Senator Ariim is a provider of many goods and medicines. To be arrested for conspiracy? Its like Jar-Jar being arrested for stealing. It's improbable.
"How is this possible?" Barriss' voice trembled. "On what proof did they find cause to charge with him with outrageous allegations?"
"A guard witnessed him and Senator Calla Dayle - A senator for the confederacy from planet Allamane - consorting together in a local drink establishment." Tiin reported.
Tanya slapped a palm to her face. "They met at a bar?!" She scoffed derisively. "Come on! A bar is the last place you meet secretly!"
Windu narrowed his scrupulous attention to his deceptive student. "And where, exactly, is your preferred rendezvous?"
A dark grin flared ominosuly on Tanya's cheeks. "I'll tell you my secrets, master, when you tell me yours." Windu froze at her remark. Tanya was no longer smiling. Barriss swallowed nervously.
Yoda, Tiin, Mundi, and Shaak-Ti kept silent. However one didn't need to be a Jedi to know they were worried for Windu and Tanya.
"Is there something you wish to get off your chest?"
"I should be asking you that."
Master Yoda cleared his throat. The sudden tension between Tanya and Windu vanished. "Ascertain the reason for the Senator's meeting, we must. Avoid needless execution, our priority must be."
"But why send us?" Tanya continued to adamantly protest. "Master Kenobi and Unduli sound perfect for this...peace mission." She spat in disgust. The reluctance was evident. Yet Windu sensed something more behind those words. Fear.
"Master Kenobi is attending to other duties." Plot answered. "And Master Unduli has taken Ahsoka so to deliver the Viceroy to authorities to answer to his crimes. Tanya bit her lip.
"Tanya..." Windu leaned in, "Is there a reason you you don't want to go to Mandalore?"
Tanya quickly swallowed a nervous lump and replied, "Other than the fact you're trying to shove politics into my arsenal? No." Her voice cracked. She mentally kicked herself. Windu's attention didn't waver. He saw through the lie. All that was blinded was the reason.
"Then I have no choice but to chaperone and ensure your arsenal is properly augmented."
Tanya felt a weight crack in half. "Say what?"
"Your last three missions of calm talks have gone awry." Windu rose from his place. "I personally intend to make sure that does not happen a fourth time. To the of my abilities." War and politics coincide. A battle is likely, but can be prevented.
Tanya hissed under her breath, diverting her heated glare at the floor.
Tanya's hand curled. "Six years and seven and a half months." She uttered under her breath. "Four years of running. Two rotting in prison. And the last seven and a half hiding amongst Jedi." Tanya pinched the bridge of her nose. "Forever truly only belongs to the dead." Aquatis and Mandalore. Two planets I never want to see for the same reason. Betrayal.
"Tanya? ...Tanya?" Tanya removed her arm from her face. Windu stood over her, staring apprehensively. "Are you okay?"
"Depends on the definition." She was fine. She furrowed her brow, "Are we there yet?"
"We're an hour away." Tanya's chest tightened. She turned away, hoping to hide her reluctance. No such luck when your master is a council member and only second to Tiin and Luminara in reading obscured emotion. "Why are you so dead set on not going to Mandalore?"
"I hate politics." She responded halfheartedly.
"There's more to it." Windu pressed. Tanya tensed. Windu licked his lips. The sorrow and disdain emitting from Tanya pained him. "Please Tanya..." He sat beside her. Tanya's stomach churned. She mentally implored him to go away. "Tell me why this venture is troubling you."
"I'll tell you my secrets when you tell me yours." Her voice shook. Her resolve to keep the wall between her and Windu was weakening. That didn't cloud the point any easier.
"Why do you ask me that? What secrets?"
"You may have greater control of it," Tanya finally turned to face him. The most enraged blaze sharpening her glare, "But do think because you are a master I can't read you like a book." He seethed past gritted teeth. Windu subconsciously edged back. "You stare at me, peeling past the layers in search of a truth. Just as you did when you learned of Carver, Scroop, Hondo, and my ties to the Creed."
"Aurra said something to you and you've been trying to weasel it out of me ever since!" Windu bit his tongue. Tanya's suspicions were confirmed. "You tell me your secrets and I tell you mine." She ended the conversation.
Windu's mouth opened and closed, despratley wishing to explain...but not sure how. He rose from her bed side, heading for the door. Tanya curled her body tightly. The distance they believed gone was building again. All because of pride.
Tanya will not stay with you forever. Aurra's words clung to his memory like a leech. Sucking the life from him. Feeding off his fear. The true assassin will be drawn out. You will see the real monster behind the smile she wears. The assassin was no stranger to the Korun. Tanya informed him of that personality long ago. Most of the council is aware of its existence. Tanya, the poor thing, has gone to extraordinary lengths to keep it silent. Never would she allow the animal to be uncaged. That hunter spokes lies. Tanya defeated the Berserker. The assassin is but another stepping stone.
Tanya's heart skipped a beat. She twisted around, "What?"
Windu turned away from the door, facing her steadfast. Boba was an innocuous subject, but a great distraction. "In front of Master Unduli, Aurra Sing mentioned a young boy named Boba." Tanya sighed with defeat, closing her eyes. This would explain why Luminara has been giving him the stink eye. "Is he the person Hondo sent you to meet?"
"He is." Tanya answered raspily. She finally sat up and stood, eyeing the Jedi skeptically, "And I'll wager Hondo told you about Boba that very same day." Windu cleared his throat. Suddenly he felt as if he just got Hondo into trouble. "Boba came to visit to find out how I am able to forgive the man who took our father away."
"And what did you tell him?"
Tanya walked up close, peering into his eyes pleadingly. "I can never forgive you." It broke her heart to speak those words. It shattered Windu's to hear them. She smiled warmly, placing a hand to his heart, "But I can't holds this over your head forever. Anyone could have killed Jango. You just drew the short straw." She winked.
"That I did." Windu massaged Tanya between the ears lovingly. "And never have I been more pleased." Tanya giggled, blushing like a foolish child. "And now its your turn." Windu tilted her head up. "Why does Mandalore terrify you?"
Tanya licked her lips. "Because six years ago...my faith in politics was shattered for the second time."
"So dad," Boba uttered. Pancakes falling from his full mouth and onto his black and white striped pajamas, "What do you want to do today?"
"It's been three months since we've been home!" Tanya chugged her orange juice down. The tangy morning drink dripped onto her purple duck pj pants. The sleeveless black top hiding the stain well. "We should go visit Satine."
"Ha-Ha. Nah. Maybe some other time." Jango sipped his coffee. His grey T-shirt, and plaid pajama bottoms remaining clean amidst the breakfast madness. The latest holo newspaper captivated his attention. Potential high end jobs by high end clients. "I think Satine might be a little too busy to put up with me. Remember, her father - The Duke - is training her to one day rule in his place."
"Aw! Come on!" Tanya pleaded. "I thought you two liked each other!"
Jango choked on his coffee. Boba defended with a plate. Coffee dripped onto his pants. Tanya spread a hand. The force halting the coffee spatter. "Where-COUGH- did you hear-who told you something so ridiculous?!"
"Pre Vizsla talks about it all the time." Boba explained nonchalantly. A bright blush lit up Jango's cheeks. Boba and Tanya failed to grasp the sensitivity of the topic. "What? Aren't you both friends?"
"Well-AHEM! Y-Yes! Yes! We are friends!" Jango's voice cracked. He slumped in relief in his chair. 'Thank god! That's all they meant!'
"Hey, uh, dad?" Boba called out monotonously. "You okay?"
"NEVER BETTER!" Jango took a huge helping of eggs and crammed it into his mouth. Perfect way to avoid a subject. He thought his heart was going to burst from his chest. Boba and Tanya shrugged and returned to their breakfast. "Anyway," The eggs went down roughly, "I thought I'd spend the day with my kids. This has to be the longest we've gone without a job getting in the way."
"OOH! OOH! I KNOW!" Tanya slid the page of his holonews to the entertainment section. She pointed to sharpshooter contest. "First place winner wins three year round, free room service and spa tickets to Okinaha Resort!"
Jango bobbed his head, pinching his chin in appeal. "Sounds like a lot of fun. What do you think, Boba?"
"YEE-HOO!" The young clone boy sprang onto the table. "SURFING OKINAHA! SCALING THE MOUNTAINS! LET'S GO!"
Tanya jumped beside, throwing a fist up, "YEAH!"
"Alright!" Laughed in defeat, pushing his chair back. "Then let's pack and head out!"
BAM-BAM-BAM! "AH!" Boba and Tanya flew into each other's arms. Jango swept a hand under the table. A pistol clicked, charged, and was aimed. BAM-BAM-BAM! Loud thuds rapped on the door. "Dad?!" Tanya whimpered, holding Boba protectively.
"Boba, protect your sister! Keep your heads down!"
"R-right!" Both stammered. Boba edged Tanya edge. She rolled off and cowered under the table. Boba crawled beside her, keeping her head down.
Jango nodded, confirming formation. BAM-BAM-BAM! Jango tucked a hand into the floor level cupboard, drawing another pistol. Executing a roll he ducked behind the couch, cautiously stalking into the living room. "JANGO FETT! THIS IS THE MANDALORIAN GUARD! OPEN UP!"
Jango knit his brow. 'The Guard?' Why were they pounding at his door? "ANSWER OR WE WILL BE FORCED TO BREAK THE DOOR IN!"
"Dad?" Boba poked out from behind the wall. "What's going on?"
"I don't know!" Jango kept his back pressed to the side of the couch. They shouldn't be coming after him. Why were they after him? On Mandalore his record was spotless.
"ANSWER NOW!" The gruff guard ordered.
"ONE MINUTE!" Jango pleaded. Just a minute so he could think. First thing's first. He put his pistols on safety and hid them within a compartment in the couch. Answering the door with fully loaded guns would not be the greatest first impression.
"Daddy?" Tanya whimpered.
"You two just stay back." Jango walked to the door, fixing his askew pajamas. Calm, cool, collected. Nothing's wrong. No crimes have been committed. Yet. The Mandalorian guard was not known for its subtlety. They simply wished to talk, bandy words, and then they'll leave with a bill to fix whatever damage they left on the door.
Jango stopped a second to clear his throat. His door opened with a whoosh. Heavily armed guards, semi-automatic rifles aimed at him and the inside of his house, greeted the on edge bounty hunter. Jango did not flinch. He simply stood in the middle of the door, keeping view of his children minimized. If they are here to arrest him, he's not dragging his kids into a firefight. "Jango Fett?" The jet black haired commanding officer addressed curtly. His navy blue and white uniform distinguished him from the armored men.
"The same." Jango replied just as jaded. "What is this about?"
The Commanding Officer produce of PDA device. "Jango Fett, in the name of the Late Duke of Mandalore - Arvahn Kryze-"
"Wait! Late Duke?! What happened to Arvahn?"
The Commanding OFficer ignored his plight."You are under arrest for murder and treason!"
"Murder?! Hold on-"
"HOLD ON!" Jango staggered back. Two guards rushed Jango, restraining his arms behind his back. "WAIT! PLEASE! THIS IS A MISTAKE!"
"DAD!" Boba jumped on one of the guards, pounding his helmet in. "GET OFF HIM!"
"RAHM!" Tanya bit one of them on the ankle.
"GET OFF!" The guards wrestled the two kids and maintaining a hold on Jango.
"Boba! Tanya! Enough!" Jango ordered.
"BUT DAD!" Both children howled. Two more guards swooped in and removed the children. "DAD!"
Jango grunted, trying to forestall the guards shoving him for the door. "Just stay here, kids! I'm sure this is a misunderstanding!" He assured his frightened children. "I'll be back! I promise!"
"NO! DAD!" A guard held Tanya. "COME BACK, DAD!"
"DAAADDDYYY!" Boba's voice screeched.
Mandalorian guards gathered to the landing pad, preparing to greet their expected guests. Captain Roland and Lieutenant Arnold led the party.
Captain Roland - A well built middle aged man with the most peircing emerald green orbs. Red orange locks of hair gleaming in the sunlight like flames. A full, curled beard obscuring half of his face.
Lieutenant Arnold - A man with lush brunette hair restrained to a ponytail close to the neck. He was admittedly younger than he captain, but order than late 20's, early 30's. A prominent nose and brow accentuating his skill and upbringing. His beaming violet eyes gazed up.
Whirs of an engine drew the company's attention to the parting clouds. A transport cruiser belonging to the Republic landed neatly upon the landing pad. As the engines died, the doors opened. Senators Mon Mothma and Bale Organa stepped out onto the pad followed by Windu, Barriss, and Tanya.
The captain and lieutenant bowed respectfully. "Senators Mon Mothma and Bale Organa. Her Highness, Duchess Satine Kryze, has anticipated your arrival." Captain Roland greeted. Tanya scoffed inaudibly. So she DID take daddy's title.
Organa and Mon Mothma returned the bows. "Thank you for coming to escort us. We hope to rectify this grievous matter as soon as possible."
"Then allow us to escort you to the throne room post haste." Lieutenant Arnold insisted. The small company of soldiers parted. Roland and Arnold bowed and gestured hands toward the palace. "Please follows us." Organa and Mon Mothma, bowed their heads, grateful for the assistance, and followed after them.
Windu nodded to the Padawans and proceeded forward. Tanya and Barriss started after him. Tanya came to a sudden halt. A light tingling rolled down her back. A tension pressed her skull. This feeling...She turned and gazed to the bustling city below, reacting to imaginary eyes watching her. Familiar eyes.
"Tanya?" Barriss chimed.
"Yeah...coming." Tanya walked after her, her mind still lingering on the progressing sensation on her back. Something's coming. Someone. Or am I being paranoid?
Heavy shackles clamped to ankles clanked harshly as the feet stumbled to keep pace. Arms bound tightly behind a freshly scarred back, two men hauled a hooded man like a sack of potatoes down a corridor. A few times the feet dragged, tripping over the chains. Frightened and concerned eyes watched as several armored men followed after the - obvious - prisoner. Murmurs begging for answers whispered up and down the hall. The guards carrying the prisoner paid them no heed. All would be made clear in due time.
Two monstrous doors opened with a creak. A bright throne room, occupied by finely dressed officials, greeted the guards and masked prisoner. Coming to the foot of the throne, the guards threw them man down onto his bare knees. The hooded man panted heavily with relief. Finally he could catch his breath. His exhausted breath quieted down as the loud clopping of heels stopped in front of him.
"We went at it for hours, My Lady." One of the Guards reported, "But still he refuses to confess."
'Confess to what?' The man thought. 'I have done nothing.'
"Remove his hood." A deep woman's voice commanded. One of the guards yanked the hood- and a patch of hair - off the man's head. The bright lights blinded him momentarily, forcing him to turn to the ground. Slowly the man opened his eyes, blinking rapidly so to adjust them. Gradually his sight cleared. He saw many noblemen and women glaring daggers at him. Guards with electrical staffs surrounded him from behind. Two held him firmly to his knees by his shoulders. "Jango Fett!" The man's blood went cold at his name. He swallowed a large lump. Nervously he brought his attention up. Black boots, grey pants, a blue shirt by a black vest all leading to a harshly glaring woman with short blond hair decorated by silver clips. Her blue eyes cold as ice.
"Satine…" Jango rasped.
"That's DUCHESS to you, filth!"
"What?" Jango panicked. "But...Arvhan…"
"Is dead!" Satine's voice cracked. Little bubbles of tears welled in the corners of her eyes. "Because of you!"
"WHAT?" Was all Jango could say.
"Late at night, at around one in the morning…" Satine swallowed, "My father was found dead! Poisoned by a tonic put into his wine!" Jango's mouth and eyes gaped, imagining the Duke - his friend - lying dead in his room, a bottle of Bordeaux spilled over. "Coroners surmised he died late at midnight."
Jango was arrested in his home - IN FRONT OF HIS CHILDREN - brought to a dungeon where he was tortured for three hours without rest. No answers, no explanations. Now, as he is paraded and thrust before the Duchess, he is being accused of killing Arvhan Kryze. His life long friend and confidant. "No...NO! This is some mistake!"
Satine knit her brow doubtfully, "A MISTAKE you say?" She retorted cynically.
"I met with Arvhan last night! Near the fountain in the West Courtyard!" Jango bit his tongue. 'Dammit!' He cursed himself. 'I wasn't supposed to-'
"Were you alone with him?" The Duchess interrupted.
"Yes." Jango answered firmly. No point in denying it now.
"At what time?"
"11. I remember because 15 minutes prior I had put my son and daughter to bed."
Satine nodded, believing the claim. Jango always put his kids to bed a quarter past ten on jobless nights. "For how long did you speak?" Satine was grilling Jango. She clearly wanted facts
"...30...20 minutes." Jango wasn't sure. He was sure, however, that he had nothing to hide. "I remember returning home some time before midnight. Boba and Tanya will testify to that."
"So you admit to being the last person to see the Late Duke alive?!" Pre Vizsla interjected scathingly. Jango shook his head, not seeing what that proved. Least of all the allegations against him. All the same he nodded his head yes. "Can anyone - besides your children - corroborate your claim?" Jango knit his brow. His children may not be liars, but he shouldn't have been surprised a court of law wouldn't take a 10 and 7 year old seriously. He had to shake his head no. "Why did you meet with him at such a late hour? What was so important that you could not wait until dawn?"
Jango froze. His neck tensed as he swallowed. "I…" He lowered his gaze to floor. Looking around he saw prying eyes worming a confession out of him. With a somber sigh he said, "I'm afraid I cannot tell you."
Loud disapproving mutters erupted in the hall. "Can't?" The Prime Minister scoffed. "OR WON'T!"
"Both." Jango admitted sternly, staring defiantly at Mandalore's Prime Minister. "I gave Duke Arvhan my word I would never speak of our conversations to anyone. Client Confidentiality."
Satine's eyes widened horrifically. "Let me get this straight," Pre Vizsla snarled, "Duke Arvhan...hired you?" He questioned incredulously. Jango's grim silence was answer enough. "For what purpose? What were your orders?"
"Need to know."
"WE need to KNOW!"
"If you needed to know I would have told you." Jango countered, not cowing to Pre Vizsla's rising annoyance. "All you need know is I NEVER raised a hand to my friend. I couldn't! I wouldn't! Therefore I did not murder him!"
"Then how do you explain this!" Prime Minister Almec produced a bottle. Jango's heart skipped a beat. "This an unlabeled bottle containing high doses of Belladonna and Nightshade. A deadly combination capable of killing an elephant in a matter of minutes. Humans in seconds."
"THAT'S IMPOSSIBLE!" Jango roared.
"Our chemists verified the contents minutes before your arrest." Almec assured the panicked Bounty Hunter. "And investigators revealed your fingerprints on the bottle."
"But that shouldn't have been in that bottle!"
"Oh?" Almec arched a brow, intrigued by his response. "And why is that?" Jango mentally kicked himself. He's exhausted. Words are spilling out. "If you know something, Jango Fett, then you should tell us. It might save you from the death penalty."
The death penalty. They were charging him in full? For something he never did? He shifted his unwavering expression to Satine, startling her. "I know not how the contents found their way into that bottle. But you must believe me, I-NEVER-GAVE-HIM-THAT-TONIC! And I was nowhere near him at midnight!"
"Regardless." Almec shook his head. "Reports state the tonic was introduced into his system around 11:50, it ran its course, and killed him at midnight. You simply could have handed him the bottle, gone home - hoping your 'children' would testify for you, and waited for the toxin to take effect."
"THAT'S A LIE!" The guards held Jango down. "I did not murder Arvhan! I did not give him that tonic!"
"Then tell us why he hired you?" Satine demanded. "Tell us and we'll grant you mercy!" Her voice shook. She didn't care what happened last night. She just wanted to know why her father hired a Bounty Hunter. Why was Jango with her father? What were they hiding?
Jango hung his head in defeat. "I can't tell you, My Lady. Please forgive me."
Satine closed her eyes. Streams of tears rolled down her cheek. "Forgive me as well." Jango shot his gaze up at her. Satine folded her hands and announced in a commanding tone, "Jango Fett, for the murder of Duke Arvhan Kryze in the first degree and high treason against Mandalore..." She licked her dry lips, "You are hereby sentenced to the maximum punishment, and shall be beheaded by the coming morning.
Sundari. The capital city of Mandalore. Home to the nobles and host to the High Council which governs the peace long achieved.
Guided by the guard, the senators and Jedi were brought to the Sundari throne room. A bleak, grey, yet elegant hall. Chairs crafted out of marble stone occupied the floor nearest the steps of the throne. Atop the steps was, of course, the throne. A young man, determination in his expression, in armor with a shaven head stood to the left. Another man, elderly in appearance, with bleach blond hair was off to the right. Between them was a beautiful young woman seated on the throne. A tapestry window gleaming behind her on the wall.
Roland and Arnold knelt to one knee. "Your majesty, Duchess Satine." Roland announced. Satine waved an indifferent hand, ordering them to rise. "Allow us to present, Republic Senators, Mon Mothma and Bale Organa."
"Senators,"Arnold motioned a hand to the trio before them, "Please allow us to introduce Per Viszla, Prime Minister Almec, and her Highness Duchess Satine."
"Duchess." Organa crossed a han over his chest and bowed.
"Pardon me, Senator Organa," Young Per Viszla interrupted abrasively, "Who are the suspicious trio awaiting behind you? They carry a air about hem that unneerves me."
"There is no cause for alarm." Organa assured them. "Please meet Jedi Master and Council member, Mace Windu." Windu bowed. "To his left is Padawan Learner Barriss Offee. To his right is his Padawan Leaner, Tanya Fett." Tanya and Barriss bowed. Satine stiffened at the name. Almec and Pre Viszla held their breath. They focused on Tanya. A small smile crept to her cheeks. "Is something wrong?" Organa treaded on the tension.
"NO! NO! NONE!" Satine coughed. Almec and Pre Viszla"Forgive me. You simply resemble someone's daughter I once knew."
Tanya laughed. "I'm flattered. But trust me," The lids of her eyes partially closed, "I'm not that same girl." Satine nodded. Somehow she seemed relieved to hear that. Tanya's smile faded. No, I most certainly am not.
A door whisked open with a loud CLANG! "SIS! NEWS!" A littlee Tanya shot up on the couch. A young Boba came charging in. Huge streams of sweat doused his forehead. Heavy pants inflated his small chest. He was running for dear life. "Dad was...arrested...HOO," He lurched, putting his hands to his knees, "One sec." Tanys handed him a full glass of water. Boba graviousky accepted and chugged the icy contents in seconds. His sun dry throat rejuvenated and ready to explain. "Dad was arrested for Duke Arvhan's death!"
"SAY WHAT?!" Tanya's mind exploded into dozens of pieces. "ARVHAN'S DEAD?! DAD KILLED HIM?!" Boba smacked her upside the head. "OW!"
"TAUN! FOCUS!" Boba smashed their noses together. "Dad didn't kill Arvhan! The police THINK he did! Dad would never kill his best friend." He stressed, hoping Tanya would think before responding.
"Oh...right...sorry..." She panted, steadily calming her racing heart. As her nerves rolled to a smooth halt, clarity grabbed hold oof the ten year old. She practically kicked herself. The outrageousness of this allegation was enough to make her head spin like a top. "Dad and Mr. Arvhan. They've been friends since before you or I were born, right?"
Boba folded his arms with a shrug. "That's the story. He met the Duke on a job, became close with him and Satine," He shrugged his hands, not really knowing the whole story, "And the rest is history."
Tanya scratched her head perplexedly. "And that history involves dad and Satine becoming close too." Veins in Tanya's head popped. She clawed rabidly at her head, prepared to rip patches of hair out. "GRR! NONE OF THAT MATTERS! WE HAVE TO PROVE DAD'S INNOCENT! But how?"
"I snuck into the Palace. News of Mr. Arvhan's death was the talk of the place." Boba couldn't resist rolling his eyes. A death subjected to common gossip was distasteful. "Mr. Arvhan was poisoned via one of his drinks. According to two of the servants, a bottle of Belladonna and Nightshade had dad's fingerprints all over it."
Tanya's eyes widened. "Didn't Dr. Carver say those two were deadly together?" Boba and Tanya made a point to pay close attention when Carver spoke with them about tonics, toxins, poisons, and other potentially dangerous concoctions. Saved their lives once or twice. "Wait..." Tanya paused. A thought just occurred to her. "Dad couldn't have touched that bottle. He's allergic to nightshade. Just looking at the leaves makes him break out in hives."
Boba wasn't following. "But his fingerprints-"
"Could have been taken off a milk jug he touched three months ago." Tanys spat, hoping Boba would catch on as to how easy framing someeonee is these days. "Remember that job you and I pulled in Haven City."
Boba threw his head back, howling with laughter. "I loved watching Baron Monroe try to explain himself."
"It was easy to get his prints from his wine. Dad's good but even he has to take his gloves off."
"Even so, sis, that doesn't explain why dad was out last night." Boba and Tanya were supposed to be asleep. But the excitement of moving to Kerwan sort of kept them up...until Jango came home just before midnight. "I heard him leave out through the attic. He went somewhere. Maybe to visit Arvhan." It was the only plausible explanation. At the moment.
Tanya scratched her chin pensively. "He sneaks out a lot whenever we return home, doesn't he?"
"More than usual."
"The only difference is, this time, dad is being accused of sooemthi he didn't do. And we're going to prove it."
"Step one - we tell Satine about Jamgo's allergy. It'll create reasonable doubt."
"And if step one fails?" Boba didn't man to sounds like a downer. He just wanted to be prepared for any and all contingencies.
"If step one fails then we go to step two."
Tanya draped her arm to Boba, drawing him in close. She sucked on her bottom lip. Guilt riddled her brow. "How do you feel about 'obstruction of justice,' and 'stealing evidence,' being added on to your already lengthy rap sheet."
Death follows this woman like a stink!
A hand to her shoulder stirred Tanya. The tension made his shoulders tremble. Her fingers curled in and out, wanting to reach for the knives in her boots. Windu curled his fingers tightly. Tanya didn't wince, but she assauged the rage.
"And you." She barked at Windu. "You are the man who killed Jango Fett, are you not?"
"I am." Windu answered without delay. Satine focused intensely at him. Anger or adulation. It was difficult to discern.
"Duchess Satine." Mon Mothma spoke elatedly. "We are honored you could meet with us."
"Do not mistaken my appearance as a courtesy." Satine stated outright curtly, startling Mon Mothma. "It is merely an obligation my Prime Minister assures me would tarnish my reputation should I decline you an audience." Barriss was horrified by the response. Tanya rolled her eyes. Windu and Organa kept face. "Let us dispense with pleasantries! You are here for your Senator. One Senator Ariim. Well I cannot and will not return him to you."
"If I may, Duchess," Organa interjected, "If Senator Ariim is being charged with Conspiracy, then it should be decided by Republic Court."
"True! But your Senator and Senator Dale have been coming to my planet for many months now, meeting in numerous establishments, and consorting with one another." Months? And the Republic is just hearing about this now? "Unless peace talks sanctioned by my government are in effect, fraternization between Confederates and Republicans is illegal. As such, meeting in secret on neutral fronts is grounds for arrest and execution."
"Surely, Duchess, such drastic actions are not necessary!" Mon Mothma pleaded. "Whatever their reason, Senator Ariim and Senator Dale are not conspirators. Nor traitors. Both are loyal to their factions."
Almec sauntered forward with his hands behind his back, "Then explain why they held three rendezvous a month in the same public breweries for the last five months?"
Mon Mothma and Organa were aghast. They glanced back at the Jedi, praying for answers.
Windu and Barriss glanced ominously at one another while Tanya shrugged. They heard nothing of this. The only information they have is Ariim was arrested. The events which led to his arrest were shrouded in mystery. Until now.
The guillotine was dangling, ready to fall. "Prime Minister," Organa choked, "We cannot explain because this was not divulged to us. By your officers or our senate. The only information we possess is the arrest."
"Then it is clear your senator is a traitor." Per Viszla declared hastily.
"Senator Ariim is the most devout and loyal member of the republic." Mon Mothma proclaimed firmly. "He would never betray us!"
"Then explain why he is consorting with a known enemy!" Satine dared. "Explain why they both were luring the war to our doorstep!"
Tanya and Barriss glanced sternly and nodded to one another. "Pardon us, Duchess," Barris spoke with a bow, "If you will excuse Padawan Fett and I." Organa, Mon Mothma, and Windu watched as the two exited the throne room.
"And where, pray tell, are they going?" Almec demanded.
"To ascertain the answers we all seek." Windu answered simply.
"Then they will not mind if Captain Roland and Lieutenant Arnold accompany them." The two commanding officers stuck out their chests, ready to accept the task.
"Not at all, Prime Minister." Almec nodded. The two officers darted after the Padawans.
"I must warn you, Jedi," Satine snarled hatefully, "If you, your senators, or your Padawan deceive me-"
"We would never begin to contemplate such a thing, Duchess." Windu cut her off, offended by the baseless accusation. "Answers are a common goal. Barriss and Tanya will find them and report back. I promise."
Satine leaned forward, narrowing her sharp glare disdainfully, "I shall be holding you to that."
"I BEG YOUR PARDON!" Almec howled irately. "You're telling us we made a mistake."
"A greivous mistake, Prime Minister!" Tanya challenged defiantly, yet respectfully. "Our dad couldn't have poisoned Duke Arvhan."
"Look kids," Pre Viszla sniggered mockingly, "Its cute you're trying to defend daddy dearest, but-"
"Dad's allergic to nightshade!" Boba blurted. Pre Viszla was stunned to silence. Almec and Satine ogled the boy in awe. "It's true. Dad can touch, smell, or even look at nightshade without some story of reaction taking place."
"Regardless if it's in a bottle!" Tanya quickly added.
"Then how do you explain his fingerprints?" Almec dared them to explain.
"Planted!" Boba snapped. "It's not difficult to do."
"Never the less," Sarine dismissed, "Unless your print theory is proven, the bottle is still in Jango's hands."
"But we're telling you he couldn't have handled the bottle! We can prove it!" Tanya pleaded. "Dad forgot his gloves last night. If he did go anywhere near nightshade, he'll have a rash on his hands, or somewhere else. And a blood test will confirm our story."
"He could have put on a cream to disguise the rash!" Pre Viszla assumed brashly. "Throw us off."
"It takes he rash three days to begin flaking, and two weeks later to completely heal!" Boba elucidated, growing annoyed with the accusations.
Almec, Pre Viszla, and Satine exchanged skeptical glances. The prints alone were enough to convict Jango. But...given this new evidence...
"Very well." Satine acquiesced. "We shall conduct an experiment. If your theory is proven, we shall reconsider executing your father." Boba and Tanya could noy begin to describe their joy. "But with his prints on the bottle, it'll be difficult to secure his release." Boba and Tanya understood. At least theory got this far. "However there is something we need confirmed. Did Jango Fett leave home last night?"
"Y-yeah. He did." Boba answered cautiously. What rhhey say could condemn or save Jango.
"10..." Tanya juggled the times, "30? 45? Somewhere in there."
"What time did he return?"
"Midnight or close till." Boba answered confidently. He blushed with guilt, "Tanya and I woke up to get a snack and saw him walk in."
"Does he do this often?"
"No. Just on Mandalore." Tanya responded.
Almec raised a brow. "Why is that?"
"Because dad's old friends work at night. So he likes to visit them."
"Do these old friends include late Duke Arvhan?" Pre Viszla quizzed skeptically.
"Yeah." Tanya beamed. "Dad's always visiting Arvhan, running errands for him, and playing poker."
"Errands?" Satine blurted with intrigue. "What kind of errands?" Boba and Tanya shrugged. "Do these errands," Satine produced little baggie containing a small vile, "Include anything like this?"
Tanya and Boba studied the bottle. It wasn't familiar to them. The plaasric blurred the label, but Boba managed to transcribe a name. "No. Nothing like that." Boba replied. "The only errands we know of are trips to the store for a bottle of wine."
"So even your own father keeps secrets." Almec purred victoriously.
"Does Satine know everything you do?" Tanya immediately countered. Almec's mouth dried when Satine shot him a glance. "Our dad is innocent. Whether you help us or not, we will prove our father's innocence." 'And I'll shoot anyone who gets in my way.'
Heavy industrial doors opened with a shrill grind. Barriss, Tanya, and the officers stepped off the elevator, entering onto the 3rd sublevel of the Sundari Prison facility. A straight, wide, dismal hallway. Buzzing hall lights flickered on and off. The hallway vanished in black for a second then would light up in a heartbeat.
Captain Roland leading the party, Lieutenant Arnold trailing behind, Barriss and Tanya were led toward the end of the sublevel hallway. Led like prisoners being taken to Solitary Confinement. The cells were constructed of thick stone walls. Ray Shield bars capable of incinerating any flesh that touched them.
Resting in a meditative position against the farthest wall was a young woman. Heavenly pink skin. Head shaped like the head of a mushroom, with her face perfectly symmetrical. The under brim of the shroom a shade of lavender. A see through shall draping from the stool down her shoulders and back. Salmon colored lips silently uttering a prayer. A pendant rested in the center of a white and platinum chest plate blouse. A lavender scarf hugging her hips, dangling down a long white, flowing skirt parted in the middle. The thigh high ribbons of her lavender slippers tucked away by her folded legs. Her fingers, connected by a thin layer of skin, were held to her heart. Hearing footsteps, the woman's sure burgundy eyes opened. She watched silently as the guards and Jedi past, heading for the only other inmate besides herself.
"Cabduul..." She breathed fretfully.
An emaciated, turquoise skin man, by way of his race's heritage, paced from one side of the cell to the other. Hunched over, fiddling with his three, long, skinny fingered hands, he panicked under his breath. His hind like legs clopping uncontrollably, gathering the skirt of sapphire, floruescent robe. Little patches of hair hung over his long pointed ears. V shaped spines ran from his forehead to the back of his neck, flapping nervously. Sunken patches of black stained the skin beneath his fluorescent yellow eyes.
"AAAAAHHHHH!" Tanya and Barriss clung to one another. The Senator panted hysterically. Roland and Arnold sniggered under their breath.
"Geese, mon!" Thee Senator screamed in his island accent. "What you Jedi be doin' scarin' a already petrified man?"
"We-we're sorry." Barriss stammered. "I am Barriss Offee. This is Tanya Fett. We're here about-"
Ariim shoved an indifferent hand, "I know why you all are here!" He hobbled to his pitiful bed. "You're here 'cuz I was in de wrong place at de wrong time!"
"I'd hardly call where you were and what you were doing incidental!" Arnold barked.
"Hey! Babysitters!" Tanya jerked her head, "Shove off somewhere!" Arnold gasped, insulted. Roland grabbed him by the shoulder and edged him along. Arnold shoved him off, composed himself, and marched several cells away. Roland rushed after him. "Hmm..." Tanya didn't noticed it before. Arnold walked awkwardly on his left foot. On the ball, twisting it slightly. Why is that so familiar?
"Senator, we do not believe the accusations pending against you." Barriss pleaded to him to understand. "We don't think you're a traitor."
"Den why am I not on de opposite side of de's bars?"
Tanya folded her arms, "Because you've been in the wrong place at the wrong time 15 times in the last five months." She rumbled crossly. Ariim shied to the wall shamefully. Barriss gave Tanya a cross look. Tanya shrugged. She wasn't going to sugarcoat the truth. The guy was in jail for a reason. Either he played ball with them or they can't help him.
"Please, Senator. Help us understand." Barriss pleaded again.
Ariim shook his head, "I...can't."
"Why not?" Tanya snapped.
"Because by Mandalore or Coruscant, my death is assured." Ariim dropped his head and turned his back. "At least I will die in peace." Senator Ariim was resigned to his fate. A squimish man with a dead set iron will. Something happened hit brought him here continuously. But for whatever reason - even at the threat of death - Senator Ariim would not divulge his reasons for coming to Mandalore.
That's all for now. To be continued.