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Old 04-22-2006, 01:39 AM   #8
machievelli
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Conundrum

As the courier burrowed through space, Breia read the data she had downloaded from the Corellian Temple. There was a lot of data, but it all seemed of the negative variety; Stations in the closer systems, all settled and claimed by Corellia had been attacked. Any ships in the system were also attacked and destroyed. The attacks had been fast and brutal. Over 20,000 had died so far. Six stations worth an aggregate estimate of 2 billion credits, along with a quarter million tons of shipping. Small vessels, escorts and Corvettes had proven useless. Whoever was attacking had to be using ships of Frigate size or larger. She visualized something that made a 400 meter long Frigate look small, but her mind rebelled.

The few survivors had been the assorted lucky crewman who had been in the right place to survive, but knew little about ships, so there wasn’t even a description of the ships. only reports that ships of unknown design had come, blown the stations, and departed.

But there were anomalies. Communications from the last station, Sigma 9 in the Britain system had been perfectly normal up until the last frantic message. Beta 2 in the Feramond system, the second attacked had been the same. A sudden attack and everyone died. The others had gone down almost unnoticed, only a ship chancing to pass through the system had detected the wreckage.

She checked the scan data. Battlefields in space were incredibly messy regardless of what holo-dramas suggested. Projectiles that missed their targets traveled at a small percentage of light speed and sometimes took weeks to leave the system. The same with missiles. Just as deadly to a ship entering from the wrong course or perhaps even in another system in several years. The scan data showed a lot of projectiles going out. But the pattern looked odd to her. She turned then the forensics. Oddly enough every weapon that had killed someone had been made by the same peoples that had been on the ships. Corellian hand weapons had smashed Corellian stations, Duros made weapons had been used on the few Duros ships that had been involved. Even Twi-lek weapons on Twi-lek ships. The resources the enemy had to have was astounding.

Or maybe...

She tapped the com annunciator, flipping back to check the one anomaly that bothered her the most.

“Captain Boroni here. What do you need, Padawan?”

“Is there a free computer that can crunch numbers over a very long period?”

“No, Padawan. Well, if you don’t mind a droid...”

“Not a problem. I don’t have any prejudices.”

“Then you can have the sanctimonious little piece of crap. He’s on the way.”

“Thank you, Captain. Won’t the Navy be upset that you are giving away a droid?”

“Not this series. They tend to get irritating after a while.”

She keyed off, nodding absently. The forensics team had reported traces of what appeared to be a coolant named Bidraxidine in the air of the last station attacked. Her brow wrinkled. The chemical was inert in most species, though it caused Duros to sneeze. The ratio of the chemical was minor. Probably not important.

There was a knock at her door, and an eight legged horror came in. Breia leaped to her feet, hand touching the hilt of her sword. The metallic monster stopped at the door, two eyes on stalks swiveling to look at her.

“You requested a droid, Padawan?” It asked. The voice was incongruous. It was a deep baritone. Coming from something that looked like a hook spider, it was a bit of a shock.

“Yes I did.”

“I am A4D9, self aware computing unit. You have calculations to be made?”

“How much do you know about ballistics?”

“More than the average person would either need or want, Padawan.”

“I can see why they don’t like you. Come here.” The monster walked across the deck, stopping beside her chair. “Where do I input the data?”

“I am not a toaster, Padawan.” One of the pedipalps lifted, and a computer access rod slid out. “Is the data on the system before you?”

“Yes.”

The rod slid into the socket. “Specific files?”

“All ballistic files for the attacks on the stations. I want to know where all projectiles and missiles originated.”

“I see why I was assigned. This will take some time. Several hours at least.”

“While you are at it, check the reports from the air systems of the areas of the stations that were not vented. Look for any anomalous compounds.”

“Station Theta 4 was completely depressurized. There will be no such data.”

“I am aware of that.”

“This will take a much shorter period. I can have the air data ready for you by end of watch.”

“Thank you.” She leaned back from the computer, looking at the overhead. “Who could be behind these attacks?” She mused.

“I have no idea.” The droid replied. “Not that anyone has asked.“

“Neither did I.” She said.

“See?” the droid hunkered down, circuits whirring.

*****
Breia Sookor Bai Echana, looked out of the screen at Holani. The woman knew she was being seen. Breia had slipped the plug into it’s socket in front of her. An uncommon courtesy.

“I knew you were beautiful, I just didn’t know how beautiful.” Breia said.

“Spare me the flattery, old friend. What can I do for you?”

“I tried your daughter’s com link but have received no reply.”

“That might be because she received a letter from Koori and the instant she read it, she contacted the Monastery here, then the Navy.”

“I have been apprised of that. What they didn’t know was what she was doing.”

“Give me a moment.” Holani lifted her pad, and tapped the screen. The letter from Koori was there, and she directed a program at it.

“What are you doing, as if I didn’t know?”

“Parents worry. More than teachers sometimes.” Holani mused. “She went from a blue funk to totally focused in less than half an hour, and I for one have been curious.”

“But you didn’t try to decode it before.”

“Heaven forefend! What kind of mother do you think I am?”

“An overprotective one.”

“Ah, but still true to allowing the children their privacy.”

“Is that so.” Breia said dryly. “This from the mother that had listening devices hidden in her rooms at the Coruscant temple.”

“Well I only listen to see if she cried and why.” Holani explained.

“And did the same to her son. How did you get them on his first ship?”

“A routine investigation. Some just happened to be in rooms he spent a lot of time in.”

“Of course.”

“Ah.” Holani linked the pad to the screen, and they watched the letter play.

“Him and those cookies!” Holani laughed. “I will have to contact Mama and get some for him.”

“He’ll know you read the letter.”

“No he won’t. I always arrange to have a couple of dozen sent out.”

“So.” Breia leaned back, fingers steepled. “This is strange. You do know that four Coruscanti station have been attacked.”

“Yes. And three Twi-lek ones, and one Hutt and a Duros station.”

“It looks like a systematic attack against the core systems.” Breia said softly. “At the same time, the Jedi have been blocked out of it.”

“I know that, old friend. You and your kind are sometimes too bluntly honest when it comes to arbitration. None of the Corporations are really happy with you. They never have been in truth. And truth be known, Galactic Mining and Mineral has more pull with Intelligence than I do.”

“True. It‘s the same with the Galactic Trade Authority on Coruscant.” Breia rocked her chair back and forth idly. “Ah, but one of our own is going into danger. Holani, do you think the Corellian Special Service will be upset if some of us went to this last site?”

Holani laughed. “Director Maron will be furious.” She leaned forward. “That is, if we tell him first. He might even have a heart attack!”

“Then I think I will need a full court press. Seven of us in two ships.” She turned to touch a panel. “And we will bring some specialty droids. This looks to be something we must be part of.”

“Why?”

“Holani.” Breia stopped, sighing. “I have a gut feeling that something is going to come seriously loose if we don’t get involved. A feeling that not only will we be going into danger, but your daughter has already blindly done just that.”

“Is it really that bad?”

Breia nodded. “If we do not stop this, I predict that Corellia will be at war with one or more systems within the year. I predict that ten to twenty of the core systems will be involved in that same war before three years have passed."

“You have never been much for predicting, Breia.”

“It is not me doing that prediction, Holani. It is the Force guiding me.”

“Then may it guide you and keep you all safe.”

“No one ever said a Jedi’s life was safe.” The screen blanked.

Holani leaned back, her face troubled. She suddenly felt that her daughter might die out there.

Soon.

*****

The courier dropped out of warp, running in toward the fleet. It docked with the flagship. Captain Solo was on the boat deck, hands clasped behind his back. The tube irised open, and something that looked like a giant metallic spider swarmed out, moving aside. Behind it, swimming easily through the vacuum, came his sister. She flipped end for end, her feet coming down even with the deck as she passed from zero gravity to ship’s gravity. It was a gymnastic feat few could do without the grab bar above the tube’s end.

She looked around, then at her brother. “Request permission to come aboard, sir?”

“Granted, Padawan. Welcome aboard the Vengeance.”

She walked forward, aware of the eyes from the crewmen busy at their duties. Within seconds the news that a Jedi was aboard would spread. She reached out, shaking her brother’s hand. “I believe you wanted to have me assist on mine clearing?”

“Yes, Padawan.” His face was smooth, a perfect face for playing Sabaac. “If you will come this way, I think the Admiral would like to talk to you first.”

“Please, lead the way, Captain.” She turned toward the droid. “A4, go to my quarters. If you finish any computations within the next hour or so please let me know.”

“Yes, Padawan.” It replied. “It would help if I knew where the quarters were.”

“Deck two, Compartment S 41.” The captain said.

“Thank you, Captain.” The droid watched the lift door close. The crew glared at it, then returned to their work.

The doors had barely closed when Breia found herself lifted in a bear hug. “Behave yourself, Koori!” She laughed. “If they don’t know you are my brother, people would talk!”

He pecked her on the cheek. “I’ve missed you Brie.”

“I missed you to.” She looked up at him, nose wrinkling. “What about you and Sala Dodonna?”

“It wouldn’t have worked.” He sighed. “The scion of the great Naval Dodonna infatuated with the son of a merchant?”

“She loved you, brother.”

“Not enough. When her parents made it me or a career she dumped me so fast you’d think I was radioactive.”

“Too bad. I was picturing kids with her hair and your eyes...”

The door opened before he could retort. They walked down the passageway together, the soul of propriety. Koori knocked on a door. “Come.”

They walked into the Admiral’s cabin. Unlike a lot of people who had the same title, Onasi didn’t have a lot of staff along. Her flag allowed her fifteen, she had brought two, her Chief of Staff and her Flag Lieutenant. Both were in the compartment when they arrived.

“Ah, Padawan. Good of you to accept your brother’s invitation.”

“I came because you needed help, Admiral.” She demurred. “How many of the attacks have you been briefed on, Admiral?”

“All six.”

“There have been more.” Breia filled them in on the attacks on other polities. “I came because when I heard that Corellia was not the only government being attacked, I thought I saw a pattern. I borrowed an A4 droid from the courier, and I have it working on some data. I think I might explain how the attacks are occurring, and why.”

“So soon.” The Chief of Staff snapped. “Only been on the case a few hours and already you know more than we do?”

“Hush.” The Admiral said. “A fresh point of view can sometimes see what we will not.” She looked at Breia carefully. “Your brother told me you have an... ability with electronics?”

“Yes. I noticed it when I was a child. I can feel where they are, and what they do.”

“Poppycock.” The Chief of Staff growled.

Breia raised her hand to forestall a rebuke from the admiral. “In your top desk drawer, there are five pads. One is encrypted to Alpha level, two to Beta, the other two unencrypted. One of them is a third full of your diary, the other of your personal log. In the left hand upper drawer are a pair of electro-binoculars with a defective power cell. You might tell the tech to check the connection on the third post on the left.

“In the top right drawer, you have your pistol which is sitting on top of your com link. The Commander who is so abrasive has a watch that is slow. It has been losing ten hundredths of a second every day for the past month. The vibration crystal is faulty.” She looked at the Commander. “Shall I do more magic tricks for you?”

“I think you have proven quite efficient, Padawan.” Onasi said. “Now how would that work with mines and booby traps?”

“Except for pure mechanical traps, every booby trap works using some circuitry or power sources. I can feel them.”

“At what distance?”

“My maximum range appears to be around fifty meters.”

“Padawan Solo.” Her com link chirped.

“Go ahead A4.”

“There are no anomalous compounds in the air systems you mention except for the trace amounts of Bidraxidine on Station Alpha 14. However there is residue of some odd chemicals that could be caused by respiration of Bidraxidine if this was in fact that compound.”

“Explain.”

“The Bidraxidine which is in the system aboard the remains of Sigma 9 is chemically different from the norm, suggesting that someone used Bidraxidine as a carrier. I am not fully conversant with physiology, so I cannot determine the cause or the affect of such a compound.”

“Are ship’s surgeon might.” Koori said.

“Yes. May I ask why an inert engine coolant seems to interest you, Padawan?”

“Yes Admiral.” She looked around the room. “If I am correct, there was no attack.”

“What?” The Chief of Staff bolted upright. “Are you saying that 8,000 people didn’t die out there?”

“I didn’t say that, Commander. What I mean is that they killed each other.”


'To argue with those who have renounced the use and authority of reason is as futile as to administer medicine to the dead.' Now who said that?

From the one who brought you;
What we die for...
Acceptance
KOTOR excerpts
Star Wars: The Beginning
Star Wars: Republic Dawn
Return From Exile
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