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Old 04-25-2006, 06:35 PM   #29
machievelli
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Clues

Sanji looked at the spreading lights of Coruscant. The city of the same name stretched for a hundred kilometers in every direction. The seat of several massive trade conglomerates. Home as well to the Galactic Trade Authority, which now had over a hundred members counting colonies. It was just about midnight down there.

Kreekta, a Twi-lek designed courier settled gently on the landing stage. Four Jedi awaited him. Masters Hobart and Soo-chin, and their Padawan.

Sanji picked up his staff. He hated that in that he had begun to parallel his old master. She was blind, and had a reason for it. Him? Lungs scarred because he had acted rather than thinking, tried to hold his breath instead of hyperventilating and allow it to gush into space. How man times had he been told that a simple automatic reflex had caused the bulk of his injuries?

Hobart stepped forward, offering his hand. “Welcome back Sanji.”

“Hobart. Is the council assembled?”

“Except for Master Hontu. He is getting crotchety in his old age.”

“Old! He was crotchety when I met him thirty years ago.”

Hobart shrugged. “For humans sixty is getting old. By the way, how is Master Sookor?”

“She is enroute to Fondor on the business we must discuss. She is like dried meat. Tough but still good at what she does.”

“Giving us trouble the young woman beside him snapped. Soo-chin was a repressed ball of energy, with fiery red hair and a temper to match. Sometimes like a heavy ball, would come down on someone’s feet and crush them. She was one of the only Jedi Sanji knew had been removed from field operations because she pushed too hard. She judge too quickly. However she was an excellent administrator and bluntly honest when young Jedi were considered for promotion which kept her busy in the Monastery.

The building was almost stark. The walls had nothing to tell anyone what was done in it. No murals of brave Jedi, no fleets smashing enemy strongholds. It could have been the entry way into any law office on the planet. But beyond the kiosk where young Jedi answered questions even at this time of night was the door to the Monastery proper.

Beyond that was wonder; a garden large enough to feed the people who worked here in an emergency, tended during the day by quiet gentle Ithorians. They had been brought from their home world and asked to work at what they did best, and the lush foliage bespoke beauty for it’s own sake. There were plants and trees from a hundred worlds here, all in neatly demarcated areas with tags to identify them. The smells caught Sanji’s heart with longing. Among them he could detect a Ryloth night bloom, and he wished to stay and drink it in, but there wasn’t time.

The inner courtyard was the council meeting place, and Sanji stood patiently as the masters gathered. When all twelve were there he began. He recounted the events that led to Breia Solo going to Station Sigma 9, the events that occurred on Delta 4, and finally the conclusions of the team assigned to stop more attacks.

“So Master Sookor decided this on her own?” Soo-chin demanded. “Without the council’s approval?”

“She sensed a danger to the young Padawan that bears her name.” Sanji replied. “She acted to deal with that.”

“Some dark foreshadowing?”

“Yes.” Sanji considered. “She also believes that her apprentice Zardan Landru is involved.”

“We have had Padawan and Apprentices leave the order before.” Hobart replied softly. “Why should this situation be linked to this one?”

“First, Landru was a world class chemical engineer. He could literally use the force to feel how a chemical can bond. If there are ten beings in the galaxy with as much skill I would have trouble finding them. Second, the music.”

“Hawk Flight.” Hontu mused. “Why is this linked to it?”

“The music cuts across species boundaries, affecting everyone who hears it. Always in the same way, as if a friend had called your name, attracting your attention. The music is linked to the force as we all know. It was what attracted the Jedi that recruited him for the order

“Five years ago, he was approached by the Czerka corporation, which had given the contract for communications on stations that have more than 10% population of other races. The royalties before he left funded the growth of our temple here. Now that he has left, it goes into his own accounts, but the amount is still several thousand credits a year.

“Not enough to buy a ship as you surmise. Or purchase a factory to manufacture or fund a laboratory to develop this.” Hobart commented

“We do not think he is working alone. Someone must be supplying the money. Someone is supplying the ship and resources, and using him to create this. But he would not be doing this unwillingly. I believe...” He paused. “I believe he has fallen.”

The council recoiled. It was the darkest secret the Order held. Some of their students seemed to go off on a dangerous tangent as they reached adulthood. Personal animosities, emotional outbursts, even racial hatreds seemed to fuel it.

Yet they had been incredibly lucky. In the millennia since the first Monastery had been founded only six were known to have fallen. The last had caused a lot of grief, but it had always been contained to a single planet or star system before Sogor.

Not this time.

“What do you need?”

“Your grace your blessing and your support.” Sanji replied.

“Nothing else?”” Soo-chin waved at the other masters. “There are fourteen masters and thirty trained Padawan here. All you ask is a blind eye?”

“I expect nothing of the sort.” Sanji bit out. “There are eight of us assigned to track this down by Master Sookor already. Too many and those beyond our order will wonder why we have suddenly become a beehive of activity. If that occurs, some will wonder what secrets we hide. There are already those that seem to think we store our worldly good within our walls.”

They nodded. People trying to infiltrate the Monasteries were easy to spot. Reporters, Government operatives, even thieves. Some of those had been nasty. A criminal gang on Corellia had thought the local monastery a storehouse of wealth. A smash and grab operation had been planned, weapons bought, then they had attacked in the dead of night. Ten men had gone in, four had come out alive. The police had picked up the bodies, parts of bodies and the stunned survivors. None of the students had been even injured.

They couldn’t tell those caught, but it was like watching a baby animal trying to hide it’s head while it’s bottom still stuck out in plain view. When the Force was your ally a lot of what people thought was hidden was revealed. A few over the decades had succeeded. They usually ended up joining the order.

“Then what would you have us do?” Hontu asked.

“I ask that all of the Monasteries be informed of what is going on. Perhaps some clues can be ascertained by those that investigate their local conditions.

“That if we do need help, they know the council has authorized it. We will not have time to go through the usual meeting and agreement process very often as we are now.”

The masters looked at each other. Hontu looked back at him. “Agreed, Master Gretu.”

He bowed. He marched out into the night, returning to his ship.

“Master?” Padawan Rafe Morale looked back.

“Hop us over to the Military field. I have the report from the joint meeting. Then? Commercial registry. We have a long night ahead of us.”

*****

Breia stretched, yawning. The first time she had gotten a real rest since she had left for Delta 4 Station. There was a smell in the air, and she cocked her head, puzzled. It smelled like-

“Yaka, no!” She leaped up, charging forward. There were clouds of smoke from the galley, and at the stove, Yaka was beating futilely at a burning pan.

Breia snatched up a lid, slamming it down on the conflagration. She coughed, choking as the air circulation system busily sucked up the fumes and smoke.

“What in the name of every hell were you doing?”

“I was trying to make a breakfast for you. Your file said you like pancakes, and the recipe looked simple, and the cooking directions...” He petered out. “Well they looked simple as well.”

Yaka looked distraught, and she could understand why. Very few people can reduce a galley to a total disaster with one dish, but he had succeeded admirably. Worse the stench of burnt batter would linger for weeks!

“How much cooking have you done?” She asked tartly.

“Well...” He dug a toe into the deck. “This was my first time.”

“All right, I see if we’re going to travel for any real length of time you are going to have to learn.” She lifted the lid. The pan was a blackened mess, ans she slid it into the sanitizer. “Get me another frying pan, and a teapot for water.” She looked at the bowl he had mixed the batter in, and almost chuckled. He had made enough for about fifty pancakes. “Then while I am making these, find a storage container. We have enough batter for at least three more days here.”

She wiped down the stove so there would be no more stench (How did he get batter on all four elements?) and with the new pan, began to make her normal four pancakes. He watched carefully.

“Would you like to try one?”

“Is there any animal fat or meat in them?” He asked suspiciously.

“No.” She reached below the counter, getting out a spray bottle. “Those do. Nerf butter. But this,” she held up the bottle, “Is vegetable oil. When you make them from now on, use this. And don’t spray any on the burner elements.”

“I worked that out when I tried to use the oil to loosen a stuck pancake.” He replied dryly.

She lifted the pan, spraying it, then made another. He handed her the plate and she slid the golden brown circle onto it with an accomplished air.

“How do you do that so easily?” He waved and she noticed flakes of batter stuck to the overhead. (How did he scatter it so far?)

“My master...” She bit her lip, choking back her pain. “Master Werron was hopeless if it came to cooking. He could burn water.” She lifted the teapot, pouring liquid into the two cups. “So on long trips I had to learn how to cook in self defense.”

“You were with him a long time, obviously.”

“Yes.” She was silent. “I have been with the order for almost 20 years now. My first master was Master Sookor. She was a much better cook than I am. Then the last decade, I was with Master Werron.”

“I am sorry that the subject pains you.”

“It would have to. I got him killed.”

“I disagree.”

She set the tub of butter, another of margarine, and the four types of syrup she always carried. Lang may have been an ass in a lot of ways, but he had stocked the ship primarily with things she ate, so it wasn’t all bad. “What would you know about it?”

“When Master Sookor chose me as your new apprentice, I studied the missions you have undertaken. In all of them you have always reacted swiftly and surely.”

“Not on that mission.”

“Master, you did not expect an attack.” Yaka slipped a sliver of pancake into his mouth. His eyes widened. “Interesting.” The Ithorians had four throats, so he was able to chew and talk at the same time.

“Try some of the syrup.” She motioned. “The red is Corellian Calla berry. The orange is Coruscanti glow spice. The green...” She considered. “I would give it a miss unless you like very spicy food. It’s Fire spice syrup. Like my tea.” She held the cup and sipped. “The last is Ossus blue-stem.”

He poured a dollop of the blue syrup, daintily touching a sliver of cake into it before sticking it in his mouth.

“Yes, I like this.”

“Of course we didn’t expect an attack.” She retorted. “The Company had told us that the Noghri had been shipped in as workers. They didn’t bother to mention that they had taken them from four different tribes!”

Yaka tried the Calla berry. “This is also good. But when the attack came your only hesitation was what? Which weapon to draw. If you had carried either one or the other, that would not have been a problem.”

“That’s true. But I was like a kid with a new toy. ‘Look what this will do’!”

He poured a bit of the glow spice. After a moment of chewing, he commented, “This I think would become addictive to my people. I had best not try any more of the glow spice.” He hesitated, then touched a bare spot of the Fire spice on his plate. “Have you not heard masters comment on how their Padawan tend to do things they might not think about?”

“Yes. But I thought... I never thought I would do something so stupid!”

“Mistakes happen. Sometimes you have to live with them, sometimes you correct them, sometimes you die from them.” He dipped into the fire spice. The piece of pancake had barely touched his tongue when he leaped up and backwards, gasping.

Breia immediately reached the tap, poured a cup of water, and handed it to him. He chugged it down, all four throats gasping simultaneously After a fourth glass, he finally sat again.

“You actually like that?” He asked.

“Sometimes. When I’m in a really foul mood.” She poured the Fire Spice syrup on what was left, cutting and feeding a piece into her mouth, chewing contemplatively.

“You are either braver than I thought, stronger than I might have imagined. Or...”

“Or?” She asked.

“Possibly your entire race is insane.”

“We do have our moments.”

*****

The briefing took hours. Not because Sanji had that much information to pass, but because every time he reached new data yet another officer or specialist had to be called. Since it began several hours before dawn, this meant the military men would have to stop the briefing, call in say the Admiral in charge of Home fleet, await his arrival, probably grumpy from being awakened, then he would have to start again.

Every time it happened that new occupant would ask the same stupid questions, make the same important (To them) points, then it would begin again.

This time it was the Admiral in charge of procurement. Sanji asked for a brief recess, and stepped out, having some tea. He looked at the sky, at the horizon which had brightened into false dawn. So many people had died. He remembered that poor Rodian who had survived...

He paused, mind flashing back to the meeting

Each of these affects a different species. The red affects humans, Green Twi-lek, Yellow Hutt, white Duros. But the Purple is the key.
This affects all insectoid species such as Ruurian Verpine and Sulishti Despite their different physiologies.


There was no one molecule that affected Rodians!

*****

Breia went into the cargo bay. A4 was rumbling to itself in the corner. “Am I going to have to send you in to be lubricated?”

“Not for several months at least. I was merely cogitating on what was not said at the meeting you attended.”

“What?”

“Everyone was concentrating so much on who had survived and what the chemical might have done. But they ignored the fact that one of those affected, who survived, was Rodian.”

“What?”

“You supplied this copy of the transcript.” His speakers repeate the sound of that meeting with perfect fidelity.

“Each of these affects a different species. The red affects humans, Green Twi-lek, Yellow Hutt, white Duros. But the Purple is the key.

“This affects all insectoid species such as Ruurian Verpine and Sulishti Despite their different physiologies.”

“So wha...” She stopped. “Wait a minute, Rodians weren’t mentioned!”

“Correct That kept me occupied for several hours until I discovered this.” A small panel on his dorsal carapace flipped up, and a hologram flashed into view. “The molecules are as they are described, except they did not consider them in a binary situation. Each of the chemicals is released simultaneously in every being that had breathed the gas. But these two-” The ones for Twi-lek and Duros- “Combine to make this” Another molecule formed It was a mix of white and green parts in a smooth circle like a benzene ring. Some of both them had broken free, the additional atoms merely floating aside.

“This has the same affects on Rodians as the other gases affect other species.”

“That is great news!”

“I suggest you hold your applause. Doctor Halo didn’t follow through on her research once she discovered how the molecule broke up. If she had, she would have seen this.”

A flow of data came up. She looked at it confused. “What am I looking at?”

“Medical data base. I... borrowed it from the computer of Delta 4. This weapon molecule is almost exactly a mirror image of this one.” Another molecule appeared. IT rotated, then above it flashed the weapon’s molecule. They floated there, and she could instantly see that if they touched as they now did...

There was a melding, Nothing was knocked loose, both molecules locked together. ”The molecule I displayed is the equivalent in Sulishti for the adrenaline molecule in humans. It has the same affects. However this-” the new molecule flashed, “Is not absorbed and broken down by the tissues as adrenaline is. It will however bounce in and out, causing the same reaction over and over.”

“So you’re saying that if the Sulishti breath this-”

“Their aggressive tendencies will explode outward, first against anything not of their species, then against any not of their specific clan, then against any that work in different sectors meaning different parts of even the same ship, then finally any that remain.”

“So it is worse that the affect on say a human.”

“Greater than you can imagine. Because as this sets off the body’s receptor, more of the adrenaline analog will be pumped, causing greater aggression, causing more adrenaline, causing more aggression.”

“I am afraid-”

"On all of the other species we know can be affected, the gas is assimilated and broken down meaning it will wear off after a time measured in a few hours. This molecule will not break down or wear out as long as there is any adrenaline remaining. Worse, contact with one of these combined cells with the hypothalamus analog will cause it to release this instead. It is a permanent fixture.”

“You mean...” She stared at the new malignancy. “It will kill the entire Sulishti race?”

“And at the same time guarantee that a lot of peoples will die right along with them.”


'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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