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Old 04-28-2006, 11:15 AM   #52
machievelli
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Denoument

Honor Blade dropped toward Nar Shaddaa. Lang looked at his screen as a Hutt appeared. “Administrator Hoom. I am Padawan Lang of the Jedi Monastery. I come as representative of the combined investigation team on the station attacks.”

“I was informed of your mission, Jedi.” The Hutt replied. “The factory is open for your inspection, as are the records.”

“Are there any other factories that make the same chemical?”

“Yes. They have also been informed and told to await you attention. There is one thing that puzzles us, however.”

“That is?”

“The link to the Sulishti. They do not use our chemical.”

“What?”

“Their reactors are all indigenous, as is their coolant. None of our chemical products are used by them. There is no reason to ship what has been shipped to them. Besides, no one needs seventy million cubic meters of our gas.”

“Seventy million?” Lang pondered. “When was that shipped?”

“One ship, the Feradi left two weeks ago bound for Fondor. The other, Bondrant less than a week ago bound for Sulisht.”

“What class were these ships?”

Balladeer bulk transports. The gas was highly compressed.”

“Goddess!” He said. “Send a torpedo to Coruscant.” He ordered Shani. “Administrator, the factory that manufacture it-”

“Has already been seized.”

“I will meet your investigators there.”

*****

A class of children between five and nine in age surrounded a man in his fifties, working on a guided meditation. The man nodded, acknowledging Sanji’s passage even as his slow steady voice directed them on their personal quests. The training stopped only for sleep, and since a lot of students stayed on their home planet’s circadian cycles, it meant that it could go on around the clock at times.

Past classrooms where history of all the known races was taught. No human would live long enough to know it all, but by using the ways different people viewed the same situations, enough could be passed on in a decade or so to be of use. Others where languages were being taught for the day when these young student would be sent out to smooth the way for others.

Past a courtyard where a dozen students watched a master dueling with seven others, each armed with a practice blade. The master moved with an unhurried almost languid grace, dodging blows, blocking only those that came close enough to be a danger. He disarmed one, chopping another, the ballistic cloth hardening to spread the impact so that the 15 year old girl was just winded, not seriously injured. In the next courtyard, children went through a dizzying array of traps, running as fast as their force augmented muscles let them.

Another run, this armed with turrets firing real bullets halted him for a moment. The boy running the course was using obstacles, the force heightened reflexes and when necessary, his blade to deflect them. He stopped, clutching his arm, and the turrets died.

“No.” A master stepped down, walking up to him. “Do not let yourself become distracted.” He looked up balefully at the master that had caused his brief inattention. “Allow yourself to become one with it, and it will guide you. Is the arm all right?”

“Yes, master. The cloth spread it out as it is meant to.” The boy rolled his arm. “I will go again.”

“Yes.” The master looked at Sanji again, and returned to the control panel.

Sanji walked on. The courtyard where the council met was quiet. Breia looked up at his arrival.

“What have you heard, Master?” She asked.

“It is surprising how efficient a bureaucracy can be when they have both ONI and the Chancellor breathing down their necks.” He replied mildly. “The Balladeer class vessel Feradi is owned by the Brenoril company of Fondor. Odd, because it was never incorporated or formed. The only proof of a company is the one money transfer from an account closed the instant it cleared.

“But if anyone who knew Fondorian had been there, they might have wondered. You see, Brenoril is the Fondorian word for ‘ghost’. The two ships, Feradi and Bondrant have names that mean-”

“Vengeance and Nemesis.”

“Correct.” Sanji looked at the sky. “We were able to trace the purchase of a factory on Nar Shaddaa which manufactured the tainted gas. The factory was purchased using funds from a criminal organization named the Hand. The Government arrested the head men of the organization and they told all to escape the death penalty. They also slipped the tainted gas into the outgoing shipments of Bidraxidine from the regular manufacturers. It all arrived together here. I believe from that point-”

“The warehouse records were tampered with. The Czerka manager is up on mass murder charges even as we speak. The A4 unit I have was able to trace the transfers of gas. A man in custody named Harrigan is responsible for the actual orders for shipping it. He was on the station day before last, planting a program that changed the all hands klaxon back to the old tone. He was found under about a ton of debris from an explosion. Pure luck that he was still alive trapped alone, unable to kill himself or anyone else. He still had the data wand he had used to change the computer on the station, and in return for life without parole instead of a death sentence, he sang like a bird.”

“Then all we need is to trace the gas, find Landru and the affair is over.”

“Yes. But to do that I need permission to leave. I don’t have a ship until mine is repaired. I have already chartered a civilian courier-”

“Which will not be necessary.” Master Soo-chin replied entering the courtyard. “Both of you were asked to be here by the Chancellor.”

“What is it?” Breia moaned. “Another medal?”

“Padawan Solo, do you know how many Medals of Distinction have been given out?” Soo-chin asked. “More importantly how many have gone to people not of Coruscant? It is the highest award a civilian can earn on Coruscant.”

“That is all well and good but I have spent a day longer than I had to because of the blasted medal ceremony and now this.”

“Patience!” Soo-Chin chuckled. “If someone had told me five years ago that I would counsel someone else to be patient, I would have labeled them a fool!” She motioned. “Let us hurry, they should be arriving in a few moments.”

She led them through the back way of the Monastery so they didn’t disturb the students. Master Hobart joined them enroute. Except for the Kreekta, the tarmac was empty. Every ship that had gone on the assault had been either badly damaged or destroyed. Two of the Jedi dead had been in the Flitter class Glowfly when she rammed the bay doors. Soo-chin looked into the sky, then pointed. Eight ships in an echelon formation flew in, dropping to land before them. Behind them came a lumbering ship painted a brilliant white. Compared to the courier class ships that escorted it, this one was huge. A thirty man Naval command ship. The other eight were smaller, and sleeker. They were wide flat oblate wings with what looked like cannon in their leading edges.

The ramps dropped, and Navy personnel poured out. Breia looked as a familiar figure stepped down from the closest flying wing. “Yaka!”

He waved, walking over to stand beside her. “I was asked to pilot one of the new ships.”

“New-” The last man down the ramp of the command was the Chancellor. He strode over, bowing. “Masters. Dame Breia.” Breia groaned. She had forgotten that the medal she had been given was the equivalent of a Corellian Knighthood. She would forever be ‘Dame Briea Solo’ to the people of this planet.

The chancellor made a sweeping motion toward the ships. “All of your vessels were destroyed or so badly damaged that they need to be replaced. As the representative of my people, we ask you to accept this gift.

“The couriers Knight of Coruscant, Knight of Corellia, Knight of Ryloth, Knight of Ossus, Padawan Rees of Coruscant, Padawan Conor of Corellia, Padawan Marilo of Ossus.” He paused, The Command ship [/i]Master Hontu.[/i] “And,” Motioning toward the unnamed vessel, “And for your use until your ship is repaired, Dame Breia, Padawan Sani of Naboo. A gift from the People of Coruscant in recognition of your service to us.”

Soo-chin appeared to be speechless. “The order thanks the Coruscant for such a noble gift.”

“It pains us that we cannot do more.” Skywalker replied. “All we have done is replaced what you have lost, and created memorials for those who died for our people.”

“We will remember them always.” Soo-chin said humbly. “Your gift will make their names known throughout the galaxy. Again, our thanks.”

“We must be off. There is much to do.” The Chancellor bowed again, and led the Naval personnel with him.

“Master.” A Padawan ran up, bowing. “An urgent message for Master Gretu and Padawan Solo from Padawan Lang on Nar Shaddaa.”

They hurried into the communications room. A Padawan flipped a switch, and Lang appeared on the screen.

“This must immediately be transmitted to master Gretu and Padawan Solo. If they are not there, transmit it to whatever system they are in.

“The factory here has been closed. The personnel know nothing beyond the fact that members of an organization named the Hand had hired them two years ago. Positive identification of Zardan Landru as the man responsible for the gasses manufacture. Last known location, Ithor.

“The last load of gas was 70 million cubic meters. Loaded on ships belonging to the Brenoril corporation. The word is Fondorian for ‘ghost’. The two ships are named Feradi and Bondrant, Vengeance and Nemesis in the same language. One is bound for Sulisht. The other, for Fondor. I assume the one for Fondor the Feradi, will have already arrived.

Our computer estimates that 35 million is sufficient to poison an entire planet’s atmosphere.

“Enroute to Coruscant. Arrival 2115 hours tomorrow.” Every eye looked at the chronometer. He would be arriving in just a few hours.

“Message has also gone to Fondor. Master Sookor should be arriving there
any time. Hutt say that the Sulishti do not, I repeat do not use Bidraxidine. There must be a reason Landru used it as the carrier molecule, but we have not yet ascertained why.

“Message ends.”

“We have much to do, and must hurry.” Soo-chin snapped. “Master Sanji-” She was interrupted by a signal.

“Message torpedo from Ithor. From the Ithorian council aboard Cloud-Home.

The screen flashed on. An Ithorian looked out. Behind him was the first of the floating cities created two decades before by the Tokara Company.

“Administrator Lukati of Ithor reporting. We have received a message from Padawan Lang of your order asking for information on a human named Zardan Landru. He took possession of 5,000 breeding pairs of a hybrid song bird of his home planet of Fondor six weeks ago which had been genetically modified at his request. The request for modification had been filed four years, seven months ago. Specifications on modifications are with this message. Message ends.”

“He ordered songbirds? Soo-chin asked incredulous.

“Find the modifications subtext.” The Padawan flipped through the message archive. The male bird was a brilliantly plumed animal that weighed perhaps fifty grams if the scale was right. While everyone else looked on the communicator flipped through the pages of specification.

“Made them less shy than normal, adjusted their nesting habits and diet. They now feed on something called-” He leaned forward. “-A Sulishti plant called Kusberi. They used to nest in trees in the forests, but will now favor buildings and constructs.” His brow wrinkled. “Odd, the vocal index of the birds has also been altered. Their standard song had been altered.” He flipped a switch.

From the speakers echoed a song they all knew too well.

Breia’s com link bleeped. “What!”

“Padawan, I don’t know if it is important-”

“If it isn’t A4 I am going to rip out your brain and replace it with a toaster!” She roared.

“It has come to my attention that the Sulishti do not use Bidraxidine because it makes them ill-”

“We know that!”

“-It also would be assimilated by their native wildlife and plants.”

“What?” She whispered. Every eye was on her.

“One plant which is a staple in their diet called Kusberi would absorb it and reproduce the gas as part of it‘s flowering cycle.”

“Gods.” Someone whispered. Breia agreed silently.

“There are only two planets where Kusberi grows. That is their home world of Sulisht, and the planet Fondor.”

“Oh my gods. What has he done?” Master Hobart asked.

“He’s made sure that the Sulishti will die out.” Yaka said. “And even if some do survive, that they can never live on Fondor or Sulisht, ever.”

“Padawan-”

“Get aboard Padawan Sani of Naboo. Now!”

“Am I going to make toast for the voyage?”

“You might yet.”
*****

The trip was quiet. Usually a person that joked with everyone, Breia was a stolid lump this trip. Amberdon handled the cooking, kept watch when the automated sensors didn’t do it for him, and brooded along with her. The ship hummed softly to itself, the single A1 droid puttering around as it tuned the systems as they flew.

He went forward, checking the instruments. He took the controls. “Master we will arrive any moment.” She didn’t respond. He watched as the stars appeared. In orbit were hundreds of orbital docks. Thanks to the systems position near a great many resources, a dozen or more companies had built their own drydocks in orbit. Something like a third of the ships of the Galaxy were being built right here.

“Contact the Fondorians. I must speak with Landru immediately". Breia walked forward, sitting in the second chair.

A few moments later, the screen cleared. He had aged dramatically in the last years, worn down as if by a fierce desert wind. Landru looked from the screen at them, then bowed his head. “Master Sookor. I have been expecting you.” He looked down, touching a control. “My family station is at these coordinates. Please, join me.” The signal ended.

Amberdon noted the location, and adjusted his course. The station was small, a personal residence rather than a business. The lights on the landing bay flashed, and the ship closed in on that location.

The doors swing open, and Millennium Falcon nestled down onto the deck. Amberdon stared at the wonder before him. The bay was a work of art.

“I have a bad feeling about this.” Breia said, standing “Standby to get us out of here fast.” She turned walking toward ramp. As it came down she winced, grabbing her ears, then collapsing. Up in the cockpit, Amberdon had already been disabled.

The door opened, and a droid rolled in. It wrapped up the unconscious woman, then did the same for the man. Both were picked up and carried out.
*****

Kreekta lifted off, moving into orbit. Behind her came Padawan Sani of Naboo. Three other couriers lifted, Knight of Corellia, Knight of Ossus, and Padawan Rees of Coruscant. They stayed in a tight formation, awaiting-

Honor Blade dropped out less than 400 kilometers away. “Padawan Lang this is Master Soo-chin. Do not, I repeat, do not land on Coruscant. Join up with Jedi Formation. Prepare for instructions.”

As the ship approached, three of the Coruscanti couriers led by Padawan Sani of Naboo spun, heading for their destination. Knight of Corellia, Kreekta, and Honor Blade formed up, then turned onto their departure vector.


'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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