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Old 05-22-2006, 04:15 AM   #116
machievelli
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Scattered petals.

Padawan Yaka of Ithor came out of hyperspace, running in toward Coruscant. Clearance was granted gladly. Padawans Carola and Costi met briefly with the local Council, then were taken to the Coruscant Special Intelligence service where they briefed in Maygar Phelp. The man was new, obviously a political appointee, but just as obviously willing to admit when he was out of his depth. The three senior men, all old time intelligence agents waited until Admiral Lucas arrived with his small staff, and the Jedi were debriefed. As were the Corellians, they were alarmed that ordinance still on the secrets list had somehow been sold, and were willing to assist.

Unfortunately a trade war of sorts had begun between the two planets. To facilitate communications, the Jedi were asked to be the message bearers so that the Chancellor (Who had been informed of the investigation but not it’s scope) could claim plausible deniability.

Once done, they slept, then took off for Bothuwai.

*****

“Master Gretu of Triseki Requesting approach clearance.” Padawan Samsun asked.

“Nar Shaddaa approach control to Jedi courier Master Gretu of Triseki. Permission granted. Welcome to Nar Shaddaa.”

“That was easy.” Samsun said.

“Easy it should not be.’ Yodai grumbled. “Congregate here many who think law is for others. Letting us arrive unremarked not possible.”

“So whoever we’re looking for will know.”

“Arrived we have, yes they will. Why matter different.” Yodai grinned. “Like thieves they are, all will look to affairs part of they are. Relax they will if look at their affairs we do not. Drubba the Hutt in businesses many. Look at them instead of ships.”

Samsun had been with Yodai long enough to be able to translate his way of speaking. “So we investigate things Drubba has only a peripheral interest in?”

“Yes. But lead to our objective all trails will, accidentally.”

“Okay, so smuggling?”

“Smuggling, spice sales, slaves, all transport need. Registry of ships search for these. At same time, find where ships come from we do.”

“As if it would be that simple.”

“Lucky you are.”

“Why?”

“Hutt knows humans animals are not.” Yodai looked at him. “Had ready leash and collar.”

*****

Padawan Sani of Naboo arrived at Ryloth. The situation was if anything worse than the others faced. Corellia and Coruscant might not be on speaking terms, and the Hutt had so many fingers in so many pies that they themselves might not be able to resolve the situation.

But Ryloth had turned away from the others out of what appeared to be merely pique. The new Premier, Merio Lassa had almost immediately fired every senior Twi-lek who even seemed to like the humans. Oh it wasn’t the screaming dismissal you might have expected. Twi-lek politics was always cognizant that whoever was on top today would very well be on the bottom tomorrow. The replaced people were promoted into positions of responsibility, just away from where they would deal directly with out worlders.

The permission to land was curt. The Jedi did not have a Monastery here, and only the fact that Kreil was himself Twi-lek seemed to be the determining factor.

“How shall we handle this?” Kreil asked as he shut down the systems.

“If you speak to Bib Wanatagi it would probably go unremarked. However by the same token Kalo Fortuna is an agent handler. Seeing him with a human would also deserve little scrutiny.” Reyes ordered.

*****

The restaurant was, in the words of a human friend, a dive. Kreil, who had problems with the human tendency to euphemisms, wondered what they were supposed to dive into.

It was locate less than half a kilometer from the Offices of the Navy Directorate, and according to sources, the place Wanatagi went to for lunch. Though after looking at the menu, Kreil wasn’t sure what was so good about the food.

He recognized Watanagi as he came in. The man went to the bar, picked up an already poured drink, and headed for a table nearby.

Kreil stiffened, reaching for his sword when a voice behind him spoke. “Very poor tradecraft.“ commented the woman in Twi-leki. He started to turn, but something nudged him in the back. “I wouldn’t do that. Blood is so hard to get out of the floorboards. Move over to your right, into the booth.”

Kreil stood, walking over to the curtained booth. He drew the curtain aside, stepping in and to the right sharply. The weapon continued on, and he grabbed it, pulling the woman off balance. He tapped her on the shoulder, spinning her around so she landed on her butt in a chair.

The ‘weapon’ was a human designed cane. He looked it over. No trigger or stud, no signs that it could be broken down to load ammunition. He looked again, then squeezed the metal ferrule. There was a hiss, and a small metal dart stuck in the wall.

“Interesting.” He held it in both hands before him. “Why did you threaten me?”

“I was watching you. When Wanatagi came in, you were immediately alert.”

He handed her the cane. “I came here hoping to meet him.” He turned his back. “If wishing to meet him is a reason to kill me, then do so.”

He could almost sense her confusion. Then the curtain opened, and Wanatagi entered. The officer looked past him. “Either use it or put that damn thing away, Morilli.” He snapped.

Kreil heard the tap of the cane hitting the floor. “I wasn‘t sure what was going on.” She said defensively. “This Krasmeh was watching for you to arrive-”

“I have not insulted your family. Must my mother bear such an insult?” Kreil demanded.

Wanatagi looked at him levelly. “I am sure your mother danced for her husband, friend. May I ask why meeting me was this important?”

“I am Jedi.” Kreil replied. “I was given your name through the daughter of a friend.”

“That friend being?”

“Holani Solo.”

“Ah.” Wanatagi nodded. “And she sent you why?”

Kreil handed him the chip. “Because your government and Corellia are not on speaking terms, and giving this to your superior would merely mean it was thrown away unopened.”

“What is this concerning?”

“A Crasbashti class corvette known to be in the hands of pirates.”

Wanatagi sighed, slipping the chip into a pad. “And what do you expect me to do about it?”

“You still have connections. Could you investigate without being noticed?”

The look Wanatagi gave him was cold. “The day one of those paper pushers catches me, you can expect my resignation.”

Kreil bowed his head. “I did not mean to insult your honor.”

The intelligence agent sighed. “I am sorry that I took it in such a manner. Jedi are not known for their cutting words.” He looked to the woman. “Morilli, please get us some drinks.”

“What about-”

“My girl, or assignation will have to wait another day.” He reached up, brushing her Lekku, and she shivered. “I regret that more than you. But our planet needs my energies at this moment. Forgive me?”

“Always.” Her eyes were lambent, and Kreil wondered if she was going to tackle him and have her way even with a witness. She gave the agent one more smoky glance, and went out.

“A very... spirited woman.” Kreil commented.

“And well supplied with what nature gives.” Wanatagi agreed. “Now if you will excuse me...” He read the file swiftly. Like Holani Solo, he read it more than once. However any notes he might have made were in his head.

“So a station that was once ours harbors these thugs. They are shipping weapons they should not have access to, including warships.”

“Not only of yours but Coruscanti and Corellian as well.” Kreil agreed. “We of the Jedi are the only conduit between the three powers. Yet not even we can speak directly to the Premier. There are too few of our race in the order. If they send a human, the first thought she will have is not of the order, but which planet birthed them. If they sent me, she would ignore it because in her opinion I am merely repeating what some human has told me to say.”

“Your council cuts to the quick.” Wanatagi commented. He leaned back, considering. “The Corellians and Coruscanti both have embassies, but delivering this to them would be a red flag to our own intelligence. What would you suggest?”

“The Bothans.”

“Intriguing. May I ask why?”

“The Bothans have always been circumspect. They tend to be extremely inquisitive, most would say nosy- but their banking institutions seem to find ways to direct that into fruitful labor.

“For a small fee, the Bothans will send correspondence that is as well protected as any diplomatic pouch. Better in fact because they will hunt down and kill anyone who tries to break into it. Since this fact is known to anyone who might want to steal it, merely putting it into the bank’s hands ensures delivery except for natural disasters.

“They have their own courier in orbit, or will have one here before too long. You know how they are.” Everyone did. The Bothans were well known for their integrity.

“And who pays for these messages?”

Kreil drew a card from his pocket. “Give this to the Bank manager. It will cover such communications at the rate of one a day for the next decade.”

Wanatagi took the card. “A lot of money to trust me with. Are you sure-”

“Oh please.” Kreil laughed. “If I gave you nothing, you would complain that you are ill-used, but do it anyway, I offer enough to pay for more than we need, and you act as if you are ready to pocket the household silver!” He shook his head. “A game you play so well from how you have done it. If I did not trust your integrity, I could have handed you this one.” He reached into an other pocket. The cards were identical. “This one is enough for perhaps three months. Then we would have had to set up more meets.”

“You really trust me that much?”

“Of course not. An intelligence agents always squirrels things away for a rainy day. I didn’t even mention returning the card, now did I?” Kreil smiled. “I am sure that there will be other things the Jedi might wish to be informed of. If we are informed as needed during that time, we are well paid.”

Wanatagi looked up as Morilli entered. She glowered at them, setting the drinks down. “Nothing for yourself?”

She grumbled, flouncing into the seat. Wanatagi ran a finger up her arm. “We still have time for... something before I have to return to the office.”

Kreil slid another data chip across. “Look at this. If I am right, your can take half a shift off claiming to have compiled it.”

Wanatagi looked askance at him, then slid the chip into the pad. He froze as it scrolled, then leaned forward. “A major slaving ring? Here?”

“Yes. We Jedi collect a lot of odd data that means nothing to us, but will to people such as you. Why not enjoy your time with your paramour?”

“Oh indeed yes.” Wanatagi grinned like a shark. “I think I shall.”

*****
When Kalo Fortuna got a request to meet a human, he picked the spot. There weren’t that many off worlders on the planet, and most were followed by internal intelligence constantly. This one however had not only slipped his leash, but passed a message that he would be interested in talking to an agent handler. Internal intelligence still didn’t know how the man had escaped their surveillance. The man who should have been watching him couldn’t explain how the message for this meet had ended up in his pocket.

Fortuna had chosen the place, a small dining establishment in the heart of the city. It was his own private joke that the location was less than a kilometer from the local prison.

As any good agent would he arrived early, slipping in through the back door. The kitchen help ignored him once he flashed his badge, and turned to their work. At the back of the dining area were several booths that used electronic imaging and suppression, so he could sit there and be totally ignored. To the naked eye, the booth was unoccupied, and once he had sat down, sensors notified the owners that it was in use, so no one would be seated there.

He was a little irked to discover that the human was already there. He had been early, the human must have been half an hour or more early. Silently Fortuna watched him. The human was merely sitting there, drinking tea as if he had not a care in the world. His clothing

An hour passed, but except for getting his tea refilled, the human did nothing. It was as if he had nothing to do but sit and swill tea until the heat death of the universe.

Finally Fortuna sighed, scored a mental note for the man, and stepped from his booth.

The instant he stood, before he had even moved, the man looked up. As if he could see through some of the most expensive and efficient anti-spying software ever made. Then his head dropped again, and he read the pad before him, allowing Fortuna to approach supposedly unremarked.

“You do know that an internal security agent has been fired because of you.”

“I should hope not. Not many can follow a Jedi unless he allows it.” The man replied. “I would hope that you are Kalo Fortuna?”

“Yes I am. As if you did not know.”

The human turned the pad. The picture was one of those taken in bad light at a great distance, then enhanced. It was definitely a Twi-lek, but nothing else could be verified from it. “As you can see, the Corellians didn’t have much. Having been told about you, and being what and who you are, I would have been astonished if anyone had ever gotten a proper vid shot of you.”

“Not since my fifth birth anniversary.” Fortuna admitted. “I never stand still long enough.”

“And you are considered one of the best at what you do by someone I think is a good judge of such capabilities.”

“Does this paragon have a name?”

“Holani Solo.”

“Ah, the Black eminence herself.”

“Shouldn’t that be a gray eminence?”

“Not if you know her legend as well as mine. A gray eminence is behind the scenes, shifting the pegs to make the pattern they want through others. Our dear madam Solo will do it that way, but preferred ‘fixing’ the problem with a little hands on work in a lot of cases. “They made her your Director of Operations because she always had a nasty penchant of getting her hands dirty.”

“Not mine.” Reyes replied levelly. “I am Corellian by birth, but I have my own allegiances.”

“A Corporate one perhaps?”

“No. My allegiance is to the Force.”

“Ah. A Jedi.” Fortuna looked at the man levelly. “You asked for this meet, and there are a number of people above me that will wonder why.” He looked toward a waiter, signaling. “If it is all right with you, I would like something to eat. After all, you did interrupt my lunch.”

“By all means. And you can call off the three men with weapons who are waiting to arrest me when I step out as well.”

“Very good. I would have to grade you as adequate.”

“Is that all?” The human looked at him with a wide eyed innocence that caused Fortuna to laugh. “Because I didn’t mention the police cruiser two kilometers overhead, the four squads of tactical response police within 400 meters of the doors? Perhaps if I mention the transmitter attached to your-”

“Enough. Your grade is excellent. May I know who I have praised so?”

“Tolomeo Reyes. Padawan Teacher.”

“I will make a note that your order has learned to excel in this work.”

“I expected you would. Master Jondri at Coruscant will be pleased.”

“He was such a scamp when I hunted him. It is nice to know he remembers me fondly.”

“Especially when it is cold.” Reyes told him. “They had to rebuild both of his legs before he joined the order. They hurt when in winter.”

“I left him alive. Let him know that.” They paused in the conversation as a bowl of soup appeared. “So, stun me with the acumen, Jedi. Convince me that it is worth my while. And as you are at it, consider that everything you tell me will reach the ears of my superiors.”

Reyes slid across a data chip. “That is why we supposedly met. But I am asking you to tell no one why we have met unless you are willing to trust them with your life.”

Fortuna loaded the chip, reading it. “So there are slavers. This we knew.”

“But who and what group they are preying on, you did not.” Reyes snapped. “To know for sure who to investigate will give your superiors a chance to show their worth.”

“There is that. So tell me, what is this my superiors must not know?“

Reyes slipped across the next chip, and Fortuna read it as well.

“So.“ He hissed. “I may have what I need to repay an old debt.” He slid the chips into his pocket. “The owner of Ryloth Shipyards is an old enemy. His company manufactures those ships. If I can prove he knew anything...”

“We need to discover who before you score your revenge.” Reyes warned. “Other people are also affected.”

“And how can we communicate this to you?”

“The Bothans.”


'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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