Mandalorians… understanding them was like understanding the Force, sparing with their secrets, their nature was two-sided, but open to those who communed with them. For thousands of years, the Mandalorians were warriors, living for the fight, the thrill of battle. Over the years, the once vast Mandalorian armies were reduced to a handful of tribes, and many of them were Mandalorian only by name, having been adopted into the tribe, as the original Mandalorian species was waning, having fought too many losing battles. But while the blood of the Mandalorians were waning, their spirit remained strong through the successors, the adopted ones keeping alive the traditions and ways of the Mandalorians, ensuring that the flame remained burning brightly in the galaxy.
Though proud warriors, the Mandalorians still needed supplies and food, and when they were not mercenaries on the payroll of someone, they turned to piracy and raiding those around them, but they dealt honorably even with those they preyed upon. It was through these predations that brought them into conflict with the Jedi over the centuries, and sometimes, they fought along side the Jedi in the various conflicts that arose between the Jedi and the Sith. However, the policies of the Jedi and their numerous conflicts, both internal and external forever soured the relations between the Mandalorians and the Jedi, making them mortal, but respected enemies.
It was this relationship that Darth Alyra had hoped to exploit in her contact with the Mandalorians. Though the Mandalorians had once served the Sith, she could not be certain that specific connection would work; many of the Sith the Mandalorians had worked for were once Jedi, like Exar Kun or Ulic Qel-Droma, and often times, the Mandalorians, and the galaxy in general, considered the Sith and the Jedi divisions within one whole. The conflict between the Republic and the Sith Empire was also known as the Jedi Civil War, as both the Jedi and the Sith fought against each other. But Alyra knew that the animosity between the Jedi and the Mandalorians would at least get a reaction out of the Mandalorian contact she had made. Again, using her Master’s shipping concern; she managed to make contact with Mandalorian mercenaries, either offering them payment for safe passage through their territory, or the possibility of an escort job.
“Name’s Temura,” the Mandalorian said, as he sat down across from Alyra. They were meeting on Tibannopolis in Bespin, in an area that was conducive to business transactions, but not so upscale that the Mandalorian would have stood out. Alyra looked him in the eye and nodded. It was best to deal honestly with Mandalorians. “You said you have a job.”
“I need a personal job,” Alyra began, but Temura held up his hand.
“We’re not assassins.”
“No, not that.” Alyra put her hand on the Mandalorians arm as he stood to leave. He looked down at her for a moment before sitting down. “I don’t need an assassin. I need a… protector.”
“No. For another.”
“This isn’t your normal protection job. I would like you, and whatever team you have, to protect a man from the influences of the Jedi.”
“You mean harbor a criminal?”
“No. Let’s just say he’s at a critical point in his life, and that it would be better for him if the Jedi didn’t… meddle in his life.”
“The Jedi Order…” Temura growled. “They seek to control what they cannot. Everything must be according to their will and desires.”
“So you understand the need for protection.”
“Good. One more thing. He must not know you are “protecting” him. Just keep any Jedi away from him. Those are the terms.”
“Who is it?”
“Do you accept?”
Alyra slid over a flimsiplast to the Mandalorian with a holo of Khamul on it, and though the Mandalorian tried to hide his surprise, Alyra was able to sense it through the Force.
“What interest do you have in this man?” Temura demanded. He knew through his battle brother Cas that Khamul had recently helped them take down the Mu’sak smuggling and slavery ring, and had given them the smugglers’ asteroid base to use as their own. Khamul, though a former Jedi, was respected and held in high regard in Cas and Temura’s tribe.
“As I said, he needs to make his path without the interference of the Jedi.”
“Khamul Jaeger does not need protection from the Jedi.”
“The Jedi Order will come for him; already Jedi are on his trail. Khamul Jaeger has work to do, work that is best accomplished without the interference of the Jedi.”
The rest of the meeting had gone well for Alyra, having negotiated a price for the “protection” services of the Mandalorians in keeping the Jedi away from the rogue. She knew a Jedi Master and his apprentice were on the rogue’s tail, having planted a homing beacon on their ship, and already, they were on their way to Bespin. However, they were several steps behind, simply following the trail instead of trying to anticipate where the rogue would go next. For that, she would need to call upon the Force to guide her way, as the rogue was as difficult to predict as weather on Coruscant, but for now, she had some extra time coming, as the Mandalorians would slow down the Jedi, and with luck, long enough for her to get to the rogue before they did.
The only light in the jungle, other than the odd sunbeam breaking through the thick jungle canopy, came from the green lightsaber in Khamul's hand. He crouched on a rotten stump and reached out in the Force. He sensed his pursuers around him; they had him boxed in and were closing. He smiled, turned his saber off and waited. Finally, he heard the sound of four lightsabers activating.
"Give up, Kham!" Gavyn would be the one behind him. How someone so tall could be so quiet Khamul would never understand. "There are two ways to do this! The easy way and the hard way and the hard way won't end so well for you!"
"He's right, Kham!" It was Aay'dira, now. "There's no getting away from this one! We have you partially surrounded!"
Khamul rolled his eyes and he could sense Gavyn do the same. In reply, he stood, still looking down. His lightsaber ignited with a snap-hiss and he lunged, aiided by the Force, to his left, attacking Aren Shun. Taken by surprise, Aren barely managed to fend off Khamul's powerful strokes. Pushed backwards, Aren stumbled over a tree branch and went down. Khamul prepared a finishing stroke, but he was Pushed in the back, causing him to miss. He recovered in time to block an attack by Aay'dira, then leapt aside to avoid a thrust by Kaz.
He landed, rolled and parried an attack by Gavyn. Khamul jumped backwards and then lunged once again at Aren, who was the weakest of his four opponents in battle. Prepared this time, Aren managed to hold his ground until Khamul was forced to jump away before Kazgo could behead him. As he flew backwards, Khamul Pulled on a rotten branch, which connected with Aren's head, dropping him like a stone. Khamul leapt forward again, twisting to avoid Kazgo's saber. He landed over Aren and a quick stab ended his participation. Three left.
He parried a swipe from a leaping Aay'dira, spun and connected across her wide-open back as she flew by. Two down.
Kazgo and Gavyn approach him either side, slowly. Khamul feinted toward Gavyn then savagely attacked Kazgo. Kaz was fast, though; every time Kham attacked, his blade only struck air where Kaz had been a split-second earlier. Gavyn rushed in, but Khamul blocked and kicked out, sending Gavyn sprawling. Kham had to turn to avoid Kazgo, however, and was soon fully engaged with him once again. Kazgo's defense suddenly opened when he slipped on a tree root and began to fall backwards. Sensing this, Khamul thrust forward, the point of his lightsaber seeking flesh. Kazgo suddenly flew sideways and Khamul hit nothing but air. Khamul glanced sideways - Gavyn had Pushed Kazgo out of harm's way.
Snarling in frustration, Khamul added his own Push to Kazgo, sending him face-first into a tree. Kazgo tumbled o the ground and lay still. Just Gavyn left to go.
He threw himself at Gavyn, attacking wildly, knowing that Gavyn's style also relied on attack and not being forced to defend. Gavyn held his own, but was forced steadily backwards by Kham's onslaught. They dueled up the trunk of an ancient fallen tree. When the back of his foot was up against the edge of the trunk, suspended some fifteen meters in the air, Gavyn flipped backwards into empty space. As he somersaulted to the ground, he pulled on Kazgo's lightsaber, which flew to his hand. He ignited it just as Khamul landed beside him.
Now it was Khamul's turn to be on the defensive. The two-saber stance felt almost natural to Gavyn as he fought and he easily fell into an almost rhythm. Lightsabers flashing and cracking on impact, they lit up the dark jungle with their duel. Khamul was beginning to tire. In desperation he lunged backwards and hurled his saber at Gavyn, who almost lazily batted it away and advanced on his now unarmed foe. Kham's saber landed behind Gavyn, still ignited. Khamul Pulled on it. Gavyn stopped and looked down at the half a meter of lightsaber protruding from his chest and swore.
"Now now, language, my young padawan." Master Shaalir Rosk decended from the canopy on a observation pad. "Such language does not suit an initiate of the Jedi Order."
"Yes Master Rosk. My apologies, Master Rosk."
Rosk nodded and turned to Kazgo. "You did well, Kazgo, until you forgot one of the basic rules of combat. What was it?"
"Always mind my surroundings, Master."
"Indeed, my young Padawan. The next time you forget that could be your last, out in the 'Verse."
"I won't, Master."
"I hope not. Aay'dira, I hope you've learned a lesson about sacrificing sure footing for what turned out to be not a killing blow?"
As Rosk critiqued Aay'dira and Aren, Gavyn nudged Khamul. "You got lucky, rock jockey."
"You have to be good to be lucky, Gav."
Kazgo chuckled. "In my experience, there's no such thing as luck." Gavyn and Khamul just rolled their eyes, but remained silent as Rosk turned back to them.
"Khamul, you have done exceptionally well, but there are still many ways for you to improve. We will discuss them tonight. For now, you will all use the Force to find my shuttle's hiding place so we can return to the Temple."
As the Padawans ran off into the jungle, Rosk pulled Gavyn aside. "Tell me, Padawan, how familiar are you with Jar'Kai?"
Gavyn snapped back to the present as he and Zoy Deberk approached his ship, the Razor's Edge. He had been so lost in the memory he didn't even notice entering the spaceport. "Zoy, contact Master Maziel. Tell him we're on our way."
"You don't need me to ask where he is?"
Gavyn reached out with the Force until he sensed the Jedi Master. And another presence he hadn't been expecting but was surprisingly unsurprised by. He pointed. "Master Maziel and Aay'dira are about a five-minute walk that way."
Zoy sighed, more at himself. "Ah yes, I forgot you could do that, Master." The ramp lowered and they entered the ship.
Gavyn chuckled. "Forgetting is a bad habit in this line of work, Zoy." He entered the refresher.
"I know, Master." Zoy shook his head as he made his way to the comm station.
Some five minutes later they met the Falleen Master at the entrance to his ship's hanger. Gavyn and Zoy bowed. Gavyn said, "Master Maziel, our apologies for being late, we had one last lead we needed to check on."
"I understand the need for the delay. I fear if we do not act quickly, Khamul shall evade us."
"Not if I have anything to say about it, Master. We discovered that Kham is still very much interested in the Mu'sak smugglers and has gone ahead to Bespin. I believe he's going to try to take down th entire organization."
Maziel turned an almost inperceptablely darker shade of green. "That was indeed his and Kazgo's directive ... I sense that we might lose his trail when he goes after them."
"Honestly, Master? I think all we'll have to do is follow the trail of bodies. Everywhere he's been he's killed, maimed or assaulted. And there's something else, a presence, just on the edge of sensation, like a glowstick wrapped in a blanket, or a shadow at twilight ... Can you sense it?"
Maziel furtively made sure nobody could overhear him and whispered, on the edge of hearing, "Gavyn, what I admit to you now must be held in the strictest confidence, do you swear your word not to reveal what I now tell you?"
Gavyn looked the Master in the eye for a second, then began to pat down his robes. "Zoy, I seem to have forgotten the copy of Khamul's message I made back at the edge. Could you be a dear and run and get it for me?"
Zoy gave his master a conused look. "I thought you were keeping that, Mas--"
"NOW, if you please?"
Zoy strode off angrily, grumbling under his breath. Gavyn smiled at his Padawan's back. "My charming disposition must be rubbing off on him. Now, you were saying, Master?"
Maziel took a deep breath. "I have lost my ability to peer into the Force as I please, Gavyn. Before I left on this chase, the Force was a myriad of possibilities ... now it as though a fog has descended and I am walking a path. I can see all the possible branches of the path but nothing else and I must walk this path where it will take me ..." he trailed off.
"Where is this path taking you, Master?" He caught the look in Maziel's eye and suddenly the turmoil he felt in the reptilian Master made sense. "Ah, but that part is still distressingly fog-free, isn't it?" He paused. "My apologies, Master, that sounded far less flippant in my head."
Maziel allowed himself a dark chuckle before answering. "Yes, I will fight Khamul, though I do not know how it shall end. There are still many possible conclusions to the confrontation."
"We can only hope the Force wills a happy one. Oh, before I forget, Master, an item of curiousity. Before he left Ord Mantell for the second time, Kham bought a pilot droid in Worlport. That's the lead I was following up on. Why would he do that?"
Maziel's brow furrowed in thought. "I am unsure. Khamul was a good pilot, though not up to your caliber. We shall just have to ask him when we find him. Have you discovered where he is heading next?"
"Bespin, one of the major ports of the Mu'sak smugglers."
"There are only two major cities that he would go to - Cloud City and Tibannopolis. I do not see him making contact with his prey in Ugnorgrad."
Gavyn nodded. "We should split up - you search Cloud City and I'll take Tibannopolis."
"I shall set out as soon as I have clearance."
As the Falleen turned to go, Gavyn stopped him. "Don't think I'm questioning you or the Council, Master, but Aay'dira? Really?"
Maziel was nonplussed for a second, then allowed himself a smile. "That is a rare talent you have, Gavyn Owen. Aay'dira is a back stop; she's here to help me run down leads and to aprehend Khamul if the opportunity arises or as a last resort. Now, in case we lose Khamul after Bespin, I think I might have a lead."
Gavyn gave Maziel a look, but he accepted this explanation. "I'm all ears, Master."
"This is a list of four planets that were the results of the last search Khamul made with the Jedi Archives." He handed Gavyn a datapad. "As it is your investigation, you can follow the bodies, as you put it, to Bespin. I, and some other Jedi who have an interest in this affair, will got to these planets. If you cannot pick up Khamul's trail, go to the planet furthest from Bespin and meet me there."
"Why that planet, Master?"
"Because that is where I would go, were I him."
"So I guess you're not going to Cloud City, then."
"I never said I was."
"True enough." Just then, Zoy returned, holochip in hand and sullen look on face. He handed it to Gavyn who in turn gave it to Maziel.
Maziel looked the chip over. "Gavyn, I thank you. I know this message is important to you, as close as you and Khamul were. Do not, however, let your feelings get in the way of what must be done."
"Never fear, Master. May the Force be with you."
"And with you."
As they walked back to the Edge, Zoy turned to Gavyn. "Are you going to tell me what Master Maziel said, Master?"
"Nope. Swore not to tell another soul, not even you. Telling you would go against my sacred oath."
Zoy just scowled even harder, causing Gavyn to laugh. "You look like a scaly womprat with your face like that, Zoy."
"With my face like what, Master?"
"All scowly and angry. No, no, it's good - you can distract the criminals and while they're laughing, I can sneak up behind them and arrest them. Come on, we're going to Tibannopolis."
Khamul strapped the blaster pistol he had taken from the slaver on Ord Mantell onto his hip. He secreted a small concealable blast pistol that could fit in his palm into the workings of his sleeve and then slid the hilt of his lightsaber, which was flat instead of round down his cloth belt. Normally he would never go out so armed but there was something in the air that had his hair standing on end, a disturbance in the Force, not quite but something was definitely out of place.
It was a ten minute walk from his shuttle to the bar where he’d meet his Mu’sak contact. Out side the bar he saw Cas leaning up near the door jam. He closed and shook his hand and sub-vocalised as he leaned in.
“Something’s funny… keep your eyes open after I’m gone.”
“You’ve never dealt with a Mandalorian before have you? How did you learn Mando’a?”
“I know seven languages fluently, Mando’a is one, and I know twenty three more than enough to get by in a day to day life. It’s just fun learning them.”
“Tell that to your eye… it’s still a bit swollen.”
Khamul shook his hand again vigorously and then went into the bar, confident he would be in space by the end of the hour.
Maziel had been waiting for Gavyn and his Padawan for a long time now, apparently they had decided that the investigation took a higher priority over coordinating in the search. He was using a data slate to remotely connect to his shuttle’s communication array and was looking through the records of the Jedi Archive. Aay’dira chimed in over his comm unit.
“Why would Gavyn put off meeting you, I remember him as being very prompt.”
“As do I… He’s trying to let me know that this is still his mission… and that he’s offended I’ve been brought on to help. I’ve found something in my Archive search.”
“What’s that Master?”
“Khamul connected with the Archive once before his access was cut off… He searched for any clues or indications of signs of Dark Jedi cults.”
“But he was after smugglers on his last mission… Why would he care about that information?”
“It’s a to-do list… I have been granted visions… eventually Khamul will slip out of our nets when he goes to eliminate the smugglers. This I have seen, I think this is a clue as to where he will be headed when he is finished tying up loose ends.”
“Then let us depart now-“
“No… we will coordinate with Owen, I do not want to slight him further than he already is. He should be here soon.”
The Falleen Jedi master sighed and the weariness of life got a little bit heavier.
With a lurch Khamul’s Theta-class shuttle settled onto the deck of the Mu’sak smugglers’ base dug into a huge asteroid. It had taken him three days to reach this place from Bespin. He nodded at the pilot droid he had picked up back on Ord Mantell.
“A fine landing, two to one. Hopefully the first of many you’ll make in my employ.”
The droid beeped an affirmative and began running through diagnostics. As Khamul made his way to the ramp he pointed at two other droids, he had picked them up on Tibanopolis. They were made for security and each carried two repeating blasters.
“Alright… no one gets on my shuttle until I return. Do you get that?”
“Do not let anyone on the shuttle even if you return, affirmative.”
“No no… once I retun you can let me back on the shuttle.”
“Do not let you onto the shuttle upon your return, affirmative.”
“NO! NO YOU BLOODY SCRAP HEAP! WHEN I GET BACK LET ME ON!”
Khamul held up his hand to stop the droid from talking and pointed at the other one.
“Secure the shuttle until your return.”
“Good, scrap heap, listen to your friend here.”
He shook his head. Well he had picked them up for a song, so he should have expected to get what he paid for. Arrayed in a semi-circle around his ramp were two Humans, a Wookie, and a Sullustan, a Twi’lek holding his arms open in greeting. Surprisingly he spoke very good Basic, with only the barest hint of an accent.
“Welcome, welcome. Our mutual friend on Bespin has spoke very highly of you, and the cargo you’re carrying.”
“If you don’t have it we will kill you.”
“It’s hidden on an asteroid in the belt. Before I or one your boys hauls it in I’d like to speak with the man in charge. Look into his eyes and shake his hand, get his measure.”
The Twi’lek’s smile flashed a maw of pointed teeth.
“He expected as much. Search him.”
One of the humans moved forward to search him and Khamul spread his legs and raised his arms obligingly.
“In the sleeve and the boot there’s something for you.”
He pulled out the palm blaster and vibroblade shiv, took his blaster out of its hip holster. Then padded him down but left the holster in place.
“You understand of course?”
“No, no, it’s quite thorough and disciplined of you, I’ll admit that I’m impressed.”
Khamul reached out with the Force. He could feel about sixty souls walking the decks.
“Please, this way.”
The Twi’lek and his guards withdrew to a door at the end of the hangar and Khamul followed them. As they traveled through the dank corridors Khamul made a map in his head. Eventually they went through a door and came through under the stars. The bridge, or command deck of this base was a dome like room that allowed a breathtaking view of the surrounding space. Immediately Khamul eyed his quarry, he could tell by the trappings on his clothes that he was the man in charge.
He drew the slim handle of his lightsaber from its sheath in the holster and with a Force push sent his escort sprawling. He took three steps and leapt forward as the leader turned. He rolled twice and as he uncurled himself he ignited his lightsaber with its trademark snap hiss and spinning. The captain fell apart, cut through at the knees, the waist and the neck. Khamul stood his silent his eyes looking at nothing and yet everything.
“I am the bloody hand of an angry god.”
Maziel had been in a trance leaning against the wall that he had been waiting for Gavyn at but now he was startled out of it. His breathing was ragged, his pulse raging.
“Khamul, what have you done?”
Maziel could feel it though. The myriad web of all of the possibilities of the future centered around a single convergence, was now slowly falling apart. Soon there would be only one possible outcome. His comm unit beeped.
“I know, child, I felt it too…”
“What does it mean?”
“Another step along the path of fate has been taken by our friend… and he is treading a dangerous way at that.”
Khamul was in a pitch black room, the lights had been turned off by the final defenders of the Mu’sak base to gain an advantage. The last man was beneath his blade and was begging for mercy.
“Please, I’ll give you anything you want! Just don’t kill me!”
The man was stricken with panic. Khamul keyed a comm unit in the collar of his shirt.
“Two to one… Send a message to Cas: It’s done. And send him the coordinates of our current location, tell him not to forget our new ship.”
For a moment Khamul pondered what the coward beneath him must be thinking. Truly he must possess a fearsome countenance, that would only be magnified in its terribleness by the light… no it wasn’t quite light… the unlight of his black blade, and then drove it through the man’s forehead.
The trail and the Force had led her back to Ord Mantell, the rogue had double backed, hoping to pick up the trail on his original mission and finish the job he and his partner had started, before he killed his partner. Alyra knew that while Trader’s Corner was one of the larger cities on the planet, the rogue wouldn’t stay there for long, and in fact would keep moving. From what she saw when she first arrived at Ord Mantell and from what she had been able to glean from the events of Calleum, she knew that the rogue left a discernable trail wherever he went, usually the death and destruction of something he saw that was in conflict with his own moral code. Though she had not done it on her first visit, Alyra decided to visit one of the information brokers that Darth Vectivus used to gain information on the various events around the galaxy. It was a trustworthy, but still very shady source. It was one thing that she had learned about her Master’s past; through his various dealings as a merchant prior to becoming a Sith Lord, Vectivus had built up a considerable network of contacts for supplies and information, on both sides of the law. It was how she managed to the multitude of transponder profiles for her ship, and half of the weapons mounted and stored inside it, not to mention the valuable Stygium crystal cloaking device.
Before meeting the contact and information broker, she decided to do a little research herself, to allow her to give more specific and directed questions to her source, lest he give her some small piece of information that would throw her off. First, she tapped into the police reports on the planet, a simple task, as it was public knowledge, and anyone with a connected terminal and an interest in the matter could access. Various violent assaults were common on the planet of this size, and she began to adjust the parameters to filter out useless information. Finally she had what she was looking for; an incident report where someone had attacked a “labor contractor” and had freed all of the “workers.” It was obvious to her that it was a slaver, not a “contractor” and the “workers” were slaves. It fit with what the rogue was up to. The location was on the outskirts of Trader’s Corner, and that meant that the rogue was definitely leaving the city. Hopefully her contact would be able to shed some light on it.
“Shunk Girzim,” Alyra said quietly to the Bothan slouched in the corner of a bar. “I believe you know my… employer?”
“How could I not?” Gizim replied. “Mister… uh… Shaft has always been a pleasure to do business with. What can I do for you, Miss…?”
“Miss Sikozu, what do you want to know?”
“Mr. Shaft is looking to expand his trade routes in this area, and would like to know of any possible… threats to his operations.”
“Ah… that’s a tricky one. Is he worried about competition?”
“I believe he’s more concerned with safety and liabilities.”
“Rumor has it that the Mu’sak smugglers are big in this area.”
“It hardly seems smugglers are a concern.”
“They’re not your ordinary smugglers. They’re into everything. Some even say they’re into slaving, and weapons. Big time weapons manufacturing.”
“Weapons… That would mean Tibanna gas. Bespin. Thank you.” Alyra handed the Bothan a data chip which contained instructions on how to access a certain account which the payment was deposited into. While most of the underworld information transactions were handled with hard currency, Mr. Shaft of Crichton Shipping (and its Planex Deliveries subsidiary) was a trusted client and such procedures were normal, as well as carrying around the requisite amounts in hard currency was often ill-advised.
“There is one other thing,” Alyra said as Girzim got up to leave. “A personal matter.”
“Really? What is it?”
“I’m looking for someone. A Jedi.”
“I’ve had enough to do with Jedi.”
“It’s important to me. It will be worth it.”
Girzim sighed and sat back down.
“What is it?”
“Have you seen this man?” She showed him a holo of the rogue, and Girzim’s eyes widened in surprise.
“You’re not the only one looking for him. What’s he done to you?”
“As I said, it’s a personal matter. Who else is looking for him?”
“Another Jedi. Anyways, the Jedi you’re looking for came to me a few days ago, and was quite rude to me. I’ll give you a discount on the information. He’s probably off to Worlport, looking for a droid.”
Though she didn’t think she would find anything of interest, Alyra decided to visit the “labor contractor” that the rogue had attacked. Standing outside and away from prying eyes, Alyra relaxed into the Force, and meditated. Through her connection, she sensed what had happened; the rogue had stopped by here and had freed the slaves, and later, the Jedi had come, first the Padawan, and then the Master. It confirmed her hypothesis that the rogue was behind the attack. She debated following the Jedi and the rogue to Worlport; the rogue’s errand of searching for a droid meant nothing to her, and she did not feel that it was worth her time to follow up on it, as she needed to catch up to the rogue. Even with the tracking device on the Jedi’s ship, following it around mean that she was following the Jedi who were in turn following the rogue. She had a good lead on where the rogue might head to next, and she decided to follow through with that.
Alyra watched the fight between the rogue and another man, and was surprised that the rogue didn’t use any Force abilities or his lightsaber to even the battle, but even without the advantages of the Force, the rogue managed to draw with his opponent; both seemed to be proficient brawlers. With the flick of her wrist, and a nudge with the Force, she managed to send a small listening device disguised as a small fly in their vicinity, in order to hear their conversation. She was surprised to find out the other was a Mandalorian, and that the rogue was enlisting his help, despite the animosity between Jedi and Mandalorians. If the Mandalorians agreed to help him, it would give him enough firepower to take out the smugglers-turned-slavers, and the goodwill of a powerful organization, making him virtually untouchable to the Jedi, and perhaps even to the Sith. While the Sith usually looked down on anyone who did not have the Force at their disposal, the Mandalorians were a formidable adversary, for non-Force users. As she considered the Mandalorian involvement, an idea came to her… perhaps the Mandalorians could be used to slow down her Jedi competition…
Gavyn's comm beeped. He sighed, "If it's not one thing ..." as Deberk smirked, knowing his master's distaste for the device, especially while on an investigation.
The comm unit beeped again as it connected to the ship's relay. Master Yoda appeared, the sunlight washing out his holo even more than usual. "Master Yoda, we were just about to call you."
Yoda shook his head. "News I have for you. A decision you should know about the Council has made. Also permission to pursue Khamul, Master Maziel has been given."
Owen had not been expecting this. He was left speechless for a couple of seconds and his grip visibly tightened on his comm. "I thought this was my investigation," he said in a tone that implied he was choosing his words very carefully.
"Indeed it is. But disturbed the Council greatly was by the news of Khamul's fall. Feel that the more Jedi looking for him the better, we do. End this... rogue pursuit quickly we must. Instructed him to inform you if discovers anything he does."
Zeberk didn't need the Force to sense the tension ebbing from his master's body, but a flame of annoyance still burned in Owen's emotions. "Understood, Master Yoda. We'll let you know what we find. Speaking of, Kham left us Kazgo's lightsaber, along with a message. I'll have it sent to the Temple first thing after touching down on Ord Mantell."
Master Yoda looked surprised. "Ord Mantell?" He paused. "Yes, sense that would make. Contact Master Maziel you should, as well. To Ord Mantell he is traveling." The small Jedi bowed his head. "May the Force be with you."
"And with you. Owen out."
"Master, I am sure the Council only thought Master Maziel would be a help."
"I'm sure they did."
"Then why are you so upset about it?"
"They know I'm the best at this, they know I can handle this just fine by myself. Why would they insult me by ..." He stopped and took a deep cleansing breath. Zoy sensed the flame flicker once, twice and disappear. "The thing is, kid," Deberk let this go, "if Maziel finds Khamul first, then they will fight and one of them will die."
"You do not really think Khamul would kill his old master, do you?"
"I didn't really think he could kill his own partner, either, and we all know how that turned out. Come on, let's get off this rock."
They moved to the cabin of the Edge, a modified Corellian VX-1982 light freighter, a ship Gavyn was given after one of his more successful high-profile cases. Minutes later they were in hyperspace once again.
"Master," said Zoy, clearly asking something that had been on his mind, "What did he mean by his father's office? 'The bloody hand of an angry god'?"
Owen sighed. "Not much, honestly, it wasn't something that came up in conversation a lot. It has to do with his religion, an obscure little sect. As far as I could tell, it mixes the Jedi protection of the weak but with the Mandalorian's "kill everything" tact. He never spoke of it, I dont think he remembered it all that well when we first met, several years after his training had started."
"Buried for all that time, incredible," Deberk mused.
"I suppose that when your father is the grand poobah or whatever, the roots tend to grow a bit deeper."
What did Master Yoda mean when he said it would make sense for master Jaeger to be on Ord Mantell again?"
"Kham, he doesn't like to leave something half-finished. If I had to guess, and since Master Yoda seems to have reached the same conclusion, I'd say he's still trying to hunt down those smugglers he and Kazgo were assigned to. Anyway, get some rest. We won't be getting back to Ord Mantell for a while yet."
Some time later, they touched down in the same spaceport as before. "Zoy, I want you to go and try to pick up Kham's trail."
"How will I do that Master?"
"The way things have been going? Just follow the trail of destruction. As for me, I'm off to see a Bothan about a Jedi."
"You're not going to contact Master Maziel?"
Gavyn smiled grimly. "Oh, I will, I just have a couple of things to do first, such as send Kazgo's lightsaber back to the Temple."
It took a bit of searching, but Gavyn managed to find a package delivery service, Planex Deliveries, that he found he could trust. After filling out the forms and sending the box with the saber and holo on its way, he found a nice out-of-the-way bench to relax on. He reached out with the Force, ignoring the teeming mass of life that covered the planet, until he found the presence he was looking for. It was a peculiar talent of his, that he could find anyone he had ever spoken to through the Force, despite how much local interference there was. It only really worked when he and his target were on the same planet, but it was a gift that had served him time after time in his investigations.
Shunk Girzim sat in the corner of the Selonian Shooter, nursing his drink. It was a quiet day for the information engineer, as he liked to think of himself, and he was letting himself finally relax after the encounter with the smuggler-to-be. Normally such encounters, of which he had a few in his time, wouldn't bother him, part of the job and all that, but somehow this one was different. Something behind that human's eyes chilled Girzim to the bone. He looked up as the door to the tavern swung open and a Jedi walked in. Suppressing a surge of panic, Girzim began to look for easy points of egress. Then he allowed himself to look past the Jedi's robes and recognition sunk in as the dark human sat across from him.
"I thought your kind were never allowed out of their robes, Jedi."
"Oh, some days I feel like being more inconspicuous than others." He drew a small holo out of a pocket and showed it to Girzim. "Have you seen this man?"
Girzim looked at it and nodded. "Oh yes, I recognize him all right. He was looking to get in with the Mu'sak smugglers. He was ... not polite about it. In fact, he was so impolite that this information's on the house. He went to Worlport to buy a droid and then headed off to Bespin to meet with the smugglers." He looked closer at the holo. "Hold fast, he's wearing ..." He looked the Jedi in the eye. "He's the one, isn't he? The one that murdered his partner."
The Jedi said nothing, but slid a cred chit across the table, stood up and left.
"Interesting news," mused the Bothan. "Very interesting indeed."
Gavyn slumped against the wall of the tavern outside, taking a moment to collect himself. Despite it all, Khamul was still his friend and this investigation and what he was learning about what Khamul was capable of was shaking him to his very core. His comm beeped. It was Zoy. "Master, I found someone you're going to want to meet."
Seeing how far Zoy's locator beacon was from the city proper, Gavyn had no choice but to flag down a taxi shuttle. Far out from the city, he arrived at a small warehouse, which bore a sign that read:Nisney’s Labor Service
(Nisney's Labor Service)
Deberk met him outside.
"How did you get so far out here?"
"The same way master Jaeger did, Master, I rented a speeder."
"You had enough credits for a speeder?"
"No, but I convinced them that you did."
Gavyn glared at his padawan, then laughed. "Resourceful little guy, aren't you? Now, what did you find?"
"It's best if you see yourself. If you'll follow me?" Deberk led his master inside where they met a man dressed in dirty clothes and had two shiny new droid arms instead of the ones he had been born with.
"You Jedis have a lot to answer for!" he roared as his ample belly quivered in anger.
"Calm down, sir. I am Jedi Knight Gavyn Owen and I presume my Padawan learner has already introduced himself. Tell me what happened."
Nisney's face turned red, but he spoke in a civil tone. "Here I was, minding my own business, when a human shows up, asking to see my wares."
"When did this happen?" Gavyn interrupted.
"Two days ago."
"Was this the man?" Gavyn held up the holo of Khamul.
"Yes, I already told your padman all of this, yes! He came in, asked to see my wares, attacked me with a sword... I thought it was one of your lightsaber's but..."
Nisney leaned in and there was an unhinged look in his eyes but behind that there was something else, fear.
"It was like the very dead of space cut through me. He wielded the very stuff of the void... I've never seen anything so dark.
And... and then let all of the sl- workers go! All of them criminals and indentured servants what couldn't pay their debts," he recovered hastily at Gavyn's arching eyebrow. His fury picking back up as he remembered his profit loss.
"Would you mind if I saw your cells?"
Sweat glistened on the man's forehead. "No, I would advise against that. Your man caused serious structural damage when he freed the workers, he pulled the doors right out of the walls!"
Gavyn nodded. "Do you have any security footage I could see?" He gestured to a camera in the far corner.
The sweat became more pronounce on Nisney's brow. "Uh, no, sadly, the security system was down for upgrades."
"I see. Well, I've heard all I need to. If you could provide my Padawan with the paperwork, the Jedi Temple would be happy to provide recompense for any legitimate workers that you have lost."
Nisney visibly paled and began sputtering about it taking time for him to organize it all, but Gavyn and Zoy were already walking out the door.
"Definitely, and definately mad as well, what is all this about weilding the void, it's downright loony. Come on, we've got to head back to the Edge
to contact Master Maziel and then we have to take a trip to Worlport. I want to know what Kham needed a droid for."
Jedi Master Maziel looked at the sensor screen and grimaced. He opened a channel as he continued his approach to the spaceport at Trader’s City on Ord Mantell. The only thing showing was the usual merchant traffic above every galactic planet but his instincts told him that was not all that was there.
“Jedi Knight Aay’dira this is Jedi Master Maziel… I know you’re out there don’t bother trying to deny it. I can feel you in the Force.”
After a moment went by a blip appeared on his sensors directly behind him and a soft but determined voice filled the cockpit of his Theta-class shuttle.
“I assume you want me to return to the Temple?”
“Yes… but I know that like me you cannot sit idly by in this chase.”
“I must ask Master… what do you intend to do when you finally find Khamul?”
“What must be done… leave it at that child. I’m making my landing now… I’ll meet you planetside. Once we’re there we are to link up with and coordinate our search with Gavyn Owen and his padawan.”
“Yes, master, see you in the dirt.”
Maziel allowed himself a small smile, ‘dirt’ was a common spacer’s colloquialism for a planet. Aay’dira was a spacer by her very heritage and took to it and piloting even without the aide of the Force better than most. She was a void-born, someone who was brought into this galaxy not on a planet but onboard a ship.
Maziel knew them both from their time as Shaalir Rosk’s padawans… and he knew Khamul even closer from when he was his own student, from what he knew of him… he might just need the Twi’lek’s help.
“So, gentleman, I figure I bring in this cargo for you to move… it nets you a pretty penny, nets me a berth, steady employment, a safe haven, a place in your little operation.”
Khamul had traveled to Bespin in a little over a week. He had been in the city of Tibanopolis and with the Force and a prodigious amount of alcohol had gotten in good with the local Mu’sak higher ups. The ‘cargo’ he was pitching was a Theta class shuttle’s hold (his ship) filled to the brim with military grade blaster rifles. In truth, there were no rifles, he just needed to get to wherever these rats had holed up and play the part of thorough exterminator.
“I dunno… mehbe… mehbe… we needa think a little more on tis.”
The human, who Khauml placed as Corellian by the accent, was severely drunk on something locally made. Khamul raised a finger to indicate to the bar keeper that he should bring over another drink. Khamul was still nursing his second beverage of the evening had been prompting him to give him some information on the syndicate.
“Oh but do you really… I know there are some planets undergoing some nasty civil wars somewhere out there in the galaxy… all you need to do… is find one, and those blasters become a prime commodity. What do you say?”
“Two days… meet me here… I’ll see what the bosses say. If you’re good I’ll give you the coordinates for our headquarters.”
Khamul’s hand which was on Egren, Egren was the underboss’ name, squeezed a small bit as he spoke.
“Of course… you’ll make sure to give them your most highest recommendation from me.”
“I’ll make sure to let them know you come with my highest recommendation, of course.”
“Of course. Now I’m going to put ten more credits on your tab… enjoy them, I need to catch up on my sleep.”
That wasn’t really why he was leaving… at one point someone walking past had cast some surreptitious glances at his drinking companion and with the aid of the Force he had heard the man making notes almost subvocally in a language that chilled Khamul’s blood… a difficult feat for someone who considered the magma of his world flowed through his veins. Walking outside he rounded and waited outside of the door arms closed. Sure enough the man came outside and Khamul said one word.
“N’jurkad” Don’t mess with me.
“Talyc haran!” Bloody hell!
“AHA! So you are Mandalorian… what interest do you have with that man inside?”
“What interest do you have?”
“An investigation… of sorts. Trying to tie up some loose ends, unfinished business all that.”
“I know your accent…”
“Do you now?”
“It’s a little backwater isn’t it? Hellish little land of lava, rock and dust, yea?”
“So why do you have an interest in the Mu’sak smugglers?”
“They’re not just smugglers any more.”
“So they’ve made the inevitable leap to piracy then?”
“Yes. Shipping of planets protected by the Mandalorians have come under attack recently. But we can’t afford to just go blindly running after them so we’re working on their fringe industries until we find the location of their main base.”
“Let’s make a deal then.”
“I can’t promise anything… but if it sounds fair I’ll run it past my higher ups.”
“How would the Mandalorian’s like an asteroid base and all the ships within it, and not have to pay a drop of blood for it.”
“How do you know they’re in an asteroid?”
“Because our mutual alchy in there mentioned giving me coordinates… If it was located on a planet or something somewhere he could just say blank planet from the sun in the blank system on its blank moon. But coordinates means it’s out in space somewhere, an asteroid belt most likely.”
“Who do you work for? CorSec?”
Khamul shook his head.
“Now for payment… I’ve been tinkering with an idea for some modifications to a ship. Your people provide me with the ship in question with said modifications and I’ll let you keep my Theta class with the rest of the Mu’sak ships.”
Khamul had been slightly pressing with the Force trying to get the Mandalorian to agree, after a moment his face wrinkled. Snarling he drew his blaster, Khamul used the force to throw the gun free and clear behind him a moment after the Mandalorian’s declaration removing all doubt.
“BLOODY JEDI! In case you haven’t heard Jedi, the Mandalorians aren’t fond of your kind!”
“The Jedi aren’t very fond of me at the moment either!”
If the warrior had heard Khamul’s statement he didn’t let on decking him and sending him flying backwards. Khamul allowed himself to fall rolling back over his shoulder and coming up to deliver the point of his elbow into his opponent’s sternum and then uppercut to the chin, followed by two knees to his midriff. Khamul stalked after the staggering foe because everyone knows there has yet to be a Mandalorian born with a glass chin… at least that survived to adulthood.
The Mandalorian’s boot lashed out and catching behind his feet toppled Khamul. Suddenly there was a weight on his chest and pain was erupting across his face repeatedly till he sent his attacker flying with the force. They went back and forth trading damage with one another for a quarter of an hour at that same non stop tempo. At the end of it they were on either side of the alleyway sitting up, faces swollen their hands in their laps their legs straight out.
“I never got your name, Mandalorian…”
“Cas… what’s yours Jedi? I’ll make sure to remember such a worthy foe.”
The Mandalorian blinked and leaned forward a little his face wincing in pain from bruised ribs.
“Was your father a man named Khamand?”
“Yes… Though the Angry God has lost that servant to the God of the Running Death.”
“Your father hired me and my brother to help him quell some incident or some such. He was a good man, mentioned his boy had just been born and named him Khamul. It’s a shame he’s gone.”
“I am the Bloody Hand now… and I have brought the will of my god to the stars.”
The Mandalorian chuckled.
“No wonder the Jedi don’t like you, they hate any religion but their own.”
“So… will you pass my offer up to your higher ups? I’d need an answer before I leave.”
“I’ll do my best.”
“I’m flying as the Perturabo out of Alderaan. I’ll be there… drowning my pain, or myself whichever turns out to be easier.”
The Jedi made it to his feet and held out his hand to the Mandalorian who refused it and stood up on his own power. As he got up he saw the hilt of Khamul’s lightsaber.
“You turned your father’s blade into a lightsaber?”
“And you didn’t use it on me?”
“Unlike the rest of the Order a good scrap is fun to me… And because of that I beat anyone who had a mind to challenge me.”
“I’ll try and get back to you tomorrow.”
“Cas…. The Order will be sending people after me. If they come to you…”
“I would never help a Jedi… now a Bloody Hand from Calleum… I can help him out.”
Maziel turned to Aay’dira, lowering the portable comm that he held in his hand.
“That was Gavyn… they’ll be landing in about an hour. I need you to disappear until he and I have coordinated, as far as Gavyn knows I am the only other Jedi on the pursuit.”
The Twi’lek dipped her head in a bow.
Maziel watched her go, knowing she would obey but still checking. He sighed with the weariness of his more than a century of life. Many Jedi Masters claimed that the clarity of their vision in the Force either sharpened or lost focus as they aged, but to Maziel it was doing both, focusing on one particular future and obscuring all other probabilities. Maziel was slowly resigning himself to this fate, but he was going to go out on his own terms.
Khamul had left the ramp on his shuttle down so he wasn’t surprised his peace wouldn’t be disturbed, but he thought he would’ve been alerted sooner than the knock on the cockpit hatch. He swiveled around in his hatch to see a face that looked a little bit more bruised than his.
“You have your deal… do you have specs for this ship?”
Khamul handed him a holosphere.
“Now we’ll only work on this, if you deliver.”
“One way or another, tomorrow night I’m headed towards their base… you’ll have it in the next five days.”
The Mandalorian was gone and Khamul felt in the Force that it would be so. He popped another pain killing tablet and grimaced at the sour taste.
“I wonder if the Mandalorians enjoy the aftermath of a scrap as much as I do.”
“Ugh, it’s too dry here,” Darth Alyra said to herself. “This is so not good for my skin.” She allowed herself a small smile at her joke, as she didn’t really care about her physical appearance as did many females of her age, regardless of their species or culture. Calleum was a hot volcanic world, and the air was permeated with the smell and heat that was indicative of volcanism.
She had tracked the Jedi shuttle to this planet, having intercepted a transmission between the Jedi pursuers on Ord Mantell and the Temple on Coruscant, and her faster ship allowed her to make it to the planet just before the arrival of the Jedi, despite their several hour head start in hyperspace. Using her ship’s cloak, she followed the Jedi shuttle down to the planet and landed nearby.
As she made her way through the city, it she noticed that there were hardly any people; none of the usual hustle and bustle of spaceport cities, and even the street merchants seemed to be missing. While she normally preferred crowded places where she could blend into the surroundings, the utter lack of observers also suited her just fine for what she was going to do. Flitting from shadow to shadow in the bright daylight, Alyra made her way to the Jedi shuttle. After a quick inspection of the vehicle, she planted a small homing beacon on the hull of the vessel in an out of the way location. The beacon would allow her to track the shuttle without having to rely on communications intercepts and time consuming back plotting and a bit of luck. But the beacon was not enough; she had to catch up to the rogue instead of just following the Jedi around. Though she and the Jedi had the same task of finding the rogue, their goals were different; the Jedi wanted to bring back the rogue to the Temple, whether for punishment, or reforming, while the Sith sought a new ally, a new follower of their ways, and personally for Alyra, she saw this as a chance to become the Master, as she and the rogue would be able to overpower Vectivus. If she continued following the Jedi, she would always remain two steps behind the rogue, as the Jedi were reacting to the rogue and she was reacting to the Jedi, and so she needed to find a way to seize the initiative.
After some searching, she found the majority of the city’s inhabitants had been gathered for some kind of event; a funeral, Alyra guessed, as she saw the casket being lowered into a crater, and as the crowd dispersed, she saw the unmistakable brown and white robes that the Jedi wore. This was her first glimpse of her Jedi competitors; a male Jedi, most likely the master, as he did most of the talking, and the padawan, a Nautolan, who stood out like a sore thumb in the mainly human population of the city. The Jedi left the gathering with a man, one with a vibrosword strapped to his back, and the others seemed to treat him with a measure of deference. Following the Jedi, Alyra watched them enter a building, most likely the office of the one they were with; there was no way she could gain entry without drawing attention to herself. However, she was never without options and the right tools. Using a pair of electrobinoculars, Alyra used their heat sensing functions to peer into the building, first searching out which room they were in before using the Force to attach a small listening device to the window. Though the planet’s usually high temperatures degraded the range and effectiveness of the infrared seekers of the binoculars, with the aid of the Force, she was able to track her quarry and attach the listening bug just as the conversation began.
Using her datapad and a standard connection, Alyra managed to connect to the building’s security system and began her attempt to gain entry into the security logs, especially the ones which held the security camera recordings. Although she had heard the message from the holochip that the rogue had left behind, she needed to see it for herself, hence her attempt to slice into the security logs. The security system on a backwater planet like Calleum was no match for the power slicing algorithms that were stored on her datapad, and in moments, she had a copy of the recording from the holocam that was in the office where the Jedi had viewed the holochip. While not as a good as a copy of the actually recording stored on the holochip itself, it would do for now.
“…I shall begin by finishing, alone, what we started together…” the recording that Khamul Jaeger had said and Alyra pondered those words, as her ship began to lift off. Surely it offered some clue as to where the rogue was headed to next. She thought about the Jedi, and what they did. Their mandate of helping those in need of the galaxy only propped up a system that maintained the survival of the weak; the Jedi were the crutch that the galaxy leaned on, and it was the Jedi that ensured the crutch remained as they sent out teams on missions to help those who did not have the strength to help themselves and deserved death instead of the servitude that the Jedi imposed on them. Missions… that was what the rogue was doing on Ord Mantell, investigating a smuggling ring with his partner, the Jedi he had killed. At that moment, Darth Alyra realized what the rogue had meant when he said he was finishing what had been started. He was going back to Ord Mantell to finish the investigation, and destruction of the smuggling ring.
Khamul Jaeger, he had a strong sense of duty to protect those who were innocent, like most of the Jedi, but he walked a dangerous path, Alyra thought. Already, he had shown that he occasionally flaunted the regulations of the Jedi, and was a man of passion.
Peace is a lie, there is only passion…
Those were the first lines of the Sith Code, something that every Sith learned. Already the rogue was starting down the path of the Dark Side, and he didn’t even know it, so caught up in his ideals of protection of the weak, regardless of the cost, and of the methods he went about doing it. Turning him would perhaps be easier than she had previously thought. Now if she could only catch up to him…
The Razor's Edge settled down as it landed in the spaceport on teh outskirts of Clevan. As he stood to disembark, Jedi Knight Gavyn Owen paused. "Is everything alright, Master?" Inquired his padawan, Zoy Deberk.
"I'm not sure. I'm sensing something in the Force, but faint, like a ghost, or a candle behind a curtain. It's almost as if ..." He paused and shook his head as if to clear it. "It's nothing. Come on."
As they descended down the ramp and into the harsh daylight, Owen laughed. "Oh, you're going to love it here, kid."
"Ugh, it is too dry here."
"What are you talking about? It's positively balmy."
"Eat bantha dung."
"My my, such language. I don't think you're showing proper respect for your Master."
"Of, course, my apologies," Zoy said with exaggerated sincerity, causing Gavyn to laugh again.
With that, they arrived in the center of town. No longer deep in banter, they began to notice the strange decor of the town. Every inch of wall space was draped in fabrics the color of blood. There was also not another soul to be seen, it was almost as if the entire settlement had been abandoned.
"What do you think this is about, Master?"
"It means somebody important has been murdered. Come on, let's find out what happened."
They made their way to a nearby tavern, named Red Rocks, which was completely empty except for a portly bartender in a stained workshirt. He put down the glass he was cleaning and welcomed the Jedi. "Ah, Master Jedi, we are honored by your presence. I'm sorry for the less than warm welcome, but you've come at a bad time. Most everyone is at the funeral of the former Hand of this settlement, Aran Togan."
"You mind telling me what happened?" Gavyn asked as he and Zoy took a stool at the bar. "I don't suppose you have bantha blasters here?" The barman shook his head no. "Well, a Corellian Ale for me and a glass of blue milk for my apprentice here." Deberk could not quite hide his scowl of disappointment.
"It's a shocking story, Master Jedi, it really is. Do you know of a Jedi by the name of Khamul Jaeger?"
"I may have."
"Well, he was the son of the previous Hand, Khamand Jaeger. When he was taken for Jedi, it was like, well, nobody from Calleum has ever made it in the galaxy, never amounted to anything, you see? So when he was chosen the celebration last for the better part of a week. Old Jaeger, master, was just beside himself with pride. But I digress. Three years ago Old Jaeger passed away in his sleep and Togan became the new Hand. The two days ago, young Khamul returned to us!" The two Jedi leanred forward. "I guess he wasn't so young any more, though, a full-fledged Jedi, after all. Anyways, he went into the temple, where he was met by Togan. They spoke for a bit, then Khamul starts accusing Togan of killing Old Jaeger, as if such a thing were possible. He then up and strangles Togan to death with his Jedi powers, just like that! He broke the blade off the Sword of the Hand and made off with the hilt! How do you like that?"
"That is indeed a shocking story. Have you heard of anything else interesting?"
The bartender leaned in conspiratorially and lowered his voice as he spoke. "Well, rumor has it that he said Jedi would follow him and left one of those laser swords for them. You them?"
Gavyn grinned ruefully. "Indeed we are. Do you know where we might find it?"
"I would think that the best person to ask would be the new Hand, Shad Haran. You can find him at the funeral. Turn right out of the door, walk 3 streets and it will be on your right."
"My thanks." Owen reached into his robes to pay.
"Oh, I wouldn't dream of charging a Jedi for a drink."
"And I wouldn't dream of not paying for them." Owen laid a cred on the bar. "Keep the change."
As they walked to the funeral, Deberk turned to his Master. "Kazgo's lightsaber?"
"Indeed. And I can only imagine that he took the hilt of that sword to construct a new saber for himself."
They arrived at the funeral, on the edge of one of the planet's many lava vents. As the two Jedi slipped into the rear of the service, a casket was being lowered over the edge. After a moment's silence, the people began filing out of the small courtyard, obviously specifically made for this use. As the inhabitants passed by the Jedi, the anger coming from them was almost palpable. Fortunately, nothing went beyond dirty looks. Finally, the last person was walking past. He was a short, squat man, with a vibrosword strapped to his back. "Masters Jedi, I am Shad Haran, the Hand of Clavan. Follow me to my office, please."
Upon arriving at the Hand's office, Haran took a seat behind his desk and gestured for the Jedi to do the same. "I believe you're looking for this," he said, taking a lightsaber from his desk.
"Thank you, sir," Gavyn said as he took the saber and fastened it to his belt. "What can you tell us about what happened here."
"Not much more than what you've probably already heard, assuming you stopped at Red Rocks first. Jedi Jaeger showed up, bought a small crystal of Pulsidian, met Togan, accused him of mudering his father, went berserk and killed him."
"What was the name of the ship he was travelling on?"
"Sprint Merchant, out of Corellia."
As Owen thanked him and rose to leave, the Hand had a word of caution for him. "If you're planning on spending any more time here, Master Jedi, I would advise discretion in advertising your presence."
"Why is that?" Deberk asked.
"While Togan wasn't the most loved Hand we've ever had, he was competent enough. With folk-hero Khamul Jaeger returning just to murder him, the people feel more than a little betrayed, not just by Khamul, but by the Jedi in general."
"I'll keep that in mind, thank you again. We're not planning on staying, Khamul's got a 2-day head start on us and I want to get to him before he does anything else stupid." He paused. "Tell me something, Zoy, have you ever heard a lightsaber rattle?"
"I cannot say I have, Master."
"That's what I thought." Owen brought Kazgo's lightsaber back out and shook it. Indeed, there was a distinct rattling noise. Owen probed at it with the Force and a small comparment opened, spilling a holochip on his lap. "What are you playing at, Khamul?" Owen murmured to himself. "Master Haran, could we use your holoprojector?
"Of course, Master Jedi. It's right here, feel free. I'll just let you have some privacy." As he left, he couldn't help but give a surreptitious glance at a small security camera. The two Jedi, intent on the holochip and projector, didn't notice.
After the door shut, Owen, inserted the chip into the projector. It flickered to life, Khamul standing with his arms crossed. He began to speak.
“I realize that by now the Jedi Council will surely have sent someone to investigate Kazgo’s death. And since even a youngling fresh out of the crèche can tell the difference between a blaster and lightsaber wound, I’ll just come out and say it: I killed Kazgo Bollack. I admit that I was not in a normal frame of mind but know that it was Kazgo who both drew his lightsaber and attacked first.
I am truly sad that, lost in my madness, I slew one of my closest friends. I trained with Kazgo under Master Shaalir Rosk." His voice cracked, but he quickly regained composure. "However, before I did so, I came to the realization that the Jedi Order, by simple refusal to act, fails in its mandate to protect. Every day trillions of galactic credits are made on the suffering and misfortune of others, the weak, the innocent, those who could not protect themselves, THE VERY PEOPLE WE SWORE TO PROTECT!
I remembered. You, whoever you are who finds this, tell the Council that I have remembered. They will know exactly what I speak of, the tenants and principles of my father’s office. Now I shall assume the position. I am the bloody hand of an angry god. I will do what the Order will not, and strike down unflinchingly the beings that threaten those we swore to protect.
I will do it for Kazgo. In fact, I shall begin by finishing, alone, what we started together, so that his spirit might find rest and become one with the Force. I knew it was Kazgo’s wish to be buried underneath the grounds of the Temple gardens. Whoever this is, I charge you with the honorable duty of ensuring his weapon is interred with him as befitting a warrior.
One final word: I do not wish to kill anymore of my old compatriots from the Order, but if a Jedi, ANY JEDI, attacks me first … I will end it.
To the masters of the Council I send my respect and regard. Khamul out.”
Silence filled the office until Owen released the breath he didn't realize he was holding. He removed the chip and blanked the projector's memory. "Let's get back to the Razor's Edge and contact the Temple, they're going to want to see this."
As they hurried back to their ship, Owen mused on Khamul's words. He sat down on the sofa in the lounge with an audible whumph as Deberk went to the cockpit to raise the Temple. "Finish what you started together? What do you mean by that?" Suddenly, understanding flashed. He reached out with the Force, searching until he found that one familiar presence. "Son of a zucca, he's back on Ord Mantell."
Khamul had just spent the last hour buried inside of a console between the refresher and engine room. He was slowly worming his way back through the wires and cables. Finally he found the small blunted cone shaped piece of metal with blinking lights that he was looking for. He took his hydrospanner and deactivated the beacon by unceremoniously bashing it repeatedly.
“Well that takes care of that. The Council will know I was at Calleum at least; they can get Kazgo’s lightsaber to him.”
Khamul stretched as he stood and walked through the small hallway and looked at the timer. He still had at least a day of travel before his return to Ord Mantell. He went into his cabin and laid out on the bunk. He closed his eyes and tried to get to sleep as quickly as possible. He dreamt back to his past.
There were five of them. For whatever reason, whatever circumstance, these five Jedi padawans were without masters for the foreseeable future. And for whatever reasoning, or malady of the brain as some had jokingly suggested; the Shistavanen Jedi Master and Blademaster Shaalir Rosk had taken them all on as his padawans simultaneously.
“I will have each of you for the next two to three years; except for you Khamul, you’re stuck with me. Gavyn, you’ve already been with me for what, half a year now? It’s because your master is a Soresu specialist, and you’re best suited for Form V. Aay’dira, and Aren Shun, no master has yet come forward to claim you as their padawans; in your time with me I will determine what style of saber combat you are best suited to you. And Kazgo you are with me to learn Form III, because your master, while a great teacher in the ways of the Force, is a horrid teacher when it comes to a lightsaber. As younglings, you learned how to become proficient in the lightsaber… I will make you the subject matter experts.”
Unlike the others Khamul, was Shaalir’s actual Padawan. It would’ve come between him and Master Maziel the Falleen, the two masters, who as diplomats to Calleum, had first noticed Khamul as a boy; but the Falleen already had a padawan.
“It is better you have me for a master then Maziel anyways. He’s all about restraint; we are creatures of passion, you and I.”
“Have you not been extolling the virtues of patience and temperance in emotions to the others, Master?”
“Because THEY are not my padawans. On Calleum, I and Master Maziel, found you at the age of 6 where you were already beating most boys in wrestling and toting around a vibrosword. It is in our people’s nature to be aggressive. We must embrace that passion, but never let it rule us. I see you becoming a great blademaster, Khamul.”
Khamul’s dream of memories shifted further, two years later. Master Shaalir Rosk was on a detail of five Jedi Masters assigned to protect the Supreme Chancellor. Khamul was dueling with Aren Shun, who was trying out his lightsaber pike. They were sweating, both had removed their shirts, Khamul sporting a few more scars and burns marks all together but far less of these marks from this duel than Aren had. They saluted and deactivated their lightsabers, as Aay’dira ran into the room.
“Whoa, what’s the rush, Aay?”
“Aay’dira, are you alright? What’s going on?”
“It’s Master Shaalir Rosk… a bomb went off and he Force pushed everyone else out of the blast radius. He was consumed by the blast. There’s nothing left of him, nothing!”
Aay’dira started sobbing and Khamul grabbed her and bringing her in close he held her as she sobbed into his shoulder. Who now would take him as his master? Again the dream shifted.
“Master Maziel, I am honored to become your padawan.”
“Before his death Master Rosk told me how he was teaching you his combination of Juyo and Djem-So. A style that is based on the ferocity of the offense and another that turns your foe’s attacks against themselves;, there is only the constant push of offense, unbridled aggression. Damnation lies does such a path, young padawan, I will teach you a form of skill, precision, and control. Once you have mastered Makashi, maybe then you will have the restraint and control to avoid Master Rosk’s form from consuming you.”
“I will learn whatever you have to teach me, my Master.”
Khamul splashed water onto his face, clearing the blood from his cheek. The regret kill mark had become more distinct now. He traced the lines with his fingertips, and remembered.
“I will finish our work Kazgo, my old friend. It is a promise I will keep unto my dying breath. I just really hope that after this visit I’ll never have to come back to the place where you died.”
Khamul made the routine landing at Worlport, setting down lightly on the tarmac without flaw. He rented a landspeeder, and took off on the ride down to the city of Trader’s Corner. Khamul knew the Order would send Jedi after him, by letting his beacon betray his presence at Calleum he knew it would cause them to follow. If they figured out from the hologram he had left inside Kazgo’s lightsaber, he was returning to Ord Mantell, he didn’t need them just dropping into the hanger bay next to his ship.
He walked down the streets stopping Duros, Ithorians, Humans, and several other species asking the same question.
“Would you happen to know a Bothan?”
Finally a Corellian, by way of his accent, was able to give him an answer.
“Yeah, his name is Girzim, you can find him in any of the taverns south of the space port.”
Khamul nodded his thanks and passed the spacer a five cred piece. It took three taverns before he finally found who he was looking for. A furry long nosed bastard sitting at a bar. Bothans were information brokers; he’d know something. He walked up to the bar next to the creature and set down a couple hundred in credits, making sure to keep his hand on it.
“Now I can give this to the nice barman to add to your tab, but you would have to give me something in return.”
The Bothan actually looked insulted.
“What makes you think that paltry sum is even worth my ti-ucck!”
Khamul had grabbed the Bothan by his scruffy throat and was applying a modicum of pressure. The human bent over till his mouth was right by the Bothan’s ear.
“There was a smuggler’s group two Jedi were looking into on this planet; they had a scuffle ‘bout a week back. Now me, one Jedi offing another means there’s one less to track me down. I wanna work for said smuggling group, but they don’t exactly have a corner recruitin’ office now do they? Soooo, tell me what you know.”
Khamul let his grip slack and the Bothan rubbed his throat for a few seconds. His eyes glanced up with more than just a bit of fear in them.
“The Mu’sak smugglers are into everything. Food stuffs, slaves, racketeering, medical supplies, military grade arms, ship parts, ships, and more than a little piracy. But one of their biggest cash crops is Tibana gas. They use it in their own weapons and sell it to whatever planets or factions are at war, and if there aren’t any they’re not above starting one to make a profit.”
“So… where would I go looking for Tibana gas, hmmm? All those other things you can do pretty much anywhere, but there can’t be that many planets where one finds Tibana gas. Narrow it down for me further.”
“Perhaps if you were to help pad my tab a little more…”
“Perhaps I were to choke you a bit longer… imagine what the lack of oxygen would do to all the choice bits of information you keep locked up in your head.”
“Bespin, they’re pretty heavily invested in Bespin.”
“Now… Would you like to play the bonus round?”
“For extra credits?”
“Would you prefer it were for how many brain cells you get to keep?”
“Ask me anything.”
“Firstly, have any Jedi come to take the place of the two that had the scuffle?”
“No, however two Jedi showed up recently, traveling together. I only met one, Corellian by his accent, voidskinned. They were investigating the Jedi who fled; not the smugglers they were after.”
“Well I’m sure that information will help pad my resume when I apply with the Mu’sak higher ups. Now, second question… I’m looking for a droid shop, and by that I mean high quality droids. Not something cobbled together out of what’s lying around in the trash fields.”
“Nothing like that in here in Trader’s Corner… Hmm, Worlport might have what you’re looking for. Or you could wait until you were on a planet where decent droids are not such a rarity.”
Khamul put another fifty credits on the table and slid them into the bartender’s hand. He flashed a smile at the man.
“Add that to this fine productive member of society’s tab. Oh and a Juri Juice as well please.”
“You’re not going to offer me anything to not tell anyone you were here? What if more Jedi come snooping around, hmmm?”
“I’m not gonna offer to pay you, when I know you’ll take the money and then sell the information anyway. Why pay you for something you won’t do?”
The barman set a small glass of red liquid on the counter which Khamul picked up; he raised it in a toast to the barkeeper.
Khamul downed it in a single go, and setting the glass back down on the table he walked out of the bar. Stepping out into the sunlight his hand went to his face and he rubbed his temple with his thumb and index finger.
“Of all the Jedi in the Order they sent Gavyn and his damn padawan learner. By the Force, what are they thinking?”
He hopped into the landspeeder and took off for Worlport.
Jedi Master Maziel stood in resolute silence; coming up to his knee, Master Yoda did the same. Neither of the two masters was willing to budge on the subject.
“I have to go after him. I instructed him in all that he knows… if anyone is to defeat him, I stand the best chance. You know this.”
“Seek to pursue your old padawan, do you, because you know him best, or because his failure reflects badly upon you?”
“Perhaps a portion of both, but I believe I can try to bring him back to us. I trust my feelings, why don’t you?”
“Trust your feelings I do, cloud your judgment, they will. However, seen your point of view the council has. Go, bring back Khamul to us.”
“Yoda, it may come down that I might have to face him. If so, and he bests me, if there is breath left in me, I will record my last will… no matter what it says promise me it will be followed.”
“What request could be made, that the council may not be inclined to follow, old friend?”
“If I meet Khamul, and he can not be persuaded, I intend to challenge him to a duel of Makashi. If he bests me, I will declare him a master of Makashi, even if it is with my dying breath.”
Yoda’s brow furled and his mouth dipped into a frown.
“Honor your request, the council will. May the Force be with you.’
Maziel nodded in a slight bow and Yoda returned the gesture. The Falleen Jedi, turned and headed for the Temple’s hanger bay. In the shadows nearby Aay’dira watched the exchange, her lekku twitching in agitation. Master Maziel’s reasoning for him to join the pursuit was sound, and she couldn’t claim her reasons would be as good.
She grimaced and tried to think of a plan.
Khamul was taking a different track back to Worlport then before and on his way spied a dwelling in the middle of nowhere. He read the sign:
Nisney’s Labor Service
(Nisney’s Labor Service)
He pulled his landspeeder up front and parked. He hopped out and decided to meander inside. Walking down a few stories he finally found the ground floor. A human stood up and opened his arms in greeting.
“Hello sir! How can good ol’ Nisney help you today, good sir?”
“I’d like to see your wares.”
Nisney turned around and fumbling with some keys opened up a barred door. He motioned that Khamul should follow him, which he did.
“Well what sort of labor are you looking to get done? Construction, mining perhaps… personal gratification?”
Walking through the hall on either side were cages of individuals of all sorts of species. He stopped and Nisney turned around puzzled.
“Are you alright sir?”
“I am the bloody hand of an angry god.”
Nisney went for his blaster, as Khamul’s lightsaber ignited with the trademark snap hiss. His first upward swing took off the slaver’s blaster arm and then his down stroke took off his left arm. He extended his arm palm out and Nisney went flying, smashing into the back wall and falling unconscious.
Khamul bent down and picked up the blast pistol. He walked over to the unconscious slaver, amidst the quiet hush of the slaves whispers. He undid Nisney’s holster and cred pouch. Khamul made as if to walk away but turning delivered a swift kick to his stomach.
He stopped in the middle of the hall and reached out with arms and the Force. He pulled, nothing happened, he pulled again, sweat dotted his brow. He physically pulled with his arms as he visualized physically ripping the bars to the slave cages out of their sockets in the walls.
Every door burst out of the permacrete walls and flew towards the door opposite them, clanging together and falling to the floor raising a terrible din. He held up his hands, stopping the slaves’ mad dash to freedom.
“You might have guessed, but you are hereby free to go. However, whatever injustice this man might have visited upon you during your captivity, he is not to be harmed any further than he already is. There are more Jedi following in my wake who will deal with him. When you reach the road take a right, it’ll take you to Trader’s City. Don’t get caught your first day out.”
Khamul spent some time in Nisney’s office and bedroom, scrounging for stores of credits and supplies, as the slaves darted past the doors. Finding a couple thousand more in credits and a few blaster packs he left the slave pen, and headed for his ship.
Her ship was a modified courier ship, small and fast, but over the years, she had made many changes to it. Though its appearance was innocuous, it was much faster than it originally was, better shielded, and armed with hidden weapons; several laser cannons, and a concussion missile launcher, giving her a surprise punch if she needed to pounce on an enemy.
As she entered the Ord Mantell system, Darth Alyra activated her ship’s stygium crystal cloak, a device that had been a long tradition of being installed in vessels given to Sith Apprentices. In addition to the cloak, the ship had multiple identification transponders, which allowed her to pose as another ship when she needed a visible, but low profile presence. But with the cloak, she was able to avoid the lengthy and sometimes troublesome process of dealing with planetary authorities. As she approached the planet, she touched the Force, using it to seek out her prey, sending out tendrils. She felt a faint signature somewhere on the planet, and she checked it with the coordinates her master had given; they matched the city of Trader’s Quarter.
Finding a remote area to land her ship, Alyra opened her equipment stores to choose what she needed for the mission. Undoubtedly, she took her lightsaber, though it was a shorter and smaller one that the Jedi used. The smaller weapon allowed it to be more concealable, and while she did have her own full sized lightsaber, she preferred the smaller weapon, as it allowed her to use it more as a utility tool in addition to it’s primary task. She also chose an assortment of vibroblades and knives, hiding them about her person, such as on her wrist, in her boot, and underneath her robes and in her hair. A pair of macrobinoculars rounded out her equipment, as she would need little else; with the dark side of the Force as her ally, there was nothing she could not accomplish with just there simple tools.
As she began her investigation, there was little to guide her except the Force. With concentration, she could find the place where the Jedi had been killed, and from there, she didn’t know where the Force would lead her, but it was a start. When she arrived at the scene, already the bodies of the Jedi and the two smugglers that had been killed were gone, and the authorities and investigators had gone. But something remained; something she sensed in the Force. It was where the Jedi had died, and there was something more… It was as her Master had said; a Jedi had killed another, in addition to two of the smugglers they had been questioning. She wasn’t sure why the Jedi had sudden killed the two smugglers, but it was reason enough to put him on the brink of the Dark Side. But there was one more thing… As she touched a metal bar, she sensed another being that had been there, a witness. That would help her in her search, but she had to find the witness first. Looking around for some extra clues, she spotted a few small spots of blood on the floor, perhaps from the smugglers or the witness, or even the Jedi. From the blood, she could sense a faint imprint of life, and it seemed that the body from which the blood had come from was still alive. As she used the Force to search the room, she felt the faint residual presence of the Jedi, but different from the rogue’s or the one he had killed. It was different… and after a few minutes of concentrating, she was able to distinguish a second Force signature, fainter than the first; perhaps a Padawan. So a Master and his Padawan was already on the trail of the rogue. She would have to hurry. Touching the Force, she followed the trail, moving quickly through the underworld of the city. As she walked, she sensed several attempts to ambush her, a simple mugging, but though the Force, she could sense these attacks well before they happened, and stretching out with the Force, she managed to inspire fear within the would be muggers, sending them running before they even laid eyes on her. Usually, she would welcome the chance to fight, but for now, she had to maintain a low profile, and she did not have time to waste on simple thugs. Already, as she traveled through the city, she had sensed the faint presence of a Jedi, and her lips curled in anger and disgust as she felt it. The Jedi had already sent their own investigators after their rogue. She would definitely have to hurry, if she was not only pursuing the rogue, but in competition with the Jedi.
The Force had led her to a small run down cantina somewhere at the edge of the seedy parts of the city, and reaching out with the Force, she sensed the minds of those within. Most of the patrons were involved with their own things, and tended to keep to themselves, as keeping out of others business meant keeping their own lives, but there were a few inside looking for a scrap; common thugs with more alcohol in their system than brains. She saw her mark; a Sullustan who eagerly gulped down a drink from the bartender and then quickly ordered another. It was clear to her that he was eager to forget his experience.
“Had a bad day?” Alyra asked, sitting down on the barstool next to the Sullustan.
“What’s it to you?” the Sullustan asked in his own language. Alyra translated through the Force.
“Tell me what happened,” she said, using the Force to inject a bit of intimidation into her voice. “And I can guarantee you this matter will not trouble
“What’s in it for me?”
“I already told you, you’ll be free of this matter forever. Maybe with enough credits to get away from this hell hole. But if you need some extra… incentive to cooperate…” Alyra pulled open her cloak slightly to show the hilt of her lightsaber hanging from her belt, and at the sight of the silvery cylinder, the Sullustan’s eyes widened.
“I already told the Jedi what happened…”
“Who says I’m a Jedi?” Reaching out with the Force, Alyra plunged into the Sullustan’s mind, scouring through his memories for information on what had happened, and through his eyes, she saw. The two Jedi were questioning two humans about a smuggling ring, and suddenly, one of the Jedi killed the two humans before getting into a brawl with the other Jedi and killing him as well; then he Sullustan lost consciousness when the Jedi used the Force to slam his head into a metal bar. It confirmed what her Master and the Force had told her, the Jedi had killed the smugglers and then his partner before running, but now, with the account from the Sullustan, she knew the rogue Jedi’s face. Having outlived his usefulness to her, and not wanting to leave any possibly witnesses who might guess as to her identity, Alyra reached out with the Force, and gripped the Sullustan’s windpipe, crushing it so that it could no longer allow the passage of air through it, regardless of whether or not she applied pressure through the Force. The Sullustan would soon asphyxiate to death, and in the crowded cantina, no one would notice until it was too late.
As she walked out of the cantina, Darth Alyra found her way blocked by several large humanoids; a Trandoshan, a pair of Weequay, and a few humans. With the Force, she sensed their motives. They had noticed her entry into the cantina, and knew that she did not belong there. Her robes were a little too clean to blend in well with the grimy cantina patrons, and despite the thin tracings of Sith tattoos on her face, her skin was a little too fair and unweathered to match those around her. To them, she perhaps appeared to be a well-to-do woman who had tried to disguise herself as she went slumming, but had failed miserably; and to them, that was an easy mark. But Alyra, despite her appearance and ability to fit in with high society, was anything from an easy mark.
“Where ya goin’, lady?” one of the humans asked. “Ya finished slummin’ around ‘ere?” There was no other way out for Alyra; she had to fight, and unfortunately for the thugs, fighting was what she wanted. Cocking her wrist a certain way, a blade extended from under her left sleeve and she plunged it into the stomach of the human who had spoken before cutting upwards. Immediately the rest of the gang descended on her, and she used the Force to throw them back, knocking them to the ground. None of the other patrons reacted to the sounds of the scuffle, fights were common in the cantina, and as long as they didn’t get out of hand, the bartender didn’t mind too much, though he did keep a stun baton beneath his bar to keep unruly patrons from getting out of hand. With one of the humans’ guts spilling out onto the ground, Alyra swung and slashed at another attacker, cutting across his eyes, and at the same time, she kicked out, hitting another in the side as he struggled to get up after the Force wave attack. Through her connection to the Force, she sensed the attack coming from behind and she dodged it easily before using a backhand slice to cut the attacker’s throat, spraying blood everywhere. As one, the pair of Weequay set upon her with vibroblades, slashing through the air with their humming knives. With a quick flash of red and a brief hum, Alyra drew her lightsaber and ignited it, cutting through the bladed weapons and stabbing into the chest of the Weequay; almost as quickly as she ignited it, she deactivated it, so that no one saw the energy blade.
She heard a roar from the Trandoshan, and she sensed him charging at her. With a calmness that belied the fact that she was being charged by a 2 meter tall alien who towered over her, Alyra stretched out her hand and with the Force, stopped the Trandoshan’s charge, crushing his body and internal organs at the same time. As the Trandoshan keeled over in pain, Alyra walked over to him and pulled a thermal detonator that had been hanging from his belt, gently hefting it in her palm. Stepping over the bodies of the men she had just either killed or maimed, she continued her way back to her ship, activating the thermal detonator and throwing it over her shoulder, using the Force to guide it to the middle of the pile of bodies she had left in her wake. Seconds later, as she rounded the corner, the thermal detonator went off, incinerating the bodies of the thugs, and anything within a 15 meter radius.
Sitting in the pilot’s chair of her ship, Alyra meditated on her next move. Already she knew what the face of her quarry was, and that Jedi were after him as well, but she had no information on where either party was going. As she continued to mediate, she felt a faint flicker in the Force, coming from the space above her. Checking her sensors, she found that it corresponded to a small long-range shuttle, though it was devoid of any markings, she was certain that it was the shuttle that the Jedi were using. If she could get close enough, she could plant a tracking beacon on the shuttle, but until then, she had to rely on guesswork. Lifting off in her own ship, she followed the shuttle, tracking it as it made its way out of the planet’s gravity well before disappearing into hyperspace. Though she knew the exact heading, she didn’t know how far the Jedi shuttle was traveling, and blindly jumping after them was a reckless and suicidal idea. Alyra brought up her navigational computer, checking the heading with which the Jedi had traveled to the star charts. Several worlds came up as possibilities, but there were too many for her to check, and even if she reduced the number in half, she would lose precious time and ground to the Jedi.
It was after several moments of looking over the list that she realized her hypercomm array was blinking with a recorded message. She had set the hypercomm to record any messages off the Jedi frequencies and decode them. While the message was several hours old, it was still information that she could use, and she brought it up. And when she listened to the message, she smiled, and set the course on her navigation computer.