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Regions of Grey

 
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Regions of Grey
 PostPosted: Tue Jun 10, 2008 12:19 pm Reply with quote  
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  Darth Skuldren
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Joined: 04 Feb 2008
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Location: Missouri

“Regions of Grey”

The Jedi have always been quite secretive of Sith history, of the dark side of their order. All you ever hear about are Sith Lords who tried to conquer the galaxy, of evil mad men possessed with wiping out the Jedi, or killing and destroying everything in their path. Never once do you ever hear a story about a noble, selfless Sith who achieved some good.


Well, this is his story…


[Stay sharp.] Xandarrr growled.


Simmex glanced left and right but saw no visible threat. He stretched out with the Force and still no danger showed itself. “Master, I do not see or sense any threat.” He calmly replied, with only a hint of his Kuati accent.


[I smell them.] The old Wook grumbled.


His apprentice put a hand inside his tunic, carefully caressing his blaster. Though he could not see what enemy hunted them, he kept his senses sharp in preparation.


They would let the predator make the first move.


Carsulna was a backwater planet, as they called them, located on the edge of the Outer Rim near Hutt Space. Industrial cities pockmarked what was otherwise a rich and luscious environment. Expansive sparkling lakes accented thriving woods and flowing golden fields. Most of its inhabitants were farmers who sold their goods offworld. A few made their living in the city’s markets and factories.


On the surface it appeared to be a peaceful world removed from the commotion of the Core. Yet underneath this blissful façade was a subtle evil.


Slavery.


Xandarrr may have smelled him but Simmex spotted him first. Standing behind a fruit vendor, a lightly dressed human studied the produce. But whenever he looked up, his eyes glanced at them.


The man caught on quick; he sensed the change in the crowd. Realizing he’d been spotted, he snapped into motion and bolted into an alley.


Simmex and Xandarrr followed.


Running to the alleyway, they saw the man scurrying for his life, tumbling over garbage and pushing over refuse cans that stood in his way. Xandarrr nodded to his apprentice and Simmex took the cue. Snapping a piece of the Force to his command, he instantly shoved it out like a thunderbolt, striking the fleeing human’s legs. The man yelped in pain as he crashed to the ground, his legs rendered numb and useless.


Slowly the Wookiee and the Kuati approached.


“I didn’t know the Jedi had Wookiees.” The man on the ground snapped.


But Simmex could tell he was not a man. There was something just below the surface that waited to come out. It yearned to be set free. He could actually feel the hunger of this evil slithering beneath the man’s skin.


“You’re an Anzat.” Simmex coolly stated.


“What’s it to you, boy? The Jedi got some warrant for my arrest?”


Xandarrr bellowed a lengthy reply, his lips curled into a smile.


“My master says you should come with us. We have much to discuss.”


***

Time had passed, how much Polchis could not say. His eyes opened to see that he was in a warehouse. His head was groggy and the last thing he remembered was running down an alley.


Then he remembered the soup.


Ah yes, those damned Jedi got me. Blasted soup was so tempting too.
He’d had a mission to accomplish, but no one told him he’d be up against Jedi. When he saw them, his probiscci had screamed in utter delight at the mere thought of dinning on their brains. It was a desire too strong for him to control. He had to give in to the hunger.


But now his hunger had got him caught.


“Whha- day-aa-wunt.” For some reason he had trouble speaking. Must be some Jedi trick.


The Wookiee spoke first, his words a series of growls and guttural noises. The boy served as his interpreter.


“We want to know who hired you.”


Polchis smiled, a stream of drool leaked out, but it didn’t faze his self-confidence. “You’ll get nothing out of me, Jedi. I know your code. You can’t torture me, you can’t even force yourself into my thoughts. Too violent for you passivist monks. Might lead you astray, hey?” He actually chuckled.


They all knew he was right. The Jedi code prevented them from doing anything. They would have to hand him over to the authorities and hope that they would have better luck. That, and hope that those authorities were not on some gangster’s payroll.


Simmex stood there in his tan pants and a lightly faded green shirt with pockets. Old worn leather shoes adorned his feet and a swaggered cap sat lopsided on his head. He had a brown hide coat draped back over his shoulder and a blaster holstered in a cross draw rig.


But no lightsaber.


Polchis looked over at the gray haired Wookiee. Like all Wookiees, he didn’t wear any clothing and he could tell it was a male by the lack of breasts. Again he didn’t see any lightsaber. Just a curved dagger in its black scaled sheath and a strange looking baton, perhaps a shock stick or net launcher.


He couldn’t read a thing from the Wook’s dark gray muzzled face or his black eyes. The boy however, wore a cocky smile on his smooth face, and locks of blonde hair could not hide that look in his blue piercing eyes.


He knew something, something that told him they had the upper hand and there was a lot he didn’t know.


The boy’s words were crisp and conversational, as if their revelation was nothing at all. “We are not Jedi.”


That tendril of drool now poured down onto Polchis’ chest. His mouth sat agape as he struggled to make sense out of it.


“If you aint Jedi, then what are you?”


“Who do you work for?” Simmex repeated.


Sith. Maybe Dark Jedi.


“I can’t tell you. If I do, I’ll die.” Fear crept into Polchis’ voice.


“You’re a murderer, Polchis. A drug dealer, a pimp, and a slaver. But it’s your boss we want.”


Polchis hesitated. They knew his name, his background, all too much. If he ratted out, his only hope was if these guys took out everyone that might come after him. He’d have to spill the beans on the whole organization. But, and it was a big but, he didn’t actually know who all he was working for. He knew some thugs, some local bosses, but they were only lieutenants in a bigger operation. And that guy, the boss who ran the whole show, well he didn’t like to show himself off.


He would also be the one who would hire a hit to take out the crawling yellow ranat who dared to threaten his business.


“My boss won’t get you anywhere.” The seriousness of the situation was clearing his head now. “You want the guy above him, and maybe the guy above that guy. I don’t know how high it goes up. I’m only an assassin. You can’t protect me if I tell you what I know.”


Simmex looked over to the Wookiee, a sharp growl was spoken.


“So be it.”


Simmex stepped back and Xandarrr took over. He pulled out that dagger that hung by his side. It was a ceremonial looking thing, plated in gold, trimmed with silver and crested with tiny jewels. Just as Polchis was admiring the scrollwork on the blade, it disappeared.


The motion was so quick that Polchis couldn’t figure out what happened. The Wookiee stood closer to him now. He could feel the thing’s warm breath huffing on his face. A strange wet sensation dribbled down his thigh. He looked down and saw a furry fist pressed against his lower abdomen, a gold hilt peeking through the Wookiee’s furry clutch.


“You stabbed me?” Polchis remarked, utterly calm.


He was in complete shock.


***
[Now you will tell us who hired you.]


“Tell us who hired you.”


The bloodied, bruised Anzat looked up through swollen eyes. His probiscci drooped down lifelessly. “I-I cc-c-can’t.”


Xandarrr took the knife, and with a flick of his wrist, cut off one of the probiscci.


Polchis flinched as the pain shot to his brain.


“You can tell us and we will let you go.” Simmex conveyed every bit of empathy and compassion he could. “But your silence will only prolong your pain. We are very patient…and that information is vital.”


The Anzat’s eyes quivered as he measured his captor’s resolve. Finally he gave in, “All right…it was a human…his name was Gil Suulti. He runs a business in New Baldan, Legal Consulting. Gave me a job.”


Simmex stared at the man with unblinking eyes. Beads of sweat started running down Polchis’ forehead. “Did Suulti tell you any details?”


“He said there were two targets. A human and a Wookiee. He was especially adamant that I make sure to take out both targets as soon as possible.”


Xandarrr growled.


“You may be right master. We still have time enough to strike tonight.” Simmex looked over at Polchis. “And what of him?”


[He’s an Anzat…we must kill him.]


Simmex stared at the beaten and bloody Anzat. He was defenseless. But Xandarrr had declared the man’s fate, thus the apprentice pulled out his Czerka GL-56 blaster and leveled the flared muzzle at the captive’s forehead.


Yet the hand trembled, and the apprentice hesitated. He lowered the blaster. Simmex couldn’t bring himself to look his master in the eye, for shame told him he had failed. It was the duty of an apprentice to serve his master, to follow his commands. But Simmex was unable to do this task. However, his master’s reply was not what he expected.


[I’m proud of you Simmex, you let your heart control your intelligence. That is a sign of wisdom.] The Wookiee flared his muzzle in a beastly grin.


Simmex eyed his master with a questioning gaze. “Then you have something in mind?” A small sign of relief flashed across his face.


[Yes. I do.]


***
City of New Baldan: Outside a building labeled “Legal Consulting”


The morning had a deceptive chill, especially with the glowing, radiant beams of the sun washing over the tops of the city’s buildings. Simmex followed his master into an alley as they approached a back door to the building. The Anzat lead the way.


[Stop.] Xandarrr growled.


Polchis froze before the door. It wasn’t that he recognized the command. He had no choice. The Force held him in a death grip.


Xandarrr put his head to the door. To Simmex it looked as if he were listening to the lock. He heard a metallic ‘pink’, and the door opened inward.


Maybe he was listening to the lock.


Inside there was a small, dimly lit hallway with grubby green painted walls and warped flimsiplast flooring. A glow panel flickered on the ceiling, some gnats floating around its enthralling illuminance.


There was also a pungent smell of methane.


Xandarrr entered first, no weapons other than the ones he was born with. Simmex nudged Polchis to follow, and the wounded Anzat limped in. Soon the stink became apparent. An open door revealed a revolting fresher that was in desperate need of a cleaning. Simmex used the Force to relieve himself of the need to breath. Luckily they kept moving and the smell let them be.


Carefully the trio avoided the front office and crept up the stairs to the second floor. At the top they encountered a pot-bellied human with a big bushy-blonde beard.


“What are you guys doing? Polchis? Polchis, that you?”


“Yes Ceran, it’s me.” The Anzat let out a sigh.


“What happened?”


But before Polchis could reply, the blonde bearded man collapsed to the floor.


“D-d-did you kill him?” Polchis stared at Ceran’s motionless body as they walked by.


Simmex gave him another nudge. “Just unconscious.”


“Nice trick.” Polchis didn’t sound so much impressed as he did afraid.


Upstairs there were several hallways and many, many rooms. Simmex began to wonder how they would find Suulti. Polchis had gone along so far, but there was always a limit.


And then, to the apprentice’s surprise, Xandarrr walked right down a hall, put his hand on a door as if he could feel the presences behind it, and kicked the door in.


Not wanting to fall behind, Simmex charged in behind his master and pushed Polchis in with them.


“Polchis?” A squat little man sat behind a desk, a large book unfolded before him. “Polchis, what are you-“ But he stopped, where his words ended, his eyes continued. First he looked at Xandarrr, then Simmex. “You! Polchis I didn’t want you to bring them to me!”


Simmex quickly took in the situation, still adjusting to his master’s lead. Besides the man behind the desk, who he assumed to be Suulti, there were also two large bodied droids, both of them well armed and flanking the desk.


“I’m sorry Mr. Suulti…” Polchis’ reply was both half sob and half apology.


The little man’s face became suspicious. He was sharp, Simmex granted him that. “So they made you lead them here. And now I suppose that you’ve fulfilled your bargain with them…you get to leave.”


Simmex sensed it, a razor sharp ‘pang’ in the back of his mind, but his reflexes paused, startled by the firm composure of Xandarrr.


Suulti pulled a blaster out from under his desk, raised the weapon, squeezed the firing stud, and sent a scorching azure beam into the Anzat’s face. Then Suulti made the mistake of pointing the weapon at the Wookiee.


Xandarrr never moved. Without any visible action or reason, the blaster in Suulti’s hand crumbled into pieces, disintegrating in his grasp. Suulti looked at the useless handle he held in his palm. In a frustrated fit of helplessness, he threw the blaster’s grip at the Wookiee, but it just stopped in midair as if it hit an invisible wall.


Suulti was fuming. This Wookiee was making him look like an imbecile. ”Guards, attack!”


Reacting to their master’s verbal commands, the pair of droid bodyguards raised their arms and primed their autoblasters. It took a fatal second for the weapons to charge up as the power cells whined to full power. This time Xandarrr lifted his arm with a casual swipe. The droids’ whining increased. Servomotors began to tremble, pieces of the droids’ exoskeleton rattled in their housing mounts. The high pitched whine was now an ear splitting scream. Bursts of electrostatic energy danced across the droids’ frames. Their eye lenses burnt out in tiny explosions, shattering in their sockets. Suddenly their vocoders started emitting computer babble and the towering machines fell to their knees as their support systems gave way. Charred tendrils of smoke filled the air with the stink of fried plastic and burnt hydraulic fluids.


Amid this display of power, Suulti watched wide eyed as his droid protectors were destroyed with a simple wave of a hand. When the things finally died and collapsed to the floor, Suulti felt compelled to do the same. Losing all the strength to stand, he slumped back into his chair.


The Wookiee motioned the smoke out of the room, sweeping it out with the Force, and began speaking in a series of harsh groans.


“My master wants to know the name of your employer and how we may find him.” Simmex was as calm as a flat sea as he spoke. “He warns that if you do not, he will light you on fire and let you burn until reason finds you.”


Scared beady eyes darted back and forth. Suulti had seen enough demonstration from the Wookiee to know the ultimatum as no idle threat.


His voice trembled as he spoke. “There’s more than one…three actually. They work as sort of a…committee. I don’t know their names, not their real ones at least, but they refer to themselves as Mr. Gris, Mr. Grigio, Mr. Cinzento, and Mr. Cepo. They run the entire slave operation, the whole thing. I take orders from their couriers. They meet with their lieutenants rarely, usually only if someone screws up…or if they’ve got something special for him.” He paused as he gathered his thoughts. “Th-the couriers show up regularly on the first of the month and whenever there’s a special message from one of the bosses.”


Simmex eyed the sweaty, balding human, then looked over to his master. Suulti couldn’t understand what they said. Xandarrr nodded in approval at the suggestion and Simmex turned his head back around to Suulti. “You are going to do something very stupid. A ‘screw up’ as you put it. It will be foolish enough that it will attract the committee’s attention. You will lay low until one of their couriers seeks you out. Once we have him, we’ll be able to find the committee and you’ll be free to go.”


The little man sat still in his chair behind his grossly oversized desk. It epitomized his stereotype, the little crime boss wannabe who overcompensates for what he lacks. All of it was pitiful really. He was obviously way over his head and at the mercy of two mad Jedi. Behind the sheen of sweat that covered his face, there was a tiny mind churning wildly for an answer.


“So…I help you…and you’ll let me go.” He looked up at the Xandarrr and Simmex, both of them bobbed their heads. “Just like you did Polchis…”


Yes, these two Jedi were very crafty. They’d probably made the same kind of promise to the Anzat. Help us and we will let you go…right into the jaws of death. Oh, they didn’t get their hands dirty. No, they let somebody else do that.


“Mr. Suulti, we will not guarantee your safety from your employers, only from us.”


Suulti’s shoulders shrugged as the full weight of the matter sunk in. If he told them to shove it, they’d kill him-


No. They wouldn’t kill me...they’d need me alive.


So they’d used their Force powers to control him, to force him to do what they wanted. He didn’t imagine that it would be pleasant being toyed with like a zombie. However, if he agreed to help them, to go along with their plan, then he could avoid the pain of the brute force approach. These wackos were obviously out to kill the whole committee. As long as they succeeded, and he didn’t see any reason why they wouldn’t, then all he had to do was stay alive long enough for them to get it done. Once the committee was gone, he’d be free and clear!


“All right. I’ll do it.”


***
Polchis stood on the street corner as blissfully ignorant as anyone could be when death was about to strike with a blow from behind.


It was a crowded corner. There were four other individuals waiting for the traffic light signal’s walking sign to flash blue. They wore suits and dresses neatly pressed for another day at the office. The Anzat next to them was similarly dressed in a fine cream colored suit. His black hair was slicked back and his almond eyes glowed with a warmth they hadn’t held in life.


It was an illusion that defied all scrutiny.


Another man approached the group from behind. His movements were brisk. Stopping at the edge of the cluster of people, he pulled out a blaster and opened fire. There was only one shot, one ruby red beam visible for only the flash of an instant. The deadly blaster bolt went through Polchis’ head and slammed into the side of the building across the street. The people screamed and began to run…


… and the footage stopped.


The news holovid reporters rambled on about the shooting and the unidentified shooter. Local authorities suspected that it was gang related. When pushed about the high profile clothing of both the shooter and the victim, the police simply retorted that it was obviously an offworlder gang matter and not some local gang dispute.


Simmex paused the holoset right on the image of Suulti. His face was a little fuzzy but it was good enough for someone to identify him. Someone like the committee.


It took three days before the knock on the door came. A sharp double rap that mysteriously came out of nowhere.


Suulti didn’t even notice the knock. He was still dumbfounded by the whole occurrence. He couldn’t believe that the two nutcases had used the Force to do what they did. First they manipulated Polchis’ dead body like a puppet with sinister control. His movements were as fluid and lifelike as could be. Then they created an illusion to hide the preexisting blaster burn that had scoured his forehead. The very same wound that he had inflicted on Polchis.


Poor Polchis. Suulti actually felt sorry for him now. He had complete empathy for the Anzat. It was almost enough for him to wish that he could undo the cold blooded murder that he’d committed. Alas, if he truly got a wish, he’d sooner cast it on his own freedom than Polchis’ life.


And yet here he was, making the same deal Polchis did, and hoping against hope that somehow he could pull it off where Polchis could not.


While Suulti was lost in his thoughts, Simmex opened the door and simultaneously threw the hapless knocker into the room. The courier slid along the simplast floor and collided into a foamfit couch.


A blaster skidded to Suulti’s feet.


There was a cloud of tension sucking up the element of time itself as the small pistol rested on the floor beneath Suulti. Time came to a stop and the cloud of tension was so thick that Suulti thought he would choke to death right there. No one moved in the uncomfortable silence. Xandarrr and Simmex held a steady gaze. Suulti took infinite care in his next movement. He would reach down slowly and hand the gun over…


No.


Cold realization smacked Suulti upside the head as the stupidity of the action dawned upon him. These guys would probably want him to pick it up. It would give them the excuse they needed to kill him. Especially now that they had the courier.


No. Instead of picking it up, he decided to simply walk away from the weapon and put as much distance between it and himself as possible.
Xandarrr flashed him a snarled, toothy grin and snatched the blaster with the Force. It flew into his paw with the yank of an invisible string. The courier started to stir but Simmex quickly glued him in place with an equally invisible Force wall.


After closing the door, Simmex walked over and knelt down by the courier. “Were you sent here to deliver a message to Mister Suulti?”


The courier nodded his thin face, the bangs of his short black hair spilling across his forehead.


“Then you were sent by the committee.”


This time the courier did not move.


Simmex stood up sharply with a grimace. He was getting tired of these interrogations. Each time it was the same thing. No one ever just wanted to answer the questions. It was always a matter of fear and trust. You either had to make the individual fear you more than the thing that kept their mouth shut or you had cause them to trust you. Sometimes it was enough to cause them to mistrust their employer. Regardless of the fundamentals of the exercise, Simmex was genuinely worn out and empty of patience. He had to stop himself.


I’m tired. My feelings are rash. As much as I like to just bash him…I can’t. I’m just beat and in need of rest. Need to step back…take a breath…and reevaluate the situation.


The thoughts worked. He stepped back, took a deep, deep breath, slowly exhaling the air, and felt much better. His mind was clear; the dark vengeful emotions were gone. Now he was ready to try again.


Then the courier grilled his throat and hocked up a massive loogie, spewing it into the air, sending it splashing onto Simmex’s face, smack on the lips of his slightly open mouth.


Suulti could actually feel the heat of the room intensify five degrees. The wrath of the boy happened so fast, he very nearly missed it. Simmex didn’t move, though his body literally trembled with his fury, but when Suulti saw what happened, he knew that the boy had sent out a thought, a thought as powerful and deadly as any bullet. One second Suulti looked at the intense radiance raging in the boy’s eyes. The next second he saw the courier’s left knee invert backwards with an awful dry pop, like a rock cracking from the heat of a fire. The knee bent up in a direction it was never meant to, then sagged back as the force upon it stopped. There was an awful silence that followed it and Suulti couldn’t believe that the man hadn’t screamed. Yet the courier’s mouth was wide open.


Suddenly the ringing in his ears stopped and a blood curdling sound flooded his brain. The courier’s squeal had started at such a high pitch that it was beyond a human’s normal hearing frequency. Now as it was dropping down to the recognizable spectrum, it was more than Suulti could stand.


“Somebody shut him up!”


The screaming stopped.


Suulti took his hands off his ears and looked over at the courier. His face was a bright red and his breathing was rapid. He had a glazed-over look in his eyes and streams of tears pouring down his cheeks.


Simmex spoke in an eerily soothing voice; it was almost as if the outburst had sucked out every bit of anger that had swelled within him. “Now you will tell us who sent you.”


“The committee.”


“And you will tell us how to find them.”


The courier didn’t hesitate, “They meet daily on Windor, in the Grolling District in Penap City. Go to the Biner Building, 35th floor, caf joint called The Rolls. They eat lunch there at 10 o’clock for about two hours then leave to their separate headquarters. I don’t know the locations of all of them, but Mr. Gris stays in the Verullian Resort on Mindee II.”


Simmex waved a hand and silenced the courier. He passed out rather quickly. Simmex darted his gaze over at Suulti, who in turn looked for some sign of compassion in those crystal blue eyes.


“You can go. Are deal is done.”


Suulti looked over at the Wookiee for his approval. Xandarrr bobbed his head and Suulti wasted no time in slipping out the door, thanking his lucky stars, and swearing upon his life that there were better things in this galaxy than slaving.


The apprentice cast a shrewd glance at his master. “Master, are you sure that was wise?”


[I sensed the fear of the maker in that one. He has changed his ways…for the time being. That is all we can hope to achieve for him.]


“But what about the Anzat? Did he not fear for his life as well?”


[He feared for his life, but not for the ways of his life. Killing was all he knew. He simply would’ve went back to it. Yet the human knew a life other than slaving. He will go back to his law firm and more legitimate business. For him it was never about the money but the thrill of the job. The thrill is gone for him now.] He walked over to the courier. [Polchis hunted for the money. And from time to time he found pleasure in the kill. There was no cure for him.]


Simmex watched his master as he stood above the unconscious messenger. “And what about him?”


Xandarrr looked up at his apprentice with an appreciative smile. [Now that is something I have yet to determine. For now, he comes with us.]


***
Windor, Grolling District, Penap City:


The Biner Building was a rather small skyscraper in galactic standards. Its tinted glass windows clawed 340 stories into the air. There was rather little architectural flair to it, just a simple rectangular tower of permaglass. On the 35th floor there was a dark lighted hallway that led off to a dozen or so high class pubs for the social elite. One of those was a caf joint called The Rolls, a place where the power players of industry could enjoy a cup caf with a little liquor, and the business of the day could be discussed with the richness it deserved.


Oddly enough it was Simmex who looked out of place in the gold lit pub. He sat stiffly in a booth, his elbows resting on the table while they tugged at his collar, as he marveled at the ease with which Xandarrr had adopted. The Wookiee’s hair was immaculately groomed and he wore a crisp slate grey suit that fit perfectly. It was the first time he’d ever seen his Master wear clothing and he looked remarkable comfortable in it as well.


Xandarrr gestured at a passing server. [Can I get another accarrgm?]


“Yes sir, right away.” The server flashed a friendly smile and retired to the bar.


Xandarrr cracked a lavish smile. He so enjoyed not having to bear the awkwardness of an interpreter. Places like this hired only the most educated and skilled of their craft. And there was good reason they got away with it; the tips were ridiculously lucrative.


“Master, I think I know who our committee is…” Simmex did not point or even cast a glance. He simply gave a subtle nudge of his head in the general direction of his suspects.


Four individuals sat at a round tabled booth littered with cocktails and spiked cafs both empty and full.


[What makes you suspect them?] Xandarrr asked.


Simmex smiled for his master had already confirmed his suspicion. It was the tone with which he asked and the slight smugness on his face that gave it away. “There is a darkness that l can feel about them. It is distinctly different from the others.”


[Very good. However…] There was a teasing gleam in his black eyes, […I’m willing to bet you also overheard them talking and the mentioning of their names…Mr. Gris, Grigio, Cinzento, and Cepo.]


“Yes, and there was that.” Simmex returned his own toyful smirk.


There was no hiding from his master. Xandarrr was far more gifted in the Force and had several centuries of experience.


“So, how do we want to play this?”


Xandarrr was quiet as the server approached with his drink. He thanked her and waited till she was gone, first taking a sip of the potent brew. [We could wait and hunt them down individually after they leave. That would give us the benefit of privacy. Of course there are four of them so at least two would be completely dependent on tracking sensors. That leaves a possibility for detection and escape.] This time he took a much longer swig from his glass, flaring his teeth as the spicy mix warmed his throat on the way down. [Alternatively, we take them now, while we have them all together. It eliminates all possibility of escape at the cost of publicity.]


“So…” Simmex chimed in, “…the real question is how do we make this situation suit us?”


[Precisely.]


Simmex delved into thought while he sipped slowly on his own caf with just a touch of Corellian whiskey. A fire alarm would cause everyone to vacate the pub. They could then use the Force to pin down the committee and have a little chat. Of course they’d have to dismiss the pub’s staff who would most assuredly insist on their vacancy of the building. Then again, he and his master would most likely want to relocate the discussion somewhere else anyways. That would mean that they’d need to persuade the committee to follow them without them trying something foolish.


It would work, but it was a little complicated.


Now if he wanted to get fancy, he could use one of his tranquilizers he kept on hand. In fact, he had one potential alchemistic brew specifically tailored to dull the mind and open it to influence. He could persuade the waitress to slip some into their drinks. After a few minutes he’d walk over and introduce himself, using the Force, he’d suggest that they continue their conversation somewhere else.


It was simpler, less chaotic, and had fewer opportunities of going wrong. In fact the only problem would be convincing the waitress.


And amid all the other approaches and possibilities, there was always brute force. They could simply snap their necks from the distance and no one would be any wiser as to what happened and why. Except maybe a nosey Jedi.


Simmex weighed the choices as he finished his caf. When the empty glass attracted the attention of the server, he made up his mind and gave his master a conspiratorial wink. It was a gesture his master knew all too well and was often loath to regret. His apprentice could be very creative, but sometimes he was just a bit too colorful with his ideas.


Yet Xandarrr was impressed with his apprentice. Simmex worked his charm with the waitress, gaining her trust with engaging conversation and keeping her interested with a little flirting and flattery. The woman didn’t stand a chance against the combined powers of the Force and Simmex’s natural confidence. She literally melted in his hands.


And he kept her there for five whole minutes.


Just as they reached the point of the conversation were normal people would’ve exchanged numbers, Simmex slipped in his odd request. “Say, I’ve got some old friends at the table over there…” He glanced in their direction. “…and I wanted to buy them a round of drinks. I was thinking alarian corkscrews, it’s their absolute favorite.”


“Oh, no problem dear. I’ll go ask the bartender right now.” She left with a wink and a smile and melted right back through the tables and toward the bar.


Xandarrr watched the woman and bartender talking, then the bartender got out a datapad. He looked awfully puzzled as he scanned through the pages. Finally he shook his head and the waitress came back their way, snaking through the customers and tables.


“I’m sorry, but the bartender doesn’t know off hand how to make that particular drink. Would you be able tell him?” She asked sweetly.


“Of course. I used to mix them up back when I was in the university…” Simmex carried on as he walked off with her toward the bar.


By now Xandarrr was wearing a devilish smile as he was putting the pieces together. Simmex had specifically asked for a drink that didn’t exist. No doubt from a planet that didn’t exist either. Now he would show them how and while they were distracted…yes, it was just as the old Wook had suspected. While the bartender and the waitress were busy looking in the back for a rare vintage, Simmex was adding a little of his own ingredients. He pulled a vile out of his jacket pocket and poured the clear looking fluid into each of the mugs. The bartender returned with some celery sticks and fresh tomatoes and the waitress was carrying a dusty looking bottle of dark amber liquid. They quickly finished the drinks, adding the last of the ingredients, and the waitress took the platter of spiked concoctions to the four friends at the table booth.


The men who called themselves the committee took the drinks from the smiling pretty waitress without a second thought. Xandarrr was tickled that the men found their mugs of Sith alchemy so delicious, they downed them all in the span of two minutes. His apprentice had become quite skilled in the old arts it seemed.


By now the four men were laughing and enjoying themselves without a care. Simmex glided his way over to their table and introduced himself. Xandarrr used the Force to pick up what they were saying.


“-you see I’ve got this great business opportunity but no one wants to take it and I’m too far out from the Core to have my people jump on it. But seeing that you’re interested, I could let you take a look-“


Simmex was playing to their appetites for greed and chance. It didn’t take long for them to get up and follow him out the door. Xandarrr gestured the server back over and paid the bill for both tables. He then left the building and made his own way toward the hangar. No doubt he’d probably get their before Simmex and his drunken companions.


***
Xandarrr laid out on a padded bench seat in the ship’s cabin area. He propped his back up on the cabin wall and rested one of his arms on the nearby table. The grey interior of the room was lit by rows of white glowstrips in the ceiling. It was a large enough area, housing the ship’s dinning and lounging facilities. There was a small kitchen unit complete with sink and stove, a fold out dinner table that collapsed into the deck, and a half dozen swivel chairs and holoscreens for mind numbing entertainment.


Simmex led the committee right in and waved them to sit. All of them did as they were commanded, still half drugged from their drinks and under the influence of the Force. Here in the confines of the ship, Xandarrr and Simmex could have a very quiet conversation with their guests. The insulated armor walls were completely sound proof, and the hatches were locked.


Taking one of the swivel chairs, Simmex crashed down with an umphf, and glanced over at his master. “They’re all yours.”


Xandarrr relished the moment, the culmination of three years worth of work and investigation. He and his apprentice had scoured this sector of the Outer Rim chasing down every clue they could find on the rampant underground slaving ring that was spreading like wildfire. At first they were convinced that the Hutts were behind it, but that was not the case. For ten years the underground slave trade had grew and expanded to the point that no one was safe. In the beginning the slavers only targeted isolated, primitive societies, raiding their villages and taking whatever captives their ships could hold. But now they were getting bolder. Families were having their children kidnapped because they were one of the ideal species that the slaver’s customers preferred. It got to the point that the customer could actually pick and choose the sex, species, and age of the slave they wanted. Business boomed for the slavers, and the Galactic Republic sat back and squabbled over territory issues and district concerns. Even the vaunted Jedi Council was unable to put a halt to the criminal’s enterprise. The committee had been far too secretive for the Jedi. They left behind no evidence trails to follow. In fact the only way Xandarrr and Simmex were able to make any progress was to use means beyond the Jedi’s repertoire.


So much time and effort just to catch four people. And all four of them human males. Xandarrr noted.


He was disgusted by these excuses of life. Being a Wookiee, he knew the horrors of slaving first hand. Both of his parents were the victims of Trandoshan slavers. Even his apprentice had not been spared the horrors of slavery. If it were not for Xandarrr, he still would have been an abused servant to a xenophobic Falleen noble.


Thus this was a personal matter for them. These four men before them deserved to be punished for the crimes they instilled on the helpless and the weak. There was no worse a crime than the ones committed against children.


[So Simmex, we now have the hearts and minds of those responsible for entire Outer Rim slaving ring.]


One of the men’s starry eyed expressions snapped into clarity. “Who are you? Why’d you bring us here-“


Simmex cut off his questions. “Enough!”


There was quiet then. Xandarrr continued. [It seems this one speaks Wookiee.] He smiled a predator’s grin at the thin, pale human. [We shall allow him to negotiate his partners’ fates.]


“You’re going to kill us?”


This time it was Simmex’s turn to be surprised. [No, we are not.]


“But…you know we are slavers?”


[That is correct. And you run the largest, most elaborate slaving operation there is…your specialty being custom order slaves tailored to their master’s requests. Most of those being children.]


The man looked down at his feet, a moment of shame taking its toll. “I-I-I have a problem. I know that much. There’s just something about-“


“Stop.” Simmex commanded. “You will speak no more.”


[You are guilty of your crimes, for that there is no doubt. But death would be too sweet a punishment for the likes of such a crime. You have sentenced innocents to years…no…lifetimes of misery.] He looked over at Simmex. [The punishment should therefore meet the crime.]


Simmex nodded, relieved that his master was not truly going to let these men leave without their due.


It was time for a side trip.


***
Ithor:


In all the galaxy there was not another planet as lush as Ithor. Every type of exotic plant that a sentient mind could imagine could be found there in its rich, flowing rainforests. Yet access to the surface was closely guarded by the Ithorian herdsmen, but there were always ways of remaining unseen.


Stepping upon the sacred soil of the planet, Xandarrr let out a deep breath that made him long for trees of Kashyyyk. It reminded him that he’d been away for far too long. Simmex trudged down the ship’s ramp behind their four captives who stumbled into the bright glare of the sunlight.


“Welcome to Ithor.” A fresh, captivating smile crossed Simmex’s face. He still didn’t know what his master had in mind. “So master, are you ready to reveal you surprise?”


[It’s right past those trees.] Xandarrr motioned all them to follow.


This was a familiar place to the Wookiee. It was not because it reminded him of his homeworld, but because he’d been here before. Long ago his own master had brought him here and shared a secret with him. It was Xandarrr’s master who had impressed upon him the need to seek out justice where others could not. He also stressed the importance of matching the punishment of the individual to the crime that they committed.


It was here in this wet, lush, shaded area of Ithor that his master had reserved the most severe of all punishments.


Xandarrr led the way through the trees and underbrush, swiping through the vines and ferns with his sharp claws. After a short trek, they came across a clearing beneath the forest canopy. As Simmex’s eyes adjusted to the dim light, he noticed a gaping hole on the forest floor with several vines stretching out of it. Yet as they got closer, the vines began moving. Immediately his senses were struck with a powerful aroma. He couldn’t identify the smell but there was something intoxicating about the scent.


[Be careful Simmex. The smell is a lure.]


Simmex skidded to a stop as he noticed the vines reaching out to him. Now he could see the gaping hole for what it really was…a gaping mouth!


“It’s a sarlacc!” He gasped.


[Yes. As my master told me, there is no worse punishment in the galaxy than to be food for a sarlacc.] He reached down and snatched a plump rat, tossing it into the sarlacc’s maw like a treat for his pet. [I have known this creature for some time. It has fed greatly in my care. Though I’m a little overdo in my duties. It’s been…oh…fifteen years since I’ve last seen her.] There was longing smile on the Wook’s face.


“You’re going to feed us to that!” Mr. Gris snarled.


Simmex looked back at the slavers, bound hand and foot to each other with gravity restraints, and laughed. The restraints made it impossible for the men to escape. It magnified their weight so that they were glued to the ground. Only the controller, which Simmex held in his hand, could deactivate the effect.


Xandarrr used the Force to nudge a few of the probing tentacles away. He turned to face his captives and prepared to announce their fate. He used the Force to implant his words in their minds that way they would not need an interpreter. [For the crime of slavery against the innocent and the young, and by your own admission of guilt, I hereby sentence you to an eternity of pain and suffering in the stomach of the sarlacc. They say an individual is slowly digested over the course of a thousand years in its bile. During that time your skin and muscle tissue will be devoured by its peculiar stomach acids and its blood will become yours in a symbiotic relationship of a prolonged dinner. It is unknown whether any of its victims ever truly die, for their consciousness is infused into the sarlacc as part of a collective mind. Sometimes its victims actually become part of it, being attached to the lining of its stomach as it enters a period of growth. It is also said that the sarlacc can taste your fears and will use them to keep you in state of subservience. ] He turned toward the sunken mouth of the beast. [What’s important is that you will have a very long time to think about your crimes…and it will be unpleasant.]


Xandarrr nodded to his apprentice. Simmex released the gravity restraints. Before any of them could make a run for it, the tentacles of the sarlacc shot out and snared its prey. The tentacles lashed out and reeled them down into its toothy maw where a snapping beak greeted them with drooling tongue. Their screams echoed in forest canopy as they faded into the beast’s stomach.


There was a surreal silence afterwards as the forest’s denizens returned to their peaceful background noise of chirps and sing songs. Simmex’s master put a heavy paw on his shoulder and cast a longing glance at the sarlacc.


[It knows that you are with me, Simmex. It has come to appreciate me and the gifts I bring. In a way, we are friends, the sarlacc and I. Perhaps in time it will extend that friendship to you as well.] He turned and took a step toward the ship. [Come Simmex, are work is not done. There is always justice to be brought and places where we must go.]


“Yes master.”


And so they wandered back to their ship to unknown destinations. Places where justice was not dealt with by the authorities and could not be remedied by the Jedi. For those instances there was only one solution…a way known only to the Sith.
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