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Chapter 4

Aboard Mally, Rin settlement spaceport

I'm going to go back in there in a moment and press her a little. Keep your eyes open. I want to know what she is feeling and thinking.
—Evening Delwynn to Shalli

Special Agent Evening Delwynn sat in her office, adjacent to her quarters. She was reclining in her desk chair; the back of her head set gently against the wall; her eyes closed. Her office was plain, containing very few features that would stand out anywhere, let alone on the Mally. A couple of certificates graced the wall behind the detective, but the only significant decor were three potted plants on a shelf, with two holopictures that alternated in between the plants. The shelf was opposite her desk, near the hallway access door. Delwynn sat calmly, contemplating, attempting to connect the dots that she had been given.

Master Greystone and Shalli quietly entered the office and sat in the two seats to the right of the doorway; the door whisking open and shut as the only sound that could aurally be noticed. Neither spoke initially, as Delwynn did not open her eyes. She was not fazed by their entrance, and she knew exactly who had entered because of the perpetual silence. Without opening her eyes, she pointed to a datapad on her desk. Although not trained as a Force-user, but rather as a keen investigator who was trained in espionage at one point, she sensed Shalli rise and pick it up. The beeping on the datapad was the only thing to break the silence for three more minutes.

"Regueny has been abducted, Gallien is in a holding cell, Lind is dead, and I have a headache!" Delwynn harshly smarted.

"We can leave," Shalli responded somewhat unsympathetically as she stood.

Master Greystone put his arm against the Omwati Jedi, forcing her gently back into her seat. "She doesn't mean a literal headache, Shalli," Greystone remarked.

Finally, Delwynn opened her eyes, staring softly and plainly at Shalli. There was no somewhat-callous façade hiding her true emotion. Still, Shalli could not read her thoughts or feelings. She was, in a general sense, upset, but everything else was veiled. Obviously, the Omwati surmised, she was troubled over the recent events. Perhaps this was the "headache." Nevertheless, something else seemed to be bothering Agent Delwynn: something much deeper, more troubling.

"Well," Delwynn added, "the tips we received on Regueny before led us to Gallien and Lind. Perhaps there is something else we are overlooking."

"Who did the tipster say they were working with?" Master Greystone asked.

"They didn't. Conveniently. All they mentioned was that Czerka was potentially involved."

"Evening, could our source have been on the inside?"

"Perhaps, Master. I think it was actually someone on the periphery, though. The details are too sketchy other than images of Regueny at various places, with various thugs."

"It might be more beneficial, then, to start with Regueny, himself."

"Possibly, but we don't have him."

"So, what do you suggest, Eve?"

"I think we have four options. First, we can interrogate Gallien and see what she knows. Although, right now I doubt she knows much at all. Second, we can simply let Regueny go and not follow after him. There is no logical reason for him to have been abducted, unless he was about to turn himself in, or he planned to rat out other people. Since we have no indication that the latter part is true, this abduction makes absolutely no sense. Third, we can go after Regueny and interrogate Gallien. Then, we drop her off on Coruscant to be tried for criminal activity. Fourth… well, I have no fourth option at the moment."

Master Greystone chuckled at her remarks and stood, saying, "I guess you've made up your mind, then."

Shalli was puzzled. What did Delwynn decide? All she did was list her options.

The Jedi Master then moved toward the exit, but stopped in front of the holopictures. After a quick glance, he turned back to the Special Agent. "Any luck finding the man?"

Shalli was now completely confused. Who was this "man?" Did it have something to do with the case, or those holopictures on the mantle over her head that she just now noticed?

"No," Delwynn replied, looking away. "The computer is still searching. It has been searching for five years."

"He'll be found."

"The galaxy is not a small place, you know."

"Yes, I know, Evening. I also know that he will be found."

"The irony is, Master, I don't even want revenge any more."

"That's a good place to be. Eleven years has helped that in some ways."

"No, Master, it hasn't. The last eleven years were a struggle to prevent such emotion from taking hold."

"And, in the end, you will be vindicated. The Force works mysteriously, Evening."

At that, Master Greystone turned and exited the room. Agent Delwynn dismissed Shalli, but the Omwati did not move. She was more stunned then anything else. The entire atmosphere of the office had turned to sadness, but the Omwati was not able to identify it as such. In those moments, Shalli simply sensed that the aura within the room reflected her superior officer. She attempted to glance up at the holopictures, but decided against it. These were Agent Delwynn's deep thoughts, in her own private sanctuary. It would be better to leave her be. So, the Jedi stood, faced Delwynn, saluted and departed, pondering what had been briefly shared. Eventually, she thought, she would learn the truth. Until then, it would simply need to remain hidden.

— — —

In the maintenance bay, alone, sat Asana Lani. The Lethan Twi'lek had her eyes closed, the side of her head gently pressed against a storage bin. She had not slept for hours and was in need of a break. After the team returned from the skirmish, she retreated to her favorite place on the ship. It was not the most comfortable location to doze off, but it was mostly private and in a familiar environment. In a way, this was her lab; Delwynn had given her permission to arrange it as the young Twi'lek saw fit. Now, on a small cushion, in the corner, she sat half-asleep. The near-silent humming of the computers and machines was of no bother to her, but when the door slid open, she noticed that her peaceful sanctum had been compromised.

"Asana?" Danstari inquired, not seeing anyone as he entered.

"Over here," she unenthusiastically responded, waving her red hand; her eyes remained closed. "What do you want?"

"I have some more questions about the boss," Danstari said, peering around the room until he spotted the Twi'lek waving him over.

"Then, come sit over here. We'll talk… while I sleep."

Danstari obliged the Twi'lek and moved to sit next to her, to her right, on the floor. Asana neither moved nor opened her eyes as the Lieutenant adjusted his position and attempted to make himself somewhat comfortable. He touched her on the forehead with his right palm, gently, as if attempting to wake a sleeping child. Then, chuckling, he poked her twice above the nose.

"Stop that, you nerfherder!" she shouted, finally opening her eyes.

"Nerfherder?" the pilot replied with an almost silly-attempt to look offended.

"Yes, nerfherder."

"Come to think of it, I've never seen a live nerf outside a zoo."

Asana's annoyance subsided, and she laughed at the premise. "City boy, are you?"

"Oh, yeah. Born and raised on Coruscant. Never even left it until I entered the Judicial Forces."

"Interesting, city boy. So, what did you want to know?"

"Does boss always sneak up on people at random times?"

Asana started laughing. "You mean, like she did in the spaceport corridor?"

"Well… kind of like that. How did I not notice her?"

"Ha! She didn't want to be noticed. And, while she's good at sneaking up on people, it is never random."

"Come on, Asana. How can you say that?"

"No, it never is. She only does it when she wants to."

"You think it would be hard to miss her since she seems so tight and tense all the time."

"No, Waron. Not 'tense.' 'Intense.'"

"What?"

"I can call you that, right?"

"'Waron?' Yeah, sure. Nobody else does, but I don't care. Anyway, what do you mean, 'not tense?'"

"She really isn't a tense person. In fact, she seems quite relaxed most of the time. She just takes her work very seriously. She has very high standards and just tries to make all of us be the best we can be at investigating."

"Funny. I'm not an investigator; I'm a pilot."

"So, I'm a forensics specialist and self-trained droid technician."

"Yeah, but you were trained in forensics. That's part of this job."

"That doesn't matter when working with Delwynn. She makes you do anything and everything."

"Like what?"

"Like, two weeks ago on Alsakan I had to rummage through seventy bags of rotting garbage to find a random datapad."

"That's disgusting, Asana. Still, I really didn't sign up for this."

"I know, you were chosen."

"'Reassigned' would be more accurate."

"Is that bad? What happened?"

"I was just a pilot for various government officials. I was with Senator Valorum for a couple of years, and he suggested that I would be good in investigative work."

"So?"

"I'd never considered it before, Asana. Apparently Senator Valorum asked Delwynn if she needed a pilot. I guess that is how I ended up here."

"Are you unhappy about it?"

"No. I just never saw myself as an investigator before. I wanted to be a pilot in the Defense Force."

"Well, Waron, I'm glad you're here. As much as I love that little droid, you have been more fun to be around then Emra, already."

The lieutenant just sulked in the corner, recalling his recent blunders.

— — —

Shalli had made her way into the meeting room adjacent to the interrogation room. Along that adjacent wall was a one-way view screen which allowed the Omwati to see Catiene Gallien waiting. The young woman, only twenty-five years of age, was sitting in there quietly, fiddling with her long brown hair. Her white clothes had been lightly soiled by the purple dust of Qina during the attempted abduction. Her eyes were glazed, as if fatigued, yet Shalli sensed no emotion from the woman. In fact, as she had sensed nothing from Delwynn earlier, she once again sensed nothing from Gallien. None. Then again, the Jedi Knight had never been very successful at sensing emotions or intentions of individuals. This was her one glaring weakness that almost kept her from advancing through the ranks. Surely, she thought, someone as naïve and open-minded as this young woman could be read. Yet, she sensed nothing.

After a couple more moments of prodding the aura in the Force, Shalli saw Agent Delwynn enter the interrogation room. The investigator shuffled some papers inside a file, and tinkered with a datapad. Delwynn neither looked up nor regarded the young woman in any manner. Other than her preparatory work, she seemed to be intentionally avoiding the young woman's eye contact. The delay was not just making Gallien nervous, but also Shalli. The Omwati finally began to sense something from the young woman. Fear. And, that same fear penetrated Shalli's almost non-emotive soul. She had never seen an interrogation done by someone other than a Jedi; and, with Delwynn not bound to the Jedi Code, the Omwati did not know what to expect.

"How are you feeling?" Agent Delwynn asked.

"Fine," Gallien stated flatly.

"Do you need something to drink?" Delwynn inquired, calmly.

"No," the young woman responded. "Why am I being held like a prisoner?"

"Unfortunately, these are all the accommodations I can provide for you. Would you rather that I let you go and wander Qina alone? I personally don't think that would be safe."

"No, not particularly, Agent…" The young woman paused. Her face became awash with the same fear from her soul. As the moment passed, she seemed to be fighting back tears.

"Delwynn. Agent Delwynn."

Delwynn took a couple of deep breaths and reclined in her seat. To Shalli, this did not appear as an interrogation. Rather, it seemed almost more like a counseling session. Delwynn was acting in a manner that was calm and almost comforting. Her presence seemed to be more of a security screen than an intimidating force. After a couple moments of Gallien wiping her eyes, she looked up and spoke.

"Why were those green bug-eyed monsters trying to kill me? I'm just a financier."

"Those Rodians must have thought you knew something."

"But, I don't know anything! I just handle money for people. That's my job. I do what my clients want."

"Well, Miss Gallien, the meeting with Senator Regueny might have been a set up. I believe you probably weren't the main target, though."

"That's still not very comforting, Agent Delwynn." Gallien put her hands over her face as she leaned forward. "What have I gotten myself into?"

"I don't know, but I will find out."

"Have I done anything wrong?"

"I don't know. That still needs to be looked at."

"By the Force, I hope not."

"Don't worry. I am going to find the truth, and if you did do anything wrong, I'll make certain you have a chance to make it up."

Agent Delwynn stood, walked around the table to Gallien, whose hands were still over her face. The agent put her right hand on the young woman's left shoulder for a moment, whispered something quietly and turned. The young woman simply nodded and acknowledged what Delwynn had said. Delwynn looked back over her shoulder as the door to the corridor opened. Gallien was still postured at the table wither hands over her face. The agent then lowered her head, and quietly walked out of the room, the door closing behind her.

Shalli stared blankly ahead as Delwynn exited the interrogation room. At the same time, the door to the meeting room whisked open and Danstari entered. Turning her head, she watched the lieutenant as he strode into the room, walking in his normal confident, almost cocky posture, all the while bearing his trademark mischievous smirk. Both did not seem to notice, however, that the door did not close behind him.

"What did I miss?" Danstari asked.

"Just Delwynn being nice," Shalli responded.

"No fireworks?" Danstari inquired, arcing his eyebrows in mischief.

"What did you expect?" the Jedi retorted, hastily. "This young woman has been through a lot in the last couple of hours."

"Still, Delwynn seems like she would be as tough as a boma in interrogation."

"In the Jedi Order, we would take it easy on her right now."

"Maybe, but Delwynn isn't a Jedi."

"No… no, she's not."

"Eh. Anyway, that young lady is quite pretty."

"She's also a key suspect in a smuggling ring," Delwynn said, appearing behind Danstari.

"Sorry, boss," Danstari replied.

"Shalli," Delwynn turned, "what did you sense from her?"

"Honestly, Delwynn, I did not sense anything other than fear."

"Nothing deeper?" Delwynn pressed, visibly not pleased.

"Nothing," the Omwati remarked with a tinge of sadness. "I couldn't get beyond her expressions of fear."

"I'm going to go back in there in a moment and press her a little," Delwynn remarked. "Keep your eyes open. I want to know what she is feeling and thinking."

"What about me, boss?" Danstari asked.

"Stay focused," the agent commented. "She's not your next pickup."

Delwynn exited the meeting room, the door finally closing as she entered the corridor. Shalli turned to face Danstari. With a mischievous grin, she started chuckling, saying, "She has you pegged."

"We'll see. She just likes to sneak up behind me."

"If you weren't always getting in trouble, she wouldn't have to."

Danstari just laughed, taking his fist, he gently pushed her shoulder in a jovial gesture.

Chapter 5

They would still do far worse to me than you ever could!
—Catiene Gallien to Evening Delwynn.

Emra beeped and whirred as Master Greystone hovered over the silver-plated droid. He was on one knee, connecting one of his personal datapads to the small utility droid with a connector tool and wire. He grunted in frustration each time the datapad rebuffed the signal from the droid, rendering the Jedi's effort obsolete. After a few failed attempts, Emra was able to successfully override the personal datapad's settings and transfer the files requested by the Jedi. Pleased, Greystone placed his hand upon the droid and smiled, approving of the acquisition. He instructed the MR-series droid to erase any record of the transfer and turned to a chair near the far end of the room, about five meters away from the corridor access door.

The room was a moderately large expanse, but filled with electronic devices. It was disdainfully called the "computer lab" by Delwynn, who used this room to house the various technologies. In the room were three different holonet receivers—designed for differing encryptions—along with the ship's central computer, two transmitters, five smaller computers with access to Republic records and the Jedi Libraries, and various storage units for computer accessories and parts. Master Greystone sat quietly at the chair, now tampering with another datapad. He glanced upward toward one of the five smaller computers. Labeled as number three, it was busy searching the Republic database. Displayed on the left half of the screen was an ever-so-slightly blurry image of a Human male. The image was clear enough to easily indicate brown hair, fair skin, an angular nose and a dimple on the left cheek. On the right half of the screen were the perpetual sequences of faces, all Human males, appearing and being replaced in rapid succession. The computer was searching for the man who matched the image on the left within the entire Republic database of known and suspected criminals.

It had only been one half hour since the Jedi was visiting with Agent Delwynn in her office. He recollected to his final comment before leaving the office and realized that she had not sacrificed the hunt for her work. Even after eleven years, he thought, she was still searching for the man behind the image. Still. In his daydream, he suddenly dropped his datapad on the ground, it crashing to the floor at his feet. Slightly startled, but unconcerned, he quietly bent forward and picked it up again. Emra scurried toward the Jedi as he retrieved his instrument, wailing loudly with concern. Greystone simply smiled at Emra and thanked her for her time. The droid then beeped cheerfully, spun in a circle like a happy pittin and strode toward the corridor access door.

Before Emra could exit, however, the door whisked open and Evening walked in. She acknowledged the droid, but Greystone could not hear what was being said. He waited until she entered the center of the room and flagged her with his left hand as she was scanning it for his presence.

"Do you have what you need, Master?" Evening asked.

"Yes, my dear, I believe I do," the Jedi responded graciously.

"I know you must be eager to finish your work here on Qina, so I do not want to keep you any longer." Evening pulled a chair away from the computer three and sat in it, facing Greystone.

"Not a bother, Evening. I am happy to be of service."

The two exchanged a smile, but neither said a word for nearly two minutes as both gazed around the room. Finally, Greystone broke the silence.

"I am only sorry that I was unable to prevent the abduction Senator Regueny," he said.

"It wasn't your fault, Master," the agent responded.

"Perhaps," the Jedi retorted, with deliberation and sorrow laced in his voice, "but I feel that my lack of an aggressive nature allowed your mission to be undermined. I had hoped that I could simply follow and shadow the trio without having to fight at all. Not that I wasn't prepared, but I had been hoping strongly that a fight would not ensue."

"I know," Evening responded. "It was a busy marketplace."

Master Greystone looked toward the ceiling, sighed, and continued, saying, "Yes, and there were almost casualties when my mission broke down. That was my first concern."

Evening rose, held out her hand toward her former teacher and helped him stand. Even though he did not need the assistance, he was gracious of the gesture. She put her arm around his shoulders, and offered him a chance to stay, if he so chose. The Jedi declined, for the time being.

"I cannot stay, Evening," Greystone said. "Not now. I should be done here on Qina with this phase of the surveying in about three days. When that is done, I need to present my report to the Council of First Knowledge and offer my proposals. Once I've gone through all the official proceedings, I would be more than happy to rejoin you."

"I can assure you, Master," Evening said, strolling into the corridor with the Jedi. "This investigation will take much longer than three days. You will have plenty of time to join us."

Greystone chuckled as he stopped walking. He stood in front of the door leading to room adjacent to interrogation.

"I'd like to watch you interrogate the young woman, first," he said, smiling. "You were always very good at interrogations."

"Master," she replied, "you really do not have to. I do not want you to be delayed."

"No worries, Evening," he said, putting his arm on her shoulder. "I would love to see this. Plus, it might help keep me updated or give me some leads to keep investigating on this moon."

"How much more do you think there is here?"

"Not sure. I would love to think that this moon was chosen randomly, but I cannot tell. Oh, I forgot to tell you. I found nothing on our dead mercenary. The locals took his body and will turn it over to the Republic officials in a day or so."

"He had nothing on him?"

"Only his identification, a few hundred credits, a lightsaber-sliced blaster, and two blast wounds of standard caliber."

"I appreciate it anyway."

"Anything else I could do? A little diversion from the catacombs would be beneficial here-and-there."

"If you get some time, would you mind surveying the cantina and marketplace briefly to save me the effort? Right after the interrogation I am going to do a walk-through, again, but the local authorities have undoubtedly moved in already."

"Absolutely, Evening. For you, I would. After all, I have time, and the connections with the locals to make sure certain things are handled correctly."

"Out of curiosity, Master, how much time? You said three more days."

"That is how much time remains, or about that much, in my archaeological survey. I have about one year left on the research contract with the Council."

Evening and Greystone both chuckled at the premise of so much time remaining. The Jedi then reached behind him and accessed the meeting room door. As it whisked open, his chuckle turned to laughter, and he took a few steps into the dark room. He then pressed a button and allowed the door to close, hearing Evening quickly quell her joviality before returning to the interrogation of Gallien. His laughter finally began to subside as he walked toward Shalli and Danstari, who were sitting opposite each other at a table. Shalli was reclined, meditating, while Danstari was sitting with his arms folded across the table, his head laying upon his wrists. It appeared he was trying to rest. The seasoned Jedi sensed Shalli's meditation, but opted to disturb her anyway, directing her attention to Gallien, who quietly sat in the interrogation room.

"What do you know of that woman, Shalli?" Greystone inquired.

The Omwati slowly opened her eyes and looked directly at the young financier through the one-directional transparisteel window. She sighed and spoke quietly. "I have no idea. She's too difficult to read."

Greystone was unimpressed by Shalli's response, sensing a wild array of emotions from the young woman in his mere moments of standing there. Mostly, he sensed fear. As he looked upon Gallien, she sat nervously: nervous that the agent holding her in this room was suspicious of her; nervous that the Rodian thugs, who had attempted to abduct her, were going to return; nervous that she would be sent to some horrific place like Kessel or Oovo IV, or even Yawekin 930, for crimes she did not commit. Greystone also sensed that the young woman was confused by the events that had transpired. The combination of fear, anxiety, and confusion was so strong and overwhelming that he was surprised Shalli could not sense it.

The seasoned Jedi neither portrayed nor projected his lack of pleasure with Shalli's inability to sense Gallien's feelings. Instead, he focused his attention toward young Human woman as she sat, albeit impatiently, until the Special Agent returned. At that moment, the door opened and Evening entered. She strode calmly to the seat opposite the suspect. The agent was attempting to continue the peaceful aura from the earlier encounter in the same room. Evening reclined in her seat, placing her hands behind her head.

"Miss Gallien," Evening spoke.

"Catiene," the young Human responded. "Please, just call me Catiene."

"Catiene," Evening continued, "we need your help."

"How can I help?" Gallien asked, visibly confused by the concept.

"I'd like to know what your connection was with Senator Regueny," the agent stated. "How did you know him?"

"Why does that matter?" she retorted.

"It could help us find who tried to hurt you," Evening explained. "If we know that information, we can better protect you in the future, too."

"Look, he was just a business contact," she replied. "I'd never met him in person before our meeting. I had heard of him, as a senator, you know, but I had never seen him in person prior to today."

"Did you have any contact with him prior to meeting him today?" Evening asked, cautiously, apparently not wanting to rattle the fragile emotions of the young woman any more.

"Not really," Gallien replied. Suddenly, however, the young woman froze in place. She stared blankly ahead, as if traumatized by a single thought. Evening asked her if she was fine, to which no response was uttered. Instead, Gallien just sat, blankly, for one long minute. Then, she lowered her head, her complexion relaxing, and simply replied that she did not know anything else.

Greystone did not believe the young woman. He sensed a much greater and deeper knowledge of the situation in her mind. Her thoughts were dwelling on her business; most specifically, she was dwelling on her job security. No, her personal security. He watched Evening slowly stand, open the door and leave the Interrogation Room. He knew the agent's intent, and he turned to exit the meeting room where he was. As he opened the door to leave the room, Shalli rose behind him and followed the near-Human Jedi out of the room. As they both strode into the corridor, Greystone spotted Evening leaning against the wall outside the interrogation room. She was looking down at her feet, her hands crossed behind her lower back, preventing it from touching the pewter-colored wall.

"Master," Evening spoke, still not looking up at the approaching Jedi.

"Evening," Greystone replied. He stopped a mere meter from her, turned and acknowledged Shalli's presence, then positioned himself across the corridor, leaning against the opposite wall.

"I am not certain how hard I should press this woman," the agent confessed.

"What do you sense from her?" Greystone inquired. "Do you think she is lying or hiding something?"

"Absolutely," she remarked. "I know she is hiding something. She's hiding her contacts, her clients, and her motives behind that."

"Yet," Greystone continued, "you are not sure how fragile she is."

"Exactly," Evening replied, looking up at her former teacher.

After a moment of silence, Greystone summoned Shalli back into the meeting room adjacent to the interrogation room. As Greystone returned to the room, he noticed Evening still postured against the wall in the corridor. Pausing, he smiled seeing a former student who had become so successful in helping the Republic. He continued into the meeting room and was promptly spoken to.

"How do you know her, Master Greystone?" Shalli asked harshly.

"Evening?" he retorted with a smile. "I've known her for years."

"I would like to know," she said, plopping into the same seat she had been meditating in a few minutes earlier.

"Suspicious, Shalli?" he asked.

"Actually," Danstari spoke, finally awakening from his brief nap. "I'd kind of like to know, too. I'm just curious, though."

Greystone shrugged. He sensed Danstari's genuine curiousness, but he also sensed Shalli's intense suspicion.

"Well, I guess a brief explanation couldn't hurt," he said. "It's not like there is anything to hide." As he spoke, he glared at the normally non-emotive Omwati, attempting to ascertain her true emotions and intentions. He simply found emptiness. There was no real emotion. No. That was not true. As he dug deeper, Greystone sensed something. There was emotion, but it was so suppressed within her soul that it was nowhere near being expressed. Other than instances of jovial conversation with Danstari, which still resonated inside her hollow heart, he felt no other happiness or sadness within her. Just emptiness. Her time with Evening, he calculated, would only serve to either solve the emptiness or irritate it beyond the Jedi's capacity.

As he sat, Greystone refocused, thinking upon his history with the agent in the corridor. "I met Evening," he said calmly, "sometime around twenty-three standard years ago. She was being trained in the Judicial Forces for espionage. At the time, however, she decided that espionage wasn't what she really wanted to do. So, she took some classes that I was teaching about historical investigation for the Judicial Forces. I had been teaching those classes for about three years, as a favor for the Forces director. At least twelve Jedi taught various classes for the trainees. We thought it would benefit them.

"Anyway, Evening was probably one of my best students during that time. I was so impressed with her intuitive skills and her insight. She seemed to almost know things before they could be fully surmised by anyone else. In truth, it had to do with her focus. She was one step ahead of her peers because she devoted so much attention to whatever she was working on. Yet, she was also skilled in espionage and combat. I believe that the woman then-known as Evening Cara could have easily stayed in espionage if she wanted and probably become one of the best in her field."

"So, wait," Danstari interjected. "You trained her?"

"Indeed, my boy," Greystone somewhat comically replied. "I was her first teacher for investigative techniques. Although, I cannot take credit for her prowess. Her ability far surpasses what I could ever do without the Force."

"Why were you teaching those classes?" the lieutenant continued.

"My goal was to teach the angle of the evidence," the seasoned Jedi explained. "My expertise is in searching the evidence and creating an understanding of events from all that was discovered. I never trained her in interrogation techniques or combat moves; nor did I ever impart knowledge about espionage or diplomacy. I simply taught her how to look at evidence and to anticipate what occurred. Really, all she did was take those nuggets of knowledge and apply them to her many talents. She's become the most skilled investigator I know of."

"Perhaps that's why she's the lead of the G.I.N.'s top response unit," Danstari openly surmised.

"I wouldn't doubt it," Greystone commented.

"You said her name was Evening Cara," Shalli stated, as if hung on those words.

"It was," he replied. "I worked with her for a couple of years. Eventually she married. She can tell you the rest."

"Delwynn got married?" Danstari queried.

"Yes, she did," Greystone replied. "A wonderful man, too."

"There's nothing in the files about him," the Omwati quipped. "What happened to him?"

Greystone searched the Force for how to reply. He knew the entire story of "Mr. Delwynn." As he thought, he realized that it was not time to talk about Evening's personal affairs. He raised his left hand over his head, stretching his body, and spoke. "That's not for me to say, Shalli. Evening will tell you, when the time is right. A lot has happened to her that you are unaware of."

"Well, Master Greystone," Shalli replied, unsatisfied. "What happened to her, then?"

"Life," Greystone replied straightly. "Life happened, and it dealt her a cruel hand. You would never believe it if you lived it. Such are the mysteries of the Force."

At that moment, Evening reentered the interrogation room. She slowly moved toward the chair opposite Gallien. The young woman was now visibly upset to have been waiting all this time in the same room. She mumbled under her breath as the agent sat across from her. Evening did not seem fazed, however, by the sudden display of disdain. As the two Jedi and lieutenant watched from the meeting room, Evening seemed to revel in the show of emotion. It was a window to reach deeper into Gallien's thoughts. Greystone looked over at Shalli and Danstari, who both had risen and walked toward the one-way transparisteel window. Even though they were enthralled, he knew exactly what was about to happen.

"Agent Delwynn," Gallien spat, "I want out of here. You have no right to hold me."

"All I need is your help," Evening evenly replied.

"What for?" the young woman charged. "I told you that I don't know anything more."

"You do," the agent responded.

"No, I don't," the young woman retorted, slamming her right hand onto the table.

Evening leaned forward, placed both elbows on the table and put her hands, crossed, under her chin. She said, "tell me who your client was and I'll let you go."

"What do you mean, 'my client?'" Gallien replied, feigning confusion.

"Who was the client who set up this meeting between you and Senator Regueny?" Evening clarified. Then, her tone became a touch more brash, although not mean-spirited. "Someone other than you must have set it up, because you were not the ring-leader of this madness. Plus, you told me yourself you hadn't met him before. I know you have been paying Regueny and that scumbag Lind! All of it done behind the scenes for a shadowy client. You can't hide behind ignorance, young lady."

"You have nothing on me," the young Human angry spat back.

"Legally, I can bring you to Coruscant right now. In custody, too," the elder woman responded sternly. "If I brought you in, you would face charges of money laundering, accessory to drug smuggling, financing of weapons trafficking, and, based upon today's events, possibly even accessory to kidnapping and attempted murder."

A cold silence filled the interrogation room. Evening sat back, crossed her arms upon the table and waited. Gallien's anger had been washed out by fear. After a moment of visibly pondering what had been relayed to her, the young woman suddenly became angry again.

"They would still do far worse to me than you ever could!" she shouted.

"Not if you tell me who they are," the agent smarted back. "If we know, we can protect you."

Gallien suddenly became somber as she slouched in her seat. "No, you can't. You really can't. Plus, I didn't do half of the stuff you just accused me of."

"I have evidence suggesting you did."

"Well, then I have no response to that. All I did was my job."

"Can you help us, Catiene?"

After a minute of shuffling in her seat, she put her head down, on her wrists. Sobbing was noticeable to anyone who could see her. Two minutes passed with Gallien tossing her head from side to side and periodically slamming her wrists on the table in frustration. Then, the young woman finally looked up, tears streaming down her face.

"Fine," Gallien sputtered. "Agent Delwynn… they'll kill me. They'll… I need your help. The senator… he… told me…"

"Take your time, Catiene," Evening said, placing a cloth napkin on the metallic table.

"I was just trying to do my job!" Gallien shouted. She then paused and recomposed herself, wiping tears with the cloth.

"Which was what?"

"To keep track of payments for my client."

"And who was that?"

"A company from the Seswenna sector."

"What did you do for them?"

"They hired me to pay out individual contracts to various people. Regueny and Lind were just two of them."

"Who was the being that set this up?"

"I don't know. I was approached by a Duros who offered me an opportunity to have a large interstellar trading company as a client."

"And you accepted?"

"Yes. Of course, I did! I wanted to score a big client. He said I would be contacted by HoloNet when needed. A man, whose face I could barely see, always contacted me."

"Could you recognize his face?"

"I might. It depends. His clothing partially obstructed my view."

Evening was feverishly adding these notes to her datapad. After a minute of writing, she spoke again. "What was the company?"

"Eriadu Interstellar Enterprises."

"Had you heard of it before?"

"No, but I did do my research. It had been around for about fifteen years, and primarily worked in trade and distribution for electronic devices, manufactured goods, and pharmaceuticals. They are based on Eriadu and claimed to be working to better that planet's society."

"So, you thought you had scored a big contract?"

"Yes, absolutely. I thought my boss would be very pleased. Look, Agent Delwynn, being a financier on Aargau is next-to-impossible these days. I've made it on my own, all along. I payed for my own education. I worked like a slave to get the job I have. I've tried to do it right. I just followed the orders of my clients and my boss."

"Did your boss know about this contract?"

"Yes. He told me to do whatever they wanted."

"Whatever they wanted?"

"Yes."

"Catiene, please be honest here. Did it ever strike you as odd that he would say that?"

"No, but I was more interested in keeping my job then questioning his orders."

"Did anything surprise you along the way?"

"A few red flags popped up in my dealings over the last couple of months. That's why I contacted Senator Regueny three days ago."

"Catiene, you contacted Senator Regueny?"

"Yes, I wanted to clarify the payments he was receiving."

"And you arranged this meeting on Qina?"

"No, he did. He said to come alone. So, I hitched a ride through various transport shuttles."

After a few more moments of dialogue, Evening rose to her feet. She walked around the table and put her arm around Gallien. As soon as she had, the young woman burst into tears. She was obviously remorseful for what had transpired and appeared naïve enough to be conned into such a vast scheme. Her information, however, seemed valuable. Now, they knew at least something about who was pulling the strings.

Master Greystone rose to his feet, having sat through the entire interrogation. He walked out of the meeting room and met Evening in the corridor as she exited the interrogation room.

"Were you serious about those charges?" he asked.

"Possibly," she responded. "I probably had enough evidence for most of them."

"What did she mean that those beings would do worse things to her?"

"She told me, at the end, that Regueny had said she was also a target once Lind left the scene. Apparently, the abduction of Regueny was also a chance to take Gallien. I guess they thought she was going rogue and needed to silence her because she contacted the senator. Maybe this company thought she was putting pieces together."

"Well, then she can't be let free right now."

"She understands that. I have to keep her in one of the holding cell because of upon procedure, but I will personally make certain she is as comfortable as possible. On the other hand, I can't be too lax with her. She has lied to me already."

"Then, Evening, it is time for me to return to my dig."

"Master, thank you for your help."

"Evening, any time. I guess you have a new venture, anyway. I'll join you on Eriadu as soon as I can."

"How did you… never mind."

The two chuckled and exchanged a quick embrace. The near-Human Jedi walked carefully down the corridor and to the boarding ramp. He engaged the switch, lowering the ramp, and calmly walked off Mally and into the dusty spaceport.

Chapter 6

Senate Office Building, Coruscant

What you've told me so far is very alarming. I cannot explain why, but I even fear for my own life.
—Supreme Chancellor Anwis Eddicus, to GIN Director Pelmar Aiden

Three beeps resounded from a small mobile datapad. The sound did not interrupt a Human male as he walked with measured fervor down a narrow carpeted corridor. The man lifted his left arm, which was toting the datapad, and turned his gaze upon it. His gait did not break as he looked at the device and scanned the incoming information. He continued meandering down the hallway, his long grayed hair bouncing against the back of his neck. The Human approached a door, guarded on each side by a single Senate Security Officer. He finished reading from his datapad and looked upon each officer and exchanged salutes. Without a word, the door was unlocked and it quickly opened. Fixing his brown vest, he slowly and deliberately entered the room.

Inside, the room opened to a large rotunda-like office with a large transparisteel window that overlooked the Senate District of Coruscant. In front of the window, at the far end of the room, stood a man whose silhouette obstructed the setting sun. The lights were dim in the room, as the guest continued to deliberately walk further into the office.

"Director Aiden," the man next to the window spoke. After a moment of hesitation, he turned, and faced the one whom he had just addressed. "Thank you for seeing me on such short notice," he continued.

"I am more than happy to," Director Aiden replied. He stopped upon reaching a chair, in the center of the rotunda, clapped his heels together and stood at attention.

"Please," the silhouetted man added, "have a seat, Director."

"Of course," the Director replied, taking a seat upon the instruction. "Thank you. Now, your excellency, what can I do for you today?"

"I have been troubled by reports about a senator from Commenor," the man replied, standing behind a desk which was near the window. "I was wondering if you could brief me on your investigation."

"Chancellor Eddicus," Director Aiden replied, "I am not certain that I am prepared to give you a full briefing on the matter. It is classified, so I am not sure how you became aware."

Chancellor Eddicus grabbed the chair stationed at the desk and sat. He folded his hands calmly and leaned forward in earnest expectation. "Fair enough, Director," he replied. "But, Senator Valorum accidentally indicated that Regueny was being looked at. Now, what can you tell me?"

"I just received information, your excellency, moments ago from the investigator is who covering this case." Hesitating, Director Aiden continued with carefully drawn words and a measured tone. "Senator Regueny is at large. The lead investigator believes that he might have had a kidnapping staged in order to cover his escape."

"That is quite a drastic proposition, Director."

"It is," he replied. "The alternative theory, however, is that he has been kidnapped in order to preserve silence."

"What do you mean?"

"Chancellor, the Senator was involved with some very seedy individuals."

"Yes, I understand that from the memo you sent to me an hour ago when I summoned you."

"It is possible that he was abducted so that we couldn't reach him first. A young financier, named Catiene Gallien, is in our custody. We believe she was targeted for… elimination… by the mastermind of this plot. Now, I assure you, your excellency, I have my best agent on the task. In fact, she is about to leave for Eriadu as we are speaking."

"What is your agent's intent?"

"To discover the truth behind a corporation there. It appears to be a front for at least some of the illegal activity. Ironically, Senator Regueny was expected to be in attendance at a meeting there which begins in mere hours, as was a few other interesting individuals."

"Why has this not raised a red flag with us before, Director?"

"That, your excellency, I cannot answer. The G.I.N.'s jurisdiction primarily covers crimes against Judicial Forces members, government officials and their immediate families. The only reason we took the investigation into Senator Regueny was that we were approached by the senate and given the mandate to do so."

"Director, you and I both know that the G.I.N. does not normally investigate the members of the Senate for corruption unless crimes against government officials have been committed. The Republic Protectorate handles these matters. Yet, you have gone after at least three others in your eight years at this post. I know, I turned one of them over to you. How could Regueny have gone unnoticed?"

Director Aiden was struck by such a charge. He thought, baffled by the back-handed accusation that he was subverting due process. "As Supreme Chancellor, you are undoubtedly aware that the other three incidents involved crimes against members of the Judicial Forces, and the evidence led us to those senators. Of course, one of those, with your help. This case was only taken by my staff because it was brought to my attention by a member of the senate who did not trust the Protectorate!"

Chancellor Eddicus did not act surprised by the Director's response, confirming his knowledge of the prior incidents. Instead, the two continued to gaze upon each other, sternly. Director Aiden thought upon his prior meetings with the Chancellor. All had been more than amicable and the two were on very good terms. For some reason, the Chancellor had either something to hide or something to fear in this matter. Two minutes of harsh silence later, the Chancellor rose and turned, facing out the window upon the twilight which had fallen upon the Senate District.

"I apologize, Director," he replied. "How serious is this situation that are we talking about? Should I be worried about the safety of the Republic, as a whole? I almost feel that I must."

"Chancellor, the evidence says that this is just another corruption scandal gone a-muck."

"Director Aiden, that's what the evidence suggests. What are you suggesting?"

"I believe that Senator Regueny's involvement, however it might have been, has returned to haunt him. I fear that he may be dead within days."

"How deep is the plot?"

"Not certain. As soon as we learn anything, you will be the first to know."

"I request that you report directly to me, Director Aiden. Bypass the Chief Marsken."

"Mister Chancellor, he is the head of the Judicial Forces."

"Yes, but I fear that this plot runs too deep, and I do not want any more beings than necessary handling this sensitive information. I just pray that this whole folly is not large enough to destabilize multiple systems." The Chancellor returned to his seat, and rubbed his face with his hands. He took a few deep breaths and continued speaking. "If the corruption truly involves weapons smuggling, how much can we trust the Judicial Forces?"

"Honestly, Chancellor, that is your call. I will do my best to provide you with regular updates on the investigation."

"I appreciate this, Director. I don't want to be in your way, but I truly do not want to endanger the Republic's security. We have not had an all-out war since Ruusan, two hundred ninety-seven years ago. I'm not willing to see the galaxy destroyed."

"I don't believe that we have to fear that type of destruction at this time."

"You might not, Director, but as Supreme Chancellor, I can never take these threats lightly. What you've told me so far is very alarming. I cannot explain why, but I even fear for my own life."

Mally, Rin Spaceport

"I wonder if this ship flies as clumsily as the box it looks like," Danstari spoke, sitting at the cockpit controls.

"Actually, it flies pretty well," Asana said, standing at back of the cockpit, over the lieutenant's left shoulder.

Danstari was acquainting himself with the controls of the vessel, trying to get a feel for how it operated. He was not shocked by anything in front of him, as it laid out in a standard array. It was the cockpit of a personal freighter; although, Mally was far from a small personal craft. The lieutenant surmised that it was about thirty percent larger than a light freighter, but it also had originally been intended for use as a transport. It was wider and slightly longer than personal vessel, and, most noticeably, it did not have the prototypical circular-shaped rear of the Corellian-created personal craft which dominated the marketplace. The engines were powerful, possibly too powerful for use as a personal craft without the weight of cargo, but it appeared that the vessel had held together nicely.

Behind the lieutenant, Asana was working with a datacard and the navicomputer. The loyal MR-A7 droid was at her feet, plugged into the system. They were updating the starcharts with new information provided by the Republic for their officials. It contained secret hyperspace shortcuts, Republic-use stations, and new systems which had been discovered in the Outer Rim during the last year. The two worked quietly and patiently, not disturbing the others in the cockpit. Most notably, Shalli. She was meditating in the center of the cockpit, on the floor; her legs folded across each other, under her body. Her eyes were closed as she faced the front of the cockpit.

"Finally," Asana said, enthusiastically. "The updated charts are in."

Emra unleashed three beeps of pleasure, while Danstari simply chuckled.

"A lot of good they'll do, Asana, unless Delwynn comes in here right now and tells us to leave." Danstari smarted.

"She's only been gone an hour, Waron," Asana replied. "She is just double-checking the abduction scenes for anything that might be important."

Suddenly the port-side door to the cockpit opened and Delwynn walked in. She strode to Asana, who nodded and left with Emra. Then, she turned her attention to Danstari, who had watched her enter.

"Think you can handle this ship, lieutenant?" Delwynn quipped.

"Yes, boss," he replied. "I believe I can. It appears to have a standard control panel."

"Then set course for Eriadu and get going," Delwynn replied.

"Yes, boss," Danstari returned, striking a few buttons on the controls to start the engine. He then turned his attention to the navicomputer, to his left, and froze in place.

"Eriadu, boss?" he asked with hesitation.

"Yes, Eriadu," Delwynn responded unmercifully. After a moment of hesitation, she snarkily added, "in the Seswenna sector."

"Oh, right, boss," Danstari replied, embarrassed by his mental lapse. He began typing something into the navicomputer and then responded. "Sorry, boss. The coordinates are… in. We're ready to leave."

Delwynn turned toward Shalli, stared a moment, then began walking toward the starboard doorway. "Okay, then. Goodbye, Qina."

As Delwynn exited the cockpit, Danstari felt suddenly relieved. He was so nervous around his new superior officer. In his mind, he was simply unaccustomed to how she operated and what her demands were. That said, he was not pleased with himself for the seemingly perpetual moments of embarrassment that he created. Fearing further embarrassment, he turned his attention back to the ship and taking off. Pulling a control lever, the ship lifted gently off the surface of Qina and began drifting upward, above the spaceport. He processed the controls quickly as this happened, finding the button to retract the landing gear and depressing it. With the landing gear safely docked in place, he added speed to the ascent and began traveling forward, gaining even more altitude in the moon's atmosphere.

As he continued to pilot the Mally away from Qina, Danstari continued to reflect upon his short tenure under the command of Evening Delwynn. He kept his mind sharp, however, noting when it was safe to engage the hyperdrive and prepared the ship for the jump into hyperspace. Once prepped and free of Hanchin's massive gravity well, Danstari turned to Shalli and decided to disturb her meditation.

"I'm about to make the jump to hyperspace," he said. "Are you ready?"

The Jedi opened her icy blue eyes, but did not turn to face the lieutenant. Instead, she stayed seated and flatly replied, "Yes."

"Okay, here we go then," he replied, flipping a switch. Immediately the vessel responded. The hyperdrive engine engaged, the stars splashed past and the all-too familiar sight of hyperspace flashed before the pilot's eyes. Seeing that the ship was safely in autopilot and programmed for the right destination, Danstari rose from his seat and began to leave the cockpit, starboard side, heading toward his quarters. There was plenty of time for him to relax and eat something to quench his hunger. He thought it better to doze in the cockpit, but wanted to make certain his quarters were in order first. As he exited the cockpit and into the corridor, he considered going to Delwynn's office to see if anything else was needed. After approaching her door, he decided against it, and retreated to his quarters to finish unpacking his two bags and to freshen up prior to eating.

Inside the cockpit, Shalli had closed her eyes again. She was meditating; specifically, she was attempting to sense the Force as it surrounded the beings within the vessel. No matter how hard she tried, she could not sense Delwynn. Instead, she sensed the aura around her, but not the woman herself. It was almost as if the agent was repelling Shalli's attempts at prodding the energy field. On the other hand, the Omwati was finally able to sense Catiene Gallien, who was now in a holding chamber. As she searched the Force for the young financier, she sensed the Human sleeping quietly. Other than fear, there was no other emotion that Shalli could sense. The thought began to disturb her greatly.

As she continued to meditate, the Omwati Jedi's own struggle continued to expand. As much as she tried, she could not sense the emotions from any member aboard the vessel. The more she tried, the less she sensed. The more she tried, the more fearful she became that her power was weak and incapable of such as seemingly easy task. She had achieved the rank of Jedi Knight largely through her abilities with the lightsaber and her knowledge of how the Force worked. She had become strongly proficient in using the Force, fighting with her weapon, and being diplomatic when necessary. Yet, she never mastered the seemingly elementary ability to sense emotion from others. This frightened the Jedi as she meditated. So much so, that a sense of jealousy rose within her. As immediately as it rose, she sensed a tinge of jealousy from someone else on the vessel. But, her training as a Jedi was quickly recalled to her mind: 'There is no emotion, there is peace.'

In an instant, all emotion vanished from the Jedi, leaving her almost lifeless in her meditation. At the same time, everything she had begun to sense in the Force ceased to be present, leaving only shadows of individuals and no sense of life. Overwhelmed by her lack of ability, she decided to break the meditation, a soft tear coming from her left eye, which dripped off her blue face. She stood, straightened her robes and brushed her feathers with her hands, causing one to fall out. Shalli watched as the pure white feather slowly fell to the floor of the cockpit. Before it touched the bottom, however, she reached out with the Force and grabbed it. She directed it toward the door and raised it higher. Following the feather, she left the cockpit and retired to her quarters.

— — —

Tampering with a datacard in the computer room, Asana was focused on repairing a computer which had been broken for some time. Emra was plugged into a Republic mainframe, accessing information and downloading it. Suddenly, a thought struck the Twi'lek while she was working.

"Emra," she spoke, "pull up all information on Eriadu Interstellar Enterprises. Who is the company owner?"

The droid beeped and whirred and it asked the computer for that information. Nothing came up and the droid made sounds of displeasure.

"You mean nothing is there on it?" the Twi'lek asked.

The droid once again tried to access information, but once again, nothing came up.

"What's the company registered as?" Asana inquired, moving toward the droid.

Emra burrowed through the maze of information, coming up with another dead end. It beeped in wild displeasure as it turned its cylindrical head toward the Twi'lek.

"Wait," Asana replied. "The company is not registered with the Republic? Check with the Seswenna sector government or the Corporate Sector. I think they technically they have some autonomy."

The droid obliged and used the Republic gateway as a means of hacking into the Seswenna sector's governmental archives. After a couple moments of searching, it discovered some records of the company. As the droid flashed them onto a screen, it chimed in, pleased with having discovered something.

Asana was relieved, but knew that she needed to contact Agent Delwynn, who had gone to her quarters. She reached over to a communicator on the wall and hit button, activating a link to the Agent's office.

"Delwynn," the Twi'lek spoke, "I think I found something for you."

"What is it?" Delwynn said, standing right behind Asana.

"Woah," the younger replied. "How did I miss the door opening?"

The elder agent simply offered a smirk and then pointed toward the screen. She inquired as to the information and Emra issued a rapid array of cheerful sounds. Delwynn chuckled at the droid as the information flashed by.

"Interesting," she said.

"Of course the company had to be registered somewhere in order to operate," Asana stated. "But, we've been thinking solely about the Republic records. I just remembered that the Seswenna sector has a little bit of autonomy."

"If the company is only registered in the Seswenna sector, though, its headquarters must be in that sector," Delwynn said.

"I know," the Twi'lek replied. "According to the records, they also do business with some Inner Rim worlds; specifically, Kuat."

Delwynn thought for a moment, before responding. "Well, there's no violation of corporate law to do business with those worlds."

"Well, let me explain," Asana replied. "There are no official records of transactions in any database outside of the Seswenna Sector Auditor's office."

"So, they are hiding their business."

"Basically. According to the expense reports drafted by Gallien, seen here, there are millions of credits that are part of a 'personal arm' of the company."

"Undoubtedly, the being we are looking for."

"Undoubtedly."

"Asana, I want that name, as soon as possible."

"Yes, boss. I'm right on it."

"While you are at it, I want the receipts from every transaction that Gallien did. In paper form. They may not have done significant business outside the sector, but they are up to something. And, we need a lead."

Delwynn turned to leave, but instead put both hands upon Asana's shoulders. She smiled at the Twi'lek, thanked her for her work, and departed. Grateful for having pleased her boss—the one being who she regarded as family—she turned her attention to discovering the name behind the agency. All the while, Emra hummed and whirred in the background.


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