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Chapter 10

Mally, Eriadu City Naval Base

Shalli, carefully put that thing back. Be very, very careful.
—Evening Delwynn

"I am so glad to be out of that dress!" Asana shouted, walking into the main computer room aboard the Traverser-class vessel Mally.

Danstari and Emra were already working in with the computers consolidating the images that were captured of the crime scene into one large file. The lieutenant smiled as the Twi'lek entered, watching her sashay toward a computer in the corner with her name written above it on a yellow paper placard.

"That's not your office," Danstari sarcastically replied.

"Nope," Asana retorted. "And this isn't yours!"

The two laughed as Danstari kept his eye on the Twi'lek, watching her type on a keypad. He began to daydream about how someone as beautiful as Asana ended up in such a rugged and disturbing field as forensics. He simply did not understand her enjoyment of what she did for a living.

"Spaced?" Asana asked, now standing with her face mere centimeters from his, although her eyes only met his chin. She laughed, walking away leaving Danstari to wonder what he missed. Hearing Emra beep, he turned and looked at the small silver-colored droid.

"What?" he asked, almost mean-spiritedly.

The droid cooed and beeped, before itself leaving the computer room. Danstari was left gazing upon the room which was devoid of all but mechanical life. The computers, each active, showing images or star charts, except one. To the right of the entry way and against the far wall was computer three. Still cycling across the screen were a series of individuals next to one static image. The image to the left, of the lone Human man was chilling.

"I didn't know Delwynn had a suspect," Danstari remarked, aloud. "I wonder what she has on him."

Rather than messing with the computer, he turned and accessed the data files from the crime scene. Continuing his out-loud discourse with himself, he added, "Well, there's nothing here on that man. Just blood splats, smudges, prints, and…"

Danstari paused. Looking at one of the pictures, he noticed something odd. The outline of Regueny was clearly seen once his body was removed due to the spraying of blood. Yet, there was another outline. Not as large, no. But, it appeared to be from another being. Taking a pointer, he began to trace the gap in the splatter. As he traced, the outline was not perfect, but it clearly showed something more column-like in shape.

"A droid!" the lieutenant shouted. "A maintenance droid. There were none in that hallway at all."

Grabbing at his communicator, he contacted Delwynn.

"Boss… boss…"

"Danstari," Delwynn said through the device.

"I was looking at the blood on the wall near Regueny. I think I know why part of him wasn't covered in blood."

"Why?"

"He was shielded by something. When I outlined the gap in the blood after we moved Regueny, it had a cylinder-shape to part of it."

"And?"

"That doesn't fit Regueny's position, boss. I think one of the building's maintenance droids was in there."

"Why do you say that, Danstari?"

"Remember, there were none in the hallway at all. It was completely quiet."

"They may not have been running, lieutenant."

"Maybe not, boss, but I think it is worth a look."

"Did you tend to Gallien?"

"No, I didn't yet."

"Well, take care of that first."

"Okay, boss."

"Good work, Danstari."

The communicator went silent and the lieutenant left the computer lab, en route to the chamber where Gallien was being held. He wondered how the young lady was doing, given the fact she had sat alone in the holding room for hours. Arriving outside of where Gallien was interred, across the hall from the interrogation room, he depressed a button and a small viewscreen lit up.

"Boss really has some nice gadgets on this ship," he said aloud. "I wonder how she managed this."

He noticed Gallien was soundly sleeping and decided to leave her alone. The young woman had enough trouble, he thought. Plus, he did not want to wake her while unattended; He did not want any appearance of impropriety. He may have been a bit of a fêtard, but he definitely had no hope of advancement as the pilot for Senator Valorum. Having his assignment shifted to Delwynn's command offered him an excellent chance to move up the ranks of the Judicial Forces. Maybe he would even find that he enjoyed this investigative work. Although, he definitely did not enjoy seeing the crime scene inside the convention center. Perhaps he, himself, should take a quick rest before Delwynn returned. Deciding it wise, he turned and walked toward his quarters.

Inside the room that Asana called her 'lab,' the Twi'lek was also working dutifully at the evidence she had collected. She took her equipment and began testing the droplets of blood, allowing a computer to scan and analyze them. It would take a couple of hours for the test results to finish. Her initial test was to see if the blood splatter was the same as the droplets found in the kitchen. With that test in motion, she turned her attention to the prints from the kitchen. Hopefully she would catch a break and discover who else had been in that room with Senator Regueny. Maybe she could also figure out who this mysterious head of EIE was. That would be the perfect break.

Asana continued checking the prints and running them through her second computer. After a checking each print against Republic databases, she came up nearly empty. Nothing seemed to match any living being. Coming to the last of the prints, she remarked that it did seem like it had been created by a Rodian. She did not remember seeing a Rodian in the room itself and Delwynn did not mention them having taken Regueny to that spot. Yet, the print had been found in the kitchen, the back way into the crime scene. Maybe the Rodians were waiting in ambush. Or, maybe they were simply guarding the back way in.

The computer beeped as it searched the database for the Rodian print. Asana had narrowed the search to all Rodians—the trillions that lived in the galaxy. After only ten minutes, the computer came back with a match: Baula Gula, a female Rodian bounty hunter who was registered with the Bounty Hunter's Guild. Looking up the background information, Asana noted that the Rodian had two brothers. Two brothers who were also in the Bounty Hunter's Guild.

Ecstatic to have found the identities of the Rodians who had attacked them on Qina, Asana danced around her lab, bopping her head from side to side. After a moment of cheering, she calmed herself and prepared to contact Delwynn. The team had already been on Eriadu for nearly thirteen hours already. Three of those hours had been spent just recently in the ship for the Twi'lek. Perhaps she could tell Delwynn when she returned rather than bother her while she was dealing with the medical examiner, if that being had even arrived yet. Deciding to simply take a short nap, she double checked the computer that was still testing the blood. Satisfied that it was working properly, she sent a brief text message to Delwynn, noting the names of the Rodians, and then curled on the pillow in the corner. A short sleep overtook her quickly.

Eriadu City Convention Center

"Agent Delwynn?" Shalli asked, probing the corridor between the bloody room and the small kitchen. Hearing nothing, she turned to the right, traversing down the corridor into the kitchen proper.

"Agent Delwynn," Shalli stated, hoping the agent was in there.

"Yes, Shalli?" Delwynn replied, her voice muffled by the storage cabinet she had been crawling into.

"Um, Delwynn, the medical examiner is here."

Delwynn crawled out of the shiny durasteel storage cabinet with a small light held between her teeth and soiled gloves on her hands.

"About time," she said. "Show the body. I'll be right out."

Shalli looked at the agent, her expression changing to curiosity and shock, before turning and walking out of the kitchen. Traversing back into the room, Shalli showed the medical examiner where the body of Regueny had been resting and the images that had been taken prior to moving him. Then, she showed the body and the seemingly random pair of legs that still rested in the center of the room.

By this point, Delwynn arrived in the room and looked coldly at the medical examiner. A lithe, tall man with long dark-purple hair and old-fashioned spectacles.

"Palt Bimwera," Delwynn said, her posture softening.

"Agent Delwynn," the medical examiner replied with a curt smile.

"It seems like they have you following me around everywhere."

"They know you follow the bodies that keep piling up."

"Hey, it's just my job. Did Shalli explain everything to you, Palt?"

"Yes, Delwynn, but we do have a problem."

Delwynn immediately became cold and walked toward the room's main entry way. Checking the door and the corridor outside, she locked the door and then turned back to the medical examiner.

"You know how much I love surprises," she spat sarcastically.

"I know," the examiner said, now bending and gazing upon the corpse of the Senator. "As soon as I arrived, the locals were notified. My ship is unmarked, so I only told them that I was on Republic business. They must have looked up my name."

"That's not your fault, Palt. I expected that."

"They are probably not far behind."

"They're going to need an order from their governor to force us out now that you have claimed the bodies. That's probably why they haven't beat the door down, yet."

"I'll work as fast as I can, but I might have to rely on the images more than usual. You may not get all the answers you want."

"Unless we can sneak the body out," Shalli chimed in.

Delwynn smiled as she looked at the Omwati. Curling her lip and tilting her head, she looked at the medical examiner.

"Possible," Paut Bimwera said. "They would be very, very upset, though."

"Let them be, I like Shalli's thinking," Delwynn replied. "Where did you park, Palt?"

"On the roof of the convention center in the government reserved spot," he replied. "Once they knew why I was here, I figured it didn't matter."

"That's perfect," Delwynn said. "You are going to smuggle it to my ship."

"Insane, Delwynn, but it might work," the medical examiner replied.

"Shalli, keep an eye on the hallway. I want to know if anyone closes in on us. While you're at it, check the maintenance droids. See if any are missing. We have to hurry."

Shalli walked out the service corridor and into the kitchen. Surveying, she saw nothing, and proceeded into the main convention center corridor. The carpeted hallway was clear of anyone, but she keep looking. Turning the corner back toward the main entryway to the crime scene room, Shalli noticed a service droid in the hallway. It entered a storage room and Shalli went in pursuit. She had overheard the conversation between Delwynn and Danstari about the maintenance droid knew that one had possibly shielded Regueny's body from the splatter. Hopefully, the Omwati thought, she would catch a break.

Inside the storage room was a row of nine droids, each occupying a spot along the wall. Not one seemed to be missing. Remembering Delwynn's remark from earlier, she decided to double check. Looking closer, she walked through the narrow storage room and checked the droids she saw. The first three were completely clean and new looking. The fourth, however, was a bit worn. The fifth also looked new, as did the sixth and seventh. Once she reached the eighth droid, however, Shalli noticed that there was a gap between the droids. One was missing. Above its spot on the wall, the name X8-6732-UUC was written along with its maintenance log. The droid should have been there, as it had been serviced recently. It also was scheduled to returned only two hours earlier from its allotted janitorial rounds.

Armed with her findings, Shalli stepped back into the main carpeted corridor. At the far end, in the concourse, which connected the convention center to the hotel and concert hall, were three armed guards. Shalli quietly channeled the Force and coaxed the guards to glance the other way. With the guards turned, the Omwati slid down the corridor and around the corner toward the small service kitchen. She then made her retreat back to the crime scene where Delwynn and Palt Bimwera were hunched over the mysterious pair of legs.

"Agent Delwynn?" Shalli asked.

"What, Shalli?" she replied.

"Three guards in the main concourse, they looked like they were guarding the hallway."

"Okay," the medical examiner interjected. "We're running out of time, then."

"I looked into the droid, too," Shalli added.

"And?" Delwynn said, frustrated at the Jedi's pause.

"One is still missing. I have the name in my datapad."

"Good, but we'll have to take a look later. We're running short on time."

Delwynn and the medical examiner finished shifting the pair of legs to a body bag and hoisted it on a cart.

"Okay," Palt Bimwera said. "Now we need to get Regueny onto the cart, too. This is probably going to take all three of us."

"Shalli," Delwynn instructed. "Put some gloves on and help us lift Regueny into this bag real quickly."

The Omwati agreed and donned the gloves that were inside a bag in the middle of the room. Then, she grabbed the upper torso of the body while Delwynn grabbed the legs and the medical examiner hoisted the middle. The three then lifted the body into the bag and collectively placed the bag unto the cart, covering the bag with the legs. Then, Shalli watched as Delwynn and Bimwera frantically scattered around the room, gathering their belongings. Suddenly, Delwynn took an imager and started toward the main doorway.

"Shalli, Palt," she spoke. "Lift me up. I need to see this vent."

"Do we have time?" Shalli asked.

"Don't argue, Shalli, just do it!" Delwynn ordered.

The Jedi and the medical examiner both bent down under Delwynn and lifted one of her legs. Not able to lift her far, only about a half meter, they dropped her. Fortunately, Delwynn landed on her feet and had not lost balance.

"Got the image." Delwynn said. "There is some kind of device up there."

"I can try and get it," Shalli remarked.

"Be careful not to juggle it. I don't want to trip any explosives."

Using the Force, Shalli popped the vent cover off and flung it across the room, hitting the far wall. Then, turning her attention to the device, she gently lifted it and hovered it near Delwynn and the medical examiner. The two looked at it, but their looks turned to horror. The Omwati, however, did not recognize the device.

"Shalli, carefully put that thing back," Delwynn ordered. "Be very, very careful."

Dutifully, the Omwati obliged, but did not understand the alarm. With the device back in place, Delwynn and Bimwera grabbed their gear and told Shalli to grab the cart.

"What was that, Delwynn?" Shalli asked, pushing the cart with the corpses into the service corridor.

Delwynn was ignoring her as she tried to get the cart around the narrow corner of the corridor. After a few tries, she navigated it, making her way into the kitchen. Following closely behind Delwynn, the Jedi pushed the cart into the main hallway. Instead of turning right toward the concourse, the agent proceeded to the left. At the end of the hallway was a lift. Engaging it, the trio boarded and pulled the cart inside. A moment later, the team was on the rooftop parking area for VIPs and law enforcement. Pushing the cart toward the lone vehicle, Shalli asked once again what the device was.

Stopping, and obviously irritated, Delwynn spat back. "It was a gas detonator!"

Shalli was shocked. A gas detonator in the vent? Why would that be necessary? More importantly, why had it not gone off already? As the cart was loaded onto the medical examiner's vehicle, Shalli waited for her orders.

The medical examiner turned and looked at the two females. "Thank you, Delwynn. Shalli. I'll bring the bodies to the naval base immediately."

"Thanks, Palt," Delwynn replied, and grabbed her bag off of the cart. Then, she turned and fled the vehicle, her bag hanging slung over her right shoulder.

Shalli nodded at the medical examiner and quickly followed in tow. Delwynn found a flight of stairs and quickly started down them, as fast as she could. The Jedi caught the agent by the time she reached the bottom, and followed her through a door back outside.

"Bah! Wrong side of the building." Delwynn shouted.

Delwynn waved for the Omwati to follow her through the building back to the hotel lobby.

"We need to quietly get out of here. No one can know we were here. That device was set to go off only when it was disturbed. When you did that Jedi-thing, you apparently did not jolt it enough to set it off."

Shalli was grateful that she had done well, but understood the urgency.

"Stay close," Delwynn ordered as she went back into the stairwell, but crossed the bottom landing and exited through the other door, arriving in the lower level of the convention center. Passing down an eerily familiar corridor, the two made their way to the main concourse. That was when Shalli realized they were on the ground floor, as opposed to the second floor where the crime scene was.

Delwynn stopped at archway which was at the termination of the carpeted hallway. Peering forward, she looked around the corner through the main concourse. Its high glass walls stretched from the concert hall to the hotel. Quietly and calmly, Delwynn handed Shalli her bag.

"You're not a Human," she said.

"That's rude," Shalli replied.

"On this planet, some might consider that a crime."

"So?"

"Carry my bag and walk directly behind me. Make it look like you are a servant."

"I'm a Jedi, Delwynn."

"Look, I agree that it's stupid. But right now, you need to blend in. There are too many people around and your blue skin will stand out more than a bantha."

Shalli was insulted by the comment but understood the situation. Stepping into the hallway, she was suddenly aware of the Humans around her. The people that walked by gave her odd looks, some looks of disgust. Shalli could even sense the burgeoning hatred that some possessed. Humanocentrism was rampant on this planet, and Shalli had known it. Now, she was experiencing it first-hand and becoming irritated. Very, very irritated.

Arriving at Delwynn's vehicle, the two prepared to get in when a sudden blast came from behind them. Smoke started rising from part of the convention center and local police were charging the area. Shalli looked at Delwynn in shock, but Delwynn simply shook her head and entered into her vehicle. Following suit, the Omwati sat in the seat and fastened her harness. Delwynn then sped off, toward the naval base.

"What just happened?" Shalli asked.

"I guess the locals tripped the detonator when searching the room."

"How could gas do that?"

"The device spits a jet of highly explosive gas into the room and fills it. Then, it ignites it."

"So, what happened?"

"We'll find out later. I bet this will be in the news."

Chapter 11

Eriadu City

He got this whole thing rolling. I've never met the EIE executive in person. I've only seen kind of what he looks like through communicating with him.
—Catiene Gallien

Shalli stared out the window of the speeding speeder but sensed something odd. Looking at the area behind the speeder, a vehicle was following at the same high speed that Delwynn was traveling. It was not a police vehicle, however, or it would have had its sirens wailing. Initially ignoring it, she noted that the vehicle remained close even while Delwynn drove around some turns and closer to the naval base.

"Someone is following us," Shalli said.

"I know. I'm going to stop at the naval base gate and arrest them."

"You can do that?"

"No, but I bet they don't know that."

"Removing bodies from a crime scene that we have no jurisdiction over and arresting crazy people who try to follow us? Do you always do illegal things?"

"Taking the bodies was not illegal. Almost illegal, but the locals never staked claim. We got there first. Plus, I don't do anything illegal."

"I guess you just take it to the limits."

Delwynn did not respond. Instead, she spun her vehicle around abruptly and slammed on the brakes. The other vehicle came to a screeching halt as it gently hit the wall on the outside of the base. Delwynn jumped out, blaster drawn and walked over toward the vehicle. Shalli grabbed her lightsaber and stood behind the agent.

"Get out, now." Delwynn ordered the driver.

"Don't shoot!" a young man shouted from inside the other airspeeder—a black and gold speeder that was barely dented from the impact.

"Get out!" Delwynn shouted, angrily. "What were you doing back there? Trying to kill us?"

"No, no, no!"

"Get out of the vehicle and state your business or I will shoot."

"Alright! I'm coming. I'm just a reporter!"

"HoloNet News?"

"Yes. I saw you speed away as the explosion happened. I thought you had something to do with it."

Delwynn was visibly upset and grabbed the man with her free hand, dragging him away from the vehicle and onto the gravel path. With him on the ground, she searched him for weapons, then allowed him to stand, her grip still on his shoulder.

"Who are you?" Delwynn asked.

The young man was visibly shaken by the experience, obviously never having been in this type of a situation before. Then again, Shalli thought, she would not want to cross Delwynn in this situation either.

"I'm… I'm…"

Delwynn was not willing to wait for a response from the young man. He was short in stature with short blondish hair and looked quite intimidated. Delwynn, using her grip on his shoulder, pushed him against her vehicle. She then grabbed a set of binders that were on her waistband and started to move the young man's arms together.

"Don't arrest me! Please!"

"Then tell me who you are!"

Shalli watched as Delwynn refused to keep bantering with him. With no response to the question, Delwynn stopped; although, the young man kept yelling at her. Suddenly, the visibly-frustrated agent put him in the back seat of her airspeeder and ordered the Jedi to get in as well. Driving back in to the naval base, Delwynn parked the vehicle where she had taken it before, in the dingy dungeon-like garage. She then passed the young man to Shalli and told her to bring the man upstairs.

"What about my rights?" the man kept shouting.

"You don't have any on this planet," Delwynn finally remarked. "Remember, you are the one who tried to trespass on a secure naval base by towing away behind us."

"No, that's not it! I'm not a criminal!"

Delwynn stoically then grabbed her bag and walked to the lift. Taking the lift, Shalli restrained the young man as he was taken up to the room where Delwynn and Shalli had begun the night hours earlier.

"Throw him down," Delwynn said.

"Pardon me?" Shalli asked.

"Into a chair, Shalli," Delwynn clarified. "He's not going anywhere and I am going to take him into interrogation shortly."

"Interrogation?" the young man wailed! "I'm not a criminal!"

Shalli pushed him into a nearby seat and got in the man's face. "Then tell her who you are and what you were doing."

The young man cracked. "I'm… I'm Aulus… Aulus Plinius." He slumped in the seat.

Delwynn was not satisfied and walked over to him. "And, Plinius, what were you doing following me?"

"I told you," the young man spat, trying to muster some anger. "I thought you both had something to do with the explosion."

"What do you know?"

"I don't know anything!"

"Why were you there, Plinius?"

"I was just covering the event for HoloNet News."

"And?"

"I saw a bunch of police, so I went outside to get some information. Then, I saw you both run out and get in the speeder. After the explosion, I ran to mine and chased."

Delwynn stood down and walked around the reporter. With a loud click, she undid the binders. The man was scared by the sound, but relieved to be free.

"You are free to go," Delwynn said. "The Jedi will take you to your speeder."

Shalli was surprised. Surely she had not dragged this man all this way for only this. The man also looked surprised, and he was even more surprised when he realized that the blue female in front of him was a Jedi.

"I didn't mean to get the Jedi angry," Plinius said as he ran over to Delwynn. "Ma'am, I'm sorry, I…"

"Don't call me ma'am," Delwynn sternly interrupted. "And, you are forbidden to write a story on this, or I will bring the full weight of the Republic down on you."

The man nodded and Shalli ushered him out of the room, leaving Delwynn alone. Shalli commandeered the same speeder Delwynn had used and told Plinius to get in. During the quick trip back to the dented speeder, Shalli began to question why Delwynn had overreacted in the way she had. Of course, Shalli was not so sure that her response would have been any different. In the heat of the moment, she might have acted the same way in spite of her Jedi training. Still, Delwynn seemed angry. Genuinely angry. With Gallien, Delwynn acted angry to elicit a response. With Shalli in her chambers, Delwynn had been irritated but not outright angry. Now, the agent was truly angry, and her anger had surfaced against a reporter who had come a little too close for her liking.

Arriving at the speeder, Shalli told the reporter to leave. He refused.

"You have to leave, Mister Plinius," Shalli spat.

"Why?" the reporter shouted. "I have rights and I demand to know why I was arrested!"

"Do we have to go over this again?"

"Yes, we do. I was violated."

"Now you get brave?"

"That other woman is no Jedi, is she."

"No, she's not."

"I can tell. Jedi aren't supposed to act that way."

Shalli was taken aback but knew that he was simply trying to trap her in a paradox. "Oh? Well, I'm a Jedi, Plinius, and I can act that way if needed."

The man backed down from his sudden and surprising display of bravery.

"I just want to talk to your boss and find out what is going on."

"I cannot allow you to do that."

"Then, I'll just break into the base."

"If you do, she will really be mad and have a lot of good reasons to arrest you other than harassment."

Plinius looked deep in thought and then turned around. He boarded his black and gold speeder and headed back toward the city. Satisfied, but curious as to the display of courage, Shalli reported the incident to Delwynn via comlink. The agent, who sounded much calmer, told the Omwati to return as quickly as possible.

Taking the speeder back to the garage, Shalli quickly ascended via the lift to the forward command room. There, Delwynn was fishing through computer files.

"Take a look, Shalli," she said. "What do you notice?"

Shalli glanced at the computer. Pressing a button, she scrolled through some of the files. "It looks like the receipts of Regueny's payments."

"Miss Gallien kept excellent records, true to her job. Perhaps its time we ask her more about what she really knows about Regueny."

Mally

Back on Mally, Danstari was sleeping in quarters. Suddenly, he heard the sound of Delwynn on the comlink. Stammering to his feet, he responded in an obviously groggy voice.

"Danstari, what were you doing?"

"Nothing boss, just…"

"Never mind that. Just wake Gallien and put her in interrogation. I'll be there in a moment."

"Yes, boss, on it."

"And, throw some water on your face so I don't have to see that you just woke up."

Danstari slouched his posture and walked out the room. He decided not to even acknowledge the last comment. Delwynn was demanding, but it was not as if he was ignoring her orders. He had done everything. Everything, except to feed Gallien. Snapping to attention, he ran down the corridor, around a corner, and into the secure zone of the ship where Gallien was being held. Touching the viewscreen, he opened the communication line.

"Miss Gallien?" he asked.

"What do you want?" the young woman spitefully shouted.

"I have something for you to eat, but you are needed by Agent Delwynn, too.

Gallien shot to the door and looked very ready to eat. Danstari opened the secure door and ushered the young woman across the hall to interrogation.

"I'll be right back with something to eat," he said.

Gallien looked depressed from the delay, but sat dutifully in the chair. Closing the door, Danstari flew down the hall into the main cabin and grabbed some food from the refrigerator. Quickly heating it, he ran back to the interrogation room and delivered the food.

Leaving the young woman to eat, he walked down to Asana's lab and woke the young Twi'lek. Telling her that Delwynn was on her way, she snapped to her feet and double checked the progress of the computer. Still nothing new. The two then proceeded to the viewing room and waited for Delwynn to enter while Gallien finished eating.

After only three more minutes, Gallien crumpled the wrapper of her sandwich as Delwynn entered. A mere moment later, Shalli entered the viewing room.

"She looks very upset," Asana commented.

"Yes," Shalli remarked. "We had a—how do you say it—run in with the press?"

"Delwynn definitely does not like the media," Asana flatly remarked.

"Why?" Danstari asked.

"Let's just say she got screwed real badly one time because of a reporter's involvement," Asana replied.

Turning her attention back to the interrogation room, she watched as Delwynn simply handed Gallien sheet of paper after sheet of paper.

"Recognize these?" the agent asked.

"I better," Gallien commented. "I typed all those forms up."

"Look," Delwynn said, reclining in her chair. "You need to fill in some holes for me."

"Holes?"

"Yes, holes in your story, Miss Gallien."

Gallien retreated to a slouch and put her head down.

"There's no way I'm getting out of this, is there?"

"Not without the truth. The whole truth."

"Look, I thought I had told you every I knew."

"Maybe I just didn't ask the right questions, then. Let's start with this one, Miss Gallien: What Senator Regueny's involvement in this scheme?"

"I told you, I don't really know. He held meetings and I paid him when I was told to."

"What kind of meetings?"

"I'm not sure."

"Go out on a limb here, Miss Gallien. Guess if you have to."

"I don't know! All I know is that I paid him and usually that Czerka guy at the same time."

"Czerka?"

"Yeah… Tord— something." Gallien stated, starting to flip wildly through the papers in front of her. Finally she came across a receipt and handed it to Delwynn.

"Hazar Tordana?" Delwynn said, tossing the paper down. "Do you realize who that man is?"

"No, not really," Gallien confessed. "I know he works as an executive for Czerka."

"Miss Gallien, he owns Czerka. He is Czerka."

Gallien sat dumbfounded. "But, I researched him! I saw no criminal activity listed for him. His records came back clean!"

Delwynn seemed to actually believe her and moved on.

"Why were they meeting?"

"Other than business deals, I don't know, Agent Delwynn! I just don't know!"

"You were never told?"

"No. Never. Look, this shadowy man just told me to pay people whenever he wanted from his company's account for special corporate meetings. You can see from the receipts that everything came from the EIE account. It was all corporate, he told me. Business negotiations, I guess. I just did what I was told. I never talked to anyone until a few days ago."

"Anyone else meet with Regueny?"

Gallien started to look through the receipts again and began lining them up in a row across the table. After about two minutes of scanning, she pointed at a form and spoke quietly. Her voice was inaudible to Asana, who was still watching with fervor through the window.

"Really?" Delwynn reacted with complete shock.

"Yes," Gallien responded.

"How do you know for sure?"

"I don't. It just looks like they did based on the dates I paid them. I'm just guessing, though."

"So they sent one of the most notorious bounty hunters in the galaxy to Regueny's meetings? Why would they do that?"

"That's just my best guess. He's the same Duros that came that time to meet me in person. You remember, when the whole thing started."

"Wait, so you've seen Veneret?"

"Only once. He got this whole thing rolling. I've never met the EIE executive in person. I've only seen kind of what he looks like through communicating with him with the HoloNet."

"Interesting," Delwynn paused causing a very dramatic effect.

"What about me?" Gallien sat impatiently.

"Right now, you are the only living link between the EIE and whatever scheme is going on. You're staying with me because I can't risk your life."

"Only living link? What does that mean? What about Regueny?"

"Miss Gallien," Delwynn said, standing to her feet. "I need to send a brief transmission. Once I'm done, I'll be back to talk to you."

Asana watched as Delwynn walked out of the Interrogation Room. Once the door closed, Gallien slumped over the table and began crying. What an emotional workout that young woman had just been through. Suddenly, Delwynn walked into the viewing room.

"Danstari, go to the medical lab on floor six of the building and see if the Medical Examiner needs assistance."

"Which room?" the lieutenant asked.

"It is the first door on the left if you use the main lift."

Danstari nodded and left, passing the agent in the doorframe. There was a pause while Delwynn walked toward the viewing window. She stared at Gallien for a minute, slumped over the table. Her crying was still slightly audible and definitely genuine. Asana watched Delwynn peer through the window at the young woman. The agent seemed to soften her expressions temporarily, letting down her normative façade of business-only.

"She's only slightly older than…" the agent remarked, her voice trailing as she sharply turned and walked back toward the door. Without turning around, she spoke.

"Shalli," she ordered. "Go with Emra and start pulling up anything you can on Hazar Tordana. I need to know exactly where he is."

Shalli nodded and walked out of the room, turning to her right down the hall toward the computer lab.

"Asana, with me," Delwynn demanded.

The Twi'lek was not completely sure what had transpired, but obliged. She followed Delwynn down the hallway and into the meeting room. There, Asana walked over to the communications system and pressed a button.

"Send the data from the questioning to Director Aiden," she said handing the young Lethan Twi'lek a piece of paper. "The names are right here on this paper. Mark the message urgent."

Asana spent the next five minutes typing the message into the computer, with Delwynn onlooking, and sent the transmission. Satisfied, she began double-checking the incoming messages. There were three, but one was from Master Greystone. Turning the monitor toward Delwynn, she opened the message.

"It looks like Master Greystone is here," she said. "He's trying to reach you."

"Good," Delwynn responded, reading the message. "That couldn't be better timing. Tell him where we are and then go greet him. Bring him straight to my office. I'll be right back."

Chapter 12

Coruscant

A dead Senator, half of a body, and an explosive crime scene. Pretty much everyday work in this job.
—Evening Delwynn

"Chancellor, thank you for meeting on such short notice," Pelmar Aiden spoke, walking into Chancellor Eddicus's office. Not unlike his prior visit, the lights were dim and Eddicus stood at the window, staring out into the nighttime traffic.

"There is no worry, Director Aiden," Chancellor Eddicus replied. "I couldn't sleep anyway."

"I won't keep you long," the Director replied. "It is nearing the twenty-first hour."

"I figured you had bad news, Director, so I took the liberty of inviting a couple of trusted individuals. I hope you don't mind."

"Depends on who they are, Chancellor."

The chancellor glanced up from his work at Director Aiden with a stark glare. He did not need to justify himself to Chancellor Eddicus, but he spoke up nevertheless.

"I do trust you, Chancellor," he said. "I don't trust the Senate."

The chancellor turned his attention back to the items on his desk.

"Normally, Director, I would agree. These two men are different."

"As you see fit, Chancellor."

"They should be here any moment now."

After a few moments of silence, the main door to the Chancellery Suite opened. In walked two Human males. Director Aiden instantaneously recognized Senator Valorum, his greying hair freshly cut and his dark blue overrobe trademark of his time tending to official business. Relieved to see one trusted individual, Director Aiden turned his attention to the other being. He looked strangely familiar. And strangely young. Only thirty-five or so, he thought. Tall with dark hair, he wore a white overrobe with a silver belt and the insignia of Alderaan on his lapel.

"Director Aiden, you already know Senator Valorum," the Chancellor said, gesturing toward the man. "Let me introduce a fine young man who is the Senator from Alderaan, Mithrel Merian."

The Director reached across to shake the hand Senator Valorum first, then extended it to the young senator before sitting. After the three greeted and nodded, the Director reclined in a seat, placing his elbows on the armrests. He touched his fingers together loosely, occasionally breaking their connection for a moment. He was in deep thought, but the Senators did not interrupt him as they sat in the other two seats before the Chancellor's desk. The Director was not completely comfortable with such a young and new Senator. He was not certain the man had been completely vetted.

"Forgive me, Chancellor," the Director said turning his attention to Merian. "Senator Merian, how familiar are you with Senator Regueny?"

"Not very," the young man replied. "I've only been in the Senate for two years. Though, I've run into him a few times and have worked on some legislation with him."

The Director did not want to start an interrogation session, so he resigned to trust the judgments of the Chancellor and Senator Valorum. Of course, if this was some random ruse to leak information for the sake of drawing out the individual, he did not want to be an unknowing pawn. Perhaps it would best to keep an eye on the young Senator to see if he is as clean as hoped, he thought.

"I've called the two of you here, Senators, for a briefing about an event which should be brought to your attention," the Chancellor began. "GIN Director Pelmar Aiden will tell you of the recent occurrences and let you know what his advice is on proceeding. I trust him utmost with the security of the Republic and his word should be heeded genuinely."

"Thank you, Chancellor," Director Aiden replied. "Senator Valorum, as you are somewhat aware, Senator Regueny was suspected in some, well, underworldly activities. We have confirmation that he became entangled in a group of beings who ran some type of an illegal operation in the Seswenna sector. That said, evidence has come to light through researching receipts and money transfers that Regueny may have been caught unawares. His involvement was probably to act as a mediator for discussions between the interested parties under the guise of business negotiations. Each meeting was disguised as a legitimate business transaction. I just received a message from my agent in the field who discovered these records while on Eriadu. When he became aware of the situation, he tried to meet with two people he felt he could trust to uncover the truth. That was when the company turned on him."

"Forgive me for interrupting, Director," Senator Valorum interjected. "What company?"

"Eriadu Interstellar Enterprises," the Director replied. "Our agents tracked Regueny to Eriadu in what appeared to be a kidnapping. When they got there, however, the Senator was dead."

"Dead?" Senator Merian exclaimed.

"I figured this was why you called me, Director," Chancellor Eddicus qualified.

"Yes," the Director continued. "He was killed by a blaster wound, it appears. A full autopsy is underway, but there have been some problems."

"What kind of problems?" Senator Valorum asked.

"The crime scene had a detonator in it," Director Adien explained. "The agents were able to get some forensic evidence and the bodies out before the room exploded. The detonator was probably placed in the room to cover up the crime. It was triggered when local law enforcement tampered with it."

"So, now that it's a murder you have full jurisdiction over the case," Chancellor Eddicus asked.

"Unfortunately, that is true," the Director continued. "We hoped to retrieve the senator alive, but we were beaten to the punch."

"Was 'the agent' injured?" Senator Valorum inquired, asking about his friend.

"No, she was not," the Director replied.

"You said 'bodies,' Director. Bodies?" the Chancellor pressed.

"Reguney and one other," Aiden replied. "We are working to identify it along with the identities of the other beings who did this. Now, Chancellor, this is where I may need your help."

The Chancellor sat back and pressed his hands together, elbows above the arms of his chair.

"Eriadu is a special case. By taking the bodies, we may have pushed the line of the law. No local police saw the scene first, so they cannot claim jurisdiction par voyant. My agent arrived first and claimed the scene, so we had the right to act as we saw fit. This is all in line with the arrangements made with that planet. The problem is that our people were there and in the building ahead of time for a rescue operation. This isn't what they would normally expect, and my legal department expects a ruckus to be made about our 'timely arrival.'"

"I'll handle the local governor," the Chancellor replied. "If he causes you trouble, send him to me. I'm giving you leverage considering the circumstances. This is well within the bounds of our treaty with them. Any of you senators disagree?"

"Definitely not," Senator Valorum immediately replied with a matter-of-fact tone.

"I'm not entirely sure I know about all those rules with that one planet, Chancellor," Senator Merian confessed. "I don't see anything that looks immoral, though. So, I guess I have no objection."

"Good," the Chancellor responded. "For the record, I don't have the propensity to act illegally. What else, Director?"

Director Aiden shifted in his seat. "Another potential suspect in the larger scheme is going to be interviewed shortly. I'll let you know if there are any developments from that. Until then, I cannot divulge the name or any information about 'that person.'"

The senators nodded in understanding and prepared to leave.

"This is, of course, completely confidential," the Chancellor forcefully said. "Any word of this conversation is confined to this room. I brought you both in here out of courtesy and because I trust you both with this information. Only nine beings in the whole Republic know what is going on: five are working the case and four are in this room! I want to keep it that way."

Both senators nodded again in understanding as they left the suite, leaving the Chancellor and the GIN director alone.

"What does that mean over all, Director?"

"Chancellor, we are not at an impasse, if that is what you are wondering."

"I hope your agent knows what she is doing."

"She's the best we have. She's one of the best in the Republic!"

"Good. I am still gravely concerned about this issue. Plus, three members of the Jedi High Council will be here tomorrow afternoon to meet with me on this matter."

"What do they know?"

"Director, they are Jedi. They have ways of finding things out. From what I've gathered, they know nothing other than that one of their knights is involved in an investigation. I assure you that I've said nothing."

"Why would they bother? More Jedi politicking?"

"I'm not sure, but I'll definitely keep you posted."

Eriadu City Naval Base

Danstari watched as the medical examiner, Palt Bimwera, was finishing his removal of Regueny's various organs. About five minutes earlier, the lieutenant had donned an apron, gloves, and faceguard and helped remove the rib cage. Having placed each organ or bone in a pan, he continued checking the now nearly emptying cavity. The lieutenant was becoming more and more nauseated by the situation as blood was all over Bimwera's gloves and had splattered onto the blue body-covering aprons both men were wearing. After having been down there for fifteen minutes with the medical examiner, Danstari was not sure he would be able to hold his dinner any longer.

"Well, my friend," Bimwera said to the corpse. "Looks like you've left us a little treasure."

Bimwera apparently always talked to the dead. Over the last few minutes, that was the primary source of sound in the room. He held up the tongs and showed Danstari a small silvery metallic ball about the size of a freckle.

"Residue from the blast shot, I'll bet," he continued. "Certain types of weapons cause bone to ionize and leave only the metal in the compounds behind. It might help in determining the weapon used."

As if he had not been before, but Danstari was now totally lost. He thought a blaster was a blaster. Since when did different weapons leave different residue? Of course, he did not realize the extent of the Human body, either until he saw it being taken apart piece by piece and had to help lift organs out of the corpse.

"Vomit bucket is in the corner, Danstari," Delwynn said suddenly entering the room.

As if on cue, the lieutenant could barely hold it any longer. He ran for the bucket and hurled. Taking a towel, he wiped his mouth and threw it into the now soiled object. He closed his eyes and tried to focus on finishing what he was asked to do. Walking back toward the autopsy table, he watched as Delwynn put on a splatter guard for her face and leaned over the body.

"What's he telling us, Palt?" she asked.

"So far, not much," he responded.

"Cause of death?"

"Most certainly blast to the heart. Killed him instantaneously. Blast seems to have incinerated the heart. Your lieutenant and I were not able to find much of it. The left lung was also badly burned and the ribs show ionization from the laser."

"What kind of residue?"

"Not sure, Delwynn. Your young Twi'lek friend will need to determine that."

"Okay. What next?"

"I'm working to see if there are any other hidden surprises. I doubt it much."

"Still need an assistant, Palt?"

"No. I think your lieutenant has had enough excitement for today. He's earned his gizka steak."

Danstari arced his eyebrow in curiosity. Gizka steak? What does that have anything to do with the investigation? His curiosity was not lost by Delwynn who smiled and grabbed a bag that the medical examiner had prepared of the metallic residue. Suddenly, the nausea overcame him again. He hastily bent over the biohazard bucket. As soon as he pressed the button opening the top, he vomited.

"Not yet, he hasn't," Delwynn smarted. "Don't worry, Danstari. You'll earn a gizka steak."

"In due time, lieutenant," Bimwera said. "Unless Delwynn disagrees, you are free to go. Just don't eat anything for a while. Drink a tonic and let your stomach settle."

The lieutenant nodded and removed the bloodied apron and gloves, throwing them into the covered red biohazard bin he had just used.

"I'll give you a couple minutes to relax and freshen up," Delwynn said. "But, there are some things that need to get done."

Danstari simply nodded. He had seen blood before. In fact, a lot of blood. The crime scene in the convention center was eerie. Taking apart a corpse, however, that was beyond foreign to him. After Delwynn removed her mask, he followed her out of the autopsy lab and back to Mally.

— — —

Asana only had to wait on the landing pad for a minute until Master Greystone's shuttle arrived. It was a clear, but cool night. Far too cool for her tastes, although she thought Delwynn or Danstari would be more accustomed to it. Watching the silver and red shuttle dock on the landing pad, she straightened her grey tunic and brought both of her lekku in front of her shoulders. Standing at attention—or, rather, what the Twi'lek assumed was a military attention—she waited for the Jedi Master to deboard the vessel. As soon as she saw the Jedi's long brown robe and his stern yet sympathetic eyes, she walked forward to greet him.

"Asana," Master Greystone cried. "How have the last few days treated you?"

"Doesn't matter now that you're here!" the Twi'lek excitedly replied.

After exchanging a hug, the Jedi inquired of the plan. "Where to?"

Asana stepped aside. Holding her hand out in an ushering gesture, she said, "Agent Delwynn told me to bring you to the Mally. I think she wants to meet with you about the case."

"Lead on," Master Greystone replied.

Asana led the Jedi into the building and down a maze of sterile white hallways. Eventually, they reached another exit and walked out onto the landing pad where the Mally was docked. As soon as the Traverser-class vessel was in sight, Asana turned and looked at the Jedi Master. He smiled when he saw the ship, but his happiness seemed to quickly fade.

"Something wrong, Master Jedi?" Asana asked.

"No," he replied. "I do not believe so. I just sense something strange."

"What do you mean?" she pressed.

"Not sure," Master Greystone continued. "It feels like something painful is on the horizon. Yet, it isn't evil. Strange paradox."

"On the ship?" the Twi'lek furthered.

The Jedi slowed his gait, coming to a complete stop. He knelt to the floor of the landing pad, only a couple of meters from the Mally's port side boarding ramp. "Not evil. Everything will be fine."

Rising to his feet, he tapped the Twi'lek on her left shoulder and escorted her into the ship. From the main cabin area, the two walked to Delwynn's office, the Jedi immediately behind Asana, his hands on her shoulders. As soon as the pair reached the office door, Delwynn approached from behind and greeted her former teacher.

"Hello again, Master," she said.

"Evening," he replied. "I hope nothing too wild has happened."

"No," Delwynn retorted, initially surprising Asana. "Just the usual."

"That bad?" Master Greystone replied with a chuckle.

Agent Delwynn smirked and continued, saying, "A dead senator, half of a body, and an explosive crime scene. Pretty much everyday work in this job."

The Jedi took the sarcasm in stride and walked over to a chair, still smirking back at Delwynn. Asana was glad to see Delwynn in a decent mood considering the circumstances. The case was not exactly progressing, she thought, and Gallien was potentially in danger. Now, it was up to them to connect the dots. Maybe another Jedi on the team would help. Asana had no doubt that Master Greystone was qualified to help. He just needed to be made aware of the new developments.

Agent Delwynn unlocked the door to her office and the familiar sound of it opening was heard. She went straight to her desk and pulled out a datapad while Master Greystone sat in his familiar seat under the holopictures that rested on the mantle opposite the desk. Sitting to Delwynn's left-of-center, the other chair, to his left, remained vacant. Asana decided not to sit, thinking she would probably be dismissed in short order to allow for private conversation between the Special Agent and the Jedi Master.

"Master," Delwynn said as her tone changed to somber. "We were able to get the body of Senator Regueny out of the crime scene before it exploded."

"That's good," he replied. "What was left at the scene?"

"Just some prints," she answered. "Asana has been working on those for the last bit while also testing the blood."

"Speaking of which," Asana interrupted. "I should go check on those."

Asana knew what Delwynn would have probably said next. She was back in business-mode. Trying to stay ahead of the game and keep Delwynn happy was important at this point. She had enough stress. Plus, the woman needed a chance to talk to someone, and Master Greystone was the perfect individual for this.

The Jedi Master watched as Asana left the computer lab, leaving himself alone with his former student. The door clanked closed behind her and locked. He then looked up at his friend and former student and began searching her through the Force.

"Danstari should be checking some data for me about a maintenance droid," she continued. "He had a rough time in autopsy, though. First time. I gave him a few minutes to collect himself."

"Understandable. Do you think it is a solid lead?"

"Possibly a lead. Not sure how much we'll get from it, but I want him to check anyway. He suspects a maintenance droid was present in the room due to the gap in the blood splatter. Maybe we can track it somehow."

"Any other leads? Did that young financier talk any more?"

"Yes. Gallien made a connection earlier and revealed something. I have the name of Hazar Tordana. Do you know of him, Master?"

"His name sounds familiar. Should I?

"According to the documents, he's the head of Czerka Arms. He owns and runs it."

"Interesting connection."

"Yes it is. It still does not tell us who the head of EIE is."

"I'm shocked, too, that a public company doesn't post that information. Don't worry, Evening. I'm sure this Czerka person has something for you to go on."

"I guess then we are traveling again."

"You were hoping to go home?"

"Honestly, Master, I was hoping to go home this weekend and relax. I just feel like I could use the break. I haven't had a normal weekend home in a couple months."

"I'm sure Alsakan has much more of a draw than Denon."

"Anything has a better drawn than Denon. Have you smelt it lately?"

The Jedi Master laughed at the premise. He reached toward the desk and asked Evening for the datapad. She graciously handed it to him. Flipping through the new reports, he read the updates since they had last spoken. Asana had identified the three Rodians. That was a positive, but they could be anywhere at this point. Especially as trained bounty hunters, he surmised. The body that was found as legs-only was not identifiable without examining the DNA of the being. That could be complicated, he thought. Continuing, he checked some of the video data and the reports from Emra about the cameras being hacked.

Sighing, he set the datapad back onto the desk and glanced at Evening who had leaned back and was beginning to doze. He quietly rose, not to disturb her and pressed a button on the doorframe. The clank, however, startled the agent.

"Everything fine, Master?" she asked. "Need any more information?"

"No, Evening," he replied. "I'm fine. What do you need me to do?"

The agent thought for a moment, ruffling her hair and then smoothing over. "Just someone to make certain the bodies get safely aboard the medical examiner's shuttle so that they can be taken to Coruscant."

"I'll take care of that, Evening. I'll send him on his way."

"You know what, Master? Don't worry about it. I really need to do that. Could you tell Danstari to prepare the ship to leave and check on Gallien? She's still in interrogation."

"Where's Shalli?"

"With Emra. She's getting more information on Tordana."

"I'll stop in and check on her too, Evening. You'll need all you can to successfully question him. If he's cornered, he'll cave. He has far too much to lose."

"That is, unless he realized we know very little and believes he can cover his tracks."

"We'll see once we get to Denon. Take care of the bodies, Evening. I'll handle the others until we leave. You need the rest, too."


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