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Chapter 16

Czerka Arms Headquarters, Denon

You're kidding, right? Tell me you are kidding!
—Evening Delwynn

Master Greystone was sitting in the reception area outside the office of Czerka Arms owner and executive Hazar Tordana when Delwynn's datapad beeped. The agent read the message then handed the datapad to him. Reading the report from Asana and Shalli, he looked casually over at the three secretaries who were busy working at their desks. Either Czerka Arms was involved in this plot or Eriadu Interstellar Enterprises was equally tied to the Eriaduan government. That was the only logical way an anti-compression detonator could have been used. That is, unless Senator Regueny was involved in the plot somehow. While most cases encountered twists and bumps, this case seemed to be turning more and more bizarre—if not more and more confusing—with each passing development.

Suddenly, Master Greystone sensed that the meeting in Tordana's office had culminated. He rose, as the double doors opened. Out walked a short young man who was dressed in a business suit and overrobe. He did not regard the Jedi or the others in the room and proceeded directly to exit the reception area. Master Greystone decided to take the initiative since he had stepped forward revealing that he was a Jedi.

"Master Jedi," an older heavy Human male said from the double-doored office entranceway.

"Yes, Mister Tordana," Master Greystone replied. "Thank you for seeing us on such unexpected and abrupt notice."

"No problem," Tordana responded, holding out his hand in a welcoming gesture.

The Jedi Master walked forward and into the office. Directly behind him, Agent Delwynn and Lieutenant Danstari followed suit. Tordana offered seating and sat, himself, behind his desk.

"How may I be of service for the Jedi today?" he inquired.

"My associate," Master Greystone said, pointing to the special agent. "She has some questions that we would like to ask you real briefly. Nothing to significant."

"And your name?" the older man asked.

"Delwynn," she responded. "This shouldn't take too long, so please forgive our questions."

"I'm happy to be of service, Master Delwynn," he graciously responded with a smile.

"Are you familiar with the name 'Catienne Gallien' or who she might be?"

The man's demeanor did not change, but his eyes showed that he was surprised of such pointed questioning. Master Greystone also could tell that this man thought Delwynn was a Jedi. Perhaps a powerful influence to deliver truth; it might backfire if she presses too hard, he thought.

"The name sounds vaguely familiar," Tordana answered. "There are a lot of women who do business in this building. Should I know her?"

"Actually, she is a financier from Aargau."

"Oh. Well, that does not clarify much."

"She made some payments to you on behalf of Eriadu Interstellar Enterprises. We are investigating her involvement and what those transactions were."

"Ah. Those transactions. Were my reimbursements illegal?"

"That depends, Mister Tordana. That is why we are looking into this."

"I assume you have the transaction sheets, yes?"

"Yes."

"I can tell you that everything was double and triple checked on my end to make certain things were in order. This was not a personal order as much as it was a Czerka order. I had a connection in EIE which came to me to do business. I surely cannot be held responsible if this financier decided to go rogue and do illegal things with other parties later on."

"That is true."

"And, Master Delwynn, I assure that I only knew her for the purposes of these transactions with the other company."

"What were the motives of Eriadu Interstellar Enterprises?"

"How would I know? Let me think… well… I believe they purchased… what was it… vaccines? Some various types of anti–biological warfare supplies. A few other things were in there too, like environmental suits or things such as that."

"Why would they need supplies like that?"

"Heh. Only if they thought there was going to be some bio-terrorism attack."

"Was EIE subcontracted by the planetary government?"

"No idea. I think they were acting on their own. My contact ended up dealing primarily with the head of the biological research department down near ground level. Maybe he knows something."

"And, who is that?"

"Doctor Torrik Samit. He hasn't been around for a few days, though. I believe he is on vacation."

"Ok. What about Senator Regueny, Mister Tordana? His name was on related transaction sheets. We think he is acting as an advisor for EIE."

"Perhaps. Never met him."

Of course, Master Greystone thought, he was lying. He had met Senator Regueny on multiple occasions to fill out paperwork. The transaction sheets verified this. The Jedi analyzed the Czerka owner and sensed that he was growing suspicious. It was time to change the course a little bit.

"Waron," Master Greystone interrupted. "Please ask the secretaries if they have had any contacts from Senator Regueny recently."

"But, Master…" Danstari tried to begin.

"Waron," the Jedi replied flatly. "Double check. This would be a great exercise for you."

Danstari took the hint. He stood and left the room.

"Forgive my Padawan, Mister Tordana," the Jedi continued. "I believe he might have wanted to contact you regarding these transactions. Evidence suggests he was an advisor to EIE in their business deliberations. Still, what we are more concerned in is what the financier was doing with that company on Eriadu."

"I understand, Master Jedi," Tordana replied.

Master Greystone sensed that Tordana was more believing in the fact that two Jedi were sitting in front of him rather than a Jedi and someone feigning the position. He wanted to keep that leverage over Tordana. The older man had believed that truth from the beginning even though it was neither Greystone's nor Delwynn's intention. The principle was the same, however. If Tordana believed both were Jedi, he would continue to treat them with the respect he had. At least partial truths would come out rather than no truth at all.

"Who was your contact at EIE?" Delwynn asked.

"His name is on the transaction sheets. He's been here a few times already."

"We are aware, Mister Tordana. He has become somewhat of a mystery man. Gallien seems to not know who he is."

"Master Delwynn, I am not at liberty to divulge my clients so flippantly. Does the young lady know you are after her?"

"Right now, she has no idea what is going on or how big this investigation is. Her obliviousness is refreshing."

"I see."

"What about bounty hunters? Do you ever commission them?"

"No. I personally don't."

"She had some dealings with them, as well. We believe someone is going after her contacts in this deal. Two have already turned up dead. That is also why we came here."

"Do you believe I am in danger?"

"Mister Tordana, it is possible. Although, her dealings with your contact in EIE are much more complex. We are more interested in meeting with him."

Master Greystone sensed that Tordana realized Delwynn's route toward the truth. The man knew that Delwynn was actually after the EIE head. Concentrating on his thoughts, the Jedi tried to discern the details of Tordana's thoughts, attempting to fish for information without startling the man. So far, he was stringing a pleasant web of lies. He knew Gallien; he had met her at least through the Holonet. After all, he knew she was young and relatively good looking. He also had met with Senator Regueny, although refused to acknowledge it.

"Mister Tordana," Master Greystone interrupted. "Are you really that willing to be dishonest with us?"

The ploy worked. The man became markedly nervous for the first time in the meeting. It became obvious that he was fearful that Jedi would try some trick with the Force to pry information from him he wanted to keep secret. Master Greystone heard his thoughts, now completely unshielded, to give the Jedi something to get them off his back.

"Okay," Tordana conceded, leaning forward onto his desk. "My contact is the owner of EIE. His name is Avar Zrakin. He has contacts all throughout the the Eriaduan economy, government, and across that sector. Most of these transactions were being done on behalf of them. Or, at least, that's what he told me."

Master Greystone was pleased with the confession, but something alarmed him in the Force when he heard the name spoken. Also, it seemed like he was stopping short of telling the full truth. Glancing over at Delwynn, she seemed completely stern in her expression as if nothing bothered her about what had been said. Not wanting this to be the closing point, however, the Jedi Master spoke up again.

"Thank you," he said. "But, I have one last question."

"Fair enough, Master Jedi."

"How were the products shipped?"

"The same way we ship everything at Czerka. We ship it ourselves to the system. Droids load and unload the cargo because their memories can be wiped. That way people cannot spy on other's orders with them."

"Sounds like a positive business plan. Keep the competing purchasers guessing."

Greystone lit a smile and stood before the desk. Delwynn did likewise as the Jedi held out his hand toward Tordana. He thanked the older man and shook his hand. Delwynn followed suit and the pair left the office quietly. In the reception area, Danstari was sitting on the desk of the blond-haired secretary as they were flipping through files. His datapad was hooked up to the computer. Upon seeing Delwynn, he jumped upright.

"What are you working on, my young Padawan?" Delwynn asked with a smirk.

"Data," Danstari replied, uncertain at being called 'Padawan.'

"When you are finished, meet us outside," she continued.

Danstari nodded but departed the desk by the time Delwynn had turned the corner into the dark colored corridor. Master Greystone held up, allowing Danstari to catch up. As the lieutenant passed the Jedi, Danstari handed him the datapad. Looking at it, multiple transaction sheets, shipping invoices, and other contact information was revealed.

"That secretary gave me more than I thought," the lieutenant boasted.

"Keep up, Danstari," Delwynn retorted, picking up the pace. "How did you get it from her?"

"Easy," he replied. "I used my insatiable charm."

Delwynn turned her head and gave a quick glare, to which Master Greystone laughed. He was practically jogging to keep up with the agent who was briskly trying to leave the building. He sensed the urgency to track this Avar Zranik before Tordana could interfere. They had traveled such a long way for a short interview, but it was a success. Mostly, however, it was a success because Tordana was willing to open up slightly. He lied about much. Too much, in fact. There was no guarantee that this name was accurate. The Jedi did sense truth, however, in what he had revealed about Zranik. Perhaps it was more a ploy to get the Jedi off his back.

Reaching the outside of the building, Delwynn continued her brisk pace to the Mally. Depressing a button on her datapad, the port side ramp lowered and the trio ascended into the vessel. Quickly, Delwynn flocked to the communications equipment in the computer laboratory. Master Greystone was continuing his shadowing of Delwynn and stood next to her as the communications station lit up. Danstari had gone somewhere, he noticed, but Delwynn was intent on contacting someone.

"Director Aiden," she spoke. At that same moment, a holographic image appeared. Director Pelmar Aiden was sitting at his desk, it appeared.

"Agent Delwynn," he replied.

"Special request for surveillance on all communications between Hazar Tordana, his office, his building, his home, and the rest of the galaxy."

"The reason?"

"He's heavily involved."

"Delwynn, we are talking about the owner of a major corporation. Do you have anything concrete?"

"Transaction sheets, a series of false statements at an interview, and connection to three dead people, a weapon used in the murder of one, and a general too-good-to-be-true character."

"In other words, you don't like him."

"Director, I'd prefer we just arrest him right now and allow an official interrogation, but I can't prove he actually committed a murder or placed the bounty to do such. I can only prove that he is intimately involved in the scheme, whatever it is. I believe I've already spelled it out well enough for you."

"Fine, Delwynn. I'll have it start, effective immediately. I'll contact our favorite judge now."

"Thank you, Director. I also need to know where Doctor Torrik Samit is, but I don't want him to know we are looking for him. He is a biologist for Czerka."

"I suppose you want more miracles, Delwynn?"

"Of course. You have the connections."

"Delwynn, don't get out of line."

The agent was beaming after that portion of the exchange, and Master Greystone was trying to not laugh out loud himself.

"Fine, Delwynn. I'll let you know where he is when I find him."

"Thank you, Director."

"Is that all?"

"Yes."

"Good. After I talk to the judge, I am going home and sitting in the hotbath with my wife. I expect a full report from you when you arrive on Alsakan."

"Are you going to read it, Director?"

"Probably not."

"I definitely don't blame you. I only write them because it's the rules."

The communications station flickered off and Delwynn turned to the Jedi with a wry smile. Master Greystone could not help but to inwardly chuckle at the matter-of-fact exchange between the GIN Director and the special agent who he had known for years. This is why she got results, he surmised.

"So, who wants to search for Avar Zrakin?" Delwynn asked now resuming her more normative semi-stoic demeanor.

"Go for it," Master Greystone replied.

At that moment, Shalli and Asana walked into the room and filed behind Master Greystone. They said nothing as Delwynn walked over to a computer and began typing.

"Asana," she said. "Pull up everything you can on Torrik Samit. Shalli, do the same for Avar Zrakin. I need everything you can get in three minutes."

Master Greystone watched as the two dutifully walked over to the computers, Asana at her traditional spot in the corner while Shalli used the one next to her. Delwynn left the computer lab with haste. Opting to sit, the Jedi Master quietly grabbed the chair near computer three and reclined. He glanced over at the computer which was frantically passing through images, comparing them with the brown haired man on the left side of the screen. Without thinking, the Jedi turned his attention to Emra, which had strolled into the lab and over to him.

"Hello there," he cheerfully said.

Emra beeped and spun around. In some ways, this droid was like having a pet for Evening. It even acted like a pittin on occasion. Shalli, not far away, however, was having difficulty with the search. Master Greystone could sense that, but she remained stoic and non-emotive in her lack of success.

"Emra," the Jedi spoke. "Could you help Shalli real quickly? She's doing a search on someone."

The MR-series droid beeped affirmatively and scooted over to the Omwati. It plugged into the computer and data began pouring onto the screen. Shalli looked down at the droid and thanked it, but stood there otherwise as if nothing had happened. She was almost robotic in her motions, and it bothered him greatly. Even Emra had more personality than this Jedi Knight.

A minute later, Danstari walked into the lab and asked where Delwynn had gone.

"Not sure," the Jedi Master said. "She'll be back in a minute. Take a seat and relax."

"I think I will," Danstari replied with a broad smile as he sat in the chair next to Master Greystone.

"Congratulations on getting that information, lieutenant."

"Thank you, Master. Once she thought I was a Jedi, she didn't want to lie to me."

"Don't get used to it. Most people aren't that gullible."

"That Czerka guy seemed like a tough cookie. Did he eventually crumble?"

"Yes, he did. A little, but he was trying to deflect attention. The information he gave us was more like throwing a piece of meat to a rancor just to shut it up for a while. Still, we didn't want to push our luck after arriving unannounced."

"What are Shalli and Asana doing?"

"They are looking up the two names we discovered. Hopefully they mean something."

At that moment, the agent returned. She walked straightway to Asana and tried to look over her shoulder. The Twi'lek simply smiled and pointed at the large monitor along the front wall. There, it displayed the Republic record on Doctor Torrik Samit. He was clean, as far as a criminal record, but his degrees in bioengineering and biochemistry were prominent. His picture, on the left side of the screen was a plain-looking, but older man with no hair. His dark eyes, however, gave deep insight into a diabolical soul. Master Greystone could see something evil in the man's gaze just from the image on the screen. Samit was definitely far more involved in the plot than an ancillary contact. He could sense it.

The information kept flowing. Images, dates, contacts, business ventures, and personal information all poured across the screen for two minutes as Asana flipped through every part of the data from the Republic and public records. He was sixty-four years old and from Eriadu. He lived on Denon but had family on his birthworld. His last known sighting was four days ago taking an interplanetary shuttle from Denon to Eriadu. He had not been seen since. Lastly, a red bulletin was posted for all Judicial Forces officials to report any sighting of the man to the GIN Director's office. The Jedi smiled at that, knowing that Director Aiden had acted quickly to get that posted.

Once all the data on Samit was exhausted, Delwynn instructed Asana to put the information on Zranik up on that monitor. Obliging, the Twi'lek walked over to the computer where Shalli had been standing. The Omwati moved out of the way and Emra swirled around toward Delwynn, stopping at the agent's feet. Asana began to look at the file, but froze. Master Greystone sensed the hesitation and Asana's sudden change of emotion. Normally a bright and bubbly personality, she was stifled with shock and surprise.

"What's the hold up?" Delwynn asked impatiently.

"Umm, Delwynn…" Asana replied, her voice trailing off.

"What's wrong?" the agent pressed.

"I… I…" the Twi'lek stuttered. "Hold on. I'll get it up."

At that instant, the name and information on Avar Zranik flickered onto the screen. A fifty-one year old man from Eriadu, he was a long-time small business owner who had purchased the majority share of Eriadu Interstellar Enterprises ten years ago. According to the file, he had no criminal record. Then, with Asana flipping to the next bit of information, an image appeared on the screen. A very familiar image. Master Greystone's heart sank as he looked at the man known as Zranik. A brown-haired man with an angular nose and a large dark dimple on his left cheek. Peering to his right, the same man, albeit younger, was on the left side of computer three's monitor.

"You're kidding, right?" Delwynn angrily spat, not having turned around. "Tell me you are kidding!"

"Sorry, Delwynn," Asana sheepishly said. "I wish I was."

The tension level in the room skyrocketed. Master Greystone easily sensed the wild array of emotions in his former student, who was still staring at the man in the image. At the same time, he sensed that Danstari and Shalli were equally confused as to what was happening.

"Take it off the screen, Asana," Delwynn spoke flatly, feigning control over her emotions. The pain in her voice was barely suppressed. "I don't want to see that face."

The agent then turned and looked at the Jedi Master with direct eye contact. It pierced him to his soul. Her eyes telegraphed years upon years of hurt and pain that she carried. It was rising in her so swiftly that it poured out into the entire aura of the room. She was fighting to keep it together, fighting to retain control. Turning to each of the members of her team, she started to give orders with great haste.

"Asana, pull the secret files I have from the Core World robberies. Compare and cross reference anything you can. Look at images, names, dates, money, anything! Check every stroke of every letter! Emra can help. Danstari, set course for Eriadu. We are not leaving there until I've turned that planet inside out looking for these two men. Shalli, take to Gallien. Make sure she has food, something to drink and clean linens. Give her fresh clothing if she needs. Just make her happy. Master…"

Delwynn's voice trailed off and she started toward the door. Stopping in the doorway, she looked at the him and continued.

"Master, just make sure they all do what they need to. I need some time."

At that, Delwynn fled the room, her eyes filled with tears. Master Greystone allowed the atmosphere to stabilize for a moment, then politely gestured for everyone to start working. Asana buried herself in the computer work while Shalli and Danstari departed the lab. Not one being said a word. Not even Emra made a sound.

Chapter 17

Now, what I'm about to tell you… It will not effect my ability to run this case in any way. That I can assure you. I am not after revenge or reviving anything from the past.
—Evening Delwynn

Evening Delwynn ran from the computer lab to her office. After she closed the door, she locked it, only to fall against it in tears. She had been totally broadsided by seeing that man. Avar Zranik, a businessman from Eriadu? This random being with no listed criminal record was actually the same person who had done so much damage to her all those years ago? Now, the surprise of seeing this man again had rattled the agent to the core of her soul. Her anguish over what had happened was flooding her mind so much that the highly intelligent and normally organized woman could not even formulate a cohesive thought. Moving away from the door, she looked to her left as she walked into her private quarters. Delwynn could not bear to see the images on the mantle. Once inside her quarters, she laid on the bed and cried herself to sleep.

Inside the cockpit, Danstari began preparing for departure. He was completely shocked as to what had happened. Delwynn looked like she was losing it once that image came up. Suddenly, he remembered where he had seen that man before. He was that man on Eriadu he and Asana had followed into the convention center. They had actually found the head of EIE. As he made certain the vessel was closed and secure, the lieutenant recalled seeing the man elsewhere. The thought quickly came to him: he was the mystery man on the computer that Delwynn had been searching for over the last many years. He must have had some significant effect on Delwynn to move her in such a way, he thought.

Shalli was completely lost. As she checked on the young financier from Aargau, the Jedi could not help but try to figure out why Delwynn reacted the way she had. It seemed not only out of character but incredibly brash. Such emotion was never positive, she thought. Gallien was sleeping, but Shalli wanted to follow through with her orders. Walking into the storage area, she fished through a bin to find some clean bed linens. What was Delwynn really after? Who was this man? There were no congruous connections in her mind. Just fragments. And, it bothered her.

Hunched over the computer, Asana felt terrible. While she did not know the details of Delwynn's history with this man, she did know that he had hurt the agent in the past. The wounds were deep enough that Delwynn had vowed to hunt this man to the edges of the universe. When she saw the image on the computer monitor, the Twi'lek knew that Delwynn was going to react as she had. There was no doubt. Of course, Asana kept trying to reassure herself, it was not her fault that Zranik was the man responsible for Delwynn's pain. It also was not her fault that the case led back to this man. Vainly, she kept repeating those thoughts in her mind. She still felt terrible.

Master Greystone remained in the computer lab while Asana worked. He could tell the Twi'lek was shaken from the revelation. After a couple of minutes, he had gathered his thoughts and walked over to her. Putting his arms over her shoulders, he embraced her. Asana simply started crying.

"I didn't mean to bring it up," she wailed. "It was just there."

"I know," the Jedi Master tried to reassure. "It isn't your fault. The same thing would have happened if anyone else had done it."

Asana simply nodded. Wiping the tears from her eyes, she eagerly got back to work. Master Greystone then opted to leave her and take care of other business. Departing the computer lab, he walked into the cockpit. Danstari was just beginning to lift the vessel off of the parking area surface. The Jedi watched as the lieutenant skillfully took the vessel back into the chaotic skylanes during the evening rush hour. Once in the traffic, he sat next to Danstari in the co-pilot's chair and reclined.

"Is she okay?" Danstari asked.

"Agent Delwynn will be fine, lieutenant," the Jedi replied.

Danstari did not say another word as he shuffled through the traffic. After ten minutes of fighting the skylanes, he had a clearing to sail further into the atmosphere. Master Greystone stood as the ship accelerated into the low orbit levels. He walked over to the cockpit doorway, then turned. Once the ship had cleared the atmosphere, he spoke.

"Lieutenant," the Jedi said. "In about two hours, join us in the meeting room. I will update everyone on what has happened."

"Sure thing," Danstari replied.

At that point, Master Greystone walked back into the computer lab. He relayed the same instructions to Asana. She simply looked at him rather than saying anything, but the Jedi knew that she had understood the message. Emra beeped and whirred, as well. At least the droid would be present, he sarcastically thought. Now, Shalli was left. He decided to wait a bit before talking to her. He did not want to interrupt her tending to Gallien.

The Jedi Master rubbed his pointed ears with his hands as he sat in the lounge area. Shalli arrived about fifteen minutes after the incident in the computer lab. She walked over to one of the counters and grabbed a piece of green fruit. Tossing and catching it, she casually walked over to a bench and sat down. With her blue hands, she tore the soft fruit into two pieces and began munching.

"In about two hours, we will have a meeting," Master Greystone said.

"Where?" Shalli asked plainly.

"In the meeting room. I need to bring you all up to speed on the interview with Tordana and why we are going to Eriadu."

"What about Delwynn?"

"She may not be ready to do that. I don't think she will mind me keeping you all informed. A few possibilities have arisen that are a bit alarming."

"What is wrong with her?"

"What do you sense?"

Shalli closed her eyes and set down the fruit, which was half eaten. She appeared to be focusing for a couple of minutes, slightly moving her head from side to side and periodically clinching her eyes even tighter. With a blank look, she opened her eyes and shrugged.

"Nothing," the Omwati said. "All I can tell is that she is in bed, sleeping."

The Jedi Master simply sighed and took mental note.

"She was not expecting to see the picture of Zranik," he replied. "It turns out he is the same man who… well… I don't know if I'm allowed to really explain this. Maybe she will."

At that, Master Greystone closed his eyes and began meditating. Through the Force, he could sense that Delwynn had fallen asleep and that Asana was still feeling guilty. The hurt that Delwynn bore hung so densely throughout the entire ship. He was no longer amazed that Shalli could not sense things such as this. She had no basis to understand emotion. All she could do was act as the Jedi had trained her. This time could be a good teaching tool for her. Maybe, Master Greystone thought, she could really grow as a being during the next part of the investigation. Regardless, he needed the rest himself. He decided take an hour to meditate before reviewing the information needed for the meeting.

— — —

Evening Delwynn quietly awoke from her short slumber and walked into the refresher room. She looked terrible, she thought. She had puffy rings under her eyes, her hair was matted in every direction, and her blue shirt had a profound crease with offshoot wrinkles from having laid awkwardly on the bed. She just stared into the mirror. She noticed her state, but did not care. Did it really matter? Other than the team, no one was going to see her like this. Then, it struck her. She could not be or act like this in front of the team.

Gathering all her energy, she took off her shirt and tossed it in a wicker basket. Then, she walked back to the mirror and turned the water on. Lathering her hands with soap, she scrubbed her face. Next, the agent brushed out her hair and then ruffled it into its normative position. Satisfied, she walked back into her room and grabbed a clean shirt. Donning the off-white shirt, she departed her quarters via her office and headed for the computer lab. Delwynn did not see anyone else in the vessel along that short walk until she reached the lab. There, she literally walked into Master Greystone as he was exiting.

"Evening, I am sorry," the Jedi said.

"No, Master," she replied. "I am sorry. I wasn't paying attention."

"Are you doing fine?" he asked.

"I've been better," she answered. "I'm just not going to let everyone else see it. Well, they're not going to see it any more than they already have."

"I was just about to brief the team about everything we've discovered since departing Eriadu. Danstari and Asana both had reports and Shalli was somewhat out of the know."

"Fair enough."

"What do you want me to tell them about you? Should I tell them you are fine?"

"Do you think I owe them an explanation?"

"Evening, that is up to you. Eventually they will need to know your connection to Zranik, but they don't need to know the details."

"Maybe I should just tell them now while I can."

"Are you sure?"

"Master, now is as good of a time as any."

Master Greystone nodded and then walked to the next door in the hallway, the entrance to the meeting room. Delwynn took a deep breath and tried to mentally calm herself. Thoughts were still swirling, but she was not overcome by emotion. At this moment, at least. Not wanting to delay the process, she entered the meeting room while her former teacher was giving opening remarks about what had been done. The agent had a flashback, feeling like she had just walked into an auditorium at the Judicial Forces academy on Coruscant while Master Greystone was giving a lecture. Walking in late there always wrought glares from the other students.

Sitting in the back of the room, Delwynn stared blankly at the team. She tried to focus on the case. Every scenario possible was being explored from bio-terrorism to a business deal gone awry. The dead body was probably not the biologist since DNA suggested he was Kuati. This could not be confirmed, however, since he could have immigrated to Eriadu. If he was alive, he was surely involved in the plot. Then again, Hanik Tordana only offered no resistance to giving his information up. Maybe he was set up as a fall guy for Czerka? The possibilities seemed endless.

After about fifteen minutes of rehashing information, Delwynn snapped to her senses. Someone had called her name. Looking around at each of the team members, who all looked back at her with earnest, she assumed it was her time to speak. Standing, she walked toward the front of the meeting room where Master Greystone offered a reassuring smile.

"I suppose," Delwynn said, taking a deep sigh during the pause. "I suppose you want to know what is going on. After all, you probably deserve to know what I know about Avar Zranik. I would not be doing my job if I did not bring in case files from something that I have investigated in the past which involved the man. As soon as I brought those files to you, all would be revealed anyway. I would rather you hear it from me than read about it in some Judicial Forces document."

Delwynn paused again and shifted her weight from side to side.

"Now, what I'm about to tell you," the agent continued. "It will not effect my ability to run this case in any way. That I can assure you. I am not after revenge or reviving anything from the past. Also, what I'm about to tell you only three other beings even know about. You do not have the permission to relay these facts. Understood?"

Delwynn looked at Danstari, Shalli, and Asana individually as they nodded in understanding.

"Good. No one else can know about this."

Looking to her left, she spied Emra and turned to the droid.

"Emra," she called. "Put up the last family picture."

The room got dark and the holoprojector lit. After a second of flickering, three people appeared. Delwynn knew the image well and remembered even the details of the picnic when this moment had been captured.

"This image was taken eleven years ago, in Year 286."

She glanced at the man in the image. The figure was sitting and had dark brown hair and a handsomely rugged face.

"This is my family. The man is Shmuel Delwynn, my husband."

The agent noticed that Shalli and Danstari were exchanging glances. Disregarding them, she looked at the young, light-haired girl in the image.

"The young one is my daughter. She was eight at the time."

"Her name?" Danstari interrupted.

Delwynn paused, not completely willing to tell. "Mally. Her name was Mally. And both of them were murdered by Zranik."

The agent now noticed the exchange of odd looks between each of the team members. All three had been completely unaware of Delwynn's family and history. Only Master Greystone knew of what the agent prepared to explain. Deciding to move on, Delwynn took a deep breath. She gestured at Emra for the image to be turned off by waving her hand. The droid obliged and the agent continued.

"Avar Zranik may be a legitimate businessman from Eriadu," she said. "He does have a criminal history, however. Twelve years ago on Anaxes, three men robbed a bank. They took millions of credits, but their operation was so sophisticated that no trace was made by the local authorities. Six months later, a bank on Shawken was hit. This time, four billion credits were stolen. Five months after that, they hit a bank on Brentaal IV. Three months after the Brentaal heist, they attacked a bank on Alsakan.

"At first, the heists were not connected. There was no reason to suspect that these three men were going through the Core on a spree. They were never found and their loot was never recovered or traced. Little forensic evidence was left behind. An image, the image you all have probably seen in the computer lab, was taken of Zranik during the Alsakan heist. It is of fairly good quality, so it quickly became the best piece of evidence. In fact, it has since become the only piece of viable evidence that links directly to an individual.

"Now, my connection to that man happens on Alsakan. My husband and daughter went to the bank that was hit right as the heist was happening. As the gunmen took control of the building, they held all beings inside hostage. When Shmuel and Mally pulled up in the speeder, they saw the gunmen entering. From what the traffic cameras recorded, Shmuel tried to flee and one of the men fired a missile, which struck the speeder. They crashed into an arboretum and were flung against a tree."

Delwynn sat down in a seat and leaned forward with her elbows on the table before continuing. In a manner very much unlike what she normally portrayed, her eyes started to water as she spoke.

"When I heard about the heist, I rushed to see what was going on. I stumbled upon the crash in the arboretum and realized it was our speeder. I jumped out and ran over to the wreck. By this point, it was complete chaos. Beings were everywhere and it was so noisy. Oh, the sirens and screaming. Shmuel was dead when I arrived, but Mally was still breathing…barely. Her legs had been severed in the crash, and she was struggling for air while clutching her father. I grabbed her, held her, tried to comfort her."

The agent fought an onslaught of tears. Taking a deep breath, she decided to wrap up her remarks. They have had more than enough detail, she thought.

"That's basically it. She died in my arms. I was also eight months pregnant at the time. I lost the child the following day."

Emotion had welled up too much in Delwynn, and she did not wait for a response. Having spoken her peace, she stood and gave her final orders in her usual Delwynn-esque manner.

"Track down where Zranik and that biologist are. Take at least some of the trip back to Eriadu and sleep. If you want, review the case files from the four known heists. Asana knows where to find them in the computer. Once we get back to Eriadu, it will be all work, so be ready. Until then, I would like to be left alone unless something major happens."

Drained, the agent turned and walked out of the meeting room. She stopped at the lounge and grabbed some juice and a piece of bread. Then, she retreated to her quarters. It was time to refocus before landing on Eriadu.

Chapter 18

Coruscant

You both are the backup plan. If something goes wrong, get the heck of this rock.
—Evening Delwynn

GIN Director Pelmar Aiden paced the hallway outside of Chancellor Eddicus's office. Inside, he was meeting with two representatives from the Jedi Order concerning the case that his agent, Evening Delwynn, was investigating. Grand Master m'Ord Vinka had personally come to attend this meeting along with Master Yoda. Together, the two Jedi were polar opposites in every belief about the role of the Jedi Order in the Republic. On the one hand, Grand Master m'Ord Vinka was often regarded as power hungry and demanded to be involved in many of the Republic's day-to-day affairs. On the other hand, Master Yoda offered a more passive approach, relying on the existing governmental infrastructure rather than to inflate and dilute Jedi numbers. Possibly, many thought, too passive. The best way to handle these situations was probably somewhere in between both beliefs.

Director Aiden had been asked to arrive at the sixteenth hour to meet with the Chancellor. Of course, his excellency had assumed the meeting with the Jedi would have been only thirty minutes and mostly painless. He could not hear the meeting, however, and the guards on the outside of Chancellor Eddicus's office kept tabs on every move he made. The director was a touch uncomfortable in this situation, but he respected the chancellor and his orders enough to not question them. He would wait until the dawn of a new day if needed. Other than his office, he had no place else to go that demanded his attention.

Having waited forty minutes beyond his scheduled arrival, the GIN Director watched as the doors opened and the two Jedi quietly exited. Grand Master m'Ord Vinka was visibly upset, but Master Yoda seemed pleasant.

"Good night to you, Director," the short green-skinned Jedi said.

"Master Yoda," Aiden replied. "A good night to you, as well."

"Tell your agent for us, ready at her call we will be," the Jedi remarked before turning and walking down the corridor until out of sight.

"Director Aiden!" Chancellor Eddicus loudly called from behind his desk. "Please, enter."

Obliging, Director Aiden walked into the office and took a seat in front of the desk. Once seated, Chancellor Eddicus looked squarely at the director and took a deep breath.

"Good news," he said. "Let me rephrase that: Good news, for now."

"So, the Jedi are not going to fight for control?" the Director inquired.

"No. Master Yoda offered to come and talk the Grand Master down. Basically, m'Ord Vinka is troubling his colleagues too much with his antics. There seems to be almost as much tumult in the Jedi Order as there is in Republic politics."

"That's why I mostly stay out of it, your excellency."

"Ha! Sometimes I wish I could. Still, I had to brief both of them. I told them about what happened with Senator Regueny and that your agent was headed to Denon to investigate a Czerka connection. They were only told the basics and not the details, though. Master Yoda was pleased with your agent so far but was ecstatic about a Master Sidian Greystone being so close to the case."

"It figures that even the most passive of Jedi when it comes to involvement would want a Jedi close to the situation."

"Director, you have nothing to worry about when it comes to the order trying to usurp power. Master Yoda privately reaffirmed today that they have no desire to replace the Judicial Forces. The order is too preoccupied with an internal struggle that is coming to the front. I won't divulge everything he said, but we met for thirty minutes before the Grand Master even arrived."

"Is that why the meeting went so long?"

"No. Grand Master m'Ord Vinka arrived on time. The meeting went so long because we were talking about details of other cases as well. As you know, there are Jedi all over the galaxy handling various issues. Since your agent has this one under control, Director, Master Yoda has confidence it will be resolved just as any other murder case."

"That's the problem, Chancellor."

"What is?"

"If Master Yoda only views this as a simple murder, then they have been deceived as to the depth of this case. There is something much more sinister going on."

"What are you saying, Director?"

"Your excellency, it is not a matter of possibly needing the Jedi to help us. We will need the Jedi. If this issue blows up into a full-blown crisis, then they will be needed to stabilize the situation."

"I take it this has gone far beyond a criminal investigation."

"Much beyond. I think we might be looking at terrorism or military activity on top of the conspiracy, assassinations, et cetera that we already have."

"Do you have confirmation of this?"

"No, I do not."

"Then, what do you base these claims on, Director? Those are serious allegations, and you are beginning to worry me."

"Agent Delwynn has asked that we have full monitoring and surveillance on Hazar Tordana, the head of Czerka. At this point, although she has not explicitly stated this, I believe she views him as a co-conspirator. I worked with this woman for many years, your excellency. She does not go on wild bantha chases. If she wants such actions taken, she means business."

"That doesn't mean terrorism."

"She confirms that anti–biological warefare materiél has been purchased from Czerka. She also confirms that EIE also acquired military grade weapons illegally."

"How unfortunate. What about that young financier? What ever happened to her?"

"Delwynn is still holding her. I will ask that she bring Miss. Gallien to a safehouse we have on Thyferra. It is not too far out of her way, but I want to make sure she is done with her."

"Fair enough. Any other bad news you wish to give me, or anything you need me to do?"

"I think that covers it for now. If I hear anything else from Agent Delwynn, I'll let you know."

"Please, Director, do so immediately. I don't care who you interrupt. If something major is on the horizon, I want to know. You have permission to barge into my office, if necessary."

At that, Director Aiden stood and shook hands with the chancellor. Then, he turned and swiftly departed the office. Delwynn rarely reported her every move to him, so he did not expect to hear from her for a while. In fact, she had only reported on the facts of the case: the incident on Qina, the death of Regueny, and the need for surveillance on Tordana. Any speculation or suspicions the woman had were lost by him. Altogether, that was not much for keeping him informed. Of course, Delwynn was the best agent the GIN had, he thought. If anyone could unravel this madness, she could.

Mally

Asana was finally feeling better. After fruitlessly searching the computers with Shalli for about five hours, she slept heavily on her pink mattress for a total of ten hours. The rest was much rejuvenating, and her self-esteem had recovered from having revealed the image of Zranik to Delwynn. Returning to the computer, she swiftly began typing. Searching all Republic records before had proven to be worthless for tracking down Torrik Samit, the head biologist for Czerka. Now, she tried the least likely of sources: HoloNet News and the Holo-tabloids from the Seswenna sector.

Depressing the execute key, the computer zipped through images and documents, flashing them on the screen in rapid-fire succession. No matches. If the biologist was from off-world, there would be some type of manifest logged with his name on it as a passenger. Ideally, at least, this would be the case. Following the same procedure, she began the search of Eriadu-reported arrivals and departures. Three minutes later, only one result appeared on the screen as a match. It was an arrival form from two days before the incident on Qina. That meant, she calculated, that he had arrived seven days ago on Eriadu.

Suddenly, an idea struck her. Supposedly Samit and his family had lived on Eriadu. Maybe his residence could be pinpointed. It had not been listed in recent Republic records from this year, but maybe it could be found somewhere else. Typing her search query into old records and contact books, known as "Yellow Files," she continued back searching for any mention over the last seven years.

Asana hit the execute key again and watched a similar sequence pass before her eyes. Interrupting the flow, however, a single yellow file reference popped up on the screen. Torrik Samit had been listed as a resident at 50-besh-25 Rast Way in planetary sector Dorn-shen-76 about seven years ago. Looking up the physical location on the planetary survey, a house did appear. It was located in a forest not far from a laboratory complex. The laboratory intrigued the Twi'lek. Checking its address, she discovered that the complex had been owned by Czerka Arms and was abandoned. She then cross-checked the address with Republic records. A purchase agreement popped onto the screen stating that EIE had recently purchased the property for three credits, but nothing else was listed. Searching deeper, there were no records of a transaction on Samit's house. He must not have sold it. Maybe this would be a good place to start.

Excited, the Twi'lek ran into the hallway. Seeing no one around, she ran into the cockpit, where Danstari was stretching as if he had just awoken.

"Have you seen Delwynn?" Asana piped with excitement.

"No," the lieutenant spoke through a yawn. "Do you think she's okay?"

"I guess so. That's pretty amazing what she told us."

"Maybe that explains why she is so tough on criminals."

"Maybe."

"Anyway, no. I haven't seen her since the meeting."

Opting not to miss this opportunity to present great information, Asana left the cockpit and went to Delwynn's office. Knocking on the heavy metal door, she hoped the agent was inside working. After a minute of waiting, the door opened and Delwynn, who was sitting at her desk, waved the Twi'lek in.

"What can I do for you, Asana?" the agent asked, as she stoically looked up.

"Are you okay, Delwynn?" the Twi'lek inquired.

"I'm fine. What do you have for me?"

"I have a possible location to look for the biologist. There is a laboratory complex on Eriadu that EIE owns. Czerka used to own it and sold it to them for… well, nothing. And, guess what? Torrik Samit owns property nearby."

Delwynn sat there with a long stare. In a way, it comforted Asana. It was the Delwynn she knew: tough, contemplative, focused. It was far better than what she had experienced during that meeting. Delwynn so rarely showed her emotions like that in front of the team. Only a few times did Asana ever see those deep thoughts from her boss.

"Good," Delwynn finally continued after a lengthy pause. "We'll start at his house, first. Hopefully we can find some information there."

"There's more."

"Oh?"

"Yeah. He has been on the planet for seven days."

"Really?"

"Really! Well… according to the manifest logs. It just says he arrived. I haven't actually found him."

"And, no other record of anything exists? Nothing about his trip?"

"No, but if he has been working in the laboratory, not many people would have seen him. You can easily not cause a stir if you are involved in your work too much."

"Sometimes that does cause a stir, Asana. Anyway, good work. We'll start there. Tell Danstari to take us to that section of Eriadu if he can. If not, we will land at the base and take a speeder. We'll make it work."

"Sure thing, Delwynn. I'm on it."

Asana nodded and departed. Traversing the corridor back to the cockpit, she relayed the instructions and the location to Danstari. As he looked it up on the navicomputer, Asana realized that it was an isolated building that sat in the middle of dense trees with the exception of a field adjacent to the back of the house. Maybe that would be a good place to land. Danstari spied the location on the computer and bobbed his head, all the while bearing a broad smirk.

"I can make that work," the lieutenant said.

"Safely?" Asana asked.

"For Delwynn? Absolutely!"

Asana simply chuckled and shook her head. Danstari kept his broad grin and prepared to take control as the Mally dropped out of hyperspace in the Eriadu system. The Twi'lek decided to sit in the other seat next to Danstari and watch as the lieutenant traveled toward the southern hemisphere of the globe. As the ship entered the atmosphere, Asana rechecked her datapad to review the information.

At that moment, Delwynn barged into the cockpit.

"Asana," she called. "Get ready. Raid."

Asana had worked with Delwynn for years. She knew what that meant. They were going to raid one of the buildings to search for the biologist. Actually, Delwynn and a couple others were going to raid the location. She was going to remain here with Emra as backup and for logistical purposes. That meant the computer lab needed to be on standby, the forensics kits needed to be ready, and the bacta needed to be available in case someone was shot. She also needed to program the navicomputer in case an immediate and urgent exit was needed.

"Raid?" Danstari asked only to find that Delwynn had left. "What does that mean?"

"It means that I have work to do," Asana said. "Delwynn is going to raid one of those buildings."

"What about me?"

"Just focus on getting us down safely, Waron. After all, she didn't tell you about the raid, so you'll probably stay here with me."

"If you say so."

"Anyway, I have to get some things together. Be back in a bit."

The Twi'lek stood as Danstari took the vessel even closer to the ground. She left the cockpit and quickly double-checked the status of the portable forensic cases. All three were ready for whomever was going on the raid. Checking the medical supplies, enough bacta was available and she pulled out two small medpacs for use. Having double checked the supplies, she grabbed the cases and the medpacs and went to the port side boarding ramp. Upon her arrival, the ship rested on the Eriaduan surface and the ramp unlocked.

Delwynn, Shalli, Master Greystone, and the loyal MR-series droid known as "Emra" met Asana at the ramp. There, the agent was going over instructions with Shalli about how to operate on a raid as Delwynn did. Asana had heard these instructions before: things that seem simple, in some ways, but are hard to remember in the heat of the moment if not well-trained. In reality, it was only a rundown of a few terms, a mention of how to check rooms, and what to do if ambushed. Surely, the Twi'lek thought, Jedi would not have too much of a problem with something like this.

As Delwynn continued wrapping up her crash-course in doing a raid, Asana noticed how much Master Greystone was listening to the details of what was said. Had he been on a raid before? Maybe not, she thought. His specialty was archaeology, not criminal justice; yet, even a forensic specialist as herself had been on raids before. Then again, anyone on Delwynn's team had to be prepared to do anything.

"Asana," Delwynn said, breaking the Twi'lek's train of thought. "You and Danstari are the backup plan," she said. "If something goes wrong, get the heck of this rock. Got it?"

"Even with two Jedi?" Asana tried to joke.

"Even with two Jedi," Delwynn flatly retorted, seemingly unamused.

"Be ready to come in and assist with an investigation if the house is clear. If someone has been there in the last seven days, I will want every print, droplet of sweat, or crumb of bread."

"Got it, Delwynn."

"Keep the comlink lines open, but no chatter. None."

"Of course."

"I want the computer feeds running nonstop in case I need information. Once the scene is clear we'll have Emra go in and record anything we find."

"Okay."

"Tell Danstari these instructions so he doesn't make an accidental mistake."

"Will do."

"Asana, take care of him. Will you?"

"Of course, Delwynn."

Asana beamed at the last, somewhat comical instruction. The agent nodded and gave a small smile. Then, looking at the two Jedi accompanying her, she gestured to move out. The agent progressed down the ramp and out of sight, and the two Jedi followed dutifully. Both of them had their lightsabers in hand. The raid was beginning.


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