Something is about to happen, Shalli, and we are not prepared for it.
Shalli followed Delwynn as she walked off the ship and into a large field. Ahead were some thick trees, which surrounded a small house. The small house was barely visible through the flora, but Shalli knew where this mission was bound. She had never been on a raid with a member of the Judicial Forces before, let alone the specialized GIN branch. In fact, even in her Jedi training, she had never been on a raid for a hunted criminal. In a way, she did not know what to expect.
Still, Delwynn had taken the time to explain procedure to Shalli before they departed the ship. She needed to move softly and swiftly, always keeping a close eye on everything and anyone. Inside the structure could be anything: traps, weapons, droids, beings. The instructions were to proceed room by room, looking in every nook, cabinet, closet, and crevasse that could hide someone or something. Delwynn emphasized that nothing could be taken for granted. Nothing.
Shalli did not want to disappoint either. Unlike before, the Omwati had finally been able to sense a measure of emotion from the agent. It was faint, but present. It was dedication, the same dedication that she was exuding at that very moment. Feeding off of Delwynn's focus, Shalli kept pace through the trees and high weeds to the small clearing that surrounded the structure.
The house was a small, one-story whitewashed building with a front door and only a couple of windows. It looked to be no more than four or five rooms in all and was in stark contrast to what was seen across the rest of the planet. Eriadu had become an economic and political powerhouse over the last two hundred years for that part of the galaxy. Most forests were either leveled or used for their raw materials. Only isolated areas, such as this place, remained relatively untouched by the expansion of population and industry. In fact, this house looked run down even for an underdeveloped, impoverished world, as Eriadu had been even five hundred years earlier.
As Delwynn led the trio through the high grass and reeds, she brought herself lower to the ground. There was a pathway that had been cleared leading to the steps at the front porch of the house. Before exposing her presence, she paused and waited for the two Jedi to be in position around her. Shalli hunched at Delwynn's right side and awaited the instructions. Instead, Delwynn remained in place for a minute, her eyes briskly scanning everything in sight.
"It looks clear," she whispered. "Time to move in. Follow my lead."
As Delwynn went forward, into the cleared pathway and up the steps, Shalli followed closely behind. Master Greystone was behind her. The Omwati gripped her lightsaber but kept it attached to her belt. It was not time to pull that out yet. Delwynn had instructed that no weapons be drawn unless someone was spotted. Until then, she wanted to be prepared, but unnoticed. Nothing should be taken for granted.
Once on the porch, Shalli huddled against the door with Delwynn. As she pushed the button on the entryway, a modern-looking metallic door swished open. It was in stark contrast to the weather-beaten wood frame of the rest of the building. The noise did not seem to resonate inside the hallway, however. As Delwynn proceeded, she pointed at Shalli and then pointed to the right. As she looked, the Omwati saw the room to which the agent had pointed. Master Greystone was similarly told to travel left while Delwynn went straight.
Going into the small room to the right of the entryway, there were only a few minor pieces of shabby furniture. It was most definitely the primary living space for a family. Two small couches, two sitting chairs, a floor lamp, and pictures of Humans on the walls. The upholstery was aged and dusty, but not torn. The bright red was complimented by the rose-colored walls and the deep brown wood floors. Even in the modern era, it appeared as fairly well-off, but antiquated, accommodations. The room was small, however, but well kept.
Shalli browsed the space but saw nothing alarming and proceeded through an archway at the far end of the room into a study. Books, documents, datapads, datachips, and images were all over the two desks and cabinet tops. Unlike the living space, however, this room was not dusty. The materials, obviously related to some type of scientific research, had been moved or used recently. Things in this small dark room were visibly disturbed from their proper places. It looked lived in.
Again, nothing of alarm was found in this room. Then, Shalli noticed the closet. Carefully, she opened the door. Jumping back as it swung open, she pulled the lightsaber from her belt. Before she ignited it, however, the Omwati noticed that the closet was empty. Completely empty.
Unconcerned for the contents of the research, Shalli moved into the next room: the kitchen and dining area. There, Delwynn was already standing and whispering to Master Greystone. The rest of the small house must have been clear.
"We need to check the perimeter and the subterranean level," Delwynn said as Shalli walked closer.
"I can take the outside," Master Greystone said.
"Sounds good," the agent replied. "Shalli and I will take the downstairs."
Master Greystone did not wait for confirmation. He walked out the back door and began his search. From the kitchen, a small doorway concealed a stairwell that went below the floor. Delwynn began her descent and Shalli followed. Once downstairs, the Omwati marveled at the open expanse that must have covered the same area as the entire structure. Test tubes, vials, more research documents, and chemicals lined the tables and cabinets that filled the entire room. The walls were duracrete and had small lights mounted in them. Delwynn reached for switch and turned them on.
As the light illuminated the room, the pair continued their assessment of the makeshift laboratory. Delwynn walked behind the stairwell and looked at some of the files.
"Just like what I saw upstairs," Shalli commented.
"Don't know if these are important, yet," the agent replied. "I have a feeling they might be."
Shalli kept walking to the back corner of the expanse, looking at all of the laboratory equipment. Then, the Omwati tripped on something. Catching her balance on one of the tables, she looked down at the duracrete floor. There, a Human man was laying face-down.
"Delwynn," Shalli called. "I found someone."
Delwynn rushed over and looked. Bending down, she placed her hand on the man's neck to take the pulse. Seemingly unsatisfied, she sighed and shook her head. Then, she pulled out an imager.
"We're going to flip him over in a minute," she said while snapping an array of images.
"Is he dead?" Shalli asked.
"Oh, yes. Although, the body feels somewhat warm. He may not have been dead for very long."
"How do you know?"
"Look at everything, Shalli. It's all been recently used. The one table, over there, is still wet from the condensation of a water bottle. That bottle was cold maybe even an hour ago."
"So we're close."
"No, we're not close. We're too late."
Shalli hesitated, then continued. "So, who is it?"
"Time to find out."
Delwynn grabbed a pair of gloves from her belt and put them on. Then, taking the body, she gently rolled the man over so that his face was easily visible.
"That's Doctor Samit," she said.
Shalli looked at the man, seasoned in age but not overly advanced. He was wearing a lab jacket but there were no signs of a blast wound or any other type of indication he was murdered. Had there been toxic gas, traces would still have lingered in this underground room. He was just simply dead.
"Could he have died naturally?" Shalli asked.
"That would be a strange coincidence," Delwynn replied. "I don't believe in coincidences."
"So you're saying…" the Jedi tried to connect the two statements.
"No," Delwynn interrupted, looking squarely at the Omwati. "I'm not saying that I think he was murdered. I'm just saying that I don't believe in coincidences."
"I see that Asana is going to be needed," Master Greystone said as he approached the scene. "All clear outside. Nothing for at least a kilometer in any direction other than our ship."
"Well," Delwynn said. "Either he died on his own or someone was here recently; maybe even so recently as an hour ago. Any traces of a ship?"
"Not that I noticed," the Jedi Master confessed. "I'll take a closer look again, though. Even the doctor should have had a ship to get here. Something has to be somewhere."
"Exactly," Delwynn said. "While you take care of that, I am going to contact Asana."
Master Greystone nodded and walked back up the stairwell. Shalli then turned to Delwynn as she pulled out her comlink.
"Asana," Delwynn spoke, depressing the connect button on the device. "Asana, are you there?"
"Hello, Delwynn!" Asana pleasantly chirped on the other side of the connection.
"Grab the gear and get to the house. We have work to do."
"Have Danstari relay the coordinates to Palt Bimwera. We need him or his assistant to come get the body as soon as he can."
"Is it Doctor Samit?"
"Yes, it is. Say, how much do you know about parasites, Asana?"
"Not too much, why?"
"I have a feeling his research is important to this case. I may need you to take a look at it."
"Bring Emra with you. I need her to tap these computers."
"Okay, Delwynn. We'll be there immediately, if not sooner."
Delwynn smirked and put the comlink away. Then, as she looked at the body again, she let out a long sigh. Shalli decided to focus on the documents at the nearby table. Most were scribblings and formulas of scientific jargon. Others were diagrams and images. In the mix, but near the top of the stack, were official Czerka documents and correspondences from Hazar Tordana. Grabbing them, as they were most likely business documents, she handed them to Delwynn.
The agent took the documents and started flipping through them quickly. After a few, she paused at a particular letter. Suddenly, she tossed the pages on the table and ran over to the computer. There, a program was active on the screen. Shalli went over to see what Delwynn had found.
"What's this?" the Omwati asked.
"Doctor Samit was definitely up to something," Delwynn said.
"What was he doing?" Shalli asked.
"I don't know, but he sent a message about two hours ago to EIE that he had perfected his formula."
"Not sure, but he sent it to Zrakin. Maybe something in the research could tell us. Asana might be able to figure that out."
"Why is that so important?"
"Because that letter was from Zrakin that said 'Operation Cleansing' would start when he got confirmation that the formula was perfect. Something is about to happen, Shalli, and we are not prepared for it."