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Chapter 13

Can I sleep some more?
—Dawn Starskipper

With the events on Seswenna having unfolded, the mystery of the scientific documents taken from the laboratory of Dr. Torrik Samit was resolved. Asana rifled through them once again, hoping to find something that she had missed. She was agitated that the chance to stop the outbreak had slipped through her hands. She was not a biologist, but surely there had to be something in this smattering of paper documents that could have indicated the intent. Each page was just a string of complex organic formulas that ranged from common molecules to intricate medicines. Some sheets of paper had small diagrams of the parasites as well. There seemed to be nothing of note otherwise.

About midway through the stack, Asana noticed a mention of the incredibly toxic compound hollinium chloride. Hyperbaride compounds such as this were very rare in the galaxy and highly costly. Turning over the piece of paper, she saw a chemical reaction outlined that crossed the hollinium chloride with a ammonium-hydrosulfide and carbon. The result was a very complex hollinium compound with nitrogen and sulfur, carbon-tetrachloride, and water. The Twi'lek paused for a moment and scanned the pages that followed. The next seven documents all featured complex chemical formulas and reactions. Asana noticed that hollinides and malides seemed to be the primary base compounds. Deeming it important, she clipped the pages together and set them aside.

About ten minutes later, she noticed a series of numbers on the corner of another page. Notably, they were written in red ink, not the black or blue that had been used elsewhere. Was this a contact number? Was it a passcode? Once again, Asana set the page aside and kept surveying the paper documents.

"Asana," Delwynn said from the doorway, interrupting the Twi'lek's thought process. "We'll be landing on Eriadu in a couple of moments at the naval station. I want a full readout of where Avar Zranik is."

"Sure thing," Asana replied. "I'll start the second I can get a signal from the base."

"That would be now," the agent said with a smirk as the Twi'lek felt the vessel land.

Asana chuckled and stood. "How do you do that?"

Delwynn winked and walked out of the laboratory, leaving the Twi'lek to begin her search.

Without further hesitation, Asana ran to the computer terminals across the hall. Emra was already working the Eriadu City security cameras looking for Zranik. Seeing it best to not duplicate the droid's efforts, Asana opted to begin searching the Holonet for recent appearances. Only a moment later, a HoloNet News article by Aulus Plinius popped up, stating that Zranik had been a guest of honor at a speech by B'Rhea two days prior. The speech—or, rather, political rally—apparently had ended violently with two B'Rhea supporters dead in a street a few blocks away. The mystery was unsolved, but police said that a witness saw a blue-skinned woman attack the men; the witness was spared, on his account.

Asana looked over her shoulder. Could this have been Shalli? Surely this was a misunderstanding of some type. More importantly, how did this effect Zranik's movements? The Twi'lek quickly pulled up footage from the rally. Skimming through it quickly, there was no mass dispersal of people from the square at any point. In fact, the event seemed to end calmly, with the dignitaries walking off the stage area together. There was nothing that indicated a severe incident had occurred. Perhaps a small fight broke out in the corner of the rally, but that must have been it, she thought.

Asana still needed to find out where Zranik had gone. He entered a secure speeder and departed the scene quickly thereafter. All footage from the area in that part of the city was gone. There was no way to trace the vehicle visually. On Eriadu, government vehicles had no tags on them to visually identify which speeder was which. Instead, they used electronic signatures. No tag number was traceable either. Nothing seemed to be proceeding well.

Emra interrupted Asana's deep pondering with a loud series of beeps. The Twi'lek turned to the automaton and spied what she had pulled up onto the screen. It was a photo of Zranik and B'Rhea eating a meal together on the patio of the governor's palace about two hours prior.

"Where did this come from?" Asana asked.

Emra beeped and pulled up the Holonet feed information. It had come across a secret Holonet feed of a dissident group called the "Arrain Makila."

"How reliable is this?" she inquired.

Emra once again beeped in affirmation.

"I suppose this is something to go on," the Twi'lek concluded. "I'll tell Delwynn we have something, at least."

Before departing the computer terminals, however, Asana did a quick scan of information about the governor's palace. Nobody has entered or departed for three hours. Perhaps Zranik was still there, leaving an opportunity to arrest him. Seeing the possibility, Asana ran out of the room and down the hallway toward Delwynn's office. While turning the corner, she ran into Delwynn, splashing the senior agent's beverage onto the wall. Asana put her arms up and took a step back, frozen by Delwynn's icy stare.

"I'll clean that up," Asana said, hoping to melt the intense glaring. "Right after this bit of news, though."

Delwynn continued to glare, obviously unmoved.

"Zranik was at the governor's palace two hours ago," the Twi'lek explained. "There's no record of him having departed there yet. He may still be on the premises."

Delwynn nodded and then began walking in the other direction. Asana followed her to the lounge area, where the agent stood over the counter and grabbed another beverage.

"What do we need to do about it?" the Twi'lek asked.

"It was only water," Delwynn said with her back still toward Asana. "It will dry."

"I meant about Zranik," Asana clarified.

"Same premise," the agent chided, turning around. "We wait until he comes out; then we'll nab him. I'm not going to parade onto the grounds of the governor's palace when everyone in there could likely be arrested and all of them are well-armed. I don't feel like dying today."

Delwynn began walking toward the cockpit. She was obviously irritated by something, Asana thought. Surely the spilling of the water could not have done this. Had she found out about the HoloNet News story that seemed to implicate Shalli? Asana followed the agent into the cockpit, where Danstari was tending to the control panel of the vessel. She was unable to hear the quick exchange between the two, but it seemed that the lieutenant was displeased as well.

"Time to do some maintenance," he said as he got up from the pilot's chair. "We're going to want off this rock, no?"

Asana remained expressionless. Instead, she intensely watched Delwynn follow Danstari out of the port-side cockpit door. Whereas the lieutenant walked into the storage area, Delwynn meandered to the boarding ramp. As it was descending, Asana attempted to stay close.

"I believe you have things to do," Delwynn sneered.

"I believe I do," Asana replied, deciding it be best to leave the agent alone and continue monitoring Zranik's movements.

After Delwynn descended the ramp and walked out of sight, Asana walked back to the computer room and relayed the needs to Emra.

"Find whatever you can to make sure we know what is going on at the governor's palace," she instructed. "Nobody gets in or out without me knowing about it, okay?"

Emra whirred in response. Once the droid had begun scanning the Holonet for information, the Twi'lek walked back to the laboratory and grabbed the stack of papers and the two small piles she had set aside. Bringing them to the computer lab, she sat down at a desk and resumed her surveying.

— — —

Delwynn marched into the main building on the naval base, her arms rhythmically waving at her side. As she walked through the narrow colorless corridor toward the command center, she attempted to quell her burgeoning anger. There were two things that Delwynn hated most in her work: lawyers and media members. The former usually made it nothing more than incredibly difficult to effectively investigate. The latter made it nearly impossible. Media had begun to make this investigation into nothing short of a fiasco.

Before reaching the command center, Master Greystone appeared in the hallway. Once Delwynn approached, he quickly put his right hand over her mouth and gestured for her to follow him. She immediately knew that he was aware of her anger and had simply stopped her from lashing out. Further trying to gain control, Delwynn took a few large breaths as she walked down the corridor further. At the end of the narrow hallway was a stairwell that led down to the garage. The Jedi Master ushered the agent to the garage level and then stopped.

"Yes, Shalli made a mistake," Master Greystone said.

"That's not the biggest concern that I have," Delwynn replied.

"HoloNet News over-inflated the story," the Jedi added.

"I know," the agent responded. "I figured it was self-defense. An Omwati on Eriadu? Not a wise decision on my part."

"You know that I'm not Human either," he added.

"Of course, but you look Human enough," she sneered.

"So, what's the big issue?" Master Greystone inquired.

Delwynn sighed, "HoloNet News has broken the story that Seswenna and ten other planets are being effected by an incurable plague."

"I see," he said, shaking his head.

"I was able to get a call into Palt Bimwera to have Senator Moonflower's body get picked up," she added. "That's about as much as we can do. The borders to all these planets are being closed quickly. Chancellor Eddicus is likely going to have to act more dramatically soon, and I don't have the answers he needs."

"So you need to arrest Zranik," the Jedi Master stated in a matter-of-fact manner.

"You read my mind," the agent responded. "Literally…"

"No, I didn't, Evening," Master Greystone qualified. "I didn't have to."

"Asana's tracking him right now," Delwynn said. "What should we do about Shalli in the mean time?"

"Leave her with me," he instructed. "I'll handle her. We need to keep her off the streets right now. She's in danger because of who she is."

"I suppose you want to see the Jedi I brought back from Seswenna?" she asked.

"That would probably be a good idea," the Jedi Master replied. "We have some catching up to do."

"I'm going to need you to help me arrest Zranik tonight," the agent stoically spake. "We're going to bring him in no matter what."

"I better get on with the social end, then," Master Greystone stated as he turned to the stairwell. "Need anything else?"

"A vacation," Delwynn chided, following behind him. "I haven't even talked to my sister in two weeks."

The agent followed the Jedi Master back upstairs to the command center. Peeking into the room, Delwynn noticed Shalli sleeping comfortably in a wooden chair. Rather than waking her, she proceeded back to the Mally to retrieve Fay. Once back at the ship, Danstari appeared at the base of the boarding ramp.

"New fuel rods installed, boss," he said. "We're ready for a quick departure, if needed."

"Good," she replied. "Ready yourself for a raid. I'm taking you with me, but don't tell anyone else."

"Yes, boss," Danstari said with a salute.

"I'll come get you when needed," the agent instructed. "I'm sure you have stuff to do."

"Definitely, boss," he responded.

Delwynn continued up the boarding ramp to the lounge area, where Fay was meditating quietly. Instead of explicitly interrupting the Jedi, the agent simply sat down opposite her and waited. Only a brief moment went by before Fay opened her eyes.

"I think there's someone you need to speak with," Delwynn said.

"He's waiting, I take it?" Fay asked.

"I'll bring you to him," the agent responded.

Fay followed behind Delwynn as she walked back down the boarding ramp and into the narrow corridor. The agent said nothing as she marched forward and to the command center. Once at the doorway, she entered the passcode and ushered the Jedi Knight inward. Inside, Master Greystone stood and looked at Fay straightly.

"Fay," the Jedi Master said.

"Father," she replied without emotion.

"Evening," Master Greystone called without looking at the agent. "Please give us a few moments. We'll meet you back at the ship in just a few minutes, I promise."

Agent Delwynn understood. She nodded and walked back into the corridor, sealing the door to the command center. Delwynn knew the situation, but decided not to dwell on it. She was glad that they were able to see each other for a few moments again, knowing full well that both had resigned themselves to the separation required by the Jedi Order. Of course, the Jedi did not know that they were family. That secret was safely guarded. In a way, it was much like Delwynn's family. She had one remaining relative, her younger sister. Yet, only a select few individuals even knew of their relationship.

As the agent marched back through the corridor, she was disturbed by the fact that she had not noiced Shalli in the command center. Of course, Delwynn had not been able to have a good look at the room before the Jedi Master intervened. It was likely that the Omwati was still sleeping somewhere in a corner of the command center.

Once Delwynn was back onto the landing platform, Asana came running down the boarding ramp. She was flailing her arms with excitement as she ran to the agent.

"I found him!" she shouted as she pressed her hands to the base of her lekku. "He's at a small one-story warehouse in the South Bypass Industrial District. Apparently, he keeps his office there instead of at the main EIE location."

"Good work," Delwynn affirmed, continuing her gait. "In five minutes, I want you to go into the command room we were using inside the base and break up the convocation."

"Huh?" Asana gestured as they walked up the boarding ramp.

"Just go retrieve the Jedi," the agent restated impatiently. "I want you to go into the base command center in exactly five minutes—not a second more or less."

"Got it," the Twi'lek responded.

"Until then, prepare everything you can about the warehouse," Delwynn added. "We'll meet in the conference room in seven minutes."

Asana nodded and the two parted ways, with Delwynn heading toward the private quarters. Along the way, Delwynn stopped in the cockpit.

"Danstari," she called into the room.

"Yes, boss," the lieutenant said, standing and turning toward the agent.

"Meeting," she stated flatly. "Seven minutes, conference room. Don't be late."

With Danstari nodding in affirmation, Delwynn continued back down the corridor, around to the other side of the Mally. Once she reached the room next to the lounge, across the hall from her office and quarters, the agent pressed a button and entered a code. The door whisked open, revealing a small bed chamber. A small lamp was turned on upon a corner desk, but Dawn was sleeping on the bed. Delwynn gently sat on the bed and put her hand on Dawn's shoulder to wake her.

"Mom?" the girl asked, barely conscious.

Delwynn paused for a moment at the innocent question before responding, "I need you to wake up for a moment, Dawn."

The agent shook the shoulder a little, rousing Dawn from her slumber. After moment of rubbing her eyes, the teenager girl propped herself up with her arms, pressing her elbows into the bed. Her brown hair was scrambled across her face, largely covering her eyes.

"I have to take care of something in the city," Delwynn said, brushing the hair away from the girl's face. "I want you to know, because I'm going to leave you here with Fay and Asana for a little while. They'll take care of you."

"Who's Asana?" Dawn inquired.

"She's the red-skinned Twi'lek you saw earlier," the agent replied. "She's someone I've had on my team for many years now. You'll like her, I think."

The teenager nodded and laid back down, asking, "Can I sleep some more?"

"Sure," Delwynn answered. "Just not too much longer, or your body won't adjust to traveling through space without a regular sunrise and sunset."

"Okay-uh," Dawn said, turning back onto her side.

Delwynn stood and calmly exited to the corridor, pressing a button to close the chamber door behind her. She had at least addressed the girl, hoping to keep her calm while the raid was happening elsewhere. Undoubtedly the teenager would not want to be left with strangers any more than those upon whom she was already relying.

At the same time, Delwynn needed to come up with a solution for Dawn. The teenager was a refugee and, although Delwynn could claim evacuation as a means for taking the girl away from Seswenna, needed to be reported to the authorities to follow proper order. In the chaos of the galaxy, however, the agent surmised that time was not pressing. The capture of Avar Zranik was the foremost priority. As she started down the corridor, Delwynn shifted gears mentally and began to think about the raid. She walked around the ship to the meeting room and sat quietly in the chair at the head of the table.

Delwynn grabbed her datapad from her side and pulled up the warrant for Zranik's arrest. There were no stipulations about Eriaduan jurisdiction, so it appeared that she was free to act as needed. Cross-checking with asylum rules, the agent noted that Eriadu did not have enough autonomy to be fully independent; therefore, Zranik was unable to plead asylum on those accounts. The excitement began to grow as Delwynn stared at the arrest warrant that was signed explicitly by Director Aiden. The only thing hindering the agent from making the arrest was the threat of the businessman being well-guarded.

Asana punctually entered a couple of moments later, with three Jedi in tow. Master Greystone sat at the far end of the table, opposite Delwynn, while Shalli and Fay sat on each side of him. Asana, too, sat dutifully next to Fay. A moment later, Emra and Danstari straggled in. The lieutenant took the remaining seat, between to Shalli and Delwynn, and Emra plugged into the terminal behind him.

"Emra," Delwynn called. "A readout of the warehouse."

The droid beeped as it pulled up a bare-minimum schematic of the building. All it truly showed was an entrance and the other two doors as possible escape routes. She also pointed out the number of shipments that have arrived in the past four days, whereas none had occurred in nearly two months.

"I take it the place is heavily guarded and highly secretive," Master Greystone interjected. "Since we really don't know much about it, how do you plan to get in there?"

"That I do have figured out," Delwynn replied. "I want to enter the shipping area and approach it like we would a house, except we force them to evacuate outward through the office area. With their exit isolated we force their hand. Three of us can't take all of them otherwise."

"Boss, we'll likely need plenty of back-up for this," Danstari added.

"I'm not sure," Asana interjected. "The building is not that much bigger than this ship if you remove the shipping terminal."

Delwynn spied the schematics once more. Asana certainly spoke the truth on that, but the shipping terminal itself was where the biggest dangers would likely be found, the agent thought. Open spaces with high walls, dark crevasses, and odd corners are never good for a raiding party. That area needed to be empty and secure first so that their backside was entirely covered.

"We'll need to move quickly and stealthily," the agent explained. "We'll have our blasters set to stun, but we need to be prepared for anything. If one of us goes down, we shoot to kill. In order to move lightly, I'm only taking Master Greystone and Lieutenant Danstari. We've done this before, and I think we can be efficient once again. The key is to make certain we grab Zranik in the office area. I don't want a shootout in the shipping area. That's too dangerous."

"So, what am I going to be doing?" Asana asked.

"You're the emergency pilot," Delwynn extrapolated. "If we need a quick evacuation from this rock, you can pilot us out. Fay will tend to Dawn, if needed; but, most importantly, she'll be the first line of defense for the vessel if something happens. I'm not taking any chances.

"And Shalli?" Fay inquired.

"I think it best she stays with you and guards the ship," Delwynn said, staring strongly into Master Greystone's eyes. "I think it best that she help here. As sad as it is, a blue-skinned being is not welcome on this planet. For her safety, we'll have her stay here. Plus, I want to maximize her skills once we get Zranik."

Master Greystone continued the locked eye contact with Delwynn and nodded.

"Danstari," the agent continued, finally looking toward her left. "Departure in two minutes. I hope you're ready to go; we're pressed for time."

"I'm ready, boss," Danstari chirped.

"No body armor?" Delwynn asked, looking at the lieutenant and throwing her arms up in exacerbation.

"Oh," the pilot said, patting his green shirt. "It's under the shirt. I thought we would need to appear more like civilians."

"That doesn't mean fashionable," the agent snickered. "Let's go."

Chapter 14


I hate the idea of absolutely shutting down hyperspace travel in those areas.
—Chancellor Anwis Eddicus

Outrage was the only thing filling the room. Alta Eddicus simply shook her head, completely dumb-founded by what was happening in front of her. Across from her sat her father and GIN Director Pelmar Aiden. They, too, seemed nothing short of angry. For ten minutes Master Yoda had been actively discussing the state of the Jedi Order via comnet services with another Jedi Master, Starbuck, who was at the Jedi Temple. The discussion ranged from how to proceed to philosophical debates about the Force. Most of it was lost on the senator, but the timing and the context for most of the discussion was irrelevant to the matters at hand.

The junior senator stayed calm and watched her father allow the proceedings to develop. He was visibly upset, but he did not move from his spot on the couch. Director Aiden kept looking over at Alta and at the chancellor, as if awaiting direction for how to proceed. He was leaning forward, ready to engage. His long grey and white hair gently bobbed forward and backward, echoing the anticipation that radiated from him.

"We need to have some authority to do what is necessary here," the voice clamored from the comm device. "We cannot be subservient to some agent that is incapable of working with Jedi."

"The authority we need not," Yoda replied, rubbing his head. "We've not been involved in this long enough to know what we need to do."

"We should have been!" Master Starbuck shouted. "Since when are the Judicial Forces the protectors of the Republic? Why are we being marginalized?"

"Not true," Yoda sighed.

"It is true, because beings like you have allowed it," the voice railed.

"Enough!" Chancellor Eddicus shouted, standing angrily. "In a minute I'm going to march down to the Senate Hall and personally request a bill to disband the Jedi Order if you both don't stop."

"You wouldn't dare," Master Starbuck nastily chided without any hesitation.

Master Yoda quietly sat down on a nearby chair and waited.

"Master Starbuck," the chancellor spat. "You may think that I'm powerless against the Jedi Order, but you are incorrect. I am hereby stating that the Jedi Order is banned from intervening in this affair and all matters relating to it without my expressed consent. I am also signing an executive decree, effective immediately, that suspends all funding to the Jedi Order except in those instances where they are acting with my permission."

"You can't do that!" Master Starbuck yelled.

"He just did," Director Aiden interjected, now standing next to the chancellor. "You try one move, Master Jedi, and I will have you and your minions put under arrest for interfering with a Republic Judicial Forces investigation."

"The Grand Master is dead," the Jedi angrily remarked through the speaker. "This is now a Jedi affair."

"Wrong again," the chancellor responded. "This is a Republic affair because it began with the murder of two senators and thousands—if not millions of innocent civilians. Your Grand Master was only killed because he meddled when he was not supposed to! Now, I strongly encourage you to end this insolence and support what goes on accordingly, or you will find yourself stripped of power."

"This will not be the end of this, Chancellor Eddicus," the voice threatened. "We will restructure the Order and how we work in the Republic the second this is over."

Alta Eddicus stood and walked over to the comm device; the chancellor responded with a kill signal. Before the Jedi could rant any further, she flipped the switch. The situation had degraded from banter to active threats that, if carried out, would set bad precedents for Republic–Jedi relations for generations. She stared at her father upon doing this, hoping to portray her disgust.

"Are you really planning to do all that?" Alta asked hastily.

"No," the elder Eddicus placidly stated. "I just want him to think I would. The Jedi have enough financial means that they could survive without Republic funding for a few years even if I did. A smart Jedi would have known that."

"I wasn't kidding," Director Aiden interjected, brushing back his hair. "If he gets in the way, I will have him arrested and detained for as long as legally possible."

"Master Yoda," the chancellor continued, turning his attention to the diminutive Jedi Master. "In a few moments I am going to dismiss you. You need to get your house in order before I am going to be all that willing to put Jedi out there; but we need Jedi out there. Since you are the interim Grand Master of the Order, let your organization know that, with all its strife and internal disorder, it is directly hurting the Republic."

"Mister Chancellor," the green-skinned Jedi Master attempted to interrupt.

"I like you and trust you, Master Jedi," Eddicus furthered. "But, you need to do something about this now. I need Jedi that you can trust; I'm not saying your allies, Master Yoda, just those you can trust to be peacekeepers, facilitate evacuations, and the like. That's the most important thing right now."

An awkward silence filled the room for a moment as Master Yoda closed his eyes in contemplative thought.

"Want something else, you do," the Jedi said.

"Sure," the chancellor obliged. "I'll bite. I want Master Starbuck removed from the Jedi Council. But, I ultimately leave that to you and your Jedi Order. My personal experience with him and my emotions of this moment should be brought into consideration, but I trust you will act wisely and in the best interest of the Republic regardless. Just let me state that his insubordination cannot be continuously tolerated, especially against you and me. I pray this is not a habit."

"Correct you are to assume this is a habit," Master Yoda answered. "This leads me to why I came here in person. You are most definitely aware of the possible Dark Jedi movement in the Order. Connections between a faction of Jedi known as the Opus Lucem and Master Starbuck, a Jedi Minch found. The connections also point to the Commerce Guild, Eriadu Interstellar Enterprises being an affiliate member."

"So, this is a conspiracy that involves Jedi, too?" Alta Eddicus inquired warily.

The Jedi Master sighed. "It might. Keep you informed I will."

"What is this Opus Lucem, Master Yoda?" the chancellor asked.

"A faction originally started by Grand Master m'Ord Vinka, I believe." the green-skinned Jedi answered. "If it is dabbling in the dark side, a bigger problem on our hands we surely have. For now, with Master Starbuck?. Marginalize him, I will try; but forever I cannot. Deal with him privately, the Jedi council will."

"Thank you for your help and consideration," Chancellor Eddicus stated. "Please keep us informed of anything you uncover. This might be a missing link that we need. You are dismissed, Master Yoda. May the Force be with you."

The Jedi Master bowed in respect before slowly marching out of the room. Once the door closed behind him, Alta looked directly at her father.

"What's next?" she asked. "Jedi involved in this conspiracy?"

"This just keeps getting better. We need to summon a few people to help handle this situation," the elder Eddicus responded, rubbing his hand over his balding head in frustration. "Contact Senators Valorum, Fraajic, and Merian. Tell them I request their audience here immediately."

"Consider it done," the senator replied.

"Alta, how much do you trust Myr Pilp?" Chancellor Eddicus inquired.

"The Duros senator?" Alta Eddicus responded. "He's an opportunist. I don't really trust him with much. He's fickle in his voting. He tends to go with whomever he thinks is going to win that day. Plus, I strongly suspect that he's being paid off. Why do you ask?"

"Should we bring him in, so that there is someone outside of our small circle?" the chancellor asked.

"I can think of about five others I'd rather have here than him," she answered. "I'm not convinced that he would be good for us at this point."

"Pelmar," the chancellor called, looking back at the GIN Director, who was fumbling with a datapad. "Any more news from your agent?"

Director Aiden sighed, "I think we have a bigger problem to worry about first, your Excellency. Take a look at this."

The GIN Director grabbed a remote device off of a nearby table and aimed it at the screen along the far wall. The Holonet feed of HoloNet News's main breaking news channel, HoloNet News 1, appeared on the screen. A reporter was broadcasting live from Allanteen Six with the on-screen title 'Fatal epidemic sweeping through southern systems.' The names of systems scrolled across the bottom of the screen. The list included mostly southern systems that were clustered not too distantly from Eriadu. Among them were Alakatha, Vogel 7, Lanthe, Alassa Major, Kerkoidia, Kabal, Sluis Van, Sanrafsix, Darkknell, Indupar, Woostri, Seswenna, and Vandelhelm. Four planets closer to the Core, and along the Corellian Run were also listed: Druckenwell, Rhommamool, Allanteen Six, and Ord Vaxal.

The chancellor let out a large grunt that gave away his thoughts. To Alta, it was a 'I guess we know how this got out'–grunt. He moved forward as the broadcast continued, opting to sit on the front edge of one of the couches. His eyes were still transfixed to the screen.

Alta continued to watch as the planets steadily scrolled across the bottom, indicating that they were being effected. Then, the reporter mentioned Eriadu in passing. The feed switched to show a reporter named Aulus Plinius on Eriadu. The diminutive, almost wimpy-looking man relayed the panic on Eriadu and that the borders had been closed by the governor-general as a 'protective measure' against the spread of the plague. The reporter also indicated that as many as ninety-five million Seswennans were reported dead, the location the plague has hit the hardest to this point.

In frustration, Alta turned toward her father. She stared into his eyes, as he appeared visibly shaken by the information. When the chancellor stood, the senator took a few steps close to him, grabbing his right arm tightly.

"What can we do to stop this from spreading?" she whispered.

"Just get those senators, Alta," he answered with a small hand-gesture. "I need them here right now to talk about this."

She nodded in understanding and released the grip on her father. As she took a few steps back, she maintained her eye-to-eye connection with the chancellor. When he turned to face the GIN Director, she calmly turned and walked over to her father's desk.

Alta Eddicus spent the next five minutes attempting to reach the three senators. When Senator Valorum was finally contacted, he stated that Senator Fraajic was with him; they were already on their way to the chancellor's office. Senator Merian was en route, as well, according to the Coruscanti senator.

When she departed the desk, Alta noticed that her father was sitting by himself on a couch. Director Aiden was talking into a commlink across the room. The senator meandered to her father and sat next to him, putting her left arm on his right leg.

"They should be here momentarily," she stated.

"Good," the chancellor replied.

The two sat in silence for a few moments. The chancellor, unless upset or actively debating, was usually a man who offered few words. When he spoke, he was eloquent, refined, and detailed. No word was idle; everything had a specific meaning. Even so, he rarely spoke out of turn. Only his leadership position kept him talking as much as he did. When no speech was needed, the chancellor often sat aloofly and internalized everything. At this moment, it was clear to Alta that her father was trying to suppress brooding frustration while attempting to plan ahead in the event of an even larger catastrophe. She longed to be of assistance, hoping that something could be done to prevent this disaster from progressing forward.

"Well, find them!" Director Aiden shouted across the room, startling the senator. He grabbed his temple with his left hand and turned from side to side. Then, in a fit, he threw the commlink against the far wall, about ten meters away. The device broke into two pieces upon impact and landed not far from the wall.

"I cannot reach my agent on Eriadu," the GIN Director said, stomping his way toward the chancellor. "Worse yet, our Thyferra office is reporting that the Judicial Forces's scientific offices on Allanteen Six is empty. They're all missing. Considering what has happened, some of them are likely dead."

"The agent is missing?" Chancellor Eddicus asked.

"No," he replied. "She's on a raid, hopefully arresting Avar Zranik."

"Whether or not it fails, recall her and the team," the chancellor instructed.

"Why?" the director asked. "She's the best person I have out there. It's not her fault that we've been playing catch-up for a well-conspired series of terrorist attacks. Had she not connected the dots between Senator Regueny's death and Avar Zranik, we'd be lost completely right now."

"I'm not recalling her because we're behind the curve, Pelmar," Chancellor Eddicus clarified. "There are more beings involved than Zranik. He may be too hard to get right now, and we could use her mind here on Coruscant."

"More importantly, we need to find out what is even going on," Director Aiden remarked, squatting on the couch opposite the chancellor.

"We need scientists to tell us what this is all about," the chancellor stated. "I think it is time we contact the people at the University of Coruscant. We'll put them to work for us. Get all the documents you can from your agent. I'm sure there's someone on that team you can reach. Give me everything you can about what is causing this sickness."

"Yes, sir," the director answered, rising from the couch in unison with the chancellor.

The two men parted. The chancellor walked toward his desk while the GIN Director scurried over to the far wall and grabbed the broken commlink. Alta sat back and closed her eyes for a moment until the buzzer rang at the door. Rising herself, she walked to the main door and opened it. Senator Fraajic nodded once the door opened and entered swiftly. Behind him was Senator Valorum. Senator Merian ran into view immediately thereafter.

"I'm sorry that I was running late," the young senator huffed.

Alta closed the office door and locked it. She then turned and joined the three senators, who were standing in a group near the screen that showed the HoloNet News 1 feed. The four senators together watched the proceedings, as more than two dozen planets were listed as being effected. Once again, other than Allanteen Six and the other three nearby worlds, all of the effected planets were in the area not more than a two-day journey from Eriadu. HoloNet News was not entirely lost by this, stating that the epicenter was undoubtedly on Seswenna, since it featured the highest death toll known.

Suddenly, an image of Admiral Pruis flashed onto the screen. The chancellor appeared behind the senators and excused himself forward.

"Admiral Pruis," Chancellor Eddicus called.

"Your Excellency," the admiral greeted. "You summoned me?"

"Yes," he replied. "How is the protection zone around Seswenna progressing?"

"As planned, sir," the admiral answered.

"Good," the chancellor affirmed. "Now, as head of the Judicial Forces naval forces, we need to discuss how this is unfolding. I'm sure you are aware that this has become much more widespread than just Seswenna."

"I have been told," Admiral Pruis said. "Quite a few planets in this part of the galaxy are afflicted."

"What do you suggest we do to isolate it?" Chancellor Eddicus asked.

The Admiral turned to his right and glanced through some papers he had present. Then, he grabbed a datapad and began working with it for a few moments. The three minute pause seemed to be an eternity for Senator Eddicus as she stood and watched. Of course, the admiral was being deliberate; she simply wished that things could move faster. Only fifteen to twenty minutes were even needed for the plague to take hold in an individual.

"I suggest we close the Enarc Run, the Kira Run, the Hydian Way south of Sullust, and the Rimma south of Thyferra," the admiral boldly stated.

"That's quite drastic to close the entire Rimma south of Thyferra," the chancellor responded. "I assume all intersecting routes in those zones would need to be closed as well?"

"Likely," the admiral answered. "I suggest this because, as you know, we have plenty of Judicial Forces personnel on Thyferra and Sullust. It is much easier to close a hyperspace route at a major planet like that than it is to do so at some random star, where we would need to station equipment and vessels. We have the ability to forcibly pull ships out of hyperspace at those locations."

GIN Director Pelmar Aiden suddenly appeared next to the chancellor, saying, "Plus, with the Enarc and Kira Runs closed, we can cut off the Kira system and Naboo from the nearby planets that are currently infected. Those two population centers can be hopefully spared this."

"I hate the idea of absolutely shutting down hyperspace travel in those areas," the chancellor admitted. "What about the Corellian Run near Allanteen and Druckenwell?"

"That's a different political situation, sir," the admiral answered. "I'll leave that to you to discuss and then give orders."

"Let's just close it as well," the chancellor ordered. "Only authorized Judicial Forces codes can have access. Even then, I know beings always manage to get around these barriers. How long will this take?"

"I'll put the orders in immediately, sir," Admiral Pruis stated. "We should have closure within twenty minutes. All vessels remaining, which could be hundreds of thousands considering the scope of this, should be forced to divert within three or four hours. There are plenty of hyperspace routes connecting the uninfected planets. The issue is that we might be playing catch-up should another planet become infected."

"Thank you, Admiral," the chancellor said, as the feed was cut. "Now, senators, we need to discuss what we can do to prevent panic from spreading. I think we're going to need a press conference within an hour. Let's talk about what needs to be said."

Chapter 15


What are you going to do Special Agent? Shoot me?
—Avar Zranik

"This place is underwhelming," Agent Delwynn said sarcastically.

The speeder had come to a stop in a public parking zone about two blocks from the warehouse. The agent surmised that it was the safest location to hide the vehicle, noting the lack of concealed areas near the warehouse proper. The public lot was nearly full, allowing the speeder from the naval base to easily blend into the scenery. The warehouse was also bounded on all sides by two intersecting streets and two shipping alleys.

"I'm not going to lie," Danstari interjected. "This place gives me the creeps. It reminds me of the Coruscanti underworld."

"It's just a warehouse, Danstari," Delwynn chided. "The underworld is worse. Still, there are probably a few thugs we need to worry about."

"I'll handle those, Evening," Master Greystone added. "Once we know how many there are, I can provide enough of a diversion to enable you to get to Zranik."

"I appreciate that, Master," the agent responded. "But, I'd rather we stick together as much as possible."

"More importantly, boss, how are we going to even get in there?" the lieutenant asked.

Delwynn scratched her temple along the hairline and smirked. The plan was clear in her mind, even given the wide-open nature of the facility's exterior. She quickly exited the speeder and closed the door. The two others followed suit almost immediately thereafter. With the three standing in the parking area in silence, the agent tapped her shoulder to engage the personal energy shield.

"Shields up," Delwynn instructed. "Just like we talked about on the way over here, the best plan is to go through the alley right around the corner."

"Okay," Danstari responded. "I guess that strong door is the best way to make an entry into the office area without having to go through the shipping area. I'm still confused as to why you changed your mind, boss."

Delwynn simply began walking through the parked vehicles toward the warehouse, opting not to explain herself to Danstari. Looking behind, she noted the Jedi Master and lieutenant meandering through the vehicles as well. Once she arrived at the street, she waited for the others to be close enough to hear a whisper. Turning to them, she covertly made a hand gesture to keep quiet before leaning against a building.

"Cameras on the corners above the street," the agent whispered. "Once we get to the alley, duck below anything that's in there—shipping crates, garbage bins. More importantly, stay close."

When Master Greystone and Danstari nodded in affirmation, Delwynn slowly began pacing her steps toward the alley. It took five minutes to traverse the neighboring warehouse. Spying around the corner, however, the narrow shipping corridor appeared clear. The duracrete walls of the two warehouses that enclosed the alley cast deep shadows, limiting the light. It was dark enough that small mines or other objects may not be visible until too late. Deciding to take the chance, she motioned forward and took a few steps toward a dumpster.

Delwynn paused at the large metallic depository as Master Greystone and Danstari shuttled behind her. The Jedi Master then passed ahead, only to pause at a shipping runway. Once he noted that it was clear, he gestured for the others to follow. Delwynn took the first steps, Danstari following closely behind. Upon arriving, Delwynn scampered beyond the runway and arrived at the strong door. Instead of pausing again, however, she passed it and stopped at the nearby corner. She slowly turned her head and glared down the opposing alley. Satisfied, she returned to the strong door, motioning the others to join.

"Do you sense anything?" the agent asked Master Greystone once he arrived.

"Difficult to tell," he softly answered, closing his eyes. "Hmm— there seems to be six individuals in there. Definitely one in the hallway, but I'm not sure how close he is, if it is even a 'he.' Three are near the center of the building, likely the office."

"Are you willing to jam your lightsaber into the door?" Delwynn inquired. "Or, should we wait?"

"I have a better idea," Danstari quietly interjected.

"What?" she responded, unamused by the comment.

"Well," the lieutenant continued. "There may be no windows here in this alley, and the runway is sealed, but I don't think we have the time to wait. I bet I can pick the lock on the door."

"It's internal," Master Greystone said, pointing to the solid metal door.

Delwynn stepped back as Danstari pushed his way to the doorframe. He pressed his ears against the area where the lock would have likely been placed. Reaching down toward his belt, the lieutenant grabbed a small device no bigger than a thumb. He pressed the button on it, causing a green light to shine on the end. Then, he slowly ran the device up the doorframe about thirty centimeters, then to the right, over the duracrete wall. After about one meter, he stopped and grabbed a small blade from his bag.

Delwynn walked over to the lieutenant; but, before she could inquire further, Danstari took the blade and gently stroked away a small layer of material, revealing a small metal plate. After two minutes of digging it out, he released the plate and stared at the wires underneath. Delwynn peered eagerly over the lieutenant's left shoulder as he pressed the small device with the green light into the wires. After a moment, the light turned blue. The lieutenant pushed a small black wire into a clasp on the device and the light turned yellow. Behind the agent, a click was heard.

"Okay, boss," Danstari said. "It's unlocked. Now you just have to get Master Greystone to do that Force-moving-thingy to open it from the outside."

Delwynn smirked and shook her head in disbelief. Then, she turned and offered a welcoming gesture to Master Greystone to open the door. In preparation as the Jedi closed his eyes, she drew her blaster and checked to make sure it was engaged.

Master Greystone slowly pried the door open with the Force, and a creaking sound resonated through the alley. With it open about a half meter, the Jedi stopped and grabbed his lightsaber. Delwynn heard footsteps, as a guard was slowly walking toward the door and remarking that it was strange to see the door open. Delwynn aimed her blaster, which was set to stun, at what she assumed was chest level. The second the guard appeared in the doorway, Delwynn shot.

A tall, thin Human male flopped hard onto the ground toward the agent. Danstari quickly pulled the stunned man out of the doorframe, and Delwynn peered into the inside hallway. The interior was dimly lit, but it was clear that no one else was present within the line of sight. Gesturing for Master Greystone and Danstari to follow, Delwynn grabbed the blaster out of the guard's hand and proceeded into the corridor.

The raiding party slowly walked forward to a pair of doors that rested opposite each other in the hallway. Delwynn motioned to Danstari to open the door to the left. As the lieutenant approached the door, she took watch to ensure that no one appeared from around the corner at the far end of the hallway. Master Greystone crowded behind the lieutenant and put a hand on his back.

"Nobody in there," the Jedi whispered. "It's a control room."

Danstari nodded, visibly relieved. Once the door was opened, the three swiftly proceeded inside, finding the room empty of anything except for pipes, wires, and some janitorial equipment. Delwynn walked back into the hallway and proceeded across the hallway. Once Danstari and Master Greystone were behind her, she quickly opened the doorway. Blaster drawn, she saw another dark room, a workroom of sorts. Office machinery and mail bins lined the small, narrow room. How underwhelming, she thought.

"Do you sense anyone at all, Master?" the agent impatiently asked.

"Zranik is here, Evening, but three others are here, too," he replied. "We should go back into the hallway and make a right. All the signs of life come from there. I suspect there are two guards."

Back into the hallway, Delwynn noted that it remained clear. She led the others in the party down the corridor to the intersection. Instead of proceeding immediately, she spied the hallway to the right, noting a door at the end. The hallway to the left appeared to turn to its right, undoubtedly leading to the shipping area.

Considering her options, she proceeded down the corridor to the right, at the suggestion of Master Greystone. At the end of the hallway was a large door. Suddenly, the door opened, and two men appeared with blasters drawn.

"Stop where you are," one of the guards called. "Drop your weapons."

Delwynn did not move, still pointing her blaster forward. She hoped that it indicated to Danstari that she wanted him to do the same.

"I said to drop your weapons," the guard reiterated. His tone, harsh and coarse, boomed threateningly through the corridor.

"You are under arrest," Delwynn said. "Drop your weapons. If you don't, I have every legal right to shoot you. Even if you do, I still have every legal right to shoot you, so drop your weapons."

The standoff remained for a moment before the guard who had spoken stepped forward and pressed the barrel of the blaster to Delwynn's forehead.

"Now, I really have every legal right to shoot you," the agent spat, lowering her weapon to about a twenty degree angle with the ground.

At the same time, Delwynn did not remove her finger from the trigger. Once the guard gently relaxed his aim the agent and glanced over his shoulder, Delwynn simultaneously dropped to her knees and fired at the floor, hoping to hit the guard's foot. Even though the shot was errant, the guard leaped in shock. Before he could get a return shot off, Delwynn lunged at his waist, tackling the man to the floor. The other guard opened fire, but the agent could not see what transpired. All she heard was a lightsaber crackling in the background and blasters firing.

On top of the one guard, Delwynn flipped the switch on her blaster from stun to laser and aimed it at the man's head. After the other guard collapsed on the floor in the periphery of her vision, she smiled at the guard who had initially assailed her.

"I suppose you still want me to drop the weapon?" she chidingly asked.

Danstari quickly scrambled to the agent and helped flip the body of the guard over. Master Greystone was checking the other guard for a pulse at the same time.

"That was quite a move, boss," Danstari said very softly, tightening the binders on the guard.

"I got lucky," she replied, kneeing the downed guard in the middle of his left side. "The jerk flinched. Still, we're not done. Lieutenant, stay and guard him. Keep him down and silent. If he makes a sound, shoot him in the head."

"Boss?" the lieutenant questioned.

Delwynn was unamused by the question. She simply pointed at the man's head as she stood. Then, standing next to the Jedi Master, she gestured to move forward. The room where the guards had come was nothing more than a receptionist's office. A small desk with communications devices at against a far wall. To the left, however, was another door. In reality, the room was entirely unassuming. The lights were off, save an overhead emergency light that provided little more than the ability to quickly survey the space.

"In there," the agent said, pointing toward the small door. "Even I can feel it."

The Jedi Master locked eye-contact with his former student.

"Be careful, Evening," Master Greystone cautioned. "We are here to arrest him, not anything else. He will undoubtedly try to goad you or provoke you into acting against him."

Delwynn sighed at the admonishment but also understood that a precautionary word was more than warranted given the history between her and Avar Zranik. Refocusing her mind, she moved to the door and prepared to press the button to open it. Apprehension filled her suddenly. An erstwhile swell of eagerness also filled the agent. She paused once again and looked at the Jedi Master, quickly encasing her thoughts and emotions into the depths of her being.

Finally, Delwynn depressed the button and the door whooshed open. Inside, a silhouette of a man could be seen on the other side of the room.

"I've been expecting you," the voice called from the shadows. "Special Agent Evening Delwynn, I presume?"

"Avar Zranik," Delwynn called. "You are under arrest."

The man laughed and stood. As he turned, the light failed to illuminate his face. Instead, all that could be clearly seen was his military-grade body armor. Delwynn was not certain if he was armed or what else in the room could be triggered to attack her.

"I was hoping it would be you," the man chided.

"Slowly step forward and put your arms over your head," she ordered.

"A gun drawn and a Jedi at your side," the shadowy figure continued. "This is convenient."

"Quiet!" the agent shouted. "Keep stepping over here."

The man sneered, still not obliging the arrest instructions. "What are you going to do, Special Agent? Shoot me?"

"Not if I don't have to," Delwynn sneered in return. "I plan to drag you out of here in cuffs."

Zranik continued to chide, saying, "You know, Special Agent, when I realized you were the one coming after me, I became curious. After a little bit of work, I saw that it was your husband and daughter who got in the way on Alsakan."

Delwynn immediately grew angry. Only her sense of professionalism helped her keep some measure of composure. Even that, however, was fleeting in the heat of the moment.

"They didn't get in the way," she hastily responded. "They were outside the bank! You murdered my family for no reason!"

"Not so, Special Agent, the shadowed man goaded. "There was a reason. Still, there's one person in your family that I haven't murdered yet—and that's you."

Delwynn was fighting to remain calm as much as possible during the exchange.

"I assume that is a direct threat," the agent said, stepping forward a couple of paces.

"You fool," he scorned. "Perhaps I will have the pleasure of killing you, Special Agent, but not today. No, I need you around to keep chasing me. It keeps your agency distracted."

"We have company," Master Greystone whispered. "Next room is the shipping area. Guards just arrived. It's a trap."

"What do you mean?" Delwynn asked Zranik, taking three more steps forward and shunning the Jedi's remark.

"Oh," he replied with evil pleasure oozing from his voice. "You'll find out soon enough, I'm sure. You see, didn't your handlers in your espionage training ever teach you to watch the other hand?"

At that, a flash explosive went off, releasing a loud pop and blinding flash of light. Blaster fire came from an area to the left of where Zranik had been standing. The agent was unable to see where the man had fled, but at least five guards had entered the room through a back door and were liberally firing. Delwynn began backing up to exit the office, firing upon the guards who had so suddenly appeared.

Master Greystone was deflecting the blaster fire with his lightsaber, as Delwynn began a hasty retreat. She ran back into the receptionist's office and back into the corridor, where Danstari was sitting atop of the initial guard, a blaster held to his back.

"Let's move," Delwynn screamed at the lieutenant. "Grab the man, and let's go."

Master Greystone retreated back to the agent and the lieutenant, finally disengaging his weapon. Reaching down to the kneeling pair, he shuttled them forward with his arms. Danstari gripped the bound man by the left arm and scampered clumsily. The trio departed into the alley with relative speed, the guard not putting up too much resistance. Once back in the alley, Danstari pushed forward even harder, tumbling the man to the ground. Delwynn noted it, and, displeased with the delay, told the lieutenant to be more careful. By this point, the sound of blaster fire had diminished.

"Keep going back to the speeder," Delwynn ordered, moving into the intersection of the alley and the cross-street.

The Jedi Master and lieutenant obliged. Delwynn waited as they progressed toward the speeder for a couple of moments until the guards exited the warehouse into the alley. Before they could spot her, Delwynn darted down the street toward the parking area. Not incredibly fast, it did not surprise the agent when the men started firing in her direction before she was able to clear the neighboring building. Once into the parking area, she wove through the vehicles and caught up to the other members of the raiding party, who were just beginning to enter the speeder.

"I hate failure," Delwynn spat, quickly stepping into the vehicle.

By this point, the Danstari had secured the guard between him and the Jedi Master. Then, he fired his blaster at the guard, stunning him. The body of the guard flopped forward as if dead, and Delwynn slammed the accelerator, quickly departing the lot before Zranik's other guards were able to follow in pursuit.

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