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Chapter 19

Please tell me this can't get any worse.
—Waron Danstari

Director Aiden excused himself from the chancellor's office, leaving swiftly through the corridor to his speeder. Passing the barrage of security guards and senate staffers, the GIN Director raced to the small hangar. He swiped a card at the hangar door, granting him access. Then, he scrambled across the room to his speeder, a solid white vehicle with no markings save a government license tag.

Aiden started the speeder and quickly departed the office building, darting through the skyways for twenty minutes. Finally, in the Uscru Entertainment District, he parked his vessel in a private lot, passing ten credits to the guard for tip. From the lot, he walked into the back door of a club.

The music was obnoxiously loud, and the smell of alcohol and deathsticks permeated the air. Trying to ignore it, Aiden tied his long grey hair back into a single tail and marched through the backstage area to a private room. Inside the dark, decrepit room was a group of sabacc players.

"I need to handle this one, guys," a Duros said.

The other beings slowly stood and filed out of the room.

"You know how to make an entrance, Pelmar," the green-skinned being continued.

"Sans, I'm amazed you still hang out at places like this," the GIN Director stated, taking a seat opposite the Duros.

"I'm a bounty hunter, my friend," Sans Venret stated sarcastically. "I can't march into the Swank-Rington and expect to keep up appearances. Plus, having guys around like these can help in case someone tries to follow me or set me up."

"I came alone, as always," Pelmar Aiden remarked. "And, I don't have anyone waiting outside to follow you. In fact, no one knows I'm even here."

"So, what can I do for you, my old friend?" the Duros asked. "You should know that I'm retired, now."

"Then why can some of my agent's leads be traced back to you?" the GIN Director quipped.

"I assume you mean the plague that Avar Zranik unleashed?" the green-skinned bounty hunter prodded, as if attempting to avoid a direct response.

"I figured you knew about this," Aiden stated, shaking his head.

"I knew there was a possibility of it," Venret clarified, pointing his finger at the director. "I suspected that he would unleash a bioterrorist attack on Seswenna. Even I had no inkling that he planned to go bigger. I'd bet his Czerka friends were likely responsible for that."

"Honestly, Sans," the director stated with a pronounced pause.

"You want me to spill the pot, I suppose," the Duros chided.

"Stop playing games, Sans," Aiden flatly instructed.

"I'll tell you this," Venret said, leaning forward. "I was originally brought out of retirement to hunt down Hanik Regueny and bring him, alive, to Zranik. That was my task. I didn't do it."

"Why not?" the Human asked.

"He thought I wasn't tough enough for his scheme," the bounty hunter answered. "I found out that he and that dictator on that planet were trying to do a series of terrorist attacks against Seswenna and the broader Republic to destabilize the economy of the southern galaxy. They want to make Eriadu the most profitable and politically powerful place in that part of the galaxy."

"I feel like I shouldn't believe you, Sans," Aiden admitted.

"We go back way too many years, Pelmar," the Duros remarked. "We've known each other for three times the number of years we didn't."

"You're still a bounty hunter," the director chided.

"Pelmar, you say that with such disgust," Venret stated. "Remember, you used to be one, too."

"That was decades ago," the Human sulked. "I want you to report everything you know about this or any other aspect of this conspiracy. You can really help the Republic right here."

"Fine, but I have my terms," the Duros said.

"Always your terms," Aiden quipped.

"I believe you'll like them, Pelmar," Venret offered. "I want you to drop the warrant for my arrest regarding Regueny's abduction. You know I had nothing to do with it. I also want my name expunged from the records about the Finpe murder case nine years ago. My associate, who now runs Dark Moon, was alone. My alibi checked out, and you know it. The court threw out that evidence because it contradicted the high-paying attorneys that paid off the judge."

"Only if it is good enough," the director qualified.

"Oh," the Duros continued. "It's more than good enough for these things."

— — —

Danstari sat in the cockpit, waiting the final departure signal from Delwynn. Once Asana had returned from the base building with Fay, the agent instructed the lieutenant to take off. He gently piloted the Mally upward and out of the Eriaduan atmosphere. Then, with the flick of a switch, the vessel jumped into hyperspace.

"This case is too bizarre for me," the lieutenant said. "Please tell me this can't get any worse."

"Oh, Danstari," Delwynn chided. "It can always get a lot worse. Always."

"We'll get there as soon as possible," he said, finishing the check of the control console and instruments. "I think we're stable and on our way."

"Good," the agent responded. "Let's get back into that room. I want all the details, I don't care how minor you might think it is. I want everything. We've been two steps behind all along, and I'm tired of that."

"Yes, boss," Danstari said.

— — —

Alta Eddicus walked through the corridor toward her office. Her father had finally secured the presence of Master Yoda once again—via hologram, however—and was having a private meeting between the two of them. Before she reached her office, the Taanabi began pulling out her keycard. Fumbling, however, she dropped it. This frustrated her, and Alta bent down, still a two minute walk away from the office proper. She was in the area of other Probitas-aligned senators, but hers was the furthest from this approach.

Alta fetched the keycard and stood back to her feet. Suddenly, a loud blast sprang from up ahead; the sound was deafening, and the flaming blast flew toward the senator. The initial shockwave had caused the senator to loose her balance a little, making her lean backward. The flames and superheated gas blasted toward her, but it failed to engulf her.

The senator finally lost all her balance, falling to her buttocks. Her clothes were slightly singed, but she seemed otherwise fine. Then she remembered, Senators Valorum and Fraajic were already in their offices, offices she had yet to pass in the hallway.

— — —

Inside the club, the sabacc players rushed back into the small private gaming room.

"Boss," one of the seedy individuals called. "We've just heard the news. There's been a blast at the senate office building, right below the chancellor's office. It looks like it took out a couple of floors."

Director Aiden was stunned at the development.

"You all leave, now," the Duros stated, shooing the other players. "The five-three will be here within ten minutes to crack your heads together, so go!"

"But I'm your alibi," Aiden sarcastically commented.

"I still need to be leaving here shortly, as well," Venret replied. "I still have a couple other things to tell you. It relates to the bombing, I suppose."

"I assume you have had something to do with this, then, Sans?" Aiden pressed harshly.

"No," the Duros calmly responded. "But, if you give me five minutes before you run out that door, I'll tell you who did."

"I want answers," the GIN Director sneered, pointing his finger directly into Venret's face.

"Five minutes," the bounty hunter reiterated. "You'll get your details; I walk out of here alone and not followed."

"I'm not sure I can trust you right now, Sans," Aiden replied.

"One thing you and I both know is true, Pelmar," the Duros responded. "In all the years we've been on 'opposite sides of the law,' I've never lied to you. Not once."

The GIN Director put down his arm, saying, "Then, you have five minutes. Start talking."

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