Pelmar Aiden: I took a deep breath and flattened my outer layer of clothing as the sound of tacky electronic music, if it could even be called such, was attempting to cover over the sound of the working repulsorlift. The sterile grey metal seemed all too appropriate for a government policing agency. It gave off a cold, business-first impression. In a sadistic way, it was almost comforting. There were no frilly pleasures. No, this complex was strictly the business of public safety.
The repulsorlift door swung open and the accompanying bell sounded. I stepped forward into the busy open room with rows of desks and pod-like areas for investigative teams to be concentrated together. Beings scurried by hurriedly. Some were cops; others were investigators. All were Judicial Forces employees. I knew the location well, in fact. My desk for a couple of years had been the fifth one in the third row from the elevator. The squad I was on never had its own pod, since we were used far more for security detail than anything else. I seldom even used my desk for anything more than to fill out paperwork or occupy break time reading. Typically, the two most important investigative teams were positioned near the sunrise side of the room, along a long window that looked out to the Coruscant skyline.
Before I was able to proceed any further, my comm device buzzed. I plucked it off my belt and walked a few steps to my right.
"Pelmar, it is Director Rekovivnav," the voice in the speaker said. "I'm waiting for you in the conference room. I have checked with your schedule. I know that you can make the time. Please come promptly."
The call was ended before I even mustered the breath to respond. Duty now had called me, and it sounded imperative.
I walked straightway to a corridor that was situated immediately across the busy, expansive room from the repulsorlift. The first door on the right was my destination. It simply said "conference room" on the outside, but I knew better. This was the room that we called the "friendly side of interrogation." When investigators wanted to casually question family members or friends of victims, we used this space rather than a standard interrogation room. It was a convenient location because of its privacy, ease of comfort, and adjacency to the office of the bureau chief—my office.
Pausing in front of the conference room door, I took a deep breath. For the first time in years, I felt a little nervous. Deciding to cast hazard to the wind, I quickly slapped the button on the wall and the door opened with a whisking sound.
"I was wondering when you were going to make it," the being across the room said. All I could see was the silhouette, but I knew it was Ula Rekovivnav.
"And yet I still managed to arrive not even two minutes after you reached me."
"You never change, Pelmar," the being responded with the same sarcasm that I had offered. "Have a seat, we'll get started in a moment."
I walked over to the conference table and noticed another being sitting there. This individual was a Human male with dark skin and deep eyes. His hair was very short but in tight curls. The sides of his head were becoming grey, but the tops appeared to have retained their original color. He wore a formal suit, as if he had just come from the Chancellor's Press and Correspondents Gala.
"You're dressed up nicely, Eloban."
"Thank you," he replied. "I see you still have your trademark brown coat."
I let out a smirk and sat.
"I would not want to destroy my wonderfully crafted image."
The Human male opposite me was Eloban Slorfit, the newly promoted Thyferra Bureau Chief. He had been an investigator in the Alsakan Bureau for many years before being transferred southward. He was a better administrator than investigator, and his skills finally paid off when the Bureau Chief opted to retire. My relationship with him was fairly young, only having known him since his promotion was announced a year prior. Even so, we got along well and had a good professional relationship.
"Our first order of business, Pelmar, is to discuss your future with this organization," Ula Rekovivnav said while taking a seat across from me. He then slid the seat a little to his left, moving immediately next to Eloban.
"First: should I be scared? Second: are we going on the record?"
"No to both," he responded. "Eloban is here as both a witness and as one of the two beings who will ultimately decide if this happens."
"We know you, Pelmar," Slorfit interrupted. "But we still have a set of formal questions to ask you."
"A 'friendly interrogation,' I see?"
"No, Pelmar," Rekovivnav stated, implying a sense of exasperation. "I want to nominate you to replace me as Director of the Governmental Investigative Network. Since my retirement goes official in ten weeks, I figured we needed to start this process now."
I was surprised and confused by the topic at hand. It had been no secret that Director Rekovivnav was seeking to retire. We had even joked as investigators that Rekovivnav was so old that vaunted Admiral Carth Onasi had been his roommate.
"Chancellor Mekosk wanted names of potential successors from within the organization," the director continued. "I gave him only one—yours."
"I'm flattered and humbled, Director Rekovivnav, but I am not certain that this is really the appropriate move without careful consideration. I will need some time to ponder this before taking your nomination forward."
"We respect that, Pelmar," Eloban interjected. He leaned forward and crossed his arms on the table. His voice changed to a deep, nearly whisper-like tone. "We need you to take this position. No one else is either qualified or has the ability to accomplish all that needs to be done."
I sat amazed at such a brazen remark. Surely in an organization as large as the GIN, someone else was qualified.
"Eloban speaks truth," Director Rekovivnav added. "And deep down, I think you know what I mean. Chancellor Mekosk wants someone tough and unorthodox. The new director is either going to have to work with the administration to combat corruption and be willing fight against any others that come down the skylane. Either way, the individual must be strong and have connections outside of the government. That is you, Pelmar."
"Because I was a bounty hunter?"
"In part," the director qualified.
Immediately, my mind raced through all those years that I had spent as a bounty hunter. I was becoming advanced in years myself, but I had over forty years of experience in bounty hunting alone. Sure, I had connections. Many of these were points of pride and were useful in investigations. Others were not connections for which I was proud, but they also invariably were fruitful when tracking down criminals.
"Okay, I'll take the bait. Assuming I accept the nomination, what do you think I will have to do to be confirmed? You know I'm not a huge fan of making myself look good."
Both individuals looked at each other with an expression of resignation.
"You are going to have to make sure your past is fully resolved," the director stated.
I let out a robust sigh and rubbed my temples. Both men stared at me blankly.
"That's impossible, Director. You know as well as I do that even the best bounty hunters leave loose ends on some things. At least that three million credit tag on my head has been pulled."
"At least?" Eloban interjected with a sarcasm that was almost out of character for the normally pleasant man. "We're talking about coming clean on some things, Pelmar. We're not talking about everything here—just the big things. The Tion Hunts, the assassination of Trejja the Hutt, and the kidnapping of Lrai Tuogth—these need to be addressed."
The poignancy of his remarks almost provoked me to anger. These three incidents were the what I considered the lowest points in my second bounty hunting career. At least he was not probing into the deep past, from the first time I was a bounty hunter. There were many skeletons in that closet that I kept buried. As I sat back in the seat, frought with resignation, flashbacks began to appear in my mind as I recounted the different actions that I had done during my second stint as a bounty hunter.
The first set of images were of the three Tionese females that had been involved in a terrorist plot to blow up various space stations across the Slice. They had planned to plant small but deadly bombs inside the breast implants of the Twi'lek girls that they were selling into sex trafficking. The bombs were to be remote detonated. I took up the Republic bounty of eliminating the three in a way that looked simply like their underworld dealings had caught up with them. I used various tactics to establish a line of credit with them and then claimed that they owed my boss money. I brutally murdered all three, a set of actions, even to the present, for which I was not particularly proud. I also spent the better part of a Standard month hunting the Slice for the Twi'leks that they had trafficked. I rescued twenty three of the thirty and brought them to a safe haven in the Roche asteroids. Seven were found dead, and my alias during the operation was blamed for their deaths.
"The Tion Hunts were sanctioned by the Protectorate. Those files are still classified. I'm sure I can have some strings pulled to let the Chancellor read them if he's that concerned. Even with that, I was not the one responsible for the death of those seven Twi'leks."
"And the brutality done to those Tionese women?" the director asked.
"I stand by what I did. I'm not proud of it, but I stand by it. The underworld believed that they earned their death from their deals. The Republic is free of suspicion."
"Let's move on," he continued with a small nod. "I want to at least address Nar Shaddaa to appease the Bothan Alliance. You know that they'll ask, if they have a seat at the table."
Next in my mind were images of myself tied to a large metal crate on Nar Shaddaa. In a way, it was a stereotypical holovid scene. There I was, attempting to steal information from a Hutt cartel on the seedy moon with nothing more than a blaster and a thermal detonator. The next thought I had was the body of a lifeless Hutt slumped over the rail at one of the cartel's docks. Out of both self-defense and the desire to simply rid myself of the repercussions of the government contract, I found a way to kill Trejja the Hutt and all five of his underlings. Of course, the consequences of that action were not what the Bothan Alliance wanted.
"How can you attest to the crime war on Nar Shaddaa?" the director inquired further.
"What about it?"
"You are responsible for it, no?" he pressed.
I leaned forward and arched an eyebrow. The government asked me to put a damper on Trejja's business. I put the ultimate damper on it by killing the Hutt. The Bothan Alliance wanted him alive because they were gaining support with some of Trejja's rivals. They wanted to be the ones to take him out and prove their superiority. I found out and improvised.
"I'm simply responsible for preventing the Bothan Alliance, which we both know happens to be nothing more than a political cartel, from get a strong foothold on the moon while removing one of the Republic's worst underworld enemies."
"So you are taking responsibility?" Eloban asked with a wry look.
I sighed and sat back in the seat. I remembered fleeing the moon on a small freighter that had been commandeered only a few days earlier. Bombs were being detonated and blaster fights rang out across the mid-level streets of the planet. It all was viewable from the vessel while I departed. The power vacuum was the reason. Gangs saw a chance to seize control and rejected the advancing Bothan Alliance.
"I suppose you could say that."
"Oh, Pelmar, the Bothan Alliance is not going to like any explanation you'd give," Director Rekovivnav said with a smirk. "Frankly, they can go to Chaos of they don't like it. Moving on."
My brain failed to process anything.
"What about the abduction of Lrai Tuogth?" the director asked.
Still, my brain failed to respond. It was like sparks were attempting to ignite an ion engine. No, nothing was connecting. It was as if the starting mechanism in the engine had been intentionally sabotaged. Then again, I had intentionally forced this issue out of my mind years ago. After a couple of awkwardly silent moments, both gentlemen sat back in their seats and crossed their arms.
"I guess I have nothing to say. I only defend my actions by nothing that when the Protectorate gave me orders, I followed them to the letter."
"So then how was the mission botched?" he asked, obviously noting my blank expression.
Even still, my brain was unable to put together a cohesive thought. It was an area of my life that I had worked so hard to leave buried and hidden. The Lrai Tuogth kidnapping was one of three successive Protectorate contracts that had been executed in the last year of my hunting.
"Look, Pelmar," the director said, leaning forward passively. "We both know that the three bounties related to this kidnapping are still highly classified. So highly, in fact, even Chancellor Mekosk has to get permission to read them. But, everybody high up in the Judicial Forces seems to know that these ops happened. What can you tell us about how the abduction was botched? Hundreds of people died because of it. That's all the politicians want to know, and they will want answers."
I attempted to feign both composure and knowledge, even though both had escaped me.
"They will be told the same thing I have been saying for years. I followed Protectorate orders on those bounties. There was interference on their account that made the mess. They are the ones responsible for it, not me. Plus, if these three issues are the only things considered shameful on my record, then I supposed I'll have a smooth confirmation process—if I even decide to do this, that is."
"Oh, Pelmar," Director Rekovivnav chided. "All three of us know about your alleged connections with Dark Moon, your back room dealings in the Outer Rim, your gambling addiction, et cetera. The pols don't need to know about that, but everyone's past always comes back to bite them when they've done what you've done. The fact that the Lrai Tuogth incidents down in the Seswenna sector have been unresolved for all these years is a red flag."
"Director, I'm not proud of everything that I've done over the years. The Guardians of the Force will be the judge of my life when I die. I'm certain I'm not the only one in the room with skeletons in the closet."
Director Rekovivnav and Chief Slorfit looked at each other for a moment as if to say that I had crossed the line. Then, they turned back toward me and stood slowly.
"I'll be back on Alsakan tonight, Pelmar," the director said.
"And I leave for Thyferra tonight," Eloban added.
"Trust me when I say that we'll be in touch," Director Rekovivnav continued. "I know you too well, Pelmar, but for some reason I don't know you enough. I don't know what you're hiding with the Seswenna sector incidents, but I pray by the Force that they are water under the bridge, as I believe you Humans say."
The two beings walked over to the door of the conference room. Eloban depressed the button, which caused the door to open. He exited quickly with a wave and a polite, friendly goodbye.
"Think about the prospect of being the director seriously, Pelmar," Rekovivnav stated, one arm clinging to the doorframe. "You'll make a great one, and we need someone with your talents. If you could put up with that simple interrogation, you'll be able to handle the worst things that the Senate Confirmation Committee could ever bring up about you."
"So it was an interrogation."
"It was not," he concluded, departing out of the room. "I know better than to do that to you."
As soon as the door slammed shut, my comm device buzzed. This time, the sound sparked a swirl of images in my head. I saw a very young woman, a former apprentice of sorts, as she pointed a blaster at the forehead of a thug. Next was a row of dead bodies—innocents that had been executed by a madman. There appeared a series of faces thereafter—children and teenagers all in a line, crying over the death of family members. Immediately after that was the image of Lrai Tuogth being cuffed and a bomb detonating a moment later. Then, there was the image of my apprentice laying on the ground, dying from her wounds while I, injured and badly bleeding, crawled away to find help.
The buzzing continued on my comm device, so I quickly snapped it up and answered the call.
"Chief Aiden, this is Chancellor Mekosk," the voice said. "I hope you will choose to serve us in the capacity of GIN Director. Ula has much faith in you."
"Thank you, your excellency. I will give it serious thought and let you know personally by the end of the week."
"Wonderful," he continued. "I look forward to hearing your reply."
The thoughts that I had fought so hard over the years to suppress finally went away. All thoughts but one: the day I received a call on my comm device that asked if I would be willing to abduct Lrai Tuogth and bring the individual to Coruscant.
As I had then, I feared that my life would permanently change if I accepted the task of becoming the new head of the GIN. I resolved at that moment to not have any more regret or shame.
"Mr. Chancellor," I said out-loud to the empty room. I then stood and faced the holo of the chancellor on the wall. "I gladly accept your call to serve. Just know that it may not always be pretty."