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Cycle Two: H. Shot First The mood in the Drunk Side was subdued, if puzzled. Scribbled sheets of flimsi and crumpled durasheets were plastered all over the notice board, with the aurebesh lettering already fading on the older notices. For all Smarts and Turtle knew their work, some of the regulars at the cantina were dubious. Who would want to attack Dreshdae, anyway? “What’s there on Dreshdae for anyone?” asked Seth, in confusion. “Dreshdae’s a hole, man. There’s nothing here except dust, more dust, and a lot of ancient tombs. If I had my way, I’d save enough and hitch a ride on a passing freighter, make it somewhere big. Anything but here.” “Come off it, Seth,” scoffed Shil-Ou-Te. “You’ve been talking about getting off this rock since forever. You never have.” Seth glared at him. “Yeah, and I’d’ve done it months ago if not for—” “Sith,” said old Barles. He shook his head. “You saw him. Burned through that counter, right there.” He pointed over at the charred halves of the counter everyone was refusing to look at. At the door, which wasn’t sliding shut, which had been somehow wrecked. Kalabel had come over and was working over the door with a hydrospanner, muttering to herself in concentration. Sajhe’d thanked her, and offered to pay, or at least sport her the next meal and drinks. Least he could do, really. He wouldn’t have minded trying to fix it, but the dust got everywhere in Korriban. The sooner mended, the better. “Sith,” Ullen Kos repeated. “They’re a legend. They’re long dead. They’re dust,” he almost pleaded, clutching at his drink, as though to be told that the Sith were long dead, long historical curiosities would save him from the spectre that had walked into the cantina and casually sliced up the counter as though it was day-old Alderaanian cheese. “Except Vader. He was Sith, wasn’t he? You don’t get more alive than Vader himself.” “Whatever you want to call that, that’s not an accident,” Tantyck said, nursing his drink. “It wasn’t an accident, was it?” Smarts blinked. “What?” “The comms array,” Tantyck repeated, his voice carefully level, despite the implication. Tantyck, Sajhe thought, had a level of control the Jedi would have admired. “You checked it, didn’t you, Smarts?” Smarts stared at him with narrowed eyes. “No,” he admitted. “Turtle came over and mentioned the ‘port relay was sabotaged by a comms spike. I tested it, yeah. With the comms relay down, it doesn’t matter if the comms array is gone too. Comlinks don’t work. The nearest relay is in the next sector, like he said.” “It might be possible to rig something,” Sajhe said, into the silence. “I’m no comms expert, but depending on what’s left of the relay, and if there’s a freighter left in port, you could jury-rig something based on their native comms array. Maybe it wouldn’t reach the next sector’s relay, but it might be able to keep local comms running—or reach the Valiant.” He added, a few moments later, “The Republic used to have to improvise, during the Mandalorian Wars. First thing their Jehavey’ir-type assault ships would go for would be anything anchoring local comms infrastructure, take it down with heavy bombardment.” “Yeah,” Smarts said slowly. “That’s millenia ago.” “Still used on some war-torn worlds,” Barles said, quietly. “It’s worth a shot, at any rate.” “An attack,” Ullen Kos said again. He knocked back his Corellian ale, and blinked. Too nervous, Sajhe thought. “But there’s nothing here for them. There’s no army. Is there?” “Korriban used to be a Sith world,” Sajhe said, patiently. “And that tends to draw a certain kind of character. Those—Disciples of Ragnos.” He remembered the words the interloper had used. “Just the latest vultures, here to pick at the bones of the dead.” “Told you,” Martano Hamartano said, lazily, a leg swung up pre-emptively on a nearby stool. “We ain’t sitting ducks here, and that’s easily solved. They wanna come here and try to mess around with us? Easy. A good blaster, and a shot in his skull, and he’s finished. Problem solved, you know what I’m sayin’? No need to panic or run around like headless hawkbats, eh, eh?” “Pleased Statement: This meatbag at least understands the use of a good blaster. Admonition: However, one does not want to confront a Force meatbag with a simple blaster. Thoughtful Statement: A Valken-372D Sharpshooter rifle with a custom scope might be a better weapon. Alternatively, one might consider the use of shaped charges, or even better, orbital bombardment.” The rust-plated HK droid had appeared on-planet about a week ago, following some query concerning gizka. Sajhe had resolved to keep an eye on him ever since. “Oh yeah?” Hamartano drawled. “Say, whaddya know about killing those Sith honchos, rustbucket?” “Indignant Retort: I have killed far more of these meatbags than you could in an entire lifetime. Smug Statement: In fact, I would consider myself an expert at assassination and the quiet resolution to all meatbag problems.” “And I bet you’ve never in—” Hamartono’s retort was drowned out by Moff rolling out from under a table and inadvertently knocking over his stool, tripping him up. “Sith, Jedi, unimportant, they are,” Moff smiled serenely. “Bargain, I have for you! Best death sticks in the galaxy, I have! Smoke two of them at once, will you?” “Moff,” Sajhe said, admonishingly. “I’ve told you this already. Drinking is fine. But you do not want to sell death sticks in my bar. Take it outside.” “Take it outside, I will,” Moff grumbled, and proceeded to roll out of the bar, hawking his death sticks to anyone in the vicinity. “...Huh,” said Seth. “I never thought anyone could get him to stop.” “Well, we need to act,” Loren Vash said, firmly. “While they’re working on the comms at the spaceport, we need to identify where these Disciples of Ragnos are. Where they are striking from. They must be hidden somewhere—they seemed to think we knew something about the Valley.” She scowled at the sleeping Nodice. He’d come months ago, a down-on-his-luck spacer, always up for a game of sabaac, no matter how much he lost. Sajhe’d felt bad for him and sometimes put him up in a small space over the cantina when locking up for the night. “I’d say we should be looking really hard at anyone strange who came in over the last couple of weeks or months. They’ve probably planned this.” Seth laughed. “Sure, and I’m one of those Disciples of Ragnos.” Silence greeted his words. “I’m joking!” Seth said, quickly. “C’mon man, I thought it was really funny—” A sharp whine of a blaster, and Seth crumpled to the floor, a smoking hole burned through his head. Very obviously dead, and very obviously…Seth. “Put those blasters away!” Sajhe growled, stalking over to Seth. But there was nothing that could be done for him. He glared at Hamartano and the HK droid, both of whom were sheepishly holding blasters. So were a few other regulars, though who had shot first was fairly impossible to tell. “Star’s sake, you’d think the lot of you had more impulse control!” “Indignation: The target had clearly claimed to be a member of the Disciples of Ragnos.” “You should know better,” Sajhe glared at the droid. “He was joking. I know you can process sarcasm and Tusken.” He folded his arms across his chest. “That much should’ve been obvious. Out, all of you! Take your blasters out of here! Go fret elsewhere, but do it quietly.” Smarts stared at the fused mass of wires and blinked. “And it was just like that, yah,” Turtle affirmed. “Array’s gone, too.” Dr. Dacken Humtumb let out a long exhalation that was half a sigh. “Not gizka,” he said, very firmly. “Definitely not gizka.” “Obviously not,” Smart said, wearily. He didn’t really want to think of how to explain it to Tantyck. Something about the man’s queries had gotten under his skin, as though Tantyck’d been looking out for someone to blame and had figured the technician was the easiest target out there. “It’s not chewed.” It was fused, as though someone’d taken a solder to the mass of wires and sparking parts, or a blaster. Or Smarts supposed, thinking of the table in the bar, a lightsaber. The access panel had been neatly sliced open, after all. There wasn’t much to fix, the better question was if anything could be salvaged, and Smarts wasn’t sure it could at all. “And what Sajhe said? The thing about the freighter?” Krisbaan demanded, harshly. Turtle stared warily at him. “Look, Saj’ is a bartender,” he said, blinking owlishly. “I know the ‘port. Last freighter left yesterday, ahead of schedule.” “Maybe there are ships docked,” Krisbaan said, after a moment’s thought. The last thing he wanted was for them to return to the cantina with nothing to show for it. There was no point in him having identified his quarry if he couldn’t even report Jev’s capture, after all. “I’ll check the docking bays.” Turtle shrugged. “Knock yourself out,” he said, philosophically, already returning to the business of going over the wrecked array with Humtumb, Smarts, and the quiet Kalabel. Gripping his stun cane in hand, Krisbaan accessed the first docking bay. There was a starfighter parked there, one that he didn’t recognise. A simple light-courier, painted in reds and whites that he didn’t recognise. He could’ve sworn he’d not seen it before, and he kept very close attention to the spaceport arrivals and departures. The transponder ID on the ship identified it as the Raven’s Claw, lightly-armed with the standard array of laser cannons and two mounted proton torpedo launchers. Not exactly loaded for bear, then. Did the ship have a working comms system? Probably. Krisbaan made his way towards the ship, when a cloaked figure moved towards him. “Goodbye, Jedi,” the hooded figure whispered, harshly. Moving with the swift reflexes of a man who was used to dealing with recalcitrant opposition, Krisbaan lashed out with his stun cane. A scarlet lightsaber flashed to life and burned through his stun cane in a single, humming movement, swift and economical. Then, Krisbaan found himself flying backwards, slamming into the wall of the docking bay. Wha— “Not the Jedi after all,” the figure breathed, gazing down on Krisbaan. How had this being moved so fast? Krisbaan felt himself hauled up to his feet. He slumped forward, dazedly, as hands crackling with blood-red lightning clenched about his throat and the figure laughed, and seemed to consume everything that he was, everything that he felt, vanishing down a dark, hungry maw, drained into nothingness. And then nothing. Szeth_Pancakes / Ookla the Omniscient was executed! He was a Desann Reborn! Oh sorry, he was actually a Settler, why would you believe him? The Unknown Novel / Ookla the Unknown was killed for unknown reasons! He was a Settler! The latest flimsi plastered to the notice board at the Drunk Side: The cycle has begun and will end on Thursday, 1st December 2022 at 0100hrs SGT (GMT+8)! Please be reminded that PMs are closed.