"Got a contract for you. Since I'm busy, I need Arcona's second best Assassin," Marick's voice chimed in over the communicator.
"First best," the young Erinos corrected without missing a beat.
Marick replied. Neither spoke, but a childish grin was painted on Teroch's face.
...contract is being forwarded to your PDA. Don't fuck it up."
Teroch allowed himself to chuckle. "Heh, please."
Former Bounty Hunter. Demolitions Expert, Ex-Military Spec Ops.
Strength: ********* (9/10)
Dexterity: ****** (7/10)
Melee: ** (3/5)
Brawl: ***** (5/5)
Ranged: ***** (5/5)
Explosives: ***** (5/5)
Last Known Location: Nar Shada
Current Location: N/A
Target is to be terminated. Failure is not an option. Arcona Invicta.
The office was small, and not fitting to Teroch’s station in Arcona’s military, but then again, space in the Soulfire Barracks in the Citadel was at a premium. Over one hundred special forces agents occupied the area, and their barracks, rec areas and training facilities took up the majority. Directly off from the briefing amphitheatre, the transparisteel wall opposite his desk had been made opaque whilst he received Marick’s communication. Outside, he could hear several of his men throwing a boloball around and joking with one another. Discipline was lax, but then they could afford to be. Soulfire Strike Force were the Brotherhood’s best Special Forces, thanks in no small part to his late father’s direction. The youth paid them no heed. Scrolling over the data, he absently yawned and scratched the back of his neck, not seeing anything as to why he’d been given orders to end the life of the Zabrak in question. It was conspicuously light in details, for that matter.
He wasn’t sure if it was urging from the Force or just a gut feeling, but there was a niggling part of him pushing to find out more. Teroch tapped in his authorisation clearance and requested further information from the DIA databases. He was denied.
Trying again was met with identical results. If he was so classified that not even a member of the di Tenebrous Arconae couldn’t get more information on him, then something was definitely up. Standing, he clicked his fingers and Kote, his jet black cythraul, glanced up from the nerf leg bone he’d been gnawing on.
“Oya, c’mon Kote.”
The DIA nexus station in the Citadel wasn’t actually their headquarters, contrary to popular belief. No, the Dajorra Intelligence Agency had been properly founded when the Clan had been exiled from their home by the Yuuzhan Vong, and as a result, had established its HQ on the Eye of the Abyss. When the Clan had reclaimed Dajorra, it seemed logical to keep the headquarters mobile, less the Dajorra System be taken again.
That said, the nexus station was still vital to the DIA’s operation, if for no other reason than to keep the Clan’s command in the loop. It was a small facility, really. One level, tucked away deep into the mountain itself on an unimportant floor where there wasn’t much people traffic. Most assumed that the offices were just for general administration of the Clan’s infrastructure. There was no obvious signs of security, and each of the members of the nexus station were bland in appearance, unassuming, and took great pains to appear as if they were the exact reason why accountants and chartered surveyors never got asked to dinner parties.
Sashar had once dared Teroch to break into the suite of offices, not telling him what was down there, and he’d managed. The youth realised now that he was showing him where the DIA’s planetside offices were, and he’d even been able to pass off the intrusion attempt as a ‘test of local security.’ It had meant that their security had been overhauled, but the important part had been done. Teroch now knew where to go if he wanted information.
Kote had been left in the Feluriaglade. As much as the Mandalorian loved his new pet and companion, a large, black canine with orange eyes turned heads. Plus, it’d be a nightmare getting the pup into the vents. He crawled through, trying to maneuver himself with his elbows whilst not making any noise, but his shoulders had grown since the last time he’d come through. He was becoming more and more like Sashar, filling out into his progenitors’ frame. Cursing his father’s size, Teroch struggled further in until urging from the Force stayed him.
Something wasn’t right.
There was a layer of security here he’d not encountered the last time he’d come in via the vents, but he couldn’t tell what.
If I’ve already triggered it, there’s no way I could escape in time, so there’s no point rushing. Let’s work out what I’m feeling.
Risking a quick flash from the glow rod on his wrist, he sighted a small glass prism no larger than his eyeball hanging from the roof of the vent. It had an almost thread-like filament of metal hanging in it. A trembler. Thankfully, it wasn’t moving. He was still far enough away not to have triggered it. Sighing to himself, he reached out with the Force and telekinetically held the Trembler’s filament firmly in place, then resumed his struggle, only to stop a few feet later, when he was directly under the device. Something still wasn’t right. Stretching his feelings out, he realised that not thirty centimetres in front of him the Force stopped.
Osik!A sonic inhibitor. Clever di’kute. Fine, they wanna play?
With the patience of a Shadesworn, Teroch rolled over so that he was on his back, and the trembler was mere inches from his face. He kept the filament in his mental grasp and slowly pulled the device from its housing, then yanked the wires from the wall, disabling the device. If he didn’t, when he hit the Sonic Inhibitor’s influence, he’d lose his telekinetic grasp on it, and wouldn’t be able to stop the vibrations he made from moving setting it off. Disabled, he could move freely.
Nobody ever sets three layered traps, son. If someone’s smart enough to avoid the first two, they’re definitely going to check to find the last one.
His father’s voice echoed in his head as he rolled back over and continued crawling to the vent covering, and soon found what he was looking for; the archive room. Unscrewing the cover, he folded himself through the opening, hung from the lip of the vent, then dropped into a silent crouch, scanning about himself with every sense he had apart from his Force senses, as the entire area seemed to be blanketed with Sonic Inhibitors.
Straightening up, he proceeded over to a terminal, brought it to power, and tapped in a request for information on Dhishan. The usual warnings floated up about the information being disavowed and highly classified, but due to accessing the information directly from the Archive Mainframes, there wasn’t the usual security issues. He bypassed them, then read a much more complete profile on his deader.
It didn’t take long for Teroch to discover that his Zabrak had been a Sadowan agent, who’d helped the fall of Estle City during the Vong invasion and subsequent occupation. Dhishan had in fact planted several explosive devices at key locations, mainly Turbolaser turrets and a power facility to hasten the fall of the city. Dhishan wasn’t just any explosives expert, either. In addition to his Special Forces training, he was something of an expert in robotics, miniturisation, and had several hundred patents to his name pertaining to both skills, all of which had been bought up by the Galactic Alliance, presumably to prevent anyone else from manufacturing his nasty little devices.
Copying the data, Teroch retraced his steps and snuck out of the DIA nexus.
The teenage head of Arcona’s Special Forces threw a haymaker punch and his fist thunked solidly, hard enough to bruise his knuckles. He didn’t care. A knee came into the target’s gut, then another punch, this time at the face. He rained down blow after blow, trying to make the features unrecognisable, but the training dummy simply reformed after each impact, grinning inanely back at him. The gym was sparsely populated at this hour, given that most of his men were either asleep or had some leave booked and were busy making trouble down in Estle City. When he was frustrated, he needed to exercise or hit something, and when working up a plan to kill his deader, he liked to do both. It had been almost an hour of relentless punishment when he felt someone’s gaze on his back.
“It’s getting increasingly harder to sneak up on you, Ter’ika.”
The youth turned to face the familiar voice, grabbing a towel to wipe the sweat from his face and bare arms.
“Maaks.” he said flatly.
“I didn’t expect you back so soon. I heard you’d gone on a...trip of sorts.”
“Did you.” He spoke in statements, moving briskly to exit the room.
“I did. Want to talk about it?”
“No.” Maaks began to follow him, keeping a distance of two paces should Teroch have an outburst. They walked in silence for some time, the pair of footsteps in perfect harmony until the Kiffar could not ignore his irritation.
“What do you want?”
“Nothing. I’m just waiting.”
The Miraluka was clearly stifling laughter and allowed himself to smile.
“For you to finally grow a pair and ask for some help. No one gets this stuff right on their first go, Teroch.”
“And how the hell would you know?”
“I would know, because I’m the only apprentice Sashar had that had problems getting the job done. Big problems. It takes time and experience and you aren’t allowing yourself room for error or learning for that matter.” His smile evaporated. “So you can either attempt to gradually build yourself up as someone worthy of your father’s legacy, or rush it and fail. And probably die, too. I expect you don’t want that either.”
Gradually, Teroch realised that only the stubborn qualities of his age were holding him back. He swallowed.
“...What did you have in mind?”
The shuttle clunked unsteadily, unused to its overflowing capacity. Hundreds of refugees huddled together against the cold, looking to cash in on the rebuilding movement of the once bustling planet of Nar Shaddaa. There was a great oppressive disappointment shadowed over the poorly equipped travelers, hoping to find what scraps of work were left by the use of droids. Maaks blended in perfectly, his usually pristine clothes replaced by several layers of rag-like material and his glasses replaced by a single ribbon of cloth. His head hung in silence and his body language emphasising a life of difficulty, he played his part well. His partner found difficulty with unfortunate circumstances. His costume; a well-worn duster wrapped him loosely about his waist, covering his revised stock of weaponry(much to protest of the youth) and worked to muddle his military grade pants and tank top. The problem was Kote. The pup (although mysteriously beautiful to most) hated strangers and was not content until enough space had been growled from the surrounding occupants. Thankfully, the thick metallic chain restraining him allowed for some reassurance yet still casting a dark shadow of the cythraul’s capabilities.
Dirtside, the conditions only worsened. The orange hue of the sky was muddied with ash, spreading it over as a veil to the forgotten landscape. It was razed militantly and with no remorse to fully disintegrate the Vong roots that had settled. Hope was scarce for the many as they milled about their duties like ants. It was easy to get lost here, to blend in as mediocrity.
Maaks let out a long whistle.
“Well this moon has seen better days. Looks like a hellhole.”
Teroch knelt by Kote, stroking him and whispering assurances.
“I thought this was supposed to be some kind of haven for smugglers? Not to mention for the Hutts. Wouldn’t this be the first place they would rebuild after having taken so many financial casualties?” Sashar’s clone asked.
“Yes and no. The Hutts took a pretty hard banging with the Vong invasion so now their resources are almost completely centered on recouping their losses. They’re notoriously cheap, as money is everything to the slugs, so they’ll skimp on restoring the smuggler’s moon. Everything here you see will be very, very basic, dirty, and probably half-cocked anyway. Don’t expect a paradise.” The Miraluka warned.
Teroch didn’t reply. Instead, he kept quiet, brushing shoulders with the miraluka as he took a look at his surroundings. Maaks was right: the moon was clogged with ash, and the dirt street was clogged with it. There was an almost ever-present rain of ash which had already dusted their attire, and Kote kept sneezing and trying to wipe his snout clear of the disgusting stuff. What made the surroundings worse was the apparent lack of empathy displayed by Hutt cartel agents. They surveyed and observed with complete apathy at the world that many had called home, driven by orders and the distasteful seduction of credits.
“Come on, we’re heading West for a little bit. I have a contact...of sorts.”
It was a shack. There were no compliments to be given to the roughly put together structure Maaks was referring to as a cantina. Chaining Kote to a nearby post, Teroch followed the miraluka into the quiet wooden building.
Hushed whispers were uttered at their appearance and then silence. No one gave eye contact as he walked over to the bar. It was beyond uncomfortable, his training dissolving in confusion at the pathetic scene.
“Hello good sir! How goes this glorious day?”
“Ahh, that’s okay, I was only joking! Some people round these parts don’t quite get my humour!” The miraluka bellowed with what only could have only been the worst false laugh possible.
“You see, here’s the thing! My friend here and I are looking for a rather unscrupulous young man!” He leant in, using his hand to protect his hoarse whisper, “I’m a bounty hunter, you see!”
The barkeep’s reaction was comical. His eyes bulged, glancing hastily around the room and then nodded excitedly.
“Yes! You do indeed! Which is why I need you to be on the lookout for anyone mildly suspicious! Good day!”
And with that, the Knight swept from the tavern without another word. Teroch gaped, coming to his senses and following.
“What the hell was that?! He demanded emphatically, keeping up with with the miralukas pace.
“Oh that? Ahhh, it was nothing, now follow me into this alley.”
Grabbing the Kiffar’s shirt, he moved with haste into cover, dragging shadows over the pair with the force. The poor Kiffar, nearly strangling his cythraul, kept up with him.
“What the frak is wron-”
Maaks hushed him abruptly, pointing back in the direction of the cantina.
Ter glared at him before observing the unmoving scene. Kote heard it first, his ears pricking with interest. It took a solid minute before four of the previously gargoyle-like patrons ran for their lives in several directions, one passing the hidden Arconans without even batting an eyelid. there was a moment of pause.
“What the hell was that?”
Maaks was clapping the ash from his body.
“Well, we didn’t really need to hide in the alleyway, sorry, that was a bit dramatic. With this ash you could hide a Hutt in this stuff-”
“No no no, what did I just see?”
The miraluka cocked his head.
“You mean that little display there?”
The youth nodded.
“With them sprinting like idiots?”
He nodded again.
“Ah. That was four hopefuls attempting to get on the good side of their employers. You see I had a bit of a hunch so I spread the information we were given on our...deader to the Hutt Cartel and asked a little favour of the Bounty Hunters Guild to falsify interest from just about every active Bounty Hunter. I guessed that the high bounty on his head would have filtered down through the ranks...”
The youth was horrified. Their cover was completely blown. Their deader knew they were coming. His contract was ruined.
“Y-you ruined it! You-”
“I did no such thing. I isolated him by placing a high bounty, albeit a false one, on his head to completely isolate him. I read his file too, Teroch, he is one with great pride in both his work and his activities. A guy like this does not just work for numbers... he works for his own ego. Think of how highly Naga Sadow was thought of before Arcona truly rose up through the ranks. He is an artist.”
The youth thought on this for a moment.
“But he’s an ex-Bounty Hunter, surely he would have guessed that nearly every active Bounty Hunter taking out a contract on him was a big lie.”
“Oh of course and I expected that. But Teroch my dear, that’s what actors are for. I just sent three dozen people to come snooping around and ask too many questions. There is nothing worse than having your bluff called when you like to think you know how things work. In fact I expect it is rather awful.”
The youth did not look convinced.
“Look” he said, dropping the shadows, “This is just another option other than skulking around in bushes and air vents until the target-”
“Until the deader, turns his, or her back and gets a knife between the shoulder blades. Be patient, Ter’ika.”
With that he walked casually away, allowing the youth to follow him, Kote in tow.