Ambitions - Alanna, Betja, Bubbles, Aragorn, Lokasena
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Create your story. You have a month to do so.
In the basement of an old gothic-style building, at the bottom of a flight of worn and winding stone stairs, at the end of a corridor lined by bookshelves piled high with dust and spider webs, on the lowest shelf of the last bookcase in the very last aisle, a dull light flickered into existance in the dark. It was tentative and wan, barely reaching the closest manuscripts. But it held on.
It shone for hours, unnoticed. The light grew stronger.
It shone for days, and sent a spider hurrying back to its web. The light grew stronger.
It shone for weeks, and found an unwary bird making a nest in the shredded remains of centuries-old text. The light grew stronger.
It shone for months, and its tendrils crept out of the aisle, past the bookshelves and along the corridor, to lap at the base of the stairs.
The sound of footsteps on stone echoed through the silence.
The base was quiet as Bubbles made her way back to her quarters. She yawned. There was always something urgent that had to be dealt with in the early hours of the morning. She was beginning to think that Shaz'air was doing it to her on purpose.
Turning the corner, her soft shoes made almost no noise on the stone floor. They'd tried carpets once, but the blood stains were too difficult to get out. She entered her security card and the pass number to her apartment, and the door opened with a soft whoosh. She almost didn't bother to flick on the lights; the apartment was so familiar. But she wanted to get a glass of water, and the last time she'd tried that in the dark it had not ended well.
Bubbles had seen many bodies before, a not insubstantial number made by her own hand. But she wasn't expecting to see this one, and certainly not in her own apartment. A small exclamation started to slip past her lips before she could stop it.
The Epis' hand moved instinctively to the sabre hanging at her hip, freeing it from its clip and preparing to ignite it at a moments notice. Tentatively she sent out a small wave of the Force, searching for the presence of any uninvited guests. Sensing nothing, she stepped carefully into her quarters, moving cautiously to the side of her apprentice's body. It was pointless really, checking for any signs of life given the size of the pool of blood surrounding the corpse, but still she felt the need to make sure.
She knelt down, the blood around the body immediately seeping into her clothing, cold and somewhat tacky. Placing her free hand on the back of the Jedi Hunter's chest, she searched rapidly for any thread of life, hoping to find something to grab onto to let her pull him back. Finding nothing, she let a small sigh pass her lips. He had had potential, could have achieved great things, but it was not to be.
She stood again, unfazed by the red patches on her knees or the trail of bloody footprints she was leaving, clipped her sabre back onto her belt and reached for her comm device.
As she waited for the response team, her mind worked its way curiously around the room. No signs of a struggle, no damage to the door. She shook her head, her apprentice hadn't even had an entry card to her appartment. There was no doubt in her mind that his death was a message for her. Turning to the comm device once more, she smiled apologetically as the puzzled and sleepy face of Lokasena flickered into view, "Sorry to disturb you at this hour Sena, but I think I might just need your help," she paused at a bleep from the door letting her know she had company, "And would you mind seeing if Lannie will join us? Something tells me this isn't going to be simple."
Bubbles was never the great philosopher. Life was a luxury of the strong, the cunning and the resourceful, it was to be clung to with all your being, and those that lost their grip were weak. The weak were to be the cautionary tale and not the heavy thought. They deserved no respect, only pity.
The old lessons tracked well in her mind, they gave her strength and she took pride in this, until her patient mind isolated the tapping noise.
'Tap, tap, tap.'
The data-chip danced around her fingers, teasing the plastasteel table as it spun.
She cursed silently and threw the chip across the room. Lannie would be here soon and Sena with her.
For a moment she drew strength from her anger at herself, but as she opened her eyes she found herself faced back towards where the chip had landed.
The technicians had left it for her, all the records of her young apprentice's deeds, his shortened life summarized to a 1 inch piece of circuitry.
With another curse she realized the two of them had arrived in her quarters as her mind wandered.
Bubbles was never the great philosopher, but she had always spared an important life a more passing though
She looked up into Alanna's eyes and began to relay the events of the evening.
“So, there was no forced entry?” Alanna asked the questions once more, trying to sort it all out in her mind.
“None” Bubbles replied. “Nothing unusual, except the body. I wondered if was he killed in my room, killed elsewhere and brought here. But there was too much blood – he must have been killed while waiting for me.”
“Which brings the question, why was he there in the first place” Alanna crossed her arms, looking at the empty ceiling as she thought out loud “And does it have something to do with why he was killed. Why would someone wait for him to be in your room... Because he was alone then? He was alone on more occasions. To lay the blame on you? No, that's not it. As a warning? Warning about what?”
“Maybe it was to prevent him from doing something” Sena interjected. “But what could it be?”
Bubbles shook her head. Nothing came to her mind. “He was somewhat withdrawn lately. He had been neglecting his lessons, and did not talk about what he was doing in his spare time, but I knew him. He held no secret from me. If he was doing something dangerous, I would have recognized it.”
Alanna took a deep sigh. “When a life is silenced, it should be felt through the Force. That we felt nothing is worrying me. Something is clouding this whole thing, and it doesn't bode well.”
Bubbles nodded. “We should question the investigators tomorrow. They are probably going around, asking questions – perhaps they will come up with something. But you are right about something clouding this. There are already signs which are worrying – we should make a move ourselves. And quickly.”
It was then that Bubbles noticed Sena’s eyes scanning her intensely.
“What?” she snapped a bit more annoyed than she had intended.
Sena looked away to the floor, took a device from his sleeve and pointed it at the corpse. A little red dot appeared on the expired Jedi Hunter’s torso. He read the device’s display and sighed. He wasn’t going to take it personally, but Bubbles was his friend and if Alanna, in all her wisdom, had decided to comfort Bubbles, it was up to him to play devil’s advocate.
“Bubbs, where were you last night?”
Bubbles jaw dropped and her eyes widened.
“Sena…” slipped from Alanna’s lips. But as she spoke, her omniscient mind read the enormous wave of guilt surging through the Priest. His intentions were clear, at least, to her.
Bubbles, however, rushed forward and punched the Priest in his face. Sena had expected it and allowed it to happen. He didn’t even feel the pain through all the conflicting emotions within him.
“Bubbles, Sena is right. We are your friends, but an impartial investigator will look at this case and ask the same question. We want to help you help yourself by putting you above suspicion.
The Epis hung her head.
“You’re right…” She looked up at Sena, one side of his face red. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay, you hit like a girl.” The Priest replied with a wink of his eye.
This seemed to relax Bubbles a bit, the tension was broken. Lokasena had seen enough in her reactions and body language to know that she had nothing to do with this. From now on Alanna and he would leave no stone unturned to find out what happened here.
The Epis sat back, taking a cookie from the plateful in front of her. She took a moment to let her mind wander from the task at hand just long enough to note that she had missed having Alanna around. Wherever Lannie was, there were always cookies, and somehow that made everthing that little bit easier to deal with.
She looked back at the body, took a small bite from the cookie, and absentmindedly wiped away the crumbs that fell. Before sighing, "Once more then, although I don't see that you'd have missed anything the last time I ran through the events of the evening. He's been spending a lot of hours in the library. We found, well, he found a pile of old books that hadn't been properly indexed, and had decided to make it his mission to get them all sorted properly." she paused, and looked to Alanna, "You'd have like him, he spent nearly as much time pouring over old books as you, I practically had to drag him away from them whenever it was time for training.
"I had a message from Shaz'air to meet him this evening, he had some paperwork he wanted to go over," noting Sena's puzzled look she let a small smile cross her lips, "Trust me, it's not unusual, that man seems to work best at unearthly hours, I've lost track of the number of times he's pulled me out of bed because he wants to run through some numbers, or to check on some detail or other. Getting a call from him in the early hours of the morning wasn't anything out of the ordinary.
"What was more unusual, although it didn't seem it at the time, was that Kerrim," she gestured to the corpse still lying in the middle of her quarters, "Was still in the library, I noticed the light on, so stopped by. He was engrossed in his books and had lost track of time. We've got," she swallowed hard, then started her sentance again, "We had combat training in the morning, so I stopped to suggest he might like to get some rest, then carried on to meet Shaz'air. And when I got back, well..." she waved a hand towards the lifeless body once more, and took another bite from her cookie.
"There were no rivalries between him and the other Journeymen that stood out, nothing above the ordinary. He hadn't done anything impressive enough as yet to catch the attention of the higher-ups."
"But for someone to have killed him here," interjected Sena, "There must be something we've missed."
Bubbles nodded, "Let's just hope that Shaz'air's investigation picks up on whatever it is." she replied quietly, helping herself to another cookie.
The technicians would have removed the body to the morgue by now, the house summit would be meeting, and Shaz'air would appoint a lead investigator. Alanna played with the wine glass in her fingers. She wondered who it would be; probably an obelisk or a sith in order to avoid accusations of a cover-up, although they would inevitably surface anyway. It was surprising how few murders there were in the Brotherhood. Fatalities during combat exercises, yes. Deaths in action, of course. Mortal accident with the force, unfortunately. But actual murders? Few and far between, although far more than in a civilian organisation.
The former High Priestess had headed-up her own share of murder investigations, so she knew how important it was that Shaz'air chose the right person to appoint. She hoped it would be one of her cohort; maybe someone from the Old Folk's Home. But there was no guarentee. She came to a decision.
"Bubbs, Sena's right. You're going to come under suspicion here, although we all know you didn't do it. I don't want to take the chance that some stone-head obelisk takes events at face value and doesn't bother to investigate properly. We need to look into this ourselves."
Sena raised an eyebrow, "There's no way we could do that without being accused of meddling, and trying to cover something up."
Alanna grimaced, "True, but we can't just assume the investigation will be done properly."
Bubbles smiled, "I think I know someone who could look into it for us..."
“The sooner you could inform your contact of the present situation, the better. Perhaps you could call him now?” Alanna mentioned.
Bubbles nodded, walked over to a console and started to press some keys.
Alanna turned to Lokasena, a frown on her brow. “What do you know?”
“Come on, Sena. All of Taldryan knows that your mind works like a maze trivial knowledge. What does your analytical mind and eidetic memory tell you about this situation?”
Alanna’s eyes seemed to look right through him, as they always did, piercing his soul as she was always looking for answers. The respect that both Krath held for each other was well known to former Ektrosians.
Lokasena thought for a second and let any useful knowledge pass over the inside of his eyelids, as if he was looking something up in a book.
“The body’s temperature in correlation to the ambient room temperature leads me to conclude that our mister Kerrim ceased to be among the living, approximately four hours ago.” He pulled out his scanning device again and ran it over the body. Alanna saw his lower jaw clench.
“What is it?”
“I am detecting traces of Curalyn Diacetylmorfine.”
“That’s extremely toxic with frequent use.” Lannie pointed out.
“And very rare…” Sena retorted. “I see no reason why a journeyman would acquire such a substance”
The Priest took a step closer and knelt down beside the body, inspecting the arms and hands of the victim. Looking up at Alanna he raised an eyebrow. “If he was drugged before he was murdered, it might explain why there are no defensive wounds.”
“Or he knew his killer, and trusted the person enough to allow him close.”
Sena nodded. “So, did he take the Curalyn himself, or was he drugged? And if he was poisoned, why then also attack him so violently?”
Lokasena straightened himself and walked up to Lannie. “If I could inspect the body closer… Could you perhaps arrange that I be assigned that task?”
“It might be construed as a conflict of interest.” she said.
“You could always pull the ‘he-has-the-best-facility-available-to-us’ card.” He smiled at her.
Alanna almost retuned it, as Bubbles walked back in.
Bubbles resisted the urge to tap her foot as she waited impatiently for the transport to arrive. In the 12 hours or so since Lannie and Sena had gathered in her quarters, Alanna had been furiously trying to pull strings to get Kerrim's coprse transferred to Sena's lab for autopsy. At first Shaz'air had point blank refused to consider such an option, which was unusual enough in itself, but the fact that he was refusing to allow the Priest to even observe proceedings was more than a little concerning.
Sena had busied himself testing everything he was allowed access to for traces of Curalyn, in the vain hope that something might crop up and give them a clue as to what was going on. Bubbles herself had found herself denied access to her own quarters, a move that while highly unusual, was not unheard of. Instead she had spent the majority of the morning sat in the library, working her way through the books Kerrim had been cataloguing previously. So far nothing was giving her any indication of who, or why, he had been killed, or why anyone would want to send her a message in the process.
Despite her misgivings about the situation, she couldn't help but smile as a speck appeared on the horizon. Her senses told her there were two individuals on board, but she resisted the urge to send them any form of communication, preferring to wait to welcome them properly. As the transport neared, she watched its path carefully as it adopted what could only just be described as a landing vector. Taking a few steps back from the edge of the pad she pulled her arms around herself in an attempt to stop her excitement showing too much. Regardless of the events of the last few days, it was far too long since she had seen her friends.
With a minimal scrape of metal the transport settled in almost the correct position, and a moment or two later the door slid open. Two figures appeared, silhouetted in the light from the transport. As the Epis laid her eyes on them she felt a rush of mixed emotions, a slight light-headedness from the thrill of seeing once more two of the Krath who, for her at least, had defined Ektrosis; and a sinking feeling of dread. These two had left Taldryan many years ago, and had refused all calls and petitions for them to return. They had been almost uncontactable. Yet they had come for this. A niggling feeling in the depth of her stomach told her things were going to get far worse before they got better.
"Bubbles, long time", Betja cheerfully embraced his old friend. Vail smiled as Bubbles hugged him in turn. They looked tired after their journey, but otherwise in excellent form. Life away from the Brotherhood was suiting them both.
"We have a lot to discuss, but this isn't the place. Let me fill you in on the basics while we walk, and perhaps we can meet for dinner later to go over events in detail."
The two new arrivals nodded their consent, and allowed the Epis to show them to the guest quarters they had been assigned. The details that could be discussed in public were few and quickly covered; the rest would be filled in that evening over a nice glass of Drilbian wine... and away from prying eyes and ears.
"How're you finding Shaz'air as Quaester?", Vail asked as he glared at a couple of curious journeymen they passed in the corridor.
"He's doing alright", Bubbles replied. "He's up against it a bit with the small number of journeymen coming into Tally at the moment. It's not like it was in the old days", she shrugged.
Betja gave a laugh, "Of course it's not, my dear. How could it be without me?" Bubbles smiled as Vail rolled his eyes. "Is Lannie around? I'd love to catch up with her too."
"Dinner tonight in her quarters, Sena will be there too." Bubbles stopped outside the assigned quarters. "We all have a lot of catching up to do." She turned to go, and then paused "Oh, and hopefully we'll know who Shaz'air has put in charge of the investigation by then. Get cleaned up; I'll see you later."
Vail laughed merrily as he poured the last drops of wine into his glass, putting the empty bottle away into the corner of the room. He briefly stirred the dark red liquid in his glass before taking a sip. He took a deep, joyful sigh as he let down his glass.
“Good thing, this” he said pointing at the glass before him “I already forgot what it was like to drink good alcohol.”
“You two seem to have forgotten how to drink good alcohol” replied Bubbles as she threw a quick glance at the growing stack of empty bottles. “What happened to that entire drink slowly and enjoy the taste philosophy of yours?”
“We've been living in the monastery among the monks for years” said Betja as he took a drink from his glass “That kind of life is good for the soul, but does little for the body. We're just making up for all this time”
“And where exactly, have you been?” Alanna jumped into the conversation “No one heard from you in years. No one could have found you. It was like you have been lost to the Force.”
Vail shrugged “We have both withdrew from Star Chamber politics. We moved to a distant corner of the galaxy, took our place among an order of philosopher-monks who spend their days studying and observing the universe, and severed ourselves from the Force.”
“But then how did you receive our call?”
“The Living Force binds all things. Those bonds we build through time, and through our joint actions we strengthen then. Some are more important than others. You may deafen yourself to the voice of the Force, but there are powerful bonds which can transcend any wall you build around yourself. Such was your call. We have spent too much time in Ektrosis together for us to shut you down.”
“Vail has become a philosopher of a sorts” Betja chuckled “But existing outside of the Force has given us... Unique perspective so to say.”
“It is ironic that we have learned the most about the Force while being severed from it” Vail agreed “But old habits die hard, and, so, here we are. Bet, you've heard about this thing. What do you think about it?”
“Ok, so the kid was killed in Bubb's room, in the middle of the night.” Betja said “What was he doing there?”
“Waiting for Bubbles, obviously.” Vail replied. “The question is why. Bubbles, is there something you're not telling us?”
“Oh, sod off you two.” Bubbles replied brashly, but the slight, barely noticeable curl of her lips revealed she was not angry “You two come here, spouting some mumbo-jumbo and acting like two wise men from the legends, but you're still the same two clowns despite all that”
“Hey, we take most of our problems seriously” Vail protested in a mockingly defensive tone.
“Yeah, we just resolve them in an non-serious manner” Betja added.
“Yes, I'm sure the two of you will be seen as exemplars of wisdom by generations to come” Alanna said with a tone of mocking sarcasm in her voice.
“Ok, ok” Betja sighted “Since you want us to be serious... Look, the guy was an apprentice. I don't know if you guys remember how it felt, but I wouldn't just barge in my Master's room in the middle of the night asking for cookies. The only reason why I'd do that is if there was a fire somewhere in the complex, or I succeeded in something I was trying to do for weeks and kept failing, or I made some discovery.”
“Well, there was no fire anywhere that night, or any other emergency” said Bubbles
“And people generally don't kill you for levitating a rock through the Force” said Alanna.
“Which leaves the discovery” Vail finished the thought they all shared. “So, we suppose someone silenced him for making a discovery of some sort. What, and who?”
“We don't really know what he was doing the past weeks” Bubbles said “He was researching something on his own. As for who, I guess we should wait the official inquiry for that.”
“Screw the official inquiry.” Vail said “I mean, this Shaz'air of yours is bloody incompetent. He still hasn't formed an investigative committee” he pointed at the empty datapad containing news from the Quaestor's cabinet; no mention of any investigation was made. “We'll do it ourselves. You guys try to find what he was doing that might have gotten him killed. I'll try to look at the body. Maybe it will give us a hint as to who killed him.”
He stopped for a moment, thinking “Well, that sounds like a plan. Now that the business part of our meeting is over...” he left the sentence unfinished, the implications hanging in the air as he took another bottle, opened it and started pouring it to everyone.
It wasn’t untill they were polishing off the sith bottle of spirit, that the conversation started to move toward the case again.
“What about you, Corvinus?” Vail said. “You’ve been very quiet. Something wrong in that maze you call a brain.”
The Priest looked up from his glass and smacked his lips. He looked over to Alanna, then back to Vail.
“Far be it for me to spoil the fun in this little social reunion, but you mentioned something earlier about viewing the body.”
“I assume you mean after I am done with it? Lannie pulled a lot of strings to get me involved, and I do my best work alone.” He sniffed his glass, took another gulp and added “No offence…”
Everybody looked at Sena for a second.
“I won’t take offence, but an extra set of eyes can’t hurt. Maybe I see something you don’t.”
Alanna and Bubbles both raised their eyebrows is surprise, just as they were sipping their drinks.
“I won’t miss anything” Sena slurred, eyeing the liquid in his glass.
“Sena does like his privacy when pouring over a case, but I’m sure he’s willing to make an exception for you in this matter. We all want to solve it as quickly as possible.” Alanna said, the profound wisdom in her voice slicing through any foolish pride.
The Priest bowed his head. “Very well… Two sets of eyes it is.” He smiled. “That reminds of a case, a while back. Three Batarian slavers were involved, and you know how those eyes can move seperatly from one and other. Hard to tell if they’re looking at you. Anyway, it was one of those……..” the story continued and the evening ended with many of them laughing and drinking some more.
The following morning, after taking the detox tablets that Lokasena had prepared, they all had breakfast and went back to work.
“I hope you have a strong stomach, if your going with Sena.” Bubbles told Vail.
“Don’t worry, it’s not my first dead body.”
“No, that’s not what I mean… The body’s in Sena’s lab. You would be the first to lose it in there.”
“I think I can handle it. Go ahead and see what you can find out at your apartment, think of connections. Maybe someone saw something.”
“Yes…” Alanna joined in. “We’ll handle the rest of the evidence and follow leads where ever they may take us.”
Corvinus stepped in, a wide smile on his face. “Then I guess you’re with me, Vail. Come on, keep up.”
Alanna was perfectly happy not to be involved with the dead body - smelly, messy things. She'd seen enough of them in her time, and much preferred libraries to morgues.
She cast around the journeyman's quarters one last time. It had taken some pretty impressive mental trickery to get in here, even if she did say so herself. That the quarters were guarded wasn't unusual, but she was normally allowed some measure of lenience in this sort of thing, given her historical status within the house. Not so this time. Maybe it was because Bubbles was involved - perhaps the Powers That Be weren't confident in her impartiality - but Alanna didn't think so. This felt like something else, something impersonal; almost as if there had been orders to make sure no-one could look into this death. And her intuition had been rewarded when her gentle wrapping of the force had enabled her to move silently past the guards in the corridor and into the room. The guards were Obelisks, naturally, and distinctly lacking in force sensitivity. If this were any other situation, Alanna would have dropped her force trick to shock them into some extra study sessions.
The room itself looked untouched, but to a trained eye it had obviously been sanitised. Bubbles hadn't been sure what her apprentice was working on exactly, but knew he'd been doing some research. Krath research either meant laboratories or books, papers, notes and general mess. There was none of that in the carefully ordered room. Even the neatest researcher left stacks of paperwork in their wake. Alanna's eyes scanned the half-empty book shelves. General books on the force, required texts, but also information on krath rituals that she knew weren't on journeymen reading lists, and a couple of books on myths and legends that stuck out to someone familiar with the area like a sore thumb.
"I guess whoever went through this room didn't understand what they were looking for. Probably used a list and a distinct lack of common sense." Alanna shook her head. She didn't take the books; she didn't need to. Between her and the rest of the team, they could probably recite the contents in their sleep.
"Myths and rituals," she mused. If it had been an obbie or a sith apprentice, that would have given her somewhere to start. But for a Krath, it only raised more possibilities than it closed off. Maybe Bubbles would have found something they could cross-reference in the travel logs. Find out where her apprentice had been recently, and they might be able to narrow down what he was working on. And then of course, there was the body...
Alanna found Bubbs pouring over travel logs in the library. She paused before approaching, absorbing the sight of one of the most library-phobic Krath she knew looking quite so intent on her research. The Epis had always been one for doing her reading elsewhere given half a chance, so it came of somewhat of a pleasant surprise to find her in the libraries, even given the circumstances. "Any luck?" Alanna ventured as she pulled a second chair up to the table Bubbs had littered with books.
"Nothing particularly in the logs for the last few weeks," Bubbles replied almost absent-mindedly as she scribbled something down on a piece of paper before passing it to Lannie, "But here, these are the destinations for three transports Kerrim had booked himself onto over the upcoming month. It would't have been unusual for him to have one trip planned - he did love to explore, but three trips in one month is a little out of the ordinary."
Alanna nodded her agreement, "Well that gives us a starting point, he's been researching rituals, myths and the like. If there's something that links one of these places to his research, then we might be able to narrow the field a bit further."
"Good, I'm almost done here, I just want to double check I haven't missed anything. I haven't heard anything from the boys, but I'm guessing their work may take a little longer. Meet you back at your quarters in an hour or so?"
The Jedi Priestess rose and, robes swirling behind her, made her way quietly through the library, journeymen skittering out of her way like leaves in the wind. Bubbs watched her leave, wondering for a second how the Taldrya managed to make an exit look quite so impressive, before turning back to her research.
"So... what do we know?" Alanna asked the assembled group.
"Kerrim was studying some rituals that had something to do with these systems," Bubbles indicated the map she'd placed on the table infront of them.
"It would have to be something pretty unusual for at least one of us to not think of it immediately," Betja observed. "Between us we probably know more Krath-lore than all the Obbies and Sith put together.
I've been poking around a bit, catching up with old friends. And this doesn't feel like a normal murder, if there is such a thing. I was definitely getting stone-walled by some of the ranking jedi; all obbies and sith. It might be a coincidence, but I've learnt to trust my intuition when it comes to the other orders."
Vail nodded. "I've noticed the same thing."
Sena took the grim mood as an excellent opportunity to introduce the subject of a dead body. "Vail and I had a bit of trouble getting access to the body. It hadn't been delivered to my lab as arranged, even after the strings that Alanna pulled. They really didn't want me to see it. Vail was surprisingly helpful in convincing them."
Sena continued "The injuries to the body were pretty average. Not much of note, except that the were obviously made by a sabre. What was very odd though, were the remnants of the Force clinging to the body."
Bubbles raised an eyebrow. "A day after he died?"
Sena nodded. "Odd, right?"
Alanna raised an eyebrow. "So, perhaps he was investigating something that boosted the attraction of the Force to an individual. Or... Bet, maybe you were right that the other orders are hiding something. I thought I remembered a reference to Tengosta 4 when Bubbles found it in Kerrim's travel history, but I couldn't remember what it was. I'm pretty sure there was something about an artifact rumoured to strengthen those of the Krath order. Give me a second to pop to my quarters and see if I can find the book. Vail, can you come with me, it'll be quicker with two?"
"Sure thing, just don't drink all the wine while I'm gone," Vail glared at Betja.
"Sena, can you finish filling us in on your investigation of the body in case there's anything else of relevance?" Bubbles asked.
* * * * *
Bubbles smiled as she eased herself back into a chair on the control deck of their craft. Looking around the room it felt just like the old days, when Ektrosis had shown it's dominion over all the Clans of the Brotherhood as an Independent House. She smiled, relaxed slightly, then remembered that Alanna was at the controls of the shuttle, and tightened her grip on the arm of the chair somewhat.
The flight to Tengosta 4 had been relatively smooth, and now there was only a short shuttle ride between them and the planet's surface. Alanna's books had been remarkably unhelpful, referring vaguely to an artefact that could help to strengthen the powers of any Krath who controlled it. The references were slim, but there was enough in the books to cause concern to those of the other Orders.
"You really think that someone in Taldryan would've killed Kerrim to stop us getting to this?" asked Sena, more thinking aloud than directing the question at anyone in-particular.
"If it was any other Clan I'd say 'yes' in a second," replied Bubbs, "But in Taldryan, I thought that loyalty to the Clan would have overruled squabbles between the Orders," she paused for a moment, "Perhaps I was wrong. It does all stink of inter-Order politics, and ties in rather well with the Summit dissolving Phoenix too, the last real bastion of Krath dominance within the Clan."
Vail nodded his agreement, "Let's just see if this artefact really does exist, if so we'll deal with the other orders later, if they truly have murdered one of our own because of their own insecurities..."
"Almost there," interjected Alanna, "I'd suggest making yourselves comfortable, it's a while since I landed one of these."
All the Krath held on to the bulkheads for support, ready to be shaken and stirred. But Alanna managed to land the shuttle quite smoothly, since there was minimal atmospheric interference.
They had landed within a hundred meters of the coordinates the scanners had brought up. Something was buried there.
They stepped out as twilight was already setting in. The green foliage now seemed dark brown. They all looked around carefully. Corvinus noticed the bright eyes of his friend Bubbles. Her pale face bathed in the orange hue of the setting sun. But it was more, his senses seemed much sharper than usual. Colors and shapes all seemed more pronounced.
“Any of you notice…?” he began to ask.
“Yes.” Alanna quickly replied. “What’s causing it?”
“It would seem that something is overloading the sensory input to our brains. An excess in neuro-peptides could theoretically cause_”
“Yes yes, sure… Is it dangerous?” Betja asked.
“I don’t believe so. For now, let’s see it as a useful side effect of the artifact that’s supposedly buried here.” Lokasena remained mindful of the situation though.
As the closed in on the exact coordinates, they passed some organic remains. They appeared to be humanoid. Bubbles walked over for a moment and squatted down next to it. She poked around at the corpse.
“Anything?” Vail asked.
Bubbles picked up a rib bone that had been cut clean in half. “This was no boating accident!”
Sena smiled. “Cute…”
They kept moving, Alanna at point. Suddenly she crouched down with the fingers of her right hand touching her forehead and her left hand waving at the others behind her to get down as well. They all quickly complied.
“Something’s moving toward us.” Alanna said. No sooner had the words fallen from her lips than five large figures seemed to burst from the ground. Gyro-balanced assembly systems rattling from extreme old age, they came running towards the Dark Jedi.
Betja looked up in amazement. “Are those…?”
“Krath War Droids!” Bubbles cried out.
They all immediately grabbed their sabers, several bright colored blades sprang to life. Not a moment too soon, as the Droids opened fire on them as they charged forward. They did all they could to deflect the blasts until the automatons had reached close combat range.
The Droids holding nothing but short swords, it did not take long to dispatch them. Although there were some complaints of damaged tunics and robes.
Brushing the dust off their clothes, the proceeded to the coordinates. For a moment it was all alittle too quiet.
“There’s nothing here.” Bubbles said and walked around. Her boots hit a metallic surface and she nearly tripped. They quickly gathered around and Lokasena knelt down. Her ran his hands over the loose soil and brushed it away, revealing a small corroded metal surface. It appeared to be a maintenance hatch. The Priest opened it and looked raised an eyebrow at the wires and blinking lights that were behind it.
“That might open some sort of_” Vail’s statement was interrupted by a loud creaking sound, as a huge shaft opened up, not two meters from where they stood. They all looked down at Sena, who was smiling contently as he held in his hand a bundle of wires, leaving the maintenance hatch scorched and sparking.
They all looked down the shaft and saw that steppes were welded onto the walls. One by one they climbed down. They shaft led down to a large room, so dark they had to break some light cells and attach them to their wrists. Each of them walking to a different corned of the room with Alanna calmly waiting in the centre, it was Bubbles’ voice that pierced the darkness. “Found something!”
There, face down on the ground lay a body. Lokasena knelt next to it and turned it over.
For a few moments they all stood speechless as they looked down into the face of Kerrim. He was holding a broken crystalline shard.
“It… It can’t be him!” Bubbles whispered.
“A clone?” Betja asked in return.
“Doubtful!” Lokasena shook his head. “It’s more likely that they body we saw back at the House was a clone.”
“But clones don’t leave a Force imprint.” Alanna stated.
“That’s true… Somebody forcefully left that imprint on the corpse. That it why it seemed so strong, even a day after he died.” The Priest seemed relieved to finally solve that unexplained puzzle piece that had been torturing his mind.
“The real Kerrim must have cloned himself, so he could come here and look for this crystal.” Allana sighed and leaned against a wall. “And now, he’s still dead. And we’re no closer to finding his killer.”
“It’s obvious that he had help. Cloning and Force-imprinting is pretty big stuff!” Vail said as his mind started to process what he just saw.
Bubbles kicked a wall. “He must have been working for one of the other Orders, to undermine us.” She licked the wall again. “And I never saw it!”
“It’s not your fault, Bubbs.” Alanna reassured her. Someone high up the food chain sanctioned this. We may never know who, but at least we know why. And as we all know, knowledge is power. Eventually they’ll come out of hiding.”
“And when they do?” Sena asked.
Bubbles kicked the wall a last time. “We kill them!”