Encounters at Dubrillion
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It was one of those rare days when Locke didn't have anything to do. He was relaxing in his quarters in the Gilded Archipelago, looking out over the glittering ocean that enveloped the chain of islands. Or rather, Locke tried to relax. He found it very difficult to relax with the constant threat of the One Sith at the forefront of his mind. He felt as if every moment needed to be used to prepare to fight them. Doing nothing only made Locke frustrated. Other members of the 'Brotherhood might think them defeated, but Locke did not. It never occurred to him that he might be wrong.
"Surely there's something going on, " he said aloud to no one in particular.
As if in answer, one of the Bakuran's comlinks beeped. He had to keep more than one for those he reported to: Malik, Methyas, Mirado, and others. This one was from Methyas.
Yet, instead of Methyas' voice, it was a mechanical, droid-like one.
"Secure message transmitted."
That would mean it had gone to Locke's datapad. He retrieved the device from a coat pocket and logged in immediately, decrypting the encoded transmission.
He read it, and then read it again.
As part of securing our future, a recent trade agreement was made between elements of the Dakhani Corporation and the Draya Coalition, a group attempting to help the rim world of Dubrillion rebuild from the Vong War by any means necessary. Our sales of questionable goods to this organization are vital to our future success.
My agents have indicated that someone may be attempting to interrupt this agreement. They could just be pirates or other criminals, but we need to know for sure, so I am sending you to investigate. You will find coordinates, possible contacts, and other information attached to this message.
Locke deleted the message after a third read. If he recalled right, Dubrillion was quite a trip, perhaps at the greatest extent of the Sadow cover corporation's dealings thus far, and Methyas was sending him out there by himself.
"Orders are orders, " the Krath mumbled, throwing open his closet as he began to pack a bag for the trip. He began mentally planning. He would need to take a shuttle; a starfighter would be too obvious. He would take his lightsaber, just in case, but Locke saw himself using a blaster more on this mission, if anything. He smiled briefly to himself, thinking this would be a good opportunity to hone the new skills he had learned in using the Force to deceive those around him.
Locke was out the door only a few minutes later.
In a Dakhani hangar, Locke found an old Lambda-class shuttle that had been leased to the corporation. Just as he was about to board, the Krath felt another, familiar presence behind him.
"You're not going, " he said, turning around.
Kiana stood here, garbed in the simple city clothes she had taken to wearing to blend in. His sister wore a wry smile.
"Not going where?"
"A mission, " Locke said, " secret stuff. Stay here, " he turned to board the shuttle's ramp. As much as Locke loved his sister, she would not be of much use on a covert mission. Furthermore, he was sure Methyas would not like it if Locke let someone go with him, much less his sister. That is, if the other Sadowan even knew of her. Locke had no idea what the extent of Methyas' eyes and ears really was.
Kiana appeared beside him in the shuttle's interior, somehow calmly walking up the boarding ramp as if totally unbothered by the fact it was ascending. "You'll need help if you're going somewhere alone."
Locke grumbled under his breath. His older sister rarely seemed to listen, but she had been useful in the past.
"I managed without you for years, somehow." Yet, while Locke had reservations, it did feel better to have her nearby. At least then he wouldn't have to worry about some Dark Jedi finding out about her and trying to kill her while he was gone, even if the Krath thought that unlikely at this point.
As he took a seat in the shuttle's pilot's chair, Kiana sat down next to him.
"Where are we going?" she asked.
"That's classified, " he said. As the shuttle lifted out of Aeotheran's atmosphere, Locke had no doubt she would drag the details out of him before they arrived at Dubrillion.
Dubrillion - Landing Site
"Master Jedi!" A high-pitched voice shrieked above the droning of the nearby freighter. Distant, but gradually growing closer, the excited shrieks of the child grew louder. A'lora turned to give the young Twi'lek a smile while she unloaded the latest shipment of fresh produce for the settlement. When she seen the ragged, torn garments of the youngling, it reminded her of the suffering these people have gone through over the years. A once-prosperous aristocracy, its takeover by the Empire, and later Yuzhaan Vong had proven harsh on its inhabitants. Every day, A'lora sensed these effects in at least one of the survivors of the Yuzhaan Vong invasion, the constant emotions of loss an pain. As a Consular, she could only trust that her efforts would give them hope towards a better future. Standing tall among the horizon, she could see the ruins of various buildings, and hear the mechanical sounds of machinery while countless refugees worked tirelessly to restore the buildings to their former glory. The Vongforming of the landscape damaged these structures, however most of them appeared quite salvageable. Despite being offered accomodations within a restored apartment, A'lora preferred to rest in the makeshift settlement underneath the stars.
Her labour was interrupted when a small hand touched the wraps around the lavender flesh of her lower leg. The Twi'lek stared upwards, drawing a gaze towards the older woman's greel wood lightsaber. A'lora smiled in response, "Watch this." She said, before calling the weapon to hand and igniting its emerald blade with a snap-hiss. Entertained, the child shrieked in delight before running off towards a military-uniformed Twi'lek male.
"You're doing good work here, Jedi." A gruff voice commented from behind her. The old man's presence didn't startle her; She had already sensed the approaching movement ultrasonically through the use of her hollowed Montrals. She deactived her lightsaber as gave a gesture of respect to the aging man. His face was pale and wrinkled, as were his hands.
"We all do what we must. These people can't continue as they are, we need to give them hope. Something to look forward to." She responded, as calm and evenly as she would in the middle of a meditation. Unpacking another crate from the freighter, she set it down on an overburdened hoversled.
"Well," The old man replied, taking a moment to breathe, "I would like to thank you for your help. You give these people inspiration. The young ones look to you for guidance."
The Togruta nodded, loading the last of the containers onto the hoversled before the freighter's hatch ascended. Only minutes later, the starship rose, sending a spray of dust in every direction before leaving to acquire another shipment. In the corner of her mind, A'lora felt an odd presence. While the Sith were utterly devoted to the Dark Side of the Force, she also sensed a beacon of light. Her vision blurred for a handful of seconds before 'seeing' the cockpit of a shuttle. Two figures sat at the controls, though she couldn't see their faces clearly. Once her vision returned to normal, she took a few moments before she realized her body had fallen to the ground, and that the image was a vision lurking within the possible future.
As the two Bakurans wound their way through the settlement's streets, Locke distantly noted Kiana smiling at those around them. Many smiled back - at least at her. Locke tried to smile himself, but it was forced.
"These people thrive because of contraband, " Locke said. He had a certain distaste for the Clan's recent fall into the criminal world. It had it's advantages, but Locke had been on the other side of that crime before. Even if smugglers had helped the Galactic Alliance in the end, there had still been the issue of military supplies disappearing when they were most needed.
"Perhaps, " Kiana answered. "But look how happy they are. It seems that even your brethren can bring happiness to others, even if unintentional."
"It's probably short-lived. The corporations here will use them any way they see fit. They're just a statistic." He thought about tent city outside the Dlarit mining city of Seng Karash, and the refugees from the war with the Yuuzhan Vong who had lived there in poverty. In the end, Dlarit had paid for their treatment of the citizens in revolution, but these people didn't look like rebels. They looked happy just to be alive.
Kiana frowned slightly, just for a moment. "You have a troublesome dark view of the world, brother."
"I've seen so much, I'm being realistic, " he replied. Such a comment might usually make him angry, but Locke found it very difficult to be angry at his sister. He knew she had been through a lot as well and wondered why she didn't see it, or chose to ignore it.
Those were questions for later. For now, they had a job to do.
"I'm heading out to the landing site to see if I can learn anything there. Why don't you walk around the city and see if you can find anything?
Surprisingly, Kiana just nodded. "I'll catch up with you, " she said.
Locke could almost feel her watching him as he stalked off through the crowd, making his way to the edge of the settlement and beyond. When only a few people were in sight, and distantly, Locke summoned the Force, laying it about his face in a way he could hardly explain. When he looked into a nearby puddle, Locke was satisfied to see his featured had changed to those of a nondescript human. They were similar to his own, but different enough that no one should suspect them the same person unless they could sense him, and out here he was expecting pirates or agents of some sort, not Jedi or Sith.
The Krath's hand idly brushed the lightsaber hidden in the folds of his clothing, falling to touch the blaster at his waist as he moved forward. He forced himself to lower the hand, trying to take on the look of a plainly-dressed man exploring the countryside.
With the last of the freighters unloaded of relief supplies, A'lora let out a long, weary yawn, bracing herself against the durasteel crate-filled hoversled. Beyond the ruins of the once-prosperous city, the final rays of light from Dubrillion's closest star begam to fade behind the towering buildings. In the span of an hour, the lansdcape seemed much darker that it had been earlier. Already, small bonfires and torches illuminated the rows of temporary housing and tents. However, despite her lack of rest, the Togruta felt a sudden surge of energy when her senses flared. Involuntarily, the hollow spaces in her cranial horns alerted her of a presence moving at a steady pace, directory towards her. Lowering a hand to rest on the gnarled hilt of her lightsaber, carefully tucked away witihin the stratically-placed tribal garb, she only noticed a single nondescript human approaching. As the man drew closer, she forced her palm away from the weapon. Still, something felt off about the way in which he carried himself; He wasn't desperate, nor did he seem to realize her status as a Force-wielder. Often, she noticed, the figure would stop to examine his surroundings, as if looking for something - or someone.
"Odd time for someone to stop by the landing site. The last of the frigates just left, are you expecting someone?" Asked the voice, just behind him. Locke spun around, dropping his hand to rest on the concealed bulge in his robes that contained the blaster if he needed it. Taking a few moments to calm his senses, he carefully examined the figure, unsure if the alien posed any significant threat. The first thing he noticed, was the unusual species to which she belonged. Even stranger, her skin had taken on a hue that was considered to be abnormal amongst the Togruta. Since arriving on Dubrillion, Locke hadn't seen many alien species, save for the common Twi'leks or other indistinct humanoids. While frayed and tattered in a manner that was similar to the desparate refugees, her attire also seemed different; employing various tribal elements, the Togruta's garb marked her as an off-worlder.
"I would say the same to you, I haven't seen many off-worlders around here." He retorted, deflecting her questions as to not reveal his true purpose. He knew beyond doubt that secrecy was a thing to be valued. A single whisper of his alignment as a practitioner of the Dark Side would upset the goals of his mission. He simply stared back with a fierce intensity, attempting to convey the same appearance as one who wielded some authority.
A'lora brushed the attempt aside, something definitely felt off about the man. Behind the image he attempted to portray, she could still sense the emotions of anger and frustration radiating from his core. "I have been sent here to help guide the relief effort. You still haven't explained your intentions." She said, pointedly. This time, he noticed as she reached under one of the frayed wraps of her attire for the lightsaber. Only a split second after he summoned his lightsaber to hand, the emerald blade of A'lora's blazed to life, illuminating the now-darkened ground beneath them in a green haze. Locke's instincts took full control, the pale yellow blade materializing in his hands to intercept the initial attack.
Locke opened his mouth to speak, before a series of strikes forced him to intercept, and counter with his own. Shifting his stance for one suited for a master of Makashi, he held the blade single-handedly in front of him, anging his body away from the Jedi. "I'm here to help these people, just as you are!" He shouted, above the violent clashing of blades. The Jedi pressed on with the battle, not entirely convinced beyond the emotions she could feel radiating towards her, a dark channel of energy guiding his strikes, sending her reeling on the defensive. His skill was exceptional, and far surpassed her own. Backpedaling at an increased pace, she strived to gain distance, any advantage in footing or height was crucial to her chosen form, that of the highly manouvreable Ataru form.
Brother! A familiar voice called to Locke, ringing as clear to him as if his sister had been at his side, though he knew the voice to be a telepathic link.
In the darkness, the two blades cast the ground in a sickly hue as Locke pressed forward as hard as he dared, one thought on his mind: there was a Jedi here, and she had discovered him. His only option was to kill her, lest she report back to the Order of his existence and possibly set off an investigation that could discover the Dark Brotherhood.
The Bakuran Dark Jedi heard his sister speak into his mind and shoved her out of it. He could sense a brief moment of distress, a mix of other emotions: concern, determination. Then she was coming closer. What would his sister do if she came across Locke trying to kill one of her own order? There were too many variables. He had to end the fight quickly and deal with the consequences of it later.
Yet that was proving nearly impossible. This Jedi was no easy meat. She met Locke's strikes with a form he had not often faced in combat, dodging and weaving backward as Locke's lightsaber lanced forward, pivoting and attempting to strike. He had to get close to do real damage, and the Togruta was keeping him at a distance, leaping or turning to run back briefly before spinning to face him and deflect his strikes.
Still, she was on the defensive, and not trying to strike at him. That gave him the advantage, if he could only end the fight in time. He had to distract this Jedi somehow.
"We're both here to help," he said, calling the Force to accelerate his movements, allowing him to close the difference between himself and the Jedi. His lightsaber slashed down at an angle, aiming for her midsection. A split-second passed and she had moved, her lightsaber there instead. Then he instinctively repositioned, pivoted the blade to attack from the opposite angle. The Jedi leaped away again, frustratingly out of his immediate range.
"Why would a Dark Jedi want to help? Do you think I can't sense it?" The Togruta replied.
Locke had hoped she had not, but now that he knew she had, he allowed his rage to boil over. He hated the Jedi. They had caused so much death in the war. Their vaunted "balance" and "peace" had left them hand-tied as billions died where the Jedi could have saved them. Many of them had been Locke's friends. He ignored the conflict in his mind. Locke's sister had been one of those Jedi, and he once thought her dead. Now she was alive, had shown herself to be a capable warrior, and did not show a hint of the dark side. Had Locke been wrong?
No. He deliberately tempered his anger. On Coruscant, half his squad had been lost because a Jedi refused to go after them. With the dark side, he could have punched through the Vong that had surrounded them, but he did not, and the team died. The dark side flooded within Locke, reinvigorating his movements.
"As if the Jedi ever helped anyone," he snarled. The dark side terrified Locke at times, and he did not know what to do with it. This was one of those times. He had to unleash it, somehow. A blast of raw energy perhaps, to end itů
Then, suddenly, the Togruta jumped back twice, well out of his range. Locke prepared to pursue, but something stopped him. She didn't seem to be focusing on him any more. Locke breathed, extending his Force presence, his fears realized. He had been too slow.
"Kiana," he said, voice barely a growl. His rage began to dissipate. Kiana's presence had a way of doing that.
"Locke," Kiana said. "Think." Don't kill right away.
Her voice in his mind caused Locke to fully stop, and another took over from his own mind. At least learn what you can first. Surely Kiana will see necessity if nothing else. She's a rogue, too.
Locke wondered if Kiana recognized the Togruta. He could sense puzzlement from his sister. Her emotions were typically difficult to read, but as their time together had continued and their bond awakened, he had started to feel the surface of her emotions, though most of them were still denied to them.
"Fine," Locke said, turning to the Togruta. "I do use the dark side, but I use it to help people, as hard as that may be to believe. Who are you, and what is the Jedi's interest in this world? How many more of you are there?"
"My interest here is none of your concern, Sith." The Togruta protested, the last word dripping off her tongue with a venom that make Locke's muscles tighten with the urge to decimate the Jedi before him. Before he could take a full step forward, Kiana placed a calming hand on his shoulder, "Not while I'm here." She whispered, as softly as she could, "I sense that this... Jedi could lend us aid." Again, Locke felt the relaxing sensation as his muscles loosened, he had hardly noticed as his hand instinctively clipped the lightsaber back onto his belt. In the back of his mind after feeling Kiana's touch, he had the odd instinct once again that they might have known each other, if even informally.
"I apologize for my brother's actions on his behalf. At times, his hatred can cloud his judgement." She assured the Togruta, as soothing as only a Jedi could speak. Craning to Locke and offering a smirk, she took several steps between her brother and the Jedi, "My name is Kiana Sonje, and this is Locke. Over the past month, the Dakhani Corporation has upheld a trade agreement with the Draya Coalition, they very people you're interesting in helping. Locke was informed that someone might be attempting to sabotage the agreement - Perhaps you could help?"
A'lora paused for a moment, lost in thought as she planted her chin in her palm. There was something familiar about the other woman's presence. In her training within the New Jedi Order, she became acquainted with a great many prospective students and wise masters, too many to recall them all from memory. "I don't see any harm in doing so. Tonight, we'll hunt as a pack to track down any possible leads." The odd use of the word 'pack' made Locke turn to his sister, as if asking for clarification, who only raised a hand in response before he could speak. Its a tribal custom among her species, she's offering us her help. She explained through her Force connection with Locke.
"Very well. My brother will update you on our mandate, I trust?" She replied, arching an eyebrow in Locke's direction. He didn't trust the Jedi; Kiana could sense the annoyance boiling inside of him, ready to spill over in a torrent or rage and hatred. Calm yourself, brother. She's here to help.
That's what I'm afraid of. He responded through their Force connection. Kiana grimaced, knowing the reasons behind Locke's feud with the Jedi. She's different.
Letting out a long, audible sigh, Locke pushed his way past his sister, deliberately bumping into her as he did so. "Alright, Jedi. If we're working together, I'm going to need a name. What should I call you?"
"A'lora Kituri, Councillor of Odan-Urr and pack-hunter of the Melewati."
"A'lora Kituri." He repeated, knowing the name all too well. He had never actually seen the Councillor in person before, not even knowing the exact species she belonged to. His duties had kept him occupied from looking into such trivial matters. "I imagined you... differently." He commented, not quite able to place a finger on what he had originally meant to say. A moment of silence passed while he examined the surrounding area, not noticing the impatient looks he was getting from both Jedi. "I don't believe we're going to find anything of importance here. Follow me, I'll update you along the way."
Odan-Urr. Locke remembered invading their world of New Tython. He also remembered his frustration at their ways and stubborn refusal to give up the light. He also remembered his anger at the Grandmaster for halting the invasion right before it could reach it's completion. Whatever the reason, it did not appear to have done much to harry the Jedi, if this Councilor A'lora was any indication.
"I have to say," Locke admitted, "I don't have a lot of intel about what's going on here. Just that we seemed to be losing more of our shipments than normal, so I was sent here to investigate."
"Why this way?" Kiana asked.
"Because one of the freighters contracted to the Dakhani Corporation didn't ascend back into space. I noticed it just before arriving here and almost forgot in our little...encounter. They curved behind a cloud and descended in the distance. My guess is they have some sort of staging area on the surface elsewhere, and that's where we should start."
He guided the small group along a dirt road for awhile. As they walked in silence and Locke's anger almost completely mellowed out, he thought about this A'lora. He definitely did not trust the Jedi at all, but then, Kiana was a Jedi too, and she apparently had faith in the Togruta.
Locke sighed. Maybe A'lora would at least be useful for a little while, but Locke was still uneasy about this. He didn't like that she might learn something of how Sadow's present operations worked, or what Lockes weaknesses may be. A substantial part of his mind told Locke that he should destroy the Jedi any way he could.
"Why do you sigh?" A'lora said suddenly.
Locke missed a step; he did not expect her to speak out of nowhere. Anger welled within the Krath, but then he remembered Kiana's presence and forced it down. He looked around, noting that the path had come to a beach lined with thick foliage along it's edge.
"Because it looks like we just came to a dead end," he said, covering for his expression.
"Hmm," A'lora seemed to focus on something far ahead of them for a moment. Locke peered the direction she was looking, but he couldn't see anything.
"What is it?" Kiana asked.
"There's a small path through the forest there. Follow me." She started off in that direction, as if expecting them to follow. Locke opened his mouth to speak, but Kiana raised an eyebrow at him as she moved to follow the Togruta.
Fine, Locke thought, falling in behind the two as he followed warily.
"You call this a path?" Locke spat aloud, unintentionally. He had grown impatient; the last few minutes had the group following little more than a thin, unmarked trail already overgrown with foliage. Already, his arm started to bleed from the thorns brushing against his skin. He cursed as he drew a wrapped bandage from his belt in an attempt to stop the bleeding. Ahead, he noticed that Kiana had caught up with the Togruta Jedi, both of them nearly unscathed. The sight had angered him, the last thing he needed was an alliance between those he hated most, and his beloved sister.
"Your brother," A'lora started, outside of Locke's normal hearing, "He seems distrustful. Has he ever trusted anyone?"
Kiana looked back at her brother, who seemed to be lagging behind. She knew how much he hated the Jedi, and his reasons. While she hadn't agreed with them, she understood his distrustfulness of the Jedi, eveen if she found solace in their teachings. "He trusts me." She finally stated. Eager to break off the topic of her brother, Kiana asked a question of her own. "How did you come to join the Jedi Order? You seem too..." Choosing her words carefully, she continued after a brief second, "...infuenced by your own culture to have been trained at such a young age."
"I was rescued from the Hutts by my master. Most of my life was spent on Shili, my home." the Togruta answered, the final two words leaving her with a deep regret that Kiana could sense. Kiana fell silent, obviously having inquired too much into the Jedi's past.
Locke grudgingly took another step, seething behind his clutched teeth. A sharp "snap" echoed off the trees, causing both of the female Jedi to spin around.
"What is it?" Kiana asked, noting the emotions radiating off the strange Jedi. However, she didn't need the Force to sense the other woman's uneasiness reflected in her widened eyes.
A'lora hissed, raising a hand before the Dark Jedi took another step.
"Don't. Move." She commanded, drawing her lightsaber. The emerald blade snapped to life in her hands, and for a moment, Locke thought she might have sensed a predator lurking in the woods. It wasn't until he looked down at his ankle until he realized the danger they were in.
The glowing blade came down in one swift movement, severing the line effortlessly. Locke felt the cord wrapped around his ankle loosen, shaking the remnants from his boot.
"Who could have set that? More importantly, was it intended for us?" Kiana asked, stretching out with the Force to sense any dangers watching them. She felt nothing, but kept her senses alert; for all she knew, they could be at a distance.
"You tell me, Sith. You're the ones making enemies here." A'lora directed at Locke, pointedly. Locke hadn't told the Jedi more than what he needed her to know, or for that matter, his sister. I shouln't have brought her along, he thought to himself. Since arriving on Dubrillion, nothing had gone according to plan. He would have preferred remaining anonymous, blending in with the refugees as he investigated the missing freighter. Those plans were changed once he made the decision to bring Kiana, and took a turn for the worst once he was forced into open combat. A second cracking noise broke the silence, and Locke barely had time to register his surroundings before his face made contact with the butt end of a blaster.
Locke's head throbbed with a violent headache as he came to. He groggily looked around, trying to make out his surroundings. Memories slowly started to bubble to the surface of his mind as he tried to remember how he had gotten here.
The first thing that registered in the Krath's mind was that his hands were bound behind his back and he was sitting on the ground. He looked around, noting they were still in the forest. He could see at least two armed individuals in his field of view. They were human, or close to it, and each had a modestly-sized blaster rifle in hand.
I should have never trusted that Jedi, he thought.
He expanded his Force presence, wary of whether that would alert any of his captors. If they were Force sensitive, this was going to be even less fun. None of them seemed to notice anything, however, and Locke immediately sensed A'lora right behind him. So the Togruta had not escaped this either. Great. That left Kiana, and Locke could barely sense her through their emerging sibling bond. She was out there, somewhere, but not in their immediate vicinity. He couldn't tell beyond that.
"Hey, one's awake!" a gruff voice said. Great. They would have noticed Locke. A'lora was probably meditating or something. Bloody Jedi
"You got me." The words were out of Locke's mouth before he really thought about it. He was a Jedi - a Dark Jedi - and he wasn't about to be cowed by these ruffians, or whoever they were. They may have had him restrained for the moment, but in the back of his mind he knew he would find a way to get free, and when he did, he would kill these men. If he couldn't free himself, Kiana would find a way. He wondered what sort of poor, illicit smugglers had decided to capture him.
"What are you doing here?" another voice said. This one was more smooth, calm. Whereas the first seemed to be slightly distressed at holding captives such as them, this one was fine. Locke wondered what they had done with his lightsaber.
"I could ask you the same, " Locke muttered.
"What?" the man repeated.
"I said, I could ask what you are doing here just the same!" Locke nearly shouted that time. It earned him a good kick to the ribs. He grunted as pain shot through his body. Was that...worry he sensed from Kiana?
"You should remember that you are the prisoner here, Jedi, " the smooth voice said again. So they had definitely noticed the lightsabers.
Jedi? Locke laughed, shoulders shaking. What the heck was A'lora doing, anyway? Maybe she was just listening.
"What's so damn funny?" the gruff voice said.
The smooth one made a calming sound. "Our ship will be here soon, and before that, we will find the third of your number. It seems that other one who hasn't come to yet knew where she was going, yet you walked into the trap we laid. It's just like the Jedi to think that with your lightsabers and the Force you're somehow not susceptible to the world around you, but we will show you the errors of your ways."
These guys seemed really confident in themselves. Their leader at least seemed to have no issue with holding Jedi captives. Maybe not pirates then. What else could they be? Bounty hunters? Locke slightly worried at the thought. If they were, maybe they had experience with Force users, or at least lacked any fear when dealing with them.
Locke heard the whine of repulsorlifts in the distance as he pondered how he was going to get out of this one, still wondering what A'lora was doing and where Kiana was. He knew she would not abandon him, and probably didn't have enough sense to stay away and out of danger.
"So, Sith. Looks like we're both stuck in this mess." A'lora said abruptly, as soon as the guards were out of earshot from her whispers. Locke assumed they had only turned their backs for a quick scan of the perimeter. It didn't matter, their ropes were tied tightly; whoever was responsible for their capture certainly knew what he was doing. Finally, she speaks. He thought to himself, careful not to blurt out anything the mercenaries or bounty hunters - whatever they might be - would hear.
"So, were you awake this whole time, or just had a comfortable nap?" He questioned, with a hint of sarcasm. A'lora shook her head, ignoring the obvious annoyance in his voice.
"I was meditating, how else would Kiana find us without being captured?" Locke was impressed, but was careful to mask his amazement. The Jedi had been supplying Kiana with brief images of the camp's layout through the Force. The connection with his sister had left the Togruta drained; he didn't need the Force to see the weary expression in her eyes. If Kiana expects me to carry her new friend out of this mess...
Instead of congratulating his reluctant partner, he simply asked the obvious, "So, what now?"
"We wait." She replied, relaxing against the angled tree trunk at her back, "Until then, I suspect this would be a good time to get to know each other. Don't you agree?"
"You know, I rather preferred the silence, come to think of it." Locke mused. He strained for a sense on Kiana's signature in the Force. The mild concussion he suffered made it difficult. As he focused, he could feel the veins swelling in his head, the feeling of it was nausiating. He barely noticed his vision beginning to darken as he slipped again into unconsciousness. Feeling a kick at his leg, the Dark Jedi awoke with a start.
"Stay awake." She hissed, nodding her horned head towards the line of tents opposite of them, erected around a small bonfire. Locke didn't realize at first what she had drawn his attention to, until he noted a familiar figure, unmistakable, skulking through the camp. I'm here, brother. The Torguta didn't need the Force to sense movement in the vicinity; her montrals were able to sense her surroundings ultrasonically. Even then, her senses weren't as sharp as he was accustomed to. Her frequent communication through the Force with Kiana made her exhausted, nearly forcing her into another meditation session.
The small form of his sister darted between the tents. One of the bounty hunters sat before the campfire, chewing on a particularly overcooked chunk of Nerf meat. He didn't have time to digest his meal before a hand came down like a knife against his throat, causing him to choke on the tough steak. Kicking the surprised man in the stomach, she knocked the bounty hunter out, saving him from choking to death in the process. Locke heard a sound at his side, not unlike that of a saw cutting through wood. The Togruta had begun rubbing her bound wrists against the trunk, in an effort to loosen her bonds.
Locke smirked. While her determination was admirable, her knew there was a much quicker way to save his own skin. He wasn't about to let his most hated enemy save from from enslavement, or worse. Stretching a leg out to catch the patrolling guard at the ankles, he ellicted little more than a gasp from the startled man. Another boot came crashing down on the fallen bounty hunter, aimed directly at the other man's face. The crunch of cartlidge was satisfying as he broke the nose of the man that had rammed a blaster against his forehead. Carefully, he rotated himself until his bound hands were able to grab onto his captor's knife.
The serrated blade cut effortlessly through his bonds, rendering then useless with a sharp "snap." A'lora only looked wearily up in bewilderment as he stood there, grinning. "Well, Jedi. Looks like I'm the one saving your skin this time."
"You won't be saving anyone if you get blaster-fried." Kiana said, appearing beside the two. "Speaking of saving, it would seem the time for stealth is past." The sunfire blade of Locke's lightsaber sprang to life in Kiana's grip as she tossed A'lora's weapon to the Togruta.
Locke nodded. He picked up one of the incapacitated guard's blaster rifles and stood back to back with the two women, watching as the camp came alive. He noticed one man taking aim nearby as shouts rose throughout the wooded area around them. The Krath fired a quick stream of bolts to kill the man before he could use his own weapon. Locke began scanning for targets, hearing lightsabers moving behind him as the two Jedi cut down anyone who was foolish enough to approach.
"We should split up slightly and evade," A'lora said. "There are too many for us to be in the open like this."
Locke growled at that. "Just like the Jedi to want to run and hide, allowing their enemies to escape!" Even so, he saw the logic of her plan. They were going to get killed in the open like this.
"She is right," Kiana said.
"Fine," Locke managed, barely suppressing his anger. What had come over him? If a soldier had suggested such a tactic, he would have seen the sense of it. This Jedi had befuddled Locke's wits somehow.
A thought came unbidden to his mind. The dark side clouds judgement. Was that his thought, or his sister's?
"Ready whenever you are," Locke said. He wasn't about to be the first to break away and leave Kiana's back exposed.
"Now," A'lora said.
Locke moved, shooting into the forest as he went, wherever he thought there might be enemies. The three separated and moved through the trees, apart, but in the same direction. Locke could barely see the others, but still he kept with them.
At last, Locke stumbled toward a clearing, seeing another of their captors in it. At the sight of Locke, he turned to run. The Krath pulled the trigger of his blaster, but it clicked, nothing happening.
"Blast it!" Locke growled. He couldn't let this man get back to his superiors. They needed at least one of them alive to question! Shouting wordlessly, the Bakuran threw the blaster aside and leaped toward the other man. As the other man turned and ran, Locke landed in the middle of the clearing on his stomach, grunting as he felt his ribs hit the hard packed ground.
Rolling over as quickly as he could, Locke saw A'lora standing over him. Of course, it had to be her. He winced, pointing over his body. "He's getting away!"
Locke winced in pain as he tried to crane his neck towards the escaping bounty hunter. He was mildly shocked at the Togruta's speed at which she chased him down. Almost effortlessly, she vaulted over obstacles thrown in her path in the man's desparate escape. Locke caught a glint of steel, the light bouncing off the tip of a spear-like weapon that the woman had pulled from the ground. With a wide, overhead thrust, the duranium weapon was hurled like a javelin. Even from far away, he could hear the sickening impact of the spear's tip penetrating the muscle of their captor's leg. Another glint, accompanied by a distant 'snap-hiss' announced the presence of a lightsaber, as it materialized in the hands of A'lora Kituri, coming down directly in front of the crippled victim, who still attempted to crawl forward in a foolish attenpt to claim an abandoned blaster. With a single flick of the wrist, the weapon was cleaved in two, the butt end of the weapon irreversably separated from the barrel.
Kiana raced towards the Jedi as the crumpled form turned onto his side, beginning a low moaning. Recovering, Locke followed his sister, determined to extract information from their newest prisoner.
"Hold still, you're only making it worse." Kiana ordered, the bounty hunter wailing a string of curses in return. She tore a piece of cloth from his uniform, holding it towards his useless leg. "This might hurt a bit." She said. Before the man could object, she grabbed hold of the duranium handle, pulling the spear carefully through the entry point. Before he could scream, A'lora placed a hand over his mouth, cautious that anyone might hear. Covering the wound with the cloth to stop the bleeding, Locke's sister placed her weight on the scrap. Before she could summon the Force to knit the fallen soldier's wound, Locke stepped forward, his lightsaber in hand.
"He'll recieve your gift as soon as he answers my questions. Step away, Jedi." He growled, the second part of his statement directed at the Togruta. The man couldn't answer if his voice was being muffled. Instead, the Jedi placed herself between the bounty hunter and Locke. While her slender form wasn't particularly imposing, the snarl that exposed her pointed teeth made her seemed reminiscent of a seething predator.
"If you don't get out of my way, the longer he waits for help. If he waits too long, he'll die, and it will be on you, Jedi." His words escaped his throat. A rage had overcome him, one that he could barely contain. The Sith hadn't taken kindly to falling on his ribs.
"He's right. This man will bleed out, if we don't do anything." Kiana offered from the man's side.
"Fine." A'lora agreed reluctantly. Although her lips remained curved into a snarl, she stepped aside.
"Wise choice." Locke remarked. "Now, to ask our new friend some questions..."