A New Beginning
Zee is sitting in the common area seemingly engrossed with examining the ring. Cassus enters the common area from a hallway behind her and without looking up she asks
Cassus hesitates for a moment, looking to Drake and Frank in confusion before continuing.
“Nothing outside the bounds of what we normally wouldn’t tell people – nothing illegal. Or our deal with Zolo. What concerns me more is… just like me, they’ve been fighting droids most of their lives. Don’t know how they’ll take to Frank.”
Drake drums his fingers against the counter while he stares into his datapad.
“I wouldn’t worry so much about that. Federation droids were notoriously cheap. Combination plasteel and aluminum with the important bits painted a dry white-khaki color. I think it’s fair to Frank resembles a Federation droid about as much as he resmbles a human.”
He looks up.
“I’m more concerned about your feelings regarding Jedi. In what way is a Jedi not just another mark, aside from general competency? In other words, in what way is this hunt different from searching out a highly skilled assassin-droid or a Wookie headhunter?”
“Tactically, you have to worry about the Force. You won’t see it coming, necessarily, and it opens up a lot of options – moving obstacles with the mind, deflecting blaster fire, leaping impossible distances or moving too fast. Thankfully, it’s just an apprentice, but keep in mind the difference between a knight and a nearly graduated apprentice is small.
The real thing to worry about is desperation. This one’s been on the run for years, it’s going to react like a cornered nexu. Not to mention any nasty deals it may have made to stay alive."
“Well there’s no place left for a creature like this to learn any new tricks from, right? It cannot have advanced much since the Temple was eradicated.”
“Aside from additional blaster fire, does the Force have any weaknesses? And are there any ways around those weaknesses? In other words, should I be concerned that this ‘apprentice’ has learned to compensate for anything?”
“Weaknesses… I don’t know. I don’t know much about the Force outside of what we were taught, and most of that is directly observable applications. I suppose it’s like any other creature – distractions, restraint, and overwhelming amounts of incoming fire all keep it from being able to concentrate on effective use of resources.”
Zee looks up from the ring looking a bit confused, and stuffs it into a pocket.
“Also, are we going to kill them? Or are we going to try to take them alive? I know the Baron has a bounty, but…”
She looks towards Cassus and trails off
Cassus is silent for entirely too long, and not in the usual “patient soldier” way.
“That decision may not be in our hands. We’re not the only ones on this hunt.”
Zee looks nervous, and hesitates a bit before asking
“Right, but if it was? What would we do?”
Drake looks over at Zee. He nods slightly.
“I suppose we… we’ll just have to wait and see what happens, no?”
“If they still accept my command, they’ll do as I say. Regardless, they’re not the only squad we’ll be accompanying, so we may get outvoted.
Pragmatically, our best bet is to neutralize the threat and bring the weapon to Zolo. The target itself… you know I have no problem killing it. If you’re not comfortable with that, now’s the time to say so."
“I just want to back up a minute here. What exactly was the bounty here? I mean I remember Zolo will pay well for a lightsabre, but what do we get out of killing this jedi? Word gets out that we kill dangerous targets for cheep, and there goes our bargaining power.”
Turning to Cassus
“I know you are connected and all to your brothers, but if they treat me like a some piece of crap mass produced unthinking barely functioning target droid, we are going to have a problem. A grenade type of problem.”
“I agree that we’ll have a problem. If you threaten to kill these men because you think you’re being disrespected, your problem will be me.
Deal with things in a rational way and you won’t have this problem. If you have a problem with the way they treat you, say something about it. For now, the situation is just theoretical anyway.
As for the bounty, I thought I made it clear that there’s not much money in this, but instead there’s connections to be made. Alliances to be forged."
Zee glances at Drake, and back at the group.
“Guys, guys, we don’t need to be angry, no ones threatening anyone yet, right?
I think we just are all trying to figure out what we can expect.
Also, Cassus, more than just your squad? Who else knows about this?"
“Must be having conversations in my head, I could have sworn I vocalized the idea of them shooting at me, but somewhere that got lost. I am the one who didn’t want to be known for excess killing, although I have developed the tendency to do so. Hmm, need to think about that more. Anyway, I shoot off my mouth more than anything, I am not going to escalate to killing, unless it is clear that is their intention.
OK, now I remember, alliances. I guess they can be profitable in the long run. I don’t like most people, so I am not a huge fan of working with more of them (don’t worry you guys are not most people). Maybe we can get them to subcontract to us."
“Adding ‘Jedi hunter’ to my resume seems fairly profitable. Particularly when it comes to hunting bounties.
Further, a Jedi means military intelligence, unique hardware, and… other information. Those are things no amount of credits would buy us anyway.
I’d like not to kill the Jedi. For my bounty hunter’s reputation, if nothing else. Elsewise, just to see… if it’s possible. Not to kill them, I mean. See if captivity is possible. Though naturally I recognize our capability of doing so is… limited here."
Drake goes back to staring at his datapad. He’s straining his eyebrow muscles really, really hard.
Cassus nods afirmatively at Frank, then turns to the rest of the matter.
“I don’t know how many other clones are in on the hunt. I’d say probably another squad or so. Unlikely to be a lot of them.
“I don’t particularly see any reason not to kill this Jedi. What would you do instead? Deliver it to Zolo? The other clones get a whiff of that, they call the Empire down on us and Zolo. Not to mention they all want to kill it as much as I do. The Jedi betrayed everyone in the Republic, especially us.”
Drake shrugs. When he speaks, it seems like he’s not even sure of what he’s saying.
“Where you’ve got one traitor, you’re sure to have more. I would think the Jedi would be more value to everyone alive. For… for questioning, I would think. Yes. They’d be curious, I would think. Even if we return him or her to the Empire, they’ll want to question them, wouldn’t they?
That being said, I don’t think anyone – least of all me – is asking you to break any kind of established bond with your brethren. If it comes down to tying a bow on the escaped Jedi or betraying your brothers, your brothers come first.
Though, of course, we might be ask this Jedi about our ring…"
“Yeah, that ring. I just… I think that maybe this…jedi person they’re hunting, if they’re not dead, maybe they could make some things make more sense.”
Cassus glances back and forth between Z and Drake, clearly perplexed by the odd mental states of the Humans in the room. He starts to walk unhurriedly past them.
“Answers would be good, yes. Just…”
Cassus stops and puts a hand on Drake’s shoulder, firmly but not aggressively, and gives the boy the closest thing he can to a concerned expression.
“…be careful who learns these answers.”
Drake sweats visibly.
“To be honest, I’m never quite sure who to trust. Except for you, of course. Sir.”
Cassus’ eyes go wide and he jerks his hand back instinctively as if a snake had bit him. He seems taken aback by… something.
“That’s… yes. Everyone here should trust everyone else here. I know I’ve entrusted my life to all of you before and vice-versa. I don’t believe for a minute that any of us would knowingly endanger another.”
He locks eyes with Drake in that I-am-your-drill-sergeant sort of way.
“But not everyone else sees things our way. We’re on the edge of the law out here and we need to be careful if we’re going to stay our course.”
He slips into Mando and speaks, but just for hilarity I’ll reproduce it here for everyone (mando real talk is in red because it is awesome):
"I know. Kill your fear or it will master you."
“I would say you can trust me Drake, but that is not exactly the same thing. You guys did trust me with the Rust Bucket, even though most others stayed away. I trust you in my head, which I hope you understand I don’t take lightly.”
Zee frowns slightly at the speech in Mando, then tries to smile
“I really need you to teach me some of that, its weird not knowing what you’re saying.
I want to trust all of you, I’m just not used to being able to. But I guess all of you have saved my damn life, and Frank you even trusted me enough to let you on your ship and get me off that rock and "
She blurts out the next bit, seeming to try to get the words out before she changes her mind.
“I knew that Moore was alone in the storage unit before we went in and it was safe and I don’t know why.”
Frank tilts his head slightly at Zee
“You seem distressed Zee. It could have been a lucky guess, or you are just learning to calculate odds in your head. All this Jedi talk must be getting to you.”
Drake blurts out,
“I was floating over my bed last sleep cycle and I have no idea why. I almost broke my toe.”
“Might I have caught this from someone?”
Cassus sighs a deep and weary sigh before shaking his head.
“So now I guess we know what the ring does… As far as how this happened, if it was possible to ‘catch’ the Force from someone I think we would know about it by now. The GAR higher-ups almost certainly would have been infected. I don’t think anyone really knows. Although, if Mundi is any indication it… runs strongly in some families. "
“Your kidding me. I definitely don’t follow all the droid logical bullshit, but I am somewhat logical. Couldn’t it have just been a dream Drake? I hear that humans have those, and that they can seem real. Not that I don’t trust you two, but seriously, do we have to jump to Magic so quickly.”
“No, it makes sense. First the ring, and just now… I heard him in my mind. The Force.. runs strong in his family.”
“Frank, trust me. I am one of the most logical biologicals on this ship. Had I not sustained damage the a goodly portion of my limbs in the process, I would certainly be happy to discount it as a dream. And then there are my feelings…”
Drake look sharply at Cassus.
“My family? My father is a somewhat-competent Imperial officer and my mother died from a windy runway accident. If the Force runs strong in my family, it manifests either as great test-taking skills, or a… a difficulty with heights.”
“Unless you know something I don’t.”
Cassus’ face goes stony and dark.
“I told you. The Force is a strong ally but not a constant one. Karaj learned that.”
Visible only to Cassus
You see a drop of sweat drip down Drake’s forehead, and a single word flashes across your mind.
“Karaj Vanesh. Jedi Commander. Fourth Systems Army, Twentieth Sector Army, Eighty-Fifth Star Corps, Thirteenth Legion, Fortieth Regiment. Stationed on Thyferra three years ago. Executed by his regiment when the order came through the comms from the Supreme Chancellor.
“And Padawan to Ni-Fa Mundi, the Jedi Knight upon whose ship we currently stand.”
“I assume your decision to keep from me the fact that my family has a history of treachery was for my own good, then?”
“To be honest, I wasn’t sure you were family until just now when it all started making sense. I’m one of the last people in the galaxy to make assumptions about two people who look similar knowing each other.”
Drake thinks for a moment.
“Fine. Good. I’m glad. I was concerned my relationship with a known political dissident and terrorist would put me on your short list.
This does mean I will not be willingly returning to Imperial space, at least not to live. For a wide, sordid variety of reasons. Most of all, a desire to stay away from the Inquisition. And given my father’s position I…"
Drake thinks for a moment.
“…I wonder if that was a coincidence.”
“Like I said. We have to be careful about who learns this. Plenty out there who’d turn you in as-is and I’d rather not have to kill everyone in the galaxy to keep your secret.
Cassus wheels to Zee.
“That in mind, he’s not the only one whose secret we have to keep. Now’s the time to share.”
Zee looks somewhat nervous at suddenly being the center of attention again but laughs some and says
“No great secrets here. I mean, I think maybe once I saw my mom with a ring like that, but who knows where it came from. My dad probably won it in card game. I’ve never seen either of them do anything particuarly amazing, and no one has ever said anything about any great family history.
I don’t know, you probably know more than me. Any Shans on Empire wanted lists?"
“If your mother is still alive, perhaps now would be a good time to get some answers from her. I don’t know of any Jedi with the name Shan, but then again there were a few thousand Jedi out there before the Order came through.”
“A ring like that? These things don’t look like they come with Bantha Flakes, Zee. The one we have was gifted a relic from an alien species. By all accounts it seems to respond to… something intangible, I can’t imagine they’re mass produced. What are the odds your family just happened upon this ring? And that they both, independently, wound up on Nar Shadda?”
Drake shakes his head.
“Frank, you’re not burdened with things like surprise or doubt. What are the odds anyway?”
“I can adapt pretty damn fast, but I am still trying to wrap my circuits around the idea that magic is real. I know, its called the force, I just never saw that shit in action, so I tended to ignore rumors of it as malfunctioning biologicals. If there were as few Jedi as you say, and that ring is as old as it appears, odds are slim to none that it wasn’t an heirloom of some kind. Who knows, maybe there was a small collection that originally modified themselves, and the rings were part of it. It sounds like we are going to have a drop in visit with Zee’s relatives when this is done.”
“Frank, I don’t think what I’ve been feeling is fake, as much as I think I’d like it to be right now.
Zee pauses for a bit, considering her words.
“My family, as far as I know, is my parents and my older sister. She was smart and left years ago, I was pretty small then. She’s still alive, I know that much, but I haven’t seen her in years.
My parents… they came from Dantooine and would have been farmers if they hadn’t left. I think they left on some get rich scheme, and ended up…stuck. I can’t really pretend they’re good people, but I do care about them. When I ran off, I didn’t want my trouble to follow me to them, but now that I’m not there I don’t really want to go back. They’re good at getting others involved in their plans and it normally doesn’t end well.
If we’re looking for answers, its proabably safer to ask them then a cornered, running jedi, probably."