what I saw her do left me utterly amazed.
Once they had all become lucid enough for questioning she picked Greenswo out of the bunch. She waved her had in very slight motion and said.
“You will tell me everything you know about the shooting of the senator.” His eyes opened a little wider and he stood up a little straighter like he was some puppet having his strings pulled.
“I will tell you everything I know about the shooting of the senator.” He then went on to tell us in detail about his part and the part of his friends in the shooting, despite the protests of his comrades, even the exact time and place he received his payment. She asked each of them in turn and they detailed their part, while I recorded the whole thing. What they told me put to bed, without any doubt, who actually pulled the trigger on the cantina shooting. When prompted by Vosla again they all confessed to being an accessory to the killing of both witnesses and Braxton confessed to personally killing the girl. I pieced together that they had hired someone to kill the old man, possibly the Shistaven I had seen. What they didn’t tell us was who hired them and why. Then Vosla questioned Zuul.
“You will tell me everything you know about the shooting of the senator,” She said with a small wave of her hand. He straitened up for a moment and gritted his teeth as if he was in pain before relaxing.
“No, your trick won’t work on me witch.” He said. Vosla seemed a little surprised.
“You will tell me everything you know about the shooting of the senator,” She said again, harder and with more emphasis on the "will.” He seemed to struggle a little more this time but didn’t end up giving a monotone account of everything he knew like the other had and his answer was still.
“No.” Vosla took my arm and pulled me aside to say something privately.
“My powers only work on the weak minded. Unfortunately, he seems to be not so weak as most.”
“I think I might be able to persuade him a bit if you give us a moment.”
“Be my guest.” She left the room and I sat on the bed next to the bundle of officer and I stared down at Zuul.
“So Zuul. I think we both know it’s in your best interest to talk at this point.” He didn’t say anything. “Not going to respond, well let me lay it out for you. All of your other friends have sung like a Thalieen, even if you haven’t, even if they know you haven’t, your head is still on the block because now you’re the worst kind of liability, you’re one that can be traced directly back to them. Now I might not be able to do much to you know. But once I get you hauled in and they start to pump truth drugs into you will talk up a storm, and I bet you that it is more than likely that whomever your working for will make sure that your slipped just a little too much of those drugs, and you never talk again.” He swallowed hard and I could tell he was getting off balance. “Look at me Zuul you little worm.” I snapped at him, I had to keep him off balance.
“You can’t scare me.” He said. “I know how this works. I go to a prison upstairs where they can’t get me. I get protected.”
“No, no you don’t because this is a local deal, so it stays local. Do you really think anyone wants it to come out that CSF officers pulled the hit? You’re going to die down here.” I could see he was considering it. I stood up. “I think were done here, I got enough to pinch you and your friends and that’s all I’m getting paid for, I think I will just leave you to them.” I turned around and was just out the door when I heard him shout.
“Wait!” I did, for a few second in the hall. Let him really simmer before I appeared back in front of the door.
“Alright,” He said, resigned but obvious because he had made a choice and not because I had broken him.
“Your right. I can make it in prison, but I won’t make it anywhere if I’m dead.” I sat back down and hit the record on my comm. “Look I don’t know all the details but you’re a PI right, you can figure it out. We do a bit of work around the block for people and we are pretty good at it. So awhile back some guy comes along and asks us to go shoot up that cantina, they tell us that someone is getting ready to expose them or something. Apparently it threatened to blow their operation open, so they paid us more credits than the IBC to go and knock them off. The senator wasn’t supposed to be there though. He was an accident and that’s the truth of the mater."
“So you killed the senator and everyone in the bar?” I’m sure he knew what I was doing but he answered anyway.
“Yes, me and my guys killed the senator, and almost everyone else in the Cantina and we were paid to do it.” I ended the recording.
“Thanks for your cooperation.”
“You had better come through on this,” he growled, as if he had any power to get revenge if I failed. I sent copies of all of my recordings to the local police and to Mid-Rim then gave the beaters an anonymous tip about where to pick up their crew. That left me and Vosla to track down someone who wasn’t afraid to knock off a senator. I had a nagging suspicion about who that might be, based off of something things I had heard here and there. I would have to mull it over for a while though. I owed Vosla and now she was asking that I help her with her case since we had made substantial progress with mine. We found ourselves on the way back to the Naughty Nikto while she explained to me why she was working there as a waitress.
“The reason why I have been working as a waitress is that a few big drug lords from some of the hotter blocks like to come here, it’s low profile and a lot of the people there don’t know who they are so the witnesses are a little more credible. Not to mention distance of course. One of them is good friends with Shark, they drink together a lot and Shark lets the guy have a few private dances for free.”
“So what do you want me to do?”
“Make friends with him, trail him, whatever it is you do to find out people’s secrets.”
“Any reason why you haven’t? You’ve been here a lot longer than I have.”
“I have standards buddy, that’s why I’m a waitress tramping around in this skimpy thing and not a dancer.” She gestured to her outfit. “Is one thing, but its staying right where it is and the only way anyone who works there besides Shark gets him alone I for a private show.”
“Aright, I’ll see what I can do. Word gets around down here though and if he knows I’m with the Mid-Rim that might cause a problem.”
“Don’t worry, if you in into any trouble I’ll bail you out.”
“That’s not the kind of trouble I’m worried about. Don’t worry I’ll get it done.”
“You know that’s what I like about you, I don’t even have to use a mind trick to get you to do things.”
“Honey I bet you don’t have to use a mind trick to get people to do a lot of things but don’t mistake my motives.” I was doing this because I owed her and because I needed an excuse for sticking in Vrek Pallea while I figured out who was really behind the senator hit.
“O, I don’t; just don’t mistake your motives.” She patted me on the cheek and then went around to the staff entrance while I went through the front door. The place was just as smokey as ever, though there weren’t quite as many customers and it wasn’t very loud or flashy yet. In the upper levels above Vrek Pallea the sun would be just getting ready to go down over that section of Coruscant. While the bottom floor lacked the sunlight to mark it, the time still corresponded. There were a few sentients, a little more than half a dozen as their chief business hours were probably only just starting, and most of the waitresses and dancers weren’t in yet. The people who were in right not weren’t, for the most part, not there for the females but for the drinks. The people who came to ogle at some dancer or hope to go home with one wouldn’t be coming in for a few more minutes. I ordered a drink, and slowly sipped it while looking like one of the bums who rolled in for the booze and not the woman. Even during their best hours there would always be plenty of those. If a placed served alcohol of any kind in the undercity than people would be sitting in its chairs and bar stools simple to get wasted no matter what drugs or warm bodies might be getting passed around right next to them. When you lived in a place so bleak there wasn’t even sunlight. It was always five o’clock and it was always a good time and place to get hammered. If you could also get high, like the male Devaronian next to him, or get to bed with one or more partners, like many people would undoubtedly be later that night, then all the better reason to drink at the Nikto. After about twenty minutes’ males and some females started to trickle into the Nikto. Once it really started to fill up the music and the lights started and the place was in business.
I continued to sip at half decent Alderanian Ale and Corellian Whisky, the stuff was okay, not what I was used to but I guess living in the middle city and working in the skyline had spoiled me a bit. After things had really gotten going and I had been propositioned with drugs and had more than a few dancers ask me to come watch their shows, and brushed them all off by calling for another drink. By the time three customers who were obviously not from Vrek Pallea walked in I had successfully constructed the image of just another drunk. It was obvious the new comers were not just passers through. The way two of them stayed casual but made sure they were always with in ear shot, eye shot, and had a clear shot toward the third made it obvious that they were his bodyguards he enjoyed one of the dancers for a while and then Shark came out to great them. They went into the back and I kept glancing at the door whenever I could without looking suspicious. Luckily a twi’lek waitress kept walking over to a group of tables near the door which gave me an excuse for always looking in that direction. I locked eyes with Vosla during one glance and she looked at me as if to ask what was going on. I didn’t send her any signals back. Eventually the man came out and took a sat down at the bar.
"Got any Chancellor babe?” he said to the barmaid.
“You have good taste in whiskey.” I commented.
“What? Well, I don’t usually drink the stuff but when it’s here it’s the only decent thing in the bar.”
“Yea,” I lifted up my glass and looked at the contents, “There Coreallian isn’t that bad.” I downed the rest then set down my glass and asked for another. “Are you new in town?”
“Yea, I just blew in recently. I haven’t seen you before. You new too?”
“Yea, yea I am.” I said it as if I was remembering why I was down there.
“So what are you down here for.”
“That’s a long story.”
“Then I don’t want to hear it.” I chuckled at that which seemed to get his attention.
“What’s so funny?” He wasn’t humored. “You’re not the first person to say that today.”
“I won’t be the last buddy.”
“Probably not.” I got the man talking and after a few drinks on me and a few hours of working him over by feeding him some sob story about how I had been exiled down here by Mid-Rim because of my less than exemplary conduct. He seemed to buy it and after a little more working over he said that he worked for people that would find a guy like me useful. I told him that I would love to meet these people and he told me to meet a driver at a certain place and time and that he would set everything up for me. I wasn’t entirely convinced it wasn’t a trap. I told Vosla as much on our way to the pickup. She agreed but this was a good lead and she wasn’t going to let something like an ambush or a trap stop her from following this lead through. I wasn’t sure if that was bravado, arrogance, or honesty. Since she was a Jedi, even if she was hardly a Master Yoda, I couldn’t tell which.
At the arranged meeting point an air-speeder arrived shortly after we did. The driver looked from her to me questioningly and I shrugged back. He shrugged back with an “it’s your funeral” type of expression and we climbed into the airspeeder. The windows were blacked out. And there was a shield between the front and back seats. We flew for about forty minutes. I could tell we climbed up into and back down from the speeder routs in the middle city. I didn’t know which of the neighboring blocks we were brought to, assuming we were brought to one at all. We hadn’t gone too far though since we had to climb up and down from the middle city. When the speeder settled down and the thrum of its antigrave slowly tuned out. The door opened and Vosla and I climbed out.
“Who’s the female?” Said a very large bulk alien whose race I couldn’t identify. I put my hand on her waist and pulled her close, and hoped she would knock me teeth out for it later.
"She's my broad." She cozied up to me a little to make it convincing but the way she dug her finger nails into my shoulder, and it felt like she was stabbing me with them, told me that I shouldn’t think this was anything else than playing along. The big alien was convinced and when he turned around he followed us into the building behind him. The fact that they were okay with me bringing a plus one, not only the driver but the guard too, made me sure that this was a trap. What kind of trap was a different matter. I didn't like it if they were just going to kill us outright or if they planned to keep us until they knew what we knew and who we were really with. We were brought into an old warehouse from the looks of it but once inside I could see that it had become a lot more. The had set ups for producing half a dozen illicit substances, and crates filled with everything from giggle dust to death sticks. There wasn't anyone working that I could see but there were other rooms and likely they were making use of the adjoining warehouses as well. What I could see was more than a few thugs with guns and my new friend from the Nikto's bar.
"You didn't really think I bought that rep you gave me did you?"
"No." Two of the thugs approached us and started to such for weapons they retrieved my blaster and hers but one got too handsy with Vosla while he was searching and I guess a few weeks of putting up with that at the Nikto had been enough to wear through her patience since she kneed the thug in the groin hard. I almost though I heard a crunching noise when her knee made contact and he fell onto the floor groaning and slowly curling up into the fetal position. The other one struck her in the back of the head with his pistol and she dropped to the floor.
“Pick her up,” He ordered. I grabbed a wrist and an ankle and slung her over my shoulders. Despite her fairly small frame, she was posing as a waitress in a strip club after all, she was surprisingly heavy, which must have been something to do with her biology that I didn’t know. “Walk.” The muzzle of that same pistol was jabbed in my back and I started to walk in whatever direction I was prompted to. I was taken to the back of the warehouse and shoved inside a storage container. I wasn’t sure what they had planned for us but I didn’t intend to stay and find out. I set Vosla down and started trying to wake her up. Despite being whacked on the back of the head pretty hard her skin had mostly just bruised and there was only a little of her silvery blood scabbing over. I fanned her with the brim of my hat for a while and lightly slapped her cheek to try and rouse her. After a minute or two she woke up, groggy and soar but otherwise alright.
“So where are we?”
“Inside a storage container I told her.”
“Well that’s easy to fix.”
“Slow down, we don’t know how many of them are out there yet, just bursting out and getting shot won’t do us any good.” She crossed her arms and then settled down crossed legged on the floor. She seemed to go into a state of meditation, up to one of her Jedi tricks none the less. She stood back up about thirty seconds later.
“There are only a few of them out there right now I am sure. If we hurry, we can get out of here.” I nodded to her and she shoved both her hands out to the door, there was a moment of resistance before it flung open and we rushed out There were two guards standing by an adjacent container. I slammed into one, took his legs out from underneath him and then slammed his head into the floor to knock him out when we hit the ground before appropriating his blaster rifle. I stood up and saw that she had accomplished the same results with some trick of the force and was actually standing there as if she was just waiting for me. I pointed to a ladder that led up to a cat walk and we quickly scaled it and rushed across the walk to the front of the building. At that moment blaster bolts started to come our way I took aim and dropped one of the gunner on the spot, the others took cover and I managed to keep them their long enough for Vosla to blow out the windows. She jumped through and summer salting through the air and over the roof she landed on the ground about forty feet below me. “Jump.” I really didn’t want to but I assumed she would do something and we had no time to waist. I leaped down and to my surprise, discomfort, and relief some invisible force caught me before I hit the ground slowing me and allowing me to land on my feet. The moment they touched the ground I fired off two shots and nailed the drivers of two speeders, who were about to put an end to Vosla. She quickly ran around to the driver seat and I went to the passenger’s side. I continued to fire toward the door as the goons in the building started to try and get out to return fire. She engaged the antigrave and slammed down on the lift pedal, sending us flying straight up so fast I almost lost my hat. There was another car and what looked like a pair of speeder bikes.
“Get us out of here!” She gunned the throttle and the speeder. It shot forward and began to climb up into the middle city. Luckily this speeder had an open cab. I drew a beat on one of the bikers and fired. It hit the forward turbine which exploded into embers and black smoke before it went down. The other speeder came up behind us. I ducked back down to avoid the blaster fire and Vosla broke left hard. She took the corner around the building almost so tight we scraped the windows. It was just what I needed though and when the speeder came around I fired off a three round burst, one went through the windshield and two went into the generator compartment at the front of the vehicle. I don’t know if the shot that went through the glass hit the driver, or if the shots into the reactor compartment killed the power, but the speeder went down. The last bike never showed up again so I guess he bugged out. I settled back into the passenger seat and looked at the rifle I had picked up. It was blastech made and military grade, no wonder it went right through that speeder.
“Do you think your force users were in that warehouse?”
“Maybe, I thought I felt something, either way these guys know something. But we need an army to get into there.” She lamented.
“What about your Jedi friends.”
“No, they wouldn’t send in a team without hard evidence.”
“Your Mid-Rim friends?”
“Not unless you want to make this official.” She steered the speeder toward a lot and parked it. Shutting off the antigrave she relaxed into her seat.
“So that’s it then. We don’t have play cards left to play.”
“Well…” He turned to look at me.
“I don’t care what it is spill it.”
“I can’t believe you’re doing this, I can’t believe we’re doing this, this will never work.”
“Trust me on this, Cartha will either stab us in the back from the start line or he will help us he won’t split hairs.” Cartha, a member of the Pyke Syndicate who was pretty big in his little corner of Coruscant. I helped him out of a murder charge once and part of the deal was that he helped me out whenever I needed him to. We needed an army, if we gave him a way to knock out a big competitor he would probably give us that army. She parked the speeder and we climbed out. The place they had come to was a middle city bar. It was nothing special, it was like a million other respectable bars to be found throughout the middle city. Inside you had a nice clean, stylish interior, oft music playing and a chrome plated bar droid out front. What made this one unique was the owner and operator.
“What may I prepare for you today sir and madam.” Said the server droid.
“I’d like a pyke on a platter.” I said. There was a moment of silence and a split second of static and then the voice changed.
“Is that who I think it is?”
“Hello Cartha, I got a business proposition for you.”
“Come on back then.” A door in the far corner opened. I went in first with Vola inside me. Inside was an office with Drave Cartha, a male Pyke. Like all of his species he had greyish skin and lanky everything until you reached his neck, which got thicker as it traveled up to meet a large skull with a small face and purples eyes set into the front in an unnerving way. Their heads looked more like some weird helmet for an EVA suit but they unfortunately weren’t. “So what have you and your friend got for me?”
“A golden opportunity to open up some markets for the Pykes.” Myself and Vosla then went on to explain what we had found though I might have filled in some of the gaps with my own information, I doubted I exaggerated too much though. We told him about the warehouses filled with drugs and set ups for making them, and that their operation went farther than just the undercity, and that they had found a way to make glitteral as good as what it impersonated. “So you want guys to go bust it up, what is it you want out of this?”
“Slaving operation.” Said Vola. “They have ties and we’re trying to close it up.” He narrowed his almond shaped eyes.
“I don’t like slavers" He narrowed his eyes," they so rarely keep to their deals.”
“Just help us clean it out and you get all the drugs and we get first crack at anyone left alive and anything we think holds info.” He seemed to mull it over.
“Humm… alright, it’s a deal, we get the drugs and everything else, you get a talk with anyone left and a look at whatever you want that has info, that’s the deal.” He stretched out a hand and I shook but he didn’t let go. His eyes looked from me to Vosla and back. “If you are pulling my leg, even a little, and I find out about it. Then we will have ‘issues’ my friend.”
“I’m not here to swindle you Cartha.” He let my hand go.
“Why don’t you to go enjoy a drink, I have to make some calls, first rounds on the house.” We went back out to the bar and had our free drink. About fifteen minutes later Cartha told us that we were green and that his guys would meet us twenty levels down. We went down and waited until they pulled up, about two dozen of them in about half a dozen airspeeders. One of them climbed out and approached me, a human male of average height with thinning hair and a few big scars on his arms. To each side of him was a wookey and an Ithorian.
“You Cartha’s friend?”
“Yea, I’m Cartha’s friend.”
“Good, he told me to ice you if things go bad.” I shrugged.
“Sounds like him.”
“You and your girlfriend need a blaster or anything?”
“She not my girlfriend and no. You follow us and we’ll lead you there, be ready for a fight.” He nodded, we all returned to our speeders. While we were flying there I checked over my blaster and satisfied myself that it would do until this was done. I folded the stock and then held it loosely in my hands.
“You handled that thing pretty well earlier,” Vola said, “Where did you learn to shoot like that?”
“I was with a CSF tactical unit years ago.”
“I thought so, you don’t seem the mercenary type, not like that anyway.” There was no more small-talk after that. When we came in Vosla landed us on the roof while everyone else went around front or back. The blaster fire started almost immediately. Her hand went up and a door shot open, the lock flying away when it was sheared off. She was first down the stairs. Why Jedi had the reputation they did I was beginning to get. I didn’t even fire a shot because everyone in the building was either too busy getting shot at by the Pyke men or getting thrown into the ceiling by Vosla. We ignored the ground floor and went right down to the basement level. I stunned two guards and he threw another about five meters into the nearest wall. “This door, think you can hot wire the lock?”
“Can’t you just use the force or something?”
“This is a very heavy duty door and unless you want me to sit down and meditate I don’t think I can open it and I can't hack it without my stuff.” I pushed her aside and took aim at the door panel. I fired a shot into the controls and the door opened. “Did you just shoot the door controls?”
“blaster shot to the lock usually melts the circuit breakers and sends an overload through the system. It will either lock it down or open it but it usually does whatever you need at the time.”
“You’re crazy.” That was becoming er well established between us. We stepped inside and in the darkness were tables, chemicals, and people. One of them was dressed in Jedi robes though, a boy who was about eleven or twelve. “Don’t be afraid,” Vosla said to him, “I’m with the order, my friend and I have come here to rescue you all. Is there anyone else here?” The kid shook his head. I counted about nine people. Too many for one speeder.
“Take them out the back. I’ll stay and see what info I can find.” She nodded. We went upstairs and I shot off a lock and sent them out back. By that time the gun battle was pretty much over and now they were calling up people to come clean the place out. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much information to be found. The thugs had little information to offer, the ones that might have actually known anything were killed in the shooting, but their comms weren’t. I managed to access the call log and found that most of the calls went back to one place. Vrek Pallea. That confirmed my suspicion about who was really behind this.
Where that Op had gotten off to I had no idea. After I had gotten all those people out I had to contact the temple and get someone to come pick them up. When I went back the Pyke guys said that he had found something and gone off to “Get the police or something.” In other words, they were one hundred percent useless. I went back to Cartha, he didn’t know. So having no idea where else he could have gone I returned to Vrek Pallea. As I was coming down I noticed something going on at the Naughty Nikto and I landed down near there. I didn’t have a mask but short term exposure would be relatively harmless. It wasn’t that hard to get past the weak minded Beaters at the door. Just as I came in though Shark was being dragged out with his hands retrained behind his back and a cop on each side of him. From the sidelines I could see him looking on.
“Alright, what did I miss.” I was referring not only to the whole mess that was unfolding but what I had missed that I hadn’t seen whatever this was weeks earlier.
“Your friend Shark really is a big fish, thee big fish, the one who ran that drug ring you have been tracking and the one who arranged the hit on the senator, and the one who had been blackmailing him.”
“Hold on what?” What in the world was he talking about where was all of this coming from?
"Shark was a bigger fish than we suspected. It took me a while to finally piece it all together but the call logs from some of the thugs at the warehouse confirmed it. Shark has been running this show all along. All of those bigger fish that came here weren't coming here to lay low they were coming to receive orders from Shark, while he camped out in the safety of Vrek Pallea, complete beyond suspicion. He ran into trouble though when my client found out about the force users and where he got them. The Senator leaked them information about a Jedi transport carrying a few force sensitive to the temple right, kids and adults who had slipped through the cracks at first but you can't just let them run around, so you were bringing them here to decide what to do with them. They ambushed your ship though and raided it. The probably mercenaries to take care of the Jedi and took his student and the other force sensitive. So he arranged to meet me. I guess he planned it to be right after the Senator received his pay off. Maybe he wanted to hand something off to me or track a lead down there, we might never know. Shark found out about the meeting and hired Zuul and his men to go shut him up but he didn't tell them about the Senator. Which is why we are both here right now."
"How do can you prove all this?"
"Comm. records. The holiness communication companies have an automatic system that backs up call logs for a time. I got all the proof I need in the conversation between Shark and his associates, soon the senator to.”
I crossed my arm and smirked, “You are a good detective.” He looked at his crono.
“Thank you can give me a ride back up stares. The boss is going to have my head for waiting so long to report in, not to mention that my partners bought it.”
“Maybe I can help with that.” We got into the speeder and we left Vrek Pallea.