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The First Rule of Assassination

Posted on Sun Mar 17th, 2019 @ 11:50pm by Thane & Rynseh Lahan & Zenarrah Sozo

Chapter: Chapter V: Unbound
Location: Skylanes, Nar Shaddaa
Timeline: Following "Sniper's Mark" (Day after "Utinni!", some weeks before the Raptor arrives at Korriban)

OLD

"Yes. Should I intercept?"

"Negative. Descent has a new stealth system called 'Shadow Mode'. It's the leftmost blue button on the E.C.M. console to your left, second row. It will make the ship invisible to all except visual contact. Use it to follow, but keep your distance. I don't want this scum to know I have backup."

"I see it. 'Shadow Mode', huh? Seems fitting for a woman of my talents."

"Not with that shiny golden suit of yours."

"You're not gonna let me live that down, are you?"

"Nope."

"Be careful, Master Lahan."

The comm was cut just as Ryn closed the distance and rammed the rear of the assassin's speeder to make it known this was personal.

NEW

Rynseh's heart skipped a beat multiple times with each harrowing hair-thin dodging of oncoming traffic as the high-speed speeder chase through the part of the Smuggler's Moon where commerce and industrial districts met at a congested high-altitude crossroads. He knew this chase had to end soon, but as it dragged on, it was clear the sniper had a superior grasp of Nar Shaddaa's traffic patterns, and was gradually widening his lead through expert handling at the trickiest of turns which had forced Ryn to apply brakes to safely navigate. For Chief Rohn's sake, in spite of the extreme danger, he wasn't going to give up on catching this murderer.



"Kriffing space wizard!" Kol growled in the closest Bith approximation of the curse, his hands racing across the controls of his vehicle at an accelerated level, his fingers moving at drug-fuelled speeds unmatched by those unable to touch upon the Force.

It was rare for the middle-aged assassin to ever lose his cool during his assignments, but it was also even rarer for him to face down one of the Third Republic's Jedi Knights. Even during his time within the GalactaWerks marines, his exposure to their kind - Rift or Reborn - had been limited, and he had had no reason to interact with them in his subsequent, less-savoury professions.

Fortunately for the Bith, Kol Sidari was a competent assassin, and an even more competent pilot. Looking over his instruments and the various non-standard gizmos wired into the speeder's machinery, he was content that he had managed to shake the pursuing Cathar, despite the latter's best efforts.

For the moment, Kol decided to stay within the stream of traffic he had entered, heading equatorially as it was towards one of the Smuggler Moon's more industrial sectors. Great towers of wrought iron pierced the polluted skies, angular and ugly, even by Nar Shaddaa's woefully low standards. From many of the structures, great exhaustion plumes of fire jetted out into the dark atmosphere, adding to the sickening decay that gripped the world, yet somehow refused to ultimately destroy it.

Even though a variety of different businesses appeared and died throughout the ages on the world, Kol always felt that many of the industrial sectors' buildings looked abandoned. They were unquestionably ancient, of course - it was apparently contrary to the world's Hutt overlords to ever replace the old structures that dotted the artificial landscape. Like Coruscant, it seemed that whoever was responsible for organising architecture simply elected to reuse old buildings or just build over them. Eventually, Kol surmised, they would run out of airspace to consume, but probably not in his lifetime.

The Bith keyed a few commands into the computer attached to his wrist. Although he understood there had been a recent shift in the power balance of one of the local Hutt cartels, what with the loss of Rynch Seven-Gill in some peculiar accident/turf war in a rundown factory, Kol was confident that his arrangement with Rynch's own little fiefdom would remain intact with the leftover lieutenants.

"There is a Jedi in your neighbourhood, a Cathar in a yellow speeder," he explained over the messaging channel to them, his vocoder now translating the Bithian into a mechanical-sounding Huttese. Since the destruction of Casino Zorb following the recent in-fighting between Zorbo and Grogga the Hutts, there had been special attention being paid to any lightsaber aficionados in the sector. He did not expect Rynch's crew to pose any real threat to the Cathar, but they could certainly serve to slow the Jedi down. After all, his contact had explicitly told him to merely injure the man, not kill him.

"I am seven minutes out," he said, flicking the channel over to his contact. "Have my payment read-" Kol caught himself short, and hissed out another garbled curse of frustration as he sighted the yellow menace once again far back on his tail, weaving about the traffic almost as expertly as Kol himself.

Pulling back on the controls to tear his own speeder down in a sudden and dramatic nosedive away from the traffic, the momentum and physical shift throwing him back suddenly and uncomfortably in his seat as he primed his vehicle's weapon systems.

He was damned if a hairless feline would be the end of the great Kol Sidari.



If Rynseh Lahan's hands had gripped his steering yoke any tighter, his knuckles would have popped through his skin. The reckless audacity of the Bith assassin's daredevil evasive maneuvers. The aging Jedi could sense no fear in the killer, but there was chaos in his mind, however. His assumption that the sniper would rather die than be caught.

Good, Ryn thought as his focus was completely in the zone, the feeling of time slowing down while his reflexes were moving like a younger man twenty-five years his junior. The more determined they are, the more worthwhile the effort to stop them.

It looked like it was all over when the assassin took a hard spiraling dive in what looked like a course to make impact with the side of an old droid assembly plant. Instead, a large bay door was slowly spreading open from a center divide. The assassin turned his speeder ninety degrees barely squeezing through the opening. Ryn maintained the chase, but keeping his speeder level. For a few seconds, they zipped past large rusted old mechanical assembly arms, conveyor belts, and large shattered crates that once housed the materials and spare parts for the droids long since scavenged by opportunistic raiders.

When both speeders emerged through another set of bay doors, a trio of swoop bikes had powered up and emerged from the droid plant and joined the chase.

Leading the squad was a diminutive creature, an Ugnaught clad in all-black armour, squat atop a bike at least two sizes too large for her - not that it seemed to slow her advance on Rynseh any. With a few sharp gestures of her stubby arm, her wingmen careered off in either direction, swooping about and advancing in attempt at an airborne pincer movement against Rynseh.

For whatever failings the Cartel had in terms of quality of enforcer, they certainly did not seem to lack for any degree of determination.

Even as the Cathar wove his larger speeder between struts and industrial devices of all shapes and sizes, the Ugnaught matched every manoeuvre with little sign of it daunting her. When Rynseh expertly spun his speeder about an oncoming assembly arm, darting out of the way at the last second in an effort to end the Ugnaught's pursuit, she loosed a series of heavy blaster rounds into the machine, causing the large container suspended beneath it to split. Two dozen Calvo-series droids tumbled out from the torn container, crashing invisibly and silently into the depths below.

Far above, having made up the gap between them, the other two swoop bikes were now converging, the tell-tale screeching of their engines echoing loudly about them as they drew themselves into an attack position. Even amongst the backdrop of the billions of Nar Shaddaa denizens, the avaricious and murderous glee of the goons was deeply apparent through the Force to their would-be victim.

Suddenly, the Bith's speeder sliced upwards, its engines warbling under the sheer strain of the angle and speed. With all three supporting bikes now pointing towards the Jedi's speeder from different angles and with clear shots, they each loosed a series of indiscriminate blaster bolts at their target, pummeling every nearby obstacle and unfortunate vehicle that happened to be nearby Rynseh's airspace. Off to the side, an unfortunate Dug's luxury speeder found its cockpit reduced to slag, its occupant also left in little better state.

A few shots struck the hood of Ryn's speeder prompting it to pop off and go flying away exposing the core systems compartment; another shot took out a chunk of the windshield sending shards in all directions, one of which slashed a fine cut from the side of his face to just above his brow narrowly missing his right eye. Another volley scored a solid hit on one of the rear thrusters which caused quaking havoc in the steering column and making the vehicle start to lose attitude control.

He knew in that split second that another clean shot would be his doom, and so with technology failing him, all he had left was his faith.

"There is no death..." the Jedi Master muttered, reciting the timeless words that codified his place in the universe. "...there is the Force." He closed his eyes as he had in battle many times before, and surrendered himself to the power that made him who and what he was. In the passage of all but a single second of time, his awareness opened up to a world of possibilities, but he did not meet it with thought and introspection as was typical of a master; he became imbued with a familiar gift from the Force. As he steered hard to port, there was a subtle push in his mind that cast aside his inhibitions, and allowed the hunter within to come out. Devoid of thought or fear, the old Rynseh of the Second Outer Rim Conflict was set loose, and he was airborne with a glaring face of untempered ruthlessness. His mid-air telekinetic grasp was surgical, pulling one of the Ugnaught's cronies--who foolishly allowed himself to get too close to Ryn's side--up and off his swoop's seat. As the lieutenant screamed careening to his death, Ryn landed clean on the swoop and threw it into full throttle just as his yellow speeder craft tumbled down and quickly became a thunderous fireball somewhere below.

Unable to react in time and already set well on his course, the second goon's swoop struck straight into the first lieutenant's falling body at speed, causing the swoop and both guns-for-hire to go spinning off into the Nar Shaddaa night. Their screaming could be heard as they plummeted miles to their invisible deaths below, their agonised wails silenced long before they even hit the ground.

With the two lackeys disposed of, Rynseh's green eyes grew wide and wild, the Ugnaught his mark as he closed the distance with her, gripped the steering bar with his left hand, and ignited his lightsaber with the other, poised to swing a decisive killing blow. For the moment, this was no longer a mere chase after a murderer; this was war. His objective became as clear as a Catharan sunrise over the savanna of his ancestral home: dispose of enemy personnel and eliminate their commander.

Eyes widening to match the madness in Rynseh's, the Ugnaught's flying became erratic as the rider grew panicked. Having already lost her two wingmen, despite the good odds they had started with, her random flight paths made clear how poorly she was now maintaining her composure. Failing to have factored in the Jedi's fantastical Force talents, she was fumbling at the gun strapped to her leg, finally prying it free just a few seconds later to loose numerous stun pulses at the Cathar.

Broader and less-specific than blaster bolts, the blue halos spun their way towards the Jedi, threatening to engulf him and his borrowed vehicle.

Rynseh wove, dove, and rose evasively from the energized toruses, and defensively slashed at a few which dissipated them into harmless short-lived blue-white sparks. He pushed his swoop to the limits to reach out with his power to add pull and friction to the diminutive Ugnaught's swoop bike just enough to slow her down to bring its engine exhaust within reach of the tip of his lightsaber. The resulting slash released a jet of fire which lightly singed his right hand, but nothing that would require him to convalesce for another three years. Still, the feeling brought back more old memories, including one he once told the pilot of his troop transport from back during the war...

I'm ordering you to leave me behind and save yourself...this is war. You're responsible for your own survival...

A porcine scream thrust Rynseh back into the present as the Ugnaught's vehicle and rider were both consumed in a haze of flames, components blasting off into various different directions as the goon leader's life was ended in an explosive fireball. However, with the other gang members refusing to let up their pursuit, Ryn decided to break off the chase for the moment until he could take care of the rest on his own terms...



Kol watched the flames engulf both his pursuer and his Ugnaught ally far behind him, satisfied that the Cartel lackey's unintended sacrifice had ended, or at least halted, his preternatural hairless Cathar foe. Confident although he was, however, the Bith still elected to use a few less orthodox routes and tricks to find his way to his contact's location.

As expected, grime-laden rain was now pooling in the artificially-generated cloud and smog above this section of Nar Shaddaa. Kol, being the consummate perfectionist that he was, had timed his assassination of the harbourmaster with the expected shift in the moon's ancient climate control systems. The polluted precipitation would aid in washing away a good portion of the forensic opportunities afforded to any investigators that deigned to examine the scene of Kol's fine work.

This was not because the assassin feared much reprisal from what passed as law enforcement on the Smuggler's Moon - far from it - but he did believe in keeping an assignment clean and with next to no leads left to examine, even for the paltry investigators that the harbour would undoubtedly hire to investigate their employee's untimely death. Kol would have been surprised if any had even turned up yet, let alone made any effort to preserve the scene. If things went to plan, the man's death would likely be put down to yet another Hutt turf war. A few local dealers might end up roughed up or dead, but that was collateral damage that was always to be expected on Nar Shaddaa. No matter what past-time one enjoyed on the moon, it was nearly always the same result for the downtrodden.

Of course, Kol seethed to himself, things had not quite gone to plan on this occasion, had they?

Sighting the rooftop of the sector's gargantuan Cybot building that he now angled himself to land upon, Kol saw one side of the towering skyscraper below was adorned with a frightening holographic representation of a K30-series protocol droid's face. Its two to-scale optical sensors glowed and stared menacingly out in what Kol considered to be a scary and failed attempt at a dramatic advertisement - not that Kol had any particular interest in the archaic but popular droid model himself. With the rain now falling, the image fizzed and warped, which only served to further undermine Cybot Galactica's misstep.

As promised, however, a lone figure was indeed standing on the far side rooftop, and Kol's attention was drawn back to the matter at hand. Hooded and clad in clothing that revealed nothing about the person beneath, the Bith could feel his eyes tightening and his ire rising. With another surge of personally-brewed chemicals washing through his pale, armoured form, Kol Sidari jumped out of his speeder and began marching towards his employer.

"You did not tell me that the second mark was a Jedi," he growled as he strode, his vocoder adequately translating his frustration to the client, even against the rising crashing of the heavy rainfall. "It will take months to rebuild my relationship with the local syndicates."

"He is no mere Jedi," the hooded one said remaining completely still, a small shiny black briefcase made of hardened plasteel set upright on the ground at her side. "You wounded none other than General Rynseh Armah Lahan, veteran of the Second Outer Rim Conflict. His master was a Pantoran named Ayi-Kwei Masa, shot in the head several years after the war, much like your target, the harbourmaster. I wanted the good general to suffer another personal loss, you see. He, along with the Human you slew, orphaned a lot of children during the war. His pain is their justice. When the time comes, I will finish him off myself." She extended a hand clad in black leather out from her robe and gestured to the case. "Your generous compensation for your trouble. We shall never meet again after tonight." She stepped aside and turned her back to the case to allow the Bith to retrieve it.

Kol eyed the hooded woman warily, the optical lenses covering his beady black eyes covered in raindrops and glinting with the reflection of the all-consuming neon lights of the Hutt world. He allowed himself a momentary glance out across the murky cityscape beyond, blurred though it was by the weather system currently gripping it. Although he was not a student of history, Kol had a modicum of serviceable knowledge. Like most sentients, he knew of the remarkable and pervasive Vongforming that had taken place throughout Hutt space - including on Nar Shaddaa.

Given the wretched state of the moon, a complete testament to all that was selfish and base, one could be forgiven for forgetting the Yuuzhan Vong had ever found Nar Shaddaa. Indeed, the extragalactic species responsible for the historic crusade had become little more than myth in the New Age.

His brief historical reverie passing, Kol picked up the case, making no reply to his employer's comments regarding the Jedi or his background. It did not especially interest him, Kol felt, and he was more than content to leave the Conflict and its combatants far behind him, much like the Yuuzhan Vong. He thumbed at the electronic clasp, which welcomed him with a satisfying whirr as it released. Inside, however, was no sign of Kol's credits. Instead, a datapad of standard design was nestled within, which the Bith claimed as he carefully placed the case back onto the rooftop.

In digital aurebesh writing, read the words:

PRESS HERE TO RECEIVE PAYMENT



"This has better be untraceable," Kol warned the woman, offering her a brief cynical glance as he thumbed the datapad's button.

"It is," the hooded one replied, "if you know which buttons to push."

A few seconds later, the warbling of advanced sublight engines was heard growing louder and louder from beneath the side of the roof the disguised woman was observing. Against the glow of the cavalcade of neon advertisements from the neighboring high-rise building, a large delta-shaped craft rose up above the rim of the roof facing Kol and his client. A small array of searchlights flared to life and directed their blinding beams at the hitman.

It was in the following instant that an energised blue ring of energy flashed out from where the woman was standing and struck Kol hard. The stun charge wasn't strong enough to knock him out cold, but it was enough to lock up his muscles and force him down to his knees.

The woman strode up to the helpless sniper, an experimental military white plasteel over black polymer blaster in hand. As Kol worked up barely enough strength to raise up his head, he saw the face of a blue Nautolan, and the business end of the blaster. There was a blue glow at the tip of the barrel, and at the flick of a small switch near the trigger, the barrel tip flipped a 180-degree turn causing the blue light to turn red.

"Do you remember the Atlirith?" the vengeful Nautolan said hoping her hired killer remembered what he participated in five years earlier. "The Wolphs send their regards."

"Zenarrah, stop!" Rynseh cried out just as he was landing his swoop nearby.

Zen turned, gazed up at the Cathar, and held her dark emotionless eyes at him as she pulled the trigged at Kol's head, point blank.

"No!" Ryn roared out as he leaped off his seat, but it was already too late.

Zen, extending her act of calm ruthlessness, turned down upon Kol again, and double-tapped him twice in the chest just to make sure he had no chance of coming back. "It is done," she muttered to herself with deep satisfaction that resonated across the Force towards Rynseh's awareness.

"There was no need to kill him!" Ryn shouted angrily at her, the control of his rage almost entirely shaken. It was easy to forget the Jedi ways when someone he trusted just did the unthinkable in front of him. The Jedi Master had seen a lot of carnage in his time, watched good decent soldiers commit atrocious war crimes on and off the battlefield, but the execution of unarmed prisoners was intolerable under any circumstance.

"Don't be absurd," Zen smoothly countered. "Everything I sacrificed on Nar Shaddaa for three years has led up to this moment. I have been trying to get a shot at this murderer for all that time, and as luck would have it, he struck again, killed an honourable war veteran, and almost killed you too. Now I finally got my chance to take him down. He was one of six other reasons for my keeping Zaracoda in that filthy club. This Bith trash is part of the reason why Zara ended up on the slave exchange in the first place. I extended my daughter's misery in the pursuit of this bastard and his accomplices. I will never live that down, and I don't expect Zara to forgive me when she learns the truth. Once I find the pirate captain he worked for, revenge for Zara and her adopted family will be complete."

"I get that you were hunting the ones who killed the Wolph family," Ryn said almost sympathetically. "Nevertheless, we don't go off half-cocked putting others, especially kin, in danger out of some obsessive pursuit of revenge. You're a Jedi Knight, Zenarrah. You know this better than most."

"A Jedi, huh?" Zen said rhetorically as she knelt down and took the digital pad Kol had used and began entering commands on it. "Quellus said otherwise, but yes, I suppose that's accurate. We are quite the capable executioners when we need to be."

"That's not what I meant."

"After all this time that I've known you," Zen remarked as the Descent rotated in place where it hovered, reduced its altitude to be just shy of making contact with the roof, and lowered its boarding ramp, "you still cling to idealism. Even after Balmorra. Unbelievable." She turned and approached the ramp.

"We're not done here, Zen."

"Yes we are," Zen corrected him over her shoulder. "I found them, your wayward sons of the temple." She turned to face him once more and saw the stunned look in his feline eyes. It was rapturous to see she had the upper hand on him, a man so much more powerful and stalwart than she was. A man she loathed and resented with every waking breath in her body. "It's a shame the harbormaster died for nothing. I had asked you to put off meeting him, but then you never were one for listening to me. I've built a network on this moon, and it bore me fruit...with some persuasion, of course. So are you coming, or do you prefer bathing in this filthy rain?"

Rynseh glanced at the lifeless Bith sniper, took a deep breath and shook his head before showing his visible skepticism to his former padawan. "Where are they?" He began following her up the ramp.

"You wouldn't believe me if I told you."

"Try me."

"Korriban."

"What?!"

"Told you."

The ramp closed behind them and the Descent quickly ascended towards the stars.

TBC

 

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