The patrol had almost passed them. She gritted her teeth as the pair paused. One nodded and started on again, but the other stayed. He was staring at the corner where they hid. Culurien didn’t move. A trickle of sweat dripped down her face and she willed herself to hold the wisps of Force around them just a little longer.
He raised his weapon.
Smoothly she slipped an incendiary out of her vest and threw it over the man’s right shoulder, allowing the stealth to drop. The explosion rocked the room and he spun. Garellan leapt out of the shadows at him, Culurien staying wide and igniting her blade. She held it up, deftly blocking the flurry of bolts she had anticipated from the mando’s partner away from Garellan’s chest.
The fight was furious and seemed to take ages, but was probably over in less than five minutes. She paused, breathing hard, as Garellan checked the bodies, sweat painting his brow. There were simply too many of them. This assassin had connections if he could hire this many toughs to protect one contact.
Garellan looked up, holding something, a small triumphant smile touching his lips. “Here it is, Master.”
She took the datachip and plugged it into her datapad, glancing over the code as it filtered across the screen. Yes. This was it. They could back track the signal from this data to the source.
She nodded curtly and motioned down one of the side walls. Carefully, they followed the line of the factory, avoiding the droids they saw welding machinery together. She came to a rusted side door. It was ajar and she peeked inside. A central hub stood out of the floor not far off. The main body of guards appeared to have vacated. At least the distraction up front had worked.
Cautiously, they entered, Garellan moving out in front of her. She eyed him, but allowed him the lead. He seemed particularly eager to do his part. Circling the hub, they found a small door, panel ablaze with green lettering. Culurien stepped up to it while Garellan watched their back for intruders. She punched in the code from the datapad.
The door opened with a sharp hiss.
She held her blade out before her as she stepped inside. There was a gasp. A blue twi’lek raised hands to his face, cowering behind a desk.
“Don’t hurt me! I don’t know anything!” he called out.
She paused as Garellan stepped in as well. He narrowed his eyes at the twi’lek. “That’s quite a lot of guards … for someone who doesn’t know anything.”
He winced, hands still raised and eyes wide. “I see they didn’t slow you…” he swallowed. “Fine. A … gesture of good faith then?” Culurien nodded slowly and he pressed a switch on his desk. The walls around the small hub folded down into the floor with a soft whine.
She glanced around suspiciously. Finally, she spoke. “You know why we’re here. It was you who manufactured the credit box. You’ve done other jobs for this assassin. What do you know, Mr. Naes?”
He winced again at the use of his name and took a deep breath. “You promise not to kill me?”
“We do not kill unarmed men,” Garellan said, and put away his blade. Culurien smiled fractionally at him and nodded. “Aye. You have our word. Anything you could tell us would be helpful.” She closed down her blade as well.
The twi’lek was shaking, but he nodded. “I’ve known him a long time, but not well. He … he has a ship, the Blue Umbra. He uses docking bay 278-D. Somehow, he avoids customs. He only comes here every few months on small jobs. Maybe, after his other work?” He shrugged, still cowering slightly. “I … I think he was going to meet someone today. Someone named … uh, Vonn? In, an hour. That’s all I know. And, he left this…” he held out a datachip in a trembling hand.
Culurien raised her eyebrows at Vonn’s name as she took the chip and disappeared it inside her vacuous robes. A wave of uncertainty washed over her. Legion’s contact to the SIS. What a coincidence. She never had trusted Vonn. What was he doing meeting with the assassin?
A small holo on the twi’lek’s desk began blinking with a message. Culurien frowned at it. She had not noticed it until then. He glanced at it and swallowed, looking back up at them.
She nodded. “Go ahead. Take the call.”
He pressed the switch and a shrouded holo popped up looking vaguely like another twi’lek. It was a recording.
“Naes, I’ve known you a long time. Hell, we worked together as kids. But, things are out of my hands. Someone has your ID and it’s too hot. I’m sorry.” The holo shut off.
Something was wrong. She could feel it. The twi’lek looked puzzled, and Culurien heard Garellan yell out in a panic. “Master!” That was all the warning there was.
The room erupted in a ball of flames. Culurien felt a gigantic force slam against her, pushing her [i]ahead[/i] of the blast. Time seemed to slow. She directed all her energy away from her into shielding Garellan. A crippling heat was searing her back and face.
She slammed hard into the far wall, breath knocked out of her lungs despite what she could do to soften the blow. As she crumpled onto the floor in a heap, the shock wave washed over her: a blast of heat, shrapnel and pain slammed her into the wall again. She squeezed her eyes shut and attempted to shield herself, but most of her energies were spent.
As suddenly as it had come, the heat was gone. She was on the ground, she realized, part of her robes on fire. She coughed, trying to work air back into her lungs and smacked out the flames with her hands and a wave of force energy.
She blinked rapidly, trying to see. Smoke stung her eyes making them water. The acridness of it stung her throat. Steeped in the force, she tried to use it to visualize life signs instead of using her eyes, feeling out toward where Garellan should be.
“Garellan!” she called out, but it was little better than a croak. She coughed again, finally getting breath. There was one life sign, faint. She stumbled forward. The room was a mess. Torn metal and splintered crates and shards were everywhere, flames engulfing many. The hub where the desk and the twi’lek had sat was completely gone except for a large scorch mark and melted durasteel on the floor.
Garellan was on the other side of the room, blown there from the explosion. Seeing him, her heart sank. His robes were charred black, face and arms burned to an unrecognizable red, meaty flesh. She collapsed beside him, a hot tear dripping down her face, mixing with soot. She checked his pulse rapidly and sent force energy into him to stabilize his life signs. He was still alive. Barely. He had pushed her out of the blast radius. It might have saved her life … and his.
Having stabilized him as best she could, her eyes blinked open and she fumbled for her comm. Dialing it to Vonn’s frequency, she pinged him. He answered. “Special Agent Vonn here, what can I do for you Master A’jelor.”
She coughed then, voice raspy. “The assassin. You’re meeting with him.”
“Yes,” he said matter-of-factly.
Her eyes darted around the room, looking for the guards return. Should be any minute now. “Why?” she said. “You working with him?”
“It’s a setup,” he said. “We’re taking him in. Are you all right?”
“Fine,” she said. “We found his contact, but he blew him up. You might be in danger. I’m coming to your coordinates. Where are you?”
He sent them to her comm and she shut it off. Carefully, she lifted Garellan’s still form and ghosted out of the room, avoiding the corridors she heard shuffling and yells from the guards returning. When she had to, she knew how to travel unseen.