Remembering how burned he was, she felt sick. She’d be doing a lot of surgery and skin grafting later, as well as force mending. His other injuries consisted of several broken ribs and a cracked skull. It was a miracle his back wasn’t broken. She knew that she still smelled strongly of smoke and incendiary, but she hadn’t had time to change.
Vonn was standing in a corner, near the customs booth glancing over a datapad. He looked up and nodded to her, completely not registering her disheveled appearance. A smile quirked her lips and she wondered if he saw singed Jedi every day, as part of his job.
He put away his datapad and launched immediately into his plans.
“All right, Jedi,” he said in a low voice. “I have an idea of how this is going to go. I’ll meet him. Pretend to be friendly. You, observe somewhere out of sight. After we set the deal, you run in and distract him. Then I’ll be able to put him out.”
She nodded tiredly, letting his stream of words wash over her, calculating what it would take. “You intend to kill him then?”
“Dead is better than escaped,” he shrugged.
“Let me handle that,” she said. “Believe me. I can make sure he doesn’t escape.”
He looked skeptical. “Alive if possible, sure…” He looked up suddenly, tracking a small craft coming in for docking. “That’s the one.” He pointed, then looked to her. “You ready?”
She opened and closed her mouth, feeling thoughts she had hoped to voice fall away. It didn’t really matter.
She nodded. “Yes.”
“All right,” he said.
She watched as he sidled away toward the ship as it slipped into the hangar like an untimely ghost. Gingerly, she kneeled down behind a stack of crates, trying to be close enough to see what was going on, but not too close.
A blue twi’lek strutted down the ship’s docking ramp before it had barely cooled its engines. Vonn walked up to him, yelling some kind of greeting. She squinted, trying to hear them, but she was too far away. She closed her eyes, submerging herself into the Force and allowed their words to come to her on its current. The man gave Vonn a credit box.
“ – we spacing?” Vonn’s voice.
“A senator,” the assassin said. “I hope that doesn’t make you squeamish.”
“Are you kidding? You’ll be a legend!”
The man grinned. “That’s right. Figure I’ll retire for a while after this one. Some backwater planet and lie low for a while.”
“I’ll say. I’d pick Aldaraan. Best place to hide is in the middle of a war, they say.”
“Well, let’s get going. Our window of opportunity is short.” The assassin turned sharply and started up ramp once more. Culurien tensed as Vonn began following. It was now or never.
She leapt over the cargo crates with a single fluid motion, feeling the lines of the Force swirl around her, augmenting her strength and senses. Igniting her blade, she sprinted forward toward the pair in an augmented dash, feeling a fire churn in her stomach in spite of herself. This man had almost killed her padawan.
“Stop!” she shouted. The yell echoed ominously around the spaceport, turning several heads, and the assassin froze, spinning. Vonn did as well, a perfect expression of shock on his face. She wondered how he manufactured that so smoothly. Practice, she supposed.
“Lay down your weapons,” she said, her voice firm, blade out before her in a defense Niman pose, prepared to deflect bolts if necessary.
“A Jedi!” screeched Vonn. He began backing up, hands held out before him.
The assassin frowned. “You must be the one who’s been following me. How did you find this hangar?”
She walked forward slowly as he spoke, eyes never leaving his. “Your contact, Fulton Naes told me… before you killed me.”
She saw him wince. “It was necessary.”
“You almost killed my padawan and I,” she said evenly, not disguising her disgust.
He pointed at her and fear filled his eyes. “That… that was not intentional,” he said. “I promise, I had no intention of harming either of you.”
She watched him, some of the fury in her stomach abating. She could detect truth in his voice… and based on the recording… honestly, she had expected as much. She sighed deeply.
At that moment, Vonn thrust a pistol at the assassin’s head, his face and voice promptly changing from an oily gunman to icy resolve. “Drop your weapons. SIS. You’re under arrest.”
Culurien smiled grimly. “It seems you’re outnumbered.” The assassin raised his hands, resignation filling his eyes. Culurien stepped closer until he was within reach of her blade. It hummed ominously in her hand.
“Hands behind your back,” Vonn said. Quickly, he shock cuffed him. The assassin’s face was blank.
“Is your name even Vonn?” he asked quietly.
Vonn nodded, though he couldn’t see it. “Actually yes. Special Agent Vonn.”
“You picked the wrong man in the bar,” she said grimly. “Don’t try anything.”
“Hey,” he said, “I know when I’m beat.” And he did. His whole posture reflected quiet resignation.
Vonn kept the blaster aimed at his back, one hand gripping his shoulder. “Let’s have a little chat, shall we? If you behave, I could make you an offer.” The assassin’s eyes brightened just noticeably and Culurien felt herself frowning. She could guess what Vonn might be thinking and she didn’t like it.
“Offer?” he said.
“Let’s go someplace a little more private.” Vonn gestured to Culurien, and she switched off her blade. Very well. If this was how he wanted to play it …
“My ship will suit,” she said.
The assassin glanced at her, apologetically. “I am sorry about your padawan,” he said quietly. For some reason, it annoyed her to hear sincerity in his voice.
She studied him a moment. “I know.”
As she led the way back to her ship, she reached out to the Force more strongly, letting her frustration and anger dissipate … it was challenging … especially here, when she could feel so much anger and pain coming off the population in waves from every direction. She gritted her teeth, allowing the flow of the Force through her, but focusing until she could feel the pure essence of it… the way it danced within her and around her. There was almost a rhythm to it, a … musical quality. As her boots echoed on the ramp of her vessel, she found herself smiling.