“Have a seat,” he said. The assassin sighed and sat down. He has made no attempt to escape during the walk to her ship’s hangar. She was more than a little surprised … and suspicious. She had assumed he would be harder to capture, what with the men guarding his identity she and Garellan had had to put up with.
Vonn transferred one of the shock cuffs to the arm of the chair and, eyeing him, stood to his left. She watched as he pulled off his gloves and tucked them into his belt. This was his business. She did not intend to interfere except for the occasional question.
Vonn stared down at the man and pulled a thin filament from the lining of his vest. “I expect you know how kriffed you are,” he threw the filament down before the twi’lek, for emphasis. Voice recorder.
The twi’lek just looked at it with dull eyes. “I figured,” he said, nodding. Vonn continued.
“So, to put it simply, you go to the Courts and get charged with attempted assassination of a senator during war time… also known as treason and the firing squad.” He stared at him, arms folded and his eyes were not kind. “You’re a dead man at the moment and only the two of us can save you. Easy enough?”
The assassin nodded again. Vonn then took a pack from his jacket pocket and slipped out a cigar. He offered it to him. Culurien felt and suppressed a small stab of annoyance, more for the fact that he was offering a cigar to the assassin, than the act itself. The filtration system on the ship could take care of most of the smoke. She was rather interested in observing his tactics unhindered, as she’d rarely worked with SIS. Vonn took out one for himself and lit it, giving the assassin a light as well.
As they puffed, smoke began slowly twining over their heads.
“I imagine you know my first question. Who hired you to off the senator?” He gave him a hard look. “I also warn you that you’re in front of a trained interrogator and a Jedi. You lie at any point and you’re done.”
Culurien watched the assassin for any signs of stress, reaching out to him with the Force as well. He appeared tired, more than anything – worn, tired and resigned. He took a long drag on the cigar, letting out a puff of smoke. “ … I’m glad you guys finally caught up to me …”
Culurien hadn’t been expecting that. Vonn’s eyebrows rose as well. “You didn’t exactly make it hard.”
For some reason, the assassin chuckled then. “I couldn’t exactly turn myself in.”
Vonn leaned onto the table to look him in the eye, cigar smoldering in one hand. “And why did you want to see us so badly?”
He returned his gaze without flinching. “I’m not an assassin by choice.”
Vonn leaned back and puffed on his cigar a few times, eyeing him, waiting for an explanation. The assassin sighed and looked down at the table. “They have my daughter,” he said simply.
An understanding lighted Vonn’s eyes. “What is you’re offer?” he asked. But Culurien already knew what he’d say. Likely, so did Vonn.
He answered at once. “I don’t care if I die, but don’t let anything happen to my kid. If it wasn’t for her, I would have stopped doing this a long time ago.”
Vonn nodded slowly. Culurien frowned in concentration, but she but she could detect no falsehood.
“We can take her into Republic protection,” Vonn was saying. “Either with the SIS or the Jedi.” She nodded. Yes, that should be possible. “I can get you a written guarantee from my Director if you like.”
The assassin nodded, looking divided for a minute. Finally, he said, as if reluctant, “No… I trust you, Vonn.” She guessed he probably wanted to trust him. She was a little surprised at his refusal but maybe he didn’t want to push his luck.
Vonn nodded. “Neither of us have any desire to see innocents get hurt.”
She doubted that was true, but nodded her agreement. “Aye,” she said quietly. “What’s your name? I’m assuming you’re expecting reprisal. Do you know what form it’ll take?”
“My full name is Gavune Keleras. And… I’m thinking he’ll send a cell after me. I was suspecting that after this job, my cell was scheduled to be offed anyway.”
“Interesting,” Vonn mused. “And who is your boss?”
“A grey Jedi. Never met him face-to-face, but he goes by Grey-Wolf.”
She and Vonn exchanged looks. “An actual Jedi,” Vonn asked, “Or just a force user.”
“According to him, he was both a Jedi and a Sith before going grey.”
Vonn nodded, catching her eye. “A double defector … interesting. Have you met him or seen him?”
“Closest I got was seeing the back of his hood while two Gamorreans held my arms. Other than that, always a shadow or just a voice.”
Culurien’s brow furrowed, but she still could detect no falsehood through the Force. If he was lying, he was convinced it was truth. She wiped a hand across her forehead absently and winced, the pain reminding her of the burns.
“How would he contact you for jobs?”
Smoke still curled lazily from the cigars, the assassin’s – Gavune, he said his name was – almost forgotten. Vonn puffed on his occasionally. The smoke began slowly filling air near the ceiling. She ignored it.
“The way the cells worked, one person got contacted for the job, one person did the recon or security and the other killed the target.”
“So always four men?”
Govune nodded. “But once a cell was formed, that’s it. If you lost a man, you had to pick up the slack.” He grimaced. “We lost a man a few jobs back and now we’re down to two… hell by now I might be the last one.”
“How many cells are there that you know about?”
“I’ve never worked with any others… but the way Grey-Wolf talks, I’d guess hundreds.”
Vonn narrowed his eyes and gestured with the cigar sending a swirl of smoke through the room. “Why you?”
Govune sighed. “I was a smuggler. Good at my work. He disabled my vessel, boarded and said I was going to help him cleanse filth from the galaxy… by then he already had my daughter.”
“So he fancies himself a crusader? Why the senator then?”
Govune shrugged fractionally. “We were never told the whys.”
Vonn grunted. “Rule number one… rule through fear… no one ever does ask.” After a reflective pause he asked, “Where’s your daughter? I’ll send a team to extract her.”
“I don’t know,” he said. “I was blinded folded after every job and taken to her for an hour.”
“How long do we have before you’re supposed to turn up with the creds?”
“Actually…” Govune looked nervous now, she noted. “It was supposed to go live in just under two weeks. It’ll be hard to get there if I don’t leave today …”
Suddenly, Culurien remembered the datachip in her robe. She plucked it out of a vest pocket and handed it to Vonn, with a glance to Govune. “Your contact gave me this.” She shrugged. “Not sure it’ll help, but …”
Vonn took it from her and plugged it into his datapad. A few key strokes and his eyes scanned the page. He began chuckling. Culurien’s eyebrows rose with interest. “The senator’s boy has big ambitions. We’ll have to disappear him as well.”
“What?” Govune asked.
“Your payment contact. Senator’s assistant.”
Culurien nodded. Vonn set the datapad down on the desk and took a breath, blowing out smoke, and leaned on the table.
“All right, here’re your options,” he said matter-of-factly. “One, fake reports of a shootout. You’re downed by the Senator’s bodyguard. The Republic seizes the body never to be seen again.” He held up a finger. “Or number 2… we fake locking you up, tie up the case in the courts for a couple of years, and he keeps your daughter as stay-the-kriff quiet leverage.” He blew a smoke ring. “Fake death or fake imprisonment? I don’t see any other options here.”
She knew would he would pick. She was right. “Fake death,” he said at once. “If I’m in jail, I’m a liability.” It wasn’t much of a choice, really.
Vonn nodded again curtly. “Death it is. Special Activities will make the arrangements and it gives me the perfect cover to get this idiot aid. He’s going to be ‘cut down by blaster fire while heroically trying to get the kriff away.’”
Vonn stubbed out the cigar in the ash tray on the table. “As for your future, I have an offer for you.”
“… I’m listening …” he said hesitantly, though he seemed to expect it. Culurien had too. Vonn took a syringe injector from his pocket and laid it on the table. She eyed it, having a bad feeling about what he was going to suggest.
“New development. Micro-trackers. They circulate for a bit and then bury themselves throughout your blood stream. Impossible to get rid of without frying your entire CNS with EMP.” Culurien’s frown deepened. Govune looked at it and glanced back to Vonn, impassively.
“You work for me,” Vonn went on, “use your skills for the Republic and inject those trackers and we’ll provide you with a new identity, a half way decent place to lay your head, a new ship, some creds and a chance to see your daughter and gut your boss.”
Without a hesitation, the assassin took the syringe and injected himself. “Deal.”
Culurien sighed inwardly. It was a pretty good deal, she admitted.
Vonn smiled. “However, betray me, and I’ll make your boss look like a cuddly nexu cub.”
Govune nodded. “Don’t worry, Vonn. You have my full cooperation and loyalty.” Under the circumstances, that seemed like a pretty ironic statement to make to her.
“Now here’s how this is going to run. We’re going to keep our eyes open for your girl. You’re going to a Special Activities black site for a couple of days to keep you out of sight. During these couple of days, you’ll get your new ID package and we’ll do some minor surgery. Alter finger prints and retina scans, also tweak your lekku markings with some new tattoos.”
“Sounds like you’ve done this before…” he said.
Vonn nodded. “A great many times.” He paused. “You’ll also want to memorize that ID package to the last detail. That is you from this point out. Once we recover your daughter, she’ll get the same treatment and be put in your care afterward… Also, while you’re at the site, give them a list of the kit you’ll need to do your work. We’ll provide you with everything, including new clothes. Be specific. If you have a preference for a certain model of blaster, tell them, or they’ll give you whatever they find first. Easy enough and all agreeable?”
He hesitated. “Even after we find my daughter… can I keep working with SIS? I’d like to undo some of the bad I’ve done over the years.”
“If you like and you’ve been loyal and competent, yes you can.” He turned to her. “Master Culurien, do you have any other questions for him?” She shook her head tiredly. She had been observing him carefully the whole time. No falsehood that she could detect.
“All right then,” he said. Vonn turned as there was a chime, indicating someone wanted to board. Culurien walked to the wall panel and pressed a switch, opening the ship door with a soft thud. Two humans entered, carrying something.
Vonn nodded to him. “I’m sorry in advance about the black bag but if someone catches sight of you, we’re all kriffed.”
“It’s fine … I understand,” he said. The two humans were in dark clothes. Silently, they uncuffed him from the chair and recuffed him, pulling him up and putting the bag over his head. Culurien and Vonn watched in silence.
As they led him out, Vonn said, “We’ll talk once everything is set and you’re a new man.”
After the two men left with the assassin, there was a silence. Culurien eyed Vonn. He was still puffing on that infernal cigar lazily. At last, she spoke. “I’ve heard … stories about some SIS agents … I hope you people are good to him.” That wasn’t exactly what worried her, but it would do. She wasn’t sure how to say what she felt.
He smiled thinly. “They will be. He’s an asset now. Most they’ll do is not let him outside, but if I needed the same treatment, they wouldn’t allow me to either.”
Culurien gave him a blank look, studying him. “Aye. Very well,” she said finally.
“If I wanted him dead, he’d be dead.”
She tilted her head to him in a short bow. Now that it was all over, she was noticing how every muscle in her body ached miserably. She had had a few bruised and one cracked rib herself. And there was still a lot of surgery left to do. She hoped that Devaronian physician in medical knew what he was doing.
“I’ll be attending to my padawan if you need me,” she said.
He nodded absently, as musing to himself. “He’ll be more useful to us on Aldaraan. We might need a hitter to remove some annoying nobles …”
She said nothing, but felt herself irked. That was exactly why she didn’t trust the SIS. So quick to kill. Why not come to the Jedi? She was certain that she could accomplish the same task without violence.
“Keep me appraised, will you? I know you people aren’t big on others knowing what you do…”
Vonn nodded curtly. “I will. I’ll be going … faked death to plan and execute.”
“Right,” she said.
Vonn turned to leave, but stopped and looked back, studying her a few moments as if something had just occurred to him. “You’ll find I’m different if I trust you. And I do trust you, Master.” She said nothing as he exited, his boots echoing down the ship, the door thumping open and closed.