The red blade flew through the air making an angry red glowing disk as she threw it the length of the cargo bay, from one end and back. The new trick she had been practicing all weekend, the one the sith used against her a handful of times. It had taken her all weekend to figure out, first with a stick, then with a jedi training saber she “borrowed” from the jedi. The red spinning blade made it round the room before it slapped back into her hand.
Shadow did an approving fanged grin, giving her saber a small wrist flick before turning it off. Giving herself a pat on the back, seeing that 72 hours before she was barely able to make a mop stick do it to any success, much less catch it on the end she marked as “not ouchy.”
She was about to send it on another trip, before the com unit on her belt went yelling at her for attention. Clipping the sith hilt on her belt she snagged her com unit, holding it in her hand a moment trying to decide who was calling her, seeing she got so few calls.
“Shadow its Jagna. Meet me on Tatooine, at this rock outside Anchorhead. Sending coordinates now. Let’s get this done.” The com said in a familiar voice before the connection was suddenly terminated, leaving her about to answer to a disconnected call.
With a shrug she walked to her command deck of the ship and sent it to Tatooine, curling up in the captain's chair, staring at the streaks of light out the window. Loneliness was likely the only reason she did not object to being partnered with someone she knew nothing about. Working alone had benefits, including the sneakiness that made her valuable to them.
Jagna’s admitted distrust of Gim was something she had come to accept, as a part of him being a crime lord. A normal person would question their ties with such a person who inspires such distrust in every one they call friends. Shadow however was unwavering; she trusted him, cared about him, would kill for him. She could count only three people who held her loyalty, and one of them was now dead.
The computer chimed as she awoke from her aimless lonely thoughts, looking down at the sun scorched planet. Leaving the command room, she went, gathering her things, leaving her ship to meet Jagna, on the hot, unforgiving planet of Tatooine.
The cords of the meeting place were not hard to find - the large rock just off the speeder depo was hard to miss. No one was there yet. She pulled a citrus fruit out of her pocket, and began to eat it, while she waited. The Tatooine suns were still just peaking over the horizon, when Jagna the zabrak appeared, sporting that same paranoid look and demeanor she had while they were aboard Gim’s ship a few days ago - a look Shadow now expected was normal. Seeing her, Jagna nodded curtly, dropping a backpack and sack to the ground, billowing a small cloud of dust that flew away in the breeze.
“Hello Shadow,” she said. She eyed her fruit, scowling. “How can you eat at a time like this?” Shadow half-smiled at the comment and shrugged.
“Should I eat laters, when I’m covered in blood?” Jagna bent down, checking her equipment, or rather, grenades and weapons.
“No, I guess not,” she muttered, paying particular attention to a sack. Shadow watched curiously. Finally satisfied, Jagna stood.
“Well, it’s now or never,” she said. Shadow nodded.
“Yer da one wit da infos - ya leadin’, I whackin’.” Jagna nodded, giving an appraising glance at the vast amounts of sand around them.
“According to Gim’s ridiculous instructions, we have to talk to his contact in the cantina to get Junk’s door key.”
Shadow paused sensing them before they broke out of the ground at their feet. The ROUS, (rodents of unusual size) two tailed gray womp rats, leapt at the them with wild abandon. Jagna pulled out her blasters so quickly, Shadow could have almost sworn they were there all along.
She lept into the air letting out a burst of force energy as she landed to the ground. Rats flew outwards, some bent into angles they were not ment to, others already dead from Jagna’s precision shooting.
Silver eyes quickly darted around before looking back at her comrade, and putting her hands into her pockets. “Lets go den.”
Walking into the city, Shadow watched the paranoid Jagna closely, the strategy to take on any blaster wielding person quickly popping into her head involuntarily.
“So ya not trustin’ Gims, den why ya do dis?”
“Credits.” Jagna replied plainly.
“Oh.” She said half-heartedly in reply. The answer's matter of factness made Shadow wonder if she was the only person in the galaxy that really did not care about wealth or things.
“And he does keep me pretty well-stocked with munitions,” she said.
The sound and smells of a cantina on a desert world was exactly as Shadow remembered it. Descending the stairs into the cooler sub level bar they spotted a nervous-looking person standing alone. He looked the part, someone waiting for unsavory types.
Jagna walked up to the person. “Lodu, Gim sent us.”
The advozse looked at them; his unease was not hard for Shadow to spot. He practically jumped.
“Ya that’s right.”
He pulled the key card from his pocket. “There’s Imps crawling all over the place.” Jagna glanced meaningfully at Shadow as she took the key, pocketing it.
“Right,” she said, and turned, eyes flitting around the bar to linger on the other customers as they left.
Entering back into the Tatooine sun, Jagna frowned, eyes wandering over the streets. No one seemed to be following them, so far. She glanced at Shadow, who flitted close behind her. She seemed to blend into any scene. That ability, combined with her knack of completely disappearing and reappearing made her nervous, her mind wandering back to the shadowy killer with the orange eyes.
She faced forward, refusing to look behind her, her shoulder blades itching, as if expecting an impending knife to the back. No... she didn’t really trust anyone. How could she? At least Shadow had silver eyes. She wasn’t the strange killer. She forcibly put the thoughts from her mind. She needed to focus.
It was easy enough to find a speeder to rent on the outskirts of Anchorhead. She got on, after securing her load, and Shadow followed close behind on her own, to the coordinates Gimble had given them only a few days ago. Coming closer, Jagna parked the speeder behind an outcropping of rocks, a good half mile away. No need to take unnecessary risks of being spotted. She pulled on her backpack, slinging the sack over one shoulder.
Slowly, she and Shadow crept up to the building. It did not look much different from the day before, when she had come to scout the place and lay some “surprises” for potential enemies. An important precaution. It was a low-lying, insignificant, brown structure looking almost like another rock outcropping on the Tatooine landscape. No one was in sight. Of course, that did not mean much. Lodu had insisted Imperials were about. She did not doubt it.
They reached the door, and Jagna took out the key, inserting it. She waited. Much easier to blow the door open. She could do it quietly... some flex-five tape and... but no, this is the way Gimble wanted it done. She sighed inwardly. The door responded with a green light and a click.
Jagna glanced at Shadow. She nodded.
“I peek,” she said, slipping inside, and was gone. Jagna grimaced, her left hand tingling. She took out her blasters, tentatively squeezing her hand over the grip a few times, trying to get a feel for it. She hated this tingling sensation. It would take some serious getting used to.
She crept inside, taking in the room at a glance. There was a desk in the corner, some old papers and datapads strewn about it and on the floor, the drawers pulled out, as if it had been searched. Shadow stood at the back, crouching by the next door. She pointed at Jagna, making a symbol, indicating “three.” She understood. Creeping up to the doorway, Jagna nodded.
With a swirl, Shadow was in the room, lightsabers activating in a red blur. She kicked one Imperial in the chest, sending him sprawling. Jagna shot him in the head, and he was down. Just as fast, Shadow had dispatched the other two, lopping the head off one, severing a leg of the other and driving one of her blades into his chest, before he could so much as scream. Jagna doubted other fights would be as easy.
She stared at Shadow, as she switched off the blades. They were red. She grimaced. For a moment, she had wanted to shoot her, the red blades bringing out her instincts against Sith, but she had managed to master it. Shadow wasn’t Sith... was she? No, no, Gimble wouldn’t do business with Sith... would he? She frowned, rifling the nearest body on the floor, using the action to calm her nerves. It was one of the reasons she couldn’t trust Gimble. What if he worked with Sith?
No, Shadow had probably taken those from some Sith she killed. Right. She had mentioned that earlier, on the Fleet. Saved some orphans from Sith on Coruscant. That’s what it was. The tightness in her chest eased a little, as she remembered their earlier conversation.
Shadow was looking at the body in the corner, pulling out and pocketing credits. Jagna looked at the contents on the one near her: holocom, data chip, a few credits... Shadow stood up, tossing something to her. She caught it. Another holocom. A red light on it was blinking fitfully.
“What dat mean?” Shadow asked, silver eyes reflecting like orbs of some planetary moon. It was a little unnerving.
Jagna keyed the holocom on. A deep, heavily Kaas accented voice spoke.
“Nice try, little twerps. We’ve got the place surrounded. You’re as good as dead. If you come out quietly, we’ll not - ” Jagna shut it off, pocketing it along with the other items. Idiots. They thought they had won.
“Well,” she said, smiling thinly. “Looks like we got friends.” Shadow nodded.
“Let’s get what we came for and deal wit dem afters, ya.” Jagna made no complaint, pulling out her other blaster, which she had pocketed, and following Shadow down the corridor.
It didn’t take them long to meet resistance. Jagna dove to the side as a blaster bolt whizzed over her head. In front of her, Shadow disappeared. Jagna blinked, but came up on one knee behind a crate, aimed and laid down some covering fire at the nearest attacker, a man in full-body armor. Two or three more Imperial troops stood behind furniture or crates. From her backpack, she took out a 3RZ-grenade, lobbing it into the far corner where most of them appeared to be, hoping she missed Shadow. She had promised Gim not to blow her up, after all.
The grenade blew, blowing bits of furniture, chair and desk all over the room. Men screamed, thrown around like rag dolls. Some lay still. The merc was not even phased. He shot a rocket-propelled missile from a device on his wrist, blowing the crate Jagna hid behind into cinders. The hot pieces sprayed everywhere, slapping against her face, burning. She spun, readying herself for another attack, aiming for the chink of armor at his neck. It was all completely unnecessary.
Shadow suddenly reappeared in front of the man, materializing out of thin air, and gave him a roundhouse kick in the head, followed by a quick jab at his torso. He stumbled backward, losing his footing. Her blades ignited and spun straight into his heart. He crumbled to the ground.
Jagna wasted no time running up to Shadow, and inspecting the damages. A quick glance showed her the rest were dead. Well, one wasn’t. She pulled her blaster and shot him in the head, fixing that. A computer terminal in the corner glowed a soft blue. She dashed up to it, as Shadow casually walked around the room, and began manipulating a door key at the far wall. It looked to be locked. She continued to stalk the room and poke at the door key while Jagna keyed the computer’s ignition. It started up and she ran through the instructions that Daceest had given her in her mind.
He was the one that should be doing this, she grumbled inwardly. He was the slicer tech. But then again, he was out setting up appointments and slicing terminals to learn who the heck that shadow killer had been. And honestly, with what Gim had said of this place - how Junk was working on finding out about some Imp project that dealt with nanobots that could take over cybernetics and had subsequently gone missing.... she didn’t want Daceest in the same planetary system as this place. He might not have cybernetics... but he was a slicer.
She keyed in the spike he had given her. It began its work. The computer chugged unhappily, as the data spike searched records - even the most unlikely of places. Files emblazoned in blue sped over the computer screen as the program searched and discarded dozens in a fraction of a second. She stared. How much data did Junk keep in this place, anyway?
Shadow had stopped fiddling with the door. She had pulled a panel off the wall, and was pulling out wires. Jagna glanced over at her, frowning.
“What is it?” she asked. Shadow looked up.
“Dats not tha right door,” she said, pointing to the one that was locked. “Trick. I think the real one’s...” Suddenly, something moved. Jagna pointed her blaster. There was a click and a panel she had not noticed on the other side of the room from the locked door slid back. She blinked. Shadow flashed her a fanged grin.
“See?” she said. From the glimpse Jagna could see, it had long spiraling stairs leading down into a dark sub-basement. She sighed, relaxing a little. Well. That was interesting. Shadow took up a position by this new door. Finally, the computer beeped a whirred response. Jagna spun to look at it, as it spat out a data chip.
“Partial file of the type indicated, found,” it intoned. The screen was full of error messages of the type, “encrypted file,” “data not found,” “data missing,” “data corrupted.” Jagna took the chip and tossed it to Shadow. She caught it without so much as a glance. She nodded to her.
“You keep it,” she said. “In case we get separated.” Shadow nodded, making it disappear into her robes. Jagna eyed the new passageway she had found down. She could not hear anything. And that made her nervous.
The descent down to the hidden lower levels was hauntly quiet, and reeked of a trap. The first blind corner was where Shadow paused, closing her glowing silver eyes a moment. Opening them she looked at Jagna with a nod, as she took her sith-looking sabers from her belt and vanished.
The five that sat in wait at the next room were all focused on the ramp down, and did not see her as she walked past them. They were all well-armed and ready to be the death squad for anyone who turned that corner.
Plunk, plunk... it came bouncing happily down the stairs and sat almost innocently at their feet. They had no time to react as the grenade detonated in a ball of fire and smoke. Shadow was already hidden behind a pipe - expecting the demolitions expert to blow something up was a safe bet.
Shadow noticed a side-effect of the explosion: the smoke gave her excellent cover as she reappeared and dispatched any who were still alive and staggering. The bright bolts of light that also made there way through the smoke found their Imperial targets as well. The clearing of the haze left her standing surrounded by bodies: some with blaster bolts to vital places, some missing vital body parts...
Turning together they faced the next entry way as two more troopers entered. They did not get far, however. The flurry of bolts let loose by Jagna, as she did a near acrobatic tumble behind the pipe, made quick work of the one on the right. The one standing next to him spontaneously lost his head as Shadow’s red saber returned to her hand, switching off.
Her glowing silver eyes met Jagna’s green ones, reflecting looks of respect. Shadow went to the doorway again keeping watch as Jagna climbed the stairs to a second terminal.
Again Jagna jabbed the computer with the spike. It was clear she was agitated. Shadow watched her as she finessed the computer in the corner. Her thoughts shifted. What if she used the strengths and weaknesses she saw in a person to help them, not kill them. The use of bombs was clearly not to compensate for accuracy, though like every blaster-wielding person she had come toe-to-toe with, close quarters would be her weakness.
Shadow knew exactly how to use Jagna’s strengths to her advantage, leaving her wondering if the Imperials actually had anything that could stop them, beyond blowing up or bombing the place themselves.
Jagna took the spike back from the computer as she looked over.
“They are trying to cover their tracks... it is just a partial file...” she said. Pocketing the data stick she went and looked down the final hall. “Shall we?” The hidden tone of admiration was quickly covered up by a scowl as she gestured for Shadow to go first.
Shadow again vanished as she entered the last room, the large group that waited was a formidable size. The techie looking one that was looming over the last computer was the one that Shadow knew was up to no good.
Jagna must have seen the number ahead of them as five small round grenades went flying past Shadow. She blinked, realizing that those small objects would soon explode and invisible was not slpode proof. Diving behind one of the few crates not already taken by Imperials in the room, she felt the rush of heat and heard the blast that made sand fall from the top of the room.
Sabers lit, she leaped from the scorched cover into the smoke. There were plenty of people not killed by the explosion, and now returning fire to the direction Jagna was. Like a ghost she danced swiftly, red sabers swirling around her, making her way through the room.
Blaster shots taking out those she past by, weaving around Shadow’s deadly dance Jagna easily took out those who would have had a chance to attack. Shadow played off of Jagna’s weaknesses getting those closest to Jagna while allowing her to shoot past to the ones in her kill zone. Not one movement or shot wasted, as the smoke cleared all that was left was bodies and blood.
Jagna lowered what looked like a grenade launcher to the floor and was about to say something, but dismissed the thoughts as Shadow walked up to the computer. The green screen displayed: “File not found,” in blinking green letters.
“Dat looks bad,” Shadow said plainly as she removed some debris from her black robe.
Stabbing the computer with the data spike, Jagna grimaced.
“Its wiped clean.”
Shadow looked down at the dead Imperial slicer who seemed to have come in direct contact with a blaster bolt between his eyes. Shadow gathered everything from him and placed it in a small pile. No data sticks.
“We gots somtin, an its more den before,” Shadow said with her normal silver-lining tone.
“Right. Lets get out of here. Those reinforcements should be here soon,” Jagna said, as she walked away from the dead computer, slapping a small glowing device on its side.
Shadow went to the doorway, preparing for the next room, as Jagna made her way carefully stepping around the bodies leaving her small presents throughout the room, like a demented easter bunny. For the first time Jagna seemed happy, or at least the first time Shadow had seen a truly meaningful smile.
The next room was setup for their departing ambush. Shadow did not even disappear this time, but just leapt into the fray, leaving Jagna behind to fire from cover and plant more bombs. Quickly she threw a few grenades overhead, giving Shadow cover to kill more efficiently.
The dance and sound of blasters stopped as they were at the spiraling stairs. The room now empty of anything alive, or unscorched. From there, it was quick work to the last outer stairs. Though they hit a few more waves of troopers, they simply were not prepared for their enemies to run toward them, guns and sabers blazing.
“Ready to run?” Jagna’s voice had an unfamiliar sound of eagerness, as she held a detonator.
Shadow’s glowing silver eyes just looked at her a moment before nodding.
“Make sure you get your half to Gimble’s place when you can, just to be safe. They may try to hunt us down,” she said in her normal paranoid tone, even if it still had half-hidden excitement within it.
“Gims has a ‘place’?” Shadow asked raising an eye ridge.
In an expected well-duh-manner she said, “His ship... every spacers home.”
Shadow half-smiled and nodded.
Jagna pushed the button...
Jagna grinned as she pressed her detonator switch, heralding the simultaneous detonation of twenty-five glop-20 adhesive grenades in the lower chamber and nearly two megagrams of detonite along the outer perimeter. It was a beautiful cacophony of noise.
As soon as she hit the switch, they burst out through the outer tunnel into the sunlight, using the explosion to cover their escape. The ground shook under their feet, but Jagna managed to keep balance with only a few corrections. She heard wild shouts, as shots were fired randomly from a dozen different directions. But it was clear that the Imperials had not expected such firepower. Some of the shouts were of pain. Jagna grinned.
As they dove to the escarpment where they had left their speeders, Jagna sighed inwardly with relief, finding them still intact. She hadn’t been so certain that they would be. She guessed the Imperials had expected to take them inside, making their speeders of little importance. Rapidly mounting, they sped away from the gigantic dust bowl they had created in their wake.
A few saw them, pointing and mounting speeders of their own in pursuit. Jagna smiled grimly, taking them through a nearby canyon, zipping in and out of the columns of rock that towered in the afternoon sun. She had prepared for this alternative, mapping out a route through this nearby canyon ahead of time, should they be chased. Shadow followed closely, seeming to maneuver her speeder with ease over the uneven ground. Jagna felt a little relieved, realizing she had not warned her of this plan. Well. What was done was done. And she seemed to be doing all right. Where did she learn to move like that? she wondered absently, as she noted passing rock formations, the Imperials still close on their tail. A blaster bolt whizzed by overhead, and another low. They were weaving too much to get a good aim.
Finally Jagna saw it. The formation she was looking for... a high rock-like bridge teetered overhead, frail and thin against the nearly white sky. Jagna reached into her pack, taking out a blastech adhesive grenade, squinting at the overhang as they raced toward it. She lobbed the grenade upward. It stuck to the underside of the frail bridge, an adhesive foam spreading out around it and solidifying it to the rock structure. She grinned. They darted underneath as it exploded, bringing down the entire formation on the heads of their Imperial pursuers.
Jagna looked back, nodding in satisfaction. All that remained was a cascade of rocks and dust mushrooming into the air, blowing in the wind. From there, she had no trouble maneuvering out of the canyon after a few more thousand meters, moving towards Anchorhead. They dropped off their speeders to the grumpy Jawa they had rented them from, who complained that they were scratched. Scowling, Jagna dropped him a few extra credits for damages, Shadow doing the same. Both walked toward the spaceport, trying to blend into the scenery, which was somewhat difficult. Most were indoors, avoiding the heat of the day, but a few were still about, likely on business that they could not avoid.
Entering the shade of the spaceport, Jagna sighed with contentment. Finally getting home again. She nodded to Shadow, who smiled at her, feeling grudging respect for the Rattataki. That was some of the best saber combat she had seen... and she had noted how quickly she picked up on the best tactics to use with a blaster-wielding ally.
“Good work with the sabers,” she said. “Not seen anything like that in a long time.” She scowled a bit, realizing what she was saying, but made herself continue. “I’m just not used to sayin’ that much, so don’t tell anybody, ok?”
“Ya woulda done fine wit out me,” Shadow shrugged. Jagna eyed her, thinking back on the fights.
“Well... we made a good team,” she said. “And I guess I’m fine with that.” She couldn’t remember anyone who had picked up on her style of combat so quickly. Then again, she almost always fought alone.
“Yes, dey way too worried bout you splodin’ dere face to notice me,” she said, flashing a fanged grin. Jagna couldn’t help smirking at that.
“I sure hope so. I’ll meet up with ya soon. Don’t get exploded,” she said, and nodded to her as Shadow disappeared around the bend, toward her ship. Feeling the data chip in her pocket, Jagna scowled again. If she had gone through all this trouble for nothing... well, she was going do a lot of hurt to something.