The Iron Dawn

Chapter 3: Concord Dawn

After receiving permission to land, the ship settled into an out of the way docking bay in the capital city.

"Welcome to Concord Dawn,“ the ship murmurs. ”Concord Dawn is an agricultural frontier world in the Mandalore sector of the Outer Rim Territories. The planet has strong ties to the Mandalorians; its population shares many Mandalorian values, and genetic markers specific to the natives of Concord Dawn are present throughout the Mandalorian populace. Atmosphere is breathable, and has primary terrain of jungles, forests, deserts, and plains." 

The ramp lowered to allow the crew to depart. A rush of air hit Alan, and with it carried a scent of generations of a people that lived and breathed battle. Smiling a little to himself, he said, "I think I’m gonna like this planet. Pity we aren’t staying long."

Shortly before the ship came to its landing, Irulan sat down next to Kami’atra in the Port Lounge of the ship. For a moment she looked down at her hands, gathering the strength to do what needs to be done. Then, she looked Kami’atra in the face.

"I don’t really know how to tell you this. But I need to. I should have told you a long time ago.

Do you remember that morning when you found me in the streets of Coruscant, when you asked me to join you on our first mission? You asked me what I was doing so far from my Temple. And I told you that I had completed my training, that the Council blessed me and sent me on my way.

Kam . . . I lied to you. Please forgive me. I didn’t have the strength to tell you the truth. The truth is, I was running away. After what I did – what I nearly did . . . what you saved me from doing, I was afraid. And so I ran.

And now you’re going back to them. They’ve probably been wondering what happened to me. If they find out that I am with you, then the questions will begin, and eventually they will discover what I did. Then they may not trust you about the droid; it will throw a shadow on everything you say to them.“

Irulan pulled from within her robe a sealed letter.

”When you get to Coruscant, go to Saesee Tiin and give him this. It explains everything. He deserves to hear the truth from me. Master Tiin is a good man; I know he will believe me, and believe that you come to him in earnest. He will help you; I know it. He is your best shot at gaining the trust of the Council."
Kami’atra seemed to look past Irulan as he gathered the appropriate words to respond to this vulnerability that she had shown him.  He received the letter from her and placed it within the satchel at his side.  His lips curled into his all-too-familiar smile as his ‘eyes’ met hers and he inhaled deeply before vocalizing his response.

"Irulan, I must tell you something also – Earlier that day, while I was walking the lower streets of Coruscant, I had been given a vision of what would become of you that night and all that would come of it; I’d followed the vision to where I would find you, once there I sat and waited.  The rest of that night, you’ll remember very well for the rest of your life, but know this for certain -  I’d forgiven you for this lie of yours before you’d even uttered it to me, and I renew that vow of forgiveness now in your hearing… I have been waiting all this time for you to forgive yourself for your actions that night and the lie that ensued.  Not only had you lied to me, but more importantly you had lied to yourself and covered it up for years.

One day you will return to face your people yourself, but in the mean time, I will follow your wishes and deliver this message to Master Tiin.  As I believe that he is the man that you say he is, I am certain you will find this same forgiveness from him… And if not, then he is not the Master you deserve and therefore you would need not worry.“

Kami’atra’s smile widened as he placed his upon hers atop the table and continued, ”I am very proud of you, Irulan, for the bravery you’ve displayed in relating this tale to me for the first time, and for the several years that you determined to bear this burden alone; soon you will find the rest that you require and the strength to reintroduce yourself to your Master as the reinvented pupil you have become – You may yet find peace with the Council as well.  Thank you for having found safety in confiding this information in me for these many years, you must know that you will always possess a trusted friend and faithful ally in Kami’atra.“

He reinforced the smile with a gentle squeeze at her hand before he stood from the table and re-latched the satchel which hung from his shoulder and he glanced toward the opening of the ramp in preparation of half the crew’s departure.  He breathed deeply of the well acquainted scent of a world driven by a mostly agrarian culture that reminded him so much of home… ”Are you all prepared, Irulan?  I suppose we should make sure you and Kibur acquire fair transport to Nar Shadaa from here."

Just then, Kibur walked into the port lounge, a small rucksack thrown over his shoulder. "We ready to go?“ He saw Kami’atra and Irulan looking very seriously at one another. ”Or should I wait outside?"

Irulan blushed. "No, it’s not . . .“ she stammered, ”I was just telling him about . . .“ Finally, she scowled at Kibur. ”Well, you certainly wouldn’t understand." 

Standing quickly, she pulled her satchel over her shoulder, then looked once more to Kami’atra. Thank you, she said to him silently. For everything. 

With one last glower at Kibur, she left the lounge and made her way down the ramp. Covering her eyes with one hand, she squinted into the bright sunlight, where she saw Page waiting.

As Irulan made her defense to Kibur and extended her gratitude his way, Kami’atra smiled to Kibur and patted him on the shoulder, "Come, Kibur, let’s get you two to your transport, shall we?"  He motioned ahead of them to point the two of them toward the opened descent ramp.

The hustle and bustle of this slightly more urban section of this agro-sphere painted a stark contrast to the desolation of Raxus Prime.  Kami’atra smiled as he inhaled several deep breaths of the earthy atmosphere.  It reminded him very much of home although it is considerably brighter here; the Force-‘emissions’ emanating from the lifeforms here were so much brighter than he had beheld on Coruscant or darker worlds, as if to say that the population’s joy in livelihood seemed to radiate visibly from their bodies. 

Yet even just beneath their shine, a restrained and restrictive presence held them here in place – Kami’atra had never discovered a truly free population though it was his life’s desire to find and protect or somehow develop such a society.  Such an existence may have been found at home on Alpheridies, Kami’atra thought to himself, if it were not for the rogue Force-Witches inhabiting among the populace…  But his thoughts returned to the present as he descended the ramp to the earthen landscape below.

Alan pulled a small data pad out of his jacket pocket and pulled up a small map of the city. "According to this map, if we proceed a 1/4 mile east there is a handful of cantinas and entertainment establishments.“  He paused to change position of the map. ”West seems like a trade market and residences. If you ask me I say we had toward the cantina." Placing the data pad back in his jacket, he took a few steps ahead of the crew and turned to look at each of them. As he glanced at Irulan, he got the strange sense that a great burden had been lifted from her shoulders.

Irulan looked over Page’s shoulder, examining the datapad.

"Hmm. A drink does sound awfully good right now. But don’t you think a trade market would be more likely to have options for transportation?“

She looked to Kibur, who had just stepped out of the ship. ”What’s our plan? Are we going to buy a ship, or rent one, or just hitch a ride to Nal Hutta? We may want to have a way to get off the planet as well . . ." 

“I planned on purchasing transport, riding in someone else’s ship,” said Kibur. "Give me a chance to get a break from flying. We can hire them to drop us off and pick us back up, if needed."

“Well in that case, Page is probably right – the cantina might be a good place to find a pilot who could give us a ride.” Irulan knelt to tighten the clasp on her boots, before standing again. "Let’s head out, shall we? We don’t really have time to waste. It won’t be long before Troba discovers what has actually happened; we better make sure we get to him before the truth does." She started walking in the direction Page had indicated, pausing to make sure the others are coming.

Kami’atra followed, customarily, a few paces behind the others to continue observation of their surroundings and maintaining his perceptions of those that may cross the path of the crew of the Iron Dawn.  His ‘eyes’ scanned the almost-crowded streets of this once-rural township – a merchant entrepreneur who seemed to be watching the crew all too closely as they passed her vendor, until other business arrived to distract her; a slight-framed spacer eyeing Irulan specifically with other, more debauched, motives in mind… Kami’atra paid him little mind as the spacer stumbled off into an alleyway in a drunken stupor.  All the bystanders were individuals, yet he observed them more so as a collective hive of less conspicuous groups.

As the crew continued to walk the quarter-mile eastward, Kami’atra noticed a number of establishments that could serve their purposes well enough, all with names representative of their ideal ambiance (some more imaginative than others) – Concord Cantina, The Alibi, Requiem de Mando’ade, and another in a language that appeared to be a local tongue.  The one inn that stood out to Kami’atra was one by the name of The Laughing Tengu – the split-cloth drapery of the doorway depicted a rather large nosed, feathered demon sitting at a mountain top with a gourd of fermented brew in hand, seemingly laughing at nothingness or perhaps indeed laughing at himself.

Curious, Kami’atra stepped toward the inn, glanced inside at the dimly lit lower-level full of those who would identify themselves as veteran spacers.  The only sound emanating from within, other than the slight chatter of the patrons, was the voice and music of a venerable man himself quietly vocalizing and playing a stringed instrument on a dais in the corner of the room.  Returning to the street, he called for the others. 

"Oi, Kibur… I believe I’ve found the place we’ve been looking for…“  Kami’atra tried very hard to hide his joy at finding a place to his own liking and what seemed to house pilots of superb quality as well.  ”What do the rest of you think?"

Standing beside Kam, Alan looked into the interestingly-titled cantina and responded with an affirming hand on his companion’s shoulder. "If you like it, so do I." Alan walked past Kam into the cantina and asked the bartender for a drink unique to the planet while leaning on the counter. After the bartender grabbed the beverage, he took advantage of the man’s eyes and ears and asked where his companions might acquire transport to Nal Hutta.

“Looks like we might have some luck here,” Irulan said, grinning at Kami’atra and pulling one of the curtains aside to step through. A sweet scent filled the room, as a light cloud of smoke emanated from a Twi’lek in one corner, who held a bubbling pot with a tube at one end.

Approaching the counter, Irulan leaned forward. "A Sarlacc Kicker, please.“ The bartender turned his back to them, and after a moment he slid a foaming drink across the counter towards her, then received her money and went back to mixing drinks.

Irulan listened as Lt. Page asked the bartender about transportation in his typical brusque manner. Well, that won’t do, she thought to herself. Sidling over towards them, she leaned in, eyes widened innocently, and smiled very sweetly at the barman. ”We’re so sorry to bother you. But we’re strangers to this area, and you seem to be a knowledgeable person to talk to. Any help you could give us would be greatly appreciated."

Letting the Jedi work her magic, the Lt. took a conceding posture to her obvious assets in gathering the needed information. Thinking to himself, She could always monopolize a tactical advantage, he turned his head to hide a bit of a smile.

The bartender looked Irulan up and down with his one good eye, nodding appreciatively. His eyes stopped a moment when he saw the lightsaber on her belt.

“Uh… miss…” he began polishing a glass furiously, avoiding eye contact. "You’n might wanta speak to a few o’ der fellas ober dere," he said with a strange accent, gesturing over to the corner where about ten spacers sia gathered around a large table, laughing loudly.

Hearing the lead, Alan pulled a peggat out and tossed it to the bartender. "Thanks for the information,“ he said, turning toward the quite-pleased-with-herself Irulan. With a slight bow and a teasing remark, he said, ”Shall we, Master Jedi?" He motioned with his hand, offering her the lead toward the table of spacers.

Meanwhile, Kami’atra slid past the Lt. and Jedi occupying the counter; he knelt at a low table nearby and waited for his companions’ sought-after response.  He began to look about the room and bowed his head deeply to the aged musician in the corner, who played into a bridge with a solemn smile and nodded in response.  Kami’atra motioned for the nearby waitress. As she approached him after picking up glasses left behind with little tip, he requested a small kettle of tea and another cup for the musician.  She nodded.

Looking up, Kami’atra noticed two males adorned in heavy, similarly-colored, Mandalorian Battle Armor descending from the stairwell leading down from the upper rooms. Their armor was of a well-worn sandy-gray texture, and Kami’atra could tell that they had noticed the new patrons of the Laughing Tengu… though as to whether they were truly interested or simply observing, he did not yet know.

At that moment, Kibur took a seat across from Kami’atra. "I figure I’ll let the two of them handle negotiation for our fare, get some time to talk.“ He eyed the Death Watch suspiciously. He leaned in.
”Kam, once you reach Coruscant, I need you to go to the Crimson Corridor.“ He handed Kam a datapad. ”There’s some sensitive information there that needs to get to Teruka at the Green Glowstone Tavern."

As the waitress returned to Kami’atra’s table from distributing the tea to the musician and waiting cautiously as the Death Watch members pass by, with a smile she passed him a message of gratitude from the old man and waived the fee for the tea. It seemed the musician was the owner of the fine establishment, and this concoction was a tea of his favorite leaf.  Kami’atra bowed his head even lower than before in thanksgiving for the owner’s generous nature, before consuming a draught of this most excellent brew.

Kami’atra paid the Death Watch little mind, as he knew that they would have made it clear to him if they were after him at all; however, moved to kneel slightly closer to the table, offering them more than sufficient room to pass him by en route toward the exit.  He then leaned forward toward Kibur as he extended his hand to receive the datapad.  Knowing Kibur very well by this point, he offered this reply in response to his gesture:

“How sensitive is the information, that you would hesitate in informing even its bearer, Kibur?  I will do as you wish, friend; however, next time would you consider professing this courtesy alongside the request?” he inquired in a casual and half-joking manner, though it still carried his customary tone of sincerity with it.

“Extremely sensitive,” Kibur replied. "Trust me.“ He nodded, then turns to the waitress. ”One Barivian Ale, please."

Kami’atra nodded in affirmation to his friend as he placed the sensitive datapad within his ever-present satchel and closed the tightly-bound clasps.  "Consider it done, Kibur; what is this information I am to transfer anyway, that I am to seek out this tender in a seedy Coruscant alleyway?  Normally you take great stakes to deliver these sorts of wares personally; I might advise myself to refuse this delivery task without the knowledge of what I am handing over to one whom I have never heard of… especially when I’ll already be traveling with such exquisite cargo."

He took another sip of his tea, inhaling the sweet yet earthy aroma, as he awaited the response of Kibur to his inquiry.  Kami’atra had for some time now begun to grow suspicious of some of his more secretive companion’s clandestine actions, but he still wanted to trust Kibur as he did the other members of the Iron Dawn’s crew. He had trusted them all with his life on countless occasions over the years, but Kibur seemed to assume more and more guile as the years passed by.  Kami’atra smiled to Kibur in order to assuage much of his taciturn distrust, but Kibur knew him well enough that he wouldn’t simply slide anything past this all-too-observant Miralukan.

“I would deliver these goods myself,” said Kibur, "but I’m not going to Coruscant, you are.“ He paused for a moment. ”If you must know, it’s… vital information for the Bothan Network. I’ve been working with them for a while. Teruka is my contact on Coruscant.“ Kibur took a drink from the ale dropped off at the table. ”Kam, there are rumors of war forming across the galaxy. Distrust among some senators, the commerce guilds and corporations has been growing steadily since Naboo. The information presented there… It may help stop a war from ever starting. That’s all I can say."

Kami’atra looked intently at his friend. “I’ll let you know this much, Kibur… when the minds of this galaxy’s leaders are set on war, it seems nothing would utterly prevent it.  If nothing else, history professes a legacy of rumors rising into realities; talk about anything long enough and it too will come to pass.  Even so, I commend your efforts, Kibur, and those of the few and humble that will stand against this tide that will soon come to shore.  I will deliver this message to your contact, you can be sure of it – loss of an individual’s life or limb will not cause this effort to mediate war to cease from the future histories.”

On the other side of the cantina, Irulan made her way over to the table where a number of spacers, both human and alien, sat in conversation. Seeing two empty chairs, she pulled one out and looked to a Sullustan pilot to the right of the empty seats. "May we?“ she inquired. As he nods in affirmation, she and Page placed their drinks on the table and took a seat. Irulan took a sip of her strange-looking beverage, swallowed, then suppressed a violent choking cough. She leaned towards Page in a whisper, ”What do they put in this thing?"

Attempting to maintain his composure at Irulan’s humorous reaction to her drink, the Lt. awkwardly smiled at the pilots on her behalf. He whispered from the corner of his mouth with his hand covering his lips, "Do you really need to know right now?“ 

As the conversation reached a lull, Irulan began cautiously, ”My friend and I are looking for transport for a brief journey to Nal Hutta. We would need transportation there, and possibly back as well; we would let you know after our visit. Would any of you be interested in taking on passengers? We would pay, of course."

“Of course you’ll pay,” said a green-skinned Twi’lek from across the table, to the laughter of the other spacers. "The question is, how much? Jedi cost extra. They take trouble with them wherever they go." Irulan felt her face grow warm.

“Easy, Rom,” a woman said, leaning in from the shadows. She pushed her blond hair from her face. "You’ll have to forgive my first mate here,“ she said, pointing her thumb at Rom. ”You said Nal Hutta? Not much of a place for a Jedi, is it girl?“

Irulan gave a slightly forced laugh. ”You know Hutts – always looking for profit. My friend has some goods for them, which I’m sure they will charge exorbitantly for on their planet. I’m just tagging along with him."
Unsure of the plausibility of her story, Irulan swiftly changed the topic, and gestured over to Kibur at the other table, who gave a slight nod. “So . . . would you be willing to take us? We wouldn’t be any trouble, I can assure you.” 

“I can assure you, we’d be the best crew for the job,” the woman said, "but my comrade is right. Jedi do have a way of bringing trouble with them wherever they go.“ She leaned back into the shadows. ”We’ll do it, but it’s going to cost you a little…“ She left a long pause. ”Eight thousand." Rom smirked, self-assuredly, looking at Irulan and Alan.

Back at his table, Kami’atra suddenly looked over to Irulan, sensing a feeling of unease coming from her. He looked back to Kibur. "The information you have borne ‘til now is in good hands, friend, you need not worry about its ultimate delivery…  For now, however, you may want to look to the negotiation of your transport to Nar Shadaa; Irulan seems to have been overrun… Hutt space is not terribly far distant, perhaps you could talk the crew down to five or less for the round trip."

He continued to sip at his tea and re-poured as he observed Irulan and Alan’s progress with the transport from his seat a few tables away.  The music dramatically shifted into something of an archaic pre-battle chant as Kami’atra’s conversation with Kibur concluded in affirmation, and his premonition of the inevitability of imminent war was solidified in his mind’s eye.

“I owe you one, Kam,” Kibur said, standing. He lifted his glass as a toast to the Miralukan, then looked over at Irulan and Page. "I’ll handle this.“ He headed over to the table and pulled up a seat. ”What’s the problem?"

Irulan looked up gratefully as Kibur took a seat next to her. "Thank goodness you’re here,“ she said under her breath. Aloud, she said, ”No problem. Just a friendly discussion of our fare to Nal Hutta. They’ve been joking around a bit – asked for 8000."

“8,000?” We could practically buy our own ship for that much!" Kibur said, shaking his head.

“But who’d fly it, hotshot?” the captain said, "You?"

As enjoyable as this conversation was, it seemed to be going more back than forth. In hopes of closing this deal, Page placed his forged Republic special forces officer badge on the table for the captain and others to view. "Captain, this is what I can do for you. As you can see, I am an officer of the Republic,“ without missing a beat he placed the badge back in his coat, ”meaning I do have a line of credit with the Republic. I am prepared to offer you 3,000 now and 6,000 when you return the Jedi and my friend here when their mission is complete." 

The Lt. finished his speech without deviating eye contact from the captain. “I promise you, a simple job and you’ll be paid 1,000 over what you’re asking, as long as they come back safe.” With a confident smirk the Lt. leaned back in his chair, awaiting the captain’s response.

“Republic, huh?” Mala asked. "In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re out on the fringe of civilization. Republic credits don’t carry as much weight as you would think out here."

Page smiled. “I am a Lt. and a specialist, we have little or no use for republic credits either. I said ‘a line of credit’; my resources go well beyond mere credits.” Hoping to bait the Captain further he continued, "But if you feel that we have nothing of value, maybe we should seek out a pilot elsewhere. I’m sure someone would like to make a quick and easy coin?"  Finishing his final statement loud enough to catch some outside interest, he pulled out a small pouch of peggats, hoping to place the captain in a more accepting place toward his terms.

At his own table, Kami’atra smiled at Alan’s forged attempts of proper negotiations, as he finished the tea and left an adequate tip for the waitress.  He stood and stretched, as he was certain his companions had the situation under control at the spacers’ table. Two passengers, three negotiating styles, a few different offers… they would decide somehow, but the team had better start making this transport come together soon.

As Kami’atra meandered toward the curtained doorway at the entrance, he paused to bow deeply to the musician for the affable and encouraging refrains. He placed a decent contribution within the basin at his feet for the general hospitality of the establishment and their future endeavors.  Then, he drew back the curtain to peer out onto the street.

It seemed that the armored Death Watch members seen leaving the inn had not traveled far; another member had met them in the street across from the inn.  One of the dreadnaughts appeared to be motioning toward the inn just as he opened the curtain; the two others nodded in agreement, yet continued to stand at ease across the way.  Kami’atra closed the curtain and shook his head as he returned to the counter to inquire of the tender regarding a back door to the Laughing Tengu.  After he was given the requested information, Kami’atra turned to the others and loosened his mind, sending a message to them all in simplified format, "We’d better make haste… this location may not be as safe as I’d thought."  His telepathic voice seemed to echo within their minds due to their proximity to each other.

Kami’atra then looked toward the entrance with his fists clenched tightly, but relaxed as the curtain parted and only one of the armored warriors returned, taking in a panoramic glance with his visored head – it was the one who had joined the two others, he was slightly shorter and his armor much newer. Perhaps an initiation into the Death Watch were about to occur. . .

Page felt a tap on his shoulder. Turning, he saw a member of the Death Watch standing over him. "Republic?” the armored figure asked. "A bit far from home, aren’t you?"

A quick glance at the “green” status of the initiate left Page with two thoughts: one, as annoyed as he was with this young fool, he really didn’t want to kill what may turn out to be a fine member of the Death Watch, and two, he would like to dispatch both of the situations sooner, rather than later.  Looking back to the captain with an irritated sigh, he stated, “Excuse me for just a moment."

With ferocity and precision, Alan stood and spinned 180 degrees, landing a solid uppercut on the initiate’s mask, which knocked him onto the table behind them and sent his mask flying. Quickly moving up into position, he leaned into the initiate with his right arm, effectively pinning him to the table. Page flexed his wrist, releasing a vibrodagger which sprang from his forearm into the grip of his left hand. With the dagger facing down, the Lt. pushed the blade’s tip so close to the initiate’s eye, if the fool had been wearing any synthetic lenses, Page would have touched them.

The Lt. could feel his companions’ desire to spring to his aid. However, before they could move, he called out without breaking eye contact, "I got this." The obviously “attentive” look on the man’s face led Alan to believe that he was no longer interested in any sort of fight. Taking advantage of his captive audience, he stated calmly, "I promise you, though I may work for the Republic, I don’t respond very diplomatically to a fool looking for something to prove. If you interrupt my conversation again with your aggressive posture toward me or my team, it will be the last thing you ever do.“

Seeing the fear in the initiate’s eye’s and feeling that a deep profound understanding between them had been reached, the Lt. released his grip and sheathed the vibrodagger back in place. He returned to his table and leaned down to lift his chair while calling to the waitress, ”Miss, I’ll have another one of these, thank you."

Page looked over at Irulan. The Jedi sat utterly frozen in place, staring at Page. “What the hell was that?” she hissed at him through clenched teeth. “Do you want to get us killed?” 

The Lt. whispered to her "A diplomatic solution. You’ll have to trust me, until this deal is done. When it is, I will be more than happy to explain my actions." He gave her a quick smirk.

The initiate scrambled out of the bar, grabbing his helmet as he went. “You fool!” the Twi’Lek shouted. "We’ve been seen with you, and now we’re going to have to get out of here before the Death Watch decides to even the score!" He pounded his fist on the table.

But the captain was unfazed. "This certainly was inopportune,“ said the captain, ”but we were moving on anyway.“ She turned to Kibur and Irulan. ”If you’re willing to pay an extra 2000 upon your safe return due to your companion’s indiscretion, we may have a deal."

“Done,” Irulan immediately replied.

At that moment, the initiate Page brought down a notch burst back in, flanked by four other members of the Death Watch. "There they are!" he shouted, pointing to the group at the table.

“Great.” Kibur raised his eyebrows.

Irulan reached for her lightsaber. But as her hand touched the hilt, she paused. Then, changing her mind, she stepped forward towards the Death Watch. Approaching the young initiate, she smiled and looked him straight in the eye. As she began to speak, her voice took on a slightly peculiar tone, noticeable only to her companions. Her hand remained at her side, but her fingers moved ever so slightly in a circular motion.

She said, “We’re not the ones you’re looking for. I saw the coward who attacked you – he immediately ran out that back entrance. If you hurry, you may yet catch him.” Her expression remained casual, masking her inward fear. Please, please work.

Kami’atra stood at the counter near the entrance, watching. The Death Watch now stood directly between him and his companions, a position that he did not particularly care for, to say the very least.  He pivoted on his heels as the accusations and manipulations were dispatched from either side.

Left hand upon the hilt of Kami’ken, he struck his gauntleted fist upon the countertop with a sudden and audible exhalation; the sound of the strike would have been heard by the patrons of The Laughing Tengu, but its true effect wouldn’t be of this tangible nature.  As his fist descended upon the aged wood of the bar, Irulan and any other Force-sensitive individuals would perceive waves of Force energy emanating from the strike point. These waves amplified Irulan’s persuasiveness to not only affect the thoughts of those in the room, but even the few people standing directly outside of the inn; all of them would have been given the impression that they had seen the proposed attacker escaping out the rear. 

The inn’s owner and musician tensed as he noticed the change in the air. Placing his instrument beside him, he nodded to the tender across the bar, who responded in turn with a nod and reached for a possibly-unnecessary weapon beneath the counter. The inn’s waitress simply smiled as she stood her ground near the innkeep, ready to flip a table to provide cover to those nearby.

Kami’atra tightened his grip upon his blade as he turned, ready to defend his companions against any that may have passed through the combined deception of him and the Jedi.  All the while, Kami’atra pondered the pride he had in Irulan’s change of actions, that she hadn’t reacted in a similar manner as Alan had to the initiate moments before.

As the waves of energy from the Kami’ken passed through the group of Death Watch soldiers, two of them, looking slightly mesmerized, began running toward the back door. “He didn’t go anywhere, you idiots!” growled the initiate. “He’s sitting right over there.” Ignoring him, the two soldiers disappeared out the back door.

The initiate began to shove past Irulan to get to Page, but Irulan put a hand on his shoulder and pushed him back to face her. Looking earnestly at him, she said, “No, you’re incorrect. That man is not the one who attacked you.”

As she spoke this time, the initiate’s eyes took on a slightly hazy look. Another soldier stepped up next to him. “Anything wrong, sir?”

“I was just so sure . . .” The initiate trailed off, confused.

As they were speaking, Kami’atra quietly moved from his position near the bar to take a few steps towards Irulan. But his actions did not go unnoticed. The young soldier who had addressed the initiate shifted towards Kami’atra, a wary look in his eyes, and his hand on his weapon. Everyone in the room tensed.

The initiate looks once more at Irulan, then suddenly broke the silence with a grim chuckle. “You know what, boys, I’m not sure these are the ones we want after all. Let’s head.” Followed by the rest of his cronies, he made his way past Page and Kibur, and out of the cantina.

The Lt. heaved a sigh of relief. Mala turned towards Irulan. “You handled yourself pretty well there, Jedi.” Her companion, Rom, merely gave a “hmmph” and shrugged his shoulders.

Page looked at Mala. “When are you ready to depart?”

“In about an hour or so,” she responded, standing to down a final gulp of her drink. “It should only take a few days to reach Nar Shadaa.”

Kami’atra walked towards the table, inwardly relieved at the peaceful way in which the situation had resolved itself. Together, the group made their way out of the cantina, blinking as they emerged into the bright Concord Dawn sunlight.

As they stepped out into the street, they suddenly heard a loud commotion to their left. Looking down the road, they saw the Death Watch members standing in a circle. In the center of the circle, kneeling on the ground, was a man. He appeared to be a simple merchant. As Kibur and the others watched, the soldiers took turns beating, kicking, and pummeling their victim.

“Answer yourself!” shouted one soldier, shoving the merchant’s face into the ground. “Why’d you beat up our boss?”

With this last question, he gave the merchant a particularly vicious punch to the sternum, causing him to groan in pain. “Please,” he said through clenched teeth, “Please – I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Irulan’s heart jerked within her. “Oh no . . .” she said softly. “This is all my fault.”

As she looked on in horror, the Lt. decided to take action. Moving forward, he knocked the first soldier’s blaster out of his hands. Then, before the surprised guard had a chance to react, Page shot him in the chest with his own weapon.

At this first sound of blasterfire, Irulan turned towards Kami’atra, apologetically. “I’m sorry, Kam . . . I tried. There’s no way out now.” With that, she charged into the group of Death Watch members, lightsaber drawn. She took a swing at the soldier closest to her, slashing him hard across the chest and the arm. The soldier staggered backwards, clutching his shoulder.

Kami’atra nodded at Irulan. Fighting to defend others was still considered honorable, something they both understood. Gauntlets flaring to life, he made a wide circle around the soldiers, and struck one with great force. The electricity shot through the man, causing him to reel backwards as violent tremors shook his body. He lay on the ground, stunned.

Kibur looked through narrowed eyes at their enemies. Moving swiftly around to one side of Kami’atra, he pulled out his blaster and aimed carefully. Another guard suddenly found himself receiving a blaster bolt to the chest.

The young initiate kicked the fallen merchant in the gut. “More of your friends, eh?” Enraged, the Lt. dropped his heavy blaster and drew his repeater, aiming straight at the initiate. All at once, he unloaded his weapon into the soldier, who dropped like a sack of rocks, pummeled with laser blaster-fire.

Meanwhile, the soldier nearest Irulan pulled a vibroblade from his thigh and thrust it at her stomach. But she smoothly slid to one side and avoided the blow. Irulan slashed back at him. This time, her blow severed the man’s arm from his body. The arm, together with his weapon, fell to the ground with a heavy clatter.

Looking towards Kami’atra, Irulan willed him to hear her thoughts. What are we doing, Kam? Should we kill them, or just stun them long enough for the merchant to escape?

Immediately, Kami’atra’s thoughts returned her way. Our priority is defending the merchant… He must not die for our transgressions. Irulan nodded her assent, understanding. You mean my transgressions, she thought to herself.

Looking back to the soldiers, Kami’atra drew his powerful Kami’ken. The blade sang in the air as he drove it, up to the hilt, into the soldier nearest him. The man slumped to the ground by the side of a building. At the same time, Kibur deftly climbed to the top of a large scrap heap, and rained down blasterfire upon the Death Watch from above. His shots went over the top of the group, but one pierced the armor of a soldier standing near the exterior of the circle.

Turning from the fallen enemy, Page paused for the briefest moment. Then, he turned his repeater to stun, before unloading on yet another target. The man dropped to the ground, plummeting face-first into the dirt.

In the meantime, one of the Death Watch guards had made his way down the street, unnoticed. But not completely unnoticed. As the guard turned back to survey the situation from a safe distance, Page shot at him, hitting him in the chest with fire from his repeater.

The group paused, surveying the scene. All of their enemies lay on the ground, incapacitated. As they were looking down, the soldier whom Kami’atra had stunned began to stir, and tried to raise himself to his feet. Irulan took a step towards him and, turning off her lightsaber, hit him in the back of the head. He dropped to the ground unconscious. Kibur grinned at Irulan, clearly pleased at this newfound talent of hers.

Finally, Mala broke the silence. “Well, while I certainly appreciate what you’ve done here, now just might be a good time to leave.” Page simply grinned at her. She and Rom began to head down the street, in the direction of their ship.

Kami’atra knelt to the ground, next to where the merchant lay, and closed his eyes in deep concentration. As his healing hands stretched over the merchant’s broken body, his bones began to knit themselves back together inside of him. Slowly, the man’s pain dissipated, replaced by a cool, soothing sensation which flooded his every limb.

“Thank you – thank you,” the merchant said earnestly. “Please – you must take me with you. I have earned the ire of the Death Watch.”

“You’ll be fine,” Page responded kindly. “As you can see, your problems have been taken care of.” The merchant looked around at the fallen bodies.

“You’re probably right. Thank you very much for your assistance.” Placing his shoulder under the merchant’s arm, Kami’atra slowly helped him to his feet, making sure he was steady and able to walk unassisted. Grasping Kami’atra’s hand, the merchant smiled warmly and once more expressed his thanks.

As he wandered off down the street, the group could hear him murmuring to himself. “I can’t imagine why they would’ve attacked me. What did I do?”

While following the rest of the crew back to Captain Mala’s ship, Irulan stopped Alan to address what had happened back in the cantina. “You told me to trust you and wait. Well I’ve waited and he’s dead now. I want to know what was going on back there.”

Hearing her request encouraged Page, but at the same time, saddened him. In the end, his actions had not, as he had intended, preserved the lives of both his crew and the young Death Watch members.

“You’re right,” said Page, taking a step back to address the whole team, who by this time had stopped to hear what he had to say. “We all heard Kami’atra warn us that the location might be compromised. After I mentioned my affiliation with the Republic to Mala, the initiate approached us. Something in his tone made me believe that he was looking to fight just about anyone. This, combined with the Death Watch’s historic hatred of the Republic, led me to believe that we were in danger.”

Pausing, he continued with a sigh. “Based on his brutality with the merchant, I don’t think I was far wrong. I had hoped that I could take advantage of his inexperience and scare him out of a fight, which is why I chose to take him down the way I did.”

Bringing his gaze to Irulan, Alan continued. “Irulan, based on what I knew, and know now, about the initiate, he was only looking to fight. He couldn’t be talked down or bargained with.” Feeling a slight warm breeze hit him through the courtyard, Alan breathed in deep and finished his explanation, looking earnestly at his friends. “I can’t ask any of you to agree with what happened, but thought it was my best option at the time.”

As the group approached Mala’s ship; they could see her emerge onto the ramp as they came near. “We’ll be ready in a few minutes. Best say your goodbyes now.” She disappeared again into the ship’s interior.

Kibur grasped Page’s hand firmly, then pulled him aside and whispered in his ear. “Don’t worry – I’ll take care of her.” In response, the Lt. squeezed his hand so tightly that Kibur’s fingers turned white.

“Either that or I’m coming after you.” As Page released his hand, Kibur grimaced, flexing his fingers.

“I don’t doubt it.” He turned to Kami’atra. “Goodbye old friend. We’ll see you again soon.”

“I have seen it. And I will deliver your message, as I promised.”

“I appreciate it,” said Kibur over his shoulder, as he made his way up the ramp and into the ship.

Irulan gave Page a quick hug goodbye, wishing him a safe journey. To Kami’atra, she said, “Farewell. Don’t forget my letter.” Inwardly she added, And, keep in touch.

“I won’t forget,” he said aloud. May the Force be with you.

As Irulan stepped up the ramp, Page suddenly grabbed her hand, stopping her. She turned towards him, and he reached in his pocket. When he pulled out his hand, he was holding a beautiful ruby-encrusted tortoiseshell comb.

Irulan’s eyes widened, and she very carefully fastened it firmly into her auburn hair. “Thank you – it’s beautiful.”

“It’s for luck,” he said with a smirk. She smiled at him in response, then followed Kibur inside the ship.

Turning, Kami’atra looked back to survey the scene. He tilted his head toward Page and sighed. “Maybe we should do something about all these bodies.”

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MarkMeredith

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