ISB Agent Kaila Ores investigates footage of a mining accident leaked by the rebel alliance. Meanwhile, Jedi Nile Chinelo and her partners Piani and Corana receive a priority transmission from Alliance fulcrum Ahsoka Tano.
ISB Agent Kaila Ores’s eyes narrowed as she looked at the five miners sitting at the table in front of her. They had neither heard nor understood her question. She asked again.
“Someone in this facility leaked footage of the mine collapse and tagged it with other materials about dangerous working conditions. Which one of you did it?”
Now the five men started drumming their fingers on the table or their arms. They glanced at one another, the ceiling, at anything other than the twenty-something ISB agent hitting each of them with an expectant gaze.
Standing next to said agent, the mining facility’s foreman Ton Billix shuffled his feet.
Kaila glanced at her two ISB security troopers standing behind her. They appeared aloof, but their hands were on their blasters. They could react at a moment’s notice should violence break out.
The ISB agent surveyed this way station area of the mine shaft. It was a confined space, established as a place for miners to rest and refuel. There was one way in from the main shaft. An opposite entrance led deeper into this particular offshoot shaft.
Beyond the exits, one could hear the stirrings of the mining operation.
Billix had allowed Kaila to clear the area for her interrogation. Her agents, Billix and the five men at the table were the only people here.
Kaila closed her eyes and rubbed her temple with two fingers. To the men, it would look as if she was gathering her patience. Kaila actually listened for those unspoken whispers she mysteriously could hear.
To her satisfaction, she learned what she needed to know.
“Dorset Jafan,” Kaila said, looking directly at the man seated furthest away from her. “You had access to the computer database through a slicing device you had smuggled aboard in the last incoming shipment.”
Jafan pulled back on his red dreadlocks, revealing a relatively handsome face covered in the usual grime from working in the mines.
Like the other men, he was in his middle years but maintained the muscular physique suited for his profession.
One of the other men stood defiantly. “What proof have you of that?” he asked.
The ISB troopers leveled their guns at the defiant man. Kaila signaled with her hand for her men to hold their position. To his credit, the miner didn’t flinch when he had two blaster rifles pointed at him.
Kaila took a moment to think. She couldn’t reveal her ability to hear Jafan’s thoughts, mainly because she couldn’t explain how she’d done it.
ISB agents had the discretion to push to the limit of the law, but “hearing voices” was inadmissible in any Imperial court.
Her ability would also draw undue attention from darker elements within the Empire.
Thinking quickly, Kaila said, “A facility at which men are left for months at a time is ripe for smuggling illicit contraband.”
To Billix, Kaia said, “There will be a full inquiry into that too.”
Billix rubbed the back of his hand as if that were enough to wash them of the trouble his men had handed him.
Kaila didn’t know if there really was a smuggling problem at the facility. It was a moot point as long as the other men believed there was and that it’d be found out.
Kaila now addressed the miners. “You are all here because you each had access to the point of transmission. Either Jafan acted alone…”
The agent let her words trail off, the implication clearly in the air. She would allow the men to decide how she’d get the information she needed.
The miners looked to one another.
Suddenly, a third man, this one with a scar across his forehead that ran to the middle of his nose, charged at Kaila. It was his last mistake. One of the ISB troopers blasted the scarred man clear in the chest.
The stunned miner tumbled back into one of his coworkers.
The miner who had challenged Kaila moved to attack. Her other trooper shot him down.
In the flurry of activity, Jafan raced for the exit that led deeper into the mine shaft.
“Handle this riff-raff!” Kaila ordered her troopers. “Jafan is mine!”
Corana and Piani sat at a table in the Bevryder’s community living area. Jedi Nile Chinelo sat with them.
A blue hologram of a togruta female in her mid-thirties played in front of them. Its image flickered in and out, a sign of the encrypted channel on which it hit the ship’s com sensors.
“It’s good to hear from you Ahsoka,” Nile said to the image.
“As it is you, Master Chinelo,” the togruta Ahsoka Tano responded.
The pair had last met seven years ago. Nile was in the Outer Rim territories acting as a lone vigilante against the Empire. To remain hidden from the Empire, she rarely used her power to manipulate the Force.
However, even her minor uses were enough to get noticed.
Thankfully Ahsoka had found her first. The fledgling Rebel Alliance had sent Ahsoka to investigate the vigilante activity.
Having met a much younger Ahsoka during the Clone Wars, the pair had rekindled their relationship by discussing their time spent as Jedi. Ahsoka had then convinced Nile to join the Alliance as one of their fulcrum agents.
“And nice to finally meet our latest recruits, Corana and Piani as well. I’ve heard many good things about you ladies, particularly that incident on Ceti Alpha Five.”
Corana squirmed in her seat. “That was mostly luck,” she said.
“If you call your piloting skills luck, then yes,” Piani said.
“You were doing pretty well with the turret,” Corana said. “Gave me time.”
“I’m glad you escaped so we could find you,” Ahsoka said. “You did a great deal of good for the people there.”
Ahsoka’s expression darkened. The ladies of the Bevryder realized the gravity of the conversation and became equally grim.
Nile gave their feelings voice. “This isn’t a social call, is it, Ahsoka?”
Ahsoka gave a slight smile and shook her head. “As is the way with the rebellion against the Empire,” the former Jedi said. Looking at the women, she continued.
“We have an emergency. Normally I would handle it, but I’m preoccupied in the Mid-Rim. Talking with Senator Organa, we felt you three would be best suited for the job.”
“Why do I have a feeling this ‘job’ isn’t going to be easy?” Corana asked.
“Is it ever?” Ahsoka asked.
Corana shrugged, which made her wince. Piani started to get up to help her mentor, but Corana’s pain quickly subsided. The twi’lek remained in her seat.
Shaking off the minor pain, Corana said, “Togruta’s got a point.”
Piani said, “We’ve transferred the data on the foodstuffs from Teth. We were headed to Ardois, but I guess that’s going to change?”
“Yes,” Ahsoka replied. “You’ll be setting a course for Naboo.”
Corana bolted upright in her chair, ignoring the pain the sudden action brought with it. “You want us to go to Emperor Palpatine’s home away from Coruscant? We supposed to bring a housewarming gift signed ‘the rebels?’”
Nile placed a calming hand on Corana’s shoulder. “You’ll have to excuse Corana,” she said. “We encountered an inquisitor on Teth. That’s frightening enough for a Jedi. For a non-Force user —”
“One who got Force fried by said inquisitor!” Corana added.
“May I ask which one?” Ahsoka asked, concern heavy in her voice.
Nile said, “Her head was half shaven, with a mane of red hair pulled to one side.”
Ahsoka lowered her head. “Leeta Greyhelm,” she said with disappointment. “She usually plays second to another inquisitor, Ravager.”
“Great name,” Corana said. “Nothing scary there.”
Piani allowed a slight smile at Corana’s ability to maintain her humor in a dark situation.
“If Greyhelm is on solo missions now, she must have become more powerful,” Ahsoka warned. She shook her head and looked back to the three women on the Bevryder.
“You got away mostly unharmed. We’ll take that as a win and worry about her later.”
“So what is the mission on Naboo?” Nile asked. Motioning to Corana and Piani, she added, “And why us three?”
Ahsoka took a breath. “We have reason to believe there is a Force-sensitive on Naboo.”
Nile suddenly grasped the edge of the table with the hologram projector in its center. Corana and Piani exchanged glances.
“Does this mean she could be a Jedi, like Nile?” Piani asked.
“We’d be lucky if it did,” Ahsoka said. “Master Nile is one of the few Jedi who understood when to bend the constraints of the Order’s high and mighty code.”
“Which Master Yoda continually chided me for,” Nile said. “And for the record, Ahsoka, what they did to you was wrong.”
“And a thing of the past,” Ahsoka said.
Corana looked expectantly at Nile, but the elder Jedi motioned for her to hold her question. Corana slumped in her seat.
“So this Force-sensitive,” Piani began. “Either way, we need to get them before the Empire does, huh?”
“Piggybacked on this transmission is all the data we have on the Force-sensitive,” Ahsoka said. “Go through it, come up with —”
Nile suddenly stood and paced a distance away from the hologram projection. Her shipmates looked after her. Ahsoka was the one to call Nile into question.
“Is there a problem, Master Chinelo?” she asked.
Nile remained silent for a moment. Slowly turning to face the others, she said, “I can’t do this, Ahsoka.”
The younger former Jedi blinked. “Master…” She let her words trail away. “You’re thinking of Kanto.”
Nile’s head lowered. Piani looked to Corana. The Pantoran pilot shrugged.
“Gotta ask who that is,” Corana said.
Ahsoka’s reply was to look to Nile. Piani and Corana followed her gaze. The Jedi remained with her back to the others; her shoulders slumped beneath her brown robes.
Nile could feel the other women’s stares. “Kanto was my padawan during the Clone Wars,” she said in a faint voice. “He didn’t survive Order 66.”
To be continued…