Shadie and Knarf stood before the Jedi Masters in the Council chamber. Master Shargal stared at her for a long time. Master Herl’unik was looking over his datapad.
‘There have been no known Jedi to have gone into exile in recent years,’ said Master Herl’unik. ‘Fane is the most recent, and Master Vorum was the last before him, and that was a long time ago.’
‘The man on the other end of the call identified himself as a friend,’ said Shadie. ‘I assumed that meant he was a Jedi. He asked questions about Kromus, about Darth Gourd, he wanted to know what had been going on in the Empire.’
‘Maybe he’s just a friend for now because we share a common enemy?’ suggested Knarf.
‘He sounded, I don’t know.’
‘And you didn’t recognise his voice?’ asked Master Herl’unik.
‘No,’ said Shadie. He sounded old, and as though he was purposely altering his voice a little, just like I was while speaking to him.
‘He must have known Kromus,’ said Master Shargal at last. ‘Which means he must be Sith.’
‘The Sith want me dead,’ said Shadie. ‘They yearned for my defeat even before they joined forces with the True Sith. I highly doubt this would be anyone I knew on Korriban. Most of the Sith who opposed Kromus have been killed by him or by other Sith.’ Shadie paused briefly. ‘Or by me.’
‘Then someone who had dealings with Kromus,’ said Knarf, ‘caught in the middle of a war he didn’t want to be in.’
‘What makes you certain this person is in exile?’ asked Master Herl’unik, ‘could he not simply be on a secluded planet, stranded, or even…’
‘We must not speak of that place,’ Master Shargal reminded Master Herl’unik, interrupting quickly.
‘I know about Belsavis,’ said Shadie. ‘Mandalore knew of it. I don’t know what it is exactly that leads me to believe he’s in exile, but the man on the mysterious call sounded as though he’d been away from everything for quite some time. It’s the vibe I got in the Force.’
‘Knarf, what did you sense from the call?’ asked Master Shargal.
Knarf shrugged. ‘I’m not sure. I didn’t sense any ill intent, if that’s what you mean, but my senses aren’t yet attuned well enough to sense a being via comlink or holocall, even if they’re on the same planet as I am. So imagine someone who’s far away, maybe even at the other end of the galaxy.’
‘ You would have had to hear him for yourself,’ said Shadie.
‘Can you call him?’ asked Master Herl’unik.
Shadie shook her head. ‘I tried. Looks like this special comlink is one way only. Our friend is untraceable.’
‘I linked my datapad to the device,’ said Knarf. ‘I could only record the call, but when I went to listen to it on my datapad, all I got was static. I tried slicing through the encryption, but I’ve not been able to. I think the file is corrupted.’
‘That says a lot about this device and the person’s desire to remain anonymous and hidden,’ said Master Herl’unik, ‘if the best slicer in the galaxy, who manages to slice through every single new sliced system, code and program that Darth Perce, the second best slicer in the galaxy, throws at him, cannot even slice through this.’ Knarf nodded agreement.
‘Who else was there to listen to the recording, who could offer an assessment of the situation?’ asked Master Quar’zun.
‘Talyc was present. Zaereg was nearby.’ Shadie paused. If Fane had been there, he could have helped her, he was devoted to problem solving, and she could use his expertise right now. ‘All they could say was that they were a bit creeped out by the situation, and that it seemed the person was covering his tracks very well.’
‘And you know how Mandalorians and pirates operate,’ said Knarf. ‘If a Jedi, a slicer, a pirate, and a Mandalorian all agree on something, then it must be accurate.’
‘And what is it you all agree on?’ asked Master Shargal.
‘Exactly what you’ve concluded,’ said Knarf.
Before he could continue, there was a chime from the special comlink.
‘He’s calling,’ said Shadie.
‘Answer it!’ Master Herl’unik said eagerly.
‘Yes,’ said Shadie, taking the call.
‘I have meditated,’ came the voice. ‘I am sending you coordinates, as a show of good faith. There you will find something that should prove I am true to my word when I say that for now, I am your friend.’
‘Thank you, I think,’ said Shadie. ‘What will I find?’
‘Something Kromus kept from you.’
‘Did you know Kromus well?’
‘That is of little import,’ replied the man on the other side of the call. His tone was surprisingly warm, and almost comforting.
‘Are you Chiss?’ asked Shadie.
‘This comlink-datapad that I hold is of Chiss design.’
‘I acquired the information I needed to reach this line, this comlink, which you hold and now possess. I bear no relation or connection to its designer.’
‘I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be rude. I just have so many questions.’
‘Which will be answered in due time. Right now, you need proof that you can trust me. I have provided it.’
‘We’ll see about that trust once I find what lies at the coordinates you sent me,’ said Shadie. ‘You needed to reach Kromus, which means you knew him. Why would you need to reach Kromus, and why would you need to be informed about the goings on in the Empire? It sounds as though you’ve been in exile.’
Shadie thought she heard the man chuckle. ‘I was not aware that this line was directly connected to Kromus. I knew it belonged to someone on his ship. As for who I have been trying to reach, I thought I had made that perfectly clear in the very first question I asked you.’ He paused briefly. ‘We will speak again, Jedi Shadie.’ He chimed off.
‘Wait!’ Shadie closed her eyes, feeling frustrated, and sighed. She looked up. Master Herl’unik had his forehead creased. ‘What?’
‘You were a little on the eager and aggressive side,’ he said calmly. ‘I think your friend may have been a little put off by your boldness.’
‘Sorry, I’m not the best detective,’ she admitted.
Master Herl’unik smiled. ‘You’re right though, there is something in his voice that sounds as though he could be a Jedi, a friend, someone who once knew much.’
‘What was his first question to you?’ asked Master Shargal.
‘He asked me if I was Darth Shadie,’ said Shadie.
‘That means he hasn’t been trying to reach Kromus at all,’ said Knarf. ‘All this time, he’s been trying to reach you.’
‘Me? I don’t understand why,’ said Shadie.
‘He must have thought you were with Kromus or on his ship,’ said Master Quar’zun. ‘Or hoped you had retrieved Kromus’s belongings.’
‘Do you trust that his word is true and the coordinates he sent do not lead into a trap?’ asked Master Herl’unik.
Shadie looked down at the datapad. There was a series of coordinates. She checked them on her datapad.
‘These coordinates lead to Hutt Space,’ she said. ‘To Nal Hutta.’
‘At least it doesn’t lead us to Dromund Kaas or Korriban,’ said Knarf.
‘Then you know what you must do, Master Eidahs,’ said Master Herl’unik.
Perhaps you’ll also enjoy Stardust Destinies I: Variate Facing; fantasy action-adventure taking place in a realm strong with magic where prophecies are dictated by dragons. https://binkyproductions.com/stardustdestinies