Tangled Webs

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Re: Tangled Webs

Post by Cadden »

The first thing he heard when he came to was voices, muffled behind a wall or a door. Or, perhaps, it was because his senses were not fully restored, yet. Whatever the case, he let out a quiet groan and allowed himself the time to recollect his senses. I'm not dead, he then realized. It still hurt, though, the wound, and Lillian's patch job, he noticed. But how was it he was still alive? By all accounts, I should be dead. Cadden slowly opened his eyes, his vision was still blurry but he was able to quickly discern he was no longer in the computer room. "Lillian," he managed to mutter, but nobody answered. Cadden slowly reached back and, carefully, touched his wound. The stiching was still there and he could feel where the knife penetrated, but when he looked at his hand there was nothing. The bleeding stopped. But he wasn't conscious long enough to fully apply the healing technique.

Cadden eased himself up, slowly but carefully. His senses were coming to, and he was finally able to figure out where he was. A holding cell, he noted. They detained me knowing I was still alive. He looked around, groggily, and noted he was alone. Cadden attempted to focus, though he found the task difficult. Question is, though, why? Unless.… He wondered if Lillian had escaped and followed his command. He didn't know how long he was out, so it was even possible she'd be halfway across the galaxy, by now. Perhaps they needed him alive in order to learn where she was? Or maybe they were hoping to learn from him what they couldn't from her?

The muffled voices were getting louder, he realized. Cadden glanced around and noted the camera in the corner of the room, far out of reach. They were watching him, and now it was time for the interrogation. Cadden watched in silence as the door opened, and two heavily armed and armored men walked in, blasters pointed at him, no doubt ready to shoot to kill, if need be. Cadden frowned as they approached.

"Do yourself a favor," one of them said through the distorted comm of his helmet, "don't talk, and don't fight. This will go much better for you."

If, by "better," you mean my pain won't be as intense, he thought bitterly. The notion must have shown on his face, as the other knocked him in the gut with the stock of his rifle. Cadden was winded, but he didn't give the man the satisfaction of submitting. You'll pay for that, he thought as he straightened up.

He was lead to a large room, and shoved in the middle. Cadden nearly lost his balance, but managed to regain his footing at the last second. His hands were bound, making the task a bit more difficult, but it was not outside the realm of possibility to escape his captivity. While he was sorely lacking in weaponry on his person, there were at least two blaster rifles he could attain before a single shot would be fired. Cadden glanced around, attempting to ascertain the situation. He wondered how much they knew, if they were aware he had command over the Force, if they knew who he even was. Or would it even matter to them? he wondered. If the Triad was half as good as he'd learned them to be, then likely they had a contingency plan in place if they were to suddenly discover they've misjudged their new prisoner.

"We're going to make this rather simple," a voice said from the darkness, and a green-skinned Twi'lek stepped forward, knife in hand. He was well-built, for his species, but fully recovered Cadden could easily overwhelm him all the same. The alien sported a suit of light armor, much like that which they had gone up against back on Nar Shaddaa.

One of Kroda's thugs, he mused. Cadden frowned as the Twi'lek approached him and eased the knife against his throat. But he didn't say anything, or react. While Cadden was confident he'd be able to take him down, he'd have some trouble with the rest of the armed men in the room in his current state.

"You give us what we want," he Twi'lek continued, "and I'll ensure your death is quick and painless. You resist, and I guarantee you will be begging for a quick end within an hour." He grinned, baring his pointed teeth. "Lay one finger on me, and, well..." He nodded to the shadows and the lights came on. Cadden squinted, but his eyes were quick to adjust, and he followed the Twi'lek's attention to an individual bound to a chair. "She loses the offending body part," he continued as the sack was lifted to reveal Lillian, gagged.

Cadden tensed, his anger flared at the sight. The Twi'lek grinned again. "So," he said calmly, "shall we begin?"

Cadden curled his hands into fists and, a split second later, the binders were unlocked. "You're dead," he muttered. "All of you." Before the Twi'lek could move, Cadden was already reaching up and grabbing his wrists. He broke both with ease, letting the knife drop to the floor. The armed guards aimed their blasters, but Cadden was already moving, using the Force to enhance his speed and reflexes. He delivered a powerful punch to one guard's helmet, the Force augmenting his strength, and picked up his falling blaster rifle. He turned and fired a volley into the other, sending him sprawling to the floor. Cadden aimed and squeezed the trigger once, putting a single blaster bolt into the Twi'lek's head, before discarding the rifle and approaching his lifeless corpse. He snatched up the knife and walked toward Lillian, wincing in pain from his wound from earlier.

The door slid open before he could reach her. In came several armed and armored men, many with blasters but a few with melee weaponry. They mean to end me slowly, if they have their way, he thought. Likely while watching them kill Lillian, as well, he'd wager. Cadden wiped the sweat from his face with his forearm before calling the blaster rifle back to his hands. Both came, this time.

The first bolt caught him in the shoulder, and he winced in pain as the second hit him in the side, but he still stood and returned fire, scattering the men from their positions. Cadden had to keep a careful eye on the those with the melee weapons while remaining in the firefight. He gambled they'd rather subdue him, first, and deal with her after, especially as he posed the greater immediate threat, and so he clumsily scrambled for his own cover behind a nearby table. He grunted as he sat himself against it, and carefully ran his hand along his back. His fingers came back bloody. Focusing, he took a deep breath and removed himself from his cover, taking careful aim and firing at each of the aggressors. Some shots found their mark, but few of those counted. He frowned. One of the men with a vibrosword was unaccounted for. Cadden turned just as the man brought the weapon down on him, and he used the rifle to deflect the attack. He brought the stock around and shoved it into the man's gut, then jerked it up into his jaw, before dropping to the floor along with his assailant. He'd barely missed being downed by the incoming fire.

Cadden arose from his cover and took aim at two exposed gunmen. While their armor was thick, it wasn't impenetrable and Cadden was able to find a weak point along the neckline, though his enemies made it rather difficult to exploit. He managed to down one of the two, but the other was too fast for him to take down and Cadden had to force himself back into his quickly failing cover. He took a deep breath and thought about Lillian's situation for a second, before he made his decision and arose once more. He aimed and, with the aid of the Force, fired four well-placed shots, two hitting ranged enemies and two disabling melee ones. Another group of individuals appeared, this time those wearing the familiar light armor of the man that attempted to gut him before everything went south. They were all bearing a form of melee weapon, be it vibroknives, swords, batons, or even what appeared to be shock gloves. Cadden quickly, yet haphazardly, disposed of the final marksman before being forced to discard the blaster rifle. The new arrivals were faster than the first wave, and far more agile. Even with the Force, he could not land any decent shots on them, and they were closing the gap far too quickly for him to risk fighting them with the nearly depleted weapon any longer. He turned and swooped up the vibrosword from the man who managed to get close to him and turned just in time to barely deflect an incoming attack. He felt a lash in his side and, grunting in pain, he swung where it came from, only to miss the man. His senses were either dulled or unreliable, but they were all he had at the moment.

A shock glove impacted against his back, opposite the wound from earlier, causing Cadden to lurch forward in response. He allowed the Force to flow through him and he lodged his sword back behind him, hearing it tear through the armor of one of his assailants. The sword fell with the man, lodged too tightly in his armor, and Cadden had to rely on unarmed combat against the remaining half dozen men upon him. He managed to dodge out of the way of an incoming knife blow, only to be cut by another. Another glove impacted against his ribcage, and another slash ran across his back while a knife scraped his chest along his ribs. He managed to disarm one of the knife wielders and drive the blade into his neck, but at the cost of a deep stab wound in his side, right above his hip, from the other. Cadden buckled, but managed to bring his hands up to grab one of the sword wielder's wrist before he could land a killing blow. The man was powerful, stronger than Cadden would have thought, and soon he was falling face first onto the floor from another shock glove impact.

Cadden rolled just as the vibrosword came down on him, leaving blood where he had collapsed. He was growing fatigued, and knew he couldn't keep this up much longer, even with the Force. What good it was doing him. He could not sense a connection between the Force and his enemies, yet they were much faster, stronger, and resilient than they should have been. He would have thought that, maybe, his feelings for Lillian had ended up clouding his senses and judgment, but up until now he had a handle on both.

A boot impacted hard against his side, and he felt a couple of his ribs crack. He grunted loudly and tried to push himself up to his feet, but soon found himself unable. A new man appeared above him, sporting what appeared to be Coynite battle armor, and a grey cape. In his hands was an activated electrostaff. The man rolled Cadden over on his back and pressed his boot against Cadden's chest, keeping him down on the floor, the staff just centimeters away from his head.

"Do it," Cadden muttered.

An explosion averted the man's attention and a spray of laserfire sent him sprawling away. Cadden looked over at the direction from which it hailed as Dahdtoudi came into view and took aim, firing at the men in the room. Some tried to respond in kind, but were easily outmatched by the bounty hunter in his heavy armor. Once the room was clear Dahdtoudi popped a blade from his gauntlet and cut Lillian free. She ungagged herself and ran to Cadden, kneeling by his side.

"Cadden," she whispered. "I thought I'd lost you."

Cadden grunted as he tried, and failed miserably, to rise. "I'm... I'm okay," he managed.

"No, you're not." She carefully lifted Cadden, though found it difficult to do without inciting pain. Dahdtoudi helped as he could. "We need to get you out of here," she said.

"My lightsabers," Cadden realized.

"I hid them before they could take us," she said. That explained their ignorance over his ability to use the Force, at least.

Cadden looked at Dahdtoudi. "Took you long enough," he managed, offering a weak grin.

"Maybe if you waited, like we agreed," Dahdtoudi retorted. He looked in the direction of their escape plan and nodded. "I've paved a way through the building. We'll pick up your lightsabers on the way out. Where did you hide them?"

"A control room of some sort, near the east entrance," Lillian said. Dahdtoudi led them through the processing plant until they happened upon the designated room. Lillian went over to one of the terminals and removed its maintenance cover to reveal the two lightsabers. She clipped them back on Cadden's belt. "Let's get out of here," she said.

Cadden shook his head. "No," he objected weakly. "We need to disable the operation, here. It's the only way we can see this to an end."

"You're in no condition to fight," Lillian said, "and I'm not going to leave you."

"I'll deal with it," Dahdtoudi said. "Just get out of here."

"We need to know where they're holding the formula for the Chronic," Cadden said. "We get that, and we end this."

Dahdtoudi just nodded and turned back into the facility. Lillian helped Cadden out of the building and toward the spaceport where Zartok and the Pursuer II waited. As they approached the ship, the door atop the boarding ramp slid open and Zartok proceeded toward them to retrieve Cadden.

"Is he all right?" Zartok asked.

Before Lillian could respond, Cadden found the strength to pin the Zabrak against the ship's fuselage with his good arm, his forearm pressed against Zartok's neck in a choke hold. "No," he said quietly, "I'm not."

"Cadden!" Lillian called from behind. "What are you doing?"

"How long?" he asked Zartok, ignoring her. The Zabrak didn't respond. "How long have you been under the Triad's thumb?" he continued through gritted teeth.

"I don't know what…" Zartok started, but gagged for air when Cadden increased the pressure against his throat.

"Wrong answer," Cadden said. "You've been supplying them with information from day one. How else did they know who Dahdtoudi was on Nar Shaddaa, to escape the facilities we've raided since? How else could they have possibly known we were here?" Cadden narrowed his eyes. He ignored the pain searing through his body. All it would take for Zartok to take him, in his current situation, was a well-placed blow to any of his injuries. But he wasn't going to let the Zabrak know that. For all he knew, Cadden was merely a bit rattled. "They knew we were coming, and all the evidence points to someone on the inside feeding them information. You."

Zartok shook his head. "No," he said, but Cadden could sense the lie through the Force, and pushed his arm deeper into his throat, sneering at the Zabrak. He gasped heavily and frantically for air. "Shortly... Shortly after... Kaldone," he said between gags of breath. "About… a month... after." He gasped, trying to catch his breath enough to continue. "They... They activated me... and had me... tag along... with you. Gain... your trust."

"Why?" he demanded. He put a little more pressure on Zartok's throat. Much more and I'll crush it, he thought.

Zartok gasped again. "Experiment," he managed. "Test... Test the Chronic."

Cadden frowned. They knew. Because of him. They knew all along who they were fighting, and that Cadden could control the Force. And he gave them the results they were looking for. It all feel together, just like that. Not only was information on the Chronic compromised, but they also discovered they found a suitable weapon against the Jedi. Kill two birds with one stone. Stage the destruction of the drug, successfully test it against someone with command over the Force. And all three of them gave them exactly what they wanted.

He sneered at Zartok and looked at Lillian, who was giving him a very disapproving look in return, before he returned his attention to the Zabrak. "Pray I don't ever see you again," he said and let go of the hold. He threw Zartok away from the Pursuer II. "Get out of my sight. Now." Zartok hesitated a moment, grasping at his throat for air, before he scrambled to his feet and bolted away. Cadden proceeded toward the ship, and gripped his side, wincing in pain, stumbling onboard. Lillian rushed to assist him, and took him to the cargo hold, where 2X-RX remained. Cadden wondered if the Zabrak rigged the droid in case of such an event, but dismissed the notion, as he'd need some kind of professional medical attention, and getting any anywhere else than there would be suicide.

"2X," he said, wincing as he laid on the table, "diagnosis."

The droid ran its scanner across Cadden's body. "Three broken ribs on your left, two on your right," it started. "There is a fracture on your left arm, and several cuts and bruises if varying degrees of severity along your body. While partially healed, what appears to be a knife wound in your back barely missed your kidney, and another missing your colon by a couple centimeters, at best. All things considered, sir, it's amazing you are still alive. You have lost a lot of blood."

"Patch me up," he said. He looked at Lillian. "Secure the ship. No one is to enter or leave until this is over. Not even Dahdtoudi. If the Triad comes poking about, you're to get us off this rock and out of danger."

Lillian nodded. "Get better," she said and, to Cadden's surprise, she leaned over and kissed him on the forehead. Cadden watched her leave and averted his attention to the 2-1B droid as it applied a sanitary pad to his arm and found a suitable vein. The needle went in and, a couple minutes later, Cadden's eyes drifted shut.

It seemed only an instant later when his eyes opened again, and after a few seconds of recovery from the anesthetic he assessed his surroundings. Lillian was nearby and approached when she saw him come to.

"Your wounds..." she said slowly as she looked over the cuts, bruises, and lacerations around Cadden's torso. He had gone through quite the beating to get her out of that mess, and her concern over his status was more than just sympathy.

Cadden winced in pain as he sat up in the bed. It took some effort, and the droid protested, but Cadden was a stubborn man and did it all the same. "I'm alright," he grunted. Though to be fair, Cadden had his doubts he would have made it out of there alive, if it weren't for Dahdtoudi's intervention.

"You push yourself too far," she said, applying medical ointment to the various wounds the droid did not treat, those that surgical intervention did not require.

"And yet I live."

She stopped and looked directly in his eyes, her concern easily readable. "For how long?" she inquired. Her voice betrayed her, and it didn't take using the Force for Cadden to know how she felt.

"As long as it takes," Cadden said matter-of-factly.

She paused a moment, the silence hard to read. Though it felt uncomfortable to Cadden, and he started to regret his answer, there was an air of security with her he hadn't felt before. "Then kill them all," she finally said.

Cadden looked directly in her eyes. "For you."
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Re: Tangled Webs

Post by Cadden »

Two Weeks Ago

Dahdtoudi narrowed his eyes as more of Kroda's thugs appeared before him. He had taken down a good dozen while chasing Baloran down, and this delay cost him dearly. It was unlikely he'd be able to catch up with the Twi'lek, now, and with this additional delay the trail would go cold. He fired several shots at the new entourage as he worked himself behind a corner in the tight cooridor. The shots took out the three men unfortunate to lead the charge, but there were still more behind them and, while the space to maneuver was small, they had the advantage of numbers.

Two more men walked over their now-dead comrades and took potshots at Dahdtoudi whenever he looked around his cover. He couldn't get a good shot in, so he had to resort to firing blindly, taking quick shots with little time to aim as they quickly filled the gap to reach him. He cursed under his breath and took a deep breath before swinging around the corner and firing another round at the thugs. One of them fell to the floor, but the other nearly hit him as he swung back around. The only way out, it seemed, would be back the way he came, and he suspected they were going to come down on him pretty hard from all directions in little time. Dahdtoudi gritted his teeth. Three, two, one...

He rounded the corner and immediately ducked to avoid the inevitable blaster fire, and lunged forward, throwing his weight into the man and using him as a human shield against the blasterfire that would have come from behind him. He continued to move forward as he listened to the sound of blasters pelting the man's armor and, after a couple seconds, the man's body loosened. Dahdtoudi used the momentum he gained from his charge to drive the human shield back a couple more meters before he lost the makeshift barrier between him and the others. He was already unholstering his blaster pistol as the body collapsed to the floor, and he took a few clean shots to down the rest of the men in the cooridor. Dahdtoudi continued forward, through the door at the end of the hall. He found himself looking at the exit, and a handful of Kroda's thugs in position, waiting for him. He sighed and threw his hands up.

"You're in my way," he said plainly. When no one answered or moved, he merely shrugged and pressed the button on the detonator in his hand. The explosion created an opening and sent the men flying away from the makeshift door. Dahdtoudi scooped up his blaster and darted out of the building. He got his bearings and made his way to the Praetor and, before long, he was breaking atmosphere and settling in orbit. Nearly an hour later he noticed he was being hailed. Blackthorne, he noticed, and it wasn't long until the two ships met up.

They had decided on their plan of attack: Cadden would lead the charge to destroy the source while Dahdtoudi branched off and went to ruin their smuggling and distribution operations. It was the best course of action, both knew, and he was already plotting his next move as Blackthorne and Lillian left his ship. Baloran had escaped him, and Dahdtoudi wasn't about to go on a wild bantha chase, now. He got some additional information that would get them where they needed to be, just as well, instead. All the better if he could track down Baloran, but Dahdtoudi no longer had any leads to go by to find him again. In time, he figured.

All Dahdtoudi could do, then, was press on. If he happened upon Baloran at a later time, he'd bag him then. In the meanwhile, it was better he focused on the objectives at hand. The ship lurched forward into hyperspace, enroute to Tholatin, a rocky world littered with canyons, but his information told him the Chronic was smuggled directly to the world to be distributed even further by other smuggling operatives. Whether they were under Kroda's, or the Triad's, direct employ, Dahdtoudi couldn't say, but it was the best, and only, lead he had. He knew he couldn't just wage war on a group of smugglers, however. The Triad, he now knew, was running this from beginning to end. He would have to chase them, follow them to their end destination. If there was an opportunity to put an end to the operation, he would take it, but only if it didn't compromise the end result of this hunt.

The ship dropped out of lightspeed in the Tholatin system with no fuss. Dahdtoudi immediately got to work on the scanners, looking for unusual activity both on and around the planet. Traffic was scarce, but for a split second there was an anomaly in the scans on the surface. It could have been nothing, he knew, but in this hunt anything could have counted as something. He brought the Praetor down to the surface, touching the ship down some few kilometers away from the marked anomaly. There wasn't anything, that he could tell, along the rocky terrain that could have triggered it, but it was a kilometer or two due east in a canyon. And, possibly, even an an entrance to a hideout. He could only be so lucky, but perhaps, after all they've gone through thus far, it was about time for some good fortune to come his way.

He trekked to the cliffside and peered down into the rocky abyss with a look of uneasy disgust. There didn't seem to be any easy way down, which either meant he hit a dead end or he'd need a different approach. Dahdtoudi propped himself against a rock and contemplated his situation a moment. He picked up a nearby stone and threw it over the canyon in frustration. There was an echo as it hit once, twice, but the third time was different. That was metal. He got back up and looked over the ledge once more. There, about twenty meters down. A… cloaking device... ? he thought. Not only was the technology rare and expensive, but he never heard of it being applied to a facility. Dahdtoudi secured the tether to the rocky surface and tested its weight threshold before climbing over the cliffside and working his way down. Soon he was touching his boot to metal, though he was uncertain of where he would go from there. A single ship soon appeared a few meters down and maneuvered down the canyon and out of sight. That was his way in.

Careful with each step, he worked his way to the point which the ship had appeared and climbed over the ledge, searching for footholds in the rocky surface next to the invisible structure until he found another metallic surface. He looked over his shoulder and saw a large reinforced door to the small hangar. There was no getting in that way. But there was a thin, purposely built catwalk, running along the side of the structure, which told him that a maintenance door was somewhere nearby. He was correct, and was soon inside the complex's maintenance cooridor adjacent to the concealed hangar. Unless there was an alternate way back to the surface, Dahdtoudi would have to make it a point to disable the hangar's cloaking to make his escape. He produced his blaster pistol from its holster as he approached the entrance to the main facility.

The door slid open and he found a largely empty hangar bay. A technician of some sort was working on the other side, accompanied by a utility droid, but their backs were to him and too far away to hear the door open. He didn't want to bring attention to himself, but he wagered the hangar was likely the largest room in the underground structure. Which wasn't saying much, he knew, barely being big enough to house two small freighters at a time. This would require him to alter his tactics, Dahdtoudi figured. He wagered there were maybe a dozen or two total occupants, here, which made for more than favorable odds for him if a fight were to break loose. Not that he was hoping for one. Smugglers had a tendency to pack up operations and flat out dissappear when discovered, and Dahdtoudi had no desire to try to pick up their trail if that were to happen. It'd likely be easier to just storm Kroda's palace on Nar Shaddaa, he mused.

Dahdtoudi moved through an adjacent door and made his way down the short hallway to the joining door. He sighed when it opened, as a half-dozen men turned to see who was entering. "Go figure," he muttered and shot the first two in the chest before ducking behind a terminal to avoid the return fire. He'd have to move quick and subdue them before they could get word out he was there. He came out of his cover and shot down three of the four others, but the last man had just scrambled through the other door. "Perfect," he said sarcastically, and took off after him. The door opened for him and he stopped, sneering. There were two other doors to choose from. Judging by the way he came in, one lead back toward the hangar. The other, he could only guess, took him deeper into the facility, though by how far he couldn't say. It could be as small as I initially thought, or an underground fortress, he thought. Each second spent, however was one second less he had to prevent the rest of the facility from learning his presence. Not that it mattered much in the long haul. The second someone learned of what transpired there, the smuggling operation would flat out dissappear. He decided to take his chances and cut his losses, and so took the turn deeper into the facility. The room was small, and empty. And worthless. He proceeded through the other door to see three others frantically packing what they could. Dahdtoudi fired three shots, all hitting their marks, and shoved one of the limp bodies off a terminal. Jackpot, he thought.

Dahdtoudi gathered all the information he could before the door opened and in ran a single person. He stopped, realizing his mistake, and Dahdtoudi grinned. A blaster shot rang out and the man fell to the ground, grabbing his leg in pain. Dahdtoudi approached and knelt beside him. "Small world," he said casually. It was sheer, dumb luck that they came upon each other again, despite how small the place seemed to be. "Now, I'm sure you don't have access to all the details behind this little operation of yours, but I bet, with some persuasion, you'll tell me what I want to know."

Four Days Ago

He had taken down two major smuggling fronts for the Chronic since the incident on Tholatin, which left only the core of Kroda's operations before he'd be finished. Dahdtoudi had only run into a little trouble with the second front, when he had come upon them while they were gearing up to send out a shipment. He had made quick work of them in his heavy armor while making sure they didn't get word out he was onto them. Though, at this point, no doubt his exploits had spread across their smuggling ring. He'd made certain they couldn't pinpoint their recent woes on him, however, and he paid that price through their heightened awareness of a threat to not only their operation, but their lives. He had to alter his approach, at that point, instead of subtlety opting for clean sweep tactics.

His last target was on Daalang. The smugglers were routing the Chronic through another rendezvous point on the planet, which housed the final coordinates of the drop. It was a haphazard trail that seemed to be pointing to Hutt space, though Dahdtoudi highly doubted it ended at Nar Shaddaa. Kroda wouldn't route this kind of operation to his own doorstep. Likely it would end either on Circumtore, or at the very least the smuggling run ended there as it would be able to be transferred freely without being bothered by local authorities. And then I can take it out at the primary distribution center. Combined with Cadden's efforts, that would at least cripple the whole operation. They could then put a swift end to the whole damn thing from there. If we've got the intel, that is.

The Praetor dropped out of hyperspace in the Circumtore system, the ring-shaped artificial planetoid far off in the distance. Dahdtoudi didn't like this lead one bit. The planetoid was controlled by the Shell Hutts, and the atmosphere was toxic to humans. He had to be careful in his dealings, here. Just a quick op, he thought. Get in, get the final drop point, if there is one, get out. And destroy everything in his wake. The problem rested with the Shell Hutts, and their agitation when he stirs up trouble on their world. He would have to keep a relatively low profile and make a quick, clean, getaway, when all was said and done. Or risk losing it all.

He landed his HWK-290 freighter in one of the planetoid's spaceports, within a manageable distance to the designated rendezvous point for Kroda's Chronic operation. Dahdtoudi donned his Zero-G armor, favoring the relatively incognito status it would grant him over the heightened protection yet obvious identification his power armor would have given him. He would be more vulnerable, but at least he wouldn't compromise the entire hunt in his actions.

He made his way to the small compound they'd reportedly set up for their front into Hutt Space and took note of the more heavily armed individuals there. The building consisted of a small loading dock for light freighters to drop off and pick up, and a warehouse-like layout, likely to store the drug. It was a small and simple layout, but it was complicated by the far more serious protective arrangements. He frowned, observing their patrol patterns. It's a small army, he mused. He immediately regretted not bringing his power suit; at least, then, the odds would be evened. He habitually checked the charges on his blaster rifle, ensuring he'd have enough for the coming fight. It would require more firepower to take out the guards, here, than it did at the previous sites. Dahdtoudi took a breath and made his move.

The first shot was centered on the individual patrolling the rooftop. The blaster bolt hit the man's armor, leaving an annoying scorch mark, but was followed by several others as he turned his attention to its source. By the time the sentry was ready to return fire, the fifth bolt burst into his helmet's visor, causing him to fall backwards. Dahdtoudi didn't bother, nor did he much care, to determine if he was still alive or not. In either case, he was out of the fight, and the advantage of the high ground was removed. For now, anyway. He had to dodge back behind his cover immediately to avoid the return fire from the immediate responders. He silently counted to three and swiveled back around the wall, splashing the area with laserfire. Two of the five mercenaries went down in seconds, and Dahdtoudi quickly got back out of the way before he would have otherwise joined them. He cursed to himself, now regretting not coming in full force. Dahdtoudi expected to meet heavier resistance, but this was damn close to a military compound.

He had, in addition to the charges in his pack, three thermal detonators and two trip mines. At the time of prepping for this strike, he'd thought that would have been plenty. However, if there were much more in the way of defenses than this, he'd be severely outmatched. He chose to save his explosives for now; it would be wasteful to use them in such an open environment, unless he had no other choice. He wasn't in over his head. Not yet, anyway. Dahdtoudi brought the blaster rifle to bear on the facility's guards once more, though by now they were in favorable defensive positions and he'd only managed to take down one more before he had to get behind his cover once again. Time would not be on his side for too much longer. Even if they felt they had a handle on the situation, they would soon be calling in reinforcements if for no other reason than to put him in a bad position and end this quickly. He couldn't let that happen. The objective was to destroy this facility and anything attached to it and its operations.

Dahdtoudi grimaced and planned a pathway toward the building. If all went well, it would get him to the entrance with ease and take out the guards along the way without raising too much alarm. Little was going well, to this point anyway, but he had to take his chances. He moved along the perimeter and made his way to flank the outermost two men. They had already started to progress toward where he had been when he rounded the corner, making it easy for him to identify weaknesses in their armor and pick them off from behind. It wasn't what one would call honorable, but when it came to survival, that kill or be killed instinct, honor meant little to nothing. The last man standing was at the entrance and laid suppressive fire down on his location, forcing Dahdtoudi to take immediate cover. He judged, based on the estimated rate of fire and the sound his adversary's weapon made, he was up against a Z-6 rotary blaster cannon. Likely the aim was to either end him quickly or delay him long enough for others to join the fight. Neither was a notion Dahdtoudi much cared for.

He had little other choice, and his options were becoming more limited with each passing second. He produced one of his thermal detonators and activated it, lobbing it over his cover at the entrance. The blasterfire suddenly halted and the detonator went off. Dahdtoudi could hear the man cry out in agony as he was caught in the explosion. Wasting no time, he moved forward and into the compound. He met resistance inside and, while he was able to get a couple shots off at the three waiting for him in the foyer, he only grazed one and narrowly missed several lasers as he took cover behind a pillar. Dahdtoudi quickly checked his charges and turned the corner, firing several shots at the guards. One fell to the ground while the other two ducked behind cover, allowing him to move to another pillar, closer to his destination. He waited several seconds from his new point of cover before he repeated the tactic, though this time he wasn't so lucky as the remaining two were more cautious this time around.

The standoff didn't last long, and within a minute Dahdtoudi was progressing forward. He'd picked up a second sidearm and a blaster rifle to supplement his own, switching to his newly acquired weapon so as to save on charges for his own, and made his way toward the processing center inside the building. He picked guards off along his way, some less fortunate than others, and only met significant resistance once. Their numbers were dwindling, but if they were expecting reinforcements, that wouldn't last.

There were only a handful of individuals left, guarding his target, and here he could afford to throw caution into the wind. Dahdtoudi discarded the nearly depleted blaster rifle and produced his two remaining thermal detonators. He activated both and tossed them at opposite ends of the small warehouse and manufacturing room. As soon as they detonated, he proceeded forward with his spare sidearm and, taking advantage of the confusion and chaos, picked off the remaining men with relative ease. It was just him, now, and Dahdtoudi wasted no time.

Within minutes, Dahdtoudi had placed the charges and made his way out the loading dock. He ran to a safe distance and took cover, watching the building erupt into flames. The series of explosions brought the roof down and turned the structure into nothing more than rubble and ruins. He turned to make his way back to his ship when he came face to face with an armored individual. The humanoid activated its shock baton and Dahdtoudi's vision started to blur upon impact. With a groan, he fell to the ground, and another shock treatment sent him into darkness.

He awoke groggily with a grunt, feeling his head. As his vision came to, Dahdtoudi could only surmise he was being held in a prison. Kroda, he thought bitterly. As his vision returned to him, Dahdtoudi heard the cell door slide open and in walked two Gamorreans. They forcibly escorted him from his holding place and through the complex until he reached an audience chamber. To his surprise, Kroda was not in sight. Rather, there were instead three rather large Hutts, all encased in durasteel shells. It was where the name Shell Hutts came from. He grimaced. I think I would have been better off with Kroda, he thought bitterly.

"Human," the largest said, "you have been caught with arson, destroying a holding owned by Kroda."

Dahdtoudi was feeling emboldened, despite himself, and against his better judgment spoke up. "A benefit to your operations on Circumtore, I assure you."

"You speak when spoken to," another snapped.

The first raised his hand. "And what do you mean?" he asked, his curiosity and interest piqued. Dahdtoudi smirked.

"Kroda the Hutt has been smuggling substances through Circumtore to create a drug that would put him on top of Hutt politics," he told them. While not entirely true, it wasn't necessarily a lie, either. So far, neither Dahdtoudi nor Cadden knew what Kroda's goals were with the Chronic, but it was a safe bet he'd use it to accumulate more power within the Cartel. "With this substance, he would have the most powerful army among all the Hutt clans."

"And what proof do you have?"

Dahdtoudi shrugged nonchalantly. "None on my person," he said, "but is this something you want to risk as a baseless rumor?" There was silence. "I am here to shut this operation down, nothing more. I harbor no ill will toward any of you."

The smaller of the three leaned to the largest and spoke, though Dahdtoudi could not make out what he said. The largest made a contemplative sound, before turning toward the other and speaking in turn. Finally, he looked Dahdtoudi square in the eyes. "We do not take kindly to disruption of profits here on Circumtore," he said slowly. Dahdtoudi felt uneasy with that proclamation. "Kroda's operations, however self-serving, still brought in a sum of steady credits, which will not be so easily recoverable." He waved a stubby arm dismissively. "We are willing to turn a blind eye, perhaps even offer you some assistance, if there is truth in these claims. For a price."

Out of the frying pan, into the fire,
Dahdtoudi mused. There was little worse than owing a Hutt. But what was his alternative? Death, or something far less appealing. "Name it," he forced himself to say.

"At a later time," the Hutt said. "When we call, you will answer. Ignore us, and suffer our wrath." Dahdtoudi nodded in understanding. The large Hutt leaned back, pleased with himself and his control over the situation, before speaking again. "One of Kroda's ships, a ZZ-class frieghter, dropped by not long before you arrived. It was headed for the Rorak system." They had known he was there all along. Which also meant they knew exactly who they were talking to. Dahdtoudi should have known better. They played him, and now he owed them as favor for eliminating some of their competition, the greedy bastards. Chances were good they also lied to him that he'd cost them credits. "The ship was identified as the Razor's Edge. Kroda has some holdings on Rorak 4. Chances are good you will fare well there." The Hutt waved Dahdtoudi away.

Finally, some good news, even if it did come with a price. One thing at a time, however. The Razor's Edge was the same ship that Cadden had reported to him the other day, and that meant the trail had not gone cold. All he had to do was take the Gamor Run to the Rorak system and end this chase. The only risk was that the Shell Hutts might collect on the favor Dahdtoudi now owed them during this hunt. If that was the case, he would be in a very tight spot. He had an obligation to see this job through, but the Shell Hutts were not the type to be taken lightly. He figured he'd have to just wait and see how this went through.

Six hours ago

Dahdtoudi was successful in taking out the final location supplying the Chronic, though he had no leads for the final assembly point. He had no choice but to wait on Cadden to feed him information. He decided to use his time to research the data he'd collected in order to locate any possible loose ends. If there were any, Kroda and the Triad were careful to keep them under wraps. He was interrupted by his comm as it sounded off an incoming transmission. Dahdtoudi swirled his chair around and opened the frequency.

"We found it," Cadden's voice sounded. "I'm sending the coordinates, now. We will scope things out and standby for your arrival. We take this down, and the end is in sight."

Dahdtoudi watched the coordinates show up and copied them to the nav computer. Denon. The planet was covered by a city, similar in essence to Coruscant itself, and was controlled by the New Republic, though he suspected they would possibly turn a blind eye to the trouble they were about to cause on the world when they learned of the kind of operation he and Cadden were about to take down. It was either that or they end the chase and go on the run.

Dahdtoudi sighed. "Never a dull moment," he muttered, and engaged the hyperdrive, leaving the Rorak system behind.
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Re: Tangled Webs

Post by Cadden »

OOC: Please note the previous post incorrectly stated Druckenwell. This has been corrected to Denon.


Dahdtoudi had arrived in the nick of time, it seemed, as he reached the coordinates set only to discover neither Cadden nor Lillian were at the rendezvous point. He could only assume the worst, and while he harbored no love for his rival hunter, he wouldn't exactly leave him to whatever fate had befallen them. In addition, they had to work together to see this through. Even if morality, no matter how small a factor it might have played, was irrelevant to his decision, the mission's success was on the line.

The fact Blackthorne didn't stick to their plan, and he hadn't heard from him since arriving, told Dahdtoudi all he needed to know. He keyed in the battle software suite in his armor and approached the building. The first bursts of fire made quick work of the patrols outside the entrance, and as Dahdtoudi approached the building he made a hole in the wall to enter through. Time was of the essence, and he was already tapping into their communication channels, when he heard chatter of hostages being held deeper within the factory, near the processing center. He needed to know where that was, exactly, otherwise their lives may be forfeit as soon as word got out of his arrival. It wouldn't be long, now.

He came across a few rooms that showed signs of struggle, eliminating the few occupants he found with ease, until he happened upon one with several terminals that had had a major fight break out. Dahdtoudi narrowed his eyes. This couldn't have bode well. He linked up to one terminal and, within seconds, found a lay in the facility. Time was of the essence, and so Dahdtoudi got moving. Within moments he was in a cooridor just outside the room they were being held in. He considered his options, and ultimately decided to throw caution in the wind.

Seconds later, the duracrete wall exploded into the room, creating Dahdtoudi a new entrance. He immediately assessed the situation and opened fire upon the individuals in the room. Several of the melee combatants feel with ease, and those that survived the first moment of laserfire were soon to follow as Dahdtoudi relentlessly took advantage of his armor to see them to their death. As soon as the final combatant was neutralized, he regarded the man they were about to kill before noticing a woman bound and gagged in a chair on the far end of the room. He chose to assist Lillian first, and used his retractable blade to free her. Dahdtoudi watched in silence as she rushed to Cadden's side.

Dahdtoudi scanned the area, refusing to let his guard down until he was sure they were alone. After he was satisfied they were alone, for now, Dahdtoudi approached the two. "Took you long enough," Cadden offered with a weak grin.

Too bad your good humor survived, he thought dryly. "Maybe if you waited, like we agreed." He glanced back the direction he came and nodded. "I've paved a way through the building. We'll pick up your lightsabers on the way out." He looked to Lillian. "Where did you hide them?"

"A control room of some sort, near the east entrance," Lillian said. Dahdtoudi had a good idea which room she was referring to, and led them through the facility until they arrived at the one with all the terminals. He kept watch while Lillian retrieved the two lightsabers. "Let's get out of here," she said, after securing them to Cadden's belt.

Cadden shook his head. "No," he said. "We need to disable the operation, here. It's the only way we can see this to an end."

"You're in no condition to fight," Lillian objected, "and I'm not going to leave you."

"I'll deal with it," Dahdtoudi said. "Just get out of here."

"We need to know where they're holding the formula for the Chronic," Cadden said. "We get that, and we end this."

Dahdtoudi just nodded and turned back into the facility. He keyed up his HUD overlay and examined the facility's layout a moment. The best bet was the processing center, though by now they would be scrambling to take the operation elsewhere. He couldn't let that happen. If they lose the trail, here, then they lose the hunt. With Blackthorne out of commission for the tone being, it was all on Dahdtoudi at this point.

He made haste through the facility until he reached his checkpoint, whereupon he abruptly interrupted Kroda's men's attempts at evacuating the Chronic in the facility. There was a good bet they'd already taken the formula, but he only required one person to learn to where, and who carried it. He opened fire upon the first two mercenaries he saw, causing the other dozen to scramble for cover while workers and other unarmed individuals made haste to leave. Dahdtoudi wouldn't let that happen, and ignoring the return fire from the mercenaries' blasters he found the other two exits and shot up their control panels. It wouldn't keep them from escaping altogether, but it would greatly hinder them. He returned his focus on the armed men and took a few more of them down within the next several seconds. It wasn't long until all the threats to consider in the room were neutralized.

He approached one group trying to escape, their door having barely been forced open enough for them to crawl under. Dahdtoudi grabbed what appeared to be a scientist and lifted him by his collar. "Where are they taking the Chronic?" he demanded. The man stammered, but failed to respond. Dahdtoudi sighed and tossed him aside before grabbing the next one. He repeated the question, but this time added, "Answer, and I will spare your life and your associates'."

"Out-Outbound," the man stuttered, "h-headed f-for Reytha. B-Baloran himself is overseeing the sh-shipment." Dahdtoudi narrowed his eyes and tossed the man aside. He turned to leave; if nothing else, he was true to his word, though in allowing them to live he was sealing their fate with Kroda. Either way, they're as good as dead, he mused bitterly. He checked the databank only to discover, not to his surprise, they had managed to scrub it clean of any trace of the Chronic. And Baloran had the only copy left of the formula, he wagered. He turned and opened fire on the remaining cargo containers in the room, destroying the last of the Chronic in the facility. The rest would have been enroute to Reytha, by now, and he'd need to intercept it before it could go any further.

By the time he'd made his way out of the building, Dahdtoudi had dispatched of the rest of Kroda's guards. He keyed his comm and hailed Cadden. It was Lillian that answered. "Where is Cadden?" he asked.

"His droid is working on him," Lillian said. "What did you find?"

It seemed a bit strange, to him, to be talking business with her, but he ceded with an internal shrug. She was in this as much, if not more, than they were. "I found the key to ending this," he simply said, opting to remain vague in case someone was tapping in to their frequency. "I'm going to go... retrieve it."

"This is a bad idea," she said solemnly. "Taking this step alone. You don't know them as I do. You should wait for him to recover."

"No time," he argued. "If we wait, the trail goes cold. I'll call in when I get there." With that, he closed the channel. Time was of the essence, and Dahdtoudi couldn't just sit around and wait. He had an appointment to keep with Baloran, and this time, he wouldn't escape.
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Re: Tangled Webs

Post by Cadden »

It had been a few hours since 2X-RX had finished the surgery on Cadden. Lillian had informed him of the coming plan and, with moderate effort, Cadden had made his way to the cockpit to set a course for Reytha, per the coordinates Dahdtoudi had left them. He was already well ahead of them, but Cadden wouldn't let him finish this alone. It was beyond a matter of pride. They might have effectively ended the manufacturing and distribution of the Chronic, but if Dahdtoudi were to fail, here, then the Triad could easily pick up the pieces and start over. Cadden saw firsthand what the stuff did, and what it was capable of. He knew he couldn't let that be, even if it meant he'd have to die to ensure its complete destruction.

The ship's chrono chirped at him and he awoke in the pilot's chair. Cadden blinked the drowsiness from his eyes and winced in pain as he shifted his weight. They were still a ways out from reaching Reytha, but the chrono was not meant for the approach vector. Cadden eased himself out of his chair and made his way to the cargo hold, where he settled on the floor and sat cross-legged. Taking a deep breath, he focused on the Force and allowed for it to flow through him. While he was not well-rested, Cadden knew he required both sleep and the healing powers of the Force if he were to be of any use in the rest of this hunt. His recovery would not be complete, but it should be enough for him to finish this if he were careful.

A couple more hours passed before he felt Lillian approach the hold. The door opened and she approached. "What's wrong?" he asked calmly, feeling her emotions. He opened his eyes and looked at her.

"I had a terrible dream last night," Lillian said, visibly worried.

Cadden slowly got up, wincing in pain. "What was it?" he asked, curiously.

"You were on your knees, bowing before a great red starbird set aflame, the life draining from your veins." She looked directly in his eyes, and Cadden could tell she believed it was a foretelling of things to come.

"What meaning did you take from it?" he asked.

"A warning. If you go to war, you are destined for great and unfortunate things." She approached him and placed her hands upon his. Cadden couldn't say he was surprised, anymore, though it did reaffirm what he believed from their exchange prior to the surgery. "We can let Dahdtoudi finish this," she said, "just provide him logistical support. Stay out of the heat of it. You nearly died, once, already. In your weakened state..." She trailed off as Cadden brought her close and wrapped his arms around her.

"I must deal with this," he said softly. "This goes beyond any of us. This Chronic... it poses a real threat and it must be destroyed. Back there, in the warehouse... my abilities felt almost useless around them. It is almost a perfect counter to the Force, and I was their test subject. If they perfect it, the Triad could raise an army that could counter even the Jedi."

Lillian looked up at him. They both knew that the way their relationship had formed was far from traditional or orthodox, but her feelings on the matter showed. "I'd nearly lost you twice, already," she said. "I was wrong about you, I see that now. I don't want to lose this."

"No, you were right," Cadden admitted. "In the end, I am no better than those I fight against. I spoke the truth when I said I have no joy in doing what I must do to get results, but so did you when you said this comes to me as naturally as breathing." He paused a moment. "I'm not proud of who I am, or what I've done. But I cannot change the past. Only work to better my future." He paused a moment. "I think, these past few weeks, I've already made great strides in the right direction." He smiled at her, but it was short-lived. The smile faded. "This will all be over soon."

"And then what?" she wondered. "Do we all go our separate ways?"

Cadden frowned. "Is that what you want?"

"No." She hesitated a second and offered her own smile, though it was clear it was to mask the truth behind her next words. "Strength in numbers, right? I'm safer at your side than on my own."

Cadden nodded in agreement, though he didn't say anything. She was still troubled by her dream. "Look," he said, "I've been in bigger binds than this, believe it or not. As soon as we deal with Baloran, all evidence of the Chronic will be eradicated, and the Triad will no longer have any reason to go against you. This will be a simple op, compared to the rest of what we've been through already. You have no need to fear for me."

Lillian gave a disconcerting frown. "You don't get to determine what I fear and don't fear," she said, her voice slightly harsh. "I fear for your safety, for your life. I fear..." She looked at him for what seemed an eternity. "I fear I would lose a man I've fallen in love with. Despite everything we've gone through. I may not agree with everything you do, but I do see you do what you feel is necessary for the greater good. And, I fear the most, that will get you killed."

Cadden wasn't sure what to say. He wanted to tell her it was just a dream, but he knew it wouldn't matter much to her. "How sure are you of this?" he wondered instead.

"I… I don't know," she admitted, "but I do know that I have a very bad feeling about you going."

He understood, though he didn't much like it. If Dahdtoudi were to continue on his own, despite his skill and equipment, there was a higher chance of failure. Denon was proof enough of what they had gotten themselves into. But he couldn't allow even the possibility of Dahdtoudi coming to the same fate he nearly did. Dahdtoudi may have had the upper hand on Denon, but Cadden doubted he would keep the advantage if he was walking into a trap. And he had no doubt Dahdtoudi suspected it was a trap. "If I don't go, and everything winds up going south..." He looked at her square in the eyes. "I cannot guarantee anything," he finally said, "but I will consider it. For you."

For the remainder of the trip to Reytha Cadden sat in silence, meditating. His goal, now, was twofold: heal as well as he could, and try to discern from the Force what the future held. Neither met with much success, and Cadden knew his recovery would suffer for it.

Upon their entry into the Reytha system Cadden eased the ship out of lightspeed. The system's planet of the same name was still a long distance away, but this ensured they wouldn't have any trouble with their approach. There was no way of telling what might go on, or had already gone on, in the past day.

Within a couple hours they were entering Reytha's orbit. Cadden brought the ship down near Reytha Minor, where Dahdtoudi's message said Baloran was headed. He didn't see any sign of the Praetor, which unsettled him. Was Dahdtoudi on the chase? Or did the hunter mislead them? Or did something happen? Cadden would have to investigate and determine what happened in the past twenty-four hours. He had seen signs of conflict during their approach to the spaceport at a food processing center; it was as good a lead as any. He set the Pursuer II down in the docking bay and powered the ship down.

"Dahdtoudi hasn't made contact or sent any messages since Denon," Cadden said. "Something is wrong. I need to go and find out." He noted the concern Lillian was expressing. "I wouldn't be doing this if it wasn't necessary."

"I understand," Lillian said.

"Stay here," he instructed. "I don't know what to expect, and I can't risk putting you in any more danger."

Lillian frowned. "No," she said, getting out of her seat and standing at the cockpit's entrance. "I'm not letting you go out there alone. I'm coming with you." Cadden was about to object when he saw her unholster a blaster pistol. "We finish this together, or not at all. You will need me with you, if not to help deal with whomever is left over then to figure out what happened and where to go next." She paused acouple seconds to let that sink in. "I'm not letting you go alone," she repeated.

Despite himself, Cadden flashed a half grin. It was a side of Lillian he hadn't seen before. He had to admire her courage and tenacity. The grin faded by the time he spoke. "Very well," he said, "but you follow my lead." He looked out the cockpit in the docking bay. "If we've hurt them as bad as we think we have, they will be coming for us, and there will be blood."

The two made their way to the food processing center and, upon arrival, Cadden reached out with the Force in an attempt to find any signs of what happened there. "There was definitely a conflict, recently, here," he said after a few minutes. "The Force is elusive on the details, but..." he frowned. "Dahdtoudi fought them. He won, but… at a cost." That was all he could gather. Clearly, however, Dahdtoudi was no longer on Reytha. But where could he be? "Can you get into the system? Maybe there's a security feed that could tell us more."

Lillian nodded. "Shouldn't be a problem, provided whomever was leftover didn't wipe the system." The two ventured into the facility, Cadden keeping his senses alert for any potential threats. For a change, he couldn't sense any. But then Denon came to mind, and he knew that, if any of Kroda's thugs whom were using the Chronic were left over, it would be next to impossible to see them coming. Cadden didn't doubt they would run into anyone - Kroda was not the type to leave all his eggs in one basket - and with the operation on the brink of utter ruination, the Hutt was likely to go all out to see them all fail and salvage his Chronic.

Cadden and Lillian combed through the processing center until they reached the security room. There were no signs of occupants, though the unmistakable telltale signs of combat were wrought throughout the facility. Cadden wanted - needed - to know the story. Lillian was fast at work at the terminal while Cadden guarded the entrance. He kept both his physical senses and those through the Force open for any signs of trouble. They couldn't be too careful, now that they knew what this stuff could do.

"Got it," Lillian said after a minute. Cadden chanced the idea they would remain alone and approached the terminal. Lillian played the latest feed. It was varying angles in different rooms, following Dahdtoudi through the facility. He was chasing a Twi'lek, though from the looks of the feed he wouldn't catch up. Cadden immediately labeled the Twi'lek as Baloran. The Twi'lek dodged through the facility and out of the rear entrance. Did he know who was chasing him? What was the game, here? "Looks like it cuts off, there," she announced.

"Nothing?" Cadden said. "All we have is a feed of Dahdtoudi ravaging this building as he chases that worm?" Lillian shrugged as if to say she couldn't do more. Cadden thought on the situation a moment. Maybe they were going about this the wrong way? He was trying to catch up to Dahdtoudi, but if Dahdtoudi was on the hunt, then he should be, as well.

Cadden began to review the video for additional clues. He stopped it at a single point when he noted something awry. Baloran had, during the escape, made a brief delay with a light green skinned Rodian. Cadden frowned and stopped the feed, rewound, abs replayed from that point a few times. It was barely visible, but Cadden noted the distinctive exchange of an object between the two. He replayed it once more, focusing his attention solely on the object. It was definitely a datacard. Cadden frowned and watched the Rodian take a different ship off world. Dahdtoudi was chasing the wrong individual.

"Can we find out where that ship is headed?" he asked. Lillian nodded and got to work. Cadden kept his eye on the room's entrance. Nobody would get in without being shot. He waited, keeping his attention glued to the door, as Lillian searched for the data on the ship.

"There," she said after a couple minutes. "Logs state the Steadfast was departing for Nar Shaddaa. If we leave, now, we might be able to catch them before they reach their final destination." The Steadfast was a YKL-37R Nova Courier and, if it had a stock configuration, it would take about twice as long as the Pursuer II would to get there.

"We need to get back to the ship," Cadden said with urgency.

"So... back to Nar Shaddaa," Lillian said with an exasperated tone.

Cadden grimaced. They were going to be right at Kroda's doorstep, he knew. "Yeah," he said, "back to Nar Shaddaa."

The two made it back to the Pursuer II and Cadden started the preflight sequence as Lillian strapped in behind him. Within minutes they were back in the air. He keyed in the comm and tried reaching out to Dahdtoudi, but he received no response. This was not good. Instead, he sent a basic message to the other hunter, hoping the man would get it before it was too late. Cadden keyed in the coordinates before making the jump to lightspeed for Nar Shaddaa.

After the ship was safely in hyperspace, Cadden began inputting commands in the HoloNet transmitter. "What are you doing?" Lillian asked him.

"Seeing if there's anything out there on our little green friend," Cadden said. He spared a glance back at her, with a playfully mocking grin. "You of all people ought to know information is power." He reverted his attention to the terminal and began to narrow his search using keywords such as Nar Shaddaa, Baloran, and his descriptive features. Minutes passed in silence as Cadden focused on the search results, doing all he could to narrow them down even further. The results were narrowed down to a half-dozen individuals of similar description. "Pull up that recording," he said.

Lillian did as requested and found the spot with the information hand-off. She looked at the Rodian on the screen, then to each of their suspects on the Net, going back and forth between, eyeing each detail. "That one," she said, pointing to the Rodian with the name Jannik Tona.

"How do you know?"

"The scar running down the left side of his face. It matches the one in the vid."

Cadden grinned. "Looks like we've got our target. I'll put feelers out for him the second we arrive." Cadden eased himself back in the pilot's seat and winced in pain, grunting a little as he settled in.

"You okay?" Lillian asked, placing a hand on his shoulder.

"Yeah," Cadden said unconvincingly.

"You should go rest," she said, "I can handle things up here." Cadden didn't move for a few seconds, but ultimately he agreed by slowly getting up.

"Call me if something comes up," he said, and disappeared behind the door. Cadden walked back to his quarters and eased his armor off. As soon as the breastplate fell to the ground he collapsed with exhaustion onto his bed. He didn't even bother taking his boots or knee pads off, and was soon asleep.
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Re: Tangled Webs

Post by Cadden »

Dahdtoudi had chased Baloran through the sectors of Nar Shaddaa until the trail ran cold in the Red Light Sector. Dahdtoudi grimaced at the idea of looking for his quarry there, but what other choice did he have? If he gave the Twi'lek any kind of lead in this chase, then the game was likely to be over. The Red Light Sector was not only known for its less-than-upfront businesses, even by Nar Shaddaa standards, but also for its criminal activity, which was saying something for the city moon. To avoid drawing too much attention to himself, Dahdtoudi had to opt to pursue his quarry without his armor or the majority of his arsenal. All he had to work with was his sidearm blaster pistol, a light repeating blaster rifle, and a stun baton. He also had a couple of other contingency items stashed in his pockets, in case things got too dicey. Not exactly ideal conditions to be chasing a known Triad affiliate through the heart of Nar Shaddaa with. However, more likely than not, Baloran had the description of his power armor, which was likely to negate the element of surprise. He had little choice in the matter, if he were to keep an edge in the chase.

Using the few leads he had on Nar Shaddaa, Dahdtoudi learned that Baloran had holed himself up in an establishment known as the Big Shots Cantina. It proved to be a bit more than its name implied; a large, two-storie building that advertised food, drinks, gambling, and entertainment one wouldn't exactly find in the more respectable parts of the galaxy. The bass from the music inside could be heard from across the street and as Dahdtoudi entered the main lobby area he was greeted by two bouncers. One was a rather large, bulky human with blond hair and a five o'clock shadow about his face, while the other was an Abyssin with a mixture of brown and white hair atop his head.

"ID chip," the human said in a gruff, thick Couscanti accent. It was heavy and lilting, and the pronunciation of his vowels was distorted.

"I'm flattered," Dahdtoudi said dryly, "but I'm not here to partake."

"ID chip," the man repeated, growing agitated.

"Look," Dahdtoudi protested, "I'm here to see Baloran. I've got an appointment. He's-" He trailed off as the Abyssin leaned over and grunted in the man's ear. The man looked at the creature, then back at Dahdtoudi, before returning to the Abyssin.

"Baloran is expecting you," he finished for Dahdtoudi. "Top floor, room twelve." The two stepped aside to let Dahdtoudi pass. He gave them a suspicious glance, but merely nodded and proceeded toward the main cantina. "Your blaster," he continued. Dahdtoudi looked at him. "No weapons." Dahdtoudi hesitated a moment but surrendered his rifle to the bouncers before he entered through the door. Fortunately, they didn't see his blaster pistol tucked into his trousers, nestled under his jacket, nor the stun baton. At least he wouldn't be walking into this defenseless.

Dahdtoudi made his way to the designated room and triggered the chime. Within seconds the door slid open and he found himself face-to-face with an Umbaran. Dahdtoudi nodded at the pale-skinned, bald near-human, and the other motioned for him to enter. He took a purposeful breath and walked through the doorway. Here goes nothing.

He looked around the room. This was wrong. Horribly wrong. He frowned. "Where's Baloran?" he asked. Three individuals wearing dark armor and reflective visors appeared from a side room. One carried a heavy blaster rifle, the other two repeating carbines. On their chest piece armor was a white vertical elongated hexagon, disconnected at the bottom, on either side an additional, orange, pattern mirroring the length of the sides and forming something that reassembled an edged pair of mandibles below the main shape. The Triad, Dahdtoudi knew. He sighed. He'd expected a trap, but he didn't think they'd drag their main force into it.

Just as the three leveled their blasters upon him, Dahdtoudi reached into his jacket and tossed a small spherical object to the ground. Upon impact, the device let out a deafening bang and Dahdtoudi shielded both his eyes and ears from the explosion. It didn't prevent the flash-bang grenade from creating a ringing sound in his ears, but he could still hear and see, which was more than he could say about the others. He produced his blaster pistol and fired several shots, two of the soldiers going down after some effort. However, the third and the Umbaran were already recovering, which meant he had to make a choice. Fight or flight, as the saying would go. This was likely one of Kroda's operations, or even directly the Triad's, so he came to the only sound conclusion he could. He ran. He took a shot at the Umbaran as he bolted for the door, downing the door guard as he exited the room.

Dahdtoudi practically flew down the stairs to the main floor and came to the dance floor of the club. He was careful to keep his pistol out but concealed so as to not draw attention from the patrons. As Dahdtoudi approached the exit toward the lobby he noted the Abyssin appearing through the door, and he had his blaster rifle. Dahdtoudi grimaced. There was no other way around this. He would need to fight his way out. He brought up his blaster pistol, leveled, and fired just as the screams and shouts of alarm cried out around him. The bolt hit the Abyssin directly in the eye and he collapsed to the floor in agonizing pain. Dahdtoudi rushed to the exit, scooped up his rifle, quickly checked it, before swinging it around to fire a burst at two incoming Triad soldiers that appeared from a side door. This was far from a run-of-the-mill underground operation. The Triad was invested in this place directly. Dahdtoudi punched the door controls, but the door didn't respond. They jammed it. He'd have to leave through the back. It was unlikely the other bouncer was going to open the door while he was still standing, and he'd be a sitting duck if he waited on chance.

Dahdtoudi ducked through the entrance the two downed soldiers left open for him and made his way down the hall toward the back. He kept a keen eye and listened intently for any other assailants, but for the duration of his trek he found luck to favor him. Dahdtoudi made it to the rear entrance without incident and keyed the door. It wouldn't budge. Damnit, he thought bitterly. They must have initiated a lockdown sequence. He produced a small detonator and placed it on the door panel. This had better work.

Within seconds the device blew and the door jammed open, but only partially. Dahdtoudi studied it a brief moment and decided it would do. He got to the ground and crawled through the small opening. He barely fit, and as he got to his feet he could hear the Triad soldiers on the other side approach the door. He wasn't about to stick around for a fight. Dahdtoudi took off down the street, intent on getting enough of a head start as possible from his pursuers.

The hunter had quickly become the hunted.

* * *

The Pursuer II burst out of lightspeed several hundred klicks away from Nar Shaddaa. The city moon lingered before them from the vantage point of the ship's cockpit, and to Cadden it seemed to be mocking them, daring them to return one more time. He instantly had a bad feeling. "This is wrong," he muttered. "This feels... wrong."

Lillian just stared at Nar Shaddaa. Cadden knew what she was thinking: her thoughts were still on that dream she had. She had another on the way here, and they talked about it briefly not three hours ago.

"I had another dream," Lillian said worriedly. Cadden looked up from the console as she sat herself down in the copilot seat. "We were fighting the darkness, together, but we were eventually swallowed by it. It consumed you, and in your place emerged a terrible monster."

Cadden raised an eyebrow. He found it rather curious she had been experiencing such vivid dreams, lately, especially as she never had any indications of being attuned to the Force. "What else did this dream tell you about my future?" he asked.

She leaned close and took his hand in hers. A slight smile crept to her face, contrasting her worried look. "That you will never love another woman." Cadden grinned, but it didn't last long. She frowned. "What is it?"

"Nothing," he said. She didn't believe him. "It's just… things tend to happen to those I love." He looked at her square in the eyes. "I don't want anything happening to you."

"Whatever happens, we'll get through this. Together."

Cadden pursed his lips slightly. "We're not out of this, yet," he said. "So long as the Chronic is out there, you're in danger."

"Have you heard from him?" Lillian asked.

Cadden shook his head. "No," he said. "No word. I'm scanning for his ship's location, try to figure out what happened."

"And if we can't find it?"

Cadden grimaced. "We continue with the mission. Baloran may be a key individual in Kroda's, and the Triad's, operation, but Jannik is the one with the formula." He could only hope they weren't too late. He was already at work looking for the Steadfast. If they find the ship, they could intercept it before their Rodian target could reach Kroda with the Chronic formula.

It took a few moments, but he soon found the ship. It had arrived just before they had, and was already close to arrival at the planetary surface. It wasn't docking at Kroda's palace, fortunately, but the docking bay wasn't far from there, either. They would have to make haste, or all would be lost. He put the ship in an intercept vector. "Take the controls," he said. "When we're just over them, let me know."

Lillian looked at him incredulously. "You're not seriously going to just drop down on them," she said.

"We've no time for anything else. Get me right above them, then get away. I have a docking bay, here, that you will guide the ship to. I will meet you there."

Cadden eased by Lillian toward the cockpit exit. She placed a hand on his shoulder. "He careful," she said. Cadden merely nodded and left the cockpit. He went to the rear of the ship and waited by the boarding ramp. Soon the ship was breaking atmosphere. The comm. chimed and Cadden pressed the receiving button. "Get ready," Lillian's voice sounded. "We're about thirty seconds out. Cadden punched the boarding ramp controls and the door slid open. He keyed a command on his wristpad, relaying the communication channel to his helmet, and eased himself out. "Now," Lillian said. Cadden engaged his jetpack and flew away from the Pursuer II. He looked down at the streets below and soon found a Rodian hastily making his way through the city, three others in tow.

Cadden landed several meters in front on them, blaster carbine in hand and aimed at them. Two of his escorts had their blasters out already, but the third was too slow. Cadden fired two shots, one taking down the soon-to-be-unarmed escort and the second clipping Jannik in the leg. The return fire scorched Cadden's breastplate, but he was already moving to cover to avoid the incoming blasterfire. The more serious shots missed him entirely. He fired another short spurt off at the armed guards, already scrambling for their own cover, and managed to take one of them down before he managed to make it to safety. The Duros wasn't dead, but he was out of the fight. Cadden ignited his jetpack and launched over the battlefield. As he disengaged the jetpack, he unclipped one of his lightsabers and engaged the blade. Two blaster shots that would have otherwise hit him were deflected, and a third impacted against his jetpack. Alarms flared at him, warning him against using it again without repairs. Cadden ignored them and landed in front of the Weequay assailant. He swung the lightsaber out, slicing his blaster rifle in two, before waving his arm away and sending him flying into a nearby wall.

Cadden turned to see the Rodian struggling to his feet. He approached and kicked him back to the ground. "We can do this one of two ways," he said calmly, though he was feeling the stress from his previous wounds begin to accumulate. "The hard way, or the easy way. The easy way is you simply hand over the formula. I think you can figure out the hard way."

"Go to Hell," the Rodian spat in Rodese.

Cadden scowled. "The hard way, then." He pressed a boot against the Rodian's bad leg and he let out a cry of pain. "Give me the formula." Cadden's voice was calm and controlled.

"Y-You'll never win," he struggled. "K-Kroda will find you, and he'll... AARGH!" Cadden increased the pressure on the wound. He was not kind.

"I know you have it," Cadden said. "You can either give it to me, or I can pry it from your cold, dead hands." The Rodian glanced over Cadden's shoulder briefly, and Cadden frowned in suspicion. He looked where Jannik did, and saw the first armed guard struggling to his feet. Then it all fell together. "Clever," he said, "but not very smart. You should have just cooperated." Cadden released his hold on the Rodian and approached the guard. He had a blaster pistol out and fired a couple shots as Cadden advanced. They were for naught, as they only slowed Cadden. His aim was off, likely due to the hit he took a during the firefight. They added a scorch mark to Cadden's breastplate and his helmet, but otherwise left no damage.

Cadden kicked him to the ground and pressed a boot against his neck. "I'm only going to ask once," he said, the agitation rising in his voice. "Where is it?" The Duros held a blank expression for a brief moment before he reached inside his pocket. A tingling sensation crept upon Cadden and he leveled his carbine at the alien's face, the barrel aimed dead between his eyes. "I guarantee, if you try it, your hand won't even make it out of your pocket before you're dead." The Duros paused, glanced back at the Rodian, and withdrew his hand before reaching into a different pocket. He produced the datacard and slowly held it up.

"Kroda will have your head for this, Bana," Jannik said with a scowl.

"Kill them all," Lillian's voice reminded him. Cadden took the datacard and stowed it in his wristpad. "I wouldn't worry about that," he said, and returned his focus to the Duros's head. The alien widened his eyes just as Cadden pulled the trigger.
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