Jin Tai Lo looked angrily at the smuggler. “That was entirely unnecessary! I was beginning to reach her. Now she may believe that I was only setting her up. You may have caused her to further mistrust and hate Jedi.”
The Wee-quay stood stoicly. “She may have harmed the Ithorian if I had not stopped her.”
Jin Tai Lo closed his eyes and opened himself to the Force to drain his frustration. “If I had sensed any true intention to harm the Ithorian, I could easily have used the orce to pull the knife from her hand.” The Jedi Master walked over to the body of the fallen bounty hunter. “The damage is done. Let us return to her ship.”
Houk-qal silently reached down and pulled the bounty hunter onto his shoulder, then turned and followed the Jedi back to the docking bay.
Satchel laid the unconscious form of Nyarchagga down on Houk-qal’s bunk inside his ship. “How long do you think it will take for the sleeping drug she gave him to wear off?”
Houk-qal shook his head. “It could be minutes or hours. It depends on how much she gave him. Since it is still a 4 hour jump to Nar Hekka, we can probably assume he will be out for at least that long.”
Satchel and Houk-qal left the cabin and shut the door. Entering the main area of the ship, they joined Jin Tai Lo and Brin’tac, who were seated at a table, deep in conversation.
“It makes sense now.” Brin’tac was explaining. “Kal-faj means “stalker” in Falleen. It’s probably not her real name. And this,” he picked up a small, bug-shaped droid, “is the spy camera she used to see you tracking her. Very interesting.” Brin’tac looked up as Satchel and Houk-qal entered the area. “How is he?”
“Fine. He was not harmed during his capture,” Houk-qal said. “Zorba pays more if they are uninjured.”
“What about Kal-faj? Where is she?” Brin’tac added.
Houk-qal walked to the main control panel and made a few adjustments. “She is restrained and unconscious in the cargo hold.”
Brin’tac looked puzzled. “Houk-qal, did you know that Kal-faj was a woman? If I remember correctly, you referred to her several times as a he.”
Houk-qal began walking toward the door leading to the cockpit. “I did not know. Zorba does not hire women bounty hunters. If he had known she was a woman, he would not have hired her. Since I am only a guard, I had to rely on the information I could get from Zorba’s main files.” Houk-qal pressed the panel and opened the door. He looked over at Brin’tac, “I’m going to lift off. Strap yourseves in.”
For a brief moment, Brin’tac locked eyes with Houk-qal. Then, his fur stood on end as he realized the truth. Houk-qal saw Brin’tac’s surprise and dove through the door, slamming his hand on the panel to shut it.
Brin’tac dove toward the door and jammed the only thing he had available at the time, the bug-like droid, into it to prevent it from closing. Suddenly, a green gas began entering the room through a vent in the ceiling. Satchel and Jin Tai Lo ran to the door and drew their lightsabers.
Jin Tai looked through the small opening between the wall and the door to see Houk-qal shutting the cockpit door and sealing it. He quickly extended his arem through the opening and ignited his lightsaber, piercing the control panel of the door.
As the three shoved the door open, the repulsor engines roared to life. Jin Tai and Satchel leaped toward the cockpit door, when suddenly, the ship tilted to the right, sending Brin’tac tumbling down the open entrance ramp and onto the ferrocrete.
Jin Tai, seein Brin’tac fall, leaped of the ship and pulled the Bothan from under the descending landing gear. Satchel, uncertain what to do, plunged his lightsaber to the hilt into the cockpit door.
The ship ascended quickly, leaving Brin’tac and Jin Tai Lo behind. Houk-qal, seeing the blade protruding through the door, suddenly tilted the ship vertically, throwing Satchel against the wall. As soon as he let go of the hilt of his lightsaber, it deactivated and fell to the floor. The ship then leveled off, allowing Satchel to regain his footing and grab his dropped weapon. Then, before he could react further, the cockpit door opened and Houk-qal blasted Satchel point blank in the chest. Satchel’s unconscious body fell down the ship’s boarding ramp and plummeted towards the ground.
Jin Tai Lo was preparing to use the Force to leap up to the ramp when he saw his apprentice fall. The Jedi Master shifted his focus in the Force and grabbed Satchel, slowing his descent. By the time Satchel was safely to the pavement, Houk-qal’s ship was nearing the edge of the atmosphere.
“I’m sorry, Master Lo,” Brin’tac said as he looked down. “If it had not been for my clumsiness, we could have stopped him.”
“Don’t be so hard on yourself. If you had not acted when you did, we would all have been captured,” the Jedi Master consoled. He reached over to see if Satchel was okay. He laid his hand on the young man and used the Force to give strength to his body. “Speaking of which, how did you know what he was intending?”
Brin’tac stood to his feet. “When he began to talk about the information he found about Kal-faj, he mentioned that he was only a guard, which I thought was odd. How could a low-level guard get information about a bounty hunter? Then, I suddenly recalled what Nyarchagga said about the Wee-quay he worked with at Zorba’s: he was a bounty hunter. When I locked eyes with him, I knew.”
Satchel moaned and stirred. Jin Tai Lo reached down and helped him sit up. “Are you well, Padawan?”
Satchel placed his hand to his chest where he was shot. “Yes, Master. But my head feels like it has a herd of wild banthas running around inside of it.”
The Jedi Master smiled. “You are fortunate that his blaster was still set on stun.”
“But why was he after us? Who was he really?” Satchel asked.
Brin’tac answered, “He was another bounty hunter working for Zorba. More than likely, he was competing with Kal-faj for the bounty on Nyarchagga. It is possible that Zorba may have offered more if the bounty hunter also brought in those responsible for Nyarchagga’s defection.” Satchel nodded in understanding.
Brin’tac looked around at the docking bay. “Well, now what do we do? Houk-qal is probably half-way to Nar Hekka by now, and we don’t even have a ship to pursue him with.”
“If we have any hope of rescuing our friend, we must reach Zorba’s quickly. Hutt’s are notorious for feeding disgruntled employees to their pets for their own twisted pleasure,” Jin Tai Lo said.
“Master, what about Kal-faj’s ship? Since we have deactivated the protective measures, we have full access to the ships controls,” Satchel offered.
“Excellent suggestion, Padawan. The ability to find a solution when you are fighting ‘a herd of wild banthas’ in your head is no easy task. You are going to make a wise Jedi Knight.”
Satchel smiled, causing his head to swim. Brin’tac interjected, “But how are we going to get Nyarchagga out of Zorba’s Palace?”
The Jedi Master helped his apprentice stand. “I have an idea that may work. Come, we have no time to lose.”