The Phantom Master?

“…and after the power conduit exploded the entire passage caved in on top of the leading droid,” Ivanna explained to Avatar and the others gathered in the now overly crowded hidden base in the bowels of Cloud City. “From that time on the remaining droids in the area seemed to be totally confused and uncertain about what to do. Our team was able to break through their lines relatively easy when we encountered them at the junction leading from the lower sewer systems into to the maintenance crawl-ways.”

“So perhaps the war is over already,” said Avatar hopefully.

“Not very likely,” said Par’kiss who stood next to Gariss. “It is possible, I suppose, but from what I could gather from the computer systems there are several droids that seem to be leading the others. They are some sort of I7 series of military assault droids.”

“Those are the most powerful assault droids here on Cloud City only used for the city’s defense in case of invasion,” Captain Krastil put in. “I7-B29 was their leader. Can you describe the droid to me? B29 was different from the others.”

She went into as much detail as possible, and the moment she mentioned some of the more pronounced features Krastil was certain he knew the droid. “Amazing! That sounds like B29. He was the only droid outfitted with the heavy repeating blaster and needler gun. His other features are equally as devastating.”

“So maybe we took out the leader after all,” said Lialla brightly.

“We can’t trust in that,” said Ivanna sharply, and Lialla looked at her with narrowed eyes. “We need to still strike soon.”

“Agreed,” said Avatar. “Even if the leader was destroyed we must still take the airfield and commandeer some starships. We’ll begin planning our final assault soon.”

At that moment, Chairman Sil’karith stepped forward to have a few words with everyone. He was the spokesman for Sprillious Corporation and its CEO, and through all the chaos he had somehow still survived. “First I would like to thank you all for your brave efforts to save this city and its inhabitants. It is sad that…” and he continued on though most around hardly listened or cared about what he said. At this point they were either too tired or more worried about their own survival to really have much interest.

When he was finished Avatar stepped forward again and said, “And with his thanks and such we can now call this meeting over. After we get some rest we can maybe work on a plan to take back the city or at the very least get some people out there to get some help. Agreed?” There were no arguments, and so everyone filed out of the meeting room making their way to some sort of area to get some sleep. People were everywhere, and so there was little room to even move let alone find some place to rest, but for those who had just fought in the terrible battle to free the other refugees a series of dark rooms was made available to rest and recover.

It was into one of these rooms that the Phantom Hunters went, and the moment they were all through the door Ivanna spun around and suddenly hurled something at Nyarchagga. The Dug barely caught it in his left foreleg, and he recoiled in hostility.

“What was that for?” demanded Brin’tac, coming to the defense of his friend.

“Did you all enjoy your little spy games?” Ivanna demanded, and her face was a mask of outrage. “I hope it was worth it. You all nearly got me and everyone else at that other refugee base killed.”

“What are you talking about?” asked Geldar, a bit on the defensive.

“The droids were already looking for the other refugees,” explained Ivanna. “They were swarming all around because they were doing sweeps for the other base. Captain Krastil and Gariss’s mercenary unit were leading a lot of raids on the enemy droids doing as much damage as possible. They had up a cloaking field so the droids couldn’t detect their heat signatures. However, because you put Gnat on me and had him sending off some sort of signal to you the droids were able to track me right to the other refugee base. It didn’t take them long, even after I was within the cloaking field, to figure out where the refugees were. That was why we had to fight our way to escape! They swarmed all over us in the thousands.”

The entire group fell silent, all except for Lialla. “How dare you talk to us that way!” Lialla exploded, her emotions raw. She had reached a breaking point, and all of her pent up feelings were unleashed like a flood. “I’ve had just about enough of you! If this is anyone’s fault it’s yours! How dare you blame this on us? You know what I think. I think you were the one that led the droids to the other refugee base, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you were leading them here. Blame it on us? I don’t think so. We were careful not to endanger anyone but ourselves, and furthermore if it hadn’t been for us you’d be dead right now! How do you even know it was Gnat’s transmission that led the droids to the refugees? Huh? You don’t because they were already searching for the others. Anything could have triggered them finding the refugee base. Besides, how do you know your own heat signature didn’t lead them there, Master Jedi? Huh? How do you…”

And suddenly Lialla fell backward with a jerk as her face contorted in a mask of pain. She fell to the ground and clutched her chest as if her heart had suddenly burst in her chest. Everyone froze in disbelief, and only Satchal and Geldar saw the fury in the eyes of Ivanna. “Do not ever talk to me that way again, do you understand?” she said as her body shook. “Ever! You were all responsible for all those deaths. It was you.” Lialla continued to clutch her chest in total panic and pain, and she seemed to be gasping to breathe. No one could move. Everyone was frozen in disbelief.

Then an image flashed in Satchal’s mind. He remembered the Dark Jedi Savor Kibbs and how he had died in his cell all those months ago on Naboo. He was clutching his chest just as Lialla was now, as if a predator was gnawing at her chest.

Satchal reacted instantly, and before he even knew what he was doing he smashed Ivanna in the face with his fist. Ivanna hit the floor hard, and Lialla was immediately free from the terrible pain. Everyone still watched in shock. Even when it was over and Ivanna was simply laying face first on the floor they still did not move. Finally Tso moved to Lialla’s side to try to see if she was okay.

Then, at last, Ivanna looked up into the eyes of Satchal, and she saw the confusion there. She saw in his mind the doubts now, and she knew what he was thinking. As if she had just realized what she’d done, she looked over at Lialla, her eyes filled with horror. Then, without a word, she ran from the chamber as if fleeing from a ghost.

The room was silent even after she was gone, and for a long time no one could speak the words that were racing through their minds. They simply stood there staring at the doorway where Ivanna had disappeared through wondering if somehow she was connected to the deaths of Zegmond Pent of the Flail organization and Savor Kibbs, the renegade Jedi on Naboo. Then, at last, Brin’tac spoke up, and the words he spoke sent shivers through everyone in the chamber. All he said were a few words, but they were enough to make everyone go cold. He said, “Perhaps she really is the Master.”


The End

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