There it was. The settlement on one of the Empire’s planets. I was arriving there to deal with a traitor. They hid themselves well apparently, but it was of no use now. The information about them was in the right hands, or should I say the wrong hands? It doesn’t matter as they will be dead soon enough.
I enter the town without incident. As one of Ziost’s few settlements, it is brimming with life. There are sith, both red and not, wandering from building to building. I can see a small militia, and imperial troopers. I also see other shadier people—Intelligence will be happy to know the traitor has not killed off some of our own. I smile as one of the main buildings came into my view. I parked the speeder and head inside.
The building is a small cantina. It has the usual features of a cantina: Almost naked dancers on the tables, bar with a bartender at the centre, and various tables with patrons. The trick here is to not make a scene of any kind. Therefore, my clothing is civilian and my demeanor casual. The only give away I am more than civil is the rifle on my back. I do not walk to whoever is my target. Instead, I get a drink and settle in front of one of the dancer’s. I pretend to focus on her, though it is difficult as females never held my interest.
People come and people go, but not the person I am looking for. The person has not really noticed me, but they will. I look forward to ending one for Imperial Intelligence: How many of my people have died because of them? How many secrets have resulted in the Empire’s loss? Too many.
I see across the room someone I have had encounters with. He looks at me as if he wanted to approach, but I subtly shake my head. No intimacy today. Just cold justice served with even colder revenge. Why colder revenge? I cannot tell you beyond this person has not been good to the Empire at large, nor myself in particular.
“Hey there, cutie.”
I look up to see a red sith woman lean down. She’s in a dancer’s outfit? One of my own people reduced to such a life? Figures.
“Hello,” I answer.
She leans close to me. “I see you have been staring at me. Is there something I can get for you?”
I put some credits beneath her. “Nothing beyond another lovely dance; I always thought our people were graceful.” More specifically, our men are graceful. Please do not push the issue, lady.
She bows and resumes dancing. He’s whispering to someone across the room. Normally I would not give it much thought, as field agents whisper more than talk, if talk is required at all. Though why does he look paler than before? Hmmm…
“I have other graces too, handsome.”
The dancer cuts into my thoughts, again. She is persistent, yes? Obviously I cannot have a simple drink without being propositioned for something else. Then again, I suppose I should let her know I am not interested in her in such a way. Well at least until I notice my flame pointing at me and the man he’s whispering to glance over. Something is not right, so I will have to feign attraction for now.
Good thing I did not tell my flame anything. I did not even tell him which branch of the military I work for. I turn to the dancer as the twosome over there start to get up: “Oh,” although this is contrary to my very being, I lower my voice as I look up through the bangs of my hair, “would you care to share any of them with me?”
The men were approaching closer. She touches her mouth and nods. “I always share my grace with a man such as you.”
“Come on, Va’io, we both know one such as her isn’t your type.”
I know the voice, and I know my mission is about to become complicated. Didn’t he know I shook my head? Don’t tell me he’s developed feelings for me. There is no room for feelings when I’m at work. There’s also no room for a third wheel. Oh well.
“Welcome gentlemen,” I speak while sipping my drink, “here to watch the show, yes?”
“I always join you to watch the show, Va’io. But I prefer we create one,” he said in a low tone, his breath on my ear. I glance a bit to see there is a man behind him, and the suggestions of a blaster pointed into my flame’s back. What happens when a flame becomes a wildfire. Is he hoping I rescue him from this assailant? Yet no one should know I’m coming. Not even him. Which means it is time for me to get to work. And I do not rescue. Nor do I leave many witnesses.
“I see you have a friend with you.” I slowly turn around and look at them both wistfully. “Cannot say I am upset, as I always wanted to experiment a threesome; however, we should not have this beautiful woman witness what we get to behind closed doors.”
“No we shouldn’t,” the man behind him answered.
“I would be happy to see how three men have fun,” the poor dancer stated, “so long as I receive compensation for witnessing such a show.”
I smile. “You’re always welcome, miss. I appreciate women who enjoy more masculine romances. Shall we?”
She bowed and lead us upstairs. I made sure to be the last person in the room. I hear as I slowly shut the door: “You should re-think your choice in boyfriends, Cipher. Otherwise, intelligence will need to replace you.”
“You’re right, whoever I am speaking with, I should. But no time for reflection now.”
The person speaks, “Keyword—aahhh!” and then is cut off. I shoot them. Their wit is fast, my reflexes are faster. “Another of my handler’s proving to be traitorous? I thought Keeper was more thorough than this.”
The woman and my flame looked between the corpse and me. His shoulders lessened their tension and he wiped his palms on his pants. “Thank gods, Va’io. I was afraid we were done for.”
“I knew he was going to use you to get to me, Agent. Too bad he turned out to be another traitor, or worse, as I was rather looking forward to a threesome. Maybe next time under different circumstances, yes? There remains one question, how did he know I was coming here, and how did he know to call me Cipher?”
“I don’t know how they got your intelligence name, but they somehow made me talk. I didn’t even know I had a keyword in me…”
I smile as I get close enough to him. “It is alright. I am sure you would never betray me, personally. However,” I pull him to me and into my vibroknife, “I cannot rule out the possibility you told him more than you should have. Not a nice way to treat your fuck buddy, is it?”
His corpse falls to the floor. Am I forgetting something? Oh yes, the dancer who is looking in horror from her spot on the bed. I wonder how fast she stripped off her dancer outfit. I turn to her and look her body up and down. She cringes back in horror at me. “Now, now miss. No need to fear as you were only a witness to a sad state of affairs.”
She stood up a bit and looked at me through narrower eyes. She then purred a little and tried to distract my eyes to more feminine features. “You wouldn’t hurt a pretty thing like me, would you?” I would have left her alive under normal circumstances, but not today as the bump on her stomach gives away a belt used by spies to disguise their appearance.
“Sorry, miss, but you should I few things,” I say calmly and looking directly in her eyes, while pulling out my blaster and shooting her belt.
The image melted away to reveal the one I’m looking for. “First, I have no attraction to women. A pretty red face would never have worked. Second, Watcher, you have a death warrant for treason against the Empire.”
I fire twice and a third corpse is in the room. I contact the Watcher via my commlink: “All three of my targets are dead. Time to head home, yes?”
Watcher V answered, “Yes, well done Cipher 8. We have another assignment for you. Clean up crew is on route.”
I walk outside. Another day in Imperial Intelligence. I hop on my speeder and head to Intelligence’s branch in Ziost’s capital. I must advise against questioning why one target evolved into three. I would not want to turn you into another corpse.
Look at those people in that house in Kaas City. I bet they are so… so warm. Look at the food on their plates. I think it is probably the leftovers from breakfast- toast, cereal, bantha milk. So delicious and yet so out of my reach.
They are supposed to be a family of sith where Darths are at the head and they are growing a strong son who will carry on their legacy. Yet they are the warmest place in a cold city on a colder planet that is. It is amazing, I think, that they can live as such without being hidden.
I grab at my hands a little bit, and try to stop my lips’ chatter. Where am I now? What should I do for breakfast? Where can I go to get breakfast?
Why are they so happy? How can anyone in the Empire be this happy? Why can I not be that happy? Is it because I’m asleep outside? Is it because my stomach is in knots and my lungs sting? Is it because I got born to my mother and father instead of them? What the kriff do I have to do to live like them?
Look at their son…He’s using a blow dryer to dry his hair! Furthermore, his room is a mess with books upon books about useless stuff that will get him nowhere. Why did he not finish his tea? What I would give to have some tea right now.
I know, bold talk from someone asleep outside in the cold but a teenager can still have an opinion!
I can also dream he’ll open the door. Soon. I can barely feel my toes! Do I still have toes, or did they wander off in search of sustenance?
The rain hasn’t let up yet. My shivering gets worse; my teeth will fall off if I do not control their chattering. and I could see some of the plumbing in the city begging the engineer to be executed—on Dromund Kaas, you don’t leave a street to flood in one of the most luxurious apartment blocks in the city and expect Darths and Lords to not take exception sooner or later.
My cousin, Ratsoi, shouted to my aunt and uncle, “I’m off to basic training! I should be back shortly…”
His mother, my aunt who married my uncle on my father’s side hollered back: “Of course. Keep an eye out for Crimsên, son. He wasn’t at home last night. Hopefully he found a place to stay.”
Ratsoi finally opened the door and answered back, “Of course I will. Someone might as well be— Crimsên?!!!!! Crimsên, wake up! Wake up!!!”
I lazily opened my eyes at that point. I whispered, “Not so loud… I’m trying to sleep, Rats...”
He kneeled down next to me and felt my forehead. “When did you get here? How did you get here?” He picked me up as I was not as big as he was back then. He shouted, “Mother! Father!! He’s here, and he’s cold…”
My aunt ran up to me and felt my forehead. “Why couldn’t we sense him? Crimmy, can you hear us?”
I said to her in a hoarse voice: “Don’t call me that! I prefer Crim… And I got here after you all were in bed.”
“No, that’s not possible. How could you have been outside our house all night? You and I have a force bond; I would have felt you. I would have…”
“Mother, Crim and I have a force bond too. I couldn’t sense him either,” Rats interjected slowly. “Could auntie and uncle have removed his awareness? Are they blocking us somehow?”
“No. Why would they? She was just showing him off, and his powerful abilities, at one of those stupid parties your father insists we go to at least once a year to prove to Thanaton we’re still alive and working.”
“Then why?” my cousin asked to be interrupted by my very quiet voice, “It was me, auntie. I took the force away. I killed it inside me because I had to…”
My aunt and cousin were so silent you could hear a pin drop and even an animal roar in the jungle miles away. She helped me to stand and lead me inside. My legs were so numb I could barely move them. Yet I almost ran when I caught a whiff of the oatmeal drifting in from the kitchen.
“We will deal with this later. No basic training, son, we need to get Crimsên to a medical facility. And we’ll have to tell his parents…”
“NO! Don’t call them… Don’t call them! They’ll kill me! Please just take me anywhere, but don’t tell them where I am. And don’t tell them I’m here! Just take me far away! Do you have any food? Any blankets?”
Ratsoi sat me down and my aunt gave me an apple. I ate it in a few seconds; the crackers Rats gave me did not last much longer either. “Eat slowly, Crimmy,” my aunt cautioned, “or you will get sick.”
I wrapped the blanket around me tightly. I whisper, “Don’t call me that. I am so cold and so tired. Do you have an open fire anywhere, or tea? I can explain how I got here and why I ended up outside. Is there more food? I didn’t eat supper before I ran out. Are…. A-r-e you going to go to training, Ratsoi?”
Rats shook his head. “No, no training today, Crim. I think I’m needed here to ensure you get better.”
Eventually my uncle came in. He said calmly, “Crimsên! What are you doing here?”
Rats turned to his father: “He came here, dad, after something at his home. He was outside all night. I think they really terrified the terantatek out of him.”
“No need to be terrified, you are safe.”
If only his calm voice would work this time but it was to no avail. I said in a panic, “Uncle! They are going to kill me!”
My aunt turned to me: “Crimmy be calm; it’s alright. You are here and you are safe.”
“Please don’t make me go back there! I’ll do anything, serve in anyway… I just cannot go back there!”
“Nonsense, son,” he said in a calm but firm voice. “You are family; I will not have one of my father’s descendants become a servant”
I jumped and tried to force myself away from them. “No force… no f-f-f-force… Keep me away from… I will not…!”
I was told at the medical facility that my cousin knocked me out before I could do more. He supposedly explained to them, “Forgive me, I feared he was going to become violent.”