Star Wars: The Last of the Jedi, Volume 9 (10 page)

BOOK: Star Wars: The Last of the Jedi, Volume 9
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Ferus emerged into a surprisingly busy street. Dawn was just beginning to streak the sky with orange. He saw gravsleds and utility ramps set up down at the end of the street. He realized that an
open-air market was being set up right under the shadow of the spaceport.

Ferus followed the activity into the market. It must have been a permanent fixture, for the large square was filled with stalls that marched in winding rows. The partitions were made of heavy
durasteel poles and brightly colored awnings. Open bins held piles of items.

The day’s unloading was taking place—vegetables and fruits, baked goods, household items, robes, cloths, plants, flowers, tools. The merchants chatted in small groups, or busily set
up their stalls.

Ferus made his way through the crowd, looking for the figure he’d chased. He felt sure he’d recognize him by his height and the way he moved, even though he hadn’t seen his
face.

Instead, he bumped into Deara. A basket filled with fruit and muffins was on her arm. She moved her basket to her other arm, as though she couldn’t trust him not to steal it.

“Just enjoying the bounty of your planet,” he said, gesturing to the stalls around him.

Her face flushed. “It seems your Empire believes that our bounty is yours for the taking.” As if afraid she’d said too much, she quickly walked away.

Ferus stood in the middle of the market. Around him was food he could not reach for and people who despised him.

Inside his tunic was a dark future. A path lay before him that all his life he had known was wrong.

He had wanted to kill that spy. Just as Vader had killed Roan, for no good reason except he was in his way.

If he killed Vader using the same kind of power, would that turn him into just another version of the Dark Lord?

Ferus pressed his chest with his hand, felt his heartbeat. He saw everything ahead of him, all the wrong he could do. He was being pulled along that path.

Why couldn’t he stop himself?

Ry-Gaul and Trever waited at the landing platform all afternoon for Zan Arbor to return. They knew she varied her routine and could return at any time. Waiting wasn’t too
hard. It was
where
they had to wait that was the problem.

It happened to be behind the exhaust grille of a star yacht, but they didn’t have a choice. There was no other place to conceal themselves on the platform. The exhaust grille was hot. It
was cramped. It smelled. Still, Ry-Gaul and Trever lay curled against the metal for hours.

And Ry-Gaul wasn’t the most thrilling conversationalist. All Trever was able to get out of him was, “Later or soon, it will happen.”

Thanks.

As the sunset painted the windows of the tower bright orange, Ry-Gaul stirred. Zan Arbor’s transport appeared, a top of the line airspeeder in brushed chromium. She made no attempt at
disguise. She drove the luxury speeder with the roof retracted, looping once around the crowded plaza below to show herself off.

Trever nudged Ry-Gaul. “Linna’s in the back.”

The Jedi nodded, his pale gray eyes never leaving the sight. Zan Arbor dipped the craft and moved smoothly down to land on the platform.

As Zan Arbor gathered her things to depart, Ry-Gaul leaped out of the exhaust grille and slid underneath the belly of the star yacht. Trever followed. They waited while Zan Arbor exited,
followed by Linna.

They had already decided to grab Linna in the small reception room that lay beyond the entrance. There, occupants at the hotel could take off their outer garments and access turbolifts to take
them to their private apartments.

Zan Arbor and Linna disappeared inside. Trever and Ry-Gaul followed. They found themselves in a small reception area with hammered azurite walls.

From an open doorway ahead they could hear Zan Arbor giving loud orders to a fussing protocol droid. “Take this cape and press it. And no, I do
not
want the chaughaine tonight.
How many times have I told you? The emerald satina—I’m going to the opera.”

Ry-Gaul signaled to Trever. It was time to alert Linna that they were ready to take her away.

They started forward, but Ry-Gaul suddenly put his hand on Trever’s shoulder to stop him. He leaned over and whispered, “Trouble.”

Instead of heading toward Zan Arbor, Ry-Gaul turned to the turbolift.

He accessed it and entered with Trever on his heels. The turbolift was the size of a small room, with gilt walls and a plush floorcovering.

“Uh, this seems to be a no-way-out situation to me,” Trever offered.

Ry-Gaul held onto the side rails, kicked out, and supported himself upside down while he kicked up at the roof panel.

He caught the panel with one hand when it fell and yet managed at the same time to push himself through, upside down. Trever threw his head back, peering up into the blackness. He’d never
seen such a display of agility. “Wow,” he said. “Are you—”

His words were choked off as Ry-Gaul’s feet came down, grabbed him around his shoulders, and yanked him upward. Trever was whisked through the opening and landed hard on the top of the
turbolift. He was about to protest but Ry-Gaul motioned him to be quiet as he silently slid the roof panel back in place.

Trever shot him a questioning look. What could be more trouble than sitting on top of an express turbolift that no doubt went extremely fast, waiting for a crazy genius evil scientist to enter
it?

Then he knew. He heard the rasp of the breathing.

Darth Vader.

Zan Arbor’s voice sounded petulant as they entered the turbolift. “I didn’t know you were back in Imperial City, but I’m glad to have a chance to talk to you. You
promised me more human subjects.”

“You promised me progress.”

“I have made tremendous progress. It’s all in my reports. But I still need adult subjects.”

“You have done enough research. It is time to produce the agent.”

“I don’t have time for this. I have tickets to the opera tonight. I’m meeting Senator Sauro.”

“Let us step inside. I am not finished.”

The turbolift rose swiftly. Trever turned slightly to look up to the end of the shaft. At this rate they should reach it in less than a minute. He wondered how much room there was between the
elevator roof and the ceiling of the shaft.

“I am a perfectionist,” Zan Arbor said. “That is the reason you hired me, correct? It’s hardly the time to push me, now that we’re so close to the end.”

“This is
exactly
the time,” Vader thundered. “You are too cautious!”

“I am a scientist!”

“You are a coward!”

Ry-Gaul cocked his head, listening intently.

“Did you come here just to rant at me? I can contact the Emperor, you know. He might be interested in your…strange urgency.”

Ry-Gaul was now listening intently, his eyes closed.

Suddenly the turbolift shuddered, then reversed.

“What are you doing? You didn’t even touch the sensor….”

“I have done what I came to do. I will be back tomorrow, when I will want to hear a plan to have the memory agent online within the month.”

Trever held onto the turbolift as it zoomed downward. It seemed to be going awfully fast.

“I demand you slow this turbolift down, Lord Vader.” Zan Arbor’s voice shook. “If this is a display of your Force-ability, I hardly need it. I am an expert, you
know.”

“The fact that you consider yourself an expert,” Vader said, “only proves how
ignorant
you are.”

The turbolift stopped with a violent jerk, as if it had smashed into ground, not air. The only thing that prevented Trever from tumbling off into the shaft was Ry-Gaul’s strong grip. He
heard a scramble below; bodies falling.

“You will hear about this, Lord Vader!” Zan Arbor screeched.

They heard the doors open and the sound of his boots, followed by the scuffling sounds of someone trying to rise, and panting.

“He’s going to pay for that,” Zan Arbor said. “Get this thing moving, Linna. Fast!”

“I think the sensor might be broken—”

“Just do it!”

Ry-Gaul signaled to Trever. Now was the time. Zan Arbor was already off balance from her confrontation with Vader.

Ry-Gaul went first, slipping down into the turbolift in one fluid movement. Trever followed.

He cannonballed into the space. His job was to protect Linna while Ry-Gaul took care of Zan Arbor. As he landed, his foot tangled in a thick chaughaine cape that Zan Arbor must have left on the
floor. He lost his balance and fell. Linna reached out for him.

Zan Arbor took out a small deadly blaster. Linna was now exposed.

The look of triumph in Zan Arbor’s eyes was erased when Ry-Gaul charged, his lightsaber held in a defensive posture.

Linna had already leaped forward to protect Trever, pulling something from her med pack. Trever yelled, afraid that the blasterfire would hit her despite Ry-Gaul’s lightsaber.

Zan Arbor, her lips drawn back in a smile, peppered Ry-Gaul with blasterfire. Trever hit the ground as the fire ricocheted around the turbolift. Linna hit the floor, too, and Zan Arbor turned,
aiming the blaster at her.

Linna reached forward and pressed a delivery syringe full of a blue-gray liquid into Zan Arbor’s ankle.

Zan Arbor screamed and dropped her blaster. She writhed, falling to the ground, and beat her head against the floor. She reached for Linna, who drew back.

“No!” Zan Arbor screamed. “No!”

“What did you do?” Trever whispered to Linna.

Ry-Gaul clipped his lightsaber back onto his belt. “She gave her the memory agent.”

Linna leaned over Zan Arbor. She spoke clearly and quietly, with no menace in her voice. Only resolve.

“You will never use your brilliance to hurt people again.”

Zan Arbor put her hands to her head. “The formula…I’m losing it. Tell it to me!”

Linna was silent. She waved her hand over the sensor and the turbolift began to rise.

“The interactions of chemicals with organic substance…the formula for toxic delivery systems by water…” Zan Arbor began to pull at her hair. “It’s gone! My
experiments! I can’t remember them!”

She crashed back against the wall.

“My training! My genius!”

Trever watched as panic raced across her face. “The Bibinger formula!” she screamed. “My work with the transmission of plague element…it’s gone! Chemical
equations…the amount of weight times gravity times…times…”

“It was a full dose,” Linna murmured. “Not targeted. I’m not sure how it will affect her, but I think at the very least she’ll lose all her scientific
training…fifty years’ worth…”

“Who are you?” Zan Arbor suddenly turned to Linna. “I don’t know you.”

The doors slid open. Linna led her out into the sumptuous apartment.

“I don’t know this place!”

“This is your home.”

Linna walked over to Zan Arbor’s datapad. She slipped it under her arm.

“You did this to me,” Zan Arbor said suddenly, looking at Linna. “I remember enough to know I was a genius. Now I’m a nobody! I’m a nobody!”

Linna walked back into the turbolift.

“You might as well have killed me!” Zan Arbor shrieked.

The turbolift doors closed, and they descended. All the way down they heard her screams.

Hydra contacted Ferus as he was leaving the open-air market. Her voice was curt.

“There’s been a break in the investigation. I discovered there was a weather forecasting satellite overhead on the day in question. The findings include ground photos. They are wiped
at the end of each day. So they said. But I went into the computers and found a cache with old information. Found the day in question.”

Ferus felt his heart fall. “That’s good news.”

“Unfortunately whatever the incident was, I can’t locate it. The satellite only covers a portion of the park during the time in question. But I was able to cross-check with
airspeeder ID tags. We’ll miss out on those who arrived on foot but if we squeeze the others for names we’ll really be getting somewhere. We’ll have almost everyone who was in the
park that day. I can interview all of them.”

This was exactly what he didn’t want to happen.

“I’ll sit in,” he said.

BOOK: Star Wars: The Last of the Jedi, Volume 9
9.59Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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