The IG-2000 shook hard enough to send Marius Krath tumbling from his bunk to the frigid deck plate, landing hard enough for his tender leg bones to scream in new agony.
He aimed a dirty look at the FX-7 that IG-88 kept in the prisoner hold. The bounty hunter had tasked the old medical droid with mending Krath’s shattered legs – something about wanting his quarry “whole before they’re broken” – but forbade the FX to use any anesthetic in the process.
Krath had more than half a mind to take both droids apart, piece by piece. And it seemed that the ship was under attack, so his chance was coming up.
We must be over Ord Mantell, Krath thought, setting his teeth against the pain as he braced himself against the bunk and stood. Mekoa got my distress call! He blessed the crazy witch for insisting all her Alphas get the transponder implants… she must have evaded the Imperials at Iridonia and come after him with the Frost Harrier.
He peered outside his cell through the force field, to assess the prisoner hold again. Krath knew this was the only part of the ship with life support. The FX’s medical equipment seemed to be his only option for improvised weaponry, and that’d be no use against IG-88. He just had to stay alive until the Hounds of Winter arrived – they always brought the right tools for any job.
The ship shuddered again, and the constant drone of the engines stopped. Krath heard another ship clang alongside, heard the airlock open. He waited for the sound of blaster fire, a sound as dear to him as a lullaby to an anxious child…
He heard IG-88 clank into a firing position and open up with his pulse cannon – but then he heard the unmistakable snap-hiss and angry roar of a lightsaber.
What? She followed me? Krath had pulled his mind away from the girl some twenty times since their encounter. She had the skill of a Jedi Knight, sure, but she was far too young to be a veteran of the Clone Wars. How was this possible? Who was she? And why was she here now? He wasn’t dreaming, but was he fully awake? Maybe the droid had drugged him in some fashion?
He heard a high-pitched metallic shriek, and the clatter of metal to the floor. The little Jedi killed IG-88. I guess I’ll find out what she’s up to soon enough.
He focused himself, gathered what little strength he had. He’d charge her when the force field came down. Unless she tries to get into your mind, Marius. Can a Jedi do that through a force field?
Krath shook his head, balled his hands into fists, and waited.
The ship fell silent. Krath tuned out the beeps of the medical equipment, the FX-7’s whirring. He craned for any hint of the Jedi.
But the lightsaber blade that thrust through the door’s lock was not green, but a shining, bloody red.
“Oh, hell,” Krath heard himself say.
The door slid open as a force field appeared to hold in the atmosphere, allowing a lithe, cloaked figure into the room. She wore black and gray, her face covered by a dark mask made from something like porcelain – though it had provided her with life support outside this room, it still looked more decorative than functional. As she snuffed out her lightsaber, Krath saw that its hilt incorporated a flat, black disc. That told him what she was, if not whom.
“Congratulations, Alpha Krath,” the woman said, her voice reedy, unsettling, like tiny rat feet on a blackboard. “Your ship had to flee Iridonia in a hurry, so Salha Mekoa sent me to find you.”
“Must be my lucky day. So just who are you?”
“I am the Second Sister.” Apparently considering this to be a sufficient answer, the woman moved to the force field control panel. “I believe you know about the Order Inquisitorious?”
“Just stories. Mekoa told me that she helped them out, once, on Saleucami.”
“She helped ME, yes. Today I repay that favor.”
The force field keeping him in the cell dissipated, but Krath didn’t budge. “And I’m grateful for it, believe me, but… my guess is that you want a favor from me, now.”
“No.” The word felt ragged, like old cloth that’s met too many knives. The Second Sister strode toward Krath, backing him into the corner of his tiny cell. “As a citizen of the Empire, you should fulfill your patriotic duty and tell me everything you know about the Jedi you saw.”