"I still don't believe that a bounty hunter is the best solution to these attempts milady."
"Everything will be fine Captain Typho. Not only is he a friend of the Jedi as I've told you ten times already, but I personally know the man." This had been Padme's standard morning conversation with the head of her personal security team for the last four days. Every morning she would wake up, get dressed, argue with Typho about the Jedi's decision of detective and continue to argue throughout the day until she either went to her personal quarters to sleep, or forced the captain to check the security feeds, if only to give herself a few minutes of quiet time. Although with Jar Jar also there, even that wasn't quiet time.
Not exactly the most productive way to spend her waking hours. An argument she'd actually put to the captain yesterday, which actually shut him up for at least half an hour. Maybe she should try that again…
"I only have your best interests and safety in mind milady. And I don't think having someone who has committed questionable moral actions is fit to take charge in an official investigation." The man reasoned. Quite badly in Amidala's opinion.
"Mesa thinkin hesen bombad. He doin all da crunchen anda boomin of da mechaneeks all dem years ago." Said Jar Jar as he entered the room from his own quarters, a view which Padme couldn't disagree with.
"There's a difference between wrecking droids and leading an investigation." The guard responded. The Naboo senator sighed. 'This isn't going to end is it?' She mused exhaustedly to herself.
"If you're so concerned for the senator's safety, perhaps you'd like to lead the investigation yourself." A voice called from the balcony of the complex. Surprised and curious, the occupants turned to the open-top balcony.
It looked as if everything about the man was there just to annoy the Captain. Just sitting on the wall of the balcony reading an orange book through his helmet practically oozed unprofessionalism and cowardice to the Head of Security. The worn burnt orange and forest green Mandalorian armour, coupled with the faded brown duster cloak, only further convinced Typho that the man, who he wasn't even entirely sure was even a man given his rather unimpressive size and build, was simply a ruffian who'd gained a reputation above his weight from unsavoury business.
"But I can guarantee you that you're 97.8% likely to find yourself on the receiving end of a blaster bolt for digging too loud too deeply." Díni warned, as he closed his book and welcomed himself into the building.
Typho had to admit though, the moment he heard his voice through the sky-blue visor, the way he carried himself as he walked into the apartment, told him enough to hold his tongue on the matter.
"Only 97.8%?" Questioned the senator, though with none of the seriousness or exasperated tone that she had spoken to the captain with as the newcomer walked by him.
"Nothing is a hundred percent certain ma'am." Díni answered as he turned to face her. His visor not batting her bodyguard any notice as he bowed lightly towards. "It's a pleasure to be working under you once again senator Amidala."
"Thank you Díni. Though I wish it was under more peaceful circumstances." Mused the former queen as her gaze fell a few inches. Her mind drifting to those who had been caught in the crossfire of this whole disaster. To those who had put her safety above their own. To Cordé.
"Yes, you appear to be gathering quite a lot of attention recently. Even for a radiant woman of you standards milady." The hunter noted, idly stroking the bottom of his faceplate.
"I suggest that you reframe from speaking to the senator in that tone bounty hunter." Insisted the Naboo guard as he moved to step in front of said senator. The only response he received however was Díni's helmet tilting slightly, as if in a quizzical manner.
"Hmm? Did you say something Eyepatch?" Retorted the Mando'. The casual tone only serving to get under Typho's skin. It was only the reassuring hand of his charge that stopped him from doing something he may have regretted.
"It's quite alright captain. I'm used to Díni's mannerisms. There's no need to become so worked up over mere words." She scolded a tad more harshly than she intended, though it still had its desired effect if the straightening of Typho's posture was anything to go by.
"A wise policy senator." The hunter noted.
"I've got my eye on you, boy." Warned the guard through clenched teeth.
"Good. At least that one still works then." Díni brushed off the warning as he moved to the sofa's in the centre of the complex. Typho could only grit his teeth as Padme moved to sit opposite the newcomer. The senator's upright, professional posture poetically contrasting against the hunter's spread-out, arm-across-the-sofa position he'd adopted. Typho decided to remove himself from the situation and instead focus his efforts on preventing Representative Binks from destroying priceless Naboo artefacts. Again.
"The council mentioned that you suspected Count Dooku of Serenno was in some way responsible for these attempts." Díni idly noted as he placed the copy of Criminology and investigations for Dummies he'd been reading on the sofa next to him.
"And what of it?" Padme remarked, tensing a little as the issue that brought her ire back in the Chancellor's office came back to haunt her it seemed.
"Well there are so many other potential suspects. You've got your own moon's spice miners," He raised his index finger. "Then there's former allies within the senate out for some payback." He raised his second middle finger. "You've got the other ambitious folk within the senate who would literally kill to be in your position." Up went the ring finger. "And rogue elements within the Gungan community who see their way of life destroyed as they move out from their little swamp-pits and into the great big universe in the sky." His little finger joined the rest.
"What's your point Díni?" She asked him as he straightened up from his slouched position.
"But you've gone with option E Amidala. The Count Dooku that was renowned for stopping conflict through negotiations rather than force as the senate often wished for. A man who was vocal not just about the maintaining of galaxy-wide 'peace' that's been held for a thousand years, but his order's submission to the single biggest bureaucratic body in the galaxy." He listed as he leant toward the senator. His sky-blue visor taking up much of her view. "So what do you know that the rest of the universe doesn't Padme?"
A moment of silence filled the complex as his words settled in Padme's mind. To the senator's credit, her own gaze didn't budge under the visor's unwavering focus. She merely let her shoulders fall slightly as she tried chose her words with the intelligence a senator of her calibre wielded.
"The official statement by the Trade Federation denouncing their 'rogue elements'. The ones that joined the confederacy." She explained. There was another pause before Díni's form reclined back into the sofa he was stationed on.
"I was right." He mused. "You're not the young queen I met all those years ago."
"I've already been used once by those in the senate." She declared. "I don't intend for it to happen again." Díni nodded at her intention before his head turned to the complex's entrance.
"I believe it's my cue to leave senator." He stated as he moved to stand. "Wouldn't want to cramp your style in front of your new security measures." Padme looked to the entrance, only to see Jar Jar trying desperately to not touch any of the artwork next to the elevator exit.
"What do mea-"Was as far as she got as she turned to ask the hunter, only to find an empty seat where he had once been. His book being the only evidence of his former presence.
She was caught in the middle of her confusion when Jar Jar's voice brought her back to reality.
*…So… you've been up here quite a while now.* A synthesised voice came from behind Díni.
"15 hours, 46 minutes and 21 seconds." Answered Díni. His gaze not braking from his binoculars as he looked over the complex, spying on the Jedi that had taken residence on Amidala's balcony.
*See? It's stuff like that that makes you look obsessive.* The voice pointed out as the hunter fiddled with the focusing-wheel on his binoculars.
"23 seconds." He corrected.
*Urgh. Why do I put up with you?* The voice seemed to sigh as Díni caught the glimmer of polished metal and plastic coming into his peripheral vision.
The source of the voice appeared to be to be a small floating droid, albeit a rather unique looking droid, with an electric blue 'eye', surrounded by moving segments of what appeared to be made of various plastics and metals of burnt orange.
"Because you don't have a say in the matter Church." Reminded Díni as he lowered his binoculars.
*What do you think they're talking about?* Wondered the droid as the panels around its eye closed in on the blue light, as if the robot was squinting.
"You could just use the listening device that you know I planted." He told the droid. He could feel the piercing blue light hit his helmet before it focused back on the complex. "And?"
*Missing his mum. Something about commitment to the order. Jeez, I thought Jedi were supposed to be knights in shining armour saving the galaxy, not moody teen dramas.* Whined Church as the top panel moved over its eye slightly. *Well, maybe not armour. More like pyjamas.*
"Moral of the story Church: Don't believe the hype." Díni told his companion as he looked back down his binoculars, the night life signs and speeder light flickering against his visor.
*What are we even doing here anyway? Why aren't we doing… I don't know… anything else?*
"Because we're laying a trap for our assassin."
*How's perving from a rooftop laying a trap?*
"Because," Díni started. "with guards at every possible entrance," He pointed to the lower floors of the complex. "And the Jedi covering the balcony, the only other potential way into Amidala's complex is in through her window." He finished as his gaze caught something on the striped pane.
*Is that a bird?* The floating droid asked as it's panels closed in around its eye.
"Why yes Church. Because we all know that birds don't need wings to fly and shine like chrome balls." The hunter quipped, feeling his companion's blue gaze hit his visor yet again. "Scan for it's make or model."
*Maybe I don't want to.* Pondered the droid.
"We're on a job now Church." Reminded the Mando'.
*Oh, so when you make a joke it's fine, but when I do it-*
*It's a 121-ASN, okay!?*
"That's all I was asking for." The hunter said as he stood up, his binoculars vanishing in a blue spark.
*Looks like it's backing awa- and that Jedi's just jumped through it.* Church noted as the aforementioned Jedi grabbed the droid as it attempted to escape.
"Well at least someone's taking their job seriously." Díni noted as he fired a grapple line from his wrist to a building closer to the droid. Church briefly tried floating after him before it vanished as well.
*What about the traffic!?* Even though the droid had vanished, Díni could still hear his voice inside his helmet.
"Let me worry about that." He answered as he narrowly missed a speeder underneath him before he landed on the building he'd aimed for, hitting the ground running as the hook retreated into his wrist-mount.
'This used to be so much easier.' Mused the hunter as he shot for the wall of the next building. The cable accelerating him through the air before he hit the wall at an angle. Sparks shooting from his feet and hands as he ran across the wall. He could make out the Jedi hanging for dear life onto the droid below him. Their silhouettes making a tiny dark break in the sea of lights below them.
*They're headed for the Trade Federation building.* Church pointed out as Díni landed on the next building. He looked up to see the massive neon-lights advertising the building to the sleepless planet.
"They haven't thought this through, have they?" He mused as ran across the building to the edge of the roof. He was about to fire another cable to the next skyscraper when he noticed the shape of the Jedi suddenly falling with the droid suddenly exploding for seemingly no reason. Unless…
'Self-destruct sequence? No. Why wait until now?' The hunter's thoughts clocking into overdrive as he tried to process the sudden events. His binoculars appearing once again in his hands as he stared through them at the roof of the building. Sure enough, he could make out the figure of a humanoid, rifle in hand, as she made a move for the speeder parked next to her.
"Church, mark that speeder on my HUD." He ordered as he pressed a button on his wrist.
*Done. What about that Jedi though?* The droid asked into his helmet as the hunter made out a blue outline suddenly surrounding the speeder as it sped out of view.
"What about him?" He asked back as he looked expectantly in the direction he had come from, seemingly not caring that his target had escaped. Not that they had of course.
No-one escaped this whirlpool once they were caught in it.
Damn that droid. Damn that Jedi. And damn that boy!
It should've been the easiest credits she'd earnt in months. Send the droid to the damn senator's suite, get the all clear on the hour, then watch the Coruscant morning holonews over a Hoth Daiquiri.
But no. She was here. Hiding in the corner of the Outlander, hiding like a rat from said senator's Jedi entourage.
'Of course he forgot to mention the Jedi.' Zam had to drag herself out of her internal fuming as she spotted the Jedi that jumped her droid leaning on the bar, his back turned to face her. And like a red rag to a wampa, she made her decision.
Slowly she waded her way through the sea of club occupants. Reaching for her blaster as she felt the breath of dozens waft down the back of her neck. The occasional slime-ball trying to cop a feel doing nothing to shatter her concentration. She couldn't afford it. A sudden change in a room this full of watching eyes would destroy her element of surprise.
She couldn't have been more than a few yards behind him now. Her pistol firmly grasped at her hip, raising it just enough that no one could see it. Simple plan. Kill the Jedi. Make for the exit. Kill the Jedi. Make for the exit-
A plan that went south the moment the hand grabbed her shoulder and sent her flying across the room, landing on an unlucky booth's table. Still dazed from her brief flight, she was too confused to do anything as another hand grasped her overalls and lifted her from the table.
Her vision coming 'round, she saw a blue visor inches away from her face, fixed on her face.
"The hell-" Was all she could sputter out before a fist met her temple, sending her down to kiss the floor. The words of her assailant echoing in her head as she wondered what went wrong.
"We should talk."
The slamming of her back against the outside of the Outlander brought her screaming back to the sky-blue visor of her captor.
"That was a pretty rookie mistake you made their friend." Díni noted as he held a cylindrical item in his left hand as he held Zam with his right forearm against the club's alley wall. "You could've just sneaked out the back. Lost us in the club like you almost did." Zam violently recoiled as a bright light shone from the item in her interrogator's hand. Her skin shivering as her reptilian features kept surfacing through her anguished cries.
"What did you do to me!?" Her deep distorted native tongue echoing through the side street.
"But no. You bricked it like a rioter and a pane of glass." The masked hunter mused as he stashed his tool into a satchel on his waste. "Don't worry. Your eyesight will return in an hour or four." He applied more pressure on her throat. "And you have bigger issues right now."
"I still don't understand why we're letting a bounty hunter do our job for us." Díni's head turned slightly to view the new voice.
A pair of human Jedi stood on the opposite side of the alley, watching the interrogation unfold. The shorter one in the lighter robes rested against the alley wall, arms crossed against his chest and stroking his chin as he kept his gaze trained on the changeling.
The tall one in dark robes was whole different beast entirely. Stood up straight, lightsabre in hand, body tensed like a coil and practically breathing down Díni's neck. He showed no sign of moving from his stance, but Kenobi didn't know how long that would last.
"You had your chance Sandman." The hunter reminded as he turned back to the purple-clad assassin "Let a professional take a stab it this one. Now, who's the chump that hired you?" The younger Jedi threw his arms up in resignation.
"Gah- I get my contracts through a th-third-party-Argh!" Zam squeezes out between breaths as her captor's knee meets her gut, again changing her momentarily.
"Strike one Clawdite. Always get job details from your client in the flesh so you can haggle for upfront payment. Basic low-level scoundrel etiquette. I know it. You know it." A punch to her gut changes her again. "Now try again for me. Who's you contact?"
"I wouldn't know! He always wears a helmet!" She yelled, furiously reaching for something. Anything to club over his head. She almost didn't hear the tutting coming from the masked man.
She certainly felt his hand cover her mouth and the cold metal pressed against her stomach.
The suppressed slug-thrower round going into her abdomen drowned out any muffled screams that escaped Díni's clasped hand. Falling to the ground as she held the bleeding wound, she didn't even try changing back.
The younger Jedi almost jumped on him. Even the older one shot up from his spot at the wall. "What are you doing!?"
"She's a changeling Skywalker. She moved her vital organs out of the slug's way." He reassured as he kneeled over her. "She's still bleeding to death though." Zam's trembling head turned to meet Díni's visor. "And right now, we're the only ones who can get her to a hospital in time." He leaned in, only a few inches from her face as he practically whispered to her. "Balls in your court."
"A M-Mando'. He's called-" Was as far as she got before dart found it's way into her neck. She went limp within a second.
"No No No…" Cursed the hunter as he rushed back to his satchel, desperately fumbling for something. Anything.
The Jedi turned in time to see a Jetpacked-figure soar into the city skyline, disappearing against the brightness of the higher levels.
Díni's shoulders sank under an invisible weight. Their lead lost and stood in a puddle of dark-blue blood.
"Kami just loves to shit on me…"
A.N: I apologise for the long wait. I can't promise any regular updates on the story, only that I do intend on finishing it and that the gap between this chapter and the next won't be 2 GOD-DAMN YEARS (I've been on this site long enough to know that pain of waiting for updates).
Leave a review on your way out if you have the time. Talk about what you liked, what you disliked. Hell, talk about how much you hated it.
May the force let you live long and prosper and the odds forever be in your favour lads and lasses.