The trip to Helghan took fifteen hours. Anakin had boarded the ship to Helghan with Cole Oling and Obi-Wan had taken a different ship to Vekta. Unfortunately, Cole had not changed at all from when Anakin had last met him.
"I can't believe that they agreed to send you on this mission, you are too reckless to negotiate with these savages," he heard Cole say to him as they took off. "It's almost as stupid as making us wear these ridiculous vests beneath our robes."
"Your assumption that they are savages won't win them over," retorted Anakin. "And those vests are here because both sides largely use projectile weapons. If things go out of hand, we will likely need more than just lightsabers."
"I don't know why your master and your brother think you are worthy to become a Jedi," continued Cole as they dropped out of hyperspace. "You have no sense of patience or tact, why the Council could not see that when they first saw you is a mystery, let alone allow you to train."
"Your own Master joined the Order a little late himself, if that tradition means so much to you, complain about it to him," Anakin replied.
Before Cole could say anything else, they were interrupted by the Judicial captain of the ship, who informed them they had reached Helghan and that they were receiving a transmission from a nearby ship. Anakin activated the holoprojector and a Helghast officer appeared.
"Master Jedi, this is Major Mael Radec of the Autarch's guard regiment, requesting permission to dock," said the masked figure.
"Permission granted, Major," replied Anakin. Five minutes later, the Consular-class corvette had docked with the Helghast strike fighter Radec was flying. Accompanying Radec were four other Helghast soldiers, a regular Assault Infantryman, an Elite Shock Trooper, a Scout Sniper, and a Grenadier, each with their signature weapons holstered and wearing the Autarch's regimental insignia, while Radec carried a Large Machine Gun on his back and a standard sidearm in his holster.
"Why are you bringing weapons to a peace conference and wearing your uniform, Ambassador Radec?" demanded Cole. Radec ignored him and turned to Anakin.
"Your friend should learn to be more courteous to the people he is negotiating with, Jedi Skywalker," Radec said. "No Helghast meets with an outsider without weapons ready. Corporal Perseus, Private Theseus, would you please explain why we wear our uniforms?"
"The dress code is the foundation of discipline, sir," said the Sniper in a rather soft voice despite wearing a gas mask.
"Without it, we are just savages," said the Infantryman in a deeper voice.
"It is nice to meet you, Jedi Skywalker, I have studied your victory at Naboo and it is most impressive," continued Radec. "I had hoped to meet Knight Kenobi as well but I am left wondering where he is and who has taken his place."
"This is my fellow Padawan Cole Oling, apprentice to Jedi Master Ki-Adi-Mundi of the High Council," introduced Anakin. "The Vektan delegation demanded that he meet with them, so we were forced to split up."
"Hopefully, his meeting with the Federation at Naboo will give him the experience to let him know he is being lied to," said the major. "The Autarch would have ordered the offensive to resume had he not heard of your respective achievements. We did not ask for your mediation, we asked for your assistance."
"If you expect us to help a bunch of barbarians conquer a modern planet-"Cole started before Anakin smacked him on the head.
"Shut up, we haven't even heard what he has to say," said Anakin. "Major Radec, we came here under the impression that we were here to negotiate a peace between your people and the Vektans. I try not to judge someone by their wardrobe and the colors they like but why did you bring us here under false pretenses?" Radec pulled out a small holoprojector that flickered to life and displayed a human woman who wore a white jumpsuit that covered everything except her face.
"This is Doctor Hillary Massar of the Diortem University," introduced Radec. "For over a decade, she was tasked with teaching biology in graduate classes. Five years ago, it was revealed that she was deliberately infecting people of a variety of species with a strain of the Loedorvian Brain Plague in order to study the effects on living subjects as it happened." Anakin was shocked, he had seen the results of the Brainrot plague on an entire family in Mos Espa, the mother mistook him for a Dug slaver and ran away into the path of an oncoming speeder, the father had mistaken a Hutt for a Womp Rat and had been gunned down by the guards before he could attack their employer, and the daughter could barely talk, move unhindered, or even remember what was happening by the time she just collapsed one day and didn't wake up. The fact someone would deliberately inflict that was disgusting. "After that was revealed, she fled Diortem and was apparently killed when her ship's hyperdrive malfunctioned. Then, one week ago, the Autarch received this holo of her with these two men," continued Radec, zooming out to show what looked like a Vektan officer and a man in a business suit. "The soldier is General Curtis Vaughton of the ISA, who has made a career of attacking our settlements on Gyre regardless of military value, often trying to provoke us into attacking so he can have the excuse of attacking our own positions with the Republic's help. The suit is Franklin Minos, the head of the Vektan Diplomatic Service, a devious man who utterly hates our people because he can't accept that his son getting shot on Gyre was just a part of war and who wants to destroy our nation completely. The only reason they would be meeting with her is if they thought they could gain an advantage over us, likely involving the Brain Plague. Unfortunately, the warship that houses Massar's lab is hidden somewhere inside the Centauri asteroid belt, which you would be better off flying over given how powerful the gravitational forces are. Only the very best pilot in the galaxy could hope to navigate through that thicket, much less find the ship hidden inside one of three hundred asteroids capable of concealing an ISA cruiser. I was on Tatooine for your victory on Boonta Eve, I told the Autarch you are the only pilot who can do this." Anakin was surprised, this was the first time anyone besides Chad had complimented him on him winning the biggest podrace in the galaxy.
"You don't really believe this, do you?" asked Cole. "He is clearly manipulating us to get us killed by the ISA so the Republic treaty with them is revoked and the Helghast can do as they please."
"Our ancestors were brought together by Canderous Ordo, Mandalore the Preserver, and Revan's Iron Fist," interrupted Radec. "We have always respected the Jedi. The Vektans are determined to destroy us, are you going to deny us aid in our time of need?"
"Why didn't you just bring this up in your transmission?" asked Anakin.
"The Autarch was unconvinced the senate would believe our claims, and given how they dragged their feet to so much as investigate the claim that Naboo had been invaded, the Vektans would likely coverup everything and try again when the commission had left," answered the major. "Only by stopping them now do we avert the threat and with the Jedi as witnesses, the Vektans won't be able to talk their way out of this. That is, if you want to help us."
"You are a fascist junta who killed your own parliament when they tried to agree to a peace treaty, and on top of that, you are Mandalorians, you expect us to believe you?" asked Cole incredulously.
"I do," said Anakin. "I sense no deception from Major Radec or his men, and Master Yoda said we should be mindful of both sides, not just the Helghast. If the Vektans are plotting this, we cannot ignore it. Though I would like to contact my master first."
"That would be preferable but the Vektans would likely be listening," said Radec. "Though I am sure that Knight Kenobi will realize the Vektans are lying to him before long. Sergeant Patroclus, how long is the flight to the Vektan asteroid belt?"
"Two hours, sir," said the Elite Shock Trooper, whose feminine voice made it clear she was a woman. "Our fighter has room for two more, sir, I shall show these two to our ship."
"The only place you are going is the brig!" yelled Cole as he pulled his lightsaber. Before he could activate it, though, Patroclus jabbed him with a stun baton, knocking him to the ground while Perseus and Theseus pulled their own weapons on the judicial crewmembers but not on Anakin, who was still listening, albeit with his own lightsaber drawn.
"It would seem that your friend won't be joining us," said Radec. "As such, he and the crew will remain here with a disabled transmission array and hyperdrive until this mission is complete. Can I still count on your assistance, Jedi Skywalker?"
"Kid, don't listen to this creep," said the Judicial pilot. "He is clearly trying to provide an excuse for restarting the war so he won't have to worry about Republic or Jedi intervention."
"I don't sense deception from any of them," replied Anakin. "The council told us to be wary of both the Vektans and the Helghast, and I have evidence the Vektans are plotting something."
"They are lying to you, Skywalker," said the captain. "The fact they overthrew their own democracy is proof enough that they are evil."
"Democracy is the biggest joke in history!" yelled the grenadier. "It sounds good but at the end of the day, it is a hundred voices yelling different things, drowning out everything of meaning, all of them spouting lies, and hiding their own agendas. And the loudest voice has almost no control over them. Apart from Visari, there are only six other voices, each of them clear and honest." The grenadier then turned to Radec. "I am sorry Major, but I had enough of everyone except Skywalker bad mouthing us and our way of life."
"It is understandable, Corporal Themistocles," replied Radec. "Just don't do it again. Well, Jedi Skywalker, what will it be?" Anakin thought long and hard. While the suspicions the others had were reasonable, Anakin could not help but feel as if the Helghast were telling the truth. It would certainly be nice to be appreciated for his skill as a pilot and as a Jedi, something most others did not. The fact they believed in him because of his actual accomplishments as opposed to some vague prophecy no one explained to him certainly helped.
"I suppose you should show me how to fly that fighter of yours before we go anywhere," he said.
"That is good to hear, I have the instruction manual right here," said Radec as he pulled it out of his back pocket. "You will not regret this."
Sorry for taking so long, I finally finished moving to Colorado, so I can now continue writing in time for Thanksgiving. I named Radec's team after four Greek heroes. I named the general Curtis Vaughton as a reference to Curtis Lemay, the original General Ripper. I named the ambassador Franklin Minos as a reference to the very worst aspects of FDR and as a reference to the king of Crete, whose idea for avenging his murdered son was to extort a group of Athenian youths under threat of war to be fed to the Minotaur. I came up with Cole Oling as an expy of Quinton Cole from Battlefield 3, who does all manner of stupid things because he cannot fathom the Russians as being anything other than evil, Oling thinks the same regarding the Helghast. Themistocles's (whose own name is ironic) view on democracy reflects that of the Helghast, and later that of Anakin circa Attack of the Clones. The Brainrot Plague is basically Creutzfeld-Jakob disease.