The fellow who arranged their passage was pretty sleazy – but he seemed to be effective enough as long as there wasn’t any pressure on him and they kept an eye on him. Since the Captain didn’t get orders from the cops they’d hypnotized, their trip was relatively safe.
How extensive was Jaba’s network getting to be anyway?
They made sure that their weapons were fully charged and kept an eye out for unusual threats as they approached Coruscant. What with the Clone Wars security was pretty tight, but they’d developed some minor local identities along the way… It seemed that Jeol was the son of a minor world’s senator, Taniel was a dissolute young noble out spending her allowance, one boy was Joel’s bodyguard, and the other three were traveling students/associates. Oh well, at least they hadn’t been cast as a “wandering Sith war party” or something.
Those ID’s would explain some light weaponry – but the thermal detonators, light sabres, and other heavy stuff was going to be a bit harder to explain.
Well, they might not be able to work MUCH magic in this realm, but they could each work a few small spells each day. It was their biggest advantage in the Old Empire – and getting past security was worth expending one of their (strictly limited) supply. A quick illusion to make their stuff look like just another box of consumer goods and personal possessions, and they were more or less home free.
They used another spell – with a substantial mana boost to back it – to amplify their ability to sense souls. Perhaps they could simply look for a sizeable group of them and locate the kids – if they were here at all – that way. It wasn’t going to be easy to physically search a world of trillions.
It wasn’t easy with magic either. OK, sheer scale had probably made it a vain hope anyway – but there were quite a lot of souls around. At least a thousand or so visitors, and twenty thousand, thirty thousand, or more residents. Come to think of it, probably a substantial chunk of all the souls hanging around in this universe would be on Coruscant.
Sary sighed. He wasn’t at all bad at divination while he had enough mana to back it, but this wasn’t going to get anywhere. There were souls scattered around all over the place. There were a fair number around the Jedi Temple, the governmental palace, the senate, a couple of nearby underground locations, and in several really vast business towers. It looked like a desire to be “a big success” or “a political big shot” was really easy to fulfill on Coruscant, so people who wanted to try that sort of thing out took roles here.
Hm. The Port Authorities would probably have confiscated their gear – right down to their smartclothes – and issued prison uniforms. That was basic common sense when you were dealing with exotic prisoners – and even if they still had their smartclothes, there wouldn’t be any systems that they could hook into here as repeaters. On the other hand, the place was run by a bureaucracy. They could just check the computers…
It took a good deal of key-bashing, but Arnold got into the right systems eventually.
The initial listing was easy – a minor security report (a stray ship without authorization), secured, youthful occupants extracted, equipment removed in favor of prison uniforms, and forty-odd kids jailed. The “turned over to the jedi” note took an hour or two to find, but he got it eventually.
Of course, the news of the moment was some major political maneuvering in the Senate and rumors that the Jedi were involved.
That didn’t give them a lot of time. Given the plotline of the Old Empire, and the stage it was at, it looked like the kids had been selected to participate in a massacre scene as victims. There wasn’t going to be time to explain and negotiate or to make appointments. They were going to have to get in and out of there NOW.
The Jedi temple was pretty damned secure for it’s size. Most of the obvious security holes had been plugged long ago, it had a relatively limited number of gates set up as chokepoints, and heavy droid and electronic security. A few normal employees on duty, but not too many – and there weren’t enough Jedi to be guarding doors. There might be a student or two inside the main gates though. It’d be a real pain trying to crash the place with only six of them.
Wait; there was plenty of automated material moving in and out – food and supplies and such. Mostly in fairly small cases and doubtless scanned extensively, but a small illusion would handle that – and they could shapechange. Even if someone spotted a rat, rats got in everywhere.
They emerged in the Kitchens – where a ceiling-mounted exterminator-droid promptly opened fire with low-end blaster bolts (the health-inspector people must be as paranoid as hell… Of course, with the diseases of a galaxy and several trillion people on the planet, they should have expected that).
If they did much more shapechanging, they wouldn’t have any magic left for anything else – so there was a spectacular display of acrobatic, telekinetic, light-sabre-wielding rats against automated anti-vermin systems.
Wouldn’t that be fun if the systems were recording? They could just see the reaction. They’d either think they had Sith vermin attacking or that they’d been teaching at the temple so long that even the vermin were starting to get it.
There was chaos, there was confusion, there were spectacular and insane scenes of rats deflecting blaster bolts, there was a cook-droid who got decapitated, and there was, eventually, a youngster who came to look and ran away yelling for help.
Just great. In this place, if he made a wrong turn, it might require a search expedition to find his bleached bones within the next six months.
Oh, never mind; he ran into Anakin. Oh, crap.
Well, that’s what you got for losing your head and giving in to excitement – or should that be the othe way around?
The rat-Thralls scattered and began scanning for prisoners.
It looked like part of the council was meeting to discuss what to do; the kids all had potential, but they were mostly too old, at least by the conservative standards – and their story was completely insane. The rest of the council was absent, and the youngsters were down at the children’s training area getting some basic tests.
Blast it. Anakin was on his way there now.
The place was a maze, it wasn’t like they could teleport, the little messenger-droids would take too long to override, there had to be SOMETHING…
Sary used his last bit of magic for the day trying to divine for a quick route
OK, there was an old – about four thousand years – pneumatic tube system that had been used for shipping small objects around this ridiculous mausoleum. It hadn’t had any maintenance in 1200 years, but it was a chance at least. Anakin certainly couldn’t use it.
They programmed each team for different routes. Better odds that one of them would make it.
Joel’s launch went well enough, and for the first couple of minutes it was a wild roller-coaster ride as the pipes blurred past. A bit of TK and throwing his weight around got him past a missing bit of pipe – fortunately, it opened into a sealed shaft, so the pressure had built up long ago and wasn’t lost – but he had to try and route his group around another damaged section and wound up en route to the fusion incinerator.
Not good. About two minutes before they got fried… Of course, they were bumping around wildly, and there might be some more junctions or broken sections coming up. Joel used his second out of his four daily spells to peek ahead… First up a simple collection-junction; they might be able to force their way back up, but it would be way too slow to rescue the kids they’d come for. Then a switching system, but it looked jammed. 1200 years with no maintenance would do that. Beyond that there was an open shaft area where it would be easy to get off the track to doom, but that would drop them at least a kilometer.
Meanwhile, the capsule was revolving, he was slightly nasuous, and the pipe was flashing by at ever-increasing speed.
Taniel’s group had started off well enough, but they’d run into an area where the system was carrying a high-voltage charge for some stupid reason. Taniel had weathered the charge – but it had set off her bandoleer of thermal detonators and blown her back to Kadia. The rest of her team was rerouting. They’d be a little late if they made it at all. Hell, maybe the fire alarms would prove a useful distraction somehow.
Joel decided to use the switching system. It could send them several other places, back into the live system, if they could fix it. TK to hold them there – as long as they could before the pressure built up too much – and an attempt to fix it. If they couldn’t, they might be able to escape into the building – but they’d never make it in time if they had to resort to that.
It took a boosting spell, but they got back on their route.
They popped out in a modest auditorium with the kids they’d been looking for – right next to the Jedi Kids practice room / nursery. Two of the Jedi kids were even visiting – and they were at least twenty seconds ahead of Anakin’s arrival. It looked like a side-annex/lecture room, and was fairly secure… after all, the Core kids were an unknown quantity
Joel’s third spell returned him to human form as he gave them the warning.
That made a small commotion. Unfortunately, none of the kids they’d come to rescue were armed – and they only had a few seconds before Anakin would arrive in the next room over.
Lena, from Taniel’s team arrived next – but Sary had gotten routed to someplace about three kilometers down after the thermal detonator incident, and wouldn’t be along any time soon drat it.
No way to arm them that quickly. They could polymorph one or two, but they only had six spells left between them – and it would be nice to rescue the Jedi kids too.
First things first: jam closed the door to the practice area and weld it with a plasma pistol. Anakin would have to take a minute to hack through it, all the construction around the place was pretty heavy. An illusion of it being stuck and hanging together better than it really was would slow him up even further – and the Jedi kids had lightsabres and so did they.
They shot a telepathic warning to the Jedi kids, and yanked them into the auditorium,
Anakin spent a few precious moments trying to override the door before he started cutting. They covered the auditorium door with a blank-wall illusion while they were at it – it might give them just a bit more time – and started hacking their way through their own (heavy plascrete and metal reenforcement dammit) wall before the “We’re trapped!” hysteria could get underway.
They needed to get out of the Old Empire. If they hung around, the plot pretty well ensured that Anakin would find them eventually.
They left an illusion-spell to cover the hole, took random routes through the corridors, and scattered a few thermal detonators behind them. The place had thousands of miles of corridors. Even the senior Jedi relied on the Force and computer maps if they got off-course.
Anakin nearly caught them anyway – blasted plot-driven coincidences – but Lena cut him off and took out his route with a couple more thermal detonators. She blew herself back to Kadia doing it, but it wasn’t like being killed in the line of duty was uncommon for a Thrall.
Out in the city, Palpatine was consolidating his control, but that was going to take a little bit. They stuck to evading clone troopers and acting like a school outing – and took the first gate out. Almost anywhere would be better than having Anakin on their tail, which was why Alys stayed behind to blow hell out of the area around the gate.
Two more transits got them to Baelaria, which was secure enough for the moment. Sadly, only one of the Jedi kids had a soul – although it looked like anyone with a soul in the Old Empire counted as “force-sensitive”, could meaningfully be good or evil, and could learn to be a Jedi or a Sith. Most phantasms there just couldn’t sense the force.
Sary was killed trying to reach another gate, but a quick trip to Kadia wouldn’t do him any harm either. Not bad really; only four casualties for an assault on the entire Jedi temple.
OK, you could also look at it as two-thirds casualties, but it still wasn’t bad under the circumstances.
Most of the core kids were pretty impressed with the Thrall-benefits after they found out that – for the Thralls – being blown to tiny bits was quite survivable.
Joel passed the report back to Kadia, Amarant Solutions, the House of Roses, and Kevin (who was quite pleased; that had been a good job, it would be good advertising, and picking up more thrall-candidates was always a plus. Whatever was going on on Tattooine was likely to be a bother though).