Having agreed with Teelo the Hutt to have the rare Vornskr transported to the Dusty Gizka ahead of them, the trio of padawans began their trek through the other stalls on their level, perusing and trying to find anything that might be useful. Unfortunately, aside from some wiring, and other mundane pieces, there was nothing to be found.
Bit gave an electronic sigh, which caused Coram to scoff in response. "What are you sighing about?” he asked tersely. “You got your pet. We're the ones who only managed lens material from that Hutt."
Bit turned to the Cathar, peering over Nokturne's masked head. He was just about to give a witty response, when he felt a sudden surge of anger in the Force. Coram and Nokturne seemed to notice as well, both freezing in their tracks and looking around for its source.
Silencing his thoughts, Bit focused on it. What was causing such a wave of darkness? He stretched out with his feelings, searching for its source. He realized that any planet as steeped in the galaxy's scum, thugs, and cut-throats would be a haven for the Dark Side to manifest, but this… this felt completely different. There was a crowd, many minds all thinking the same dark thoughts: "Murder." they seemed to chant in his silicon mind. "Murder the Jedi."
"Do you feel that?" Coram growled, his fur standing on edge as he looked down to one of the city's lower levels. Bit followed his line of sight, narrowing his photoreceptors to zoom in on where Coram directed. Sure enough, the pulsing darkness was centered around a large plaza several stories down. A crowd had gathered, easily several scores of mixed races, and they were all centered around what Bit took to be a bonfire.
"Should we intervene?" Nokturne muttered, voicing the question they were all wondering.
"It isn't our mission..." Coram trailed off, sounding unconvinced of his own words.
Bit's chassis rattled with internal conflict. Coram was right, of course. Their mission was to secure parts for their lightsabers. However, wasn't a Jedi's job to keep the peace? Was their mission to become Jedi more important than the tenants of the Jedi themselves? Nar Shadda was a lawless world; riots of this kind must happen all the time on the world-spanning city. His thoughts drifted back to the echoes of the Dark Side still ringing in his head. "Murder the Jedi.”
"We should go check it out," Bit found himself saying, causing both Nokturne and Coram to snap out of their trance-like observation of the rally below. "There is something disturbing about this gathering, and it may need to be reported to the council on Dantooine."
When they reached the level above the large crowd, Bit saw that the bonfire was actually a burning effigy. He had a sinking feeling in his droid body as he recognized what the effigy was. It was a large straw humanoid, strung up on a large, bloated tree from the Hutt homeworld. A brown tarp was draped over it like a cloak, and in its hand was a stick painted a light blue. It was a crude piece of work, but what it represented was unmistakable: a Jedi.
From the crowd, among the yells and curses being shouted out, Bit's audio receptors picked out a few voices at the very front of the mass of people, on the platform behind the blazing Jedi effigy.
"They're whipped into a right-good frenzy, boss. What now?" A voice--low and gruff--yelled, trying to be heard over the din.
A second voice answered, sounding more dignified with a Coruscanti accent, though still having to shout. "Now we bring on the main course. Have the boys bring in the captured Jedi. These people want a Jedi to burn, we'll give them exactly what they want."
Bit watched two figures begin moving out from behind the blaze, leading a third figure to the front of the crowd. He leaned forward to get a better look at the newcomers as Coram grumbled to himself. “Barbarians, all of them,” Coram muttered.”
Bit gave Coram a silencing gesture as the figures came more into view.The sight made Bit's insides rust. Two human men, one in a sharp-looking suit with a shockstaff swung over his shoulder in a casual manner, and one tall, burly man wearing baggy pants and a small vest over bare skin strode out with their prize. The third figure, followed behind the pair of humans in large shackles, the power couplings between the fetters arcing bright blue bolts of light. More shouting started from the mob, calling out cheers of hateful delight and throwing insults as the bound figure was led out.
It was a Neti--a species of intelligent, Force-sensitive plants. Standing easily head and shoulders over the tall vested man, with dark, cracked skin covered in what appeared to be moss. Leaves and twigs seemed to poke out from the hulking humanoid at odd angles. Its limbs ended in vines, and its beard, if it could be called such, was a tangle of vines, with more moss weaved into it. Stark against the mossy browns and greens of its body was a small metal cylinder looped through a thin vine: a lightsaber.
The crowd must have noticed the lightsaber at about the same time as Bit, for their jeering and raucousness suddenly reached a feverish pitch, even as the large man in the vest removed the lightsaber, holding it high above his head before clipping it to his belt.
"Burn the karking Jedi tree!"
"Make him pay for the sins of the Jedi!"
"'E's made o' wood! 'E'll burn real nice!"
Still a level above the action, Bit began moving toward a thin maintenance catwalk that jutted out over the crowd. He motioned over his shoulder with one hand as he slowly moved, beckoning Coram and Nokturne to follow him. Below, the Coruscanti man with the shock staff started whipping the crowd's emotions up, causing the inky touch of darkness that Bit felt in the Force to swell in the people below. He edged closer to where the catwalk hung over the front of the crowd, hoping he was not making a mistake.
Baron Enturra stood before the crowd of miscreants, lowlives, and other flotsam. These were his now. He looked to his body guard, the lumbering Kron, and nodded to him. Kron was his guard while on this cesspool of a planet, though Enturra knew he did not need the protection. He smiled to himself; his business partner had given him all the protection he would ever need.
Facing the crowd, Enturra gave a broad gesture with his hands, still holding his shockstaff. He was the center of attention. "We've got a rare opportunity today!" He bellowed, masking some of his Coruscanti accent to better appease the crowd. They responded in kind, cheering even more. "The Jedi chase after us, running us out of Republic space where their jurisdiction lies, keeping us out of their sacred utopia." He said these last words with dripping sarcasm. "We run like womprats, and all eventually end up here; Hutt space: the greatest planet outside of the Republic. And yet, now the Jedi seem brazen enough to come to our planet, outside their realm, to try and lay down order!"
Boos and hisses from the crowd crashed upon him in waves. Enturra's smile grew, and he held out his hands to the captured Neti. "Now," he continued once the cacophony had lulled, "we can send the Jedi a message! A message that will echo through the stars to the Jedi doorstep. We do not recognize your authority!" He turned to face the shackled Neti. "Let this be a message to your order. We don't want you here." And with that, he spun and exited, getting into a waiting airspeeder behind the smouldering effigy.
Enturra sank into the plush seat of the luxury airspeeder, and looked out of the tinted window as his hired muscle dragged the Neti toward the crowd, while other men started handing out torches. "I hold so much power now." Enturra thought, rolling his staff between his fingers absentmindedly.
The driver, a young Pantoran male, spoke to him over the private intercom between the front and back of the expensive airspeeder,"He just left orders. Your part here on Nar Shadda is finished, and he thanks you for your work. A personal transport is waiting for you to depart for your homeworld, Baron Enturra."
Internally, Enturra bristled at being given orders so casually, as if he were nothing more than a commoner. However, he was willing to put up with it for a short while longer. His business partner was not one to be trifled with--that would be very foolish. But the rewards for working with him were well worth any risk. Neither of them had any love for the Jedi, though Enturra did find their cultish traditions intriguing. He had first met his mysterious benefactor while on his homeworld, Mynersha.
Being situated just outside of Republic space, Mynersha had always been just out of reach from prying eyes. It had no major imports or exports, though the tropical planet's myriad of archipelagos made it a popular vacation planet for the rich and powerful. Enturra, being the Baron-king of Mynersha for the past thirty-three years, had used these wealthy visitors as ways to make powerful contacts on other outlying systems. However, it was not until he had found the stone, eleven standard years earlier, that he discovered what true power was.
His thumb absentmindedly caressed the smooth, maroon crystal perched atop his cane as he thought back. He had found it on one of the islands close to capital island of Sherna, where his personal estate was. The island was low, causing it to be submerged for all but a few days each month when the tides were pulled back by Mynersha's lone moon, Rama. He had felt a pull, an impression drawing him to this unimportant sandbar. Upon reaching it, he found an abandoned well connected to caverns that used to contain fresh water long ago. It was into this cavern that he felt drawn, and had found the perfectly smooth gem that now adorned his cane.
Enturra didn't know what the proper name for the stone was, as all attempts to identify it proved fruitless. Enturra, though, fancied calling it his “favor stone”. The gem itself had a most unique property--one that he was quick to discover and even quicker to exploit. When focused, he could merely touch the gem and impose a portion of his will onto others around him. This was how his backwater planet was now a prime destination, and how his own coffers now overflowed with credits hidden away in private Muunilinst accounts. His use of the favor stone was also how he had met his current business partner, a very secretive man who called himself Darth Bankori: the self-proclaimed creator of his prized favor stone.
The speeder came to a halt, and the jolt snapped Baron Enturra out of his reverie. The young Pantoran opened his door, and he was greeted by the sight of his personal star cruiser. It would be good to go back home. He had some very important Republic dignitaries that had arrived a few weeks earlier for beach-side vacations. He would be most interested in meeting them face to face. Stroking the favor stone on his cane again, Baron Enturra entered his ship. Destination: Mynersha.
Coram shouldered his way through the crowd of rabble-rousers. If he could get to the front, maybe he could have a chance at talking the ringleader into letting the Neti Jedi go without resorting to violence. As he pressed forward, though, he became less convinced that this plan would work.
Bit and Nokturne trailed behind him, both too polite to shove through the crowd like their companion. Finally, after shoving past a group of bleating Gotals, Coram burst into the front of the mob, just at the edge of the raised platform. The heat from the fire radiated over him physically just as the dark intentions of the mob radiated over him through the Force. Standing on the dais with the Neti in tow was the burly ringleader. Making sure to conceal his own lightsaber in the folds of his travelling cloak, Coram caught the man's attention. Easily as muscled as the Cathar, the human man looked down from the platform at Coram.
He smiled with a sinister grin as Coram approached, "Don't get too close, friend. These Jedi types can snap your neck with just a thought if you aren't careful. Mandalorian chains can only do so much."
Coram frowned, "How much do you want for the Jedi?" he asked, putting on his best bartering face.
The other man simply laughed, "You kidding? We're gonna torch this here tree, and you probably won't want what's left of 'im when we're through." He patted the Neti's lightsaber attached to his belt. "And this trinket right here has already been spoken for."
Coram's frown deepened. He used the Force to subtly push the man's emotions to his favor, but oddly found his efforts rebuffed. Settling for intimidation, Coram instead flexed his clawed hands in a menacing fashion, "You're honestly stupid enough to kill a Jedi and not expect repercussions from that?"
Several of the others in the crowd started grumbling as they overheard Coram's bold remark. The vested man, for his worth, didn't show a hint of fear. Yanking the binder chains around the Neti, he said, "Why d'you want him so bad, kitty-cat? Got a thing for Jedi? Or are you just a tree-hugger?"
The Neti, still chained and standing behind the human, slowly bowed his head towards Coram., "Young one, I thank you for your consideration, but I am a Jedi. I am not afraid to die by the hands of these."
The man gave a sharp yank on the chain, catching the Neti around the neck and causing him to lurch forward. "Quiet you. You have permission to speak when you're on fire."
Coram's frustration with the bullheaded man reached it's end just as Nokturne and Bit reached his side. "Just perfect. They only show up after I've botched any sort of negotiations." Turning his head left then right to make sure both of his fellow Padawans were ready, Coram threw back his cloak, calling his lightsaber to his hand, and ignited the humming, pale-blue blade.