Chapter 15

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Ben Kenobi studied the faces of the group assembled on the teleconference screen--a slicer, an assassin droid, a crack marine, and a smuggler--as they stewed over mission details. Have I chosen the right people? Daniah and IG-68 were friends and former co-workers; people he trusted. Even if Daniah was a loose cannon, he could anticipate when.

Fett and Til’trius, on the other hand, were strangers. They looked good on paper, but that didn’t tell him how they behaved under pressure and under his command. Could they work with others to achieve objectives, and lead the junior members of the fireteams? He wasn’t certain.

Explaining the details of how to extricate the Skywalkers and eliminate Krul to them only slightly mitigated these concerns. The mission runthrough made Ben realize how challenging their tasks really were. A mission of this magnitude would try a well-seasoned group. For them it was far more grueling.

It was time to see if the others shared his assessment of the mission’s pucker factor. “So what do you think?” Ben asked. “Can we do this?”

Til’trius rubbed his large, pale forehead with a clawed hand, and thought aloud. “Commander, there’s a lot of moving pieces here. A lot of unknowns. You’ve got a good plan, but it’s not straightforward.” Ben smirked. That’s an understatement.

“As it is,” he continued, “we’re moving swift and blind. How do we know so little about Krul te Rosin? He couldn’t have taken over SKYE HQ without major planning and resources, yet I haven’t found money trails or communications. Did Krul plan this on paper, on some private intranet, or in some code... did he transact under the anonymity of cryptocurrencies and multiple digital wallets? Such foresight isn’t what I’d expect from a ragtag group of hostile miners. This is weird.”

“You're right," Ben admitted, a little taken aback by the Bith's lengthy response.  “We don’t know how Krul did this, but if we're to rescue the Skywalkers, we must act now, and discover the wider plot another day. Any chance you’ve learned anything more about the Righteous Flame, lieutenant?”

“Nothing useful. They’re your typical group of ideological anti-human hate-mongerers: all bark, no bite. Sure, they talk of the lofty aim of ‘expunging humanity from all vestiges of the galaxy,’ but the Righteous Flame hasn’t done anything about it.”

IG-68’s companion droid, which hung from his shoulders. beeped. “Until now you mean,” IG-68 corrected. “For clarification: you’re telling us this corporate takeover is unlike anything in the vermins’ past?”

Til’trius threw up his hands. “Exactly. An innocuous bug became lethal overnight. I don’t get it. I don’t like it. If we don’t understand our enemy, how well can we take him on? What are we walking into?”

“Well that’s real comforting,” Daniah said, her body shaking slightly. She'd admitted to ingesting anti-rad meds earlier. Ben studied her face carefully; she looked pretty rough, but she should be over it soon.

“So let me get this straight,” she continued. “We’re rendezvousing in deep space to land together on Rodia, and then breaking into a heavily secured office compound overrun with terrorists and surrounded by the local army, by traveling through mutant-infested tunnels?” Daniah took a deep breath after completing that sentence. “Once through, we plan on killing their leader, freeing the hostages, and escaping safely through hostile space swarming with jookees? Did I miss anything?”

“You did fail to mention my stealthy glide from high altitude to a SKYE communication tower,” said IG-68. “I like that part. That part is approved.”

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