Senator Thraurrallgisc and Ralrracheen relaxed, bloated, in the lounge.  The room was thick with smoke, and the low coffee table upon which the two Wookiees rested their feet was littered with the debris from their earlier feast.


            It was night.  The city lights of Coruscant glittered through the windows of the apartment, embellished by the constant streams of air traffic around the Senate District.  The two Wookiees reclined before the teleweb screen, watching an exciting murder mystery set on the streets of Alderaan’s capital city.  They had drunk more than their fair share of Merenzane Gold, and were feeling decidedly merry.


            A buzzer sounded from the main entrance.  Irritated at being disturbed, Thraurrallgisc turned to the door and swore angrily in Shyriiwook.  He wondered who on Kashyyyk wanted to call in at this time of night.  The grizzled old senator sent out Ralrra, who was used to being treated as the senator’s personal manservant, to investigate.  Ralrra rose wearily from his armchair and sloped out of the room.  The genial, easy-going translator had no objections to acting as a glorified butler.  After all, he was being paid quite handsomely for his services.


            Ralrra returned to the lounge accompanied by Jedi Master Dessk and a Wookiee whose fur was pure white.  Thraurrallgisc stubbed out his cigarette and stood up to greet his visitors.  He growled politely at Dessk.


            Master Dessk was the only Trandoshan for whom Thraurrallgisc had any respect.  Dessk genuinely wanted peace between his race and the Wookiees, and he had taken the albino Wookiee Chastacyrrhi as his Padawan learner.  Chasta was young for a Wookiee, only fifty years of age, but he was now a fully-fledged Jedi Knight.


            Chastacyrrhi was loyal and devoted to his reptilian former Master, for Dessk had saved his life when he rescued him as a baby from slavers on the remote desert planet of Tatooine.  He brought Chasta back and adopted him as if he were his own son.  This act had earned Dessk respect from Wookiees, but hatred from his own warlike people.


            "We’re sorry we disturbed you, Senator," said Dessk in his sibilant, gargling voice.  Thraurrallgisc shook Dessk’s claw and beckoned the two Jedi through to the lounge, turning off the teleweb and barking at Ralrra to clear the table.  Ralrra timidly rose from his seat and gathered the remains of the Chalactan takeaway along with the dirty plates.  He carried the assembled debris out to the kitchen where he proceeded to wash up.


            With Ralrra out of the way, Thraurrallgisc offered the sofa to his visitors, and the three of them sat around the table to talk.


            "The Jedi urgently need your help, Senator," hissed Dessk.  "I have a deep suspicion that MHG is committing atrocities against an intelligent species."


            The grizzled old Wookiee cocked his head and asked the Jedi Master to elaborate.  Chasta sat in silence, for he preferred to leave the talking to his far wiser companion.  Thraurrallgisc wondered whether Dessk’s suspicions had any connection with the trouble on Sorensia, trouble that he feared was intensifying as they spoke.


            "The species is indigenous to a very distant and remote planet called Despayre, out in the Horuz System," said Dessk, leaning forward as he spoke.  "It’s full of natural resources, and the Zephoid Zez race are primitive."


            Chasta explained to Thraurrallgisc that the Senate had prevented him and Dessk from going out to Despayre to see things for themselves.  The senator frowned and scratched his furry face in thought.


            "I know that you have campaigned against Mandalore on many occasions," said Dessk.  Thraurrallgisc sadly admitted that he had very little influence over the Supreme Chancellor.


            "Perhaps," encouraged Dessk, ‘things would change if you helped the Jedi to expose Lord Mandalore and anyone else who is involved in his activities."


Thraurrallgisc fidgeted in his seat and lit a cigarette. He asked Dessk what he had in mind.


            "As you know, MHG has set up a medical research institute funded by the Government to find a vaccine for this flu epidemic that is claiming lives here on Coruscant.  The institute’s location is secret, but we have reason to believe it’s on Despayre.


            "It’s illegal for a Republic company to enslave an intelligent race, however primitive, and by setting up on a remote world, Mandalore thinks that we cannot see him.  The rest of the Senate are blind to his intentions and we cannot act without proof, otherwise we would be no better than Mandalore himself."


            Thraurrallgisc looked at Dessk and puffed on his cigarette.  He had an idea.




            Ayo Verna and Yarua had spent almost the entire time since landing cleaning, repairing and regulating the systems of the Red Planet.  The ship was an extremely complex piece of precision engineering, and there were millions of components that could malfunction, with effects ranging from embarrassing to fatal.


            Fortunately, Thraurrallgisc had recently installed Peetoo, the ship’s large, cylindrical astromech droid.  Peetoo was slow and ponderous, but he saved the crew a great deal of work.  Still, the three of them had only recently finished the overhaul.  Ayo and Yarua lay exhausted in their bunks, fast asleep.  Yarua snored loudly, but Ayo was so tired that he did not care.


            The ship’s comlink suddenly whistled, indicating to the slumbering crew that somebody was trying to contact them.  Ayo and Yarua, deep into their dreams, ignored it.





            Senator Thraurrallgisc tutted as his call to the ship went unanswered.  He instructed Peetoo to put the Planet’s systems on emergency alert, for he knew that his crew slept on board.  The alarms would be sure to wake them up.


            Aboard the Planet, Peetoo bonged in reply to Thraurrallgisc’s instruction.  Suddenly, the crew’s quarters were ablaze with light and the siren howled like a wounded cat.  Ayo and Yarua both awoke in a panic, Yarua banging his head on the frame of Ayo’s bunk as his companion swore at the top of his voice.


            With Yarua roaring angrily, the two of them raced to the cockpit in a blind daze.


            "It’s for bloody real!" yelled Ayo.  He had been dreaming that the ship was about to explode, and was unsure whether or not he was still in his dream.  Sweat ran down Ayo’s face and back, soaking his tee-shirt.


            Yarua pointed to the bleeping comlink and picked up the handset.  He barked urgently into its microphone and was greeted by the sound of a Wookiee barking orders.


            "What is it?" asked Ayo, breathless from his unexpected exertion.  Yarua answered with an eloquent series of grunts and barks.


            "The Guvnor?" said Ayo.  ‘What does he want at this hour?"


            Yarua said that Thraurrallgisc wanted to see them first thing tomorrow.


            "The bastard!" stormed Ayo.  "He could easily have called us in the morning!"


            Yarua shrugged his shoulders and grunted as went back to bed.  Ayo, cold from the sweat, dried himself with a small towel before settling into his bunk.  His body was tired but his mind refused to settle.  He lay there, wondering what was so urgent that the Guvnor had disturbed them in the middle of the night.  He listened to Yarua’s snores and counted each rasping breath.  Sleep was a long time coming.


Forward to Chapter 7

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