Five Years Earlier
“So why am I here again?” a frustrated Zasabi asked as he adjusted the collar of his suit. It was a modern cut, all the rage in the Corporate Sector from what his tailor told him. It didn’t make it any less uncomfortable.
“Sir,” began his assistant, a wiry rodian with slim hologlasses that allowed access to his datapad at a moment’s notice. The tone of resignation was barely obscured. “As you know, the Red Comet Industries buyout of Umbra Obre Mining corp is set to finalize at the end of the month, pending approval from the appropriate regulatory agencies. As a condition of the buyout, however, the board of directors of Umbra Obre asked that you meet with them personally at their headquarters.”
“I guess the Obre in Umbra Obre stands for Obredaan, huh?” Zasabi mused, looking past the transparasteel shuttle windows into the clouded swamps below. “Wonder why they never moved from this place. Can’t be good for infrastructure.”
“According to data from analysts, during the Clone Wars period there was some product mined from this planet important enough for the Separatists to attempt to seize the planet from the Republic. They were fended off, but nothing of note occurred afterward.”
One green eyebrow lifted slightly, a sign of hope being kindled in Zasabi’s heart that perhaps there would be some secrets worth discovering on this business trip. Perhaps this journey wouldn’t be quite as boring as he thought it would.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The next two days did their best to stamp out what little hope Zasabi had hidden away. The eldest of the Umbra Obre executives apparently considered him a minor celebrity due to his escapades with the Corporate Sector, having determined that their proximity to the battles of the Clone Wars somehow made them comrades in arms. They couldn’t have been more unctuous and ingratiating, but Zasabi knew a good impression was key to greasing the deal, and so he indulged their thirst for war stories that might as well have been ancient history as far as he was concerned.
There was one thing he couldn’t deny, however; The board of directors were better at handling their liquor than damn near every gangster he had drank with growing up. Nearly every one of these celebratory meetings involved an open bar with a variety that suggested to Zasabi that he needed to have his chamberlain reach out to this company’s caterers. It took an active use of the Force to keep himself remotely sober, and even then he found himself feeling a buzz by the end of the second day.
The last party of the day (He hoped) took place in a formal restaurant. Glass encased the dining room, surrounding the diners in the murky waters of Obredaan. Marine life of all stripes gracefully drifted by, apparently having been chosen for their peaceful coexistence as none of them had the look of a predator.
The majority of the room was taken up by the Umbra Obre party, as if word had gone out beforehand to warn off the local upper crust that the executives on the loose. Collars were loosened, faces were flushed, and all manner of beverages were flowing into the gullets of businessmen doing their best impression of a desert-stranded traveler who’d just found an oasis. It was a scene Zasabi was used to, although perhaps not to this degree.
“So I turned the blaster on him and said ‘Frank… You’re Fired!’ before unloading the clip.”
Uproarious laughter answered the conclusion of his story. It was patently false- he hadn’t even been on world for the incident- but the businessmen ate it up like peanuts. This wasn’t the first time Zasabi had to entertain gawking civilians with inflated ideas of what wartime escapades meant. He didn’t value those memories much- even for someone like him who enjoyed combat and the feeling of putting his life on the line, war was nothing to be celebrated, especially when working for the Corporate Sector.
As the laughter died down, Zasabi turned his eyes to the CFO, a Nemoidian with looser lips than the others in his retinue. “So, why is it that you have your headquarters here? I haven’t heard of much product coming out of here- I have to imagine transportation fees to go to offworld mines has got to raise the overhead some.”
The Nemodian chuckled, sipping from a pink frothy beverage with what appeared to be some manner of wriggling worm swimming across the bottom of his cup. “Ah, well, Obredaan used to be our primary mine years ago. After the rise of the Empire, though, we had difficulty with… labor sourcing on-world, so we shifted our focus to other products. That’s actua-”
Another board member grabbed hold of the Nemoidian’s shoulder, digging into the flesh such that the CFO yelped. “It is a part of our past we don’t look to often,” intoned the Twilek, one lekku twitching in annoyance. “We prefer to look to the future- particularly to this merger.”
The Twilek released her companion and rose, bringing out a small metal tine to tap the edge of her glass. “With that in mind, I think it is appropriate that we offer our congratulations and appreciation to our honored guest for the effective and generous negotiations between our respective companies. Umbra Obre has a long history, and it is only fitting that we join ties with a new, up-and-coming group of entrepreneurs and offer the weight of our experience while benefiting from the innovation and energy of a new generation.”
Something about this deal was starting to feel suspicious. An odd tone filled the air, one that took Zasabi almost too long to separate from his discomfort.
Rising quickly, the flash of his lightsaber leapt out and created a burning white crescent in front of the executive. A nearby bowl of food shattered as the knife, sharp and wicked and glowing cherry red, embedded itself into the rich wood of the table. A moment of silence passed before the inebriated patrons responded in shock.
Zasabi’s eyes rested on what had moments before been a patron. Their holoshroud flickered and revealed a humanoid with dingy red armor and a rounded helm. Several other patrons also dropped their shroud, revealing five total assassins each armed with a variety of melee weaponry.
Odd, Zasabi considered as he positioned himself where he could see the majority of the strange warriors. Blasters would have been more reliable. Are they concerned about breaking the glass?
“Jedi,” uttered a harsh, synthesized voice. “This is not your concern. We seek vengeance for our ancestors, who were wronged by these cowards. Leave and you will go unharmed.”
Zasabi raised an eyebrow. “Not a Jedi, and also it is my business. These cowards are my business partners, and we haven’t signed on the dotted line yet. I don’t know your grievance, but I’ll offer you the same deal- leave, and I won’t harm you.”
“You have signed your death sentence,” intoned the being. “Fighting Jedi is a speciality of the Jin’Ha.”
With this, one assassin to the left charged at Zasabi, vibroblade raised. He wasn’t sure what they had in mind, as a lightsaber would carve through most melee weapons with ease. Still, he raised the saber to defend himself, watching the vibroblade descend...and defy expectation entirely by remaining in one piece as it sizzled against the incandescent white light of his blade.
The assassin was not as astonished as Zasabi was, whipping around with a small knife held at his hip to strike at the theelin’s throat as his vibroblade pinned the lightsaber. The Shadow intercepted him with an empty hand, fingers splayed as a wave of invisible force froze the knife inches from his neck. The assassin’s fist trembled with exertion as he tried to push past it, but Zasabi’s will was absolute.
The hand moved back, inch by inch, finally giving Zasabi enough room to lash out with a force empowered front kick that doubled the Jin’Ha over and sent him rolling away. Seeing that it would take more than a single warrior to best Zasabi, the two other silent Jin’Ha readied their weapons and advanced.
This wasn’t enough to give Zasabi pause. He had been surprised by the durability of the weapons, yes, but he had been able to tell from the first exchange that if they were all roughly equal in skill, he would still win out. Simply put, he had more horsepower than the four of them combined. To demonstrate, he ignited the second of his lightsabers, extending them outward to establish a perimeter around himself. The rest of the crowd had began to huddle under tables, leaving only Zasabi and the assassins standing.
The first advanced with an overhead swing, their heavy vibroaxe whirring toward Zasabi’s skull. He slipped the weapon to the side, spinning as he did so to parry a pair of sword strikes from the second red-armored foe. Stepping inside of the first foe’s reach, he suddenly shifted the direction of his spin and leaned his shoulder into the assassin. With Zasabi’s leg having snaked its way behind the Jin’Ha, the movement toppled the assassin into a table, flipping it onto it’s side and sending the businessmen scattering in every direction.
Not pausing to check on the foe behind him, Zasabi seized the table with the Force and, kneeling, flung it over his head. He heard the thud of the other warrior meeting the table violently and rose menacingly over the the supine remnant. The armor was durable, but it did nothing to stop the series of kicks he unleashed from concussing the assassin into unconsciousness.
Raising his eyes again to the one who had spoken, Zasabi gestured with the saber in an unmistakable challenge.
The last Jin’Ha pulled a long vibrosword from his back, activating it with a menacing hum. It was difficult to look at, the speed at which it was vibrating giving it an almost hazy look. Worse, it was longer than Zasabi’s blades, which meant that his foe had the advantage of reach.
The two sized each other up for a moment, the helm of the assassin reflecting Zasabi’s cocky expression. When it began, it was almost too quick for onlookers to make sense of it. A swipe, leaving no evidence of its passage but the crackle of the air. A thrust, leaving the shining traces of white and black light in the air. A quick advance, a parry and repartee, a settling of stances. For each strike, a hundred bouts were fought in their minds.
The leader of the assassins was skilled, but Zasabi had gotten a grasp of his style. Within seconds he had disarmed his foe, leaving the long vibroblade impaled in a nearby couch. Another step, a lunge, and his saber flew unerringly toward the warrior’s chest. A medallion dangled there, almost a targeting reticle for the strike that would end the duel.
Upon touching the amulet, the burning radiance of Zasabi’s black blade faded from existence. The surprise shattered Zasabi’s combat sense, leaving him open for the small blade the Jin’Ha dug into his belly.
“You Jedi… always overconfident.” The synthesized voice held the distinct note of victory. He knew that Zasabi was too close to use his second lightsaber effectively, and as long as he maintained his hold long enough for the wound to bleed him out, Zasabi would be utterly helpless.
“I told you,” Zasabi hissed through gritted teeth. “I’m not a Jedi.”
His right hand loosened, dropping the lightsaber. Before it hit the ground, he had straightened out his arm, feeling the click of his holdout pistol sliding into place. Before the Jin’Ha leader could react, Zasabi pulled the blaster pistol against the armored head of his foe and pulled the trigger.
Holdout blasters carried little charge, but a point black series of shots against anything other than Beskar meant that even the few shots it carried were enough. The Jin’Ha slumped to the floor, lifeless, as the hole in his helmet steamed.
Stumbling away, Zasabi reached to his side with a hand. The wound was deep, but with medical attention he would survive. As his retinue began to rise, Zasabi leveled a weary glance at them.
“Anyone here know a doctor?”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Light. A smooth, sterile white ceiling. The clutter of medical instruments that made the room feel almost claustrophobic and yet organized.
He had been in many hospital rooms, over the years. Somehow, every culture managed to make them look the same.
“I’m happy to see you’re on the road to recovery.”
Zasabi craned his neck down, noticing for the first time that he had company. The pale blue skin of the Twilek board member stood out against her dark suit, her expression as bland and unreadable as it had been during the ill-fated dinner party.
“How long have I been out?” he croaked. His throat was raw- they had likely had to intubate him at one point which suggested the damage had been more severe than he had anticipated.
“Only a day,” replied the executive. She pulled out a small folder of documents and passed them to Zasabi. It took only a short glance to verify that it was a detailing of the procedures that had gone into saving his life. “The surgeons were surprised at the speed with which you healed after the procedure. I suspect this is not uncommon”
Zasabi offered a cool smile. While he had his limitations with the Force, he had grown powerful enough in it that it did not take conscious effort to accelerate his healing to a limited degree.
The response he gave seemed to be enough. The Twilek nodded once, as if verifying something for herself, and then settled into her chair. “I suspect you’ve some questions about the group that attacked us. I also suspect that you’ll motion to end the buyout if we don’t offer some answers to those questions.”
Zasabi kept quiet.
She let out a small sigh. “The Umbra Obre company has a long history, but it’s current incarnation is a relatively recent invention. It used to be majority owned by the natives of this planet, a species known as the Jin’Ha. Long ago, they reached out to a mining conglomerate and bartered their way into a majority share with the knowledge of a potent resource in this world.”
She pulled out a small disk of stone. It was clearly the amulet the leader of the Jin’Ha assassins had been carrying. He could see now that it was shaped to resemble the world as it was visible from orbit.
“The resource is known as cortosis. It’s rarity is only matched by the difficulty in retrieving it- in its natural state it produces an energy field that repulses energy based mining tools, forcing a reliance on physical excavation. Exposure to the dust of it can lead to a wasting disease that kills extremely rapidly. Even droids do not last long while mining the material.”
She placed the disk on a small tray between them. “As an alloy, and as a composite, it is second only to Mandalorian Beskar. Even the smallest percentage of it can offer metal a resistance to energy weapons such that they can fend off lightsabers, and the more pure the composite is, the greater the effect. When it nears full purity, the material can create a feedback loop that disables lightsabers and other such weaponry for a time.”
Her eyes shifted from the medallion to Zasabi. “I’m sure you can understand why this would be useful in a galaxy where the dominant forces often wielded Jedi as a club to enforce obedience.”
Zasabi remained silent. If this resource was as capable as she claimed, it was no surprise that there were so many older Vibro-weapons in existence despite the proliferation of lightsaber weaponry during the many wars between the Jedi and the Sith.
“The Jin’Ha held what amounted to a monopoly on this resource for a long time, even as recently as the Clone Wars. After the rise of the Empire, however, it came to light that the reserves of the mineral were running low. To find new veins would require the full scale excavation of the planet, likely leaving it inhospitable to life.”
“The Jin’Ha refused to comply with the Empire’s demands, but by then they were far from the only owners of the company. They were muscled out in a corporate takeover enforced by the Empire, leading to the current incarnation of the Umbra Obre corporation. In response, the Jin’Ha waged a campaign of guerilla warfare upon the Empire, sealing shut the tunnel systems necessary for the expansion of mining operations on this world but also suffering incredible losses. Even after the company gave up on the possibility of Cortosis mining, the locals continued to hold their grudge against us.”
Silence filled the room. For a span of moments, Zasabi held his gaze on the amulet before him. Such a small token, and yet it symbolized a bloody history.
He set the amulet down, locking eyes with the twilek. “The merger will continue as planned. I see no reason for this incident to interrupt our plans.”
The executive nodded, too composed to show any relief she may have felt. “Once you have recovered completely, I will see to it that the proper documents make their way to you.”
She left without further pleasantries, once again filling the room with silence.
Zasabi closed his eyes for a moment, considering his options. Pulling out a datapad, he began to tap away at the screen.
Due to the investiture of resources into the buyout of Umbra Obre, I believe it is important that we seal the deal. Once we do, we should pull out whatever resources they have invested in Obredaan proper and reallocate them as is appropriate. The situation on this planet is a credit sink, and following whatever visions of their glory days in the past is going to drive us into the same crisis that led them to be bought out by us in the first place.
Having completed his message, he sent it to his assistant to distribute to the appropriate members of the Red Comet board. Laying back into the cushions of his bed, he lifted the amulet up before him once again.
“I suspect I’ll find a use for you,” he mused. “Something of this kind of value doesn’t deserve to sit in my trophy room.”