Chapter 2
Coyn - Skraj'Tais


"Sir," calls a distant but familiar voice. "Sir?"

Slowly, Snteil rouses from his sleep. Silhouetted in the bright doorway into his dark cabin is Zeethree.

"Good morning to you, too, Zeethree," Snteil groggily answers while waking up.

"Sir," the droid calmly states. "We are approaching our destination."

Upon hearing the news, the Sullustan quickly gets out of his bunk and rushes past Zeethree toward the cockpit.

Reaching the cockpit, Snteil sits and watches the nav computer count down to the pre-programmed coordinates. As soon as the correct coordinates display on the readout, Snteil disengages the hyperdrive and drops back into normal space.

Almost instantaneously, the other two ships of the convoy appear in normal space alongside the YT-2000 transport. Open space is all that can be seen by the unaided eye in all directions.

"Arsix," cries Kurrelgyrre through his comlink. "What's going on here? Confirm our location. Where are we?"

Arsix chirps back an annoyed response. The translator in the cockpit reads, "Coordinates confirmed. We are here. This should be the Coynek system."

The comlink activates and poadcasts Del stating, "Charming place you've brought us to. Is this where you go to get away from it all?"

Kurrelgyrre activated the sensors and begins scanning the space around them for any signs of their location. As Kurrelgyrre starts his scan of the area, the Saucy Lady breaks formation and begins moving away from the rest of the convoy.

"KG, this is Snteil," the comlink announces in the Z-98's cockpit. "Del's breaking formation. Maybe he knows what's going on."

Turning from the comlink on the Aurora, Snteil turns to his droid companion and says, "Zeethree, scan the area along Del's trajectory. See if you can't find the damned planet."

Returning to the comlink and hailing the Saucy Lady, Snteil calls, "Del, this is Snteil. Why are you breaking formation? Did you find something? Do you know where we are?"

Del's responds, "The planet's this way."

"Copy that," replies Snteil. "Snteil out."

Snteil says through the comlink as the Aurora begins to follow the Saucy Lady, "KG, did you copy that transmission?"

"Copy that," Kurrelgyrre replies. "Adjusting course."

The Z-98 moves in line behind the Aurora, and the three ships continue toward their destination.

Several hours pass as the three ships, led by the Saucy Lady, approach the planetary system in silence.

Aboard the Aurora, Zeethree breaks the silence from his seat in front of the sensors panel.

"Sir," announces the droid. "Sensors are showing a signal coming from the second planet. It appears to be a communications signal. One moment . . ."

A moment of silence passes as Zeethree listens intently over the channel.

"I believe we've found it, sir," Zeethree finally exclaims. "putting it on the speaker."

After toggling a switch on the panel, the speaker comes to life and begins playing the detected message spoken in Basic.

"You are approaching the planet Coyn, Gateway of Elrood Sector, and homeworld to the proud and noble Coynite people.

"Coyn is famous for its weaponry and is also home to the Mercenary Guild of Coyn, which boasts the mightiest warriors in the world. Our mercenary activities are famous throughout the galaxy.

"As our guests, you are expected to honor and obey the En'Tra'Sol, the King-Law. It is a legal system that has provided for our needs for thousands of years, and it is the standard of conduct by which all are judged.

"As you approach our world, keep in mind the following things:

"We are a warrior culture and value honor, valor, and loyalty. Cowardice and weakness are despised.

"A weapon drawn must be used for a warrior to retain honor.

"Warriors who have shown bravery in combat are respected, kindred spirits.

"Never touch a Coynite with your bare hands unless that person has granted permission. This is a punishable crime.

"Hollow threats, failure to defend oneself, falsely preparing one's weapon for combat, deception, thievery and dishonesty are punishable crimes. One who displays these traits or acts in such a manner is branded af'harl, or 'cowardly deceiver'. af'harl are 'unseeable' in the eyes of Coynites, and have no legal rights. They may be enslaved, beaten, murdered or dealt with in any way that a Coynite citizen sees fit. af'harl who have been enslaved are property of that Coynite's estate and thus are protected by and answerable to that Coynite. Coynites are responsible for the actions of their af'harl.

"Allowing an opponent to surrender in combat is only permissible if that opponent swears tracc'sorr, or fealty.

"Enjoy your stay."

Switching off the comlink, Zeethree adds, "The message just repeats after that. Should I let the others know?"

"Sounds like a lovely place," Snteil sighs. "What have we gotten ourselves into, Zeethree?"

The droid silently stares at the Sullustan.

"Yeah, contact the others," continues Snteil. "Give them the frequency and channel. Let 'em know what's up."

With a nod, Zeethree replies, "Yes, sir."

As the protocol droid transmits the news about the message to the others, a planet begins to come into view in the distance. A few minutes pass, when the comlink suddenly signals an incoming call.

KG, while committing the info to memory and wondering about the possibilities of Jan's fate, answers the incoming call.

"Yes?" the Wookiee Jedi answers in Shyriiwook.

"This is station Skraj'Tais to incoming vessels," the voice over the comlink sternly announces. "Identify yourselves."

"I am Kurrelgyrre, Jedi Knight. My companions and I are on a mission to find my missing honor-friend. His last known location was Coyn. We seek permission to land."

The comm channel is silent for what seems like an eternity. Slowly, the world of Coyn grows larger as the three ships approach the planet's dark side through the void. The lights of cities on the surface begin to appear to the naked eye.

Finally, the voice peaks the silence and responds, "Permission granted. Docking bays 14, 15 and 16 are open for you. Set your scanners for frequency 147.39 to receive the docking signals. Please power down your engines when you are in position to dock to let the tractor beams bring you in safely."

After recalibrating sensors, the three ships continue to slowly glide toward the planet. A few minutes pass as Coyn slowly grows larger, and Skraj'Tais begins to come into view in orbit around the planet.

As details of the planet's surface begin to become more apparent to the pilots, activity in the form of a greenish-blue aurora dancing in the upper atmosphere near the north pole catches everyone's attention. The site from orbit is nearly breathtaking.

After observing the aurora for a few seconds, Zeethree brings everyone back to reality over the comlink by stating, "Excuse me, we're approaching the station. Don't want to get blasted out of the stars."

Scanning the space nearby, the station itself is seen setting just above the curve of the planet near the line that divides day and night. Skraj'Tais appears as a metallic mushroom slowly spinning in orbit. Lights from dozens of windows illuminate the walls of the station. A few ships can be seen moving around the station, apparently most of which appear to be shuttles traveling between the surface of the planet and the orbital station.

Several minutes pass, and the docking bays have been located by the sensors. Aligning themselves with the bay doors, the ships experience a slight jolt as tractor beams take hold and begin to slowly draw them toward the hangar bays.

Disengaging the ship's engines allows the ride inside to be a smooth one. Within seconds, the bay doors open to reveal a spacious hangar bay with room for two ships the size of the Aurora to fit inside comfortably.

The tractor beams continue to move the ships inside and gently set them down in the middle of the bay. Once the bay doors have closed and sealed, the comlink signals an incoming call.

Answering the call, a different voice slightly higher in pitch says, "Welcome to Skraj'Tais."

"Thank you," Del answers through the comlink. "Who do we have the honor of speaking to?"

"I am Lessa Dar'jin," the voice gruffly replies over the comlink. "Quadrant A Docking Supervisor of Skraj'Tais.

"If you have any questions or need any assistance, consult the Skraj'Tais Infonet."

Lessa adds, "Enjoy your stay," and then terminates the connection.

Within a few seconds after the call ends, the external sensors indicate a breathable atmosphere in the docking bay.

After a few more seconds of silence, Zeethree anxiously asks, "Well, are we going?! I'm getting claustrophobic in here!"

"Yeah, Zeethree," Snteil answers. "We're going. Plug yourself into the computer and upload your memory first, then lower the access ramp. I'm going to gear up." Without a response, Zeethree complies with the Sullustan's instructions.

Climbing out of the Z-98, Kurrelgyrre instructs to his droid, "Arsix, stay with the ship. Call me if you spot trouble."

R6-X0 responds with an enthusiastic chirp as the Wookiee reaches the docking bay floor.

As soon as Kurrelgyrre reaches the floor, the personnel doors to the docking bay open. Four people dressed in armor and armed with swords and blasters march in and take positions on either side of the doors.

After the personnel doors close, the boarding ramp lowers from the Aurora. Once it touches the floor, Zeethree walks down the ramp and across to KG. The protocol droid is wearing a utility belt and has a blaster rifle slung over his shoulder.

"Well," the droid says with enthusiasm. "When do we get started?"

"Right away," KG says. "Zeethree, I may need you to translate for me."

Zeethree replies, "Okay, sir."

As Del reaches the two in the midst of discussion, Snteil begins descending the boarding ramp of the Aurora and notices Zeethree carrying the blaster rifle. A stern look develops on his face as he stomps up to the droid and taps him on the shoulder.

As the protocol droid turns, Snteil holds out his hand and calmly requests, "Zeethree, give me back my blaster."

With a heavy electronic sigh, Zeethree unshoulders the rifle and hands it back while saying, "I don't think this is such a good idea."

Once the group is assembled, KG approaches the guards while remembering their code of conduct, especially the "no touching" bit.

"Greetings," the Wookiee starts. "I am Kurrelgyrre, Jedi Knight, and these are my companions. I am in search of a fellow Jedi Knight and my honor-friend that was reported missing in this sector. How might we go about searching for him?"

After repeating the statement in a language that incorporates lots of guttural sounds, the four Coynites look at each other for a brief moment and then look directly at Zeethree.

The one just left of the door answers in the same language. Zeethree turns back to the Wookiee and states, "If you wish to search for him, you can try to check the records on the Skraj'Tais Infonet, or you may inquire with the Customs office. They would have a record of everyone that visits the station."

"You have my gratitude," continues Kurrelgyrre. "Which way to the Customs office?"

The Coynite growls something at Zeethree in response to KG's inquiry.

The droid turns to the group and says, "The Customs office is in Section C3. There are maps in the corridors."

Walking through the doors, the foursome enters a wide curved corridor filled with numerous beings moving about. Most of them are Coynites dressed in simple clothing or suits of armor, all of which are armed with blasters or simple melee weapons. Scattered throughout the crowd are representatives from many other races known throughout the galaxy, including Humans, Rodians, a few Aqualish and even some Twi'leks.

KG looks at his companions and says, "We must be cautious."

"Don't worry, Sarge," Snteil replies while he stares hard at Zeethree. "I'm keeping my eyes peeled on both friend and foe."

Glancing around the general area, a dark pedestal is noticed setting in a lounge area a few meters down the hall. Closer observation shows it as a map of the station. After studying the map and determining the best course to take through the station, Kurrelgyrre leads the group to the nearest turbolift.

After a short ride and referring to another map in Section C3, the Customs office is located and quickly reached.

Upon entering the office, a small group of Coynites is observed sitting at desks and is separated from the general public by a counter. A waiting area lined with seats graces the area on the near side of the counter.

After getting the attention of one of the agents, he approaches the counter and asks, "May I help you?"

Approaching the counter, the Wookiee states, "I am Kurrelgyrre, Jedi Knight, and these are my companions. I am in search of my honor-friend, who has disappeared. His last known whereabouts are in this sector. His name is Jan Tolbara."

Holding his hands up between himself and the Wookiee Jedi, the Coynite responds in perfect Basic, "Hold it! Wait a second! We're not a missing persons bureau here. This is the Customs Department. We deal with people and their merchandise going through the station. If you want to report a missing person, then you need to go to Station Security."

After giving a cold stare, KG continues, "How about this, then? I need to find any information about the ship called the Smiling Sarlaac. The captain is named Eriyani Rusta'al and was accompanied by her crewmates named Jan Tolbara, Qualtis Majint, Kianna von der Thann, Dak Gribson, Arsan Telk and Jaffar."

Smiling, the agent answers, "Now THAT I can help you with. I can check the records to see if the Smiling Sarlacc has visited the station and if they had any cargo checked in. How long ago was that ship here?"

"About five or six years ago," Kurrelgyrre answers.

The Coynite balks for a brief second with eyebrows raised but snaps out of it quickly. He looks up at the Wookiee and says, "That may take some time, but I'll see what I can do. Have a seat, please."

KG crosses the small lobby and takes a seat while motioning for his companions to do the same. Del sits, pulls out a datapad and starts looking over some sort of document.

Snteil sighs heavily and announces, "If this is going to take some long time, I may go find someplace to wet my thirst. It has been a long trip, and all I had to drink was some nasty recycled water."

Hearing the Sullustan's comment, the Coynite agent points out the door and mentions, "There is a bar across the way. You can quench your thirst there."

Looking up from his datapad, Del adds, "If you gentlebeings won't be needing me, I'll wet my throat as well."

"I think I'll join you," replies Snteil. "I could use a carbonfreeze cold ruby blial. Maybe I'll even have them spike it with a bit of spice. Besides, I'll be able to find out much more information from a bar than I could from data logs. Come get us if you find something.

"Damn I'm thirsty!" Snteil finishes with a wink.

"Go ahead," Kurrelgyrre calls after they start for the door. "And stay out of trouble. I will stay here waiting for an answer."

Zeethree calmly says after the two have left the room, "I think I'll stay here, too. It seems relatively safe in here. Bars are never safe. Fights always breaking out."

After the two walk off, KG settles back in his chair and begins to enter a meditative trance while focusing on Jan. Zeethree quietly sits down next to him.

Making their way through the scattered crowd moving in the corridor, Del and Snteil reach the opening to the bar called "The Gleaming Sat'skar". The sound of music and multiple conversations travel out the door from within the dim room.

Stepping through the doorway, the two search the room for a place to sit. The square room, colored in pown earthen tones, is littered with people of varying races sitting at the long bar in the center of the room or at tables surrounding the bar and on a raised level along the walls around the room. A single small staircase lined with wooden railings leads from the small waiting area by the entrance down to the bar area.

Del and Snteil look at each other for a brief second, nod and enter the bar. Walking around to the different tables and starting up conversations while ordering their drinks, the two begin probing for any information on the Smiling Sarlacc and its crew.

Back in the Customs office, the Wookiee enters into a deep meditation and stretches his feelings past what his normal senses allow. As his thoughts take him past the here and now, Kurrelgyrre concentrates on his former teacher.

A few brief moments pass until images begin to appear in KG's mind. A small, dimly lit room comes into view showing six cylindrical capsules lined up against each other amid crates and boxes. The view slowly shifts to look through the transparent top of one of the capsules. Peering through the window fogged over with condensation, a person with brown hair and a beard dressed in black can be seen sleeping or in some sort of hibernation. The view moves through the window to reveal the identity of the person inside to be Jan Tolbara!

"Sir?" calls a somewhat familiar voice that snaps Kurrelgyrre out of his meditation.

Looking up, the Coynite agent stands behind the counter again with a datapad waiting for a response from the Wookiee.

"Sir," the agent continues. "I have the manifest you requested."

"At least he is alive," Kurrelgyrre mutters to himself.

"Thank you," the Wookiee says to the agent before taking the datapad and skimming its contents.

"Zeethree, can you download this information into your memory circuits?"

"I'm not capable of uploading information directly into my memory," Zeethree answers. "But, I could read it and dedicate it to memory that way."

Deciding to thoroughly read the information before handing the datapad to the droid, Kurrelgyrre discovers that the manifest shows a cargo of 6 starship-grade power cells to be offloaded from the Smiling Sarlacc to a shuttle destined for the city of Im'Tra'Tal. The manifest is authorized by someone named Jarok Garand, captain of the Smiling Sarlacc.

"Wait a minute," KG mumbles to himself. "Eriyani is the captain of the Sarlacc, not this Jarok Garand."

As Kurrelgyrre rises from his chair and rapidly heads for the door, Zeethree says, "I think I will stay here where it is safe." He glances over to a customs agent standing behind the counter who appears to be staring at the droid.

"On second thought," cries Zeethree anxiously as he bolts from his chair and rushes out the door. "Wait for me!"

Walking into the bar, KG looks around the room and finds Snteil talking to a Coynite and Del drinking some sort of beverage while listening to a Human. Zeethree hurriedly enters the bar and stops just inside the door to keep from bumping into Kurrelgyrre.

Seeing the Wookiee and the droid enter, Snteil looks in their direction, waves and cries out, "Kurrely, over here."

Kurrelgyrre curiously mutters to himself, "Kurrely?" and then wades through the tables to reach Snteil. Zeethree stays with the Wookiee, watching everyone around him as they wander through the tables to reach Snteil. After noticing a rugged-looking Coynite watching him as he went by, the droid moves closer to Kurrelgyrre for the rest of the walk. Finally, the two sit next to the Sullustan as he finishes talking with the Coynite.

Finishing his conversation, Snteil turns to Kurrelgyrre as the Coynite gets up and says, "Can I buy you a ruby blial while we wait for Del? They actually make them here. They're quite good actually."

Looking at the drink, KG replies, "Normally I drink brandy, but I'll give this a try. My thanks." Taking a drink from Snteil's glass, the ruby blial goes down fairly easily and is quite tasty.

"Not bad," the Wookiee comments.

"See, I told you," Snteil answers with a flashy smile.

After retrieving his glass, the Sullustan continues while pointing with his free hand, "Del is over there. He's still speaking with some of the locals.

"So, did you find anything out? I found out some interesting underground information. I don't know if it's the same people we're looking for. But really, how many black-clad mercenary-looking Jedi can there be? Plus, I got some additional information on the Smiling Sarlacc. It seems Jan and company have been quite busy making 'friends' since they got here."

"Really?" answers the Wookiee. "Not too surprising really, but I think they are above their heads in water this time. I found out the following information."

KG hands Snteil the datapad, and the Sullustan pilot looks over the information as Del takes a seat at the table.

As Snteil reads the datapad, Zeethree adds, "The manifest states that a cargo of 6 starship-grade power cells were being offloaded from the Smiling Sarlacc to a shuttle destined for the city of Im'Tra'Tal. The manifest is authorized by someone named Jarok Garand."

"Interesting," Snteil replies. "I was told these power cells had been pirated off the Smiling Sarlacc.

"I wonder if . . ."

Zeethree interrupts, "I should add that Jarok Garand's signature is on the manifest in the location that states he is the captain of the Smiling Sarlacc."

Turning to KG, the Sullustan inquires, "I'm going to assume that's not an alias of your pal, huh?"

Shaking his head, Kurrelgyrre answers, "No, Jan never used an alias that I was aware of."

"What about you, Del?" Snteil asks as he turns toward him. "What did you learn?"

"Not a whole lot," answers Del. "They helped purge the planet of Imperials, helped out a local security captain and, after returning from the planet's surface, they scooted out of here pretty quickly."

"By the way," Snteil interjects. "Maybe we should do a background check on the Blackstar. It's a bounty hunter's ship who apparently captured a Jedi apprentice, and quite a mischievious one at that I'm told. Something isn't making sense. We're either getting half truths, or really no one knows what happened to them."

"And, I had a vision," Kurrelgyrre continues. "Jan is alive."

As soon as KG finishes his statement, he suddenly feels a chill in the air. He begins looking around the room while stretching out through the Force.

"That doesn't surprise me," Snteil replies. "He is a Jedi after all. However, I think he has made many enemies during his stay."

Turning to face the entrance into the bar, KG sees two people that have just entered. A young, attractive female Twi'lek and an older male Human are standing just inside the door. As he senses that the Human is a Force-user slightly more powerful than him, Kurrelgyrre sees that the Human has been coldly staring at him for some time.

Observing the Human from his viewpoint, Del determines that the Human's gaze is one of utter hatred.

KG gives a slight nod to him, but the Human continues his dark stare until the Twi'lek says something to him and points to a table on the far side of the bar. He breaks away and moves with his companion to the table.

Turning to Snteil, Kurrelgyrre softly mutters, "I feel a disturbance in the Force. Draw your attention to the Human and Twi'lek without appearing that you are doing so."

Nodding to Del and KG, Snteil drops his hand, silently unsnaps his holster and casually strides over to the bar, where he sits down and continues to enjoy his drink while covertly watching the two at their table.

The Human, after tightening the band that ties his long white hair back, glances over to the bar for a brief second and turns back to his conversation with his Twi'lek companion. Within seconds, a Coynite waitress arrives at their table to take their order.

While keeping an eye on them, Snteil ponders to himself, "Hmm, if KG can sense him, he can probably sense KG. He probably has no idea that I'm Force sensitive, not that I'm any sort of risk in that department to anyone. Heh, that's alright. I make up for it in other ways."

Turning to the bartender, the Sullustan asks in a hushed voice, "Hey, that dark, white-haired Human that just walked in with the Twi'lek. Do those two come in here a lot? Do you know who they are?"

Glancing over to the table where the couple is sitting, the slightly overweight, scruffy-looking bartender leans over the bar and whispers, "Yeah, they come in here fairly often. I don't suggest ya start anyt'ing with 'em, if ya know what I mean."

"Don't you worry none about my safety," Snteil confidently answers patting his blaster pistol.

"So, what can you tell me about them? Depending on how helpful your information is, there'll be somethin' good in it for ya."

The bartender gets a thoughtful look on his face, rubs his chin and replies while resting his other hand palm-up on the bar, "Hmmm, I don't know if I remember anything about them . . ."

Snteil adds quietly as he tosses 20 credits to the bartender, "Maybe this'll help ya remember."

Raising his voice to a normal level, he continues, "I'll take another ruby blial, and you can keep the change, barkeep.

"And there's a much better tip in it for you if the info's good," quietly finishes Snteil.

Glancing around the bar for a brief moment, the bartender leans closer to the Sullustan and answers in a low, hushed voice, "Those two are members of a mercenary group callin' themselves the Xyber Corps. The Twi'lek's name is Konda. She's some sorta naturalist or somethin'. She can be nice at times. The Human's name is Ikirra. He's a warrior with some sort of power that he throws around. Nobody, and I mean nobody, has beaten 'im in a fight. He's a mean one, too. Seems like he doesn't like anyone."

"Thanks, friend," Snteil says as he tosses another 20 credits to him. "Your information has been most helpful."

He gets up from the bar and heads back over to where the others are sitting and relays the new information to them.

"What do you guys think?" asks Snteil. "They obviously know we're watching them. Should we stick around and then follow them, or should we leave now and see if we can find the home base of operations for this Xyber Corps on our own?"

"The human will sense us if we follow him," answers KG. "He sensed me as I sensed him when he entered this place.

"Now is not the time for battle; now is the time for knowledge. Let us leave and compare our notes. Jan is alive. I can feel it."

Holding up a finger, Zeethree anxiously interjects, "I agree with Kurrelgyrre. Let's get out of here."

"Fine, then," Snteil states as everyone stands and begins to move toward the exit to the bar. "Let's leave. Although, how we're going to find their base of operations without following them is beyond me."

"Let's go back to the ship and compare notes," finishes Kurrelgyrre. "We don't need to track the guy. I can sense him through the Force."