Coalescence, Chapter 4

Jon-ah sat on the cold ground, dejected, in the field-tent that was his impromptu prison. He wasn’t quite sure how they had found him, but the squad of Republic Commandos had been quite insistent that he accompany them back to the city. So insistent, in fact, that they had placed a pair of restraints on his wrists.

It had to have been a set up. A representative of a local mercenary group had contacted him, claiming to have information on the scientist he’d been following. He had been suspicious of the contact, something about him didn’t seem right, but the offer was too good to pass up.

It didn’t make sense. When he arrived at the designated co-ordinates, he was met not by his contact, or any mercenaries for that matter, but rather a small squad of Republic troops. Not that he wasn’t flattered by the size of his escort, but he couldn’t figure out why they had taken this approach.

The Republic could not have known about the case he was working, so they would not have known to make the bait so tempting in this way.  Unless, of course, they had been keeping tabs on him, but if that were the case, they would have hauled him in a long time ago. He was wanted badly enough that as soon as they learned anything at all about his whereabouts, they would have moved on him quickly.

They also would not have set him up like this. It would have been fast and direct.

Jon-ah wanted to smack his forehead. Had he completely forgotten all his training? His contact was an Imperial Agent, he had to be. He was too sterile with his neatly styled silver hair, his short and crisp gestures, and his tightly controlled speech. Everything about the man screamed Imperial Academy to someone trained to recognize it, even the style of his ocular implants. How could he have been so blind?

But why turn him over to Republic forces?

His mind raced at the implications. Was this squad working for the Imperials? Were they Imperials in disguise? If they weren’t here on Republic orders, why hadn’t they killed him yet?

His thoughts were interrupted by the opening of the tent flap. The setting sun illuminated the profile of a gorgeous blonde woman as she stepped into the tent. Jon-ah tried to give her his winningest smile, but he knew the smile would be marred, as it always was, by his own ocular implants and the contempt for himself that he could never hide.

He could not judge the woman’s figure that well beneath the standard issue armor she wore, but her face has lovely, at least the half that he could see. Her hair seemed intentionally styled to hide the left side of her face, and as a glint of metal caught his attention, he immediately knew why.

He could detect some residual scarring on the side of her face; the readouts his ocular implants were constantly feeding him indicated the skin had been burned, most likely by some sort of acid. And he detected the hardware covering her and outlining her left eye. Not as sophisticated as his own implants, her implant was actually rather crude, more of a covering than anything else.

And the way she held her face, she seemed to subconsciously turn the scarred side of her face away from him. She was ashamed.

Jon-ah stayed quiet until she squatted down beside him and drew a small medical scanner. “What are you doing?” he asked.

“Scanning you for injuries and disease,” was her short reply.

He did not continue his inquiry. It was fairly standard protocol for Republic troops to ensure healthiness before beginning interrogation. But he felt better about his situation, interrogation he could handle, and it meant that these troops weren’t “in the know” or employed by the Agent. They might not even know is full identity.

“Jon-ah Dulsaer,” came a man’s voice from the entry of the tent. “Wanted for-“

“It’s just Jon-ah,” he interrupted. “I gave up the last name a long time ago.”

The new arrival paused and gave him an understanding look. The first trooper stood and nodded at the man whose insignia indicated he was a sergeant.

“He’s fine, sir.”

“Thank you, corporal. Dismissed.”

The shy corporal left the tent, and Jon-ah was left alone with the rather young sergeant. He debated what approach he should take with the trooper. Flippant? Haughty?

The trooper tossed aside the datapad he’d been reading Jon-ah’s information from, and kneeled down in front of him. The direct approach it was.

“Alright, Jon-ah. I want you to tell me about these mercenaries you’re working for.”

The trooper spoke with smooth tones; he was probably a tenor, maybe a baritone. His words were definitely educated; his accent, though suppressed fairly well, placed his birth on a core world. Maybe Coruscant or Alderaan. The tattoo on his face that so many troopers were fond of looked fairly fresh, but the set of his jaw and glint in his eyes spoke of an enduring hardship. The stylishly un-styled hair was the last bit of information he needed.

“So you left your noble-slash-wealthy parents behind to enlist in the army, but the army doesn’t quite trust you so they gave you a non-commissioned rank, stuck you out here in a completely pointless assignment and now you’re trying to improve your lot by bringing home not just me, but whoever I’m working for as well, am I right?”

Jon-ah congratulated himself, not all of his training had deserted him. But the sergeant brushed aside the words. “None of that’s important right now.”

Jon-ah raised an eyebrow, but remained silent, so the trooper continued. “Right now, I’m more concerned with the safety of my men. There are reports of a mercenary group gone causing trouble out here, harassing local citizens, and I’d like to know more about them. I understand you work for them…”

“Who told you that?” Jon-ah interrupted.

“We received an anonymous tip.”

“The person who told you, what did he or she look like? Silver hair, slicked back, neat? Small rectangular ocular implants, sharp jaw-line?”

The trooper narrowed his eyes, but perhaps he noted the urgency in Jon-ah’s voice, because he nodded in affirmation.

“Sergeant…” Jon-ah led.

“Greymark. Couryn Greymark.”

“Seargeant Greymark, you and your men are in danger. The man who led you here is an Imperial Agent, and I suspect he’s trying to kill two birds with one stone.”

“And those birds would be?” the trooper asked.

“Getting rid of a nosey snoop, that would be me, and killing some Republic troops. That would be you.”

The sergeant stood. “Why should I believe you?”

Jon-ah looked the man straight in the eye, or at least, he would have if Jon-ah had real eyes. “Because, like you, I’m running from my past,” he said as raised his hands, revealing the restraints that he had picked open, “but I haven’t run from you.”

That was when the mortar fire began.

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