His tools made quick work of the obstacles they had placed in his way in the name of security – doors, windows, and droids – protocol and astromechs. Jango slipped into the abandoned apartment as easily as a shadow.
It was a nice little place, as fitting the student that had last owned it, but Jango was not interested in the quaint furnishings and art. His weapons drawn, he slipped from room to room, searching for his prey.
Within a few seconds, he knew he had been fooled. There was no sign that anyone sentient had lived here in the past few years.
He was almost smiling when he took out his COM link. A big part of him would have been very disappointed to have found his query so easily. Surely, an elusive prize like a Guardian deserved a more fitting hunt.
You betrayed me, Sabé. Why? Padmé thought sadly as she sat sipping caf in the small shop she and Sabé had been regular patrons of… oh so long ago. The shop where her best friend had lied through her teeth as she set an elaborate trap for Padmé.
What made you do it? Something to do with Telon, I’m sure. That much of your story was true. But I bet a Jewel of Zenda that none of your children are Hyper-chlorian.
She checked the datapad readout that rested beside her caf. Her old astromech droid sent another text update on the situation in the apartment. The intruder was leaving. Then the screen blurred and resolved itself into the picture of her unwanted visitor – a sturdy helmet, with a uniform almost made entirely of armour. Padmé felt her heart skip a beat.
This was no Theed police investigator or even an Imperial officer. This was no more or less than a bounty hunter.
Calm down! She almost shouted in her mind as she fought the urge to bolt out of the caf and run, run and keep running until she reached the nearest spaceport. It was only an hour’s hard running. She could make it.
You missed the danger and you’re safe now, her rational voice insisted. Don’t draw attention to yourself.
Oh Sabé, what have you done?
Padmé muffled a scream as she spilt hot caf over her hands.
The waitress droid made a solicitous sound as she mopped up the mess. A few of the other patrons – mostly students from the University – raised their heads to look at the commotion. Padmé cursed inwardly and bent her head low in her hood.
“Refill, ma’am?” It asked again.
“Yes, please,” Padmé whispered. She couldn’t leave anytime soon. She had attracted too much attention to herself. She could still feel interested eyes on her when the droid left. And her hands were shaking so badly when she tried another sip that she spilt caf again.
It was almost a half hour before she finally left. She walked quickly down the street, resisting the urge to look over her shoulder and behave suspiciously.
So Sabé, is this what our years of friendship have come down to? What trouble you must be in to betray me like this?
The urge to weep was strong but Padmé controlled it. Sabé had been all she had left. She had only a very young child’s memory of her big sister, Sola and none whatsoever of her parents. And then Winama had… had…
Someone ran into her side and she screamed.
“Sorry!” yelled the small child, picking himself up and resuming his race. His mates followed at his heels, pushing and apologising to Padmé as they ran past her. She felt besieged by the swarm of children and she struggled to the nearby wall to avoid them.
She glanced at the holo sign above her. She was only ten minutes walk from the spaceport. Only ten minutes from safety.
The last child ran past and she pulled herself from the wall and herself together.
She took two steps forward and felt the hand like vice close on her shoulder and the sharp prick of something burying into her neck.
“Guardian Naberrie. What a pleasure,” whispered the voice of her captor as she slipped into forced unconsciousness.
“Have my fee ready.”
“You have her? You have her?”
“I’ve never lost a query yet, my Lord.”
“Curb your arrogance, bounty hunter. You will be well paid. If what you say is true.”
Vader switched off the COM link then clenched his fists, his whole body, as pure, sheer joy coursed through his veins. He took out the holo that was always on his person now and gazed at it with burning intensity.