An even longer time ago, in a galaxy just as far away...
7 Years after the Treaty of Coruscant
The Smuggler's Moon was never a boring place- spice dens, nightclubs, casinos, and in the lower levels, gang hideouts and cult camps dotted the ecumenopolis. Today, however, the excitement was at an all-time high. This was something bigger than the gang wars could ever cause, more dramatic than anything the cults had ever envisioned. The clubs were abandoned, the tips of the waitresses and dancers plummeted as their potential customers rushed out to catch a glimpse of the Hutt palace that had fallen from the sky, either with their own eyes or on a HoloNet news program.
But it was not all rumours and gossip. For some, it was very real. Triz did not know how long she had been trapped beneath the wreckage; it had been at minimum several hours, but it felt like days. The air was thin and filled with dust, the smoke that still lingered in the air burned her lungs with every breath she took. She was starting to get used to the pain, and the arm that was lodged under a large piece of the roof had simply gone numb. This terrified her.
The pain was all that kept her alive. Her body screamed to give in, every muscle ached and her eyelids struggled to stay open. She knew that if she fell asleep, she may never wake again. But every time, just as she was slipping out of consciousness, a pang of agony had brought her back. Pain was her friend. It had carried her through her childhood, shielded her through her brief tenure in the military. In the cults she had been taught to refine her pain, to turn it into a truly fearsome weapon. With that weapon she had fought her way to the top of Gundo the Hutt's security force.
Triz did not know how this had happened, only that it happened on her watch. It began when she heard reports of a breach from the holding cells. She rushed down to find a large Wookiee rampaging through the halls. The guard droids took care of the issue for her before she could use the chance for some much-anticipated close-quarters practice with her staff, and she was reduced to interrogating the other escaped prisoner who had surrendered. Before she could get any information out of him, however, the droids suddenly turned on them, gunning down most of her associates before she had a chance to respond.
She was hit in the shoulder but managed to fight her way to safety, despite, or perhaps because of her injury. Fueled by anger and pain, she carved a path to Gundo's chambers only to realize that the Hutt had already been killed in the crossfire between his organic and mechanical protectors. In her employer's room she received the call to evacuate. She turned her attention to helping facilitate their escape, but the large battle droid on the roof obliterated any speeders that had enforcers on board. It was then that Triz realized that someone had altered the targeting parameters of the guard droids. Leading what remained of the security force and several technicians, she led a desperate charge for the computer core when everything collapsed.
And now, pain was her last defence against the grasp of death.
Just as her oldest friend was on the verge of abandoning her, Triz's attention was snapped back to the present as a loud clang reverberated through the wreckage. She thought it was just another support pillar or wall piece finally giving way under the pressure when another noise sounded, this one almost certainly the whirling of a probe droid. She cried out to it, knowing the palace's systems well enough to be confident that even if this was one of the reprogrammed droids, a probe model would broadcast an alert rather than attack, which was a measure used solely for the droid's self-preservation.
She waited, and in a few minutes it was evident that she had made the right call when a large piece of debris was lifted above her by a vehicle which hovered away with the salvage, leaving behind yet another trail of dust. Several masked beings climbed down carefully, making their way over to her. Triz did not have to see their armour to recognize them as fellow servants of the Hutt Cartel.
"Get me a light! The probe picked up something!"
"We got a live one! A Zabrak gal!"
"I see her! We need a lifter down here!"
"Hey! Can you hear me?"
Triz coughed the dust out before she managed to speak, "Y-yeah! Yeah I hear ya!"
"Relax, pal. We're getting you outta-"
The voice was interrupted by another, more familiar one, "Well I'll be Kesseled. If it ain't Triz Silene."
A white-haired cyborg woman slid down the side of a broken pipe, walking towards the Zabrak with a blaster rifle resting on her shoulder and a smug grin on her face. Triz recognized her immediately as Mora, one of her bitter rivals when they were both Gundo's security detail. After failing her bid for the position of Chief Enforcer, Mora had moved on to work for other Hutts, and though she eventually managed to get herself promoted, she never let go of her grudge for Triz.
"My, how the mighty have fallen," she leaned down gloatingly.
Normally, Triz would have attempted to smash the human's forehead with her horns, but being trapped limited her mobility significantly. All she could do was cough in her direction, causing Mora to slink back and let out a burst of maniacal laughter.
"I'm still alive," the Zabrak growled.
"Aye, but Gundo ain't," Mora continued to smirk. "You're his Chief Enforcer. I think the Cartel's gonna want a word with ya on that."
"This started with a fraggin' prison break," Triz countered. "That's on Darnel."
Mora laughed again, "Well too bad we found Darnel's corpse, huh? Ya can't make an example of a dead man."
Triz was silent this time and Mora grinned wider. The grin slowly began to fade as they both realized that it was too quiet. Mora turned with a confused expression to her fellow security personnel. Both of them had been too distracted to notice when the lights of the other enforcers went out, only that they were gone now.
"Hey Valex! Where's that loader droid?"
She was answered by more silence, and then a soft thud of flesh hitting metal.
"Valex? Have I gotta do everythin' myself?"
A burst of blaster fire lit up the ruined hallway followed by a flash of blue. Then everything went dark again save for the flashlight on Mora's rifle, which was now held at the ready. The beam set upon one of the enforcers and the sudden light dazed him for a moment before an unseen force pulled him up into the air and then slammed him sideways, violently impaling him on a beam jutting out from a damaged wall. Mora re-positioned her rifle as she heard more weapons fire accompanied by frantic yelling. Her light found only a corpse.
Another figure stumbled in front of the beam with pure unadulterated fear on his face as he scrambled towards Mora. The same blue flash from before wrapped around his torso, and suddenly he was severed in two. Mora opened fire; Triz did not know whether she shot wildly or aimed at something she could not see. Either way, she did not hit her mark as her blaster was knocked away from her grip, the spinning light catching a figure that advanced towards them.
Mora swung at the mysterious assailant, but her wrist was caught in an armoured hand. Triz watched as Mora's forearm was effortlessly snapped, breaking both bones with one of them protruding out from the skin. Before the woman had a chance to scream, her opponent grabbed her mouth, muffling her. Setting the other hand on the back of her head, the attacker twisted her neck with a sickening crunch, and she dropped limp onto the ground.
The figure moved to Triz, now in clear view. As far as she could tell, he was male, but the full body armour made it impossible to judge his age or species. He was fairly tall, not irregularly so but certainly on par with or perhaps taller than than the average Zabrak or human. The most distinctive trait about him was the cloak that draped behind him and the hilt on his toolbelt, which seemed to signify that he was a Sith Lord.
"She said you were the Chief Enforcer of Gundo the Hutt," a mechanical, filtered voice came through the man's helmet. "How did this happen?"
Triz shook her head, "I...I don't know. Some prisoners escaped, Darnel-"
"Darnel," he repeated the name. "Manager of the Sky Palace dancers and slaves, including holding facilities."
"Ya know him?"
"I saw him in security recordings. He came with a woman, didn't he?"
"He does that every other nigh-"
"Tonight," the man raised his voice.
"What's it to you?" Triz asked. "You ain't Cartel, what's your interest in this?"
"Your interest in this is staying alive," the armoured figure knelt down beside her, every intonation of his mechanical speech becoming audible as he moved in close. "I see two ways this ends. I leave you here to be interrogated by the Cartel and you die a slow death. Or you answer my questions and I give you a chance to run."
Triz chuckled, breaking into a cough halfway through, “Really? Sith ain’t exactly known for keepin' their word.”
“I am not a Sith,” there was a very visible hint of anger in his voice and Triz felt something gripping her neck. The man’s hand was making a similar gesture, though it was not quite placed on her. Letting out a gasp, she quickly nodded her head several times and felt the invisible noose beginning to loosen.
"There was a woman when we talked over holo, he was on his way back in a speed-"
"What did she look like?" he cut her off again once he had heard what was of interest to him.
"She was dressed like a dancer, an- here, I'll show ya," Triz reached into a pocket with the hand that was not stuck beneath the rubble, pulling out a small, round holocommunicator. "Should still be stored in there, the fourth or fifth one from the latest."
The man immediately grabbed the device from her and turned it on. After flickering through a few recorded communications from the final hour of Gundo's palace, he found what he was looking for- a projection of a driving man with a woman beside him clad scantily like a Hutt's dancer. The audio of the conversation was too soft to be heard and only half of the woman's face was visible at this angle, but the man didn't seem to need anything more to identify her as he stared intently at the image, muttering a single word.
"What? Ya recognize her?"
He didn't answer her question, instead responding with one of his own, "She and Darnel arrived at the palace after this?"
The Zabrak enforcer gave a nod of affirmation. "An' that's a few minutes before all the...ya don't think she's..."
"Someone of her power can certainly be responsible for this. Where did she go?"
"I got no idea," Triz shrugged. "Didn't even keep track o' where my own people went."
He tightened his grasp as he stood, the holoprojection beginning to flicker erratically as the shell of the communicator began to crumble from the sheer force. "I need to find her."
"Lemme come with ya. I want her as much as you do."
"You'll slow me down," the man began to walk away.
"Look, ya might know her, but I can ID the prisoners. If she came to free 'em, then findin' them will lead us right to her."
The cloaked figure stopped in his tracks. He paused for a moment in hesitation, then glanced back over his shoulder and eyed the Zabrak before inquiring, "Can you feel your right arm?"
Triz shook her head, puzzled by his question. She realized its meaning a moment later when the man reached onto his belt, drawing the hilt that hung from it as he turned fully towards her.
Her expression turned from confusion to shock, "Wait, are you gonna-"
He didn't let her finish, cutting her off with the activation of the weapon. A blue beam of energy flashed into existence, but to Triz's surprise, it did not form into a straight line like the blade she thought it was. Instead, it was much longer and drooped down from the hilt, curling on the floor as if it was flexible at every point of the beam. As he swung, Triz realized that it functioned much like a whip, but it was a whip made from the same plasma as the lightsabers of the Jedi and Sith. It was a weapon so exotic that even a seasoned fighter like Triz had never encountered it before.
"I promised I wouldn't leave you to die."
The lightwhip wrapped around the arm that was stuck, burning through the flesh and bone and sawing the limb clean off while simultaneously cauterizing the wound. Triz let out a yell of pain before her body finally yielded to the pressure. As her consciousness began to slip away she could swear she was being levitated into the air before she lost all sense of what was occurring around her...