1.09: Traitor in our Midst 1 – Murder in the Catacombs

1.09: Traitor in our Midst 1 – Murder in the Catacombs

DS Day 71-74

Where: Galtea

The Farstar returned to Tanquilla Beach to off-load some of the refugees from Pembric. While there, Gorak spotted a familiar set of antennae in the crowds near the docks. It was Ned’Lx. Suspecting the little Verpine was up to no good, Gorak followed him. Keli Ned’Lx was busy with some of the local dock-hands loading up large amounts of life-support consumables, as well as other modification material to a Medium Transport. This look very suspicious to Gorak, but he wasn’t sure what to make of it. He returned to the Farstar to report it to the Captain. She didn’t know what to make of it either.

The Farstar journeyed to the remote world of Galtea. Their goal was two-fold. The ship needed supplies. The refugees had consumed much of their air and food, and Tanquilla was low on stores. Also, the captain wanted to investigate the possibly of stopping the Arrival. The Church on Galtea might have the ability to go to the Sanctuary, and once there, a team of commandos can stop it. This Arrival of a powerful Dark Jedi was nothing to take lightly. They had enough to handle with Sarne.

The approach to Galtea was uneventful. A quick scan of the surface found the landing area on the outskirts of a large farming community. The scans also detected a unusually quiet Imperial garrison installation near that community. A more focused scan revealed no Imperial activity around the garrison. With caution, the Captain ordered the Farstar to land.

The planet was a very rural farming colony, ruled by the benevolent Church Council. The Inquisition had apparently moved into the garrison, and commandeered some of the Imperial hardware. Contacting the Church of the Light Prophets, with the Inquisition walking around was going to be difficult. The Light Prophets were a secret faction with the Church, one that didn’t want to be discovered. The majority of the church wasn’t even aware of their existence. The voices of the Light Prophets apparently speak to the very few. Gorak was convinced his contact, Brother Ungro Jesador was a member of the Light Prophets. His intentions were to contact him, and persuade him to allow them to go to the Sanctuary to stop the Arrival.

The Town entourage approached the ship, to greet the New Republic. Apparently, their reputation preceded them. The Captain decided take advantage of this, and opened relations with the colonists. Mavia Tanatus agreed to act as advisor. The Galtean diplomats and town mayor welcomed the New Republic with open arms. Once pleasantries were exchanged, they scheduled an official meeting in town hall, and the call for all the town leaders was sent out. That bought them time while Gorak, Mavia and Jessa went out to contact the Light Prophets.

****

Gorak, Mavia and Jessa all browsed the townspeople looking for his contact. The Church monks and priests all seemed to wear the same clothing and same pendant. They all lived at the Church Diocese, a large facility located in the valley below the garrison. It was the most modern building in the town next to the garrison. The church campus was called the Y’hadaran Castle. It was more like a fortress, or rather, it once was, in the early days of the planets colonization. It was a cropping of buildings, surrounded by a large wall. It included several barracks, a chapel, and a few administration buildings. All were done in old style architecture, reminiscent of early Old Republic building.

Gorak and his companions worked their way into the parish, going through each security check point as if they were just visiting a friend. Since contacting the brother wasn’t against any rules, they decided to do it by the book… for now. They were each given a badge-pendant which limited their access. They would later find out it also allowed the Church to track them while they were in the facility. Apparently, they new came in and out of the facility on a regular basis. Only the Empire had superior security.

Brother Jesador was not well. He was sick with some unknown disease that debilitated him, and kept him in his room. They were lead to his room, and they found him laying in bed looking like death-warmed-over. His quarters were littered with pictures and research material on gate and hypergate technology. He almost looked obsessive about the subject. Upon seeing Gorak, he sat up and smiled. “So good to see you, my wayward friend.”

“Not as good as it is to see you, brother.” Gorak said sincerely.

Jessa and Mavia both looked at each other oddly. They had never seen Gorak this sincere and kind. The conversation was shallow for a short while, but soon, Gorak go to the point. He wanted to know if he could contact the Church of the Light Prophets through him. He was reluctant at first, but being at death’s door, he realized he had little to loose. He agreed to contact the Light prophets for them. He just needed to know what about.

“We want to use the Gates here on Galtea to get to the Sanctuary to stop the Arrival.” They all were taken aback by his bluntness.

“Well, that’s quite a bold move. I have someone in mind. One of the Gatekeepers is of the Light Order, and he and I have been working together to prevent the Arrival as well. My disease came as a result of my foolhardy efforts.” He coughed and shifted in his bed. ” I will help you. It must be stopped. They know not what they do.”

“We will be preparing a team to send across to the Sanctuary. They will stop the Coming of the Prophet at all costs. We just need a way into the Gates.”

“I will take you to them, and tell you what I know… only the chosen few are allowed to go through. I am not chosen which is why they say I contracted this disease. I think someone sabotaged the gates settings and I did not return the same as I had left. But you shall see…come, I will show you.”

Gorak helped old man from his bed, and they walked down to the catacombs. Apparently, the brother had some friends with in security, because they allowed Gorak, Mavia and Jessa to go into the catacombs which lead to the Gate Chamber.

The catacombs were dark and dank, as would one expect from such a place. At some point in their trek, the walls changed from the stone work of the church buildings to something alien… something indescribable. They twisted through a maze of underground alien ruined to an ancient chamber.

“Like all church facilities with Gates, these buildings were built on top of the site where these were found. This is the basis of our faith, as blind and misguided as it seems. The Gates lead to one place, the Sanctuary. Why, we don’t know. I have searched for the answer for years. The Gates are strongly connected to the Force, I know that. And with in the Gate’s field, time is no longer relative. The users enter one at a time, but no matter the order, everyone shares something with everyone with in that group. Memories, thoughts, secrets… everything is available to the mind’s eye. The Gate also has an after effect which is none-too pleasant. The user is usually quite ill after using it for several days. There is no cure, only waiting for it to subside. Anyone using it suffer this, regardless of species. Beyond this Gate is the bowels of the Sanctuary. I am not totally sure where in the Sanctuary you will appear. I only stayed a short time before I was sent back through.

“You must return later. I must contact my Gatekeeper friend. Leave me a comlink unit so I may contact you. Your technology is considered heresy here, so I have no way to contact you without it.”

Gorak passed him a comlink-unit. “I would like to have a moment in private with you brother. I will send my comrades ahead, if you can show us the way out.”

He lead them further into the catacombs to a rear exit that was well hidden. He took their amulets and bid them farewell, and returned inside for his moments with Gorak. It was not uncommon for Mavia to see someone ask for a moment alone with a priest, especially one like Gorak who obviously had a troubled past.

****

Gorak returned after Mavia and Jessa, an hour or so later. Things were progressing well at the Farstar. Resupplying was near completion. The Farstar was taking advantage of the dry-dock to make repairs to any needed system. The political negotiations with the Galtea colony were also going well. It looked like the colonists were willing to ally with the New Republic. At least, it looked like it, until….

Several hours after Gorak returned from the Church, while the evening was just starting to fall, a comm from the church came through from just outside the ship.

“This is the Inquisition of the Prophets, Second High Inquisitor Arthur Cowbragen. I demand you hand over the one called Gorak Khzam. He is wanted for the murder of one Brother Ungro Jesador. The Church has jurisdiction here, so don’t try to use any New Republic tricks”

The air was tense. The Captain was given an hour to turn over Gorak to the Inquisition or they would (attempt) to take him themselves. It wasn’t that she was worried that they could, but she was more worried that this would create a large rift in the New Republic relations with the Noble Houses. She turned to Mavia for help. Mavia had an idea.

She called to Gandle Ott on a secure channel to go through all the assassinations she was involved with, or knew about, in Ik’Tal’s files and found one she could pin on Gorak. With a little data manipulation, and a few friends as witnesses she could claim jurisdiction on Gorak, but she would be obligated to return him to Gandle Ott. She just needed support from Gandle Ott. The Captain then had an idea.

Thane B’Dorbeck could be the key. He could negotiate with Church Cardinal on Gandle Ott to allow them jurisdiction. On the Comm, Thane looked tired and frustrated.

“I’m sorry Captain. I just negotiated a treaty with the church, allowing them jurisdiction when a crime is done against them. We are getting a lot of this deal. You have to realize that they are the main obstacle for the Kathol Sector joining the New Republic .”

This sealed Gorak’s fate. He sat in the make-shift cell the crew jury-rigged from one of the escape pods, pondering what could have possibly happened. He had received a few visitors while there, but the hour was dragging on. He just wanted them to get it over with.

He heard a click, then hiss, as the door of the pod opened. A shadowy figure stepped through.

“Kla’al??” He said.

“No, Mavia… Shadow Cloaks are handy things.. I’m breaking you out. My plan didn’t work.”. Gorak moved to step out of the pod. “No, stay. Strap in. You are going for a ride.” She pressed the controls to engage the pod.

“Oh shit…”

With a loud ‘Whoosh!!!’, the pod was launched into the Galtean forest.

The bridge was a mass of confusion. The cell-pod was launched by no order of the Captain, and they did not know how the Church would react. They would find out soon. The group of inquisitors left once they got word that Gorak was no longer on board, and promised to return with help.

They had little time. The captain ordered a search team to look for the pod, and if the happen to run into Gorak, grab him too.

****

Gorak’s pod landed only a few hundred meters away from the landing site. He scrambled out, after regaining his senses. The impact was a lot heavier than he had expected. Running through the woods, he had time to contemplate words of his friend. He remembered, just before he died, they had started one of their unofficial confessional conversations. He never liked showing this side of him; the side that regretted some of his actions. This was the same side that got him to join the New Republic. The same side that has been thinking of quitting slavery for a greater purpose. Brother Jesador’s voice came back to him as if he was right there with him in the forest.

“You must atone for the people you have enslaved and killed. There are lives to be saved. Balance your karma, the Force will forgive. Save more lives than you have ruined, and maybe the balance will return. There is still time.”

*****

The Church did return, with all it’s hardware too. The Empire apparently had left them some surplus weaponry, including a few AT-Ats, and AT-STs. The Garrison turbolasers had a bead on the Farstar as well. General Quarters was sounded. Krudar and the rest of the gunners all sat in their turrets ready for the coming battle. Loffryyn was working hard to get the Farstar back on-line, because the ship was off-line for the re-supply. Life support had been vented, the ships astrogation computer were in diagnostic mode.

The Church demanded the location of Gorak. The Captain didn’t know where he was, but she knew that the Church wouldn’t believe that. She tried to contact the search party, but they were tired up at a stalemate with a Church scout party. A lot of people were going to die if something wasn’t done soon.

****

Atonement. Save lives to atone for the ones you have ruined…

People were going to die because of him. Gorak turned back towards the town, and started walking.

Time for atonement… at least the beginning of it.

****

The silence fell like a sheet. The Church stopped the communications, stopped their ultimatums. Weapons didn’t seem to be powering up. After a few minutes of tension, the Church turned around and went back to the Garrison.

“The one called Gorak Khzam has turned himself in. Because of your actions, we now restrict your movement among our people. You have a right to defend your own crew member in a court of law… our law. Assign his advocate and have that person report to the Tribunal Council in 24 hours. The trial will be in 4 days. You may investigate until then, to gather evidence in his defense. Until the trial, the criminal will remain in the Church dungeon. Communicate to church council channels any questions you may have. Have a nice day…”

“Great. Just great….” The Captain moaned. It was hard enough to trust him here on the ship, and now they had to defend him in a court of law… their law. “Mavia, I assign you as his advocate. Perform a thorough investigation, and maybe something will come out of this. Take Gunthar with you. He has a thing for know thing truth.”

The investigation went slow. Every time they tried to gather evidence, the Church would put up a brick wall. They were not forthwith with their security records or any other. Despite this, they were able to derive this evidence.

  • Gorak remembers the brother locking the door they used to access the catacombs as they came down into them. So there was only two ways into the catacombs: through the door he used, or through the gates.
  • They suspect that there was an unauthorized use of the gate. However, getting that proof was impossible, because no one other than a brother of the prophets is allowed near them or the usage records.
  • The gate has an effect on a user. Whoever used the gate is very sick and has some odd EM signatures about their body. All they had to do is find this person. However, since the murder, the church facility has been closed to the public, and security has been increased.
  • The murder was done by use of a knife. Gorak never uses a knife.

This was what Mavia and her companions had to work with. The Dr. Akenseh was instrumental in finding much of this evidence. They hatched a plan to insert two individuals, Dr. Hasslock and Dr. Seedar, into the monastery, and scan for this individual. Meanwhile, they will try to stall by asking for a change of venue, and put off the date of the trial.

****

Meanwhile, during all this, Clarke and his crew had been given the name of the gatekeeper contact and was working to find him. Their contact was also under suspicion for another crime; treason. He was being held in the dungeons of the monastery. That evening, Dervious was sent to break him out. He covered his trail by stealing another body from the morgue and torching it beyond recognition. Even the DNA tests would take some time, and that all he needed was time.

With the gatekeeper on their side, all they had to do was plan the day or night they were going to break into the catacombs and use the gates. They best time was when all the security was distracted dealing with something else; something major. The trial. Security preparation for the trial would be going on the night before. The night before the Trial, Clarke’s group would make their move.

****

Mavia was bound and determined to get physical evidence from the murder scene. She was able to get some when the church allowed them to visit the murder site, but they were restricted to look only within a small area around the murder scene. Some evidence did prove useful, but she knew there was more she couldn’t get to. She planned to break into the catacombs on the night before the trial, find her way to the murder scene and scan for any other evidence. The doctor told her he had detected signs of organic material further down the hall, but they could not get to it. She was going to get a sample. These pompous brethren were going to pay.

The change of venue plea didn’t go as well as they thought. They were granted a hearing on the matter, but were told that this hearing was more than just to judge whether there was a bias and there was little chance of a fair trial. They also had to prove that it is worth the church’s time and credits to bother with a trial. If they could prove his innocence now, they wouldn’t have to worry about the trial. The church expected to see the evidence, to make a judgment on whether it was worth it or not. This was seen as a win-win situation. If they prove his innocence now, they are dine. If they don’t, they should get their change of venue. It seemed they were going to have a trial on Galtea whether they wanted to or not.

****

The night before the trial, a group of shadows crept to the rear entrance to the catacombs. Clarke had donned his stealth suit, and was in full “commando-mode”. This church might have the best security on the planet, but it wasn’t good enough for the best bounty hunter in the galaxy… at least next to Boba. The hid in some brush, not far from the catacomb entrance, and spotted two security droids, already dealing with another problem. They were wrestling with another figure who apparently had similar intents as Clarke and his men did, but failed. The droids problem, Clarke’s distraction. Both Clarke and Dervious moved fast and neutralized the droids swiftly.

“There is little time now. Those droids are on a network, and if their nodes are detected as off line, we’ll have the entire inquisition on our ass.” Clarke said, ignoring the some-what grateful figure who they saved.

“Thanks anyway…” It was Mavia.

Clarke finally recognized her presence. “Good, you can take care of the Gatekeeper after we leave.”

They all filed into the entrance once the lock was picked, and the other security measures were taken care of. The catacombs, as they always been, were and dry. Light emanated from seemingly random spots along the wall. It was quite alien, even with the occasional modern-tech integrated with in it make-up.

There were a few other security guards to be taken care of, and once they were dispatched, the path to the gates was open. The Gatekeeper set of the destination within the alien computer, and warned the team of all the effects, even though they had heard it before. The commandos checked and adjusted their equipment, including the sensor devices Dr. Akenseh required them to wear to monitor them while they went through the gate. The team, Clarke and his five mercs, Dervious and 5 more volunteers from the Farstar ground troop detail, stepped through the gates. They hoped Sanctuary was on the other side.

Once the team was through, Mavia and the Gatekeeper returned to the Farstar. Before leaving, though, she checked for that organic material. There was no sign. The Church covers up it’s trail real well, when it’s trying to frame some one.

****

The Hearing was started out as a chaotic maelstrom of shouting and motion. Once order was established, the Judge review some of the rules. Leaving many ambiguous and open to interpretation. Mavia only hoped she would interpret correctly. The defense was allowed to call witnesses first, since they requested the change. Mavia, in her best courtly manner started in on the defense. The prosecution, Arthur Cowbragen, looked devious and cocky as Mavia started in on the first witness.

****

The two doctors had acquired, through some help from Loh’Khar, some robes worn by the brethren of the prophets, as well as security passes into the monastery. That had to work their way through hundreds of monks and priests to find the one man who had used the gates recently. They know he was the last, because the gates were sealed after the murder.

The trail picked up hours into the hearing. They had little time. If they didn’t find the culprit, Gorak was doomed.

****

The hearing was a stalemate. Every point Mavia brought up, Cowbragen had a reason to doubt the testimony. She was determined to get Gorak freed on this chance. She felt that loosing this case now to gain the change of venue was settling for second best.

The Doctor had put on good testimony, with his power medical evidence. The hearing seemed to be turning their way. All that the prosecution could was hint a bias from the doctor.

Mavia needed a suspect as soon as possible. Where were those doctors.

****

The trail lead to a room in one of the barracks, but it was empty. The scanners they carried detected the EM signatures along the walls and on the cot. The scanners also picked up other chemical traces. They were identified as detonite. Their suspect had built a bomb. Could he have known they were on to him? Could he have plans to eliminate the evidence by destroying himself? Or worse, destroying something else along with himself? Could the effect of the gate have effected his mind as well; perhaps a case of one-too-many jumps?

They traced the EM trail towards the Hearing room. He was going to destroy everyone.

****

Gunthar was watching each of the witnesses from both sides being called, trying to see if they where lying. At one point. Late into the hearing, when things weren’t looking good, Gunthar felt a cloud fall over the crowd. It was an emotional cloud; a person with great fear and anger had just walked in. He looked towards that man, and had strong distrust. He decided to move to sit behind him. As he sat he caught a glimpse of two friends.

Where did they get those robes?

When the prosecution was bringing up it’s first witnesses, the angry man stood up and said something like “Nobody move!!!!!” Before he could finish, Gunthar stood up and pounded him back down to his seat. He even thought he heard something crack.

“Man was bad!!” Gunthar said.

The hearing was quickly over when the final evidence was presented.

****

Once everyone gathered back at the Farstar, the found it prepped and ready for departure. It was fully supplied and replenished. The Captain, relieved to have the whole ordeal over with, and satisfied that the Sanctuary team made it through the gates, ordered to set coordinates to the last known location of Sarne, and the Farstar lifted off.

Somarian didn’t feel well when the reached high orbit. When he realized what it was, he called up top the bridge. “Captain, we have a few visitors dropping out of hyperspace. I think they are Imperial!!”

They were Imperial and the Farstar was definitely out numbered. “Get those astrogation computers up and get us out of here!!!!” The Captain ordered.

The astrogation computer was still booting up. The Farstar prepped for battle. They were going to have to fight their way out of here.

A swarm of TIE Fighters were bearing down on the Farstar, the X-Wings were launched, Gorjaye in the lead. The Farstar needed time, and if she had to stay behind to hold back the Imperials, she was going to do it. Krudar manned his favorite turret and concentrated his fire on the carrier. He wanted another Imperial escort carrier mark on his vest. The sound of his turbolaser fire was poetry to his ears.

The space battle was joined. Fighters swarmed in all directions. X-Wing pilot Trevor Haynor, determined to become ace, fought with a fever he never felt before. He also noticed that the enemy wasn’t aiming at essential systems, and didn’t seem to be seeking to destroy the Farstar. However, they were pursuing the fighters with a passion.

Suddenly, the bridge erupted in a shower of debris. Large sections of ceiling tumbled down onto the Captain. System terminals exploded in a spray of flame, as crew members went sprawling. When the smoke cleared, emergency lights came on, and the crew assessed damages. No hull breach, no damage to any major system. The captain was wounded and unconscious, and a few crew members had a few cuts and bruises.\

“What hit us?” Someone ask. No one could answer. From all they could tell, the explosion came from inside the bridge, and not from an external attack.

The Doctor, with help from Thyte and SLAVE, pulled Adrimetrum out of the debris. Akenseh’s assessment was the she had a few cuts and bruises, but she was also in a coma. She ordered a repulsor-stretcher to the bridge, and hauled her off the sick bay.

Gorak stood in disbelief. He just want from murder suspect to acting-captain in 44 hours. They all faced him expecting him to say something.

“Let’s get this ship out of here. As soon as we get the astro-nav comp up, feed the coordinates to the fighters, and have them jump after us.”

The battle was becoming overwhelming. Krudar was able to make a few solid hits on the carrier, near the engineering section. One side of its engines had shutdown, and portion of it’s decks were glowing with fires. The large ship had started to list in one direction.

“Nav-comp up and coordinates set, Captain Khzam” Why did that crewman sound like he distasted calling the Rodian Captain?

The Farstar wretched again with a solid hit to the rear, near engineering. Gorak heard the wookie engineer roar something about hyperdrive damage, but he had no time to worry about it. It was now or never.

“Jump to the first coordinates the make sense… anything to get us out of here.”

The jump was short, because the hyperdrive system went down about 5 minutes into it. The dropped out deep in the Wastes, somewhere in the middle of a large milky nebula. Sensors were unreliable, at best. Loffryyn reported that the hyperdrive system had taken a hit and under repairs. They should be back on-line in an hour. Bridge sensor crew reported that this nebula should hide them from Imperial sensors until then. Gorak dropped into the Captain’s chair. It felt odd, even though he had sat in it several times on his bridge shift.

The X-wings, linked into the jump comp of the Farstar, also had dropped and were in the process of docking and repairing.

After a few minutes of scrambling to get systems repaired, the doctor called Gorak to sickbay. He asked Thyte and Kla’al to join him. For some odd reason, Drake asked to join along with Jessa Dajus.

The Captain lay as if asleep on a sick bay cot, among several other wounded.

“She is in a coma. It seems that the explosion did not cause our captain’s state. Somehow, a small amount of a strange toxin was injected into her body, and is causing her neural system to shutdown, one system at a time. There is a small prick hole in her back, where I found residue of a synthetic nature, perhaps a dart that decomposed once the toxin was injected. We need some kind of antidote to pull her out of this, or she will die.”

Further investigation discovered that a Security droid had been tampered with and rigged with a dart gun to shot at the Captain a small dart with this alien poison. Whoever did this must have also alerted the Imperials of the Farstar’s position.

Drake and Jessa both were examining the medical data with intense interest. They both nodded their heads, and turned to Gorak. ” We are familiar with this drug.”

Jessa said solemnly “Sarne used this drug to remove certain political enemies and make it seem natural. Only he and one other used this toxin.”

Drake shook his head “The Wraith was the other. We know Sarne is not on board, so the only obvious conclusion is that…”

“The Wraith is on board.” Gorak finished the sentence.

“I know where the Wraith got this toxin. It’s a natural toxin of a rare plant on Sebiris. There maybe be a antitoxin somewhere on planet.”

“I can develop one if I can have a sample of the plants it originated from.” Akenseh stated.

“Kla’al, you have security. Order all non-essential personnel confined to quarters. Thyte, set coarse to Sebiris as soon as the hyperdrive is up and running. You are acting-second in command now. These are temporary assignments, because the Captain will be back to claim her job back, and I want a job when she does. Tell Samarion to remain on the bridge and use those special senses of his to warn us about that fleet if decides to try and find us. I have a feeling that’s not the last we will see of them.”

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