Back in photonovel mode after a 2 month delay... here is the 17th chapter in the Rykrof Enloe. Thanks in advance for any feedback, as always it is very much appreciated.
With the onset of the Clone Wars, Supreme Chancellor Palpatine has implemented numerous changes on Coruscant in the name of increased security to protect the population from Separatist attacks.
However, the capital of the Republic has become subject to frequent terrorist acts and assassinations of leading Republic figures by Separatist agents and members of the Badoo Corba organization.
As the war enters its second year, the population is shaken once again as a section of the Galactic Alliance District is decimated in another terrorist attack...
...burying hundreds of innocent civilians beneath rubble and ash.
Above the highly populated city planet, several Republic Assault Cruisers stand on high alert in response to the terrorist strike.
Recently returning from Dathomir and now learning of the devastating attack, Rykrof Enloe silently observes the planet below; knowing all too well that his recent actions may have cost him not only his career, but a friendship he has known all his life.
Suddenly a deck officer notifies Rykrof that Admiral Tylin Gere's shuttle has arrived.
"Very good ensign," Rykrof replies, wondering what type of reception he will receive from his longtime friend.
Just then an escorted clone officer barges onto the bridge.
"Commander Enloe," the clone boldly announces, "We are here to take you into custody."
"Under whose order?" Jedi Master Kala Mly Shundi interjects.
"We are under direct authority from Supreme Chancellor Palpatine," the officer replies.
"No need to worry," Rykrof calmly says to his Jedi friend. "Once intelligence deciphers the data on the cylinders we uncovered, everything will be fine."
"Very well Rykrof," the Jedi complies. "But stand your ground; your mission was not a failure as they claim."
Rykrof is then escorted to meet with Admiral Tylin Gere.
"Hello Rykrof," Tylin says. "Many of us were beginning to wonder if you would ever return."
Mystified by the cold greeting, Rykrof hesitates before speaking.
"Yeah, I was beginning to worry about me too, Tylin. It's been a while."
"That's Admiral Gere
to you," Tylin replies sharply.
"The Republic is grateful that you survived your ordeal," he continues. "But when an officer is given orders, they are to be followed without tardiness or delay. Unscheduled family time is not a luxury we can afford to take when orders have been given."
"I am fully aware of that, Admiral
," Rykrof says sarcastically. "And I will accept the consequences for my actions. However, I was able to upload a significant amount of data that will aid the Republic in eliminating the Badoo Corba."
certainly didn't save any lives today," Tylin replies snidely.
"It saddens me to say this, but friendship only goes so far," Tylin tells him.
"There is little I can do for you at this point. And your Jedi friend is very fortunate that the Jedi Council has already spoken to the Supreme Chancellor on his behalf."
Meanwhile, Freelo and Traedon Cusiro argue over the situation they have found themselves in while Ralbarr attempts to ignore the bickering conversation.
"This is a bunch of bantha crap
," Traedon growls. "They have no right to be holding us on this ship. If they don't let us out, I'm going to take matters into my own hands."
"Maybe you should have just stayed on Dathomir," Freelo replies as he gently sips at his cup of Slug Juice.
"Listen here fish face; I've about had it with your smart mouth. Ever since we got off that rock all you've done is get under my skin," Traedon threatens. "One more comment and you'll find yourself in a trash compactor."
As the two continue to bicker, Kala Mly Shundi approaches the group.
"Kala, what's going on?" Traedon asks. "How long do we have to stay on this ship?"
"The decision is not mine to make," the Jedi Master replies.
"But I thought you should know that Rykrof has been taken into custody."
Ralbarr becomes enraged with the news, emitting a deep growl at the Jedi Master.
" Traedon asks. "For what?"
"From the Chancellor's point of view, Rykrof is responsible for the Badoo Corba escaping Dathomir. If he had not delayed his mission, the terrorists might not have had time to evacuate the system," the Jedi Master informs the group.
"Rykrof knew he was taking a risk by visiting his family on Naboo. Now it appears the Chancellor is going to make an example out of him," he continues.
"Oh yeah? Well what about the data cylinders he downloaded at the Badoo Corba base he discovered?" Traedon asks.
"Rykrof said there was information on them that was invaluable."
"Don't forget that I helped him export that data," Freelo proudly announces.
"Our only hope is that the data will outweigh the charge he faces," Kala says.
"Now, let's get you registered so I can see about transferring you to Coruscant."
Meanwhile, Tylin and Rykrof make their way towards the communications chamber of the ship.
They then prepare to make contact with the Supreme Chancellor, who has requested to speak with Rykrof directly.
Knowing he may very well face charges of insubordination, Rykrof prepares to present his case to the leader of the Galactic Senate.
The holographic image of Supreme Chancellor Palpatine then appears.
Tylin then greets the powerful leader.
"Supreme Chancellor, it is an honor to speak with you," Tylin says.
"As you have requested, I bring you Commander Rykrof Enloe for questioning."
"Thank you Admiral Gere," Palpatine replies.
"Commander Enloe, please spare me the details on why you visited Naboo. I only want you to tell me what happened on Dathomir. But keep it brief. I have to address the Senate with details on today's terrorist attack, but I want to hear your report first."
"Yes Sir," Rykrof replies.
"When we arrived in the Dathomir System, we were ambushed by a fleet of Federation Battleships."
"Most of my team was shot out of space..."
" ...very few of us made it to the surface alive."
"We had to stay low during the day because of the Separatist patrols in our sector..."
" ...eventually a rescue team located us, but the Jedi were met by Asajj Ventress."
"But a dark witch was in control of the planet..."
" ...she seemed immortal."
"Interesting," Palpatine replies. "How did you escape from her?"
"Either luck, or the will of the Force," Rykrof says. "Unfortunately Jedi Knight Kovin Thayle was killed by the witch... "
" ...but thanks to Master Shundi, our escape was made possible."
"After over 100 standard days on the surface, I'm still amazed that any of my team made it off the planet..."
" ...but the Badoo Corba must have evacuated prior to our arrival. They seemed to have known we were coming."
"However, we did obtain secret data on the Badoo Corba. I believe we can use this information to prevent future terrorist attacks," Rykrof tells him.
"Indeed," Palpatine says with a smile.
"The data codes you provided have already been broken. It appears that the information you obtained contains the identities and locations of dozens of terror cells in the Outer Rim," the Chancellor says enthusiastically.
"Your recent actions concern me, but there is no doubt that the information you have obtained is vital," Palpatine says.
"Especially while we are at war with our resources stretched thin. In times like these, it becomes easy to see terrorism as merely an annoyance. I was personally in the Galactic Alliance District earlier this morning, leading me to believe that I was the intended target of today's attack."
"The data you brought back revealed a link to the terrorists on Kobridor... the planet has been a battleground between our clone army and the Separatists since the war broke out. But thanks to your information we now know there is a primary contact of the Badoo Corba on that planet."
"Find the Quarren, Tessor, and bring him to Coruscant for interrogation," Palpatine continues.
"Successfully complete this mission and as a measure of my gratitude, I will grant you a leave absence from duty to be with your family on Naboo."
"Thank you Chancellor," Rykrof says as he observes the holo image of the Quarren.
"I will not let you down."
"I know you won't. Now, assemble a strike team and rendezvous with General Shaak Ti's forces on Kobridor. I look forward to granting your leave of absence upon the success of your mission."
Following the meeting, Tylin chases after Rykrof.
"You were fortunate in there," the Admiral says. "Today's attack was convenient timing for you... under any other circumstances you'd be in a prison cell right now..."
"...which is where you should be, along with your new entourage. That Mon Calamari friend of yours was working for the Separatists before you met him, and the smuggler...""...grrrruuuuk!"
"Cross me again Tylin and it will be the last thing you do," Rykrof threatens as his grip tightens on the Admiral's throat.
Tightening his grip even more, Rykrof feels an urge to kill his former friend right here, regardess of the consequences.
"You heard the Chancellor. I have work to do," he says after releasing his grip, leaving Tylin gasping for air.
The following morning, citizens begin to go about their daily routine, weary of the ominous threat of both the Separatists and the Badoo Corba.
Concealed behind a local diner, Rykrof meets with his inner circle of trusted allies to discuss the recent turn of events.
"I'm not sure what's happening to the Republic," Rykrof says in frustration.
"Ever since I enlisted as a Peace Officer, I've done everything I can. And really, the only reason I'm not in prison right now is because of those data cylinders. Even Tylin has turned against me. Who's next, my wife?
"This is exactly what I told you would happen," Finis Valorum says.
"Palpatine is doing everything he can to stay in power beyond his term and gain more control ...he's manipulating everyone ...even you."
"Even if that's true, now is not the time to challenge him. Not during a time of war," Rykrof says.
"It would tear the Republic apart."
"I thought the Republic was already torn apart," Freelo comments to Ralbarr.
"It would be best to take your family and go into hiding until the war is over," Valorum says.
"Regardless of the outcome, the Republic will lose."
Senator Tame Heem then adds onto Valorum's strong words.
"Finis is a wise man, Rykrof. He is one of the few without a twisted allegiance. Unlike the Chancellor Palpatine, he has no ulterior motives. You are in no position to challenge anyone on a political level now though. It may be in your best interest to take his advice and resign."
The trio then exits the alley leaving Rykrof with even more questions.
"Nice meeting you!" Freelo exclaims as he waves goodbye to the three politicians.
"Well, I guess this is as far as I go too," Traedon then tells the group.
"For now at least. I have to get back to Correlia."
"Maybe this is it for me as well then," Rykrof laments. "Maybe they're right, I should submit my resignation."
"Don't do that," Traedon reassures him. "At least don't make a decision until you hear back from me, ok?"
"That's fine Traedon," Rykrof tells him.
Traedon then briskly leaves the group, leaving Rykrof wondering who will be next to abandon him.
Suddenly an obese creature bustles out the back door of the diner.
"Damn scrubber droid," he says in a garbled voice. "This relic should be in a museum!"
"Hey what are you doing back here? Dumpster diving in my trash are ya?
" he yells.
"Hi, I'm Freelo," Freelo says with a smile. "We were just talking with Finis... "
"Our apologies," Rykrof says, sharply cutting Freelo off.
"We'll be going now."
"Now wait a just a minute," the creature growls.
"You're not going anywhere without explaining to me why you're back here! Who are you?
"It's ok Dex, they're with me," Kala Mly Shundi interrupts.
"Master Shundi, these are friends of yours?" Dexter Jettster asks.
"I had no idea!"
Kala then accompanies the diner owner to his garbage pile.
"They're good friends," Kala tells him.
"But keep this to yourself; you didn't see any of us here."
"Alright, I gotcha," Dex replies. "Jedi business, I can respect that."
"Just next time you stop by, come in the through the front. My door is always open to friends of the Jedi," Dex tells Rykrof.
"Thank you Dex," Rykrof says cordially.
"I'm a friend of the Jedi too," Freelo eagerly points out.
"Then you're welcome anytime," Dex laughs. "You'll always have a friend in Dexter Jettster!"
"Rykrof, the Council has granted me permission to accompany you on your mission," the Jedi says once Dexter returns to his diner.
"I'm very happy to hear that," Rykrof admits.
"This will not be an easy task; Kobridor is a complete battle zone. The entire planet has been affected by the war," Kala tells him.
"I'm ready for anything," Freelo says, bringing a smile to Rykrof's face.
The group soon departs Coruscant, prepared to find the Badoo Corba terrorist on Kobridor and bring him back for interrogation...
...knowing their mission is but one of many in the war...
...a war that has consumed the galaxy for over a year...
...with no end in sight.
TO BE CONTINUED...