Careful Shadow Author: Mechalich Timeframe: 33 - 24 BBY Characters: Lady Blackshade (OC), Dal Perhi Genre: Drama Notes: All comments, including criticism, are welcome Summary: Black Sun faces the tumult of the oncoming Clone Wars Chapter 1 Metellos Coruscant sector Core Worlds 33 BBY Eleea no longer woke swiftly in the middle of the night when an emergency beckoned; her body did not tolerate such jarring. She solved the problem by a different expedient. Sleep was no longer a thing holding great power over her, and she commonly remained awake late into the morning, reading the news feeds that streamed across the HoloNet endlessly. The dark hours, spent alone, with a glass of fine wine and nothing but the screens and droning announcers for companionship, were among her most pleasant. The chattering absurdities of the fools and mediocrities that filled her days were silenced, and she was left to contemplate the vast game of life; politics devoid of distraction. She often wondered, late at night, how others kept up with the pomp and circumstance of position at all times as the years rolled by. It seemed so miserably tiresome. Those allowed to disturb her in the slow time when the lady was ostensibly sleeping were few indeed. Family, a tiny circle of close friends, and the trio of personal servants she trusted most. Of the last only one was a creature of flesh and blood, the others were machines. Sleep might hold little power over a woman of advanced years and iron will, but it possessed none at all in the realm of sentient automata. The face guarding Eleea’s door at night possessed no eyes; it peered out at the world through a gleaming blue bar across the skull, positioned above a sharply outlined vocabulator. Such was the image of Flourish, the head of her household droids, and the bearer of a vibroblade enhanced well beyond legal civilian carrying limits. The Duelist Elite had been her companion since childhood, and she trusted its refined sense of judgment above all other machines and almost all organic beings. When the droid’s characteristic knock came to her door, she knew it was of great importance. “Enter,” Eleea answered, turning away from her screens, muting them to black with a gesture. She remained in shrouded darkness, only a few tiny blue signal LEDs illuminating her cavernous bedchamber. The droid entered, perfectly poised on sloped wedge-feet. He bowed with preternatural grace. “Apologies for the disturbance milady, but there has just been news of a development of great importance.” She said nothing, retaining her glance and allowing the machine to continue. Flourish’s understanding of her moves was sufficient to interpret the rest. “I have a communiqué from Ralltiir, milady,” the droid explained. “The news is most grave.” As he ought, Flourish paused there, waiting for the essential confirmation. Eleea, having heard Ralltiir mentioned, understood completely. “Access priority alpha, full security privileges, Lady Blackshade resides within the eclipse.” She dropped the final syllable considerably. “Very good milady,” Flourish continued, accepting the voice-activated pass-phase. The droid’s bearing changed slightly, becoming far less traditional and much more militant. The right hand moved to the hilt of the vibroblade in a ready defensive pose. “I have had direct communication from an officer in the security detail at Alexi Garyn’s estate on Ralltiir. There has been an assault. Underlord Alexi Garyn is dead, as are the other Vigos, along with most of their bodyguards. These deaths have been confirmed by security.” It had been many years since Eleea was struck speechless, but she stumbled now, staring blankly at the droid’s face in shock for long seconds, unable to process the enormity of this revelation. After a time, she pushed the gaping hole, ruination at the foundation of her existence, away. She scrambled for data, for context, some other pieces she use to plug the pit opened in her universe. “Who was responsible?” she asked the droid. Her imagination reeled at the idea that anyone could penetrate Garyn’s defenses, could defeat the very best of Black Sun’s killers. “Security footage has identified a single assassin, a male Zabrak with extensive red and black body tattooing. Images recovered from Underlord Garyn’s yacht indicate he used a red lightsaber-staff in combat,” Flourish related. “The precise identity of this individual is unknown, but he matches the figure identified as ‘Maul’ in recent reports.” “A lightsaber? Really?” this was not something easily believed. “Yes milady, the footage is not yet verified, but there is no reason to doubt the report at present.” “Well…how strange…” she mulled this revelation. Not many assassins were in the habit of wielding lightsabers, but there were a few possibilities. The Bando Gora perhaps, or the Dathomiri, even a rogue fallen Jedi might turn to assassination. Eleea could not say for certain, but she divined that this Zabrak killer was someone else’s agent, a mercenary actor, though she doubted his reward was in credits. Whatever the party truly responsible, their goal was clear enough; as was its accomplishment. “All the Vigos are among the dead?” she probed the droid again, not doubting, truly, just trying to wrap her head around the magnitude of the disaster. “Yes, milady.” “Who sent out the report?” Broadcasting the news was an unconventional approach at best. “Underlord Garyn’s personal aide, Oolth,” Flourish reported. “He appears to have been the only survivor among those present during the attack.” “I see.” A flunky looking for protection, Eleea realized. Her mind supplied a second deduction a moment later, finally catching up to the import of matters. Oolth was doomed. “So, someone, as yet unknown, has procured the services of a shockingly deadly assassin to eliminate the leadership of Black Sun. Why would they do that?” The droid paused, meeting his mistress’ gaze. Then it determined a reply was desired. “There are two obvious possibilities. The first is a strike against Black Sun itself, designed to cripple the leadership. The second is that this attack was directed only at Underlord Garyn or one of the Vigos, and they were all slain to hide that fact.” “The first, it must be,” she decided. “Their assassin would never have been so brazen had this been part of some subterfuge. No, he came to crush, and succeeded.” She paused. “This was not personal, and it was designed to intimidate. Oolth’s survival may even have been deliberate.” She let out a long, slow sigh. “Every Vigo position has suddenly been vacated and I dare not claim any of them; how irritating.” “Milady?” the droid’s confusion was revealed only in subtle tics of motion known to Eleea through long experience. “This move, its purpose is clear to me now,” she proclaimed to her confidant. “Someone, a person or organization with the power to utilize this astonishingly deadly tool, wishes Black Sun removed from the game for the present. Killing the leadership will unleash a chaotic power struggle. I might enter into that and emerge victorious,” she savored the idea very briefly before willfully purging it from her psyche. “But that would mean a visit from this tattooed Zabrak, or some other, equally terminal, agent.” “No, it seems retreat is the order of the day. We will compartmentalize, retrench, and gradually ready our operation to rebuild Black Sun when the pressure has receded.” She stood, gathering her night-robe around her thin frame. “Summon Kay from her blankets, I must dress and be en route as soon as practicable. Wake everyone at the office and have them prepare all accounts. We must move quickly now, the Lady Blackshade will not sleep until she has seen her empire securely concealed.” “Of course milady,” Flourish nodded. “I will send for Kay at once, and have your speeder standing by. With your permission I should like to pilot it myself.” Eleea considered the duelist elite. Years ago she’d tested the machine against the best living swordsmen she could find, from noble Tionese fencers to Mandolorian thugs, and he’d never lost. Time would not have dulled the skills of the droid in the slightest. He was the very best, but could he match this ‘Maul,’ this creature of lightsabers and the Force? It seemed unlikely, but at least she knew he would die trying. The same could not be said of any other servant. “As you wish,” she answered. It was time for survival. Technical Notes The events related via report here, the death of Alexie Garyn, Underlord of Black Sun, and all the Vigos, are canonical, established in Darth Plagueis and the Star Wars: Maul comic. The Duelist Elite, which Flourish represents, are a canonical droid class.