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Scars Will Heal (But Were Meant To Bleed)

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Kallus sat in the bar, watching the rest of the room carefully. He’d taken a table in the corner, mostly hidden in shadows, so that he had a clear view of the entire room. The bar had probably been a decent looking place at some point, but years of serving a rather disreputable clientele had taken its toll. The other patrons seemed to be primarily smugglers and other criminals, so Kallus was doing his best to remain inconspicuous. Men like this often had notoriously loose lips and even looser moral codes if money was involved. It wouldn’t be good if he was recognized.

He’d gotten a small bowl of soup. It was entirely too salty and the undescribed “meat” was a bit unsettling, but it was cheap and warm, which was all Kallus really cared about. He tried not to think about the strange texture and color of the “meat”, and just focus on the fact that it was warm food.

It wasn’t long before Kallus noticed several men paying more attention to him than he was comfortable with. Feeling uneasy, he got up, leaving the rest of his food untouched, and slipped out of the bar as quietly as he could. The cold was bitter and the wind biting. He pulled his hood up and his scarf around his face, both to obscure his face and protect him from the wind. A man followed him out of the bar, keeping his distance but clearly following Kallus. Steady, measured walk. Clothes made to look worn and ragged, but clearly good quality. A high quality, military-grade blaster.

Imperial.

Kallus continued to walk a ways, making sure not to give away the fact that he’d noticed his tail. After a few minutes he turned into an alley, pressing up against the wall and drawing his knife as soon as he was out of view. As soon as the the man turned the corner, Kallus hooked his arm around the man’s neck and pulled him towards him, stabbing him in the stomach and pulling the knife up. He felt the man tense in surprise, then start shaking slighting from the pain and shock, dropping his blaster after a few seconds. Kallus gave the knife a final twist before pulling back, letting the man fall to the ground. He picked up the dropped blaster and went through the man’s pockets until he found a com device, then walked away, not looking back.

XXX

Significant Imperial activity in Ison system, particularly planet Ison itself. Trade route not safe, avoid for time being. -Bahryn

As soon as Zeb had decoded the message, he alerted Hera, who alerted rebel command, and all ships that were scheduled to use the Ison system trade route were diverted. Just in time too, as Imperial activity in the area increased noticeably less than a day later. The Ghost was now tasked with watching the system to determine when the coast was clear again.

“So who is this contact of yours?”

Zeb glanced over at Hera, who was sitting in the pilot’s seat next to him. He shrugged. “No idea. First contacted me a little over a year ago, out of the blue. Been sending me information ever since.”

“Well, whoever they are, I’m glad they contacted you. As far as I can remember, we’ve never gotten bad info from this person.” She laughed quietly. “I wish all our informants were that reliable.”

Zeb nodded. Bahryn’s messages were always short but reliable. Whoever they were, they were a good source, even if they were a little mysterious.

XXX

Kallus had noticed his hearing was declining for some time. It wasn’t anything major or sudden, just small things. Having to ask people to repeat themselves over the com occasionally. Having to increase the volume of the intercom in his quarters slightly. Not that he was surprised of course. His job meant he was in direct contact with loud noises such as explosions on a fairly regular basis, and it wasn’t uncommon for lifelong ISB field agents to have noticeable hearing loss by the time they retired. So Kallus wasn’t worried. It wasn’t affecting his ability to do his job, and likely wouldn’t for years, if it ever did at all.

XXX

Kallus watched the man closely. 500 credits for a month’s worth of rations? The trader’s prices were ridiculously high and Kallus knew he was being ripped off, but he didn’t have much of a choice. He needed to get out of the system fast, and he needed supplies.

The issue was money. Kallus barely had 600 credits, and as much as he needed the food, he had other expenses to consider. He could probably get on a smuggler’s ship for a decent price in exchange for working the run, but he needed enough credits to be able to hit the ground running wherever he ended up. That meant having enough credits for shelter and transportation, and depending on where he ended up, that might not be cheap.

Kallus gave the man 100 credits for one week’s worth of rations. If he rationed the food for minimal caloric intake per day, he could stretch a week’s worth of rations for at least two, maybe three weeks. The man looked at the credits, laughed, and shook his head.

150 credits.

Even with the jacked up prices, Kallus knew he was being overcharged, but gave the man the extra 50 credits anyway. He didn’t have time to argue. He’d managed to get off Ison without much issue, but he needed to get out of the entire system. The Imperial presence had already increased in the day since he’d killed the Imperial agent, and he knew it would just get worse.

He took the rations and headed off to the docking port. If he was lucky, a smuggler would be looking for someone to do manual labor during the run in exchange for a free ride.

XXX

Thrawn studied the picture in front of him. Whoever had killed the agent was skilled and efficient. The agent had been incapacitated immediately and had bled out within minutes, and the killer was clearly familiar with Imperial training and protocol. He’d not only managed to spot the agent, but had also known to look for a com device. With the proper knowledge, whoever this was could potentially access the messages sent and received by the agent. Thrawn had technicians looking through those messages now so that they could begin damage control.

Thrawn had to admire the technique of the killer. Clean and efficient, a kill this merciless had a certain beauty to it. “This was Agent Kallus all right.”

One of the generals frowned. “Are you sure, sir? Ison is known for being full of disreputable…”

“It was him. I’m certain. He’s likely left the system by now, but we’re on his trail.” Thrawn smiled slightly. “You can’t run forever, agent. I’ll catch up eventually.”

XXX