After Jai Tessa lays out what she learned about the moff’s formative experience, Tcho is again feeling a bit overwhelmed at the scope of what she wants to undertake. “He is a representative of the ‘proper’ law and order of the galaxy, and Rebel assassins tried to kill him. That is a problem. It cannot just be waved away.” Thinking of JT’s most emphatic gesture, he adds, “I don’t even think two hands could get rid of it.”
JT tries to track the politics of the situation. “Is Panaka the moff of a planet? A sector?”
Tcho shakes his head a bit but supplies the information with a small, patient smile. “A sector. The Chommell Sector. Naboo is the capital planet.”
“But he’s not a naval officer, right?”
“What? No, he’s a moff.”
“Well, yeah. But an Imperial naval officer would be charged with fighting the Rebels.”
“Okay, right. He doesn’t have a fleet, not like Dargon does.”
“Who’s Dargon?” JT asks. Tcho tilts his head in wry amusement and lightly swats her arm. “Is that the other moff?” She nods to herself. “That’s the other moff.”
“The Corellian Sector, that’s core. Dargon’s got a lot of resources. She glassed Froz,” he reminds her. “Chommell, mid-rim at best.”
“And lacking Corellia’s giant shipyards,” JT observes.
“More and more, I’m coming to the conclusion that we’re dealing with a threat to Naboo itself here, likely targeted at Gungans specifically. Maybe with Gerrera’s group gone through other means, Panaka’s looking for a new outlet for his anger. Maybe he’s transferred the blame to the local non-humans. I’m sure Panaka has some ships, a few officers under him, but he’s not flying around like an admiral, actively seeking out and hunting down Rebels.”
No, it looks like he’s planning to actively seek out and hunt something else! JT thinks back to the repulsor trap she got caught in, not so certain that this is simply about species. That was a trap that could slow down a Jedi, so maybe Panaka is preparing to handle Gungan Force-users. But she does not share this thought aloud. When it was a matter of saving Tcho’s life out in space she was willing to expose herself as Force-sensitive, but not over this. This, she will have to do alone.
JT’s own Force visions have been few and far between. There was Val Isa showing up in her cell just recently, of course. But prior to that, other than whispered words here or there, she has had just the one she experienced on Gesaril. That was designed to assess her character—human, droid, or Jedi—and Saskwatch later told her it was prompted by his people, small Force-sensitive avians looking for help dealing with a creepy temple. But did that only work because of the Dark Side leanings of that whole place? she wonders. Maybe there are similar locations that are oriented toward the Light Side. If Panaka is going after practitioners of a Gungan Force tradition, maybe there is such a place on Naboo. That would mean delaying the intervention until after the cruise and simply using the rest of the flight to prepare.
To Tcho she says, “We’re working on a plan to give the moff a really powerful experience, one that will inspire him to step off this path. But I don’t think that’s really possible on a ship like this. Still, we can lay the groundwork here. I’ve got some good inner access to the moff’s affairs now with Ursa, but there could definitely be stuff he’s not sharing with her. So, while we’re on the ship, find out what you can, and then I’ll handle the rest. It being out of your wheelhouse, and all, like you said.” Tcho shrugs, but before he can respond, she continues quickly on. “Besides, I’m thinking Naboo for the staging, and that’d be a huge risk for you, since you’re supposed to be dead. You should go to the Outer Rim and get a new identity. I know a great town; here’s a coupon.”
Tcho looks over the pamphlet from the New Meen Wellness Center and Droid Day Spa. “The deserts of Ryloth?” he asks, incredulous. “No! That’s a horrible-sounding planet!” Even just the fake beach here on the Dame was too hot for his Pantoran physiology.
JT considers giving him Renci’s contact information, but now is perhaps not the time. Maybe she should check with her Cupcake to see if she can hook him up with a Rebel doctor position far from here. For now though… “Any progress on your end? Getting the captain involved to soften up the moff would still be helpful.”
Tcho shakes his head. “We’ve been going to the gardens after a run each morning. I thought maybe whoever Kerr-Lonn-Ny overheard might not like her being out and about, and she agreed to be bait. It was possible the Frozian worked in the gardens area, so she might have the opportunity to recognize her again. So far, though, nothing. However, her daily meditation there seems to be helping some. She’s remembering more fragments of what she overheard.”
There is a crackle, and then a self-satisfied, nasal voice sounds over the shipwide public address system. “Gentlebeings, this is your captain speaking. We will soon emerge from hyperspace to pass through the famous Maelstrom. Those of you who have never made this passage are in for a treat. I recommend that you make your way to an observation port for a breathtaking view. The entire journey through the Maelstrom should take about twenty-one hours. At the end of this time, we will re-enter hyperspace. Thank you, and have a great trip!”
“Maelstrom…” Tcho mutters. “Where have I heard that?”
“The Maelstrom? I don’t remember that being on the route. It’s an interesting stellar phenomenon, and I’m sure it looks super cool—I’d rather visit Sludge Falls, of course—but I don’t think it would be good for the ship to get too close. Definitely a good thing we didn’t have to stage your death with the Dame near that! I guess we’ll be there after the nightly hyperspace jump. You familiar with the Maelstrom?”
“No,” Tcho says quietly, “I haven’t heard of it. But Kerr-Lonn-Ny has. Recently.”