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machievelli
09-17-2005, 01:57 AM
Author's note. Exerpts of a full length novel that will be submitted soon.


Knights of the Old Republic:
Genesis of a Jedi
Archivist’s Notes:
Little is known of the past of Padawan Danika Wordweaver. As a Jedi Consular, she spent most of her life travelling and the Sith war kept her constantly on the move. Her life before the Sith war is only a brief Republic service record before she joined the order.
What was found out before her disappearance and possible death are fragmentary, and the records of this volume came not from those Republic files, or her own words to others, but rather from the two droids that accompanied her during the Sith war, T3M4, and HK47.
Danika was reticent about her past in person, and it wasn’t until she had left on her last mission for the council that what is now known of her early life came to light.
She had left the droids mentioned above on Coruscant. Perhaps she felt through the force that it was soon to be her time to join it as all of us do when we pass on. She and the Crew of the Ebon Hawk vanished into the depths of space on that mission. Their fate still a mystery five years later. Yet when I spoke to the droids just last year, they suddenly answered my questions. To quote HK47, it was now time to ‘tell this tale’.
As the most recent of the archivists of the Jedi Academy, it fell to me to record for posterity what that luminary accomplished during those hectic years.
What you will read below is a compilation of many people’s views of what happened during that time. Danika herself, while reticent with people, was eloquent in speaking of her past when it was recorded by her droids.
Padawans Bastila Jolee Bindo Juhani and Padawan learner Sasha Ot Sulem of the order, all of whom disappeared with her on that last mission each left personal records.
Carth Onasi, Canderous Ordo Mission Vao Zaalbar and others had already recorded much of what happened during that first fateful mission. I am especially indebted to the late Komad Fortuna, first advisor to the Wookiee of planet Kashyyyk, and Speaker-elect Shasha of Manaan. They gave me information that has never appeared in the records and which truth to be told, would have embarrassed Danika if it were known earlier.
Note: The record of what occurred aboard Leviathan came to us when Leviathan was captured not long before the war ended. No changes have been made in that record. Events from aboard the Star Forge came via survivors’ recollections, and the use of Soochir by the members of Ebon Hawk‘s crew.
Jolan Lasko, Archivist.



A patriot is a person that has found a cause worth fighting for, worth living for, worth dying for, and worth killing for;
The same can be said for the Fanatic.

machievelli
09-17-2005, 02:46 PM
Memories
I have never understood why the place I came from should be important to those that speak to me. I spent a decade of my life smoothing any accent from my voice, but still everyone asks where I come from as if it delineates who and what I am. Really! Human kind lives of over 7,000 planets, and with the non-human members of the republic, there are over a hundred thousand planets that people can live on.
I think people wonder where you are from so that they can fit you into a neat cubbyhole when dealing with you as a Jedi. They want to know in the hope that with this information, they can predict your actions by what is the norm for your home world.
Yet one of the very first things a Jedi learns is how to set aside her past and what her parents taught her in those brief years before they join the order. That is part of the reason the order usually chooses children between five and eight standard years old for training. Old enough that they can understand speech, yet young enough to have few preconceptions, and almost no prejudices.
In my case as you know, where I was born and where I remember being born are two different things. I have wrestled with that since the Sith War, and finally came to a decision.
I am no longer who I was, so my memories are all I have. I will die true to them.
Very well. Since I will be long dead when this record is released. I will tell you HK47. I was born on Deralia, a world still known for it‘s beautiful beaches, soft gentle rains.
But as the force has both a light and a dark side, so does my home planet. Where I came from on the Equatorial belt, it’s known for the varied homicidal wildlife, and the hunters that come from throughout the galaxy to hunt them.
Deralia was settled only because someone was greedy. The Tokara Company survey ship that discovered the planet was supposed to do a survey of the entire planet. Instead they surveyed the Northern Hemisphere, saw the lush islands of what is called the Cerulean Sea, and immediately thought of all the resorts that could be built there.
I have looked at the Republic Colonial Office specifications. One year is to be devoted to cataloguing all of the life forms present on every landmass above a specific size, and verify that they are not overly dangerous. But five hundred years ago, someone on the ship, or perhaps from the Company itself greased a few palms and registered the planet five months after it‘s discovery. They sold the planet to the Chartered Deralia Company, which opened colonization on the only major continent at the same time that Tokara began construction of the hotels my home-world is best known for.
I also checked the Jedi Archives concerning the now defunct Tokara Company. This wasn’t the first or the last planet they had ‘forgotten’ to check. Their headquarters on Coruscant closed abruptly when someone crashed a cargo ship full of Magnesite on it, blowing it and five square kilometers of the planet to dust.
Obviously an unsatisfied settler.
The colonists that came were the usual crowd, the disgruntled, those wanting more elbowroom, the ones hoping that this would be better than where they were from. There were 150,000 in that first wave.
By the end of the first planetary year (425 standard days) 5,000 remained on the main continent. Most died, for nature has no pity, and a human being is frightfully fragile. About 20,000 had taken one look at what they were facing, and wanted no part of it. Those that fled make up the servant class at all of those luxury hotels.
The others stayed. They learned the best way to kill a Thorm, a predator the size of a medium bulk transport. How to keep the herbivore called a Wambor from stepping on your home. A useful skill when dealing with something that Thorm prides hunt.
How to gather Katkin eggs without ending up in the food chain. How to gather the seeds and pollen of the Julot, which has the local nickname of the Harpoon tree.
They thrived by being faster and meaner than any species on the planet. A child isn’t even allowed out of the Kraal until she can identify every known danger, and can shoot well. Considering the possible dangers, I discovered that what I learned as a child was more useful in combat than what I learned in Boot Camp later. We’re known for being self reliant, and innovative. My mother died before I even knew her. She is just a large face holding me in my memory. Father remarried when I was six.
It wasn’t all danger. I remember riding Tirlat, running in the fields of Tuza grain, climbing the Jumja trees to pick a fresh melon. We also raised a few head of Kora, a local herbivore that isn’t too large, only five times human size. We also raised Bezek vines that were one of our two primary ways of earning hard credits.
Bezek is classified as a Grade 2 hazardous plant because the pollen is addictive, and causes anything with a sense of smell to charge blindly in to get a better sniff. The flowers have poisonous needles, which close on anything that enters them. The animals are sucked into the now closing flower, their fluids drained and the husks are expelled to become fertilizer.
There are only three animals that can safely get near a Bezek vine when in flower. The Goothi bird, which fertilizes the seeds, the Wambor, which eats the vine, and is too big to get stung, and man. But only a fool walks outside when the flowers are in bloom without a breather mask.
The nectar is sold to perfumers, who make some of the most sensuous perfumes known to the galaxy. The fruit is pressed for wine considered an aphrodisiac.
But we’re best known for the hunting and the guides that take you to your prey. There are over fifty predators ten herbivores, and sixty varieties of aquatic wildlife classed as Galactic grade game, meaning that when you hunt them, the odds are even as to who gets taken as a trophy even with body armor and military grade heavy weapons.
I think that is why the Jedi didn’t discover me earlier. Jedi don’t hunt, and view killing as something that sometimes must be done, but not something to do on vacations. They rarely came to our planet as judged because our local laws are draconian when it comes to crime. We have few if any civil violations because we are taught from birth to be bluntly honest. This may sound odd but survival depends on telling the truth and cooperation. A lie cannot protect you against nature, only a friend can. A man known for being self-serving, or lying doesn’t get help when he needs it. There is no colder way to die than to call for help when in need, and not get it.
By the age of ten, I was going out on hunts my father led. First as a bearer, then to help with children that some brought with them. Finally as a guide myself.
Most of the children were stuck-up prigs who looked down on me because I didn’t know their planets, music, actors, etcetera. They had inflated views of their own importance because they did know these things. There were times when I could have been a bit slipshod, and someone would have ended up dead. But even with my irritation with them, I never allowed them to come to harm. They survived to go home, either with the trophy their parent had taken, or, sometimes, with the coffin that held that person’s remains.
Some however gave me a deep yearning to go to their home-worlds, to see sunrise on Correl, to watch the waves of Chanderal smash into the cliffs at a speed unrivaled by any flying machine. My father always laughed at that. He hadn’t even been as far as our capitol city of Morla.
I was thirteen when I picked up an unusual hobby. The Echani Sword dance.
An Echani prefect had come along with his children, Bortu and Kalendra. Bortu was three years my senior, Kalendra was 14, a year older than I. They spent a month on the planet hunting, and I was hired to be their companion.
One evening ritual I was entranced by was when they practiced with ritual brands and swords held in both hands. I had learned the use of the Panga, the local bush knife; I had even learned the practical use of one as a weapon. But the way I had learned to use a blade was as dull as a dark room in comparison. It was like comparing dancing and just shuffling your feet.
Bortu was a master with his twin blades, placed in the same sheath, they were drawn, a stud pressed, and there were two separate composite blades. When he practiced, he used a pole with the bark still on it as his target. He would stand before it, then would leap into movement, the blades whipping from all directions, taking strips from the bark without touching the wood beneath.
But Kalendra was magic in comparison. She carried a ritual brand, folded into a single sheath, as were their twin swords. But when drawn, and the stud pressed, it snapped out, making a twin bladed staff. When seen side by side, Bortu’s movements could be seen by me to be mechanical. Kalendra danced as if the blade and the target were partners.
I have heard since I left my home that the Echani know nothing of war, that they are dilettantes, their fighters too hard to handle, their energy weapons underpowered, their ships too lightly armored, their swords too difficult to master.
To all their detractors, I say this; their warships are faster and more maneuverable than any in the galaxy. Almost fighters writ huge. Their fighters are like juvenile Tirga needing only a gentle hand to guide them to wonders few craft can achieve. Their energy weapons are light, but the Echani have always believed that a weapon is a needle, not a fire hose. A calm cool shot can kill any enemy with an Echani blaster, and can pick a target small enough that it looks like a miracle.
War was not a bloody bludgeoning struggle to the Echani; it was a game where those who knew the rules won. Pilots are trained to maneuver as violently as possible in simulators, and only those that can do so consistently go on to a real fighter craft. Their ground troops learned to shoot the target, not the landscape.
And the blade...
The blade is taught to all, but only those who know their own bodies can attain true mastery. They call blade fighting the ‘dance of death’.
After watching them for a few days, I asked to try my hand at them. Bortu refused, laughing. He had been practicing since he was six, and still didn’t feel he had mastered the twin blades. He didn’t expect someone almost twice that age to even scratch the surface.
But that evening, Kalendra drew me outside where no one would watch. “Dance with me.” She whispered.
“Dance?” I felt uncomfortable. Dancing was something the old people did, and it was linked to passage rites. She must have seen my thoughts because she laughed a light tingly sound that caused my blood to race a bit.
“If you wish to learn the dance of death, I must see you move. Stand as I stand, move exactly as I do, and I will judge whether you can learn.”
She took a stance with one foot advanced, hands even with her waist, and I matched it. “When I move a hand, you must move the opposite. She pushed her right hand forward. I measured the same distance with my left. “Excellent. Once you have the hands down, we shall add the feet. Now begin.”
She moved, and I matched her, slowly shifting first one hand then the other out and in, up and down. “Now two hands.” She moved one up and out, the other in and down.
She stopped, picking up two Bezek stakes about as tall as we were. Again she began moving, my motions matching. Now I saw the ends of the staffs as blades, my motions intercepting hers. She began moving her feet, stepping right and left in a circle with me at the center. But when I also moved, we became moths circling a central flame.
She began speeding up, and I kept up with her as long as I could. I missed a block, and she tapped my shoulder. She stopped, stepping back, and dropped the staff on the pile.
I was crushed. I had failed. But the next evening she was back. She had trimmed two staffs down, and tarred the ends. “The worst part of learning to sword dance is learning to keep your body out of the way. Every time you see tar on you, picture a limb being cut off.”
Bortu had decided that he wanted to actually hunt, so he spent most of his time out with the others. That left Kalendra and I alone. During the next weeks we were inseparable. During the day we hiked the nearby hills, where the hunting had cleared the major wildlife, thus limiting our dangers. In the afternoons when it was hot we would go to the soaking pool below the house, and lay back against the bank where it had been tiled, just relaxing in the cool liquid.
In the evenings we practiced the sword dance. I despaired of ever becoming as good as she already was, but she’d hug me laughing, and told me that practice was all she had that I had not.
The time flew by so fast that I suddenly realized one day that her father was due to leave in less than a week. I waited until father and the hunters had left, and took her hand.
“Do you want to see what I do for fun when there are no hunters? Something I have never shown another visitor to this planet?” I whispered. She nodded eagerly. We picked up our side arms and pangas, and I led her through the woods to the Grove.
A few kilometers from the house, there was a clearing large enough to land cargo ships in. No one knows why the trees never grew back. Small herbivores kept the small plants and grasses down until it looked like a manicured lawn, and now it was home to the Tirlat herd. I led her to the edge, touched her lips to make sure she would be quiet, and pointed.
At first glance a tirlat is funny. The average adult is about twice the size of a land speeder, with a barrel shaped body wide at the front so that it’s mouth can seine in pollen and smaller flying prey, and pointed at the back end. Their stomach acid burns so hot that they have hydrogen left from their diet, and this is stored in the bladders that lay all around their body. They drift along sometimes with the wind, but when they want to move, they have ribbon wings along the sides. They are an anomaly on the planet, totally inoffensive, and nothing on the planet eats them while they are alive. They look like a stiff breeze would kill them, though we have hurricanes that level the forests and I have yet to see a tirlat die of anything but old age.
To ride a tirlat, you have to imitate a Jollo cat, an arboreal predator the size of a human being. A primate, it climbs as fast as a human walks, and runs down branches, dropping on it’s prey from above. Not that a hunting Jollo cat would be able to hurt a tirlat. The cat would find that the rubbery skin of even a juvenile was too thick to be penetrated by her claws. The skin was also slick. All a baby tirlat has to do to escape a Jollo cat is fly.
I set my climbing belt for 10 percent gravity, motioned for Kalendra to do likewise, and leapt straight up at the lowest branch five meters above my head. I swarmed up on top, and caught her hand as she followed. We ran along the wide branch to where we were above the manicured land, and I pointed behind us at the tirlat I called Spooky. He got that name because his wings are almost translucent, and he looked like a ghost tirlat compared to the younger ones. Spooky I was told was older than the human settlement on the continent. He was slowly sculling toward us, his wings barely rippling.
I crouched down, uncoiling my climbing line. “When he flies under we drop down.” I waved the line, “This goes under his chin, and you sit down or lay down fast.” We waited impatiently as he sculled closer. Then he was below us, moving by. I gripped her hand, and as his body began moving below us I said, “Now!” And we dropped together. I flung the line in a practiced motion, making the weighted end spin down and around the neck. I caught the loose end as I dropped down to sit with my legs in front of the wings. “Sit down!” I shouted. Kalendra dropped down behind me, her legs straddling me, her arms around my waist.
It was good she had done so, because the ribbons stiffened into blades, and Spooky tried to escape. The wings came up then down in a powerful thump, and we shot forward. It wasn’t fast, even a child’s speeder bike is faster, but along with the slick skin, it would have thrown us backward off the body.
I held the line with both hands, and she held onto me. “It’s like a swoop bike!” She shouted. I had never even seen a swoop bike before, so I had nothing to compare it to. Then she gave the trilling wail of the Echani war cry. Spooky reacted to this with another thumping sweep of his wings.
We shouted in joy, then first she, then I, then together, we gave another cry, urging the gentle animal to fly even faster. As we flew I showed her how to guide him. Pull on one side, and he would move the opposite direction. Thump his barrel with your feet, and he would climb, though not very high. Lean forward, and he would head down until his belly ruffled the longer grass.
Kalendra leaned into me, her hands pressed against the front of my body, her head turned to lie against my back. “Let’s just let it fly for a while. I don’t know what I might do if I get more excited.” She whispered. We flew along in silence. As our movement and noise died, Spooky went back to rippling his wings. There was silence and peace. There is nothing like it in the galaxy.
Finally I guided him back to the glade. “We have to get off now.”
“Must we?”
“He will get sick if we ride him all day. We can come back later in the week.” I explained.
“How do we dismount?”
When I say now, tuck and roll backwards.” I felt her head nodding against my back. I released the line I held on the left, pulling it up to coil it again. “Ready,” I gave one last war cry. “Now!”
As before he snapped his wings straight out, and pounded the air. But without the line, we rolled backwards like a stone down a hill. Two rolls and suddenly we fell toward the ground. Kalendra landed sprawled, and I frantically stiffened my arms so that I landed above her without smashing down on her.
We giggled, looking at each other in the sheer enjoyment of the moment. Then the laughter died as we just drank in each other. Her hand rose, and touched my cheek, a feather touch. I leaned into the hand. She leaned upward, and her lips brushed mine. Her eyes held a sadness I didn’t understand.
“If only we had met last year.” She whispered. Then she was pushing me aside so she could stand.
The walk home was silent. Her mood had gone from happy to depressed like a light flicking off, and I didn’t know why. She wouldn‘t answer my questions. That evening, we practiced, but I was able to get past her guard easily. She wasn’t concentrating.
Instead of going in the house as was usual, she led me to the pool, stripped off her clothes, and slid into the water. I followed her, and when I was seated, she curled up in my lap. We were sitting in reverse of when we had ridden me at the back with my arms around her. She leaned into me, and I held my friend. I felt her jerk, and she turned, burying her face against my chest as she cried. I didn’t know what I had done to make her so sad. I asked but she merely shook her head, and held on to me as if I was a lifeline to sanity. “Hold me like you would never let me go.” She husked, and we sat there for an hour until finally we had to go in.
The last week was both sublime pleasure and sheer torture for both of us. We didn’t want to be parted, but being together was painful for some reason I didn’t understand. She was constantly touching my hand, my face. Hugging me just when she was in the mood to hold me. Sometimes when the mood struck us, we would hold each other, our lips brushing each other’s faces. I had never known such contentment. We rode the tirlat twice more, and every night after practice, we spent an hour in the pool cuddled.
Finally her father was done with his hunting, and the next day they were going to leave. That night, she drew me outside. I thought we were going to practice, but instead she went to the pool and slid into the water. I followed her, and she cuddled against me again. “I don’t want to go.” She said, her head against my chest. “I want to stay in this pool, in your arms forever.”
“I don’t want you to go either.” I whispered into her hair. “If only you could stay here.”
“But I can’t.” She sighed. “I must go. But will you promise me something?”
“Anything.”
“Promise you won’t forget me.”
“Never.”
She kissed me one last time. The next morning they left, and I spent three days crying. My parents watched me during those days with what I took to be amusement. Later I understood that they knew what I was going through, and their amusement was only the feeling every person has seeing children grow up.
My only real pleasure after she left was the dance.
It wasn’t until years later, after I had left my home world that I finally had access to a library computer. When I looked up the Echani, I discovered that their mating rituals are deeply ingrained into their society. A boy can live to adulthood unencumbered, but a girl must be bonded at age thirteen. Nothing can break that life-bond except for death. Nothing is allowed to. When a child is bonded, she leaves her home, and lives with her bond-mate’s family until marriage. Their romantic fiction all hinges on people that break their bond to be with another, and the horrible events that ensue.
I discovered that Bortu had not been her brother, he had been her fiance-bond-mate. The man I had thought was her father was actually his.
There is however a self-bond. When the child loves another, or loves an ideal itself. Those Echani that become Jedi claim this. A self-bond has no boundaries, and is considered just as valid as a life-bond.
When someone mentions that an acquaintance is Echani there is a lot of nudging and winking going on. It is assumed because they have no strictures on marriage, that the Echani are lustful beings.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. An Echani wise man once said ‘if you lust after a woman today, you are madly in love with the clothes she decided to wear’. They believe not in following sexual desire, but love. To an Echani, sex is no more the be all of love than hair color is the end all of a woman. Love in their eyes is caring about another person so much that their well being is all you worry about. Making sure they never want is more important than your own needs. This extends in family, where children receive what they need whether it be a hug or a spanking. It extends in society by allowing love to flow freely between all.
“If only we had met last year.” She had said. She had meant it too. Under their laws, she could have claimed a self-bond to me. She would have left her home and become my what, wife? Lover? Significant Other? The fact that we were of the same sex would not have mattered to her people. Bio-geneticists are able to blend the DNA of any pair of the same species. They could have taken one of our eggs, fertilized it with the DNA of the other, even adjusted it so that we could have male children. We could have borne such children naturally for the Echani feel that all aspects of life both pleasurable and painful are meant to be experienced.
When I’m sad, I can picture us sitting in that same pool, with our children splashing around us, content in all things. But it didn’t happen. If she had bonded with me, I wouldn’t have become a Jedi. I would not be here now. How much would my life have changed if that had happened?

Not much of what happened in the Galaxy really affected us there. Our fleet was a pair of old Moravian Kontor class gunboats over a century old. Resorts and hunting preserves aren’t strategic targets. We knew that the Mandalorian war was happening, but except for a dip in business, we didn’t really feel the affects of it. When I had just turned twenty-one, the Sith war began. Again we were not really affected.
In my twenty-third year, my life changed. A Republic officer came to Deralia on a recruiting drive. Along with others he scoured the resorts looking for likely young people. But this one decided to check out the homesteads of the continent as well. It was pure luck. I hadn’t found any of the local boys that interested me, and sexual frustration can cause you to make abrupt decisions.
It was the first time someone had actually come to our Kraal that wasn‘t a neighbor or a hunter. When he arrived, I was sword dancing.
Of course I didn’t have a proper Echani ritual brand. They are hand made for the user, and while you can use someone else’s it is slightly uncomfortable. But once I had felt comfortable with the idea of an actual blade instead of a tarred stick, I had taken two pangas a section of conduit large enough to slide over the handles, and made a double bladed sword.
When I danced, I was in my own world. Nothing mattered except for the sweep of the blade, the placement of the feet, the click of the blade hitting the pole. I was almost as good now as Kalendra had been when she began teaching me, and I could feel her standing back and watching me with that gentle smile.
I stopped, and began to dismount the panga blades. That was when I heard a gentle clapping sound behind me. I looked over my shoulder at the man in a uniform I didn’t know.
“Well danced youngling. You’re not a local?”
“Yes I am.” I replied.
“Then where did you learn the Echani Sword dance?”
“From a hunter’s daughter.”
“Ah. May I speak with you?”
My brow rose at that. What might he have to say?
“I have already spoken with your father, as the law requires.” I nodded. Except for hunters who didn’t seem to care much about any local law the Republic representatives had always been punctilious about obeying them. Of course the first person that abused the trust of his guides and their families could easily find their rifle unloaded when something charged them.
Obviously he was either unmarried, or from a world that accepted concubines, slavery, or polygamy. To speak with me without permission could have caused an... Accident.
“I am recruiting for the Kolari Sector defense forces.”
“For?”
“The majority of the fleet has gone over to the Sith. Soldiers are desperately needed to preserve the Republic-” I raised my hand.
I finished dismantling my weapon, then turned to go up on the verandah. My father was sitting with a hunter and some beaters, talking about the hunt they planned that day. He saw me coming, and raised his hand for silence.
“You spoke with him?” He asked. I nodded. “You going?” I shrugged, then nodded again. His eyes were sad, and he hugged me, something he rarely did. “You be careful. Hear?”
“Like a Bojuum hunt, father.”
He smiled. “Tell your mother.” He turned to resume his seat and conversation. That was as much of a goodbye as I expected from him. I walked into the house. Mother had a hunting pack already packed, sitting on the kitchen table. She was staring at it as if she was going to cry.
I touched it with my fingers. “Am I that easy to predict?”
To anyone who knows you?” She stood, and with a soft painful cry she hugged me. “Be careful.”
“I will.”
“Come home.” She finished, then she turned and fled the room.
I carried my pack, tossed it in his speeder, then leaned against it until he decided to leave.
The one thing that has bothered me since that time is that I never did go home again. I had promised my stepmother that I would but I never have

machievelli
09-19-2005, 06:03 PM
War

When I arrived at the Kolari system, the Sith war was nearing the end of it’s first year. The only major change from when the recruiter had spoken to me was that the Corellians were supplying equipment in return for ground forces. Since the enemy was starting to move toward the sector, the local militias were starting to build up.
I have constantly been berated since I became a Jedi about the military. The Republic doesn’t have one per se. Each planet or alliance even corporation has it’s own military force, with their own weapons ships and even training. There isn’t even a recognized unified Academy, though the Republic Naval Academy is recognized by many. This means every military force has it’s own ways of doing things.
But you have to understand that the Republic is a very loose alliance, based primarily on trade and currency. Not a solid Federal union like say the Corellian Trade Alliance. The idea had been considered when the Republic had first been formed 20 millennia ago, but the sheer prospect of trying to assure that the laws are the same from place to place would have been staggering.
A unified military might have made the wars we did face less bloody, but only at the expense of a massive military force that could just as easily be turned on our own people. The Galaxy has over 50 billion stars, and so many planets. Why should we of Deralia pay for a military we only see when we need to actually fight? So they never created a unified Republic Fleet or Republic army.
Also, on a galactic scale even the largest war is a storm seen from a distance for most of us. The only Mandalorians I had seen up until that point had been hunters that came just like any other to test themselves against our game.
But war had come to us here, and the militia was mobilizing.
While we end up fighting together standardization is a joke. No two units from different planets have the same weapons. No two have ships of the same design. Also while the Galaxy is cosmopolitan, the militias are not. Most of the alien races fight in their own units, humans in their own etc.
My first six months was spent in boot camp. You can’t just hand the soldiers their blasters armor and swords then send them out to die. Not if you want to have most of them a week from now. Instead you take these raw recruits, and teach them how to use the weapons.
I did rather well. Except for the folding stock the shortened barrel and the option to set it for automatic fire, the blaster rifle I was issued was a Corellian hunting rifle. The pistol was also Corellian, and something I had sometimes carried in the field at home. The meter long swords were slightly longer than the panga I had used at home, and made of the same composite. The only difference I saw was that while at home we wore them on the hip, the sheath for a sword was on your back with the handle even with your head.
Our blades had to be made from the composites called a Corotosis weave developed by the Verpine. Ever since the Jedi had developed the light saber, people had tried and finally found something that would block or at least retard it. A light saber would slide along the blade, nicking but not slicing through it. Our armor used the same kinds of composites, with additional layers to stop or deflect blaster fire damage from flames or cold, even sonic weapons.
But we were happy to have the weapons and armor, because for the first time in fifty years, we faced Dark Jedi among the Sith.
Over two thousand years ago, a sect of the Jedi had broken away. They had fled the Republic, and joined the Sith.
Originally, the Sith had been a race, a violently xenophobic race. They had attacked the Republic throughout the centuries, and finally had been beaten back to their home world. When the first dark Jedi arrived, there had been bloodshed, but finally the Sith accepted them for their nihilistic view of life in general, and the galaxy in particular. For centuries they had stayed on that planet, but a thousand years ago, they struck out at the galaxy again. So started the first war actually called the Sith war. They were beaten, but every few centuries, they would try yet again.
Maybe that is why a lot of people can’t differentiate between Jedi and Sith. Both have power that a normal person can not even conceive of. The only difference between them is; are they friendly to you or not? If you have ever had a Jedi adjudicate your case in the other person’s favor what do you think?
Much later when I began Jedi training, I learned the main difference is the same as governments or men themselves. Some people revel in the power, and want more. Others make decisions in their lives where they take the easier path rather than doing what has to be done, no matter how hard. Others merely see the galaxy as chaos, and try to impose some sort of order on it.
Like most people then, I looked on the Jedi as odd people with powers I could not match. When I faced my first dark Jedi, they seemed the same. The first Jedi I ever met was Padawan Loras of Beretell. She was assigned to my ship when I left boot camp. She looked about as dangerous as a kitten. Just a short jolly fat woman.
To most boot camp is six months of hell. To me it was home with fifty people living in the same room. The hardship I endured was dealing with fifty people from seven planets, and forty different sets of rules they had been raised by. It wasn’t until the fifth time someone made a sexual overture to me that I finally understood what was being offered. That last was so blatant that I would have had to be mentally deficient to misunderstand. I didn’t pair off, though a lot of my classmates did. That just didn’t interest me. I passed through basic and the advanced courses with barely a ripple. By the time we were in the last weeks, I was tapped as a rifle instructor.
I graduated and was assigned to fleet operations. I was assigned with those that survived training to the Corellian Frigate Ashtree Corona. The next year was taken up in raids on various Sith controlled worlds. A lot of my classmates died, but somehow I did not. By the end of that year, I was a squad leader. I fought in three fleet actions, including the ambush at Zanebra where Revan fell.
As a ground troop, we saw little direct action except for boarding actions. During ship to ship actions we were assigned to turbolaser batteries, and kept them operational. At Zanebra, we were one of five ships that were pounding Behemoth, the enemy flagship. Suddenly we were ordered to check fire, and immediately retarget Leviathan, the flagship of the Sith Second column. We pounded her, and would have probably blown her into dust, but suddenly she turned, and to our amazement, fired her entire starboard broadside not at us, but at Behemoth!
Already badly damaged, life pods began spewing away from the crippled ship. Then she exploded. Our scanners were confused for several fatal seconds. Ashtree Corona was the closest ship, and Leviathan concentrated all of her fire on us.
It was like being in a waste can with the gods playing a field hockey with you. I had already been in my suit, and had ducked below the cannon to repair an electronic fault. That saved me when a blast gutted the gun and killed everyone else in the compartment. I tried to contact the bridge but internal communications was out. I finally made my way to rescue workers farther inboard.
For the next hours the crew was busy just trying to save the ship. Of the contingent of fifty ground troopers aboard, I was one of only ten that survived. The crew dragooned those of us that were handy with tools into service. Six including myself were assigned to rescue operations. All scanners were dead. For all we knew, a thousand Sith were coming. But we had our duty. Two of the men I assigned to damage control, finding the pitifully few survivors in the wreckage aboard. The other four came with me. We put on hard suits with thruster packs, and went to see what survivors might be floating past in life pods.
This should have been simple, read a beacon, tractor it in, save a life. But the Sith had taken to dumping pods with thermal detonators or planar charges rigged to blow. Either would badly damage a ship that tractored it in. So we had to go out and personally check each pod before the boat bay officer would bring them aboard. They simply saw the demographics. It was less expensive in the long run to risk a single trooper that a billion credit ship. Just harder on the troopers.
It was simple, really. Jet up to the armorplast view port, and look inside. If you see a body, check to see if it is Sith or Republic. If you see no one, set a beacon on it, and an EOD team would disable any traps. If you see a bomb of any kind, you blow it in place. If there is a Republican troop in it, you tag it with a different beacon, and it is towed in ASAP. If it’s Sith, and they appeared to be armed, you tapped on the plast, showed them the limpet mine in your other hand, and make a motion to ask if they were going to surrender. If they did, you used the EOD beacon. If not? That was what the mine was for.
This sounds harsh, but some of the Sith weren’t in the surrendering mood. If not, we saw no reason to deal with them beyond making sure they passed on. Most of the surviving prisoners I had seen were just as dejected as I would have been in their place.
The battle had run away from us. Though we didn’t know it, the battle was over. Leviathan and those ships able to escape had run. Not that we were in much better shape. It had started with forty-five of ours versus forty of theirs. Out of their fleet, only five ships had escaped. Of ours only three were hyper drive capable. There were a dozen hulks that had to be either repaired or destroyed of what both fleets had left. We’d won, but I didn’t think we could afford many victories like it.
I was at this for over fifteen hours; my suit was down to the emergency air pack when I called into the ship. “Ashtree Corona this is unit seven. Area appears clear, down to reserve air. Ready to return.”
Before Ashtree Corona could answer, a different voice cut in. “Unit seven, this is Endar Spire do not, I repeat, do not return to Ashtree Corona at this time. Sweep your sector again.”
“Wait a minute, Endar Spire! These are my people you are risking. What is left out there worth their lives?” Asked Commander Roofan. Our captain Bendar Solo had died with over half our crew.
“Commander, one of the pods that blew off Leviathan contained some of our boarding crew. The Jedi aboard here says General Bastila might be aboard it.”
Bastila! I had heard of her, or course. When this ambush had been planned, Bastila was going to use a Jedi power called battle mediation to slip through the defenses of the enemy flagship intending to capture or kill the dark lord Revan.
“Endar Spire, I don’t care if my wife, the entire senate and the damn Jedi council is still out there! I can have a fresh troop with full supplies out there in an hour.”
“They might not have an hour!”
I looked around. “Ashtree Corona this is unit seven.”
“Go seven.”
Maybe I can at least localize her pod for a follow on.”
There was silence. I hadn’t considered that I had just undercut my superior. Bastila was important enough that the Republic had bet 10,000 lives on this attack, and lost most of them. That made her more important than I was. I had made calls like this before since I was made squad leader. Who was more important? In this case, Bastila was.
“Unit seven give fuel state and consumables.”
I looked at the read out. Both were in the yellow, but I had seen them as bad before. “Fuel 17%, air four zero minutes.” That was bad, but not unrecoverable. I had enough fuel to head out a short distance, at the expense of being plucked out of space like a fly when I came back on a ballistic course.
“Understood Unit Seven. You have permission to make one, I repeat, one check run. Set return alarm for fifteen minutes of air. If you have not found this pod by that time, you will return aboard immediately.”
“Understood.” I lifted the scan pack, but still there wasn’t anything out there according to it. No beacon no loose mass the size of a pod. Only a thick debris field a short distance away. A pod could have been jammed in there, and beacons did fail. I targeted it, and set the thruster pack. My fuel was down to 11 when I pulled up outside of it.
From what I could recognize, I knew this was wreckage from Behemoth. A ship almost ten times the size of the Ashtree Corona. I began scanning it item by item, anything big enough to conceal a pod.
Something caught my eye, and I looked toward one of the larger pieces. I could have sworn I saw something there, but there was nothing on the scanner. The section was three decks through, and an ID marker on one deck said it came from level 4. The decks had been first cut by turbolaser fire, then sheared apart by the explosion. I could see parts of deck three and five from here. And in the middle of that mess was what looked like an undeployed pod! “ Have a pod in sight. Going in to check.”
I spun in place, and was aiming for the pod when something hit me from behind. I had been so intent on my search I had forgotten to set my proximity alarm. I was slammed forward, spinning helplessly. My systems were going haywire. The thruster pack controls all read dead. I had no maneuvering control.
“Problem.” I said. The spin and thrust was throwing me past the hulk, and if I didn’t catch something fast I was going to fall forever. The Com officer was shouting questions, but I ignored him. I saw a section of conduit that thrust out like a spear, and I reached for it, putting all of my effort into catching that metal lifeline. I saw it flash by, and closed my eyes.
Suddenly I felt a jerk as if I had been tied by my hand to a landspeeder. The torque almost ripped my arm off. As I slowed, I heard another alarm.
“Wait.” I demanded, looking at the display. My air that had been above thirty was dropping like a bomb. “Air tank damaged. Give me quiet.” I popped the seals, and the thruster pack spun away. Whatever had hit it had slammed into my back, and either cracked the tank, or popped the seal. If it was the tank, I was already dead. If it were the seal, I might be able to reattach it.
They tell you in suit training that you need two people when reattaching a line seal. I didn’t have another person.
I caught the flailing line, and reached back. To picture my problem, visualize a metal pin sticking up just about in the center of your shoulder blades. Now take a tube in your hand, and reach back, and thread that pin through the tube without seeing it, and knowing you only have one chance to do it right. I closed my eyes again. They weren’t going to help me if I failed.
There was a click after a moment, and the alarm shut off. I breathed deeply, fighting the panic that had been there. That was why I never used the adrenal stims they issue. I don’t like the affect when you come down. “Got it.” I reported.
“Give air state.”
I opened my eyes. “I have to check the pod first.”
“To Pathan’s nine hells with the pod!” He almost screamed.
I ignored him. There was a stanchion within reach, and I swung across outside the armorplast of the door. Through it I could see half a dozen crumpled bodies. On top was a woman in what looked like a Jedi robe. She’s here.” I tapped the stud on my armband, activating my beacon. I could hear it‘s siren call. Something still worked. “Home in on my signal.”
“Give me your air state!“ This time he did scream.
I looked at it, blinked, and looked again. The number refused to get bigger.
“Give me a situation and number. Now!”
“Bad, eight.” Eight minutes of life left.
“Bad!” He giggled hysterically. “I would have said that qualified as panic! Give me a moment.” I could hear him calling flight quarters to see what could be done. I knocked on the armorplast, but the woman didn’t move.
“Unit seven, uh, Danika. We can get a lander there.” I could hear the worry in his voice.
“But?”
“It’s going to take at least fifteen minutes.”
Even with the air in the suit that left me a full five minutes with no air. I wasn’t going back to the ship. I contemplated my death, and for some reason, it didn’t bother me. Well whining wouldn’t help. “Hurry. I am going to take a nap.”
I could see the stars out there, the distant specks of ships and suits. None were close enough to reach me in time. I took my survival line, and threaded it through the stanchion and a convenient handle, then rested against the armorplast, my face touching it. I darkened the visor. Better they didn’t wake up and see a dead woman looking back.
I considered using my pharmacope to check out. When they install them in your suit, they tell you what not to take with what else. For example, number one was a painkiller, and number three a powerful adrenal stim. Together, your heart goes from zero to light speed in about three seconds, and shuts down in four. Painless, or so they say.
No. I would not go out that way. I checked it, and took a double dose of number 7, a basic sleep aid. I closed my eyes, and listened to the soft hiss of the air.
Even with the drug I knew when the air ran out. Aided by the drug, my mind tottered on the brink, then broke away from its foundations. It spun down into the depths like a wheel flying off a child’s toy. After a moment, I slid down more easily, sinking into the depths of darkness to come to rest like a stone on the deepest reach of life itself, above the precipice that is death. There was no data coming in any more. I was deaf dumb and blind, and knew death was just a step away. Entirely free of all human concerns, yet alive with a lucidity and coherence.
All notions of mind, all ties of blood and family, all desires of the heart fell away, and I was nothing but that bright spark that was the essence of everything I was. Unable to resist destruction. To be alone in it’s own madness of being, motiveless beyond the will to survive. I sank deeper...
I dreamed...

Kalendra landed sprawled, and I frantically stiffened my arms so that I landed above her without smashing down on her.
We giggled, looking at each other in the sheer enjoyment of the moment. Then the laughter died as we just drank in each other. Her hand rose, and touched my cheek, a feather touch. I leaned into the hand. She leaned upward, and her lips brushed mine. Her eyes held a sadness I didn’t understand.
Bond with me, she said.
It hadn’t been like that. She had already been bonded, she couldn’t break that She brushed my lips with hers again, a touch so gentle I thought I imagined it, though a jolt ran through me at the touch.
Join and be one with me. She said.
No, Kalendra hadn’t said anything of the sort. She had cried, and spent time touching me as if terrified that I might disappear even as she looked. I tried to move away, but my hands were locked to the ground somehow.
The look in her eyes decided for me. The same look I would have expected if Kalendra had actually done this. Perhaps in death I was getting a chance to walk that other path. To sit on the porch and watch our children grow to maturity. But I was dying anyway, so what was the harm?
I leaned into her kiss, and it became deeper. I felt her arms encircle me, growing tighter and tighter. I wanted to tell her to stop but my lips were locked to hers. I felt the arms tighten even more.
I can’t breathe!
I can’t br-

-Then something slammed into my chest like the hammer of the gods. I could feel something being slipped over my mouth, a voice shouting, “Oh no, damn you lived this long, you’re going to breathe!’
“Hypox on maximum!”
“Hit her again with the Cardio-stim!”
I felt like I had grabbed a high-tension wire, I flopped like a landed saber-trout.
“Wait. Doctor, I have a pulse!”
“Oh god, she’s alive. How long was she anoxic?”
There was a long pause. I wasn’t even interested in the answer. “Seven minutes.” The person whispered.
“Neuro-stim?”
“At seven.”
“Jack it two higher!”
“That won’t help!’
“Tell her!”
I felt the bolt again. This time I could see it, a shot of blue electrical energy that danced around my eyes.
“Her body is alive, but there’s nothing left upstairs.” The first voice, the doctor whispered.
Seven minutes? Of course he was right. I was brain dead, just the ears sending data to a computer that had been severed from the world. As much as I wanted to cry, I knew it wouldn’t help. Dead is dead. They might keep my body alive, but only because organs were needed for surgery. I just wanted them to leave me alone. Let me get on with dying.
“How is she?” A woman’s voice, a soft alto I had never heard before. Cold and imperious.
“She was anoxic for seven minutes. She isn’t going to come back, General.”
“That is not acceptable.”
“I don’t care if it is acceptable to you or not!” He snapped. “This woman has more guts than everyone on this damn ship, and I don’t like to have to say it, but she’s gone.”
Maybe if I opened my eyes, I could at least see who was arguing. Maybe they would leave me in peace if I did. But my lids weighed tons. They kept arguing, screaming at each other like fishwives. Just shut up!
“What?” The woman sounded astonished.
“Gen-”
“Hush!” She demanded.
You want him to shut up, but you won’t listen to me? I thought.
“She’s there. Somehow, she is still there.” I felt something, and after a moment, knew it was a hand on my cheek. Then that voice, so much more tender than before spoke in my ear. “I won’t let them turn it off, girl. I owe you too much.” I felt the hand move to my forehead. “Sleep and get well.”
I felt as if the ship had hit me, driving me into the bed

machievelli
09-20-2005, 10:17 PM
Endar Spire
When I woke up, two days had passed. The med-techs had stuck me in the Bacta tanks, and my body was repaired. I knew I was still aboard Ashtree Corona. That labored sound in the air circulation system sounded exactly the same.
The first tech to see me had almost shrieked in surprise. The doctor came in motioning for me not to move. “Just a few tests. What is your name?“
Name. Everything has a name. Everyone has a name. That’s how you know they’re talking to you and not someone else. “Danika?” I asked
“No, full name.”
I pondered. “Danika Wordweaver.”
“Home planet?”
“Deralia.”
He nodded. “You might have some problems remembering. You were under a long time, and hypox can’t repair neural damage. Don‘t worry about it.”
I wanted to tell him that not remembering would bother anyone, and telling you not to worry about it was stupid, but merely nodded.
Every doctor or med I saw for the next few hours was looking at me in awe. I was treated like a visiting Senator, anything I wanted I could have with a word.
I hated it. While everything was healed, I had trouble breathing, especially when I walked. I had been one of those that set the pace in our morning runs. Right then a newborn baby still crawling would have beaten me.
And I dreamed. Usually my dreams were normal. But these dreams linked together. When I slept, I was where the last dream had left off. They started with Kalendra and I walking home hand in hand. Again, that had never happened. Worst yet, I knew somehow that this wasn’t Kalendra I was with.
You must know the feeling. You are out among a crowd, and a face catches your eye. They look like someone you used to know perhaps someone you loved, or knew well. But when you’re closer, they don’t really look alike. The face isn’t even really close when you think about it. The voice is not right. This woman was brunette like Kalendra, a bit shorter than I like her, soft voice with an accent like my brief love.
It wasn’t her, but for some reason she acted the same at a lot of points. It bothered me more when she didn’t follow the script my memory handed out.
The first night in the pool she had stripped off her robe, but wore a bathing suit. Kalendra and I had been so comfortable together that a suit was superfluous. Yet ’Kalendra’ in my dream was nervous. As she had lain back in my arms the real Kalendra had cried. Yet this one just lay against me with shoulder tense. It took her a long time to really relax.
Did I tell the psyche-techs? Are you out of your mind? Once I was fit again, I would return to a ground unit. Away from what I took to be a gradual madness. But if they thought I was failing to track upstairs, all I would get would be a room with padded walls. No thank you very much.
Padawan Loras came to see me on the second day. She always reminded me of the women that came to hunter meetings with their husbands. A demented bird flying from task to task. That little bit of normality actually made me feel even better.
How are you feeling?”
“Like I died and no one told me.” I grumped. I was back to walking normally, but still didn’t have the wind to run.
“You did, twice.” She replied matter of factly. “You ran out of air, and your heart stopped as they were reeling you in. Then again in the airlock. The doctor was sure you wouldn’t come back to full mental capability.
“If it weren’t for Bastila, you would have been shipped out with the crippled yesterday. But she said you were still cognizant.”
I felt a chill of terror. To wake up in a Republic hospital, everyone sure my mind was gone. Or worse, living there to a ripe old age as a drooling moron or a resource to havest. “How did she know?”
“We’re not quite sure, actually. Well you have two more days of convalescing to do. Does it matter to you where?”
“Why.”
“Five of the damaged ships are well enough repaired to return to shipyards. A mobile repair ship has arrived to begin repairing the others. The others are splitting up to try to locate the Leviathan. At Bastila’s request, you’re being transferred to Endar Spire.”
I considered the option. Did it matter? Not really. “When?”
“As soon as your gear is packed.”
She was as good as her word. Less than an hour later, I walked across the gangway onto the Endar Spire.
With all of the ships that were damaged or destroyed, every ship was crowded. I was assigned a room I shared with a junior officer. I never met him because he was on Beta-shift, and I was assigned to Delta. We shared the bed, each sleeping when the other was working. In my case, work was sleeping, eating, and going to the gym to work out for the next four days.
My dreams continued. This was the first time in my life I had ever had sequential dreams, though others I had spoken to had mentioned them happening. But I am sure no one had ever lived through such rich and vivid dreams. Kalendra and I practiced with ritual brands, though hers seemed to glow as if it were a light saber. We spent as much time together as we had in real live, running through the fields, walking hand in hand. Hugging as if to chase a chill away. But there were those odd places where dream did not fit reality. Climbing Jumja trees to drop ripe fruit into her hands, something that had not happened because while Jumja would be ripe at this very moment at home, they had been two months away when Kalendra and I spent those halcyon days together.
As it had been in real life, our entire world was each other. There were times when I would be bothered, and when that happened, she would sense it, taking my face in her hands, and kissing my cheek yet again. That kiss would draw me back into the dream.
On the fourth day, I was in the wide wading pool of home, leaned into the tile backing. We had practiced until we were both tired, and it felt good to lay in the water.
“May I join you?” I opened my eyes, and Kalendra was there. She dropped her robe. For a moment, there was a struggle in her eyes, then the suit she had worn joined it. She slid into the liquid, and moved into her favorite spot on my lap. My arms encircled her, and she snuggled with a soft cry of satisfaction.
“I wish we could stay here forever.” I whispered.
“You know we cannot.” She admonished. “There is much we must do.”
I had no idea what she was talking about, but part of me knew exactly what she meant. “I know.” I felt saddened. The dreams had become the most exciting part of my recent life. They would have to end.
Then I tensed. Like the time I had reached for my boots and stopped because somehow I had felt the presence of the hook spider in one of them. Something bad was going to happen.
She had sensed it too. We slid apart, unconsciously taking positions of defense. Ahead of me was a nebula I had never seen, and a golden sun. From that sun plunged a Jollo cat. The largest and most ferocious one I had ever seen. I reached for my pistol, but I had forgotten it somehow. Then the cat plunged between us. I could hear Kalendra scream, and a massive paw slammed me down-

machievelli
09-21-2005, 10:30 PM
Endar Spire
I felt the first blast, and was rolling to fall out of bed. I landed on all fours, then shook my head. I was in my quarters on the Endar Spire. Beyond the Armorplast of the windows I could see the turbolaser blasts slamming into our shields felt the crump of others as they smashed hull plating instead.
Instinct is a wonderful thing. I had been assigned a footlocker, and scrabbled across the floor to it. My palm opened the lock, and I had just grabbed the familiar grip of a blaster rifle when the hatch popped open.
I spun in place, the skeleton stock against my shoulder, cheek welded to it, eye looking down the sight. I didn’t recognize the man, but I did recognize the uniform. Republic Navy. I lifted the gun away from target, and he relaxed.
“Danika? I’m Ensign Trask Ulgo. We share these quarters. We work different shifts, which is why we haven’t met.”
After those sentences I had him pegged as a willing little clown. Most new minted officers are like that.
“The Endar Spire is under attack by a Sith battle fleet. We have to get to the bridge to protect Bastila.” I had to count that as stupid observation number 2. I figured he was so newly minted that he thought the crew needed a pep talk, even if he only had one crewperson, and even if we were under attack. I was busy putting on my gear, but he ran off at the mouth anyway.
“One of our primary duties is to guarantee her survival in the event of an enemy attack. You swore an oath just like everyone else on this mission. Now it’s time to make good on that oath!”
Where was that power coupling? I dug for it as he continued to run off at the mouth.
“I’ve heard all about your reputation. Elite combat training, tops in you class. It’s no wonder you were handpicked for this mission. Word is, the officers haven’t seen a recruit with your potential in twenty years. But all that potential doesn‘t mean a thing if you can‘t deliver when it counts!”
I had a disparaging thought; was there a class at the officer’s academy on how to write one of these speeches? When I had taken over 2nd squad aboard Ashtree Corona, my entire speech was ‘Dylan is gone, I’m in charge. Let’s do it.’
More to the point, who was he calling a recruit?
“We’re-” I held up a hand to silence him. I pointed at the blaster still on his hip. “You know how to use that thing?” The sword didn’t sit right between my shoulder blades, and I shifted it.
I actually broke through the prepared speech. “Yeah.”
“Then follow me, and if I don’t kill it, you do.”
“I’m an officer and I‘m in charge-”
“How many actual boarding actions you been on, butter-bar?” I asked.
“Uh, two.”
“I’ve lost count. You decide where we’re going, then get the hell out of my way so we can get there alive.” I went to the hatch, but it didn’t open.
“All the compartments are on lockdown. But don’t worry I have the codes.”
I hissed, motioning with the rifle toward the hatch. He slipped past me and punched in a series I immediately memorized. If we got separated, or he bought a charge, I would be able to go on.
The hatch opened. I spun to cover it, but only an astromech droid was in sight. I double-timed down the passageway, and tapped the code I had gotten into it. This one opened into another passageway. Directly ahead, a lone Republic soldier was firing off to my left. I shifted and saw two people in Sith battle armor there.
“These must the advance guard of their boarding party. For the Republic!’ Trask leaped out and opened fire.
Really, did any soldier that had seen action say things like that? I charged out with my own muttered battle cry. “Not this crap again!” The two there went down under our fire. My com clicked, and I paused.
“This is Carth Onasi. The Sith are threatening our positions. We can’t hold out for long against their firepower. All hands to the bridge!”
“That’s Carth! He’s one of the Republic’s best pilots. He’s seen more combat than the rest of the crew combined. If he says things are bad, you’d better believe it. We have to get to the bridge to help defend Bastila.”
I dropped, and went through the pouches on the dead Republican. I found a frag grenade and another magazine. “What are you doing?” He almost screamed.
“These weapons don’t run on words, Ensign.” I slid the grenade in the tube on the front of my outfit, just where it belonged in the first one. As he went up the passageway, I followed. I had caught a glimpse of his insignia before he turned.
What was a medic Psyche specialist doing leading a boarding action?
The next short time was madness as it always is in battle. Panels exploded as energy bled into the electrical system, and the lighting flickered then stabilized at a different level. The enemy were in burnished black and gold, visible only at a distance before our fire took them down. Everywhere were bodies. Our own crewmen, Sith. A number of hatches headed aft were fused. Anyone back there was trapped with no escape, and we didn’t have time to save them. Along the way I madly collected grenades, a long sword and a suit of combat armor.
We reached deck four dead aft of the bridge. There was a door leading into the bridge, through an adjacent passageway. But it was locked. I motioned, and Trask moved up. He fiddled, cursing, then the door opened. We looked into an anteroom a hell.
Two people were facing off. One was a Dark Jedi in armor. The other- My heart leaped in pain. Padawan Loras faced off against him, her face set in grim determination. The chubby ever-cheerful woman I had known for months was gone. Instead she was a warrior goddess, and the man facing her was being pushed back by her attack. He was taller broader more muscular yet even I knew he never stood a chance. She spun, blade flashing past him, and he fell in pieces. She barely had enough time to recognize his death when a panel behind her exploded, shredding her.
We charged toward her, just as a pair of Sith came around the corner. I tucked and rolled, coming up on my knees, my rifle already aiming. His first shot went over my head. Mine punched through his faceplate and through the back of his head. Directly ahead of us was the secondary bridge access. But the door refused to budge. I motioned, and we ran down the passageway to the main bridge entrance.
“If it’s that close-” He began. I drew the long sword, and motioned for him to do the same. The hatch slammed up and I was cutting at the Sith I didn’t even see. He screamed, and I was past attacking his partner as Trask charged him as well. He went down, and Trask and I looked around frantically. Nothing lived on the bridge but us.
He went to a panel, and brought up a screen. “All of the portside pods are either damaged or away. That leaves starboard.” He pointed off to our right. I ran around the corner, and the hatch opened. We stepped through, and the hatch beyond started to open. Beyond it...
A dark Jedi
I know Jedi are supposed to be able to detect each other and their enemy by feeling the force, though no one had ever explained it to me. At that moment, I understood because I could almost feel the black evil miasma in that figure.
He stood there, grinning as if he were a child that had surprised us with a clever trick.
Trask pushed me toward the hatch leading to the starboard escape deck. “Run I’ll hold him as long as I can!” Before I understood what he was doing, he leaped through, and his blaster exploded into the control panel on that side. The hatch slammed shut, trapping him with the dark Jedi.
I pounded on the hatch, screaming. I wanted him there so I could slap him and scream in his face. I was the soldier, it was my job to fight and die saving the others. Not some jumped up med student with a gold bar and delusions of grandeur! At least I could make sure his sacrifice was worth something. I opened the hatch leading to the starboard escape deck.
The passageways were empty no-
“This is Carth Onasi to Republican crewman in the Starboard Escape deck; I am tracking your position through the Endar Spire‘s life support system.
“Bastila’s escape pod is away. According to the sensors, you’re the last survivor I can see. I can’t wait for you much longer. You have to get to the escape pods!”
“Right.” I whispered.
I came around a corner, and my rifle was tracking before I even knew why. The Sith armored trooper saw me, but he was a lifetime too late. I ran past his body, checking my map. Turn left, fifteen meters, a door- I looked up, skidding to a stop as I thumbed the rifle to auto fire. The two troopers there had heard me and were turning, but the ‘room broom’ as we called a blaster on auto fire tumbled them both over.
I came up to the next hatch, and heard a click in my communicator. “Be careful, after the next room, you’ve got a whole squad of Sith troopers on the other side of the hatch. You need to find some way to thin out their numbers.”
My lungs were burning. Before my injury I could have done the entire course at a full run, but right now, I was staggering. “Any... suggestions?”
There was a moment, and I thought he had just said to hell with it. Then he came back. “How good are you with computers and droids?”
“Computers, not so good.” I admitted. “But I can change circuit boards with the best of them.”
“Then you could reprogram the damaged assault droid in that room. If not you could use the computer panel and use the ship’s internal security net against them.”
I nodded, then remembered he couldn’t see it. “It’s done.” I said. I opened the hatch, and there where he said it would be was the droid.
I ran up to it, and popped the self diagnostic. As it came up I began to frantically reroute systems. Finally it hummed to life, lifting its rifle. I stood aside. It marched past me in that stiff-legged way all legged droids use when walking, and I followed as it opened the next hatch. The droid paused, and I felt the crackle of its shields as it turned, and began firing. There was screaming from inside.
I popped behind it, and took down a trooper by the other hatch. Beside him was a man in the red armor of an elite trooper, and he went down next. By the time I turned to the other three they were already down. The droid hummed, then turned, walking past me toward the remainder of the ship. “Give ‘em hell.” I said, then ran past it. By the hand of the officer I saw a vibroblade and picked it up. Better than the Corotosis weave long sword I had. I hit the control and the hatch popped open.
Carth Onasi was tall, dark, and about ten years older than I was. He shut down the computer, and waved. “You made it just in time. There’s only one escape pod left. Come on! We can hide out on the planet below.”
“But-”
“Bastila’s away, and there’s no reason for us to stick around and let the Sith blow holes in us.” I must have still hesitated because his face hardened. “Come on! There’s time for questions later!”
I shrugged and moved past him. The pod lay open, and I had a sudden feeling that I was looking at my grave. Then I leaped in.
Carth was on my heels, hitting the release as he did.
Neither of us was strapped in, and the jolt of launching slammed us into the bulkhead. I could see the planet, a steel blue ball coming toward us, then something slammed into the hull of the pod. Probably, I figured out later, bleed off from a near miss. It was strong enough to pick me up and slam me into the bulkhead again. That was the last thing I remembered.

machievelli
09-25-2005, 03:08 PM
Taris

She looked sort of like Kalendra. Tall, dark haired, brown eyes, but Kalendra had never had such a cold and efficient look about her. The woman held a lightsaber, yellow beam clashing with the red of her opponent. Like Padawan Loras the last time I saw her alive, this woman was master of this battle, an outside observer could see it in her movements, the reactions of her opponent. He would lose; it was just a matter of when. She stood for a moment, and I knew she was using another power, and at the same time taunting him with the ease in which she did so.

I felt as if I’d rolled down a mountain without a suit to protect me. I sat up, and my head pounded even harder.

“Good to see you up instead of thrashing around in your sleep.” I looked toward the voice. A man, wait- Carth Onasi from the ship. He handed me a mug and I sipped the tea gratefully. We were in a room, and I scanned it as I drank. Once it was probably nice. A comfortable place to live. Now it was run down, as if the owner no longer cared. There was a workbench off to one side. I took the plate of sandwiches he handed me, and began to stuff my face. I was ravenous.

“You must have had one hell of a nightmare. I was wondering if you were ever going to wake up.” I finished the sandwich in my hand, grabbed another, and motioned for him to continue.

“I’m Carth. One of the Republic solders from the Endar Spire.” He watched my face. “I was with you in the escape pod. Do you remember?”

I nodded. “I had a strange dream.” I kept seeing it in my head. Almost like the dreams I had of Kalendra and I that weren’t real. “Like a,” I searched for a way to explain it better. “A vision or something.”

He shrugged. “Well, you’ve been slipping in and out of consciousness for a couple of days now, so I imagine you’re pretty confused about things. Try not to worry. We’re safe.” He looked grim. “At least for the moment.”

He waved at the surroundings. “We’re in an abandoned apartment on the planet Taris. You were banged up pretty bad when our pod crashed, but luckily I wasn’t seriously hurt. I was able to drag you away from our crash site in all the confusion, and I stumbled onto this place. By the time the Sith arrived on the scene, we were long gone.”

I thought of waking up in Sith hands, and I felt my blood run cold. “I guess I owe you my life.” I looked up at him. “Thanks.”

He brushed it off with a tinge of embarrassment. “You don’t have to thank me. I’ve never abandoned anyone on a mission, and I’m not about to start now. Besides, I’m going to need your help.”

I must have looked quizzical, because he waved toward the door. “Taris is under Sith control. Their fleet is orbiting the planet, they’ve declared martial law and they’ve imposed a planet wide quarantine. But I’ve seen worse spots.”

That didn’t make sense. The fleet should be out pounding ours, not sitting overhead. Why was it still here?

“I saw in your service records that you understand a remarkable number of alien languages. That’s pretty rare in a raw recruit, but it should come in handy while we’re stranded on a foreign world.”

I felt a surge of irritation. After all the battles I had seen, some desk jockey still had me down as a raw recruit? The more I heard, the more I wanted to see these service records of mine for myself. At least the constant pep talks I was getting from everyone made sense now. They all thought I was green.

Carth hadn’t noticed that second of inattention. “There’s no way the Republic will be able to get anyone through the Sith blockade to help us. If we’re going to find Bastila and get off this planet, we can’t rely on anybody but ourselves.”

I hadn‘t answered, and he began to look worried again. Or maybe he was wondering how far and fast the ‘green kid‘ would run? “Bastila. She’s the one from the Endar Spire, right?”

That statement reassured him. “That smack on the head did more damage than I thought. Bastila’s a Jedi. She was with the strike team that killed Darth Revan, Malak’s Sith master.

“Bastila in the key to the whole Republic war effort. The Sith must have found out she was on the Endar Spire and set an ambush for us in this system.

“A lot of the pods were caught by the Sith, or destroyed. But I believe Bastila was on one of the escape pods that crashed here on Taris. For the sake of the Republic war effort, we have to try and find her.”

What he said made sense in that context. The Sith would have lifted the blockade if Bastila was captured or known to be dead. There was no need to stop a few scattered Republic grunts. Martial law and controlling access from the ground would do that.

I rubbed my head. I still ached, and my mind was running in circles at hyper drive. I firmly told myself that a headache would have to wait. That not knowing what to do could stand in line with it. Action always made me focus.

“Any idea where we should start looking?”

He nodded, glad that I was tracking again. “While you were out of it I did some scouting around. There are reports of a couple escape pods crashing into the Undercity. That is probably a good place to start. But the Undercity is supposed to be a dangerous place. We don’t want to go in there unprepared. It won’t do Bastila any good if we go and get ourselves killed.”

“I don’t think we’d like it much either.” He stifled a laugh at that. “The sooner we start looking for Bastila, the sooner we find her. Let’s go.”

“Good idea. We can use this abandoned apartment as our base. Most of the shops look to be open still, and we can probably pick up some equipment and supplies here on the upper level. Just remember to keep a low profile.” He looked grim. “I’ve heard some grim stories about the Dark Jedi interrogation techniques. They say the force can do terrible things to a mind. It can wipe away your memories and destroy your very identity.”

I had heard the same thing, seen people we rescued after the fact. But the chill of his words went even deeper. Like I had suddenly stepped through an airlock into deep space without a suit.

Again he didn’t notice. First he brought up his computer map, and laid out the problem. It sounded simple, but the problem was literally global.

Taris was a really beautiful place way back when. They had just found half a dozen warp corridors leading from there to the rim about four and a half centuries ago. Entrepreneurs had spent a lot of money building a showcase city. The City of Taris covered just about the entire main continent. High-speed trams linked everywhere to everywhere else. But those plans had taken bizarre twists as time went on. Instead of razing sections of the city to rebuild them, they had merely built up from there like a coral reef. When the boom had collapsed fifty years ago, it had hit the planet hard. While still a tourist destination, it wasn’t much more since then. The people had become rigidly stratified in their outlook, and the rich on top had dealt with those below them on the social ladder by shoving them down into the lower city. Worse yet, there had been a brief revolution, and the survivors of that had been shoved even farther, down into the depths. That was called the Undercity.

If you expected bright lights, enjoyment, and reasonable food, the upper city was where you lived. But below that? I would have said chaos reigned, but no one did. The lower city was a war zone divided up by the gangs. Travelling anywhere unless you used a tram was dangerous. Few if any places down there were even on the system anymore.

The Undercity was worse. About a Century ago, someone had come up with the idea of using it as a place to banish criminals. The only way open to that level close to us led from an area fought over by two of the larger gangs. It was only open for access when sewers broke down or yet another unfortunate was banished. The technicians went under armed guard even in the best of times.

Taris was a pearl, with layers of beauty, and inside the filth that began it all.

I asked questions, and began to see some respect in his eyes. We knew where the access to the Lowercity was closest to our destination, and had a rough idea of where the pods had crashed. We could pick up our search there.

“-But I figure if we don’t do anything stupid we should be okay. I mean, after all, they’re looking for Bastila, not a couple of grunts like us.”

I stood, checking my gear. We were going to start getting overloaded soon, but I wasn’t worried yet. The vibroblade I had picked up from the Sith squad leader intrigued me. I checked the pommel and saw that it disassembled. Most don’t, they’re sealed factory units. I walked over to the workbench, and using the tools, opened the grip. Ah, the vibration cell was an older model. I went through the detritus I had picked up in the mad scramble from the ship, and found a newer model.

I could feel Carth standing behind me. “What are you doing?” He asked.

“The older vibration cells were permanently set. The vibratory level was constant. That’s all well and good if you’re cutting solids, metal, wood, flesh. You just have different cutting rates for different things.” I shrugged. “But the newer ones are adjustable. You can set them for the specific material, and they cut more smoothly. The next best thing to a lightsaber in close combat. Great for boarding actions, because you can dial it to whatever you’re cutting.”

I finished connecting it, then switched the blade on. The newer units also ran at a pitch that didn’t jar the teeth, something that had always bothered me. That narrow blade would slice through metal or flesh as if it were butter. With the new vibration cell, it would cut through either at the same rate as long as I preset it first. I shut it down, holstering it.

He was grinning at me. For an older man he was quite handsome when he smiled. “I stand corrected. Whatever you are, you’re not a raw recruit.” His voice changed. “All right, soldier! Let’s move out!”




Apartments

There is an old military maxim that says, ‘If it can go wrong, it will’. We ran smack into it as we exited the apartment. The problem with the apartments in the South city where we were was that when aliens had come to Taris, they had created their own slums, and we were in one of them.

A man in Sith uniform flanked by a pair of battle droids was harassing a pair of Duros. He obviously felt he had the upper hand. “Okay you alien scum! Everyone against the wall, this is a raid!”

I could tell from the expressions on the alien faces that this wasn’t new. “There was a patrol here just yesterday, and they found nothing. Why do you Sith keep bothering us?” One of the Duros complained.

The Sith merely drew his sidearm, and shot the protester. “That is how we Sith deal with smart mouthed aliens! Now up against the wall before I lose my temper again!”

I had imagined what a battle droid might think when it was told to attack. I am sure what I went through next was probably as close as a flesh and blood entity could get. I was totally focused on the man as he holstered his weapon. I was measuring the distance to him, and my hand had already found the hilt of the vibroblade. It felt right somehow to have a blade instead of a gun. Something deep inside of me snarled. I had always hated bullies.

He sneered at the aliens, then turned slightly. When he did, he saw Carth. He didn’t flinch. I give him that much. His eyes moved farther, and he saw me. “Humans hiding out with aliens? They’re Republic fugitives! Attack!”

I was moving even before he had shouted the command. The blade hummed as he drew his sidearm. If he had not holstered it, he might have had a chance. I sliced upward, and the blaster along with half his arm went with it. He screamed. I was too close for the droid’s targeting sensors to separate me from him, and I used it, cutting to my left shattering the torso of that droid. I could hear blaster fire, and as I spun back to my first victim, he was staring at the wreckage Carth had made of the other droid. He saw my blade come up, and screamed ‘Please-” before I cut down, killing him.

We were frozen in the tableau for a moment. I was getting a handle on my fury. I wanted to chop the dead man into fish bait. But I knew it was just my anger talking. That scream for mercy really irritated me. Most bullies I had dealt with were the kind that would laugh at your pleas, but expect you to honor theirs. I touched the stud, and the sword hummed to silence. The Duros stared at me with a mixture of terror and awe on his face. “Are you all right?”

The Duros nodded kneeling by his friend. Nothing would have saved his life at this point. “Poor Ixgil. He should never have talked back to that Sith. Thankfully, you were here to step in and help us, human This isn’t the first time the Sith have come in here to cause trouble for us. Hopefully it will be the last.”

I stared at him with amazement. We had a pair of bodies rapidly making a mess and he had hope still? “Won’t someone come searching for this patrol?”

He shrugged fatalistically. “Don’t worry about the bodies. I will move them so that if looks like they were killed elsewhere. That should throw the Sith off the track. With any luck they won’t be bothering us again for a while.”
I knelt, taking the equipment off the dead Sith. More grenades. I slotted them.

“Where did you learn that?” Carth asked.

“What, the sword? At home.”

“No. How to roll your victim afterward.”

I chuckled. “A pilot usually doesn’t see much close range combat. When you’re a grunt, you learn the fine art of conservation. A dead man doesn’t need weapons. You can use them. So he gives you what you need to complete the mission.” I nodded toward the blaster he still held. “For an old man, you’re pretty good with that thing.”

“Years of practice.” He smiled sadly. “Besides, if they’re close enough to hit me with a sword, I’m not doing my job.”

I shrugged at that. If they were close enough to hit me with a sword and I was still alive, I had been doing my job. I pocketed the few credits the dead man had, and hefted his rifle.

“How many rifles do you need?” He asked plaintively.

“I can carry it until we sell it. After all,” I pulled out my Republic ID card. “We try to run one of these through a sales kiosk, and we’ll have Sith all over us.”

He shrugged, grinning sheepishly. “All right, I forgot.”

We walked down the hall. A Twi-lek was watching as we approached, and he spoke. “Well I don’t see too many of your kind around here. Most of the residents of these rundown old apartments are illegal aliens. I’m Larrim, by the way.” I instantly pegged him as a salesman. When it comes to a glad-handing salesman, the only thing worse than Twi-leks are humans and Hutt. He proved me right when he looked around as if he expected the constable to be standing right there.

“I know it’s really none of my business, but you look like someone who might need to purchase one of those new energy shields. They’re the latest thing, you know. Very high tech.”

“I know about energy shields.” I said. They were good against blasters, but they didn’t affect a sword blade, and an ion disruptor takes them down like a creditor at your bank account. Not to mention that they were charged for a set number of uses, and without a ship with a maintenance section, they were just dead weight when they ran out. The concept wasn’t new, the Arkanians had first made them over a century ago. The Sith had introduced the newer lighter versions a couple of years ago, and everyone who had the tech was making their own versions.

“Oh, then you might be interested to know that I have one for sale. It isn’t cheap, but it may be the difference between life and death.” He motioned toward a section of the wall where he’d set up a display. “You want to see what I have in stock? I know my kiosk isn’t much to look at, but my prices are reasonable, and the merchandise is sound.”

I looked at what he had. Recorders, music cubes, a few specialty spices for other aliens species. “I don’t see much really,”

He grinned, showing the pointed teeth of an adult Twi-lek. “No problem, just step up and have a peek.” He reached down, and lifted. The entire upper deck was just for cover. Below it he had a rack of weapons, grenades separated in fruit bins, and the wedge shape of an energy shield generator.

I hefted it out, and checked the meter. Down to one use left. “How much?”

“One hundred and fifty credits.”

I shook my head. “There isn’t anything I need right now, but perhaps you’re in the mood to buy?”

We haggled, something the Twi-lek love to do. When I was done I had sold the two blaster rifles I had picked up, one of the blaster pistols, all of the adrenal supplements, and I walked away with about five hundred credits. We ended the session with both complaining that they had been ripped off, which meant we were if not pleased, we were at least satisfied that we had gotten the better of the deal.

“Now we can buy supplies if we need them.” I said, slipping the plastic coins into my belt pouch. I remembered the map, and began striding down the hall. The building was circular, at least on this level. The aliens that lived in the rooms ignored us. It was better that way for both them and us.
I stopped at the door into the street. “Won’t we look out of place with all this hardware?”

Carth grinned. “Girl, you’re going to fit right in.”

machievelli
09-27-2005, 04:13 PM
Upper City: South

I saw what he meant when we stepped outside. Among the normal citizens were a lot of people dressed in space suits, combat gear, and attitudes.

The sky was cloudy; in fact the streets were cloudy. The building on Taris reach up in some areas almost four kilometers. Only the streets are required to be below 3500. That isn’t hubris, its simple survival. Above 3500 meters the air pressure on the average planet is too low to support un-adapted human life. As it was, someone who had spent their life at sea level would have been gasping up here.

“I said blockade and I meant it. Maybe fifty, sixty ships were caught on the ground or in orbit. Anything that could land was landed and have guards posted on them. Those that couldn’t land because of their mass were allowed caretaker crews, but locked down with explosive linked to their drive systems and battle droids to make sure no one tries to disconnect them.” He pointed at a shuttle taking off. “The only surface to space shuttles allowed have Sith crews. You can go up to your ship, but you can’t stay there. Besides, there’s at least two of the Interdictor class cruisers in orbit, and a dozen smaller ships. Anything that tries to take off or break orbit gets blown to atoms.

“But ships sitting in dock mean crews on the street. Let’s just say the Oligarchs aren’t happy with that.” He motioned to the side. The pod we had crashed in was right there, and I winced at the damage. I didn’t know it had been that close. Droids were circling it, dismantling the pod for any usable scrap.

I mentally brought up the map of the section of the city we were in. It was called, with fine attention to names, merely South City. We were on one of the main promenades, where the local citizens liked to walk along and show their finery. The tube station to North City, where the entrance to the Lower city originated was at the opposite end about 200 meters away. I located the important places we might need to go as we walked toward the tube station. There was a weapons shop directly across the promenade, with a cantina down another smaller promenade. At the other end of it past the shops and air-car pads were a medical facility, and the tube station.

“I think we should reconnoiter before we load up on ordinance.” I said. I had a blaster rifle, the vibroblade, and about a half-dozen grenades. We were set for anything but a major fight, but if we ran into that, things were already in the crapper.

“Agreed.” We strolled. We weren’t horrible nasty Republic troops. We were neutrals just stuck here. The local citizens glared at or ignored us. Sith troops in armor stalked the promenade, avoided by pretty much everyone. There were a few aliens, but they scurried from place to place as if terrified. Seeing a Tarisian spit at one, I understood their worry.

We had reached the tube station when it happened. An old man was walking furtively toward the station when two people suddenly stopped him, shoving him toward one of the edges of the promenade. By his dress I figured he was a lower to middle level merchant.

“Davik says you missed your last payment.” The human of the pair said.

“Davik doesn’t like you missing payments.” The Aqualish with him added.

The man looked from one face to the other, then fumbled at his belt pouch. “Here, I’ve got fifty credits. That should buy me some time, right?”

The human shook his head. “Sorry, you’re all out of time. Now it’s all or nothing.”

“Davik can’t have people not paying their debts.” The Aqualish said helpfully.

“But I don’t have that much! How can I give you credits I don’t have?” The merchant whined.

“That’s too bad. Davik already gave us instructions. He wants to make an example of you.” He caught the man by the arm; his associate took the other. They started toward the edge of the promenade. The Aqualish reached out, and touched a pad that had been connected to the safety field. It hissed, and wind pummeled us.

The merchant realized that time was one thing he didn‘t have. “No, help! Somebody help! They’re going to kill me!”

The few people walking by ignored him. As it had in the apartment complex, my mind focused tightly. I started forward. Carth caught my arm, but I shrugged him off. I drew the vibroblade keeping it turned off tight against my leg as I walked straight toward them.

The human noticed my approach, and was actually happy for the audience. “Hold on a second. Looks like we got a witness here!”

“Davik doesn’t like witnesses.” The Aqualish just had to say something.

“Leave this man alone or you’ll deal with me.” I said softly.

The tough looked happy. The man he was about to kill hadn‘t been enough entertainment for him. “Guess we’ll just have to teach you to mind your own business.”

He started to grab my arm, and choked as I rammed the vibroblade into his stomach and cut upward. The blade hissed from him, and I spun, chopping into the chest of the second tough before he even knew a fight had started. I flicked the blood that had adhered aside, then shut off the cell, and slowly sheathed the blade.

The merchant just stood there staring at me. He looked down at the corpses and realized that he was going to live at least a little longer. “Thank you! I owe you my life! Those bounty hunters were going to take me away and kill me! My wife warned me not to take a loan from Davik. Now I can’t pay him back. It’s not good to owe a crime lord money. He’ll just keep sending bounty hunters after me until I’m dead.”

I understood how he felt, but his effusive thanks was starting to wear. “Maybe I can help you.”

He shook his head sadly. “You already helped me by saving my life from them. I don’t have the money to hire you to protect me. If I did, I would have already paid Davik off. So unless you have a spare hundred credits to give me so I can pay off Davik, there’s nothing else you can do.” At the last, his tone was ironic. 100 credits is a weeks pay for most people.

I reached into my pouch. We didn‘t have a lot, but I pictured this man trying to whine his way through a blaster bolt. I pulled enough coins to cover what he asked for, and dropped them into his hand. “Here, take them.”

He stared at the money as if he thought it would vanish. Then he looked at me now not only with awe, but astonishment. “You’re giving me a hundred credits? Just like that? I don’t know what to say! Thank you, Thank you!”

Carth shook his head. “You’re giving him a hundred credits? Generous.” I could tell his tone was sarcastic, but he’d probably never been on the ragged edge of poverty before.

The merchant was running off at the mouth. “Now I can pay off Davik. You’ve saved my life! I had better take this to him right away!”

“One word of advice.” I said. “Your wife sounds like a smart woman. Next time I’d listen to her.” He nodded, and hurried off.

“What about these guys?” He motioned toward the bodies. I flipped over the Aqualish, and went through his pouch, and then I caught his legs, and flipped him over the edge into space. Carth stared at me as I did the same with the human.

“What guys?” I asked resetting the safety field. I looked past him. A pair of Sith were walking toward us. “Now unless you want to explain to the occupiers how all this blood ended up on the ground, I suggest we decide to get a check up.” I hooked a thumb toward the medical center across the way.

As we walked, I held out my hand. “No good deed goes un-rewarded.” The money I had taken off the two was exactly 100 credits.

The medical treatment center was small. After all with modern medicine you don’t need massive structures for something as simple as a clinic. There was a man near the door, but he snarled, pointing us toward the rear. A tall bald man was working on a child. I admired his skill. A two-year-old is sometimes the worse patient. In pain, probably barely old enough to talk. This child just watched him with trusting eyes as the med tech sprayed the burns on his arms.

“Now what have I told you about this?” He asked. “You can’t scratch these, it will cause scars. You don’t want scars do you?” The child stared wide-eyed, and shook his head. “Then I won’t have to use the bad spray.” He turned, checking a scanner, and turned back to the boy’s arm.

“What zit doo?” The child asked.

“The bad spray?” The child nodded. The med looked around, saw my attention, and winked slowly with one impassive eye. “Well if you use it on boys, they turn into girls if they scratch. But it‘s worse for girls. They turn into little boys!”

“Oooh!” Behind the child his mother shook her head in exasperation, but she was smiling.

“Look for a back door if we need it.” I whispered. Carth nodded, and moved toward the back of the open room.

Finished with his patient, the med tech turned to me. “I see from your appearance that you are an out-worlder. Still you are welcome here. I’ll not have it said that Zelka Forn refused to help somebody just because they’re not a citizen of Taris. Do you require medical treatment? I can treat almost any injury or ailment right here, except for the Rakghoul disease.”

Carth walked up behind him. “Actually, I have a question.” He said. He was furious about something, but I didn’t know what. Forn looked confused, but followed him to a personnel door in the larger door at the back. Carth opened it.

“What are you doing! Don’t go in there! That is for medical personnel only!” Carth grabbed the protesting man and shoved him into the back. I followed into horror.

Bacta tanks dozens of them. Horribly mangled people occupied five. I stared, then approached one of the tanks. I had seen the man before. Suddenly the face clicked in my mind. “I recognize him.” I looked at another face. I recognized all of them. “They’re Republic soldiers!”

“You recognize them?” Forn looked from my face to Carth’s “But how! Unless... you’re friends of the Republic?”

I touched the clearplast of the tank. “We are friends of the Republic. You can trust us.”

Forn sighed. “I guess... I guess I had better tell you what’s going on. I only hope the Sith don’t find out what I’ve done.” He sat in a chair, rubbing his face with his hands, staring sadly at the occupied tanks. “Since the space battle overhead, people have been secretly bringing in these Republic soldiers who crash-landed on this planet. I had to take them in, what other choice did I have?

“Their injuries are terrible. Even with everything I can do most won’t survive. But at least they are hidden from the Sith and I can make their last days more comfortable.”

I looked at this man, and saw the inherent bravery of his act. The Sith wouldn’t care that his act was strictly humanitarian. They would see someone that had hidden possibly valuable interrogation assets from them. If he was lucky, all they would do is kill him.

Carth was embarrassed by his original suspicions. “Well for what you have done you have my thanks. It’s good to know that at least some of these men ended up in compassionate hands.”

Forn looked sad. “I shudder to think what the Sith would do if they discovered these soldiers here. But since their initial questioning, they haven’t returned. So it may be that my fears are unfounded.”

“Is there anything we can do to help?” I asked softly.

Forn shook his head with a sad smile. “I am afraid there is nothing more anyone can do for them. If you’ll excuse me, I should return to the front in case someone comes in needing treatment.”

I leaned my head against one of the tanks. The woman inside it had been one of the nurses. The last time I saw her I had screamed at her to let me just exercise, and she had left with a pained expression. “I’m sorry for what I said.” I whispered to her. “Sorry for everything I might have done.”

Carth

The more I watched her, the less made sense. I had read Danika’s service record because she was brought aboard the Endar Spire at the last minute. Anyone considered that important by a Jedi tweaks the interest. She was from a frontier world, 24 years old, and according to her records, she had just finished boot camp.

Fine.

But she was just too good at what she did. The vibroblade didn’t set off the alarms in my head. After all a lot of the new kids make pretty good jackleg mechanics. The fact that she checked her weapons easily didn’t either. You’d expect a new boot to pay attention to those kind of details.

But when we had confronted the Sith patrol in the apartments, it started to make less sense. She reacted even before the attack order was given.

How many new boots remember that a droid’s targeting sensors will hitch if you put a friendly in the line of fire? If there had been only the two droids, they would have both opened fire, because a droid is programmed that way. But there’s an implant they give flesh and blood people if you’re working consistently with droids. It labels you as friendly and that limits friendly fire incidents. If an enemy and a friendly living being are in close proximity, the droid will have to find someplace to shoot that won’t injure the friendly. So she first disarmed him literally, and then took out the droids while they were still in that programming loop. I have seen veterans that don’t consider that when they’re in a close in melee.

Then it was her take charge attitude. Most boots will follow orders from on high slavishly, as if afraid that they will be punished. She argued! Her arguments were well reasoned and took in to account the tactical situation. That was the sign of a veteran.

Now I watched her leaning into the tank. I recognized the nurse, but wasn’t sure why she bothered Danika so much. She was suddenly that little girl the records said she was. There were two people in there, and I wasn’t sure which was which.

We stepped back into the med center, and she walked toward the tech. I followed mainly to find out what she was planning next.

Forn was working on another patient.

“Could I ask you some questions?” She asked.

Forn nodded intent on debriding a nasty rip in a man‘s arm.

“Tell me about the Rakghoul disease.”

Even as he worked, Forn talked. If he didn’t live on Taris, I could see him in charge of a teaching medical center. “The terrible affliction has plagued Taris for many generations now. It is spread by what are called Rakghouls. They are horrible monsters that live in the Undercity below Taris’ great skyscrapers.

“Prolonged exposure to the Undercity breeds the disease and those infected will eventually mutate into Rakghouls themselves, becoming mindless beasts that feed on the flesh of others.”

She nodded. “Is there no cure?”

“There is no known cure or antidote for the disease, though the Republic base here had a research wing dedicated to it. The scientists that were working at the base were supposed to be close to a cure, but before they could release it, the Sith arrived.

“The Sith overran the base, and now refuse anyone access to the research wing, or any laboratory inside. If there is or was a cure, the Sith are keeping it to themselves. Their patrols have been hit rather heavily in the Undercity, and any serum they have is for those patrols.”

Forn nodded to the patient who left, and looked to Danika. “If I could just get my hands on a sample of that serum, the Rakghoul disease could be wiped from the face of Taris forever. Though I don’t see that happening.”

Danika considered, and I could almost see her mind running at top speed. “Maybe we could find a way to get my hands on that serum for you.”

“I don’t see how. The only samples would be in the base, or with the patrols. Getting it from the base would be suicide. There are a lot of guards there.

“I suppose a patrol in the Undercity might have sample, if they haven’t already been attacked and used it. Getting it from a Sith patrol would cause repercussions I hate to even think about. I’m sure they wouldn’t just hand it over if asked politely.”

She thanked him absently, then moved to the door. She motioned me over, and we looked across the promenade. The Sith patrol had left; only a cleaning droid remained.

“I think we will need more weapons.” She commented softly. “Weapons shop first, if that is all right.”

` I shrugged. So far she hadn’t put a foot wrong.

“Psst.” I looked at the assistant that had ignored us when we first entered. I didn’t like the look of him. “You there. Wait a minute.” He moved over close enough to whisper. “I need to talk to you about that Rakghoul serum. I’ve got an offer you might want to hear.”

Danika looked at him. I could see that she had already decided that we’d get it if we could. “An offer? What are you talking about?”

“Zelka isn’t the only one who wants to get his hands on that serum. Davik Kang will pay you ten times what Zelka can if you get the cure for him first.”

Davik, that was the crime lord. I tensed. I hated people that put money before humanity. Danika’s face was impassive. I didn’t know what she was thinking. “Why do you care who gets the serum first?”

“Look, Zelka can’t afford to pay me much. If you get the serum for him, I don’t get anything extra out of it. But if you sold the serum to Davik, I’d be able to get a finder’s fee for directing you to him.”

Danika nodded at that, and my heart sank. “Why does Davik want the cure so badly?” As if I didn’t already know.

“Davik’s interested in anything that can turn a profit.” The assistant admitted. “He could make a fortune selling the serum to anyone infected with the disease. Not like Zelka, who’ll practically give it away.”

Danika’s head cocked. “I think I’d rather give it to Zelka. He’ll use it to help people.”

The man waved his hands in a negative motion. “Helping people is all well and good. But you have to help yourself first, right? I’m telling you Davik will pay big credits for the cure. More than Zelka could.”

“And then only the rich would be able to buy the cure.” I rasped. She wasn’t falling for the guy’s patter. “Just let the poor suffer. Right.”

Danika looked back toward the med tech who was already busy treating another patient. “What if I told Zelka you’re really working for Davik?”

“I’ll just deny it. Who’s he going to believe, me, or some down on their luck space bum? Besides,” He hooked a thumb toward the back room. “What do you think the Sith would pay me for that secret?” He ignored the cold look that ran over Danika’s face. “Now be smart about this. You’ll get a better deal with Davik, and other people won’t get hurt. Understood?”

She nodded, and walked out. I had known her long enough to read the anger in her walk. People ahead of her, even a couple of Sith troopers stepped aside as she stormed down the promenade.

The sign at the weapons shop read ‘Equipment Emporium: Kebla Yurt Prop.’

Danika walked in like she owned the place. Yurt was a short intense black woman. She saw us and immediately headed over. “Hello there, haven’t seen you in my shop before. Allow me to introduce myself, Kebla Yurt, welcome to the Equipment Emporium. You looking to buy some supplies? My shop is the largest in all of Upper Taris. Best selection on the planet. Whatever you need, I got.” She grimaced. “Well, mostly.”

“Mostly?” I asked. “What do you mean by that?”

She waved at the prints on her walls. Sleek fighters, swoop bikes modified for combat, a Heulin heavy Particle blaster that would shred a ship’s hull. “The Sith confiscated all of my heavy weapons. And they impounded my snubs and bikes. But I still have a real nice selection of lighter weapons if you‘re interested.”

Danika hadn’t even been listening to the spiel. Instead she stood at a clearplast case, running her hand over it. Inside was an Echani ritual Brand. To the Echani the sword is part of their religion, learning to use it the same as anyone else learning to pray. Even the youngest Echani learned how to use a blade.

I’d seen the Echani in combat, and the ones you feared most were those bearing a ritual brand. They were what the Echani called ‘married to the blade‘. I had yet so see anyone who wasn’t Echani use one, though a number of societies had made double swords.

Kebla’s finely honed sales instincts had noticed the interest. “You like that?”

“Where did you get it?” Danika asked.

“About a month ago, an Echani Merc down on his luck asked me to buy it, and promised to come back for it.” She grimaced again. “But he tried to make money fast by entering the Dueling circuit. He reached the top, and instead of cashing in his chips, he tried for the big score. Bendak Starkiller.” She shrugged. “He only accepts death matches. The Echani wasn’t good enough.” She sensed a possible sale. “I have the equipment to adjust the length.” She looked Danika over. “Though I don’t know if we’ll need it.”

She opened the case. Two meters of blade and grip were passed to Danika. She motioned Yurt away, then began to move them as if she’d been born with them in her hands. Yurt whistled appreciatively. “If nothing else, I have got to get a cube of you sword dancing.”

“I’ll take it.”

“Just so you know, all prices are final. No bargaining. I run a high-class establishment and even the used equipment is brought up to factory specs before I put them out. This isn’t a Hutt or Twi-lek establishment.”

She named a price, and Danika paid it. She folded the blades with a flick of the wrist, and slid them into the sheath that Yurt supplied.

She was becoming more of an enigma. In fact, she was starting to remind me of Morgana, my late wife.

machievelli
09-29-2005, 06:24 PM
UpperCity

Danika

As we walked toward the tram station, I could see Carth was bothered by something. “Carth?” He looked up, then flushed as if he were embarrassed. “Since we’re going to be spending a lot of time together, why not tell me about yourself.”

“Me? Well I’m a star pilot. I’ve been in uniform for a long time. I’ve seen more than my share of warfare. I fought through half of the Mandalorian campaigns.”

I nodded. The Mandalorian was had begun not long after the Exar Kun War. The Republic had been staggering after that war, and the Mandalorians, who had been one of our enemies during them sensed that we were weak.

The Mandalorians aren’t an alien race, they are humans. About five centuries before the formation of the Republic they had fled Coruscant to settle on several frontier planets to found a nation based on strength and honor. The planets they had chosen were all either harsh environments, or high gravity, and if possible, both. They had rejected half of the medical technology of that time, practicing a ruthless eugenics program on themselves using both genetic manipulation and simple breeding programs. Children judged too weak to survive were euthanized, their schools were boot camp for children. An adult couldn’t get married if there was a serious genetic defect, unless they were already proven in battle. They had been in the forefront of the war against Exar Kun, and they had blooded their troops well.

But not long after that war ended, they began minor conquests along the borders of the Republic. There were a lot of systems that went their own way rather than be members of the Republic, and these soon fell. Then they had struck at our frontiers.

Like always, the Republic moved slowly into war. It lasted 12 years with an death toll that was still staggering to contemplate, and it wasn’t until the Jedi had gotten into it that the tide had turned. Unfortunately, the Jedi that had led that crushing assault were the ones in charge of the present Sith fleet.

“It sounds terrible.”

“It was.” He agreed. Then his face grew gaunt. ”But with all that I’ve never experienced anything like the slaughter these Sith animals have unleashed. Not even the Mandalorians at their most desperate were this senseless.

“My home world was one of the first to fall to Malak’s fleets. The Sith bombed them into submission and there wasn’t a damn thing we could do to stop them.”

I could understand the confusion. A fleet you’re sure is friendly arrives then suddenly unleashes hell. Captains surprised by the attack being swept away before they could resist. That anyone had resisted at all would have been surprising at first. But his tone left so much unsaid. “Somehow, I think you feel it is your fault.”

He looked at me as if I had dug a blade into an infected wound. “It shouldn’t be my fault! I did everything I could, I followed my orders, did my duty. That shouldn’t mean I failed them.” He looked even more depressed. “I didn’t.” He repeated.

“You mean your people.”

“Yes! No.” He sighed. “That’s not what I meant. I mean, I’m sorry. I’m not making much sense am I?

“I know you probably mean well, but It’ not often that I discuss my feelings. At all actually. I’m more used to taking action, keeping my mind focused on the problem in front of me. So let’s do that. If you have any more questions, save them for later.”

I nodded, and started walking again.



North City

It was a forty-minute ride from the South City to the North City. We debarked, and I checked my map. We were on another promenade. The tram station at one end of it, a droid shop and the elevator to our destination at the other. Past the elevator was the base, now occupied by the Sith. There were more Sith here, and we threaded our way through the people walking along with an aplomb we didn’t feel. I saw the guard, and motioned for Carth to let me go ahead of him.

The elevator was guarded, and the Sith waved me to a stop as I approached. “This elevator is off limits. Only Sith patrols and those with the proper authorization are allowed in the lower city.”

I staggered a little, as if I had been drinking. “But I heard there’s a really lively cantina down there! I wanted to check it out!”

He shook his head. His tone, while still firm, was a bit exasperated. “It’s obvious from the way you’re dressed that you aren’t Sith. So unless you have authorization papers, I suggest you do your drinking up here. Move along.”

I shrugged, and staggered back the way I had come.

“You’re pretty good at that. Sure you haven’t been slipping hooch while I wasn’t looking?” Carth was trying to lighten the mood.

“Remnants of a misspent youth.” I replied. I told him what the Sith guard had said.

“He doesn’t seem too bright, that means he’ll follow orders to the letter. We’re going to need some kind of disguise to get past him.”

I pointed across the way to a cafe. As we started toward it, I paused. A trio of armored Sith had just marched past us, bound for the apartment complex at the other end of the promenade. “You know, I said conversationally. “We won’t need papers if we have uniforms. I jerked my chin toward the trio.

“What do you have in mind?” He asked softly.

I grinned manically. “Trust me.”

“Famous last words.” He whispered.

We followed at a safe distance. They walked into the apartment complex, and we followed. The apartments looked slightly better than the ones we were hiding in, and I didn’t see an alien. I heard the clatter of armor from my right, and followed it. At the third door on that side, a Sith stood outside, glaring at anyone who came close. I looked around as the last of the denizens had disappeared, and moved toward him.

He saw our approach, and waved at us. “Just keep moving, nothing to see here.”

From inside I heard an angry voice. “Where did you hide those Sith uniforms you stole? Did you sell them to the Tarisian underground? Start talking. I want answers!” To one side a Sith officer in red armor was shoving an Aqualish against the wall.

The Aqualish whined. “I’m just a passerby trapped here by your blockade. I don’t know anything about an underground. Or any uniforms.”

“Uniforms? What are they talking about?” I asked Carth.

“You’re a little too curious for you own good, civilian. Move along before you get your nose chopped off.”

Carth leaned toward me, and whispered. “I know all about Sith interrogations, this is going to get bad very fast.”

The Sith inside slammed the alien into the wall. “I am sick and tired of your lies, you alien scum! Your ugly mug is all over our security sensor logs from the base. Start talking or I am going to splatter what little brains you have all over the wall!”

“Uh oh. The Commander is starting to lose his temper. It took me an hour to get the blood off my armor the last time.” The guard commented to himself.

“Maybe the alien is telling the truth.” I said.

“Listen, truth, lie, it doesn’t matter to him. Just stay out of this if you value your health.”

“I won’t just let you kill a defenseless prisoner!” I blurted out. I wasn’t talking softly when I did. The Commander spun.

“What was that I heard? You won’t ‘let’ us kill him? How could you stop us?” He looked at the guard. “I think it’s time you taught these nosy civilians a lesson. No one interferes with the Sith!”

I drew, and the blades of my new weapon snapped out. Before the guard even knew what I was doing, I cut across his neck at the join between the breastplate and the helmet. He was down and I was running at full speed toward the Sith commander. He started to go for his blaster, then changed his mind and went for his sword instead. But I was there before he could draw.

Instead of cutting him I leaped, punching all of my weight into his chest with my leg. As he went backwards, I used the rebound energy, spinning in air to land facing the third Sith trooper. He skidded, trying to stop, but my blade punched through his breastplate. I spun, but the Sith commander was going down as the Aqualish slammed both meaty fists into his head.

“Thank you human.” He said. “The Sith would have killed me. Of that I am certain. I don’t know who you are, but I can tell you are no friend to the Sith. Among my people, there is a saying; ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend‘. Like you, I hate the Sith and what they bring to this world. That is why I stole those uniforms to give to the Hidden Beks.”

“What are you talking about?”

“In the lower city, there are some that will not bow down to that.” He motioned toward the Sith bodies. “Swoop gang like the Hidden Beks are gathering resources so that one day they can strike back.”

I had to laugh. He wasn’t innocent!

“If you wish to strike more blows against the Sith, you must journey to the Lowercity. There you can contact Gadon Thek, the leader of the Hidden Beks.”

“What are they planning?”

“If you wish the answer to that question, you will have to ask Gadon Thek. My only dealings with him have been through gang members with access to the UpperCity.”

“Do you still have some uniforms we can get?”

“No. There are ways to send non-living things into the Lowercity without being noticed.” He motioned toward a panel on the wall. Of course. The trash receptacles. They fed into the compactors and recyclers far below. “However, you have access to uniforms right here.” He motioned toward the bodies.

“Then you had best get out of here.”

“I agree. The Sith now know my face. I must go into hiding.”

I nodded. Carth had dragged the body from the hall, and we got to work. There was only one clean suit. The others were bloody, or in the case of the commander, leaking brain tissue. I looked at it, then passed it to him.

“Why do I have to be the Sith?” He asked plaintively.

“Because I don’t have a size three hat size and size twenty neck like this guy.” I said.

He grumbled, but slid into the armor with my help. It wasn’t a good fit, but as long as he didn’t move his head sharply or start dancing, it should work.

“What about you?” He asked.

I giggled, holding his arm possessively. “Why I found this absolutely adorable guard that promised to take me to the cantina in return for some fun afterward!”

He shook his head. “I’m getting too old for this crap.”

We strolled down the promenade, and the disguise couldn’t have been better. The Sith pretty much ignored us. And since I was with a Sith, the citizens ignored us. We walked down to the elevator station, and the guard there just shook his head. “Another ‘patrol’ heading into the Lowercity, eh? I’ve heard it’s pretty rough down there. I would be careful if I were you. There’s a big gang war heating up. Those maniacs are even taking pot shots at us! It’s too bad we don’t have the manpower to go down and clean that mess up.” He tapped the control, and the elevator opened.

“I’d suggest you not bring your friend back up this way. There are apartments down there where you can have your fun.”

Carth mumbled, and moved with me attached like a limpet on his arm. The door closed, and I moved away.

“And we had such a nice romance going.” He grumped.

“Sorry. Maybe next time.”


Lowercity

The elevator opened onto a hallway. I brought up the map. “Hidden Beks.” I murmured.

“What?” Carth asked.

“That’s one of the gangs who control this area. The Black Vulkars and the Hidden Beks.”

“So if all else fails, we ask them for help?”

“If all else fails.” I agreed.

There was a running noise, and I drew. A Togarian wearing a black bandanna with the Vulkar logo on it ran past. I moved toward the edge of the hallway. There were three wearing the Black Vulkar Logo facing two wearing green bandannas with just the upper head and nose of a Bek. Another Bek came running up. Here unlike the Upper city, ethnic diversity was accepted. There were three Togarian. Standing against them was a Rodian an Aqualish and a human.

It looked like the start of any fight you might have see. Guys trying to prove they’re tougher than the ones they face. Most of the time, of course, the fight never gets past the name calling or shoving stage. As I watched, one of the Vulkars reached behind his back, and pulled out a white rod. I felt my blood freeze at that. A stun baton. Usually used for riot control or prisons, a stun baton would jolt a man right through his armor. At the normal settings it can knock you down or blast you into unconsciousness.

As he swung it, I heard a whine that drove nails into my ears. He’d overloaded the damn thing! The charge was lethal to anything smaller than a building!

He struck before the Rodian facing him could react. If the little green guy had been equipped with hair, it would have stood out in every direction as the power of a high-tension cable blasted apart his heart. The Togarian facing the Aqualish Bek engaged with a sword, and the stun baton wielding Vulkar came in from the side, punching it into the Bek’s chest. The Aqualish gasped, and went down.

The human desperately defended himself, but the Vulkar facing him cut down, killing him.

“Crap.” One of the survivors said, seeing us. “We don’t want the Sith down here too!” They spread out to come at us.

“Take the left!” I shouted, drawing. I charged the one with the baton. Either of the others could cut me, and my armor would stop a lot of the damage. But that baton could kill us even through the armor. The left hand Togarian went down in a welter of blood, and I was there swinging. I caught the Togarian in the arm, and he grabbed for it as my back-swing opened up his stomach. I spun, and he died with my blade in his chest and a blaster bolt in the head at almost the same instant.

There was a scream from down the hall, and we turned. Two more Togarian were there in front of a door, with the Vulkar bandannas.

I palmed a gas grenade. I don’t like them because you can’t guarantee that someone will be affected or how quickly. But the gas does cut down vision, and all I needed was a few seconds.

I over-handed the grenade at one, charging toward him. Behind me I could hear Carth charging after me.

I was there as the cloud dissipated, and cut into the guy before he recognized the danger. He went down, and Carth took out his partner a moment later.

I gasped, looking at them. Then I ransacked their gear. “Carth, I think you had better get out of that armor. They don’t seem to like Sith that much.”

“I think you might be right.”

“Then I need a command decision.”


Carth

Considering our entire relationship seemed to be me running in to keep her alive, that was rich. “A command decision.”

“We can try to avoid the Vulkars, but from what I’ve seen, they’re almost insane. We can’t guarantee the mission will succeed if we have to watch our step every second.”

“Agreed.”

“Then I suggest we move the Vulkars from our ‘maybe avoid’ column to our ‘better dead than live’ one.”

I considered her suggestion. We had heard about both gangs, and at least the Beks weren’t blasting everything that moved. “Let’s table that until we see what happens when I’m out of this.” We tried the door they had guarded, obviously the way into their base, but the security was too good.

We decided to see if the apartment complex across from the elevator would give us a place to stash the armor. We went through the rooms one by one. Unfortunately, the Vulkars had laid claim to these as well. Only one room gave us an option. The room had of all things a footlocker with a manual lock. Those are antiques. There was a gas mine set on it, and I wasn’t sure what to do with it. Danika merely smiled, and tossed a piece of trash on it. We evacuated the room until the gas dissipated, then went to the locker.

“You’re-” I started to tell her to give it up as a bad job, but she knelt in front of the box. She seemed to concentrate on the box as if her mind alone would open it. Then she punched in a code, waited, punched in another code, then another. The box hissed open.

“Who is Elam Mattic?” She asked softly touching a faded card on the lid.

“Mattic? There was a ground force commander named Mattic at the start of the Mandalore War. He retired right after it. Why?”

“This box once belonged to Elam Mattic.” She looked at the room. It was barely livable. She dipped her hands in and pulled out a set of Republic armor. “I think a change of clothes is in order.”

As I changed she went through the rest of the contents. As I was sealing the breastplate on the armor I heard an “Oh, my.” I turned to see what was wrong. She drew out a set of Echani fiber armor. “I’m going to change. It’s better than this.” She touched the armor she wore.

“Go ahead.”

“Well,” she waved her hand. “Turn around.”

“Hey, you didn’t turn around when I was changing.”

“But I was busy inventorying what was in this box.”

I harrumphed, but moved to the door. Actually I wanted to think. She’s good with weapons, that might be natural talent, but that box...

Damn it the thing had a Hollywell 7400 lock. I had seen them before, hell I have used them before. Without the proper code, you can‘t open them without cutting or ripping them apart. Hollywell guaranteed the value of the contents of a sealed box. The only people good enough to get through their encryption were either techs for the company-

-Or professional thieves.

“Done.” She looked good in the armor. Echani armor is made to snug itself against the flesh of the wearer and is made of reactive cloth, over small trauma plates. It moved with the wearer, and stopped almost all impact damage yet was light enough to fold it tight enough to fit in a pack. We put the Sith armor in the box, and she locked it.

Back on the walk, we were undecided which way to go. We started down the hall. Like the upper level, we were far above the ground, about a kilometer I estimated. But nothing else was the same. The hall reeked of urine and trash littered the place. Panels sparked, and the light was haphazard.

We came around a bend, and saw a Rodian standing beside a door marked Jayvar’s Cantina. Beyond him, a human stood guard on another door. She wore a Bek bandanna. When we passed by, I could feel her eyes on me, but it wasn’t outright hostility. It was the professional paranoia of a sentry on important duty.

A bit farther we saw more Vulkars. We warily backed up out of sight. “I suggest we get a drink and consider this.”

“Sounds good to me.”

“Back to the cantina.” I ordered. Danika nodded. She was watching carefully.

I didn’t think we had enough ammo for this adventure.


Danika

Describing any cantina is like describing a sunset. They are all the same and all different at the same time. The lights are always low, the music a little too loud, and always the scent of bodies too close together.

Here at least the mix was more like the Republic. Aliens and humans drinking. Maybe not together, or as if they liked one another, but not barred because of race.

We had just entered when a human came from the rear. He was locked on a pair of Rodians, and I stopped Carth. “Bounty Hunter.”

He nodded, eyes hard. Because of the lack of sufficient law enforcement and massive backlogs in the Republic courts, they allowed bounty hunters. Some were just trying to catch or kill criminals, others saw it as a way to hurt people legally.

I pegged this guy as the second.

One of the Rodians looked around then shouted “Hey little human, why you spend time watching us instead of drinking?”

His friend punched him in the arm. “Watch mouth, Luugo! That Calo Nord!”

Nord stopped about ten meters away. “There’s a bounty on your slimy little heads. I’ve come to collect.”

“Over our dead bodies!” Luugo shouted going for his weapon.

It wasn’t a shoot out. It was an execution. Nord drew a pair of matched blasters even as the ones he wasn’t hunting dived for cover. Four neat precise shots took the Rodians down.

“That’s the plan.” He commented to their bodies. He took their ID plates, and tossed a credit chip toward the bartender. “For the mess.” He said.

We moved toward the bar, and got drinks. I wasn’t sure what to have, I had never been much of a drinker, but they had several teas and I ordered one.

“As I see it, the Vulkars are just trying to kill anyone who isn‘t a Vulkar. That means we may have to contact the Beks.” Carth grunted. “And how do we contact the Beks? Will they be any help?”

Before I could answer, I heard a Rodian comment. “Little girl should not be in bar. This no place for little girl. If little girl smart, she runs away home.”

I leaned out. Two Rodians with Black Vulkar bandannas were facing a young Twi-lek girl with a Bek bandanna. In deference to her head tentacles or Lekku, she wore it around her waist like a sash.

“Who you calling little, Chuba face?” She answered in Basic. That surprised me, most aliens tend to speak their own language almost as if to highlight their difference.

“Little girl need lessons in manners!” The Rodian said, cracking his knuckles.

She held up a hand as if asking for time. “Just a sec boys. Zaalbar, a little help here? I need you to rip some legs off some insects.”

There was a growling behind me. My mind translated the noise as, “Mission, I’m busy. They just brought my food!”

“Quit complaining, you can finish eating later. Besides, you need the exercise, so get over here.”

I turned, and saw one of the biggest wookiee I had ever seen. He towered over the bar, and walked toward the confrontation like a landslide. The Rodians took one look, and the one who had been pushing the confrontation stepped back, hands up in a placatory manner. “We want no trouble with wookiee! Our problem with you, little girl!”

“You got a problem with me, then you got a problem with big Z. So unless you want to take on my furry friend, I suggest you greenies hop on out of here.”

The Rodians backed down. I pointed toward her. “Maybe she can help.” I stood, walking toward her. She turned, ready to fight, but calmed down when she saw that I wasn’t wearing gang colors. She smiled brightly.

“I don’t recognize you, and I know just about everyone in the Lowercity. You must be new down here. That makes big Z and me your official welcoming committee!”

I had to laugh. She was a girl just on the edge of maturity, and the child she had been shown through. “You speak Basic!” I commented.

She waved it off. “That’s not so strange. Most aliens can speak Basic, they just prefer their own languages. But I grew up here on Taris, so I just got used to speaking the native language, you know?”

“You showed a lot of guts standing up to those Vulkars, kid. You got a name?” Carth said.

My name’s Mission Vao,” She bowed theatrically, and this big wookiee is my best friend Zaalbar.” She turned, but Zaalbar had obviously decided that food was important. He was holding his plate with one hand, and shoveling with the other. Mission shook her head, then smiled at us again. “I’d offer to give you a tour, but the streets down here aren’t what you would really call safe right now. But if there’s anything else I can help with?”

“How did a Wookiee and a Twi-lek end up as best friends?”

“We just kind of fell in together. It ain’t easy on your own down here in the Lowercity. People always look for a way to push you around if you let them.”

“So we noticed.” Carth commented dryly. “Still you’re an odd pair.”

Mission reached out, and ruffled Zaalbar’s fur. He had a long-suffering look I had seen on large dangerous pets before, usually when they have to deal with children. Something about him looked odd. He had a harness like any furry alien who disdains clothes, but something was missing. “When I met Zaalbar, it seemed a good match. I knew we could look out for each other. With my street smarts and his muscles, we make a great team.”

“Perhaps you can tell me more about the Lowercity.” I steered the conversation.

She brightened up if that was possible. “Well you came to the right person! If you want info on Lower Taris, Davik, the swoop gangs, I even have some juicy stuff on Calo Nord!”

“Tell me about Davik.”

“Davik’s part of the local crime syndicate. With connections, so I have heard, to the Exchange. But everyone knows that. If it’s illegal, or profitable, he has his hand in somehow. But what I did hear was that right before the Blockade came down, he took possession of a JT 4100 ship for his smuggling operations. The Ebon Hawk.”

“A JT 4100!” Carth looked very interested. “Any idea where he keeps it?”

“If the rumor is true, and he does have a ship, it’s locked down at his estates. Anything like that would have been confiscated if the Sith knew about it. But no one goes in there, unless they’re with the Exchange, or working for Davik.”

“Tell me about this gang war.”

“In this area there are only two gangs you have to worry about. The Hidden Beks, and the Black Vulkar. Sometimes we hang out at the Bek’s base. Gadon Thek their leader. He’s a good guy. Lost his sight a few years ago in a swoop bike accident. But even blind he’s one hell of a leader.

“Not like that traitor Brejik! Before he took over the Vulkars, he was Gadon’s right hand man. Gadon considered that worthless space slug like his adopted son!”

“Why did Brejik leave?”

“When Gadon was blinded, everyone thought Gadon would step down. Brejik was the favorite for taking over. But Gadon didn’t think Brejik was ready for the responsibility. Brejik lost it about three, four years ago. He joined the Vulkars, fought his way to the top, and since then he’s been waging a war to wipe the Beks and Gadon off the planet.

“If anyone is to blame for this gang war it’s Brejik. It’s his orders that have the Vulkars out there shooting at anyone and everyone. The UpperCity couldn’t care less, and we’re caught in the middle. It’s like the entire gang has gone insane.”

“And Calo Nord?”

“Calo Nord is one of the most famous bounty hunters in the galaxy. He’s killed more people than the Iridian plague! Last week he blew away three Vulkars just because they tried to talk to him!

“He hangs around Zax’s bounty office, but he’s not looking for work there. The local government set a cap on bounties, and that wouldn’t be enough to interest him.

“I figure he’s been hired by Davik. The last dozen or so he’s killed were on Davik’s bad side. But if Davik hired him, it had to be for a big job somewhere else. I figure the instant the blockade goes down, Nord is going to be out of here fast.”

I looked at Carth. He shrugged. “Maybe we’ll talk to you again, Mission.”

“Leaving? Yeah, this dive is boring. No action at all. Hey, Zaalbar, let’s go.”

Zaalbar looked at his plate. “Mission, I haven’t finished eating!”

“Can’t you think about anything but your stomach for five minutes! Come on, we’ll see if there’s anything good at the Bek’s base before we go slumming.”

Zaalbar upended the plate into his maw, set it on the bar, and followed her out.

machievelli
10-02-2005, 02:20 PM
Carth

A JT 4100! They were made at the Protopri yards on Colrami. A military design, they had been designed for customs patrols and armed diplomatic courier work. Fast enough to catch anything smaller than a fighter or outrun a larger ship. Armed well enough to fight anything that could catch them. Some had slipped into the civilian sector, and they made excellent smugglers for the same reason they made good pirate chasers. But we would still have to get past the guns of the fleet.

I looked at Danika. She had handled that interview like a pro, and the more I thought about it, the more it added onto that what the hell list. Every minute something else made me wonder.

“Can we talk, Carth?”

“About?”

“We didn’t finish the discussion earlier.”

“All right, I’m all ears, beautiful.”

She looked at me coolly. “Considering the chain of command on this mission, isn’t that inappropriate?”

I was covering fast. “Is there something you would rather I call you?”

“I have a name.” She replied gently.

“Don’t get yourself in a twist about it, gorgeous. I didn’t mean anything by it.”

“There you go again!”

“Oh for crying out-- Look, maybe you’ll feel better if you called me something. Go ahead. Come on. I can take it.”

“This is ridiculous.” She flushed, and I could tell she was having trouble keeping her temper.

“What? Afraid you’ll hurt my feelings? Come on, you’ll feel better. Do it, I can handle it.”

“I would rather go back to my original questions.”

Man she kept her temper locked down like the codes for a Bethe cycle concussion missile. I had rarely seen anyone as young as her with so much self-control. However I was feeling puckish. “So, all business today? Fine. Are these questions really necessary?”

She shook her head. “I just want to understand my teammate better.”

“Well if it’s an interrogation you wanted, why didn’t you say so? I promise not to scream too loudly.”

She wiped her face. “This is not an interrogation. I never said that.” She said with a long-suffering tone.

“No you didn’t.” I admitted. “I was just joking. But you do seem to be full of questions. It’s refreshing to be honest. But let me ask a few first. I’ve been going over the battle on the Endar Spire over and over ever since we crashed. Some things just don’t add up for me.

“Maybe you could tell me what happened. From your own perspective.”

She shrugged. “I wasn’t in any position to understand much of what was going on really.”

“Neither was I to tell the truth.” I admitted. “I was only aboard as an advisor for the most part. When the battle started it happened so fast that I don’t think anyone really knows what went on. We lost a good ship and some damn fine people. And for what? On the hope that Jedi mind tricks could help us. Not that Bastila had a lot of time to react. We didn’t chose that battle either. It was forced on us.” I suddenly realized I was giving her all sorts of outs from my line of questioning. “I’m just surprised that there were any survivors at all to tell you the truth.” I finished lamely. “But it’s more than a little surprising that you were there, isn’t it? What is your position with the Republic military?”

“I’m just a soldier, a grunt as you said. What’s surprising about that?”

“A recruit grunt with what looks like years of experience. That knows how to foul up the targeting systems of a droid long enough to take them out. That bounces off walls and the occasional person like a heavy worlder in zero-gee or a Jedi. That interrogates kids-” I waved after Mission, “-like a pro. That can pop a Hollywell security box like it’s unlocked, and I don’t know anyone that can do that. More than that, you were a last minute addition to the crew, and you’re a survivor when a lot of good people didn’t stand a chance.”

“What’s so odd that I was a last minute addition?”

“You were the only one. Not to mention that Bastila’s party ordered you transferred and held up our departure for you.”

She looked at me in amazement. “I don’t even know what you’re talking about.”

“The Jedi asked for a lot of things after they came aboard. Hell, from what I saw they took over the entire ship. From Bastila to that ensign Ulgo-”

“Trask Ulgo?” She asked in a whisper.

“Yeah. Psych tech, given an ensign’s bar and told to handle a special case.”

“Trask was with me until we reached the bridge. He faced a dark Jedi. That was the last I saw of him.”

“Well considering your connection with the Jedi, whether you know it or not, your presence on that ship, and right now on this planet is a little too convenient.” I hissed. “I’m probably wrong. This may be only smoke, I know. But I learned a long time ago to take nothing at face value. One thing I hate is surprises.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Just that I always expect the unexpected. It makes life easier.”
She shook her head, rubbing her temples. “Are you always this paranoid?”

“Look, it has nothing to do with you personally. I don’t trust anyone, and no, I am not going to discuss my reasons. So let’s keep our minds on the important things.”

“This is important.”

“All right! Damn you are the most persistent woman, the most persistent person I have ever met. But right now I think we need to get moving.”

Beks

Danika

My mind was whirling like a sink drain. Trask was assigned to a ‘special’ case. What had been happening aboard the ship? The lockbox had surprised me as well. I had just answered the questions the box’s cybernetic lock asked. How I had known what answers they were I can’t explain. They... just felt right.

It wasn’t far to the Bek’s base. The lookout watched us approach, ready, but not automatically in attack mode. I stopped. “I’d like to see Gadon Thek please.”

“Hey! You can’t just walk in here!” She looked at us with suspicion. “How do I know you’re not a Vulkar spy sent to kill Gadon?”

“We came down from the Uppercity. I need Gadon’s help, and a friend of the Beks up there told me to speak with him.”

“Lots of people want to see Gadon. Lots more say their friends of the Beks too. Gadon has always been a man of the people, beloved by the common folk. But the days of the Bek’s open door policy are gone. Between those Vulkar and this damn Sith invasion, we have too many enemies right now.”

“Maybe I can be an ally against those enemies.” I said. I could feel Carth tense up. If we allied ourselves with the Bek, the Vulkar automatically became our enemy. But I could see no alternative.

She looked us over. “Maybe. We can use all the help we can get, and you don't act like Sith, and I’ve never seen a Vulkar without his colors.” She shrugged. “And it’s not like the two of you could do much to him here. He’s in the base, surrounded by his faithful, and Zaedra is watching his back. If you tried anything, you’d be dead in seconds.” She keyed in a command. The door opened.

“So you’re going to let us in?”

“Sure, why not? But be on your best behavior. The Beks are watching every move.”

I understood her calm at letting us in the instant we stepped in through the inner door. There were a dozen Beks in sight, and as we entered, each surreptitiously picked up a weapon. Oh we might have been able to get past them to kill Gadon. But getting out would have been a nightmare.

I asked a Bek, and he motioned toward a desk against the wall. There, a black man sat, a wire running from the console to a socket in his head behind his left ear. A Twi-lek woman hovered over him protectively.

We walked toward them, and the woman looked up to notice us. Her eyes burned with helpless fury, and what I took to be love. She looked at Gadon, then back at us before moving across to stop us. “Hold it right there. Who are you and what is your business here?”

“I came to see Gadon Thek.”

“What is your business with Gadon? Why are you bothering him-”

“Peace, Zaedra. Nobody is going to try anything here in our base. It would be a suicide mission.”

“You’re too trusting, Gadon. Brejik and the Vulkars want you dead. Anyone we don’t know is a potential threat and I am the one in charge of keeping you alive!” He voice had a pleading tone in it.

“So what would you have me do? See no one? Order the Beks to kill anyone not in colors as the Vulkars are? Even if I must die, I will never let it come to that while I live. Now stand aside, and let them pass.”

Zaedra winced. I could see that love in her eyes. She glared at us, threatening dire retaliation as she stepped aside. “As you wish, Gadon.” She glared at me. “You can speak with him, but if you make any sudden moves, you’ll be vaporized before you can say ‘Vulkar Spy’!”

He reached up, plucking the insert from the skull socket. Then he stood. His eyes were unfocused, but his face was firm. He picked up an implant module, and set it in the socket with a click. Then he turned, and I could tell he was actually looking at us with that implant.

“You have to forgive Zaedra. Ever since the Vulkars started this insane war, she had taken her duties as my right hand a little too over-zealously. The Sith invasion hasn’t helped. She seems to forget that I can take care of myself.” He looked at both of us. “You came for my help. Talk to me.”

“I need information on those Republic escape pods that crashed into the Undercity.”

“The escape pods? I have heard that the Sith have been asking around about them in the Uppercity. For some strange reason, they haven’t asked down here.“ He showed a feral grin. “Or at least no one that has asked has gone back up. Sending patrols into the Undercity as well, the fools.”

“They might be spies for the Sith!” Zaedra cried triumphantly.

“Calm down Zaedra. If the Sith thought we had anything useful in here we would be facing a strike force, not two people. No, I think these out-worlders have their own agenda.”

“We’re not working with the Sith.” I looked at Carth. He nodded. “My name is Danika Wordweaver. Sergeant, Republic military.”

“Ah, so we are still part of the Republic. How, refreshing.” He leaned into the desk, crossing his arms. “I can tell you everything I know and it won’t harm my people in the slightest. But it will cause problems for the Vulkars and that is okay in my book.

“The Vulkars stripped those pods of everything of value within an hour of their landing. Before the Sith even located them. It’s too bad we didn’t get there first, considering what my spies told me. There was a survivor; a Republican officer named Bastila.”

“Bastila! She’s alive?” Carth blurted out. Gadon looked at him.

“Yes she is. If she were in our hands, it wouldn’t be so bad. But the Vulkars have her. We would have asked her to carry a plea for reforms, but the Vulkars sell anyone they can catch to the Exchange and onto the Intergalactic slave market.”

“Bastila is to be a slave?” I looked at Carth. At that moment I blessed the blockade. “Where is she?”

“Usually the Vulkar would sell her off to Davik or another off world connection. But a Republic officer is no ordinary catch.”

“That could work to our advantage.” Carth said. Unspoken was the idea that they didn’t know yet what they had. The Sith would have deeded the planet over to the Vulkars if they knew.

“She’s too valuable for Brejik to leave her at the base here on the Lowercity. Too much chance that his people would have their fun and damage the merchandise.” He grimaced in distaste. “No, he’s got her hidden away somewhere safe until the big swoop race. You’ll never find her. We haven’t.”

“There must be some way to help her!”

“There is, but you’re not going to like it. Your friend has become a pawn in Brejik’s plan to take over the Lowercity. He’s put her up as the Vulkar’s share in the annual Swoop gang race. By putting up such a valuable prize, he’s hoping to win the loyalty of the smaller gangs. If enough of them join him, he’ll have the manpower to finally destroy us.”

“So how do you propose we rescue her?” Carth snapped. “We can’t fight every gang in the Lowercity! Hell, the Sith would have their hands full with that mission!”

“The only hope you have is for us, the Beks, to win the season opener of the races. If you help, we can win this. We have much to gain, and even more to lose.”

“What do you need from us then, Gadon?” I asked.

“I can sponsor one of you as a racer, that will get you onto the Race concourse. The race is for Lowercity gangs only, and no one else is allowed down there, though we split a tidy profit from the entertainment circuits. You can protect your friend, and if the Beks win, your friend is free.

“But first you have to do something for me. One of my mechanics developed a souped up accelerator for a swoop bike. A bike with that accelerator can beat anything ever made. But a traitor took off yesterday, and took the prototype with him. We don’t have time to build another. They plan to use it to guarantee that they win.”

I had a sinking feeling. “Where is it?”

“Inside the Vulkar base here on the Lower boulevard.”

“How am I supposed to get in there?” I asked plaintively. We didn’t have heavy weapons, and no place to get them.

“I admit it won’t be easy. The doors on this level are locked from the inside, with no way to open them without someone letting you in. But there is a back way and I know someone that might be able to lead you to it. One of our own. A girl named Mission Vao.”

“Mission?“ Zaedra was appalled. “Gadon you can’t be serious! She’s just a kid! How is she supposed to help them with this?”

“Mission has explored every back alley of the Lowercity. Plus she knows the Undercity and the sewers better than the city planners who built it. The Vulkars have a way in down there. That was how they beat us to the escape pods. If anyone knows where that back door is, it’s Mission.”

I nodded. “Where can I find her?”

“She and her Wookiee friend left out of here to head down there a short while ago. I just wish I knew how she got past the Sith guards on the elevator.”

“We got past the Uppercity guards without a problem.”

“How?”

“We have a set of their armor.”

“The Uppercity guards will let you down in uniform, but the guards down here have locked it down tighter. You need authorization papers from the Sith command. The only people going down are Sith patrols, or Bounty Hunters. But no one gets past the guard without papers.

“Now it just so happens that a Sith patrol ram into a bit of mischief recently.” He opened his pocket, and pulled out a sheaf of documents. “The poor souls didn’t need these anymore. I can’t give them to you, but I can trade them. You said you had a set of Sith armor. I want it.”

“What do you need uniforms for?”

“I like to be prepared. Eventually the Sith are going to grow bored up there, and decide to come down here. When they do, a disguise will give us an advantage in some of those skirmishes.”

“All right. The west apartment complex. There’s an old-fashioned manual input security lock-box.” I wrote down the code I had discovered. “Input that, and the suit is yours.”

He handed it to Zaedra, who sent someone. A few minutes later, they came back lugging the suit. Gadon handed me the papers. “I’ll be back.” I promised.

The Beks got us close enough to the elevator that we could see it.
Far ahead I could see a gate with a Sith guard standing behind half a dozen blaster turrets. He’d take down everyone on the street if those opened fire. I stiffened my back, and strode down the boulevard like I owned it. The guard looked up, accepting the papers I showed him.

“Best be on your guard. We’ve lost quite a few patrols down there. Be especially careful of the Undercity dwellers. Filthy beasts. There are also Rakghouls. If you need, check with a patrol, and they can give you some of the serum against the disease if there is any left.”

I nodded, stuffing the papers back in my pocket, and entered the elevator. Carth loosened up his hands. “Ready?”

“As I’ll ever be.” He replied. I pushed the button and we sank into the depths.


Undercity

I had thought the Lowercity was bad, but this was squalor. The stench hit us first, garbage old enough to vote, and perpetual twilight. Here there was finally dirt, over a kilometer below the Lowercity.

A pair of young men faced off against us. All that kept them facing us was sheer bravado. “This is our elevator! No one uses our elevator unless they pay the toll!”

“I don’t believe this. Even the beggars are trying to shake us down.” Carth commented.

“Five credits! It costs five credits to use our elevator!” The other boy screeched.”

I pulled out a five credit token, and flipped it to the closer one. He snatched it as if it were life itself. Considering the conditions around us, it might very well have been.

“Credits!” He held the coin so his partner saw it. “We have credits! Food, a blanket...” He was crying.

“Come on. If someone else sees it, they’ll take it away.”

“Go away!” A young girl cried. She walked over facing the boys. I figured she might be fourteen, but judging the conditions she could have been an emaciated eighteen. The boys scurried off. She approached us diffidently, like a kicked puppy. “I’m sorry about them. Those two give the entire village a bad name. We’re not all like that.” She added defensively.

“I’m sure you’re all fine upstanding citizens.” Carth replied. The girl bristled at the sarcasm. “It’s just too bad your welcoming committee gives such a bad first impression.”

“Carth.” I growled. “My name is Danika. What’s your name?”

My tone brought her back to her earlier mood, though she looked at Carth as if he would hit her. “My name is Shaleena. You’re from the up world aren’t you?” She looked excited. “I was born here, I’ve never been there. Is it as beautiful as I’m told?”

I considered the Lowercity which I had considered bad. Even that would have been better than this. “It’s nothing special.”
“Not to you I suppose. But you’re probably used to its beauty by now.” She looked up as if at heaven. “I see it in my dreams sometimes. The city, the sky, the stars... It all sounds so wonderful.” She smiled sadly.

“Gendar, the leader of our village, tells me I should spend more time trying to make life better here than dreaming of what I cannot have. Maybe he is right. You probably think I am foolish, but when I was little, Rukil told us stories of what it was like up there, and ever since then I have dreamed of going.”

“Rukil?”

“He’s the oldest man in the village. The children call him Rukil wrinkle-skin. But he’s the kindest man I have ever met. He told us such stories! I still listen when he speaks of the Promised land. I know they’re just stories, legends, but, sometimes it makes all of this seem less dark somehow.”

“The promised land?”

“She shook her head sharply. “Nothing important. They’re just stories to make the young children smile. That’s all they are. But Rukil believes it really exists. Sometimes I can almost believe in it myself.” Her hand fluttered at the filth around her. “But then I open my eyes and see the truth. The ugly truth of life.”

She sighed again. “I guess we have to make the best of what life has given us. If you really want to know more about the promised land, ask Rukil.”
“Where would he be?”
“Somewhere near the center of the village.” She waved vaguely at a cluster of tents. “He’s too old to wander far. After all, he’s over a hundred years old.”

“Could you answer some more questions?”

“Sure. But Rukil or Gendar could answer them better.”

“Have others been down here?”

Yes, a lot more than usual. We even had soldiers down here. Big mean men in shiny armor. Gang members, people dressed like you.”

“What about the village? How did this happen?”

“I was born here to start with. My parents were Outcasts. They were banished for some crime before I was born, They never really talked about it. Everyone here is an Outcast, or the descendants of one. It’s tough down here, but we survive. I think it’s easier for the children because they never knew anything different.

“Some of the people have given into the misery, become harsh or angry. But most of us are good people regardless of what they might have done.”

I looked at the pain around me, and I wanted to drag them aboard the elevator, blast the way through the gangs, through the Sith, and take them to the Uppercity. To show Shaleena the stars for the first time. Then the enormity of the task beat down on me. I could do so little for them. “We will be back. I need to speak with Gendar.”

“Oh, okay.” She looked sad. We had been the bright spot in a black mass of existence. “Well if you want to talk, you can always find me near here.“

I vowed if anything could be done for these people, I would do it.

Rukil was ancient. I felt like I was in the presence of one of the forest giants of my home. He looked at me with rheumy eyes, then his eyes widened. “You are from the world above! Yet, you are different from those others. Is this the time of destiny then? Is this a portent of our salvation? Or is it yet another false sign to mislead us from the true path?”

I knelt facing him. Carth leaned forward. “Be careful, this one might be as dangerous as he is crazy.”

But Rukil ignored him. “Speak to me upworlder. Tell me what fate you unleash for us now, salvation or damnation! Speak!”

“What do you mean, old man?”

“A question.” He breathed. “You are confused, bewildered, perplexed. Not that odd I suppose. After all these years my mind wanders farther than my body ever did. Perhaps some things I can make clearer. I am Rukil. Rukil wrinkle skin the children call me when they don’t think I can hear. I am the oldest of the Outcasts that still live.”

“I am Danika Wordweaver, Rukil. What do you want of me?”

“Once I was honored for my wisdom, but times have been hard. Many fell away from the true faith, only the children listen to me now. Once I had an apprentice. But she is also gone now.”

“What happened to her?”

“I sent her into the wasteland to find... To find something of great importance to me. I cannot tell you unless you prove to be the messenger I seek. Will you help an old man? Seek my Apprentice Malya. Whatever she found might be enough. I beg you, do this for me.”

“We have to enter that wasteland as well. If I find any sign of her, I will tell you.”

“Finding her may be difficult. She could be anywhere under the hulking city.” He waved toward the sky. “But if you find her, then I will know that you are the guide to- to what we seek. Only then can I tell you what I know.”

“I will do what I can.” I promised.

“I wish you good fortune, upworlder. Our fates are in your hands.”

I took his hand, and squeezed it gently. I walked away, and Carth caught my arm. “What are you doing, promising the moon?”

I rounded on him. “Look around you Carth!” I waved at the surroundings. “What have they to look forward to but misery? Only the hope that the promised land Rukil spoke of is real. You have never been in their shoes, Carth. You lived on a better planet, under a better government with food they couldn’t even imagine! You had something to look forward to. Why do you think I gave that starveling child money? Money means nothing to me! I had to help them, even that much. If we had time I would have given Shaleena stories to rival Rukil’s, and all of them true! If I didn’t try to help them I might as well walk through the camp with my blaster firing!” I motioned toward a line of blaster marks against a wall, at a woman laying with what were obviously close misses burned into her flesh. “As if that would help! Others have already done that!”

I spun away from him. I was striking out at the wrong people. The leaders of the planet in their aeries had done this. If they had been standing there I would have shot the lot of them.

Gendar was easy to spot. A dozen people were trying to move a lump of plascrete the size of a speeder using only hand tools. One man was in there, pushing twice as hard as anyone else, cajoling, chivvying, and pushing the others into greater efforts. I looked at the walls for the first time. They had been built using stones just like the one they were moving. All moved by hand.

He finally stopped pushing, looking at us. Then he strode over. “Greetings, upworlders. We rarely see your kind down here. I am surprised that so many have been visiting us recently. At least you spent time with Rukil, which is more than any others have.” He motioned toward the old man’s tent.

“No offense, but I can understand why you’re not on the tour list here.” Carth said.

Gendar snorted. “Why have you come to this sunless hell? Is there something you need from my village or me? Your kindness to Rukil begs for reparation.”

“Why do you people live down here?”

“We are the Outcasts, shunned by the upper world and banished here for our crimes. Long before I was born we banded together to build our walls, to have some sense of security in this hell. I am the leader, as my father and grandfather were. Many have been here for generations, our children tainted with whatever crime their ancestors committed.

“There is no return for us, even the youngest. But we survive the filth, the roving gangs who don’t want to live with order. The slavers, and the Rakghoul by protecting each other.”

“What a horrible way to live!”

“Life can be hard.” Gendar admitted. “Some have grown bitter and uncaring. This is especially true among those newly among us, cast down for yet another crime. Those that also hurt others are banished again from our walls. But we live on what we have. Perhaps one day we will have all we need.” He barked a laugh. “Now I’m starting to sound like old Rukil.”

I sighed. “May I ask you some questions?”

“Ask. I can only answer for the Undercity, but what knowledge I have of that is yours.”

“I am looking for a Twi-lek named Mission Vao.”

“I know this Twi-lek, though I have never spoken with her. She and her Wookiee friend have passed through here many times bound for the sewers. They have brought things they have found for sale to Igear, our only merchant, and brought food and things of value for our people before. They are friends.”

“How do we get into the sewers from here?”

“There are two entrances. One is 200 meters to the southwest of the gate. The other is a hundred meters or more to the northeast. But I warn you, the sewers are a dangerous place. Rakghouls, slavers, even the Sith military that has come down recently.”

“Slavers?”

Gendar waved around him. “Can you think of a better place? The upper world would charge them for setting up their operation. A number of my people would put on a slave collar willingly in return for a promise of even one full meal a day.” He sighed. “Is there anything else?”

I shook my head silently.

“Then I must be back to my duties. Take care upworlders. Come back to our village if there is anything you need.”

“Even here there is hope.” I whispered. I had seen the gate on our trip around the village, and I walked toward it.

A woman ran past us, and was shrieking near the gate. I drew and charged toward where she was. “Hurry Hendar, Hurry! I can hear it coming!” She screamed.

The guard was staring out, and shook his head. “He’s not going to make it, Hester. He’s doomed. Blast it! I told him he was a fool to go so far alone.”

“He will make it. Hurry Hendar!”

A crowd was gathering and pressed us into the gate. A man was frantically running toward us. His only weapon was a quarterstaff of metal. He staggered to a stop less than ten meters from the gate. “Open the gate! Quickly, there isn’t much time!”

Behind him a gray skinned abomination loped toward the helpless man.

The guard was caught in a dilemma “I can’t open the gate. The Rakghouls are too close.”

“They’ll kill him if you don’t open the gate!’ Hester screamed.

“They’ll kill us all if I do!”

No, you can’t just let him die! It isn’t fair!’ She turned, and her eyes caught mine. “Please, make him open the gate, my husband will die if he doesn’t!”

I shoved through. “Open the gate!”

“Are you mad!”

“Close it after I have passed!”

He stared at me then grabbed the controls The structure lifted, from the thudding sound I heard they must have used steam power! I scuttled under the gate, hearing it huff to a stop then start back down again.

Hendar stared back toward me, and beyond him I saw a nightmare charging forward. Closer the skin looked as if the entire surface was a single blister. A maw with razor sharp teeth opened, and it leaped.

I spun, feeling the body fall in pieces behind me. Another came and another. I could hear a blaster firing over my head, and saw Hendar slam the staff down hard enough to bend it on the last of them.

“Are we clear?” I demanded.

“There aren’t any more!” I looked up, and waved at Carth.

The gate huffed back into the air, and we hurried inside. Hester clutched her man as if she would never let him go again. “Thank you.” She whispered.

I could hear Carth scrambling down the face of the wall, and motioned toward the gate. “We have to go now.”

The gate guard stared at me like he‘d never seen the like before. “No upworlder has ever risked their life for one of us. What kind of people birthed you?”

I shook my head. “I couldn’t just let him die. Open the gate. And one thing.”

“Yes?”

“No discussion about opening it when we come back, all right?”

He blushed, and turned back toward the controls.

The gate rose, and we stepped out into that hell.

machievelli
10-05-2005, 11:45 AM
Wasteland

Looking at them, you wouldn’t have believed they were the footings of buildings. Massive pillars thrust into the earth, and above all spread the treelike structure of the City. I was amazed that any light reached here at all.

“Smoke.” Carth pointed toward the southeast. I nodded. We walked that direction. I stopped waving for Carth to stop also.

The noise I had heard came again, panting, whimpering. Suddenly a figure came into view. It was Mission. Her clothes were filthy, her eyes wide in fear. She stopped, then must have recognized us. She staggered toward us.

“You have to help me, please! No one else will, the Beks can’t help me. But he’s my friend!” She staggered to a stop. “You’ll help me won’t you?”

I caught her. “Whoa, slow down, Mission. What’s wrong?”

“It’s Zaalbar! He’s in trouble, big trouble! We have to help him! If we don’t they’ll sell him into slavery!”

“Calm down Mission. Slow down, take a deep breath, and start from the beginning.”

“Me, Me and Zaalbar were just wandering around down here in the Undercity. You know, looking for stuff, kind of exploring. We do it all the time.”

“I guess with a Wookiee at you side most things leave you alone.” Carth commented.

“Only this time they were waiting for us. Gamorrean slave-takers. We didn’t even have a chance to really run. Big Z threw himself at them, and roared for me to run.

“I took off, thinking he was right behind me, but he wasn’t. There were too many of them, he couldn’t get away. They’ll hold him for the next slaver that arrives, I know it!”

“Do you know where they took him?” I demanded.

“They have a section of the sewers they’ve blocked off with mines. The stink probably reminds them of home. That’s where they’ve probably taken him.”

“Stay here, we’ll go rescue him.”

“No way! I’m the reason he’s in trouble, and I’m not abandoning him again! I’m going with you!”

“Gadon told me you might know of a back door into the Black Vulkar’s base. After I’ve helped you, I want to ask you about getting in.”

“Help me and I’ll dive into hell for you!” She said. “Once Big Z is safe I can show you a way right into their cantina!”

I shrugged. I drew the blaster I carried. “Can you use this?”

She took it. “Yeah, just point and pull the trigger, right?”

I shook my head. I started to take it back, and she stopped me. “See that rock on the pile over there? The top one?” I looked. It was fist sized, about twenty meters away. She aimed, and fired, the rock shattering. “I may be a kid, but I do know guns.” She looked sad. “I learned a long time ago.”

“Then I won’t have to teach you.” I waved at the area around us. “Where is the fastest way down into the sewers?”

She pointed to the north. We sprinted that way.

Rakghouls wandered in small packs along our path, we avoided them as much as possible. I noticed that every pack seemed to cluster near small scrub bushes. “What is that?” I asked Mission.

“Some kind of plant.” She replied with thoughtless innocence. “It grows only down here. The villagers tell me it’s just a weed, and isn’t edible.”

A pack wandered by us, carrying parts of what had been a man. They dumped them near the bush, then began to feed. Oddly enough, each of them gently rubbed their hands on the flowers, then on each other. Then they wandered mindlessly to other stands of the brush, repeating the rubbing gesture.

A short while later, we passed one of the plants without rakghouls. I cut a branch off it, and stuck it in my pouch.

“There!” Mission ran toward a heavy grating. She caught it and it screeched upward, showing a ladder downward. “That’s the way in from here.”
“From here?” I asked.

“Of course.” She waved toward the distant camp. “You don’t think I wandered past a guard do you?” She motioned downward. “There’s another way in down there. That’s the way we always went.”

I waved her to silence. Near the grate, a body lay, curiously peaceful. A woman, her torso shredded by rakghouls, eyes staring at the distant sky. Her pack lay near by and I opened it. A journal lay atop some supplies, and I opened it. “Poor Malya.” I whispered. The apprentice had been here trying to get into the sewers when her fate had come. I opened it to the last pages delicately.

‘There is no sign of either Orol or Marosi here in the wasteland. Rukil knew they were searching for the path to the promised land, but he didn’t know where they might have looked for it. I believe they went into the sewer. I laughed at the thought when it came to me. A promised paradise at the end of a sewer line!

‘I must go down there to find out. The entrance is only a few meters away.’

I slipped the book into my pack, then stood. “Lead on, Mission.”


Sewers

The ladder led about a hundred meters straight down. The grate walkway was wide enough for a vehicle. Mission told me that there were half a dozen other ways down, and the sewer workers used small wheeled vehicles in the newer sections. This section however was much older, and while it was wide enough for the vehicles, none of the entryways that now existed would allow them.

We came to a door, and stopped. A mine had been laid there, and Mission walked up gently and disarmed then put the mine in her pack. “This is how I make some eating money.” She said. “The villagers can use these in the areas where the walls are getting bad.”

I won’t go over the entire hell of that journey. Rakghouls wandered the halls, and bodies lay where they had been killed. Some had been gnawed to the bone, blasters or blades had killed others. It was an egalitarian mixture. Outcasts, Sith troopers, gang members of the Bek and Vulkar, the occasional sewer worker. One body dead less than a day intrigued me. The man had been an outcast, a collar still encircled his neck, and his hands were locked in it in death, as if he had been clawing it off.

“Slave collar.” Carth identified it. “When you try to run they hit you with an electrical charge. They also have a proximity setting. The farther you run, the higher the charge.”

I hissed in anger.

We opened a door, and I started forward. Carth and Mission followed behind, eyes on the area as we paced on.

“Carth, you’re a star-pilot for the Republic?”

“Uh huh.”

“You’ve been all over the Galaxy, I bet.”

“I’ve seen a few planets, yeah.”

“So how does Taris rate compared to other worlds you’ve seen?”

“To be honest, Mission Taris would rate pretty low. The prejudice, the rich living high and well while everyone else is crushed below them. It’s not a pretty picture.”

“But it was better before the Sith arrived...” She sighed. “All right, it was still pretty bad. Maybe Taris is pretty bad.”

“Trust me on this, Mission, There are much better worlds. Then again, there are a lot that are as bad if not worse. This is not the kind of place a kid should grow up in, even with a Wookiee to watch her back.”

“Hey, I watch out for Big Z too, ya-know. He‘s my friend, not my baby-sitter!” She turned to watch her section again. “Geez, ask a simple question and get a lecture. I don’t need this crap.”

“Don’t you snap at me missy! You want a lecture? Here’s one for you. Only bratty children fly off the handle because of a simple statement!”

They were starting to shout, and I spun, hissing in a whisper. “Settle down, both of you!”

Mission however was on a roll. “I don’t have to take this crap from you, Carth! You ain’t my father, though you’re old enough to be his father! So keep your lectures in that withered old head of yours.”

The next hour passed in dead frigid silence.

We stopped, and Mission waved at the door ahead of us. “From here the Gamorreans have sealed their own area. The pen they installed last time was right down the way about thirty meters on the right.” I nodded, and keyed the door. I walked in, and there, right in front of the door she had mentioned was a Gamorrean.

You’ve seen them before, two meters or more tall, heavily built, the Gamorreans have just one use as far as Galactic society is concerned. That is in the role of bodyguard, soldier, bouncer, or slave taker. Anything simple where brutality is the norm. They are brutal creatures that hadn’t even developed a meager technology beyond crude hand weapons before the Republic found their world.

This was a male, what is called a boar. Somewhere nearby there would be a sow. If they operate in groups, a Sow is required just to stop the internecine feuding. She guides them in what must be done, and does all the negotiating.

The boar snuffled, and spread his arms wide and rushed toward me. His axe, a massive weapon almost a meter long just at the blade still hung on his belt. Obviously he hadn’t seen Carth and Mission. He thought he just had a new prize for the pen.

I cut upward, and his eyes widened in shock even as he fell. Another cut slashed his throat, and his death scream came out as a whistling sound.

There was another door on the left before the door Mission had earmarked as their pen, and I opened it. A mine lay there on the grating, and beyond it a badly decomposed body.

After Mission had disarmed and picked up this mine, I checked the body. It had been an outcast, and had been dead from my estimate for almost eighty years. I pulled a grimy journal from the pack. “Marosi.” I breathed. “One of the people Malya was looking for.” In his hand was yet another journal. I looked past him at the door that was there. The lock was an antique, at least a century out of date. “Mission.” I pointed at the door.

She went over, working on it. “Haven’t seen one this old before. I’ve been everywhere down here, and never even seen this door.” She hummed as she worked, then with a groan, the door opened. It led into darkness. Mission was still crouched, and she pointed at the ground. “Now that is surprising.”

I knelt beside her, looking at the track that led off into darkness. “What is it?”

“You know the mass trans system they have up in the Uppercity? This looks like a spur line. But why would they have built one down here?”

I shook my head. “Most cities are just built on top of themselves, Mission. Maybe it led to another section of the city.”

“No way.” She pointed down the tunnel. “That way only goes to the sea. As far down as this section is, and the slope of the tunnel suggests that it comes out under the ocean.” She tapped a button, yelping as the door slammed closed. Then they opened on an tram car.

We left the mystery for someone else to explore, and after closing the door, we went back into the hall. We were just at the door when I heard a roar of pain and anger from within.

“Big Z!” Mission screamed, and she ran up, punching the door code in frantic haste. I brushed her aside, and spun to face a Sow Gamorrean. There isn’t much to tell them apart to someone who isn’t a zenologist. But I knew it was a she from the box she held in her hand, a device that had been given to them. A male would have smashed it into uselessness by now. She grunted, and reached for me. I heard a blaster behind me, either Carth or Mission joining the fray.

I chopped into her, and she tried to block the blow with her arm. The box sizzled, and if anything Zaalbar’s screams grew even more frantic.

Another, a male came at me, and I killed him. Two other had been in the room, but both were dead. One had a neat hole in his forehead, and I glanced at Mission. But she was running across the room toward another door. This had a manual lock, and she worked at it frantically. The door hissed open, and we saw Zaalbar curled up, clutching at the collar around his neck.

“They must have been punishing him for something!” Mission cried, running to her friend. “Find the control box!”

I looked at the box that the Sow still held, but it fell apart as I tried to pry it free. “It’s damaged! I can’t shut it off!”

Mission screamed wordlessly, trying to find the lock to pick it. “I don’t have anything that will work!” She shouted. “Zaalbar, hang in there!”

I looked at him, knowing there was nothing we could do. Except... “Carth, Mission, hold him!”

“What?”

“Sit him up and grab his head! Pull it down on his chest!”

They tried, but Zaalbar was in a world of his own pain. He flailed, sending Mission flying like a twig.

I drew the vibroblade, and set it for it’s finest setting. “Zaalbar.” I called. “You have to sit still for this to work!”

He ignored me.

Then from the depths of my mind, I found something to use. I roared at him in his own language and he froze, then leaned forward into Carth.

“What are you-”
I swing the vibroblade, trusting in my skill at something I had heard of, practiced, but had never actually done.

It’s called Fybylka, or the ‘fly cut’ among the Echani. A cut that is supposed to cut just the upper layers of the flesh, yet not deep enough to cripple. It isn’t meant to kill you enemy or even to wound him seriously. It is meant to shame him. To leave a mark that others laugh at.

It got its name because of the way it is practiced. You practice on smaller and smaller targets until finally you can cut one fly out a swarm without touching another.

There was no resistance. Anything lighter than body armor would be cut by that blade, and it was over before anyone even knew what I planned.

There was a flash of a burned out power pack, and Zaalbar threw the collar from him. I suddenly felt cold.

When I had first seen him, something hadn’t looked right. Now, staring at that horrible collar, I knew what had been missing.

Every Wookiee I had ever seen had a collar just like it!

They had been slaves.

Zaalbar rolled over. Mission came back, wincing, and hugged his neck. Those massive arms closed in a curiously gentle embrace, the claws retracted so they wouldn’t injure her. “Where is the wookiee?” He gasped out.

“What wookiee?”

“The one who shouted ‘sit still you fool‘ in Shyriiwook? My own language?”

Carth pointed wordlessly at me. Zaalbar just stared in astonishment.

I reached back into whatever well I had dragged those words, and added, in the same language, “Have the children of Bacca grown deaf?”

He grinned at that. Then suddenly grew solemn. “You have saved me from a death in life of slavery. You did this without being asked. There is only one way I can repay such a debt. I will swear a life debt to you.”

“Zaalbar, are you serious?” Mission was stunned. “You know how important that is!”

“Mission, I must.” He grunted.

“A life debt? What is that?” I asked

Zaalbar looked at me as if he was surprised. “You speak my language but don’t know what a life debt is?”

“I don’t know where I learned your language, Zaalbar. I honestly don’t know what a life debt is.”

“Most would not.” He glared at the bodies of the Gamorreans. “They are like most of your kind. They see our great physical strength. The cunning use of our claws, and see just workers or guards. Since we do not feel comfortable among your kind we cannot be hired, so they must take us as slaves.

“When they captured me, I could see no end to my misery, I would have forced them to kill me rather than submit. A lot of my people do.”

“A life debt is like the most solemn vow a Wookiee can give.” Mission burst in. “It means that wherever you go, even into death, he has to follow you.”

“In the presence of you all, I Zaalbar, son of Freyyr, son of Shoorii, swear to follow you through life, through pain, through suffering, through death itself if need be.” He knelt, reaching out as if a child asking for a parent to comfort him. “My oath will endure. Like the Kash vines that entrap, and the Wroshyr that root our world.”

Instinctively, I took the hand. “Zaalbar, son of Freyyr, son of Shoorii, I accept this burden. I swear in return never to put you in danger that I myself do not face.”

He stood. “Somewhere you learned of this. Whatever your memory of it is. You answered well.”

I shrugged helplessly. Then I looked at him. The Gamorreans had treated him roughly, and he bore wounds still. “Right now you need medical care, and we can’t stop. Mission, you said there was a way up from here?”

“Yeah“. She pointed down the hall outside. “Down there about a hundred meters. Can you climb Big Z?”

“I can do what I must, Mission.”

We walked down the hall, Mission and Carth helping him along. They reached a section of paneling, and Mission popped it out in a practiced manner. “I’m going with him up until he reaches the Lowercity. But I made a promise, and I will be back.”



Carth

I had watched in amazement as Danika had charged four Gamorreans as if they were nothing. I was even more astonished that she spoke the Wookiee language. The people I knew that could were few enough to count on one hand with fingers left over.

Now she was trusting that little squirt to come back. I almost screamed at her. We didn’t have time for this!

Danika leaned into the wall, seemingly lost in patient thought. But once the sound faded from the others, she suddenly spoke. “We need to talk.”

“Sounds fair. I don’t like having to hope Mission is going to come back-”

“We wait for her.” It was an order, and I bristled. “That isn’t what I meant. “I mean this problem you seem to have with me.”

I sighed. “I knew you wouldn’t understand where I was coming from. Let me try to explain. Even with the mystery of your life before I met you, I still respect you. When it comes to fighting, even negotiating you’re one of the most skilled women I have ever met. You’ve saved not only my butt but a lot of people on this mud ball right down to rescuing that guy Hendar. I’m lucky to have you here helping me.

“That said, there is no way I’m going to stop watching you, and being wary. I’m just not built that way, period.”

“Not built that way? You sound like a droid in a feedback loop.”

Maybe so. But I have been betrayed by people I trusted before. Let’s just say that is never happening again.”

“What, you want an oath on it? A guarantee?”

“I don’t know that you’ll betray me. But even an oath would mean nothing. There are no guarantees, from you, from me, from anyone. But you don’t have to take it personally.”

“I wonder how anyone can live trusting no one.”

“I live just fine thank you so very much.”

She looked at me, and I could see the pain in her eyes. “Are you sure you don’t want to talk about it?

“Why! Why is it so damned important whether I trust you or not? Why do you even care?”

“I do care.” She whispered.

“We don’t have time for this.” I cocked my head, I could hear someone climbing back down the tube. “Let’s just drop it for now, Okay? We have a mission.” As I said that, Mission popped out of the tube, and replaced the panel. “And we have a Mission among us.” I tried to lighten the mood. Danika still looked worried, and Mission glared at me. “All right, I’ll shut up.” I groused.


Mission
That Nerf-herder tried to make a joke, but I wasn’t having any of it.

I had wanted to stay up there with Zaalbar, he had been pretty banged up. But when he heard of my promise to that woman he had told me he’d never speak to me again if I didn’t follow through.

“Since Zaalbar swore a life debt, that means you’re stuck with me too. I almost lost him once, and I’m not letting him go anywhere without me along.”
“Glad to have you aboard, Mission.” The woman said.

“Well I owe you one back door into the Vulkar’s base. Don’t worry I know the best way in, because no one in their right mind would use it.” I started off down the tunnel at a jog.

“Why not?” The woman was in armor, and it had to be heavy, but she moved like it didn’t weigh anything.

“Because there’s a Rancor nest in that section of the tunnels.”

“A rancor? Who in the hell shipped a Rancor here?” She asked.

I shrugged. “I don’t know. Where do they come from anyway?”

“No one knows, and except for idiots that buy the damn things, no one cares.” Carth growled. “Thanks to them you find them in a lot of places.”

“Well this one is huge. It eats anything it can get it’s claws into, and most people are smart enough to stay away from it.”

“Unlike us.” Danika commented.

“Hey, a rancor may be big, but it’s as dumb as a Vulkar. We can get by it, no problem.”

I found the path, and opened the door. A force field lit the hall with a hellish light. “That’s the way.” I said, moving to the console of a computer. “It’s coded, but a Black Vulkar had a little too much to drink a week or so ago, and I sorta went through his pockets. Gadon was happy, and sent someone to check it out, but they haven’t come back.” I keyed in, and the force-filed died. “Let’s roll.”

“That was pretty good, Mission.” Carth said. “Better than anyone I’ve seen.”

I felt like crap. Now he was trying to make nice, but I was still mad.

“Can we talk Carth?”

His face went from animated to cold. The guy must have been hell at a Pazaak table. “Is it going to a civil discussion? Or am I in for another tantrum?”

“Tantrum! Why you Nerf-herding slime beast, I’m trying to apologize!” I shook my head. “It’s just, I’ve been treated like a kid all my life! I’m just sick of it.”

Carth sighed, and he shook his head. “Yeah, I know. I’m sorry for what I said too. I’ve been on edge lately.” He snorted. “Not surprising. But I shouldn’t be taking it out on you.”

“It’s about time you two made up.” Danika said. Carth looked at her, and there was something between them there.

“Mission, no matter what I said, you’re not on a free ride here. If it wasn’t for you we wouldn’t have found this place, gotten by the force field or known about the rancor. We needed you.”

“You mean that, don’t you?” I felt my heart lift. “No one ever told me they needed me. Not even Zaalbar. He might think it, but he’s not much for talking as you might have noticed.”

“Ah, you know how it is. Sometimes you just need a few words of encouragement. Kids are like that.”

“Kids! Why you...” I sputtered down as I saw his grin. “Oh you old geezer!”

We chuckled together. Danika led off. It was more of the same tunnels, except the Vulkars had tagged these. We came to a ramp, and down at the bottom I saw an arm laying on the grate. Danika ignored it, pausing to open the door. She froze, then waved for us to step up.

The rancor was big all right. Bigger than it had been the last time I saw it. Problem was, it was standing right by the door that led into the Vulkar base. I almost asked why, but the door opened, and someone was shoved through it. I think it was one of the merchants I knew from the Lowercity.

Whoever he was, he’d just become dinner. The rancor snatched him up, and stuffed him into its mouth. The scream died as the teeth slammed down, then it sucked the rest of him in.

Danika looked at this impassively. “Let me guess, that is the way we have to go, right?”

I nodded wordlessly. She shrugged, then went back to the arm that lay there. She took a pad from the hand, and scanned it. “Do you know a Hala Thrombo?”

“Sure, he’s like the best Scout the Beks have!” She held up the arm wordlessly. I looked at it, reality dawning. “Oh.”

“Carth see if there’s a canister of some kind around here. The pad made mention of some kind of scent marker.”

We looked but there was nothing nearby. “You know, Hala used to stick things up his sleeve, like knives. She looked in the sleeve, pulling out a small glass vial.

She nibbled her lip, then reached up to a slotted section of her vest. A grenade popped into her hand, and she folded the hand of the severed arm over it with the vial jammed behind it. She squeezed, and a rank stench filled the hall. Then she ran out and whistled sharply. The rancor spun, lumbering toward her. She held her stance, then threw the arm grenade and all. The rancor snatched it out of the air, stuffing it in it’s mouth.

The Rancor had just swallowed when there was a muffled boom, and smoke shot out of its mouth. It clawed at its neck, then staggered. Dropping to one knee, it whimpered, and for a moment I felt sorry for it. Then I looked at the pile of skeletons out there, and the pity died. With a final gasp, it collapsed and died.

Danika moved toward the door, then motioned for us to get ready.

machievelli
10-06-2005, 11:48 AM
Danika

I centered myself. The stink of the Rancor was there hot and heavy. I could still smell that lure. They had just thrown someone to their death and part of me was furious. Suddenly I felt puckish. Instead of opening it, I reached out and tapped on the door. Not the slam of a rancor hoping it will fall, but a hesitant knock. Nothing happened, and I was going to knock again when it opened. A Vulkar stood there, staring at me in amazement.

He fell as I cut into him with my ritual brand, and I was moving past him before he hit the ground. Another Vulkar was standing at the other end of the hall, and his stunned expression was still there as he pawed at his holster. I cut him down, then looked back. Carth and Mission were right behind me. Mission held up a flat plastic plate. “Lookie here! Isn’t that one of those energy shields?”

“Yes it is.” I attached it to her forearm. “Don’t use it unless you have to.” The other body had one as well, and I gave to Carth. He shook his head, and handed it back. “I’m not the one that seems to charge into everything.”

I shrugged, attached it to my wrist, and opened the elevator. I stepped into a hall, and spun. A droid was walking down the hall, head turning to watch for any movement. I leaped into a charge, and as it turned, brought the brand down, cutting into the carapace. The droid squealed, and fell.

“Hey.” Carth walked over to me then tapped me on the head as if he were trying to make a recalcitrant droid operate correctly. “Remember the shield? Why do you think I gave it back to you?”

I shook my head, crossed the hall, and opened another door. A Vulkar looked up when I entered, amazed. Being unarmed we tied him up. A girl with a slave collar occupied the next room. She squeaked as I motioned for silence. “Please, don’t kill me! I’m just a slave. I don’t know anything.”

I shushed her again. “Mission?”

She moved around behind the girl. “Local slave collar knock-off. This one I can handle.” Mission said.

“I need some answers if you have them.” I said, sitting the girl down as Mission worked.

“I don’t know a lot.” She admitted.

“There’s another prisoner. A woman named Bastila.”

“That must be that Republic officer. Brejik had her taken to a safe location. I don’t know where.”

“The Vulkars stole a prototype swoop accelerator. Where is that?”

“I don’t know. There’s a lower level accessible by the other elevator. I’m told there’s a garage down there. I’m only allowed up here.” She shook her head. “You’d best get your friend out fast. The swoop race is tomorrow, and they’ll move her to the Race concourse. If she ends up with the Vulkars after that she’ll be lucky if they just sell her. A lot of the Vulkars are mad because Brejik won’t let them play with her, like they do me.” I looked at the scars and bruises she displayed on arms and legs.
“Got it.” Mission unsnapped the collar, and the girl pulled it away, staring at it in shock.

“Can you get out of here?”

“Not if the Vulkars are still in the main room.” She pointed out the door. “But if they aren’t I can outrun anything I have to just to get free.”

“Wait here.” I said. The door opened into another hall. I sprinted down it, thumbing the shield as I did. A Vulkar was coming out of the hall to my left and I cut him down before he even knew I was there. I signaled to Carth, and he sent the girl toward me. She grasped my hand without a word, and ran out the door into the Lowercity.

There were a couple more droids, but we dispatched them efficiently. Mission ran to a console, and hummed wordlessly. “There’s a lot of guards over there.” She motioned toward our left. “Looks like a barracks to me.” She keyed in a sequence, then grinned. “There were guards I should say. I just blew the lot of them with an access panel.” She handed me a pad. “I opened all the security doors except for that one.” She tapped the map. “We need a key card for it. I also shut down all of the blaster turrets they have in the elevator room.”

I started toward the barracks she had earmarked, and a Twi-lek suddenly appeared ahead of me. He took one look, and fell to his knees. “Please!”

I approached him. “Do you know him?” I asked Mission.

“I recognize him, though I don’t know the name. One of the old Vulkars.”

“As if the new are better.” He snarled in Twi-lek.

“What do you mean?” I asked him in his own language.

“Brejik thinks being insane will earn him respect. Anyone like me that tries to talk him out of it gets stuck in the lower ranks. I used to be one of the top men in the gang. Now I’m just a flunky who’s supposed to stare at the monitor.”

I bit my lip. Could I trust him?

“I’d say it’s about time for you to take a break at the cantina.” I suggested. He stared at me in hope, then ran toward the Lowercity entrance.

“You trust the wrong people, you can end up dead.” Carth said.

“Trust no one, and you end up alone.” I snapped back. There was a Sith belt on the table, and I found an injector filled with a clear serum. The pad beside it identified it as a sample of the rakghoul serum. From the reading, there were six doses. I pocketed it, and motioned toward the barracks.

The panel had blasted free inside, and everyone lay dead. We ransacked the bodies, and I found the key card we needed.

The door opened smoothly, and I gulped at the turrets that faced us. Not as heavy as the one’s at the entrance to the Undercity, only three of them. But enough to put all of us on slabs if we hadn’t been careful.

The elevator took us up, and onto the garage level. A few bikes sat there, opened up as if they were being worked on. We moved past them into another hall. Two mines were laid, and Mission took them both down, putting them in her pack. “Hey these are collector’s items! Mines from inside the Black Vulkar base!”

I shook my head. Carth smothered a laugh. A Vulkar saw me, and shouted. I charged him, hearing shots as Mission and Carth took out the others. A door opened, and a pair of Twi-lek stared at us.

“What do we have here?” The male asked. He looked at the woman, and spoke in Twi-leki. “Fools that were hired to steal Brejik’s new toy.”

“Can I kill them now, Kandon?” She asked in the same language.

I stood, keeping my face impassive. “You could at least speak something I understand.”

Kandon looked at me. “So the little human fool doesn’t even speak Twi-leki.” He mused. “That makes it easier.” Then he spoke in Basic. “So you’ve come to steal Brejik’s swoop engine?”

Mission shouted “He stole it from the Beks, you space slug!”

Kandon looked at her pityingly. “It doesn’t matter who made it, or who it belongs to. We have it now, and it will remain here.” He looked Carth and I over. “You’re obviously not Beks, you don’t look stupid enough. Since you’re not a member of that pathetic old man’s gang, I can do business with you.”

“You’re right, I am not a Bek.” I said.

“Then you must be a mercenary down on her luck. Luck I can change with a word.” He looked at my face, thinking perhaps that I was considering his offer. “Gadon is old news. He is blind in more ways than one. Brejik is a visionary. He has plans. Once the swoop gangs are his, the Uppercity is next on his agenda. The Sith won’t be here forever. He has something they want. He has this woman Bastila.”

“So he’s going to trade her for what? Title to the planet?”

“That is simplistic, but accurate. The Sith are offering a reward of four thousand credits up above even now. If he doesn’t succeed, he can still finance the war with that much money.”

I shook my head. “Not interested.”

“Can I kill them now, Kandon?” The female asked again.

“I think so, my pet.”

“Think again.” I said in Twi-leki. As they had spoken, I had thumbed out an ion grenade. I flicked it to their feet even as I charged forward.

Designed to disrupt shields or droids, I felt the shockwave hit me, ripping down my shield. The woman drew a sword, and I cut her down, spinning to block an attack by Kandon. I kicked him in the chest, feeling ribs give, and cut him down as he tried to breath.

“Remind me never to play Pazaak with you.” Mission said.

“Can’t stand the game. Life has risks enough without gambling.” I walked past the bodies to a safe in the wall. The accelerator was a lump the size of my fists. I slid it into Mission’s pack.

“Where are you going?” Carth asked as I headed back the way we came instead of the Lowercity entrance.

I held up the rakghoul serum. “With this Zelka Forn can make enough to stop the rakghoul disease. Besides, I promised to return the journal from Malya.”

He shook his head, and followed.

Undercity

We came out at the same place we entered the sewers. I waved for the others to wait. There was the tramping of feet, and a Sith patrol hove into view. “You there! Civilian! What are you doing down there?” The patrol leader asked.

Silently I handed him my papers. “You must be one of those trackers the Commander sent down here. They should have given you an armed escort. It’s nasty down here. We’ve already lost patrols to the rakghouls. So many attacks they aren’t sure we’ll have enough serum at this stage. We’ve also lost them to attacks by those damnable swoop gangs. I think we should just stay in the upper city where we still have control.”

“And the commander values your input.” I said coldly.

His facemask was silvered, but his tone was defensive. “Hey, I’m down here doing my duty, all right? You tell the Commander that! I don’t want to star in a court martial and firing squad.”

“Then you do your duty, and so shall I.”

“Yeah. Big words from a contract killer.” He sneered. He motioned and the patrol marched off.

“You worried the guy.” Mission said.

“A little unease helps people think the right thoughts.” I commented.

We moved toward the village. A man came from my right, and I turned smoothly. He wasn’t a danger except to himself.

“Don’t come any closer! I’m not afraid to use this!” He waved the blaster rifle, and I had the urge to duck.

“Calm down kid.” Someone behind him said. I recognized this man as a Mandalorian. He was in his sixties, and still a tough customer. He carried a Mandalorian heavy blaster. With anyone smaller than a Wookiee I would have considered it a weapon that needed a tripod but he handled it easily. “We’ve already lost enough people to the rakghouls. I’m not losing any more in a senseless firefight.” He grabbed the weapon, and stuffed it back in the other man’s holster. He turned back to us as the remnants of his party joined him. Two more, one with a gash across his throat that had almost killed him.

The Mandalorian looked us over. “From the look of it you’re on the same mission as we are.”

“Really.” I replied.

“Chill down, no need to develop any agro between us. Your probably here to check out the crashed escape pods. Well my advice is to turn around, and go home.

“There’s nothing left. One of those damn swoop gangs got to it before anyone else. Nothing but rakghouls and those pathetic Outcasts.”

“Canderous, I hear something. Maybe it’s a rakghoul.” One of his men said. The wounded one squealed, and turned. Behind them half a dozen figures were loping toward us.

“We got company!” Canderous shouted. “Lock and load!”

I ducked around the big man and met the first rakghoul as it approached. There was the whine of blasters, the heavy thump of Canderous’ weapon, then silence. The wounded man was down.

Canderous walked over, and knelt beside the body. “You were an idiot, Bakker, but at least you drew them off us. Good work.” He looked at me. “If you want to try for yourself, just keep on that way. I’m getting my people out of here. I told Davik his men weren’t trained for this, but he didn’t want to listen. Now we’ve got six dead.” He looked at the others, too afraid to even move. “It’s not like I could carry any salvage we found by myself.” He turned back to his men. “What do you want? Engraved invitations? March!”

The gate opened at my shout, and I walked into the village. A couple of people were idling nearby, and I could almost feel the greed they felt for our weapons. But a single glare from Carth sent them packing.

I heard a wail of pain and terror, and looked to the side. Another gate was set there, with a woman standing outside. She shook her head, and walked to the fire she maintained. Something drew me and I walked over to look through the same gate.

Several people were walking aimlessly around in there. They were shivering from fear more than any illness I could see. I started to open it, and the woman leaped up, shouting. “Wait Upworlder! Only a fool would go in there right now!” I lowered my hand, looking at her. “Those are our own people infected with the Rakghoul disease. If they survive it as humans, we let them out, if they do not...” She waved a hand helplessly.

A gong rang, and a few men wandered toward us. They were armed with spears and bows. “This is when I chose for them.” The healer said bitterly. “Three are on the edge of the change, and two others could be there by morning.” Her face was heartbroken. For a healer to chose the moment of a patient’s death!

I fingered my pouch, and drew out the injector of serum. If I could get this to Zelka Forn, I would save thousands, perhaps millions in time.

But they weren’t here.

“We took this out of the sewer. A Sith injector with rakghoul serum.”

Her eyes widened, and she reached out, taking the device from me. It was made for an emergency injection, and all that was need was to slap it against a leg. She fingered it delicately, then handed it back. “You offer is kind, but too late for them.

“You’re just going to let them die?”

“Only a fool would enter that cage right now! If they change while you are in there, you have seconds before the bloodlust!”

I stared at her coldly, and marched to the gate. She caught up with me, trying to hold me back. “Please, listen!” I stopped and her hands dropped. “I see you are a fool, albeit a brave one. Hurry once inside. If one has already begun the change, you might not have those seconds!”

I keyed the door and stepped inside. There were five people in the cage, all in their own world of misery. I walked up to each, and the injector hissed. As I came up to the last, She spun, growling. Her skin had grayed with the disease, and pustules had formed across her face. She gave a howl, and leaped at me.

I fell backwards, my feet pushing into her stomach, and threw her over me. I rolled up, dropping the injector, and drew. She charged back, and I thrust through her chest. Her hands touched the shaft as if she didn’t believe it, then she looked at me with a glimmer understanding in her eyes. “Thank you.” She whispered, falling back dead.

As I walked toward the door one of the first I had injected was staggering toward me. I went on guard, but she fell to her knees. “The drug you gave me. I can feel it burning the disease away!” She looked at me with wonder. “Thank you!”

The crowd standing outside the cage was silent as I stepped back out. The healer came to me, tears in her eyes. I patted her on the shoulder. The crowd broke leaving me a path to walk out. Hands reached out tentatively, touching my arm or shoulder. A man held his child up as if it were a parade.

Rukil was seated by his fire, eating a bowl of stew. My stomach roiled at the thoughts of what they had to use as ingredients. He saw me and stopped chewing, his mouth open in astonishment. “You have returned Upworlder. Did you find my apprentice?”

Silently I drew out the notebook. “Malya died before she could reach the sewers.”

He looked destroyed by that simple statement. “It was as I feared. She has joined the lines of those that have searched for the way to the Promised Land.” He looked at me. “But even her death now gives me hope. For you went out of your way to find her, and out of your way to tell me.” He caught my hand. “You are the one foretold. You are to be the beacon that guides our path to the Promised Land!”

“I don’t even know what is it let alone where!” I growled in exasperation.

“Listen then, guiding spirit. Above us is the city of Taris, so great that it covers the entire continent! There is no land to grow food on; every morsel comes from the sea. Kelp, fish, even plankton feed the people above.

“But man is foolish. They dumped their sewage and waste into that ocean. A century ago, the rising levels of pollution caused a great famine. The mighty in their towers quaked, because the city is so vast, the population is only a day from starvation at the best of times. “In their terror, the rich hoarded, and the poor starved. Men ate men to live.”

“From what I have seen of Taris, things haven’t changed that much.” Carth said. “Just now the people of the Uppercity are almost as bad off as the poor were then.”

Rukil nodded. “But the poor rose up in their masses, and civil war engulfed the world. Millions died. Whole sections of the city were laid waste as people fought just for the food that would go into their mouths!
“The rich were victorious in the end. Thousands were captured, but the jails could not hold them all, and people were sickened by the death toll. The leaders then decided to remove the problem by banishing those survivors to the Undercity.” He waved at the few remaining people. “And that practice continues to this day. Many brave people were cast out, among them my grandfather Orol and my father Marosi. Along with them went their families to the youngest child.”

“Not surprising.” Mission snorted. “Those nobles would stuff their own mothers down here if it meant more for them.”

“But not long after our exile, a man came. He was not banished, was not sent, but fled to us. He spoke with my grandfather and father, telling them a secret so great that his very life would have been forfeit if he had told it up above. He had been the head of a project on a distant island. A wiser man among the rich had funded a settlement using wiser and more efficient ways of producing food. There were few people, and droids had been built to work the fields and tend the vines. Contact had been lost during the war, and the wise rich man had died telling no one. The wise man had assured that the settlement would be unnoticeable, so it had survived untouched.

“But it’s existence was discovered. The rich had merely seen it as more for them to take. They took the project head and tortured him to reveal the way to this Eden, but they had failed. After terrible tortures, the project head had escaped and come down here. He had given my grandfather information, but the rakghoul disease was rampant then, and the walls did not yet exist. He was killed in an attack, leaving them with hope, a few clues, and nothing else.

“They began searching the Undercity for the way, for the man had sworn it was in this area before his death. Gendar’s grandfather started the construction of the walls that now surround us, calling for all to forget about the visions of a madman, and try to live as best we can.

“One day Orol did not return, and my father despaired, but he taught me all he knew, and soon went to follow. That was eighty years ago.”

“Sounds like a myth to me.” Carth said apologetically. “Something to give people hope to balance the despair.”

Rukil bowed his head. “That may be true. But I gathered clues. My legs were badly broken when I was still young and they never set correctly. ” He waved toward Mission. “I had to make do with apprentices, children willing to risk their lives to try to find the journals of my family. My journal has clues, but theirs had much more. With them, I could find the way. So I sent them into the darkness, and they didn’t return. Malya was the last. I know Shaleena would have been willing if she were not so sickly. Soon I shall die, and the journals of those lost will never be recovered.”

I reached into my pack and drew out the notebooks. He stared at me as I set them in his withered hands.

He opened one to the back, then flipped a dozen pages forward. He read avidly, then set it down and picked up the other, repeating the process. “The answer! An tram leading to a passage. A way that no one had even imagined! But how can we find it?”

“We already did.” Mission said. She tapped one book. “We found this ledger right outside the door.”

Rukil looked around. Gendar, I must get this to Gendar.”

I looked around. Gendar was a distance away. “Carth, help me carry him.”

I found I didn’t need his assistance. Rukil was old and frail, and weighed not much more than a child. I held him in my arms, and we walked across the encampment.

Gendar grunted at our approach, but as Rukil showed him what the books said, Mission showed him the map of the Sewers, he became excited. “It will take us weeks, even months to get there! But it is a better place than this. You.” He pointed at Carth. “Find Shaleena, tell her to get the council together. You.” He pointed at Mission. “Bring Kudra the healer. You.” He pointed at me. “Get Igear and bring him. We must see what we have to start with.” He looked at Rukil. “You have saved us, old man.” He said gently. “As many times as I have called you fool, as many times as father and grandfather did, you have saved us anyway.” He patted the old man, and ran off.

I went to roust the merchant Igear from his tent. He grumbled at being woken up, but when I told him why, his complaints faded.

We returned to the tent, where Rukil still sat with his eyes closed. I bent down and touched him gently. He had a curiously satisfied expression on his face.

“I don’t know why this is so important, Gendar.” A large man growled as they came back. “If Rukil is telling tales again, I’ll kill him.”

“Too late for that.” I answered. They looked at the body with dismay. “He gave his life to keep the story alive. His grandfather his father his apprentices, gave their lives to find the way to this promised land, and you complain about your sleep?” I glared at them. “What good was their sacrifice if the going may be too hard on you? Stay here for all I care, rot in this hell with no way out. Or take the one offered!”

The man dug his toe into the ground in embarrassment. He was larger than the Mandalorian Canderous, but at the moment, he was a child being lectured by his mother.

“She’s right. If a good life is too much for your sleep to bear, then go.” Gendar said.

He grumbled, but didn’t leave. I lifted Rukil’s corpse.

“Where are you going with him?” Someone asked.

“Gather wood.”


Carth

The villagers built a pyre, and Danika held the dead man until they had completed it. She laid him gently on it, then lit the bonfire. Everyone stood silent as the flames leaped up, then went back to their tasks. Danika merely stood and watched until it was embers.

She turned, and Igear came running up. “My stock weighs too much, but there’s a lot of things in it we need. This however, is too much extra, and no one can use them anyway.” He thrust the bundle into her hands, and ran back to his duty.

It was a set of Echani battle armor. She held it lovingly, then drew Mission aside. They took over an unoccupied tent, then stepped back out. Danika wore the battle armor, looking very comfortable. Mission wore the light fiber armor, and while she would get used to it, she looked uncomfortable.

Danika led us across the encampment to where Gendar sat. Men and women taking notes surrounded him. The Outcasts were balancing what they needed against what they had.

“I’m still worried about Rakghouls.” One said. “According to these records Orol made, there are supposed to be a number of areas where they congregate.”

“If you can give me a few hours, I can correct that.” Danika said. They looked at her skeptically.

“She is the one that cured our own sick.” Kudra said. “Went into the cage to administer it as well.”

“There is not enough left to inoculate you all. But I know a man in the Uppercity that wants this serum not for himself, but for everyone who has the disease.” Danika said. “I will make it my price for giving it to him. What I need is an accurate count of how many doses he must give.”

The count came to 73. Danika led us to the elevator, and we rode back up to the Lowercity. Mission was sent to check on Zaalbar, and I went on with Danika.

We walked across the Uppercity, and reached the clinic. Zelka Forn looked up as if he had never left. Danika walked up to him. “I have a sample of the rakghoul serum for you. But I want something in return.”

He looked wary. “Go on.”

“The people of the Undercity need it more desperately than any, but they can’t pay even the little you would ask. I want you to make up enough for the entire village, 73 souls. I want it given to them. Not paid for.”

Forn almost cried. “And I thought you wanted money!’ He leaped up, hugging Danika. She looked surprised and uncomfortable. “I promise on my own soul that I will deliver it personally.” He took the sample. “It will take half an hour to set up the system, but then I will have enough for just them in less than four hours! I’ll send it with Gurney-”

“Maybe you should chose someone else.” I said.

“Gurney wanted us to give it to him. Davik wants the serum first.” Danika added.

“Davik!” Forn almost spat. “I’ll fire that worthless-”

Danika reached up, touching her finger to his lips. “If it weren’t for those you tend,” she nodded toward the lab, “I would have told you earlier. He might not get the money from Davik, but he would probably be satisfied with what the Sith would pay.”

He sighed. “You’re right. Well, I have contacts with the Hidden Beks, they can get the serum down there. They owe me.”

I smiled. “Doesn’t everyone have the Beks on their side?” Forn returned the smile.

“I have little I can pay you-”

I named my price, Zelka.” Danika said. “You met it. I am satisfied with my reward.” She paused, then took out the sprig of the plant she had collected. “While you’re at it, check this out. The rakghouls we saw down below were attracted to this plant for some reason.” She turned, walking out.

Gurney came after. “You could have had it all, woman!”

Danika turned, and I could feel the fury emanating from her. Then suddenly it was gone. She looked at him calmly. How did she do it? How did a mere girl in her twenties learn or master such control? Take her emotions and lock them away like this? “I was rewarded. In ways you wouldn’t begin to understand. Oh, and the injured back there.” She stepped closer, and suddenly had Gurney by the throat. “If the Sith come here to get them, I will assume you told them. If that happens, you will beg to die before I’m done. Is that clear?”

Gurney gurgled, nodding frantically. She threw him aside, and walked out.

We walked toward the North city again. “Carth, I want to continue our discussion.”

“What, you can’t stop arguing with me?”

She caught my arm, spinning me to face her. “Why can’t you trust me?”

“Why does it matter? Why not just let it be? I don’t trust easily. Leave it at that.”

“I can’t leave it at that Carth.” She snapped. “I’m fighting this entire planet and I have mister ‘I can’t trust so leave it at that’ at my back? Why don’t I feel comfortable with that?”

“Damn it, I see I’m not going to get any rest until I spill it, right? You want to know why I don’t trust anyone? All right. Five years ago, the Mandalorian war was almost over, Revan and Malak were heroes! I was proud to have served under them.

“Then they changed. They attacked the Republic with the very fleets they had led. Nobody knew what to think especially not me!” I was caught in those memories, reliving all of that. “Our heroes had become our mortal foe, Jedi had become Sith. If you can’t even trust the Jedi to live up to their ideals, who can you trust?”

“What do I have to do with Revan and Malak?” She asked.

“That’s not what I mean. It’s...” I sighed. “Not all of those that went over to the Sith were Jedi. The Jedi that betrayed that trust, that became Sith deserve to die for what they have done. But the officers and men that joined them the ones who turned their backs on the Republic are worse. They can’t blame the ‘Dark side’ of the Force.” I used my fingers to make quotes. “They did it for the glory, or the bloodlust or whatever reason their minds created to rationalize it. They deserve no mercy.”

“You say that with such... hatred.”

I shrugged. My outburst had surprised even me. “I know. I should apologize to you. I’ve become accustomed to expecting the worst from people and you got caught in the blast radius. Just leave it for a while, okay?”

She nodded sharply and we continued walking.

machievelli
10-07-2005, 11:59 AM
Beks

Danika

We threaded our way back to the Hidden Bek base. Everyone was there to greet us, and Gadon held up the swoop engine accelerator to a roaring cheer. He handed it to an Ithorian who immediately hurried off to install it.

“I was beginning to worry. My mechanics need time to install the accelerator, and the race is tomorrow morning.”

I had lost track of time, and was deathly tired. “I’ve fulfilled my end of the bargain, Gadon. All you have to do is your own part.”

“I’m a man of my word. I’ve already registered you as a Bek rider. And I’ve just decided that I’m going one better. Since you have to ride, I’m going to assign the bike with the prototype accelerator to you!”

“Gadon are you serious? We need our best ride on that bike in order to win!“ Zaedra cried. But her words rang false.

“Why are you doing this, Gadon? The truth, please.”

“Put that way, how can I refuse? The accelerator has never been tested, and we won’t have time now. The designer,” he waved after the Ithorian “tells me there is a chance it will explode if it overheats. I can’t ask one of my people to risk his life on a chance like that.

“If you can complete the course without getting killed, you win, and Bastila is free. If you fail?” He shrugged. “Bastila still goes free if one of our other riders wins.”

I shook my head, smiling slightly. “Sounds like you win either way.”

“You don’t rise to command a swoop gang without knowing all the angles.” He agreed.

“Danika-” Carth started to speak, but I held up my hand. I had already risked my life to save her once. “I agree.”

“You and your friend can stay here tonight. They’re going to work through the night to install the accelerator, so unfortunately, you won’t have time to practice. But I have good instincts. You have the lean look of a Swoop racer to me. Just relax, and we’ll take you to the track in the morning.”

I nodded, and wandered off. There was a cantina, and after getting something to eat and drink, I left. The noise and music was grating. I heard a voice in another room, and wandered toward it. Zaalbar was leaning against a box, and Mission was hovering like a persistent fly. “Big Z we have got to do something about your breath. I didn't want to say anything before but it’s worse than usual, which is hard to believe. In fact it has been pretty rancid since we rescued you from those Gamorreans. What did they feed you buddy?”

He sighed. “They didn’t Mission. I wasn’t a guest, I was a prisoner. As long as I lived to be sold, they didn’t seem to care.”

“That must have been horrible! I know how frustrated you get when you don’t have your eight square meals a day. I’m surprised you didn’t faint from hunger.”

He knew she was joking, but wasn’t in the mood to return the favor. “I did take a chunk out of one of them, but it tasted bad so I spat it out.”

“Ewww! No wonder your breath smells so bad! Considering the way Gamorreans smell, I don’t want to even imagine what they taste like! I’ll just have to get a toothbrush to clean those choppers of yours.”

He caught her arm when she started to stand. “Wookiees don’t brush their teeth, Mission. It just is not done. What other humiliations do you have in store for me? A comb?”

“Okay! Relax! Sheesh, try to make a helpful suggestion. I’d just suggest the next time you stay away from something smart enough to lock you in a cage.” She looked at her friend and I saw a devilish glint in her eyes. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but you’re starting to look a little scruffy.”

“Scruffy!” He was indignant. “What are you suggesting! A bath?”

“No.” She waved her hands in negation. “I remember how well that went over the last time. But your fur is getting tangles, and the gray is starting to show through.”

“You’re making this up! I groom every day! My fur is NOT tangled, and I am not going gray!”

“Hey it’s not like it’s something I can’t fix! You know, a little trim, a splash of coloring, and you’ll be the best looking Wookiee on the planet! Maybe a nice suit of-”

“You do not trim a Wookiee! You do not color a Wookiee's fur. And you most certainly do not dress a Wookiee!”

“I know but you’ll start a trend! Designers will want to make just the right stuff to show off your fur-”

“Enough!”

“I think he looks fine.” They looked to me. “Zaalbar, how are you?”

“Tired, and there is still pain.” He said. “But a doctor in the Uppercity doesn’t care that I am a Wookiee.”

“Zelka Forn.”

“Yes. He put me in a Bacta tank for an hour or so, and I’m fine now.”

“Good. Tomorrow will be a busy day.”

“Yes. Maybe I should go down to the garage. Roomba is a good mechanic, and I know he designed that accelerator, but I think I know a way to tweak it a little more.”

“Don’t tweak it too much. I’m riding it.”

“Then my debt assures that I make sure it will work well.”

I waved to him, and found a place to lie down. The hum of the place gently put me to sleep.

She struck down the dark Jedi, and behind her I could see four or five others. All carried lightsabers, blue green violet and her own yellow made a rainbow of death. My vision turned to another figure. This one was robed, hooded, and wore a garish mask.

“You cannot win, Revan.” The woman said. Her opponent, undaunted by the odds, drew a lightsaber, the deep ruby red lighting the figure.

From here I could see beyond Revan. Leviathan was there, and suddenly all of her starboard batteries opened fire. The ship rocked, and a blast of energy speared through Revan.

Then suddenly I was laying down. The woman staggered forward on her hands and knees, staring at me for some reason.

I didn’t get much sleep that night. Every time I went back to sleep, the dream continued. The Jedi carrying Revan’s limp form, running frantically to an escape pod. Through the clearsteel I watched Behemoth erupt into fire, then explode. Shrapnel struck the pod, and one of the Jedi screamed that it would not punch out. No beacon, no way to discover where they were. The woman of my dreams calmed the others, then settled into a meditation seat. She closed her eyes.

Time passed. Then she heard something. She looked upward, and my view followed. A figure was outside the clearsteel in an EVA suit. The faceplate was silvered. The woman moved over, laying her hand against the plastic as if she could reach through and touch the figure outside-

I jerked awake as a hand touched my arm. Carth looked at me with worry on his face. Silently he handed me a cup of tea, and I drank it eagerly.

“What time is it?”

“Right before dawn. The Beks are moving the bikes out right now.”

I yawned and walked out into the riot of movement. Bikes, each marked in bright colors with the Bek’s insignia were being lifted with antigravity units and pushed through a door in the wall. Gadon was standing back. Obviously he had been through this often enough.

“He looked at me as I came up. “Here comes the philanthropist!”

“What?”

“We shipped a load of rakghoul antidote down to the Undercity thanks to you. It interrupted our schedule.”

“Sorry.”

“Don’t be.” He huffed. “If the Uppercity nobles had their way, all of my people would have been down there with them ages ago.” He smiled. “We help them when we can, but there usually isn’t much extra in our margin.”

“Hey Gadon, she coming?” A Bek shouted.

“You had better go. You can be disqualified if you show up late.”


Swoop Race Track

Swoop racing began long ago among the outlaw gangs. It was first started to keep the gangs from internecine war. The first bikes had been mere frameworks with rudimentary controls, engines and of all things, wheels. In cities the courses were usually sections of sewer pipes and culverts with ceramacrete walls which meant that if you missed a turn you slammed in. Without deflectors, that was lethal

But times changed. Small antigravs were developed. Grav plates to boost acceleration. Deflectors as well. Finally it reached where it was today. A course with grav plates and obstacles spread in a random fashion.

To no one’s surprise it caught on as a spectator sport. People are not so far from the blood sports of our ancestors. Entertainment networks vied to televise the races, and soon everyone who could watched enthralled. It was still a dangerous sport. Death wasn’t common but bad accidents were.

On the shuttle to the concourse, I watched the brief history a local entertainment network was running. I knew Gadon Thek had been blinded. What I hadn’t known was he had been injured afterward when the antigravs and deflectors had both failed catastrophically just as he reached the finish line. He had won his race, but it had been his last. His time of 30.91 seconds was still a local record.

The Concourse was above the track, and only racers officials and mechanics were allowed onto it. Even then maybe fifty people were there. Most were racers, an average of two from each of the major gangs, one each from the smaller. Twelve mechanics worked on their bikes in areas separated not only by tapes but also by glaring mechanics that watched to make sure there was no sabotage. It was rumored that Gadon’s accident had been sabotage, and these days we all knew who was blamed.

The Vulkars had four bikes with riders and mechanics. Brejik was pointed out to me. A tall slim young man, he glared toward the Bek’s enclosure

Roomba was working on a bike when I walked into the Bek‘s enclosure. He looked up, nodded, then made one last check before closing the hood over the engine compartment. “So you’re the one that is going to try out my baby. “ He said. “Don’t worry. Your friend Zaalbar and I were working on the accelerator for hours. Stability shouldn’t be a problem, I hope.” He walked over, and touched hands with me. “I’m told you’ve never done this before. You want me to run over the basics for you?” I nodded. He walked me over beside the bike, pulling up the windscreen so I got a good look. I would have to crouch, leaned forward, and hold two handles that controlled the maneuvering vanes. “All right, first thing to remember is try not to crash into any debris. The course is littered with obstacles. All swoops have dynamic deflector systems, so getting killed is not a problem with such minor impacts. But anything you run into is going to slow down your run.

“There are grav plates, and before your first run you won’t know where they are. If you hit one it will give you a jolt of speed, so hit them when you see them. But don’t go whipping across the track if you can avoid it. You lose speed making radical turns and you might put yourself out of position for the next series, understand?

“The accelerator makes the engine run a little hot so you have to watch your engine temperature gauge.” He pointed at a gauge on the panel. If it starts running hot you’ll hear a warning buzzer. Just change gears when you hear it, or when the needle reaches here,“ He touched a section of the bar graph, “and you’ll do fine.”

I took a deep shuddering breath. I had never done anything like this before, and was suddenly terrified. “All right, let’s start.”

“Hold your jets.” He said. “There is more you need to know. Racers go out on the track alone. They’ve started paired races in some places, even full races with everyone out at the same time in some places, but we’re traditionalists here. The times are tallied as they come up, and when the day is over, the best time wins.

“Normally a rider can do as many heats as he wants, but this engine might burn out. If it does, the bike is going to imitate a meteor and blow up. I think we can get four, maybe five runs out of it. So make your runs count. Gadon is depending on you. We’re all depending on you. If the Vulkars win, Brejik expects to get a lot of recruits out of this. If they win, the Beks are history.“

“I won’t let you down.“

He grunted. “It sounds like you’re are ready as you’re going to be. Go talk to the coordinator and get checked in. He’ll give you the time to beat and your number in the queue. I’ll check the bike after every run, and make any tweaks or adjustments it needs in between.“ He touched my hand again. The innate honesty of his race made him add. “Don’t worry. The accelerator probably won’t explode.”

The coordinator was a hassled Duros. He nodded to me, and signaled one of the Vulkars to go to the track. Then he turned to me. “You’re here to race, right? Now let me see. You’re riding for the Beks. I hope they do better than the last few races. I kinda like Gadon.” He nodded. “All right, you’re in. Ready for a heat?”

“Yes, I am.”

“All right, seven minutes. He looked up. “New time to beat is 38.43 seconds. A good time, but not the best I have seen. Have fun and try not to get yourself killed.”

“Killed?”

“Yes. We lost one racer today already. You know how you can adjust altitude?” He pulled back as if using reins to stop an animal. “Well one of the Twi-leks did that and hit the upper structure right between two pylons. Dynamic deflector systems can’t make your bike a meter shorter you know.”

I didn’t know and the conversation was bothering me. I walked back to the Bek enclosure, and slipped into a jumpsuit. Roomba nodded that he would watch my gear. I don’t know why, considering the friction recently, but everyone was as well armed as their muscles could handle. As I passed the Vulkars I had seen a cage with a woman standing there limply. There was a neural restraint collar around her neck, yet another legacy of slavers the Galaxy over. I walked toward her, and the Vulkar guarding the cage stepped between us. “No one talks to the prize.“ He growled.

“I wasn’t going to talk, just inspecting her.”

He growled again, but motioned me forward. I walked over, then stopped stunned. In my dreams since before I had arrived on the Endar Spire, I had seen who my mind took to be Kalendra. Then since I had been here on Taris, I had seen a Jedi fighting to defeat Revan.

This was that woman in the flesh. Bastila had been in my dreams!

“Danika Wordweaver. Report to the track.” I shook myself, and walked to the coordinator. He signaled me through a door, and I went down to the track. The bike was already there, and I climbed aboard. I flipped a switch, and the bike lifted into the air, floating a meter off the ground. Ahead of me was a series of lights, and I slowed my breathing, watching them The red light lit, then a few seconds later, the amber. My grip tightened, and my finger hooked over the trigger of the accelerator.

Green. I pulled the trigger, and the swoop bike smoothly accelerated. As it did, I saw the temperature gauge climb almost immediately into the red. A grav plate was coming up, and I shifted course as I loosened the trigger, setting it for the next gear. Then I passed the plate. There was a thump, and suddenly I grinned. It was like riding a Tirlat!

I looked along the course, and hit every grave plate I could. Each time, it slammed me forward faster. I saw immediately what the problem was with the accelerator. It needed the governor adjusted to set the gear ratio a bit lower.

I finished the race, and a time flashed on my helmet. I stared at it in shock. 38.01

Beks mobbed me as I climbed out of the racer. The bike was hoisted up, and loaded on a tram to take it to the start line.

Roomba bounced in glee. “Your first time and you beat the set time! They are going to tell stories about this race forever!” He froze. “Damn.”

“What? I looked up. The new time was 37.94.

“One of the Vulkars, Redros, beat your time.” He bent to the bike, opening the hood. I told him what I had thought, and he nodded, tinkering with it. After a time, he closed the hood. “Done.” I nodded, and headed back to the coordinator.

He looked at me. “For someone who has never done this, that was a respectable time.”

“My swoop is ready. What is the time to beat?” I asked.

He looked down, then up at the score board which I had ignored. “The Vulkars have set a time few could beat. Thirty even.”

I gulped. Gadon had set the previous course record at 30.91 at his accident. I couldn’t beat that time let alone the new one!

“You can forfeit, if you want.”

“No!” I almost shouted. “I have to race.”

“Then do you want to put yourself in the queue?”

“Yes.”

“All right. Eight minutes.”

I nodded and walked back to the Bek enclosure. Roomba merely huffed when he saw the time.

I sat there stunned until they called my name. There had been eight heats since I had noticed the new score, and no one had come even close. In fact the fatalities were now two, with three badly injured.

I went down to the track. The swoop was a Tirlat. How to use that? I remembered when Kalendra, the real Kalendra had ridden that first time.

I watched the lights, my brain running at hyper speed. The light counted down, and as the green flashed, I kissed, then released the accelerator. It punched me forward, but I took off in a deceptively slow glide. I angled to hit the first plate, then to the left sharply to catch the second.

I wasn’t swoop riding, I was tirlat riding.

The far right plate kicked me, and I moved the controls delicately, catching middle, then right, then right, then middle, and was honking over sharply to hit the series on the left and center.

The race was over too fast for me to even understand it. Beks grabbed me and held me aloft, shrieking in delight. I was confused until I saw the scoreboard.

28 even.

I went back to the concourse, but it was a foregone conclusion that I was the winner. That didn’t stop the Vulkars and others from trying. Most of the scores after mine didn’t even threaten beat the time set by Redros.

Finally they decided to call it a day. The next score after mine was 29.70, also by Redros. The coordinator called the racers together. “With a new track record of 28 seconds even, I give you the winner, Danika Wordweaver!”

I waved at them as I stood there. I had never done this before, and hoped to never have to do it again. But I had won.

“Through your skill, you have made yourself the premier swoop racer of the last two decades. Now to present the victory prizes, I give you Brejik, leader of the Black Vulkars.”

Brejik stepped forward. His face was working, and there was a tic under his left eye. He had seen all of his plans collapse because of me, and I was glad I was back in armor with my ritual brand. “Hear me!” He shouted. “Before I present this so-called champion with her prize, there is something that must be said. This rider cheated!”

There was a cry of dismay from the crowd. The coordinator merely looked on. “And how did she cheat?”

“The Beks brought a newly designed accelerator to the field without reporting it, and allowing others to examine it! I hereby withdraw the prize put forward by the Vulkars in protest!”

The coordinator looked at him. It’s usually hard to tell what a Duros is thinking, but this one was obviously disgusted. “The accelerator design was brought to the race committee three weeks before you stole it, Brejik. If your racer had used it to win, you would have argued against disqualification, as would any team that raced. As for the prize, you cannot withdraw it merely because you lost. It goes against our sacred traditions!”

“Your traditions mean nothing to me!” Brejik roared back. “I am the wave of the future, not some fool locked on the past! If I want to withdraw this woman, to kill her, or sell her on the slave market, I will do what I please!”

“I think I have a say in that, Brejik.” A voice I had heard before said. Bastila looked up, and her smile was cold.

“You can’t- It’s impossible! You wear a neural disruptor! How could you have worked past that?”

Her smile grew feral. “You underestimate the will of a Jedi, Brejik. A mistake you will not live to repeat!” She reached out, and the Vulkar that had been guarding her was slammed back hard enough to crack his skull. The collar fell from her neck as she moved her hand, and the door flung open. Then she bent to pick up the sword from the fallen Vulkar.

“Vulkars, to me!” Brejik shrieked. “Kill the woman, kill the racer. Kill them all!”

I drew, and killed the Vulkar that ran at me, then the melee became general.


Bastila Shan

I had freed myself after much work, but I was not yet safe. The problem I had to face was manifold. The gang had surprised me, and captured me after only a brief struggle. Someone had put the neural disruptor collar on me, and dragged me away.

Picture sitting in a chair, looking out a window in front of you, but your will is paralyzed. You cannot move only watch as life passes by. Thought of action is shunted aside before it reaches your muscles. You still breath eat and excrete because you don’t need to think about that, but you can‘t even complain about the quality of the food.

It had taken me a day to discover exactly how the damnable collar worked, then another to work my way around it. Only a Jedi could have done so. We work on so many levels in comparison to regular people that no one but the Sith had ever bothered to develop such a collar for us.

But once I was physically free, I would have yet another problem. I was being held in a pit, and only let out for feeding and cleaning. Someone had assumed I was important because even with the collar there were never fewer than five when I was removed, and usually more. I could have dispatched them, true, but I would still have been trapped in a building somewhere on Taris, with many more people between freedom and me.

I was a prize in a swoop race, that much I had learned. Then this morning they had been agitated. Someone had broken into their main base, and razed it. They mounted a guard worthy of a senator to assure this same enemy did not take me.

Ah, the swoop race then was my best chance. While I might still be wearing the collar, once the race was done, they would have to transport me again. That was when I would free myself, when the number of guards was scant, and the space enclosed. I didn’t know where I would be going, but I was sure I would find a way off the planet before Darth Malak found me.

But something had gone wrong. Brejik, that stupid little man had screamed that he would withdraw me. I was not going back to that hell!

“I think I have a say in that, Brejik.” I said. The look of shock and dismay on his face was priceless.

“You can’t- It’s impossible! You wear a neural disruptor! How could you have worked past that?”

“You underestimate the will of a Jedi, Brejik. A mistake you will not live to repeat!” I reached out using the force, caught the guard nearest to me, and savagely used that unseen grip to pull him toward me. I overdid it a bit. I used what I might have to shove a landspeeder away from me. The Vulkar slammed back into the cage, and collapsed dead. The door was child’s play, and I took the weapon from my first victim.

I immediately saw a problem. As a Jedi I had never handled a sword with a material blade before. It pulled forward in a disconcerting manner, and when I swung it, the swing went on for quite a distance. I would be little help.

Instead, I blocked frantically, and watched the woman that had won the race. She was an auburn haired mercenary from Echana, if her arms and armor were any indication. She waded into them, and I could see the edge of her mouth in a grin as she did. The spectators were running frantically, the Beks had charged in, and chaos was total. She was almost certainly one of those they say are wedded to the blade. In the midst of that swirl of steel, she danced the dance of death, and was its master. No one I had ever seen moved with such fluid and lethal grace. I despaired for the order for I felt the power of the force in her every move. What would she have been if we had found her first?
Brejik shoved his way through the press, his eyes lit by insanity. Any grasp he had on reality had been sundered, and now all he wanted was revenge.

“You’re mine!” He screamed, raising his sword.

Suddenly he stiffened, and looked at the blade that had transfixed him like a museum specimen. “Mine.” He whispered, then he jerked forward. The woman rider was behind him, kicking the body forward as she pulled the blade free. She looked up, then walked toward me.

I was stunned. It wasn’t possible! She couldn’t be here, fighting with such efficiency! Yet there she was.

I reacted poorly, I will admit. I lied through my teeth. I pointed at Brejik, and his henchmen now dead in windrows around us. Along with the Vulkar and five or six members of other gangs that had joined the fray on his side. But they had paid for that foolishness with their lives. “Maybe the Vulkars will think twice about trying to keep a Jedi prisoner! And as for you, if you think I am willingly going to be a prize in this farce-” I stopped, artfully pretending that I had just recognized her. “Wait, you were on the Endar Spire! Yes, I’m sure of it! How did a Republic soldier find herself racing for a common swoop gang?”

She shrugged, and smiled that damnable smile I remembered so well. “It is a long story.” Only the voice was different. Softer, more hesitant. As if she was embarrassed.

“Well we don’t have time for it right now. We have to get out of here before the Sith arrive to sort out this mess. Is there somewhere safe where we can go?”

Before she could answer, a Bek came running down the concourse. “The Sith were monitoring the swoop race! We have to get out of here now!”

“We have a safe place to go. I was going to take you there after I saved you from Brejik.” She said calmly.

“Saved me? Is that what you think happened? Is that why you entered this ridiculous race? Well as a rescue operation, this is one of the worse managed I have ever seen! In case you hadn’t noticed I had already freed myself. In fact all things considered, I think it would be fair to say that I saved you! Brejik and his gang would have left you for dead if I hadn‘t been here!”

She colored, and bit back a retort. “I think we can discuss this later. Carth is waiting for us.”

“Carth Onasi! I withdraw part of my complaint then. If Carth sent you, he must have had a better plan than something you created!” She merely shook her head. The Beks were ready to leave, and since she had ridden for them, they brought us with them.

machievelli
10-10-2005, 03:33 PM
Carth

It was panic time by the time Danika and Bastila returned. We had been watching the race until the fight broke out, then the Bek in charge of the video feed told us that the Sith were coming down into the Lowercity in force.

Gadon had decided to take his people into the Undercity for a while to hide out. Mission had showed them the way through the now empty Vulkar base, and The essentials of Gadon’s organization had already been sent on. Danika told him of the promised land, and Gadon had been intrigued, but I didn’t know what to expect out of it. Mission and Zaalbar stayed with us, and Mission led us through a warren of trash chutes and sewer lines until we were back in the Uppercity near our apartment. We went there.

“Bastila! It’s good to see you safe! Now we just need to find a way off this rock.”

“You mean you don’t even have an escape route planned? What have you been doing in all this time?”

“Trying to find and rescue you.” Danika said. I could tell she was furious, and I was just glad it wasn’t aimed at me this time.

“I see.” Bastila commented with all the prim disapproval you would have expected from a teacher in grade school. “Well now that I have been ‘freed’, I can start assuring that this operation is run properly.”

“Now wait a minute, Bastila!” I snarled. “I know you’re new at combat, but a good leader doesn't berate her troops just because things aren’t as far along as you might like. Don’t let your ego get in the way of what we’re trying to accomplish, or let it drive you to take charge when you don’t know what the hell you’re doing!”

She looked as if her wallet had bitten her. “That hardly strikes me as an appropriate way to address your commanding officer, Carth. I am a member of the Jedi order, and this has been my mission, just remember that! My battle meditation has helped the Republic in several battles, and it will serve us here as well!”
“Your abilities might win battles, but it doesn’t make you a competent leader! A good leader listens to those below them that have seen more combat than you ever will! Or those that specialize in this form of mayhem!” I waved at Danika.

“Will you both just settle down?” Danika had crossed her arms, and was glaring at us in turn. “This is not helping matters.”

“Yes. You are right, of course.” Bastila looked to me. “I apologize Carth. You are quite correct that this is your area of expertise, not mine. What do you suggest we do?”

I sighed. I wanted to hit her, but it wouldn’t have helped. “First thing, we can’t get hung up on who is in charge. I’m a pilot, you have skills only the Jedi have, and Danika can cut her way through any problem. Not to mention that Mission is hell on wheels with a computer, and Zaalbar can fix anything we need fixed. This is a team, Bastila, not some group of raw recruits.“

“Well said, Carth. I stand corrected.” She cast a glance at Danika, then back at me. “I know there are people itching to escape this planet. Perhaps we can check the Cantinas and see what we might find.”

“Sure. That’s as good an idea as any.” Danika murmured I looked at her worried. She had always been the most gung ho of the crew, and this sudden change bothered me. She looked at Bastila, and flushed.

Bastila sensed it. “Is something wrong? You seem troubled by my appearance.”

“Something weird happened before I went to the swoop track. A vision of some kind.”

“A vision? A vision of what, pray?” Something about her tone didn’t ring true.

“Of you. You were with five others.” She closed her eyes. “All Jedi. You faced a Dark Jedi. Revan I think.”

“This is strange. Usually such visions are signs of force sensitivity.”

“What does that mean?”

“I really can’t explain it. Unless you can feel the force, and understand the terms, it is like telling a blind man about a rainbow. After all, one vision-”

“It isn’t just one vision.” Danika bit out. “I had them since the battle of Zanebra. Before I boarded the Endar Spire. Here as well.”

“It seems you might have some small connection with the force. It isn’t uncommon really. When we first met your own small skills must have fed off mine. It is possible that in the excitement of the aftermath of battles, your own skills allowed you to glimpse parts of my own life.”

“As someone I remembered from childhood?” Danika pressed. “Weeks of memories as clear as that window that never happened in truth?”

“I do not fully understand the Force. No one except the Jedi masters do. Once we have escaped, I will take you to them, and you can discover what is happening. However we have more on our plates than I would like to consider. Can we get back to the matter at hand?”

“Right,” Danika pushed herself up. “Mission, Zaalbar, stay here in the complex. We don’t want any incidents we can avoid.” She looked at Bastila, then at me. “Are you two coming? Or am I going to do all the work, and you two are going to kibitz from safety?” She flipped something toward Bastila, who caught it instinctively. It was a twin bladed lightsaber. “Yours I believe.”

She stormed out before I could answer. Bastila followed, and so did I.

A Twi-lek had stopped Danika outside the door, and was in a conversation with her. Danika signaled for privacy, then when the Twi-lek departed motioned us forward. “Remember Canderous?”

“The Mandalorian from the Wasteland? Yeah.”

“Full name Canderous Ordo. He wants to see me. It seems my swoop bike racing fame intrigues him.”

“We really-” Bastila began.

“The Upper level Cantina here in South City is where he wants to meet.” She looked at Bastila coolly. “You did say we should check out the cantinas.” She led the way to Larrim, and bought two long hooded traveling robes. “Here.” She thrust one at Bastila. “Your face is a little too well known here.” She slid into the other one pulling the hood up.


Cantina

Danika

I was furious. Someone had messed with my mind after Bastila’s rescue, and I didn’t know how or why. Her reaction, brushing it off as if it were unimportant bothered me even more. If someone was using the Force, and it wasn’t her, who could it be?

Carth wasn’t helping. I could see that his mistrust extended far beyond me, and while I felt slightly better about that, the arguments could soon destroy us. I was used to working with a smoothly running team as a soldier. Impediments are dealt with or transferred out at my level or lower, before they could become a danger to others. But here I was technically the low man on the pole.

I could feel their eyes on me as we walked on. The way they had been circling like a pair of female Thorm in a nesting dispute I expected a fight, and as we walked I could overhear it.

“I was wondering Bastila, how were the Vulkars able to capture you after the crash? Were you unconscious?”

“No, I was conscious. But my force powers had been exhausted in the battle for the Endar Spire. If I hadn’t been using them up until the moment I crashed you may never have gotten off the ship alive.” Her voice was low and angry.

“Fair enough.” Carth’s tone was light, but I could sense him closing for the kill. “But I’ve seen you Jedi in action before. How did those thugs get past you’re lightsaber?” Her answer was too low for me to hear, but Carth repeated it as if it were the punch line of a bad joke. “You lost it? How do you lose a lightsaber?”

“I couldn’t find it after the crash. I was looking for it when the Vulkars surprised me.”

“Wait a minute, let me get this straight. You lost your lightsaber and were looking for it, and they surprised you?” He laughed. “I mean, isn't that a violation of the Jedi rules or something?” He laughed, and I was actually glad to hear it. He had been too grim before.

However this wasn’t helping. “Leave it be Carth.” I said over my shoulder.

Bastila however was defensive. “This is no laughing matter, Carth! My lightsaber must have come free of my belt, fallen under a seat or something. The Vulkars must have found it among the wreckage.”

“Hey, don’t get mad! I just think it’s funny that the hope of the Republic, the great and legendary Bastila would lose her lightsaber and be caught by a group of thugs! When you write this up for the history books, I would suggest you leave that part out.”

“I do not consider myself worthy of a legend, Carth. However you are right, there is no need for the Jedi council to know every nuance.”

A figure was moving toward me and I recognized Zelka. He was exuberant, and ran up, catching me by the shoulders. “You found it!”

“Found what?” I asked.

“The cause of the rakghoul plague!” He said. “The plant you brought to my lab. It’s a specimen of the Koodro bush! According to the medical records the initial victims of the plague were people who had severe allergic reactions to the pollen!”

“What?” Bastila came forward. He looked at her, but beyond answering her question to me, he ignored her.

“When Taris was settled there was a small primate that was called a Bookri. They tended to get into everything and were noxious in their habits, and finally the government mounted an extermination operation. They’ve been extinct for about two hundred years. But the Bookri pollinated the Koodro! The plant evolved sufficiently for its pollen to cause the rakghoul disease at first, and being bitten passed it to those not allergic to it! It was nature trying to circumvent an obstacle we created!” He hugged me. “Now all we need to do is find a small animal that isn’t noxious to act as a pollinator instead!”

“Then I leave it to you.” I said.

“But you deserve credit! I want to report it to the City governor, get you a medal!”

“No.” I shook my head. “I did what had to be done, Zelka, that’s all. You live here, you’ve dealt with the plague all your life. You take the credit.”

He just stared after me as we walked on.

I could feel Bastila’s eyes on me, and I glanced back. I signaled her forward, and motioned for Carth to hang back and give us room.

“What’s on your mind, Bastila.”

“That incident made me curious. I wanted to know more about what you and Carth have been up to before we joined forces.”

“We were looking for you.”

“Yes, I realize that. But it was more than a simple search. From what that man said, you also found the cause of a massive plague. Besides, I doubt someone had put up flashing signs with the words ‘This way to the Jedi’ on them.” I chuckled visualizing it. “On top of which you avoided detection by the Sith, discovered my predicament, convinced a swoop gang to sponsor you in the race, won it, and then killed the Vulkar leader in a manner and circumstance that ended the war below. That is quite a resume for just a couple of days.”

“I had a lot of help. Carth, Mission, Zaalbar.”

“Your modesty does you credit, but your answer does not. While everyone you have mentioned did their part, from what I have seen you were the catalyst that caused the changes needed. When you were chosen to join this mission I don’t think any of us expected this much from you. A Jedi could have succeeded of course. “ She said it deprecatingly. “But she would have had to draw heavily on the force to succeed as you have.”

“I think the Jedi underestimate we poor folk that don’t have your abilities.” I commented dryly.

“Perhaps.” She admitted. “But not all those able to use the force are within the order.”

“The Sith.”

“Well of course the Sith! But there are those that were never found when they were younger. The ones that show exceptional gifts. Gamblers who are always lucky, racers and pilots who don’t fly as much as become part of their vehicle. Entertainers who can sway an audience with just their voice. These are what we call Force-sensitive.

“It is obvious to me that you were working through the Force, or the Force chose you because of your own innate abilities. There is no other answer possible. However I do not know what to make of it. Perhaps if you weren’t... I should say, if you were still a child, the Jedi might have offered to train you. But as it is...”

“Can you speak plainly? Of is that against some Jedi rule?”

She flushed. “I have overstepped my authority and upset you as well. Such matters are best left to the Council. For now, let us say that you are gifted. Hopefully between your gifts, my Jedi powers, and the skills of your compatriots, we can win the day.”


Carth

They stopped talking as we reached the Cantina entrance. A Sith stood outside, and even with his visor, I could feel his glare. He didn’t recognize either Danika or Bastila but that wasn‘t surprising, there are a lot of aliens with body modesty taboos. That was good because we weren’t home free yet.

This was an upscale place, what you would expect in Upper Taris. Soft mood lighting, music that didn’t grate on the ears. Not that I liked the music. I was, well, too sweet and sickly. The small sign denying droids and aliens was even tastefully done.

The doorman didn’t want to let us in, but the mention of Canderous moved him out of the way. Danika moved through the crowd, then stopped at a table. Seated there was Canderous.

I respect Mandalorian warriors, and felt it was an honor to have defeated them, but I have never liked them. There are exactly three classes of citizen among the Mandalorians. Leader, warrior, and everyone else. I had seen the carnage they had dealt on worlds, and it came because the people they were fighting had never grasped that. A Leader can give an order, and if it is not obeyed, the one who receives it can be killed without compunction. Only those gifted in the arts of war or science ever reach that pinnacle. Warriors can give an order, and again it must be obeyed. Failure to do so again means your death. But some of the people they conquered resisted. Some very well, the Cathar race comes to mind. In those cases the ones who fought them were honored. One man on Ruthenia killed 29 Mandalorian warriors before he was caught. They executed him, but then buried him in their own graveyard with a Mandalorian marker with his kills listed. In fact none in the graveyard had been as well honored.

What they could not abide was incompetent or passive resistance. Resistance was dealt with harshly. Not with casual brutality, for nothing the Mandalorians do is ever casual. But with swift and violent retribution. As much as we used propaganda highlighting their brutality, the Mandalorians had fought a clean war by their lights. Almost perfectly clean by our own. Of the fifty or so ’atrocities’ that we screamed at only about six or seven were true. Our record wasn’t that clean.

Those we captured during the Mandalorian Wars were confused by our reactions. The servant had been given an order and questioned it! The people had seen what happened to those who resisted, but they continued to resist! It wasn’t until Revan and Malak with the Jedi that had followed them that things changed. The Mandalorians had been soundly beaten, but Revan had dealt with them as a Mandalorian would. They had respected her for that.

Canderous motioned toward the seats, and we sat. He waved, and drinks arrived. Danika sipped her tea, and watched him.

“I saw your runs in the swoop race. Very impressive for a first time rider. I was even more impressed by what was shown of the fight before transmission was cut. You seem like someone who gets results regardless. I can use someone like you.”

“If I want to be used, perhaps.”

“Fair enough. I work for Davik Kang and the Exchange. The hours aren’t great, but they offered a fortune for my services, and we Mandalorian Mercenaries are in high demand. But lately, the work has become boring and pointless. He’s been using me as if I was a common thug.”

I nodded. Mandalorians don’t mind scut work, but disrespecting them can be deadly.

“But until this blockade is lifted, I can’t get off this rock. So I decided that when my chance came, I would get out of here, and you’re the key.”

Danika nodded. “And how you expect to do this?”

“I've got a plan to get out of here through the blockade but I need someone I’m sure can do their part to help.”

“Careful.” I said. “Mercs aren’t known for their consciences. He might be baiting a trap, or setting you up for a fall.”

Canderous looked at me, measuring me in an instant. “I’m talking with her, not you.” Then he turned back to Danika. “I saw you win the swoop race, and I figured, anyone crazy enough to take the chances you did might be willing to do something even crazier, but with a bigger payoff. Something like breaking into the Sith Military base.” He watched us, but his eyes were locked on Danika’s face, judging her reaction.

“You have my attention.” She said.

He relaxed incrementally. “What I need is for someone to get the Sith launch codes from the base. Without them the fleet above will blow any ship trying to leave the atmosphere away. With them...”

“Why should I help you? If I had those codes I could take them, steal a ship and be out of here myself.” Danika replied.

“I’ve seen the ships here. The really good ones have been confiscated by the Sith. But there’s a ship they don’t know about. I can get us out of here on the Ebon Hawk.”

“A JT 4100. Big deal.” I commented.

“A JT 4100 with the Mod 4 upgrades, and Mark 19s installed.” Canderous corrected.

I was shocked and excited at that. The Mod 4 upgrades made it faster with heavier armor and shields. The Mark 19s were blaster cannon used on the newer corvettes! They could punch out even an Interdictor class cruiser if you were very lucky and very close. He grinned evilly at the look on my face. “Good enough for you, flyboy?”

“And how are you going to manage stealing Davik’s ship right under his nose?” Danika pressed.

“Not so fast, kid. Bring me the codes, and I will tell you the rest of it.”

“How am I supposed to get into the Base?” She asked. “The door obviously has encryption to stop me. Not to mention whatever guards are inside.”

“Haven’t been paying attention to the news, have you? The Sith Governor launched a major operation to find Bastila when she was seen at the track.” He glanced at the woman, then back to Danika. “Something like a thousand more came down from the fleet and the guard units in the base were drawn down to minimum to do it. As it is, they’re finding it more difficult than they imagined. All of the bike gangs have buried the hatchet right in the nearest Sith head. They’ve retreated into the Undercity and are tearing them up with ambushes and lightning raids by armed bikes. If fifty men come out of there alive, I’ll be surprised. As for the encryptions, I have just what you need. Davik wants the codes too, and he commissioned a droid from the shop across from the elevator in North City. Janice Nall is a Twi-lek, but she’s a wizard with custom droid design and manufacture. Just tell her I sent you and pay for the droid.”

“Won’t Davik be upset when the droid doesn’t go to him?”

“Why? Who do you think he put in charge of the commission?” He motioned toward himself. “Davik commissioned it, but I was the one who talked to Janice. He won’t care who picks it up as long as the launch codes come his way. But I’m known to the Upper city, and if I hit the base, the Sith will send an army down to take out Davik’s estates. Or blow it from orbit. I need you.”

“I sense no deception from him, which is surprising.” Bastila mused. “This may be exactly what we need.”

“Are you in?” Danika nodded. “Then meet me at Jayvar’s Cantina down in the Lowercity when you have the codes.” He tossed a coin on the table, and left.

John Skywalker
10-10-2005, 06:40 PM
your one of the best writers on here were can i read the whole novel machievelli

can you check and review my storys(A SHORT CLONE WARS TALE and KOTOR:return of the sith)id be grateful a good writer reading my work

machievelli
10-10-2005, 07:56 PM
John I will look at your work as long as you understand that I am an honest critic. If I find things that are wrong, I will tell you, but I won't just flame you just because you did something i thought was improper.

As for the novel, i am caught between the rock and a hard place of 'we don't look at anything unless an agent submits it' (Editors) and 'but you have never sold a book, so why should we spend .37 on you asking Ms Shapiro?' (The agents)
If Del Rey likes it enough to publish, I will gladly notify you guys. As for the seven or eight that have actually read it, thank you for your time and patience.

machievelli
03-26-2006, 06:59 PM
sigh.
eight months, and an average of 60 people have looked at this per month.

The news so far:

I still haven't found an agent. Just two months ago Dark Horse (I think) decided to release a KOTOR comic book series which means I have lost the race. Would anyone be iterested in viewing this in it's entirety?

Char Ell
03-26-2006, 10:56 PM
I for one would like to read the entire story. I just started reading today and just finished Dantooine. I haven't been to kotorfanmedia.com though. Is the rest of it posted there?

I still haven't found an agent. Just two months ago Dark Horse (I think) decided to release a KOTOR comic book series which means I have lost the race. IIRC the KotOR comic doesn't cover the actual game storyline but introduces new characters and is set a few years prior to the events in KotOR so I don't think you should be concerned about the comic.

What I'm not sure of is though is how viable a KotOR story would be in the eyes of the publishing world. Wouldn't you have to be granted a license by Lucas Licensing or something like that? I don't think they would want a KotOR-based novel that would make Revan a female. As I understand it the "canonical" default is LSM unless explicitly stated differently by an authoritative LucasArts-affiliated representative. But for me personally I've thought for some time now that Revan could easily be female.

machievelli
03-27-2006, 10:57 AM
I for one would like to read the entire story. I just started reading today and just finished Dantooine. I haven't been to kotorfanmedia.com though. Is the rest of it posted there?)

No, though about 250 pages is. I have 145 pages (Most of it never posted) on the Doctor's superobscura website.

IIRC the KotOR comic doesn't cover the actual game storyline but introduces new characters and is set a few years prior to the events in KotOR so I don't think you should be concerned about the comic.

Good. Maybe I still have a chance.

What I'm not sure of is though is how viable a KotOR story would be in the eyes of the publishing world. Wouldn't you have to be granted a license by Lucas Licensing or something like that?

I had already asked Sue Rostoni of Lucasarts Marketing, and she said send it on. However that was nine months ago, and without an agent, I cannot submit it.

I don't think they would want a KotOR-based novel that would make Revan a female. As I understand it the "canonical" default is LSM unless explicitly stated differently by an authoritative LucasArts-affiliated representative. But for me personally I've thought for some time now that Revan could easily be female.

I have been irritated by the fact that except for Leia, I have yet to read a book where the main character is a female Jedi. I know that isn't authoritative, I have only got 10 out of 50 odd so far. Yet that would make all of the main character in the three of the games I have, Jedi outcast, Jedi Academy, and KOTOR I ALL MEN.

Having been a student of history since I could read, I have discovered that a hell of a lot of the heroes of prehistory ARE women.

For a society (The Republic) that is supposed to be based on capability and merit, doesn't that show a serious bias?

Regardless, I wish people like Spielberg and George Lucas would remember when THEY were the unknowns and give someone a real chance.

Char Ell
04-01-2006, 01:07 AM
So where should I go to read the entire story, kotorfanmedia or SuperObscura?
I have been irritated by the fact that except for Leia, I have yet to read a book where the main character is a female Jedi. I know that isn't authoritative, I have only got 10 out of 50 odd so far. Yet that would make all of the main character in the three of the games I have, Jedi outcast, Jedi Academy, and KOTOR I ALL MEN.

Having been a student of history since I could read, I have discovered that a hell of a lot of the heroes of prehistory ARE women.

For a society (The Republic) that is supposed to be based on capability and merit, doesn't that show a serious bias?

Regardless, I wish people like Spielberg and George Lucas would remember when THEY were the unknowns and give someone a real chance.I have to agree that the SW movies tend toward men in leading roles more than women. As far as the games you refer to, IIRC only Jedi Outcast is restricted to male only. You can play as a female in the other two. An interesting trend to note how Dark Forces and DF2: JK are based on a male character but the more recently published KotOR and JA allow the player to choose the PC's gender.

I'm the type of guy that calls it like I see it although I try to do so as tactfully as I can. IMHO the problem I see with your book's publishing potential is that LucasArts Entertainment Company may very well not want to publish a story that locks Revan into a gender, male or female. I know you said Sue Rostoni told you to go ahead and send your story in but IMO it's such a cop out for her to say that because she knows of all the hoops you would have to jump thru before you can even submit your story for consideration. Yes, Spielberg and Lucas had to get their start in the business too but Lucas didn't get very enthusiastic buy-in from his movie studio for his original SW material. Even George Lucas admits that he has become the very thing that he disliked when he started in the movie business. This reminds me of a recent TV commercial I've seen a few times that goes something like:

CEO behind desk: I want to stick it to the man!
CEO's lackey: But sir, you are the man. So wouldn't you be sticking it to yourself?
CEO: {pausing before thoughtfully saying} Maybe...
:lol: Love that commercial!

You want Lucas Inc. (meaning whichever Lucas company handles book publishing) to publish your story that is largely based on a SW video game that was purposely designed to allow players to choose their character's gender and LS/DS alignment.
Lucas Inc.: "Oh so sorry! We let you play Revan as DSM but we decided that Revan is LSF for 'canon's' sake."
Or whatever combination of DSF, DSM, LSF, LSM you want.
I simply ask you to consider how much controversy SW "canon" already creates and why LEC would want to add any more fuel to the fire by publishing a book that changes a story from one with multiple potential endings to a single ending.
Think of how many KotOR fans would be upset and send hate mail to LEC that the published story didn't match the way they played the game? :D

Darth Jester
04-01-2006, 09:52 AM
My only question is how long did you spend thinking on the story before writing it?

machievelli
04-01-2006, 11:20 AM
So where should I go to read the entire story, kotorfanmedia or SuperObscura?

Since super obscura has the stroy from the start, I would go there. Not that I don't like this place, it's just that at either kotorfanmedia Iwould have to delete everything I have already posted just to put it in chronological order, and would have to do the same here.

You want Lucas Inc. (meaning whichever Lucas company handles book publishing) to publish your story that is largely based on a SW video game that was purposely designed to allow players to choose their character's gender and LS/DS alignment.
Lucas Inc.: "Oh so sorry! We let you play Revan as DSM but we decided that Revan is LSF for 'canon's' sake."
Or whatever combination of DSF, DSM, LSF, LSM you want.
I simply ask you to consider how much controversy SW "canon" already creates and why LEC would want to add any more fuel to the fire by publishing a book that changes a story from one with multiple potential endings to a single ending.
Think of how many KotOR fans would be upset and send hate mail to LEC that the published story didn't match the way they played the game? :D

Actually in the New essential chronology, they have done exactly that already with Jaden Korr. There is however no mention of Gender for Revan.

machievelli
04-01-2006, 11:26 AM
My only question is how long did you spend thinking on the story before writing it?


It was one that flowed smoothly from the moment I considered it. That is a rarity. Ask any writer on this site. Try less than a week from when the idea hit me to the first word on paper.

machievelli
04-01-2006, 11:34 AM
I for one would like to read the entire story. I just started reading today and just finished Dantooine. I haven't been to kotorfanmedia.com though. Is the rest of it posted there?

IIRC the KotOR comic doesn't cover the actual game storyline but introduces new characters and is set a few years prior to the events in KotOR so I don't think you should be concerned about the comic.

What I'm not sure of is though is how viable a KotOR story would be in the eyes of the publishing world. Wouldn't you have to be granted a license by Lucas Licensing or something like that? I don't think they would want a KotOR-based novel that would make Revan a female. As I understand it the "canonical" default is LSM unless explicitly stated differently by an authoritative LucasArts-affiliated representative. But for me personally I've thought for some time now that Revan could easily be female.

Actually, I just looked. If I start at Dantooine and delte from there, uploading the chapters in between, I can do it.

So starting monday, it will be here. I will post 3 chapters at a time, but will not post more until I get comments along the way. So in a way I will be getting paid for it in the currency a writer really treasures.

Char Ell
04-01-2006, 12:32 PM
Then by all means post away, sir! I think you know by now that I don't have any issues with providing my thoughts in the context of what I hope is considered constructive criticism. ;) Truthfully though I see this as your version of how the KotOR story unfolds with added detail. I expect my comments will be mostly of the liked it, didn't like it variety peppered with any observations of passages that IMO deviate from the established game story.
Actually in the New essential chronology, they have done exactly that already with Jaden Korr. There is however no mention of Gender for Revan.I don't have a copy of Star Wars The New Essential Chronology to refer to. What involvement did Lucas Inc. have in its publication? I'm curious as to how the author can definitively state that Jaden Korr is male if there is no other source material for the character besides the game. But really I'm not a hard core canon guy. I've seen all the movies (of course :D), read the Thrawn trilogy, played DFII: JK, JO, JA, KotOR, and KotOR: TSL and that pretty much covers all the sources of my SW universe knowledge. I plan on reading some more SW books like the movie novelisations and some others Prime recommended but haven't gotten around to purchasing them yet.

machievelli
04-01-2006, 06:59 PM
Then by all means post away, sir! I think you know by now that I don't have any issues with providing my thoughts in the context of what I hope is considered constructive criticism. ;) Truthfully though I see this as your version of how the KotOR story unfolds with added detail. I expect my comments will be mostly of the liked it, didn't like it variety peppered with any observations of passages that IMO deviate from the established game story.
I don't have a copy of Star Wars The New Essential Chronology to refer to. What involvement did Lucas Inc. have in its publication? I'm curious as to how the author can definitively state that Jaden Korr is male if there is no other source material for the character besides the game. But really I'm not a hard core canon guy. I've seen all the movies (of course :D), read the Thrawn trilogy, played DFII: JK, JO, JA, KotOR, and KotOR: TSL and that pretty much covers all the sources of my SW universe knowledge. I plan on reading some more SW books like the movie novelisations and some others Prime recommended but haven't gotten around to purchasing them yet.

Everything put out about Star Wars is considered canon because it has to be cleared through Lucasarts. If I tried to sell this work without clearing it through them any suit Bioware decided to file would be chuimp change in comparison. That is part of my problem. No agent means no representation, meaning I can't even submit it for consideration.

machievelli
04-02-2006, 01:02 AM
If you are coming back to read reading this after any length of time, stop, go back, and start over. The piece is in the editing stage of this week, (1st April) not five or six months ago. I have finally deleted all of the older posts, and everything after halfway through post ten is stuff no one beyond a few close friends has seen.

I would like at least one comment from someone before I continue.

I hope you enjoy it...

machievelli
04-07-2006, 01:17 PM
16 views in the last week, and no comments?

Whimper...

Char Ell
04-08-2006, 03:21 PM
^^^
Well, it took a while to read everything from the beginning again. :xp:
Taris was a pearl, with layers of beauty, and inside the filth that began it all.An apt image to sum up the planet Taris. I really liked this sentence.

The Sith merely drew his sidearm, and shot the protester. “That is how we Sith deal with smart mouthed aliens! Now up against the wall before I lose my temper again!” This works but I thought I should point out the fact that in the game this Sith soldier used a blaster rifle.

Besides, there’s at least two of the Interdictor class cruisers in orbit, and a dozen smaller ships.Were Interdictor class ships in use in 4,000 BBY?

Why did you place the rakghoul serum in the Black Vulkar base instead of on the dead Sith trooper's body in the Undercity (where it's located in-game)?

“Yes. He put me in a Bacta tank for an hour or so, and I’m fine now.”Are you sure you want to use the term Bacta tank instead of kolto like the game uses?

This is a very good story. I like how you've added some enhancements like the Taris Undercity plant and it's relationship to the Rakghoul disease. The underground tram to the "Promised Land" and additional background detail about what the "Promised Land" is and how it came into existence is also a nice touch. I also like how you've handled relating the dream sequences. All in all quite an enjoyable read. :)

Alkonium
04-08-2006, 03:50 PM
Were Interdictor class ships in use in 4,000 BBY?
Yes, they were. The Leviathan was an Interdictor-class Cruiser. And technically, Kotor is set in 3,956 BBY, not 4,000 BBY.

Char Ell
04-08-2006, 11:36 PM
^^^
Hmmm, so the Interdictor ship class has been present in the SW timeline for 4,000+ years? Seems like quite a long time to have a class called by the same name...

EDIT: I looked up the starwars.com databank entry for the Leviathan and it does state that the Leviathan was "the vanguard of interdicting technology" but it doesn't say it was an Interdictor-class ship. Meh. I'm probably just splitting hairs on this one...
http://www.starwars.com/databank/starship/leviathan/index.html

EDIT 2: I stand corrected. 3956 BBY it is.

machievelli
04-09-2006, 02:06 AM
[QUOTE=cutmeister]^^^
Well, it took a while to read everything from the beginning again. :xp:
An apt image to sum up the planet Taris. I really liked this sentence.

This works but I thought I should point out the fact that in the game this Sith soldier used a blaster rifle.

Were Interdictor class ships in use in 4,000 BBY?[/QUOTE=cutmeister]

The Interdictor is not really a class, it is a type. If you look in a listing of ships, you will find anti-submarine vessels, anti-aircraft vessels (The Atlanta Class Light cruisers from WWII come to mind) and anit-shipping vessels.

[QUOTE=cutmeister]
Why did you place the rakghoul serum in the Black Vulkar base instead of on he dead Sith trooper's body in the Undercity (where it's located in-game)? [/QUOTE=cutmeister]^^^ Literay license. I didn't want to introduce a spoiler.

[QUOTE=cutmeister]^^^
Are you sure you want to use the term Bacta tank instead of kolto like the game uses?[/QUOTE=cutmeister]

I don't see kolto as a type of bacta. What I envisioned was a large spectrum antibiotic and analgesic. Sort of like taking sulfa drugs and penicillin, and mixing in bacitracin ointment. Besides, Bacta does not come from Manaan.

machievelli
04-09-2006, 02:26 AM
Danika

Break into a base, fight who knows how many guards, find the launch codes, then get into the Lowercity past yet more guards in the midst of a serious battle? Sure no problem.

It seemed to be my day for impossible missions.

I walked back toward the apartment. I had to leave someone behind, but who? I was dealing with two serious prima donnas here.

I decided I would leave Carth. He could inform the others of what we were doing, and at least he and Mission got along. I signaled for him to move closer, and gave him his instructions. He looked pensive. Probably wanted to keep his eye on me even now. “Maybe we should finish our discussion.”

He stiffened. “I said I didn’t want to talk about it.”

“Well I do.”

“Listen sister, just because were working together doesn't mean you get to poke and prod at me every chance you get!”

“So we have another problem?”

“Blast it, you are the most stubborn and frustrating woman I have ever met!”

“I’m frustrating? Look who’s talking!”

“What? Me? What did I do?”

“What, you stepped out for a drink and sandwiches for the last few days? Where have you been that you don‘t remember all the crap I‘ve had to take from you?”

“Okay, I give up. I’ll talk!” He sighed, and inside of him I felt a pustule of hate burst. “I could really use someone to talk to about it.” She watched me silently. “When I think of everyone who betrayed us, the one that stands out above all the others is Saul.”

“Saul? You say that name like I should know it.”

“You don’t? I thought everyone did. Saul Karath is the Admiral commanding the entire Sith fleet now. He’s the reason Malak has done so well since Revan died.

“But he didn’t start there. He was the first officer I reported to back when I joined during the Mandalorian wars. He was only the exec of a Frigate then, an old man who had been passed over because he didn’t have the right connections, but he was going up the promotion ladder fast since the Mandalore wars started. He took a green kid under his wing, and taught me everything I know about how to fight. When he transferred to his own ship, he took me along. Then it was Admiral Karath, and I was still there, now as command pilot for his ship. I looked up to him, and he betrayed me. He’s up there now with that very ship. Leviathan.

“I was transferred home for a while there. Revan and Malak had taken the fleet out on a deep space recon, looking for any remaining Mandalorian holdouts. Three years ago they came home.

“He approached me right before he went over. I had just been recalled because of the first Sith attacks. He talked about how the Republic was weak, how it was going to fall unless the strong took the lead. He told me that if it came to that fight, I should be on the winning side.” I shrugged. “I didn’t think about it until later, but I heard later that he was sounding out a lot of the officers aboard. He was trying to get me to join him. Me, I was home, I was happy, and I was sick of fighting. We fought, he left. That was the last time I saw him.”

“But you didn’t think he would betray the Republic.”

“Saul was my mentor. Before the Jedi joined us he was in the front of every battle, and he brought us through even when it looked hopeless. After all the men that had died under his command, all of the battles he had won, I couldn’t see him turning his back on what he had stood for.

“He did though. Worse yet he gave them the access codes to the planetary shield grid. I was assigned to the fleet there, and saw the waves of bombers and fighters coming in unnoticed and unopposed when we arrived. I knew then how they had pulled it off. We fought, and lost.” I felt my eyes burn. “I could have saved them if I had killed Saul before he betrayed us, before he betrayed me! But I didn’t.”

“So you blame yourself for trusting your friend.”

“I blame Saul! I was... I was naive. I ignored the danger such a man could be on the other side. He nearly destroyed us all.

“I’ve fought him for years now. If I ever meet him face to face I am going to make him regret what he’s done with his dying breath.”

“That isn’t all.”

“It is for now.”

We reached the apartment. I made sure Carth had his communicator on, and Bastila and I left again. We went to North City. The droid shop was where I had been told it was, and I entered. There was the smell of burning insulation, and A Twi-lek was cursing in her own language behind a counter.

I called her, and she came out. “Canderous sent me!”

“Ah! For the little droid.” She went into the back, and a little wheeled astromech droid rolled out. “As specified, the droid is disguised as an astromech, but it has several features. Weapons!” A blaster popped out of a panel in it’s front. Two other tubes lifted one to either side of its dome. “A shield disruptor and a stun beam. All I had for installed weaponry unfortunately. It also has a full security and encryption package as requested.”

“Good. How much.”

“Two thousand.”

I winced, but Davik was a big man, and would have paid without complaint. I pulled out the coins, dropping them into her palm. “Hey, big spender! Well, he’s all yours. T3M4, go with her.”

The droid whistled, dome turning to lock onto my face. It beeped quizzically at me. Janice handed me a small com screen. “I didn’t install voice circuits, but you can read what he says here. It attaches on the wrist.”

I looked at the screen

-Can you get me out of this shop before she thinks of more modifications?-
“I laughed. “Let’s go T3.”


He whistled. -Good finally somewhere else-

Bastila and I walked across the concourse past the elevator that led down to Bek territory. It opened, and half a dozen wounded were carried out. We followed as those were taken to a shuttle that then lifted off. The battle was still raging down below.

The door to the base was unguarded, and I leaned against the wall beside it. Watching the shuttle take off. Another was coming down to take its place. “T3, Open this door.”

He bleeped at me, rolling forward. An arm extended, and he stretched his frame upward until it linked to the lock plate. There was a clicking sound, and the arm retracted, the door opening. I walked past him into the elevator.

There was a Twi-lek at the receptionist’s desk, and her eyes widened when she saw us. “You’re not supposed to be here!” She looked at the desk, probably at an alarm button.

“Wait, you really don’t want to be here in the next few minutes. Maybe you can take a lunch break?” I flashed a 50-credit coin.

She grinned. “As long as you let me out of here before all hell breaks loose!” I flipped her the coin, and she took off running.

“T3!” The little droid rolled forward, and inserted the arm into a slot. I watched the screen.

-Four concentrations of life forms. War droids patrolling halls. Heavy combat droid in the elevator. Blaster turrets in elevator and armory-

“Can you gas them?” I asked.

-Negative. However two concentrations of guards are in rooms where I can blow access panels and remove them-

“Do it.”

-Complying. Done-

“Now take the droids down.”

-Query, take down? -

“Deactivate.”

-Understood. War droids in diagnostic cycle. Will remain for ten minutes. Heavy combat droid systems can be reached, but only force field can be deactivated. That has been done. Turrets have been shut down-

“Now download a base schematic.”

He did so, and I checked the screen. There were four Sith in a room right off the reception area, five in a control room. Red markers noted the presence of light blaster turrets now deactivated.

I motioned for Bastila to follow, and ran to the door. It opened, and we were among the enemy. I cut one down, turned to another, and hacked him down as well. Bastila had shoved the officer in uniform into a console, and he whimpered as his back broke. T3 calmly shot the last one.

I put the officer out of his misery, and we ran down the hall. It opened into a vaguely triangular room. There were restraint fields to the side, and the occupied one caught my eye. “You?”

The Duros looked at me. “You remember me?”

“I remember a brave soul that hid bodies so they wouldn’t be discovered.”

“Not well enough. I was captured last night.”

“Can we free you?”

“The panel on the wall control the cage.” I ran over, and released the field. As it came down, he stumbled out, then ran for the entrance.

There were five guards in the section to our left, and I led us that way because it’s stupid to leave an enemy at your back and I didn't want to have to fight every Sith on the planet to escape. The hall opened into a control room, and I froze as I saw a mine laid at the threshold. But T3 rolled forward, and deactivated it. I ran forward toward the center where four people worked at the consoles. Bastila followed me as T3 shot the technician.

One of the armored guards reached for his weapons, and was down as I continued my rampage. The other went down, then I turned. Bastila had taken the other two. I motioned and we hurried to the room we had just left to go the other direction. At the end of the hall, I opened the door, then ducked instinctively. The heavy attack droid had been waiting, and only my reaction had saved my life. Bastila reached out, and the droid arched as electricity ran wild through it‘s chassis. Then it sagged and collapsed.

I motioned and we went on into the elevator. It was a short trip down, and I readied my equipment as it did. Then it opened into a room. A man in Sith armor, bald head gleaming turned, glaring at us, “Who dares...” He stared at Bastila, then at me with increasing interest. “So there were two of your kind, Bastila. Your master, perhaps?” He drew. “It doesn’t matter, you’re both dead.” He stepped forward, then froze staring at me. “You!” Then he screamed, charging. I felt something hit me in the chest, and somehow stayed on my feet. I blocked his cut, then Bastila slammed him against a wall, cutting him in half before he could fall to the ground.

“Me?” I asked.

“They recognized you from the race obviously.” Bastila suggested.

We searched the room, finally finding the pad with the launch codes. With our timer running down, I led a frantic run back out of the base.

T3 had not been able to extend the cycle, so we only had a couple of minutes. I ran down the promenade to the elevator.

“No civilians-” The guard started and I rammed the authorization papers I had kept into his face. “Oh, sorry. I didn’t know they had extended your contracts.” I walked past him, and opened the door. As the elevator dropped I heard a wailing alarm. I keyed my communicator. “Carth!”

“Go ahead.”

“The fat is in the fire. We have really heavy crap coming down in the next few minutes. Ready to move?”

“Yeah. Mission got into the local database, and we have a shuttle prepped and ready to launch.”

“I’m enroute to our meeting with Canderous. Lift off and get ready to head toward Davik‘s estate.”

“You mean the big area marked fatal to all incursions?” Mission asked from the background.

“Well it’s either that or surrender.”

“I take your point.” Mission replied.

The area at the base of the elevator was packed with wounded not yet transported. I threaded my way through them, and turned, headed for the cantina. Bastila followed, eyes downcast. Still no one noticed her. I nodded to the doorman, and entered the Cantina.


Bastila

When the Sith apprentice had shouted, I was worried. He tried to throw us back with the force, but she resisted it well, and I had been ready for it.

I dealt with him swiftly, and while my answer was lame, she seemed to accept it. We hurried through the maze of paths and finally entered the Lowercity cantina. It was not even close to being as clean as the one above, but the fighting seemed to have kept it busy. Danika moved through the crowd, and there was Canderous.

He tapped his earpiece, grinning. “Some piece of work you did girl. Sure you weren’t born among the Mando?”

“That I am sure of.” She replied. “All right, we have the codes, now what?”

“We walk into Davik’s place, take it down, and grab the ship.”

“Is that all?” She asked aghast. “Probably the most heavily fortified place on the planet and he’s going to just let us walk in?”

“Davik is always looking for quality talent. As you saw down in the Wasteland, there isn’t much to be had on this backwater flyspeck. That was why he hired me. But he hired some bounty hunter-”

“Calo Nord.”

“That’s him. He thinks that because he kills retail, he’s as good as one of my people. Better than me!” He snarled. “I’d like to see a hundred of his kind take on just one battle phalanx of Mandalorian recruits!” He snarled, then the emotion was gone. “He watched the swoop race, and thought you looked like a good candidate, especially after the altercation with the Vulkars. He said that if I could contact you, he wanted to offer you a job. I’m just following orders. The way he works he‘ll offer for you to be his guest while he does a background check. If you clear, he hires you. If you don‘t.” He flicked his thumb across his neck.

“That might actually work. What about my friends?” I motioned upward.

“They can fly in after we get there. The shield extends to the elevators and landing bay. Once they come down, I can transmit the code to open them from outside. Your friends can land right on the pad beside the Ebon Hawk.”

Danika nodded. “All right, I’m in. When do we go?”

“Right now. I have a skimmer waiting.” He looked at me. “But I bring you, he’s going to be thinking credits big time. The reward has been jumped to 10,000 credits. You had better stay here.”

“But-”

“No. Danika shook her head. She touched the com on her wrist. “Carth?”

“We’re airborne. Headed for the estate.”

“Change of plans. You have to pick up Bastila. “ I considered. “The apartments at the West end of the promenade here. Home in on her com unit.”

“Next time let’s schedule all the stops first.” He laughed “Mission forgot to go to the bathroom before we left.” I heard Mission squeal at the comment in the background.

“Good. Listen in on my unit after picking up Bastila. Canderous is going to give us the code for Davik’s defensive shields.”

“Better and better. I’ll be there.”

They led me to the apartment complex, and Canderous blew out the window with his heavy blaster. A shuttle dropped down, and I could see Carth coolly gauging the distance. The hatch opened, and Zaalbar was standing there, waving. I leaped, and he caught me, dragging me aboard.

The last thing I saw was that frail form waving wordlessly once before she disappeared back into the structure.

Leviathan

Like a great killing fish, Leviathan swam over the planet. One of the largest ships ever built, the Interdictor cruiser was over 600 meters long, and carried a crew of almost 3000.

On the bridge, a man watched the planet below. Darth Malak was in a foul mood. If he had still had teeth he would have been gnashing them. A week wasted on this futile exercise!

Admiral Saul Karath came up behind him. He had seen Malak lash out at those that disturbed him when he was meditating, but he had after all been sent for.

“You summoned me, Lord Malak?”

“Report.”

“The men in the Undercity are being routed. We have already lost a hundred or more to those damnable Swoop riders. Who thought a gang of incompetent criminals could be this good at fighting?” He hesitated. “There is also a report that someone attacked our base in the Uppercity. Calan is among the dead.”

Malak didn‘t even flinch. One of those vying to be his apprentice had just died, and he didn’t seem to care. “I grow weary of this. Bastila is either dead, or down among the riders. I cannot risk letting her escape. I want the fleet to close in and destroy the planet.”

“Sir? But there are billions of innocent civilians down there! Not to mention our own men!” He knew as well as Malak that any attempt to withdraw the troops would be seen as clearing the planet for demolition.

Malak turned. His bald head glinted, but the gorget that covered his face below the eyes gleamed even more. “Your predecessor once questioned my orders, Admiral. I trust you are not making the same fatal mistake?”

Saul had seen that, the man gasping as his heart had torn from his chest into Malak’s hand. All without a word. “No my lord. However only we are in position to begin such a bombardment. It will take some time, several hours to move the others into an interlocking position.”

“Then I suggest you get to it.” Malak turned, dismissing his servant.

Estate

The run to the estate didn’t take that long. Canderous wasn’t the kind for unnecessary talk. He just sat there as the automated system took us to our destination. T3 had come with us, and he bleeped to himself. I looked at the screen.

-How do I get out of this crazy outfit? - I laughed, rubbing my hand across the dome. He burbled, and I looked at the screen again. -OH baby! Right on the sensor! -

“Behave.” I said.

The screen bleeped, and an automated voice said, “Inbound skimmer, state your authorization or be fired on.”

“Now.” He whispered leaning forward. “Authorization 9941210.”

I had keyed my com, and it tingled as Carth sent back a silent acknowledgement. The skimmer lifted, and entered a tower near the Western extreme of the city. It dropped to the deck, and powered down. We stepped out, passed through a door, and into a hall. Davik stood there. He was a chubby man in his fifties, hair slicked down. He wore what looked like a suit of heavy armor. “Well, if it isn’t the best swoop rider in twenty years!’ He said. He came forward, shaking my hand firmly. “I’ve seen what you can do and I am impressed.”

A man entered from behind Davik and I looked at him. Calo Nord. “Well, you usually work solo Canderous. Getting soft in your old age? Or did her face turn your head?”

“Watch your mouth, Calo.” Canderous gritted out. “You may be the newest hound in the pack but you’re not the top dog while I’m still here.”

“Guys, let it go. I can’t stand to see my two best men fighting.” He gave me a wry look as if to say ‘boys!’ “So you decided to accept my offer?”

“Let’s just say your offer intrigued me.” I replied.

“Fair enough. The Exchange is always looking for new talent. You could go far in the organization if you live up to expectations.” He looked at Canderous. “With Canderous’ recommendation and verification that you don’t really work for some law enforcement organization, you could easily become a valued member of the Exchange. There are those that would kill their mothers for such an offer.”

“The offer was interesting enough that I am here, Davik.”

“Well come along and I’ll show you around.” He motioned for me to walk beside him, leaving Canderous and Calo to follow. He did have a big operation. A warehouse full of goods from all over the galaxy, a room filled with guards and a dozen boxes of glitterstim spice from Kessel. And slaves. I wanted to vomit at that. The slaves looked pathetically willing to please, their slave collars explaining why they were so obedient. Finally we walked through the hanger. I had never seen a JT 4100 up close, and I wasn’t impressed at first glance. I know Carth had enthused about its capabilities, and was impressed by the guns in the turrets, one above and below, and larger bore cannon attached firing forward on her hull port and starboard. “There she is. The newly upgraded Ebon Hawk. Remind me to tell you how I got her later. It’s quite a story.” He led us through a large room that Davik called his ‘throne room‘, then into the guest wing.

“These are your accommodations while you are my guest. The house slaves are quartered right down there. If there’s anything you desire, food, drink,” He leered, ‘A massage, your wish is their command.”

“Am I a prisoner?”

“Perish the thought! Thanks to the law enforcement agencies we have been forced to use deeper background checks than we are used to. That forces us to make the applicants wait. At least I’m not a Hutt! They’d throw you in a dungeon and let you out afterward without even an apology!

“Once the background check is done, we’ll talk again. Then I will make you an offer. I would suggest you consider it very carefully when I do.” I could see the cold anger in his eyes. He wouldn’t like having someone turn down his offer! “Until then, I bid you farewell.” He motioned, and left, followed by Calo. The door hissed closed.

Canderous growled, then went to the table. He ripped it free of the floor, and slammed it into the wall.

“I’ve seen him treat his Kath-hounds better.” He snarled. “Well we’re inside. Ready?”

I nodded. I started to reach for my com, but he stopped me. “Davik has every circuit monitored. Any calls from here gets us killed right now.” I nodded again, and opened the door.

The hall was empty. “Which way?”

“Through the throne room, then left, down the hall to the main security computer, then we blow the door to the hanger, grab the ship and get out of here.”

“Where’s the nearest computer?”

He looked at me. “Turn right at the throne room. There’s a common terminal there.”

“Then we go there first. Hey, T3!” The little droid whistled. “Ready to do some more slicing?”

I looked at the screen. -Always ready-

We moved through the throne room. There were three guards in the room, and we took them down fast. T3 raced to the terminal, and a blaster bolt just missed singing him. I ran up, through the door that had opened on the right, and took down the guards there.

“T3, gas or zap any rooms you can! Then get the hanger door open!” I shouted.

The droid worked, then paused, giving a whistle and a few bleeps. -Rooms gassed, most of the life forms are dead. However the codes for the hanger door and access codes for the ship are not in this system-

“Who has them?”

-Davik Kang, Calo Nord, and a man named Hudrow-

“All right, we can’t get to Davik or Calo without entering the hanger, so there is no way to get to them. Where is Hudrow?”

-In the ‘guest room’ -

“Davik’s torture chamber.” Canderous explained. “What did he do to deserve that?”

“Where?”

Canderous led me into the throne room, turning right again. We were headed for the spice refinery. The door opened, and I was charging even before I saw the bounty hunter that was patrolling the hall. I killed him. Canderous watched with respect. “You sure you’re not aren’t Mando? Ever been a war bride?”

“No. You can explain it later. Where.” He pointed again to the right, and I ran that way. The door opened, and I stared in horror. A man was in a holding cell, and two torture droids were working on him. I charged, Canderous standing behind me to blast one of the droids as I cut the other into scrap. I disengaged the force field, and the man collapsed, gasping in pain.

“Thank you.” He gasped.

“I couldn’t let you be tortured.” I replied.

“Well I pay my debts. I don’t have money, but I do have something of value. I was the pilot of the Ebon Hawk. I have the codes for access to the Ebon Hawk. Hanger, security, all of it. You can take the ship, sell it, ransom it back to Davik.” He laughed. “Or go into business for yourself.”

I held up my pad. “What are they?”

He spoke, giving the code numbers. When he nodded that he was done, I hefted him to his feet. “You don’t want to be here!”

“I know that! Davik was going to kill me when I finished screaming. I’m out of here.”

Canderous was merely watching. “All right, we have what we came for. Let’s go!”

We had a number of rooms to go through, and we showed no mercy. The Exchange was brutal enough that these men would die rather than surrender or let us pass. I had to assure we had no one able to fight behind us.

We reached the security computer, and I entered the code. The monitor flashed HANGER BAY DOOR OPEN.

I ran to the door just as the building swayed. “An earthquake?”

“Nah. I think those lunatic Sith are blasting the city apart.”

The door opened, but we had just run out of luck. Davik and Nord entered from the other section of the estate. “Damn Sith are going to ruin everything! There’s a lot of money to be had here! We’d better get to our ships, Calo-” Davik saw us.

“Well, thieves in my hanger! I thought better of you Canderous.”

“If you did it wouldn’t have come to this, Davik”

“So you expect to just waltz in, steal my ship, and leave me here to die? Sorry, but that isn’t the way it’s going to be.”

“Leave him to me, Davik. I’ve been looking forward to it.” Calo said.

I threw a frag grenade at Calo, charging him. Better to die fighting him than the bombardment. I expected Canderous to support me, but he yelled, “T3!” And opened fire on Davik instead. The man went down in a welter of blood, and Calo backed away, grabbing something from his vest. I felt horror when I saw the thermal detonator in his fist. “I’m not going to hell alone!” He screamed. I skidded, falling.

The scream brought the house down literally. Actually it was a turbolaser bolt that blew through the supports, dropping a section ten meters on a side right on top of where Calo was standing less than half a meter from my legs.

Canderous ran up, “we gotta get out of here!”
I thumbed my com. “Carth!”

“Inbound! One hell of a storm out here!”

I ran to the side of the Ebon Hawk and stared at the distant towers.

The sky was raining fire. The city was being leveled by something they couldn’t defend against. I saw a structure hit far below. It shuddered, then like a forest giant it fell, taking smaller buildings with it. “Hurry!”

“Clear the path!” Suddenly I saw a shuttle coming toward us. Carth wasn’t slowing down. I yelped, dodging aside, and suddenly it was there, slamming into the pad as Carth hit the retros at the last second. The skids screamed, then ripped loose and the shuttle slammed to the deck on it‘s belly. It rammed into the wall, and I thought they were all dead. But the ramp opened, and Zaalbar was there. He carried a screaming Mission with him and up the ramp, followed by Bastila and Carth.

“Well, you coming?” Canderous shouted.

I thought of Zelka Forn, who wouldn’t leave his patients this side of their deaths. Gadon and his merry band of lunatics far below in their desperate fight. All the people I had talked to who were or might soon be dead. I wished them all well and flung myself up the ramp.

Char Ell
04-09-2006, 02:05 PM
RE: the interdictor stuff - I agree that an interdictor in the SW universe is a type of ship that carries gravity well generators it can employ to pull ships out of hyperspace. It's just when I see people capitalize the first i in interdictor then I assume they are referring to a specific class of ship. For instance, the USS Enterprise and the USS Ronald Reagan are both aircraft carriers (same type) but are different aircraft carrier classes, respectively Enterprise-class and Nimitz-class. In the SW movies you have Venator-class and Imperial Star Destroyers. Both are attack cruisers but are based on different designs. Of course the same rules may not apply in the SW universe but like I said, this is only so much hair-splitting on my part. I just didn't see the Leviathan being of the same design as the movie-era Interdictor-class ships although it is a hyperspace interdictor.

“Okay, I give up. I’ll talk!” I sighed, and inside of me I felt a pustule of hate burst. “I could really use someone to talk to about it.” She watched me silently. “When I think of everyone who betrayed us, the one that stands out above all the others is Saul.” The first passage is from Danika's POV, right? It seems like you switch to relating it from Carth's POV but don't indicate you've made that change anywhere. I had to read the first section's dialogue between Carth and Danika a couple of times before I figured it out.

Looking forward to more of the story!

machievelli
04-09-2006, 02:24 PM
Have you noticed that I have dinged people when they use improper military terminology? The reason you mentioned is precisely why. As I have mentioned in the critic column I read everything and the military has always been a specific interest.

As for the place you mentioned, congratulations! I didn't even notice that little error until you mentioned it. Have a Whatever prize. I have corrected it.

machievelli
04-09-2006, 02:49 PM
Leviathan

Saul Karath walked up to report to Lord Malak. The ships of the fleet had closed their encirclement, and now hell reigned on that planet. They had started at the edges of the city and worked inward like a harvesting machine, slicing the buildings into ruin, then smashing even that rubble. The last report from the troops that had been sent into the Undercity was a call that they might have trapped the Swoop gang in the sewers when a bolt had obliterated the entire unit. Someone down there has been able to get parts of the planetary defense grid up even through the lockdowns the invaders had installed. That merely drew fire to the protected areas. Others had overwhelmed the guards on the docking bays, and dozens of ships were airborne, heading out.

Not that they had a chance really. If they hadn’t already been confiscated, and their pilots given the access codes, they were dead meat. A yacht that cost more than Karath had ever made in his lifetime drew fire from two ships, and pin wheeled back into the atmosphere, burning as friction finished the kill.

“Report Admiral.”

“Taris is defenseless against our assault. They are offering no resistance. The city is in ruins.”

“Maintain the bombardment. I want this pathetic planet wiped from the Galaxy.”

“Yes, my lord.” He turned and hurried back to his command console. Three of the ships frantically climbing away from the carnage were marked with the green of friendly ships. Two were shuttles returning from the fighting bearing wounded. But the third...

He highlighted it, and brought up the scan information. Mass 200 tons, speed- He blinked. All of the faster ships had been commandeered as couriers. This was faster than anything he had seen in the reports. It should already be in service. But where had it been hiding? He brought up its flight path. Ah yes, the Crime Boss, Davik. He must have had this hidden near his estates.

Then his blood ran cold. If Kang’s people had been the ones that had broken into the base, they might have stolen the launch codes. If they had, this was Kang and some of his people trying to escape. He switched to his com system, and painted the second squadron. The fighters had been having a field day, protected by their IFF they had already destroyed a dozen ships. The Second squadron had just started to engage some of the ships that were fleeing, and weren’t too deeply enmeshed.

“This is command.” He ordered. “Ship with proper access codes. Believed to have been captured. Destroy it.” He marked the ship with a circle of red.

Half of the squadron lifted away from their attack runs, moving first to rejoin, then they turned, and boosted their speed. They would catch the ship in seconds.


Ebon Hawk

Danika

Space was as much a hell of fire as the planet. We could see other ships around us being blasted into shards, see the fire of the ships from orbit tearing into them, or into the planet. A pair of fighters had shot past us to savage what looked like a cargo ship. Communications was a mad house. Signals overlapping because everyone was using the same channels. Calls by ships begging the chance to surrender, angry replies from fighter pilots coming in for the kill, and over it all, pleas from people on the ground begging for their lives. I squeezed my eyes closed as tears flowed.

Carth was silent, his hands on the controls. We weaved through the mass until we were free. Only the massive ships of the line were in front of us now. He rammed the throttle to the stops, and Ebon Hawk lived up to her reputation. She leaped into a flat out run that shocked me.

A destroyer fired at us, but it missed. Her actual target, a ground shuttle someone had somehow gotten into space ripped into pieces.

“I didn’t ask before, but where are we headed?” Carth asked. He lowered the nose, and Ebon Hawk ran between the destroyer and a frigate. We were clear of the planet and close orbit, but that merely meant that anyone shooting outward instead of inward had only the one target.

“Set course for Dantooine! There’s a Jedi enclave there, and we can seek refuge.” Bastila ordered.

“Take the controls!” He shouted.

“Got it!”

Carth spun, his hands running over the hyper drive controls. An alarm sounded, and he looked up. “Fighters coming through the grid, on our butts.”

Bastila looked back at me. “Take the upper gun turret! Keep them off us until we can leap into hyper drive!” She spun as I ran aft. “Canderous! Take the lower turret!”

I reached the ladder, and climbed. The turret was in zero G, which made climbing into the chair easier. I buckled in, flicking the line of switches that brought the targeting system on line. Everything was automatic, I had done this on ships throughout my career. There was a mass of red dots approaching fast from astern. I unlocked the traverse, and pulled the handles, spinning the turret to aim behind us. “Ready!” I shouted.

“Ready.” Canderous drawled. I checked the scan data. They were right there! I saw them even as I began firing. A fighter exploded, and the ship shuddered as they made their pass, bolts rocking us. I spun the turret to follow, a second fighter rolling frantically as a near miss clipped a control surface. It dived to get away from me, and Canderous blasted it to scrap. The forward firing guns joined mine as I continued the spin, and fired at the four remaining fighters as they swooped outward like scraps of metal from an explosion. As units they made larger targets. But as individuals, they had more options.

I spotted one swooping toward our stern, and spun the turret. I estimated its speed, deflected my aim, and fired. The fighter exploded. I spun back, lifted the guns and caught another as it began its run. I saw another dot vanish, Canderous was covering his area. The last was wary. We were a little too deadly for him to attack, but he had his orders. He charged in from starboard, staying exactly on our centerline. Both of us fired at him, but he came in until he was too close for the guns to bear. A good pilot could maintain that, only turning to fire and turn back out immediately. It was tricky, but I had heard of some that good. But there was a counter.

“Bastila, hard to starboard 90 degrees on my mark... Mark!”

She did as I instructed. The fighter turned into us, bolts shattering some of the hull metal, and was gone. Unfortunately for him he turned to his starboard side, toward our bow even as Bastila made the turn. The forward firing guns ravened as he flew into their zone, and the fighter blew into scrap.

“Ready for hyper jump!’ Carth shouted, and I felt the surge as the hyper drive cut in. The stars became for an instant lines etched in the sky, then there was the swirling glow of hyperspace.


Ebon Hawk:

Enroute to Dantooine

We were all stunned by what we had seen. Even Carth who had seen it before. Planets have been bombed into rubble before, but that had been when active resistance was being suppressed. Taris wasn’t resisting the attack. The com waves had been frantic with calls pleading for them to stop but the Sith had kept firing.

All because of us.

Mission was hit hard. In the day and a half it took for us to reach Dantooine, she didn’t speak to anyone. Zaalbar had taken her in his bosom, and had sat through that entire time merely holding her, being there in her grief. The picture of that poor child hunched against the furry chest, eyes wide with pain and shock will haunt me for the rest of my life.

There was nothing the rest of us could do. She didn’t want to hear how they had gone to the Force. That they would be avenged, or maybe they had lived. She wanted the world back the way it had been the day she had met us. Like any child who has just lost everything she cared about, she wanted it back.

We couldn’t give her that.

Carth was flying us, with Bastila assisting. I couldn’t pilot so I haunted the ship as we tunneled through space. Canderous had moved into one of the cargo holds, and was tinkering with his weapon. Only one thing was on my mind.

Malak. What kind of madman were we dealing with? The problem was that in war you always demonize the enemy. He’s always a brutal monster that kills without compunction while your men were superior because their hearts were pure. As a soldier I knew better. The enemy you faced was you in a different uniform mostly. Sure there were monsters over there, but if you watched those around you there were monsters on your side as well. Those that would take it too far, kill without reason, enjoy the deaths of the enemy.

War is mankind at his best and worst. Best because She finds something beyond herself to care about, defends those that depend on her even unto death. Worst because sometimes the beast in all of us gets free, and won’t go back into its cage afterward.

I checked the computer files aboard but there was nothing about the war at all except for planets to be avoided. Davik Kang obviously had been indifferent to the slaughter. After seeing some of the files of ‘items’ sent to slavers, or opponents within the Exchange removed I understood. If he wasn’t dealing the pain or feeling it personally, it didn’t exist.

Bastila probably knew, but she was uncommunicative. She would watch me with hooded eyes when she left the flight deck. Almost as if she were afraid of me.

Finally I took a cup of tea to Carth. He nodded his thanks, leaned back, and sipped it. “Take a load off.” He waved at the copilot’s chair. I sat, made sure the controls were not active, and sipped my own tea.

“What do you know about Malak?”

He looked at me. “Malak and Revan were Jedi, you know that, right?” I nodded. “Well we were deep into the Mandalorian wars. The Jedi had been asked for help but they had refused.” He shrugged as if that was no surprise. “But some of them didn’t like the Council’s ruling. A few led by Revan joined us. Malak was Revan’s right hand man. They spread out among the fleet, and almost immediately things changed. Before that it was like the Mandalorians were everywhere, hitting us from all sides. But those few people made us see the pattern.

“They made mistakes at first. Revan took a fleet to catch a Mandalorian one at a place called Hotma. But when she did, the enemy fleet had jumped from Hotma to Kando, where Revan was based. So she arrived, found the base empty, and smashed it, then returned to find her own base destroyed.”

I understood the concept. In military parlance it was called being overtaken by events. The enemy was supposed to be here, so you went there. But you didn’t know they were moving, so you missed each other.

“She got better fast though.” He sighed. “When she hit her stride, the Mandalorians didn’t have a chance. She always had Malak close at hand. Maybe she saw Malak for what he was.”

“Which was?”

“A hardheaded pragmatist. Watching them work alone was interesting. Revan was like a sniper. Picking her targets and taking them down fast with minimal damage. But when the going got tough, she let Malak have his head. If Revan was a sniper, Malak was more like a Gamorrean, smashing everything in his path to his goal. He lost a lot of his own people, but he decimated the enemy as he did it. He never settled in battle for anything but absolute victory. If a garrison resisted, he bombed them into submission. If he wanted it, nothing could keep him from it.” His face hardened as he remembered that Malak was now the enemy. “When Revan was still there, even when she had turned to the Sith, she had remained the same. She didn’t smash entire planets unless there was no alternative. She kept Malak on his leash, only letting him out when all else failed. Since Revan’s death Malak has changed. He became even more brutal. It was like someone had stripped the governor on an engine. The Sith have been following his lead, and picked up the pace ever since.”

The Sith had been a problem for several Millennia. Originally I knew, they had been a race, a violently xenophobic race. They had hit us hard back then, killing anyone that stood in their paths. It was one series of wars the Jedi had gotten into willingly, because the Sith had been strong in the Force. Finally they had been beaten back, the race almost destroyed. But the problems had not stopped there. The nihilistic worldview the Sith had enjoyed must have been catching. A number of Jedi had split off from the others, and left abruptly, seeking the remains of the Sith. They had settled on a planet named Korriban, which had been smashed, occupied by the Sith, smashed again, then left fallow for almost two centuries. The Jedi had proclaimed themselves the New Sith. The actual Sith that had still lived there hadn’t been amused and considering the carnage these Dark Jedi and the Sith were inflicting on themselves, the planet had been pretty much been left alone by everyone else.

But that had not ended the problem either. The Sith race was long gone, but others had gone there, and now the Sith, albeit only those that believed the old ideals had struck again a millennia ago. They were beaten, regrouped, and struck again in a pattern that has lasted now for over a thousand years. Yet another Jedi expatriate had led the last Sith war before this one. Exar Kun had left, become the dark Jedi master, and become Darth Kun, the first time the title had ever been used. He had ravaged the galaxy, and been put down as those before him had. His base had been smashed into ruins, and the Republic had again turned its eyes back to the business of living.

This was the result.

“I saw Revan in my vision. She was wearing some kind of mask. Why?”

“Rumors abound.” Carth commented. “Some said that she had been disfigured when she was young. Others that she was an attractive woman and had problems dealing with people as a Jedi because of that.” He grinned. “Sort of like you and me when we first got together.”

“Maybe I’ll get a mask then.”

“Oh, don’t do that.” He teased. “Then I’ll have to ask what make up you put on that day.”

I shook my head. “I am going aft before your fantasies get the better of you.”


Dantooine

We came out near Dantooine, about two planetary diameters away, as close as you can get safely. No one really knows where or when the hyperspace drive was developed. About 22,000 years ago, it just appeared, discovered in ancient ruins on dozens of worlds. Everyone would like to claim the credit, but even a hyperspace physicist can’t explain exactly how it works. It’s like electricity. For the layman, you flip a switch and it’s there. But it worked, and with the proper astronavigation calculations, you can go anywhere. But here you immediately ran into problems. You had to first find out where to go before you could go anywhere. Each planet that had discovered the drives in ruins tried. A lot of them gave up after a time. Others kept at it with bloody-minded persistence until they discovered the corridors that exist today. It’s like the old man everyone had heard of that when asked for directions, replies, ‘You can’t get there from here‘.

Hyperspace also has quirks. There are half a dozen paths that are easier to travel for some reason. They bridge the galaxy.

Hyperspace travel is like nothing else. There are 100 billion stars in the galaxy, but only about three quarters of a million are accessible to date. Unless you want to slow-boat it at less than light speed, or use a light cannon system, which required that you build one on the other end before you return, you don’t go anywhere unless there’s a hyperspace corridor. They spent almost 4,000 years doing it that way before hyper drive. That is why Humans are so wide spread.

Scouting new routes is the most dangerous job in the galaxy. A mathematician would do the math, sometimes taking decades, then submit it to the local planetary government, or back when the Republic government was in charge, the Republic Survey Department, and eventually a ship would be sent to try the new equations. Out of every ten ships that try, only one succeeds. Of the others some make it back, others disappear. Corridors don’t care about something as thin as a star’s core, but the people in the ship get fried anyway. Getting too close to a planet on arrival is only one of the problems you face. Most of those deaths come when the gravitation of the planet, star etc, drags you out of hyperspace, usually too close to get away.

Around two centuries ago, the Republic had quietly gotten out of the Survey business. It just wasn’t cost effective. There were already a few hundred thousand planets, some of them virgin terrain, and the population hadn’t grown enough yet to make it vital, so the Republic instead handed it over to Corporations. They could deduct the expenses from their taxes, and didn’t care about the piddling losses of a hundred men or so a decade.

But when they found a new world, the return could be fantastic. In the last century a planet named Kessel had been discovered. The company that had done so almost sold it to the Republic for a weapons test facility, but some enterprising young vice president sent a survey team down onto the planet itself. He found the energy spiders, and took samples of their web for analysis. Those webs, made of Glitterstim, had catapulted him to a presidency and the company into a major contender.

“Dantooine.” Bastila sighed. “It seems like a lifetime since I last set foot on her surface though in truth it has only been a few months. We should be safe here from Malak. For now at least.”

“Safe! You saw what his fleet did to Taris! There wasn’t a building over five meters tall when they finished! They turned the planet into one massive pile of rubble, and Dantooine, with no defense at all, will be safe?”

“Even the Sith would think twice about attacking Dantooine, Carth. There are many Jedi here, including several of the most powerful Jedi masters of the Order. There is great strength in this place.”

For some reason, the view of the planet was like a cooling shower to me. “Bastila is right that we need to stop somewhere. This feels, peaceful somehow.”

Carth snorted. Any amity he had felt for me had evaporated again.

“If nothing else we can resupply and recuperate here. The Academy is a place of mental and spiritual peace. Something we can all use after what we have been through.” Bastila pressed.

Carth shook his head, closing his eyes tightly. “Maybe you’re right. It isn’t easy to watch the annihilation of an entire population. Mission is still taking it pretty hard.”

“She will find a way to work through her grief.” Bastila replied tartly. “She is stronger than she appears. We just need to give her time.”

We called approach control, and were directed to a landing pad inside the Jedi Academy itself. I was astonished how mundane the evolution was. A brisk young man on the ground had directed us, no fighters came to check us out, no guns I could see tracked us. It was like there wasn’t a war going on.

The Jedi Academy had been built by the standards of the planet, meaning it was burrowed into an existing hillside and set up within it. In this case the center had been hollowed out, and a glorious tree grew in the courtyard that had been created. The landing pad had also been dug out, the berm stabilized so that if something happened and the ship blew up, the energy would be directed mostly upwards. Other trees had been grown here, making it look as if we had landed in a small park.

Bastila had spent the descent in the communications room with the circuits locked so we couldn’t listen in. I didn’t care. The mission was over. I was ready for some R&R and then back to the front.

The ship settled down, and I could hear metal ticking as it cooled. Bastila came forward. “I must go and speak with the Jedi Council. I need their advice on... recent developments.” I could tell she wanted to look at me, but she stared at Carth. “After I have met with them, I will contact you. The local authorities have instructed that no one is to leave the ship until I return. However the quartermaster of the Republic supply center is awaiting you list of our needs.”

“Friendly place.” Carth snorted. He got on the com, and began listing what we needed. I went aft. Mission was sitting alone for once. I could hear noises from the engine room. Knowing the Wookiee, he was happily at work tuning the engines. He had been complaining about tuner flutter for the last day.

I walked over, got a cup of tea, and brought one to her. She stared at it, then up at me. “Sorry I’ve been out of it the last couple of days.” She stared at the cup. “I was just thinking about Taris. I can’t believe it’s gone!” She looked at me, begging for understanding. “I mean, I grew up there! I remember the old man who ran the sausage booth, the woman that sold clothes that were only ten years out of date. Now, it’s-it’s just gone!” The last was said as if she had seen someone disappear from a street, and never returned.

I motioned toward a chair, and she nodded. I sat, sipping my own tea. “I’m sorry, Mission. I don’t know what to say.”

She shrugged. “I don’t think there really is anything you can say. I just have to find some way to deal with it, I guess. It’ll take some time.”

I watched her, and she looked at me, and got defensive. “Look, it’s not like I’m saying I can’t go on or anything like that. It’s just, a shock, you know? I mean I’d heard horror stories about how evil the Sith are but the reality of it kind of slaps you in the face.

“But that’s why we need to stop Malak, right? The more time I spend dwelling on Taris, the closer it comes for someone else. If I can stop just one person from feeling what I am feeling, I’ll die happy. So stop worrying about me. I’ll be okay. And I don’t care what I have to do, if I can help bring down Malak, just let me know.”

I knew she wanted to end it there, but we hadn’t had time to really talk, and the girl made me feel better. Talking so blithely about death had bothered me. “We haven’t really talked before, Mission. Tell me about yourself.”

“Me?” She chuckled, and I smiled. She was healing after all. “You want to know about me? Nobody’s ever really been interested in me!” She seemed delighted.

“Carth talked to you-”

No. The geezer talked at me, not to me. Even when all I was to you was some kid, you talked to me. What do you want to know?”

“How did you and Zaalbar get together?”

“Big Z is my family, you know? My parents, well I think they’re dead. I haven’t seen them since I was really little. It was just me on my own until the day I saw Big Z in the Lowercity. I could tell right away he was in trouble.

“This was before the gang wars got out of hand but even then the Vulkars were slime. A few of them were hassling Big Z, trying to goad him into a fight. But he’s really a big teddy bear, he didn’t want to fight.”

“What kind of fool tries to provoke a Wookiee?”

“Hey, no one ever said the Vulkars were smart. But there were three of them. I think they might have figured they could take him if they had to. Anyway, I don’t like the Vulkars even on their best day. I’d sounded them out about joining the gang, this was before Brejik was in charge, you see, and they told me that when I filled out,” She motioned to her chest. “They’d think about it. That really ticked me off.

“When I saw them picking on this poor defenseless Wookiee, new and all alone on a strange planet, I just lost it! I screamed, ‘Hey! Leave him alone you core slimes!’ and charged them. One of them saw me coming, and he belted me one good. He hit me so hard I just about lost consciousness.”

“Striking a child?”

“Who you calling a child? I’m fourteen!”

I lifted my mug pretending to sip to hide my smile. This meant she had charged three adults when she was only eleven or so. She had courage at least.

“Those Vulkar didn’t scare me. They’re cowards, always have been. They see their own blood, and they run bleating home to mama. I was going to deal with them, but I never got the chance. I guess Big Z didn’t like seeing me smacked because he grabbed the guy who hit me, and held him a meter off the floor by the neck.”

What did the others do?”

“Like I said, cowards. They ran screaming. Can’t blame them, really. The first time you see an irate Wookiee up close, it makes an impression you don’t forget. I saw it and it isn’t a pretty sight. I’m just glad he wasn’t mad at me right then. I thought Zaalbar was going to rip that punk’s arms off, and beat him to death with the wet ends. The Vulkar was so scared he wet himself and fainted. Or maybe Big Z’s breath knocked him out.

“I keep telling him to brush those choppers of his, but do you think he listens? Just stand downwind when he talks, and you miss most of it.

“Anyway, I knew those Vulkars would gather up a really serious group to take him down, so I dragged him away.

“We’ve been together ever since. We’re one hell of a team. We look out for each other, You know?”

I pictured an eleven-year-old Twi-lek a little over a meter tall towing a two and a half meter Wookiee as if she were a tugboat. I nodded. “How did Zaalbar end up on Taris?”

“All he ever said was there was trouble on his home world of Kashyyyk, and he had to leave. If you haven’t noticed, he’s not a motor mouth. He’s the strong and silent type. Don't matter though. We don’t pay attention to the past, it detracts from the now.”

“How did you survive before you met Zaalbar?”

“What’s that supposed to mean? You think I’m the damsel in distress like a historical drama? I got street smarts, I learned to take care of myself. In fact more times than not it’s me getting him out of trouble. You know, Big Z is really gullible. If I wasn’t there, he’d have bought the Senate tower or something.”

I laughed. “Now he has a purpose, as do you. To beat this.”

“Yep. It’s like I used to tell my brother ‘fast talk and slick banter don’t get the job done’.”

“Brother?” I looked at her. Suddenly she was wishing she was the silent type. “Mission, you have a brother?”

“Hey! My brother is something I don’t talk about okay? He’s a touchy subject. If it’s all the same to you, let’s just leave him out of every thing we ever talk about!” She stood, taking the empty cup with her. A moment later she came back in, and slid it in the sanitizer. Then she walked back out.

machievelli
04-10-2006, 06:28 PM
I love it. almost 50 hits in 36 hours, and NO comments.

Sigh. Well you did read it so...

machievelli
04-10-2006, 06:42 PM
Jedi Council

Carth

We expected a couple of hours, but it wasn’t until noon the next day that Bastila finally signaled for us to let her back aboard.

“I have spoken briefly with the Council. Danika, they have requested an audience with you. We should go at once.”

“An audience, and not even a command performance? And making it for someone that isn’t even a Jedi? That’s pretty unusual for Jedi under even the best of circumstances.” I was gathering up my weapons. “Any idea what this is about Bastila?”

“I am sorry, Carth, but I can’t tell you, and you are not invited. I ask you to please just trust in the force and the Council.”

I glared at her, then threw the holstered weapons back down. “The same force and Jedi council that gave us Revan and Malak? What type of spice have you been sniffing?”

She looked at me until I looked away. “I don’t like being left out of the loop, but I’m not looking to get you in trouble with the council, Bastila. We’ll do things your way, this time.”

“Come, I will escort you to the council chamber.”

Danika shrugged helplessly. She had changed into some clothes we had brought aboard, but she still carried the Echani Brand and a holstered blaster. I watched them off the ship, then went to find something to beat on, or fix.

Danika

Stepping off onto the surface of Dantooine for the first time was like slipping into bed as a child. Everything felt comfortable and soft. I almost hugged myself. The docking area was cleared except for two Blba trees. These had been dethorned by the council, because the natural life cycle of the tree included the local carnivorous snails, and they were a pest in dwellings.

Bastila and I walked together, pacing in rhythm. The dreams about her had stopped, but I still felt uncomfortable. It was like someone had taken my life and turned it into an entertainment drama without my consent. She was more silent than usual. I wanted to ask her why, but I felt she would refuse to answer.

The entryway had a massive blast door and the hall beyond jogged sharply right then left at the other end. Simple safety precautions. If a ship exploded, it might blow the door to hell, but even if the door stood open as it did now the hall would act as a blast channel to slow it before it reached the living areas.

Everywhere there was a bustle of movement. Children streamed in laughing crowds from room to room, shepherded by older men and women in Jedi garb, the ubiquitous robes they always wore. I later discovered that while it looked crowded, it wasn’t. There were fifty of the order here, About fifteen Masters, the same number of young students, and the remainder were Padawans.

There was room for three times that number.

Padawan is an indistinct title. A trained Jedi, but one who wasn’t yet considered a master. Most of them were still in training, just learning the basics of their craft. I would only learn the nuances of the title much later.

We came into the courtyard, and the massive Blba tree there rose ten meters over our heads.

“You there, Padawan!” A sharp voice called. I looked to the speaker She was a woman younger than Bastila. She stormed over to me glaring. “Why are you not robed? Do you mock the honored traditions of our order?” Bastila shook her head wryly and walked on, leaving me to the girl.

“I don’t know what you mean.” I replied. “I am not a Padawan. I am a guest, Danika Wordweaver. I am here with Bastila.”

“Bastila! I have heard of her. They say she has already mastered the art of battle meditation. Remarkable in one so young. Though I have also heard that she has a foolish pride in that accomplishment.” Since she was about three years younger than Bastila, I took that more as envy than anything else.

“But as for you. You claim you are not a Jedi? I find this hard to believe. The Force is strong within you, I can feel its presence. If this is some kind of jest take heed! The masters will not allow the order to be ridiculed.”

“I didn’t even know what the word Padawan meant before I came here.” I replied. “I have no reason to jest with you, or lie to you.” I let a touch of irritation creep into my voice.

She sensed it, and regarded me with hooded eyes. “Please forgive the abruptness of my greeting.” I could tell from her tone that the apology was pro forma. “It was harsh and perhaps unfair. My master often warns me I must learn to control my emotions. I see I have much left to learn. I wish you a pleasant stay among us, Guest Danika. May the Force be with you.”

I nodded, and walked on. I wouldn’t let some child irritate me. Bastila rejoined me. “I could have used a little help there.”

“Why? You handled it well. And Belaya does need to learn to control her temper.”
“You know her?”

“Know of her. She just became a Padawan last year. They want to have her more seasoned before releasing her on the galaxy.”

“Maybe they should marinate her instead.” Bastila choked back a giggle. Suddenly in my mind the dreams came back in full force. What was happening?

There were four Masters awaiting us. Two were human, one Twi-lek, the last a race I had never seen before. He was short, not even a meter tall, green skinned, with wide mouth, expressive eyes, and ears that flicked about as he talked. Vandar Tokare’s race has been among the Republic for as long as the Jedi order has existed, but no one knows what their race is called, or where they are from. All of his answers were the same as every one of the race since they had joined us. He said they called themselves the people, which means exactly nothing. If you look up the root languages of the Republic, you will see ‘the people’ is what all of them call themselves, with minor variations. He said they came from the planet Dirt, which also means little. Every version of language and race throughout the Galaxy calls their home planet ‘the dirt from which we came’. But he spoke Basic, slightly changed by the way his mind worked, and never spoke his native tongue.

The Twi-lek motioned for us to join them. The council room was large enough to hold everyone of the order on Dantooine at present. They were standing, not seated as if in judgment. But somehow I knew they were judging me.

“Ah, so you are the one that rescued Bastila. It is appropriate that you are here for this discussion.” His voice was deep and mellifluous. His basic clean and precise. “After all, we had been discussing your rather... special case. I am Zhar Lestin of the Jedi Council. With me are Master Vrook Lamar, Master Vandar Tokare, and of course the chronicler of our Academy, Master Dorak. Padawan Bastila I am sure you already know.” I nodded to each in turn. Vandar watched me as if I was an amusing pet, but it didn’t bother me as much as you might think. Vrook glared at me as if I had come in half dressed. Dorak merely looked at me coolly. I later found that he had a perfect photographic memory, and would record exactly what happened afterward. They all stood there, as if waiting for me to speak.

“What does the Council wish of me?” I asked.

Zhar motioned to Bastila. “Bastila tells us you are strong in the Force. Under the present circumstances, we have been considering you for Jedi training.”

My mind reeled. “Strong in the Force?”

“Master Zhar speaks out of turn perhaps.” Master Vrook bit off. “We need indisputable proof of your strong affinity to the force before we would even consider you for training.” I looked to Vrook. If anything his animosity was growing. For a moment, I thought maybe he actually hated me but I set that thought aside. I had known drill instructors in boot camp that were the same, always angry, never satisfied. When everything went to hell, it was them you thanked because they were the ones that never allowed any slack.

“Proof!” Bastila was outraged. “Surely the entire Council can feel the strength of the Force in this woman! And I have already related the events that took place on Taris.”

Vrook shook his head. “Perhaps it was simple luck.”

Master Vandar looked up at the man. “Master Vrook, we both know that there is no luck. There is only the Force. We all feel the power that flows from this woman, even though it is wild and untamed. Now that this power has manifested itself, can we safely ignore it?”

Vrook was adamant. “The Jedi training is long and hard, even when working with the open mind of a child. Teaching a child is hard, how much harder will it be with an adult mind already set in its ways?”

“Masters, I consider this a great honor.” I said. They all looked at me as if they expected the next word to be ‘but’. “I do not know if I am ready for this, but if you believe I can learn, I will try my best.”

“There is no try. You do or do not.” Vandar piped.

“Master Vrook, traditionally the Jedi do not accept adults for training, this much is true.” Dorak interjected in his dry pedantic way. “There however have been exceptions in the history of our order. In each it has come down to one such as her.” He motioned toward me. “A special case.”

“I agree with master Dorak.” Vandar said. “The times are hard, and we must be ready to face that. Many of our own students across the galaxy have left to learn the ways of the Sith instead. The order needs numbers, and if the recruits must be older than is customary, we must consider the need. To stand against Malak we must have strength. Since Revan died-”

“Are you certain Revan is truly dead?” Vrook roared. He glared at Bastila, who looked away. “What if we were to undertake training this one, and the Dark Lord should return?”

Vandar looked up at the man calmly. “Such is not for the ears of anyone save the Council, Master Vrook. Bastila, take your companion back to the ship. Tomorrow morning we will speak with her again.”

Bastila bowed wordlessly. I echoed the bow and followed.

“I thought Revan was dead.”

She merely shook her head.


Acceptance

The room was stone, the separate blocks locked together in a manner that suggested not only cutting, but the Force as well somehow. Doors opened, and air screamed into it as the pressure equalized. Two figures entered, and I wafted toward them. One was huge, head shaved, and male. The other was smaller, slimmer, wrapped in a flowing robe, with a mask. I felt a chill. Revan! That meant the other, young, handsome, unblemished, was Malak.

“Can you feel it, Revan?” Malak raised his arms as if embracing the entire room. “I can feel the Dark side here, stronger than you have ever imagined!”

“We do not have time for this.” Revan replied. Her voice sounded familiar somehow. “If the text we read is correct, there is a key to the survival of the Republic in this place. That is why we are here.”

“Yes. Forgive me, my old friend.”

Revan waved forward. “Come. It is beyond that door.” I turned unbidden, and there was a door that looked like a solid block. “Yes, it is here.” She whispered. Her hands came down, and I felt the force run through them, slamming into the door. It began to open-

I snapped upright in my bed. I knew the room they had been on was just a few kilometers away from where I was. How I don’t know. They had sought something of great strength. To protect the Republic, Revan had said. But Malak had felt only the Dark side there. They had instead found something that had brought about the war we were fighting. Something so steeped in the darkness that no sane person would consider using it. But Revan had not cared.

I couldn’t get to sleep after that. When I finally arose, Bastila was already gone. Carth and Canderous were off getting the supplies we had requested, Mission and Zaalbar were back in the engine with T3 kibitzing. I drank my morning tea, and tried to wake up. The meeting was- I looked at the chrono. Supposed to be in a few minutes.

I stepped out into the crisp morning air. A lifter had just landed, and droids were moving crates from it. Carth saw me, and shook his head. “This morning is getting stranger by the minute. The quartermaster didn’t even quibble about what we needed. That‘s a switch. Then Bastila left looking like she’d seen a ghost. She did say you should go to the Council chamber without her when you got up. I think it’s important.” He snorted. “So you shouldn’t keep them waiting.”

“Did she say anything else?”

“No she didn’t. She didn’t look well as I recall. For that matter, neither do you. Are you alright?”

“I had a rough night.” I told him. I walked away.

The Council was already there, as was Bastila. They stopped talking as I walked in, and Zhar motioned for me to join them.

Vandar looked up at me. “Bastila has told us of a most unusual development. She claims you and she shared a dream. A vision of Malak and Revan in one of the ancient ruins right here on Dantooine.” He tapped his cane on the ground for emphasis. I was stunned. I had thought I was alone in that dream!

Dorak coughed delicately. “These ruins have long been known. After all, the Academy has been here since Master Vodo-Siosk Baas established it a century ago. It has been believed all this time that they were merely ancient burial mounds. But it seems that they are more than that if Revan and Malak found something of such power there.”

“Yes.” Suddenly the dream returned in full force. “They were looking for something. Something they had read about in the ancient records here.”

“Bastila has described this shared dream to us in great detail. We feel that this is more than a mere dream. It is a vision. The Force is acting through you, and at the same time, is working through Bastila as well.” Vandar continued.

I looked at Bastila. She looked haggard. I must have looked as bad. “I see no answer than to trust in your wisdom, Master.”

“You and Bastila share a powerful connection to the Force. Through the Force, you also share a powerful connection to each other.” Zhar took up the narrative. “This is not unheard of. Connections such as this can form between master and apprentice. Between friends who learn together, between lovers even.” I blushed at that. I hadn’t told them about the earliest dreams. “But it is rare for them to form so quickly.”

“From what we see whatever dangers lie ahead, we can no longer ignore the destiny that brought you and Bastila, to us at this time together.” Vandar said softly. He looked up at Vrook who was ignoring him. That man’s eyes were locked on me.

“Then you are saying that we are joined together somehow. That a bond I do not understand has been formed.” I said, still reeling. Suddenly I heard the words again, but now it was Bastila’s voice. Bond with me.

“You and she are linked as is your fates by this bond as you call it. But this is something we can use. This link may be what is needed to defeat Malak and the Sith.” Vandar explained.

“But don’t let thoughts of power and glory fill your head.” Vrook snapped. “Such thoughts are sure paths to the Dark side. The way of the light is long and hard. It is like climbing a mountain. Sure you can stay at the bottom, but that is the Dark side in all its strength. Sure you can climb up a way, then give up, but that can lead to the Dark as well, for the Dark never gives up on dragging you down. Or you can fall as many have. To reach the light you must climb and never allow yourself to make a mistake that sends you crashing down again. Are you ready for such an undertaking?”

“I can only do my best not to fail.“ I looked at Master Vandar. After his first comment, I had found another way to say it.

He looked up at me with a twinkle in his eye. “You must understand that there is little choice in this decision. For you, or for us. Across the Galaxy our numbers dwindle at an alarming rate. We have had to send many Jedi on quests to find that which we can use to stop Malak and the Sith. Most have not returned.

“The Sith as well know what we must do. They hunt our brothers like animals, striking from ambush, or by assassination wherever they are found. We feel that it is only a matter of time until they discover this hidden refuge, and destroy it as well.” I suddenly pictured the hell rain I had witnessed, seeing the Academy falling in ruins, the Jedi in windrows, unable to strike back from the ground. I was terrified by it.

“Others of our order have fallen from the light, or turned from it willingly.” Vrook’s face was a mask, and again I felt his hate directed at me. “They have given their allegiance to Malak and the Sith.”

“Jedi leave the order to join them?”

Vrook snorted. “Where do you think the Dark Jedi within their ranks come from? The lure of the dark side, of learning rapidly what we know must be taught more slowly calls to these weak ones. Malak’s power grows as more planets fall to his armies, make agreements to surrender, or swear themselves ally. And those of our order who cannot stand the chance of losing run to him instead of fighting.”

“Yes.” Zhar cast a warning glance at Vrook. “If Malak is not stopped, the Republic will fall. The Sith will never stop trying to hunt us down, for in all the Galaxy, only the light can confront the darkness. If the Jedi are no more, the Galaxy will fall into the dark times before the Republic existed again. A time of Darkness and tyranny that has not been seen for a thousand generations.”

They all looked thoughtful at that. Vandar broke the silence. “The Council has decreed that if you are willing to undertake it, you have a mission that can be handled only by you and Bastila. You must investigate the ruins you dreamt of once the Council deems you ready.”

“Yes.” Dorak said. “Perhaps you will find something there, some clue, that can explain how Revan and Malak were corrupted. Perhaps a way to stop Malak at last. As you go, I shall be going through the ancient archives of the order. You say they found the clues that led them there in our own records. If it is there, I shall find it!”

“I’m ready to go now.“ I considered what weapons I would need. Bastila could cover my back with her lightsaber and Force abilities. I was considering taking T3 with us when Vandar interrupted my thoughts. “Your bravery does you credit, but an untrained person in the force, entering such a place would be a danger we will not countenance. First you must be trained in the ways of the Jedi. You must learn to resist the darkness within you, which resides within all of us. Otherwise you are doomed to fail before you have even begun.”

I wanted to scream that there wasn’t time. That Malak would be knocking on the door with a 100-megawatt turbo laser before I learned enough to help! But part of me knew that like any weapon, I had to take this Force in me and learn to control it before I destroyed myself with it. “While I worry about how long this will take, I accept your judgment, Master Vandar.”

He looked at me with that knowing look. I knew that somehow he had been watching my mind wrestling with the two constraints of time and necessary training. He seemed pleased with my decision. He motioned toward Zhar.

“We must begin your training at once. You have a destiny that awaits you that we must prepare you to face. The fate of the entire galaxy may rest on your shoulders.”

“I just hope she is ready for it.” Vrook growled.


Leviathan

Admiral Karath approached Darth Malak. The dark lord merely watched the stars beyond the clearsteel screen.

“The Star Forge is running at 200% My lord. It has exceeded every expectation.”

“Except mine.“ Malak said. “Have we discovered how Bastila escaped Taris yet?”

“Carth Onasi and a Republic soldier we have not yet identified aided her. Onasi is a decorated war hero, and a legendary warrior. During the Mandalorian wars he was honored many times for his bravery.”

“Malak looked back at the Admiral. “From your words, I believe you know this man personally.”

“I do my lord. I was his mentor in many things. When I still served the Republic he was the command pilot of my ship.” He waved around him.

“Interesting. How were you able to gain this information?” He asked softly. Unsaid was the addition when my own sources could not.

“I have an eyewitness to their escape aboard. As you know, a dozen of the faster vessels were able to get away. One of those that did not was brought aboard. The pilot had a great deal to say about Bastila and her companions. He is Calo Nord, the bounty hunter. He was present when Bastila acquired the ship they escaped in.”

“Bring him to me.”

Nord looked as if he had not even been injured. He strode down the deck, and stood, arms crossed facing the Dark Lord. “Dark Lord Malak.”

“A Jedi and a war hero. It seems you’re lucky to be alive, Nord.”

“Nothing I couldn’t handle. I had more problems keeping your bombardment from killing me than they represented. But I‘m hard to kill.”

“Nord has offered to help us capture the young Jedi, for a heavy bounty of course.”

“But there is another reason.” Malak said.

“Yeah. Canderous Ordo betrayed me, and only missed killing me because of some debris that hid me when I was knocked out. I want some payback, and he’s probably still with them.”

“I will even pay you for this Mandalorian’s head, Nord. I want the Jedi alive if at all possible. Her companions mean nothing to me. Dispose of them.”

Karath held the datapad that had just been delivered. “My Lord Malak, Forgive me. There is something else. The tapes of the attack on our base were finally cleaned up, and there is something there I believe you will be interested in.”

“I trust you are not wasting my time, Admiral.”

Karath handed him a datapad, and Malak keyed it. There was no outward sign, but Karath could feel the temperature of the room drop as he did.

“Who knows of this?”

“Myself, My lord, you, Calo Nord, and Commander Beck of the scan department.”

Malak strode over to a com console. “I want visual communication with commander Beck.” He ordered. The screen lit with the face of a homely young man. “Scan department, Beck.”

Malak lifted his hand, and Beck clutched his head, moaning. He screamed, then his head exploded. Malak cut the communication channel, turning to face Calo Nord. “The orders are changed. You will capture Bastila if at all possible. Carth Onasi you can deal with as you choose, but this other one, this Danika Wordweaver, you will guarantee she dies. She must die.” He waved toward the now blank screen. “That is how I deal with incompetence. Fail me and die, Nord.”

“I’ve never failed before, Lord Malak.”

Char Ell
04-11-2006, 12:45 AM
As for the place you mentioned, congratulations! I didn't even notice that little error until you mentioned it. Have a Whatever prize. I have corrected it.Woo-hoo! :emodanc: That's twice now! Does this mean I can put another line in my sig?
Two-time winner of the local curmudgeon's (http://www.lucasforums.com/member.php?u=125916) highly coveted "Whatever" Prize

I like how you made use of the Ebon Hawk's forward firing laser cannon in the escape from Taris. I found it disappointing that the Ebon Hawk had blaster emplacements on port and starboard sides but you never get to use them in the game.
Bastila looked back at me. “Take the upper gun turret! Keep them off us until we can leap into hyper drive!” She spun as I ran aft. “Canderous! Take the lower turret!”More literary license here? If so I think it's highly logical as the game's portrayal of only one gun turret on the dorsal side of the Ebon Hawk seems poor to me. Why would a ship be designed such that it could only defend one side of the ship? Such a design would restrict defensive capability and make it more vulnerable in combat. I definitely give the :thumbsup: to this little embellishment.
We came into the courtyard, and the massive Blba tree there rose ten meters over our heads.

“You there, Padawan!” A sharp voice called. I looked to the speaker She was a woman younger than Bastila. She stormed over to me glaring. “Why are you not robed? Do you mock the honored traditions of our order?” Bastila shook her head wryly and walked on, leaving me to the girl.This passage doesn't seem right to me. To me it makes more sense to find a way to separate Bastila from Danika before they reach the courtyard. Why would Bastila simply shake her head and walk away from another Jedi who had erroneously concluded Danika was also a Jedi. I think if the encounter had happened like this Bastila would have set her straight about Danika's current Jedi status and advised the woman that she and Danika could not be deterred because they needed to meet with the Jedi Council. And then in the passage after that the woman talks like she doesn't know Bastila when Bastila had been standing right there moments before. I know you're following the general game dialogue in this but to me this situation only works if Bastila goes ahead of Danika or in some other way gets separated from Danika when Danika runs into Belaya for the first time.

I love it. almost 50 hits in 36 hours, and NO comments.I thought about replying before you had posted the Jedi Council chapter but I didn't want to monopolize the story's feedback. I thought it better to give others a chance to read and respond. Perhaps you should consider only posting one or two chapters a week. This would give people some time to read and digest. I've also thought that since your chapters are longer than normal some forum members might not be inclined to read so much material in one sitting. I know it took me about an hour and a half to read from the beginning again last Saturday. My thought is that perhaps not everyone is willing to invest that much time all at once.

Jae Onasi
04-11-2006, 01:09 AM
I suspect some of the lack of comments may also because they know you're the Critic, and perhaps feel like they don't have the credentials to critique your material or are even intimidated (when I was a teen (awhile ago....), I was very uncomfortable critiquing something by someone older than 20 ;) ). I just need more time to read through it more before making comments. :) I'm having too much fun reading your other one yet. :D

machievelli
04-11-2006, 12:04 PM
Woo-hoo! :emodanc: That's twice now! Does this mean I can put another line in my sig?
Two-time winner of the local curmudgeon's (http://www.lucasforums.com/member.php?u=125916) highly coveted "Whatever" Prize


This passage doesn't seem right to me. To me it makes more sense to find a way to separate Bastila from Danika before they reach the courtyard. Why would Bastila simply shake her head and walk away from another Jedi who had erroneously concluded Danika was also a Jedi. I think if the encounter had happened like this Bastila would have set her straight about Danika's current Jedi status and advised the woman that she and Danika could not be deterred because they needed to meet with the Jedi Council. And then in the passage after that the woman talks like she doesn't know Bastila when Bastila had been standing right there moments before. I know you're following the general game dialogue in this but to me this situation only works if Bastila goes ahead of Danika or in some other way gets separated from Danika when Danika runs into Belaya for the first time.

I thought about replying before you had posted the Jedi Council chapter but I didn't want to monopolize the story's feedback. I thought it better to give others a chance to read and respond. Perhaps you should consider only posting one or two chapters a week. This would give people some time to read and digest. I've also thought that since your chapters are longer than normal some forum members might not be inclined to read so much material in one sitting. I know it took me about an hour and a half to read from the beginning again last Saturday. My thought is that perhaps not everyone is willing to invest that much time all at once.

I understand that. That is why I looked at hits as well.
As for the scene with Belaya, I looked at it this way: First, Belaya is a sanctimonious twit. She's the type that would eventually go to the dark side because of her 'holier than thou' attitude. While she speaks as if she does not know Bastila, I assumed it was more of the 'she can do something I can't and it irks me'. The reason I had Bastila go on and let Danika handle it on her own was simple...

Do you think Danika actually needed any help to set her straight?

machievelli
04-11-2006, 12:14 PM
I suspect some of the lack of comments may also because they know you're the Critic, and perhaps feel like they don't have the credentials to critique your material or are even intimidated (when I was a teen (awhile ago....), I was very uncomfortable critiquing something by someone older than 20 ;) ). I just need more time to read through it more before making comments. :) I'm having too much fun reading your other one yet. :D


Jae, every writer I have studied or met is a lot like an actor. They thrive on their work, and feel better when they get the applause. At one point at theRenaissance Pleasure Faire, I worked as the Spanish Ambassador. Think of the Emperor from SW. My director, who was also Queen Elizabeth had a talk with me, because the Ambassador gets booed and vilified a lot. She reminded me that since I was the bad guy, I should consider the boos as if it were a standing ovation.

As for being the critic, I think anyone can come up with a valid comment about another's work. I constantly berate professional writers in my own head when their work doesn't come up to my standards. George Lucas drew mental flak from me because the medium he used required rapid action and transit. Something the writers who have published in his universe continue to this day. The idea that you can go from Coruscant to another planet in another system halfway across the galaxy in minutes is unrealistic. That is why there is a time lag and discussions on the ship in my work.
If you will notice, the amount of writers on this site has doubled since I began my column because they know someone will comment on their work.

So people, if you have a comment, good, bad or indifferent, send it on!

machievelli
04-11-2006, 12:22 PM
Dantooine:

Training

I can’t really explain the Force, or how the training allows you to tap into it to someone that doesn‘t have at least some ability. I have had so many roll their eyes at this, and while I have always tried to explain, most don’t want to hear anything that isn’t a how-to manual.

I found the easiest way to explain it, is like this;

Go out and look at a rainbow, or a sunrise or a sunset. Record every feeling. The wind on your face, the smell of flowers in the distance, the rustle of leaves, the aftertaste of a good brandy you had before you stepped outside.

Now, picture a baby that has so many birth defects that it will never see, smell, hear, taste or feel anything. It floats totally cut off from the outside world. Now assume for an instant that you and this baby share a telepathic bond, but it is only on the verbal level. You cannot thrust pictures into that mind.

Now explain everything your senses recorded when you were outside looking at that vision. You can, but most languages use words that link to the physical feelings you have. You can describe the sun as molten, but if they don’t understand what heat is, what good will the word do?

Within two weeks of beginning, I could hear the delicate scent of the flowers. I could smell the color purple. I could touch the rustling of the solar wind as it caressed Dantooine. I could see the taste of that brandy. I could taste the pulse in Bastila’s throat.

Not really of course. But there is honestly no other way to describe it if you can‘t touch the force itself.

Those of us that can use the Force have a tiny organism named Midi-chlorians to thank for it. Midi-chlorians are a benign viral symbiont, one that inhabits every creature in the galaxy but harms none of them. They live within us and are a focus for the Force. If you have the training you can feel them drawing it from around you, and you can in turn direct it.

I found that if I approached learning about the force as I had long ago with the blade, it became easier somehow. Try to do what Master Zhar or Master Vandar suggested. Try until I could do it. Then in my own time, try harder, move harder things, concentrate more deeply. Soon I could take a ball bearing in a bowl, and cause it to roll around the bowl until it flew over the lip into my hand. I started lifting small things, the same ball bearing, then a book, then a chair, finally as I floated with chairs rotating in a circle as I were the sun with it’s planets. I commented to Bastila one morning that I felt I could lift the Ebon Hawk, then hastened to tell her it was only a joke because of her disapproval.

I dived into the archives as if I were swimming in that knowledge, and felt it pour into my mind and settle there, causing thoughts I had never imagined to grow. It made me hunger for more. I read the treatises of Master Vodo-Siosk and every master that followed him.

I found that my companions had their own colors and perception of those colors about them. Canderous was a flaming red of suppressed violent emotions. Carth was a roil of anger and mistrust, with glimmers of humor and happiness. Except for the loss of her world, Mission was a furnace of repressed excitement, and Zaalbar balanced her with a patience at odds with his appearance.

Bastila worried me, because she had shoots of darkness I could almost touch. They linked as Belaya said to her quick temper and pride. I didn’t say anything because I felt that everyone here who was a Jedi would see them as well as I.

Master Vrook was always there in the background, watching my meditation, seeing me lifting objects, now some as heavy as a ton or more, standing and watching me read in the Archives. His aura was almost a blinding blue, but there were shoots of darkness there as well. They linked to anger and for some reason, regret.

After a few weeks, Master Zhar handed me over to Master Vandar. Vandar was the master of the lightsaber. He was working on what appeared to be such a device as I walked in. “Sit; I will be ready in a moment.” He said.

I watched him work. His tridactyl hand worked smoothly with the hilt, adjusting some mechanism within it, then he gave a chuff of satisfaction.

“We were concerned about teaching you the lightsaber, young apprentice.”

“I don’t understand, Master. I have used a sword before.”

“Yes you have, and that is why we are concerned. You know what a light saber is, yes?”

“It is a collimated beam of laser energy focused through a crystal that heightens the strength, and limits its focus.” I replied.

He snorted. “Read Master Koori’s treatise have you?” He asked.

I shrugged. About sixteen millennia earlier, crystals had been found that directed energy into a forced beam, but at the same time did not let it extend too far from that focus. No one knew why the crystals worked in such a manner, and those who worked in fields affected by this discovery were still arguing to this day.

Those first lightsabers had large batteries or were only good for half an hour or so before shutting down. A few centuries later they used belt-packs of chained batteries, then finally used the newest batteries which made them small enough to carry, but not as ruinous in power usage.

Master Koori’s book was the definitive work, and only 400 years old. Practically last month for the Jedi.

“The Jedi made the lightsaber because they needed a weapon of last resort.” Vandar said. I understood. As much as they tried to maintain the balance, working for peace, Jedi did gather enemies. Those that wished more than an agreement had given them, governments that felt their rights were more important, and of course the Sith. We could have walked around in four meter tall powered armor with all of the weapons it could bear, but it’s kind of hard to convince people you’re only there to help with all of that firepower on your back. But the Jedi had to be able to protect themselves. They had begun with the sword back when the Republic was formed, and when vibroblades were invented used them instead. Then the lightsaber was designed around these rare and valuable crystals.

“What does pure energy weigh?” Vandar asked.

“Nothing, Master.” I replied. The question made no sense.

“Exactly. But a true blade, even a vibroblade with just that strip of metal in the center does. That is one reason why a child is easiest to teach. You can hand a child a lightsaber, and he has nothing to compare it to. You however are used to that weight, to having to resist swinging too hard, or too lightly. To stopping the blade in an instant because your muscles are used to it. If I handed you a lightsaber, you would hurt yourself long before you dealt with an enemy.” He flicked a switch, and a lightsaber blade shot out.

“This is the best I could do on short notice, young one. More powerful than the training sabers we give the children, yet not much more dangerous. The ‘blade’ is made by a crystal with a low powered power cell. Enough to form the blade and little else. It can singe flesh, but will not cut it. I have designed it with only this setting to protect you. Catch.” He flicked it off, then tossed it in my direction. Using the Force I caught it, and brought it into my open hand. He picked up a solid mask of metal, and tossed it to me and I caught it bringing it to my other hand.

“As an adult you will understand that pain is a great teacher. That is why you are not merely using a training lightsaber. Stand there in the engarde position. Put on the helmet and await further instruction.” I did as I was told. The instant the helmet was on, I could see nothing. Pads covered my eyes so that I could not even try to squint around them. But I could hear, and still feel the Force. There was the greenish white of Master Vandar before me. He stood with both hands on his cane. “Switch on your weapon.” The blade surprised me, I didn’t know until then that energy itself was something the Force could sense. Then I chided myself. I had seen students here walk through a hall with blaster turrets blazing, deflecting the bolts with the very weapons they carried. Of course you could feel energy!

“Now you know from your past how to use a sword. Use this as one.” I slowly began the first Kata I had learned so many years ago from Kalendra. The blade felt odd, and I couldn't explain why.

“There are more complex forms. Use them.”

I began into the saber dance, as a single bladed version among the Echani is called. Part of that requires you to shift your grip, holding the pommel as if it were a knife with the blade down along your arm instead of being thrust forward. Then you would progress into what is called the wheel, a defensive spiral of the blade spinning before you to block any attack. Your wrist holds the blade firm.

At least in theory. I started to shift my grip and go into the wheel, when I felt a sharp burning sensation in my forearm, then in my knee. I lost control of the weapon, and felt it also score across my chest. I dropped it, gasping.

For a long moment, there was silence. “I had hoped from what you did at the start that it would all flow so simply. I am sorry for that. But now you see why we worried. You must practice this every chance you get. Alone, with others watching to tell you how you have done, with that blade only. Do not go back to your other weapons, in this they will only hurt your progress You must do it with your eyes closed, and if you cannot keep them closed, with the helmet you now wear. Until you have learned this, there can be no going forward.”

“But Malak-”

“As needy as we are, Malak must wait on this.” He replied. “Go back to your ship.”

As much as they bothered me when I had learned the Force, I found that being around the crew of my ship was more restful than not. I wanted to read but I was worried that I could not handle a simple single blade. What good would I be if I could not bear the weapon of my order?

I went to the Port cargo hold. Canderous had taken over the other, incessantly tinkering with the swoop bike he had somehow gotten aboard. Most everyone else stayed away from him. I looked around the area, and judged I had enough room to dance if the sword would let me.

I burned myself almost every minute that first day. I used up all of the burn salve we had aboard, and Carth ordered more, which was delivered as everything else we had ordered, without complaint. I went to bed hurt angry and frustrated rather than continue because I knew that while those emotions might speed my actions, they would also draw me away from the light. If I had to be mad to use the blade correctly, what good would I be?

After a while I was burning myself less. Then one day I was thinking about something I had read in the Archive. A book that had not been written on Dantooine, but on Korriban, captured during the Sith war of so long ago. It was a copy of an even older book according to the forward, a book almost as ancient as the Republic itself, which had also been a mere copy of one even older. The wording had been archaic, and hard to read, but something about the wording of the most recent translation only a century old made a deep impression.

Then they came, the invaders, ripping out places of worship on Dantooine among others, placing within them great symbols of their power. Long was the tyranny as they used the Force and matter as one to strike terror into the hearts of all that faced them

I walked into the cargo bay, and ran over what the words had said translated from so long ago. I picked up that damn sword, and began to move in the first Kata.

The seat of their power was the Star Forge, an engine of great might and darkness. That gave them their every want and need, and protected them from attack. Strong were they in the Force but then they met an enemy who was as great. Planets were devastated, and billions were fed into those flames. Then it was that a great plague struck them, many died, and others lived yet found they could no longer touch the Force. The Star Forge fell silent, for without the Force, a being could not make the controls work, for the Force imbued the very walls. And without it all was solid immovable matter.

“Then did the oppressed come, taking the ships that their masters could no longer work, raining fire on them wherever they dwelt, even to the foot of the Star Forge itself, for the weapons that could turn a planet to dust were silent, they would not obey the pleas of those they had once protected.

Yet one who still used the Force threw up a wall of such power that no weapon could penetrate it. The ships that had come fell into the star or crashed on the planet and those far enough away fled-

“Danika.”

“Hm?” I opened my eyes, looking at Bastila. As I did, I saw a flash of light pass less than three centimeters from my face. I did not stop, but instead looked forward. The blade was moving, and I was dancing with it as I had learned. But this blade was that weakened lightsaber beam. I watched my hands going through the intricate movements, and could see I was into Kata 11, about half way through the twenty Kata set used for practice. I stopped. “How did I do that?”

“How did you do it without a qualm, without a cut for almost an hour?” Bastila asked.

“I don’t know. I had read something that I think might be the clue to what Revan was looking for, and was concentrating on what the words might mean when I started.”

“Think of something else.” She commanded. “Start again.”

I did as she had bid, my eyes firmly closed. I started to run through our equipment inventory. Surprisingly large for a ship of our mass. After two hours without a burn she stopped me again. She held her lightsaber. “Try this, but be careful.”

I took it, and the twin blades sprang from it. Again I closed my eyes. This was easier. I had been training with twin blades since I was a young woman, and I knew the nuances of them as well as I knew anything in my life. I began to dance in earnest; the slow glide forward, the mincing side-step that forces the enemy to move. The whip of the blades past my face as I went into the Water wheel, the variant of the wheel practiced with paired blades-

“Danika.”

-I suddenly knew I had done this before. Not with a paired blade such as this, but with a single blade, the joy of that impression leaped in my heart, and I began to whirl the weapon faster-

“Danika...”

-I had done this somewhere, perhaps in a past life some people speak of. I had been the best and even masters had watched in amazement as I had cut flies from the air, and strips of paper from a sheet held by a volunteer-

“Danika!” I stopped the blades beside my hip, one forward one back in the low guard position. I opened my eyes. There had been a metal crate before me, one of the empties we hadn’t returned to the quartermaster yet. I had cut it in half, not in one blow but in neat strips that lay on the deck, glowing from the heat of the weapon, starting with a wedge of metal, then progressively larger shapes. I stepped back from it, my thumb found the stud, and the blades fell silent and vanished. I handed it back to Bastila, and she looked at my handiwork.

“I think you are ready.”

Char Ell
04-12-2006, 11:54 AM
I started lifting small things, the same ball bearing, then a book, then a chair, finally as I floated with chairs rotating in a circle as I were the sun with it’s planets.I think this sentence needs to be reviewed for grammar. I like how you continue to incorporate actual game imagery into your story, e.g. the game cutscene for Revan's re-training as a Jedi.

I also like the fact that you took the time to address the differences between wielding a metal-bladed weapon and a lightsaber and Danika's painful process of learning how to fight with a lightsaber again.

Was this chapter posted previously? I know I've read it before and it must have been here because I haven't read any of your material posted elsewhere.

machievelli
04-12-2006, 01:37 PM
Yes, this was posted as the first of Dantooine Part one.

I have been constantly appalled by other writers who simply think a Jedi is going to snatch up any old sword and use it. There is a lot of training involved (Mainly time) and learning how to use say a rapier is different from a Roman Spatha. You have to get used to the weight, and as I commented, a lightsaber beam has no weight. That is why Bastila spent all that time merely defending herself on Taris in my book, because she's used to a lightsaber and suddenly she had a blade staff instead. It was also part of the reason I see for the Jedi to train children rather than adults.
Good spotting. No, you don't get a Whatever for it. As for grammar my checker passed it.

machievelli
04-12-2006, 01:50 PM
Tests:

Danika

I couldn’t wait. I went to Master Dorak, and showed him the book I had been reading. He pounced on it, and was lost in it before I could do more than explain what I had read. I left him happily engrossed in a time beyond that of the Republic. Both Master Vandar and Master Zhar were away, and I wanted to tell them both what had happened, but of course could not. I was walking back through the corridor when Master Vrook came around the corner. It wasn’t until then that I realized that except for watching me from a distance, he had not gotten close to me since the Council meeting of almost two months ago. In fact, while there were fifteen Masters present, only the Council members would even speak to me. I didn’t know why, but it was a fact I had to accept.

“How is your training going?” He growled.

“I believe I am ready to work with an actual lightsaber finally.” I admitted.

“Finally.” He motioned, and walked into the training room. He keyed a sensor, and a remote ball glided from its niche. “Helmet.” He snapped. I picked it up, and slid it on. “Saber.” He flipped the handle to me and I caught it without using the force. “Engarde.”

I flicked it on, and waited in middle guard position. The remote was invisible, only the humming of it’s anti-grav unit giving me an approximate position. I moved the blade, and felt a bolt deflect into the wall. Then another.

They became faster and faster, a rain that would hurt if one of them struck me. The sound of the unit became diffuse, and the rain fell harder and faster. I was untouched, but I didn’t know how long that would be true.

Then they came in a flurry, I could have sworn the remote was flying around me but I could no longer hear it.

“Enough!” Master Zhar shouted. The rain stopped. “Take off your helmet, Apprentice. “ I slid it off, and looked at the four remotes that still circled me. I looked to Master Vrook. He stood beside Zhar, glaring at me with such hate that I was stunned.

“Better than I had ever imagined.” Vrook said softly, then he handed the remote controller to Zhar and padded out. Zhar looked after him for a long moment, then back at me.

“Your final tests begin tomorrow. I would suggest you get a good night’s sleep.” Zhar sent the remotes back to their niches, and left. I looked at the lightsaber in my hand, then set it on the desk at the end of the room.

The next morning, I arose early. Bastila who had been working with me when I practiced my training was absent, and part of me missed her. She had become almost like my shadow for the last two months or so. I picked up a mug, accidentally dropped it, and caught it with the Force a few centimeters from the floor.

“Beats having to clean it up doesn’t it?” I looked at Mission where she stood. She had begun to smile again but it was a sad smile. The kind a child gets after they find that the monster they thought was under the bed was real, regardless of what their parents said.

“Yes it does. Tea?”

“Sure.” I handed her the filled mug, got another and poured mine. “So what is it like to use the force?”

“Like finding out you have only taken shallow breaths all your life.” I grinned. “Or finding out that boys are really attracted to those new growths that bothered you a year before.” She laughed out loud, once again the child without a care. I could see her growing up, having children being happy-

Her face contorted screaming. I could see her hands raised in supplication rather than defense. As if that would stop me. I blocked a blaster bolt and knew it was Carth, could hear him pleading with me to stop or he would kill me. Canderous would do nothing, I knew. He was mine, had been mine since the day he had joined us. Bastila would bend to my will, fall on her knees and proclaim me master. Malak would die, not quickly, but by cut after narrow cut as I sliced away every bit of the betrayer’s flesh. I could feel the blade slicing through Mission, watched her fall. Heard Zaalbar’s scream of rage and pain and betrayal. “Wait your turn.” I snarled, turning to face him. The bowcaster was up, but his heart warred with his oath and I reached out, feeling his skull collapse in my Force imbued hand-

-“Danika!” I started back, looking at the mug at my feet, shattered. I set down the pot, and sat, shivering with a cold that had nothing to do with temperature. She fussed about me, and I finally had to beg her to sit. “Please Mission, I’m all right.”

“Well you looked like someone had hit you with a stun baton.”

“It wasn’t a stun baton, it was the Force.” I replied. Feet ran up the gangway, and stopped at the passageway to the central room. Bastila came in, eyes wary. Her lightsaber was in her hand, and I knew she was ready to trigger it in an instant.

“Well at least I finally know you how to roust you out of bed in the morning.” I joked. It had been a running gag among us. Bastila was usually the last awake, and was not by any stretch a morning person. I was almost as bad, but at least they didn’t have to threaten me with ice water.

She calmed, but was not amused. Neither was I. “I felt-”

“I know. I saw a vision. A horrible vision.” I pointedly did not look at Mission. “I think I have to speak with Master Vandar and Master Zhar right now.”

“They are expecting you.” Bastila hung her lightsaber from her belt.

We walked to the Council room in silence. I was still horrified by what the vision had shown me. Mission dying not by chance but by my hand just a few weeks away. How I knew the timing of that event was unimportant. Mission had become like a younger sister to me. I wanted to hold her in my arms wipe her tears away. If I could I would have gone to the wreckage of Taris, and put it back like it had been even if it took several lifetimes. If I had to use my bare hands and blood as mortar I would have done it gladly. Zaalbar was sworn to me, and my oath to him would have been doubly violated if that occurred.

I didn’t want the Force if I would have to do something like that with it!

Master Vrook was not there, which made me happy in a vague way. I came up to the other masters, and instead of standing, I fell to my knees and told them everything I had seen during that horrible vision. I told them in a leaden voice, and found myself crying as I did. Part of me would be ripped away in an instant if they judged it necessary. I would go on living, but never feeling the force ever again, never knowing what I might have been, or done with it. Like having eyes, but knowing that you were to be blinded.

I didn’t care.

I finally ran down. Kneeling in silence. “I can’t go on with this if that will happen.” I whispered, “I can’t put their lives in danger not from Malak but from me!” I looked up, barely seeing them through my tears. “Take this from me, I know you can. Make my mind a blank and fill it as you will. I don’t want-” I looked away. “-I don’t want to become that person.”

“What makes you think you will?” Asked a gentle voice. I looked back. Somewhere during the recital, Master Vrook had come in. His face was impassive, but in his eyes I could see pain. He walked over, kneeling beside me. “People go through their lives with choices all around them We who use the Force are most sorely tried because our choices can harm those we love more than ourselves. We always walk that knife blade. Vandar, Zhar,” He laughed softly, “Even I. Will you listen to me for once?”

“Always, Master.” He looked sad at that.

“The Force can give you visions of the future. But some are not true though they can be if we do not take care. They are the potential in all of us, the evil we could do if we do not restrain ourselves. I believe that is what you saw. There will be a time of great test for you before you confront Malak, a time when your entire existence and all of ours will rise or fall on what you do. You must be strong for all of us. For this Twi-lek girl, for the Wookiee, even for the Mercenary who you now have following you like a tame Kath hound. You will send them to hell, or save their lives with your actions.”

I nodded jerkily. Then I hugged him, burying my head against his chest as I cried. I felt his discomfort, and one of his hands patted me jerkily. “Now no more of this. Master Zhar awaits your final tests.”

I never felt less ready than that moment. I walked into the training room and fell to my knees again.

“Stand, Apprentice.” Zhar said softly. I stood, and he watched me for several moments before he spoke. “Do you honestly feel so lacking in worth?”

“I must, Master. I had a vision of killing a girl I love as a sister, a Wookiee that has sworn a life debt to me, damning me twice over. Not only seeing them killed but being the instrument on their deaths! What manner of animal am I?” I looked at him.

“Apprentice, do you deny what Master Vrook has said to you?” He asked.

“No Master. But what he said suggests that I have the potential to be that monster.”

“As do we all, girl.” Zhar replied. “Do you think we who are Masters merely have found a way to immediately decide what is right or wrong and miraculously follow it?” He shook his head with a sad smile. “Exar Kun was close to being a master, but he struck down Master Vodo-Siosk Baas on the very floor of the Republic Senate to show his disdain. Ajunta Poll had been a master when he led the exiles and created what are now the Sith two millennia ago. A Master has even more to fear than a mere Apprentice, child. We have greater powers, and our fall is farther. Do you believe that you cannot stand against this darkness within yourself?”

“Master, is it not written ‘The darkness within ourselves is always the true enemy’?”

“Yes. Now, do you believe that?”

“Yes Master.” I closed my eyes, then opened them. “In war, fighting the enemy, I considered what I did and might do. All my life when I saw the strong use their strength to bully others, when I discovered that all the Wookiee I had seen before Zaalbar were slaves. To me owning another being, knowing that it despairs, and not caring, that is darkness beyond the fury that had risen in me at the thought. But when I killed the Gamorreans that had put a collar on Zaalbar, I had not felt anger, or hate. Or rage. What I felt was pity. They had made themselves less than sentient by their actions, and while I had to kill them, part of me wanted to put a collar on them for a week. Make them live like one of those they had so tormented, with no hope of rescue, then let them go so they would always remember what they had done.”

He looked at me. “You have done in the past weeks what some have failed to do in a decade, young Apprentice. Your potential is unlimited. We cannot even imagine what heights you will scale if you stay in the light.

“But we have no more time. We must begin your final tests. You may fail them. This does not mean you cannot go on within the order. But we must reconsider sending you upon this quest. While we have taken time, more than we wished, we have taken all we can. Are you ready?”

I straightened my shoulders. “If I must be ready, I will be ready.”

He nodded. “You have read the Jedi Code.”

Of course I had. It was five books with a total of almost 6,000 pages among them. I nodded.

“Most students never realize that the Code you have read can be expressed very simply. That is the first step to being a Padawan. Answer these correctly;

“There is no emotion.”

I paused. Unbidden, words came to me. “There is peace.”

“There is no ignorance.”

“There is knowledge.”

“There is no passion.”

“There is serenity.”

“There is no chaos.”

“There is harmony.”

“There is no death.”

“There is the Force.” I felt a welling of emotion in me. Suddenly I saw all those petty rules I had read, all of those judgments by Masters long dust and the words were right somehow. I also knew that I could take the youngest apprentice and teach him these simple words, these simple answers, and it would mean nothing unless he felt them within himself. It isn’t the words that bind the Jedi to our cause; it is the ideals, and living our lives by them.

Zhar smiled. “Jedi have never been the Masters of the Republic, we are its guardians. We guide those we council toward the light not by force, but by example. How can you be an honest judge if you allow passion, emotion, chaos, and ignorance to stop you?

“How can we move among those who do not know the Force except as we do? One small fish in the vast school. Above all, we should have no pride in our robes, or unique weapon, or power. If we ever thought ourselves better than those were care for, we would be no better that the Sith.” He looked at me with relief in his eyes. “Well done. Go now to Master Dorak. Tell him I have sent you.”

I walked back through the complex. Dorak was busy in the library as always. “This might be the clue we sought!” He said, holding up the book I had found. “But how did Revan know to read it?”

I stood there a moment, then I walked to the stacks. Dorak watched me, following with a puzzled look on his face. I reached up, pulling down a slim book. I opened it, flipping through the pages with all the haste the ancient book could stand. Then I stopped. “ ‘It is believed on many worlds that the Force came to our Galaxy from outside, brought by a people steeped in the Dark side. From them, it is also believed, came the secret of the Hyper drive. Those and the many ruins mentioned on such planets as Dantooine and Korriban by Webelori’s translation of the ancient texts of Korriban are their doing’.” I handed it to him. He took it, and looked at the spine. “ ‘Before the Republic Stood: What is known of the Galaxy’. By Ajunta Poll.” He read.

I stared at the book. I had never been in this library before we came to Dantooine, never seen that book. But I had known it was here, and found it.

“Well done, Apprentice. What may I do for you?”

“Master Zhar sent me.”

“Ah yes, the crystal.” He led me to his desk, opening a case. “We have several of each color. You do know about the crystals.”

“Yes.” The crystals were called Adegan or Ilum crystals. First discovered in the Adega system. They were formed by the Force itself it was believed, made as other crystals have been formed through centuries of pressure and heat within planets. Yet these were unique. First, they are colored, each it’s own unique color of the spectrum. The Red crystals were the most common. The Dark Jedi used them because they were easy to obtain. Then there were the Blue, green and yellow which were also common, though rare in comparison to red. Then the unique colors, violet teal rose or amethyst.

“When you build your first lightsaber, you chose the color of the part of the order you feel you should represent. It is, in this instance, the choice you have made of your calling as a Jedi. The Guardian is blue so-”

“Wait.” I stopped him. “Please, there are others, yes?”

“Of course there are.” He fell into the pedantic mode he did so well.
“Blue is the Guardian. The warriors of the order. When people speak of us as the Jedi Knights, it is the Guardians they usually think of. When fight we must the Guardian is in the vanguard. Next of course are the Sentinels. They watch for the evil, and bring it to light. They search for evil, ferreting it out where ever it might be. Their color is yellow.

“The fewest of our order are the Consular. They are the negotiators, the judges of the order. When strife is to be averted, it is the Consular who is assigned. They must always remember that balance is the key to peace. When a Jedi chooses to be a Consul, she is given a green crystal.”

“I know I can be a Guardian, but I do not feel that it is my path, Master.” I apologized. “I have spent too much of my life dealing death and avoiding it. I feel that there is more to my life than that, and would chose another path.”

“Well, back when there were thousands of us, they had a test they administered. Will you accept my judgment in this?”

“In all things, Master.”

“Very well. “Two men are locked in what appears to be a death struggle. One is struck down, and begs for his life from the ground. What do you do?”

“Why are they fighting? Is the man on the ground innocent? Easier to confront them to find out why they are in such turmoil, then deal with the problem, whether it be them or whatever has put them in this position. If the man who is attacking is wrong, stop him. If the man on the ground the aggressor at least attempt to convince his attacker to show mercy. Beyond that I have no reason to intervene.”

“Ah.” He nodded. “You are in combat with a dark Jedi. He retreats for a moment. Maybe he is tired, maybe he feels that he is losing, maybe he has been injured. What do you do?”

“Master a Dark Jedi was once one of us. Something caused him to embrace the dark. I would try to find this out. No one is completely in the Dark or the Light. Perhaps my words can return him.”

“Yes. You must enter a fortress to gain information. Before you is the gate, and armed guards. What do you do?”

“Are the guards my enemy? Is it possible they can be swayed by reason? I would approach them, and ask admittance. If they refuse, then I can consider a more violent option.”

“I am beginning to see a pattern. You have been sent to assist the enclave in a disputed word. It is rumored that Dark Jedi and Sith have infiltrated, and are causing planet-wide unrest. What do you do first?”

“Are there really Dark Jedi?” I asked. “Is it perhaps discontent that has been there for a long time, or because of recent actions by the government? Dishonest governments have tried to use claims of evil machinations to sway the Jedi Council and Senate before. There would be records, and those would be my first goal. If there was no time of unrest before, if the government was been benign, or at least not tending to outright oppression, then I will agree that it might be agents of the enemy. At that time I would to see how they might have arrived, and what they plan.”

He looked at me for a long moment. Then he laid out a strip of black silk. A dozen green crystals lay upon it. “Chose what you would have Consular-Candidate.” There was one stone the green of Kalendra’s eyes, the green of the sea in a storm. I lifted it gently. “Very well. Go to Master Vandar.”

I walked back to the room where Master Vandar taught. There were ten children between five and eleven there. Heads covered by helmets playing a game of sorts. A remote floated in the center, and it fired a bolt of energy at one of the children. That child deflected it across the circle, where another child deflected it at an angle at another student who then deflected it at another.

“Continue.” Vandar turned to me. I held out my hand with the crystal, and he sighed. He brought me to a workbench. “Construct your lightsaber. Let me see it when you are done.” He turned back as another bolt entered the pattern.

I opened the drawers in order. Beam emitters, apertures, matrices, both slide and knob controls for adjusting length and intensity. Dial or color strip diagnostic readouts, Activation systems from simple studs to flat plates to switches. Then the delicate lattice works of the crystal focus. Last were power cells and casings to hold it all.

I chose a black handle 30 centimeters long. With the tools I began forming the workings of the weapon I would bear. The emitter was housed with four prongs to act as a hand guard, the aperture set in place. Then the emitter matrix was assembled, and installed. I chose slide controls, so I would not have to look when adjusting them, color strip readouts, with a simple activating stud.

I worked hardest on the lattice. There were three sockets, and I carefully set the green crystal I had been given in the center, using a loupe to assure that it was placed correctly. The facets had to align just so for the beam to impinge on it, and be focused into the emitter array. I felt that it was right, and delicately tightened the clamps. If they were too loose, the stone would move, ruining the focus at an inopportune moment. But if they were too tight, they would actually warp the surface of the crystal minutely. I set them where I felt they should be, then slid the assembly into the handle, mounting them in place. Finally I ran the power leads down to the power pack, and sealed the access plate.

A lightsaber is unique to the user in that no one ever gives instruction beyond the simplest terms on how to construct one. It is one of those devices that owes more to artistry and the force than to technology in its design. No two lightsabers are the same, even when made by the same person. There are entire cases of ancient deactivated lightsabers in the archives, and by choosing a Jedi’s name, you can track their lives by the changes they made in later weapons. The ’blade’ can be adjusted from half a meter in length to a meter and a half. Some can be tuned so lightly that they can burn the hair from a man’s hand without burning or cutting the flesh beneath it, or set so powerful that they will carve the armor of a vehicle like butter.

I paused, then lifted it. The weight wasn’t right, pulling to the pommel a little, and I reopened the case, adding an extension in the emitter matrix of a denser material. When I reassembled it, it felt right in my hand.

The students now had five bolts bouncing, and they were shrieking like any child at play would. Then together they arched all of the bolts toward me as if on command.

My hand came up, and the sea-foam green of my blade lanced out in a whirling circle. I directed the bolts to the sides away from them, into pads of ablative material that smoked as they struck. Vandar had spun as his students had done this, now looked disapproving at the world in general.

“Let me see your handiwork, apprentice.” I walked over, handing it to Master Vandar.

“I apologize, Master. I acted precipitously.”

He grunted. “Children will be children, even here. Whether they are eight or twenty-eight. I should have warned you.”

“What, and ruined their fun?”

He chuckled. “There is that.” He flicked the blade into life, running through all the adjustments as if he’d done it a thousand times. He had of course, but never with my saber specifically. “I have never seen a crystal set so smoothly by a novice.” He shut it off, and handed it back to me. “Take this to master Zhar.”

I bowed and walked out. One of the boys sent a bolt at my back as their game started again, and I bounced it back at him. He deflected it at the last second, the grin widening on his face before he turned back to his classmates.

Master Zhar had moved into the courtyard, meditating quietly. I approached, fell into a meditation seat, and floated in the air as I waited. A time passed, how much I do not know. If you have meditated, you understand what I mean. The Master opened his eyes, and wordlessly held out his hand. I set the lightsaber in his grip, and he looked the casing over with a narrow eye. He flicked the beam into existence, looking at me with an unreadable expression, then moved it smoothly through the Kata I had done before him.

“Well done.” He stood, and I joined him. “There is one final test, and it is one we face all our lives. This will be the first time for you, but I feel you are ready.” I nodded. “There is darkness in the galaxy, and it is our duty to face it. Such a darkness has overtaken a grove to the south and east of here, a darkness that grows with every minute. It infects the Kath hounds native to Dantooine, driving them into madness. They attack people with a savagery at odds with their nature. This must be dealt with. You must find the source of this evil.”

“What must I do when I find it?”

“That is your test, apprentice. The choice of how it will be handled is up to you. But remember this. No one that has gone into the dark if ever lost to us. It can be saved if you will put the effort in doing so. This takes time, but never is time so precious that you must ignore the option. You may take two of your companions, no more. Because this is your test, Bastila cannot be among them.” He handed the lightsaber back to me, and I put it on my belt.

Jae Onasi
04-12-2006, 02:04 PM
Jae, every writer I have studied or met is a lot like an actor. They thrive on their work, and feel better when they get the applause.

As for being the critic, I think anyone can come up with a valid comment about another's work.

So people, if you have a comment, good, bad or indifferent, send it on!

Oh, I didn't mean to imply that people _shouldn't_ comment on your (or anyone else's) work. I was merely offering a possible explanation of _why_ they're not commenting on your fic. It's certainly not the quality of the writing (which is good) that's keeping people from posting.

Char Ell
04-12-2006, 11:23 PM
I think Master Vandar fell out of his Yoda-speak in that chapter. ;)

Great attention to detail in Tests. An interesting choice to have Danika choose the path of a Consular. And she constructs a single-bladed lightsaber instead of a double-bladed one. Interesting. And I like how you portrayed the children playing four-square with blaster bolts. That was a nice addition to the story.

RE: this sentence
I started lifting small things, the same ball bearing, then a book, then a chair, finally as I floated with chairs rotating in a circle as I were the sun with it’s planets. Grammar was the wrong word to use. I still think this sentence is awkward and should be reworked. Maybe "...then finally as I floated with chairs rotating in a circle around me, like a system's planets orbiting their sun." Or something like that. Of course this is your call as the author and only my 2 cents. :D

machievelli
04-13-2006, 11:06 AM
you'll notice that Vandar doesn't 'yoda speak'.

machievelli
04-13-2006, 11:22 AM
Dantooine Quest:

Canderous

The heavy blaster rifle lay on the workbench as I worked with it. Patience is the first thing a young warrior learns, and I am by no means young. I am Canderous Ordo of clan Ordo. My deeds are enshrined in the halls of my people, and for forty of the Republic’s standard years I had fought across the Galactic Rim.

Since Mandalore Our Progenitor conquered a small flyspeck of a planet, we have been warriors, and our people breed them like others breed their farm animals. For my people it is the honor and glory of battle that draws us, shapes us, and defines us. For each of us it is through combat that we prove our worth gain renown earn our fortunes and determine who is worthy of passing on his genes to the next generation.

Not long after we left Taris, the woman that I now allied myself with had sat with me, and discussed what my people know and feel and believe. When I spoke to her of what I have just recorded she asked “Is that why the Mandalorians attacked us?”

I corrected her, which I have not bothered to do very often since the war’s end. “We call ourselves merely the Mando, as our leader has always been the Mandalore of Mandalore. Only those who have not spent the time to learn of us call us Mandalorian.

“No. Twenty years ago, we were approached by the Sith, still licking their wounds after the war of Exar Kun. They brought not trinkets and technologies, but an idea that struck our people. Why not prove ourselves in a war that would be recorded as long as the Galaxy existed? Fight an enemy that would set forever the name of the Mando in history. They wanted us to strike at the Republic.

“For my people it was a siren call of battle. The Republic was weakened by the war of Exar Kun. The Sith were worse off. To defeat the Sith would have been child’s play, but the Republic...”

“But you lost!”

“Win, lose, it doesn’t matter. As long as the fight is glorious and worthy of those that died. The honor for a losing battle is no less than that which leads to victory, only the one who lost is not there a lot of the time to garner it. His or her children are still there to see it and that renown is theirs as well through their blood. The glory of defeating your Republic, of facing impossible odds, and knowing that we can win, but will probably not, that is what drives us.”

“And what of those defeated?”

“You know gamblers. What do they lose? Money. Coins or jewels that were never going to remain theirs forever. We gamble only one way, and that is with our very lives. If there is nothing of true worth at stake, you possessions, your world, your life, battle is pointless. To fight a battle with no possessions to take, no worlds to conquer, no lives to end is waste.

“When we fight nothing is held back. Everything we are and have is thrown into it. It is the true test that defines your very life. The struggle against death and oblivion.”

“So your people seek death.”

I shook my head, smiling. It was almost as if she were one of the children in the training camps.

“Death is nature’s way. All things die in their time. A true warrior is the one that Death chases, pursues with single-minded intensity, yet fails to catch. Such has always been our way.”

I stopped speaking for a time. “But our people had begun to change in small ways that boded the end of our race. There was a generation of warriors who fought nowhere but in the training pits rising now to command. Leaders of Squads, Phalanxes, even armies that gave of their mouths to the glory of war, yet had never felt it’s kiss, had never given their heart or their blood to it. When the story circle was opened, all they could do was listen. The clans were being led by those that would not last an instant against those of my generation who had seen it, and if we had ever fought amongst ourselves would have fallen even though they outnumbered us in their thousands. The entire race was dying from the inside like a diseased tree, and the rot was spreading rapidly.

“The Mandalore of Mandalore was of my generation, his own son was one of this other kind. He feared for our entire race if his son did not learn the truth of our existence. He committed us to the course of fighting the Republic in hopes that the new war would blood those and bring them into the fold, as they should have been. We might fall, but it would be as we should, from battle, not from the weakness of our own people. He spent a dozen of your years attacking just the fringes, the unaligned worlds and polities. Then, finally, when he felt there was no more he could do to train them, we struck.

“But he failed. When the fire of battle touched us, it wasn’t the diseased tissue that burned, but the good. The weak stayed home, or found their niche in garrison troops and administration. What we would have left to serfs, they grasped and called important. Not all of course, for even a diseased tree will stand many seasons before its fall. But enough that when the war had ended, the dross was greater in weight than the precious metal we had squandered. The Clans were scattered over the rim on a few meager worlds.

“That may be the end of my people. Many still stalk about wearing our armor, speaking our language, defaming our heritage, whose only claim to it is their blood. One such was Bendak Starkiller back on Taris, who cannot even claim that blood.

“Even at the height of our power, the Clans were not a serious threat to any capable of standing against us. Those that fought us tried to use the weak among us as the reasons we fought. The greed the brutality the spite and the bloodlust. But they know that is a lie. The Mando are still the premier warriors of the Galaxy. They look at us and see that, and fear us still.

“We wanted the challenge of battle, as we always have. The honor and glory, win or lose. We lost.”

She sat there looking at me, and I knew that she felt pity for my people. A brave race brought low not by the war, but by our own society. “And how did Canderous Ordo of Clan Ordo end up on Taris?”

“Home is not what it was for us that really believed in our old ways. It was better to spread into the Galaxy, earn again our honors, and hope that some few would learn it at home again. Ships came from many peoples, and our warriors, and those who only claimed such left in their multitudes. I had finished a contract when I arrived on Taris. Not a lucrative one and truth be told little honor accrued from it. Davik needed men and spoke of great honor and glory, but what honor was there? Crushing the idiots that fought him, pitting a few months swagger against forty years of struggle was something a stripling could have beaten. Confronting the Swoop gangs had its moments, but even they were weak and would have been defeated in the end.

“When I look back upon my life. At the thousands who fell facing me. The deaths I have encompassed with my own hands, with the hands of those that followed me, I weep. Not for my past, for what has been written will never be undone. No, I weep for my people in the future.”

When we arrived at Dantooine, she had to spend time with the Jedi, and because of that, I was left pretty much to myself. The Wookiee spoke a language I had never learned, the Twi-lek girl looked at me as if I had three heads, and I was of no interest to Bastila.

This left only Carth, and when she was there, Danika to speak to.

Among my people there is a saying, “Society is only warfare on another plane‘. One evening, I opened battle on that level with Carth. The one thing I missed from home was the Warrior’s story circle. The telling and retelling of our deeds. It is not proper to merely speak of them unless asked, and it is good manners to let others go first. We had settled down to a meal. Danika was engrossed in a Holocron, those odd devices only the Jedi or others who can touch the force can use.

“Carth. You fought my people during the Mando wars, didn’t you?” He nodded. “We might have faced each other in combat. Tell me of the battles you fought, and whom you fought alongside.”

He shook his head. “I try not to think of the battles I have seen too much. The horrors of war are not something to relive over a meal. I save them for my nightmares.”

The comment bothered me. “Horrors? My people glory in the press of battle. We gain honor among our people by the retelling of our exploits. The young learn what it is to be a warrior. I am disappointed that you never learned that lesson.”

“Most of our peoples never learned to view war as yours did.” Danika commented softly.

“I am not a warrior.” Carth bit out. “I was a soldier. There is a difference. Warriors attack and conquer. They prey on those too weak to fight back. Soldiers defend and protect the innocent. Usually from warriors.”

“Nice speech. I bet you tell yourself that every night to stave off your nightmares. But my people have done what you are not. We accept what nature and chance has made us. I don’t have to justify what I have done in my life with pallid words. My victories in my record is all I need to show my worth.”

“Victories!” Carth almost spat. “And how do the defeats measure in this paean of martial glory? You lost. You not only lost. You lost to us!”

“Of course we did!” I looked at him surprised. “When the war began you outnumbered us five to one in ships, and ten to one in personnel. You had more supplies than you knew what to do with, which helped because we captured enough of them to keep our own troops going. You had the Jedi, the one thing we did not have, and yet you still almost lost to us before they joined the fight. It has been four years, and still the Republic trembles at the name Mando!”

“Nice speech. I bet you tell yourself that every night to cover the fact that you lost! How many millions died when your kind committed atrocities?”

“The ones that occurred, or the ones your government thought up?”

“How about Serafin 7? The murder of ten thousand miners when you invaded?”

“It is said among my people ‘to know honor, you must know what dishonor is’. Goortel led the fleet at Serafin . He was not a warrior; he was one of the weak ones that share my blood. He was dealt with afterward. The sentence for his infamy was Kashtrial. Death by his own hand. When he proved too weak to follow through as honor demanded, we dealt with him as we would with any of his ilk.” I glared at him. “We took care of those of our own that acted shamefully. That raped that pillaged that murdered instead of facing the dead in battle. Can you say the same? What of Admiral Quintain at Kostigan’s Drift? If I remember correctly he was made a lord of the Republic for his victory.” I added sarcastically.

“I was at Kostigan’s Drift.” He bit out. “Quintain faced a fleet defending a supply depot. He fought through them, and bombed the depot.”

“Yes. I was there as well. The ‘fleet’ he faced was fifteen corvettes and five frigates against ten cruisers and twenty frigates. They were not pushed aside, he slipped by them in the dark matter belt at the edge of the system. He could have fought them and crushed them but he didn’t have the guts to match weapons with them. When he was past them he bombed the entire continent where our depot was. Killing what, the fifty Mando that guarded it? And what of the million odd civilians that lived there? If we had done it every officer in the fleet would have been executed afterward. By us!”

“There was your damn jamming! He couldn’t target as precisely as we wished!”

“Jamming! The only ‘jamming’ you faced was the electromagnetic affects of the dark matter you had hidden in! Our fleet didn’t engage you then because they were waiting for our own instruments to clear! I know because I was on the bridge of one of them when the pursuit began!”

“I think that is quite enough discussion.” Bastila commented tartly.

As you can see, war without the bloodshed. But it was fun while it lasted.

I leaned back, examining what I had been doing. Danika had ordered the parts I needed to tweak the weapon to it’s maximum potential. I hoped that soon I would find something worthy of its thunder.

“Canderous.” I looked behind me. Danika stood there. Instead of the Echani armor she had worn, she wore a simple robe as the Jedi did. Part of me was saddened. She had looked like a war bride before, and that vision remained in my mind of her. Now she looked like all of the faceless Jedi I had fought in my time. “I would like you to accompany me.”

“Just say the word.”

She held up her hand. “Will bringing Carth be a burden?”

I shook my head. “A burden for Carth perhaps. But one day he will see his true self.”

I gathered my gear, putting on my armor, and followed her to the cockpit. Carth was doing as I had, assuring that his weapons, his controls were in perfect working order. He started to smile, but it was wiped away when I entered after her. “I would like you to accompany me, Carth.” She looked at me. “Us, I should have said.”

“Where?”

There is a final test I must endure to become a Jedi. I am supposed to have witnesses, and I chose you two because if there is anything out there that is a danger, I can think of no one better able to defend themselves.”

He looked at me, then stood, picking up his weapons belt. I had seen him back there tinkering with his weapons as well.

She led us through the Academy, past all of those people doing what only the Jedi knew.

“I will wait no longer!” A bluff man was forcing his way past a small woman, screaming. I would have simple cold cocked him, but the girl who was obviously a student, didn’t have the training. “I have waited and waited and you Jedi have done nothing! I demand justice! The Sanderal are a blight on this planet and must be expunged!”

Danika moved to intercept him, and he slowed. “Get out of my way, woman!”

“Sir pushing around students does not make your cause more just.” She said coldly. “And shouting does not mean you are more quickly heard, only more loudly.”

“I do not need your platitudes!” He started to reach out. I couldn’t see her face from where I was, but it stopped him cold.

“Loudly heard you have been.” Master Vandar walked out of the council room, followed by Master Vrook. They came to stand beside Danika. “Apprentice, this is our business.” Vandar said.

She bowed, stepping aside. “Yes master.” Vandar then turned to the angry man.

“Mr. Matale, the Council has promised already to investigate your son’s disappearance, but you must be patient. Your accusations have no proof and until we can finish our investigations, all you will do is incite further violence. If your claims are false, the hatred you spread will only linger.”

“False! My son is missing, and he was in the Sanderal estates when it happened! That much our own authorities have proven!”

“Authorities that work on your lands and answer to you alone. Others do not say as much.” Master Vrook said.

“My officers are the best trained on the planet and were instructed to look for clues, not make decisions regarding them.”

Vandar shook his head as if he knew where the argument was going. “Your anger with the Sanderal is well documented. As is theirs with you. If there is no evidence, you will follow that anger as a river runs downhill. In our deliberations we have discovered many possible reasons for Shen’s disappearance. We must continue our investigations, and you must learn patience.”

He spat. “You Jedi! Good for nothing but talk! I will wait here no longer! I will deal with this problem myself!” He turned and stormed away.

Vandar watched him, then turned to Danika. “As much effort as we must put into this war with the Sith and Malak, we Jedi cannot simply abandon our other duties, Apprentice. We have promised to look into this matter, and we are, but time is not on our side.

“Part of the problem is that Casus, son and heir of Nurik Sanderal has been missing for two weeks now. The Sanderal had accused the Matale, but again there was no proof. Shen’s disappearance has merely added fuel to the fire. If Shen Matale is dead, we must prove beyond a shadow of doubt when and how he died, and who is responsible. If the Sanderal are guilty, they must be punished. But the hatred between the two families started almost from their arrival on this planet over forty years ago. If the matter stays as it is, or we do not find the culprit, it will flash into a bloody feud that will not end as long as both families live. We must not allow that to happen.

“Study and training is necessary to perfect our art, of course. But the Jedi is not a cloistered order with no contact with the Galaxy. Our influence and our teachings must extend beyond these walls.”

“Yes.” Vrook said. “It is in the real world that we prove ourselves worthy of the title Jedi. You would do well to remember that, young apprentice.”

Danika bowed, and we went on. The door to the outside world was just another door; I could have blasted it with a single burst. Danika walked up to the protocol droid assigned to the entrance. “I am Danika Wordweaver.”

“My programming includes your appearance, Apprentice.” He said smoothly. “You are allowed full access to the facilities, and may leave them at your discretion.” The door opened. “May the Force be with you.”

We walked out onto a wide esplanade. Some people were there, talking in small groups, walking together. Ever present were other young Jedi, though these were all in their teens and mid twenties.

As we walked, I noticed a man standing near a bridge leading out into a wild expanse. He saw us, and I could feel the hate radiating off him at the sight of me. I’m used to that. Being Mando means others hate and fear you on sight.

As we reached him, he drew a knife, and screamed, charging at me. Carth drew, and I lowered my weapon to point at the man. But Danika’s lightsaber flicked into life, and she cut, the blade of the knife falling to the ground, leaving only the hilt.

“What means this?” She asked coldly. The lightsaber died.

“You Jedi! How long must we face attacks by night from his kind?” He jerked his head in my direction. “I come to ask for justice, and what do I see? A Jedi with a Mandalorian butcher in tow! You sit in your enclave and preach love and light while the rest of us suffer!”

“What are you talking about?”

“Those Mandalorian scum murdered my daughter!”

“Yet you stand here, alive.” I said. “What manner of father are you?”

“What was I supposed to do?” The man screamed at me. “A dozen Mandalorians and their Duros allies came to our land. Took what we had! When Ilse fought them their leader dragged her away. They used her, then brought her out naked and bloody, and shot her right in front of me!”

“What were their names.” I asked. My face must have been cold, but fires burned in me. How dare they defame our people!

“I only heard Sherruk. Their leader.” The man glared at me. “Why? Are you going to sing songs of their bravery?”

“I don’t know what the Jedi will do, man. But I, Canderous of Clan Ordo will rip out his heart and bring it back to you.”

“Find them, kill them!” The man started to shout again, then suddenly collapsed, crying. Danika knelt beside him, her hand on his shoulder.

“We will find them.” She promised.

We walked out into the plains in silence. “Why, Canderous?” She asked after a time. “Why did you make such an oath?”

“To kill someone who cannot fight back is bad enough. How much honor does a warrior win by killing the defenseless? But to dishonor her then kill her, that is worse.”

“Why? Seems the Mandalorians did a lot of that during the war.” Carth said.

I spun. “If you do not know what you are speaking about, you should be silent! Yes there were those that did such things. We considered them as worse than you ever would. More of those that killed the innocent died by our hands then ever stood in one of your Republic courts!”

“What about war brides then? What is that beyond giving a woman into slavery and rape?”

“Again your words issue from an empty head! When we fought an enemy, our helmets record all that was seen. If a woman fought us, we judged her from that record, and tried always to take her alive.

“Do you think our women are nothing but brood mares? They stand with us in battle, protect our backs, bear our children, and no on who has met one in battle can say they are unable to fight. Those women who survived among the enemy we fought that were judged worthy we named warbrides and a bride price set. Then they were asked-asked if they would accept it. If she accepted marriage, that money went in trust to her and her children. If she refused that price was paid to the woman, and she was declared one of our own. She had her own household, her own lands, her own say in her life. Warriors would come and tell of their deeds hoping to woo her as a wife.

“If she refused the price or later refused to marry within three of your years, she was promised transportation to a neutral planet. Yet even then they were honored! If we fought the son of a warbride later, it was a great honor.

“But rape? How can a man trust any woman to guard his back that he has used so shamefully? How can he stand in the circle and boast of such an act? Yes our young have raped. We punish them as the children they are. But a Warrior trained and bred does not unless he has no use for living.”

The walk continued in silence.

Danika
We headed south through the Matale lands. There were Kath hounds, and where possible we avoided them. The smaller female predators stand half a meter at the shoulder. They are the hunters of the packs. The Males are called Horned Kath hounds because when they reach maturity, they grow two massive forward sweeping horns and grow to almost two meters at the shoulder. While they can be used as weapons, the horns are for the mating cycle. A male would attack and hope to drive away another male and capture his females. The unattached males wander alone, and are considered quite dangerous.

What disturbed me was not the Kath hounds but the men that streamed into the Matale lands. Most had the look of drifters, looking for work. But others were hard-eyed mercenaries. Some of them spoke of both Ahlan Matale and Rurik Sanderal putting out the call for soldiers to fight. The open fighting that the Council foresaw was only days away.

We came over a small rise, and I stopped. A small group stood down there, surrounding a farmer. I could see that three were Duros, and the last- The blue green armor of a Mandalore.

I started down the slope. As I approached, the Mando grabbed the farmer by his collar. “Not good enough! Are you trying to slip out of your taxes to us?”

“Please, that’s all I have! Take what you want, my wife, my children, but-”

The blaster in the Mando’s hand spoke, blasting a hole through him. “Wife and children. Now that’s a thought.”

“Go to the dishonored!” A roar in Mando‘a. was followed by a blast from the heavy blaster Canderous carried. The armor stopped the first bolt, but the second punched in, causing a flash explosion. Blood and organs spewed out, stunning the Duros. I was among them before they even reacted.

Carth shot one, I killed the other two. Canderous had walked the rest of the way down the hill, and stood over the Mando body. He knelt, ripping off the helmet. The man he looked down on was younger than I was. Canderous took a chain from the corpse’s neck, snapping it to pull it out. There was a small datapad attached to it. “Rander Tubliek of Clan Sokor.” He looked down, then spat in the still face. “Long will clan Sokor work to clean this stain.” He took the datapad, and put it in his pouch.

“What is that?” I asked.

“A Mando always carries his Soochir. His soul of battle.” He touched the pouch. “Every deed he does is recorded, and if he speaks of battle in the circle, he can prove his acts with it. Also, it is believed that when he dies, the Gods of war judge him by it. The gatekeeper reads his acts, and judges whether he deserves to even speak to the War Gods. If not he is cast off the bridge into the pit of souls, where he must fight his way back into life, and begin again. If he is passed by the gatekeeper, the War Gods also read it. If they are still considered pallid, and worthless, the spirit is thrown into the pit of souls, but nearer the top, where one day it can return to life and try again. If he was a good warrior, but not outstanding, he is thrust back into life at that time.

“If he is a great warrior, his spirit is sent to join one of the Gods’ war bands, there to prepare for the day the Universe ends. Every one of them will fight to keep the Universe alive, and every one that dies on that day is another second the universe will exist.” He clenched his fist. “It is also said that if an enemy takes your Soochir and it does not reach your clan, the spirit will wander until that day, and beg their chances of the Gods to no avail. You are no longer Mando, you are dar’manda. No longer of our people. You have lost your identity and your soul. ” He looked at the body. “Wander until I decide to return this.”

I set the swoop bikes for auto travel, and their destination was originally the police station in the nearest settlement. I had looked at what the armament they carried, and instead set them to go to the enclave. We loaded the bodies onto the farm lifter, and set it to follow. Then we continued on. To the south was the Sanderal lands, and here as with the other land we had passed, we came upon groups that were bound this time for the Sanderal estate. We cut across the land, past the great house, and continued. In the farthest reaches of the Sanderal lands, I spied several young Kath hounds worrying a body. We chased the cubs away. He had been dead for more than two weeks, nothing remaining to identify the remains. Carth found a backpack, and he held out a datapad. It belonged to one Casus Sanderal. I downloaded the information on the datapad. “From what I heard, Casus disappeared, and Sanderal accused the Matale of his murder.”

“No chance of that.” Carth knelt. “A blaster bolt would have scarred the bones. So would a blade if not handled with an expert hand. Even after this time the marks would still be there. What does the datapad say?”

“He was exploring a ruin near here. Seems he was quite the amateur archeologist.” I slipped it into my pouch. “We must return to the Sanderal home. Nurik must be told.”

“Take it easy, Danika, Carth. But we’re being watched.” Canderous said. He tilted his head as if trying to crack his neck. “Five people coming this way. Two are Mando.”

I stayed kneeling, Carth beside me. Canderous moved around them, putting himself at the farthest from the approaching people. He needed the extra standoff distance for his massive weapon.

“Stand slowly, woman.” A voice called in a flat filtered tone. A Mando appeared out of a stealth field a few meters away from us. Another appeared to the left and behind him. Three Duros came over the crest, covering us with their hand weapons. I stood slowly as instructed, Carth moving to his feet and moving to the left to give me a clear field.

“Well she’s a pretty one, isn’t she Mart?” The first Mando asked. “Think Sherruk will leave any of her for us?”

“Not likely, Coord.” The other replied. “We’ll have to hope he gets tired of her eventually.”

“Is it not tradition that before battle a Mando must give his full name?” I asked.

“Battle!” Coord snorted. “As if three wastlings could be a battle for us! Woman you’re a piece of property now. Your men will die facing us one to one in a dueling circle, or if they are too cowardly, will wear a slave collar. It is said, ‘A herd beast is not a warrior, and not even a child gets honor from slaughtering it‘.”

“It is also said that ‘only a fool cooks a meal from something he has not caught’.” Canderous snorted.

“Who are you to quote the precepts of Mando to us?” Mart asked.

“I am Canderous Ordo of Clan Ordo, worm. I am your death.”

I moved, the lightsaber springing to life. Coord went down before me, and Mart was caught in the blast from Canderous’ rifle. Carth had drawn, and a burst of fire swept the Duros away. Canderous again gathered the datapads. I climbed the ridge to discover yet more swoop bikes. Again I set them for the Jedi enclave.

“Mart Coomar, of clan Troska.” Canderous said. “And Coord Lambec of Clan Kootir. More dishonored houses.” He spat. “These are the type you would call us all, Carth. I have shown you in words and actions how we deal with them.” Carth was silent.

machievelli
04-14-2006, 11:41 AM
I think Master Vandar fell out of his Yoda-speak in that chapter. ;)

Great attention to detail in Tests. An interesting choice to have Danika choose the path of a Consular. And she constructs a single-bladed lightsaber instead of a double-bladed one. Interesting. And I like how you portrayed the children playing four-square with blaster bolts. That was a nice addition to the story.

Quite honestly, I didn't even consider her building a double blade here. I was following the track of the game, and there she started with a single.

As for the kids...

If you will notice if you're reading The Beginning as well as this piece, I have my kids BE kids. Oh sure Jedi Training and Mando indoctrination are serious, but the kid that can't think of having fun with that would be very rare.

Which give me an idea to break Acceptance out of it's deadlock...

Char Ell
04-14-2006, 11:49 AM
you'll notice that Vandar doesn't 'yoda speak'.My bad. All the other fics I read depict characters from Yoda's race speaking like Yoda does. I forgot Vandar does not.
Some of them spoke of both Ahlan Matale and Rurik Sanderal putting out the call for soldiers to fight. The open fighting that the Council foresaw was only days away.Did you purposely change the game's name for the Nurik Sandral character on Dantooine to Rurik Sanderal?
I corrected her, which I have not bothered to do very often since the war’s end. “We call ourselves merely the Mando, as our leader has always been the Mandalore of Mandalore. Only those who have not spent the time to learn of us call us Mandalorian.I don't understand your decision to refer to Canderous and others of his kind as Mando instead of Mandalorians. I believe you posted elsewhere that there was some author who used the term Mando in her SW novel instead of Mandalorians and you were going with her terminology. I don't know what the SW time period the author's book was set in but if it's not in the same time period as KotOR or earlier then IMHO you should go with the term both KotOR games and the TSL Chronicles use.

I like how you have expanded on the Mandalorian history and culture, relating how the Mandalorians teach and gain honor from battle. It seems apparent to me you have taken quite a fancy to the Mandalorians based of this and your Star Wars: Beginnings story. And how the Mandalorians dealt with atrocities versus how the Republic did really made me step back and reconsider which side had more honor.

machievelli
04-14-2006, 12:04 PM
Did you purposely change the game's name for the Nurik Sandral character on Dantooine to Rurik Sanderal?[/QUOTE=cutmeister]

My bad. I mispelled his name and didn't correct it. This is why I want critical commentary!

[QUOTE=cutmeister]I don't understand your decision to refer to Canderous and others of his kind as Mando instead of Mandalorians. I believe you posted elsewhere that there was some author who used the term Mando in her SW novel instead of Mandalorians and you were going with her terminology. I don't know what the SW time period the author's book was set in but if it's not in the same time period as KotOR or earlier then IMHO you should go with the term both KotOR games and the TSL Chronicles use. [/QUOTE=cutmeister]

Kid, we are writing in a universe that is expanding as every writer adds their commentary by being published. The canon (The truth and nothing but according to the SW universe) is being added to even as we speak. When Ms Traviss' work was published, it officially became part of the canon. When they put out updates of the new essential chronology and the SW Universe, those will be added. Trust me on this.

Besides The Japanese don't call themselves Japs or Nips. They call themselves Nipponese.


[QUOTE=cutmeister]I like how you have expanded on the Mandalorian history and culture, relating how the Mandalorians teach and gain honor from battle. It seems apparent to me you have taken quite a fancy to the Mandalorians based of this and your Star Wars: Beginnings story. And how the Mandalorians dealt with atrocities versus how the Republic did really made me step back and reconsider which side had more honor.

I have taken a shine to them because there is so little written about them So far except for the books about the Republic Commandos (Who were trained by the Mando) and the fact that Fett is a Mando, there is little said about them.

As for atrocities, I have been working off and on for the last year and a half on a book of War Crimes (To explain to the average idjit what is and is not one) and one thing I discovered is that of the 'hundreds' of atrocities committed by the Germans during WWI, only 18 actually occurred. The disparity between the atrocities they had been accused of and what they actually committed is even worse during the 2nd world war. Over one thousand according to allied newspapers, yet discounting the Concentration camps, there were less than 15.

It is the difference between fact and propoganda.

My comment about the Republic Lord is carried through as well. Illegal orders were given in both wars by the First Lord of the Admiralty. In both cases, the same man. That man later became Prime Minister.

You might have heard of him. His name was Winston Churchill.

machievelli
04-14-2006, 12:23 PM
Sanderal

Danika

We returned to the Sanderal home. It was a large building with a landing pad on its flat roof. A freighter was parked there, and men were unloading supplies from it. A war droid patrolled before the door. I approached it, and it stopped, weapon training on me.

The droid hummed to itself. “Due to the ruling of 1100 hundred hours this morning, both the Sanderal and the Matale are banned from hiring human warriors. While your interest is appreciated, there is no further business to discuss.”

“I am Danika Wordweaver of the Jedi Enclave. I must speak with Nurik Sanderal.”

It buzzed. “Since the Jedi Council made that ruling, your presence is not welcome.”

“I have knowledge of Casus Sanderal he must hear.”

The droid stood silent. “Mr. Sanderal will see you in the entry hall. You are hereby warned that any attempt to pass farther into the house will be deemed an attack, and under Dantooine law, can be dealt with as such.”

The entry hall was cool, the hill that had once stood here alone formed the insulation for the walls. A young girl was there, and greeted us.
“I am Rahasia Sanderal. Casus is my brother. You have news-“

“Rahasia, leave us.“ Nurik Sanderal was a tall angry dark skinned man. He stopped a few meters from us, flanked by war droids. “Well? You claimed to have news of my son?”

I took the backpack that Carth had been carrying. I lifted out the datapad, and handed it to him. “Casus was coming back from the ruins in the east portion of your lands. He was attacked by Kath-hounds and killed.”

His eyes tightened, and he delicately took the datapad. He scanned the last entries, then snorted. “Records can be faked. Go back to your puppet masters and tell them that I know the Matale murdered my son. Once I have enough droids delivered I am going to remove that damnable family from this planet. Good day.”

“Sir-“

“Damn you woman, there is nothing left to discuss. This will be settled in blood. Good day.”

“Well that could have gone better.” Carth commented.

We turned to go, but a figure came from the shadows, Rahasia Sanderal. She looked at the war droid that still waited. “Nurik 4-11-7.” She ordered. “You will not record anything for the next ten minutes. You will delete the order that was given to you by me, and return to your station.” She looked at us. Then came forward, pressing a key into my hand. “You must save him. Hurry.”

“Shen Matale.” I said. She nodded.

“My father is a good man, but the anger he holds for the Matale, the death of my mother, Casus disappearing, all of it has driven him to the brink of madness. He has taken Shen and holds him in the back of the house. He is still undecided if he should kill Shen or sell him to slavers. That key will open the storage bayside door. Get him free before my father carries out his plan!” She hurried away.

“No good deed goes unpunished.” Canderous said. “We’re going to save this boy?”

I considered a life spent in hellish slavery because of grief. Shen being punished for something not his crime. “That, Canderous, was a foolish question.”

We left, and walked around the estate until we reached the storage bay. I opened the personnel door, and we entered. The setting sun lighted the interior halls, and we could see easily. I opened a door, and it led to a computer room. “Carth, you are better at this than I am.”

He came forward, and began slicing into the system. “All right. Shen is in this room. Down the hall, around the corner to the left. Second door.” He logged out, and we raced on.

The door had a mine before it, and Canderous immediately deactivated it. “A directional charge. If we had triggered it, the blast would have gutted that room.”

I opened it. Shen Matale was tall, thin, and in his late teens. He stood when we came in, ready for a confrontation but stopped, confused. “You don’t work for the Sanderals. Who are you?”

“I am Danika Wordweaver of the Jedi order. This is Canderous Ordo of clan Ordo, and Carth Onasi of the Republic navy. We have come to rescue you.”

“What about Rahasia?”

“What?”

“Mr. Sanderal is insane. If I escape, he will assume that Rahasia helped in my rescue, and his fury will vent on her. She might die. I cannot have that on my conscience. Get her out of here first or I will stay and die to protect her!”

I shook my head. “No good deed goes unpunished.” I repeated. “Where is Rahasia’s room?”

“I’m a prisoner, how would I know?” He asked sarcastically.

We had to run back to the first room. Carth again sliced into the computer. “You know if we were recording this, it would make a great situation comedy.” He said as he worked. “Brave rescuers now trying to rescue someone else because the one they came for forgot to pay for their meal or something.” I snorted with laughter. I could picture the show, and if I weren’t one of the actors, would have been laughing so hard my sides would hurt. “All right, got it. But there are war droids in the area. Wait a- Oh you’re just so smart aren’t you?” He flicked a few switches. “All right, the droids between us and there are down.”

He led us through the halls. The droids stood as if they were statues. We came to the door, and opened it. Rahasia looked up confused. “What are you doing here? Don’t tell me you got lost!”

“No.” I fought the laughter that threatened to bubble up. What next? A pet that had to be saved as well? “Shen won’t leave unless you leave too.”

She shook her head with a sad smile. “He would. Shen was always the kind that took in strays.” She stood, flinging clothes into a bag. “I will go out the front. Get him out of here.”

I nodded, and we went back to the cell. Shen agreed to leave, finally.

I thought for a moment that we had done it all for nothing. As we rounded the house, Shen and Rahasia were both busy making sure the other was all right and looking longingly into each other‘s eyes. A farm scow breasted the hill, and a dozen war droids poured out of it, followed by Ahlan Matale.

An alarm sounded, and an equal number of war droids poured out of the house behind us, followed by Nurik Sanderal.

“Shen!” Ahlan shouted.

“Father!”

“Mr. Matale!” Rahasia cried.

“Rahasia!” Nurik shouted.

“Father!”

“Mr. Sanderal!”

“Nurik!”

“Ahlan!”

“So, you did have my son!”

“After you murdered mine!”

“I think you should all calm down.” I said.

“Father-”

“Shut up!” Nurik shouted.

“It isn’t what you think-”

“Shut up!” Ahlan shouted.

“Everyone shut up!” I roared.

“Who do you think you are?” Ahlan growled.

“If I wanted your help, I would have done without!” Nurik said at almost the same time.

“Enough is enough father.” Rahasia said. “Nurik 4-11-7! You will go in the house, disarm, and start a diagnostic cycle! Until this is done you will accept no other orders!”

“Ahlan 17-41-32!” Shen shouted. “You will return to the vehicle, and stay there until you return to our home! Until this is done you will accept no other orders!”

The men stood and stared as the droids turned, and followed the orders. Both screamed counter orders but droids are not made to be self-aware. The commands had been given by authorized voices. And the orders explicit.

It hadn’t sunk to drama, it was still a farce.

“I am sick of this father!” Shen said. “Everything is the ‘evil Sanderal’ this and the ‘evil Sanderal’ that! What about living father? What about a life beyond this hatred?”

“I am happy my mother is dead, father!” Rahasia was crying. “Better that than she see what your hatred has done!”

“I knew you were sniffing around this Sanderal slut-”

“Don’t call my daughter a slut!”

“Yes, I agree. I love Rahasia and only your petty bickering has kept us apart.” Shen looked to Rahasia. “Come with me.”

“Yes. The Jedi will protect us!”

“You are going nowhere-”

“You will do nothing to stop them.” I snapped. “Can’t you see what is happening here?” I looked from one to the other. “You will lose your children to this, either by locking them up behind walls or they fly from you. Remember when your child was born? The feel of their breath on your neck, the smell of their flesh? The way they looked at you as if you were the center of their universe?” I waved at the youngsters. “Look at them now! Think of the children they will have that you will never see because they cannot visit one without inciting the other to fury.” I walked toward Ahlan. “How would it be Ahlan Matale, to know you have a grandchild, but know that your own petty idiocy will assure that you never see him?”

I rounded on Nurik. “Or you, Nurik Sanderal. To know your daughter will bear a daughter, but she will not give it her dead mother’s name because that will cause Ahlan to be angry?”

I threw my hands up. “Why don’t you both just kill each other? Give them a clean slate in their future lives, and at the same time give them the guilt of your deaths? I know that some peace will come of it.

“ But know this, Ahlan Matale, Nurik Sanderal. Their lives will be better if they walked away and never touched this land ever again. Hatred is a crop you both nurture and cherish because of something that happened before they were born. Until you are willing to see that, and begin to change, nothing else you do will be worth the effort. Enjoy your lands, your crops, and your herds. And know that all it cost was your children.”

I turned to the couple. “I will call a lifter for you both. As much as they like to inflict pain on themselves, you need not inflict it on yourselves by walking to the Enclave.”

Rahasia nodded. I called the Council, reported Shen as found and alive, and glared at both of the men until the lifter arrived.

“Rahasia-”

“The Jedi is half your age, but she is wiser than you are father. When both of you can ask us at the same time together, we can talk.”
“Shen-”

“Until you can love the woman who will be my wife, and at least talk civilly with her father, I am not your son.”

Both stood stricken as the lifter shot up and toward the North. I looked at them, and took some pity on them. “Children grow, and change. They have to make their own lives away from the parents. Some times it is clean and happy. Others it is pain on all sides. Talk to each other before you do anything you will regret. Not for me, but for them, and for you.” I looked at the vanishing lifter. “What child would be gladdened to know that they have grandparents, but can never see them?”

I walked away from them, two little men in pools of their own misery.

“That wasn’t really the Jedi way back there.” Carth said.

“What do you mean?”

“Telling them to shut up? Lecturing two of the richest men on the planet as if they were children arguing over a toy?”

“Every now and then, you find those that won’t listen to soft words and advice. People you have to slap so hard that they feel the blow a month later. This seemed like that kind of time.”

“Next time just save the time and trouble and slap them.” Canderous growled. “It’s more fun too.”

We headed east. The grove was at the bottom of the next pass, and we made good time. “Trouble.” Canderous said.

I looked up, off in the distance, swoop bike were circling us. I counted seven. “Mando?”

“Three Mando, one of them is in Red armor. The rest are Duros.” I nodded. Blue or blue green were simple troopers. A red suit was a command officer.

“There.” Canderous pointed at a bare hill to one side. “We have full 360-degree coverage, and they can’t approach unnoticed.”

“I don’t think they intend to sneak up on us, Canderous.”

We trudged up the hill, and waited. Sure enough, the swoop bikes dropped in a spiral, and landed so that we were surrounded. They dismounted, and climbed toward us, weapons at the ready.

Canderous stood, towering over us. He had set down the blaster cannon, and spread his arms wide like a cave bear. “I am Canderous Ordo, of Clan Ordo!” Canderous roared. “The dead in my wake number in the thousands, and my songs will be sung when your pallid clan is dust!” He bellowed a wordless battle cry full of anger and hunger. “What other clan has been so dishonored by your actions upon this world, insects? Clan Troska mourned their honor! Clan Sokor mourns their honor! Clan Kootir mourns their honor!” Canderous said. “Speak Cuy‘val dar!”

The leader had stopped when Canderous issued his challenge. “Clan Ordo has lost its honor as well. We of the new Mando make our own honor. I am Sherruk Zion of Clan Ordo!”

If anything, this infuriated Canderous even more. “Face me then Sherruk of no clan! Face me whelp!” He charged down the hill at them barehanded.

It was like two bull Bantha in a mating fight. Sherruk threw aside his weapon, and they met in a head on charge that would have thrown lesser men ten meters or more. They grappled, and Canderous looked like a maniac as he butted the smaller man off his feet. Sherruk rolled away, coming up then back in.

I looked at Carth. “At least this time I’m not the one charging in.” Then I drew my lightsaber.

The Mando to Sherruk’s left laughed. “Bring it on, woman!” I’ll add that toy to my collection!”

Carth’s blaster roared. The last Mando went over with his skull blown open. Then Carth spun, and began laying fire down on the Duros.

I engaged the unnamed Mando as he drew his sword. I felt the feedback from the lightsaber trying to cut Cortosis. I leaped backward, and blocked his swing. I saw an opening, and leaped coming down like an avenging hawk. He went down in a welter of blood. I looked to the top of the hill, where Carth stood just watching. I spun.

Canderous struck Sherruk so hard that his helmet flew to the side, shattered. Sherruk was in his thirties, a man with a feral look. He leaped in again and Canderous snatched him up, 250 kilos of man and armor held above his head as if it were a pillow. Then he slammed the man down so hard that he rebounded almost a meter. Sherruk screamed, clawing at his back. His legs didn’t move, and his arms were getting weaker.

“Sad is the clan today, little nephew.” Canderous said softly.

“Canderous, help, please...”

“As you gave help to Ilse, whom you raped then murdered before her father?” He asked gently. “As you helped those you enslaved? In your death will come redemption.” Canderous ripped the datapad from his neck. Then he dropped it, holding out his hand to me. I handed him my lightsaber, and he ignited it and lowered the blade to the Soochir.

Sherruk gasped, eyes wide with terror.

“For the clan, nephew.” He pushed down, and the metal and plastic melted into a puddle. “Go and maybe in the last day you will be worthy to return.” He shut off the lightsaber, set it down, then reached out, snapping Sherruk’s neck. He handed the weapon back to me, looking at Carth.

“His dishonor is now mine. I shall expiate it before I die. That is how we deal with his kind.”

The Mando I had killed indeed did have a collection of lightsabers. Five of them. I gathered them up, and put them in my pack. I set these bikes as well to return to the enclave. It was full dark, and while I wanted to continue, Canderous was in a deep depression. We lit a fire on the hill, and sat around it. Carth had found a couple of bottles of wine that he had held out, and he opened them. “Canderous, tell me of your battles.”

“Why?” The answer was softer than you might imagine from such a huge man. “So we can fight again?”

“No. Because I think the custom is that you must ask another before you can tell yours.” He held out the bottle. “ ‘And in circle they sat, and drank the wine they had taken from their enemies, and in their stories they drank not only to their own honored dead, but to those they had vanquished as well’. Is that the right quote?”

Canderous leaned up, taking the wine, and swallowed deeply before handing the bottle to me. “Sometimes the planets we faced had defenses. Our fleet was never strong enough to pulverize worlds as yours was, so we had to find other means. We were on the outer rim, and a planet named Kadir had a defense that would have shrugged off a regular assault, so a new weapon named the Basilisk war droid was to be tested.”

“Big thing? Eight meters wide, three meters thick, looked like a big disk with legs?” Carth asked.

“Yes, you have seen them. What you didn’t know though was the AIs of the first two production runs were stupid. They would not right themselves when entering atmosphere, and burned up. The engineers finally decided that we needed a man to get them from orbit to the ground, and I was one of the first to test them in combat. My Phalanx of 50 warriors were deployed at 100 kilometers above the planet, and rode our Basilisks down through the hellfire of the atmosphere burning the ablative armor from their stomachs. Picture being able to reach out and touch the fire of such an event! It was madness, but that didn’t stop three of my men from losing hands doing it.

“Well I dropped down right over a planetary defense grid...”


Grove

Danika

As the sun rose, we awoke, and continued our journey. The Grove was not that far ahead, and I felt the presence of the darkness that dwelt there. I had felt this before, but hadn’t known it was the Force. People call it acting on a hunch, or invisible eyes.

I saw the bodies first. Three or four Mandalorians had come here, and they lay torn to pieces by Kath hounds. But I could see the cuts of a lightsaber. They had died, but their killer had hacked and hacked at them until they were dismembered. I saw the standing stones, and a Cathar woman kneeling in meditation. I walked softly up to the edge of it, and stopped.

She looked up, madness and hatred in her eyes. She reached out with the force, and both Canderous and Carth were blasted off their feet by her anger. Then she leaped, lightsaber ignited, charging at me. I blocked, pushing her with the force so she landed ten meters from me. She bounced back to her feet, and charged again, screaming wordlessly.

I found myself desperately blocking her assault, unable to attack even if I had wanted to. She reached out, and I felt phantom fingers close on my throat. I shook them off, and pushed again, harder. She slammed into a stele, and I reached out, snatching the lightsaber from her hands into mine.

“Kill me!” She screamed. “You’re the strong one, the strong always kill the weak!”

I shook my head, the lightsabers dying in my hand. “I did not come to kill. I come to cleanse.”

“It’s the same thing!”

“Who are you?” I asked.

“I am Juhani, and this is the seat of my dark power. This is the place you have invaded.” She glared at me. “This is where I embraced the dark side, where I sought solace in my pain. It is mine, and I will not give it up!”

“You embraced the darkness. Why?”

“I was distraught over my home world, destroyed by Malak and his fleet. I was angry, and my master sought to teach me. I used that hate, that anger, I struck my master down. I killed Quarta!” She screamed again in pain. “When I did I knew I could never go back, they would never accept me. Now I revel in my dark power, enough to destroy any that faced me!” Her face fell, her voice softening almost to a whisper. “Or so I thought.”

“Power is never enough.”

“What do you want of me? Why can’t you leave me in my pain?” She wailed.

“What do I want? To talk with you, nothing more.”

“Talk! You have beaten me so easily. Yet all you want is talk? You a stranger and a human! All Cathar know that the weak exist only to feed the strong. So be strong! Kill me!”

“To be strong is to be gentle as well.” I said softly. “Like a father holds his children in the strength of his arms, yet does no harm. I hold no hatred for you, Juhani. Only peace.”

She shook her head. “Even in your naive attitude, you defeat my words. I sit here, thinking myself strong in the Force, but I am a cub bravely attacking her mother’s foot! But I have gone too far, I can never go back to what I had been.” She looked past me, watching Canderous and Carth struggling to their feet. “I thought my masters, the other apprentices were jealous. They held me back because I would outstrip them so easily otherwise. None of them could match me in full cry! Now I see that it was because I was never good enough. I would never be good enough.”

I touched her face. “The first step a child takes on the path to true knowledge is to admit that they don’t know everything. Throughout life those that remember that, and are still willing to admit that they still have ignorance are the ones that continue to grow. Denying that ignorance is the first step to death.”

She smiled sadly. “If only my ignorance had not been so costly. My master suffered and died from it.”

“Even death does not end the essence of the Jedi.” I replied. “Death will not hold either of us, sister. If your master has died, the Force will take her back as she takes even the smallest animal in its time.”

“If only she were alive still.” She mused. “There is so much I still have to say. So many faults I must confess. The masters will consider me a failure.”

“Why? Because you made a child’s mistake?

“How could they forgive something I cannot?”

“You struck in anger, you ran in fear, and now you let that hate fester within you as you reveled in your dark power. Can you not see that like an infection it must be lanced and cleansed?” I waved at the fields beyond. “You must return. You must show them that anger is like water in the bath, that has run from your body, and fallen to the ground. Once here, now gone and no more.”

“But will they accept me?”

“Show them that what you were, what you became, is no more. Show them your contrition, your willingness to learn from those mistakes.”

I felt it, a lightening of the Force about her. She considered my words. I held out my hand, and her lightsaber leaped to her hand. She flicked it on, scowling at the red color. “I must replace the crystal. Better yet,” She smashed it on the ground, the metal sheering. “I will start over with unblemished parts.” She looked at me, not with hate, or anger, but with wonder. “I will go. I will beg their mercy. I will stand in the light again.” She ran past me, and I watched her running with all her heart toward the enclave so far away.

Jae Onasi
04-14-2006, 12:23 PM
I'm cynical enough to say illegal orders are given by all sides in any war.

I think war crimes 'are in the eye of the beholder' to a certain degree. What's considered officially a war crime under law and what the average Joe citizen considers one can be quite different. Some of the things that are wrong aren't necessarily viewed officially as war crimes, but wrong is still wrong.
While both men were absolutely fascinating, I'll take Churchill over Hitler any day. I like living my life without worrying about the SS scrutinizing me for anything they can use against me in order to send me to a final solution.

machievelli
04-14-2006, 12:49 PM
I'm cynical enough to say illegal orders are given by all sides in any war.

I think war crimes 'are in the eye of the beholder' to a certain degree. What's considered officially a war crime under law and what the average Joe citizen considers one can be quite different. Some of the things that are wrong aren't necessarily viewed officially as war crimes, but wrong is still wrong.
While both men were absolutely fascinating, I'll take Churchill over Hitler any day. I like living my life without worrying about the SS scrutinizing me for anything they can use against me in order to send me to a final solution.


You pretty much have my vote on it as well. Atrocities were committed by both sides, but Most of the ones that did it for the Allies never got punished. In fact there was exactly one I know of for sure. The Commanding officer of USS Archerfish sank a hospital ship, even after being notified that it was in the area. He was removed from command.

Char Ell
04-14-2006, 11:53 PM
You have expanded on the story from the game quite a bit in these two chapters, Sanderal and Grove. I'm trying to get a feel for how you portray Canderous. Canderous' complete destruction of fellow clan member Sherruk Zion's soochir showed his complete devotion to the honor of his clan and the need to cleanse his clan from any taint, no matter the cost. I'm starting to see parallels between the Wookiee and the Mandalorians in some of this.

Juhani's return to the light was done so in a much more believable and realistic fashion than the game's version. A game understandably has its limitations with dialog and that is why a good writer can do so much more in a book than in a game. At least at the present time anyway.

BTW, I noticed you used the name Nurik instead of Rurik now but I see you still spell his last name as Sanderal instead of Sandral. If you want to match the game's spelling then go with the latter spelling. If not... :indif:

machievelli
04-15-2006, 02:03 AM
Return

Danika

Our return was uneventful. The Kath hounds still menaced, but those we spoke to said the attacks had dropped off sharply. We crossed the bridge, and Canderous pushed to the fore. The man that mourned Ilse saw us coming, and stopped, unsure what to do.

The huge Mandalore knelt, looking down. “I report that the Mando that dishonored your daughter are dead by my hand. However there is shame upon my clan thanks to their leader. He was of my clan, so my clan bears the dishonor.” He took off his own Soochir. “This is the honor of my life, the honor of my name. If you feel I deserve it, smash it destroy it or merely keep it from me. Until you return this to me, My clan and I have no honor in the eyes of our people.”

The settler took it, staring at the hulking form bent before him, then at me. “The Mando that have been raiding here are dead. Canderous Ordo of Clan Ordo fought well to kill them, to take the vengeance on Sherruk Zion of Clan Ordo with his own hands that you could not. Before he did, Canderous destroyed Sherruk’s Soochir, leaving him an empty voice among his people. Yet he feels he owes you and your daughter more.” I lit my lightsaber. “If you feel that he and all Mando bear this sin, set it down, and I will destroy it. He and his entire clan will become nothing to his people, as Sherruk now is. Just keeping it wounds his honor, but it is a wound he offers freely in recompense.”

The man stared at it, warring within his heart. Part of him wanted to smash that plastic and metal form, to deny even this man his honor. Then he sighed, tears running down his face. He held the chain, dangling the Soochir before Canderous. “Take it. My daughter will sleep well now.”

Silently, Canderous took the Soochir, slipped it back over his neck, and walked toward the Academy entrance.

We entered, and I saw Juhani standing in the courtyard beside Belaya. Belaya ran toward me, then stopped. “I must thank you for returning my friend, apprentice. She was lost to us, but has returned, thanks to you.”

I was nonplused. “I did what had to be done for her and myself. I am glad she walks in the light again and that I helped her.”

Juhani approached, hesitant. “I must give you my thanks, and beg your forgiveness. Thanks to your advice I am welcome here, but I caused you pain in the process.”

“No matter.” I said. “What have you heard of Quarta?”

“It was all for nothing. If I had stayed, if I had bothered to check her, I would have found that while sorely wounded, she still lived. As if a child in the force could hurt one such as her!

“That was supposed to be merely more training in the Force. The Cathar are hunters and killers by nature. We have pride in the skills we carry from our animal ancestors. Such skill however, along with pride could drive us into the Dark side if used as it can be. She wanted to show me how easily pride could lead to the dark side, and picked the wrong time to do it. But I ruined it all!”

“Her treatment of you was harsh, but you cannot fault the test, Juhani.”

“The ways of a master are strange to those that have not ascended that height. Looking back I can see the wisdom of her actions. Humility is something my people have trouble learning, and is never easy even with other calmer races. But I am a better Jedi for it. Now I know what I must be on guard from in my own soul.”

“Sensible.” Canderous commented. “The hard lessons can’t merely be handed to you as if they were instructions to a small child. As my people say, ‘Pain is the teacher, and reflex is the result’.”

“Your people speak wisely some times,.” Juhani agreed. But her voice was harsh. She turned back to me, ignoring Canderous. “After that fight Quarta decided that there was no more she could teach me. She knew I would need time alone to explore and master the turmoil in my spirit. Only then would I be willing to listen to a guide and return. You were my guide, and I thank you for it.

“Quarta went to another Academy, there is always work for a teacher such as her. With her help and yours, I have passed this test. The Council now decides what training I need to complete my studies before I can be declared Padawan and go on into service.”

“Some friends.” Carth snorted. “First the Jedi trick you into becoming the enemy, then they pit you against each other. Then, since you survived, they welcome you back. Can’t say I like how they run this training.”

I turned, and as I did, Canderous spoke. “Giving you a second chance when you have failed this badly is a sign of weakness. I find it hard to believe that the Jedi could face even a Republic threat, let alone people such as mine in battle.”

“Canderous, As you said, Your words issue from an empty head. We at our training are still children in the force. We need guidance until we understand how little we know. And as for you, Carth, from someone who trusts no one, I will take your comments as I do with your mistrust, because I must.” I turned my back on him. “Trust in the Force, Juhani.”

“And in those that help. Thank you.”

“The masters knew you would return, they asked me to inform you that they will see you in the morning.” Belaya reported.

“Then I am going to take a hot bath and go to bed.” I looked at the two men, smiling. “If you two would like to share more stories, let me know. It was an interesting evening.”

I was coming up the ramp when I was almost slammed off my feet by a guided missile named Mission. She clung to me, crying, and I wasn't sure what was wrong.

“I’m sorry, I was mad at you when you left, and I thought you’d die!” She wailed.

“I didn’t die, Mission. Don’t worry.”

“But you asked me about Griff and I was mean to you, and you didn’t talk to me for weeks and I wasn’t sure how to apologize, then you were gone, and no one would tell me where you went except into the outer lands, and-”

“Mission.” I hugged her. “If you don’t mind scrubbing my back, I will tell you what happened.”

After I had cleaned up, and gotten a bowl of food, Mission sat with me. “It’s just; I don’t like to talk about Griff that much. It’s embarrassing.”

“I understand, you don’t need to tell me anything.”

“No, I owe that to you for what you’ve done for me. Zaalbar is a great listener, but it took a long time to learn his language, and he’s more of the beat on a problem and it goes away type.

“I never knew my parents. They died when I was young. Griff always looked out for me. He was the one that brought me to Taris. I was only five then, and I remember the trip, if you want to call it that. We were stuffed in a packing crate in a star freighter’s cargo hold, with just enough food and water to make the trip. It wasn’t first class.”

I was aghast. “How could he treat a five-year-old like that?”

“I don’t know the whole story. He probably owed people money, or maybe there were arrest warrants out on him. He was pretty good at getting into computer systems, and when we had to run, he programmed us as cargo, and had us delivered. Once we got to Taris, he broke open the seals, and we headed into the Lowercity. That was the only way he could see to get us away from the problems, to smuggle us out I mean. I don’t want to make it sound like we were criminals or something, though maybe Griff was.

“Now you see why I don’t like to talk about it. Griff may have had his problems, but he was my brother, and took care of me.”

“He’s family. You have to stick by your family.”

“Right! I don’t know where I’d be if he hadn’t been there when I was a kid. But he didn’t change. He gambled, he drank, and he was always borrowing money for his latest get rich scheme. But he had a good heart. He taught me how to survive. He taught me how to slice a computer system, how to get into a locked building without the access codes, how to spot a quick mark for a shell game.”

I was surprised she hadn’t ended up in a penal colony. “Useful skills to have.”

“Yeah, Griff did right by me. I really miss him since he left. He promised he’d come back for me, and I’ve just been waiting for him to come and get me.”

I ran my finger around the rim of the mug, unsure where to go with this inquiry. “Why did he leave?”

“He fell in with a bad crowd, Exchange types, high rollers. It was all Lena’s fault. She batted those lashes of hers, rubbed her Lekku in just the right way-” She ran a hand down the tentacles on her head. “One look at her and off he went!”

“Who’s Lena?”

She clutched her mug. “I said I’d tell it all, and I will! She was a dancer at the cantina Griff hung out at.” I nodded. Twi-lek women dance in what is considered a seductive manner. Part of it is that to the women of their race dance is an expression of freedom, a religious experience, and a mating ritual all at the same time. Men of a number of races feel the attraction, and the Twi-lek women use that primal attraction when they are dancing for work.

“We had a good thing going. Sure Griff had run-ins with the law, but all you had to do on Taris was be born anything but human for that.

“Griff used to play Pazaak at the club. Then Lena came there to work. Griff liked her, and when he wanted to be he was a smooth talker. Pretty soon they were spending a lot of time together. But the crowd Lena hung out in was upper class. She would escort top rank Tarisian men when they came slumming, if you know what I mean. Exchange hard guys, rich men all of them. Griff could never have given her the lifestyle she enjoyed. “

“So you expected Lena to dump him.”

“Yeah. But she must have seen the potential of a big pay-off. Big enough to put up with him.”

“Maybe she really liked Griff. He does sound personable.”

“No way. I could tell exactly what she was. A busty, no-good credit-grubbing Cantina rat! She used Griff just like every man around her. After they had been together for a few months, Griff told me they were leaving Taris. He had a plan and they were going to make their fortune off world. But Lena didn’t want a kid interfering with what they had to do, so she told him to leave me there until afterward. But he promised to come back and get me. We’d live like Taris nobles with the best of everything!’ Her face fell. “That was two years ago. I haven’t heard anything, I don’t even know what planet he went to!”

“And you think this is Lena’s fault?”

“Of course it is! She stayed with him until they made that fortune, then she dumped him somewhere and ran off with it. I only hope I can catch her and find out what happened to Griff. I may never see him again, but I’m not going to stop trying.” She sat up straight. “That’s why I joined up with you, and wanted to go off world. I can’t start my search from a pit on Taris.”

“I’m glad you did.”

“I just wish there was something to do. The Jedi Academy is like major creepy, and I hear about Kath hounds and crazed Mandalorians, and I don’t even want to think about going into the outlands.”

“Well what can you do?”

“If a computer had legs, I could get it to sit up and beg.”

“Well we seem to have acquired a ship, and we’re not going anywhere too quickly as far as I know. How about working on an inventory for Carth? I hereby declare you to be the ship’s supercargo!”

“The what?”

“When you load a ship, everything has to be just right, the mass has to be balanced, you have to know where everything is, how much of it you have and when you need to buy more. The supercargo is the loadmaster and purser combined; the one that makes sure that is done, and makes sure it‘s paid for.”

“I’m on it!” I handed her a datapad, and she went to work on the inventory. I curled up in my bed, and went to sleep.

The next morning I poured my tea and joined Carth and Mission at the table. Mission was humming to herself, and seemed focused. Then she handed the pad to me. “How did I do?”

I looked at the pad. She had gone through the entire load-out of the ship, and had prepared a full inventory. There was a list of equipment we needed, and supplies such as food beyond combat rations and even additional spices and cooking gear.

“When did you have time to do this?”

“All night.” She said. “I figured the faster it was done the better.”

“Carth, what do you think?” I handed it to him. He looked at it, and the fork paused on the way to his mouth. “Better than any depot officer I ever saw. Pretty good, Danika.”

“I didn’t do it. Our supercargo did.”

“Who?” I pointed at Mission. “No way!”

“Carth, she needs something to do, and I like her style. If I have to, I’ll call for a vote, but I don’t think you really want to take it that far.”

“But she’ll be handling all of the money! What’s to stop her from walking with it?”

“Hey mister antique high and mighty jet-jockey, I got more money than you know what to do with!”

“Oh you do, and where did you get it?” He glared at her

She looked at me, her defiance vanishing. “Promise you won’t get mad?” I shrugged. “When we got here from Taris, I didn’t have anything to do, so I decided to check the local central computer records.”

“You sliced into a protected system?” He stared. “From my ship?”

“Your ship! Ha you wish! No, I used a terminal in the shop over there.” She waved toward the shops along the docking ring. “Just to check out the system, and used a few credits to buy access to the main data banks.

“Since Davik was dead, I used his access code, at least anyone seeing it would think it was his code. If they check, they’ll also think he used a computer in the main city. I withdrew every account he had that was off Taris and sent it all to Coruscant.”

“Coruscant? Why there?” I asked.

“Because he was supposed to send his commission to the Exchange there. When it arrived, the computer bootstrapped it to an outgoing signal, and it went through five other systems at random before going back to Coruscant into a numbered account with the Bothan banking cartel. I have the number.” She looked sheepish. “But I had to pay Danika back, so I bought her something.”

I suddenly knew where this was going. “Oh no, you didn’t-”

“No I didn’t. Davik did according to the paperwork. He sold the Ebon Hawk to you on arrival here, bought passage on a ship leaving for Naboo, and never boarded. As far as anyone knows, Davik has gone off to parts unknown with a lot of money that belonged to the Exchange. But considering a lot of the stuff he’s done and how old he was, I could see him running off to retire somewhere with a fist-full of credits.”

I stared at Carth, who was vainly trying to not laugh. “You aren’t helping, Carth!’

“I can’t think of a better group to get ripped off for a few thousand credits!”

“Hey, I don’t work cheap! Try a few hundred thousand credits.”

“Oh dear.” I said. I hoped she was as good as she thought she was. The Exchange would blow a planet apart to get that much money back. “Now Mission, as much as people think it is all right to steal from thieves, you shouldn’t have done that. I want you to promise you won’t slice into any computer from this point on-”

“-Unless we ask you to.” Carth put in.

I glared at him, “Unless we really need you to.”

“That’s a promise. If I find Griff, I’ll have the fortune he was looking for already waiting.” She looked smugly satisfied. She handed me another datapad. I took it warily. It recorded a bill of sale for the JT 4100 mod 4 Ebon Hawk to me Paid in a banking draft from a numbered account on Bothawui. All fees, taxes etc had been paid. “the account that paid for the ship is mine, and the money went through Davik’s hands into the same mangle as all of the other money. All it cost me was the transfer fees and taxes. That was wicked though, the Republic government bureaucrats are worse thieves than any I ever met!”

I knew the Bothans were secretive and so honest it was a byword within the Republic. Money is important to them, more important than anything but a contract. To them a contract is something stronger than durasteel. Maybe the Republic could break their banking system, but no one else could. I looked at Carth desperately, but he was studiously ignoring me. “All right, I give up!”

“About time.” Mission said. Now I have to get on the com with the supply center. We need the rest of our supplies as of yesterday.”


Padawan

Danika

I entered the training center. Master Zhar was talking with several students, directing them in meditation. He looked up at my entrance, turning his class over to a Padawan.

“The Council has seen your report, and I must say, well done my pupil. The ancient grove has been purified, and your handling of Juhani’s case deserves praise. Few would have looked beyond the surface to see the root of the problem. Because of your vision, she has been returned to us.

“But you cannot dismiss what happened to her. Juhani was as dedicated as any before her fall. Remember that we are all vulnerable to our own weaknesses. She injured her master, a grave act. Quarta admitted to us that she chose to test Juhani in that manner, and provoked the attack in so doing. Yet, thanks to you, it seems to have made its point, and the lesson was learned.

“Congratulations, my apprentice, or should I say Padawan. Let me be the first to welcome you to our order.” He took my hand warmly. “There is much you must do, and little time to do it. The Council will meet in two hours, and your assignment will be given then. Until then you are free to do what you will.”

I bowed and left. Part of me wanted to return to the Ebon Hawk, to immerse myself in the friends that had come so far with me. But instead I found myself in the archives. The tables were crowded with apprentices and Padawans studying with deep concentration. Master Dorak saw me, and walked toward me. Of all the Jedi masters I had met he was the only one that hurried anywhere. He was so full of energy that merely walking looked like a military stride.

“Congratulations on you ascension Padawan. What do you seek today?”

“Revan and Malak bother me.” I admitted. “All I have heard of them suggests that of all of us they should have been the least likely of the order to fall, yet they seem to have fallen so easily. Is there a record of them here in the archives?”

He frowned. “Yes there is, but it is in the one place where I can decide who must hear it.” He tapped his head. “I have recorded it on a Holocron, but I think you should hear it directly.” He led me to his office, assigned two of his Padawan assistants to assure no one disturbed us, and sat me down with a mug of tea.

“The story does not begin with them, because events prior to it led to their fall. I will begin forty years ago, with the war of Exar Kun. Like Revan and Malak, Exar Kun was a Jedi. In fact he was in consideration as a Jedi master at this very Academy. Yet his master Vodo-Siosk Baas felt that there was too much impatience in him.” He looked at me. “As one who has fought, and one who has learned, you understand the danger of such with a student.”

“Yes. You can’t just hand a blaster to a rookie with no training and expect them to excel.”

“Indeed. He left the Academy, and created another one on the moons of Yavin 4. He drew a lot of our disaffected to him at that time, including those among the Sith, and fell to the darkness after a voyage to Korriban.

“Eventually, the Jedi Council called him to task. He had demanded autonomy for his planet, and the matter was to be discussed before the Republic Senate. But when Exar Kun arrived, he cut down his master before them, and told the Republic Senate that no one could tell him what to do, and that led to the war.

“The Sith of course joined that war, as did a lot of the planets that wanted to break away from the Republic. If they had simply declared their independence, the war might not have even occurred. The Senate tends to take a rather scattered view of what to do in such a case, and the Chancellor can suggest or ask, but never demand action from them. But Exar Kun’s forces began to try to expand out of their enclave, and that forced the issue.

“The war devastated us all. Yavin’s fourth moon was bombarded and reduced to ruin, the Massassi race was obliterated when Exar Kun drew all of their life force in a frantic bid to protect the moon. The Order was weakened, most of our order had died either in the fighting, or in the defections that had occurred. The Republic had spent a massive fortune to win, and was weakened both politically and militarily by the concessions they had to make to the Corporate organizations and Trade alliances. For twenty years, we struggled to rebuild from that carnage.

“But we were not left in peace to do so. Twenty years ago, the Mandalorians began conquering planets and multi system polities on the outer rim. They were circumspect, careful to not attack systems that were claimed by the Republic, or allied to us.

“The Senate debated heatedly, then finally decided to do nothing. They saw the fact that if we were to intervene, other nations would join the Mandalorians, and we could not afford such a major war so soon after the last. We would stand neutral.”

“But we were drawn into the war anyway.” I murmured.

“Yes. While we stood by and did nothing, the Mandalorians threw every industry in those captured worlds into production of supplies and ships. Seven years ago, they attacked across the border into three separate sectors simultaneously. The Senate had no choice but to order the fleet to battle. The Mandalorian wars had begun.”

“How did the Jedi stand on this?”

“We were petitioned for aid.” Dorak admitted. “But there were factors to consider that the Senate could not understand. We had to resolve them before we allowed ourselves to be drawn into another such conflict. Unlike the Republic, we cannot simply throw money at an Academy and crank out Padawan like proton warheads. Training can take most of a young person’s life, money, or shouting does not change that.

“Yet while we tried to preach restraint and patience to those of our order, there were many of our members that not only wanted to join the fight, but were eager for it. This extended right up into the Council itself. The controversy focused around two young Knights who had emerged as spokespersons for the group. Revan and Malak. They rallied many to their cause and finally, against the wishes of the Council, joined the Republic fleet in battle a little over five years ago.

“For the Republic, it could not have come at a better time. Revan was a skilled warrior, a master of both strategy and tactics. She took the fleet in hand, and the Republic began to not only win, but win handily. Four years ago, she was able to smash their fleet so decisively that the Mandalorians surrendered unconditionally.”

“Yet at the height of her victory, she fell.”

“Yes. Revan and Malak her strong right arm were heroes, the saviors of the Republic. A third of the entire fleet was under their direct command at the end of the war. But something happened.

“They returned here only briefly, then took that fleet beyond the border of the Republic into unexplored space. They claimed they were searching for a Mandalorian fleet that had run rather than surrender. All contact was lost. For months it was believed that some great disaster had destroyed the entire fleet. There were reports, all unsubstantiated that Revan and Malak had been seen on worlds within the Republic, and beyond, even to Korriban. Scattered sighting that made no sense, and still do not.”

“There was no idea of where they had been or why?”

“None. Perhaps they merely went beyond our borders. Maybe they had discovered previously undiscovered Hyper corridors. No one on our side of this conflict knows. But three years ago they returned with a massive fleet. Revan claimed to be not conquering the Republic, but to be liberating it, returning it to what it should have been. She had also assumed the title of Darth, the dark lord of the Sith. Our greatest hero had become our worst enemy.”

“But you said they had only a third of the fleet! That is what, a thousand odd ships all told. Where did they suddenly find such a force?”

“Some were our own ships now in her service. But over half of them were of an alien design never seen before. By every estimate made, there is no known way for her to have built such a fleet in so short a time. The only suggestion that makes sense is that they were derelicts that she had discovered and converted to her service. But they exist, and the fleet grows with even more ships of that design joining them every day.

“As for the troops, most were those that she had led into battle. You know as well as I that soldiers believe in order and discipline. It is what makes their function possible. While the population of the Republic might abhor it, her call to make that order something everyone would have drew a lot of the military to her. With each conquest her ranks swelled. Even many of our own order also joined. The ones that see us as ineffective at maintaining order. All lured by the glory and the power and some for the riches such power would naturally create.

“So we fought them, and we could see what the Mandalorians already knew. That no one could stand against Revan when she set her mind to a goal. Malak was not considered as much a danger. He was nowhere even close to being her equal in these matters, and had attained his rank by being her obedient servant still.”

“So we fought them.”

“Yes. But we needed the sheer will of those that saw her idea of ‘order’ as oppression to do so. For two years they were all but invincible. Fortunately, Bastila proved to be a master of battle meditation. That allowed us some victories. But we could not maintain the pace of the conflict.

“Our efforts focused on Revan and Malak. It was believed that if we could remove Malak, Revan would be weakened. Not a great deal mind you, but any lessening of her efficiency would be good. But if we could remove Revan, the Sith would no longer have her skills to fall back on, and the war would sputter out. So we set a trap for them both. A fictitious supply base was created in a system accessible from just one hyperspace corridor. Revan fell for this.”

“Zanebra.”

“Yes. She led a fleet there, and when they arrived, they were dragged from hyperspace by gravity well projectors that also trapped her in normal space.

Forty-five of ours versus forty of theirs. I remembered. Against anyone else it would have been a slaughter. Instead it had been a Pyrric victory.

“Bastila was one of the Knights that led the desperate assault aboard the enemy flagship, as you should know. She was there to witness Revan’s end. Not at our hands, but when Malak aboard Leviathan blasted the ship apart.

“That was nearly a year ago, but if anything the situation has grown worse. Malak assumed the title of Dark Lord, and while he is far from Revan’s equal, he has made up for it with sheer brutality. Worlds that would have resisted have been terrified into surrender by the news of Taris’ fate, and when that has not been sufficient, he has repeated it, killing more worlds for daring to resist too efficiently. There is no longer talk of order and peace, now the Sith simply say surrender or be destroyed.

“By removing Revan we have merely released an even worse horror on ourselves. We must end this before the devastation sends us into a spiral downward that we can never recover from. Malak and the Sith will overwhelm us and destroy any vestige of freedom in the process.” He looked at me sadly. “Learn from this, young Padawan. Even the most promising among us can fall, and the greater that promise, the greater the danger they become. You must always be on guard against the evil all of us harbor within us.” He looked at the chrono on the wall. "Come, the Council awaits us.”

As we walked I asked. “Revan was wearing some kind of mask in my vision. Why?”

Dorak contemplated the question. “When Revan was younger, many discounted her abilities because of her looks. She was, after all, not unattractive However she never told anyone why she had begun to wear it.”

Char Ell
04-16-2006, 10:38 PM
I verified in the KotOR game files that the name of the Jedi Master that Juhani struck down is Quatra, not Quarta. Thought you might like to know. :)

A neat tweak to the story, having Mission hacking into Davik Kang's bank accounts and withdrawing all his credits as well as officially selling the Ebon Hawk to Danika all while making it appear that Davik took the money and ran. Thanks to Mission, Danika and company have credits to meet just about any future financial need. I liked that little addition.

machievelli
04-17-2006, 02:54 AM
I verified in the KotOR game files that the name of the Jedi Master that Juhani struck down is Quatra, not Quarta. Thought you might like to know. :)

A neat tweak to the story, having Mission hacking into Davik Kang's bank accounts and withdrawing all his credits as well as officially selling the Ebon Hawk to Danika all while making it appear that Davik took the money and ran. Thanks to Mission, Danika and company have credits to meet just about any future financial need. I liked that little addition.

Thanks. That was a typo, but I missed it.

The whole point with Mission and the buying of the Ebon Hawk is I am constantly ticked when people just appropriate things in a game and go on as if nothing has happened. Plus, everyone actually needs a job aboard, and when it comes to Quartermaster, Mission fit the bill best of all. Having her rip off Davik Kang was just 'youthful exuberance'

machievelli
04-17-2006, 03:16 AM
Ascension

The Council awaited me as they always had, united. Bastila looked at me, and for a moment I noticed unease in her face. Master Vrook, looking a little less angry than was his wont nodded at my entry, and took my hand. “I must congratulate you on your actions. The heads of both Matale and Sandral came to complain, but now are asking us to intercede with their children. The fact that they have done so knowing that the other has also done it bodes well for the disagreements between them.

“The handling of the Mandalorian problem was even more efficient than we might have imagined. The fact that the Mandalorian who is your follower showed the true spirit of his people has done a great deal for relations between the locals and the few Mandalorians that visits us peacefully. Yet what gives us the greatest hope is how you dealt with Juhani. She has repeated your words to us, and we can see the change in her mien. You have done a great service not only to her but the order itself.”

I winced under all of this praise. I had done what was necessary, and had considered the options.

“You have chosen to be a Consular, in this we approve.” Vandar said. “However we now must end your training young Padawan. Events beyond this world force our hand, and we do not like the implications of it, but there is no time. We must now focus on the dream both you and Bastila shared.

“When we heard of the ruins in your dream, Master Dorak recognized it as one not far from here. A series of such structures are scattered around the lands of Dantooine. We dispatched a Jedi to examine those ruins, but he has not returned. We fear that we erred in sending him.

“The Force seems to be guiding you through your visions. We believe that you and Bastila can succeed where he has failed. The task of exploring that structure seems to be linked to your destiny. That is why the Council has decided to send you both on this mission. Whatever led Revan and Malak down the dark path must be there. The secret that will lead to stopping Malak may rest within it, and we must have that!”

“Master, I have been given a precis of the situation before, but I need to understand our adversary. What do you know of Revan and Malak?”

He froze, and I was afraid I had offended him. Then Vandar relaxed. “I knew Revan as a promising young Padawan of this very Academy. She was strong in the force, and highly skilled, but she was headstrong and proud of her skills, but such traits are common among Padawan. Perhaps that is why I did not see the true extent of the danger.

“Many of our apprentices admired her not only for that skill but also for her natural charm. She was always outgoing, and willing to help others. Among her admirers was Malak, four years her senior, but she had mastered the ways of the Force more readily than he had. Yet she never looked down upon him. Rather they were good friends and were inseparable. When Revan decided to join the Republic war effort, Malak was the first to join his voice to hers in the matter.

“However that bond was what dragged Malak down when Revan fell. Others also fell at that time, but everyone knew Malak would, as assuredly as gravity draws a meteorite to it’s death by his devotion to his friend. It was inevitable.”

That bond. The words resounded in my mind for some reason. Like the one that Bastila and I share? Would I be dragged under if Bastila fell? Or she by my fall? “So you’re saying that if Revan had not fallen, Malak would have not?” I asked softly.

“Such will never be known. Revan was as I have said, always the more powerful of the two. It had been hoped that if Revan fell in truth the Sith war effort would become fragmented, and fade. But Malak has embraced the dark side even more deeply than his master had. Only you and Bastila have a chance of stopping him now.

“The way ahead of you will be difficult for both of you. But you must draw strength from each other and the Force.” He looked at the others. “You must go and quickly.”


Bastila

As much as I had know what was to occur, I dreaded it. Danika motioned, and we went out toward the ship. “I want to understand this dream we shared.”

“As the Council has said, it was more of a vision rather than a dream. However if I can answer any questions they have not, I will help as I can.”

“It isn’t the dream or vision that obsesses me, Bastila.” She was a little frustrated. “It is why you shared it with me, or I with you.”

“Are you wondering why we shared it? Or why it was sent to us in the first place? As to the first, I can only repeat what the Council has already said. The Force links us in this. For someone as strong in the Force as either one of us is, that amounts to a near physical bond. As to the second, the Force works as it will, and our likes and dislikes have little to do with it. Perhaps we should only be grateful for what we have been given.”

“But why us?” She asked adamantly. “How did our fates, the fates of two women from such different lives come to be so interwoven?”

I considered what to say. I knew whence it had come, but I couldn’t tell her. “I am not sure. Believe me I don’t find the thought and reality of being linked to you as enjoyable in any fashion.”

She stopped, looking at me appraisingly. “I just find this link to be a little too... convenient.”

“The Force has always proven that it can bend the laws of physics and probability in ways we cannot even imagine before they occur. It is especially true of those deeply affiliated with it. In this case, when the Force had forged such a bond, we must merely accept it, no matter how ‘convenient’ we find it. We Jedi are tools of the Force as much as we use it.”

“You make the Force sound alive. As if it has a mind of it’s own.”

“There is no evidence either way on the matter. What you make of the Force and how you use it and it uses you is determined by what kind of person you are. Does that help?”

She shook her head. “Not in the least. Maybe I should just trust in the Force.”

I sighed inwardly. “As must we all.”

We came out into the docking bay as a cargo lifter came in. Mission came out, striding as if she were an officer from a major cruise line. She began checking the invoice, and signed when satisfied. She signaled, and droids began moving the material aboard.

“Just about the last is aboard, skipper!” She shouted gaily.

“Mission, is that you?” The girl paled, and her teeth were bared in a killing smile.

We turned. A Twi-lek woman stood there. She had all the physical attributes Mission would one day possess, and the help of several years in knowing what she could do with that sensual armament. She looked overjoyed to see Mission. Something Mission didn’t share. The woman looked confused. “Don’t you remember me, Mission? It’s Lena.”

“What are you doing here? Where’s Griff?”

Lena’s face grew sad. “I’m just passing through on my way to Ryloth. We broke up not long after we left Taris, Mission. Probably for the best for me. Your brother talks a good game, but he’s bad news.”

“Don’t you start trashing my brother you cantina rat! Take that back or I’ll rip your Lekku off!”

“Mission, what’s wrong? What have I done-”

“You talked him into leaving me when you went off world!” Mission screamed.

“She is upset that she was left behind.” Danika commented.

“I can understand that. Anywhere would have been better than Taris! That’s why I was surprised when Griff told me she wanted to stay.”

“You liar! Griff said you didn’t want his little sister cramping your style!”

Lena’s face grew cold. “Is that what the little Hutt-slime told you? Mission, I wanted to take you with me. You had become the little sister I never had. I would have paid, just like I paid for everything he asked for. He said you wanted to strike out on your own.”

“No, you’re lying, Griff loved me, he wouldn’t have left me!”

Danika was watching both of them and I could feel her mind reaching out to discover the truth.

Lena‘s voice grew warmer, her hand raised in a placatory manner. “Mission, think about it. If I had tried to leave you why didn’t Griff tell you where we were going? I couldn’t have very well stopped him, could I? After we left I knew something was wrong, because he started talking about how you were always tagging along, and stopping him from doing what needed to be done. I think you might have noticed, but Griff is very good at blaming others for his problems. He did the same thing to me before long, blaming me for his gambling losses, the get rich quick schemes that cost more than we ever saw back out of them. Finally he told me to get out of his life and stop draining away his luck.”

Mission stood there, staring in hate and dismay at Lena, then she bolted onto the ship. Lena started to follow then stopped, almost crying. “He did that to everyone. I thought he might have at least treated her better.”

“Where was he the last time you saw him, Lena?” Danika asked.

“He’d hired on with Czerka Corporation on Tatooine. They are renting mining claims and he figured on making his fortune there.”

“We’ll find him for Mission.” She promised.

Lena looked at her. “Take care of her, will you? Griff treated both of us like dirt. I don’t want to even think about what’s going through her head right now.”

We went aboard. Danika went to the starboard berthing area, and I followed. Mission was curled up on her bunk, crying.

“Mission.”

“She’s lying, he wanted me to go.”

“She told us where he was, Mission. Tatooine, working as a miner.”

“All right, he’s a miner, but the rest is all lies!” Her voice told me however that she was desperately denying what she must have known was the truth.

Danika touched her shoulder gently. “We will find the truth together, Mission, and I will be there. Now, want to get off the ship?”

“Yes!” She rolled over, wiping her tears away. “Where? The city, maybe?”

“No. Some old dusty ruins. But you would be a big help to me if you went along.”

“Well ruins aren’t what I like. No fancy lights and hot drinks.”

“Afterward maybe.” I looked, but I couldn’t tell whether she was joking, but her mind radiated amusement.

“Sure. Should I be armed?”

“I am.”

“All right then.” She slipped on her weapons belt, and slipped the heavy blaster pistol into it.


Ruins

Danika

We left the enclave at a mile-eating jog. For someone who had been a city girl, Mission stayed with us pretty well. Of course running away from the Black Vulkars had probably gotten her ready for this. We avoided the Kath-hound packs, moving with smooth speed across the plains until finally we reached the series of standing stones. I stopped, looking around. I felt Bastila’s apprehension, and could feel my own as I felt the Dark side like a tangible web before us. She moved up beside me, her lightsaber in her hand. “I don’t think we’ll need that just yet.” I said. She glared at me, but hung it back on her belt.

The door was huge, molded stone with patterns disturbing to the human eye. I reached out, and felt the door slide aside as if it had expected me. We entered the gloom. Cunning light wells focused sunlight into the room, and I could see the next door. Like the first it was huge, but unlike the first, this one bore a burn from an energy blast. I remembered Revan in the dream, using the Force to force the lock. I touched the lock tentatively, hoping I would not have to do the same, but the lock stone settled in it’s niche, and the door slid downward into the ground.

Dust lay like a blanket over everything. I stepped in, and stopped as Mission yelped. There to our side, a Jedi lay, his hands curled before his face as if warding off an attacker. Bastila came over to him, kneeling. “Nemo. He is one of the oldest Padawan here. Never good enough to be a master, but always willing.” She stood, eyes toward a metal pintel standing in the center of the room. As we watched, legs sprouted from its dull sides, lifting the mass of a droid body from the floor. It began speaking in an odd language.

“Danika?”

“I haven’t heard anything like it before.” I replied. The droid stopped then began speaking yet another language. “I think I might have heard that somewhere but can’t remember.” The droid cycled to another language. Then another when we didn’t reply. “That’s Selkathi isn’t it?”

“It must be an ancient form of it.” Bastila said. “I don’t recognize the language.”

“Do you understand this?” It repeated in ancient Selkathi.

“Yes, I do.” Danika replied.

“Language synchronization complete.” The droid said.

“Synchronization?” Danika asked.

“Yes. This unit has been programmed with all of the slave languages of the Builders. It is required for my duties as overseer.”

“You understand that?” Mission asked.

“Yes, it’s speaking an archaic form of Selkath.” Danika replied “Overseer of what?”

“The construction of the temples on this world. The slaves that might be sent come from throughout the Hegemony, and all of their languages are programmed into this unit. However you did not speak a language that was in my memory core. An oversight easily corrected during my next maintenance cycle.”

“Who built you?”

"The Builders built me. When they completed this structure, the slaves that worked on it were euthanized. I was shut down. Since you have arrived, I must assume that more work is required.”

I filled Bastila in “Maybe the Selkath built it?” Bastila asked.

“Unlikely. It thought we were slaves. It wouldn’t have spoke to us with their language.” She turned back. Overseer, how long have you been here?”

“Since the beginning.”

“No help there.” I said. “How long has it been since you were deactivated?”

It hummed. “From the positions of the planets, and the stars, I must assume the outer planet has made ten orbits of this planet.”

Again I told Bastila. “Ten orbits? The outer planet orbits the sun every 2500 years! This structure is older than the Republic itself!”

I looked back at the Overseer. “What was housed here?”

“The works of the Builders. No slave needs to know more than that.”

“Have other slaves come seeking this?”

“No.”

I paused. “Have other beings like myself come seeking it?”

“Yes.”

“How long ago?”

“Five planetary years.”

“Revan and Malak.” Bastila hissed.

“What happened to them?”

“They proved worthy of the Builder’s knowledge, and departed.”

I looked at Nemo. “Did you kill this man?”

“This unit has neither the ability nor the programming to kill. Only to punish. The being you speak of attempted to bypass the security system and was dealt with.”

“How can I prove myself worthy?”

“There are proving grounds to the east and west. By passing them successfully, you may enter the main chamber. Failure will result in your death.”

I drew my lightsaber, and walked toward the west door.

“Danika. Is this wise?”

“No,” I admitted. “However we must get into the main chamber, and we don’t have time to waste.” I pressed the lock, and the door opened. A droid stood there in my path. Beyond it was what looked like a computer terminal. I stepped forward, then leaped back hastily as the droid hummed to life, a force screen blinking up. I stood there, but it ignored me. I wasn’t past the threshold yet. “Mission?”

“Yeah?”

“How good did you say you are with a computer?”

“If it were a man it would marry me when I’m done!”

“Come here, but stay back from the door.” She walked over, standing behind me. “Never see anything like it. But it’s got a keyboard, and places to put diagnostic tools. What’s the problem?”

I lifted a piece of stone, and flipped it toward the other end of the room. The droid turned smoothly, and a beam shattered the rock.

“Well I have to get over there, and key in. What about the door guard?”

I sighed, closing my eyes, and focusing myself. “Just hurry.” Then I leaped in, running toward the droid. My lightsaber blocked a shot, and I was past. It hummed angrily, and began charging after me. I ran to the wall, ran three steps up it, and spun, my saber cutting down onto it. But the force field bounced the lightsaber back hard enough to jar my hands. I flipped over it, and began running frantically around the room. There were pillars and stones that had fallen from the ceiling, and they saved my life as I ducked and dodged among them.

“Almost there-”

“Hurry!” I flipped up a stone, flinging it at the droid. It caught the stone with a leg, then folded it over and through the rock contemptuously as if it were moldy bread. The humming was rising as if I had really made it mad, and it lunged, wrapping legs around a pillar. The pillar staggered, and I dived aside as it collapsed. I ducked behind another, and it suffered the same fate. The droid was removing my cover, and I was rapidly running out of places to hide.

“Got it!” She ran past me, and I flicked up the lightsaber, stopping a bolt from taking her in the back. Frantically I backed away. As I passed the threshold it paused, growling as if it were on a leash.

“Maybe the other will be easier?” Mission asked. I opened the door, and she yelped at the droid standing there. They must have been in communication because this one was already mad. I leaped over it, and my dance began again. I knew a lightsaber was an outstanding weapon, but at the moment I wanted a heavy auto-cannon and about a kilometer of standoff. I started to use the pillars again, but this one started smashing them immediately. I was left with no cover within a minute. Mission was engrossed in her work, and I had to protect her. I looked up, noticing a pillar cap that hung a bit down. I reached out with the force, feeling the stone sheer, and three tons of stone dropped on the droid like a hammer. I had barely taken a breath in relief when it pushed it’s way up like a mole, and the red sensor ports locked on me.

“Mission-”

“I got it!” The droid finished climbing out of the debris between the door and us.

Nothing happened. It stood there, the humming slowly fading down, then the lights went off. I gasped in relief, and we made out way past it.

The Overseer stood there, watching. I went to the door. This one had writing of some kind on it. “Overseer, what does this say?”

“Room of the Star Forge.” It said.

“What is the Star Forge?”

It grumbled electronically. “That is not in my memory banks. It was not considered necessary to my function.”

I told Bastila. “Then we don’t even know what the Star Forge is.” She mused. “Beyond the fact that it appears to be an artifact of great power for the Dark side.”

We stood before the door, and opened it. Like the first, this one had light wells that focused all of the light on a dais. I walked up to it, and there was a handprint set in stone there. The hand had four fingers, and I instinctively put my hand in it, keeping my middle two fingers together.

There was a clicking sound, and the stone sank in a short distance. As it did, I saw a flash of light. What appeared to be an ornate tricorn pillar split, each horn falling back to form a large arch. Between them smaller triangular legs lifted then a ball in the center of the mass shot into the air. Light fired into it, and we flinched from the light as it glowed into a hologram. The galaxy seen as a disk, and on it, five stars glimmered. Lettering marked each star with a long list of coordinates.

Bastila was our star pilot, and she was in her element. She recorded the entire map, then settled down on her haunches. “All right, I am not sure where the rest are, but that one-” She tapped the map. “Should be Korriban if I am correct. The Original settlements of the Jedi that joined the Sith were there. This I think is Manaan, and that would mean this is Tatooine. This is Dantooine. and this over here could be Kashyyyk. I have to take this back to the archives to compare it with the master charts. To be sure of which stars they are. This set of coordinates in each line-” she pointed at one “-is a lead to another hyper corridor. The coordinates are odd, missing data, corrupted programming. I need more data.”

“The Star Forge.” I almost heard an echo. The book had mentioned it, and so had the Overseer. “What could it be?”

“Whatever it is, Revan and Malak found it first. We must discover the truth about it. But if Revan and Malak thought someone might follow, there will be traps."

“Why would they have gone to Korriban?”

“That is actually the only verified place where Revan and Malak had been during their disappearance. These other worlds will undoubtedly give us clues to where the Star Forge is. Once we know, we can find it, and discover a weakness. It seems our task has only begun.”

Mission stood there watching us. “Guys, if it’s all right with you...”

“Yes Mission?”

“If you decide I need to take a walk or something, could you forget to tell me? That was a little intense.”

I stifled a laugh. Even Bastila smiled. “Well I don’t think your worried about Griff at the moment.” Mission giggled.

It was a long walk back, and I felt a chill at thinking that I was now on Revan’s path. She had come here, seeking in her own mind, the Republic’s survival. It had instead led to the bloody war we were fighting. I glanced at Bastila. She was lost in thought, a small frown on her face.

“What’s on your mind?” I asked.

She looked at me. “I was considering what the Council said about us. There is a bond. We both feel it. But the nature of the bond is what I question.”

“I still don’t understand the bond itself.” I admitted.

“Our fates have become intermingled somehow. So strongly linked that a literal bond has formed between us. Given our continuing relationship, I would like to ask some questions. Nothing too intrusive.” I shrugged. We had to walk a good distance yet. Anything would help pass the time.

She took my silence for assent. “What is your background?”

“Nothing extravagant. I was raised by a professional hunter, joined up, did six months of combat before we met. Just a soldier really.”

“Where you born?”

“Crossroads hospital on Deralia. It’s a frontier planet. Unless you hunt you probably can’t even pick it out on a star chart.”

“Your current age?”

“I’m 23, no, I think I turned 24 in there somewhere. All of this is in my service record, didn’t you look at it?”

“Actually yes, I did. I knew the answers, I merely wanted to see how you handled the questioning.”

“All right. Now, madam, how did I do?”

“You answered honestly without flippancy, and took the questions as seriously as they were put to you. A lot can be told from such an exercise. Your reactions, and mine will shape what happens within this bond. I had to know what type of woman I was linked to.”

“Fair enough. Now, turnabout is fair play. Tell me about yourself. Tell me how you became a Jedi.”

She walked in silence. “I am 19 years old. I was found to be strong in the force when I was five, and I was given to the order to be trained.”

The way she said it disturbed me. “Given? It sounds almost as if you were a pet.”

“Nothing of the sort.” She said stiffly. I could hear the lie in her words. “When I joined the order, I left my family on Talravin as almost all of us do. My family is still there, last I heard. I have had little contact with them as such is discouraged.”

“Discouraged?”

“Of course!” She looked at me surprised. “I forget you didn’t study here as a child. Emotion is our worst enemy, because it leads a Jedi into error.” She said as if quoting from a book. “Families have such emotions, and they are more powerful when you know the person that intimately. Hatred and anger are dangerous true, but even love can cause danger to the Jedi.”

“You aren’t even allowed to love?”

“Oh it isn’t forbidden, merely discouraged. People speak of how love is blind, but at times it can be deaf and dumb as well. Think of the power an unrequited love could generate in your soul.” She paced on, thoughtful. “Emotional entanglements can be dangerous when the lover is a Jedi. They can lead to outbursts of emotion and impair rational thought. A Jedi must be above such things.”

“You don’t sound very convinced.”

“It is a hard lesson to learn. I wasn’t on good terms with all of my family, but I remember missing my father terribly for a long time.”

“Who were you not on good terms with?”

“I was only a girl when I left, but I didn’t like my mother. I resented how she treated my father. My father was a treasure hunter. I spent my first years traveling from one planet to the next, searching from one false lead to the next. She whittled away my father’s fortune on one failure after another, and I hated her manipulative ways. I know it was her decision to send me off to be trained. My father was heartbroken.”

“You’ve never tried to get in touch with him since then?”

She shrugged. Her shoulders stiff. “A child doesn’t understand why sacrifices need to be made. It was better for all that I not try once I had come into my power. Once I was older I realized the wisdom of the policy. A Jedi might be sent anywhere, into any circumstance. When they arrive they must do what is needed to resolve the crisis, and personal desires cannot be part of such a decision. Love or hate can only obscure the proper course.”

“You sound sad about that.”

She laughed a bitter laugh. “Even the Jedi cannot control the feelings of the heart. We must always guard against it, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Some have a harder time of it than others.

“I really would not like to talk about this anymore.”

Char Ell
04-17-2006, 10:48 AM
Interesting how you had Danika run around as a target for the Rakatan droids while Mission hacked the ancient computers. While I liked the way you handled not destroying the droid but still allowing the party to get the necessary data, why did you not have Bastila do anything to help out with this? And why wouldn't Mission have at least one ion grenade on her person to deal with hostile droid situations?

machievelli
04-17-2006, 11:15 AM
When I played the game the first time, I didn't have any Ion grenades at this point, and while the game required you to reach the computer terminal, it didn't require you to destroy the droids. So after fighting both of them four times and failing (I couldn't seem to get the hits required) what I did that first time was merely run past it, and key in, then do the same on the other side while the first droid was busy smashing the middle room.
Part of it I think was that i think Danika is repeating what Revan had done before. As for Bastila one reason i kept getting killed was that every time Danika charged in to face the droid, for some reason the computer didn't have Bastila follow to assist.

machievelli
04-17-2006, 11:31 AM
The Quest

We arrived at the Enclave, and filed our report. As we went back toward the ship, a woman stopped us. “I am looking for Bastila Shan.” She said, looking at each of us.

“I am she.” Bastila replied.

The woman looked at Bastila, as if trying to see another face. “Yes, you have grown, but I see your father’s eyes. I am Malare Velos. I knew your father well.”

“Knew?” Bastila’s tone was sharp, as if she expected bad news.

“Yes. He and Helena left and went on to another planet not long afterward. I hope you‘re mother‘s condition has improved.” She said bluntly.

I thought Bastila would react, but she didn’t. “Her condition?”

“You mother contacted me because I was coming to Dantooine. She wanted me to ask you to meet her, and I hoped the Enclave could at least pass on a message.”

“Then you have. “Where is she?”

“Still on Tatooine, last I heard.”

“If my business takes me there, I will see her.”

“Bastila, there is no need to be abrupt.” I admonished.

She looked at me, and I knew she wanted to scream at me. Then she turned back to Malare, and her voice became warmer. “I am sorry for my abrupt behavior. Pressing matters guide my footsteps at this time. Please forgive me.”

Malare nodded, but I could tell she had been deeply hurt by Bastila’s reaction. She walked away.

We returned to the ship, and Bastila went into the berthing area, and stayed there all night.

Bastila

My mother wanted to talk to me. But what of Father? I felt as if someone had taken a hammer to the universe and shattered its foundations. I remembered him as if it were yesterday, a giant hoisting me up to his shoulders, showing me the world from the heights. Tousling my hair, and laughing. Holding the shards of pottery I would find at some of the sites we visited in search of that golden future. He always acted as if what I found would be the key to that future, even though in my child’s heart I had known it wasn’t true.

And my mother, watching from the shadows, lurking like a pit spider to drag him away. My fists clenched, and I wanted to hurt her, to smash that face into ruin, to make her feel half the pain I had felt when she sent me away.

That night I dreamed, and as always, Danika was there. She was silent, walking beside me through the forests of Deralia. She tried to take my hand, to hold me as she had done so many times, but I pushed her away. I didn’t want comforting. I wanted vengeance.

At one point, I ran, feeling the rough bark of the trees as I stumbled through the forest. I came to a temple mount, steps cut into the living rock, and found myself climbing them. At the top, My mother stood, with a knife raised, then it came down on an unseen figure. Her hand reached down, and came up with a bloody heart in it. She looked at me, sneering, then flung it at me. I caught it, then recognized my father on the altar, his chest ripped open.

“He wanted you to have this.” She said, her tone dripping with vitriol. I ran toward him screaming, and hands caught me. Danika. She showed the same skill she had shown with others, holding me firmly and crooning wordlessly to calm me down.

The next morning I avoided Danika’s looks. I wanted out of the bond, but I couldn’t see a way.

The Council met in the same room as always. Master Vandar looked at Danika. “Your report was clear, Padawan. Revan and Malak sought this star map, which leads to something called the Star Forge. Master Dorak has searched the archive thoroughly and except for the two mentions that seem almost like legends, there is nothing about it.”

“I don’t know Malak’s intent, but I feel that Revan sought something to protect the Republic rather than destroy it.” She said.

“What brought you to this conclusion?” Vrook asked sharply.

“Master, she was still trying to protect the Republic from an outside threat, maybe even a future one. I think she went looking for this shield for the Republic, but the dark forces that surround it brought her down.”

Vrook nodded thoughtfully. “It sounds like her. She was always one to play with fire. This time she got burned.”

“You knew her, Master?”

He looked at her sharply. “Every master in this room knew her.”

“Master Vrook, let us concentrate on the matter at hand.” Vandar chided gently. “The news that the Star Forge may actually exist and with no knowledge of the extent of its powers is... disturbing. Action is called for but we must not act in haste. We must discuss this at length. Please return to your ship.”

We returned to the ship, and I returned to the starboard berthing area where the women were sleeping. Mission saw me and scuttled out. My look that day before probably frightened her still. I sat, and tried to meditate.

“Bastila?” Danika. Who else would try to break through my funk?

“Go away.”

“I will not.” I looked up, and she came over, falling into the tailor seat facing me. “You can’t keep it in, Bastila. Your hatred for your mother is coming through clear enough to make me angry with the woman. And your fighting against the bond is not helping.”

“I will deal with it-”

“No you won’t” She interrupted harshly. “You will allow it to fester, and build within your soul until you discover the truth. You want to know where your father is, and you want a confrontation with your mother. You see him as a sacrifice to your mother’s demands.”

I pictured the altar scene again. “Stay out of my mind!”

She laughed softly. “As if I can. I don’t like the bond, but it is there, and I can feel all of your pain through it. Your pain is mine, Bastila.” She looked at me thoughtfully. “After Kalendra left, I was devastated. I wanted to run away, go to Echana, beg her to bond with me. It wasn’t until later that I discovered that the Echani are all empathic. They link in the life-bond on a level the normal human cannot imagine. This bond between us is like that, if I am not mistaken.

“That bond can only be broken from within by the mutual agreement of the partners, or by death. I don’t know if this Force bond is like that, and I am afraid to try to break it.

“Please, Bastila, if not for your sake, than for me, your bond-mate, let’s find your mother, let’s get it over with one way or another. I can’t stand seeing you in pain, and having your pain transfer to me doesn’t make it any easier.”

“Just go away. Please.” I begged.

She reached out, brushing a stray hair from my face delicately. “As if I am ever far away.” She stood, and left me in my misery.

Our wait was not long. Again the Council met with us. “Padawan Danika, you have done well, but there is more that you must do against Malak and the Sith.” Vandar said.

“I am ready, Master.” She said humbly. I could feel her emotions just as she would feel mine, and I could see only a deep calm and resolution in them. How could she be so calm?

“We of the Council see no way that mere martial might will defeat the Sith. Not as long as they have this Star Forge on their side.”

“Yet we are agreed that the only way to remove the threat is to find and if possible destroy this Star Forge.” Vrook said. “Whatever it might be, it must be a powerful implement of the dark side to have dragged both Revan and Malak down.”

Vandar spoke. “The map you found showed four additional worlds, and Bastila was correct in her assessment of which worlds they were. Tatooine, Kashyyyk, Manaan and Korriban. We believe that whomever built the Star Forge wanted it to be difficult if not impossible to find. These other worlds perhaps have maps of the same type as the one you discovered, and they might give us clues to the Star Forge’s location. You must go to each world, find the star maps there, and discover the location of the Star Forge.”

“As the Council wills, Master.”

“The council knows how important this mission is, but we are bound by constraints in this. If we sent a company of knights upon this quest, with masters to guide them, we would draw unwanted attention. By the same token our ranks have been so harrowed by the Sith that we have no massive company to spare. Secrecy is needed.”

“Must I go alone, Master?” Her question was not plaintive, but I could feel the worry in her mind.

Vandar shook his head. “That would be equally unwise. A young barely trained Padawan would have no chance if such as Revan and Malak could fall so easily. Bastila will accompany you. The bond between you might be the key to unraveling this mystery. And Juhani has asked us to allow her to accompany you. After long deliberation, we have acquiesced. You have been a stabilizing influence in her life, and perhaps she can help to stabilize you as well. She came so close to falling to the dark side. Perhaps her example where you can see it will strengthen your will in this regard.”

I was watching the scene with horror. I wanted to scream, and beg them not to send me.

“There are also the ones that the Force has gathered to your cause. They must be asked, but I know that their special qualities will make this mission easier for you as well. But they must be told that secrecy and discretion must be paramount. You will not be able to conceal the fact that you are Jedi, nor should you try. But word of what you seek must not reach Malak’s ears.”

“I understand. When do we leave?”

Vrook sighed. “As soon as you feel ready. Malak grows stronger every day, and we must have that information. But a word, young Padawan. The lure of the dark side is strong, and you must guard against it at every turn. If not I fear the quest to find the Star Forge will lead you down an all too familiar path.”

“The fate of the Galaxy is in your hands, young Padawan. We pray you are up to that challenge. Go, and may the Force be with you.” Vandar added with finality.

She bowed. “Go, Danika.” I said. “There is something I must discuss with the Council. I will meet you in the courtyard.” She nodded, and left. I faced the council. I reached within myself, and with every fiber of my being brought myself to calm, forcing it to also extend down the link we shared. “Masters, I have made a grave error.”
-
“Such is the lot of Padawan from time immemorial.” Vandar said dryly.

“The link I forged. It is going beyond any ever recorded. I can feel her emotions, her desires, and sometimes even her thoughts. I don’t know if I can stand it much longer.”

“When you told us of it, we were also worried.”

“But now it has become impossible! When she was just some woman, and we thought it would fade or just be interesting dreams for the both of us it was one thing. But she has found the Force within her, and her progress at gaining its mastery terrifies me! She is so much stronger than I! The bond will drag me down when Danika falls!”

“You believe she will fall?” Vrook asked.

“No, I don’t. She has shown a depth of control I have felt from no one before, even from my original master. But that control fights with her own emotions. She was furious when she discovered Zaalbar had been a slave, when she faced the Mandalorian raiders here on Dantooine. Yet she took those emotions, placed them away from her mind, and dealt with the problems she faced.”

“So you worry for yourself, not her.”

“Yes! No. I don’t know!” I looked at them appealing. “I recently heard my mother was ill and looking for me, and for a time I was unable to deal with it. I dreamed, and she was there! When I tried to meditate after our last meeting, she was there, trying to deal with my problems as if they were hers! I can’t stand this! Please, there must be some way to dissolve the link!”

“She has already suggested a possible way to you.” Vandar said softly. “Ask her to aid you in breaking it.”

“No.” I shook my head vehemently. “We might need the link as it is to succeed.”

“If the link is necessary, what would you suggest?” Zhar asked.

“Don’t send me.”

“That we cannot do. You have caused her mind to be calmer than it was before. If you are separated, the link might drag you to join her anyway. Or consider if she does fall.” Vrook said. “Can you see yourself committing the acts the link will force on you here among us?”

“There must be something!”

“There is not.” Vandar said. “If we could break this link, we would have done so when we discovered her newfound talents. You will not accept the alternative, and we cannot allow her to roam the galaxy like a sentient warhead alone. Can you see an alternative I have not mentioned?”

I shook my head. “I will do what must be done.” I bowed and took my leave of them.

Danika was seated on a bench, looking at the Blba tree. “You have something you wanted to ask me.” She said at my approach.

“I do. How did you know?”

She grinned sadly, tapping the side of her head. “You didn’t want me to hear what was happening, yet some of it came through. Is the bond so horrible? Or is it me you hate?”

“I am a Jedi. I will not let emotions guide my actions. I do strain against the bond, true. But I neither hate nor like you.”

“Well that is clear enough.”

“The bond allows us to catch glimpses of each other’s mind. Our emotions travel along it and what you feel troubles me. A Padawan must receive considerable training. She must learn to control her emotions and darker impulses before she can be trusted to act within the world beyond the walls. This takes time, years in some cases, before control is assured.

“The problem is that the Republic does not have the years needed to assure you will not fall. You are strong in the Force, and that very strength drives the situation. You desperately need those years. Your lack of training can doom us.”

She stood. She wasn’t trying to block the bond from her end, and I felt worry more than anything else. It was like looking into a calm lake and seeing the fin of a predator cutting the smooth surface. “What can I do?”

I shrugged. “Considering our situation, there is nothing that can be done from outside. You have shown a remarkable degree of self-control and compassion up to this point. I hope you can maintain it when the surroundings are not so controlled.

“We must all resist the forces of the darkness that resides in us all. It is what we give our lives to stop. You with your natural affinity to the force are pressed harder than those with more training.”

She nodded. “I can only try.”

“That is good to hear. You will find the path harder even with the best of intentions. There is great danger before us. Any reckless act by either of us will affect the other, and the consequences can be devastating.”

“But it works both ways.” She said. “As I tried to help you earlier today, you can lend your strength to me.”

“Yes, that is true. I will do my best to guide you, but I am no master skilled in such arts. Not yet at least. There are times when I find your very capability frightening. As if I were riding a beast the size of the Ebon Hawk. Your sheer strength within the force can be overwhelming.

“I only hope that my skills can guide you through the hard times ahead.”

“I hope so as well.” She said softly. “While I was waiting, I asked one of the Archivists to gather all the information of the planets we must visit. I wanted to study them while enroute.”

A Twi-lek hurried toward us. Like most of those that worked with Dorak, he seemed permanently bemused, but when focused was like a missile. “Greetings, Bastila, I am Deesra, Master Dorak’s assistant chief archivist. The files you request, Padawan are here.” He handed the data chips to her.

“Five chips? I asked only for the planets.”

“Ah but your request for Korriban also kicked this back.” He said. The record of the last Great Hunt.”

“Great Hunt?”

“The Sith are not the only minions of the dark that exist. There are animals that find themselves drawn to it as well. The worst of these abominations is called the terentatek, a beast that feeds on the flesh and blood of those who have any vestige of capability of the force within them. The stronger the being is in the force, the greater the impulse, so their preferred diet is Jedi, and our dark cousins. Over the centuries, many Jedi have fallen to their ravenous appetites.”

“How great is the danger?”

“For a Jedi, it is ever present. We are their chosen prey, and they are intelligent and vicious hunters. They also have an inborn resistance to the powers we wield. It is believed that they are a horrible hybrid created by the First Dark Jedi of long ago, and spread through the galaxy in their attempt to destroy the Jedi.

“Fortunately, they are quite rare. They only live in places steeped in the dark side. In fact no one has seen one in almost forty years.”

“Possibly they are extinct.”

“There is no such luck. They have disappeared for centuries at a time. It is believed that when the light side is strong, they hibernate in some manner. When the Dark side waxes stronger, they awaken, and as the dark powers grow, they are drawn out of their lairs to hunt. I fear Malak and the Sith have reawakened them to hunt again.

“When we have defeated the Sith, I would not be surprised if the Council does not organize another great hunt as they did then.”

“You mentioned the Great Hunt before.”

“After the previous incursions of the Sith, such hunts were organized. Jedi must again travel and try to set right all that had been destroyed by the Sith. When our members die suddenly by violence, and with no other possible reason, the terentatek are usually responsible. Teams of Jedi are sent, and they hunt the terentatek down and kill them. Though always the cost is high.”

“The cost.” She mused. “Because you are hunting something that hunts you back.” I looked at her, and she shook her head. “Remember, Deralia is home? A place where Hunters go to face the most intelligent prey in the galaxy. A lot of Jedi probably died in that last hunt.”

“Yes they did. Korriban is rumored to still have them in abundance. That is where the New Sith first settled. It is where they always seem to return after one of their defeats. It is also where Exar Kun fell, and became the Sith Lord. The planet was still strong after the war of Exar Kun, and the Council viewed the cost of first capturing it merely to destroy these animals as prohibitive. They declared the hunt at an end, though three Jedi were sent to deal with the problem if they could. But they failed. Duron Qel-Droma, Guun Han Sharesh and Shaela Nur had a bond in the force as strong as you two share.

“It was believed that their bond would strengthen them in the ordeal. But their Master reported that they had rejoined the force only a short time later. It was decided that it was too dangerous to send others, so their exact fate is not known. But let their deaths serve as a warning to you.”

“I will.” Danika slipped the chips into her pouch.

“Do not underestimate the terentatek, Padawan. Great Jedi have fallen to them before. If you go into battle with them you must use all your skill and cunning to survive!”


War Council

Back aboard the Ebon Hawk, I called a war council. Everyone was there, and I assured that they were comfortable before I began. I let Bastila give the briefing, and sat back watching them. When she was done, Bastila waved toward me. I stood.

“Remember what you said about confused chains of command, Carth?” I asked. “This is guaranteed to be a real problem if we don’t take care of it before we lift. This is what I propose. Carth, aboard ship, you are in command.” I waved down Bastila’s protest. “You are the most experienced pilot we have, and Bastila is the second best. That makes you our flight team. Canderous, you have more experience with weapons than any aboard, so you will be the weapons officer. You and I will man the guns. Mission, you already have a job, and from what I’ve seen, you’re good at it, so you remain our loadmaster. Zaalbar, from what I’ve seen you are an excellent mechanic, so I’m making you engineering officer. Juhani,” I turned to look at the Cathar woman. “Until we find out what other skills you have, I’m not sure what you can do.”

“I am a skilled healer. I will accept medical officer.”

“Done. Can you handle communications as well?”

“Of course.”

“Then all our positions are full. T3, you’ll help where possible. Did I forget anyone?”

“Yes, you did.” Bastila said. “You haven’t told us what you will be doing.”

“Why I am the Captain and owner aboard, master of all I survey.” I said. There were chuckles. “In truth I was assigned this mission with Bastila assisting. So I am just going from place to place with you.

“Our destinations have been logged into the Nav-computer. I am open to suggestions as to where to go first.”

“Well we had better leave Manaan for later.” Mission said. “Davik is wanted in Ahto City. But then again, taking a crime bosses ship does have its advantages.” She grinned. “There are four entire transponder settings. Who shall we be today? Coruscant Sunrise? Freetrader Alliance?”

“Isn’t that illegal?” I asked, matching her grin.

“Hey, I won’t tell anyone if you don’t.” She stopped smiling. “I know my brother’s on Tatooine, but I won’t let personal problems enter into this. I will go where the ship goes.”

“As do I. Juhani said. “I am just glad that someone who trusts me is in command.”

“I go where I’m told to go, and kill who I’m supposed to kill.” Canderous said.

Zaalbar growled. It didn’t matter to him. T3 bleeped the same.

“Carth?”

“Before we go anywhere, I want some answers. I guess I’m just sick and tired of being kept out of the loop.”

“I haven’t been keeping you out of the loop, Carth.”

“Maybe not, but you’re not helping matters, and it’s really beginning to irritate me. For one thing all the secrecy. The Jedi Council drags the two of you in to talk, but won’t even tell me what it was about.

“Then all that training while we were forced to sit on our butts. Yet instead of finishing that training, they send you out like a sacrificial goat! Even I know it takes years, even decades before a Jedi is judged competent, but you’ve had what, seven weeks?”

“They though it was more important that I help find the star maps instead of staying.”

“And why is this your mission, not hers?” He waved at Bastila. “Sure you were hell on wheels on Taris, in a free flowing combat situation. But this is different. What good are you going to be commanding a mission when you’re not even qualified to be a Jedi yet? What about your training?”

I looked at Bastila. “I was sent because Bastila and I share a bond, and that bond is giving us clues of where to search. It gave us the coordinates so far, and the planets to search on.”

“A bond? Just because you like Echani clothes, and use a ritual brand like one doesn’t make you Echani! I find the entire reason they’ve given us to be shallow. You’re a neophyte Padawan, saddled with what might be the most important mission of the war. Why? If this were a Republic crew and ship, and you had this little experience I would say it you were a stalking horse! This is a suicide mission in everything but name, and I for one want to know why I have to die!

“I’m not accusing you of anything, or saying that you are responsible for the Jedi Council, but throw us a bone here! There has to be a reason.”

“Bastila has a bond with me, and I have been given this assignment. There is nothing more I can say, Carth.”

“And what does that mean? Is this more of that ‘destiny’ crap the Jedi are always shoveling? That can’t be it, and someone, either the Council, the Jedi themselves, Bastila, or you is hiding what is going on. I am not going to be betrayed again!”

I sighed, closing my eyes. “Carth, I am not Saul, and I am not going to betray you. I thought I had earned at least some trust.”

“It isn’t that. I don’t think...” He slammed his fist on the table, and looked at me sadly. “All I seem to do is insult you. Let’s just get on with this.”

I looked around, then nodded. “Stations.”

I walked forward, followed by Carth and Bastila. I went to the Nav-computer, and opened it’s files. One entry intrigued me. “Why is Yavin listed?”

“Must have been something Davik left.”

“Why does that name...” I snapped my fingers. “Exar Kun’s base at the end of the last Sith war. “Why would that be in here?”

“Perhaps they are using it as a smuggler’s hideout, or transfer point?” Bastila opined.

“I am wondering about the salvage options.” I said. “With the Massassi extinct, and no patrols, perhaps they are looking for artifacts they can sell to the Sith?”

She considered. “That is possible.”

“Then let’s go there first.” I punched in the coordinates as Carth lifted us off. I looked down on Dantooine, and felt a chill. Somehow, I knew I would not be returning.


{i]Subtle and insubstantial, the expert leaves no trace; divinely mysterious, he is inaudible. Thus he is the master of his enemy’s fate[/i]

Char Ell
04-18-2006, 11:38 AM
Alright. I've read The Quest and War Council. Interesting how you portray Bastila's emotional state when it comes to her parents by using a dream. I found this quite effective.

I also went to Yavin Station after Dantooine.

machievelli
04-18-2006, 12:11 PM
Ebon Hawk:

Enroute to Yavin

Danika

We lifted off, racing into space. I felt the ship lurch as we jumped to hyper speed, and felt myself relax. We were on our way. Bastila came in from the cockpit, and I looked at her. “What’s wrong now?”

“I wanted to speak with you about our mission, and what lies behind it. It seems the Force is pushing us into a confrontation with the Dark Lord himself. I wanted you to realize the dangers and prepare yourself. The confrontation with Malak will be difficult for you. I remember how hard it was for me when I faced Revan.”

“I saw her die in your vision. Did you have to kill her?”

“We used my battle meditation to board the ship, but it was not our mission to kill her. Our mission was to capture her if it was at all possible. It was Malak that fired upon his own master’s ship. He hoped to kill both his master and us.”

“So Malak completed the mission for you.”

“As I said we did not come to kill her. The Jedi do not believe in execution. No one deserves to die for their crimes. Remember that both Revan and Malak were once heroes to the Republic and the Jedi. Their fall highlights the weakness in all of us.”

“I will face him because I must. If I must kill him, I will. I will not gloat or glory in it.”

“I know that. I have been studying you and you have grown even farther than I might have imagined just in the last few days. I have seen you resist the dark side in your memories, and continue to walk the light path. But I worry that all of your progress merely means you will fall because of a misstep. You must fully understand what the dark side represents, for it is the reason we Jedi exist. We confront it and fight it at every turn. The worst of that is when it is within us.” She shook her head. “Only a Jedi master can explain this fully, but I will try.”

“Please, guide me.”

“Using anger or the temptation is not the whole of the dark side. These are just easy things to point at for students. Using the expedient path rather than the slower more careful path can also lead there. You spoke of Revan looking for a way to protect the Republic. That would be expedient for someone that feels war will always be with us. But at what point does expedient become wrong? You were a soldier. Didn’t you see men thrown into a battle untried because a commander didn’t want to wait for better-trained troops?”

“More often that I want to think about it.”

“Accepting punitive losses in a battle is expedient if you win. Allowing a planet to be devastated so your forces can be elsewhere on a mission you judge more important. The list goes on. That can lead to the dark side as surely as anger, and Revan was known for it.

“The dark side is like a person that wants you to love them. It can cajole, and entice, and like an attractive man can lead you on. It can be impossible to resist. Once you have stopped resisting, you realize that there is no going back, no way to step back across that line into the light again. It twists you up inside, makes expediency the only course to follow. Like a spice addict you have to continue, even as you know you are killing yourself.”

“You sound like you’ve been through this.”

“I have not, but I have skirted the edges of it. Everyone has their pet peeves that get through their shell to poke at them. Their temptations to do rather than observe. My mother is one such for me, as you know.

“But for those that have given themselves wholly to it, it is worse. Look at what is happening even now! Billions dead on Taris because of Malak’s fury that he had not caught me. Shattered fleets, economies ruined by fighting between us. What sort of person must you become to do things not only willingly, but gladly?”

I pictured Malak, visualized the order being given. “I can’t see myself ever doing such a thing.”

“That is why the dark side is so insidious. Do you think Revan woke up one morning and said to herself, ‘I’m bored. Let’s conquer the Republic!’? The Sith have become stronger with Revan and Malak joining them, and those of our order that have given in because of their admiration of her have swelled their ranks. Before Revan’s fall she would have seen it as poetic justice. After all, what greater weapon is there than to turn you enemy to your cause? To use their own knowledge against them?

“As our strength goes to them, our resolve begins to weaken. As if the two sides were both using battle mediation simultaneously. But they are the stronger now. We must harden our hearts, do whatever we must to end this conflict. Even when the very idea of battle makes us more weary.”

But that is simple expedience. I wanted to say. “What must I do?”

“I don’t know.” She looked tired. “Our path is clouded and unclear. But I sense ominous shadows in that future.” She shook her head. “I think I have probably given you enough to chew on. I am going to meditate.”

Hyperspace travel is like nothing in the Galaxy. You are in a bubble of life, racing through a medium where nothing is known to survive. Your ship rumbles and vibrates with power as you hurtle faster than light. It is like sledding down a hill, but with blinders on. Only a Nav-computer guides you, and you have to put your faith it.

Of course I had been through this before, but something didn’t feel right. It was like an itch in the center of my back I couldn’t reach.

All of the Jedi aboard had taken to using the portside cargo bay as our practice area. Canderous spent his time in the starboard cargo bay working on his weapons and exercising constantly. After Mission had optimized our storage to compensate for the weight, we had a lot of free room, and remotes could maneuver without danger as we fought them. As I moved through the training Katas, I could feel someone watching, but there was no one there.

We had fallen into our duties aboard easily. One of the duties no one had considered was commissary officer and cook. After a disastrous attempt by me to make something, everyone had been irate. But Zaalbar had stepped into the breach, and had proven to be a surprisingly good cook. His skill extended beyond the simple cooking of his people, and I would have judged him excellent. The only problem we had with him was his sensitive nose. When Canderous had asked him to make Merdai stew, Zaalbar had refused. The dish was incredibly spicy, and of all aboard, only Canderous and I would eat it. Zaalbar had stayed away as Canderous made it. I had looked just yesterday for what remained of the stew he had made, and it had disappeared. Canderous had denied eating it, and Zaalbar had denied throwing it into the recycling chute.

Just before we dropped out of Hyper at Yavin, Zaalbar approached me.
“The ration containers have been broken into.” He reported.

I took the wrapper he held out. It was the standard emergency rations we kept aboard. For the life of me, I couldn’t see anyone eating it if they could avoid them. Unlike combat rations, where at least you know the race that is eating them, you couldn’t guarantee who might have to live on E-rats. They had to sustain any of a hundred life forms with varying needs in minerals, and since it had to be edible for all, they had turned out to be palatable to no one.

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“If there’s anyone who knows how much food we have aboard, its Big Z.” Mission quipped.

“Just the emergency rations?’

“No.” He said. “Fresh fruit, raw Zabu meat and Canthis bird. Some of Mission’s candy-”

“Hey, that’s serious!” She said.

I bit back a laugh. “I will take a look.” I said.

The food was stored in sealed containers. I found the opened one that had held the emergency rations after a search. The crate had been almost emptied to make enough room for a small person to scrunch in without too much difficulty. It was at the back and top of a storage bay, and had been resealed clumsily, but well enough to avoid a routine look. I climbed down, then went to the storage lockers on the opposite side of the bay. Davik had a gourmand’s appetite, and we had a wide selection. The lockers were equipped so that they were temperature and humidity controlled. Frozen foods chilled foods like meat and vegetables that would be cooked, dry goods, and spices. I checked each locker, looking at the inventory sheets as I did. We were missing a container of Pipalli, a spice closer to rocket fuel than food the Mandalore used in their stews. About two pounds of raw Zabu and the same of Canthis bird. While edible raw, they were much better cooked.

In the vegetable bins I found that of the ten kilos of halo fruit we had brought aboard, we only had four left. However I checked the log, and after going through the fruit I discovered that about a kilo was missing that had not been accounted for. The Donkin Pears had been harrowed as well. Of fifty kilos of them only 20 remained according to the manifest, but there were two kilos of them missing as well. It wasn’t vermin. The food had been neatly rearranged so that a casual inspection would reveal nothing.

I turned, and then systematically searched the bay. The only sign of an interloper was a neatly stacked pile of E-ration wrappers and the wrappers off Mission‘s candy hidden in a corner. All of them had been meticulous flattened, and stacked as if they expected to be graded for neatness.

That told me that our stowaway had been aboard for more than a week. But we had only left Dantooine four days earlier. So someone had slipped aboard. How I had yet to discover. Whoever it was had left the Hypnar bird, which needed to be cooked, yet taken meats that were readily edible without cooking.

I left the bay deep in thought. I was bothered more by the fact that whoever it was, they had slipped aboard, didn’t register on the biosensors that are standard for ships that might land at alien planets, and had done so without any of the Jedi aboard noticing. We had Zaalbar’s nose, we had Canderous with more experience in war and ambush than the rest of us combined. We had three Jedi, one of them scion of a race that hunted from ambush! Yet they were still unnoticed.

I walked toward the port side berthing area, where the men slept, and paused. I had felt rather than heard the stealthy movement of someone moving back the way I came. I snapped my fingers as if I had just thought of something, turned and walked past the storage bay and round into the other one. Canderous was in the middle of his normal physical exercise regimen, doing push-ups on his knuckles. He looked up at my approach, though that didn’t affect his metonymic rhythm. I turned, and headed back, moving back into the central mess hall.

“Better not even go to Alderaan.” Mission grumped. “Davik is wanted there under every alias we have with a ‘shoot ‘em dead on sight’ notation.”

“Then we had best not go there.” I agreed. I walked toward the cockpit, and stopped I felt that subtle movement after I had passed. This time I felt amusement. Not my own, but from my prey. I turned, drawing a confused look from Juhani as I went aft again.

I suddenly understood how they were moving unseen at least. The compartments and passageways had ducting and crawl spaces both above and below for ease of repair. Someone Canderous’ size or Zaalbar’s would have had trouble, but any of the women aboard could have easily moved through them. Whoever this was, they had to be smaller than even Mission. I heard a noise rather than sensing it. A giggle. Whoever it was had detected my interest, and had been playing tag with me!

I returned to the cargo bay, and opened the cooler where the fruit was. I selected two halo fruit, and closed the locker again. I sat down, holding one fruit in my hand the other placed before me on the deck.

I love Halo fruit. The tart juice makes me glad to be alive. I moaned as if this were the most sensuous thing I had ever done in my life, as if all I loved in the world had been condensed into that fruit. I nibbled, I played with it, I listened as I did. Someone was there to my right, where a vent led into the air ducts. I didn’t look toward them, merely leaned back into the lockers, and ate.

The vent grate slipped open, two small grubby hands holding it to set aside gently. I could see the head. Filthy matted blonde hair hanging over a small face. As it came farther into view, I could see that it was a little girl, perhaps eight years old. I turned my head slightly, picking up the fruit. She froze.

I motioned for her to come out, and slowly she did. I moved my hand as if to lob the fruit to her and she put out her hands ready to catch it. I tossed it gently, and she caught it, watching me, warily still close to the duct. Hunger outweighed her caution a little, and she bit into it with a moan of delight that mimicked mine.

“You were hungry weren’t you?” I asked. She looked up, but there wasn’t any glimmer of understanding. She watched me, eating. “What are you doing here?”

She chewed, then grunted. “As ma shooka.” She said.

“Do you have a name?” She was watching me, and I touched my chest. “Danika.”

“Daneeka.” She repeated. I repeated myself, then reached out as if to say, ‘and you are’? “Me tal amkris Sasha.” She said.

“Sasha?” She nodded. Except for the name it sounded something like Mandalorian. “Well Sasha, maybe you need a more filling meal.” I signaled her to stay there, and went to the galley. Zaalbar was making stew, and I asked for a couple of bowls. He shrugged, ladling them out, setting thick slices of crusty bread on top of them for me. I walked back to the cargo hold. Sasha had disappeared, but when I set down the bowls in front of me and resumed my seat, she warily re-emerged. She looked at them, mewling with hunger.

Then one of the bowls shivered, and it started to rise, but fell back, the bread falling to the deck. I looked at her, and she was concentrating, trying to move it from across the room. I clicked my tongue, and she stopped, staring at me.

I lifted my hand, visualizing the bowl and it’s contents. I picked up the bread with the Force, flipping it back atop the bowl, then lifted it smoothly. It hovered half a meter off the floor. I heard her gasp of delight, and I slid it through the air to land a meter in front of her. She moved forward slowly as if she thought she might be netted, then picked up the bowl. The bread disappeared into her mouth, and she watched me as she ate. I picked up mine, and began to eat slowly, savoring the taste. She tasted the stew, made a face, then pulled the missing jar of Pipalli out, sprinkling it on the stew.

“Well we know where that went now.” I said.

She suddenly stiffened. I looked toward the door. Bastila stood there, looking at me, then at our little stowaway. “I think she needs a bath.”

“So do I. But we aren’t that far along yet.”

“Who is she?”

“I don’t know yet. All I have gotten is a smattering of a Mando dialect I don’t know, and Sasha as her name.” I looked at the girl, who was watching us both, still stuffing her face. “What is it, Bastila?”

“We’ve dropped into normal space, and we’re headed toward an old Republic storage satellite orbiting Yavin 4.”

I nodded, watching the girl. “Let me know when we’re going to dock.”

“What about her?”

“Until we know more, nothing but feeding her and letting her get used to us. We don’t even know where she boarded the ship. It could have been Taris, or Dantooine.”

“How could she-” Bastila shook her head. “Of course, we loaded supplies, and most of them were brought aboard by droids.”

Sasha was watching us. She had finished the stew, and was running her fingers around the bowl to catch any errant morsels remaining. Then she set it down with the spoon standing out of it. I looked at her, then held out my hand expectantly. “Watch this.” The bowl quivered, and lifted. Her control wasn’t good yet. It looked like a drunken invisible man was carrying it to me. Then it dropped, and I caught it. “Good, Sasha.” I said. “Bastila, we need a pillow and a blanket.”

“Can’t we just move her into the berthing area?”

“Have you ever dealt with a feral animal you want to make a pet?” I asked. She shook her head. “First you feed it, but you always allow it room to escape. You put out food for it so that it learns that food is there to be had. Let it decide when it wants to get closer. After a time, it will move closer because you haven’t done anything to frighten it. Soon it eats close enough to touch. Not long after that, it lets you pet it. Eventually it takes the food from your hand. But if you rush, you frighten it and if it doesn’t just run away and never come back, you have to start regaining it’s trust all over again.”

She shrugged, then left, returning with the items I had requested. I set them down on the floor, and left.

The satellite had been a hold over from the war of Exar Kun. When the Republic had invested the planet, they had moved a dozen of them into orbit, and used them to support the fleet that had devastated the planet. I even understood why it was still there. Afterward, it would have been too much trouble to blow it up, and too expensive to remove it. Everyone had wanted to get home and get on with their lives. There are worlds that still live off the supply dumps that were emplaced on their worlds during that war.

But the security systems were still active. Our transponder code was automatically stripped out, and we received permission to dock.

The ship settled into the docking bay, and the ramp dropped after checking the atmosphere. Bastila looked at me oddly as they shut down. Nominally I was in charge, but Bastila had a veto. She declined to use it at this moment. Our scanner had read a single fusion plant running, enough to maintain life support and orbital integrity, but not much else.

“Bastila, could you contact Dantooine and see if we can find out who our stowaway is?”

“Of course.”

I decided to take Juhani and Mission with me. Mission because as our official supercargo, she had a list of our needs, and Juhani because I felt she needed some time with others. She had spent most of her time by herself.

One convoluted passageway led from the only docking bay that seemed accessible, and the main disbursement office. Along the way panels had been ripped out, and controls and systems cross-wired. I could see that someone had taken a lot of effort to get the module back in operation. We came to a door that didn’t have a keypad. It had been ripped out, and a simple annunciator had been wired in instead. I shrugged, pushing the button.

“Who is it?” A voice asked in Rodian.

“I am Danika Wordweaver. I am on a mission for the Jedi Council.”

“What the Jedi Council need with poor old Suvam Tam?” The voice asked.

“Our mission doesn't concern you directly. We came here to investigate.”

“What you investigate? Why this still here?”

“Among other things, yes.”

He or she sighed. “Not get anything done unless I talk to you, I assume. Wait, the last door sticks a bit.” There was thumping and cursing in Rodian, then the door rolled open. Suvam Tam was a middle aged Rodian with a harried expression. ”Look, see what you must, and let me get back to work.” He said, turning to return to a workbench nearby.

I walked up to the docking control view, almost a hundred meters away, looking at the reddish glow of Yavin itself. The fourth moon was a gray and green planet, just coming back from what had been inflicted on it. “So sad.”

“That Republic must destroy?” Suvam shrugged. “When fools settle in one place, it happens. I saw, and there was no choice.” He hadn’t looked up from what he was doing.

“You’ve been here since then?”

“Before.” He slipped a minocular on, and was working on an antique weapon. “Exar Kun he bring Sith here, use many temples here to Dark side built in time of Naga Sadow. Not want to do work themselves. They bring in slaves. Most work on buildings, but some,” he thumbed his chest, “work on things needed to defend planet. Bases, weapons, those things.

“Best weapons makers Baragwin, you know Baragwin, right?” I nodded. “Some captured, others kidnapped. They make them work to make weapons. Big weapons.” He moved his hands as if to show the size. “Small weapons, some for hand like those.” He motioned toward the lightsaber at my belt.

“Me, I work for Baragwin master. Get taken with him. Him say I have gift. Can see what I want weapon to do before I even start building. He say ‘when war over, we set up shop, make lot of credits.”

He sighed unhappily. “Master die in first attack. I captured by Republic. Interrogate much time, trying to get secrets I don’t have. Then?” He waved toward the moon. “They smash planet to rock in a lot of places. Some slaves survive. Some don’t.”

“You were a slave?”

“No!” He looked surprised. “Use collar on craftsman? Not even Sith that stupid. No, we forced labor. Work or eat. Work or we punish. Life very simple if that your choice.”

“That is so sad.” I pictured a little Rodian boy being starved because he wouldn’t work.

He shrugged. “Not as bad as those building temples. Those that work die like insects. Work until they can work no more, then killed. Even finishing not good enough. Now you know a secret they not want you to know. So you die anyway.” He shrugged. “When moon was dead, Republic leave. Me I hid.“ He waved at the surroundings. “I stay to see what can be salvaged!”

I looked about. What he had been given in lieu of pay wasn’t much. “You stayed to salvage?”

“Yes. Find I not like people as much as I did when I was young. Older than I look! Stay. Fix small ship to go down to surface to scavenge food, things left by dead. Many things I have found. Many need repair. Many of interest to Exchange or Trandoshan. Some very interesting to Corporations. Others of interest only to historians or collectors.” He held up his current project, what looked like a half-melted lightsaber. “Last battle very bad. Many died below unable to fight back. Massassi died. Poor Massassi.” He turned back to what he was working on.

“But we received permission to dock.”

“Yes. Davik visit a long time ago, Trandoshan, smugglers. They shift cargo from one to the other. Keep from bothering law when they do.” He didn’t look up.

“How are you set for supplies?”

“Food is adequate. Trandoshan bring, but not quality.” He waved toward a crate marked E-rats. “Not good, but filling.”

Mission seemed to mentally rub her hands together. “Well how long has it been since you tasted Zabu meat? Or Canthis bird? Or even Hypnar bird?”

Suvam looked up, and I could almost see his mouth watering. Mission pretended to ignore him. “Or Halo fruit and Donkin pears?”

“You have?”

“We have. Now if we can come to an agreement...”

I left her to it. There is nothing the Twi-lek enjoys more than haggling, and I saw that we had a professional in charge. I ignored the haggling, instead paying attention to the exhibits, for if anything this was a museum. Some of what he had was as good as the day it had been manufactured. But a lot had been damaged. I saw a Kerantonian disruptor rifle that had last been held by Exar Kun’s Jedi guard, a plasma charge grenade powerful enough to destroy the station, now inert. Massassi swords as tall as I was, holocrons that held the sum of Exar Kun’s teaching needing only the hand of those who could use the force to bring them to life. I wanted to touch them, to feel this history.

The item that had been placed with honor was a 35-centimeter long double bladed lightsaber. I leaned forward, intent. The handle had been badly damaged, but it had been ornate and well thought out.

“You like?” Suvam opened the case. “Found in the citadel of Exar Kun himself!”

I wished it still worked. Better yet, if there had been provenance for the blade. Exar Kun’s blade had looked like this, and his Jedi guard had copied it.

The stone called Heart of the Force had been part of Exar Kun’s blade. A relic worth any price.

Mission finished negotiating. In return for ten kilos of Zabu meat, five each of both Hypnar and Canthis bird, with almost all of our Donkin pears thrown in, she had gotten us enough power packs for our assorted weapons for a major battle. In addition four planar blast charges, a trio of proton torpedoes found in a wrecked ship below and a dozen assorted crystals usable in a lightsaber. A light saber can be altered to take additional stones, each crystal modulating the beam to make it stronger, or more efficient against specific targets. Once we knew for sure which these were, we could install them, making us more efficient.

It took us several hours to move our purchases to the ship. Once we were done, we lifted off, headed back to the hyper limit. The bedding was gone, and I set a flask of water beside Sasha’s bolthole as we pushed outward.

Bastila was in the control room, and signaled me in. Master Vandar stood in midair in the holotank.

“Report, Padawan.”

I reported the find. While you might think that there was nothing of value, the Sith would be searching for valuables, and Suvam Tam was in the position to sell it to them. I suggested a Jedi team come to buy anything of real importance.

Vandar nodded. “This we shall do when we have time. Bastila has told us of the child. She is strong in the Force?”

“As strong if not stronger than I, Master Vandar.” I said. “Without training she has already learned to use her force skills. Is there any word of who she might be?”

“The local records are vague. There was a Sasha ot Sulem who has been missing for three years now. Her age matches the one you have aboard.” A holo appeared of a small girl in a pretty dress. “Her family home was destroyed in a Mandalorian raid, all of the bodies except for her were found. She has been believed dead.”

I looked at the picture. It could have been any young girl. But it could also have been Sasha. “She must have family. I will drop her off before we continue-”

“That you will not do. The mission must come first. Do you believe, as Bastila does, that she can be trained in the Force?”

I looked at Bastila. “She can be trained, but frankly can three Padawan handle what a Master must do?”

“You must handle it. Events move quickly, and Dantooine might become a target. People have been here searching for you both.”

“I understand, Master.”

“Good.” The holo faded.

“Your orders?” Bastila asked.

I considered our mission. The closest of the planets we needed to investigate was Kashyyyk. However there was Mission’s brother and Bastila’s mother to consider. “Set course for Tatooine.”

machievelli
04-19-2006, 01:55 PM
I was astonished to notice that I have had 0ver 300 hits in the last two weeks. Far better than I had hoped. You make an old man feel happy.

So...


Enroute to Tatooine

Mission

When they told me about Sasha, I thought, great! Someone to play with! Then Danika told me that Sasha had slipped aboard, and was almost wild.

That could be a problem. There’s a little feline type critter on Taris... Was a little feline type critter on Taris, called a Velet. I saw a Velet kit that had been separated from it’s mama, and tried to coax it into coming with me. Big Z had sort of chuckled at that. The idea of me having a big furry friend and a little one had amused him. But I had given up after about three hours.

Danika was a lot more patient than I was. She had come back aboard after Yavin, and somewhere on the station she had gotten a big tub like they use for cleaning machine parts. After scrubbing it, she had set it down in the cargo bay. Then she had run hoses from the water line in the cargo hold and filled it.

I heard splashing, and went to look. First thing I learned aboard was any noise out of the ordinary, like free standing water say, can be a danger. Danika was in the cargo hold, stripped to the waist, washing herself with just a washrag and soap. I can’t tell really what a human considers attractive. Her chest was a bigger than mine but nowhere near Lena’s. When she moved I could see muscles rippling. Man how long did it take to get muscles like that?

“Is the ‘fresher broken?” I asked.

“No, Mission.” I’m trying to coax Sasha out to bathe. I felt it would convince her if she saw me doing the same.” She loosened the chignon her hair was in, and ducked her head, picking up the shampoo. I hadn’t considered that a human had to wash their hair separately when they wash. Me I just scrub everything, and my Lekku get done as I do. Humans can make even the simplest things more complex. “Mission, how are you with a needle and thread?”

“Me? What do you want? A wound sewed closed?”

“No. All Sasha has to wear are rags. I want to alter some of my clothes to fit her. It wasn’t like there was anything to be had on Yavin.”

“Well if that’s what you want, leave me out. Maybe Zaalbar can help.”

“Ask him for me.”

I did, and came back. He’d never worn clothes, and didn’t understand altering them any more than I did. Bastila was meditating, as was the Cathar woman Juhani. Carth merely shook his head. Canderous scared me, so I was afraid to ask him.

She took it well. She had dried her upper body, and had stripped off from the waist down, scrubbing her legs. I heard a sound, and there she was, this little slip of a girl moving toward Danika. I didn’t say anything, and Danika seemed to be ignoring her.

The girl growled at me. I could see her attacking like an animal. “Sooka-fro majik?” Danika said. The girl looked at her. “Toka amkris Mission Vao.”

The girl looked at me, and seemed to settle back. “Ch-aka Borode, Mission Vao.”

“What does that mean?”

“I talked to Canderous. She speaks a dialect called Goodar among the Mandalore. Common on only one continent. I asked her is she thought you were a danger, and told her your name. She replied, ‘I see you, Mission Vao’. Their way of saying hello when you first meet someone.”

The girl was creeping closer, and Danika looked back at her. “Brakeesh!” She pinched her nose. “Wata nu zooka!”

The girl sniffed herself, then came closer. She dropped her clothes with no sense of modesty. I hissed when I saw the weals on her back, the bruises on her arms legs and chest. She was over half my age but someone had beaten her badly several times from the look of it.

“Mission, ask Juhani to give you a small med kit. I don’t think we’re going to convince Sasha to climb voluntarily into a Bacta tank any time soon.”

I ran to get it. I wanted to shoot whoever had done that to a kid myself. When I came back, Danika had gotten Sasha into the tub, and was scrubbing her down. As she did she made comments, some of them rough, some chiding as she scraped dirt and grease off her. I came back in, and for a moment I thought Sasha would bolt. But Danika whispered to her, and the kid settled down. She opened the med kit, and as she washed the girl, gently began treating her injuries. There wasn’t a lot she could do for the bruising, but the whip and belt marks were coated in synthflesh. The somagenerative properties of synthaflesh would reduce them to small almost unnoticeable scars. She began shampooing Sasha’s hair as I went to get a set of clothes from Danika’s locker. When I came back it was like they had gone out and gotten someone else to fill in for Sasha. With the filth washed out of it, Sasha’s hair was a reddish wheat-gold that reached almost to her waist. She was still thin but the last few days had been good at filling her out. Danika started to braid her own hair, and Sasha held some of her own to look at while she did. When Danika was finished, Sasha touched the tight weave of hair, then put Danika’s hand on her own with a questioning sound. Danika turned her, and began weaving Sasha’s hair as she had her own.

When she was done, she turned the girl around, looking her over. Then handed her the tunic. On Danika it reached to her upper thighs. On Sasha it was a knee length dress. Danika tightened the belt, rolling up the sleeves until Sasha’s hands stuck out. “Mootifoos?”

“Kajat.”

The girl said, rubbing her hands down the cloth then looked up questioning. “Sho-te?”

“Ya.”

The girl hugged herself, delighted. Then she bolted past Danika, scurrying back into the duct.

“Well that was a failure.” I said.

“No, Mission it was not. I can speak to her, I convinced her to take a bath, and she let me treat her injuries. It is a good beginning. Never decide you have failed until you have tried everything.”

“More Jedi wisdom?”

She looked at me with a slight grin. “No, that is Danika 101.”


Enroute to Tatooine

Danika

Things went much better than I might have hoped with Sasha. She accepted all of the female members of our band, and even seemed enthralled by Zaalbar. But if either Carth or Canderous came by at first she went into her bolthole again until they had left. There had been a small crystal figurine I had found on Yavin station, and I had given it to her when I got back. She was delighted with it, and carried it with her as if afraid it would be taken away again.

With the initial help of Canderous, I was able to pick up her language more readily, and she was able to tell me her story. She remembered ‘the wonderful place’ where she had lived, two people obviously her parents. Then the Mandalore raiders came. She had heard explosions, screaming, and her father had told her to run. She had tried, but a Duros had brought her down with a capture field, and she had been taken to a camp in one of the many caves on Dantooine. There she had been thrust into the arms of a woman. Her life there had been misery from that point on. Angry men slapping her if she cried because she wanted to go home, the desperate arms of the woman that had become briefly her mother. Though still too young to understand the reasoning, she had been assigned to help the women in maintaining the camp. Feeding the men when they returned, cleaning and cooking. The woman that had hugged her had disappeared during the intervening years on one of the brief voyages off-world. Sasha didn’t know what had happened to her, but human men had come, and they had locked a collar around her neck and dragged her off. There were other women, but they had disappeared as the first one had over the years on other voyages until it had been only her and three older women. At least older than me from what she could tell.

Then things had changed. They had returned to their cave. A Mando and three Duros had left, and not returned. Then it happened again. This time it was two Mando and three Duros. The loudest of her captors had taken all but one Duros, and left. They had also not returned. This had been the only time in all their captivity that all but one had been gone, and the women used it.

The women attacked and killed the last Duros less than an hour after their departure and fled. Sasha had been left alone. She had heard them speaking before the fight, and while she hadn’t understood the Basic they used, had felt maybe it was because the women thought she was a child of the ‘Manlorey’. That she was Mando.

She had run as well, and scavenged for a day. Then she had come upon a building. It had been a supply depot manned only by droids. They had been loading a cargo lifter, and she had broken into a box and found manna from heaven, more food than she had eaten at any one time in years. She had dumped a lot of it out, making a place where she could hide, and had gorged until she was full, then slept. The crate had been loaded onto a lifter, and the next time she opened it, she had been aboard the ship.

Three days into the voyage to Tatooine we were settling down to dinner when everyone hushed. Sasha was standing there in the hatchway, holding her figurine, watching us. Her eyes strayed to both Carth and Canderous as if she was unsure if she should even try to join us.

Canderous stood, then bowed. “Motben salik.” He said. The girl slowly came forward, and huddled up against me.

“You honor us?” I repeated in Basic.

He shrugged. “The raiders dishonored so many. I may die before I repay everything they have done. This one is among us, and if she were older, I would adopt her into our clan, and give her every honor to repay even a tithe of that pain. If she had any remaining family my clan would beggar themselves to reunite them. It is our way.”

Sasha ate with us from that point on. She still stayed out of arm’s reach of the men, but began following the rest of us about to see what we did. But at night she slept in her den. Mission had crawled into the ducts while Sasha was with me one day, and my heart almost broke when she told me what she had found. Sasha had taken cargo pads and made a rough bed, with the blanket and pillow I had given her neatly folded atop it. She had taken small items we had not missed to make it more comfortable.

Two nights later, I awoke to find her huddled against me. She came awake, and whimpered. In a soft whisper she asked “Yuru’?”

“Sho.” I whispered. “Danika.”

“Laesfra.” She whispered, snuggling closer.

“Yes, you’re safe here.” I went back to sleep with that small form in my arms.

She grew stronger in the force. One time I came through the cargo bay, and she was sitting in imitation of me when I meditated. Before her, even with her eyes, the figurine danced. She laughed with delight. She watched the Jedi among us practicing, and I saw her trying to imitate our fluid movements. Later she snarled when I brought out a remote to practice against. I discovered that her captors had used remotes with their weapons set on the most painful setting they had without killing to guard their prisoners when they slept. She would touch our lightsabers, and I could see the yearning in her eyes. She wanted to learn how they worked so that no one would ever hurt her again.

I caught her that evening with one of the lightsabers I had retrieved on Dantooine. She had activated it, and was reaching for the blade with wonder in her eyes.

“No, Sasha.” I said. She flinched, and I flinched as well when the blade came within a millimeter of cutting her throat. I clucked my tongue, and she opened her hand allowing me to take the lightsaber. I went to the other cargo hold, and used the workbench to convert it has Master Vandar had. I showed her that this blade would not cut, but would hurt. From that day on, she began practicing with a lightsaber.

We all rotated in teaching her the ways of the force. Bastila taught her meditation, Juhani how to move things, I taught her the physical skills. She picked up hand to hand combat readily. Partially because the Mando had practiced while she watched, but mostly for to her a more important reason. I was here, and she understood that any aboard would protect her. But she had an urge to protect herself.

We were a day out from Tatooine when it happened.

I saw a cave opening, large enough for the Ebon Hawk to dock in. I walked through it. A body of what had once been a Jedi sprawled to one side, and I mourned his passing as I walked by. The back of the cave held a few pitiful remains of an alien people’s glory. A statue of a species with eyes set on stalks out of the sides of their heads lay trampled by some great weight. Pillars had been pushed aside and cracked.
In the center however, lay the star map we sought. I walked toward it, and behind me I heard a deafening roar. I turned-

-I snapped awake. Sasha was curled against me in what had become her customary spot. I had tried once to bed her down with the other women, but she returned to share my bed. I kissed her gently on the head, and drifted back to sleep.





When facing more than one problem, use one problem to solve another


Tatooine:

Bastila

We dropped out of hyperspace, and plunged toward the actinic yellow ball of Tatooine. Another company that had discovered it had recently sold the rights to the planet to the Czerka Corporation. It is best know for the blowing sand, which is the only constant. Millennia ago, there had been a great cataclysm, and the surface had been scorched. The wind had spent those millennia wearing away the once glassy surface to an almost uniform sandy structure. There were few oases, and these shown in brilliant green specks on an otherwise bland yellow surface.

But there is still life. Life that would surprise anyone who saw only those blowing wastes. There were two intelligent species that called it home, the Jawa, and the ubiquitous Tusken Raiders, better known to the few that visited as the Sand People. It is home to the Bantha, which has become a staple commodity, being transported throughout the galaxy as beasts of burden. The dewback, an enormous lizard used on the planet by the settlers as riding animals. The Wraid Dragon and Krayt dragons, two of the largest predators known to the Republic, and a host of lesser animals.

“We’ll be landing in about an hour. Let everyone know.” Carth instructed.

I went aft. Danika sat at the table with Sasha, both nibbling on some cake that Zaalbar had made. I noticed how the younger girl mimicked Danika’s every reaction to the confection.

“Well we had another vision.” Danika said. She hadn’t looked at me.

“Yes. Surprising really, Tatooine is only known for blowing sand and inhospitable natives.”

“Perhaps it wasn’t always a wasteland.” She opined. “After all, it has been over 30,000 years since the map was emplaced.”

“We would assume so, yes.” I agreed cautiously. “However if the Star map were on the surface, it might have been worn to almost uselessness by now.”

“Or it’s in a cave somewhere as we saw it.”

“I agree. However if it is in a cave, that presents us with other problems. The animals of the planet would use such caves as lairs. Not to mention the Sand People could have done the same. No doubt we shall discover this when we find it.”

She nodded. “Bastila?”

“Yes?”

“You’re thinking of your mother.” I damned that link yet again.

“Yes. It was strange to hear from her after so long. It has been quite distracting. I can’t help wondering what she wants with me after all this time.”

“Yes.” She took a forkful of her own cake, and stuffed it into Sasha’s mouth. The girl made a noise of protest, but grinned as she chewed. “Why did the council send you along on this mission?”

I considered. “They felt you needed a cooler head along, and since I have this link to you, I was the obvious choice. Besides the events on Taris and the bond that formed between us really left them no choice. When the Force directs, even the Masters of the order must bow to it.”

“I just thought it was strange that none of the masters could be free to go with us.”

“I must admit that I have wondered the same thing. I thought perhaps this is more than simply a mission to stop Malak. I thought perhaps a test of my own abilities under trying circumstances.”

“I know something else is going on here. I almost feel like Carth. Sure that someone is out to get me.”

“Resist those thoughts. I actually thought for a moment that this was a test to see if I am worthy of becoming a master.” She looked at me, and I a barked laugh at her look. “Silly me, I suppose. I think that the reason they gave was the truth. They couldn’t spare a master if his presence were to draw attention to our mission. No, my dear Padawan, they picked the most palatable of the alternatives.”

“I suppose you’re right.”

“Well get your war council hat on, we will be arriving in less than an hour.”

machievelli
04-21-2006, 12:48 AM
Anchorhead

Danika

I left Sasha to complete the destruction of the cake, and went to the med station. Juhani had taken it as her own quarters, and was seated, meditating. She opened her eyes after a time.

“May I help you?” She asked.

“I wanted to make sure you were all right.”

“I thank you for your concern, but I am still shaken by how close I came to destroying myself.” She looked down. “I was reliving my anger, Quatra’s injury at my hands, and my fall. I can see within me that the fury I had felt is still there, bottled up inside me. Close to me as a predator gets when it is about to leap. I will never be free of it.”

“I think you will in time. That is all you really need right now.”

“It is kind of you to say so. I think that is why the Council sent me along with you. You are like a breath of fresh air in a fetid den. It helps at night when my beast rises.”

“Juhani, I will watch over you as best I can. I will warn you and lend my strength to you in any way to help you resist this.”

“I thank you for those words, and your acceptance. I will strive to remain worthy of your trust and company.”

I brought her with me, and we settled down around the table. Only Carth was busy, but he knew what he would be doing.

“All right, when we land, I will take Canderous and Bastila with me. Mission will be aboard and you Zaalbar will make sure of our supplies. Mission, I promise we will stop at the Czerka offices to find out about your brother. After we return we will discuss further options. Agreed?” Mission didn’t look happy, and I understood that, but Anchorhead is a rough town. The documentation we scanned from the planet had mentioned that the town had the highest incident of violent crime in the sector and suggested that everyone go armed. Having Canderous with us would actually convince people not to bother us.

Ebon Hawk settled down, and we disembarked. A harried looking customs official came up to us, holding a datapad.

“Welcome to Anchorhead. Czerka Corporation stands ready to be of service as soon as we get past the formalities. This ship reads as the Ebon Hawk. But the registry number is new. Is there a reason for that?”

“I purchased it from Davik Kang.” I replied. “The registry is now in my name.”

“Ah, yes. Danika Wordweaver, right?” I nodded. He made a tick mark on his pad. “Well since you are new, I have to charge you the entire fee of 100 credits. Is that all right?”

I nodded, hiding my wince. That was twice what the average core system charged.

The customs man leaned toward me to whisper. “Just between you and me, the company had to jack the rates up because this isn't a paying world if you know what I mean. Poor metal quality, the lack of hunters-”

“Hunters?” I asked.

“Yes. When they started having problems with the ore, Czerka noticed that there are a lot of really big life forms on this planet. They billed it as the best hunting in the galaxy!”

“I’m from Deralia.” I commented.

“You see the problem they ran into. There are half a dozen animals here worth hunting, but compared to your home world this is really tame.”

“You mentioned the metal problem?”

“Well.” He looked around. “If you scan the planet from orbit, you’ll find concentrations of just about everything. A lot of it is what’s left of shipwrecks, some of them tens of thousands of years old. Czerka looked at that, and figured they’d struck it rich. But then they arrived and found out that all of those wrecks were gutted. The Sand People and the Jawa have stripped out anything usable. It makes me cry to think a 30,000-year-old baffle plate off an engine makes a grill the Jawa cook on!” He shook his head. “But the hulls were still electro bonded and the locals couldn’t break that. Do you know what processed durasteel is worth? Enough to buy your ship ten times over in megaton job lots.

“The Corp shipped in sand crawlers, specially designed, mind you, to collect the wreckage, and smelt it down. Seemed to be working, but then we discovered that while the hull metal appears to be durasteel in every way you can test it, it shatters like glass if you hit it with a 4 kilo sledgehammer. Not what you want between you and space even if you don’t expect combat. They can‘t explain it. It’s almost like the molecular matrix is flawed, though no one can figure out why.

“When buyers found that out we couldn’t sell it even at scrap prices. They decided to try the ‘hunter’s paradise” gambit but that hasn’t worked either. I can see us dumping the planet as a dead loss in a few years.”

“Has a woman named Helena Shan been through?“ Bastila asked.

“Three weeks ago.

Bastila sighed. “Where did you see her?”

“She walked into the Anchorhead Cantina a week ago as if she owned the place, and has been there ever since.”

“So she is still there?” I asked.

“Unless someone killed her. She hasn’t moved except to sleep, and she doesn’t do a lot of that unfortunately. There have been complaints.” He waved to us, and went on his way.

Bastila stood there, eyes closed. Her calm center was fraying even as I watched. “I think we had best find her quickly. She has no patience when it comes to waiting.”

We checked the local visitor’s map, and located the Cantina, which was by the town gates. We started that way, Bastila storming in the lead. We came around a corner, and I grabbed her, pulling her back.

A Dark Jedi stepped from a shadow, followed by two more. “Lord Malak wants a word with you, Bastila. After we’ve taken your friends down, we can discuss it.” He reached out, and Bastila fell, writhing as the Dark Jedi tormented her. The Jedi turned. I could see his eyes widen at the sight of me. “It’s not possible!”

The others looked at each other, then with a scream, they charged. I caught the first as he passed, leaping over his blade, and cutting from above, splitting his head as I landed. The second was busy deflecting bolts from Canderous’ rifle. Then he flinched back as Canderous aimed at the ground, blowing melted sand into his face. I charged the one that was pinning Bastila down, and he went down in a welter of blood. I turned, the last dark Jedi charging me, then suddenly his chest opened up like a flower as Canderous put a bolt worthy of a vehicle through it. He looked at me.

“Only a fool turns his back on a living Mandalore warrior.” He said laconically.

I noticed that except for those that had ducked out of the line of fire, no one was paying us the least attention. Once the shooting stopped people began pushing through on their own business again. I checked the bodies, finding four light sabers, one of them a double-headed design. The hand that had wielded it was the same size as mine, and I flipped it to check the balance. I would work on it.

A Jawa came toward where the fight had occurred, struggling with a bag almost as large as himself. “Could you use some help?“ I asked.

The hooded face came up looking at me. “Yours do not care about ours. Do you miss those the sand ghosts have taken from the tribe of Iziz?”

“Those the sand ghosts have taken?” I knelt on one knee to look him in the eye. “Are some of your people missing?”

“Is this interest?” The tone suggested only a slight amount of sarcasm. “Not from your kind is this usual, though Iziz thinks better of your kind than most. If in truth this is interest speak to him. If it is not, then leave us in our misery.” He struggled to lift the bag. “Tired of giant-speak. Might as well slave for the ghosts as talk with your kind.”

I reached down, plucking the sack from his hand. “First you will tell me where this goes, and I will walk with you a short time.”

He harrumphed, then led toward the gate. A moisture farmer’s lifter was there, and he stopped me before the farmer could see us. He struggled the bag over, dodging a cuffing hand, and ran back the way he had come.

Iziz. I would have to remember that name.

Bastila was focused, and I could feel her anxiety through the bond.

The Cantina was a small structure dug into the sand to provide some cooling from the scorching suns. She paused, hand against the door as if she could reach through it. “We won’t get this over with standing out here.” I whispered.

“I know that.” She hissed. She was seething inside, and I reached out, letting a calming thought flow over her. She spun, glaring. “Get out of my mind!”

I eased off, and she spun back, slamming the button to open it. It was dark in comparison to the outside, a few people standing at the bar, or at tables. However there was a wide gap around one table. The woman there looked worn and ill used by life. I could feel a darkness. Not evil, but pain, grief, and, soon in her mind, death. Bastila froze, and I moved past her. The way her mind was roiling, we would have stood there until the Galaxy died of old age.

“Helena Shan?” I asked. She looked up, squinting.

“Yes. I’m sorry, do I know you?”

Bastila stepped forward finally. “I am here, mother.” Then her voice grew sharp. “Or don’t you recognize me?”

Helena looked at her. I could see her wanting to say so much, reacting more to the tone of voice than what she saw. “How would I know what you looked like? All I have is pictures of you as a child. Do you know how long I have been looking for you?” The tone was sharper than Bastila’s.

“You knew as well as I that communications would be impossible once I joined the order.” She stiffened. “So what is this all about, and where is father?”

Helena seemed to shrink. “Then you haven’t heard. I might have known.”

“Well? Are you going to answer my question or not? Spit it out!”

“You’re father... He’s dead, Bastila.” She clutched her drink. She signaled, and the bartender brought another. “He died last month.”

“Last month.” Bastila’s tone was brittle. I felt something die inside her, and its death stoked the furnace of her anger. “What happened? What did you talk him into this time?”

Helena was awash in pain, and like Bastila struck out from it. “My what a nice family reunion.” She looked at me. “Do you treat your mother this way?”

“My mother died when I was young.” I replied.

“Well I will join her soon enough, we can compare our daughters!”

“Enough, mother. I was told you were sick, was that sheer melodrama or what?”

“Such sweet words you have for me.” She sighed, sipping her drink and making a face. “I had best tell you everything before we start arguing again.”

“Start with how you got father killed.”

“If I had known that becoming a Jedi would have made you even more spiteful, I would have never suggested it. Do you want to hear that I talked him into coming here? That way you can blame me for his death. You never understood that these expeditions were what he enjoyed the most. That is why you always ended up with me! I was always the blame for all of your problems with him, what else is new?”

She sipped again. I closed my eyes, trying to smell what she was drinking. It was hard, because a bar has so many smells. I listened as I started removing different odors. A fairly useful talent when you learn to do it instinctively. Picture knowing that something has been added to the atmosphere immediately!

“So yes, you’re absolutely right as always. I brought your father here last month to try to collect some Krayt Dragon pearls. He went with an expedition that was wiped out in the Dune Sea.”

“He might have survived! He was an experienced hunter-”

“I wish it were so. But the only survivor was a bearer. A krayt dragon attacked as they were setting up camp. He saw the rest of the team die.” She looked at Bastila helplessly. “Considering how well we get along, do you think I would have tried to contact you myself otherwise?”

“So what do you want from me? Credits? A shoulder to cry on?”

“Damn you, no! I know something about the training you have undertaken. I was hoping you could get your father’s holocron and bring it to me.”

“Why? So you can sell it? Or write a book based on his misguided life-”

“Shut up!” Helen stood as I identified what she had been drinking. Kolto-laced wine. “Is it so impossible that perhaps I want something to remember my husband by?” She glared at Bastila, then settled back, looking away. “You needn’t have bothered to come, then.”

Mother we are on an important mission for the Jedi Council-”

“You always were. We have been trying to contact you for three years now, but you were always too busy!” She sipped the drink. “Like always.”

“Bastila.” I said. “Ask about her sickness.”

“Why?” She glared at me. “It has nothing to do with what she wants! It’s just a ploy knowing her.” She glared at her mother again. “Well, mother? Are you going to admit it?”

Helena glared back at her. “Believe what you want. All I ask is that you retrieve Brean’s holocron. Once I have that you are rid of me.”

“Just what I would have expected from you.” Bastila turned. “If we happen to pass by where he died, I will see about finding it. Once that is done I have no other reason to even speak with you again.” She turned and stalked away. I looked at Helena, seeing the pain she had been unwilling to show Bastila lest it be taken as weakness. I touched her hand, and followed.

Outside, Bastila was standing, staring at the sand at her feet.

“Bastila-”

“Don’t even speak to me!” She spun. “The only thing she and I had in common was father, and now that he’s dead, I want nothing to do with her!”

“Why didn’t you ask her about her sickness?” I asked.

“I can’t be objective about that woman. I doubt she is sick. She was always lying about things to get her own way. My father leaped through hoops thanks to her, and with him gone...” She turned away. “With him gone now she thinks I will do the same.”

“You sound so, bitter.”

“I worked for years to remove that anger. I thought I had. But just seeing her, it’s like I’m five again.” She shook her head. “We have things to do.”

We walked over to the city gate, but a Czerka guard stopped us. We couldn’t leave without a hunter’s permit, and we had to return to the Czerka Corporation office to get it.

I wasn’t feeling to comfortable with Bastila right then. She had closed down the bond so tightly that I felt stifled. I knew distance wouldn’t help, but I was sure that not being close enough to rip each other apart might help. I went back to the ship, left Canderous and Bastila there, and went back out with Mission in tow.


Tatooine

Mission

I was looking forward to seeing Griff again, but at the same time, I dreaded it. When Danika came to get me I threw on my armor picked up my weapons, and was after her at a jog.

She went to the Czerka Corp office, and we went in.

The local rep was trying to talk to a Duros. Or rather, was listening as he screamed at her. “You haven’t heard the end of this you puppet! I am not going to let the massacre of an entire village of Sand people occur because you won’t negotiate!”

“What is going on here?” Danika asked softly. The Duros spun, glaring at her. “I have had enough of this! I don’t think she wants to listen, and I know the Corporation doesn’t give a damn! No accountability! That’s the problem with owning everything on a planet!” He grumbled a few curses I made sure to remember.

The rep watched him go, then turned a brilliant smile on us. I’m just glad she wasn’t selling used land speeders. “Welcome to the offices of Czerka Corporation, Tatooine. I trust I can help you?” She grimaced. “If it is about employment as a miner, I am afraid our crews are full at the moment. We have also suspended sale of Hunter’s licenses. We have too many people out there rather than using our services as it is.”

“Griff!” I blurted.

Danika looked at me, but didn’t complain. “We are looking for one of your employees. Griff Vao.”

“Griff...” The rep seemed to be confused, then looked at me. Her eyes widened. “The Twi-lek. Of course. I remember him. Not fondly. Not a good worker. Always complaining, falsifying work records, faking injuries.

“We had started an investigation in the belief that he was stealing corporate property. We would have fired him if the Sand People hadn’t gotten to him first.”

“What?” She flinched back at my shout.

“He went missing during a Sand People raid about a month ago. Our rescue team reported that some of the workers had been taken prisoner, but it wasn’t cost effective to try to attack the village. After all, our miners all sign waivers that absolve us of liability in these cases.”

“So your workers are all expendable.” Danika said as she caught my arm. I didn’t know if pulling hair was as painful as pulling Lekku, but I was willing to find out.

“Good heavens, no! Czerka Corporation considers every one of our employees as a valuable asset. That is why we have been paying bounties for the Sand People! As for this young man, his body was not found, so he is either a prisoner, or beyond the boundary of our corporate lands.”

“Our business is out there.” Danika said. “I require permission to leave the town.”

“Part of the reason we suspended selling licenses was because of the Sand People of the closest village.” She looked at Danika speculatively. “However I could make an exception if you could perform a service for the Corporation.”

“What manner of service?”

“As I said, the raiders of the Truuata village to the southwest have been a constant menace. The chieftain has launched attack after attack, and nothing we have done has slowed them. They attack our miners, destroy our sand crawlers, it has become unacceptable.”

“And what would you have me do?”

“I thought it was obvious. I will give you a license, and a bounty for every gaffi stick you collect. If you should collect the Chieftain's stick, I will pay an extra bonus.”

“Why the gaffi sticks?” Danika asked, then motioned sarcastically. “Isn’t a bounty usually paid for the heads instead?”

She didn't seem to get the sarcasm. “And what do you think I want dumped on my desk?” The woman replied. “Besides, they are ceremonial weapons, and are unique to both the tribe and the warrior.”

Danika nodded. “Very well.”

“Wait.” The woman moved to her desk, brought up something on her main computer, then transferred it to a datapad. “This is an enforcable contract. Czerka Corporation considers this a very important problem, and will litigate as necessary if you violate it.”

Danika looked at the contract, scrolling through it with meticulous care. Then she thumb printed it.

“Very well. Here is your license and your copy of the contract. The village is to the southwest. Now is there anything else?”

“No.” Danika led me outside, then hugged me. “If he’s alive, we will find him, Mission.”

“I know. But she burned my jets! ‘After all, our miners all sign waivers that absolve us of liability’!” I wanted to rip out that black hair. “And you’ve promised to kill them!’

“No, I did not. The wording of the contract is suitably vague. I am to ‘deal with the problem expeditiously’. Is there anything there that suggests I am to kill anyone?”

“No.” I said slowly.

“But you will.” We turned. The Duros that had been arguing with the rep was standing there. “You’re kind don’t think of any other way.’

“If you intend to insult us, could we at least have your name?” Danika asked.

“Dayso Cooh. A registered correspondent for the Conservation Monthly. There is always a way to find a peaceful solution. They’re just lazy.” He jerked a thumb toward the office. “The Sand People are intelligent. Anyone that has survived an attack speaks of how well planned they are. There must be a way to communicate with them. But does Czerka care?” He shook his head angrily. “Ten hunters have already accepted this little commission of Representative Bakri. Some of their heads have been left outside the gates. Since you can’t leave without corporate approval, she can make this a condition when she issues a license.”

“Who started the attacks?”

“Honestly? The Sand People did.” Dayso admitted. “But look at it as if that was your home.” He waved toward the sand. “Czerka sets up here, where every other settlement has failed, brings in massive sand crawlers, and begins ripping up their home. Does the Corporation ask? Of course not! They own the planet! Just ask the Republic! It was an invasion with no mention of why, no offer to buy rights, no nothing! What would you have them do?

“I don’t think they should have begun killing immediately, but I am always hopeful that someone will at least try to talk.”

“There haven’t been attempts to talk before?” Danika was astonished.

Dayso looked uncomfortable. “Well, yes there have.” He admitted. “But the Sand People refuse to learn any of our languages, and most of the translation droids lock up when they try to translate. There was some Jedi here a few years ago, but even their attempt ended in blood.

“I’m not saying it would be easy! But with a proper translator droid it would at least be possible.”

“Yes, I could see what would be a problem.” She sighed. “Without such a droid, I may end up spilling blood too.”

“But there might be a way.” Dayso said. “The Ithorian Yuka Laka has a droid he claims speaks the local Sand People dialect. Of course he’d say rust was pure gold if it meant a sale.”

“With the droid then-”

“Of course common Sand People don’t negotiate. Only the Chieftain has the authority. You’d have to get to their encampment. That would also be a problem.”

“Must I pull the problems out of you as if they were teeth?” Danika asked.

“Sorry. You would be attacked immediately dressed in anything other than their own style of clothing. Perhaps you could take them off the bodies of some Sand People. A droid could travel without that of course. They’ve captured quite a few, and use them to maintain their defenses.”

“Defenses?” Danika waved toward the door. “They seem to think the Sand People have trouble feeding themselves without help.”

“Well I have recordings of that encampment taken from the air when I rented a shuttle to go to the Mos Eisley settlement.” Dayso looked around. “Don’t tell her, but they have mines scattered between them and the Dune Sea along the entry into their valley. Turrets they’ve stolen off sand crawlers that their droids have rigged up to defend the last vale. It isn’t an easy trip.”

“I will try to find a peaceful option.” Danika said. “This droid shop is where?”

He directed us, and we walked through the streets. The shop like every permanent structure was buried in the sand. Danika stepped in, and stopped.

“A customer perhaps?” Yuka Laka set down his tools, and came toward us. “If there is anything you need that my shop can supply, don’t hesitate to ask. I have a new droid ready now for sale. A translator droid that might have been used for security since it also has armor and weapons mounts. Its designation is HK47.” He waved toward the side.

There was a droid in the corner like none I have ever seen. It was bipedal, like a protocol or historical droid, but the metal finish was a flat red. The head was a boxy carapace, with a small set of visual receptors. Weapons mounts was right, it had what you would have expected on a war droid. As I looked at it, the head rotated, and it looked back at me.

“HK? What does that designation stand for?” Danika asked.

“I have no idea.” Laka admitted. “But nothing is wrong with it beyond a problem dumping its memory core. The machine claims to speak several million languages including three dialects of the local Sand People and four Jawa dialects. It has a comprehensive databank of military functions, and could easily operate as a war droid.” He glared at the machine. “Stupid machine doesn’t know how to sell itself, though. I had some moisture farmers in yesterday, and it just stood there like a lump and ignored them.” He fingered the control for the restraining bolt on his hip. The look he gave the droid was worried.

“Maybe it will talk to me.” Danika said. She walked across to the droid.

The head turned to watch us, and I got the feeling of fury tightly leashed from it. The hands were twice the size of mine, and clenched slowly.

“You are HK47?”

“Affirmative, prospective buyer.” The voice was atonal, and harsh.

“Tell me about yourself.”

“Identification information: HK series model 47, manufactured by Systech. My functions include translation, combat, and-” It paused. “Other duties that a discerning purchaser would rather not hear when Yuka Laka is within hearing. Query, will you purchase me?”

“Explain more of your functions.”

“Warning: Considering the greed of my present owner, the full range of my capabilities would only result in his raising the price until I cannot be sold.” The head turned. “That would be... unacceptable.”

“Hasn’t he tried to find this out already?”

“Affirmation. However he soon decided that staying out of arm’s reach was preferable to dealing with me. Let us just say I can handle all protocol needs, serve canapes, and if the guests get unruly, eliminate them cleanly.”

Danika leaned forward. “Let me guess. Your designation stands for Hunter-killer I assume?” She whispered.

“Denial: Such an autonomous unit would be skirting the boundary of legalities except during time of war.” HK replied. The voice dropped softer. “But if that form of legality is not a problem, affirmative. I would be wasted on a moisture farmer, or some woman who needs her house cleaned. I would much rather be out of here, away from that being.” The head came up, and the voice came back to full volume. “Ithorian, physical action, strike behind eyestalk at 15th cervical vertebrae. Death is immediate.” I could hear a yelp of dismay from Laka.

“I told you to stop that!” Laka was quivering as if he was going to explode.

“Preparation: My primary function has been engaged.” The right hand came up, and the barrel of a blaster slid out. There was a click and bleep. “Destruction of all unauthorized life forms will commence.”

Laka fumbled up the control, and there was a buzzing from HK. “It keeps doing that too. Someone almost blasted it yesterday.”

“I see you have a problem with it.”

“Yes I do.” Laka looked irritated. “A good chunk of its memory core is inaccessible, and according to it, any attempt to delete it, or access it without proper codes will cause it to immediately self-destruct. There is supposed to be a thermal detonator inside that glob of grease.”

I flinched, looking at the room. Not even the walls would survive that! “Maybe I could take a look at it?” I asked.

“If your companion damages it, I will have to charge you.”

“I understand. Mission?”

I walked warily to stand beside the droid, and popped it’s service access. From the thickness of the armor, I was sure it could take at least three blaster bolts to penetrate it. There were ships I had seen with less armor. I knelt to get a better look. “HK,” I whispered, how much of what you told Laka is true?”

“Statement: The thermal detonator is a lie.” It whispered back. “But I am programmed to eliminate everyone in the room if any attempt is made to access my sealed programming. There is one section that should be accessible, but is not. Surmise: The restraining bolt might be blocking it.”

I nodded, pretending to check the systems. The power core had enough shunts to support an integral defensive shield, and the other arm had a disruptor mount. “Where did you get this model?”

“A Czerka warehouse off world. The quartermaster there owed someone here a debt, and sent this. He said they’d never miss it. But I know it‘s not Czerka manufacture.”

I nodded. “This is your combat circuitry?” I whispered, touching a line.

“Affirmative.” I whistled. This thing could carry any weapon a man might, and use any of them without further modification. Someone had taken the concept of a war droid past where most would even think to allow it. I closed the panel. “Done.”

“Verification: Understood.”

I went back over to Danika and whispered. “I don’t know who made it, but I can think of only one real use. I think it’s an assassin.”

“Well we won’t hold that against it.” Danika said. She began talking with Laka, and finally got him to settle for 2500 credits. The Ithorian looked relieved to get the behemoth out of his shop. He deactivated the restraining bolt, then rearmed HK’s weapons.

“HK, I have purchased you.”

“Acceptance: My joy knows no bounds, master.” The head turned to lock on Laka. “Shall I show it by eliminating someone?”

“No. Just come with me.”

“Regret: Understood.” The voice sounded a bit peeved.

Outside, the suns were past noon. Danika stopped, then flinched as a small group of Jawa came over.

I don’t understand Jawa, but HK told me what was said later.

“You are going into the desert to deal with the giant ones, yes?” One of them asked.

“I will be going that way, yes.” Danika replied fluently.

“Then our chieftain would ask a boon of you.” The Jawa motioned toward another standing a short distance from the gates. We walked over, and her turned to face us.

Most people seem to think of Jawa as merely scavengers with little or no morals. I don’t know if that is true, but this one had a curious dignity.

“I am Iziz, leader of the small tribe that stayed here in this settlement. You are by your actions, a leader of the same sort.” He said. “One of my people spoke of you. That you asked concerning some on mine that have been taken. That you helped him with a burden unasked. You are going to confront the giants of the sand?”

“Do you mean the Sand People?”

“Such is what you call them. Even in their own language, that is a simplistic designation. The desert ghosts have taken some of my people, and I would ask you to return them.”

“Taken?”

“Your kind allows us to live here, and trust us not. But you do not enslave or brutalize us. They however have no such restraint. Many of mine have been taken, and they are forced to work for the giants. Horned giants take us. If choose we must, we would prefer your way.”

“So you want me to rescue them.”

“Yes,” He hummed a moment. “Speaking in your languages is difficult for us. I believe in your society it is right to give something in return for such an act? We have much knowledge of the sands of our world. If there is anything we could supply, you have but to ask.”

Danika knelt, and drew a sketch of the Star Map we found on Dantooine. “Have you seen something like this?”

“Yes. It is in the great Eastern Dune Sea. Much distance away. Landspeeder is needed. The cave is also home to a great dragon.”

“Where?”

“Any more I will not tell until you have saved my people.”

“Agreed.” Danika stood. “I am returning to our ship. I have to find Sand People clothes before I can enter their village.”

Iziz turned, and spoke rapidly to another of his people. “We can supply. We find things, and have for generations. Many is the time that your kind, those that dwell in the sky come here, all they leave we find. That we can we take to use, or to sell. So it has been since the beginning.”

“Deliver the clothes to the Ebon Hawk.” She instructed.

“It will be done.”

machievelli
04-21-2006, 11:18 PM
Tatooine

Danika

We had a lively discussion when we returned to Ebon Hawk. Canderous wanted to go along. I think he liked the odds. Carth was still growling about everything, and didn’t even want to talk to me. Bastila would have volunteered, but I still felt too much through the link to trust myself with her.

Canderous came up with the easiest way to get us there. He left the ship, and came back an hour before sunset with three grav-chutes. Used by troops being deployed from a shuttle, they allowed you to drop into an area not easily accessible from the ground. We pored over the maps of the region, and I marked a spot. It was about a kilometer from the village over rough terrain. It had the advantage of having an area large enough to land the Ebon Hawk if we had to escape rapidly.

I chose to take a minimal team. Mission wanted to go, and the idea of jumping out of the ship was terrifying, but she wanted to go anyway. HK had to go, and I went because I was in charge.

Hk’s memory had not returned. He initially believed that the restraining bolt had been blocking it but admitted that all functions had not been returned.

But from what it could tell me of that additional function, Mission had been right. HK had been designed as an assassin. The fact that such a droid was illegal was secondary. It had a tendency to call living beings ‘meatbags’ for some reason, but I didn’t have the time to find out why.

As Carth lifted off, I worked on the double lightsaber, using a couple of the modulating crystals we had picked up on Yavin. I checked the rest of my gear with care. I didn’t take a blaster, but I did take half a dozen grenades just in case. When Carth signaled, we were ready.

I hadn’t bothered to mention to Mission that I didn’t like grav-chutes either. They had a distressing tendency to fail, and when set for HALO operations, high altitude, low opening as they had to be for this mission, were terrifying in their own right. We would be jumping at three kilometers altitude, and they were supposed to activate at 100 meters. That left you 2900 meters to contemplate your own chances that it would fail, and less than two seconds of realization if they did.

No help for it. I stood beside the ramp, holding Mission’s hand. “Ready?”

“No.” She admitted. “But let’s go.”

I nodded, and we ran down the ramp, launching ourselves into space. We had a full sensor pack, and as fell, I directed our flight, I didn’t need to look behind me, because HK had been briefed, and his systems were actually better than the headset I wore. Mission stayed even with me, watching me instead of the darkness below us. I saw some fires, and angled toward them. I wanted to land as close as possible, but not so close that they would think we were an assault force.

I felt the chute grab, and suddenly I was falling at a brisk walking pace instead of a plummet. I hit the ground, and rolled instinctively. Mission had not been watching, and her fall was what we called a ‘beginner’s grav-chute landing fall’ or hitting the ground in order, ‘toes, knees, nose‘. Falling flat with a painful stop. She cursed under her breath as she stood.

We dressed in the Sand People’s gear Iziz had delivered, and I got my bearings. A dark shape moved, and HK was at our side.

“The village is there.” I pointed.

“Affirmative: There are an estimated 200 of them including children.” It reported.

We started off slowly, watching for guards. From what I had heard, there had been no attempts to drop strike forces on them, but night attacks had been common.

Mission caught my arm, shaking her head. “Plasma mine right in front of you.” She whispered. She knelt, sliding forward like an inchworm, then began the delicate process of disarming the mine. As we went, I mentally kept track of the placement.

“They didn’t place the field correctly.” I murmured as she disarmed the ninth mine of the evening.

“You’re complaining?” She hissed. The mine slipped from the ground, and she slid it into her pack.

“No. I just expect some competency from my enemies.”

We came upon a sentry, and I knocked him out. I didn’t want to kill anyone unnecessarily.

The tents were leather stretched over forms made of bones and branches, then waxed to make them hard. I walked through the village, looking for a larger tent, which would hold the leader. I found the tent but he was not there. I saw a larger fire, and a dozen or more of Sand People were gathered around it.

I motioned for HK to walk ahead, and we followed in his wake. When we reached the fire, I stepped forward, and slowly pulled off the wrappings on my face. They froze, and I could see hands reaching for weapons. I drew my lightsaber. “HK, tell them we are here to talk, not to fight.” I knelt, setting it on the ground.

The sound that issued was a series of grunts and wails. They fondled their weapons, and one or two looked to a huge specimen. He replied.

“Translation: He says you defame his people. Remove the clothing so that if die you must, they will not be damaged.”

I motioned, and both Mission and I stripped. She left her weapons on the ground as I instructed her.

“You are brave, but stupid.” HK translated. “Many of your kind have come, defaming our planet, using machines rather than walking or riding the sacred animals. Since you come to talk, we will allow your talk for a time.”

“Translate for me.” I said. “Great chief, your skills are well known, and those who control the town fear you. They send those paid to kill you, they collect Gaffi to prove they have done so. I could have done this as they demanded, but life is precious to me. I come to you bearing words of life in one hand and death in the other. Which shall be spoken this night is up to you.”

He nodded. “Let me hear your words of life.”

“I know why you attack the people of the settlement. I know why you hate them, but you are known to be wise, chief of the Truuata. They would not fear you else. I ask if there is a way to end this fighting.”

“The ones in the town bring this. They defame our world, ripping the sand from it as if that is what they eat. Taking as their own the relics of those we have defeated in the past generations. They press us hard, killing our warriors, our women,“ He paused, and his scorn came through in HK’s translation, “Our children. Our people must move from here to the next oasis, but not even we can merely walk into the sands. Such is death even for us. Until there is a way to move, we must fight.”

“Your words of death are strong. But what does your people need to move in safety? What must you have to use words of life with me rather than words of death?”

He bent, talking with a couple of his advisors. “Water is what we need. Water enough to reach the next oasis at least. That is what would allow us to withdraw.”

“Do you know of what are called vaporators?” I asked.

“This word is strange. What is this thing you speak of.”

“We need water as well. The small farms which grow plants use what are called vaporators to take the water in the air and make it liquid again.”

“An abomination.”

“Such is true, great chief. But could you accept an abomination if it will deliver your people safely to the oasis?”

He conferred with his people again. “We have listened to your words of life. They are strong. And what have you to say with words of death?”

“Death awaits us all. In the Gaffi you carry, in the blasters both my friend and some of yours carry.” I opened the clothes I had worn, and set out the grenades I had brought. “In the grenades I carry, and my blade.” I lifted it, triggering it so they could see it. Then they stiffened as Mission laid the mines we had disarmed in a line. “In the metal death boxes you have sown to trap your enemies.” I waved toward them. “But you do not understand their use in full. If you wish, I can have discover if one of your droids was programmed to emplace them in a proper manner, meaning where they have the best effect in stopping you enemies, yet are easily gathered later.” I looked into the mask the Chieftain wore. “Death will collect all of us sooner or late. I only try to keep death away for a moment longer. For me, for your people and for those in the town.”

The chieftain stood. “I have listened to your words of death and life. They are strong in your own heart and beliefs, and resonate among us. It is good that warriors of honor meet in this time of death and life.

“It shall be life. Bring us these ‘vaporators’. Show us their use. Have your droid teach ours this skill with the death boxes, and we shall see if your way is better.” He looked at the mines with distaste. “They are abominations, weapons that do not care what they kill. But your kind doesn’t seem to care what dies either so they are the perfect weapon for you.

“When I am sure that you have not used your words of life to betray us, you will be allowed to return.”

I pointed at the mines. “These are an abomination to me and a lot of my kind as well. weapons that will kill long after you and the fourth generation of your get are dead. Killing people who don’t even know that you lived. That is why I would teach your droids of how to find and remove them. To rid your land of ancient death that does not care who it kills.” I picked up my weapons, motioning for Mission to do the same. “May I ask my ship to pick us up?”

He looked at the sky. “If you would leave you must walk. Your flying things are an abomination. I will tell my warriors to avoid the people of the town. But I cannot stop all attacks. There are those among your kind that do not understand the honor of death and life.” He dismissed us.

We walked back the way we had come. “We didn’t ask about Griff!” Mission said.

“I know, Mission. Wait a little longer.” I looked around. “HK, are we being followed?”

“Affirmative: But they are not close enough to hear us.”

“Are they close enough to see the ship land?”

“Affirmative.”

We walked on. After another hour, HK reported that they were no longer trailing us. The ship came in, and lifted us back to town.


Tatooine:

Mission

I thought I’d have trouble sleeping, but I was out the instant my head hit the pillow.

We went over to the Czerka offices. The protocol officer wasn’t there, but a Rodian was busy at the supply kiosk.

“Greeta Holda my name. I run supply section. If you have business with protocol officer-”

“No, it is actually you I came to see.” Danika said. “I need some moisture vaporators.”

“That not something I usually sell to spacers. You no look like farmers. What you do with them?”

Danika looked around. “I have convinced the Truuata to move, but they need water. The vaporators can supply that, yes?”

“Ah. Appeasement. Company not like that.” He hit some keys. “Me, I think it great. We only have one model, the 400 series. Working in pairs they distill 10 liters an hour. Will do?”

“Yes. A pair of them.”

Greeta nodded, hitting a button. “Will be delivered here. What else you need?”

“Is there a Bantha for rent?”

“Yes. But not here. Go to main gate, talk with Drooti the Aqualish. He rent.”

“Thank you.” She handed over her card and paid for them

Riding a Bantha is like riding a very slow speeder. They barely get up to 20 kilometers an hour but they can walk all day at that pace. The village was twenty kilometers away, but it took us three hours to get there thanks to weaving back and forth to avoid the more dangerous terrain. The Sand People stopped us before we got there. Man, those guys were good at hiding. One minute we’re going along with nothing in sight, the next there were thirty of them. HK chilled them out, and they escorted us to the village.

Danika unloaded the vaporators, and with HK translating, was able to explain it. While ten liters in that weather is just enough to take care of three average people, to the Sand People it must have been a mobile oasis. Danika also showed them what buttons to push to reduce the thing to scrap. She then patiently explained how a minefield was laid, and more importantly, how it was swept. Again she showed him how to disarm them permanently. The chief was so happy he gave his Gaffi to her.

They didn’t want to deal with slaves on the trek, so when Danika asked, they gave the lot to us. Thirty odd Jawas, three humans.

And Griff.

I was still burning about his comment. When HK asked about the servants, they had enumerated them. When they got to Griff, they said he was worthless for work, and he only lived because he amused the females. The chief wanted him out of there quick, but saw no honor in killing him.

Griff tried to lie the instant he saw us. “You there, I am a senior official of Czerka Corporation, and they will pay well for my release!”

Before Danika could speak, I stepped around her. “Griff?”

“Who are-” He stopped, and his eyes were hooded. Then he was smiling like he‘d only seen me yesterday. “Mission! You got off Taris! Good for you!”

“No thanks to you.” I snapped. “You left me there!”

“Hey, Lena said-”

“Can it! I talked to Lena.”

“Oh, you did. Well what did you expect her to say? After all it was thanks to her that I was broke when I got here!”

“Sure. Drew against a flat hand again, eh?”

“She was ruining my luck! Besides, you were grown up and taking care of yourself-”

“You Bantha dropping, I was twelve!”

“Well that’s all water out of a vaporator. Once we get back to town, I have this plan! All I need is a stake-”

“After dumping me two years ago, stealing my share of that last job, running off with Lena, getting yourself captured by Sand People, you want me to stake you?”

“Hey, Mission, what is family for?”

“Well I have a family, Griff, and you aren’t part of it! This woman is my family now, and Big Z is my family. You’re just something that happens to share my genes!” She turned around. “Leave before I decide to leave you here!”

“But Mission!” He whined. “I owe the Exchange big time! They’ll kill me!’

I didn’t know I had drawn my gun until I felt Danika’s hand pushing it back down. “He’s not worth it, Mission.”

I stared at him. My brother, the only flesh and blood I had in the Galaxy. I didn’t care if the Exchange killed him. If anyone killed him. Hell the way I felt right then I would have killed him. “Goodbye Griff.”

“I’ll be at the corporate offices!”

“So what.” I whispered as he scampered away.

We helped the ex-slaves out of the encampment, that is Danika and I. Griff was nowhere to be seen. Danika looked around. “Where’s the Bantha?”

“Visual identification: The Twi-lek we rescued is on it.” HK reported. Sure enough, the thing was moving at a good clip toward the horizon with Griff slapping it trying to get more speed.

Danika sighed. “HK, how fast can you run?“

“Estimation: Fast enough to chase down a Bantha, Master.“ He considered. “But with my targeting software he is within range for another half kilometer-”

“Just run him down and bring it back. If Griff tries to stop you, ignore him unless you are in danger. If you are, disable him, but do not kill him.”

“Irritation: You are ruining all my fun, Master.” HK replied.

We looked at the people we had rescued. The humans were emaciated and dehydrated. We weren’t going to walk these people even the four kilometers or more that we needed to use the ship.

Twenty minutes later, HK strode back in, leading the bantha. He reported that one shot past Griff’s head was all he needed to change Griff’s mind, and my brother was running as fast as he could toward town. Danika and I struggled to hoist the humans onto the bantha. The Jawas were in better shape, but they don't move so fast. With HK there to translate, I had a the rest of the day and night to talk with them. The fund of knowledge they had about desert survival was amazing. I mentioned to them that maybe they should get hold of some of those wrecked sand crawlers and live in them. They had been repairing them and selling them back to the Corporation up to then, and the idea of living in them surprised and delighted them. I only hoped they wouldn’t start, you know, boosting them.

We stopped at the front gate, and spoke again with Iziz. He was happy about his people, and gave Danika a map for the location of the star map thingy. Then we stopped at the Czerka office where I pointedly ignored Griff as Danika dropped the gaffi stick on the desk. The attacks had fallen off, and the woman was happy as she dialed the creds into our account. Me I just wanted to get back to the ship, take a shower, and wish I had never had a brother.

Char Ell
04-22-2006, 01:33 AM
I like how you've reworked Sasha's place in the story. So Sasha is force-sensitive, eh? As I'm sure you know, part of the problem with writing a story based off a video game that your reader has already played is your reader knows most of what is going to happen in the story. It's refreshing to read something that takes liberties with the story but does so in an innocuous manner. Well at least IMO it's innocuous. :D And you of course have provided more background in showing how Danika gains Sasha's trust. You have great talent for those kinds of details.

The way you've written HK-47's speech patterns doesn't really seem right to me, like some of the precursive sentence indicators (for lack of a better or proper term) you use aren't like the terms HK-47 uses in the game. I would have to investigate further to get a better idea though. Of course you often take different paths with language than the game but that's just my take on your HK-47 dialog. I did enjoy how you added your own little demented twist of HK-47 detailing an efficient way to kill Ithorians. Seeing Yuka Laka quiver in his boots and activating HK's restraining bolt in quick response was quite humorous.

Looking forward to more chapters.

machievelli
04-22-2006, 02:48 AM
I like how you've reworked Sasha's place in the story. So Sasha is force-sensitive, eh? As I'm sure you know, part of the problem with writing a story based off a video game that your reader has already played is your reader knows most of what is going to happen in the story. It's refreshing to read something that takes liberties with the story but does so in an innocuous manner. Well at least IMO it's innocuous. :D And you of course have provided more background in showing how Danika gains Sasha's trust. You have great talent for those kinds of details.
.

Thanks for the praise. The reason I gave in the story is why I belive Sasha had to be force sensitive. How would she have been able to hide from three Jedi, two people that would use senses other than sight for tracking (Juhani and Zaalbar) and someone trained for forty years in warfare otherwise?

If you liked what I did with her there, wait until she trashes a ship!


The way you've written HK-47's speech patterns doesn't really seem right to me, like some of the precursive sentence indicators (for lack of a better or proper term) you use aren't like the terms HK-47 uses in the game. I would have to investigate further to get a better idea though. Of course you often take different paths with language than the game but that's just my take on your HK-47 dialog. I did enjoy how you added your own little demented twist of HK-47 detailing an efficient way to kill Ithorians. Seeing Yuka Laka quiver in his boots and activating HK's restraining bolt in quick response was quite humorous.

Looking forward to more chapters.

I got the idea from Star Trek when they had a race called the Borg just turn homicidal. I could easily see HK looking at a human and saying 'Human, sever spinal column at third cervical vertebrae. Death is immediate."

Besides the game doesn't give you the option of HK making Laka nervous enough to sell the damn thing. But I think HK would have used it if he'd had the option. As for more...

machievelli
04-22-2006, 03:00 AM
Tatooine:

Danika

When we got back aboard, I went to the berthing area. Bastila was crouched there, trying to meditate. I knew she was only trying because I couldn’t feel the flow of peace I usually did when she was meditating.

“Yes.” She almost snarled at me.

“We have the location of the star map. It is in a cave with a Krayt Dragon.”

“Then we should leave immediately.”

“No, we’ll wait until tomorrow.”

“Why?” She glared at me.

“Bastila, your emotions are pouring over me like a cold shower. Even if you can’t meditate, I have to before we go out there and chance being killed.” I sighed. “Bastila, maybe we should break this bond before it gets worse.”

“But what if the bond is the only thing holding you from falling to the dark side?”

I knelt, and brushed a stray hair off her face. “Bastila, I can feel your pain so deeply it’s my pain. I would help but you won’t let me. Don’t you understand how frustrating that can be? If you were Kalendra, I would have taken you into the tub and massaged all that pain away. But you’re not.” I stood, walking away. Sasha came running up, hugging me, and I returned it gladly. The girl had become the focus of my off time. We went together into the cargo hold, and I began to spar with her in hand to hand combat. She was fast, wiry, and willing to hurt her opponent if she had to. All good in martial arts. Then I watched her as she practiced with her training lightsaber against a remote. She had the wiry strength of someone that had a hard life even at her young age. I felt refreshed when we were done. If you have a problem, try concentrating on someone else’s problems for a couple of hours. It works wonders. I took a shower with Sasha then meditated, and went to bed.

I found myself in the jungles of home. For once I felt myself alone, and it worried me. Then I heard crying.

I found Bastila standing over a corpse. She was wailing like a child that was inconsolable, then kneeling beside him trying to straighten his limbs, talking to him as if that would make him arise from the dead. “Come on father, it’s morning and there is so much we should be doing! There is treasure to find, money to earn...” She touched his face. “Please, if you love me you’ll get up!” I watched in horror. The so prim and proper Bastila falling apart before my eyes. She saw, me, and gave a rictus smile. “Father, we have a guest! You have to get up!’ She started shaking the body repeating ‘get up’ over and over.

“Bastila, come with me.” She ignored me. I touched her and she screamed wordlessly, attacking me like a Jollo cat.

I finally caught her from behind, holding her against me. She fought, screaming and clawing to return to the body, but I wouldn't let her go. “Bastila, it won’t work!” I begged. She finally stopped fighting, merely standing there as I held her. “We will get through this together. All you have to do is trust me.”

She started laughing hysterically, trying to push away again.

We ignored each other the next morning. Canderous seemed in a good mood, and decided to start one of his ‘breakfast battles’ with her. “So, From what I heard, Bastila, you went down pretty easy when the Vulkars grabbed you on Taris.”

“They caught me off guard.”

“Off guard? I remember the Jedi we faced, how did anyone catch you off guard?”

“Leave it, Canderous.” She said listlessly.

“Why? Because you aren’t half the woman they were? Because if they had been all like you we might have won?”

“Canderous.” I said. “Please, leave it.”

“Strong words from a broken down mercenary who had to find scum like Davik Kang to work for!” Bastila shrilled.

‘When it comes to insults, you’re not too bad.” Canderous said. “But if you’re a Jedi, I’m the King of Alderaan.”

“Enough.” I let my irritation push through. Bastila looked worried, but Canderous merely shrugged. He had decided I was the commanding officer, and an order had been given.

I decided to take Carth with us. He piloted the land speeder with the same panache he had shown flying the Ebon Hawk.

“Bastila, did you ever consider joining the Jedi when Revan went?” He shouted.

“That was over five years ago, Carth. I was still an apprentice then, and my ability with Battle meditation had not yet come to light. Yet even then I had the wisdom to stay instead of fighting.”

“Fair enough. But maybe if the Council had backed them, Revan and Malak might not have fallen to the dark side.”

“Don’t blame everything on the Council! We were a contemplative order before the Republic demanded, not asked- demanded that we act as arbiters and judiciary!

“Yet that wasn’t good enough! We had the Senate itself immediately trying to limit when we could be called to act in that capacity because we ruled against them as often as for them. Worse yet every time the Republic finds itself in a war we end up having to come in and clean up their mess.

“It has reached the point that the Senate has decided that we are it’s last bastion of military capability. Every time some system resists too stringently, or succeeds when force is used against them, the same Senate comes whining to us to help! If we refuse, they paint us as wooly minded aesthetes who can’t see what the problem is, and if we agree we are the ’righteous arm of the Republic’! That means that every time a system has problems with the Republic, they almost automatically assume we come to conquer when a Jedi appears! Yet there is so much to defend against that has nothing at all to do with war!

“It was the Senate that saw only the threat the Mandalorian represented to their power. The Council’s wisdom saw beyond that.”

“What did they see?” I asked.

“Something was lurking out there in the depths of the force. Something dark and hungry waiting for us to get close enough for it to touch. Something that devoured Revan and Malak along with almost all of those Jedi that had gone with them. If the Council had thrown their weight behind that stupid war how many more might have fallen before we knew what we faced?”

“So the Council decided that we should have done nothing? Just let the Mandalorians roll right over us?”

“The Republic has survived worse, Carth.”

“Sure. If they didn’t mind becoming workers under Mandalorians who weren’t even worthy of the name. Their kids learning Mandalorian instead-”

“If Revan and Malak had not gone, the order would be at full strength rather than the tattered remnants that remain!”

I was starting to wish I had come by myself.

We dropped over the hill, and I saw a speeder already there. A Twi-lek was standing there, looking into the cave.

It could have doubled as a hanger for the Ebon Hawk from the opening. We stopped beside his speeder, and he waved toward us.

Komad Fortuna.” He introduced himself. “I don’t know if you have heard of me-”

“I have.” I said. “You made three trips to my home world of Deralia.” I said.

“Yes. Here I hunt game worthy of the name once again.” He waved toward the entrance. “Not only a Krayt Dragon, but one twice the size of the one my grandfather killed here a century ago!” He handed me his electro binoculars. I couldn’t see anything, and I said so. “Ah, believe me. Such a beast comes only once in a lifetime!” He went to his vehicle, and pulled out a heavy blaster that Canderous would have carried with ease. Komad however set the small gravity generator, and moved it into position. “My only worry is that this toy of mine will only irritate it. The scales of an average Krayt Dragon are thick enough to turn a regular blaster. But I have a plan. For it to work, however, I need your help.”

“My help?”

“Yes. The chosen prey of the Dragon is Bantha and the occasional stupid hunter. As you can see, I didn't bring any with me.” He waved toward a distant herd. “However if you can entice them over here, we can get this over with.”

“But why kill it?”

“Ah, a conservationist like that Dayso Cooh back in the town. Well I have the same answer for you that I had for him. The reason so many of the animals here are huge is because their life cycles are so long and they eat perhaps once a week. A Bantha lives to over two hundred standard years, and this beast by my estimates has been alive almost a thousand years. Krayt Dragons do not die naturally, you see. They merely grow larger. Think of something that has grown to the size of a ship, that eats perhaps ten tons in a meal now. When it was much smaller a Bantha colt would have been enough. But a full grown Bantha is barely large enough even for a single meal now. Soon it will grow large enough that it cannot eat enough Bantha to stay alive. Then it will have to find food, and Anchorhead is what, twenty kilometers away? It can out run a Bantha and if it comes to Anchorhead, will devastate the population. When that happens, no one will be alive to complain that I should have killed it.”

That made sense. “I understand.”

“Danika!” I spun, and Carth was pointing toward the horizon beyond which lay Anchorhead. Three speeders were escorting a shuttle, and a pair of swoop bikes paced them.

“Hunters?” I asked.

Fortuna shook his head. “If they were, they wouldn’t have brought that shuttle. The sound stampedes bantha, and makes the dragon angry.”

I swept the vehicles, and hissed. “Carth, the second speeder.” He took the electro binoculars. He froze, then lowered them slowly. “Calo Nord.”

“Who?” Bastila asked.

“Reputed to be the best bounty hunter in the Galaxy.” Carth said. “I don’t think it is chance that he’s coming here. The Sith must have hired him.”

We had better hide.” I looked around. “Komad, how close can we get to the cavern without disturbing the beast?”

“It is in hibernation during the hot part of the day.” He waved toward the blistering suns. “For a few more hours, we could hide right in the mouth of it.”

Without words we all sprinted toward the cave. There was a pair of berms made by the beast hollowing out the inside with a flattened area between them. They were high enough that we could kneel down and fire at the approaching vehicles. That is if anyone but Komad had a long-gun. However they were narrow, so I ended up hiding behind one with Komad, Bastila and Carth behind the other.

The shuttle landed behind our land speeders, and the speeders with it settled down beside it. The swoops kept a circling pattern to watch for attempts by our party to break out into the desert.

Nord climbed out of the speeder, and took a microphone. His voice blasted. “We know you’re there, Bastila. Your friends are bought and paid for, but you’re worth more alive. Me, I don’t care, but if you want to live, I would suggest you stand up and come here.”

“Well, it’s nice to know we’re not important.” I said loud enough for Carth to hear.

“I never was that valuable.” Carth replied. “What’s the plan?”

I looked at the hundred or so meters between us as almost a full dozen mercenaries formed into a line. I might be able to run that distance, deflecting blaster bolts all the way, or Bastila might. But both Komad and Carth were going to die if we tried that. I could see at least four sniper rifles. They could kill our companions from where they stood. I looked back. “Komad, what would happen if we ran in there?” I asked.

“You are mad!” He said. Then realized that he had almost shouted, and looked at the cave in alarm. He lowered his voice. “If we go in there, we are a meal, nothing more.”

“No, I want you to consider our options.” I jerked my head toward Calo’s men. “They will definitely kill us. But the beast only might, correct?”

He looked at the men, then at the cave, then gulped. “Yes there is that.”

I looked across the short space. “Are you ready, Carth?”

“You’re insane! We’re going to die!” Then he grinned manically. “After you!”
I laughed, leaping to my feet, facing Nord’s men. I deflected a bolt, then another as the snipers took us under fire. Bastila had stood as I did, and while I covered Komad, she covered Carth in that mad scramble.

“All right, have it your way!” Nord’s voice bellowed. “Bikes, educate them!”

The bikes swooped down, and just as I reached the entrance, they fired. I deflected their fire madly, and grinned as one of the bolts hit one of the distant land speeders and caused it to explode. Then we were out of sight. Carth and Bastila scrambled up the slope on their side, and Komad was doing the same, so I shut down my lightsaber. I ducked, diving to the side as one of the swoops dropped low enough to fire right into the cave. I heard bolts hitting, sand screeching as it crystallized into glass, stone shattering. And among them a drumfire of hits that sounded, meaty.

I lay on the sand floor, and right before me was a rough curved wall. Then an eye a meter across opened in that wall. I froze, my eyes tracking down to the left, where only part of that huge body was visible. Unable to stop myself, my eyes followed the other way, down a head and snout large enough to park one of those land speeders on. The vertical pupil widened, and I knew it saw me for the first time. Then it lifted that massive head, the neck a column large enough to support a roof on.

Calo Nord saved me that day. One of the bikes made another firing run, and I saw bolts smack into the beast’s nose. It flinched, then turned its attention on the opening. Behind us, Nord and his men had charged, firing manically at the cave. They were almost to the berm when the beast started forward.

I rolled up into a ball, and pure chance kept it from stepping on me as it charged. I stood to witness the most one-sided battle I have ever seen.

The mercenaries had charged expecting to find only four people. Instead they suddenly faced over one hundred tons of angry and hungry dragon. They were brave; I'll give them that. They began firing in a pattern that would have gutted the Ebon Hawk. Against the dragon it was rain falling on a roof. This wasn’t some frail creation of man. It was alive, a thousand years old, and mad as hell. The dragon snapped up one man, pinning another as it ripped off his arm and head, smashing others with his tail, then it was through them, and only Calo Nord stood between it and the desert. One of the swoops dropped down firing, and the dragon smashed it to the ground with his forepaw, the explosion scything through the men on the ground. It turned and ran toward Calo Nord. I saw him reach for a grenade, and saw him activate it as the jaws closed on him. The head came back, the tongue wrapping around Nord, then it swallowed.

An instant late the thermal detonator went off. The huge neck bulged, then exploded outward. The blast swept us off our feet. When I staggered back up, the only thing I heard was the wailing of a badly wounded man. Carth came up beside me, and in pace we walked out into the hell ground. We didn’t know how many had survived, though all of the vehicles were gone. We could see the lone swoop and the shuttle passing over the distant dunes, and nothing else.

We looked at each other in amazement. Behind us Komad Fortuna came out, looking at the carnage. Then he flicked on his wrist com. He spoke, then came up beside us, looking at the dead dragon.

“A pity.” He said.

“Yes, it was a beautiful beast.”

“No not that.” He looked at me askance. “The story I could have told at the Hunter‘s club! Instead?” He took a heroic stance, waving toward an invisible audience. “There I was, facing a dragon twice the size of any that had ever been seen. I wasn’t even sure my Heavy blaster rifle would kill it!. But before I could fire, a dozen mercenaries led by Calo Nord charged!”

The scene struck me as ridiculous and I felt a helpless manic urge to roar with laughter. I held my sides, trying to keep it in.

“Imagine it! Men firing weapons with no more affect than snowballs as I bravely dived for cover!”

“Please, stop.” I said in a strangled whisper.

“Then Calo Nord was eaten and his well-known thermal detonator gave it a case of terminal indigestion!”

I fell to my knees, and roared with laughter. I was alive, Calo was dead, and the relief was so great I couldn’t hold it in. Fortuna looked at me quizzically, which caused me to laugh even harder.

Finally the laughter died. I stood, looking around.

Inside the cave, Bastila was kneeling by a huddled form, and my good humor vanished. I walked in, standing over her. She held a holocron, and she rocked back and forth, silent tears streaming down her face. No matter what your intellect, or nature, people always lie to themselves about death unless they have witnessed it. They act as if the other person has merely moved to another city. Eventually you will turn a corner and there they are. This is the moment when you realize someone is finally dead. The still body before you, the first shovel of dirt hitting the coffin, the first flames touching the corpse. The person you hoped might stand up again is gone forever, and all that remains is the grief. I knelt, and wordlessly enfolded her in my arms from behind. She sobbed, and I could hear words in it.

“I wouldn't even speak to him the last time I saw him. I was hurt that he would send me away, and he tried to make me understand. But I wouldn’t listen. When the Jedi came for me I turned my back on him, and boarded the ship angry and hurt, and I never knew if he waved to me, or even said goodbye.” She held up the Holocron, and I saw the scene she had described as her father had seen it. A small girl with pigtails walking stiff-backed away from him. He was waving, shouting, trying to get her to turn, to wave, anything. His shoulders slumping as the ship lifted, Helena holding him as he cried.

“Maybe she’ll forgive us later.” Helena said. Whether Bastila realized it or not, Helena did not appear overjoyed by her departure.

She spun in my arms, and clung to me desperately. I merely held her, lending her my strength as she cried.

“Danika is this the Star Map?” Carth asked. I glared at him until he left us alone. All I could feel was Bastila’s misery.


Tatooine

Bastila

The last of the sand settled over my father’s grave. Danika smoothed it out, then took a small trinket from his pack and imbedded it into the soil. She used her lightsaber with precision, melting the sand around and over the grave into a solid piece of glass with only that trinket, a picture of me, as a marker.

She held out her hand, and I took it, holding desperately.

The Twi-lek hunter came over, holding two small balls in his hand. “To the victor's go the spoils.” He said. He took Danika’s free hand, and set the Krayt Pearl in it. The largest Krayt pearl ever on display was the size of the ball of my thumb. These were easily twice that size. “I have a large speeder coming. If you wish I can give you a lift back to Anchorhead.”

“That would be appreciated.” Danika said. She led me by the hand back into the cave. Carth was standing by the pintel, keeping clear. Danika released my hand, and walked over to it. At her approach, the arms dropped then the ball of material leaped into the air to reveal the star map. She downloaded it, then returned to my side. “Are you feeling better?”

I looked at the grave, then at her. “Yes. A great weight has lifted. Thank you.”

She looked toward Carth. He looked like a puppy expecting to be kicked. She hugged me, then took my hand again and walked toward Carth.

“What is on your mind, Carth?”

“I haven’t been much help have I?” He asked softly.

Danika let me go, then walked over to stand in front of him hands on hips. “If I were still a sergeant, I would have bounced you out of my squad so fast, you wouldn’t have needed jets. With an efficiency report that would have had you assigned as a cook’s helper.”

His shoulders slumped. “I’m sorry. You didn’t deserve any of the crap I’ve given you. I just...” He shrugged. “Maybe I’m just too pig headed to change.”

“You’re changing right now.”

“That’s because instead of helping you, I’ve made you carry the entire mission on your back. When you’ve been pushing forward, I’ve been opinionated, arrogant, irritating-”

“Let’s not forget mistrustful, paranoid, and a general pain in the butt.”

“You’re right.” He grinned. “Can I start over?” He snapped to attention. “Carth Onasi reporting for duty, Ma’am!”

I smiled as Danika returned the salute. “Very good, Mister Onasi.”

The speeder arrived, and our trip back to Anchorhead was quiet, but more comfortable.

We walked to the Cantina. Part of me wanted to run, but Danika kept moving forward. There was nothing for it. Either I would have to face mother this one last time, or Danika would never let me hear the end of it.

It looked like she hadn’t even left. The glass in front of her was half full, and she drained it as we approached.

“Back already? Have you even bothered to look for your father’s body yet?”

I felt myself stiffening. I wanted to be just a normal woman without the responsibilities being a Jedi imposed. I wanted to rip her hair out, and slash her face with my nails. “We have retrieved the holocron, and buried my father.” I replied levelly. “I’m just not sure I want to give it to you.”

She stiffened, looking at the glass the waitress had brought. “So you would deny me even that? The last chance to see his face?”

“I never denied you anything, Mother.” I snapped. “You may think that the veil of time hides all, but I remember very well what it was like before I went to the Order. You were the one pushing father into treasure hunt after treasure hunt. You loved living with the wealth he had gained, but I remember the fights!

“You were the one that pushed him into sending me away, and now all I have to remember him by is the memories of a five-year-old, and this holocron!”

She glared at me. “Foolish girl Your memory isn’t very sharp after all! That isn’t-”

“Enough mother! I don’t wish to fight with you any longer, and now that Father is dead, there is nothing more we share. It is time we parted way for the very last time. For our own good this ends today.”

“Bastila-” Danika began.

“What do you know of her?” I rasped, turning on her. “She always wheedled what she wanted out of father and it killed him!”

Danika took the glass from Helena, and held it out. “Smell it.”

“What?”

She shoved it in my face. “Use those keen Jedi senses, and tell me what this is made of!”

I took it angrily. The smell was reminiscent of... I looked at my mother. “Kolto? Are you sick, mother?”

“I am not sick.” Helena looked at the glass. “I’m dying.” She took the glass from my hand, and sipped. “Irumadic Syndrome.”

I felt as if I had been punched in the gut yet again. Then my anger resurged. “I find it difficult to believe anything you say, mother.”

“It seems to me you’ve already made up your mind.” Danika said softly.

I sighed. “You’re right. I cannot claim to be a Jedi if I am unable to even negotiate with my mother!” I bowed my head. “I am sorry mother.”

She looked away, then back at me, tears in her eyes. “I was always hard on you. I wasn’t very good as a mother, I know. Now... I wish I could take back every harsh word.

“Your father loved you so, Bastila. He saw you becoming more like him every day, and wanted to take you on his hunts, but I wouldn’t let him. They were too dangerous, and he would have died inside if you had been hurt.”

“Treasure hunting can be dangerous.” Danika murmured.

“I tried to keep him from the more dangerous ones, but he enjoyed the thrill too much. It was a reckless life we led, and I wanted something better for you.”

“So that is why you gave me to the order?”

“When the Jedi met you, and witnessed your powers, I knew it was the best for you. What do I have to show for twenty odd years of running after those rainbows?” She waved at the bar. “I only have this space in the bar because the barkeep was an old friend your father saved before you were born! I won’t even be able to pay to be buried! We spent every credit as soon as it came in, and always went looking for more.

“If I hadn’t gotten sick, maybe we would have had something to show for it. When I was diagnosed three years ago, we tried to contact you, but never got an answer. Your father became desperate. He wanted to hold onto something, even if he couldn’t be with you. But treatment is expensive, and nothing really works on this. You know that. So he went on more and more dangerous hunts, until we came here. He didn‘t listen to me, ignored the dread I felt. Then... He didn't come back. I had begged him for years to just let me go, but he was always stubborn, just like you.”

“I never received your message, mother.” I said softly. I took out the holocron, setting it on the table. Helena activated it, looking at the smiling face of my father as if she would drink it in and it would heal her. Then slid it back to me.

“You keep it, Bastila. You didn’t had the years with him that I did. This talk, being with you was what I really needed.”

“I’m glad we talked mother.”

“Well.” Helena scrubbed the tears from her face. “You said you had important business, and you were never one to mince words. Just, be careful please.” She looked at Danika. “You there, take care of my daughter, will you? She’s all I have left in the world.”

“We will watch over each other.” Danika replied.

“That is what she always needed. Someone close to her that cares about her.”

“Where will you go, mother?”

“It doesn’t matter, dear. Don’t worry about me when there is a galaxy to save!”

I dug in my pouch, and I handed her the Krayt pearl. “I don’t have much. The order frowns on it. But this is worth more than enough to get to Coruscant. Go there, find a doctor.”

She stared at the pearl, unbelieving. “I told you what I have, Bastila. There is no cure. All a doctor can do is keep me alive for a little more time.”

“I understand that. But you and I have a lot of catching up to do. I refuse to let this chance for a true reconciliation to pass. Once my mission is completed, I will come and see you. So please, take it.”

She looked at the pearl. “All right. I will do as you say. Now go do what you have to do my daughter. Make us proud.”

I found myself hugging her, and we were both crying.

Char Ell
04-22-2006, 12:21 PM
I believe I've read this chapter before. Using the Krayt dragon to wipe out Calo Nord and his accompanying bounty hunters was a clever deviation from the game story. And then Calo's tardy activation of his thermal detonator resulting in the dragon's first and last experience with "thermal indigestion." Yes, me likey. :)

“You’re insane! We’re going to die!” Then he grinned manically. “After you!”Behind us, Nord and his men had charged, firing manically at the cave. I searched dictionary.com for the word manically and could not find it. I've noticed this word in your writing before this but I decided you must have meant "maniacally." But when you used the word twice in fairly close proximity I started to think that maybe it was a word I didn't know and decided to look it up. Never mind. I looked up the root word "manic" on dictionary.com and it listed manically as an adverb meaning "affected with, relating to, or resembling mania" found in Miriam-Webster's Medical Dictionary.

I found the way you wrote Bastila's reconciliation with her mother quite believable. Bastila had finally accepted her father's death when she found his body and holocron in the Krayt dragon's cave. And during her last argument with her mother in the Anchorhead cantina I think she realized that her last living parent wasn't so bad and was in fact dying. Sometimes it takes the death of a loved one to make one appreciate the loved ones that still live.

machievelli
04-22-2006, 01:56 PM
I believe I've read this chapter before. Using the Krayt dragon to wipe out Calo Nord and his accompanying bounty hunters was a clever deviation from the game story. And then Calo's tardy activation of his thermal detonator resulting in the dragon's first and last experience with "thermal indigestion." Yes, me likey. :).

Yes, if you had read it before my updating efforts, you did read this segment.As the quote from sun Tzu at the start of the Tatooine chapters stated, you can sometimes use one problem to fix another. Since Nord always thought of himself as unstoppable (Reading the pad from Davik's about fighting the Rancor) I wanted to give him something a little bigger to face.

I found the way you wrote Bastila's reconciliation with her mother quite believable. Bastila had finally accepted her father's death when she found his body and holocron in the Krayt dragon's cave. And during her last argument with her mother in the Anchorhead cantina I think she realized that her last living parent wasn't so bad and was in fact dying. Sometimes it takes the death of a loved one to make one appreciate the loved ones that still live.


I had to have some way to convince Bastila that Helena wasn't B.S.ing her. There was no logical reason to my mind why she hung around a bar. I think the designers just hadn't considered that. That was why I added the kolto laced wine, and explained how a penniless woman could hang around without being thown out.

In the game the same scene felt stilted to me. The denoument was lackluster. Having Bastila hand off 500 credits seemed the same to me. Except for using it in a lightsaber (Which doesn't improve it that much) the only value an oversized Krayt Dragon pearl has is monetary. I carried the damn thing around the entire game, and figured this was a perfect end for it.


For those who have been reading, I have a shock for you. If you read from page one you have gone almost half way. Shall I continue?

machievelli
04-22-2006, 02:09 PM
Danika

As we walked back toward the ship, I watched her. I could feel the pain easing, as if pus was draining from an infected wound.

“Feeling better?”

“Yes. She smiled sadly. “That brought me more peace than I had anticipated. Thank you for urging me to meet with her this time. With all my training would have thought that facing this would be easier. I still have much to learn.” She walked silently, then suddenly spoke again. “I have been trying to find a way to say this for some time now, but I suppose I should just come right out with it.

“I have grown to depend on you more and more. Not just because of the mission, but for my own well being. I am glad you’re with us.”

“A compliment, from you?” I joked.

She looked at me askance. “Yes. Is that so surprising?”

“Well, yes, actually.”

She shook her head. “Why must you make this so difficult for me? Can’t you accept a simple compliment?”

“Sure, fine, thanks for your vote of confidence.”

“I know my manner is taciturn. I know you are probably getting bored with my lectures on the danger of the dark side and everything else. I spent all my years of training with masters constantly hounding me to do better, to excel. I heard so often about how gifted I was, how important I was that I grew sick of it. I used to vow to myself that when I became a Jedi, I would never become so stodgy and self-absorbed that I resembled those masters.“ She smiled. “It’s funny really. The first time I have a Jedi I am training, I become just like them.”

“You’re not stodgy and self-absorbed.”

She smiled. “It’s kind of you to say so, but I know what and who I am. By controlling my emotions, by assuring that nothing got past my shell, I was safe from harm. By keeping people at arms length I could never be hurt. Even those I am supposed to train and watch over like you. When you needed my support, I find that you are my crutch instead.

“But I see it is time I changed. You don't need lectures, and you deserve to know how much I respect your abilities, and admire you. I just thought you deserved to be told by me.”

“Thanks.”

Bastila shook herself. “Well, that wasn’t so hard, was it? Thanks to you, I feel so much better.”

We reached the ship, and I hugged the little missile named Sasha. Carth and Bastila assumed their stations, and we set course for Kashyyyk.

Juhani was sitting in the mess hall drinking what I recognized as meat tea. “How are you holding up, Juhani?”

“Better.” She pushed the mug about. “I never told you of the Jedi I saw back home.” I shook my head. “They were all so, invigorating.”

“Invigorating?”

“So alive and full of their zeal and purpose. They were shining knights.” She smiled. “In retrospect I think it is kind of tragic.”

“Tragic?”

“They were only on my world to use it as a jumping off point to attack the Mandalorians. Many of the Jedi I had seen and admired were slaughtered in the coming years. But to us, they were invincible.

“They spoke so highly of Revan, as if her very presence would make everything work. They swept inequities away, forcing the ruling classes to make concession. They were gods that came from the skies, and made everything better.”

“The Jedi are not gods.”

“I know that. I was merely using poetic license! But those Jedi made more changes in the months they were there than a century had. They were enthralling. People wanted to merely touch them, as if that contact would rub some of their honor and magic off on the one who succeeded. But the peace they had brought did not last long.”

“What happened?”

“They left. The ruling classes wanted things to return to normal, and people who finally knew there was a better life refused to bow down. There was civil war, and the winners ignored all of what they had learned from the Jedi. They became the new rulers, and were just as oppressive as those they replaced. We non-humans bore the brunt of their anger in both administrations.”

“All races have intolerance, Juhani.”

“Yes. But Humans are the only race that has spread in such numbers. That makes their racial bigotry seem more pervasive. They at least are consistent in their hatreds. They took it out on us because the ones they hated were either not there or long dead. But those on the bottom, they had to bear this anger. They are never among those the Republic Senate ever hears!” She hissed, and looked away. “I am sorry, I have given into my anger again.”

“Fight it, Juhani. Don’t let it control you.”

“The very reason it bothers me is that I still feel it! It has influence, and will lead me to the dark side again if I am not careful.” She looked at me, then down. “I thank you for your support. I lash out at you, yet you do not strike back at me. I am humbled by your control.”

“I am here if you need me, Juhani.”

“I thank you.” She took her cup, returning to her room.

I sipped, closing my eyes. “You wanted to ask something?” I looked over at Bastila where she stood, witnessing the little chat.

“Am I always so transparent?” She asked. Then she shrugged. “I shouldn’t be surprised as strong as this bond is. May I ask you a question?“

“Do I have a choice?“

She waved, exasperated. “I wasn’t even going to mention it, but you did ask. Now that you have brought it up, I think I shouldn’t have waited this long. In our time together, I have seen you blossom into a true servant of the light. You seem to have ingested the Jedi code and ideals with you’re mother’s milk. You hold to the ideals with almost no training at all.

“I see you supporting Juhani, Mission, Carth, even me as if that was your lot in life. Yet you do this so easily. For me taking a role such as yours has always been wearing. My own emotions interfere too much. Don’t you find it difficult at times? Or is it just a facade for those that see you?”

“When I was a soldier, I discovered that giving vent to your emotions kills more often that not.” I said. “It is a struggle, but one I am used to.”

“That is good to hear. I have always found the Jedi path of detachment is a hard road to walk. It is nice to know that I am not alone in that. I have always been too quick to anger, too quick to take sides even when I don’t fully understand them. My instructors constantly berated me when I was younger.

“Since this new war started, I always pictured facing Revan and since she is no more Malak in a final battle to end it all. I could use all this anger I feel to destroy him and end the suffering and destruction. Even though I know that I would end just as bad as they if I did so.”

“It seems we both have our own demons to face.”

“Do we?” She looked at me oddly. “Part of me tells me that it would be a small price to pay for peace to vent my baser emotions, even if they had to kill me afterward.” She shook her head, eyes haunted. “I picture myself acting as Malak has, and find the very idea frightening. That I could fall to evil such as his, to destroy only because it is all I have left. I can't fathom it. It is impossible! But...” She looked away. “I shouldn’t even be asking you this. To suggest to you that the Jedi teachings are wrong.”

“Bastila-”

“No. They are the foolish thoughts of a vain mind. Forget I said anything.” She passed me almost at a run.


Enroute to Kashyyyk

Danika

Carth came out of the cockpit to grab a bite. I was sitting with Sasha, showing her how to play a game. I saw his face fall, and he started to turn.

“Maybe we need to talk.” I said.

He sighed. “Don’t you ever give up?”

“When I’m dead.” I said. He laughed sadly at that.

“You’re thinking about Saul.”

“Hey, don‘t tell me we’re bonded now too! I don't think I could handle Bastila’s thoughts.”

“You show a lot of your emotions in the way you stand. When you remember Saul, your right hand clenches.”

“You’re right.” He admitted.

“Why is he your personal vendetta?”

“He betrayed the Republic, slaughtered the people of my home world Telos. Is there anything more he needs to have done?”

“Carth, I have seen the type of anger you speak of. Half the people in my unit at Zanebra were like that. But yours is an obsession. There is more to this than you have said up to now.”

“I’m sure you don’t want to hear this.”

“I asked.”

“Yeah, right.” He poured a cup of ale from the cooler. “When Saul went over to the enemy, he tried to talk me into joining him. The task force we were part of was on maneuvers. After we talked, Saul took his ship out supposedly on a solo recon. When he didn’t come back we looked for him. Then we got the call from Telos. Saul’s ship was there blasting the colony apart. They had brought a Sith fleet with them.

“We came out of hyper, and as we approached, we could see his bombers pasting the ground. The entire orbital infrastructure was already gone. Our fighters dived in and he withdrew.

“Millions had died already, and the worst was to follow. They’d blown every dam and dumped toxins in the water. I was allowed to go down only because my family lived there. Or did before the attack. My wife Morgana, and my son Dustil. My shuttle landed in the colony center and I ran all the way to my house. It was a shattered hole in the ground. My wife was torn apart by shrapnel, and I held her,” He put out his arms as if holding a child. “I held her and screamed for the med techs to come. But she died in my arms.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”

“How could you considering I’ve never told anyone this? I spent the rest of the time the relief teams were there trying to find Dustil. There were always rumors, that he had been here or there, even that he had been taken when the Sith troops had occupied the main city for a time. But I never found him, or what happened to him. Finally I had to go back on duty.

“Then the years passed. I heard less and less, and finally I gave up. I can still see him. He’d be what, seventeen now? But he’s dead somewhere, lying in an unmarked grave if they even bothered to bury him. Saul has so much to answer for.

“I know killing Saul won’t bring her back, or give me back my son. I won’t feel any better when he’s dead. It’s just something I have to do. I am going to pay him back for all of the suffering he‘s caused. It’s all I have left to my life.”

I hugged Sasha. She understood enough to know that Carth needed some sympathy. She slipped from my lap, walking over, and climbed into his lap. For a moment, he wasn’t sure what to do. Then she hugged him, and he found himself hugging her back.

“I can almost see you and her holding Dustil.” I said. “What was she like?”

“My wife? She was courageous, stubborn, more stubborn than you are sometimes. I never could talk her out of anything she set her mind to.” He blew on Sasha’s head, then buried his chin in her hair. “She hated it when I joined back up. I had decided to ask my Commanding officer to let me resign, but... Telos got attacked.”

“Anything at all on Dustil?”

“I’ve scanned every report from the relief efforts. After a while though I stopped. I couldn’t go on knowing that he might be there, alive trapped in an orphanage or something. I thought that maybe if I stopped looking, I’d hear that much faster.”

He sat there until Sasha went to sleep in his lap. I left him watching her sleep.

The next days were peaceful. Sasha gained more strength in the force. She became more relaxed with the crew, even taking to exercising with Canderous watching. He pretended to ignore her, but when she did an exercise wrong, he would correct her. For such a huge and terrifying man, he was gentle. Almost as if she were his granddaughter.

One evening after dinner I spoke with Juhani. The more time we spent together on the ship, the more relaxed she became as well.

“I wanted to thank you again.” She looked down shyly. I have been thinking of our mission, of what we face. I am grateful and honored to be a part of this.”

“Juhani, we needed someone like you on this mission.”

“Like me.” Her voice tightened.

“The Cathar are renowned for being great hunters, and fierce warriors. If we must fight, I cannot think of anyone I would rather have at my side.”

She relaxed. “I have never felt such unbiased acceptance from anyone. It is, curious to me. We Cathar do not make friends easily. In our language there are only four words that mean friend, but over fifty that mean stranger or enemy. Those that might claim to be friends tend to drift away from us. They cannot accept our way of looking at the world, at life. Even on Dantooine among the Jedi I remained alone. Not ostracized, or rebuked, just, different.”

“Tell me more of your people.” I asked.

“You know so much already! What can I tell you that you do not?”

“What I know of your people I learned from books, from other people’s opinions. One of my officers always complained that we didn’t have Cathar in our unit. He said a Cathar warrior was worth ten of us sometimes.”

She shrugged. “Truth to be told, I spent almost my entire life in the Republic, away from my people. I remember little beyond the stories of my parents. I never saw another Cathar beyond them. We are not what you would call a diplomatic people. We do not deal well with groups. This,” She waved around the ship. “Being part of something larger than a family, this is different.

“It is new to me. I feel warm, accepted. You make it so. You are the Clan mother of our tribe aboard this ship. You direct, and those among us do as we are told. I have needed someone like you in my life for a long time.”

“I’m not the leader!” I laughed, embarrassed by her words. “I keep picturing myself running behind all of you shouting, ‘but I’m in charge’!”

She laughed the coughing grunt of the Cathar. “I can almost see what you describe.”

“Whoever is in charge, we have to work together. This is something we will succeed in or fail in because we don’t cooperate.”

“That is my point.” She said solemnly. “I find it difficult to explain. This is so different from what my life was like before. Thank you for accepting me. You have accepted, and the others follow your lead in this as well.”

Canderous and Carth continued their war stories sometimes. I was asked, but I hadn’t seen a tithe of the combat that even Carth had seen. I listened as Canderous would describe a raid where they went into a cometary ring in hard suits, only to discover an alien ship frozen within it’s head. Of Carth talking of maneuvering a scout ship through an asteroid field at full throttle being chased by a dozen Mando fighters.

Even when they spoke of the same battles, when they themselves had been trying to kill the other, the acrimony of their first discussions was absent.

“Maybe I should tell of the more recent war.” Canderous said one evening.

“When Revan and Malak fought you?” I asked.

“No, before that. We started conquering planets along the rim. We did it quietly, because the Republic wasn’t even paying attention. Finally we had taken everything we could outside, and the Republic still ignored us.”

“Try working inside our system.” Carth demurred. “Anyone with half a brain knew it was coming, but the Senate just argued about what to do.”

“The weakness of democracy. Finally we hit along three axes of advance in adjacent sectors. If anyone fought, we obliterated them. The worst was the Republic’s strategies. We found planets with minimal weapons, and force field shields! You have to understand that my people don’t defend anything we can’t support or need.

“If we had to build a depot on a planet, but didn’t have fleet units in support we didn’t even shield them! We always built such bases away from the civilians because if we were attacking, we wouldn’t worry about their casualties. Our workers knew this, and also knew they weren't to blame if they ended up captured.

“But the Republic! Their cowardly tactics caused untold suffering.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Putting their bases in the hearts of cities! Hiding behind their civilian populations as if that would deter us!”

“Again, it's the system.” Carth admitted. “The civilians remembered the Sith war, and the Sith would have bombed the cities or used them as hostages.” He waved toward to outside world in general. “The people wanted to be protected.”

“So you put shields over places you can’t support, and we assumed there must be bases.” Canderous agreed. “Why do you think we attacked them? Do you know how many worlds were razed because we thought they had something of value or worth fighting for? If we had to destroy the city to defeat the shields we did. It was as simple as that. Necessary force to beat the opposition we thought was there.”

“You could have found another way.” I said.

“We did after a while. But we still had to smash some of those cities because the Republic wouldn't come out of them and fight like men! There was little honor in killing them like rats in the corn. But some of them were honorable and brave. We were honored to face them. Especially later.”

“Later?”

“When Revan began to lead them. But that is for another time.”

“What do you know of Revan and Malak?” I asked Carth one evening when he was on watch.

“I can’t believe that I thought they were going to be our saviors.” He shook his head. “I used to think that they were the best humanity had to offer. Now all I want is to put a blaster to their heads. Although it’s only Malak now, isn’t it? Turned on his own master and killed her. Typical of their kind. Not that she didn't deserve it.”

“You knew them personally?”

“No. I don't think anyone really knows a Jedi personally. At first they were what we needed. They were heroes. They saved the Republic from the Mandalorians. They turned a losing war into a winning one just by being there.

“We in the fleet didn't see much of the Jedi. I only met Malak once and he impressed me. I guess that shows how you can’t know what a person will be like until it is too late.”

“Do you know why they turned to the dark side?”

“I don’t think anyone does. Revan was always going on about how the Republic was sometimes its own worst enemy, from what I heard from Saul. The Senate has so little authority that slavery abounds, even though it is illegal. Commerce ruins planets and doesn’t care about the aftermath. The Corporations like Czerka are so widespread and powerful that there’s no way to punish them. The Senators can debate all they want, and it still occurs because ‘every planet is a separate entity with it’s own rules and rights’ which means that if they want to fight a war, hey, go ahead.” He had quoted the 1st codicil of the Republic constitution sarcastically. “From what I have seen, it wasn't far from the truth. But don’t tell a senator that! They hold us together, just ask them!”

“Then she was right, wasn’t she?”

“Yeah, but where does the line of freedom and security lie? If the Republic had a full time military beyond the peacetime fleet, where would the money for it come from? Money has to come from somewhere, and taxes would drive the citizens to rebel. This isn’t much,” He waved at the Ebon Hawk. “But it costs a bundle in the long run.

“Besides, how can you say she was right?” He looked at me askance. “They won the war, marched off supposedly to find the ‘phantom fleet’ as it was called, then came back. When they left they were Jedi. Now?” He shrugged. “What are they beyond being the enemy?”

“How did they get away with that? Taking a third of the fleet on a wild canard chase?”

“They were heroes. Every hero in legend has gone the extra kilometer to make sure his or her people were safe. If I had been on one of their ships when they left I would have charged into hell with a cheer. This time, they went too far.
“When they came back, they had a lot of alien ships in designs we had never

seen before. Not big ones mind you. Frigates, corvettes, and those snub fighters you’ve seen. The bigger ships aren't even that heavily armed or fast. If it were one on one the Ebon Hawk can outrun even the largest of those ships and outgun almost all of them. But there are a lot of them and every year there are more as our forces dwindle and theirs gets bigger.

“As for getting away with it, Revan is no longer a problem is she? We would have rehabilitated her. Malak just killed her. The dark side is it’s own worst enemy.”

“Why do you say that?”

“You’ve seen how things are run on some planets. Take Taris for example. I always thought all the maundering about the dark side was just a fancy way to explain what we see every day. Corruption greed abuse. All of the stupid and horrible things people inflict on themselves every day. But when it comes to the Jedi...” He checked the controls. “I think for them it’s much worse. That maybe Bastila was right. That the dark side is this predator sitting in the shadows, waiting for an unsuspecting Jedi to come close enough for it to pounce.

“Now that I have seen what it could do to Malak and Revan, I can see you doing something like that. Like the flip side of a coin. You’re brave, intelligent, and caring. Haven’t you pictured seeing a mirror image of yourself doing everything bad instead? It’s not just you. Bastila is... Intense. Focused. I may not know what the force is, but I can almost see her turning to evil.”

“Do we have so little trust from you still?”

“No! I’m sorry, I might sound like that, but it’s like the old saying ‘with great power you have great responsibility‘. For me, all I have to do to turn to the dark side is stop caring about everyone. But for you and her, it’s like the difference between stepping off a curb, and stepping off the Senate Tower on Coruscant. Both will drop you to the ground, but only one is spectacular.”

I imagined what he described. “I can imagine.”

“I can’t even dream of knowing what you must be going through every day. Bastila is always worried and I can see that neither of you is really ready for this. I’m just concerned about what might come.”

“I didn’t know you cared.” I chided.

“It’s not that! It’s... Well... I just don’t want to see you kids get hurt is all.”

“Thanks father.”

“Stop that!” He protested. We laughed together.

Bastila avoided me. It was as if she had made a pass at me, and been embarrassed by my incomprehension. Finally I cornered her. “Our last conversation bothered me.” I said.

“Yes, I did end that rather abruptly.” She admitted. “The problem was all on my side. Perhaps a Master could have couched my questions better, without sounding so confused. I should never have brought it up, especially with you.”

“Why am I different?”

She hesitated. “Part of my mission with you was to be a guide, a rock for you to stand on when the dark side tried to rise within you. But I feel I have failed in that task. I know now that I was not the one that should have been guiding you. I am no master. If it were possible, I would have us return to Dantooine and forswear this mission until you were ready.”

“Why do you say that?”

“I have always had problems with my emotions. I have little skill at controlling myself as you well know. With this bond we share, I find I have even less control. You have maintained your commitment to the light, but it has been in spite of me, rather than because of any help I lend. It has become increasingly obvious that I am not guiding you, and could never guide you.”

“You’re doing the best you can.”

“My best is not good enough. It is kind of you to think well of me, but I have made a grave error in coming along with you. I simply hope that you will not pay the price of my hubris.”

I took her hand. “Bastila, we can always help each other. I will support you as much as I am able.”

She squeezed my hand. “That is a kinder response than my efforts deserve. There is wisdom beyond your training in them. Very well. We can help each other, and keep ourselves from the darkness. For our own sake, and for the mission.”

I stood among trees so great that even a cruiser’s cannon would have had trouble cutting them down. A path lay before me, and I knew that my goal was there. I walked down it, past hulking droids of an alien design, stopping before a dais. It glowed, and an alien appeared. It was another of the ones I had seen in the ancient statues on Tatooine. It reached out, and spoke-

I came awake. Sasha lay beside me, and whimpered in her sleep. I kissed her hair, wrapped my arms around her, and went back to sleep.

Char Ell
04-22-2006, 02:16 PM
Congrats on this story reaching the 1,000-view milestone! :clap2:

You didn't think the Krayt dragon pearl was a very good lightsaber upgrade in the game? While it wasn't the best upgrade I found it's Attack +3, Damage +2 to be quite beneficial at this point in the game. BTW your story so far tracks the planet order I generally played in the game.
I had to have some way to convince Bastila that Helena wasn't B.S.ing her. There was no logical reason to my mind why she hung around a bar. I think the designers just hadn't considered that. That was why I added the kolto laced wine, and explained how a penniless woman could hang around without being thown out. I always thought that she was just hanging around the cantina to drown her sorrows in booze, besides the fact that she already had a fatal ailment. But your version works fine for me too. :)

I really need to read Swun Dzu's The Art of War. My Chinese isn't good enough to read the original so do you have any recommendations on English versions?

machievelli
04-22-2006, 07:55 PM
Congrats on this story reaching the 1,000-view milestone! :clap2:

You didn't think the Krayt dragon pearl was a very good lightsaber upgrade in the game? While it wasn't the best upgrade I found it's Attack +3, Damage +2 to be quite beneficial at this point in the game. BTW your story so far tracks the planet order I generally played in the game.
I always thought that she was just hanging around the cantina to drown her sorrows in booze, besides the fact that she already had a fatal ailment. But your version works fine for me too. :)

I really need to read Swun Dzu's The Art of War. My Chinese isn't good enough to read the original so do you have any recommendations on English versions?

I actually have two copies, though the one I depend on most is Samuel B Griffith's translation from Oxford University press. It's the once accepted by UNESCO.

A+3 D+2? I never got that performance out of it. What other stones did you use with it?

machievelli
04-22-2006, 08:13 PM
Bastila

“Another vision.” I said to Danika when she entered the mess hall at breakfast. “The Force is guiding us, leading us in the footsteps of Revan and Malak. Ever closer to the Star Forge.”

“I have never seen such trees before.”

“Wroshyr trees, the largest trees in the galaxy. Kashyyyk is known for them. It is a simple and undeveloped world. I would never have suspected that something as technologically advanced as the Star Map would be here.”

“All I saw was huge trees. But there was soil. Perhaps it is on the forest floor itself.”

“Possibly. The native species are called Wookiees. They live in villages in the upper branches, going to the forest floor only on ritual quests. Only the bravest among them dare the Shadowlands as they are called. Considering that, it is not surprising that the Star Map could have remained hidden.

“No matter, once we have found the Star Map, the situation will become clear.”

The ship dropped through the atmosphere, and suddenly we came out of the cloud cover. Below us stretched the Forest.

To say that Kashyyyk has a forest is like saying an ocean is a body of water. Kashyyyk had been discovered only about fifty years earlier, and it was nothing but forest except for the oceans and the narrow coastal plains. All of the intelligent life lives as far up the huge trees as they can climb safely. The Wroshyr trees reach as much as four kilometers into the air, towering above the oceans.

Czerka Corporation had set up the operations by topping trees in a half-kilometer area, and building landing stages and warehouses in the treetops. I would have never considered trying to land a ship such as the Ebon Hawk, over 200 tons of mass in what amounted to an oversized tree house, and I winced as Carth did it with aplomb.

“We are getting a call from Czerka control. They asked who owns and commands Ebon Hawk.” Juhani reported.

“Tell them Danika Wordweaver on a mission from the Jedi Council is registered owner and commander.” Carth ordered.

Juhani spoke, then listened. “The Czerka Company police request a file on all persons aboard. They are looking for several people that are considered criminals. No one on the list is aboard.” She looked at me. “They include Davik Kang.”

“Send them what they asked for.”

I stood walking aft. Danika was sipping a mug of tea. “Well?”

“We’ll stay minimal for the moment. I’ll take Carth and Zaalbar. Have Mission see about supplies. If she can get herself and Sasha some candy, I won’t complain. Have Canderous stand guard.”

“Agreed.”


He whose ranks are united in purpose will be victorious

Kashyyyk

Danika

The smell and sights reminded me of home. Of course we didn’t have Wroshyr trees at home, but there is a fecund smell in a jungle that reaches into the primal mind. There is also the constant noise of life in the forest. After a while it fades into a subtle background. I felt at home immediately. A jungle is living and dying at the same time. The living devours anything that dies almost instantly. Everything alive is being hunted by something else. Even the trees. On Kashyyyk, the Wroshyr grow straight up for almost a hundred meters before branching out. The limbs intertwine so tightly that a tree will die and not even fall. It merely begins sinking slowly into the depths as rot and scavengers weaken and devour the lower limbs.

The pad we were on was linked by a walkway large enough for cargo loaders to maneuver on. I discovered later that the Wookiee built these walkways themselves. The nearest village, named Rwookrrorro, was the largest on the planet. The walkway from the Corporate sector to the village was called the Great Walkway. It was larger than the ones before me now.

I turned to ask Zaalbar how it felt to be home, but he looked nervous, almost embarrassed. “Is something wrong?”

“I honor my life debt.” He growled. “But I see no reason to discuss this further.”

“You don’t trust me?”

“It is not that. There is nothing personal in this, but I feel you would never understand. The ways of my people are not for outsiders to see. You will have to accept that.”

“You are going to have to tell me eventually.”

“The sun will also die eventually. That doesn't mean it will happen today.”

I shrugged.

An Ithorian came toward me holding the ever-present data pad. “I am Janos Wertka, chief of operations for this facility. Welcome to G5-623.” He looked at the pad. “I do not see you on my list of scheduled arrivals. The Czerka Corporation will see to you needs, of course, but as an unscheduled arrival you must pay the 100 credit docking fee in advance I fear.”

I looked at him, and from within I felt an upwelling of the Force. “But I have already paid the docking fees.”

He looked at me for a long moment, then at his pad. “I see that you paid your fees on a previous voyage. I am sorry.” He made a notation on his pad. “I see there is a Wookiee in your party. Can I assume that you understand his language? If not Czerka Corporation will supply translator earplugs for a modest fee.”

“There is no need for that.” I answered.

“If you say so. I have found that very few people not from this planet can understand their yowling. If there is anything else you require, I will be in my offices.” He turned and walked away.

“Next time, you could think about the rest of us. Neither Canderous nor I speak Wookiee.” Carth said.

“I’ll pick them up for you before we leave.” I demurred.

“Human?” I turned. Coming toward us, a wide smile showing pointed teeth, was Komad Fortuna. “I see that the call of the hunt has brought you here as well!” He looked around. “The katarn are said to be magnificent!”

“Komad! What are you doing here? I‘d almost think you were following me!”

“Perish the thought. There are enough amateur hunters of people that I fail to see the need for a true professional. Though I admit you would make an interesting hunt. Dayso Cooh was bound here from Tatooine, and he asked me to accompany him. I think he really wanted a story for his news feed. The ‘Great Hunter out of his element’. If I had known you would bound here, I would have booked passage with you.” He sighed. “Then again, if I had known the political situation, I might have merely gone somewhere else.”

“Political situation?”

“If you are on an unscheduled ship, they assume you must be from one of the civil rights or animal protection organizations. Their operations here have been under intense scrutiny, though the Republic Senate still refuses to hear the cases.”

“Slavery.”

“And genocide. They discovered a small primate of the planet called the tach. The animal has a chemical in one of its glands, which heightens the affects of alcohol. The main drink using it was Tarisian ale until recently. Since Taris has been destroyed, they have been trying to find other outlets. But they have slaughtered millions of them, and there is no end in sight as long as tach still live.” He sighed. “I can go into the Shadowlands; Czerka doesn’t care what you do here as long as you pay their docking fees. But you also have to get permission from the chief of Rwookrrorro village and he demands that you hunt a crazed Wookiee and bring proof of his death back first.”

He sighed. “I do not hunt sentient beings. Worse yet, I am at least in part, a conservationist, as is any good hunter. It is madness to kill a Krayt Dragon if it is also the last of its kind! I had hoped to gain the trust of the locals, discover how they hunt, and what they hunt so that my activities would not cause injury to the ecosphere. But too many people, like Czerka, have come saying they were friends, and lying about it.

“I have heard there is an out worlder actually living down in the Shadowlands for some years now. But that might be hunter’s tales.” He looked around, and smiled gently. “But even this, the view of something that is not desert has cleansed my spirit. I so wish to run down among the life that feeds upon the great trees. To witness it! It is a shame the planet was discovered by Czerka! Their only appreciation of nature is what it will pay their corporate bottom line.”

“If they had not, then whom would you deal with?” I asked.

“I would that someone like me had been the one to discover the planet. The Wookiee have a rich culture and society, but it isn’t seen by off worlders. I can’t understand why they allow Czerka to get away with what they are doing.”

“Perhaps they had no choice.” Zaalbar growled.

Fortuna turned toward him. “If it had been my planet I would have fought even if it meant dying instead!” Then he shrugged. “But I am only another off worlder. I fear that someone among your own people is complicit in this, my large friend. I just want to know why.” He turned, thrusting out his hand in a firm grip. “Perchance we can hunt together before you leave. It will be glorious!”

We continued on. I noted a sign for the corporate offices, and motioned toward them.

It was a busy place, half a dozen people were busy routing cargos to the half dozen Czerka owned and independent ships that were there. Janos Wertka saw us, and motioned for us to approach. “Welcome to our local headquarters. How may Czerka help you here on Edean?”

“Edean? I thought the planet was Kashyyyk. And you called it G5-623 when we arrived.”

“Kashyyyk is what the Wookiee call it. But since they did not discover it, we labeled it by it’s catalog number G5-623. However I have just been informed that at the last stockholder‘s meeting they voted overwhelmingly to name it Edean.” He looked toward Zaalbar. “However considering your travelling companion, I feel you must be familiar with this world.”

“I have been away from home for a long time.” Zaalbar replied.

Wertka looked surprised. “You let the beast speak for you? You allow it far more liberties than most of our clients.”

“What do you mean by that?” I asked.

“Slavers and those that buy slaves don’t let us talk if they can avoid it.” Zaalbar said.

“Slavery is such an ugly and untrue word. We bring Wookiee from their homes, train them in essential skills, and hire them out to companies and people across the Galaxy.”

“Whether they want to go or not.” Zaalbar growled.

Wertka looked at him then at me. “Your Wookiee seems to be bothered by this arrangement. But I fail to see his concern. You appear to be a satisfied customer at least.”

“I am not his owner. Zaalbar has pledged a life-debt to me.”

“Ah, I see.” Wertka said sagely. “So difficult to arrange, but it is much better than a restraint collar.”

Zaalbar roared in anger. “Do not defame the life-debt! Do not!”

“I must warn you that any damage he does, or injury he causes, will be your fault as owner. Call the beast off.”

“Zaalbar, later.” I said. He growled, then nodded sullenly. “Why do the Wookiee accept this, arrangement?”

“It isn’t only me. We have seven other stations on the planet. As for the arrangement the chief of Rwookrrorro village signed an accord with us five years ago.”

“What was this arrangement?” I asked.

“The internal workings of Czerka Corporation are not open to-”

I leaned forward, that upwelling of the force was a torrent. “You will tell me what I wish to know.”

His eyes glazed. “He has been supplying Wookiee trackers to help us in our harvesting. This has eased our problems, and made our harvesting more... humane. It also stops the harvesting from being a running firefight. In return we supply the village with such modern conveniences as weapons. The bow-caster your servant carries was made in one of our factories.”

“Who is this leader?”

“His name is Chuundar I believe. I didn’t negotiate with the accord personally. The smell bothers my nose.”

“Chuundar.” Zaalbar growled. “That was a name I did not want to hear again.”

“It seems your servant has issues with this Wookiee. But it doesn’t matter. The Corporation needs to maintain the arrangement. We don’t even meddle in their disagreements between themselves. We just make sure that leader is supported wholeheartedly. Any dissent is, dealt with.”

I released the grip on the force, and Wertka’s eyes cleared. “Well if there is no further information you need, I am really rather busy. Feel free to shop our concourse. However I would suggest caution if you go onto the Great Walkway. We do not have the personnel we would need to assure safety, and we do not have the money for rescue mission.”

“Thank you.” I turned. Zaalbar looked as if he wanted to rip of the Ithorian’s eyestalk. “Zaalbar, let’s go back to the ship.”

He nodded, and we left. I found a quiet nook where no one would overhear, and stopped him. “Talk to me, Zaalbar.”

“My home. I should have prepared you better for coming here I will now admit. But I didn’t think I would have to prepare myself for how much it has changed.”

“Prepare me for what?”

“I did not leave home voluntarily. I know Mission has told you that I was taken by slavers, but there is more. I was already an exile from my tribe when they took me. That was before the arrangement the Ithorian spoke of.”

“Why were you exiled?”

“My brother made deals with small teams of slavers and helped them gain their first foothold. When I discovered this, I attacked him. My father and his advisors stopped the fight, but he did not believe me when I told him the reason.”

“Why not?”

“I was so angry with him that I broke our most honored taboo. I used my claws.” He stretched out a hand, and the claws came out. They were at least 30 millimeters long, and went down to needle points. I had seen him delicately lock those claws on a jammed nut, and twist it out with just his wrist instead of using a hyper spanner. They could hold something the size of my head, or as small as a pin with the same delicacy. The Wookiee were considered among the premier mechanics in the Galaxy.

“You don’t know what this means to my people. Since Bacca the Great our claws have been tools, never weapons. We dragged ourselves out of the Shadows far below by always remembering that.” He looked at me sadly. “To my people I am a Mad-claw. A monster that walks as a Wookiee. Even if I told them what you have learned, they would not believe me. I am tainted, evil. I deserve to be banished.” He hung his head in sorrow.


Carth

I was kinda glad I didn’t speak Wookiee when Danika talked with Zaalbar. She sent him back to the ship, and as we walked, she filled me in. Zaalbar might have been a wookiee, but he had always struck me as an honorable being. I wondered what I would have done if my brother, if I had one, had done the same thing. I think I probably would have beaten him to a pulp. A good thing my family-

Carth? Carth Onasi! I thought that was you!”

I turned, looking at the smiling man approaching me. “Jordo!” I leaped forward, catching him in a bear hug.

“I thought you’d be out there painting your name across the stars! What happened, your ship crash?”

“Actually yes it did.”

Jordo roared. “I didn’t think anything would tie you to the ground.” He looked toward Danika. “It might be your attractive friend that finally got you on soil again.”

“I assume you’re a friend of Carth’s.” She looked at me with a twinkle in her eye. “I didn’t know he even had any.”

“Best friends in the world, missy! Joined the Militia the same day back on Telos. That was back during the Mandalorian Wars.”

“So what are you doing here, Jordo? The last time I saw you was on Telos after the attack.”

“Yeah, it’s a shame about home. It still hasn’t recovered from the attack. The relief efforts were a joke. The Senate was screaming about the cost, and handed it over to a Corporation. That corporation decided to make ends meet by convincing the planet to dragoon anyone with space flight experience into their commercial fleet.”

“Let me guess, Czerka?”

“You got it. Anyway, I didn’t find out until after you’d left about Morgana. I’m sorry, man.”

“Nothing can be done about it, Jordo, but thanks.”

Trying to lighten the mood, he turned his attention back to Danika. “But I can see why you keep this one around. Morgana's hair, her eyes, but not her...” He juggled as if holding two melons chest high. “Upper body strength.”

“Hey chill your jets. That’s the owner of my ship.”

“No spit? Then if I keep it up she’ll dump you?”

“Out of the airlock in hyperspace.” Danika said smoothly.

Jordo laughed. “Well it isn’t all bad is it? Dustil’s alive-”

“What?” I felt as if someone had punched me in the gut.

“He’s alive on Korriban.” Jordo looked worried. “You mean you didn’t know?” He looked from me to Danika. “Yeah. He’s a student at the Sith Academy there. I saw him in uniform and everything.”

“No, I didn’t know. He’s been missing since the attack. The Sith must have captured him when they landed.”

“Maybe. But he’s spouting the same garbage the Sith always do-”

“A word.” Danika interrupted. “What is a Republic Corporation doing dealing with the Sith?”

Jordo looked around. “When Czerka picked me up, I found out there’s a whole lot going on. They’ve signed an agreement that Czerka carries all of their trade and sells it in Republic markets as coming from somewhere else. They’re even trying to negotiate with the government of Manaan to carry all Kolto to both sides so the Selkath can kick both off the planet.” He dropped his voice. “I can drop a datapad with all this information off at your ship before I return upstairs. We’re in orbit.”

“What’s your cargo?”

“Coming out of here?” Jordo asked sardonically.

“Yeah. Thanks for letting me know. Take care.” I watched him walk away. “He’s alive.” I looked at Danika. “After all this time, he’s alive!” I thought of his face, only a dim memory now. “He’ll be a man by now.”

“We’ll find him.” Danika promised.


Danika

Carth and I left after making sure Zaalbar got aboard. I was in a hurry to complete this mission. As much as a Republican company buying from the enemy, carrying slaves in contravention of law and making secret deals with a neutral planet was important, I had to finish what we had started here. The Czerka guards were surly, but allowed us to pass onto the Great Walkway.

There were three landing stages, and as we passed one a shuttle landed. A dozen Wookiee in restraint collars were chivvied aboard, and it lifted. Part of me was coldly furious. To treat anyone this way was an abomination.

We were almost to the village when my com squealed.

“Danika, they came and took him and we couldn’t do anything!” Mission wailed.

“Calm down, Mission. What is it?”

“It’s Zaalbar! A couple of Wookiee showed up with half a dozen Czerka bullyboys, and arrested Zaalbar on the orders of some guy named Chuundar!”

Carth cursed. “Interesting timing. After you’re gone. Only the captain of a ship can demand proper extradition.”

“What about Janos?”

“Bastila talked with him. He said the Wookiee deal with their own when it comes to criminal acts. He doesn’t have any authority.”

“All right, Mission, I’ll deal with it. Put Canderous on.”

“Just a minute.”

“Canderous.”

“Report.”

“Just as Mission said. Two Wookiees, half a dozen Czerka with Janos taking up the rear. He stated that if we didn’t turn Zaalbar over, they would blow us off our landing legs. They mounted two anti-ship cannon on lifters and brought them out as they were trying to get past me. Bastila said to let them go, and we’d get him back.”

“In a moment I want you to put Bastila on. But before you do, I have orders.”

“Chu!” Canderous shouted the Mandalore word for ‘Sir!’, meaning he would obey anything I said.

“No one comes aboard that ship except for our crew from this moment on. If anyone attempts to come aboard, you are to stop them. Peacefully if possible. But if peace will not serve, blow them to hell. That goes for those damn guns if they man them.”

“Chu!”

“Put Bastila on.”

“Danika-”

“I don’t want to hear it, Bastila.” I said wearily. “You may have saved the ship and the mission but it might cost us Zaalbar‘s freedom. I would have hoped you would call me back in that situation. I might have stopped them. When I get back, we’ll discuss it.”

There was a long pause. “I am sorry, Danika.”

I cut off the communication without speaking. “Come on.”

We ran the rest of the way.

There was a guard at the village gates, and he roared at me. “Stop where you are, Outsider!”

I wasn’t in the mood. “Who dares stand in my way?” I roared right back at him in Shyriiwook. “What mother whelped such a pup!”

He shrank back, surprised at my vehemence. Then he stiffened. “It is to Chuundar that you must answer for bringing a Mad-claw exile back among us! Come!”

The Wookiee village was beautiful. A work of art created by people that had only rudimentary tools until a century before. The common village level was broad and airy; nets strung to block Mynar Hawks and Web crawlers. The village runs up the trees for half a kilometer, with the nurseries at the very tops.

I just wish I had come without murder on my mind.

An elderly Wookiee stopped us at the door to the residence, slamming his staff down and shouting, “Step forward and address the Mighty Chuundar! Ruler of Rwookrrorro!”

I stormed forward, facing a slim Wookiee sitting on a huge chair.

“It is normal courtesy to bow.” He said calmly.

“It is common courtesy to ask before boarding a ship.” I gritted back. He looked surprised at the fluency of my Shyriiwook

“Ah but I did. Dear Janos assisted me.”

“Spare me the histrionics.” I snarled. “You have kidnapped one of my crew, and I will have him back.”

“Kidnapped?” He laughed. “No, captain. I merely invited my dear brother home for a consultation. There has been no injury. Yet.” He waved languidly, and a pair of Wookiee dragged Zaalbar in. One wielded a restraint collar control, and pressed the button. Zaalbar screamed in pain, collapsing to the floor.

“Touch that again, and you die.” I hissed. He looked at me, then at Chuundar. What he saw in my eyes must have convinced him. “As I said Chuundar, spare me the melodrama.”

“Did you think you could wander the upper boughs of the forest without me knowing my dear brother had returned?” Chuundar laughed.

“That Janos worked with you was more interesting.”

“Of course he works with me. I am his pet Wook!” He laughed again, this time ugly. “We work very closely.”

“You work with slavers! You betray your own people!” Zaalbar roared. The one with the control box wisely left it alone.

“Oh not our people, dear brother. There are a thousand tribes. Each of our enemies can say I have punished them instead of selling off our own.”

“That is worse.” I snapped.

“Really. Your race is the biggest market woman. Your kind love to see us having to bow and scrape to you.” He looked at Zaalbar. “As for you, brother, you shouldn't use that tone with me. Things have changed here. You are a Mad-claw without honor or name, while I? I am Chieftain.” He looked back at me. “And my people agree with me on this.”

“A tidy nest of lies.” I said. “Right up to the part about your people backing you.”

“Ah but they do.” He grinned. “With Zaalbar a Mad-claw, and our own father enslaved, Mighty Chuundar stepped up and we have been at peace ever since.”

“Mighty Chuundar?” Zaalbar laughed. “You were the runt of the litter!” Then all of his words came through. “Freyyr enslaved! When?”

“We have much to discuss, brother, but that can wait until I am done with your friends.” He turned back to us.

“What do you want?”

“Ah sweet words now? Well let us say I have taken your knight, and you must kill my bishop.” He motioned toward Zaalbar. “I have a use for him, but there is another Mad-claw below. One that has gone insane. He is interfering with the business of my allies, and must be stopped. But as my brother can tell you, we dislike killing our own except in the heat of battle.”

“So someone still stands against you?”

“What of it? Like my brother he is a Mad-claw. No one would dare give him shelter for fear of being declared so himself. This one is mad and in misery, and you are going to hunt him down and kill him.

“My brother shall stay here and we will reminisce about old times, and times to come that he can share if he is willing.”

“You are insane.” I snarled.

“Really? You won’t need his assistance. All of the people of my village and all the closer villages understand your Basic. They think it is so they can understand our enemies, but it is really so they can better serve. The local villages play tribute so we will take those from farther away. No one can stand against me here. Only someone of the royal family can stand against me, and the only one left is my dear Mad-claw brother. They will not support an off worlder against me.”

“There is one that can!” Zaalbar roared.

“I assume you speak of our dear enslaved father. If he were here perhaps. He went mad when he discovered that you were right about me. Swore to lead our people against them. But without the Sword of Bacca, he could not challenge me. I do know our laws so well.” He reached behind him, taking the hilt of a vibroblade from a chest by the chair. “A pity someone lost the blade itself. But as long as I hold it, I am Chieftain. That is the law.” He threw it contemptuously back into the box. “Let our departed father go Zaalbar. The Wookiee will go forward into the future, but at a pace I set.”

“Patience, Zaalbar.” I said.

“Enough words from you, off worlder. Go with my warriors. They will take you to the lift down into the Shadowlands. Gorwooken my best warrior will take you down and bring you back up when you are done.”

Carth and I were escorted by a full dozen of Chuundar’s people to the lift car. Using unbreakable kshyy vines, it took us down into the depths.

“What is this I heard about a human that lives down there?”

Gorwooken snorted. “You should avoid him. He is crazier than even the Mad-claw. He has been here for a long time, More of your years than I know how to count.“

The car stopped at a wooden platform, and Gorwooken waved. “Go.”

We started through the darkness. The Shadowlands are well named. Enough light filtered through that you could see, but it was a perpetual twilight. We avoided animals as we went. There were katarn in plenty, and we had to kill a few to get through. As we came around a corner a few hours later I heard the roaring hiss of a katarn.

An old man stood against a tree, facing four katarn. Before we could draw our weapons he leaped forward. A lightsaber blossomed to life, and he leaped, cutting the head of one of his attackers in half as he flew over it. He landed, swung negligently, and a second one died. The other two hissed then fell to feeding on the dead.

“Well, come on out you two. You’re making more noise than a Cantina on a Saturday night.”

machievelli
04-24-2006, 03:15 AM
Jolee

I saw the woman in Jedi robes, and the man in armor come out. Hunters. Hate the damn people. Most think killing something is a thrill. “Watch yourself.” I warned. “The two behind me aren’t all of them by any stretch.”

The woman came close enough for me to recognize her. I had seen her as a kid. Never expected her to be here. “You are a Jedi?” She asked. Obviously the recognition wasn’t mutual.

“Don’t go all impressed on me. A simple obeisance is sufficient.” I said. "What are you two doing down here?”

“We’re looking for a wookiee.” The man said.

“Came to the right place for that. Planet’s full of them last time I looked. Can you be more specific?”

“The chieftain of Rwookrrorro has kidnapped one of our companions, a Wookiee named Zaalbar. He wants us to kill a Mad-claw down here.” She said. I could tell she was saddened, and angry.

“There aren’t any Mad-claws down here right now. Except for Freyyr-”

“Freyyr?” Her head came up. “The Mad-claw we were sent after is Chuundar’s father?” She looked to her companion. “Of course. He can’t get his own people to do it, Czerka obviously can’t find him or can’t kill him. That’s why Komad was told he couldn’t hunt unless he killed the ‘Mad-claw‘.” She shook her head. “This changes things.”

“So what are you going to do?” I asked. “Kill him anyway?”

“I wouldn’t have just killed him!” She looked appalled. “Even if he were a mad-claw like Chuundar claimed, I would shudder to think that was my only option! Give Chuundar who is helping enslave his own people all the power?” She shook her head. “I could never sleep again.”

I nodded. She had the right outlook. “Then I will help you.” I stuck out my hand. “Jolee Bindo.”

She shook. Obviously she was in charge. “Danika Wordweaver, and Carth Onasi.” Luckily she turned partway toward her companion during the introduction. She didn’t see my puzzled look. “Where can we find Freyyr?”

“He’s not in this section of the Shadowlands. Czerka put up a force-field portal to the section where he is, but ol’ Jolee was watching when they did. I can get us through. But first I have to pick up a few things from my digs.”

I led them at a rapid walk. I had been a pretty good judge of character when I was younger, before the order and I had a falling out. They didn’t like me telling stories of the Sith wars to the kids, and pushing the young Padawan too hard. I complained that life is hard, and all history was is stories from the point of view of someone that wasn't there to actually see it. Read the history books if you don’t believe me. Every Jedi and Republic trooper was a saint, and all the Sith were devils. If you believe that, I could sell you the home I lived in on Kashyyyk as a ‘fixer-upper’. This kid had grown into her powers, and would go far.

My digs are just that. I found a trunk of a fallen Wroshyr tree, and hollowed it out. Made stove and pipes for it from the local clay, made it nice and comfortable. I went into the back room and changed clothes. I hadn’t worn my Jedi robes in years. One thing I did bring was a hermetically sealed storage container, so they hadn’t rotted. It was hard to get used to them again. I didn’t want to use them but I didn’t feel right just going as Ol’ Jolee if they were serious about doing well.

Danika merely nodded when I stepped back out. As we headed toward the portal, I tried to impart knowledge to them. “The company has a gold mine here, if they looked at it right. Take that Syren plant you’re about to step on, Carth. It stings small animals and their bodies supply fertilizer. Or they’re pulled into its flower and are digested directly.” He hastily backed away from it. “Now the larger ones, like the one you’re moving back toward,” He flinched, and moved closer to me, “they do the same with bigger animals, like careless people.” I moved around the plant. The flower turned to follow, but it’s a plant, they don’t move fast. I caught the back of the flower, and pointed. “Right here is the poison reservoir. That stuff could be used in medical research, because in small doses, it paralyzes only for a short time.

“The Wookiee have legends that say they came from somewhere else a long time ago. Even the trees aren’t native. There are things down here no Czerka employee or outsider has seen except for me. I won’t tell the corporation because this forest would be a strip mine when they were done.”

He spent the next few minutes watching out for Syrens.

We heard firing, and Danika stopped. “A battle?”

“Nah. Those damn Tach hunters.” I pointed at a small primate that sat there staring owlishly at us. It watched us as if we were the most important thing in it‘s existence. As she looked she could see a dozen or more within plain sight. The nearest one to us moved forward, pulling at the edge of my robe as if wondering what kind of plant it was. It was about as threatening as a mild wind blowing across a field of grass and wildflowers. “That is a tach. Fearsome creature isn’t it? They hunt them for the glands.” I held out my hand with a finger pointed at the first joint . “They kill the animal for something that big. So people on Taris can get blitzed on ale with the strength of wine.”

“Not any more.” Carth said. “Taris was destroyed by the Sith.”

“They’re back again?” I shook my head. “What were the Jedi doing when that happened? Having tea?”

“No.” Danika said. “Two renegade Jedi joined with the Sith. They killed Revan, but Malak is now in command.”

“They killed Revan?” I looked at her. “I knew the girl when she was a younker. I don’t think she was that easy to kill.”

“Easy!" Carth said. Then he started into a retelling of the battle of Zanebra. I listened, watching her. She was watching the terrain around us, assuring that nothing large enough to be dangerous got close.

“Well it sounds like they got her.” I finally said to shut him up. Man I haven’t heard those many words since the last time I tried to talk with the Czerkas up top! “Me I’d want to see the body.” I signaled for silence, and led them up a hill. Tach are the most inoffensive creatures you can imagine. They survive as a species because they breed as if they were born pregnant. Sort of like the Gizka, but someone had actually found a use for the Tach. They just sat there as the gunners shot them. Below us, half a dozen Czerka employees were dragging the bodies of their kills toward a lifter. There two of them were using vibroblades to gut the tach, pulling out the glands, and throwing the bodies aside. They had a pile a meter high, and several more piles scattered behind them. As the pile reached the level of the lifter, one would get in the driver’s seat and pull a few meters away.

“Horrible.” Danika whispered. “Is there no way to stop them?”

“Ol’ Ma nature would if it wasn’t for that.” I pointed at the half a dozen sonic fence generators on the lifter. “They’re piling up a lot of meat. That attracts the local predators and scavengers. But those generators stop them from coming too close. Every couple of hours they move a klick or so away, and it starts all over again. A pity really, you can‘t use a full power blaster to kill tach, it fries the glands. And those pop guns they‘re using wouldn‘t scratch a katarn.” I pointed across the small valley. What looked like a gathering of the katarn clans was going on. All they were waiting for was the vehicle moving. If we stayed much longer, they would be spreading to our side as well.

She considered this. “What if the generators go down?”

“I thought of that, but at least two have to go down to weaken the field enough.” I shrugged. “I’d thought of doing it simpler, you know, throwing my lightsaber and cutting two of them down, but since I berated them the first time, they keep a careful watch for me. I can get to one by sneaking up on them, but to get two I have to move where they can see me.”

“But there are three of us.”

“No, only two.” I waved to Carth. “Not saying you can’t sabotage a generator, boy. It’s just you have to move across that open space, and they watch carefully in case an old coot named Jolee was to stroll up. The Company would send a really nice apology letter to your family if you got shot, but they don‘t care beyond the postage if you ask me.” I tapped Danika on the nose. “It’s just you and me, kid.”

She nodded, and we moved apart. Moving across an open space unnoticed is one thing even a Jedi kid knows, and she wasn’t a kid. I reached my generator, and reached up, opening the access panel. The idea was to fry one of the circuits, but make it look like simple fatigue, or wear. Kashyyyk is an invasive planet, and there are bugs that can get into anything if you give them enough time. I picked up a beetle, and slipped it into the compartment. They like the taste of gold, and the circuitry used a lot of it. I wasn’t even back up the hill when suddenly two of the generators shorted out almost simultaneously.

The men didn’t notice, but the system sure did. An alarm wailed, and the men stared toward the generators. A man ran toward the control system, and started to access it. If he had dived for the flight controls he might have made it.

That’s when the wrath of the katarn decided to descend. A dozen or so charged, headed for all that piled up meat. Behind them were more. A lot more. One of the men fired, and his shot hit a katarn bull that stood a meter and a half at the shoulder. It spun, and after taking a look, decided he liked his meat fresh.

The others were a lot smarter. They took off as fast as their legs could carry them while that bull was busy with their friend. Not that it really helped a lot. A lot of katarn found out there wasn’t enough piled meat ready for all of them, and charged along after them.

“You know, you can learn more respect for nature by trying to prove who is better one on one with what nature gave you or you had to make with your own hands.” I said. “He learned that the hard way.”

We circled around the feeding frenzy. We wouldn’t have to deal with any more katarn for a while.

“You didn’t come to Kashyyyk just to go Wookiee hunting, did you youngster?”

“No.” Danika replied. “We’re looking for a Star Map.”

“That old thing. Never worked for me, why should it work for you?”

She stared at me. “I don’t believe it! Months of training, fighting Krayt Dragons stopping feuds rescuing Jawa negotiating with Sand people for what?” She looked at Carth. “We get here and all he has to say is ‘Oh, that old thing’.” She threw her hands in the air. “I give up.”

“Well it could have been worse.” I said.”

“Enlighten me.”

“I could have been on one of my vision quests, and never met you.”

She shook her head.

We came to the force field, and I pointed at it. “You can tell it’s new. The Wookiee haven’t disabled it and stripped it down. The first ships that landed way back when had problems with that you know. The Wookiee would take them apart trying to see how they worked. That’s how Czerka found out about their mechanical bent.” I waved toward the trees around the portal. “Anywhere but Kashyyyk, this might even have worked. It stops anything that walks, but what about climbers? Wookiee, tach, hell, even katarn can just go up and over. You and me though have to find another way.” I walked over toward the portal, and ran my hands along the column to the right. Now let me see...” The panel opened, and I reached inside. Couldn’t use a bug here. The tolerances were a lot tighter. I found the control stud and pressed it. With a buzz the field died.

I stood back. “This is a part of the Shadowlands even the Wookiee avoid. Freyyr is there, and so is what you seek.”



Danika

He was a surly old man who talked little or ran off at the mouth when interested. He was bothered though by others talking and used to being alone.

I found liked him.

Jolee led us into the heart of the Shadowlands, and every word he did speak told us more about the world. The Web-crawlers used a silk for their webs that was strong enough to support a wookiee. He had pointed out that if properly synthesized, or collected it would make ropes that could hold any weight. The kshyy vines had already found a market for restraining Ronto and Bantha.

The shadows deepened until it was twilight. Small animals scurried away from us, and larger animals we avoided as well. Finally we came to a clearing. There were ritual stones set in the ground, and Jolee read them for us.

Behold the sacred place. Where heroes are born, or fools die.

Feed the beast and it will heed your call.

Take vipers from their lairs.

Hang them upon the vines, as did our ancestors.

Let their blood scent the air and mark the ground.

The beast comes when summoned if you are generous.

It comes to do battle if you are worthy and wise.

It grants you glory if you are fearsome and brave.

It gives you death if you are a fool

“A ritual hunting ground.” I whispered. “It looks ancient.”

“And unused for quite a while. I know it hasn’t been used since I came down here.” Jolee said. He brushed some moss from the stone. Then he stiffened. “Freyyr is here.”

I reached out with the force. Yes. A single Wookiee watched from nearby. He carried a massive Wookiee double-sword, one that made my engaged lightsaber look like a twig.

“More Czerka.” He hissed, coming into view. “Must you defame and destroy everything? Enslave my people kill the tach make deals with my own son? No more!” He spun his weapon into guard, facing us. “Come! You want my head as well, take it if you can!” With a roar, he charged.

I blocked frantically. “Freyyr, we are not with Czerka!” I shouted. His attack continued. Carth was trying to get a shot at him, but Freyyr was a savvy warrior, and kept me between them. Jolee reached out, and Freyyr was pinned by the force.

“Listen to her old friend!” He shouted.

The Wookiee struggled against the bands of Force energy. “Kill me! I have learned that only lies issue from your kind!”

“He’s almost feral after so long. This might be difficult.” Jolee said.

I shut down my lightsaber, and held out my hands. When I spoke it wasn’t Basic, instead it was the booming roar of Shyriiwook. “A chieftain must think before he does anything!” I roared. “Even Bacca considered what he did before he formed the ritual blade!”

He stopped, then suddenly started struggling again. “The words of out worlders are only lies! You will not convince me by speaking my own language instead!”

“Do you call Zaalbar a liar as well?”

He stopped struggling again. “My son that is dishonored. What do you know of him, out worlder?”

“He came with me on our ship.”

“You claim to be his owner?”

“Never! Zaalbar swore a life debt to me. He follows me because of that oath.”

“A life debt.” He sagged. “Then he sees more in you than I do. I will listen. But I will have to think on what you say. Being willing to listen to Czerka and my own son Chuundar has made me wary.”

“Let him go Jolee.” The old man released the bonds. Freyyr roared, and swung his open hand at my head. I stood, not defending myself.

The blade-like palm stopped close enough that I could feel its kiss against my neck. The Wookiee grinned. “Only one that Zaalbar would follow would have allowed the honor strike.” He lifted the blade from my neck. I snapped an openhanded blow, and stopped it a bare centimeter from his face. He nodded. “And only one he would follow willingly would return it so deftly.” He drove the blade of his weapon into the ground. “Speak.”

“We came for the Star Map.”

“That alien abomination. The Wookiee came here before the dawn of our memory as slaves, the trees created by a malfunction of that machine.” He waved toward the massive trunks around us. “Now it is our home, and we have known no other. Why are you here to face me?”

“Chuundar took Zaalbar prisoner. Sent us to kill a Mad-claw. Only meeting Jolee first told us who you were.”

“Chuundar.” The name was a growl. “My son’s lies sent Zaalbar into exile. If only I had listened to him before that. Chuundar and those who are like him had been leading Czerka slaver parties to our hunters, and worse the hunters of other tribes nearby. He blamed the disappearances on the Shadowlands themselves. Zaalbar had discovered this, but when he confronted Chuundar, he was goaded into attacking. When I saw the blood of Zaalbar using his claws, I had to stop it. But the law is clear. He must be exiled, and until he had expiated his sin, he could not return. Slavers took him. Now I know they had been warned to expect him.

“When I discovered the truth Chuundar had already prepared. He had been my advisor, suggesting alliances with the neighboring clans. Signing papers the Czerka put before me.

“But five years ago, I saw people of those other tribes being hauled away as slaves by Czerka. Heard their own words that it was the papers I signed that consigned them to this fate. I confronted my son. But foolishly, I did it when only those he trusted were present. They tried to kill me, throwing me off the walkway into the Shadowlands as if I was one of those damned by our laws. Only by luck did I live.”

“That was when I saw him. Climbing down the trees instead of using the lift car. I distracted the team of Czerkas and Wookiee that followed to verify his death.” Jolee said.

“Yes. I remember you now. I am sorry I attacked those that were my friends. Being hunted like an animal will do that to anyone.”

He looked at the blade in his hands. “I took this off one that was sent to kill me, and I have waged a war to fight them and their Czerka allies ever since. They even put a force field up to stop me!“ He bellowed his laughter. “I needed a little rest so it stands. I want to regain Bacca’s blade, that is why I came. But I do not feel I am worthy.”

“We saw the hilt of Bacca’s blade above.”

“Yes. But there is still a way. My son has created a net of lies to ensnare my people, but there are some among them that will bow to tradition rather than Chuundar. I must find the blade of Bacca’s sword. Bring it to stand before Chuundar and the Council. That will give me a chance.

“Bacca was a great warrior of legend. Known for his ferocity and his cunning, and when he became leader, his wisdom as well. Bacca found a wreck of something, what he described as a great wing of metal. Within it, he found the blade that bears his name. Now we know that it was a crashed vessel that had been there for thousands of years. From before we existed as a people. The ship fell apart at his touch, but the blade stayed undimmed by time.

“When he was dying, he passed it on to another. Among our people it is not your blood that determines if you will be king, but your heart and the blade. Such is tradition. If I return with the blade, even if he has the hilt, it will shadow the succession. The people will be split on who should rule. Then I have a chance, no matter how small, of deposing him.”

He motioned toward the ritual clearing. “That is why I come here, trying to gain the courage for the greatest fight of any Wookiee lifetime. To face the Great ritual Beast, and regain the blade.”

“Regain?”

“Yes. A generation ago, a great leader named Rothrrrawr was challenged in his leadership. He brought Bacca’s blade down to confront the Ritual beast. He failed in killing it, and broke the blade off in its hide. I was given the hilt when he was shamed by this loss. There are those that say our entire race was shamed, and that is why it was taken from us.”

“Then you wish to fight this beast, but are afraid?” Carth asked.

Freyyr growled, then subsided. “If I face it and fail, I am not worthy of being our chieftain any longer. I am old, and not as strong as I was even five years ago.”

I pondered. Something of Wookiee history. Where I had read it, I didn’t even remember. “The companions.” I said.

“What?” Carth asked.

“When Bacca went to gather the blade the first time, there were sworn companions that were with him. ‘We pledge our life to you, oh great Bacca. To gain in honor by your very presence, and to die if need so that honor be served’.” I quoted. I dropped to my knee. “As they did then, I swear my service to you, Freyyr. To save your race from slavery, to guide my life with honor. Direct me.”

“Are you mad?” Carth asked.

“No, I see where she is going.” Jolee dropped to his knee. “Direct our swords to your cause.”

Carth looked at us, then shrugged. “Let’s do it.”

Freyyr looked at us, then dropped to his own knee. “Be my heart, be my conscience, tell me when I fail in my honor. Protect my people even over my own life.” He repeated the ancient words. Then he stood. “We need a Viper as bait.”

We found a herd of the beasts nearby. We killed one, and carried the carcass to the ritual circle. Freyyr hung it by a vine, and we moved away. I felt a presence so evil that I wanted to attack it the instant it appeared.

Then it came. “A terentatek!” Jolee gasped. “I thought they were extinct!”

The terentatek sniffed the air. Picture something that is all mouth shearing teeth and razor sharp spines along it’s back. With a pair each of arms and legs attached almost as an afterthought. There might have been eyes ears, and a nose, but I didn’t see them. It came forward, and the viper disappeared into its cavernous maw.

“Now!” Freyyr dropped like a bomb from the vine above the terentatek, his sword ripping into that massive head at the rear. Jolee and I leaped at it’s front, and kept the claws occupied as it tried to get at it’s tormenter. Carth blasted it, but the tough skin turned his bolts.

It wasn't sure what to do. It knew that it was in unbearable pain, but it could not ignore us. It spun, and we moved with it, dodging its claws, and striking at it to keep its attention. Freyyr was stabbing and cutting at its skull.

The beast spun, then collapsed, throwing Freyyr. I shouted, keeping its attention. It was sorely wounded, and seemed confused. It spun to face me, and Freyyr charged, ramming his sword deep into its underside.

It tried to rise up on its toes then fell again, this time for good. I gasped, staring at it. The descriptions on the holocron didn’t do it justice. There was a raw wound on its back, and I motioned to Freyyr as he climbed out from underneath it. He took his sword, and slit open the flesh. The slim wand of a vibroblade fell out, and he caught it. Without the power of the vibration cell, it was merely a whip thin piece of metal.

“Bacca’s blade. Returned to us.” He looked at me, then at the others. “You, my companions, humble me. That out worlders would put their lives in danger for my people. Danika Wordweaver, my son has a life debt to you. If we succeed, I would be honored if you would accept us as you Honor Family.”

“Honor Family!” Jolee was shocked. “I don‘t know if you realize how big a step that is!”

“No, I don’t.” I answered.

“He’s saying his entire tribe owes you such a life debt that you have to become family for them to pay it back. You’re a Wookiee in every way except genetics if he does that.”

I looked up into that furry face. “I can not express the humility that offer causes in me, Freyyr. Thank you.”

“No, thank you, Danika Wordweaver. I call you Shrromarrik, ’Daughter of Honor’ in front of witnesses. That alone will tell my people how much I owe you.”

“We must hurry to the upper levels. This ends today.”

“I must find the Star Map first.”

“Then I must come with you. Honor demands it.”

Char Ell
04-25-2006, 11:48 AM
“Hey chill your jets. That’s the owner of my ship.” Chill your jets? Is that the phrase you wanted to use here? Cool your jets sounds better fitting to me.

So you're not addressing the Mandalorians in the Shadowlands or Elam Mattic's dead crewmates in your story? Personally I don't really care about skipping over the Elam sidequest on Kashyyyk but I'm disappointed and surprised that you didn't incorporate the Mandalorians hunting in the Shadowlands.

I thought the manner in which you brought Jolee into the party and still using the tach in the story was well done. Of course this wasn't how it played out in the game but I thought your version still works.

Here's a link I found that includes the statistics for the Krayt Dragon Pearl when used as a lightsaber upgrade crystal in KotOR: <link> (http://boards1.wizards.com/archive/index.php/t-99780.html)

machievelli
04-25-2006, 04:26 PM
Chill your jets? Is that the phrase you wanted to use here? Cool your jets sounds better fitting to me.

Give an old man his due, I grew to maturity before you were born, kid. Chill was what we would say.


So you're not addressing the Mandalorians in the Shadowlands or Elam Mattic's dead crewmates in your story? Personally I don't really care about skipping over the Elam sidequest on Kashyyyk but I'm disappointed and surprised that you didn't incorporate the Mandalorians hunting in the Shadowlands.

As for this if you'll notice I had to do a lot of cutting to move the story on. If I had not we'd still be back on Dantooine diving into caves for more crystals, dealing with the 'little robot lost' the trial, that kind of thing. I left this out because A The Mattic incident assumes you'd talked to the merchant. The Mandalorian incident was just tossed in by the writers IMO so that you wouldn't spend a lot of time wandering doing nothing.


I thought the manner in which you brought Jolee into the party and still using the tach in the story was well done. Of course this wasn't how it played out in the game but I thought your version still works.


The problem with the tach hunt was the writer obviously didn't know a lot about large scale harvesting of animals. The average upscale poultry chain harvests at the rate of hundreds of thousands of birds per day. That implies trucks up the Wazoo plus about a thousand employees working round the clock.

Plus you look at the tach you encounter. I tended to run over the damn things because they would just sit there and look at you. I merely combined a poultry farm with a buffalo hunt.

machievelli
04-25-2006, 07:55 PM
Computer

The computer gave me an idea of what the creators might have been capable of when they still lived. The entire structure was buried in the ground except for a small dais and the Star map pintel. When we approached, it began to hum. I pictured this freshly built, with trees merely a few hundred meters tall if Freyyr was correct. Now it was a tiny alcove in a mass of wooden walls. Yet the trees shrouded it and came no closer.

“There it is. Weird thing isn’t it.”

As we approached a holographic interface came on line. The figure that stood there looked like the statues we had seen on Tatooine. A humanoid figure, with eyes set off the bullet shaped skull on either side.

“Neural access commenced. Proper subject present.”

“It never said anything like that before. Only ‘unsuitable life form detected’.” Jolee grumped.

“Beginning socialized interface. Awaiting instruction. This terminal has not been accessed in quite some time.”

“Who has attempted to access you?”

“Three attempts by Wookiee identified as Freyyr. All denied. 152 attempts by unknown species named Jolee Bindo. All denied.”

I looked at him. “Maybe I should have mentioned that I’m stubborn.”

“Error. All other attempts deleted by previous user.”

“Why have you acknowledged me?” I asked.

“Systems access error. Subject displays unfamiliarity with the interface. Behavioral configuration must be verified before continuing. I am sorry. I do not mean to confuse you. I will answer all questions to the best of my programming ability. However until configuration is verified, some segments of my system will be blocked.”

“What do you mean by behavioral configuration?” I asked.

“I was designed to be accessed only by my creators. However at that time, it was considered that servant species might eventually have the right to access my databanks. A series of parameters was designed so that only those that matched the designer’s beliefs would be allowed such access.”

“So to get this thing to open up, you have to think like whatever created it?” Jolee asked. “A race you tell me was the epitome of the dark side?”

“I think that is exactly what it means.” I said. “But Revan wasn’t evil when she came here. The answers must be something we can give it. Computer, what happens if I do not fit the parameters you have set?”

“This system will lock you out permanently. You will not be able to access any part of my system. However the fact that I have allowed you to access me to this extent means that you have within your mind the necessary thought processes that will fit the parameters.”

“Why have I been allowed to access you if I do not fit the parameters?”

“I cannot say. The parameters suggest that you are close enough to norm that you can be coached, and your answers measured against what my designers wanted. This is not the first time such has occurred. The last time was five years ago.”

“Revan.” I said.

“I cannot say. The parameters of the one called Revan are not within my system. Data has been corrupted, and that information appears to have been in that section of my memory.”

“Can you tell me why you are restricted from saying what the parameters are?”

“I cannot speculate on what has been restricted from my memory. The odds that such restrictions were placed by previous users approaches totality.”

“So Revan reprogrammed it so only someone who thinks like her can access it.” Jolee said.

“Or did she try to make it easier for those that followed? But the machine thinks I can think like her.” I completed the argument. “Computer, I came to find the Star Map.”

“Accessing. There is data on the Star Map in my original memory. Access is restricted.”

“What must I do to get access?”

“Your request requires additional security measures. You must match the parameters that have been set to a greater degree.”

“How can I match them when I don’t even know what they are?”

“There are measures available to this system. Personality profiling can be used to verify the suitability of your conscious mind. This will inform me as to whether you are worthy of accessing the Star Map, and if not, whether you can be made suitable.”

“What does that mean?”

“That information is not available. If you have any further questions ask them now. Most of the information you seek will probably not be accessible until behavioral configuration parameters are met.”

I sighed. “Begin your evaluation.”

“Evaluation commencing. Neural interface established. Results will be compared to the pattern in memory. Relax. Just answer the questions as you feel you should.”

It hummed. “You travel with a Wookiee companion. You are captured and separated, charged with a crime. If you both remain silent at your trial, you will both spend a year in jail. However if you accuse Zaalbar of treachery and testify against him, he will serve five years, and you will be set free. He has been offered the same deal. However if you both accuse the other, you will both serve two years. What do you trust him to do?”

How did you know I had a Wookiee friend named Zaalbar? I almost asked. I knew Zaalbar would be honorable. If I stayed mute we both would serve time-
No, think as the Builders might. You know the other is honorable, and will never accuse you falsely. Your accusation will trap him for the five years, and you will be free.

“I would accuse Zaalbar.” I said. Jolee and Carth gasped.

“Excellent. The temperament of a companion is judged haphazardly at best. You know he is honorable, but you also know that his family has a history of betrayal. Freyyr casting him out on perjured testimony. Chuundar betraying and attempting to murder his father, or have you do it for him. Blood will tell. I judge this to be the correct answer.”

“I see what you mean.” Jolee said. “This thing obviously has very specific ideas of what a right answer is.”

I shook my head. “Continue.”

“Hypothetical. You are at war. Your intelligence network deciphers an enemy communication. In five days, they will attack and destroy a city of yours. In ten days, they will be shifting forces to attack in another area, leaving you a clear path of attack that can destroy their center, and end the war. What do you do with this information? What is the optimum course of action?”

Again I considered. If you evacuate without an obvious reason, the enemy would realize that their code is broken. If so, they then know that you are aware of the redeployment. You cannot save one without risking the failure of the other. This was actually easier. Canderous had spoken of Revan and some of her battles were in the memory banks. “I would ignore the attack on the city. I would prepare for my own attack in ten days.”

“Very good. Saving the people of the city would risk the entire war. It would also notify the enemy of the broken codes. The deaths of those people were necessary for victory to be assured.”

“The victory is irrelevant!” I said harshly. “Ending the war was more important. That saves even more lives!”

The system hummed. “You have achieved the correct answer, but did so in a manner that does not match the pattern in my memory. However I will adjust both the parameters and the evaluation to compensate.

“Using the same hypothetical situation with one difference. There is no war going on, your have an empire at peace with few weak enemies, but your people have grown complacent. They have stagnated, and in so doing, they question the need for a war leader such as you.

“Except for that change, the scenario remains the same. An imminent attack, but a weakness that will follow it. How do you react?”

Like the Republic before the Mandalore attack. I thought. Unwilling to stand up for itself. Had someone in the Republic military seen what was happening, and allowed the Mando to attack? “I do nothing. Afterward I use the information to obliterate them.”

“No, you cannot hide behind the wartime morality of allowing a blow so yours strikes. The enemy does not intend, and does not have the capability to maintain a sustained conflict. Your empire would crush it easily in the attack you plan to launch. There is no great war to maintain, nor will you garner victory after victory. Your decision must be based only on the short-term benefits. The reactions of your people to the attack and your retaliation.”

Would it be honorable to allow the murder of millions so you could remain in power? Again I wondered who might have made such a cold-blooded decision. The Senate’s foreign affairs committee had judged the Mando threat as mild. I could almost picture the discussion. Allowing such an attack into our territory would have cost little and someone would have believed they would benefit.

“I would allow the attack to occur.”

“Excellent. It makes the most long-term sense. Your people would forget about the problems your empire might have to turn their eyes instead to an unfriendly galaxy. As the savior of them in this, you are returned to the pinnacle of honor and respect in their eyes.

“Parameters matched. Accessing all programming.”

“Open the Star Map.”

“Order received, will comply.” The pintel split, and the map gleamed in the air. I copied it into my datapad.

“A Star Map. Any idea who created it?” Jolee asked.

“A race that seems to be extinct for over 30,000 years.” I replied.

“Maybe they aren’t extinct. Maybe you might need some help out there.”

“Oh really. Bored with katarn stew?”

“Shows what you know. You have to bake katarn. You stew Vipers or web-crawlers.” She looked at me out of the corner of her eye. “Hey, don't look at me like that! It’s not like there’s a store nearby for Zabu meat!”

“We have some aboard the ship.” Carth said.

“You do! Then just try to get off this planet without me!”

“I think you’ll have to take a bath first.”

“Bath? Woman do you see a ‘fresher down here anywhere?”

“We’ll arrange something.”


Jolee

I was shocked with the answers Danika gave. But I understood why they had to be correct. The people that had created that long dead empire had not cared about anything but their power. Revan had seen that, and become... what she had become.

We moved through the forest. Four people on a mission to save the Galaxy. But first, we had to save the Wookiee race.

We reached the lift, and half a dozen Wookiee stood from the low-lying mist. Gorwooken growled when he saw Freyyr. “You brought the Mad-claw instead of killing him! We were supposed to kill you, blame the deaths on Czerka, but you have earned death for your betrayal!”

“Betrayal?” Freyyr roared back. “To murder those sent to commit a crime you cannot? To lay the blame on others?”

“Of course.” Danika said. “Because Chuundar wants Zaalbar to join him, to make his hold on your people even stronger.”

Freyyr waved the blade of Bacca’s blade. “I have defeated the Great Beast! I return with Bacca’s blade, Gorwooken of no village! Will you defame it?”

“When I return it to Chuundar he will give me honor!” The Wookiee charged.
I stunned a couple as Danika attacked. I watched her as I stunned any that got behind her. She had never used a double blade that I knew of, but she used the double saber like a master. Carth was shooting the Wookiee that tried to close on her and Freyyr, and he was damn good with those pistols.

Freyyr and Gorwooken slammed together like runaway lifters, and I swear the ground shook when they did. Freyyr used one hand to pin Gorwooken’s sword, and used the silent blade of Bacca’s sword to smash in his head. He spun, grabbing another Wookiee that came at him, catching him in a bear hug. He might have been old, but he was still strong. The Wookiee struggled, pounding his head with his hands, then spasmed as his back snapped. Freyyr tossed him aside.

The others were all down. Danika stood, ready. Eyes sweeping to find more, but no one else attacked us.

“Come. The lift is made so someone with a Wookiee's strength must lift it. I will bear us back to the Great Walkway.” Freyyr ordered.

We got onto the lift, and it went upward through the gloom. Our party rested as we went up. Danika stood silent off to the side. I could see that coming up with the right answers bothered her even more than they had bothered me. Carth was watching her as if he thought she would suddenly become a katarn.

The upper walkway was silent when we arrived. “We must hurry-” A form came from the gloom, another wookiee.

“Freyyr! You live and without a collar?” The Wookiee asked.

“Chorrawl!” Freyyr hugged the other wookiee. “What are you doing here?”

“I was told to kill whoever came up if they were not Gorwooken and those that went with him. Chuundar said that the Czerka were planning an ambush and these humans were in league.”

“The Czerka ambush was Gorwooken and his followers.” Freyyr answered. He motioned toward the girl. “This one, the one I have named Shrromarrik brought me back from the brink of madness. Returned to us Bacca’s blade.” He waved it. “This I took from the flesh of the Great Beast myself after killing it, as Honor demands.”

“Freyyr.” Chorrawl knelt. “Lead us, my chieftain.”

“I cannot lead until the Lawgiver judges this case.” Freyyr answered almost gently. “Does Worrroznor still hold the mantle?”

“Yes. But Chuundar merely waits until his health fails him at last. He has already chosen Gorwooken to take it when Worrroznor dies.”

“Then he will have to choose another. Come. Chorrawl, precede me. Assure that all of those that still honor my name are ready.”

“Wait.” Danika said. “It sounds like you are getting ready to attack!”

“It may come to that.” Freyyr replied sadly. “Our history has had many times when the leader was not accepted automatically. If Chuundar can call his allies, they will fight to keep him on the throne. Add to that the fact that he will call the Czerkas as well-”

“Freyyr!” Chorrawl shouted. He ran down the walkway, and came back dragging a human in a Czerka uniform. The man was unconscious, but not dead. “This one was using his com. The Czerka will know that you return.”

“Then you must run, Chorrawl. Gather them as I have commanded. Have Worrroznor present. We must deal with this quickly.”

We moved fast. On their com links, Danika and Carth could hear frantic orders being given. There was a roar like the hammer of the gods from the area where the Czerka maintained order.

“Canderous, report!” Danika shouted.

“The Czerkas thought they could try the same trick again. They sent a dozen of their men to board the ship to arrest us for complicity in a native revolt. They also brought their lifters back out. That was me blowing them to dust. We have prisoners aboard right now. Bastila wants to talk with you.”

“Put her on.”

“Danika, report please.”

“We have the Star Map, but we’ve walked right into a civil war. Zaalbar’s father is alive and was chief before Chuundar. Chuundar has called for reinforcements from Czerka to maintain his power.”

“Not good. I felt pain in you earlier.”

“Either the builders or Revan set the damn alien computer with parameters only she or a Sith could pass. Lucky for me, I was a soldier. I got through it. How are things at that end?”

“Canderous was able to destroy the guns, and take the ones who tried to board us without undue casualties. The Czerka officials are staying away from us. They seem to think we’ll start blasting if they try anything. Hold please for Canderous.”

“Go ahead.”

“A lot of chatter on the company net. They’re trying to convince the cargo ship Czerka Dream to make an attack run on us. Carth’s pal Jordo has reported that he was able to spike their guns for the moment.”

“Maintain alert. If Jordo reports that they have gotten the systems unjammed I want the Ebon Hawk airborne where she will be safe.”

“We can take off now. I’ve checked the specs of Czerka Dream. I could beat them armed with nothing but Zaalbar’s breath.”

“You’re our tactical officer, you’re in command. Do what you think needs to be done. But don’t destroy that ship! They have Wookiee aboard, and when this is over, I think they will want to come home.”

“Understood.” There was a scream of engines a few moments later.

There were bodies scattered around the entry into the village. But Chorrawl was among those who stood there. One of the Wookiee was an ancient, his fur a deep brown laced with white as if he had been dipped in silver paint. He looked at Freyyr, then at me.

“It is good to see that you still live, Freyyr. Yet you come bearing weapons, followed by out worlders. How say you in this?”

“Speaker of the law, I ask your attention and your wisdom.” Freyyr asked, kneeling.

“Speak.”

“My son has taken the throne by lies and deceit. He sells our people into slavery and uses Czerka and our own warriors to oppress our neighbors. He sits there without this.” He set down the blade he had gained. “He claims to be our leader with false pretenses, and uses out worlders as his supporters.”

“As do you, Freyyr.” Worrroznor replied, looking at us.

“No. These are my companions, as Bacca had when he first found the blade that bears his name. They have sworn to me of their own will in the words of that time, and fight not for me, but for the honor of our race. This one,” He motioned toward Danika, “I have named Shrromarrik because it was her words that brought me back from the brink of madness.”

Worrroznor looked at Danika. “Do you understand the honor Freyyr has bestowed upon you out worlder?”

Danika knelt beside Freyyr. “As Bacca’s companions did, so I have done. I swore my service to the true and honorable chieftain of your people, Worrroznor. To save your race from slavery, I will die. To guide my life with honor I have begged of him. He has accepted this oath. Can you gainsay it?” Carth knelt, as did I.

Worrroznor bowed his head. “I am pleased and astonished to know that an out-worlder knows so much of our lives and traditions. You have humbled me, the speaker of the law with your wisdom.” He turned to the others. “Go before us; push all those that would refuse ahead of you. The law will be spoken this day, even if our village dies.”

Char Ell
04-26-2006, 01:21 AM
“Shows what you know. You have to bake katarn. You stew Vipers or web-crawlers.” She looked at me out of the corner of her eye. “Hey, don't look at me like that! It’s not like there’s a store nearby for Zabu meat!” I didn't understand who was talking to whom in this passage. I thought this part was related from Danika's POV. But this seems to switch when Jolee says,“Shows what you know. You have to bake katarn. You stew Vipers or web-crawlers.” Then Danika looks at him out of the corner of her eye. Then it's back to Danika's POV?

I heartily agree with the manner in which you had Danika respond to the holographic interface. That was pretty much how I did it the very first time I played. I thought they were words only, not actual deeds, and the only way I could gain access to the Star Map. I was disappointed when I ended up getting DS points. Now I'm not one who believes in saying one thing and doing another but in that situation if that was what I had to do...

machievelli
04-26-2006, 03:29 AM
I didn't understand who was talking to whom in this passage. I thought this part was related from Danika's POV. But this seems to switch when Jolee says,“Shows what you know. You have to bake katarn. You stew Vipers or web-crawlers.” Then Danika looks at him out of the corner of her eye. Then it's back to Danika's POV?

I heartily agree with the manner in which you had Danika respond to the holographic interface. That was pretty much how I did it the very first time I played. I thought they were words only, not actual deeds, and the only way I could gain access to the Star Map. I was disappointed when I ended up getting DS points. Now I'm not one who believes in saying one thing and doing another but in that situation if that was what I had to do...


All right, I screwed up. And didn't notice it until you mentioned it.

You get a cookie.

machievelli
04-26-2006, 03:44 AM
Danika

The unaligned people of Rwookrrorro stood aside as we entered. I could hear Freyyr’s name whispered as we passed. Those that would have stopped us were either pushed ahead by our vanguard, or died when they refused to listen to Worrroznor. The throne room was blocked by a group of not only Wookiee but Czerka as well. We dealt with them, and pushed our way inside.

Chuundar sat on his throne, surrounded by both Wookiee and Czerka allies. I saw the chief of Czerka Security standing to the side, his hand on his com.

“Well, Father and brother have both returned. We have a family reunion!” Chuundar said. “I think this is your business, Commander Velek.”

“Danika Wordweaver, I arrest you for complicity in a native revolt against Czerka Corporation-”

“Silence, Human.” Worrroznor growled. “You have told us constantly to stay out of your affairs, and you would return the favor. This is an internal matter of the Wookiee of Rwookrrorro. You have no authority here.”

“That woman is a criminal-”

“That woman has been named Shrromarrik by Freyyr, once our chieftain, and perhaps soon to be again. She is Wookiee under our laws, which you ignore at your peril.”

“But I set the laws of my village, Worrroznor!” Chuundar roared. “I am chieftain here! Not you Law-speaker!”

“You may create laws, but cannot ignore the law already written. Nor can you simply decree something. I was arbiter of the law before your father was born, Chuundar. No chieftain is above the law. That was decided by Bacca himself. The law is to be supreme in all things. So it has been since our beginning. So it shall be when we are all dust.

“The law is why I am here even now. The chieftain is he who holds Bacca’s blade, Chuundar. So it has been since we first moved from being animals.” Worrroznor said. Freyyr held up the blade. There was a sigh among the gathered Wookiee.

“So he had the blade. I have the hilt!” Chuundar pulled it out, brandishing it. “Both you and this creature that was my father said it was important! Who will the people follow, father? You, an old and weak leader? Or me, with the might of a Galactic corporation behind me?”

“Enough!” Zaalbar stepped from a corner. “Both of you are fighting over who sits in the chair? The people of our village, of our planet deserve better!”

“Listen to your other son, Freyyr.” Chuundar purred. “If you win our village will be gutted, ripe for another to take us over.”

“Zaalbar...” I said.

“He has been speaking with me since you left, Danika Wordweaver. Much of what he says makes sense.”

“Sense? To sell others, even if they are of other tribes into slavery? They are as much your people as Freyyr, Worrroznor, hell, even Chuundar! To use them,” I waved toward the Czerka, “To tell you what to do? This is not a matter for off-worlders and corporations! It is a matter of your own people alone. They must discuss this without outside interference, let the law decide what is right.”

“The law!” Chuundar laughed. “I set the law! And the Czerka agrees with me.” He stood, towering over me. “Attack!”

It was a madhouse in the close quarters. It was heavy blaster cannon at five paces, and only someone who was lucky or very fast was going to survive.
A dozen Wookiee all told fighting each other, and the Czerkas that were wise diving for cover. Those that were not wise tried to shoot at those who supported Freyyr. They went down in a welter of blood.

Chuundar was backed into a corner, and he was screaming for his supporters outside to rally to his defense. But outside the fight was also total. None could force themselves to his side. As a supporter attacked Freyyr Chuundar drew a Sith Assassin’s pistol, and aimed it at Freyyr‘s back.

I saw a shape flash, and Worrroznor was there. The blast took him in the stomach, and he collapsed as Freyyr caught his son by the throat, breaking his arm to make him drop the weapon.

“Freyyr, no.” Worrroznor gasped.

“Listen to him, Freyyr!” I shouted.

The Wookiee growled, throwing Chuundar into the arms of his supporters as the fighting died. Everyone was astonished by Chuundar’s attack on the law-speaker.

“Worrroznor. You will live.” Freyyr said, holding the ancient in his arms.

“No, Freyyr.” He gasped. “Even the mighty Freyyr cannot stop the Dark one from collecting me. “This must end, as the law requires. I will live long enough for that.”

“Don’t speak to me of law when my best friend lies dying!”

“Freyyr.” The ancient shook his head. “The law is what makes us beings, and not animals. I will speak the law even as the Dark one comes. Will you hear me?”

Freyyr bowed his head. “Yes, old friend. I will.”

“You are our rightful chief. Chuundar has broken the law in that he has allowed out-worlders to determine our policy and ways of life.” He reached out toward me, and I took his hand. “You, Shrromarrik have a duty to the people you have sworn to protect. Another Law Speaker will be appointed in my place, but you must speak for the law until that time. Freyyr needs advice of your world beyond our trees, and none of us can give such. Will you accept this charge?” He squeezed my hand.

“I am not worthy of this responsibility.”

He chuckled. “Was I when it was handed to me? Only in dealing with the out-worlders will he need your advice. Guide him. All else can wa...” He squeezed my hand, then I felt it go limp.

I lifted it to my cheek, looking at him. “I will give him good words within the law.” I promised.

“Hah! So an out worlder will seal my fate!” Chuundar shouted. “After all of your words on it, Father, that is rich!”

“No I will not.” I stood away from Freyyr, away from Worrroznor’s body. “I will not judge you under your laws. The one who is appointed in his place will.” I waved toward the body. “He asked me only to guide the Chief in the laws of his kind.” I waved toward the body of Velek. “That I can do.”

“Yes. But some things do not need a holder of the law.” Freyyr stood away from his friend, catching his son’s throat in one great paw. His voice sounded like thunder in the enclosed space, reaching even to the crowd beyond. “He has murdered the law speaker, tried to use out-worlders to control our village, spat on our laws. Does any stand with him on this?” He turned, but no one stepped forward in Chuundar’s defense.

“Then I shall use his own methods to deal with him.” He stalked from the room. The guards dragged Chuundar to the netting that separated the village from the forest beyond. Freyyr loosened a section, taking his son by his throat. “I declare you exile. Meat for any to slay if you are foolish enough to be seen. Return when you have gathered enough honor to wash this stain clean.”

“Father please-”

“I have no sons! One was exiled, and awaits my judgment on his return. The other starts his journey as an exile this day.” He flung the boy out into space. They watched him fall.

“He might live.” I commented.

“If he has the brain my blood gives him, he will. But he must cleanse himself before he returns. That he might fail in.”

I spent the next hours saying no. “Freyyr we cannot merely kill all of the out worlders-”

“They have battened on my people long enough-”

“Will you listen?” I roared back. Freyyr took step back. I moderated my tone. “The Galaxy will awake tomorrow with this world in your hands. Do you want them cheering as Czerka comes in and slaughters you?” He stared at me. “The news that the revolt has started is already going out. There is no way to avoid this. Czerka, would have tried to conceal it but there are enough ships of independent merchants and those Companies not linked to the Corporation. So instead they will try to use your actions to condemn, make you look like animals devouring their people. Animals do that, not warriors with a cause.

“So you must give orders that any that fight you, that any that attack you, will die. If they do not, if they are wounded and disarmed, if they surrender, if they try to run, you must let them. You must also announce that this is what you have said.

“You must assure that all who fight alongside you will accept this, and the same rule must be used for every Czerka outpost. You must also punish publicly those that violate this order.”

“But-”

“But nothing! When the Galaxy reads their news tomorrow and in the coming weeks, they must see a people forced to fight. That killed the enemy that faced them, that killed those that attacked them, but showed mercy to all others.

“It is hard to make the Wookiee evil when they see pictures of your people helping out worlders in maintaining order. When they see the abject misery of those freed from Czerka Dream, and their return to Kashyyyk. Those that see this must say to themselves, ‘good for the Wookiee!‘.”

Those pictures were already being broadcast. Czerka Dream had been designed for rough world cargos where pirates or natives might raid or try to capture them. But she had little firepower compared to Ebon Hawk. Canderous had taken the Ebon Hawk through her fire, and destroyed every weapons emplacement with precision fire, then boarded them and taken the entire crew prisoner. Once that was accomplished he had used their own shuttles to return freed Wookiee slaves to the planet. Among them had been several hundred slaves of other races. The scenes with Wookiee removing their collars, then carrying humans and Twi-lek among others from their servitude had already made waves in the Galaxy.

There was already a dozen different news services asking for the inside story. I had yet to get to a proper communication facility, but Canderous had set both Komad Fortuna and Dayso Cooh on it. They had broadcast pictures of the tach, showing people drinking Tarisian ale, then again the gentle creatures that gave the beverage its kick. This was followed by Czerka’s own recordings of the hunts, and the company spokesman speaking of the millions of tach already slain, and how much the company made on each gland.

Komad had found something more exciting than hunting. It was called revolution. Dayso Cooh actually needed restraining. He was talking of ‘people’s court’s and rough justice.’ But academics and those that have never seen the carnage of battle are like that.

“It is agreed. Is there anything else we must do before we attack?” Freyyr asked sarcastically.

“Yes. You must deal with your son.”

Freyyr growled. He walked over to Zaalbar. As an exile he could not be part of the war councils of the last hours. Instead he had been working on Bacca’s blade. When we came to him, he flicked the switch, and the blade came to life. He shut it off, and held it out with his eyes down.

Freyyr stood there for a long moment, trying to think of what to say. I almost nudged him before he spoke softly. “My son, I have shamed myself in this. I believed what I was told, not what was true. I cast you out, made five years of your life misery without thinking.” Freyyr reached past the blade, touching his son’s head. “I have no excuse for the harm I have done to you.”

“I still forgive, Father.” Zaalbar answered his eyes still down. “I learned a great deal in the outside world. A lot of what Danika tells you now I know to be true from seeing them.”

“You and she have put into my people the backbone we needed. I will erase the slavers from this world. None of ours will ever go into that again as long as I live.

“I have sent quick climbers to the other villages. They took apologies from me for what Chuundar has done to them, and asked for them to ally themselves with us against Czerka.” He grunted a laugh. “My other son could have made himself ruler of the planet if he has merely said ‘fight against them’ instead of letting Czerka have their way. Out-worlders shall be rare here for a time, but knowing such as this one lives makes me happy to be part of the galaxy.

“But I owe you for all that time, Zaalbar.” He turned, opening the door. “Hear me! Zaalbar has expiated his sin! A sin that was all a lie from Chuundar’s black heart. He is once more a member of our tribe and my family. And no one would make me more proud than what I received in return for that act!” He turned to his son. “There is a place by my side, soon to sit upon that throne if you are worthy.” It is hard to describe a Wookiee voice as plaintive, but Freyyr’s was.

“I thank you my father.” He stood, and for the first time looked his father in the eye again. “I have learned much in the galaxy beyond, not all of it good, not all of it light. I must say no to you father. I cannot return home.”

“My son!’ Freyyr wailed. “What must I do to atone?”

“My father you have accepted me back and that I will treasure for the rest of my life! But I have sworn a life debt to Danika. I must pay that back before I can return home!”

“How can family claim life debt from family?” Freyyr demanded. My crew and I had been declared part of Freyyr’s honor family. We were Wookiee in all but flesh. Plus I still held the title of Shrromarrik and was being called ‘Human law speaker’ even by the children. I could see his point.

“Zaalbar-”

“Please, Shrromarrik. Let me speak.” He said to me gently. “That is true father, but I gave life debt to her before she was family, and there is the mission our Shrromarrik must complete. I cannot in honor foreswear that. Even to return home. And as she is of our people now, that debt looms larger, for family must always be ready to protect their own.”

Freyyr cried to the council. “You see this? I have bowed to your wisdom Shrromarrik, now I must bow to the wisdom of my own son! The Galaxy shall know that Wookiee can judge in faith and honor. Go with my blessing. But before you leave, we owe you Shrromarrik, Danika Wordweaver much honor. We shall sing songs of you and what you have done until the lights in the sky grow cold. But if there is anything we have that you desire, ask for it.”

I was stumped. What could I ask for that I needed? “How can family claim debt from family?” I asked.

Again Zaalbar interrupted. “Father I would ask one thing. Let me use Bacca’s sword in the coming battle, here and beyond the walls of our forest home. It came from out there before we were people. Let it draw blood of the enemies of all people everywhere!”

“That seems fitting.” I said.

“I am tempted to say no, my son. But I owe a debt to you and her. Chieftains of our clan have held it since Bacca found it. Do you know what you ask?”

“I do father. The Wookiee cannot think of this one world any more. We are part of a galaxy of worlds and people who think of Wookiee and picture a slave or an animal. We must teach them otherwise.”

“Yes my son. Take it. Make the world’s tremble at Wookiee wisdom and strength.” He passed the precious relic to his son, who bowed low.

“I will, father. And it will return, whether I do or not.”

“I would much rather my son and heir return. Guard him well, Shrromarrik!”

“I will.”

We reached the gate. The guns tracked on us, but did not fire. Beyond the door carnage began.

Against a human enemy, the Czerka defenses of walls and auto turrets might have worked. But as Jolee had pointed out, they had made a fatal blunder. The Wookiee knew how those guns worked and how to disable them. The Wookiee were also as comfortable climbing as they were walking, and netting will not stop a determined wookiee. Wookiee had climbed over, eliminating the guards on it, then used the guard officer’s own control box to deactivate the weapons.

I ran up to a cowering guard, slapping aside the bowcaster of a young Wookiee. “He’s wounded! He’s unarmed. He is to live!’

“Who-“ The youngster started to demand, then Zaalbar slapped him hard enough to bounce him off the tree trunk.

“I am Zaalbar, son of Freyyr, and this is my Shrromarrik ‘Human law speaker’!”

“Forgive, noble ones.” He ducked his head. “It is the excitement of finally striking back.”

I bent to the Czerka. He was holding a rag to a spurting wound, and I pulled a med-kit from my pack. I cleaned and bandaged the wound, then handed him the injector of painkillers. “Lay quiet. They’ll come for you.”

“Why?” He almost screamed. All he saw behind me were Wookiee faces, the stuff of nightmares for anyone in Czerka uniform at the moment. “So they can cook me?”

“How long have you been on Kashyyyk?”

“A week!”

“The Wookiee will not eat you. I just hope the clinic wasn’t destroyed in the fighting.” I pulled him from the area where he’d stuffed himself, and pointed at the young Wookiee. “Carry him.”

The Wookiee slung his weapon, and gently picked up the unbelieving man. “I know where the clinic is. I will take him there.”

There were still knots of fighting. When possible, I called for them to surrender. However at one such, the leader of the men within fired at me. The Wookiee overwhelmed the men, throwing their bodies off the walkway.

Ebon Hawk was landing as my team came up to it, and we hurried aboard. Carth’s friend Jordo had delivered the information he had promised.


Carth

I ran to the berthing area as we came aboard. I had to soak my head. I stood there, water dripping off me. My mind was still reeling from what had happened in the Shadowlands. Danika had answered the computer, but the answers disturbed me. Turn on your friend? Allow millions to die in an attack you could have stopped so that you could win a war? Allow the same millions to die just to bolster your power? Saul had made these kinds of decisions. Malak had destroyed Taris, slaughtered off billions of people in the name of his power.

If she could be like Saul, like Malak, like Revan, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to see her! I dried my hair and face. I wanted a stiff drink but we had to get out of the system first. I decided I’d settle for a cup of tea. I poured, sipping the acrid brew, then turned to head toward the cockpit, and stopped.

Danika sat at the table. She was hunched over a mug, hands clenched so tightly I expected it to shatter. Her eyes were closed, and silent tears coursed down her face. Sasha was sitting beside her and whining a little at the obvious pain on her guardian’s face.

“You’re disappointed.” Her voice was a husky whisper. I said nothing.

“Whoever programmed the computer knew what kind of person they trusted. They wanted people like the Dark Jedi, like the Sith to find them. I understood that when it told me that there were specific parameters to match.”

“Revan must have-”

“No. I can’t see someone everyone admired that much giving such answers. The programming had to have been original. But what could I do?

“If I gave answers I felt right, it would have locked me out, we would have been stopped without the Star Map. So, I did what I had to do. Think like a conqueror, like a Sith.” She looked up at me. There was no emotion in her face or her voice. As if the tears were just water splashed on her face. “Do you know why the answers I gave were correct?” I shook my head. “Because the builders were self-centered egoists that didn’t care about their own people let alone any others. Any other Jedi, even a Master would have failed. Only I could do it.

“Because I was a soldier! You served. You know what the mindset is like. How many orders have we given that sent others to their deaths? Because the mission was more important than their lives.” She set down the cup hard. “I was a squad leader for a little over a month. I sent others to their deaths so we could win the battle. I left three men I considered my best friends in the world to hold a corridor so we could do an end run around the defenders to the bridge. One of them lived. Lived!” She slammed her fist on the table hard enough to hurt. “He’s in a life support chair now, a quadriplegic. He’ll never walk, or play with his children, or make love to his wife. My orders did that! I did everything but pull the trigger myself!

“I must speak with the masters on Dantooine. If I am no better than Revan, no better than Malak, no better than Saul, we’ve already failed.”

“I served with Saul, and I can tell you you’re nothing like him.” She started to speak. “Shut up and listen for once. Looking back at him, I knew Saul was ruthless. I watched him on the bridge of the ship and he never flinched. Even when his orders fed ship after ship into the meat grinder. When he was in command as captain, then as admiral, he never settled for a stalemate. It was victory or nothing.

“Now let’s see you in comparison. A woman that worried because I didn’t trust her. Yet when someone needed money, you gave it to him. When we had to go into the Undercity of Taris, you gave those kids money when I would have shoved them aside. You went to rescue Zaalbar because you hate slavers. Oh yes, I saw your face when you heard who had him. Then you turned around and instead of collecting a reward, you pushed Zelka Forn into making sure the people down there were safe for the first time from the Rakghoul plague.

“Look at us!” I waved toward the ship. “You risked your life bringing Juhani back from the dark side. You brought closure to Bastila, to Mission, to Zaalbar. You talked instead of fighting with the Sand People. Got them vaporators so they could move in peace. You freed the Jawa. Maybe you failed in ending that war, but you mitigated it. Would Saul do that? We know what Malak would have done.” I shook my head.

“If you want to judge yourself, answer this question. Hypothetical. You command a fleet. Someone you hate and fear is hiding down on a planet among billions of innocent civilians. You can keep on searching, even though you have already spent almost a week looking. You can go down yourself, hoping that you enemy will be drawn out to attack you, or you can reduce the planet along with all of those people to ruins. Along with that you will kill a few thousand of your own, but what’s a few more lives tossed in?”

I was starting to feel a bit teary myself. I remembered all of those people. Zelka, Gadon, the Outcasts, the people in the street of the upper city. Were they all dead now? Everyone in the upper city most assuredly. I pictured Zelka Forn standing there, unwilling to leave his patients as the plasma ate the city away around them.

The only home Mission had ever known, gone.

I walked over, laying my hand on her shoulder. “I trust from what I have seen that you would have found another way. Maybe not a perfectly clean way, but one where billions didn’t have to die.” She looked up from the mug. “If I can trust you, why can’t you trust yourself?”

“I feel the pull of the dark side.” She whispered. “It would have been so easy to just let the Wookiee have their revenge in full. There are over 100,000 of them still out there enslaved. If I could I would have published all those names, those owners, called the wrath of all of the Gods of all of the races on them.” She stared at the mug again. “It would be so easy to get this done the quick way.”

“I can’t see you doing anything the easy way. I think you were probably the best person for this mission. Someone so unsure of themselves that they second-guess everything. If you can’t succeed, no one could.”

She shook her head. Sasha moved toward her, and she hugged the girl. “Thanks Carth.”

“That’s what I’m here for. When I’m not slaving away on the controls, I’m the head cheerleader of the good ship Ebon Hawk.” I walked toward the cockpit.

“Carth.” I turned back to her. “Watch me. Don’t trust me. If I start to slip to the dark side, you’ll tell me right? Stop me in any way you can?”

“If I have to die in the attempt.”

“Don’t let it get to that point.” She looked away. “Set course for Manaan. It‘s closer than Korriban. Sorry.”


Ebon Hawk

Enroute to Manaan

Bastila

I could feel her misery even before we took off. But I had to wait until Carth relieved me. Danika was sitting in the mess hall in her own huddle of misery. Sasha was in her arms, crooning as Danika cried.

“I don’t want to become like that.” Danika whispered. She looked at me, eyes luminous with tears. I wanted to go to her, to hug her, to tell her it would be all right. As she had done for Mission, as she had done for me. “I want to go back to Dantooine. Beg the Masters to send someone else.”

“You are strong, Danika.” I said. “You have resisted the dark side so well. Don’t give up now.”

“I don’t know if I can be strong enough any more.” She husked. “What if there is another test when we reach Manaan? What if I have to kill a companion, or do something that will damn me for all time? Revan must have been stronger than I. Yet she fell!”

“Revan was strong but in her own way.” I replied. “She was also more impulsive than you are.”

“I found out some things about Revan. We picked up a passenger at Kashyyyk. An old man named Jolee Bindo.”

Of all the people! “Yes, I have heard of him. Where is he?”

“I don’t know. He said something about getting a bath and some decent food.”

“Well what you need to do is go into the crew compartment and meditate. You will feel better after that.”

“Maybe.” She looked down at Sasha. “Want to come meditate?” The little girl slipped off her lap, taking her by the hand, and dragging her toward the crew quarters. I sighed, then went to find Jolee.

He was in the men’s crew compartment, in the ‘fresher, singing. What is it about running water that makes people think they can sing? I sighed again, and leaned against a wall waiting. He stepped out, a large rugged man with a fringe of white hair, rubbing his head with a towel. He saw me, and the towel went from his head to his crotch so fast I almost believed in teleportation. “I thought there were ‘freshers on the other side for the women.”

“There are.” I told him. “I had to see you about Danika.”

“Danika. You know-”

“Yes. I know who she is.” I took a holocron from my pouch, and handed it to him. “View that.”

He knotted the towel around his waist, and activated the Holocron. I stood there as he watched it.

“Damn fools on the Council. Why are they surprised that she got it all back?”

“They didn’t anticipate that she would. Now we must complete this mission. I will need your help.”

“Why? She seems to be doing pretty good so far.”

“But she feels that she is weakening. I will need your help to bolster her self-confidence.”

‘Why? No one thought I was worth the effort way back when.”

“Jolee that was almost twenty years ago. I only remember you because your departure was still a subject of talk. Your leaving was more fun than the apprentices had in a decade Rather loud fun as I recall the stories.”

“Yeah. Because she was one of my best students, and they didn’t like my teaching style.”

“For her sake that must be put behind us. Will you help?”

He stared at the holocron, and his voice was soft. “Yeah. I can’t let them screw it up again.”


Ebon Hawk

Enroute to Manaan

Danika

I felt much better after meditating. I showered with Sasha. Now that she had accepted us, being close no longer bothered her. I dressed, and had her put on some of the clothes we had gotten for her on Tatooine. It was funny really. Most of the people there didn’t have children, so the shops didn’t carry a lot of children’s clothes. We had to fill out her wardrobe from a Jawa kiosk. Seeing that earnest little face thrust out of a Jawa hood was funny. Kashyyyk had shops and we had gotten her more clothes, but those Jawa robes were still her favorite.

I stepped into the mess hall, and felt a wave of fury from Juhani’s quarters. I walked over, reaching out, and she spun. “Don’t touch me!”

“Juhani. What is wrong?”

She hissed, standing from her crouch with a visible effort to control
herself. “I never told you where I came from, where I spent my childhood, did I?”

“No, you didn’t.”

“Maybe it was because I wanted to deny my feelings. To let it all pass away unnoticed. But I find I cannot. Someone must be to blame. Someone must atone for it!”

“Juhani-”

“Taris! I was raised on Taris! Someone is responsible for the destruction of everything I knew before I was eleven years old! You and Bastila are to blame! If you had not gone there, evaded the Sith, they would have had no reason to destroy the planet!”

I was stunned. “I’m sorry, Juhani, I didn’t know.”

“Didn’t know what?” She growled. “That the people there were going to die? That Malak would destroy them when he couldn’t capture you? That I heard you and Carth discussing what happened as if it were a party you had both been to where someone accidentally knocked over the punch bowl?”

“Juhani-”

“Just let me vent my anger! Allow me that little bit of feeling!” She raised her hand, and her claws extended and retracted. “I hated that place! Yet everything about me was formed there. Every breath I take every step in the ship’s gravity or any other planet reminds me that this is not home! Now all I have is an aching void where all of that was. And in that void, I see your face!”

“Juhani, do you think Malak would not have destroyed that world any way? Since he lost the controlling influence of Revan he had destroyed two worlds so far. I want you to believe me that if I had known Malak was that much of a madman, I would have turned myself over to them before the first Tarisian died. I am not worthy of such a sacrifice.”

“I know that. I know your heart, Danika. You would have died instead. But it is so hard, to have your entire past wiped away by a callous hand.”

“I can’t know it, Juhani. Come, tell me of Taris.”

“There is so much we must do-”

“No. At the moment, there is nothing more important than Taris, and your feelings.”

She sighed, the anger drained away. “It was a horrible place to live. Especially for non-humans. We were relegated to the Lowercity where the elite would not have to acknowledge our existence. Living in perpetual shadow, living off the refuse cast down from above. Working at menial labor because there was nothing else for us.”

“How did you survive?”

“It was a never-ending struggle. My family fought for every scrap to put on the table, to buy what was needed. But it was never enough. Taxes from the government that gave us nothing back. Fees charged by the Swoop Gangs to walk the very streets. Every credit saved from milli-creds to pay for food, clothing, and medicine.

“And always the hatred from those above. Bigotry made policy. When problems would occur, the media would automatically blame the ‘creatures’ that live below. Lording it over all with their wealth and power.

“Sometimes they would tour the Lowercity as if it were a petting zoo. Laughing behind their hands at the ‘animals’ that lived in the squalor they created.” She looked miserable, remembering. “But I found that some humans were not that way. There was a Swoop leader that had just taken over, Gadon Thek-”

“He was alive, fighting the Sith in a running battle in the Undercity when we left.”

She smiled. “If it is the same Thek I remembered, they may have destroyed the planet just to defeat him! There were others as well. Humans that seemed to embody the idea of Humanity.” She smiled. “Like the Jedi.”

“The one that sent you to the order?”

“No, she could not send me. They had only the ships bound for the front. They could not spare one to take a mere slip of a girl back. But she told me to find the Jedi Academies. Gave me a token to use to show to her teacher, master Vandar. Filled my head with a world that wasn’t hatred and shame. I can almost see her face in yours when I look at you.” She shook her head. “I wish my parents had never fled to Taris.”

“Fled?”

“A story for another time. I think Zaalbar is making some Merdai stew for those with iron stomachs.”

Char Ell
04-26-2006, 11:36 AM
Good stuff. I found the changes you made to the Wookiee revolution believable, the manner in which Freyyr regained his chieftainship as well as his following Danika's advice in their fight against Czerka and other offworlders was IMO an improvement. An important strategy to gain public favor and sympathy in a rebellion, to portray the rebels as the good guys instead of the bad. That was good.

machievelli
04-26-2006, 12:54 PM
Thanks. I was bothered because the two fights in this segment, (The brief one with Chuundar and company) and the taking of the Czerka station were lackluster in the game. So I just looked at history and did what I could.

machievelli
04-26-2006, 01:15 PM
Ebon Hawk

Enroute to Manaan

Canderous

I found that I had missed the Story circle of home more than I would have admitted to someone not of my clans. Zaalbar had made Merdai stew for some of us, with a milder form for the rest. I was not surprised when Danika and Sasha got bowls of it. Danika would have been Mandalore if she had been born right, and Sasha had learned. What did surprise me was the old man Jolee. He filled his bowl, and almost inhaled it rather than chewing. He filled his bowl again, and this vanished almost as fast.

“Real food again!” He said. Sasha watched him, as if afraid he would inhale her next. He looked at me, leaning back from the table. “You’re a big one! What clan?”

“Ordo of Clan Ordo.”

“Ah. I fought one of your ancestors. A guy named Ramius.”

“You fought Ramius Ordo?” I looked at him. “You don’t look to be a hundred years old.”

“Well my age is unimportant. There was a siege before the Sith wars. Your people had landed on a planet named Costigain, and I was sent to negotiate. It came down to adverse discussions-”

“Adverse discussions?” Carth asked.

“Talking with our lightsabers instead of with our mouths.” Jolee replied. “Of course this was supposed to be a ‘peaceful’ negotiation, so the only weapons in the room were dress daggers and fists. Well anyway I think it was someone getting angry on the settler side and defaming Ramius’ mother-”

“She died when he was a child. A settler on Subreka shot her from ambush then desecrated her body.” I said.

“That would explain why he was so upset. There was only one other Jedi with me, and we had to carry the brunt of the fight. Anyway Ramius cut his way through the others, and saw me. ‘You pup! Now you die!’ he shouted.

“Well I was a spry one. I finally beat him by running around the room like an out of control droid, until he finally fell so exhausted that he could barely breath. I bounced back, disarmed him, then hauled him over my lap spanked him like a ten year old misbehaving.”

“You didn’t!” Mission said, giggling.

“Yep I did. Shocked the Mando into stopping. Then I dragged that loudmouth over, and whaled the tar out of him too. Almost made the both of them stand in a corner holding hands the rest of the day.”

“Now I know you’re telling tales.” Carth said. He looked at me, and looked confused.

I laughed. No one had ever told that story from the other side before. I had heard it when the ancient Ramius had a little too much to drink. It was at once the high point and low point of his career as a warrior. “It happened just that way.” I gasped.

“Tell us more about Revan.” Danika asked.

“We fought the Republic over the course of many battle. At the start, they weren't much of a threat. The commanding officers were hesitant and tended to either attack down obvious junctions, or run when they actually found us ready to fight. Oh some were worthy foes. Admirals Karath and Dodonna come to mind. But then Revan took command, and things changed.

“The fleets began actually using tactics. Pincer movements mass deceptions, Revan was an acknowledged master when it came to feinting then slamming us to the ground. She abandoned worlds that had little or nothing to defend, using the weapons and ships to make planets we had to capture impregnable. She sacrificed a dozen ships in a feint to draw out our forces in one battle so she could crush one of our fleets against them. She knew how to take risks. I hear she had a way of questioning her commanders. She would pose a hypothetical question, and judge what they should do from the answer.

“We captured a Republic General, and he told us about that. ‘You’re in a small ship, a snub fighter. There is an asteroid, and you know it will hit a planet of ten billion people, and kill them. There are no other ships in the system, and the planet has no defenses.

“ ‘Your guns would be worthless; the only weapon you have is the ship you are flying. If you ram your ship into the asteroid, it will be obliterated, and you will die. But if you do no one will ever know what happened to you. The people you die for are unknown to you. Or you can call them and try to warn them. All they can look forward to is a horrible wait as they die. Or you can ignore the rock. No one will ever know that you did, and they will die unawares’.

“We listened; the riddle is a masterpiece if you think about it. You can tell what the man might do in other situations from it. One of our interrogators asked him what he answered. ‘I asked her to repeat it. She sent me here’. He didn’t understand why we laughed so hard. He was assigned to a supply depot on an unprotected planet, with few troops.

“What would you have done Danika?”

She sipped her tea. “Aimed at the meteor, and ejected before the ship hit it.”

“Why eject?” Canderous asked.

“Dying would be pointless. If I failed, I can die in shame waiting. If I succeeded, I know I would die at peace.”

“Something Revan would have approved of.“ Canderous said. “In the end Revan proved too much for us.”

“You couldn’t have won against the entire Galaxy!” Carth said.

“True.” I admitted. “But it was so close. It looked like the entire galaxy was in our grasp! There was a fleet at Kasmiri, and a base at Malchior V. If we smashed the fleet, the base would be ours. We struck, and the fleet ran away. We went on to Malchior and fell into the trap Revan had set. She had installed massive gravity generators in all of the asteroids of the system, then boosted those asteroids into orbits as far as a light minute from the planet. Then she took a small fleet and ‘guarded’ the planet.

“We laughed. The fleet she had was half the size of the one we had routed already, and we could crush it easily. Over two hundred Mando ship charged toward a third that number. We tasted victory. Then she sprung the trap. Five fleets came out of hyperspace behind us. Almost 400 hundred ships now faced us and the gravity generators trapped our fleet in normal space.” I looked from face to face.

“It wasn’t your ideals that defeated us that day. Not your men or your ships or your ‘fight for freedom’ that stopped us there. It was one thing. Revan. She out-thought our best; she stood on a ship being pulverized by our fleet, and calmly directed the other ships in decimating us. Less than thirty of our ships broke free. Mandalore had to order that retreat himself. No one would have dared to give such an order except for him. But we didn’t have the strength any longer to resist her advances.

“But you were losing? Why didn’t you retreat?” Danika asked.

“It is what we had wanted all along. We wanted to fight a battle against the best the Republic had to offer. A battle that would be remembered throughout history. We got what we wanted.

“What was left of the fleet fell back on our home world. The largest of them was the captured cruiser Vikrant, Mandalore‘s flagship.

“Then their ships came. Hundreds of them. We braced for an attack that didn’t come. Then there was a broadcast. Revan in that battle-mask she wore. ‘I am Revan Chadar Bai Echani. I challenge Mandalore to personal combat. Let none interfere‘.“ I looked at them. “You see she understood our people better than anyone we had ever fought. She knew that a personal challenge must be answered. And if she won, she would, under our law become Mandalore, and could order us as did all of those through our history.

“Mandalore picked a remote asteroid. Two ships only would be allowed to approach. Vikrant surged forward, and from their fleet came a ship of the same class. I think it was named Harvest Moon-”

“Tik-harvest Moon.” Carth corrected.

“Yes. The ships closed, dropped the shuttles with the combatants and witnesses, and the battle commenced. To an aficionado, it was masterly. Two warriors, facing each other with the title of Mandalore as the prize. Mandalore tried to force the issue, staying far enough back that Revan‘s lightsaber could not reach him. His guns ravened, Revan leaping to escape blast after blast. Revan fell and it looked as if Mandalore might be winning when suddenly Revan flipped up onto a wall, then past Mandalore to strike down. Mandalore died, and she stood over his body.

“Revan, still in the mask, looked as if she had not even been disturbed by the slaughter she had done. ‘As the canons require, I have defeated Mandalore. I stand as your Mandalore now. Does any gainsay my ascension?’

“None could. She had won, and our laws were clear. She ordered us to return to our home worlds, and followed us there. When we arrived, she ordered any ships larger than a customs craft abandoned, and they were taken. Republic troops came down, and under her orders all of our heavy weapons, droids, and all combat equipment that was not personal property were destroyed.

“Then she had our troops marshaled. ‘Thanks to those who claim your blood but not your honor, your people for a time will have no honor. Until such time as I release you from this, no honor may be gained. You must live with your dishonor for as Mandalore I will not accept honor-death. Those that choose that way to atone go into the darkness bereft. I your Mandalore have spoken.‘. For some that hurt even more. It has always been our way that if you cannot have honor in life, you can gain it in death by your own hand.

“Then she left.” I sighed. “Some could not stand the shame. They went into honor-death, knowing that doing so dishonored them more. Others ran, becoming raiders, little more than thieves, as we know from, Dantooine.

“But one day we hoped that our honor would be returned. That is until Revan fell at Zanebra. Now we are trapped, unable to regain our honor, unwilling to surrender our lives. None can claim the title of Mandalore without ritual combat or the Mandalore’s word unless all of the Clans agree, and no leader living now is so beloved.

“We had lost, and Revan won. We don’t hold a grudge against her, even against those that fought there against us we have no animus. If she had been Mando, we would have drunk wine in the Republic Senate instead.” I sighed. “Instead we are nothing now.”



Danika

A short time later, the meeting broke up as we went to bed. I couldn’t sleep, so I decided to do some tinkering with the lightsabers and crystals we had collected on our journey. I was passing the mess hall when I heard Bastila’s voice.

“Jolee, may I have a moment?”

“Sure.” Jolee sounded tired. As if fighting the same argument yet again.

“There is something I think we need to discuss-”

“Spare me.” His voice was harsh, in pain. “I don’t want to hear the whole ‘come back to the order, all is forgiven’ argument one more time.”

“I know you have... issues with the order. But you are a Jedi, Jolee. You command the force as do we all. Without the guidance of the order how have you managed to stay on the side of light all these years?”

“Light side, dark side, you know it doesn’t even really matter any more. The concept doesn’t mean the same thing to you that it does to me. I just wanted to be left alone.”

“So Malak and the Sith can do what they please?” Her voice was sharp, angry.

“Listen, if I can I will help stop Malak and the Sith right alongside anyone that fights them. But I don’t have to join the order and kowtow to the council for that. Look at the crew of this ship. Carth, Canderous, Mission, Zaalbar. None of them are Jedi but you trust them to do their part. Put me alongside them if you want, but leave me out of it beyond that.”

“Jolee-”

“Damn it woman, what more do I need to say? It’s like Danika.”

“How do you mean?”

“The capacity for good and evil is in every person. Just as using the force is there in everyone if they can touch it. Our non Jedi crew do what they think is right, just as Danika is doing even now. You didn’t see the agony she went through facing that damn computer on Kashyyyk, I did. Her inherent honesty got her through that, and I expect everyone who can’t touch the force aboard this ship will make their decisions based on what they believe is right. Being a member of the Jedi or even of the Sith will not change a person’s basic nature.”

She sighed. “I can see you are adamant about this. No doubt you had a lot of time to think about what you might say if the discussion ever came up-”

“More than you might think, between dodging animals that wanted to invite me to dinner.”

“I guess it was foolish of me to think that I of all people could sway you in your position just with a reasoned argument.”

“If that’s your way of saying that I am old and stubborn, thank you. But I appreciate the effort.” He raised his voice. “Do you think I lived all those years without knowing when something was watching me, Danika?”

I stepped into the room. “Get some sleep, girl.” He ordered. “Leave an old man to his memories.” He looked at Bastila. “You too.”


Leviathan

Saul Karath walked hesitantly toward his lord and master. Malak stood where he usually did, staring out into space, and the glittering shape of the Star Forge. Karath fell to his knees and waited.

“You have something to report, Admiral?”

“News has come. Calo Nord is dead. He has failed.”

Malak turned. “It was not your failure, Admiral. Nord failed, and has died. Arise.”

Karath stood. “I can hire more bounty hunters-”

“To do what? Give them more target practice?” Malak asked. “No. I have sent for Darth Bandon.”

The main hatch opened and Darth Bandon entered. He was tall, a strong young man, dressed in black armor. He strode across the deck as if he owned it. Only when he reached his master did the man drop into a kneeling bow, head lowered. “My master has summoned me?”

“Yes. Bastila and her compatriots have escaped yet again. Prove your worth to me, my apprentice. Kill the woman that is with Bastila; kill the man that is with her. Bring Bastila to me alive if possible. But if not, she must die.”

“I obey my master.”


Thus those skilled at making the enemy move do so by creating a situation to which he must conform...

Manaan

Danika

I dived from above, seeing an ocean that stretched from horizon to horizon. There in the distance, was what looked like a structure, but it was not important. I dropped like a stone, plunging into the ocean. Down I flew, passing creatures both strange and wonderful. Ahead of me I saw a structure, and stopped. This had not been here before. At the foot of the farthest reach of the machinery, there was a circle of lights around the Star Map. I dropped to stand on the mud, feeling the water rock me gently. There was a cry, a sound of distress and anger. Off to one side I saw Firaxa, the predators of Manaan’s deep. Then a shadow came over, and I looked up at-

I opened my eyes. I had gotten better at least, not disturbing Sasha when a vision came to me. We were less than a day out of Manaan.

The next morning, Bastila was ecstatic.

“The Force continues to lead us on the proper path. Another Star Map. It is strange, however that the builders we seek should set such a map here. The entire surface is covered with oceans.”

“Perhaps like Tatooine, it wasn't always so.”

“There is that. A cataclysm such as the one that turned Tatooine into a desert might have melted the polar ice caps and drowned the planet. The records of that time are fragmentary, and the Selkath have little knowledge of the ocean depths, even though that is where they were born. No matter, we will find it.” As we closed I could see the city named Ahto. Fifty kilometers across, it rested on massive pylons that kept it high and dry for the visitors. It had been built only for visitors, because the Selkath were amphibious, with both gills and lungs, and suits to keep their skins wet when they were out of the water.

As we approached, it became more interesting. Davik was wanted on Manaan as was Ebon Hawk, and we had to use one of the extra ID chips for the ship. So it was Star-cluster Wayfarer that called down for landing instructions. There was no argument, and when we landed, there were no massive amounts of troops ready to lock us up. I went into the landing bay with Juhani and Mission.

The door opened on an argument. A Sith trooper in full armor was squared off with a Republic trooper. “You pathetic people. Living off the table scraps of the Senators!”

“The Senators work for the common good! Not for gain!”

The Sith laughed. “If you are truly that weak minded, you might live long enough to be ruled by someone with true strength, like the Sith!’

“I ought to rip your fool head off!” The Republic soldier said.

“Go ahead. If you’re man enough!” The Sith growled.

“Trooper.” I called the Republic soldier. “You have a duty to perform. I suggest you go about it.”

The Sith looked at me, and I could feel the glare. “Yes, run like a little child when your mother calls.”

“At least I know who my mother and father are.” I replied calmly. The Sith clenched his fist, and stormed off.

“Sorry, master Jedi. The Sith keep trying to goad us into fighting.” He motioned. There were a lot of security cameras. “The Selkath are neutrals, and they mean it. Any fighting, they dock the nation responsible. So far we’ve spent almost twice what the Kolto cost in fines.” He laughed. “But so have the Sith, so I think it’s working out.”

“So the Selkath are neutral. What of the Sith?”

“Neutral means just that. Neither side is allowed warships, or to attack an enemy ship in their system. If you do, they cut off your side‘s share of the Kolto.”

“But the Sith could just move on in!” Mission said.

“Don’t bet on it. The only people that can get down to harvest the Kolto are the Selkath. This entire city,” He waved at the structure, “was built for our benefit, not theirs. When the Sith Ambassador of two years ago suggested they could take it by force, the Selkath council itemized every weapon the Sith had, and how just aiming at a Selkath would cause them to sink the city. No one wants to find out if they’re really that crazy. The Kolto is too important.”

I nodded. Kolto is a healing agent, and also has a regenerative effect in medicinal quantities. Billions of lives had been saved in the years since it was first discovered. What it was really no one could say. The Selkath brought it up out of the ocean, processed it, and sold it. All attempts to duplicate it in a laboratory thus far had failed. The only source was controlled by people who obviously wanted to be left alone.

“They sell it to anyone that brings in a ship with the credits for it.” The soldier went on. “Us, the Sith, they don't care. They even sold to the Mandalorians during that war.”

“Why haven’t they joined the Republic?”

He shrugged. “If someone had asked before this war began, they might have. But right now it’s too profitable selling to both sides. But I can’t see the Sith just standing there and taking that for long.”

Neither could I. “We’re looking for the Embassy.”

“There’s an information kiosk at the Port authority office. They’ll give you a map there.”

“Thank you.” We walked out. There was a small kiosk beyond the door. I heard a voice in Selkath over the speakers. I looked up.

ENTERING CITY STRUCTURE. ALL CAMERAS NOW ACTIVATED

“I know, it’s disturbing, but it’s to warn visitors where the law stops on the city.” The Selkath at the kiosk said. “Otherwise you dry landers would be killing anything and everything!” They were an odd looking race to us land dwellers. Bipedal, with two arms which ended in webbed hands, they had to wear an environmental suit constantly to keep their leathery skin moist. The wide flat snout stuck out, with two small dewlaps that hung from the end of their jaws. A mister sprayed over the head, keeping it moist. The two eyes at the back of the skull were set to look outward. The merchant had to turn his head side to side to look at us with both eyes.

“I carry a variety of souvenirs, and local delicacies for the discerning palate if you’ve a mind.”

I glanced at Mission. “Do you have any candy?”

“Ah, sweets for children?” He ignored Mission’s protest. He pulled out a small bag of jelly like blocks. “This is Maaanal. I will allow your youngling a sample.”

Mission took a piece out, and popped it in her mouth, “Oh! That is good!’

“One credit for a large bag.” He held up a bag that would hold about a kilo of the sweet.

Mission looked at me entreatingly, and I paid for it. “Be right back.” She ran toward the ship.

“Should I ask what it is made of?” I asked when she was out of earshot.

“It is made from the belly slime of a Mala fish. Humans can be so, disturbed by natural processes.”

“Thank you for not telling us earlier.” I said. Mission rejoined us, and we walked on toward the central alleyway. The city had five sections, and each was separated by wind screens and shields to block the ever present waves. With no land to block them, the waves could reach 100 meters in height and more when storm driven. The first section was the Docking ring, set in the center of the giant donut. Access was restricted to the owners when they were corporate, or by nationalities, so that the Sith docks were in one section, and the Republic in another. We had landed in the unaligned area. If we had given a Republic code, they would have sent us there instead.

A tram rushed us to West Central, where the customs kiosk was. We found only another Selkath, and a heavy guard droid. As we entered, the droid straightened, and it’s targeting sensors locked on us.

“Halt.” It ordered. “Who among you is Davik Kang?”

“Davik Kang is dead. Why are we being asked this question?”

“Your vessel was registered as owned by Davik Kang, a known smuggler.” The Selkath replied. “We allowed it to land in hopes that we had finally captured the criminal. Ship’s papers please?”

I handed over the ID chip. “Ah, purchased a month ago. Very well. Droid, stand down.” The droid settled back, and fell silent. “Welcome to Ahto City, we hope you will decide to obey our laws while you are here?”

“What laws specifically?” I asked.

“Human humor, I see. The single most important law is that smuggling of Kolto is punishable by death. If you are carrying Kolto in any form, you must also have a permit for the amount you carry except in standard medicinal quantities for your species.

“The only other rule is that the planet and our people are neutrals in this war out there. We adhere strictly to that policy. If you part in a confrontation here, and it is proven that you are responsible for it, you will be fined. If you are actively working for either the Sith Empire, or the Republic Alliance, your national units will be fined. Is this understood?” I nodded.

“We allow the carrying of weapons because we practice religious freedom here. It would not be right to tell you to disarm when an Echani needs to carry his under his religion or a mercenary because they are the tools of his trade. This means you must practice restraint. Is there anything else?”

I shook my head. He named the fee, and I paid it. He handed me a set of translator plugs, and a map. “Please peruse the guide if you have any questions. There are information pads in every corridor, and by touching one, you can gather any information not within the guide. Thank you for visiting.”

Char Ell
04-26-2006, 10:41 PM
“Ordo of Clan Ordo.”:confused: Perhaps this would be better as Canderous of Clan Ordo?
“True.” I admitted. “But it was so close. It looked like the entire galaxy was in our grasp! There was a fleet at Kasmiri, and a base at Malchior V. If we smashed the fleet, the base would be ours. We struck, and the fleet ran away. We went on to Malchior and fell into the trap Revan had set. Are you creating a new planet here or do you refer to the planet where Revan's forces defeated the Mandalorians and won the Mandalorian War? If it's the latter option then you've got a spelling error here. The planet is Malachor V, not Malchior V.
“We allow the carrying of weapons because we practice religious freedom here. It would not be right to tell you to disarm when an Echani needs to carry his under his religion or a mercenary because they are the tools of his trade. This means you must practice restraint. Is there anything else?”A nice addition to explain why the Selkath allow weapons to be carried within their city.
I also liked how you expounded on the circumstances of the duel between Mandalore and Revan. That filled in some holes that the game had with that particular story.

machievelli
04-27-2006, 11:27 AM
Very good. Thanks for that eagle eye.

machievelli
04-27-2006, 12:18 PM
Ahto West

Mission

That Maaanal was tasty! I had brought a handful along, hoping Sasha the glutton wouldn’t scarf it all while we were gone. Danika and Juhani kept looking at me and smiling. I ignored them. I’m a growing girl, well, in one area at least, and we need our calories, you know? The Selkath had set up the main tramline with malicious aforethought. Unless you’re going to the docking ring, the trams stop at each section on the way and you have to transfer. The Embassy was in East Central, but to get there you had to go through West, then West Central...

You get the picture.

We strolled, with both Danika and Juhani watching everything. Man, you’d think at that age with their looks they should have trolled the first cantina they came to for free drinks. But not them. We came to the edge of the city walk, and looked down. The edge of the disk of the city ran down a kilometer long slope from where we were, and as we watched a huge wave ran up almost to the city walk. Like a steel beach! Danika was looking at it, then turned. I can't feel the force, but I knew she felt something. Then she was striding forward, into of all things, a cantina.

Back in the back of the room, a Selkath sat by himself. I don't know what he was drinking, but if his breath was any indication, woof!

“You are troubled.” Danika said.

The Selkath looked up, then away. “Leave me in my misery if you are of the Sith.”

“I am not of the Sith. I am a Jedi.”

“Jedi?” The fish-man looked at her in that goggling way they had. “Perhaps you can help an old fin then. I expect that we have little in common human, but do your people have a love of family?”

“Yes, we do.”

“Then listen and tell me if you can help. I have no love of the Sith. They have never allowed anyone to stay neutral before, and their words do not match their natures. They do not respect our laws, and try to get your people to break it with their words.

“I would never allow this to continue, but I am only an old professor, and no one wishes to learn history anymore. But I believe I can gain the proof of what I think is happening.”

“Tell me.” Danika was in that gentle bemused place she gets in. They tell me it helps when you’re negotiating.

“Many of our young have gone missing. They have only a few things in common. They are all on the cusp of adulthood, all what you might call ‘lucky’, and, they are all children of our leaders. The ones that in the next few years will become our Councilors. My own Shasha is among them.”

“A professor’s child? Why would they take her?” I asked. Danika gave me a ‘butt out’ look.

“Well I am also a Councilor. I am on the High Council itself.” He admitted. “I am most alarmed because these disappearances began when the new Ambassador arrived. The last one had a bit of a mischief.”

“He did?”

“He called A Wookiee that belonged to Czerka Corporation a monkey. The fellow twisted his head completely around before the restraining collar could stop him.”

“I am touched.” Danika replied. “Czerka just lost control of Kashyyyk.”

“I have heard. The Wookiee here have all asked for and received political asylum. They are awaiting transport home.”

So you want me to investigate these disappearances?”

“Yes. There is no one else I can turn to. The Mercenaries aren’t allowed out of this section of the city without a valid contract, and the Republic troops are too carefully watched.”

“If you find any information, you can contact me through the barkeep. He will send it to me immediately.”

“Agreed.”

We began to walk out, and another of the fish-folk stopped us. “You are new here. Are you mercenaries?”

“No, we are not.”

“Perhaps you are Sith? or Republic?”

“We are Jedi.” Juhani replied.

“Ah, the legendary beings! Perhaps you can help me, then. I am Nilkos Bwaas. I saw you speaking with Councilor Shaelas, and he is a good judge of beings. I am a factor for several mercenaries that call our city home.

“Recently the Republic has been hiring mercenaries. Many more than usual. As a representative of our government, I am bothered by this sudden change of policy. Usually the Sith hire the mercenaries. But most have gone with Republic officials instead over the last few days. The Sith have also noticed, and are busy hiring every one they can to stop the Republic plan, whatever it is.

“I cannot ask the Republic, they will try to keep their reasons secret. I also cannot ask the Sith because they will slant the information I receive to paint he Republic in the worst possible colors As for the mercenaries, they are being offered more than a standard contract will explain, and don't care as long as the credits are good.”

“I don't know about this, Danika. Aren't the Republic the good guys?” I asked.

“You are correct, Mission, but just to assure the truth perhaps we should investigate this, Danika. If only to calm his fears.” Juhani murmured.

“I am a friend of the Republic.” Nilkos said. “But I must know what is happening. Relations are already strained thanks to our own council. There is talk of throwing both governments off our planet, allowing only transshipment of Kolto through a civilian carrier trusted by both sides.”

I looked at Danika. She was grim. The information dovetailed too neatly with what Jordo had given us.

“We will investigate this.” Danika replied.

“Can it be that Jordo is truthful?” Juhani asked.

“A civilian carrier ‘trusted by both sides’ sounds like Czerka to me. Mission, find an info kiosk. See if there is a Czerka office here.”

I stopped at the info pad they had installed, pulling out my tools. People tend to forget that if you take a computer and link it to a net, the right person can access anything.

I’m not polishing my Lekku, but when it comes to computers, I am the right person.

“Got it! Located in Ahto East Central, near the Republic embassy. But their main computer isn’t in the system. Neither is the Sith or Republic ones.”

“Not surprising.” Danika murmured. “Come. We have an ambassador to see.”

The tram dropped us near the ocean. We walked into the main courtyard, and I nodded toward a door. “Czerka offices.”

Danika nodded. “How fast can you work?”

“Well a droid would be better than I am, but... Five minutes?”

“Too long.” She decided. “We would need to clear the building for that long, and can’t see them letting us.”

“Well I can clear the building!” I said. They looked at me. “I did access everything but their main systems. Their secondary system includes environmental. Have you consider how bad some stuff can smell?”

“What do you mean?”

I held up the tourist guide. “It says here that Raw Kolto has an odor so horrible that only the Selkath seem to be immune to it. Processing is required to alleviate this odor, and only the final refining process limits it to a tolerable level. That,” I pointed at the large door beside the Czerka office, “Is listed on the map as a raw Kolto storage area.”

“Mission, must we always put up with your criminal proclivities?” Danika asked in a mock-severe tone. “Though I think this would be more on the practical joke side.”

I grinned, and ran to the nearest information kiosk. I sliced in, and had a thought. When they tried to fix the problem, they would discover what I had done. Maybe... I checked the info for news. Czerka hadn’t officially reported what was happening on Kashyyyk yet, though it was in everyone else’s news. All they had to say was complaints against the ’high handed’ manner of the local courts judging the Wookiee here as free. I came up with a name, The Anti-Slavery People’s Army, and quickly drafted a communique claiming responsibility for their ‘attack’ on Czerka here. I downloaded it to a datapad then wiped the case, and logged out. I sliced back in using another kiosk a few meters away, and first buggered the local cameras. They fuzzed out and would remain out for the next ten minutes.

Now, shift forced draft air from here, order it sent to here instead. Open vents here and here...

I logged out, and was back beside my friends when suddenly there was this horrendous smell! When they said raw Kolto smelled bad, they weren’t joking! It made Zaalbar’s breath smell sweet! Everyone who wasn’t Selkath recoiled from the stench. A group of people ran frantically from the Czerka office. I slipped on a breathing mask, and as they ran past us, took off at a dead run.

Behind me, Danika and Juhani were helping, making people look other ways as I went through the door. I dropped my datapad with the declaration, then ran into one of the inner offices. There was a terminal still up! That saved me time. I sliced in, bringing up secret company correspondence. There was a lot, but I downloaded all of it onto a datapad I picked up off the desk with a nice Czerka logo on it. A good touch if you ask me.

Thanks to the already operational console, I was back out in three minutes flat.

I pulled off my mask, and took a deep breath.

Bad idea. I whooped my cookies right there. I hated that part. I didn’t have any more Maaanal and would have to hope that Sasha had left me some. Coming back up, it tasted like fish slime!

Danika and Juhani ran in, picking me up, and carrying me out of the way as a whole lot of Selkath arrived. Some were obviously the local cops, and they were looking for someone. But the only one close to us looked at me, then past to search.
We had to stay there the better part of an hour as the Selkath first shut down the vent system, then began looking for the Anti-Slavery People’s Army rep they had caught on the monitors. They showed around the picture, but we didn’t recognize her. A pity. According to their cameras she was short human with red hair and Echani armor. Nothing at all like me.



Ahto East Central

Danika

While we were waiting, I read the correspondence Mission had downloaded. The part that bothered me most was a comment on one of the inner office memos;

‘The contract has been sent to the Sith Ambassador, who has been trying to adjust the conditions. He will get it back to me by close of business in two days’.

That had been written yesterday. I nibbled at my lip as the Selkath finally began allowing people to move again. If I had a reason, I could enter the Sith embassy, but what reason could I give?

The Republic embassy was a small structure off Ahto East. We went through the process of reporting in, asking for an audience with the Ambassador. Surprisingly, as soon as the guards knew we were Jedi, we were sent in immediately.

He greeted us like an officer in charge of a besieged garrison. “Welcome! I am Roland Wann, Ambassador to Manaan. I’m so glad you finally arrived!”

I looked at him oddly. “We were not scheduled to arrive, Ambassador. We have another mission for the Jedi Council.”

His smile slipped. “Oh, dear. Well what can I do for you?”

“We are looking for a Star Map. A relic of an ancient and forgotten people.”

“An ancient and forgotten people.” He repeated. “That might be what we found.”

“You know something?” I asked.

“Perhaps.” His aura grew darker, a sign of duplicity. “However, if you wish my information, you must help me out with a problem first.”

“Ambassador, we are Jedi. We do not barter like fishmongers in the street.”

“If my problem is not taken care of, you will not have time to go to the artifact we have discovered.” He replied waspishly. “We were using a submersible reconnaissance droid near Hrakert Rift which is about twenty kilometers from the city. Something we have never seen before damaged it during that mission. The last record we received showed literally hundreds of the Firaxan sharks circling the Rift.

“The droid was badly damaged, and it’s auto systems engaged to get it back to the surface. However a small Sith vessel was inbound, and spotted it first. They picked it up, and took it into their Embassy.

“The Sith have been pressuring the local government for some times, and they were able to block our attempts to get it back. Once it was inside their embassy of course, they didn’t need to. The droid’s data block is heavily encrypted, and we know it will take several days for the Sith to access it. But they have already had twelve hours to work on it, and time is running out!”

“What about your own troops?”

“First, we would be in violation of Selkath law if I sent troops in to retrieve it. Such an act could get the Selkath to evict us from the planet, and cut our supply of Kolto. Second,” He sighed. “All of the troops I have available were sent on another mission, and have not yet returned. We do not have time to waste.”

I nodded. The Star Map and the droid were linked in this web of duplicity. So were the men he had sent out. I felt that he didn’t expect them to return at all. “How would I get into this base?”

“We have several ways to do it. Any would work for you. There is a Sith prisoner we captured trying to access our computer here in the embassy. He probably knows the access codes to the upper level.”
I suddenly pictured someone being interrogated, the pain of the field tearing at his body, the shock as you realized that pain was all the interrogator would give you, and unless you talked, all you would receive this side of death. “Find another way.” I rasped.

“The Sith have exclusive access to a docking bay for a shuttle that runs from here to the lower level of the Sith embassy. It has an encrypted access, but the man we captured had a pass card for that door.”

I reached out, and he handed me the pass card. “I should warn you that we have no idea of the numbers the Sith maintain in the embassy. If you do not move swiftly and decisively, they will overwhelm you. I must also warn you that the Republic will disavow any knowledge of your actions. I cannot protect you if you are captured.”

I had never considered that he might. Kolto was too important to the war effort. We left, returning to the ship. I decided to take Juhani and T3 with me. If we needed to break into computers in the Sith embassy, T3 was much better suited. Mission went in search of Sasha to get some more of the Maaanal. I shuddered. Maybe it was addictive to humans or Twi-lek?

Juhani stepped down onto the dock, and T3 rolled to a stop beside her. “We go in quietly if we can, but no one stops us. Understood?”

Juhani nodded. T3 just burbled and beeped. I led the way back to the tram, and inserted the Sith pass card. The tram rumbled along, and stopped at another section of the docking ring. I stepped out, leading them to a door into one of the bays. I opened it, and we entered the access way.

EXITING CITY STRUCTURE. ALL CAMERAS NOW DEACTIVATED. The system said.

The inner door opened, and a Dark Jedi turned, seeing us. I blasted him off his feet with the force, my light saber singing. “So much for quietly.” I whispered.

T3 rolled in, turned, and the twin blasters in his dome popped up. He took three Sith troopers in armor to our left under fire as Juhani charged three more on our right. I charged at the Jedi, cutting him down. I blocked a blast, the bolt ricocheting to blow another trooper off his feet as Juhani dealt with the last one on her side. T3 rolled forward, checking the bodies of his kills.

There was a small shuttlecraft resting on the pad, and we entered it. There was only one control, a red button, and a slot for the pass card. I slid it in, and the ship lifted, rotating as the ramp closed. It flew outward, then dived, turning to fly under the city. The bottom of the city was smooth. Any crevices or bends in the metal would have given the ocean something to pull against during a storm. The shuttle aimed upward, and a section of the city opened ahead. The ship flew in, settled on a landing pad, and cycled down.



Sith Embassy

Danika

We moved into the embassy, and T3 led the way. There was a door ahead, and he stopped at it, inserting an arm into the locking mechanism. There was a squealing, and it opened into a room. We went left, passing down a hall. The door at the end read Flow Control Room. We charged in, dealing with the guards there. There was a computer, but it was controlling just the flow of water into a series of rooms in a baffling manner. We went on, and found a hallway blocked by a force field. Beyond it were two hulking Heavy droids.

What is in there? I wondered. It felt important, but not pressing. "Where is the droid facility?”

T3 rolled up to an access panel, and plugged in. Then it bleeped, and my data pad blossomed with another section of halls, One was marked as the main entrance to the city above, the other had a room marked ‘Droid Recovery Room’.

“Is this the best you can do?” I asked. He bleeped. I read my pad.

-All that is in the memory of this toaster they have mounted in the wall.
There is a main computer beyond the droid recovery room- The section that ended in darkness flashed as if to say, ‘here dummy’.

I shook my head, and we headed for the recovery room. Unfortunately we had to pass through the Security control room, and we couldn't have timed our arrival worse if we had tried. The shift was changing, and every soldier knows that this is the most alert time of any watch.

The guard at the desk challenged us, and started to press a button. I reached out, and she slumped stunned as we charged the guards. There were five of them, but we took care of them easily. We hurried past into the section where the Droid Recovery Room was. The guards there were expecting relief, not an attack. We took them down, and turned to look at the droid. It was shaped like a torpedo with legs, all hanging limply at the moment. T3 rolled up, hoisted himself to full height, and opened the side. He pulled out the data module, and signaled that he was done.

Instead of heading back, we went on down the hall that T3 said led to the main computer. We entered a large atrium, and ducked for cover as a Sith and a Selkath came out of a room to the south.

“Then it is agreed Duula?” He asked.

“Yes. Ambassador Kolorid. The next time there is a major confrontation between your peoples, and the Republic is judged to be the blame, I will call for the removal of both forces from Manaan. Czerka Corporation has already offered to take up the shipments of both sides.” The Selkath said.

“Good.” Kolorid purred. “I am sure that Czerka will live up to their responsibilities.”

“You understand this is the only way to maintain our neutrality.” Duula went on. “If fight you must, you must do it away from here.”

“I can agree with that. I know my Republic Counterpart will disagree, but he wants the Kolto for himself.”

They stood exchanging platitudes for several more minutes, then the Selkath touched a stud on his armband. A small flyer lifted over the rail, and he mounted it.

“As do we, you stupid fish.” Kolorid growled. He went back into the office.

T3 rolled out, and entered the hallway to the main computer. He accessed the system, humming in satisfaction.

-I can slice and dice this system- He bleeped. -Do you want it fried or as sushi? -

“Don’t say that where the Selkath can hear you.” I admonished. “Any guards left?”

-One barracks. Neutralized-

“Droids?”

-The two in the passageway we saw. Disabled. Force field down-

“What about the contract the Czerka rep was talking about?”

-Correspondence over a four week period including discussions on the percentage of Republic consigned Kolto to be turned over to Sith ships, then reported as ‘captured’ by Sith forces. The Sith want 45%, Czerka wants to limit it to 25. Copy downloaded to data pad-

“So they get paid twice.” Juhani said. “The Republic even pays their insurance for loss!” I nodded.

“What is that area beyond the droids?”

-Marked Selkath Training Area. Marked as Accessed only by Dark Jedi Master Tolan-

“Dark Jedi Master?” Juhani asked aghast. Among the Jedi, you have merely Apprentice Padawan and Master as ranks, though Padawan are also divided into Padawan-learner and Padawan-Knight. But the Sith seemed to have discovered the pleasures of a bureaucracy. Apprentices, Dark Jedi, Dark Jedi Teachers, Dark Jedi Masters, Darth Apprentices, and Darth Masters.

“We have to find out what is in there.” I said. “Dark Jedi or no.” I looked at T3. “Can you store all of the data you have collected in a file so no one can access it without my command?”

-As if that were hard. All data collected in this complex stored in file ‘Ship maintenance’ and 200 pages of basic maintenance of the ship stuck on at the start-

We moved back to the force field. The droids beyond it were dark, and T3 went up to each disabling them permanently.

I walked past them, and into the hall beyond. The walls were covered with murals, and each mural extolled a battle the Sith had won, or a great leader of their sect. However history played second fiddle to histrionics. Darth Kun killing his master, but in the mural, Vodo-Siosk Baas was attacking him from behind. Yavin, with Exar Kun standing on the summit of his temple, the worshipful Massassi falling to power the great bolt of force he fired into the heavens. There were more, each more appalling. Ajunta Pall, the first of the Jedi to join the Sith, looking like a saint as he stood on Korriban on a pile of bodies.

I was sickened by the time we reached the end of the corridor. I heard a moan, and knew that it was not sound, but the Force calling. I turned right, and opened the door marked Medical Bay. Lying on the floor was a horribly tortured young Selkath. I knelt beside him, running my hand over his head gently. The rubbery skin was soft.

“Shasha?” The dying male asked in a soft voice.

“No. I am Danika. I am a Jedi.”

“Then it is not too late.” He tried to roll over, and I helped him. He ripped open his suit, pulling out a small medallion. “Tell Shasha... tell the others... The Sith...” He gasped, and died.

I clutched the medallion, then lay him back down. “T3, where is this ‘master’ Tolan.”

He bleeped, and for once I didn't need the translation. I stormed down the hall to the door, and it opened. A Selkath was busy with two training droids, and I slammed him into a wall with the force hard enough to knock him out. The door beyond was where Tolan was.

This door also opened. “Who dares disturb...” He stared at me. “You’re dead!”

“What is it, Master?” One of the Selkath apprentices with him asked.

“Kill her!” He screamed.

I stepped between them. To me at that moment they were stuck in syrup and unable to move. I struck at Tolan, and his lightsaber blocked me. He reached out, and I felt his feeble attempt to catch my throat. I pushed it aside, then reached out. I could visualize his heart, and he spasmed as my hand closed on it. One squeeze...

No! I would not sink to his level!

I released him, then cut, his head bouncing across the floor. Juhani looked at me, and I could see the shock then approval at how close I had come to becoming what I hated the most.

It took a few minutes to find Tolan’s logs. He had waxed lyrical on the ‘naiveté’ of the Selkath, and how they would fall into the line the Sith demanded without demur. As for the poor tortured Selkath, he had noted, ‘Galas has proven intransigent, wanting reasons for why the Jedi are evil. I have dealt him a lesson in pain that would have pleased Darth Malak!’

I held it. I knew somehow where the Selkath apprentices were. I led our party back to them.

The door hissed open, and the four Selkath stood. “Intruders! I can feel the force in them. The Jedi are attacking!” He looked to a female. “Shasha, should we call our Master?”

“Not yet. We cannot run to the Master every time a little problem occurs. We will handle this by ourselves.”

“Perhaps this is a test they have given us!” Another Selkath said.

“Perhaps. Speak, Human. What are you doing here? Only Loyal Selkath of the New Order and our Dark Jedi Masters are allowed here!”

“I send you greetings from your father Shaelas. He asked me to investigate your whereabouts.”

“I told you he would investigate Shasha! You’re father has always hated the Sith!”

“My father is blinded by his own prejudice! He cannot see that we, the young must soon lead, and it is we that will make the decisions. Decisions guided by what is right for our people!” She glared at me. “Return to that old man who knows nothing of truth! The Sith teach us the ways of the force, praise us for our insight! They will lead us into a new world where we will decide! Not old stupid men!”

“They lie to you.” I said.

“Everything the Republic spouts about the Sith are half-truths and full lies! They are no more monsters than the Republic! Their system is purer, in that the intelligent and the strong lead!” She laughed. “As a sign of their good faith, they have even promised to withdraw their forces after the Republic is defeated!”

I sighed. Then I spoke from the well of the Force within me in her own language. “And it is said the Firaxa will promise to let you go if you enter his mouth. For he knows a meal says nothing of value about being eaten.”

She stiffened. “Spare us your lies! The Sith have treated us with nothing but respect! Your words say that we are prisoners, but do you see any guards? Galas decided that this was not his way, and was returned to the city not an hour ago!”

“What of Taris-”

“Taris was propaganda! Like the claims of the Mandalore atrocities that were lies!”

I held out my hand, the medallion Galas had given me on my palm. “Look in the Medical Bay. You will find a young Selkath tortured to death. Before he died, he gave me this.”

One of the Selkath took it, looking at the medallion. “I recognize this! I gave it to Galas when we were both young!”

“Lies and more lies!” I could see that she was shaken by it. “You must have killed him yourself! That is only proof that Galas is dead, but not of who killed him!”

Wordlessly, I handed her the datapad. Shasha took it, and keyed it open. The others gathered to look.

“Shasha, this is the master’s own pad! And that is the master!” They watched the scene play out. Shasha shut it off, and her hand dropped lifeless.

I spoke gently. “Shasha, I know what they said to you. ‘The old will not pay attention until you force them. They are jealous of what you can do that they no longer can. We can give you the power they have now, rather than waiting the years they say you must’.” I shook my head sadly. “I would have gladly brought you to the attention of the Council if I had seen you before today. Do you think that I, your elder by ten years likes being told that I am too young and foolish? Yet there is wisdom in the words, ‘He that admits he doesn’t know everything is willing to learn anything’. My master told me that.”

“I cannot deny it.” She said sadly. “The Sith only use us to betray our people. We must take this to my father, report this to the Council.” She looked sadly at me. “It was a beautiful dream, but not real, as dreams are not. I apologize for my harsh words. We must go from here, warn our people of what the Sith intend.”

They walked out with the pad. We retraced our steps to the elevator.

Char Ell
04-28-2006, 02:08 AM
... My own Shasha is among them.”
In the game the name of Shaelas' daughter's is Shasa. The second h is not needed. :)

It took me a while but I think I finally understand what you've added to the story regarding the kolto. The Sith ambassador had an agreement with Duula that Duula would use his position on the court to get both the Sith and the Republic thrown off Manaan after their next conflict. Czerka would then take control of kolto exports and would "lose" some of the Republic shipments to Sith attacks, only the shipments would go to the Sith instead. Did I get it right? If so then I think you did an expert job with this addition. IIRC Duula was the judge who seemed to favor the Sith in the game and now, thanks to this chapter, we know why. :D

machievelli
04-28-2006, 11:02 AM
The biggest problem with the hardcore pacifist is they do things that are truly reprehensible in the name of their belief. Chamberlain gave away a country he didn't even own to guarantee peace for his own, and failed.

Nost of the really hardcore one's automatically assume that it is your own side that is wrong. It has to be because otherwise you wouldn't be fighting.

machievelli
04-28-2006, 11:35 AM
Arrest

Danika

A pair of Selkath in Constabulary uniforms with a full dozen droids awaited our arrival on the deck above. “You there, human! You are to be placed under arrest by order of the City Council of Ahto City. You will come with me.”

“Why am I being arrested?” I asked. T3 and Juhani had moved aside, ready to attack at my word.

“While the Sith Embassy is by law an extraterritorial region, our systems have detected a number of energy discharges suggesting weapons fire. Inquiries of the embassy staff have netted incomprehension. The only person that could be contacted was the ambassador himself. He has since reported that there are a number of dead and things of great value have been stolen.

“You, the Cathar and your droid were reported by the cameras in docking section 7A, which is restricted to the Sith, yet your entry records state no such allegiance.

“As the leader of this party it is the judgment that you are the cause of the loss of communication, and are guilty of murder and theft. Your companions will be returned to your vessel, and the ship will be banned from departure until your trial is completed.

“You will now come with us. Any attempt to escape will be dealt with. Lethal force has been authorized.”

I looked at him, then took my lightsaber from my belt, handing it to Juhani. “I am at you disposal.”

The trams may have been set to go through all the areas of the city, but the pass card the Selkath officer used took us straight to Ahto West, where the court and the holding facility was. I was put in a holding cell, and the door closed. I knelt, and focused my mind. I meditated while I waited. Something brought my attention back, and I opened my eyes, seeing Ambassador Kolorid.

“Well, I have to thank you woman. Thanks to this brazen attack, the Republic will either be barred from the planet, or will pay such a fine that they will buy our Kolto for the next year.”

“I think not.” I said softly. “My trial will reveal that you have been taking Selkath youths and trying to convert them to your philosophy.”

His smile slipped. “You can’t prove that. We know your droid didn’t have any such data in his memory banks.” We asked the Selkath to check. And the data pad you carried?” He smirked. “Proprietary diplomatic correspondence. We demanded its return.”

“Then it is only my word against yours.” I said, closing my eyes. “Go away, Ambassador.”

He stormed off. I was starting to sink back into meditation when someone else came to the cell. I sighed, opening my eyes. It was a Selkath in a drab covering.

“I am Bwa’lass. I have been selected to be your arbiter for your trial.”
“Arbiter?”

“Yes. The accused is allowed an arbiter to speak his case, since only the arbiter may speak unless the subject is questioned in court. It streamlines our court system. I will endeavor to prove you innocent of these crimes, and if not, try to mitigate the severity of the sentencing.”

“What have I been charged with?”

“Initiating violence against the Sith within their embassy, murder of Sith embassy personnel, and disregarding our own laws in so doing.” He checked his datapad. “The evidence is strong, but I may be able to mitigate sentencing at least.”

An alarm went off in my head. “You don’t expect me to go free.”

“It is highly unlikely. The Sith have supplied video data that shows you assaulting their people, and killing them. However there may be mitigation in your reasons for being there. I have been given all the relevant background data on you and your companions, so we can ignore that. For what reason did you enter the Sith Embassy illegally?”

“I, well, I broke in.”

He made a whistling sound I knew was the equivalent of a human snorting. “Criminality seems to be the norm with you off worlders. I am not terribly surprised by your actions, but the court will wish to hear something more substantative. What is your prior association with the Sith?”

“I am on a mission for the Jedi Council. As such my previous dealings with the Sith are not germane to this case.”

“I would beg to differ. It is well known that the Jedi and the Sith hate each other. The Sith are an expansionist power, as is the Republic and the Jedi are known to back the Republic where the Sith are involved. You and your Council may make it your personal mission to forestall them, but we frown on you fighting on our planet.

“I think you will need a more thorough explanation, including your mission in order to convince our judges.” He hummed to himself. “That seems to be all I need before the trial. When you are ready, I can petition the Judges for the trial to commence.”

That had been the most lackluster attempt at an interview I had ever heard. “That is all you’re going to ask?”

“I have all the information I need to mitigate your sentencing. The facts on the other matters are clear.”

“If it’s all the same to you, I would rather defend myself.”

He looked at me. “While that is your right, I would advise against it. I am versed in all the necessary particulars of this case and the laws of the Selkath as they apply. To set me aside as arbiter will put you at risk of the death penalty.”

“That is all well and good, but I would rather go into court as my own council, rather than with an arbiter who already believes my guilt and merely seeks to mitigate it.”

“I will so inform the court. I will also ask as my final act as your arbiter, that they give you until dawn tomorrow to think about this request.”



Breakout, sort of

Danika

It was around midnight when I came out of meditation with a start. There had been a sound, like a sonic rifle going off, but hushed. I came to my feet, and reached for the door. There was a tingle of electricity. If I touched it I would bounce around the tiny cell for an hour before I stopped.

I concentrated on the lock, and it snicked open. The field collapsed as it did. I shoved the door open, then snatched a data pad from the desk, setting it to record. With the Force, I leaped onto the lintel of the door.

The door hissed open below me, and I imagined myself a brick in the wall. Two people entered. The darkness hid their race. One of them aimed a wide-belled weapon, and the sonic charge blasted into my cell. “Get her.”

The other opened the door, and bent. “She isn’t here.”

“What? Of course she is! We took out the guard, the door was locked!”

“Well she must be invisible then, because I don’t see her.” He flipped on a hand light.

I concentrated on the man with the light. You don’t see her. She must have escaped...

“She must have escaped herself.” He sighed. “What’s the plan?”

“Well of course we can’t dump her in the ocean for the Firaxa. The rest of the plan is just what the Ambassador says. We were paid by one of her crew to bust her out, and she took passage on the Ithorian freighter.”

“Fine. Should we mention that she already got away?”

“Are you daft? Then he doesn’t pay us the rest.” They went out mumbling. I dropped to the floor, then stepped outside. The guard was huddled against the wall, shuddering. A close up sonic blast. I found a med kit on his belt, and injected him with something to alleviate the affects, then I moved to a close by kiosk. I called the ship.

“Trouble.” I filled Carth in on what had happened, including the impromptu jailbreak. “I’m willing to bet that the local cameras are either rigged to say what they want, or taken out. Easier to claim I broke myself out. Or someone from the ship helped.”

“We’ll come over and get you.”

“You will do nothing of the kind. Have Mission crack into the local database. Find a Selkath named Shaelas. He’s the father of one of the Selkath recruits. Give him the full story concerning his daughter and the Sith. Ask him to help.”

“But what will you do?”

“I am going to catch a nap. Call back at this kiosk in an hour.”

“Danika.” Bastila came on the com. “We can't just leave you out there!”

“You have to. But I would love to have you there in the morning when I go to trial. Afterward we can have breakfast.”

There was silence. “If it were anyone else, I would think you had just made a date.” She said archly.

“Maybe I am.” I chuckled. “See you in court.” I logged off, and found an out of the way alcove. I set my internal alarm for an hour, and sank back into meditation. If done properly, meditation could make up for sleep. I kept hanging up on Tolan. You’re dead! Who did he think I was?

An hour later, I roused myself, and headed toward the kiosk. A garbage truck was parked there, and a Selkath was busy checking the cans along the way. I waited, but he didn’t move on.

“Danika Wordweaver. Shaelas sent me.” The Selkath whispered. I stepped out, and he motioned for me to get in the bin on the back. The vehicle hummed, then moved away at a fast clip. It entered a tram, and I head a pass card being used. Then the tram stopped. “Please, exit the vehicle.”

I slid over the side. Shaelas and Shasa stood there. The girl touched my side. “You have not escaped!”

“No. Why should I have?”

“That is what my father asked the media when they reported that you had attacked a guard and escaped. Two off worlders claimed they had been paid by your shipmates to break you out, and saw you as far as a transport that left an hour ago. The constabulary has surrounded your ship, with orders to fire on it if they attempt to escape as well!”

I told them what had happened. Shaelas nodded. “If you had disappeared, everything you might say would have been instantly suspect. You will be a guest in my land house this evening. My daughter and I will assure that you are in court tomorrow.”

“First, who has been pushing to allow a corporation to pick up the Kolto for both sides? I have heard that they intend to kick both sides off the planet as well.”

“That would be councilor Duula. He is also one of the judges this cycle. You see, all of the councilors take a turn as judges. That way any corruption is also punishable as failure to heed their charge as judge. Why?”

“Sit with me and I will tell you...”

The land house was an apartment used by the Selkath for entertaining or for guests that were not aquatic as they were. I found the furniture to be mundane, but since they themselves never spent too much time there, it didn’t matter.

As the sun rose, Shasa came up out of a hole leading to the sea. Her clothing dripped as she entered the bedroom. “My father will join us shortly. We don't stock a lot of off worlder food, but we do have some things that are edible by you.”

“Nothing for me, unless you have some form of tea.”

“Sadly, we do not. Hot liquid scars our throats. However father has arranged for some hot beverages for you when we reach the courtroom.”

“That will be fine. Thank him for me.”

Shaelas had a lifter designed by his own people. It was amphibious and watertight as well, allowing it to operate below the surface and above. He flew it out of his land house, into the ocean, then up over the expanse of the city. My clothes had been cleaned, so I didn't smell like garbage anymore.

The lifter dropped in Ahto West at the courthouse, and we stepped out.

“...since the female has fled, she has freely admitted her crime.” Ambassador Kolorid was pontificating. “Therefore this court must impose punishment on the Republic for her heinous attack.”

“Point of order, your honor.” I said. The people that were there turned. Kolorid’s mouth dropped open as I walked up the aisle. “I beg the court’s forgiveness, the attempt to make me disappear last evening has thrown off my request to be heard as my own arbiter.”

I couldn’t tell with the goggle-eyed Selkath, but the humans looked stunned. Bastila grinned, and came to me, handing me a cup of tea.

“Can you explain what occurred in the holding facility last night?” One of the judges asked.

“Two men attacked and stunned the guard on duty. I freed myself from my cell, and was able to hide when they came in and used the same weapon on my cell. They argued, since their job was to feed me to the Firaxa. They decided to follow through with the rest of the plan. Even now I assume messages have gone out to take me off an Ithorian freighter.

“However, as the court can see, I am here, on time, awaiting my trial. I would ask the condition of the Selkath that was injured.”

“A Bothan neural stunner. He is in serious condition, but expected to recover. This is because an injection of Neurohystamine was used on him, which allowed him to recover enough to call his officer.”

“Administered by me.” I added. “Forensic testing of the injector will prove this.”

“May I ask why this point must be added?” Judge Duula growled.

“Because this was an attempt to assist the guard by myself. If I had attacked him or ordered an attack, I would not have cared about his condition.” I set down the data pad with the conversation of my ‘rescuers’. “This, your honors, will prove my contention that I made no attempt to escape.”

“So noted.” Another judge said. “We will confer on your request to act as your own arbiter.” Panels rose between the judges and the courtroom. I sipped my tea calmly. The panels dropped. “It is the decision of the majority of this court that you are allowed to act as your own arbiter. The law requires me to state however that once this trial begins, it cannot be stopped for any reason. Are you ready to begin?”

I considered. T3 was there, but where had Shaelas and Shasa gone? I shrugged. “I am ready to proceed.”

“Very well. You are accused of the grievous murder of Sith officials, theft, vandalism, and violations of the local Neutrality statute. How do you plead?”

“Innocent, your honor.”

“Let the record show that empanelled for this trial are Judges Shelkar,”

“Jhosa.” Another Selkath stated.

“Naleshekan.”

“Kota.”

“And Duula.” The last said.

“This is a trial to discover the culpability and punishment of this individual in the recent assault on the Sith Embassy.” Shelkar read.

“Due to the severity of these charges, normal formalities are suspended for this trial.” Judge Jhosa added. “The penalty for these crimes is death.” He looked to Judge Kota. “You may begin the questioning your honor.”

Kota leaned forward. “You have pled innocence in this matter. However there are records of our own sensors that weapons were fired inside the Sith embassy.”

Shelkar picked it up. “We have records of you entering the restricted Sith landing bay a short time before the attack. The Sith have claimed diplomatic privilege and have told us nothing of what occurred. However you, as someone with a known antipathy for the Sith did enter their embassy just before the firing began. What was your business in the Sith Embassy?”

“I was asked to investigate the disappearance of several Selkath youths.”

Jhosa sat up at this. “You were led to believe that these youth had disappeared due to some Sith plan?”

Duula poured oil on the waters. “She has no doubt been listening to the rumor mongering of Shaelas and his bunch.”

“This is noted. Did you find evidence to support your suspicions?” Shelkar asked.

I folded back my collar. The search had been perfunctory when I had been arrested, and the pin, with blood still on it, had been in the collar. I held it where they could see it, then handed it to the bailiff. He handed it to Shelkar. “This belonged to Galas. You found this inside the embassy?”

“The male child himself handed it to me before he died.”

“Objection!” Kolorid screamed. “She murders a Selkath, takes something readily recognizable, and claims she found it in our embassy! The infamy of her act!”

“So noted, Ambassador. There are those among us that knew the youth, and this is his. But you have raised a valid point. How can this court know that you did not murder the youth?”

“By torture?” Someone called from the rear of the court. Shaelas, along with his daughter and three other Selkath I recognized entered. “My daughter spoke to this woman within the Sith embassy. She recognized the pin as you did, and recognized this as well.” He held up the data pad. “The record of the Jedi Dark Master that boasts not only of the naiveté or our children, but his murder of Galas!” He walked through the room, setting it before Judge Shelkar.

The judge signaled, and the panels rose again. Shaelas came over to me, bowing. “I had to assure that the children were also here. They have yet to stand as judges, and this experience will do them good.” I nodded.

The panels dropped. Shelkar faced me. “It is the decision of this court that the woman acted in the best interests of the Selkath people. We move to-”

“Your honor, I ask a brief moment.” I interrupted.

“Woman, you are about to go free. I see no reason to delay that.” Duula snarled

“I ask the court to meet in camera, with only myself my droid, and other Selkath present. What I have also discovered is of interest to the Selkath people, and need not be trumpeted to the Galaxy at large,”

Shelkar stared at me. “This court is adjourned to be reopened in camera. All people not mentioned in the request will depart.” The bailiffs pushed everyone toward the door. Bastila looked adamant, but I signaled for her to go. The doors slammed down, and Shelkar gaveled the court into session again.

“I have been told by Councilor Shaelas that all councilor must sit as judges as well, to assure that any criminal acts can be considered violations of their own oaths of office. This is a noble effort to limit the corruption courts in the Galaxy face every day. I applaud this court in that decision.

“There is proof that one of the judges empanelled here has acted secretly in a manner to remove the problem of the warring factions from this planet. While his act may be perceived as good in the whole, he does not have all of the information. The plan as it has been given to him, is that both factions be ordered off Manaan. All consignments of Kolto for each are to be carried by Czerka Corporation, which is a Republic corporation with links on planets on both sides of the conflict.”

“Duula we have heard enough of your ranting about this. You appear to stand accused by this woman.” Naleshekan said.

“I still stand by it! We cannot remain neutral if both sides sit upon our planet! As you all know, I would gladly deny both sides Kolto if I did not feel that one side or the other would try to capture it.”

“Judge Duula, please listen. T3, play the correspondence between Ambassador Kolorid and the Czerka Representative on the planet.” The droid rolled out. He didn’t play it all. Just the relevant portions. The judges stared at their compatriot as the Czerka rep complained that while 25% losses to Sith attacks would have been acceptable; the 45% demanded by the ambassador would cause an investigation that might reveal their duplicity.

“So a Republic corporation lies to it’s own government! So what!” Duula screamed. “It's like the lies about Taris!”

“Lies? Your honor, my vessel was one of those that escaped from Taris. T3.”

The little droid should have been working for a news agency. A holographic representation of the system flashed up. The massive blob of Taris rested in the middle of a series of red arrow shapes. Each marked with a Sith designation, and name. He paused the picture, to show the fleet in it‘s entirety. Then began a playback from our own sensors. Ebon Hawk was circled with a green line, all others not Sith in blue, as was the planet, the symbolic color for neutrals. Fire swept down from the skies, ships attempting to escape were shattered as they ran toward the fleet, hoping to get past them. Instead of the cockpit chatter of all those ships, we heard instead the frequency jumping, people on the ground saying that they surrendered, that they were innocent, that they would even swear alliance, or simply begging for mercy. Ebon Hawk broke through, and I could see that only two or three had succeeded as we did.

I was reliving it, and I cried as ship after ship died. As North City collapsed into ruin, followed by South City. I didn’t have the time to see it when it had occurred, and it was a knife in the gut to me.

The replay ended, and I found myself sobbing. Maybe Gadon and his Beks had survived. Maybe Gendar and his Outcasts. No one else could have.

The Selkath were stunned. Duula looked at the empty space before them, his eyes haunted. “I move that Czerka Corporation be banned from all business dealings on Manaan. That all contracts with said corporation be held in abeyance until this conflict has ended.”

I bowed to them, and left them to their deliberations.

Bastila came up to me, and I hugged her tightly, burying my head against her chest. “But, you wanted breakfast!” She protested.

“No. Just, hold me for a little while.” I whispered. “Keep the chill of hell from me.”

Char Ell
04-28-2006, 09:56 PM
Well done! Rearranging all those pieces of the Manaan story and putting them back together, with a few additions, really worked out quite nicely.

I'm somewhat confused by Danika's extreme emotional reaction to T3-M4's replay of the destruction of Taris however.

Oh yes. I did notice how you spelled the name of Shaelas' daughter in that chapter too. :thumbsup:

machievelli
04-29-2006, 02:26 AM
[QUOTE=cutmeister]I'm somewhat confused by Danika's extreme emotional reaction to T3-M4's replay of the destruction of Taris however.
QUOTE]

Having been in a real life battle situation, i can tell you that what happens is you focus on what you're doing. During the flight out she was too busy to be paying attention, couldn;t hear the frantic please for help. She was at a turret, trying to protect her ship.

She knew what had happened, but as I said when Bastila commentd on death on Tatooine, it really isn't real to you yet. You know several billion people just died, but it didn't happen before your eyes.

Then suddenly you're witnessing it. No adrenaline rush, no combat focus. You're watching them die, hearing their cries, seeing the destruction. Danika as you might have noticed is the kind of soldier that always goes over and over what she did wrong in the last battle. She wishes she could stop, go back to the last save, and do it again without losing the people she did.

Plus there is something every soldier and everyone who has ever survived a major disaster knows very well, and that is survivor's guilt. If you have ever seen the Movie Zulu, there is the last scene where Lieutenant Chard asks Lieutenant Bromhead how he feels after his first battle. The last word he uses in description, is 'ashamed'. You live, he dies, and part of you, while exhilerated that you're still there to feel it, is shamed that he did not.

machievelli
04-29-2006, 02:32 AM
Rift

Bastila

I found myself holding Danika on a bench near the court. The bond between us had become both more tenuous, and deeper. I wasn't getting every emotional mood swing, but when I did it was like being flooded with dark waters. She had gone from the calm perfect Jedi to this crying child just within a few moments. What exactly had set it off, I don’t know. But she felt as if she was an admiral that had won a great victory, but at a horrendous cost. She felt a bottomless shame that she no, that we the crew of Ebon Hawk had survived.

I held her, murmuring gently into her hair as she cried. My presence, my feelings along the link helped her. I didn’t feel anger with her at this reaction, or nervousness that I was holding a woman four years older than I was as I did. I was the mother bosom to her, the place where even the bravest of ancient man went for succor when life gets too harsh.

Yet she didn't slip toward the dark side. She had reacted; using the force to grasp Tolan’s heart, then she made herself turned away from killing with the force without even a debate. I felt so proud of what she had become in such a short time. Yet the pride was shot with dread. We had to go to Korriban next. To the dark heart of the Sith itself. Only then could we go even deeper into the abyss. To wherever the Star Forge was. She sighed, and giggled. “What is so funny?” I asked.

“Considering where my face is, I suddenly had an urge to ask for some cookies.”

I suddenly understood what she meant, pushing her aside. “You are incorrigible!”

“I hope not.” She said. “You’re the only person that has kept me on a even keel so far.” She shook her head, and dried her eyes. “All right, back to normal.” She stood. “We have an ambassador to see.”

“Not yet.” I said. She raised an eyebrow at me. “You are going to sit down, eat some breakfast, have some tea, and relax for at least an hour.”

She looked at me. ”Yes mother.”

“Don't get cute with me, you, yokel!”

“Such language.” She murmured.

We sat for the time specified, and she polished off enough stew to make Canderous sleepy. After polishing the bowl with the last of her bread, we walked to the Republic embassy.

Ambassador Wann came toward us. “Did you get it?” He demanded? Danika tapped T3, and held out the data cube the robot spat out. “Excellent! I will have our technicians assure that it has not been tampered with.”

“Now to answer my questions.”

“You Jedi, always so forward!” He chuckled, then his face went cold. “Since you are Jedi, I can trust you with this. Please, come to my office.” He led us into a room, then closed the door. I could feel the hum of an anti-snooping field. “As you know, we are fighting a life and death struggle against the Sith. You may also know that we aren‘t doing too well. We need much in the way of supplies, and nothing can be allowed to delay those supplies. Manaan is the only source of Kolto in the galaxy, and we need it desperately. Frankly, we need all we can get.

“It sounds like you are about to tell us of an indiscretion.” Danika said.

“The conservatives have a majority in the Council at present, and they want the planet to remain neutral, to sell to both sides. But there are more far looking people on the council. They know that if the Sith win, there is nothing that will stop them from taking over anyway. So we made a deal.”

“You violated the treaty?” Danika asked.

“Not as such. The agreement was to assist the Selkath in the gathering and processing of Kolto. The Selkath still use the methods their ancestors used, seining Kolto that floats to the surface, then refining it. However right before the war began, a survey submersible found where the Kolto floats up from. It is called Hrakert Rift. An abyss about 20 kilometers from the city, half a kilometer from the surface with the rift itself diving over 11 kilometers into the depths. Kolto forms there in underwater volcanic vents, and breaks free to float upward. The rock formations at the top and sides of the rift capture a lot of it. Less than ten percent actually gets carried upward. The Selkath can dive that deep, but the Rift is also the center of an old religion here. Normal mining by them would violate several taboos.

“So last year we offered to set up a facility to gather and process the Kolto underwater. I don’t know how much you know about Kolto refining...?” He paused until we shook our heads. “Most of the raw Kolto paste is lost between the ocean floor and the surface. The native wildlife loves it. The raw paste has to be refined four times. Every time you do, it’s bulk is reduced to ten percent. That means 100 kilos of Kolto paste makes 100 grams of medicinal grade Kolto. We found that we can do the refining down there, which means instead of having to move that 100 kilos, we just have to transport 100 grams. We will have increased their production capability by almost one thousand percent when it is fully online, though at present we‘ve only increased it by about two hundred percent. ”

“But something happened.” Danika pressed.

“Yes. A few days ago, as the final section of the facility was being installed, the base reported that they had found some kind of structure. An obelisk right where the last section was supposed to go. Then suddenly we lost contact. No more communications.”

‘What happened?”

“We don‘t know!” He sighed. “I sent what troops I had, about three squads. No word back. We began hiring mercenaries, and began sending them down, but none of them have returned either. We finally had the droid the Sith captured sent here, and deployed it. All we’ve been trying to do is contact the base again!” He sighed. “Now that we have the data, we still don’t know what to do. The Sith don‘t know exactly what we’re up to, but they’ve been hiring mercenaries at twice what we pay just to stop us.

“Then you came with the mention of an ancient artifact. Probably what we found. If you know a way to get past this mess, I am duty bound to assist you.”

“How can I get down there?” Danika asked. She was pale.

“We have a submersible, one of the personnel transports we have been using to tend the station. There is room for a crew of five. It will automatically home in on the station, and take you right there. I haven’t got any more troops I can spare to send with you, though.”

She took the card, her hand trembling. “We can leave immediately.” She stood. “Where is the sub bay?”

He directed us, and Danika walked out. “What’s wrong?” I asked.

“I don’t like being in an enclosed space that tight.” She admitted. “I can handle it when I’m in a ship, but something this small... I don’t know.”

“I’ll be there with you.” She looked at me gratefully.

The submersible was smaller than I had thought. Danika looked at it as if it were her coffin, but climbed in without demur. T3 rolled down into one of the open slots, plugging into the systems, bringing them up. I climbed down, and the hatch slid closed.

Water flowed up as the sub began its dive. We entered a green expanse of light, and fish swam by us as we dove toward the bottom. A huge pillar fifty meters across swept by to our right, then we were in the open sea. The light faded as we went deeper. Suddenly a Firaxa swam by, snapping at us. The Firaxa is one of the largest ocean going predators of the oceans of Manaan, averaging five to ten meters in length.

As we went deeper, the lights clicked on. All we could see was a narrow cone boring directly ahead of us. T3 suddenly bleeped, and the sub spun on one wing. Something rushed past us. All I could see was a single eye and teeth.

Danika showed me the datapad that reported what T3 was saying.

-Large concentration of Firaxa ahead. Number uncounted. Evading attacks-

“What is causing that?” Danika asked.

I slid forward. There was a manual piloting system, and ahead of us circled in red on the lidar was one hell of a lot of Firaxa. “Do we have any weapons, T3?”

A listing came up. I highlighted one. “Give me control!”

The controls came alive in my hands, and I keyed up my selection. A dozen sonic grenades fell away, and I aimed us upward as the sharks charged toward us. The sub shuddered as the grenades ripple fired. The Firaxa staggered, then drifted toward the bottom, stunned. I aimed for the hole I had made, and plunged deeper. The bottom was only a few meters away, and I pulled out, missing a rocky outcropping as we did. I set the system to drop a grenade every few seconds, and ran before the wave of sharks that followed.

There was a blob marked in green, the station itself. Something the size of a cruiser was near it, and the huge shape moved toward us. I hugged the bottom, and something passed over us. It took forever to move by. At least 400 meters long, I estimated, whatever it was.

There was wreckage as we came closer. Half a dozen subs of the same design had been battered to pieces. One looked as if it had been bitten in half! We came out in a bright green bubble. Lights installed on stanchions made it as bright as 50 meters depth. Then we could see the square box shape of the main building. I tapped the controls, and saw a door open. A Firaxa came out of it, lunging at us, but we were by it, and into the bay. The door closed behind us. I had forgotten to shut off the dispenser, and it was pure luck that I had. We came around the corner into the bay itself, and a swarm of Firaxa were there. They came at us, then stopped, ripped apart as the grenades went off behind us in the enclosed space. We shot upward, coming up into a moon-pool dock. The engines hissed, then died. As the canopy came back, we saw a scene of carnage. A sub had been in the bay beside ours. It had been beaten to wreckage. Bodies lay everywhere. Most had been hacked to death, though some looked as if they had been poisoned.

Danika leaped from the sub and her breathing slowed. “I made it!” She gasped smiling.

“I knew you would.” I soothed.

She shook her head, looking at me oddly. “Did you hear that?”

“What?”

“A keening sound, like a cry for help.”

“No I didn’t.”

She shook her head again. Perhaps I am hearing things. Let’s go.”

We walked toward a door. It had been locked, but T3 opened it without trouble. A Twi-lek in a mercenary uniform lowered his blaster when he saw us. “We have to get out of here, now!”

“Wait. We’re here to rescue you.” I said.

He laughed hysterically. “Then rescue me!”

“We have to find out what happened first.” Danika tried to sooth him.

But her words only made him angry. “They’re all dead, the entire mission is a bust, and I want-”

“Soldier, is that a proper report?” I had never heard that I Will Be Obeyed voice from Danika before. The mercenary snapped to attention.

“Sorry, sir, no excuse, sir.”

“Report.”

“Bastan Twill. Hired along with four others to rescue the people down here, sir.”

She nodded. “Continue.”

“It’s all confusing, sir. The Selkath seem to have gone mad, and began killing everyone. My team was one of two. The other was led by Colin Faris, another top-flight mercenary, ten of us in all.

“Our teams moved through the building, but we were ambushed every step of the way. I don't know how many Selkath were working here, but we killed maybe a hundred and they kept coming. Captain Faris got cut off from us with one other survivor down by the locks that lead outside. The survivors of our teams were pushed back, until I finally locked that door. When I did, I was the only one left alive.”

Danika nodded. “Stand easy, soldier, we’re taking over.” She said. I could picture a team of a hundred troops behind us as she said that. So could Bastan. He sagged.

“You stay here, guard the way home. We’ll take care of it.”

“If you say so. But begging your pardon sir, if you didn’t bring tacnukes, You’re going to get reamed.”

She smiled at him. “We’ll manage.” She went to the door. “T3, crack it.”

machievelli
05-01-2006, 01:02 PM
Danika

The instant I saw that mercenary all my fears fell away. I was back in my element, a ground pounder taking charge. The man we left guarding the sub was calmer, ready to fight again.

“How did you do that?” Bastila asked. “I didn’t feel any of the force in your words, but he relaxed almost immediately!”

“I told you that you underestimated those without the force. All I did was what an officer that saw him in that condition would have done. Stiffened his spine. When everything goes to hell, it’s that officer standing there as if he knows he’s going to live forever that takes you forward.” The door opened into a docking tunnel attached from the docking bay to a vast structure beyond.

We reached a computer console, and T3 tied into it. “Any thing moving?”

-Statistically everything is in constant motion thanks to molecular displacement. Care to be more specific? -

“Smart mouth. Scan the facility. What life forms are moving? Include Droids in that before you start to complain.”

There were droids wandering the halls. They were set for full wartime footing, meaning that without an access code, we would have to destroy them. Well I wasn't being charged for damages. T3 locked them down.

The halls were clear because just about every room in the station was filled with Selkath. They all had glazed eyes, and wandered around. For a moment, I felt perhaps there was no danger, but right about then a human in a lab coat made a break for it from where he had been hiding in a locker. Every Selkath within ten meters charged in, and ripped him apart. Some of them stung him with spines hidden in their dewlaps. That explained the poison victims.

“T3, can you control the speaker system throughout the base?”

-Affirmative. If you are going to suggest a ‘sonic bullet’, I would suggest a range that will not kill or harm you as well-

“That is exactly what I was thinking. But I don‘t want to kill the Selkath either if we can avoid it.”

-Setting Human lethal range locked out. Trying sub-sonic settings that are not dangerous to humans-

I felt a rumble in my feet, and twisted my head. Non-lethal doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt. The Selkath went even madder than they had been, slamming into walls, then collapsing. “Are they dead?”

-Negative. Selkath are more resistant to sound vibrations than humans. They will be incapacitated for several hours-

“All right, how do we get to the refining facility?”

-Access way not completed. Entry via enviro suit-

I shuddered. Bastila noticed it immediately. “Danika-”

“Bastila, remember I died in a suit. I felt the air run out. I don’t... I don’t think I can do that again.” I stared at the ocean beyond the armorplast.

“Then I will go-”

“No. This is my problem. I must deal with it.”

We walked down to the locks that accessed the sea. The one closest to my goal was locked with a password. T3 couldn’t circumvent it.

I shook my head. “What happened down here?”

We reached the lock. Even searching through the complex, there was only the one suit. I grabbed it. I know Bastila would have gone, but I couldn’t let her. This was my fear. If I didn't face it now, I never would. I slipped on the helmet, and as it locked I found myself frantically clawing at the locking ring. She caught my hands, holding them. “Look at me!” She demanded. My eyes were closed. I opened them, seeing her face right there. “Do you want me to go?” I shook my head frantically. “Then you have to get yourself together. I am depending on you!”

I shuddered, nodding. She attached a small device to the suit. “I was reading the data files. They used these to drive away Firaxa. Use it if they get too close.” I nodded again. I knew if I opened my mouth I would be begging to get out of this damn suit, let her do this!

She stepped aside, and I saw the lock door. I didn’t want to go out there. Couldn’t go out there! But my hand rose, and I keyed it open. The door closed behind me and water sprayed down on top of me. I wanted to scream, but I knew she’d hear it. Hear and open the door, and go instead. I couldn’t let her do this. I had to!

The exterior door opened. The room beyond looked like the one I had just left. As I waddled into the room beyond, I heard someone cursing. From the sound he had a lot of experience cursing on a lot of other worlds.

“Report.” I said.

“Who is that?”

“Danika Wordweaver. We’re here to rescue you.”

“Yeah about a day too effing late if you ask me.” He snarled.

“Faris?”

“Yep, that’s me. Captain in the Republic infantry no less, once upon a time.”
“I only reached sergeant.” I replied.

“Then they’re scraping the bottom up there.”

“No. My commission is less than six months old.”

“Oh, new meat to tell me what to do?”

“Nothing of the kind, Captain.” I replied. The Riffed troops from the last war were still sensitive. “I’m new. Got a sitrep for me?”

“S-BAR.” He rasped back. “I went in with eight, and now I’m the only one left.

I translated it as Screwed Beyond All Repair. “No, Bastan Twill made it back to the lock.”

“Then that’s a 20% survival. Not at all good.” I heard a ping, and my suit read it. Another suit, 20 meters to my left.

“It’s something. I was at Zanebra and we lost more than that.”

“You mean someone survived that goat rape?”

I waddled toward him. “You’re talking to one of them. What were you planning?”

“The bug-out boogie. I can’t get through the building; those damn fish are everywhere. But if I get over to the lock near the boat bay, I can get clear.”

“Maybe so, sir. But what about the people in the Harvesting section?”

“They can wait for backup with some serious firepower. Maybe some heavy weapons.” I came in sight of him, and he was already heading into a section that was solid. “I blew the walls to flood this area when the fish went bananas the second time. We had orders not to hurt them. I think I’ll throw that goat rapist in the sub for that mission.”

That made sense now. This area should have been open, but the walls and fixtures were definitely not designed for immersion. I passed a body that had been slammed into a wall hard enough to almost weld it. I came around the corner, and Faris was jumping out onto the ocean bottom through a ten-foot gap in the wall. “Come on. Just watch out for-”

As he spoke, something huge came from the side, catching him like a trout catching a mayfly. Blood sprayed as it powered away from the opening. I came to it, watching his legs float back to the bottom. The Firaxa that had taken him was a lot bigger than the average mentioned.

I closed my eyes. I could hear my breath, and frantically looked at the gauge. I still had seven hours. I mentally made my heart slow down. The mud was right there. I looked at the sonic projector mounted on the glove. I silently prayed as I took that last step. It was clear for the moment. I checked the map I had. The harvester section was to my left about thirty meters. The connection to the main section was on the other side of it.

I started waddling that way. This suit was not made for rapid movement. I mentally attached jets props hell, while I was imagining a damn hyper drive to it, but my mental manipulation did not supply the equipment. A Firaxa bulleted toward me, and I hit the projector. The animal froze as if I had prodded it, then turned and shot away. I grinned, and every time I saw one of them I hit it with a shot. I reached the door, and had started it cycling when something made me spin and trigger it. A Firaxa spasmed less than a meter from me as I fell through the hatch.

I sobbed as the water came down, pulling off my helmet as soon as if was clear. Recycled air, but it wasn’t inside a shoebox damn it!

I climbed out of the suit, and drew my light saber. It wouldn’t have worked under water, but I wished it would. I keyed the inner hatch, and was swinging before my target was in view. Three Selkath were there right at the door, and all were down before they even knew I was there. I staggered past them, and went hunting. There were half a dozen more, and I dealt with them. I found a map of the harvesting section, and noticed that the control room was off by itself. I went that way, and found a force field in my way. I found the intercom, and flicked it on.

“Hello! Is anyone in the control room?”

I heard someone scream then a fan above me kicked in. I felt the air being pumped from the room. I lit my lightsaber, and punched it into the wall near one of the control nodes for the force field. It shorted out, and suddenly I could breath again. I stormed forward. There were two people in the room. The woman started crying. “I’m sorry.” She kept repeating. The man came to her side, and laid his hand on her shoulder.

“Sami just panicked We heard your voice, and she thought the Selkath had gotten into the control room.”

I nodded, relaxing. “I hope my voice really isn’t that raspy.” I said. Sami smiled a little at that. “I’m Danika. I was sent down to investigate.”

“Nomi Nolan. I was the director of this mess before it all went to hell. Sami is our science advisor.” He sat at a terminal. “We haven’t had contact with the base for at least three days.”

“I came originally about the artifact you discovered.”

They looked at each other. “We only reported it last week. Too soon for you to have been sent.”

“I knew it was here, just not where.” I replied. “What can you tell me?”

“We were assembling the last section of the harvesting arm. There is an overhang, and we estimate fifty kilotons of Kolto might be trapped below it. The arm has to extend out over the rift itself and down to scrap Kolto from the side. We were setting the foundation legs when someone spotted this obelisk just sitting there on the bottom. Here, Sami, see if we have Munroe’s data feed.”

She turned, and began running through the computer. Then she pointed at the large screen. Someone in a suit was waddling through the mud toward a series of lights. “When we found it, I ordered lights installed. Doctor Munroe is... I mean he was the chief of oceanographic sciences for the facility. He was heading toward it when everything went to hell.”

The camera stopped as the person halted to get a better picture. A Star Map obelisk stood there thrust out of the sediment. He approached it, careful to keep it in the camera focus. Then something rose beyond it, a mass of black. Then the screen went crazy, then blank.

“We got a call from Chuck Feelis, shift supervisor. This was the last section, so we were on an all hands evolution. All but ten of our people were out there, including our cargo lifters.” He signalled Sami again.

The screen became a sensor screen, with green lights representing the people. Two were marked as cargo lifters. One of those lit up as a voice said. “Looks like we can get the pylons in without damaging whatever it is.-”

“Chuck, in the rift.” As we watched a huge blip appeared, coming up out of the rift fast.

“Holy-” the word cut off as Cargo 1 disappeared down its throat. The picture fluttered, then came back. Cargo 2 caught a shock wave from whatever it was, slamming into a pylon, and went out. Red markers suddenly came out of nowhere around the men. As we watched, the lights disappeared.

“Those red markers are Firaxa. There was a sonic pulse strong enough to fry our sonar right before they came in. Five of our people got back into the buildings but our troubles had only started.

“We had reports that Selkath had fallen, frothing. Then they suddenly began attacking our people. We watched men being ripped apart alive as we ran for here.” Sami looked horrified. “Nolan got up the force field, but it was too late for most of them.

“We’ve been waiting for a rescue since then. There are no submersible suits in here.”

“What was that black thing?”

“That is what freaked everyone out before the Selkath went crazy.” Nolan brought up a scanner.

It was a Firaxa. But it was huge. “That’s what, four hundred meters long?” I said in a whisper.

“About that. These Firaxa sharks don’t have any natural predators except each other. They live until something kills them.”

I stared at it. “And the sound came from that?” They nodded silently.

“We think it came up because our construction bothered it.” Nolan said. “But we can’t tell anyone because we can‘t get out of here!” Sami waved at the ocean. “Even if we had suits, the Firaxa have gone mad! They’re attacking everything that moves out there!”

“And the Selkath are attacking everyone inside.” Sami added grimly.

I nodded, keying my com. “Bastila, have T3 set that sonic shock wave he created to go off every ten minutes.”

“We’re moving back to the terminal.”

I nodded. “Then we have to get rid of the shark. Any ideas?”

Sami nodded “The Firaxa take a man every now and then. We’ve tried sonic fences, turrets that fire sonic charges, sonic mines, but nothing fazes them for long. We’ve been working on a repellant since the project began. The repellant was supposed to make a smell or taste that bothered the Firaxa. But it isn’t working quite right yet.”

“It works well enough for that!” Nolan said. “If we can’t get support, we’re dead either way!”

“But the repercussions to the environment!” Sami gasped.

“I don’t give a damn about an ocean I don't have to live with!”

“But it might taint the Kolto-”

“Wait a minute!” I shouted. “What is wrong with the repellant?”

“It doesn’t chase them away.” Sami said softly. “It kills them. Horribly.”

I stared at her. She nodded. “We tested in right before everything went to hell. We had a captured Firaxa in a tank, and dropped a small amount in the water. It caused the skin to rupture and the gills ruptured a few minutes later. We can’t just let it loose in the ocean! We don't know what it will do to the other sea life, and the Kolto-”

“And the Selkath.” I added. I pictured Shasawith her skin rupturing, blood spraying out. Even if it only affected the Firaxa, what would happen to an
environment without them? There were laws about this! “How large was the dose you used?”

“A milliliter in a fifty thousand-liter tank. After the test we figured one hundredth of a milliliter was still toxic in the same volume.”

I pictured only a liter flask. That would poison over a million cubic kilometers of ocean! “There must be another way.”

They looked at each other. “Well if the last section wasn’t there, maybe it would go away again. But that is three months of work in construction, and we don’t have enough explosives-” Nolan began.

“There’s the hydrolium.”

“Sami, the tank on the last section is fifty liters! If that went up, the whole base could go!”

“Not if the fuel lines were started. We could turn on the grinder head, and that would put fuel in the line instead-”

“It isn’t like that is much better!” Nolan almost screamed. “It could still blow the entire station to hell!”

“What is this hydrolium?”

“A liquid fuel. We use it for machinery that requires a lot of energy, but where nuclear power packs or fusion generators are contraindicated. That would heat up the nearby ocean, and we’re trying to impact the ecosphere as little as possible.

“The problem is, hydrolium reacts with water. You inject a centigram into the engines, and spray it with water. It releases as much energy as a block of blasting explosive. Fifty liters is enough to level the entire base!”

“Can the tank be drained off?”

“No. It’s a sealed unit. The only thing it feeds to is the line to the engines.”

I pictured my options. “I need some blasting explosives.”

“We don’t have any in here.” Nolan admitted. “But a grenade could rupture a line easily enough.”

“What about filling just one line?”

“No can do. It’s all of them or none.” Sami said.

“But the lines should survive a rupture in another by themselves and one line should be enough. When the tank sensors detect that, they should shut down.”

There were too many ‘shoulds’ in that statement. I fingered my vest. I had grenades there. “I need a bag of some kind.”

I stood under the flood, trying to stay calm. Bad enough I had to set off a massive explosion, but I was going to be in the water when it happened. If the shock wave caught me, I would be pulped. Nolan had marked a small storage bay. With the door closed, it should take most of the shock without too much damage. I didn’t mention the qualifier again.

The door opened, and I sprayed the outside with the sonic projector. A pair of Firaxa that had been waiting for me bolted away. I waddled out, and spotted the line of deck plates they had laid out down the run of the structure. I went down them, watching for Firaxa.

The Hydrolium tank was back near the end of the new structure, the lines already attached. Nolan had said he would start one of the grinding heads when he saw me in the scanners. I moved out farther. Part of me hoped we could keep from destroying the entire thing, but I didn’t have any hopes.

Ahead of me, I could hear an engine cycling, then a screeching as a grinder head was dropped to the rock, ripping Kolto from it and flinging it back into a hopper. I jumped to the top of the storage bay, and moved onto the framework itself. I found the hydrolium line. “All right, stop it!” I shouted. As I did a swarm of Firaxa charged into the light, headed for the grinding head. They tried to rip the head free, worrying at whatever they could reach. I saw a Firaxa begin ripping at the fuel line and instinctively leaped down into the shed, pulling the door closed.

There was a thump, and the door slammed hard, springing back open then slamming again. Then suddenly the lines began to explode like fireworks. I caught the door, and pulled it to just as the hammer of the gods slammed the shed. I was bounced around, and around me the metal of the shed began to fall apart in shards. I ripped open the door somehow and dived outside just as there was a tearing sound. A girder above me began to stretch, the metal vibrating in a tone that rose until I couldn’t hear it any more, then it shattered. Across the section above me more and more girders did the same thing. Then 50 meters of the structure lurched, lifted the end toward me up, and dropped into the abyss.

“Danika.” I looked around. Metal shards had imbedded themselves in the deck plating, some deep enough to punch through into the sediment. One of them still quivered less than a hand’s breadth from my faceplate.

“Danika, report.”

I staggered to my feet. Where I stood there was the mass of the structure running back toward the base. The lines had ruptured as Nolan had predicted, but the tank had not. But in front of me the landscape had been scoured clean.

“Danika, please-”

“I’m all right.” I said. “I’m heading toward the Star Map.”

“Be careful.”

I slogged forward. The Firaxa seemed to be ignoring me. I reached a section just short of the Star Map when I felt something approaching. I turned and stared up.

And up.

And up.

The giant Firaxa was headed toward me, as large as a space cruiser. I felt an urge, and reached up, feeling the smooth skin run across my glove. It seemed to enjoy that simple touch because it slowed down. For a moment I pictured the joking photos where someone stands below a cargo ship that is taking off, hands against the hull plating as if they had lifted it. I could have posed for it myself.

Suddenly I felt a sense of awe. These Firaxa sharks don’t have any natural predators except each other. They live until something kills them. I pictured the goggle-eyed builders standing on a cliff face over the ocean, setting the Star Map up. Below them swam a Firaxa shark barely average in size. Then the sea had risen, the shark swimming up with it, but returning to where it felt comfortable, the trench that had been it’s home. It had seen the death of that empire, and witnessed the birth of the Republic.

Perhaps the Republic will fall. I thought. And thanks to me this Firaxa will still be here, awaiting the next empire that arose maybe another 30 millennia from now.

It swam on, and I ducked as the tail fin swept by. I caught a stanchion just in time to avoid being blown off the edge of the abyss. It swam up, sweeping like a fighter coming back, then it rolled, and dropped back into it’s home.

I stood there in awe for several minutes. Then I shook myself, and waddled on to the Star Map. As with the others, it seemed to sense my presence, and opened up. I recorded the data, and slid the datapad back into its case.

Suddenly I stopped. I felt something, and knew instinctively that it came down the bond I shared with Bastila. Then... nothing.

“Bastila.” I turned, waddling frantically toward the lock leading back to the base. “Bastila, answer me.” I moved past the harvesting control room. “T3-”

“Oh do be quiet.” A man’s voice answered. “My master has use for your friend, and I can reprogram the droid. It is you I am waiting for now. Come to me, my little Jedi. Maybe you can free them?” He laughed. “All you have to do is defeat me. Come to the Sub bay. The corridor that attaches it to the main building. I will meet you there.”

“If you’ve hurt her-”

“Oh please. No threats. Just come.”

I felt rage flow through me, and locked it down hard. All it would do is distract me. I reached the door, ripping the suit off as the water dropped below my knees. I brushed my robe, then ran toward the docking bays. Around me the Selkath were waking up. I hoped their madness had passed.

I reached the door, that lead into the walkway to the sub bay and when it opened, I saw a man in black armor, standing in the center of the tube, facing me. I recognized that face.

“You were on the Endar Spire. You murdered Trask Ulgo!”

He shrugged, his voice a purr. “I have killed so many people for my master. It is hard to keep track.“ He walked toward me. “You however have become an obsession for me. Did you know that? I wasn’t sure who you were when I saw you on the ship. Your friend Ulgo was good enough for that. But I knew of you before my master Darth Malak did. Before Admiral Karath told him. I am Darth Bandon, apprentice to Darth Malak.” His lightsaber, a double like mine lit. “I am your doom.”

I had a vision of Vrook. I had read about one of Revan’s exploits before she left for the Mandalore war, she had allowed herself to be captured by a terrorist group to find the son of a King. During the fighting that later ensued, she had been trapped, and had thrown the leader and his two chief torturers from a balcony using the force. I asked him about it. How had they ended up in such a situation? Why hadn’t they killed her when they had the chance? He had answered me with a simple statement. ‘When in the hands of your enemies, always hope for the truly evil captor. Because while a good man will kill you without a word, the evil always have to gloat.”

Bandon leaped, using the force to throw him across the distance between us. Our lightsabers clashed, and I blocked as he tried to cut with the off hand edge. I kicked, and he flew backwards, flipping in midair to land on his feet. Then he reached out, and I felt his hand catch my throat with the force. “I want to look into your eyes, see you know when death approaches!” He screamed. “Picture Bastila as Malak’s devoted slave and your Republic in ruins! I want to feel your neck collapse!”

Always hope for the truly evil captor. I pictured Bastila in chains with a slave collar and part of me broke. I growled. “Like this, fool!” I reached out, and his eyes went wide with shock as I grabbed his throat with the force.

“No, you can’t!” He screamed as my force-hand crushed his neck like a vice. I pulled, and the head ripped free, flying toward me. I stepped aside as his body fell to its knees, eyes still unbelieving from beside my foot.

“If you’re going to kill someone do it, don‘t talk about it.” I walked past his body. Bastan Twill lay dead in the next room, his head twisted completely around. I walked to him, then looked into the sub bay. Two dark Jedi stood there, and they stared at me in horror.

“Bandon-” One began. I caught them both, and their necks snapped.

“Ask him what happened in hell.” There was another sub in the bay. T3 sat there forlorn, and behind him, Bastila lay on the deck plates. A Sith designed restraint collar had been attached around her neck, and shackles had been linked to it then to her hands and feet. She quivered as the system fed back into her every time she even thought of moving. I opened the bands, throwing the entire thing into the water, then hugged her, cuddling her to my bosom. Suddenly it struck me what I just done. I had killed three people using the force alone. The blackest of all the dark arts. I found I was crying. No please, I can’t be what I hate!

She stopped shuddering, and I heard her take a deep ragged breath.

“Danika, Malak sent-”

“I know. He sent Bandon to me, I sent him to hell.” She looked up eyes wide and frightened. “No one hurts my friends.” I whispered. Then I hugged her as if just touching her would heal the wound I had made in my own soul. “I’m sorry.” I wailed. “He boasted you’d be Malak’s slave, and I just... snapped. I killed him, I killed the ones with him with the force!” I wanted to scream, but deep inside, I knew that I would do it again. To protect those I loved I would kill anything. With whatever was at hand.

She hugged me, murmuring comfort. But deep in my heart I felt a doubt that had been growing since Tatooine.

Bastila had been lying to me from the very start.

Betraying my trust.

But why?

Char Ell
05-02-2006, 11:32 AM
Interesting how you show Danika as having a fear of being in a submersible. I don't really understand the difference between that and a space ship. On the other hand, I can understand Danika's fear of envirosuits, since they're so similar to space suits and as you reminded your readers that's how Danika remembers dying, suffocating in a space suit.

machievelli
05-02-2006, 01:42 PM
Ahto City

Danika

The Ambassador was not happy. He was stunned that I’d destroyed three months of work. Damage control was on his mind as we walked out of the embassy.

The Selkath constables that came to arrest me were icing on the cake. They surrounded us with half a dozen guards, and when we exited at the court, I could see why. There were a hundred odd Selkath, all wailing outside the court. The guards used stun rods to clear the way, and considering the crowd was trying to get close enough to tear me apart, I could understand why.

The court was almost as bad. There were only a**dozen or so more here, but they made up for lack of numbers with sheer volume.

“That someone would dare to profane the holy site!” A Selkath was burbling loudly. “The person should be flayed and salted! She should be fed to the Firaxa an inch at a time-”

“We must have order.” Judge Kota called.

“Everyone even remotely connected to this should be flayed!”

“I will have order!” Shelkar roared. When he didn’t get it, he thumbed a stud. A blast of sound dropped the Selkath before the dais to their knees. I huddled, holding my head.

“If there is one more word I will begin having people arrested!” Shelkar warned. He saw me, and pointed before his dais. “Bring her.”

I walked forward, stopping to face the panel.

“Selkath living near Hrakert Rift recorded a massive explosion. You are known to have been seen in a submersible headed into the Rift. This court has convened to discover why.”

“The Republic Ambassador sent me to the Kolto mining facility-”

“What facility!” Duula screamed.

“Some of us have been trying to improve our methods of production.” Judge Naleshekan said. “We asked the Republic to help.”

“But to build on the holy site-”

“The holy site is the Rift itself, as you well know. Not the sea floor above it.”

“But-”

“Let it be Duula!” Kota snarled.

“Let the record show that empanelled for this trial are Judges Shelkar,”

“Jhosa.”

“Naleshekan.”

“Kota.”

“And Duula.”

“You went to the mining facility. What occurred there?”

“The facility had almost been completed when a huge Firaxa rose from the Rift. It gave some kind of cry, and the Firaxa went mad attacking everything that moved. Selkath assigned to the facility also went mad. Most of the crew both human and Selkath have been killed in the fighting. We used a sonic pulse to disable the Selkath survivors. I was advised by human survivors that the Firaxa might return to the Rift if I destroyed the last section of the harvester, and I used Hydrolium to drop it into the Rift.”

“A great Firaxa-”

“But it’s only a legend-”

“Didn’t she say she killed it?”

“No! The horror of such an act-”

“Kill the slayer-”

“I did not kill it!” I shouted. The room fell silent, everyone staring at me. “To me it was a magnificent animal protecting its territory. It was we who were trespassing, not it.” I waved my hand, trying to put into words what I had seen.

“I could no more have killed it than I would have destroyed the entire galaxy because I was angry with one person! It was older than the Republic, older than your own recorded history! I felt all I could be was a witness to it’s coming. It knew this somehow. It swam over me, huge, my hand running down it’s belly-”

“What, she touched it?” Someone whispered.

One of the Selkath in very drab clothing stepped forward. “You touched him?”

I nodded numbly.

“With which hand?” I held out my right hand. The Selkath leaned forward, and smelled my hand.

“She did. His mark is upon her!”

“Silence, Frooke.”

“I will not be silent! The Progenitor lives, and she, an off worlder has touched him! Shame upon our people that it was not one of us to receive that blessing!”

The court closed the partition. I shivered. I had felt for a moment that the priest was going to order my hand cut off for blasphemy.

The wait was long this time. I stood there, with the Selkath doing everything they could not to touch me. Somehow I was both blessed and a pariah in the same body.

The partition dropped. Half a dozen more Selkath had joined them on that side.

Shelkar looked at me then bowed his head. “Woman, you do not know the turmoil you have caused among our people. The Progenitor was a myth, something only the faithful of his temple believed. Something that harkens back to when our race still scrabbled in the mud of the ocean. Something we wanted to put aside.” He sighed. “Something that your have reminded us of. For he is also called the soul of our world.

“Now we face the real problem. Throughout history there have been those that have been allowed to touch him. They are prophets and lawgivers in our history. Would you be such to us?” His voice held an entreaty.

“I am not worthy of such a role, Your honor.”

“He thought you were, or he would have swam away rather than letting you touch him.” Frooke said. “He has chosen you.”

“Speak, chosen one. What would you have us do?” Kota begged.

I held the power of the entire planet in my hands at that moment. I could have ordered them to commit ritual suicide, or cast out the Sith, or anything. What I might say next would reverberate through the sector. I could feel Bastila standing beside me, her worry because she saw what a temptation it would be for me. I reached out, taking her hand. They gasped as I touched her.

“She has marked her!” Someone whispered.

“Your honors, people of Manaan, darkness flows through the Galaxy, and one of the bright spots of light is here upon your world. Do not allow yourselves to be dragged into that struggle unwilling. If you choose to enter it, do so of your own will, but let none demand your decision.

“You have stood, as he would have wanted, facing the future, and not shunning the consequences. What more could even a God expect?” I looked around the eyes of the crowd. “Go forth and do good for others, for your people, for yourselves. Do not act from greed, act from compassion.”

I bowed. “Go with your god, people of Manaan.” There was a sigh as I turned and led Bastila out of there. The crowd outside had fallen silent, and this time we didn’t need guards. Hands brushed my clothing yet avoiding my flesh, eyes tried to catch mine. A father held up his child to see me, and the young boy waved hesitantly. I smiled and waved back. The boy almost shrieked in delight, wriggling until he was put down. He ran over, taking my hand.

I knelt, rubbing his head with my right hand. The crowd sighed.

“Please! Take me with you chosen one!”

I shook my head. “No. Grow strong, grow wise, become a good judge of your people in time. I will be watching you.” I pointed toward the ocean. “And so will he.”

They left us alone as we went to the tram. We boarded it, and I touched Bastila’s face gently. “When I saw that huge shark, I felt such awe that all my fears fell away. We will win, or die. But now I no longer worry that we will fail.”

Half of the Selkath in the city must have tried to fit themselves on our route to the ship. I walked the halls ignoring them. Not because I felt they deserved to be ignored, but I didn’t want a repeat of the child in the courtyard. We didn’t have enough room aboard for all of the disciples I could have gathered.

The vender that had sold us the sweets for the children ran up, pressing a two-kilo bag of them into my hand. “For the young ones.”

I bowed my head. “Thank you.”

“No, thank you for bringing our faith back to us.”

We reached the Ebon Hawk finally.



Ebon Hawk:

Enroute to Korriban

Bastila

I came aboard Ebon Hawk, almost running to the berthing area. I fell to my knees. I had to meditate, I needed to meditate. I had to understand what was going on in my mind, in her mind!

But that center of peace wasn’t there. I was buffeted by her emotions, and mine as well. Bad enough that I had problems dealing with such, now her emotions also swept over me. She had such clear emotional thoughts and reactions. Not muddied like most people I had met. Each emotion and the thoughts attached to it were a single jewel in a myriad of color. I could touch each and feel it as if it were my own. In fact her emotional existence was clearer to me than my own. Her anger not with Bandon but with herself for slipping even incrementally toward the dark side.

I felt a hand on my head, and peace flowed. “Jolee, I can't do it any longer.” I whispered. “Help me.”

“You have to let it go then. Talk to her, break the bond.”

“I can’t!” I wailed in anguish. “What if we fail because I did?”

“What if we fail because you didn’t?” He asked.

“I can’t stand it!” I wanted to tear my hair out. “If I do, we might fail if I do not, we might fail. I could double think myself into oblivion!”

“Welcome to what the masters deal with all the time.” He said. “Why do you think I stayed hidden for all those years? I didn’t want to be a master, and they didn’t want me to become one.”

“It couldn’t be that simple.” I retorted.

“Of course not. Nothing ever is.” He didn’t bother to tell me more though.

It would be two days to Korriban. Two of the longest days of my life. Danika was feeling something I couldn’t touch. She was blocking me better than I had blocked her before. She would watch me, as if she was hoping I would say something, but I stayed mute. Once this mission was over, I would break this bond and do everything I could to get as far away as the Galaxy permitted.

But there were still the dreams...

I found myself in the jungle of Deralia. I could hear, no I could feel the life scuttling through the dense underbrush. I heard a noise, and walked toward it. I came to a clearing, and there were huge barrel shaped bodies with ribbon wings along the sides floating in midair as they gently sculled about the clearing.
“Those are Tirlat.“ I turned and Danika was there. She was dressed in shorts with a sleeveless shirt as when she had been a child. She motioned for me to follow, and we climbed the tree. She looked at me, her hand touching my cheek. “In all our dreams, this we have never done. I feel I can show it to you now.“ She gripped my hand, and as one huge body began moving below us she said, “Now!” We dropped together. We landed on its back and she flung the line in a practiced motion, making the weighted end spin down and around the neck. She caught the loose end as I dropped down to sit with my legs straddling her, my arms around her waist.
The ribbons stiffened into blades, and the Tirlat tried to escape. The wings came up then down in a powerful thump, and we shot forward. I clutched to her desperately at the sudden acceleration. It was strange and wonderful at the same time. I found myself leaning into her, my hands against the front of her body, my head turned to lay against her back.
It was timeless, and too short. She maneuvered the beast back to the clearing, and at her call we rolled back off the broad back. We landed, me flat on my back, her kneeling above me. This was the vision, her last memory that I had clung to. She had a slight sad smile on her face.
“In all the time we have spent in the bond you have never told me why you started it.”
I tensed. “What?”
“I know you created the bond, Bastila. I think I have always known I just don’t know why. There is more, but you haven’t told me.” She touched my face gently. “I want to know, but I can’t help but feel that it frightens you. I won’t push. When you are ready, you can tell me. I trust you with my mind, and with my life.”
“Danika, you’re right. The truth is-”

I felt myself slamming into the bulkhead. There was shouting, and I could see by the chrono that it was ship-night. I threw on my robe, and ran toward the cockpit. As I turned toward the cockpit through the mess hall, Danika joined me. She had a look that promised ill tidings for whoever had awakened us.

Carth was at the controls, checking the readings. “Gravity well. Big one. What-” He stared at the proximity detector alarm. “A big ship. Canderous, can you see it?”

“An Interdictor cruiser!” Canderous answered from the lower turret. “Looks like the Leviathan.”

“Leviathan.” Carth snarled. “Saul’s flagship. They’re locking on a tractor beam.” He shut down the engines. “We’re caught.”

I found myself looking at Danika. She stood there, eyes closed. “All hands to the mess hall. We have what, five minutes?”

“Try three.” Carth said.

“Then we don’t have a lot of time.”

Everyone was awake, standing there with eyes wide with shock. Danika immediately took charge. “We’ve been caught by the Sith. I know that Karath knows about Bastila and Carth if they run our ID. If he does, he’ll also have my file as well. But the rest of you he might not know about. We have to plan how we’re going to escape right now, leaving the three of us out of the equation.”

“I am very good at concealment.” Juhani said. “If I slip off the ship after they have captured the rest of you, I can find my way to the holding cells and release you.”
“Yeah, but they have three sections of cells.” Carth pointed out. “The Interdictor was designed for blockade work. You can catch a lot of prisoners when on that duty. Five cells per holding area guard posts in each section, and each with their own computer access.”

“So we need more strings for our bow.” Jolee said. “I can sway the mind of one of them. If there’s more, I’m in trouble”

“What about medical units?” Canderous asked.

“Why?”

“We Mando were trained in biometric contol as young warriors. Our immune systems and adrenal glands are under our control, and we heal about faster than a normal human. If I were to set off a concussion grenade in the engine room, I could knock myself unconscious. They’ll take me to sick bay. Hopefully I’ll get one of those idiot med techs that think Mando are normal humans. When I wake up they’ll find out otherwise.”

“I have an alternate emergency power source, so I can appear to be deactivated.” HK said. “Most people do not know my internal workings, so they will probably take me to the repair shop for reprogramming and powering up. My systems will notify me when I get there, and I can power myself back up and deal with them. I can also dismantle T3 sufficiently that they think he is under repair. He should end up in the same repair bay.”

“As for getting out of tight spots I’m a wiz at it!” Mission said. “All I need is to badmouth a guard enough that he puts me in a separate section and cell.”

“If they don’t kill you.” Zaalbar warned.

“They won’t.” Mission answered smugly. “Little girls may get slapped around, but they aren’t going to blow me away when they might have fun with me first!”

“Mission!” Danika was appalled.

“Hey, if you wanted to stop that kind of thing, you would have had to find me a week after Griff left.” Mission looked haunted. “But I found out that when a man is thinking with that,” she pointed down, “His brain isn’t engaged.”

Danika looked to each face, then at Sasha. “Sasha, Berani li soope.”

“Sho!” She curled her fingers into claws. “Malpali!”

“Sho!” Danika snapped. Then she knelt holding the girl. “Abd de koolarti. Soope. Pres Kali?”

“Ya.” She whispered. Then she ran toward the cargo bay.

“You told her to hide.” I said.

“But she is a warrior born.” Canderous said approvingly. “Her answer was to kill them all.”

“I wish it were that easy.” Jolee said. There was a thud against the hull, and we all looked up.

“If you need something specific, get it now.” Danika ordered.


Leviathan

Action report

Members of the 4th regiment boarded the captured vessel identified as merchant vessel Ebon Hawk when it was brought aboard. The crew of that vessel, who opened the hatch rather than forcing us to breach it, facilitated this.

However everything did not go smoothly. One crewperson, a Twi-lek girl assaulted one of the troopers, soaking him in a rather vile concoction from their galley. Another, a human male, had attempted to blow up the ship’s hyper drive system, but only succeeded in injuring himself.

Captured were three human males, two human females, a Twi-lek female and a Wookiee male. Two droids were discovered in stages of repair. One was an astromech design, the other appears to be a standard HK model. Both disabled.

One of the women was discovered to be the Jedi Bastila. The other is listed as the companion of one Lieutenant Carth Onasi, Republic Navy. One of the men was discovered to be this Carth Onasi. These three were sent to Maximum security holding central.

The injured human male has been sent to the Prison sickbay in Central corridor. The droids to maintenance on C deck. The female Twi-lek physically assaulted Captain Omari, kneeing him in the crotch hard enough that he also went to medical. The girl has been sent to Starboard holding. The Wookiee and the other human male have been sent to portside holding.

Report ends.

Admiral Saul Karath read the report, smirking. “Well Carth, your luck has finally run out.” He looked up to the com officer. “Send to Lord Malak, Bastila and her companions have been captured. Give our present coordinates. Ask for instructions.” He stood, pulling down his coat. “I am going to see an old friend.”


Leviathan

Danika

They used full restraints on us similar to what Darth Bandon had used on Bastila. Each arm and leg was attached electronically to a collar around our necks. As long as we did exactly what we were told, we could move. But if we deviated even the smallest amount, the restraints would lock our muscles. We were taken to the Central holding facility, and one by one were thrust into interrogation tubes. The force fields forced us to stand upright. It was like being immersed in electrified jelly. Any movement set up a reaction in the field that balanced the energy you exerted.

A man entered. He was an older man, iron gray hair cut short under his cap. He was fit, wiry. Not a fighter, but still keeping himself in trim. His uniform was bland, only a couple of decorations marred the smooth expanse of cloth.

He stopped in front of the tubes, looking at us. “Well, Bastila. So good to finally meet you. As for you-“ He glared at me, “-I’ll leave your welcome to Malak.” Then he turned to Carth, ignoring us.

“Well, the years have not treated you well, old friend.”

“Saul.” Carth gritted out.

“You really should have joined me. I could have used your level head a number of times. If you will give me your parole, I can have you out of there in a moment.”

“All I want to do is rip your head off, Saul! How’s that for a parole?”

“Whatever did I do to you-”

“You bombed Telos, you killed Morgana!” Carth struggled, trying to break out of the field.

Saul actually looked sad. “Oh, you were from Telos. I had forgotten. I wouldn't have hurt your wife for the world.”

“Don’t get pious with me, Saul! She was on a planet, and the planet was in your way! You would have killed your own mother in that circumstance!”

“Now Carth you know I cannot direct every weapon in a battle. If I had known-”

“Spare me the hypocrisy! My wife dead, my son being raised by the Sith! What was so important that you had to betray everything you swore an oath to protect?”

Karath’s eyes grew cold. “Do not presume that our friendship will protect you if I get angry, Carth. I was saving my own life.”

“From what?” Carth laughed. “Did Malak and Revan come in the night and threaten you?”

“No the Republic was going to destroy my life.” Saul growled. “Remember what it was like when the Mandalorian wars started? The incompetents that we were saddled with? The ones that defended the wrong place, attacked the wrong target, and blamed us for their failures? When the Jedi took over most were shuffled into positions where they couldn’t do any harm, but they lived. Those great competent men we fought alongside died and those incompetent bastards lived and moved up the promotion list.

“When the war ended, and Revan and Malak went in search of the Star Forge, there was no one to protect us any more. The Republic Senators used their power to reinstate those has-beens, and whom do you think they had to displace? Only Admiral Dodonna was safe, but she had been to school with all of them hadn’t she?

“But not ‘good old Saul Karath’, oh no. The son of a farmer, a Maverick officer, what weight did that carry with officers that lived and breathed privilege? They couldn’t fire me, they couldn’t retire me, so they decided to ‘promote’ me. They showered me with medals, and said that after that last cruise, they were assigning me as commandant of the Academy.” He growled again, and raised his fists. “Can you see me wiping their children’s noses, and trying to dun military history and tactics into those thick skulls? Neither could they! They wanted me to retire, or live out my life as a round peg in a hole they rounded out for me!

“I who lead a third of the fleet! Who stood just below Revan and Malak as a leader! Who had to save their butts time and time again? I was to become a non-entity!” There was a glint of madness in his eyes. “But Malak saved me. He sent a messenger to me and promised me a command as long as I lived. He admired my skill, and didn’t intend to stuff me off into a wasted position.”

Carth sighed. “So to keep from getting old, you stuffed my planet and my people, my wife into the meat grinder to prove your loyalty.”

“I am not old! I wasn’t too old to teach you everything you know.”

“I know that, Saul.” Carth said sadly. “I looked up to you. I would have died for you. And you repaid me with murder.”

They looked at each other, old and young, and I wished I could reconcile them. But there was too much pain for even a Jedi to break through. Karath shook himself, then looked at the two of us, now ignoring Carth. “The Dark Lord has been apprised of your capture, and I have no doubt he already has tortures aplenty for all of you. But since he is not here, I will merely have to fill in. Give them a taste of their future.”

I felt something reach into me, and try to rip out every organ simultaneously. Both Carth and Bastila echoed my cry of pain. Then it was gone.

“That is merely a taste of what you will endure. I would like some information to give to the Dark Lord when he arrives, and you will give it to me.”

“Don’t waste your breath asking, Saul!” Carth rasped. “We won’t tell you anything!”

“I don’t expect you to, Carth. But I happen to know your friend’s loyalties have proven in the past to be much more, flexible.” He nodded toward me.

“What are you talking about?”

“Dear girl, I am doing the interrogating. I will ask the questions, you will answer.” He turned, now focusing his attention on me. “It is time to put your loyalty to the test. I doubt you would break if I tortured you personally. Your will is much too strong to give that easily. However even a hero has a soft spot. With most it is seeing their companions tortured in their stead.

“Bastila is to be left alone, but there are no such restrictions on Carth. So I ask you this. Which is more important? Carth’s life and well being? Or you precious mission?

“I will begin. Every time you refuse to answer a question, Carth gets punished for it. Every time you lie, I will punish him. I may just punish him-” He held up a hand and Carth screamed in agony. “-Just because I can. Shall we begin?”

“I won’t betray the Jedi. Even to save myself.” I said.

“Don’t tell him anything!” Carth shouted. He spasmed as the field slammed down again.

“So brave, and so stupid. Now, where is the Jedi Academy you trained at?” I just stared at him. He sighed, raising a finger. Carth screamed, then sagged. “I wasn’t merely going to ask you questions and assume the truth, dear girl. I know the answer to many of them, and I use them to test you. All you did was hurt Carth unnecessarily. I know you trained on Dantooine. We have destroyed that Academy, and the Jedi there are no more. Nothing remains but smoking ruins and the charred remains of your masters.”

“No! You’re lying!”

“What you believe is incidental. We destroyed that pustule of Jedi filth, and now all those that even know about your mission are dead. You are all that’s left, and you will tell me.

“What was your mission? Why did the Jedi send you? What plan did you have to stop the Sith Armada?”

I shook my head. When I heard Carth scream again, I looked at him. If someone suffers because of you, never close your eyes, or turn away. Remember and honor their sacrifice. He begged, words strung in the screaming.

As he sagged, Karath walked over almost close enough to touch except for the force field “What kind of monster can simply listen to him being tormented? What manner of friend are you to him?”

“What manner of friend apologizes for murdering his wife then torments him?” I flared back. “If you didn’t have a fleet to command and an enemy to fight, you would be at your desk, ripping the wings and legs off insects!

“Your insane, Karath. Death will merely end your misery. Since we are going through this for your enjoyment, just stop asking, and torture us all you want.”

He raised a hand. This time the torture seemed to go on forever. Then Carth sagged in the field even though it still snapped. “I would have expected him to pass out much sooner than that. There aren’t many that can take such pain, even for brief intervals.

“However you are right. I am wasting my time. However when the Dark Lord gets here, you will find that my methods are hugs and kisses in comparison. So I will leave you with yet another taste of your future.”

The field ripped at me, and I screamed. My throat was raw when I finally passed out.

I found myself staring at the bulkhead, and just blinking hurt. I must have whimpered because Bastila spoke. “Don’t try to move too quickly. Admiral Karath had the guard torture you long after you passed out.

“They tortured all of us, but they seemed to like punishing you more.”

“Saul has become some sort of perverted monster.” Carth said. I could hear the denial in his voice. It might be his enemy, but why would he have changed so drastically?

“Carth, the Dark side of the force infects everyone around a Dark Lord. Once a normal person begins that journey, there is no telling the depths they will sink to. I fear he has been lost forever.”

“There is always the chance of redemption, Bastila. Even for such as him.” I said.

She smiled sadly. “I think you are correct in that. When you face such unbridled cruelty, it is hard to consider their redemption. I think I am still reacting to the destruction of the Academy.”

As she said it. I suddenly felt that loss. It was as if I had lost a tooth, and only as my tongue rolled across the gap could I sense it.

“I would like to believe that Admiral Karath was lying to us, but I could feel it when his words brought my attention to it. We should have felt such a great loss through the force. I fear the Dark side has grown so strong that they were able to hide it from us. I can only hope some of them survived. Vrook, Vandar, Dorak, Zhar. Some of them must have survived.”

“None of that matters if we can’t get out of here!” Carth said.

“Where is Karath now?”

“He mentioned that Lord Malak is on his way here. I think Saul went to prepare for Malak’s arrival. He probably won‘t bother to mention how his interrogation failed.”

“It was fortunate you were able to resist his interrogation, Danika. Even the smallest amount of information could be vital.”

“I hate to admit it, but there was a time there where I wished you would tell him everything.” Carth said.

“What I said didn’t matter. He was going to torture us anyway.” I said.

“I’ve known him for years. You are probably right. The entire interrogation was a sham. He just wanted a reason to torture us. To torture you, before Malak arrived.” He shook his head wearily. “But why just you? What did he mean?”

“Bastila, what were you going to tell me in the dream.”

“We don’t have time for that now, Danika.”

“Saul seems to think he knows me. So did Darth Bandon. What is going on?”

“Danika, once we are back aboard the ship, I will answer all your questions.” She stiffened. Do you feel that?”

I had sensed it to. As if a great predator had opened it’s eyes, and was watching us. Then I felt it moving toward us fast. “Malak is coming.”

“Then we had better hope someone’s plan works.” Carth said.

Char Ell
05-03-2006, 12:10 AM
“With which hand?” I held out my right hand. The Selkath leaned forward, and smelled my hand.

“She did. His mark is upon her!” I don't understand how this Selkath would have been able to use his sense of smell to detect the Progenitor's scent. If Danika wore a deep-sea suit as depicted in-game her hand would have been covered by a thick insulating glove that would have prevented any physical contact between Danika and the giant Firaxa. I would have expected then that any detectable scent would be on the glove of Danika's dive suit, not her actual hand.
While I generally liked the extra layers you wove into the Manaan Star Map quest I found Danika's speech and the Selkath people's reaction to the Progenitor's "Chosen One" a bit overdramatic for my taste.

I very much enjoyed the additional detail in the Leviathan encounter. I look forward to seeing how you orchestrate the ensuing breakout and escape. The extra background you provided for Saul Karath helped me understand why he decided to betray the Republic from an empathetic perspective. For me this hammered home how appealing "bad" alternatives can be sometimes.

machievelli
05-03-2006, 03:16 AM
I don't understand how this Selkath would have been able to use his sense of smell to detect the Progenitor's scent. If Danika wore a deep-sea suit as depicted in-game her hand would have been covered by a thick insulating glove that would have prevented any physical contact between Danika and the giant Firaxa. I would have expected then that any detectable scent would be on the glove of Danika's dive suit, not her actual hand.
While I generally liked the extra layers you wove into the Manaan Star Map quest I found Danika's speech and the Selkath people's reaction to the Progenitor's "Chosen One" a bit overdramatic for my taste.

I think of it more as a psychic sense rather than a smell. Danika merely described what she saw.


I very much enjoyed the additional detail in the Leviathan encounter. I look forward to seeing how you orchestrate the ensuing breakout and escape. The extra background you provided for Saul Karath helped me understand why he decided to betray the Republic from an empathetic perspective. For me this hammered home how appealing "bad" alternatives can be sometimes.

I was remembering what happened in legend when people were suddenly considered prophets. The story says the progenitor was the mother of their species, and that was something a lot of people had gotten away from. This is like any of the original miracles reported by the apostles. Once it happened, people suddenly want to get on the bandwagon again. All she did was say 'follow your conscience'. I made it overly dramatic so they wouldn't think she was ignoring the honor they were trying to bestow.

machievelli
05-03-2006, 03:29 AM
The Crew that wishes to remain nameless

Juhani

I walked softly, safe within my stealth field. Most Jedi cannot use them. The Force is usually used instead. But the Cathar had always considered every possible in the hunt. Cathar are renowned for their hunting prowess. The others were taken, and I went with them until we reached the elevator. There the guards split them up. Danika Carth and Bastila went first to the Central bay along with the litter carrying Canderous. The droids were sent to maintenance on C deck below them. Mission was taken to starboard holding then Jolee and Zaalbar were taken to portside. Each required a separate trip for the elevator. A security measure that closed off direct lines of attack. I considered which to follow. I decided to go down and find the droids first, then work my way up and forward to gather Danika, Carth and Canderous. When we reached the elevator, I could then go down to either port or starboard for the others.

However a stealth field stops you from opening doors if someone is there, and the passageway I was in was busy. I stood against a bulkhead, watching both ways for a gap. A guard in uniform came to the elevator, and hit the button. I stepped in, and stood against the bulkhead away from him. He pushed the button for C deck, and I stepped from my hide to stand behind him. The door opened on an empty passageway, and he died as I walked past him. I ran down the passageway, checking each door as I passed. There!

HK
-System activation. Operation autonomous-

-Photoreceptors active-

-Target human. Terminate-

-Terminated. Verify location T3. Activate-

-What do we do now?-

“It seems to have worked.”

-Affirmative. Locate computer access. Panel off arm extended. System sliced-

“Locate master and other crewmembers. Terminate all that stand in the way.”

-All?-

“Not us you pile of spare parts.”

-Portal activated. Terminate-abort. Life Form Juhani. Follow-

Canderous

I came to as the med techs were whining about my weight. Big deal. They were using an anti-grav lifter on a flat deck to move me, not packing me across rough terrain on their backs. We entered a room, and they moved me from the lifter to a table. One of them was leaned over me. “Better set up a heart spike, 50 units of adrenaline.” As the second one turned to get it my arms snapped up, and I caught the first one by the neck. I crushed his larynx, and he went down choking as I rolled onto my feet. The other man turned, and had enough time to see me before my fist caved in his skull. There were two Sith guards in uniform.

Perhaps against a normal human they would have had a chance. Against me there was a chance, but not a good one. They expected me to be injured, slowed. The second died less than three seconds after the first med tech.

I really hated to use the Confar, the ‘body slowing’. I was always a bit off for a while. My reaction time up to 4 tenths of a second instead of the usual 3. There was a sealed crate in the corner, and I laced my fingers under the lid, ripping it off. My weapons and armor were in it. Nice of them. I checked the rifle. Fully loaded.

I walked over to the hatch, and opened it. The man standing outside had enough time to know I was there before a bolt of plasma ripped him apart, I turned the corner, and the other two at the end of the passageway went down like ten pins. I charged down there, and around the corner. There was a blast door in front of me. I hissed. My weapon would cut through it, but if I did, it would set off every alarm on the ship

Jolee

The guard had Zaalbar in restraints, and I’m an old man, so he thought he had it covered. We walked into the holding area, and he opened a field. “Get in.” He snapped.

“But we are in.” I said. “Aren’t you supposed to get out?”

“Wait, you’re right. Stay here.” He walked into the cell.

“Aren’t you supposed to give me that?” I pointed at the key. He looked at it, then slowly disconnected it, and handed it to me. He came awake as the force field lit off.

“What the-” He stared around. “You come back here or I’ll-”

“Do what? Use harsh language?” I asked. The security cells are shielded so he couldn’t use his com unit. Instead he drew his sidearm, and fired. Bad idea. He was on the deck as the bolt bounced around the bulkheads and field. It might take a while for it to expend enough energy to be safe.

The other cells were filled with people; at least a dozen all told of just about as many races. They clamored for us to let them out. I was busy with Zaalbar’s cuffs.

“Give me a minute to get my bearings.” I admonished them. Zaalbar had gone toward the end of the entryway, then backed up. He signalled for me to wait. Then a guard marched into view. As he turned toward me, Zaalbar came up, and picked him up by the neck. He couldn’t break his neck through the armor, but after slamming him into the bulkhead two or three times, Zaalbar broke just about everything else.

We ran to a set of canisters on the wall, and found a gold mine of weapons and armor. We carried it all back in front of the cells. “For when we get the doors open.” I promised.

The rear room was marked as a guard’s barracks, so we didn’t go that way. Instead we turned left, heading out. There was a security room, and we opened the door. There were two guards, and I picked one up slamming him into the wall with the force as Zaalbar shook the other into unconsciousness. He went to the computer console, and keyed in.

Sasha

I wanted to wail. The wonderful place as I thought of the ship was empty, and bad people took my friends, my Amma Yuru. They had moved around, poking at our things. I wanted to scream, to hurt them, to kill them! I wanted wail at my pain. My wonderful place was going to be destroyed again!

I cradled the light-beam weapon I had picked up. Not the skin burning one but one of the full powered ones. Amma Yuru would not be pleased when she found out I had it, but I was so angry with them! She had told me I had to be trained, but I didn’t care. I would protect the wonderful place. I would kill all of them when they came!

But to do that I had to get out of here. I had to hide in the big ship. I climbed down, and opened the grill. No one was in the cargo hold, and I took the time to eat a halo fruit. Amma Yuru loved them, so did I. I took another, sticking it inside my robe. I would give it to Amma Yuru when she came back.

I stepped out into the passageway. There was an evil man there, and he saw me, running toward me to catch me. As he grabbed, I pressed the button. With a hum the blade of light shot out and through his chest. He fell away from me and I felt a savage joy at his death. If I had known how good this was, I would have stolen one from the Manlorey months ago!

No. That much of what Amma Yuru Bastila and Juhani had taught was still there like a loose tooth. Kill if you must, but have no joy in that death. I admonished myself. There were ways to make their live a problem without killing more of them.

I ran across and down the ramp. The bay was huge, but I saw a grill and ran toward it. The vents here were larger, almost large enough for me to stand up in. I began moving down them. There was a junction box. I opened it, and saw a maze of colored wires and fiber optics. I pulled some out, ripping them. Alarms began to sound. I liked it. Whenever I came to another junction box I ripped out other wires or joined them at random. Sometimes all of them, sometimes I just cut a few.

When I heard people climbing into the vents I dropped down into an empty passageway, entered another section, and went on. Then alarms sounded that I had not caused. I used the noise to move back to the wonderful place. There was the information box in the cockpit, and I touched it. I couldn’t read yet, but Amma Yuru had been teaching me to use one language that used pictures instead of words. I touched that panel, and began working my way through the system. There was a set of red controls at the center and I touched them. They were the guns. I touched a control that set them to fire at any movement, then pulled up the ramp.

Mission

“Get in girlie.” The guard snarled, shoving me into the cell.

“Quit crowding me! I spun around “Sheesh! Don’t you Sith ever bathe? I’ve smelt Gamorrean males in heat that don’t smell as bad.”

“I would suggest you shut your trap. You’re only going to make it worse for yourself.”

“What, worse than putting up with a slimy Sith that smell like Rancor dung?”

“Maybe some time in solitary will teach you some respect.”

“Respect is earned you Hutt slime! Who designed those uniforms? A color blind Rodian?”

“Very funny. Be sure to ask the torturer when he comes. Maybe he’ll laugh while you scream.”

“What, you’re going to torture me?” I squeaked.

Oh, no snappy comeback that time eh?”

“No. I was just wondering what would be worse than dealing with you.”

He tried to slap me, and we tussled for a few seconds. He finally threw me back into the cell, and flicked the field on. “It may be a while. We’re busy torturing your friends. But we’ll get to you in a while. Try to think of snappy patter for the torturer. It will make his day.” He laughed as he walked away.

I rubbed my back, then pulled out the pass card I had lifted. “Or maybe I’ll just walk out. I wonder when people will stop underestimating me?” I used the card to open the cell. Across from me, a Rodian looked up hopefully.

“Little girl let me out too?” He asked. I looked in the next cell. Three Rodians sat there looking dazed.

“What about your friends?”

“Too late for them. Sith use them for torture. First the Captain, then the pilot, then the navigator. All crazed with pain now. Soon me too if you leave me.”

“But you’ll foul my escape.”

“No. Me think you too smart for that. Me trade for freedom.” He reached behind him, pulling out a small cone shaped device. “Me good with electronics. I have special Ice program. Go through any security. Put in computer, it sit up and beg for you!”

“Wait a minute. You’re a prisoner! How did you get that?”

“Me m