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View Full Version : [FIC] Hidden Shades of Grey


JasraLantill
12-27-2005, 04:42 PM
After the defeat of Darth Malak, the Jedi Council sends the redeemed Revan, now known as Rade Chano, and the crew of the Ebon Hawk on a mission to recover an ancient relic—a relic stolen by Darth Revan at the beginning of his war against the Republic—and to discover if there is a new Sith threat rising…

It's a long story, semi still in progress, so I'll post it in installments. And now, to post the first chapter....

Hidden Shades of Grey © JLantill 2005

JasraLantill
12-27-2005, 04:58 PM
In the tranquil gardens of the Jedi Temple on the core world of Coruscant, Carth Onassi nervously paced in front of one of the fountains, while he waited with the rest of crew of the Ebon Hawk for their Jedi companions to return from the Council Chambers. He ran a finger over the golden medal given to him by Admiral Dodonna only a couple of weeks ago. He and his friends had all overcome incredible odds to earn this in their last mission—finding the Star Maps, destroying the Star Forge, and defeating the Dark Lord Malak and Carth’s own arch-nemesis, Admiral Saul Karath. It had been a long and arduous journey, both physically and mentally. Now they had finally made it to Coruscant and right away the Jedi were at their secret meetings once again.

He needed some…no, *deserved* some time off—time to recuperate, relax, to come to terms with all that had happened, and, hopefully, to rekindle his relationship with his son, Dustil. But even in this very serene place, amongst the fountains and neatly manicured greenery, he could find no peace. Again, he felt the tug of the Republic taking precedence over his private affairs and the first sparks of conflict rise within him like the initial tinges of an ion storm.

“I’m bored,” Mission Vao complained, as the young T’wilek swung her legs back and forth from the low garden wall she sat upon. Apparently, she couldn’t relax either, though Carth attributed the cause to youth, rather than any complex internal dilemma. “They’ve been in there for hours,” she moaned. “What do you suppose they’re doing in there anyway?”

“Talking,” Canderous the Mandalorian answered matter-of-factly, without looking up from the blaster he was polishing. “That’s what the Jedi do best. They talk, and they talk, and when they are finished, they talk some more.”

“Trouble is,” Carth sighed, “they never seem to talk to us.”

“C’mon, Carth,” said Mission, as she purposefully hopped down from the wall. “Let’s you, me, and Big Z go into the city. It’ll cheer you up. You know, I heard that they have anything and everything in Coruscant. Exploring it is bound to be more fun than waiting around here.”

Carth frowned a bit. “Erm…I don’t think that’s such a good idea, Mission.”

“I agree,” said Canderous Ordo. The grizzled Mandalorian gave Mission a look that a commander reserves for disciplining his troops. “Rade told us to wait here. So *that’s* what we’re going to do.”

Mission heaved an over-dramatic sigh. “But we’ve been waiting for hours!” she complained, stamping her foot for emphasis. “I mean, the Jedi Temple is nice and all. Way better than being cooped up inside the Ebon Hawk, but…sheesh! All these fountains, and flowers, and trees…well, it’s …it’s boring!”

“Arrr!” Zalbaar grunted.

“Erm…sorry, Big Z,” said Mission. “The trees are nice. Really. It’s just that I’m not used to them like you are, you know?”

Zalbar snuffled softly in apparent acceptance of her apology.

“C’mon, Carth, please?” Mission pleaded. “This is the very first time I’ve ever been to Coruscant. I just want to see what’s out there. You know, grab a meal, do a little shopping, maybe even check out a few of the local hotspots. Is there anything wrong with that?”

“No,” said Carth. “And when Rade comes back, I’m sure we’ll all have time to go and see it. Together. But for now, we wait.”

“It’s not like they’re coming out anytime soon,” Mission continued in her plea. “Besides, we need something to eat. I’m starving!”

Zalbaar roared in agreement.

“See? Big Z’s hungry, too. And you know what he’s like when he gets hungry.”

“Wookies are always hungry,” Canderous grumbled. “That’s what makes them good hunters.”

Zalbaar’s eyes narrowed and he growled softly at the Mandalorian.

“What?” Canderous gave Zalbaar an incredulous look. “It’s true.”

“All right, drop it you two,” Mission chastised them. She turned back to Carth to continue her pitch. “Look, I don’t know about you, Carth, but I’m getting sick of all this so-called healthy stuff the Jedi insist on feeding us. I mean haven’t they ever heard of….” Mission’s words hung in the air and her jaw dropped, mesmerised at something she saw over Carth’s shoulder. “Sith’s Blood,” she said softly.

Carth frowned. “What?”

Zalbaar growled in a low, ominous tone.

“Well, would you look at that….” Canderous muttered to himself.

Carth turned to see what everyone was looking at. Escorted by a Jedi Temple guard, was, at first glance, what looked to be a small detachment of Sith. Their leader, a tall man with chiselled features and dark hair worn in a single braid down the length of his back, wore the black garb indicative of a Sith Master, but he carried no visible weapon. Walking at a brisk pace behind his Jedi escort, his stride exuded the confidence of a seasoned soldier yet, at the same time, the composure of a diplomat.

Behind him marched four individuals, soldiers by any account. Covered from head to toe in black, their faces were obscured by deep hoods and they armed themselves with intimidating, yet elaborately decorated, double-bladed brands which they carried upright. Ceremonial weapons, Carth surmised. These four dark soldiers surrounded a fifth individual, although it was unclear to Carth if the figure was being escorted or guarded.

Either way, their charge was blatantly different from the rest. Wearing not the traditional black of the Sith but a floor-length, deep-hooded robe of a most unusual shade of violet, Carth watched the fifth person float gracefully across the polished stone floor of the open air corridor while the remainder of the party proceeded forward with precision and purpose toward the entrance to the Jedi Council Chambers. The Temple Guard rapped twice on the door, and the party was ushered inside.

Carth scowled. “What? There aren’t enough Sith roaming the Galaxy that the Jedi have to go and invite them to come here?”

“Only the leader was a Sith,” Canderous said knowingly. “The others are Jantessans.”

“Jantessans?” Carth echoed. His brow furrowed in thought. “Never heard of them.”

“I’m not surprised,” said Canderous. “Jantessa is located far out on the Outer Rim, about as far as you can get without leaving the Galaxy. They prefer to keep to themselves. Few outsiders are ever allowed on their world.”

“So how do you know about it? No, wait.” Carth smirked. “Let me guess. You Mandalorians conquered them, right?”

“Conquered them?” Canderous chuckled. “We tried. Never could get past their defences though. They had some type of planetary shield that we could never break through. And though our forces were superior in numbers, their small fighters managed to take quite a heavy toll on our resources. So, we moved on to more… rewarding targets.”

Carth’s brow raised and he snorted with amusement. “You mean to say, there was someone out there who defeated the Mandalorians before the Republic even got involved?”

“I wouldn’t call it a defeat,” Canderous said defensively. “More like a draw. Even so, I’d like to think we did them some damage.”

“So, why didn’t they help the other worlds that were being ravaged by the Mandalorians?” Mission asked.

Canderous shrugged. “Like I said, they prefer to keep to themselves. But I did hear a rumour that after Revan’s fleet turned on the Republic, the Jantessans willingly co-operated with the Sith.”

Mission scowled. “So they *are* Sith!”

“Perhaps,” Canderous answered. “Perhaps not. Either way I can tell you this. They didn’t come all this way for a social call. Like I said, they prefer to keep to themselves. They detest ‘outlanders.’”

Carth rubbed his forehead. “I don’t like this,” he said softly. “Something tells me that we’re going on another mission.”

“We’re not going anywhere until I’ve seen the city,” Mission said adamantly. “Besides, if those Sith guys have just arrived, then there’s no way our friends are coming out anytime soon. Please, Carth? Can we go? Pleeeease?” She batted her eyelashes persuasively.

Carth rolled his eyes, and exhaled a sigh of defeat. “It’s against my better judgement, but…all right, Mission.”

“Woohoo!” Mission jumped for joy.

“But just to get something to eat, all right?” Carth interrupted firmly.

“Yeah, sure,” Mission agreed, though she couldn’t hold back her mischievous smile as she rocked back and forth on her heels with anticipation. “Just to get something to eat.”

“Think I’ll stay here,” Canderous said, giving Carth an unenviable smirk at what he perceived as babysitting duty. “I’ll go and see how the droids are getting on in the maintenance bay.”

“Yeah, you do that,” Carth said flatly. “And, if Rade comes….” He paused, then shook his head. “Oh, who am I kidding?” he said under his breath. “We’ll meet you back here in a couple of hours, Canderous. C’mon, Mission. Let’s go.”

No sooner than Carth had turned his back, than Rade Chano’s voice called out his name from across the garden’s courtyard.

“Abandoning us already, are you?” Rade grinned broadly and his dark eyes smiled as he approached with Bastila, Jolee Bindo, and Juhani in tow.

Startled at his friend’s sudden appearance, Carth floundered a bit. “What? Erm, no, we were….”

“We were just going into the city to get something to eat,” Mission interrupted, glaring at Carth not to contradict her. “Care to join us?”

“You mean to leave the Temple grounds?” Bastila shook her head in shocked disbelief. “Oh, no. No, I don’t think that’s a very good idea, Mission. Coruscant is a very big place. Even dangerous, in some sections. Besides, you’ll find that the food provided here is far superior in its quality and nutritional value than anything you will find on the outside, especially for the needs of a….”

“If you say *growing child*,” Mission warned her, “I swear I’ll….”

“Food sounds good to me,” Rade chimed in, attempting to end the dispute before it got started.

Bastila stared back at Rade. “But she’s…”

“Hungry,” Rade finished for her. “Lighten up,” he added, giving her a quick wink. “I think we could all use a little diversion for a while. Don’t you?”

Bastila blushed. “Well, I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to…to get our minds off of Council matters for an hour or so.”

“An hour?” Carth asked warily. “So is that how much time you expect those Jantessans to take with the Council?”

Rade winced. “Ah. You saw them, did you?”

“Yeah, we saw them,” said Mission. “In all their creepy Sithiness,” she added with a shiver.

“What do they want?” Canderous asked bluntly.

Rade sighed. “I can’t say.”

Carth snorted. “Typical Jedi,” he muttered under his breath.

“No, Carth,” said Rade. “I can’t say, because I don’t know. None of us do.”

“Then can you at least tell me what you were discussing in there for hours upon end?” Carth asked testily. “You know how much I hate being left out of the loop.”

Rade grinned. “I know, I know.” He paused, looking first at Bastila, then Jolee, then Juhani. “The Council didn’t say I had to keep it a secret,” he said to them.

“Are you sure you want to tell them?” Jolee asked with concern.

“They are your friends, Rade,” said Juhani. “I think they have a right to know.”

Bastila’s brow wrinkled. “Rade, I think it might be wise if you consulted with the Council before….”

“No,” Rade said decisively. “Juhani’s right. They all travel with us by their own decision. They have a right to know.” His deep brown eyes locked with Carth’s. “The Council was trying some ancient healing techniques to help me gain some of my memories back.”

“Oh,” Carth said, nodding even though he wasn’t quite sure what to make of Rade’s statement.

“Memories of when I was the Dark Lord,” Rade added.

Carth’s anxious expression quickly turned solemn. “Oh.”

“Jantessa is one of the worlds Revan visited. When the Council received the request from the Jantessans for an audience, they also received a curious query about Revan.” He shifted uncomfortably. “About me. They wanted to know if the Jedi had any information on where I might have travelled to after the Mandalorian Wars. The Council thought it was important that I try to remember visiting Jantessa to discover the reason behind their interest.”

“Oh,” Carth said tonelessly.

“And did they?” asked Mission. “I mean, did you remember anything?”

Rade shrugged. “Nothing substantial. Bits and pieces. Like the visions of seeking out the Star Forge.”

Mission let out a tense sigh. “Well, that’s a relief. I mean, not that I’m glad that you didn’t remember anything useful, but I’m glad that you didn’t remember anything…well, you know….”

“Sithy?” Rade teased.

Mission smiled. “Yeah. Sithy.”

“Don’t worry,” Rade said, and although he was answering Mission, he was looking at Carth. “I’m not Revan anymore. And if I ever do remember anything ‘Sithy’, you’ll be the first to know. As long as I’ve got friends like you to help me, there’s no way I’ll ever fall again.” He gave Bastila a look that told her what was true for him was true for her as well. “No way any of us will fall again.”

“Well, that’s good to know,” Mission said.

“Yeah, that’s…that’s good to know,” Carth echoed, noticeably relaxing, but still visibly tense.

“So, c’mon,” said Rade, smiling once again. “The city, and all of its inferior, unhealthy, non-nutritious culinary delights await us.”

“Ah!” Jolee Bindo rubbed his hands together in anticipation. “*Real* food!” He put a grandfatherly arm around Mission and led the way out of the gardens. “Now, I’m not knocking the Jedi’s version of ‘nutrition,’ but what I am really sick of is all that gunk that comes out of those damn processors on that ship of ours! Food? Hah! You know,” he said conspiratorially to the young T’wilek, “there used to be this little place that I knew of not far from here, found it when I was a student here, oh, a millennia or so ago, that used to serve the best Szantisian Paddlefish steaks this side of….”

As the rest of the group followed Jolee and Mission, Rade discreetly pulled Carth aside. “I have a feeling that the Council will be sending us on another mission soon,” said Rade. “You up for it?”

Carth nodded. “I’ve come with you this far. I won’t let you down now.”

“And what about your son, Dustil?” asked Rade. “I know you haven’t had the time off that you deserve. I’d understand if you had other obligations…”

“Don’t worry about me,” said Carth. “I’ll see Dustil again, but not at the expense of letting you or the Republic down. I serve the Republic so he can have a better life. He knows that.” Carth smiled weakly, then sighed. “C’mon. We’d better catch up. We’ll need to keep an eye on those two,” he said, nodding his head at Mission and Jolee walking up ahead. “No telling what kind of trouble they’ll get into.”

Rade patted Carth on the back. “Right. I’ll take Jolee. He’s old, and easily distracted,” he added with a grin.

Carth gave a quick grin back. “Aw, gee, thanks. And, thanks, Rade,” he added in a more serious tone. “For keeping me in the loop about your memory and all. It means a lot to me, and I appreciate it. I shouldn’t have doubted you.”

“I’m your friend, Carth. Voicing any doubts you have only helps me to stay on the right path. So really, it’s me who should be thanking you.”

“Still, it was wrong of me, and…and, well, I’m sorry. I do trust you, Rade. You know that, don’t you?”

“I know.” Rade’s eyes narrowed mischievously. “Just… don’t get all sentimental on me, okay? Bastila’s watching, and, well…,” He winked. “I have a reputation to uphold.”

Carth laughed. “I won’t say another word.”

The Doctor
12-27-2005, 07:20 PM
Pretty good so far, Jasra. Keep it up!

Hallucination
12-27-2005, 08:55 PM
Great job![/generic encouragement] Its pretty interesting, and it'll be good to see a fic with Mission in it. :D Keep up the work.

JediKnight707
12-27-2005, 09:33 PM
Good work :) Like it, though its slightly long just the right amount before I would of quit

>_>
<_<

:rofl:

JasraLantill
12-28-2005, 08:35 PM
“The delegation from Jantessa, Masters,” the Temple guard announced to the members of the Jedi Council.

“Thank you,” said Master Vandar. The Temple guard nodded obediently and motioned the party forward. As their Sith leader approached, the Jantessan soldiers parted their ranks, allowing the solitary figure in the draping violet robes to join him.

“I am Master Vandar,” the Jedi Master addressed the Jantessan entourage. “On behalf of the Jedi Council, we welcome you to Coruscant.”

The leader of the party took a step forward. “I am Berland,” he said, his voice smooth and as confident as a statesman. “I bring you salutations and greetings from the Jantessan High Presidium. And may I present to you, Prime Keeper Ithra Do’Shaanan.”

Ithra’s hood was slowly removed, revealing a young, human female, dark haired, but with a fair complexion and pale violet eyes. Ithra and Berland both bowed courteously to the Council Jedi, but Berland made sure he did not bow so low as to lose eye contact. “We are pleased, Master Vandar, that the Jedi Council has granted our request for audience,” Ithra said.

Master Vandar bowed his head in return. “Given the reclusive nature of the Jantessans, the request was most…unexpected. Tell me, for what purpose have you come?”

Berland answered instead. “I am sent here as an envoy for the Jantessan High Presidium to ask for your assistance in a slightly unusual matter.” He paused, giving a brief look over his shoulder at Ithra. “But perhaps some history is in order first. Five years ago, two Jedi came to Jantessa and petitioned the High Presidium for an audience under the pretence of ‘facilitating communication’ with the Republic, who had just defeated the Mandalorians. Normally the Jantessans would have refused such a request by outlanders, being as they are a rather insular society, but somehow these two Jedi managed to gain favour from the High Presidium, and an audience was granted.”

Master Vandar sighed sadly. “Revan and Malak,” he said grimly.

“Yes,” Berland confirmed. “Lord Revan used the invitation to attack. Unprepared for the assault, many of the Jantessan leaders were slain. The remainder willingly submitted to Sith control, and Jantessa soon dedicated their resources to the Sith fleet. But you know this, yes?”

Master Vandar nodded. “We know of several worlds that provided resources to the Sith. Although,” he added thoughtfully, “not all of them did so willingly.”

“There were a few Jantessans who resisted,” Berland said. “But their resistance was,” he grinned, “…short-lived. The predilection Jantessans have for rules and regulations made it easy for them to adapt to Sith ways, especially once they realised there was much more to gain through collaboration than resistance. Their decision not only spared them any lasting damage to their planet’s surface, but kept their society intact. But, since the destruction of Darth Malak’s fleet, things have changed. The Jantessans are no longer servants of the Sith. Despite any ’undeserved’ rumours to the contrary,” he added quickly.

“Undeserved rumours?” Master Vrook commented acerbically. “Curious, then, that the Jantessans should choose a Sith Master to lead their delegation!”

Berland’s brow raised. “Sith Master?” he said incredulously. “Oh, you do flatter me, Master Jedi. However, you are mistaken. I am neither Master, nor Sith. I am merely...an ‘employee’ of the Jantessan High Presidium on a purely diplomatic mission.”

“Do not stand before us and deny you serve the Dark Side!” Vrook snapped. “We can all feel the disturbance in the Force, the dark power that radiates from within you!”

“Dark?” Berland snorted with amusement. “And here I was thinking I was more just a… deep shade of grey.” He gave a quick, wry grin. “I do not deny that I was once a Sith. In fact, I was one of the…administrators left on Jantessa by Lord Revan. But, being as I am your ‘guest,’ I will try to explain my particular situation to you, if only to alleviate any suspicions you may harbour.

“As I said,” Berland continued, “much has changed since the destruction of Lord Malak’s fleet. There was…unrest among the few Sith who remained on Jantessa. As word reached us of Lord Malak’s demise, most left to seek out other Sith, other Masters, but some, like me, remained. The Jantessans abhor contact with outlanders. So much so that they would rather employ others, like myself, to engage in such activities rather than do it themselves. In exchange for my services, they provide me with whatever I desire. I shall not bore you with any of the sordid details, but suffice to say I serve them because it suits me. And they accept my service because it suits them. It’s a comfortable arrangement—much more comfortable than any Sith Lord could offer me.” He turned to Master Vandar. “Now, shall I continue on to the reason for my visit, or shall I return to Jantessa and inform the High Presidium that you have refused to treat with them?”

“I believe you have explained yourself well enough for the moment,” Master Vandar replied. “Please, continue.”

Berland nodded politely. “Like I said, the Jantessans detest contact with outworlders. However, they are realists. With the defeat of Malak’s fleet, Jantessa has been left with few options for trade, mostly due to the disruption caused by the Mandalorian Wars. Only their routes with Onderon and Deralia remain, and the Jantessans cannot hope to prosper within such a limited scope. They seek new markets, but short of dealing with the Hutts or the Exchange, which they find less than desirable,” he added with a sneer of disgust, “they have few options. In short,….” Berland paused, and took a deep breath, as if it pained him to say the words. “The Jantessans want to join the Republic.”

Master Dorak, who had been quietly observing the visitors since their arrival in the Council Chambers, arched a curious eyebrow. “Then this is a matter for the Senate, not the Jedi Council.”

Berland’s eyes narrowed. “Believe you me, if I felt the Senate could help more in the matter, then I would not have bothered coming here. I have…contacts in the Senate who are more than willing to sponsor a motion for Jantessa to join, but the Prefects of the High Presidium are at odds in selecting a Senator. And therein lays the problem. They can’t exactly join the Republic if they have no one to represent them.”

Vandar frowned. “If you are asking us to choose a Senator for them, then that we cannot do.”

“You seem to be very adept at public speaking,” observed Master Zhar.

“For a Sith,” Master Vrook interrupted ascerbically.

“Why do you not represent them?” asked Master Zhar.

“Because of their stubborn penchant for the rules!” Berland snapped. He paused, taking a deep breath to regain his composure before continuing. “Although the Jantessans have allowed me certain ‘liberties’ in their society, I am still, and always will be, an outlander. Therefore, according to their ‘rules,’ the office of Senator is forbidden to me. However,” Berland gestured to Ithra, “it is not forbidden to Keeper Ithra.”

“Then I fail to see the problem,” said Master Vandar.

“Although they are isolationists,” Berland continued, “the Jantessans are not ignorant as to the role the Jedi play in the Republic. After all, you are the ‘famed mediators of the Galaxy,’” he said with more than a hint of sarcasm. “Ithra is young and inexperienced. It is their wish, their request, for the Jedi to instruct her in ways of the Republic—to impart to her the arts of diplomacy and protocol. In exchange for this service, the Jantessans promise to share their knowledge of planetary defensive shielding with the Republic. Information, I might add,” he said somewhat bitterly, “they refused to give the Sith, even during the occupation. Their shields proved quite effective against the Mandalorians. Indeed, even Lord Revan had to use subterfuge to gain his way through them. The technology could serve the Republic well.”

Master Vrook snorted with disgust. “And you think we would accept the promises of a Sith?”

Berland held up a finger in protest. “Ahem. *Former* Sith.”

“Call yourself what you will,” Vrook retorted. Turning to Master Vandar, he said, “This is obviously an attempt by the remnants of the Sith forces to spy on the Republic and the Jedi Order. To discover if we’ve been weakened by the recent wars.”

“Oh, please!” Berland interjected. “If the Sith, or the Jantessans for that matter, wished to spy on you would they have been so blatent as to send me here? A Derailian smuggler, a protocol droid, even a Mandalorian mercenary, would have been a less obvious choice!”

“Perhaps it is your intention to be obvious,” Vrook countered. “To hide in plain sight. It would not be the first time we have seen the Sith use that approach.”

“What? Do you actually believe that I *wanted* to come here?” Berland said incredulously, and he glared menacingly at Master Vrook. “Here to this…this ostentatious, overbearing Temple of Lies? To be surrounded by you so-called Masters of the Light, brimming with your archaic belief in your depraved Jedi Code, all too ready to spew forth prejudicial Jedi philosophies at even the slightest hint of the Dark Side? Why the very idea is not only revolting but….”

“Enough!” Ithra interrupted, to Berland’s obvious chagrin. “Do not berate our hosts, Berland. We are guests here.”

Berland’s jaw set, and he stiffly bowed his head to her. “My apologies, my lady.”

Keeper Ithra stepped forward. “Forgive me for my outburst, my lords,” she calmly addressed the Council, “but as Berland was specifically instructed not to dishonour you, it is my duty to intervene. He was not entirely truthful with you when he described his situation earlier. While it is true he comes at the bidding of the High Presidium, it is only with the completion of this mission will his position of envoy be secured. It is a punitive task,” she added, giving him a sideways glance, “but one he must complete for his part in the Contamination wrought by the Jedi.”

“The Jedi?” Master Vandar asked, his brow furrowing with doubt.

She nodded once. “As it is his task to explain, I shall allow Berland to continue,” and she moved back to her former place.

Berland cleared his throat. “The Jantessans hold Revan and Malak ultimately responsible for the Sith’s occupation--what they call the ‘Contamination’. And, just as they hold me responsible for once serving them, they hold you, the Jedi Order, responsible for training them in the first place. And the Jantessans desire… restitution.”

“Revan and Malak had already fallen to the Dark Side when they visited Jantessa,” Master Vandar said. “They were no longer of the Jedi Order.”

“Unfortunately, the Jantessans do not share your point of view,” said Berland. “Since the Jedi trained Revan and Malak, so the Jedi are held responsible for their actions. By agreeing to instruct Keeper Ithra, you will be redeeming yourselves in their eyes. As I reiterate, they have this unnatural penchant for adhering to the rules. They merely wish instruction about the Republic and its protocols before they ‘play the game’, so to speak. And, really, in all due respect, they aren’t asking for much in return.”

“And if we refuse their request?” Master Vrook asked suspiciously. “What then?”

Berland gave a non-committal shrug. “Then I will return to Jantessa and inform the High Presidium that their offer was vehemently rejected. Jantessa will not join the Republic, nor will they likely ever be inclined to do so in the future. Of course,” he added with a deliberately pensive sigh, “in order to secure my position with the Jantessans, I would have to seek out an alternative solution to their trade problem.” The corner of Berland’s mouth twisted upwards in an ill-boding smirk. “I imagine there are many worlds in the Outer Rim who would be most grateful to accept the Jantessan’s offer of planetary shielding in exchange for trading rights—quite possibly, even some who might even consider leaving the Republic altogether for such a grand favour. Especially considering how the Republic, and the Jedi, did such an ‘exquisite’ job in protecting them in the past,” he added sardonically.

Master Vandar frowned slightly. “We will adjourn to discuss this matter in private. Quarters will be provided to you and your party. When we are ready, you will be summoned before us to hear our decision.”

“Then I will leave you to your deliberations,” said Berland, bowing slowly. He and his party turned to leave, but as Berland reached the door, he paused, pointed a mindful finger in the air, and turned back to face Master Vandar and the Council.

“Oh, there is just one more thing,” he said with all of the shadiness of a used swoop bike salesman trying to explain away the small print. “When Lord Revan visited Jantessa he took away with him an artefact from one of their temples. The Jantessans would like you to return it to them, as a proof of your commitment to honour their request. A token of good will, more or less. I did tell them that they could hardly expect the Jedi Council to be interested in such a menial task, but…”

Vrook frowned deeply. “What sort of artefact?” he growled. “A Sith holocron, perhaps?”

Berland snorted with amusement. “No, nothing as remarkable as that, I’m afraid. To be honest, they didn’t tell me much about it. I know it’s a crystal, of sorts, and that it was housed in one of their temples until its removal by Lord Revan, but beyond that….” He shook his head. “It is my impression, however, that its value to them is more… sentimental in nature. If you decide to assist them, Keeper Ithra will provide you with more details.” He bowed curtly, and left to join up with the rest of his party.

As the door closed behind them, Master Vandar turned to one of the Jedi Temple guards. “Summon Rade Chano and the rest of the crew of the Ebon Hawk to the Council Chambers. We have much to discuss.”

Hallucination
12-28-2005, 09:55 PM
Good job, any spoilers involving the crystal? ;)

JasraLantill
12-29-2005, 12:25 AM
Good job, any spoilers involving the crystal? ;)

I don't want to ruin the story, but safe to say it is ancient and dark. More will be revealed in the next few chapters, I promise. :sonar1 I'll be posting more soon.

JasraLantill
12-30-2005, 07:22 PM
Rade Chano drew breath as he approached the members of the Jedi Council for the second time today. While before only the Jedi in his party had been privy to the Council’s previous session, when they had attempted to retrieve his memories of being Revan, this time the rest of the Ebon Hawk’s crew had been invited to attend. Rade shot a quick look over his shoulder. The rest of his crew, apart from Mission who seemed to be more concerned with a loose thread on her newly purchased tunic than anything else, all seemed to realise this was going to be more than just a discussion. It was a briefing for their next mission.

“As you know,” Master Vandar addressed them, “the Council has met with the Jantessan delegation. They have informed us that they desire to join the Republic for the purpose of establishing new trading routes. And they want our help in educating and training one of their own in the ways of the Republic so that they may adequately represent themselves in the Senate.”

“Of course,” said Master Vrook, “we have doubts about their sincerity. Jantessa was one of the only worlds on the Outer Rim to come out of the Mandalorian Wars virtually unscathed. But when Darth Revan’s fleet attacked them,” he glared accusingly at Rade, “they willingly collaborated with the Sith. Without their resources, the Sith threat may not have grown so quickly. And although they claim to no longer be under Sith control, they have sent a *former* Sith Administrator as their chief envoy.

“They are reputed to be fervent isolationists,” Vrook continued, “but they do have some connections with other Outer Rim planets, most decidedly Onderon and Deralia, currently their only trading partners. As you know, Onderon’s commitment to the Republic is not as strong as we would like. If Onderon were persuaded to leave the Republic, they would most certainly take other planets with them, leaving the Outer Rim wide open to Sith influence.”

“Well, then we should help them,” Mission blurted. “The less Sith in the Galaxy, the better.”

Carth gave Mission a reprimanding glare. “Let’s not rush into things. Let’s just hear the rest of what the Council has to say first.”

Mission shrugged. “Sorry,” she whispered meekly.

“If we decide to assist the Jantessans,” said Master Vandar, “they have promised to share their advanced planetary shielding technology with the Republic.”

“Shielding which not only serves in a defensive capacity,” added Master Dorak, “but also helps regulate Jantessa’s climate, making it one of the most productive food producing planets in the Galaxy. This climate regulating technology could prove useful in healing the ecosystems of Republic planets damaged by the Wars.”

Carth’s attention piqued. “Wait, are you suggesting that the Republic could use these shields to somehow restore planets like…like Telos?”

“And Taris?” Juhani asked.

“It could aid in their restoration, yes,” Dorak replied.

“Then we should help them,” Carth said eagerly.

“If planets like Telos and Taris can be restored, it would benefit the Republic in so many ways,” Juhani agreed.

Mission snorted. “Talk about rushing into things,” she muttered under her breath.

“There is one further point of interest in the Jantessan request,” said Master Vandar. “As a show of good will, they wish us to recover a relic that was removed from one of their temples. A relic removed by you, Rade, when you were Darth Revan.”

Rade cocked an eyebrow, but remained silent for the moment.

“We feel that this relic is the reason for their initial inquiry about your whereabouts after the Mandalorian Wars,” Vandar continued. “They have been searching for it.”

“The Jantessan’s Sith envoy made a half-hearted attempt to dismiss this relic’s importance,” said Master Vrook, “claiming that he had no knowledge of its purpose or origin save that it was some sort of crystal from one of their temples. Whether he is being truthful, or whether he is purposely concealing information in order to get our attention, is uncertain. What is certain is that the crystal is important, but the manner of its importance remains a mystery.”

“And we will only receive more information about it if we agree to help educate their prospective Senator,” said Master Vandar.

Master Vrook eyed Rade critically. “The Jantessans hold the Jedi Order responsible for your actions as Revan, as a teacher is held accountable for the actions of their student. If we assist the Jantessans, then you, and the crew of the Ebon Hawk, must locate and retrieve this object.”

“Another task in the process of my redemption?” Rade asked, more of a statement than a question.

“Yes,” Master Vandar replied. “What are your thoughts on this matter?”

“Well,” Rade began, “I think first we need to establish if the Jantessan’s interest in establishing trade and joining the Republic is genuine. It could just be a thinly veiled attempt to spy on the Republic.” His comment gained an approving look from Master Vrook.

“While it does seem odd that they would want to join the Republic so readily,” Bastila said, “perhaps they have been influenced through their increased contact with Onderon. If their balance of trade has been disrupted from the loss of the Sith fleet, it naturally stands to reason that they would attempt to increase trade with one of their other partners. And," she added, "if it is their intent to spy on the Republic, it does seem rather obvious to send a Sith, former or not, to head their delegation.”

“Agreed,” said Master Vandar. “Although, as Master Vrook suspects, misdirection may be their intent.”

“As to the relic….” Bastila’s forehead crinkled slightly as she thought for a moment.

“Whatever it is,” Canderous interjected, “whatever its purpose, this relic was obviously important enough to Revan to take in the first place. I would guess it’s a Sith weapon of some sort.”

“It could be a weapon,” Bastila agreed. “Revan did purposefully seek it out at close to the same time as he was searching for the Star Forge.”

“But if it were a weapon,” Juhani asked, “wouldn’t the Jantessans have used it to defend themselves against Revan’s attack?”

Rade’s brow began to furrow.

“Maybe they were not aware of its full potential,” Jolee Bindo offered. “Or maybe they used it for a different purpose.”

“Perhaps it channels or augments the Force in some way,” Bastila suggested. “If the Jantessans are still co-operating with the Sith, they could be searching for it in order to bolster Sith power in the area. Using Jantessa as a base, the Sith could be seeking to restore the resources they lost with the destruction of the Star Forge.”

“The Council has also considered that possibility,” said Master Vandar.

“Then we have to help them,” said Carth. “If for no other reason than to get that relic before the Sith can get it their hands on it.”

Master Vandar noticed Rade was deep in thought. “Rade? What is it? Have you remembered something?”

“Nothing specific,” Rade said, shaking his head. “Just a…feeling really. But it does seem likely that if the Jantessans collaborated with the Sith, they would also have had access to the Sith’s administrative data. They should have some knowledge about what Revan was planning to do with the relic and where he was going when he left Jantessa.”

Master Zhar nodded. “We wondered that ourselves. Why come to us for answers, when the answers they seek should already be in their possession?”

“Unless that’s part of their deception,” Master Vrook added.

Rade shook his head. “I don’t think the Jantessans, or the Sith for that matter, would waste their time with such an elaborate scheme to merely spy on the Republic. No, I think they do need our help in finding the relic, this crystal. And I also think they believe that extending an offer to join and assist the Republic would be the only way of gaining our assistance.”

“To open themselves up to regular contact with the Republic seems a high price for isolationists like the Jantessans to pay for the return of a mere relic,” said Canderous.

“I agree,” said Rade. “But it seems it’s a price they are willing to pay to get it back.”

Master Vandar nodded. “I sense you are correct in your assumption,” said Master Vandar. “This crystal is indeed very important to them.”

“Well, I say we help them, whatever their intentions,” said Carth. “Spying can work both ways, you know. If Jantessa is still under Sith control, it would be easier to keep an eye on them if they were part of the Republic rather than not. And, the technology they’re offering is too good to pass up. It could save a lot of lives.”

“I concur,” said Bastila. “The benefits to the Republic far outweigh the risks. And we will only gain more knowledge about this relic if we agree to the Jantessan’s request. It’s obviously important. I believe it is the will of the Force that we find it.”

“Bastila is right,” said Master Vandar. “The Force is indeed at work here. We must agree to the Jantessan’s request.”

Master Vrook let out a sigh, followed by a reluctant, “Agreed.” In turn, the rest of the Council also agreed.

“All this talking and we came back to what I said from the start—less Sith, more Republic, we should help them,” Mission said, rolling her eyes. “So, when do we leave?”

Master Vandar chuckled. “Patience, young one. We first need the Jantessans to tell us more about this relic.” He nodded to one of the Temple Guards standing by the door. “Summon back the Jantessan delegation.”

JasraLantill
12-31-2005, 10:16 PM
Once again, the Jantessan Keeper, Ithra, and the *former * Sith envoy, Berland, were ushered into the Jedi Council Chambers. Sporting a slight smirk, Berland looked relaxed and confident as he approached, but when he caught sight of Rade Chano and his crew standing quietly off to the side, the corners of his mouth dropped and his face went ashen. He maintained his composure, but his posture indicated his awareness levels had dramatically risen.

“Hey, she’s not much older than me!” Mission whispered to Carth about Ithra.

“Shh!” Carth put a finger to his lips as a sign to be quiet.

Master Vandar spoke. “After much deliberation, the Council has decided to accept your petition for assistance. The Jedi will train Keeper Ithra on the ways of the Republic, and in turn we will arrange for the Republic to send some of their engineers to Jantessa to study your planetary shields.

“We will also attempt to locate your missing relic.” He motioned for Rade and Carth to step forward. “Jedi Knight Rade Chano will lead this mission along with Carth Onassi, a highly experienced Republic officer. Both of them have prior experience in navigating the Outer Rim.”

Berland cocked an eyebrow. “Indeed,” he murmured under his breath.

“Keeper Ithra,” Master Vandar continued, “your envoy has said that you would provide us with the necessary details on this missing relic. The more information we have, the quicker we may be able to establish its location and return it to Jantessa.”

Ithra nodded. “Yes, of course. The relic we seek is ….”

“Wait!” Berland raised his hand abruptly in front of her face, silencing her. He looked critically at Rade, and then turned his steely gaze on Vrook, then Zhar, then Vandar.

“Is something wrong?” Master Vandar asked, breaking the uncomfortable silence.

Berland let out a small snort. “If I didn’t already know that the Jedi lack a sense of humour, I would ask if this is some sort of joke,” he replied snidely.

Ithra frowned curiously. “Berland, what are you talking about?”

Keeping his eyes fixed on Rade, Berland leaned in and whispered something into her ear. Ithra’s eyes grew wide and a look of horror graced her delicate features. “What?” She, too, then stared at Rade for a moment, then turned back to Berland and asked, “Are you sure?”

“Oh, yes. Absolutely.”

“But why? Why would they do this?”

“I can only think of ‘one’ reason,” Berland answered, giving her a knowing look. “But as I have already expressed my opinions to you on that matter, I can only suggest that you ask the Jedi Council yourself.”

Ithra nervously bit her lower lip. “Master Vandar, this… this… man,” she stuttered as she glanced nervously at Rade. “The one you have chosen to lead this mission…. My envoy informs me that he is not ‘Rade Chano’ as you claim, but that he is, in fact… Darth Revan.”

Rade and the Council looked surprised at her revelation.

“Is this true?” Ithra asked.

Master Vandar sighed. “It is difficult to explain to an outsider,” he began. “But, yes, it is true that Rade was once Darth Revan. But through the Force, Revan’s damaged mind was healed by the Council, and Rade Chano now stands in his place.”

“So…he’s some sort of…clone?”

“No. But his memories have been altered, his corruption from the Dark Side healed by the Council—using a Force technique that is as ancient as the Jedi Order itself.”

“Healed?” Ithra’s brow furrowed with uncertainty. “How?”

“Like a memory wipe,” Rade volunteered. “I have no memories of being Revan or the Dark Lord. So now I am Rade Chano, Jedi Knight, a servant of the Light and protector of the Republic.”

Berland’s dark eyes focused on Rade. “So, the rumours were true. You have returned. You once again serve the Republic. And it was you, not the Republic, who defeated Darth Malak.” He shook his head slowly. “Even standing before you, my Lord Revan, I can scarcely believe it.”

“What I find hard to believe is how you recognised me,” Rade said, regarding Berland with suspicion. “Revan was known to always wear a face shield and cloak.”

Berland grinned wryly. “And he was also known to have a personal assistant whenever he sent his droid away on a mission. HK…47, wasn’t it?”

Rade frowned. “You were my personal assistant?”

“Only while we orbited Jantessa. I must admit I am grateful to you, my Lord Revan, for assigning me there when you departed. Your previous assistants ended up dead through a series of freak accidents and mishaps, all of which curiously coincided with the return of your droid. I was most fortunate that the droid had not yet returned when you decided to reassign me.”

“Enough of this reminiscing,” Ithra said irritably. “Master Vandar, this still does not explain why this Council would deliberately insult us by assigning this…this…*person* to head this mission. Nor does it explain your deception on the part of his identity.”

“We meant no insult,” said Master Vandar. “The Council believes it is fitting for Rade to be the one to recover your relic, as part of the process of his redemption.”

“Redemption? How is that even possible if he claims he has no memories of being…” Ithra wheeled to face Rade and her violet eyes turned suddenly and completely black. Rade grimaced in pain and clutched his temples at her unannounced invasion of his mind…

“Ithra!” Berland scolded her.

…and almost as soon as it had begun, it stopped. As her eyes returned to normal, her frown morphed into a scowl. “You lie,” she said to him accusingly. “Master Vandar, I find this man you call Rade Chano totally unacceptable!”

“Unacceptable?” Rade said incredulously, as he rubbed his forehead. “You invade my mind and you have the nerve to call me…”

“Be silent, defiler!” Ithra snapped in a raised tone. “And do not ever speak to me unless I address you first!” She turned back to Vandar. “We come here in good faith, to ask for your assistance in rectifying a serious situation your Order has caused our world, and you dare to mock us in this manner? Why Prime Prefect Keel even considered this petition in the first…!”

Berland grasped Ithra’s arm and hurriedly whispered something into her ear. “Please,” he added audibly. Ithra nodded and inhaled a deep, relaxing breath.

Berland cleared his throat. “Please forgive her outburst, Masters. Ithra is young and impulsive. Perhaps you can now understand why the Jantessan’s believe it important for her to receive the benefits of your wisdom and guidance before she becomes a Senator. The consequences of invading the minds of others in that type of environment could be… disastrous.” He nudged Ithra, and then nodded towards Rade.

“I’m sorry,” Ithra apologised to Rade, although it was plain that she still seethed with anger. “It was wrong of me to touch your mind without your permission. Please, forgive me. I meant no harm.”

Rade grudgingly nodded his acceptance. “No harm done. I think,” he added.

“Your connection with the Force and your ability to touch the minds of others was unknown to us, Keeper Ithra,” said Master Vrook. “Until now. Tell me, was it your intention to allow your envoy’s alignment with the Dark Side to cloud our perceptions?”

Ithra exchanged looks with Berland. “I admit it was intentional, yes,” said Ithra. “Berland was selected for this task in hopes that his affinity for what you call the Dark Side would serve as a distraction from my own Force affinity. But you must understand,” she pleaded. “We were afraid that if you knew, you would not meet with us, let alone help us. All Keepers are Force Sensitive, though we do not use its power in the same way as your kind does.”

“You accuse us of deception, yet it is you who have deceived us,” Master Vrook growled. “With such deceit, there cannot be an agreement between this Council and Jantessa!”

With great distress in her eyes, Ithra turned to Berland. “I am sorry. They should have chosen someone else, not me.” She hung her head. “I have failed them.”

“Ithra, you are the Prime Keeper,” Berland said, gently laying a hand on her shoulder. “There was no other choice.”

“Keeper Ithra,” said Master Vandar, “perhaps if you would explain more about this relic, and the nature of your use of the Force, we could still come to an arrangement.”

Ithra looked to Berland for guidance. He nodded, and she drew a breath and began. “The relic we seek we call the Aylah’han Gem. It is a violet coloured crystal, about the size of my palm, plain and smooth, but with reflective inner facets that make it beautiful to behold. Before it was stolen it resided in The Haven, our most revered Keeper Temple. It is ancient, but its true origins are unknown. It is our belief that the Gem radiates and reflects the very essence of the Force. We Keepers use our Force affinity to tune it, keeping our world in harmony and balance. With the Gem gone, our world and our people are descend into chaos. If the Corruption is not purged, if balance not regained, Jantessa will end up a lifeless and barren world. The Keepers have foreseen this.” She gave Rade an icy stare. “Revan sought the Aylah’han Gem’s power for himself. He killed many Keepers in his quest to gain its secrets. Now, only a few of us remain. And we want it back.” She faced Master Vandar. “We need it back.”

“This Gem…the Keepers use its power to manipulate the actions of others?” Master Vandar asked.

Ithra considered for a moment before answering. “I suppose,” she said slowly, “that an outlander might consider the Keepers' actions to be manipulation. We, however, prefer to call it ‘collective spiritual maintenance.’”

Vandar nodded knowingly. “Ah. All becomes clear now—its importance to you, and its importance to Revan.”

“Just how do the Keepers use the Force to ‘tune’ this Gem?” Master Vrook asked.

Even though he tried to hide it, it was obvious that Berland, too, was eager to know the answer to that question. But Ithra’s jaw set with stubborn resolve. “I will not tell you. That knowledge is forbidden to anyone other than a Keeper.”

Berland let out a barely audible sigh of disappointment. “Safe to say that without such knowledge, neither a Sith nor a Jedi could wield the Gem. Just in case you were wondering,” he added with a quick acidic smile directed at Vrook.

“Keepers do not ‘wield’ the Aylah’han Gem,” Ithra snapped at Berland. “Just as we do not ‘wield’ the Force. Only infidels, defectors from the true path, use the power of the Force in such a profane manner.”

“So you keep saying,” Berland commented softly.

“If I may ask, in what manner do the Keepers use the Force?” Master Vandar asked Ithra.

“We ride the currents of the Force, concentrating our efforts on seeking out the truths and deceptions within others. Although,” she admitted, “seeking is difficult when the subject is strongly attuned with the Force.” She looked at Rade. “If you had known I was seeking, you probably could have resisted my intrusion.”

“Well, I’ll be sure to be on my guard next time,” said Rade.

“I have told you all that I can,” Ithra said to the Council. “Will you not help us get the Aylah’han Gem back?”

“We will help,” said Master Vandar. “But we insist Rade Chano leads the mission. He and his crew have successfully faced many dangers… resisted many temptations of the Dark Side. And we believe that it is the will of the Force that they find the Gem. What say you?”

Ithra took a moment to consider. But just as she was ready to answer, Berland once again whispered to her. She frowned uncertainly as he spoke, but then nodded in agreement.

“I, too, believe the Force will guide the Gem back to us, Master Vandar,” she said. “But we still have considerable reservations about Rade Chano. However…,” She hesitated for a moment. “If there is no way to persuade you to choose another mission leader, I request that my envoy and I accompany him in the search.”

Mission did a double-take. “What?” she blurted. “She and the Sith want to go with us? Oh, no way!”

“Shh!” Jolee admonished her for interrupting.

“This is most…unexpected,” said Master Vandar.

“So, Sith,” said Master Vrook, “was this your plan all along? To use the Jedi to guide you to the Gem?”

“No,” Berland said matter-of-factly. “But it seems I have no choice now.” He looked at Rade. “My Lord Revan, you were the one who stole the Gem in the first place. How can we be sure that once it’s found you won’t just keep it for yourself?”

“Because I am a Jedi Knight and my duty is to uphold and obey the will of the Council,” Rade said flatly. “And don’t call me Lord Revan. My name is Rade Chano.”

Berland bowed his head. “My apologies. Old habits die hard.”

“Perhaps, Sith, it is you who seek the Gem’s power for yourself,” Master Vrook accused. “Perhaps you harbour ambitions to become the next Dark Lord.”

Berland laughed. “Again, you flatter me, Master Jedi! But my prime concern is securing my position with the Jantessans. Besides, the Gem would be no more use to me than a polished ornament. What Ithra said is true. Only a Keeper can attune themselves to its power. But I will be damned if such an artefact comes into the possession of the Jedi, and if that means going along on this mission to ensure that the Gem is indeed returned to Jantessa and not kept by you, then so be it.” He paused. “Think of me as an impartial third party, if you like. But if Lord Rev…if Rade Chano is going to be involved in its retrieval, then I’m coming along to ensure that he does what he was sent to do.”

“I have no objections to having passengers,” Rade said, gaining some surprised looks. “Provided, of course, they stay out of the way and don’t interfere with any of my crew.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Berland said smoothly.

“Then it is settled,” said Master Vandar. “Someone will notify you when the Ebon Hawk is ready to depart.”

“Thank you, Master Vandar,” Ithra said with genuine gratitude. “We will be ready.”

Hallucination
01-01-2006, 12:33 AM
Great wor, keep it up!:thumbs1:
P.S. I nice sig :lol:

Renegade Puma
01-01-2006, 08:14 AM
Great story so far Jasra. I can't wait to read more.

JasraLantill
01-01-2006, 09:11 AM
Great wor, keep it up!:thumbs1:
P.S. I nice sig :lol:

Thanks for the encouragement! I am concerned that my posts are a bit too long though. What do you think?

Hallucination
01-01-2006, 03:39 PM
Thanks for the encouragement! I am concerned that my posts are a bit too long though. What do you think?
The posts can only be too long if they're useless. As long as its understandable and relevant (to the thread) its good.

JasraLantill
01-02-2006, 04:08 PM
In the Jedi Temple’s hanger bay the Ebon Hawk was being prepped for departure. Carth was lingering by the ramp, supervising the loading of supplies, when he caught sight of Rade Chano examining the underside of the ship’s hull. Rade carried a hydrospanner in his hand. One of the supply droids nudged Carth with a datapad. Without looking, Carth hurriedly entered his approval and went to see what Rade was up to.

Rade had paused underneath a panel and had just removed it when Carth approached him. “Problem?” he asked.

“The maintenance log recorded some power fluctuations in the forward stabiliser circuits during diagnostic testing,” Rade said as he examined the circuits. “They were within tolerance, and it’s probably nothing, but I thought I’d check it out just to be sure.”

“Need any help?”

Rade tweaked a circuit. “Thanks, but I think I can handle it. Has everything been loaded aboard?”

“Just about. But,” Carth added slowly, “we’ll have to leave your swoop bike behind in order to fit everything in the garage.”

Rade sighed with marked disappointment. “Well, I don’t suppose there’ll be a need for any swoop racing where we’re going.” He closed the panel and crossed over to the one on the opposite side. “And how’s Canderous getting along?”

“He’s finished outfitting the cargo hold with the sleeping bays, like you asked,” Carth told Rade. “It’s more than adequate, but I’ve got a feeling that our ‘passengers’ will want something a bit more….”

“Luxurious?” Rade suggested, as he removed the panel’s cover.

“Well, for lack of a better word, yeah,” Carth agreed. “In fact, I doubt either one of them has ever even seen the inside of a freighter, let alone travelled in one. I can tell you, they won’t be happy.”

Rade grinned. “Actually, I was planning on assigning them the port dormitory, while we men take the cargo bay.” He tweaked one of the connecting wires. “But it won’t hurt to let Berland sweat a bit first.”

Carth chuckled. “I assume you have a reason other than personal amusement for not telling him this up front.”

“Personal amusement? Who me?” Rade grinned. “Yes, there’s a reason. If Berland thinks he’s gained a small victory, I was hoping it might cause him to drop his guard a bit. There’s still something he’s not telling us.”

“I sensed that, too. And I’m not even a Jedi.”

“All we can do for the moment is keep an eye on him and the Jantessan Keeper,” said Rade, as he used his spanner to make an adjustment. “See if either one of them act or do anything suspicious.”

Carth frowned. “I know the Sith could be trouble, but the girl? She’s just a kid.”

“I know.” Rade tightened up a bolt. “But innocence can be a powerful shield. Berland holds a lot of influence with her, and we don’t yet know the extent of her powers.”

“Yeah, she wasn’t too specific about them during the meeting, was she,” Carth agreed.

“I’d go as far to say ‘deliberately unspecific.’ And I can tell you from personal experience,” Rade added, gritting his teeth as he tugged on the spanner, “that her little ‘mind probe’ demonstration, brief as it was, was incredibly painful.”

Carth nodded. “I’ll warn everyone to keep an eye on both of them. Well, as soon as you’re done here, we should be ready to board. I’ll go tell the others and then get clearance to depart.”

“Great. And I’ll get the droids when I’m finished here.”

Carth hadn’t been gone a minute when Rade heard a voice say, “My Lord Rev…Rade, I’d like your permission to board.”

Still holding the hydrospanner in position, Rade turned his head to see Berland standing behind him. “Well, we’re not quite ready to depart.”

“So I see,” Berland said, eyeing the hydrospanner protruding from the open panel. “I’ve just come to see if the preparations you’ve made for Keeper Ithra are… adequate for her needs. She is an inexperienced traveller and I want to alleviate anything that could cause her any potential distress.”

Rade raised an eyebrow. “You sure do keep a close eye on her.”

“Since her armed escort is not accompanying her on this journey, the task of her protection has fallen to me. I’m only doing my job, my lo…. Rade.”

Rade eyed Berland dubiously. “I don’t have time to give you a tour myself, but I’ll have someone show you your quarters.”

Berland nodded. “Fair enough.”

Rade clicked his comlink. “Canderous, could you come out to the ramp and escort one of our passengers to their quarters? They’d like to inspect them before we leave.”

“Understood,” Canderous’ voice replied. “I’ll be right there.”

“I’m almost finished here,” Rade said to Berland. “I’ll join you in a few minutes.”

As promised, Canderous led Berland through to what used to be the Ebon Hawk’s cargo bay.

“This is a cargo hold,” Berland stated flatly as he walked inside.

“Yup. Sure is. You know, despite what everyone says, you’re pretty quick for a Sith,” Canderous added.

“*Former* Sith,” Berland corrected him, then frowned as he realised he had just been insulted.

Berland meandered around the hold, newly fitted out with some sleeping bays. “And this is what your captain considers ‘adequate’ accommodation?” He deliberately dragged a gloved finger over one of the fittings, then sneered at the dust collected on his fingertip. “This won’t do at all.”

“Well, it’ll have to,” said Canderous. “’Cause aside from the crew’s quarters, that’s all there is. Unless you’d like to see the storage room.”

With his nose wrinkled in disgust, Berland turned slowly to face the Mandalorian. “May I remind you that Prime Keeper Ithra is a diplomat, a member of the highest caste of her society, and her position demands the highest quality standards?”

Canderous gave him a malicious grin. “Only if I can remind you that this is a freighter, and not some pompous Corellian pleasure cruiser.”

Berland returned Canderous’ insincere smile with one of his own. “You surprise me, Mandalorian. I would never have thought you’d even seen the inside of a civilian ship, save perhaps another garbage scow of the like of this one. But perhaps I’m expecting too much. Mandalorian standards of acceptability are known to be more ignoble and less cultivated than the rest of the Galaxy’s.”

Canderous glared dangerously at him. “Is that the best you can do? Insults?”

“Insults?” Berland feigned innocence. “Why, I was just stating a fact. If you can’t handle the truth….”

“I can ‘handle’ all sorts of things,” Canderous growled, clenching his fists. “Perhaps you’d like a demonstration?”

“Problem?” Rade poked his head through the door.

“Yes,” Berland said, his eyes still locked with the Mandalorian’s. “These so-called quarters you have assigned to myself and Keeper Ithra are barely acceptable for a rancor, let alone a diplomatic envoy. I’ve seen better in the lowest levels of Nar Shaddaa.”

“Well, the Ebon Hawk is more suited to carrying plasteel cargo containers than pampered passengers. I’m sorry, but this is the best I can do.”

“What about your quarters?” Berland asked.

“I don’t have separate quarters,” Rade said. “I share the same conditions as the rest of my crew.”

“Indeed?” Berland said snobbishly. “Even so, surely they would be a more suitable alternative. I mean, look at this place! Visible supports, open grid ducts…. It’s not only drab, but thoroughly depressing!”

“My crew has been through a lot in the past few weeks,” Rade told him. “I can hardly ask them to give up their quarters just to provide you with better decor.”

“I’m not asking for a climate-controlled room with room service and a view,” Berland pressed. “Only for a bit more… privacy. This cargo bay…. It is rather exposed.”

“All the better to keep an eye on you,” Canderous said. “Sith.”

“Ach! This is pointless!” Berland pushed past Canderous and headed for the door. “If you won’t do anything about this,” he said to Rade, “then I will take the matter up with Master Vandar!”

“All right, all right.” Rade held his hands up in surrender. “I suppose,” he started slowly, “that I can move the men from the port dormitory to here. What do you think, Canderous?”

Canderous shrugged. “If it will shut him up, I’m okay with it.”

“There, see?” Rade said demonstratively. “All settled. Now will you please tell your protégé that it is time to board? We’re wasting time here.”

Berland huffed at Rade, but as he pushed past him, he smirked victoriously.

Just as soon as Berland was out of earshot, Rade said, “That went well.”

“Yes, it did,” said Canderous, without a hint of any anger. “Although I really wish you would have waited outside a bit longer just so I could’ve thumped him one.”

Rade grinned. “The mission’s just beginning, Canderous. You may yet get your chance.”

“Good,” Canderous smiled. “Something to look forward to.”

“Right. I’m off to get the droids now. Anything you need?”

“I could use some more chemicals,” said Canderous. “The Jedi don’t seem to believe in stims much. We’re running low.”

“You got it.”

JasraLantill
01-02-2006, 04:22 PM
“Irritated Answer: Master, of course I am familiar with Jantessa! I am most disappointed that you did not think to ask me about it before you met with their envoy,” HK-47 said as he followed Rade through the Jedi Temple towards the hanger bay.

“Well, I didn’t really have the opportunity,” Rade replied. “Besides, the Council wouldn’t have allowed a droid like you to attend their session.”

T3 beeped and whirred.

“Indignant Reply: My assassination protocols have nothing to do with it! It is obvious that the reason for the Council’s aversion to droids is because they do not wish their sessions to be recorded by anyone other than them.”

“So what do you know about Jantessa?” Rade asked HK.

“Definitive Answer: Jantessa is the sole habitable planet in the Seridium system. It has a population of seventeen million meatbags, most of which engage in activities associated with its abundant agricultural and mineral resources. The Jantessans actively discourage visitors and allow only select traders to import or export goods. They rely heavily on their advanced planetary shields for their protection and therefore maintain a minimal defensive force.”

“So what happened when I…when Revan arrived?”

“Answer: Upon your arrival, you spent many hours in orbit trying to figure out a way to penetrate their planetary shields while you attempted to negotiate with the Jantessan leaders. Eventually, the Jantessan’s sent a delegation to meet with you. The meeting must have gone well, as the Jantessan’s lowered their shields, allowing you to invade their planet with relative ease.”

“And then what?”

“Statement: I do not know, Master. I appear to have no more data on the subject. Conjecture: Perhaps you deleted it from my memory core for security purposes.”

Rade brow furrowed in thought. “What do you know about a Sith called Berland?”

“Proud Answer: Berland was selected by me to be your personal assistant during my absence after the Jantessan invasion.”

“Absence?”

“Explanation: Yes, Master. You sent me on a mission shortly after the planet had been secured. Reticent Addition: Although, I seem to have no record of that mission’s purpose nor its outcome. Most curious.”

“And you selected Berland yourself?”

“Incredulous Response: Why, yes, Master! I took great pride in selecting all of the meatbags that were your personal assistants. Berland had all of the relevant qualifications.”

“What ‘relevant qualifications?’”

“Detailed Narration: A weak command of the Force, but highly trained in melee and hand-to-hand combat; a high attention for detail; previous administrative experience; and, most importantly, expendability.”

“Expendability?”

“Condescending Explanation: Master, a personal assistant is privy to many private details that could pose a danger lest they were disclosed. Justification: Regular termination of your meatbag assistants was necessary for your protection.”

T3 whined softly.

“Not that I’m agreeing with your methods, but why didn’t you terminate Berland?” Rade asked.

“Perturbed Reply: Master, unfortunately you had already transferred the meatbag to the surface of Jantessa when I returned. Optimistic Suggestion: However, if you so desire, I will gladly carry out his termination.”

“No,” said Rade. “He’s the Jantessan’s chief envoy and he’ll be travelling with us on this mission. No matter how irritating he is, you are not to kill him. Understood?”

“Disappointed Affirmation: Yes, Master. Understood.”

JasraLantill
01-02-2006, 04:27 PM
“I can’t believe that Rade agreed to let that Sith go with us,” Mission said to Zalbaar and Jolee as the three of them headed to board the Ebon Hawk. “I mean…eeuw! He gives me the creeps!”

Zalbaar grunted his agreement.

Jolee laughed. “He gives me the ‘creeps,’ too. But, Rade didn’t have much of a choice in the matter. And I don’t imagine old Berland will feel too comfortable himself being outnumbered by Jedi on a small ship.”

“I guess,” Mission agreed. “That Ithra seems okay, though.”

Zalbaar growled and shook his head.

“Okay, so she’s a bit stuck up, Big Z, but no more than Bastila is,” said Mission. “But apart from that, she seems nice enough.”

Zalbaar growled more urgently.

“Yeah, okay. That mind probe thing she did on Rade wasn’t very nice. And, did you notice her eyes? They like went completely black!”

“I noticed,” said Jolee.

Zalbarr growled and snarled a few times.

“Well, now that you mention it, Z,” Mission reconsidered, “I suppose that was kind of creepy, too. But, she did apologise for it afterwards, so she can’t be all that bad.”

“We’ll see,” said Jolee.

“Anyways, I think it might be nice to have someone my age on board for a change,” Mission continued. “We’re bound to have ‘something’ in common. Although I hope she doesn’t do that ‘eye thing’ if someone makes a crack about her age. Rade said it kind of hurt when she did it to him. I mean, I know people aren’t being mean when they tell me I’m too young, or too impatient, or too naïve, or too…”

“Talkative?” Jolee offered.

Zalbaar roared his own suggestion.

“See? That’s what I’m talking about. I know you guys are only joking, or that you say things like that because you care about me, but she might not be as mature as I am when it comes to that kind of stuff, you know?”

Jolee grinned. “Indeed. Well, her people want her educated in the ways of the Repulic. Perhaps you can give her some pointers.”

Mission beamed as they climbed the ramp of the Ebon Hawk. “Yeah,” she said thoughtfully. “Yeah, I mean, there’s bound to be a lot of stuff that she wants to know but might be embarrassed to ask an adult about.” She considered for a moment, then grinned. “Yeah, I think I might be able to teach her a thing or two.”

Zalbaar grunted in a low, cautionary rumble.

“I agree,” Jolee said to the Wookiee. “Just don’t overdo it, Mission.”

Renegade Puma
01-03-2006, 02:27 AM
Wow Jasra, I am really enjoying your story so far. So much in fact, that I think it is the 3rd best fic I have read since I have been here. *Only 2 weeks, he he.* I would have to put them in this order.
1. Plight into darkness. By Forcefight
2. Mace Windu, Jedi master reborn. By RC
and your's would be 3rd :)

JasraLantill
01-03-2006, 05:00 AM
Wow Jasra, I am really enjoying your story so far. So much in fact, that I think it is the 3rd best fic I have read since I have been here. *Only 2 weeks, he he.* I would have to put them in this order.
1. Plight into darkness. By Forcefight
2. Mace Windu, Jedi master reborn. By RC
and your's would be 3rd :)

THank you very much! Glad you are enjoying it! And I'll post more later today.

JasraLantill
01-03-2006, 12:43 PM
“I’m afraid the accommodations on the Ebon Hawk will be rather more ‘humble’ than what you are used to, Ithra,” Berland said, as the two of them trailed behind Juhani who was escorting them to board the Ebon Hawk. “In fact, I’m very sorry that our duties are forcing us to experience such a disagreeable environment.”

“Duty is the hinge of Balance. Balance is the Keepers’ mandate,” Ithra said rather automatically.

Berland sighed as if he’d heard that saying one too many times. “Yes, my lady. But I just want you to be aware there may be potential hardships ahead for you. For us.”

Juhani glanced over her shoulder at the pair, then shook her head in disbelief. “I’m sure Rade will see that all of your needs are adequately met.”

“Nothing aboard that dilapidated scow will ever be adequate,” Berland commented snidely. “Though I suppose we should applaud any efforts to try.”

The three of them boarded, and Juhani led them through the main hold towards the port dormitory. Zalbaar and Mission stood off to one side, watching with interest as the three passed by them and into the corridor.

Ithra’s nose wrinkled. “Berland,” she whispered. “What is…that…that ghastly odour?”

Berland sniffed the air, then grimaced. “Which one?”

“It’s…biological,” Ithra said, gingerly raising the hem of her cloak up off the floor as she cautiously continued forward. “Like the lingering scent of a beast.”

“Ah,” Berland said knowingly. “That would probably be the Wookiee that was standing near the young T’wilek female we just passed in the main hold.”

“Wookiee?” Ithra shook her head. “I see no valid reason for the T'wilek to be allowed to bring her pet on this journey,” said Ithra. “It can only serve as a distraction from our quest. Berland, you will instruct Rade Chano to order her to leave it behind.”

Juhani abruptly stopped just short of the port dormitory’s door, and then turned and gave Ithra an odd look. “Zalbaar is *not* Mission’s pet,” she said defensively. “He is her friend and part of this crew.”

“Part of the crew?” Ithra said incredulously. She snorted. “I find it hard to believe how such a beast could be of any value whatsoever on this mission.”

“And I am finding it hard to believe the same thing about you,” Juhani countered.

“You will not address Keeper Ithra in such a disrespectful manner, Cathar!” Berland snarled. “She is here to observe and learn, not to be insulted by the likes of you.”

“Then she should observe quietly and learn to keep any prejudicial thoughts to herself,” Juhani said with controlled calmness. She opened the dormitory door. “These are your quarters. Please let me know if you need anything. Anything I can reasonably provide, of course,” she added with afterthought.

JasraLantill
01-03-2006, 12:57 PM
On the bridge of the Ebon Hawk, Bastila sat in the navigator’s chair, plotting the course for Jantessa.

“Where’s Carth?” she asked, sensing Rade approaching her from behind.

“He’s just finalising our clearance to leave now that our passengers have boarded.”

“So Juhani mentioned.”

“Oh? Was there a problem?”

“Not as such,” said Bastila. “But Keeper Ithra has already complained to Juhani seven times—the room’s too cold, she needs more pillows, ….”

“Great.” Rade rolled his eyes. “And we haven’t even left yet. This is going to be a long journey.”

“Just under 60 standard hours, if I’ve correctly calculated the hyperspace route Berland gave us,” Bastila said, and she started to enter the co-ordinates into the navicomputer.

“Hopefully, things will settle down once we get moving,” said Rade. “Ithra’s probably just nervous about being among so many ‘outlanders.’”

“Or it could be that she’s just spoiled.”

“You think? Well, I guess your judgement would be better than mine about that.”

Bastila paused in her data input, her finger hovering over the next key. “And what is that supposed to mean?”

“Well, I just meant that you have more experience than I do when it comes to …”

“More experience? In what, being spoiled?”

“Yes…no…look, that’s not what I meant!”

Being that she was not facing him, Rade couldn’t see the corners of Bastila’s mouth gradually beginning to turn upwards. “Then what do you mean?”

“What I meant was that you have better judgement in this situation because you’re a woman.”

“Oh?” she said, sounding affronted. “So, now you’re saying you think only women can be spoiled? Is that it?”

“No!”

“Then what?”

“Look, you were a young girl cloistered in the Jedi order, and, well, I’m guessing she’s kind of from a similar environment. Just thought you might know better than I would about the reasons behind her behaviour, that’s all.”

She turned her head around to face him, and smiled sweetly.

Rade slowly blinked with the realisation that she’d been teasing him, and then he sighed. “Okay,” Rade conceded. “You got me. This time,” he added with a wink.

Bastila was about to say something, when Carth suddenly entered the cockpit and took his seat at the controls.

“Right,” Carth said, as he fired up the engines. “We’re all set.”

As the ship prepared for takeoff, Bastila leaned back in her chair with a satisfied grin.

“And, yes,” she said to Rade. “In my experienced judgement, I do think she’s rather spoiled.”

JasraLantill
01-03-2006, 09:35 PM
Berland gingerly grasped the plastene-wrapped pillow Juhani had just irately shoved into his chest. “Thank you,” he said tenatively.

“You are welcome,” Juhani replied, her voice as cold as the polar ice of Coruscant. “Now, if that’s all…?”

Berland glanced over his shoulder at Ithra, who sat on one of the beds, drumming her fingers on the bedframe. “That will be all. For now.”

As he closed the door, he sighed. “Ithra, you really must be careful what you say in future."

Ithra shrugged. “I was just making a simple observation.”

“Yes, but ‘observing’ that the fibres on the extra pillow the Cathar Jedi brought to you appear remarkably similar in colour and texture to her own hair could be considered… inflammatory. Here,” he gave her the new pillow in its plastene wrapping. “She brought you a new one.” He sighed heavily. “You know, you are lucky she is a Jedi. Cathar’s are known to be easily agitated.”

“I don’t care. This ship is horrible,” Ithra complained, and she threw the pillow to the end of the bed. “Everything’s cold, and metallic, and cramped, and drab, and…, and… cold.” She drew her violet cloak tighter around her body. “I don’t like it.”

“I did warn you there may be hardships,” Berland said flatly. “And if you are to become a Senator, you will encounter many things you will not like. But that doesn’t mean you have to offer comment on all of them.”

********

Leaning back in his chair, with his feet propped up on the edge of the console in the main hold, Rade was reading through something on a datapad. Bastila sat next to him, but her attention was focused on one of the computer screens when Juhani quietly approached.

“Rade?” Juhani asked. “May I speak to you?”

“Sure.” He sensed she was uncomfortable. “Is something bothering you?”

“It’s that Ithra,” Juhani blurted. “She is so…so…infuriating! I have given her everything that she has asked for to make her more comfortable, and all she does in return is complain even more!”

“Hmm. I seem to recall someone saying, “Things will settle down once we get moving,’” Bastila quietly quoted Rade’s words without even looking up. “I wonder who that was…”

“In my opinion, Ithra is nothing more than a spoiled brat,” Juhani said hotly.

“Yeah, well, that seems to be the consensus around here, too,” Rade said, giving Bastila a defeated look.

“And,” Juhani continued, “I do not trust that Berland. Twice he has queried me about the security systems on this ship when I brought them extra supplies.”

“Ah.”

Rade opened his mouth to say something more, but Juhani continued. “And, you know what is even worse?”

Rade shook his head.

“Ithra said….” Juhani paused to regain composure. “She said, I shed.”

There was a pause. Bastila slowly raised her eyes, then drew her hand over her mouth as she stifled a grin.

“You shed?” Rade asked, trying his best to look serious.

“Yes, she said I shed! Like a beast!” Juhani closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. “There is no emotion, there is peace.” After another couple of breaths, she continued. “And, Ithra said something similarly derogatory about Zalbaar when she was boarding, but I dare not repeat it.”

“I see,” Rade said slowly.

“And what’s more,…”

Rade held up his hand. “I think I get the picture, Juhani. I’ll have one of the droids take care of their needs for a while. You go and take a break.”

Juhani let out a sigh of relief. “Thank you, Rade.”

As she headed off for the starboard dormitory to meditate, Bastila’s eyes flicked cautiously in Rade’s direction.

“Did you know she sheds?” Rade asked straight-faced.

Bastila let out a laugh, then quickly covered her mouth, tighter this time. “I’m sorry,” she said after a moment. “I shouldn’t laugh at Juhani’s expense. It’s not funny.”

Rade’s mouth slowly upturned into a smile. “Yes, it is,” he said, unable to keep a straight face any longer. “But I think I’ll have a little talk with Berland just the same.”

Renegade Puma
01-04-2006, 02:09 AM
Wow. Those were two well written parts of chapter 5. You had me laughing my guts out with the whole, "DId you know she sheds?" line. Very funny stuff. I really like your style. You have great attention to detail. Better be careful, I might have to move your Fic up to the number 2 slot on my favorites :)

JasraLantill
01-06-2006, 08:58 PM
Berland closed the dormitory door behind him, and with his lips pressed into a tight line, he turned to Ithra. “I’ve just had the displeasure of being chastised by Rade Chano for your ‘observations’ about the Cathar. He has decided to assign one of his droids to tend our needs now.”

Ithra folded her arms across her chest. “At least droids don’t shed,” she said grumpily.

“No, they don’t. And neither are they easily manipulated.” Berland heaved a disappointed sigh. “Really, Ithra, you must be more cautious in what you say if you wish to remain a Prime Keeper. If you are truly not up to the task, I can always ask Prefect Keel to ….”

“No!”

“Then, please, just do as I say,” Berland said, dropping his shoulders in exasperation. “Ithra, I know it’s hard for you being on board this ship with Lord Revan, or Rade Chano, or whatever he wants to call himself, but unforeseen circumstances have forced us into our current predicament. For the sake of our mission, we must make the best of it.”

“I know. But his presence is… disturbing.” She pulled her cloak tighter around her shoulders. “He lied about having no memories of being Revan,” she said accusingly. “He does. I sensed them. They were faint and unclear, like a whisper floating through a fog….” She shivered, and then her face grew blank as if recalling a forgotten memory of her own. “But they were there.”

“Then let us hope his memories stay buried,” said Berland. “We don’t need any more complications on this mission.” Her vacant gaze began to puzzle him. “Ithra?”

“Even from my room in the Priory, I could hear the screams echoing from the Haven that day,” she said distantly.

He studied her for a brief moment. “Ithra, some things are best left forgotten,” he said in a deceptively even tone while gliding his hand in a barely noticeable arc. “Do not dwell on the past. Keep your focus on the here and now.”

Ithra blinked a few times. “But we must not dwell on the past. We must focus on the here and now.”

“An excellent suggestion, my dear.” Berland pensively templed his fingers and began to pace the room. After a few moments, he said, “Now that we are underway, I believe it is time that we got better acquainted with our travelling companions.”

“Why?”

“Why? Because I know what I could expect from Lord Revan, but this ‘Rade Chano’ he now professes to be….” Berland paused, tapping an index finger across his lips. The faint creases across his brow soon deepened into contemplatory grooves. “He is an enigma. And to quote a proverb from my home world, “When the character of a man is unknown to you, look at his friends.’”

Ithra frowned. “But you told me I should not seek on outlanders,” Ithra said. “You said they consider it….”

“Impolite,” Berland finished. “Yes, that is exactly what I said. However, I am not suggesting that you use your seeking abilities on them. I was thinking of rather a more… direct approach.”

“What do you mean?”

“I want you to talk to them.”

A look of horror flashed across her face. “Me?”

“They are far more likely to open up to you than they are to me. A *former* Sith,” he added sarcastically.

“Talk to them about what?”

“Just engage them in conversation.”

“Actual face-to-face conversation?”

Berland nodded. “Yes. Discover their likes, their dislikes, their history, their skills, their weaknesses—get to know them.”

Ithra gasped. “But… but… that’s…that’s repulsive!” she said with obvious disgust. “I have absolutely no desire to ‘get to know’ any of them! They are outlanders! Infidels!”

“As am I,” said Berland. “And you have no problem conversing with me. Listening, is a problem. Heeding my advice, most definitely so. But you seem to have no problem whatsoever in voicing any of your opinions and ‘observations.’”

“But you’re….different,” she said. “You’re my mentor.”

Berland sighed with exasperation while he closed his eyes and smoothed his hands over his head. “Ithra,” he said, looking at her directly. “You will have to get accustomed to interacting with other ‘outlanders’ besides me if you are ever to become a Republic Senator. Is that not our prime objective? Your duty?”

“Yes.” Ithra's shoulders sank. “Duty is the hinge of Balance,” she said blandly. “All right. I will ‘talk’ to them.”

“Good. You can start with apologising to the Cathar.”

Ithra’s mouth dropped. “Do what?”

“Apologise,” Berland repeated. “My dear, it is most unwise to dismiss any of our travelling companions without first assessing if they possess skills or knowledge that could be deemed useful to us in future. And even though the Cathar was most upset with you, you will be amazed by the amount influence a modest retraction can gain.” He paused. “Oh, and keep in mind what I told you in the Council Chambers. Do not lie to any of the Jedi. Either answer only what they ask or change the subject. You did well, for the most part, in front of the Jedi Council, but you still lack the skills to completely mask any deceit. And if I can sense it, they most certainly can.”

“I understand.”

“Be honest with them, but be frugal with your words, and ravenous with your ears.”

“I will do my best,” she said meekly.

“That’s all I ask,” Berland said gently. “But first, perhaps a small tour around the ship is in order, so that you may get your bearings. After all, we are passengers, not prisoners.” He motioned her to follow him. “Come. We’ll start with the basics, like the food dispensers, and work our way up to the Cathar from there.”

Renegade Puma
01-07-2006, 03:48 AM
Great chapter Jasra. Very well written and thought out. My only question is when does the next chapter come out? :) It surprises me that you haven't gotten into RC's sig, but I guess you can only fit so many characters in those things so, oh well. Great job, keep it up!

JasraLantill
01-07-2006, 09:37 PM
The door to the starboard dormitory was open when Berland approached it with Ithra in tow. Sitting in the middle of the floor, cross-legged and eyes closed, Juhani appeared to be meditating.

Berland quietly cleared his throat.

Juhani’s eyes slowly opened, then narrowed. With an expression like an early frost, she asked, “Yes? What is it you want now, Sith?”

“Forgive us for disturbing you,” Berland said in his best diplomatic voice. “But Keeper Ithra has something to say to you.” He gently nudged Ithra forward.

Ithra inhaled deeply before she began. “I came to apologise,” she said. “Berland has explained to me how my comments may have unintentionally affronted you. I find my sudden exposure to so many different beings to be... unsettling. Still, that is no excuse for my thoughtless words or tactless actions. Please, forgive me for what I said and how I have treated you.”

In the long silence that followed, one could almost hear the debate going on in Juhani’s head. Finally, the words came. “Apology accepted.”

Ithra released the breath she had not realised she’d been holding. “Thank you,” she said, sounding gratefully relieved.

“Now, is there anything else?” Juhani asked.

Ithra glanced at Berland, who gave her a negligible nod to continue. “Berland has told me that your people and mine share something in common,” said Ithra. “He says that the Cathars, like the Jantessans, sometimes find it difficult to relate with other species.”

“Yes.” Juhani’s expression softened, but suspicion still lingered in her eyes. “This is true.”

“If you could see to share some of your own experiences, I believe it might help me to empathise with outla…others, so that I may better serve my people, and the Republic, should I become a Senator.”

“You wish me to teach you?” Juhani eyed Berland with mistrust.

“You are a Jedi,” Ithra said. “Who better than a Jedi to instruct one on the fair treatment of others?”

“Indeed,” Juhani warily agreed. She again paused for consideration before answering. “If you are sincere in your request to learn more about fairness and empathy, then I will instruct you. A Jedi *would* be better suited for the task than a…”

Berland coughed, loudly and with intent to interrupt. “Yes, well, I believe that is my cue to leave.” He smiled at Juhani, although his smile wasn’t entirely friendly.

Ithra blanched. “You’re leaving me? Here? Alone?”

“Ithra, you are perfectly capable of keeping yourself occupied for a while,” Berland said to her. “Besides, the High Presidium requires a detailed report upon our return—a report that I have yet to even begin. And I shouldn’t need to remind you of how Prefect Keel feels about ‘proper documentation.’” Berland bowed his head and abruptly left, leaving Ithra with Juhani.

“Come. Sit down,” Juhani said, beckoning with her hand. Ithra hesitated, but eventually sat across from the Jedi, mirroring her cross-legged position, although it was hard to tell as the cloak covered her entirely apart from her head. “Now, where should I begin?” Juhani mused.

“I suppose at the beginning,” Ithra answered quite earnestly.

Juhani chuckled softly. “Ithra, how old are you?”

“In Republic standard years? Almost sixteen.”

“Almost?” Juhani’s head bobbed knowingly. “I see. And have you always wanted to be a Keeper?”

Ithra frowned. “I don’t understand your question. I am Force Sensitive,” she said plainly. “It is my duty to be a Keeper, so that is what I am.”

Juhani sighed softly. “I was young, much younger than you, when I first saw the Jedi. I was just about to be sold as a slave, when they came through on their way to fight in the Mandalorian Wars. They freed me, and I was grateful, but what’s more is that I was so impressed by their kindness and generosity, their strength and sense of justice, that I wanted to be just like them. Eventually, I found my way to the Jedi Enclave on Dantooine. I learned the ways of the Jedi—the Jedi Code, how to wield a lightsaber, and how to use the Force. But, even after all of my training, I was not a Jedi.” Juhani lowered her eyes. “I fell to the Dark Side.”

“But… you are a Jedi now?” Ithra said with uncertainty.

“Oh, yes, of course,” Juhani said. “But only after Rade showed me that being a true Jedi means that you must make sacrifices, take responsibility for your actions, and always be mindful of how your choices affect others. Even now, my hot Cathar blood makes following the path of the Jedi difficult, but I do not give up. Every day, I strive to be the best Jedi I can be. Just as you should strive to be the best Keeper, or the best Senator, you can be.

“Before, when you were following me to the ship, you said something to Berland. Something about duty and balance?”

“Duty is the hinge of Balance. Balance is the Keepers’ mandate.”

“Yes, that’s it,” Juhani nodded. “Is that the Keeper’s Code?”

“I suppose you could call it a Code,” Ithra said slowly. “It is one of the rules of Aylah’han, the First.”

“The first Keeper?”

“No…. Just the First.” Ithra frowned. “It is difficult to explain.”

“Well, balance is the hinge of empathy, too. You have to imagine yourself in another’s place—consider how they might feel or react to a situation. Then weigh your choices for action against those considerations. That is being empathic.”

Ithra frowned with confusion. “But that is why Keepers are taught to seek,” she said. “So we do not have to imagine the intentions of others.”

“And what about feelings?” Juhani asked her. “What if you find, after seeking, that a person has a different, yet valid, point of view?”

“Again, your question is confusing,” Ithra said uncertainly. “Only outlanders and exiles would have….” She suddenly paused. “Perhaps, I will gain more understanding if I take some time to think about what you have said.”

“Perhaps. But please feel free to ask me for assistance anytime. A Jedi is always ready to help when needed.”

“I do have one thing to ask," said Ithra. "Though it is rather… trivial,” she added.

“Yes?”

“These… food dispensers on board….” Ithra lowered her voice conspiratorially. “Are there any other alternatives?”

Juhani smiled. “You do not like the food?”

“No, I do not. Jantessa has many different types of cuisine, but what comes from those devices does not look or taste like anything I would consider... food.”

Juhani laughed. “Talk to Jolee Bindo,” she suggested. “You’ll find him in the medical bay.”

“I’m sorry…I did not mean to suggest I was ill,” Ithra apologised.

“I know what you meant. Jolee doesn’t like the dispensers either. I bet he’s stored away some ‘emergency supplies’ for this journey. If you ask him, perhaps he will share some with you.”

“Thank you.” Ithra gracefully rose to leave. “I will go and… 'talk' to him now.”

JasraLantill
01-07-2006, 10:20 PM
Jolee was kneeling in front of a storage cabinet in the med bay busy inventorying his supplies, when he heard someone behind him knock lightly on the hatch frame.

His eyes rolled as he turned to confront the interloper. “Look, can’t you see I’m….” He paused as he instantly recognised the unique shade of purple fabric that pooled elegantly on the floor in front of him. Slowly, his eyes lifted to meet a pair of light violet ones set in an expressionless yet flawless face. “Keeper Ithra. It’s you,” he said by way of apology as he rose to stand. “Is there something you need?”

Ithra stared at him for a moment before speaking. “Food,” she finally said.

“Food?” Jolee eyed her over, then chuckled. “Well, if you’re hungry, I can show you how to use the dispensers…”

“Berland has effectively demonstrated their operation to me,” she said frankly. “But whatever that ’product’ is that they dispense….” She shivered with revulsion. “It is not food. The Jedi Juhani suggested that you might be able to assist me.”

Jolee laughed this time. “Ah! So you’re a kindred spirit, are you?”

“No, just looking for something that isn’t….” She hesitated, choosing her words carefully. “Something that is slightly more… palatable.”

“Ach, go on. You can say it,” Jolee urged. “No one will argue with you, least of all me. The stuff that comes out of those processors is a disgusting, stomach churning, over-processed, flavourless muck, with the texture and colour of banth…”

Ithra swallowed back bile. “Yes,” she hurriedly interrupted. “All those things.”

“Oh, sorry,” said Jolee. He scratched his temple. “I have a tendency to get a little carried away sometimes.” Jolee waved a dismissive hand in the air. “So, what were we talking about? Oh, food! Well, let me see what I can do.”

The old Jedi began rummaging through one of the storage units and finally pulled out a small container. “Here’s something you might like,” he said. He opened the container to reveal a quantity of small, oval shaped pellets in a variety of bright colours. “Zorgang nuts. Extremely nutritious, incredibly tasty, very colourful, and most importantly,” he lowered his voice, “of a size that’s easy to hide. Go on. Take it. I’ve got plenty.”

Ithra’s eyes brightened, and a demure grin slowly appeared. “Thank you,” she said, politely taking the container then concealing it under her cloak. “I will try them.”

“Is there anything else you need?”

“No. Yes,” she said, changing her mind. “I am curious about something. The T’wilek female that travels with you….”

“Mission. Her name is Mission.”

“Mission,” Ithra repeated. “What is her position on this ship?”

“Her position?”

“Her… purpose,” Ithra clarified. “It is obvious that you are the Medical Officer. What position does she serve?”

Jolee rubbed his chin. “Well, she’s…she’s pretty good at slicing.”

Ithra frowned. “Slicing?”

“You know…slicing through security locks and computer access codes…”

“She’s a criminal?” Ithra said, appalled.

“Well, no…I mean, I wouldn’t go as far as that,” said Jolee. “Let’s just say Mission likes to live her life on the fringe. Sort of thinks outside the box.”

Ithra raised an eyebrow.

“But she would never harm anyone,” Jolee continued. “Well, not out of malice anyway,” he added in retrospect.

“I see,” Ithra said curtly. “And what does her Wookiee do?”

“’Her’ Wookiee?” Jolee chortled. “Well, first of all, Zalbaar doesn’t ‘belong’ to Mission. He’s just her friend. And, take my advice: don’t ever mention that you thought Zalbaar ‘belonged’ to anyone in front of him. Unless, of course, you want to know what it feels like to have your arm pulled out of its socket.”

Ithra’s eyes grew wide.

“Wookiees have been known to do that, you know,” Jolee continued. “Wookiee’s are very strong, fierce fighters and expert hunters. But,” he added sadly, “some folk think they’re only good as slaves, and, understandably, the Wookiees are pretty sensitive about the subject. And some think that the Wookiees aren’t that intelligent since they can’t speak Basic. But don’t let that fool you. They’re just as smart as anyone else—smarter in some cases. Proud and honourable creatures, the Wookies. In fact, honour is why Zalbaar’s here. He has a life debt to Rade, a sort of pledge that the Wookiee’s take very, very seriously. Zalbaar will stay with Rade until the end.”

“You seem to know a lot about Wookiees.”

“I should,” Jolee said proudly. “I spent years in the Shadowlands on Kashyyyk. I’ve met plenty of Wookiees. Even made some very good friends.”

“But you still have not answered my question,” Ithra persisted. “What does the Wookiee…what does Zalbaar do on this ship?”

“Oh, sorry,” said Jolee. “Must have gotten off track again. Well, let’s see….” Jolee pulled at his beard. “He’s a good warrior, can handle most any weapon—blasters, bowcasters, swords—never mind his inherent natural strength. And he’s pretty good with demolitions, too—grenades and mines and the like. I guess if you’re calling me the Medical Officer, you could say he’s the Weapons Officer on board. Does that answer your question?”

Ithra nodded. “Yes. Thank you. You have been very… helpful.” She turned to leave. “And thank you for the nuts,” she added.

“Don’t mention it. And I mean that, mind you,” he said, wagging a finger at her. "*Don’t* mention it. Folk around here might start to think I’m getting soft.” He winked, and then resumed his inventorying.

JasraLantill
01-09-2006, 08:04 PM
Ithra had taken a wrong turn in the corridor when leaving the med bay and ended up in the maintenance bay, now doubling as the cargo bay since its conversion into a temporary dormitory. Mission, the Mandalorian, and Zalbaar were grouped around a large cargo cube, using it as a table and footlockers as stools. With Zalbaar in the middle, Mission and the Mandalorian sat facing each other, with a small deck of Pazaak cards and a pile of Zorgang nuts arranged between them on the makeshift table.

“Twenty!” the Mandalorian said, victoriously tossing down his card. “I win.”

“Hey, wait a minute… that’s a tournament card, Canderous!” Mission complained. “You can’t use that. That’s cheating!” Arms outstretched, she began to scoop the heap of brightly coloured Zorgang nuts towards her. “The pot’s mine by default.”

“Hey! You didn’t say that I couldn’t…”

Zalbaar roared.

Canderous scowled at the Wookiee. “Couldn’t you have chosen someone else to be the adjudicator?”

“He’s a perfect choice. No one’s stupid enough to argue with a Wookiee.” Mission picked up a bright yellow nut and popped it into her mouth. “Not even you.”

Zalbaar uttered a series of staccato grunts in quick succession, laughing as only a Wookiee could.

Ithra was about to turn and go in the other direction when Mission spotted her. “Oh, hey there!” She beckoned Ithra forward with her hand. “Come join us. I’m Mission. And this is Big Z,….”

Zalbaar growled softly in greeting.

“…and that’s Canderous. We were just passing the time. In case you haven’t noticed, hyperspace travel is boring. So, wanna play a hand or two?” Mission deftly shuffled some Pazaak cards in her hands.

Ithra looked at Zalbaar, then Mission, then back to Zalbaar, then Canderous, then back to Zalbaar.

“C’mon,” Mission pleaded, invitingly patting the extra space on her footlocker. “You can sit by me. I won’t bite.”

Zalbaar stretched his arms upwards and rested them behind his head in a relaxed manner. He grunted a few times.

“And Big Z said he promises not to bite either,” Mission translated.

Ithra took a few cautious steps forward.

“I might though,” Canderous said suggestively.

Ithra bristled. “Jolee didn’t warn me about Wookies, or Mandalorians for that matter, being inclined to bite,” she said tartly. “But he did advise me on the propensity Wookiees have for limb dislocation.”

Canderous chortled. “I’m sure I could manage to provide a similar service, if you ask nicely.”

Ithra flashed him a look that could have reduced the Mandalorian to a pile of smoking ashes.

“Just ignore him,” Mission said, giving the Mandalorian an equally dirty look. “And don’t worry about Big Z. I’ll give you plenty of warning if it looks like he’s getting angry. C’mon. Sit down.”

Ithra edged a little closer. “What are you playing?” she asked, squinting to see the cards Mission held.

“You mean….” Mission’s eyes widened. “You mean, you’ve never played Pazaak?”

Ithra tentatively shook her head.

“Never?” A glint shimmered in Canderous’ eyes. “Well, pull up a footlocker, sweetheart, and we’ll deal you in. Erm…minimum wager’s forty credits.”

There was a thump from behind the cargo cube.

“Ow!” As Canderous rubbed his shin, he glowered at Zalbaar, then at Mission. She gave him a quick, wry grin, and then smiled gratefully at the Wookiee.

“Like I said, just ignore him,” said Mission. “We’re playing for Zorgang nuts.” From the other side of the footlocker, she picked up a container from the floor. “Bought them in this shop Jolee showed me on Coruscant. But we can play for something else.” Mission rummaged through the small box. “I’ve got Fizz Busters, some Drontan Gums, Mini-Kips….”

“So,” Ithra interrupted Mission’s recitation, “this Pazaak…it is a wagering game?” Ithra inched forward with curiosity.

“Well…yeah,” Mission said. “It’s kinda boring if you’re not betting something. Besides, when you use something like Zorgang nuts, you can eat your winnings.” And with that she popped a few more of the colourful treats in her mouth.

Zalbaar roared in agreement.

“If you want to, you can watch a hand or two first. Big Z’s just the adjudicator, so it’s just me and Canderous playing really.”

“Of course, it’ll just be me winning,” Canderous boasted. “Okay, kid. Enough talk. Deal.”

Ithra carefully observed how the game was played. The first time, Canderous won as he predicted. The second set was won by Mission. And now it was the last hand of the third set.

“Nineteen,” said Canderous. “I stand.”

Mission smiled. Unlike Canderous, she still held all four of her sidedeck cards in her hand and her cards showing on the table only totalled ten. She drew her next card. “Six.” She threw down one of the cards she held. “And four makes twenty! Yes!” She swept the nuts that made up the kitty toward her and added them to her pile. “Victory is sah-weet!” she said, popping a bright blue Zorgang nut into her mouth.

“Are you sure you’re not cheating?” Canderous asked, giving her a menacing but playful squint.

“Hey! It’s not my fault that you’re not any good at Pazaak,” Mission countered. “So, Ithra, do you want to play? I promise I’ll go easy on you.”

Ithra gently bit her lip as she considered the offer. “No, thank you,” she said politely. “Perhaps some other time.”

“Oh. Well, okay.” Mission looked a bit hurt. “We could play a different game, you know,” she added. “Think there’s a dejarik board around here someplace.”

“I really have to get back,” said Ithra, backing away. “But thank you for the offer.”

“Right. Sure. Anytime. Just let me know.”

Ithra left the way she came in, but she lingered in the corridor for a moment.

“Did I do something wrong?” she heard Mission ask. “’Cause, I don’t think she liked me.”

“The Jantessans don’t ‘like’ anyone,” Canderous replied. “Not even gregarious, hyper-active, Pazaak-cheating kids.”

“Cheating? Cheating! I’ll show you who’s cheating!” Mission challenged. “This time you deal, and it’s double or nothing!”

Canderous chuckled. “You’re on. I never back down from a challenge.”

Renegade Puma
01-10-2006, 02:55 AM
Great job on the new chapters Jasra. Your story is coming alon very nicely. Can't wait for the next part. Oh and here is 200 coolpoints to add to your account :) And if you haven't been given any yet, then you now have 200 :) Yay!

JasraLantill
01-15-2006, 06:47 PM
Berland was working on his report for Prefect Keel when Ithra returned to the dormitory. From the corner of his eye he watched her sit down heavily on the edge of her bed and let out a sigh, though whether it was one of relief or exhaustion he couldn’t tell.

“So, I see you survived your encounter with the Cathar,” he said without even looking up from his datapad. “Tell me…what did you talk about?”

“Well,” said Ithra, as she took the container of nuts from under her cloak and set it on her lap. “Basically she urged me to be the best Senator I could be by weighing my choices against the considerations of those with different points of view.”

“Typical Jedi drivel,” Berland huffed as he continued to enter data. “It’s obvious she knows nothing of politics.”

“I told her I needed more time to think about what she said.”

Berland nodded approvingly while he continued to work. “A wise move.”

“She also mentioned that she was once a slave,” Ithra continued. “And the reason why she wanted to become a Jedi was because she so admired the Jedi who freed her.”

“Yes, the Jedi often meddle in affairs that are none of their concern,” Berland commented absently.

“And, she said that holding to the Jedi path is difficult for her being that she has, as she put it, ‘hot Cathar blood.’”

“Indeed.”

A moment of silence passed—Berland busy entering data, Ithra watching him.

“She fell to the Dark Side once,” Ithra blurted.

Berland suddenly paused.

“She said it was Rade who showed her the path of the true Jedi,” Ithra continued. “She seems to hold him in very high regard.”

“Fell to the Dark Side?” The corner of Berland’s mouth slowly rose upwards into a twisted grin as he looked up. “Interesting,” he mused. “Ithra, you’ve done well to gather such worthwhile information. I shall mention this in my report.”

“Thank you.”

While Berland quietly resumed his work, Ithra opened the container of Zorgang nuts. There were so many colours to choose from, she wasn’t sure which one to try first. The hard nuts rattled and grated along the sides of the box.

It wasn’t long before the irritating sounds caused Berland to glance up and glare at her. “Ithra, would you please be quiet,” he said, frowning. “I am trying to work here.”

Ithra smiled apologetically and held up a bright orange nut. “Zorgang nuts. Jolee Bindo gave them to me,” she said. She popped the nut into her mouth, then nodded with satisfaction. “He was right. They are quite tasty.”

Berland stared at her dumbfounded. “You conversed with another outlander? On your own accord?”

Ithra nodded while she daintily selected another nut, this time a bright blue one. “And, I also encountered the T’wilek girl, and the Mandalorian, and the Wookiee.”

Berland nearly dropped his datapad. “Why, Ithra,” he said, astonished. “I’m impressed.”

“The Jedi Juhani sent me to Jolee Bindo when I asked her about alternatives to the food dispensers." She paused to eat another nut. "But I only met the others because I took a wrong turn in the corridor on the way back here. I found the Mandalorian to be true to rumour. Ill-mannered and vulgar.”

Berland donned an amused smile as he set down his datapad. “And what did you discover about our fellow travellers?”

Ithra took a moment to consider, and to eat another nut. “Well, the old man, Jolee Bindo, is easily distracted, and I found his thoughts often hard to follow. He talked mainly about Wookiees. He said he spent years in a place he called… the Shadowlands?”

“A place on the Wookiee’s homeworld,” Berland explained. “Go on.”

“When I encountered him, he was busy rearranging the medical supplies to hide containers like this one.” She raised the container of nuts. “I’ve heard that smugglers often do such things. I think he could have been one once.”

“Maybe he still is,” Berland concluded.

“At any rate, he seemed most eager to help me.”

“Perhaps a little too eager?” Berland hinted.

“Perhaps,” Ithra agreed. “But I believe his benevolence was genuine.”

Berland held up a mindful finger. “Beware of generosity without familiarity,” he cautioned. “He could be just trying to win you over so that he may ply you with questions later on.”

Ithra gave an obedient nod. “I asked him about the T’wilek girl. He said she was a…a ‘slicer?’ I’m still not sure exactly what that is, but it sounds criminal.”

“Indeed. Go on.”

“Then I asked about the Wookiee, what he did on board the ship. Jolee said Zalbaar, that’s the beast’s name,” she added condescendingly, “was sort of the security officer on board—skilled with all sorts of weapons as well as in demolitions. Oh, and the Wookiee has a life debt to Rade,” she added. “Some sort of honour debt that he will serve until….”

“Yes, I know what a life debt is,” Berland interrupted. “Excellent work, Ithra,” he praised her. “Anything else?”

“I witnessed the T’wilek, Mission she’s called, and the Mandalorian, Canderous, playing a wagering game called Pazaak. She invited me to join them.” Berland’s eyes widened. “The game seemed easy to play—the person that has the highest total not exceeding twenty…”

“Please tell me that you did not accept her invitation to play,” he pleaded.

“Certainly not!” she said defensively, although her eyes belied the fact that she had wanted to. “I politely declined.”

“Good. Never play a game until you know all of the rules. Especially if the game involves a wager.”

“They weren’t wagering credits. They were playing for nuts.”

Berland rolled his eyes. “Wagering is wagering. Do not be fooled by such poor camouflage.” He sighed. “Did you learn *anything* useful from observing them?”

Ithra considered for a moment. “Despite his overconfident attitude, the Mandalorian is not a good Pazaak player.”

“Well, I suppose that might be useful,” Berland said with some disappointment. “Still, you did well. The information you gained could be advantageous later on. Now, do you understand why I was upset with you earlier at having a droid assigned to us instead of a sentient being? Sentients can be plied, influenced, persuaded to do things by using their weaknesses against them,” Berland explained. “Droids cannot.”

Just then, the privacy chime on the door activated.

“Enter,” Berland said authoritatively.

The door whooshed open, and HK-47 stood at the threshold. Berland’s mouth dropped at the sight of the familiar rusty red droid.

“Greeting: I am HK-47, a fully functional protocol droid, temporarily assigned to insure any of your petty and incidental meatbag needs are met with minimal disturbance to the crew.”

Ithra raised an eyebrow. “Meatbag?” She gave Berland a strange look.

“Retraction: Oh, did I say that out loud?” said HK-47. “I apologise. It has been a long time since I have been assigned to serve a meatbag in this capacity.”

“Berland, this droid is malfunctioning,” said Ithra as she moved closer to investigate it.

“Statement: Keeper Ithra, I assure you I am functioning perfectly within my established parameters.”

“Which are?” Ithra asked.

“Answer: Why, to facilitate communications and terminate hostilities. However, my master has restricted the use of some of my more… unique abilities.”

“Ithra,” Berland asked, while his narrowed eyes were focused on the droid, “do you recall my earlier comments about droids and influence?”

“Yes.”

“Well, they don't apply to this one.” Berland eyed the droid over. “Well, well, HK-47 is it? I seem to recall a very capable droid of the same designation and likeness when I served Lord Revan.”

“Proud Answer: Why, yes! In fact, I am the very same droid that selected you, Berland, as my Master’s personal meatbag assistant. Sadly, my master had transferred you before I was able to terminate your employment myself.”

“Berland…?” Ithra took a step backwards.

“And is that why you are here?” Berland asked warily. “To ‘terminate’ me?”

“Negatory: I have been specifically instructed to ignore my previous protocols and ensure the safety of the meatbags now under my care.”

“And Rade Chano has assigned you to care for us?” Ithra asked, more of a statement than a question.

“Answer: Yes. As degrading as the task is, I have been instructed to serve you and your meatbag mentor while you are aboard the Ebon Hawk.”

“Degrading?” Berland suddenly brightened. “HK-47, with your exceptional skills and qualifications it must be very frustrating for you to be treated as a common utility droid. It’s a shame that your master holds such little regard for you now that he’s been… redeemed.”

“Disclosure: I am programmed to obey my master. However, I do find it somewhat disconcerting that my master has developed such an irritating fondness and concern for meatbags and consistently refuses to utilise the full range of my more ‘unique’ skills.”

“Unique skills?” Ithra asked Berland.

“He’s an assassin droid,” Berland said.

Ithra gasped in horror. “What?! But that’s illega…”

Berland clamped a quick but gentle hand over Ithra’s mouth. “Shh.”

“Statement: Possession of an assassin droid is indeed illegal. Clarification: I am a fully capable translator and cultural analyst skilled in facilitating communication and terminating hostilities.”

“Which incidentally requires it to have knowledge of personal combat skills,” Berland said to Ithra as he uncovered her mouth, “for example, during specific situations that may require more aggressive negotiations.”

“Commentary: I am quite surprised, Berland, that your meatbag mind is able to appreciate the nuances of my programming.”

“It’s a shame, really, that a Jedi has no need for your sophisticated talents,” said Berland. “If you were my droid, I’m sure I could manage to find tasks more suited for your superior qualifications.”

“Conjecture: I do not believe my master would sell me to a meatbag such as yourself.”

“No, I don’t suppose he would.” Berland sighed. “Never mind. It’s probably the Jedi’s intention to allow your ‘special’ protocols to be corrupted by disuse over time. Pity really, but,” he shrugged, “what can a droid do?”

“Query: Are you suggesting that my master desires my programming to be altered?!”

“I am not suggesting anything,” said Berland. He gave Ithra a quick look, and then grinned. “I’m merely making an observation. Tell me, has Rade Chano ever asked you to eliminate a target?”

“Answer: No, he has never given me such an order.”

“Ever asked you to covertly sabotage someone’s ship?”

“Answer: No, he has not.”

“Hmm, well, I suppose he wouldn’t do those things, being a Jedi,” Berland said contemplatively. “What about asking you to incapacitate a target so that he may capture them alive?”

“Answer: No.”

“How about allowing you to interrogate a captive yourself?”

There was a pause. “Answer: Sadly, no.”

“Ach, to see such valuable skills wasted.” Berland shook his head and tutted. “Very sad indeed. Still, I suppose such things can’t be helped, being as Rade’s *your* master and you must obey *him*.”

HK-47 went unusually silent.

“Please, thank your master for placing you at our disposal,” Berland said. “And if we require any mundane or petty tasks for you to do, we will summon you on the comlink. Until then, you may remove yourself to the cargo bay.”

“Statement: As you wish.” HK-47 turned and left, and Berland closed the door.

“Berland,” Ithra asked, “is it wise to attempt to plant a seed of dissention in an assassin droid?”

Berland grinned secretively. “We shall see. Now, then….” He rubbed his hands together. “I have a report to finish.”

Renegade Puma
01-17-2006, 08:11 AM
Great job Jasra! Keep up the excellent work my friend :)

JasraLantill
01-19-2006, 08:14 AM
Bastila was alone in the cockpit, sitting in front of the navigation station double checking the Ebon Hawk’s progress to Jantessa, when she felt a pair of warm hands gently grip the back of her neck.

“You’re tense,” Rade said as his hands began to gently massage her.

“I have a feeling that something isn’t right,” she said, relaxing slightly under his touch. “That this mission involves more than just finding and returning this relic to the Jantessans.”

“I know what you mean. I feel it, too.” Rade intensified his efforts steadily moving his hands gently across her shoulders. “Where’s Carth?”

“Engine room. He muttered something about double checking a coupling and left a few minutes ago.”

“Good.”

“Good?”

“Not good about the coupling, but good that we’re alone,” Rade clarified. “This ship seems a whole lot smaller with the addition of just two people. We haven’t had a moment to ourselves.”

“Well, a Jedi’s life is sacrifice,” Bastila said coyly. Rade ran his thumbs up and down her neck in a fluid motion, causing her to let out an unintentional moan of pleasure. “Oh, that feels good,” she whispered gratefully.

“I was thinking,” said Rade. “After our passengers disembark, I’ll maybe take the new ‘guest’ quarters as my own. You know, convert them into the captain’s quarters.”

“Don’t you think that’s a bit extravagant for a Jedi?”

“Not really. There are occasions when a captain needs privacy.”

“Such as?”

“Well, for example, it would be helpful to have someplace private to conduct negotiations.”

“Negotiations with whom?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Rade mused. “Maybe the captain of another ship, or a diplomat, or….” He worked his hands down her spine a bit, soliciting another involuntary moan.

“Yes, I… can see… how that might… be beneficial,” Bastila said, between the pulses of his kneading fingers.

Rade grinned. “Glad you agree.”

Rade heard a purposeful cough, then heavy footsteps approaching. His hands immediately stilled, coming to rest lightly on the back of Bastila’s chair. “So, how long before we reach Jantessa?” he asked her, as Carth entered the cockpit.

“Nineteen hours and seven minutes,” Bastila said, straightening herself in her chair. “Everything all right, Carth?”

“Yeah, everything’s fine,” Carth said, taking his seat and purposefully ignoring their proximity to one another. “I was just getting some odd fluctuations from a sensor near the intake coupling. I might have to do some adjustments when we dock, but it doesn’t look like it’s a big problem.”

“Good,” said Rade.

“You might want to check on HK though,” Carth said to Rade. “Mission mentioned he was acting a bit strange.”

“Strange? How?”

“She said he was too quiet.”

Bastilla snorted. “That sounds like an improvement, not a malfunction.”

“Yeah, well, I think it’s a bit more than that,” said Carth. “I believe her exact words were, ‘He sorta sounds like he’s kinda depressed or something.’”

“Depressed?” Rade’s brow wrinkled with doubt. “I wasn’t aware droids got depressed.”

“That’s why you might want to take a look at him. I would’ve done it myself, but, well, you know how he is.”

“I’ll take a look.” Rade gave Bastila’s shoulder a gentle squeeze before turning to leave.

“Oh, and I think you were right about our innocent-looking young guest,” Carth added. “Jolee told me Ithra’s been asking a lot of questions about the crew.”

Rade paused. “Oh? What kind of questions?”

“Specific questions about backgrounds, skills, experience… those kind of questions.”

“Ah,” Rade said knowingly. “Well, maybe HK can shed some light on that as well. After all, he’s been waiting on our guests.”

“And you wonder why he’s depressed?” Bastila commented under her breath.

********

Mission, Canderous, and Zalbaar were still playing Pazaak when Rade walked in.

“Did Carth send you to check on HK?” Mission asked.

Rade nodded.

“Good,” said Mission. “He’s acting really weird. He came in and told us to move so he could put his weapons away in one of the lockers. When we asked him why, he said something about ‘unnecessary functions,’ then went and stood in the corner.” She pointed to where HK stood inconspicuously behind some cargo containers.

“And he refuses to run any fight sims,” Canderous added.

Zalbaar uttered a series of repetitive grunts and a growl.

“That’s right,” Mission said to the Wookiee. “He hasn’t called us ‘meatbags’ once. Not once,” she repeated emphatically. “It’s like he’s depressed or something.” She shook her head with disbelief. “Weird.”

Rade raised his eyebrows. “Indeed.” He walked over to the rusty red combat droid. “Hello, HK.”

“HK-47 is ready to serve, master.”

“HK, how are you?”

“Statement: All of my systems are functioning within established parameters.”

“I have some questions for you.” Rade waited for a lippy comment or quip to follow, but none came. “Erm… aren’t you going to ask if I need something killed?”

“Statement: Master, there is no logical reason to ask a question when the answer is already known.”

“I see. HK, I notice that you don’t have your blasters. Was there something wrong with them?”

“Answer: My blasters are functioning perfectly. They are currently stored in the weapons locker.”

“Why?”

“Answer: Blasters are of little use to a protocol droid not actively involved in defensive activities or aggressive negotiations.”

“Uh-huh,” Rade said slowly. “And how are our guests faring?”

“Answer: Envoy Berland and Keeper Ithra are in perfect health and appear to be content.”

“So you haven’t had any problems with either of them?”

“Answer: No, master.”

Rade frowned. HK hadn’t yet made a single contentious comment or used the word ‘meatbag’. “HK, has anyone performed any recent maintenance on you?”

“Answer: Routine system maintenance was last performed on me by Senior Technical Officer Seri Ollana in the Jedi Temple’s maintenance bay.”

“And has anyone attempted to access or alter your memory core?”

“Answer: Other than yourself, no, master.”

Rade rubbed his chin. “HK, how did Berland react when you went to inform him that you were sent to serve him and Keeper Ithra?”

“Answer: Berland was calm, master.”

“He didn’t seem surprised to see you?”

“Answer: Berland did initially enquire if my purpose was to terminate him. But once I assured him that I had been specifically instructed to ignore my previous protocols, he did not pursue the issue.”

“Did he say anything else to you?”

HK was silent for a moment. “Answer: Yes, master.”

Rade rolled his eyes. “This is like pulling teeth,” he muttered under his breath. “What did Berland say to you?”

Again, HK took his time in answering. “Answer: Berland expressed his appreciation for the nuances of my programming and superior skills. He also wished me to pass on his thanks to you for placing me at his disposal.”

Rade let out an annoyed sigh. “I see. Thank you, HK.” He left to go speak to Berland himself.

*********

Rade opened the door of the port dormitory without waiting for permission to enter.

“My apologies for barging in like this, Keeper Ithra,” he said, as he barrelled past her. “But I need to have a word with your envoy. Alone.”

Before Berland could lodge a protest, Rade grabbed him by the back of the neck, and making certain that Berland’s long braid of dark hair was securely entangled between his fingers.

“Ahh…ow!” Berland uttered, as Rade drug him down the corridor, around the corner, and into the old cargo bay, which was now outfitted as the male dormitory.

“Now then,” Rade said, releasing Berland with a shove. “I think you’ve got some explaining to do.”

“How dare you!” Berland seethed. “How dare you treat me in such an obscene manner!”

“As you pointed out earlier, I’m the captain of this ship,” said Rade, blocking the exit. “I can do what I want.”

“Ah, but you’re a *Jedi* now,” Berland said condescendingly. “You’ll do what the Jedi Council tells you to. And rest assured they will not be pleased by how you are treating a diplomatic envoy who is in your care!”

Rade snorted contemptuously. “You know, even though my memory has been altered, I still seem to have a *slight* problem with authority.” He flashed a quick grin. “Now, what have you done to my HK droid?”

“I am a diplomat, not a mechanic. I have never laid a finger on your droid.”

“Not physically, you haven’t, but you have done something to him.”

“If your HK droid is malfunctioning, I would suspect it is due to some incompetent Jedi technician,” Berland sneered. “I imagine they are quite unfamiliar with the *unusual* protocol functions your droid seems to possess.”

Rade’s jaw set. “You’re smooth, Berland,” said Rade. “I’ll give you that much. But what I won’t give you is continued unrestricted access to my ship or my crew. I’m confining you and Keeper Ithra to your quarters.”

“Confine us to….!” Berland protested. “May I remind you that we are guests, not prisoners!”

“Exactly,” said Rade. “We’ll be arriving at Jantessa in about nineteen hours and for your own safety, it would be best if you were confined to your quarters. If my HK droid is malfunctioning, I don’t want to have any accidents being blamed on his *unusual* protocols.”

Berland’s eyes blazed with anger and he raised his right hand as if contemplating a Force attack.

“You really don’t want to do that,” Rade warned. “HK did tell me that one of the reasons he chose you as my assistant was because you were weak in the Force.”

Berland slowly lowered his hand, but his eyes still burned. “Weak, am I?” His left hand suddenly struck out, sending Rade burling across the room and slamming into the bulkhead.

Rade quickly shook it off, and countered with a Force Wave of his own. Berland flew backwards and skidded across the floor, hitting the opposite bulkhead with a loud thud.

“*Former* Sith, eh?” Rade said, sending a Force Whirlwind Berland’s way.

To Rade’s surprise, Berland easily repelled the attack. Bolts of Force Lightning streamed from Berland’s fingertips, narrowly missing Rade as the Jedi deftly dodged and rolled to the left. “*Former* does not mean *weaker*,” Berland sneered, as he prepared to deliver another jolt.

“Stop it!” Ithra had appeared in the doorway, horrified at the Force duel that was apparently taking place. She pointed a finger at Rade. “That’s enough, infidel!”

Taking advantage of Ithra’s sudden interruption, Rade attempted to throw Berland back with a Force Push, but to his surprise, he found himself launched back against the wall instead.

Berland, too, tried to take advantage of the girl’s sudden arrival. With a malicious snarl on his lips, he stretched out his hand. Force Lightning again leapt from his fingertips, but the bolts contorted and curled back on themselves, targeting Berland instead. He howled as his body spasmed with pain, but instead of Rade, his gaze was focused on Ithra.

Bastila and Juhani soon appeared in the doorway next to Ithra. “What’s going on!” Bastila demanded.

Rade stood up, slightly confused at how his Force Push had landed him against the wall and how Berland’s Force Lightning had turned on him as well. “Our *former* Sith decided to show his true colours,” he said.

“You goaded me, Jedi!” Berland snapped. “Admit it!”

“I said enough!” Ithra shouted. “Both of you!” She folded her arms angrily across her chest. “I will not tolerate such blasphemous use of the Force in my presence!”

“Forgive me, my lady,” Berland said, rising slowly. He glared at Rade. “I lost my temper when the Jedi said he was confining us to our quarters.”

“What?” Ithra’s eyes narrowed as she met Rade’s gaze. “Have we done something to offend you?”

“Your envoy has damaged my droid.”

“Liar,” Berland hissed.

“And I understand you have been asking a lot of questions,” Rade continued.

“Very specific questions,” Bastila added.

“Yes, I have,” Ithra calmly admitted. “Berland thought it was a good idea for me to practice my conversational skills with the outlan… with the crew.” She turned to Juhani. “Up until this very moment, I thought I was doing well.”

“I don’t think Ithra’s meant any harm,” Juhani said to Rade as she moved to stand next to Ithra. “She is just curious, that’s all.”

Bastila snorted. “Yes. Very curious,” she said quietly.

“I have no objections to being secluded in our quarters,” said Ithra. “Especially if it will calm any ‘historical’ tensions between us.” She gave a quick glance at Berland. “So, if not the droid,” she asked Rade, “who will be attending to our needs while we are confined?”

“I’ll look after you,” Juhani offered.

“Juhani, are you sure?” Rade asked.

Juhani nodded. “I think Ithra and I have a better understanding of each other now that we’ve talked.”

“Fine,” said Rade. “Well, Berland, I’m glad we’ve had this little chat. I think we have a better understanding of each other, too. Don’t you think?”

Berland’s mouth twitched. “Oh, most definitely.” He straightened his tunic and pushed his way past Bastila and Juhani. “Come, Ithra.”

Ithra eyed Rade over before following Berland back to their dormitory.

“Juhani, be careful,” Rade said. “They’re up to something.”

Renegade Puma
01-19-2006, 09:27 AM
Bravo! Bravo! Hip hip hooray! What a great chapter Jasra, your best one yet. This is really a great read. I am going to take a wild guess right now and say that Keeper Ithra is going to save the day at some point in this story :) And Rade is going to be tempted to rejoin the darkside at some point. But I will just have to wait and see :) Keep up the more than excellent work.

Hallucination
01-19-2006, 08:14 PM
Great job! Keep it up, but I was hoping to see some HK-style blasterness ;).

JasraLantill
01-20-2006, 04:51 AM
Thanks for the encouraging comments from you both! I've written the story in a synopsis form all the way through and I'm 'filling in' the chapters as I go. Every crew member has a part to play, so rest assured HK will have some blaster time in future! As for Ithra and Rade....well, you'll just have to be patient!

JasraLantill
01-21-2006, 05:13 PM
Ithra followed Berland into the port dormitory. Once the door was closed, she shouted angrily, “Berland, you promised!”

“No,” he said between clenched teeth. “I said I would try.”

“Oooh!” she bellowed furiously. “I can’t believe you *did* such a thing in my presence!” she said, pacing angrily across the dormitory floor. “How could you!”

“I’m sorry, Ithra,” said Berland, wincing slightly from his bruises as he sat down on one of the beds.

“You have no idea how disturbing your little exhibition was to me, do you?” she said, pointing an accusing finger at him. “No idea! None at all!”

Berland sighed. “I said I was sorry,” he repeated. “But the opportunity presented itself and I had to take it.”

“You know how it makes me feel when I reflect someone using the Force that way!” she continued to rant. “You knew, and yet you continued anyway! It felt like… like….” Ithra shivered and hugged herself with her arms while she paced. “Ugh! It felt like my skin was crawling with a million and one Dylwyn Ants!”

Berland rubbed the arm that had borne the brunt of her reflecting his Force Lightning attack upon himself. “I can assure you, Ithra, it didn’t feel very good on my end either.”

She paced a few more steps, then shivered again. “I need a bath! A long, hot bath! And when Prefect Keel hears about this he’s going to…!”

“Now, now,” Berland firmly interrupted. “You know that the confrontation had to take place. Agreed, it was unfortunate that you were in such close proximity, but you know as well as I do that it had to happen eventually.”

Ithra’s jaw set. A moment of silence passed. “All I can say it that your plan had better work.”

“It will.” Berland smiled. “Now, when we reach Jantessa, there’s something that I want you to do….”

******

The Ebon Hawk jolted slightly as it came out of hyperspace.

“Well, there it is,” Carth said. “Jantessa.”

Carth and Bastila set about orbiting the planet, while Rade went to inform Berland and Ithra that they had finally arrived.

“It’s lovely,” Bastilla said admiringly about the planet. “Purple and blue seas, swathes of green across the continents….” Her forehead wrinkled with puzzlement. “What’s that shimmer?”

“That would be their shields,” said Carth.

Suddenly, an alarm began to bleep. “What’s happening?” Bastila asked. “Are we too close?”

“No, just an outgoing transmission,” said Carth, just as Rade was returning. “You were right,” he said, turning to Rade. “Looks like our ‘guests’ are sending a coded transmission to the surface.”

“Figured they would as soon as I left them alone. Have you made contact with the port authorities yet?”

“I hailed them, but so far no response.” Carth looked at Bastila. “Maybe a Jedi would have better luck in getting an answer.”

Bastila cleared her throat, and then pushed the button for the comlink. “This is Bastila Shan of the Jedi Order on board the Ebon Hawk,” she said in a clear but lofty tone. “We require immediate shield clearance and docking instructions. Send them now, or I shall be forced to inform Prime Keeper Ithra and her envoy. I can assure you they will not be pleased about the delay.”

A brief moment passed, and then the panel in front of Carth bleeped twice. He looked at Bastila askance.

“I downloaded what little information there was on Jantessa from the Jedi Archives before we left,” Bastila explained. “From what I could extrapolate, they prefer specific and direct instructions, and have a high regard for position and authority.”

“Bastila, if you had told us that earlier,” said Rade, “it might have made our journey a bit more pleasant.”

“Well, it was difficult to extract any useful information from the files,” Bastila said hesitantly. “Most of the records I encountered were… instructions.”

“Instructions for what?”

Bastila hesitated. “Food preparation.”

“What, like recipes?” Carth stifled a laugh. “You mean you spent all this time reading through a Jantessan cookbook?”

“Like I said,” Bastila said crossly, “there wasn’t much useful information in the archives. But the recipe instructions were very precise, and there were several references to ‘official’ and ‘authorised’ ingredients.” She paused. “I don’t really know much about cooking, but some of their ingredients seemed quite strange. I mean, I’ve no idea what Essence of Vercoumna is, do you?”

“What was it used for?” asked Rade.

“I believe it was for some sort of ritual bread. The recipe said to add the Essence to a mixture of ground grains and fermented fungal extracts, and then to expose it to a slow rising temperature over a period of three days while…”

“All right, everyone hold on,” Carth interrupted. “We’re passing through the shield corridor.”

Travelling through the corridor was like sliding through a kaleidoscope—the shield shimmered and danced with all the colours of a rainbow as the Ebon Hawk descended through it. Suddenly, there was a loud boom, and the Hawk lurched violently.

“What was that?” Rade asked Carth.

“Think we might have grazed the outer edge of the shield,” Carth said, as he struggled to keep control. “They sure didn’t give us much room to manoeuvre.”

Another boom and a lurch. Finally, the Ebon Hawk broke through into the atmosphere of the planet where they were met by two Jantessan fighter escorts, similar in design to the Republic’s, but smaller and much more streamlined.

“You will follow us to the designated landing area where you will receive further instructions,” ordered a static charged voice over the comm.

“Just do what they say,” Bastila said to Carth as he opened his mouth to protest.

“If your course deviates, you will be fired upon,” the fighter escort voice continued. “You will not be cautioned. Do you understand?”

Bastila hit the com button. “Yes. We understand.”

The ‘designated landing area’ for visitors was located just outside of the Jantessan’s capital city of Aru. As the Ebon Hawk approached, Ithra wandered into the cockpit. Rade frowned at her.

“I know I should be in my quarters, but… is it all right if I look out the window?” she asked him rather shyly. “I wasn’t able to do so on the outbound journey, and I’ve never seen the city of Aru from this far above.”

Rade’s frown softened, and he shrugged a shoulder. “Sure. Just go stand over there.”

Ithra moved to stand to the side of Bastila. Her eyes widened as she gazed down at the approaching planet surface. “Aru looks so tiny from up here. Even the Haven looks small.”

“The Haven?” Bastila asked, turning her head to face her.

Ithra cocked an ear toward Bastila but kept her gaze fixed on Aru as they descended. “See the Five Spires? There?” She pointed. “The Haven is the tallest—the violet spire right at the edge of the waters of the Northmere. It’s where the Prime Keepers used to live.”

Bastila’s gaze followed to where Ithra was pointing. At one end of the city, she could just make out the five tall spires near a body of calm violet-blue water. Each one was the centre point of a large pentagonal building, surrounded by smaller buildings and patches of deep green. “Where they *used* to live?”

“No one lives in the Haven now,” Ithra said distantly. “Not since the Contamination. Most, like me, live in the Priory now. That’s the silver spire to the south. And next to it, is the Matrix, where the Great Hall is. And on the other side, the Refectory.” She sighed. “I think I will appreciate the meals they serve there much more after my experience with what you seem to want to call food.”

“What’s the building on the end? The one with the black spire, set apart from the rest.”

“The Foundry.” Ithra paused. “There are a few who live there, but it is forbidden to speak of them.”

“Why?”

Ithra turned to Bastila. “Because,” she said matter-of-factly, “they are infidels and traitors.”

Bastila frowned. “It’s a prison?”

Ithra shook her head. “It’s a place where one is sent to be… re-educated.”

Rade lifted an eyebrow at her comment. “Re-educated how?”

Ithra didn’t answer his question. “Has Prefect Keel contacted you yet?” she asked him instead.

“No. Why?”

Ithra gave a non-committal shrug. “Berland sent word to him about your… previous visit,” she confessed. “Upon our arrival he will ask to meet with you, alone. It would anger him if you refuse his invitation.” She turned to leave, then stopped just at the entrance to the corridor. “A word of advice, Rade Chano.” She paused for a moment, as if considering how to continue. “Our laws permit an arbiter to accompany one when being summoned in front of a Prefect.” She flicked her eyes towards Bastila. “I would suggest you select Bastila for the task. Prefect Keel has a weakness for beautiful women.”

“Why are you telling me this?” Rade asked suspiciously.

Ithra snorted with disdain. “Because it would displease Berland, and I am angry with him at the moment. Why else?” With a flourish of her cloak, she quickly turned and left.

“Hmmph,” Carth snorted. “Now *that* was an interesting display.”

“Yes, it was,” Rade agreed. “Bastila?”

“I didn’t detect any intent on her part to deceive,” she said. “But…, she is hard to read.”

“Look, even I could tell there was something important she wasn’t telling us,” said Carth.

The Ebon Hawk suddenly shuddered.

Rade looked over Carth’s shoulder at the control panels. “What now?”

“They’ve locked a tractor beam on us. Probably just guiding us in to the docking port.”

A cheery sounding chime came over the com. “Welcome, visitors. You are now approaching the decontamination field,” said a pleasant, automated female voice. “Please disengage your drive systems while you are guided to the quarantine docking platforms.”

“See?” Carth began to initiate engine shutdown. “Nothing to worry ab….” Carth suddenly frowned. “Uh-oh.”

“Please disengage your drive systems while you are guided to the quarantine docking platforms,” the voice repeated.

The Ebon Hawk shuddered more violently and the engines started to whine.

“Problem?” asked Rade.

“Erm…you remember that power coupling that was giving me some erratic readings?” Carth asked, as he pushed more buttons.

There was another hard jolt, and Rade grabbed the back of Carth’s chair for balance.

“Please disengage your drive systems while you are guided to the quarantine docking platforms,” the voice repeated.

“Carth, just shut down the engines,” Bastila said, her voice sounding slightly worried.

“That’s what I’m trying to do,” Carth said, frantically pushing more buttons and pulling more levers. “The intake is stuck wide open. I can’t power down!”

“Bastila, see if you can make contact with the port authorities,” said Rade. “Tell them we’re having a problem.”

“Please disengage your drive systems while you are guided to the quarantine docking platforms.”

The shuddering was getting worse. Everything was vibrating and the hull began to make strange creaking noises.

“They’re not responding to our hail!” said Bastila, clinging to the comm panel for support. “And our escorts have just left us!”

“Please disengage your drive systems while you are guided to the quarantine docking platforms.”

Another sudden jolt. Sparks showered from one of the panels near the star chart and Rade shielded his eyes. “Damn!”

“If I can’t get the engines shut down,” Carth said, his voice sounding staccato from the vibrations, “this is going to be a very, short, mission!”

“Please disengage your drive systems while you are guided to the quarantine docking platforms.”

Carth wiped sweat from his brow. “If… I... can… just… get… the….”

Quite suddenly, the shuddering ceased. The lights dimmed, and then a blue light filled the cockpit. Everything was deathly quiet.

The blue light vanished. “Thank you,” the automated voice said, breaking the thick silence. “Decontamination complete. Your co-operation is appreciated.”

Carth let out a sigh of relief. “That was close. Let’s just hope they allow us to do some maintenance before we leave.”

The tractor beam guided the Ebon Hawk through to a docking bay, and as the ship touched down, the bay door quickly slammed shut.

“Docking complete,” said the automated voice. “Please disembark and await further instructions.”

Renegade Puma
01-24-2006, 06:16 AM
Good chapter Jasra. I can't wait to see what you do with the planet and it's people :) Your story is progressing nicely.

Renegade Puma
02-01-2006, 09:28 AM
I need my hidden shades of gray fix!! Ahhhh!!! Must have more story!

The Doctor
02-01-2006, 12:10 PM
I haven't read any of this in a while. Just pasted it all into a wpd so I can read it whenever, if that's alright.

[inside joke]And you need to mention yelt rats more often:xp:[/inside joke]

JasraLantill
02-05-2006, 12:09 PM
((Sorry it's been a while since I've posted a chapter. Had a little 'sequencing' problem to work out, but it's resolved now and things are moving once again!))
_____________________________________
Chapter 8--part 1


“What?! Aw, you can’t be serious!” Carth complained to the droid stationed by the heavily secured exit from the Jantessan ‘visitor lounge’ back to the hanger bay. “We just want to board our ship!”

“I’m sorry, sir,” said the protocol droid, in a most irritatingly pleasant female voice. “A Class Six control pass is required for any visitor wishing to depart the visitor’s lounge.”

Upon their arrival, the crew of the Ebon Hawk had been relieved of all of their weapons and escorted by Berland and Ithra to the visitor’s lounge area where they were to remain until Rade had completed his meeting with Prefect Keel. Berland had explained that they were “absolutely not under any type of house arrest” and had insisted that the security cameras and various droids were merely stationed at the exits in order to prevent any ‘unauthorised contacts’ between the Jantessans who worked in the facility and any visiting ‘outlanders’. All of their needs—food, rest, entertainment—would be seen to, provided that they stayed put.

To Berland’s chagrin, Rade had taken Ithra’s advice in selecting Bastila as an arbiter to accompany him to his meeting with the Prefect. Berland had been visibly irritated by Rade’s knowledge of the law, but then he had smirked and suggested that Rade also bring HK along. Rade had agreed, and so the five of them had left to go to the Prefect’s office.

The Jantessans were certainly very generous to their visitors, even if they couldn’t stand to be in the same room with them. Not a single Jantessan was in sight, except for the permanent and annoying holovid newscaster on the terminal in the far corner of the room.

All of the visitors’ needs were tended to by droids. And they were everywhere—security droids, protocol droids, serving droids, utility droids, and an entire fleet of cleaning droids that kept the facility clean to the point of being sterile. Entertainment was varied—there were pazaak tables and gaming terminals, a recreation facility with a swimming pool, an excellent restaurant, luxury sleeping quarters, even a cantina with a holovid Bith band with T’wilek dancers. Yes, despite what they called it, the Jantessans’ had gilded their visitor’s cage quite nicely. There were other ‘outlanders’ there, too—traders mostly—and the crew of the Ebon Hawk made no protest to stay and relax for a while.

Yet three hours later, Rade and Bastila had not returned. Carth was beginning to worry. He and the rest of the crew thought it might be a good idea to try and contact them from the Ebon Hawk through their com links, under the guise of wanting to check out any damage that had occurred when they had landed. So, far they weren’t having much success.

“Okay…so how do we get a Class Six control pass?” Carth asked.

“Applications for Class Six control passes can be submitted to the administrative assistant at the Departures Office on the first and last days of the week between the hours of ten and twelve or between sixteen hundred and eighteen hundred hours, and on the second and fourth rest days between the hours of five and seven or fourteen hundred and sixteen hundred hours, with the exception of State recognised holidays, to include Meering Day observance week, State in-service days, State training days, Prefectory elections,…”

Carth closed his eyes and sighed as the droid rambled on for another full minute.

“Fine. Is the Departures Office open now to submit an application?” Canderous intervened.

The droid paused for a brief moment while it calculated. “Why, yes, sir. At the moment, it is open.”

Carth brightened as he caught Canderous’ train of thought. “Good,” Carth said. “I’d like to submit an application.”

“Very well, sir,” said the droid. “Forms may be obtained from the Permits Office every other day between the hours of….”

Carth’s head drooped. “Just tell me how to get to damned Permits Office!” he interrupted.

“Certainly, sir. Proceed through these doors, then down the corridor, take the second right, down the hall through the double doors, then take the first left, up the stairs, proceed through the atrium, and you will find the Permits Office located at the end of the corridor marked ‘A’.”

“Thank you,” said Carth.

“Great,” Canderous added. They both started for the door.

The droids arm shot out, blocking Carth’s way. “Please present your Class Six control pass for verification and access.”

“I’m just going to the Permits Office to get one,” said Carth.

“You just gave us directions, remember?” said Canderous.

“Yes, sir. I do recall giving you directions. Would you like them repeated?”

“No, I don’t want them repeated!” Canderous forcibly attempted to go around the droid.

Carth stopped him by grabbing his arm. Over in the far corner, a laser turret moved, pointing its barrel at him. Carth nodded in its direction.

“Erm…Carth?” Mission interrupted. She pointed to the turret.

“Yeah, we see it Mission,” Carth said, still holding back Canderous. “Is there another way to get to the Permits Office from this location?” Carth asked the droid.

“No, sir,” the droid replied. “There are no alternative access points to the Permits Office from your present location.”

“Okay, let me get this straight,” Carth said, after a heavy sigh of irritation. “You’re not going to let us through this door without a Class Six pass.”

“That is correct, sir.”

“And we can’t get an application to apply for a Class Six pass unless we go through this door?” asked Canderous.

“That is correct, sir.”

There was the sound of heavy laughter from behind them. “First visit to Jantessa? Frustrating, ain’t it?” said a gruff voice.

Carth turned to see a burly, scruffy looking man leaning cockily against the wall a few metres away from where he and the rest of the crew stood. He had a scraggly dark beard, streaked here and there with grey, and close set dark eyes framed by equally scraggly brows. His shirt was clean, and although it was so faded that its original colour was hard to determine, Carth didn’t figure the man to be the type that would have chosen ‘mauve’ on his own accord. His outfit was completed by a pair of well-worn leather trousers, tucked into equally worn and scuffed up leather boots, and topped off with a Krayt dragon hide jacket that looked like it had seen more hard times than the current wearer had.

“Name’s Krex,” the man introduced himself, as he approached holding out a grubby nail-bitten hand. “Gilt Krex. I run the Shadow Chaser out of Deralia, and a few other non-descript ports here and there.”

Carth eyed him over, and then exchanged a long look with Canderous. “Carth,” he said, finally shaking the man’s hand. “And this is Canderous, Jolee, Juhani, Mission, and….”

“Zalbaar,” said Krex, nodding. “Heard of him already.” He looked at the Wookiee with deep admiration. “You’re the talk of the complex, big fella!”

Zalbaar uttered an inquiring grunt.

“Oh, no! Not bad at all!” Krex answered, apparently understanding Wookiee. “It’s just that not many people have ever seen a Wookiee in these parts. ‘Ceptin me, maybe. Then again, I tend to circulate in bigger circles, if you catch my meanin.’” He tapped a finger along side his nose.

“A smuggler, eh?” Canderous grinned reminiscently. “Shadow Chaser. Now I remember you. You were the one who ran through our blockade when we were last here.”

Krex grinned widely. “Why, I didn’t know I was so famous! Imagine that. Me. Gilt Krex. Known by name among the Mandalorians.” He paused in consideration. “I’ll have to add that to my résumé.” He snuffled, then wiped his nose with the back of his hand. “So, what are you in for?”

“In for?” Carth frowned. “You sound like you’re saying we’re in a….”

“Prison?” Krex looked over his shoulder, and lowered his voice. “Hey, if you don’t have a Class Six pass, that’s exactly what it is. Very nice though, as far as prisons go.” He paused. “Erm…so I’m told,” he added, with a sly grin.

“We’re just waiting for our friends,” Mission blurted. “They’re meeting with a Prefect.”

“Not Keel, I hope,” Krex said, guardedly. “He’s a right…” He paused, noticing the sudden look of worry on Mission’s face. “Ah. So it is Keel. Sorry ‘bout that, miss. I mean, sorry for your friends.”

“Sorry? What do you mean by that, exactly,” Carth asked. Already this guy was making his skin crawl. Jolee and Juhani had been rather quiet, and if his skin was crawling, Carth supposed that their ‘Jedi Sense’ had to be at least tingling with the same sort of wariness.

“’Xactly? Well, I ain’t much for ‘’xactlys.’ But I can tell you that he and his lackey Berland, are as sneaky as an Ichtorian Attack Stohl wrapped around a rich Corellian lady’s neck.”

“You know Berland?” said Carth.

Krex snorted. “Know him? Heck, I worked for him for a while! Erm…a brief while, granted. That Sith’s too slimy for even my tastes. In fact, I suspect he’s the reason why my Class Six pass is no longer ‘valid.’ A ‘glitch’ in the system, so I’ve been told. Should be resolved in, oh, I don’t know, six months or so,” he sneered. “Yeah, a real smooth ‘glitch’ that Berland is.”

“So, why does Berland not want you to leave?” Juhani asked. “I was under the impression that the Jantessans do not care for ‘outlanders’.”

Krex snorted with amusement. “’Don’t care for?’ My aren’t you the polite one!” He let out a chuckle. “They downright despise us. ‘Ceptin,’ of course, for Berland. They seem to like him and his apprentice a great deal.”

“Apprentice? You mean Ithra?” Jolee asked, suddenly interested.

“Ithra? Nah! She’s a Prime Keeper, in case you didn’t notice.” He nodded over to the holovid newscaster in the corner. Ithra’s picture was being shown as an insert as the newscaster reported her safe return to Jantessa. “Nah. I was talking about….” Krex suddenly paused, and a glint twinkled in his beady eyes. “Say,” he said conspiratorially, “maybe you and me can like help each other out, you know? If you can somehow finagle me a valid Class Six so I can get out of here, I’ll tell you who Berland’s apprentice is. I know a lot about what goes on here on Jantessa.” Again, he laid a finger on the side of his nose. “You could say eavesdropping is a little hobby of mine.”

Mission was about to blurt something again, but Carth cautioned her just in time by holding up his hand. “Maybe. We’ll think about it, okay? Right now, we’re just worried about our friends.”

Krex held up his hands in surrender. “All right, all right,” he said. “I can tell when I’m not wanted.” He turned to leave. “But I’ve been trading here for, oh, let’s see…too many years for me to count. If’n you ever need information about something, anything, just come see me and we’ll work something out. I’m usually at the gaming tables on Level Four. That’s where most of us ‘real’ folk hang out. Less security cameras down there.” He grinned broadly. “Or so I am told.”

As the group watched Krex leave, Jolee said, “Well, that was interesting.”

“Oh, so you thought he was lying, too, huh?” said Carth.

“No,” said Jolee. “In fact, just the opposite. I think he could be a great help to us.”

“I also felt that he was being truthful,” said Juhani. “Perhaps, we should consider helping him. His knowledge of Jantessa might be of use to us in finding the relic.”

“I agree,” said Canderous. “He’s a smuggler, granted, but he must have some credit with the locals, or he wouldn’t be allowed here in the first place. I wouldn’t write him off just yet.”

“Okay,” Carth conceded. “Let’s split up and see what we can find out about this place. We’ve got T3. Maybe we can find someway to forge one of those passes.” He checked his chronometer. “Let’s meet back here in an hour. With any luck, we might be able to get out of here and find out what happened to Rade and Bastila.”

And inside, Carth hoped that Rade and Bastila were faring better than they were.

The Doctor
02-05-2006, 12:19 PM
About time! Nice chapter, Jas!

Hallucination
02-05-2006, 12:41 PM
Good job, keep it up :D!

Renegade Puma
02-07-2006, 06:33 PM
Great Chapter Jasra. You have a very nice story going on here :) Can't wait for the next chapter.

JasraLantill
02-15-2006, 05:01 PM
“What?! Aw, you can’t be serious!” Rade complained to Prefect Keel sitting stoically behind his desk. “A trial? But we only just arrived! We haven’t had any time to have violated any laws yet!”

Rade, Bastila, and HK had been escorted by Berland and Ithra from the Visitors’ Lounge to a waiting chamber outside of Prefect Keel’s office. Ithra had then excused herself to return to The Haven for some rest. After an hour wait, a silvery protocol droid came out of the Prefect’s office and called for Berland to enter alone. Another hour later, Rade, Bastila and HK were invited in as well—to officially register Bastila as Rade’s arbiter for his trial.

“No?” Prefect Keel let his eyes wander down to the datapad in his hands. “Let’s see. Assault against a Jantessan envoy…?” He looked at Berland.

On cue, Berland rubbed his elbow.

“Veering from the prescribed vector on approach through our shield corridor?” Prefect Keel continued. “Importation of restricted off-world produce? Importation of exotic wildlife?” At this, Prefect Keel looked up. “Without, I might add, an import license or any health certifications from any planet,” he added sharply.

“Produce? Exotic wildlife?” Bastila said, exchanging looks with Rade. “What are you talking about?”

“Zorgang nuts are foreign produce, are they not?” said Keel. “And Berland reports that you have one Wookiee and one Cathar on board.” He paused a beat. “Although, he did also mention that Master Chano likes to treat them as crew.” He sighed. “But I understand how some people can grow quite attached to their pets.”

“Juhani and Zalbaar are not pets!” Rade protested.

“Statement: Yes, master,” HK confirmed. “They are meatbags, like all organics. Query: Master, I cannot help but notice that this particular meatbag is irritating you. Would you like me to eliminate him?”

“HK, please…” Rade pleaded. “Not now.”

“Disappointed Reply: *sigh* As you wish, master.”

“Meatbags? Elimination?” said Prefect Keel with mild interest. He looked down at the datapad again, and added something to it. “I suppose now I will have to add ‘possession of a droid with illegal protocol modifications’ to the list. And there are still the charges relating to your ‘previous’ visit to our fair world.” He clicked a button on the datapad a few times. “Charges too numerous that I have neither the time nor the inclination to mention.”

“This is preposterous!” said Bastila. “You can hardly charge Rade with anything prior to his arrival today. The Jedi Council specifically sent him here at your people’s request. To help you with your Senatorial trainee, not to mention finding this missing relic of yours. And as a diplomatic envoy himself, he should be exempt from being charged with anything in the first place!”

Prefect Keel took a moment to consider. “So, Master Chano denies these charges?”

Rade opened his mouth to speak, but Bastila elbowed him in the side. “He certainly does,” she said for him. “Most vehemently.”

“I see.” Prefect Keel calmly rose from his desk. “Very well, my dear,” he said, slowly appraising Bastila's form. “I look forward to you presenting his defence to the court.” He turned to his protocol droid assistant. “When is the next available date on the docket?”

His protocol droid clicked as it calculated. “At 1800 hours, my lord Prefect. Forty-two standard days from today.”

“Forty-two days?” Rade said incredulously. “I’m not staying here for forty-two days. And how am I expected to find this ‘relic’ of yours if I’m being held over for trial?”

“Ah, yes. The Aylah’han Gem.” Prefect Keel paced behind his desk and stood with his back to them as he stared out the window. “Berland tells me that Keeper Ithra was most forthcoming about its…potential uses. Uses that the Jedi may not approve of.”

Rade exchanged a quick look with Bastila.

“How do we know if you will return it to us once you have found it?”

Rade cleared his throat. “Because you have the promise of the Jedi Council and my word as a Jedi Knight.”

“Your word?” Prefect Keel turned. His face was quiet and calm, without a hint of emotion, but his voice was sharp and accusatory. “You gave us ‘your word as a Jedi’ before as Lord Revan. A word you did not keep, I might add.”

“He is not the same person now,” Bastila said defensively. “He is not Lord Revan.”

“So you keep insisting,” said Prefect Keel. He picked up the datapad. “Although, Berland’s report indicates….”

“Berland’s a Sith,” Rade interrupted. “You can hardly take his word over a Jedi’s.”

“Former Sith,” Berland corrected. “I serve the Jantessans now, remember?”

“This is pointless,” said Bastila. “Prefect Keel, we came here to help you,” she said, trying to use her Jedi power of persuasion on him. “If you do not want the Jedi Council’s assistance, then let us depart and we will leave you to your own affairs.”

Keel raised an eyebrow. “Since Lord Revan’s visit, we have learned how not to be susceptible to any Force tricks or persuasions. Jedi or no, you will not depart without my permission,” he added icily.

“Perhaps some insurance would be in order, my lord,” suggested Berland. “If you were to hold, say, the Wookiee and the Cathar while he looked for the Gem, he would have no choice but to return it to us in exchange for their release. After all, obtaining the required permits for their release from quarrantine should take…well, a week at least.”

“No one’s holding anyone hostage,” Rade stated to Keel. “I’m not leaving my crew behind. If you want the Gem, you release us. All of us.”

Prefect Keel appreciatively eyed Bastila over again. “Perhaps then just you, Bastila, should stay behind. I could ‘help’ you prepare for your client’s case. Or your own, if for some reason he doesn’t return for you."

“An excellent suggestion, my lord,” Berland said to Keel.

“What?” Bastila said, sounding very offended.

Rade again opened his mouth to protest on her behalf, but Bastila halted him, and then whispered something in his ear. Rade grinned, then nodded.

“We agree with Berland,” said Bastila. She grinned at Berland’s look of confusion, and Keel’s look of defeat. “It’s a fair compromise to allow the Wookiee and the Cathar to stay here while the rest of us look for the Gem. Agreed?"

"My lord," Berland started, "this is obviously a trick to get...."

Keel sighed. “Agreed,” he said with more than a hint of disappointment.

“Now,” Bastila said in a confident voice. “In order for us to find this Gem of yours, we will need access to your databases on….”

“Oh, I’m afraid that cannot be permitted,” Prefect Keel replied quickly. “Only those with a Class Eight control pass are allowed access to them. And unfortunately, you do not meet the criteria for me to issue one. Anyway, it won’t be necessary. There is someone who should already know the Gem’s location.”

Rade and Bastila exchanged looks.

“A trader by the name of Krex,” Berland said on cue. “We suspect that he knows exactly where the Gem is, although he has been… ’unwilling’ to give us that information through… 'conventional' measures.”

“Meaning what?” asked Rade. “That he’s immune to Sith mind invasion and torture?”

Berland stared at Rade deadpan. “Irritatingly so.”

“So where can we find this ‘Krex,’ asked Rade.

“Oh, he’s easy to find,” said Prefect Keel. “He’s being detained in the Visitors’ Lounge. A problem with his control pass, I believe?” he said, looking at Berland, who nodded in affirmation to his question. “I understand that a problem like that takes weeks, sometimes months, to resolve.”

“He’s here?” Rade said, then rolled his eyes.

“Your crew will probably have had some contact with him already,” said Prefect Keel. “He normally tries to ‘suss out’ all the new arrivals. Talk to him. Get him to tell you about the Gem’s location, and then find it and bring it back to us.”

“And why would Krex tell us when he wouldn’t tell you?” asked Bastila.

“Why wouldn’t he tell you?” asked Prefect Keel in return. “You’re an ‘outlander’. You’ve been charged with offences, and you have a dislike for Berland, and, I suspect myself as well now. And you’re Jedi. I’m sure you are resourceful enough to persuade him to tell you where the Gem is.” He pushed a button and the door opened. “My protocol droid will escort you back to your crew in the Visitors’ Lounge. When you have the information you need, just inform the droid that you would like to speak to me again. I’ll see to it that you are issued with the appropriate clearance passes.”

Rade, Bastila and HK were escorted back to the Visitors’ Lounge.

“So,” Prefect Keel said to Berland after the door had shut. “You are sure that Krex will tell them?”

“Oh, yes, my lord. Quite sure.” He grinned. “And when he does, we’ll merely follow them to the source, destroy the Ebon Hawk, and take the Gem back ourselves. The tracking device I placed on board their ship is well hidden.”

Hallucination
02-15-2006, 06:03 PM
Another great chapter! It's so good, I got pissed off at the Jantessans ;). Keep up the great work!

JasraLantill
02-15-2006, 06:59 PM
Well, I must be doing something right if you got pissed off with them. :) Thanks for the encouragement! ;)

Renegade Puma
02-16-2006, 04:14 AM
Great chapter once again Jasra. You always write everything out so well, and with such an easy flow. I don't like this Prefect Keel fellow. I think he needs to be "HK'ed" if you get my drift :)

Renegade Puma
02-17-2006, 01:46 PM
Once again I have to say, GREAT JOB Jasra. I can't wait for your next chapter yet again.

Vladimir-Vlada
02-20-2006, 05:28 PM
Pure talent. You are doing great.

JasraLantill
03-09-2006, 09:31 PM
As Rade, Bastila and HK-47 entered through the door of the Visitors’ Lounge, they were met by Carth and the rest of the crew.

“Please tell me that they gave you a Class Six pass,” Carth said, just as the door closed behind Rade.

Rade gave his friend a weak smile. “Well, erm…”

Carth let out an exasperated groan. “We’ve been around this entire place, twice, looking for a way to get past their security. Not even T3 could break their codes! What do they want from us?!” he said, holding his hands up in surrender.

“They want information from one of the detainees here,” said Bastila. “A trader called Krex. Once we get it, the Prefect will allow us to depart. Well, some of us can depart.”

Carth raised an eyebrow. “Some of us?”

Bastila glanced at Rade for support before breaking the bad news. “I’m afraid Juhani and Zalbaar will have to stay here for the moment.”

Zalbaar roared his disapproval.

“What?” Juhani said incredulously, her voice rising. “Stay here?”

“Now, Juhani, remember,” said Rade. “There is no emotion, there is….”

Juhani ignored Rade’s attempt to soothe her anger. “Forget the Jedi Code! I’m not staying here!”

“It’s just until we get back with the Gem,” said Bastila. “It was the only way we could avoid going to trial.”

“Trial! Trial for what?” Carth suddenly shook his head. “Nevermind. I don’t think I want to know.”

“The fact remains that Juhani and Zalbaar have to stay here,” said Bastila. “But,” she looked at each of them in turn, “that doesn’t mean that you two don’t have work to do.” She lowered her voice. “The Jantessans believe that you are ‘lesser’ beings.” She quickly held her hand up to stay any objections from either of them. “Which means they won’t be watching you that closely. We need you to gather as much information as you can about the Sith occupation here. It won’t be easy, but I think you two can handle it.”

Juhani exchanged looks with Zalbaar. “We’ll do our best,” she acquiesced.

“Good,” Rade said. “So, about this trader. Krex. We need to find him and talk to him.”

Carth and Canderous exchanged looks. “Erm…we’ve already met him,” Carth said hesitantly.

“Yeah, and we don’t like him,” Mission blurted. “He cheats.”

“Yes, he’s dishonest, and not very pleasant,” Juhani disdainfully agreed.

“Cheats?” asked Rade, confused at what they were basing their opinions on.

“He beat her at cards,” Canderous explained. He grinned. “Five times.”

“Like I said, he cheats,” Mission retorted, sulkily crossing her arms over her chest.

“Oh, c’mon, he’s not that bad,” Jolee chimed. “I mean, sure he’s a bit shady, but if he’s been trading with Jantessa for all the years he’s claimed, he’d have to be. And he did warn you that he played a mean game before you started,” he reminded Mission.

“Mean is one thing. Cheating is another. I don’t like him,” Mission said. “And neither does Big Z. Right?”

Zalbaar gave a half-hearted grunt, indicating that he wasn’t really bothered one way or the other.

“Query: If this meatbag is so disliked by your crew, Master,” HK-47 said, “would it not be order to torture him in the process of our interrogation? After all, keeping up crew morale is very important.”

Rade gave HK a deadpan look. “Maybe later,” he said dismissively. “Now, where can we find this Krex?” he asked Carth.

“Yes,” said Bastila, “the sooner we talk to him, the sooner we can…”

“Statement: The sooner we can torture him!” HK gleefully interrupted Bastila.

Bastila glared at the rusty red droid. “The sooner we can leave,” Bastila finished icily. “Rade, you really have to do something about that droid,” Bastila said under-her-breath.

“Krex is in the gaming parlour,” said Mission, pointing the way. “Level four. You can’t miss him. He’s the one with the pile of Republic credit chips in front of him. My credit chips,” she added with a brooding scowl.

Leaving HK-47 behind with the rest of the crew, Rade and Bastila made their way to the gaming parlour. Krex was indeed easy to find with his telltale pile of Republic credits in stacked in front of him, but he made it a point to wave them over to join him.

“More newcomers!” he said gleefully, sounding a bit inebriated. “This day is just getting better and better!” He cleared away some empty shot glasses on the table, then motioned for them to sit. “It’s getting harder to find people to play with me,” he told them. “Been here so long that most folks are getting’ wise…erm, I mean, tired of me,” he corrected himself. “You play?” he asked Rade, appraising him with his eyes.

“When I get the chance,” said Rade. “Although, I have to admit, it’s been a while. I’m a bit rusty.”

Krex grinned knowingly. “And a bit modest, too, I reckon?” Nevertheless, he began to shuffle the cards. “And what about you, miss?” he said to Bastila. “Care for a quick hand?”

“No, thank you,” she said curtly.

Rade leaned in closer to Krex. “She doesn’t really approve of gambling,” he said in a hushed, conspiring tone.

Krex grunted and rubbed his scraggly beard. “Thought so,” he replied back to Rade. “Could see it in her eyes. And the way her face scrunched up like a kinrath pup when she walked in.” He snorted. “Must be a wife thing. My ex used to be the same way.”

Bastila’s mouth dropped, but before she could utter a word in reply, Rade lightly kicked her shin under the table. “Oh, sorry, dear,” he apologised. “Didn’t mean to do that. Just getting comfortable. Say, honey, why don’t you go and get us some drinks?” He looked at Krex. “What’s your poison, erm…?”

Krex grinned broadly. “Krex,” he introduced himself. “Gilt Krex. Run the Shadow Chaser out of Deralia.” He turned to Bastila. “Cassandran Brandy, if’n you please, ma’am. Expensive, I know, but everythin’s free for us ‘visitors’ here.” He leaned in closer to Rade. “The Jantessans like to keep us happy, you see. Less trouble that way.”

Rade nodded knowingly. “Rade Chano,” he introduced himself to Krex. “And…”

“Tila,” Bastila said, not knowing if the trader had heard of her real name through rumours.

“Nice to make your acquaintance. Seven’s wild?” Krex asked, tapping the deck on the table.

“Fine.” Rade nodded for Bastila to get them the drinks. Reluctantly, she got up and headed towards the bar. “So, how long have you been here?” Rade asked Krex.

“Couple of months.” Krex began to deal out the cards. “Twenty credit ante?”

“Sure, why not,” Rade replied, slouching in his chair to get more comfortable. He tossed a credit chip casually on the table. “Why so long?”

Krex sighed as he stacked the draw pile on the table and picked up his cards. “Well, you see, that’s a long story.”

“I’ve got time,” said Rade. “Berland tells me that sorting out quarantine and import permits could take a while.”

“Berland?!” Krex’s expression turned dark. “That durned chuff-sucking leech,” he growled. “He’s the reason why I’m here.”

“Oh?”

“Think’s he’s so smart,” Krex sneered as he looked through his cards. “That Sith is slimier than a Lylek dung-grubber.”

“You mean ‘former’ Sith, don’t you?”

“’Former’?” Krex snorted. “Is that what he told you?” He looked over his shoulders, checking to see who was in earshot. “Sith got apprentices, don’t they?”

Rade mimicked Krex, looking over his shoulder. Bastila was still at the bar. “So, I’ve been told,” he replied quietly.

“Well, he’s got one.” Krex paused, as he laid down a card and drew one from the pile.

“Keel?”

Krex raised an eyebrow. “A Prefect?” He snorted. “Nah. None of the Prefects got what it takes. He’s got another one. A boy. Well, suppose he’s a young man now. Seen Berland training ‘im down at the Haven once. That was pretty much the last time I was allowed down there.”

“The Haven? That’s where the Keepers live, right? The Jantessans actually allowed you to go there?”

“Sure,” Krex said. “Been trading here for years. Used to be pretty friendly with ‘em. You know about the Keepers?”

“Heard of them, yes,” Rade replied. “Can’t say I’ve seen many of them though.”

“Well, you wouldn’t, now, would you? Most of ‘em were wiped out when the Sith invaded. Damn shame that. Things were a lot better here then.” He grinned reminiscently. “Still a lot of rules, but folk were a lot more accommodatin’ when the Keepers were runnin’ things.”

“I thought the Prefects ran things,” Rade asked, throwing down one of his cards.

“Ah, that’s what you’re meant to think,” said Krex, laying a finger to his nose. “But that wasn’t the case. The Prefects upheld the laws, but the Keepers ran things. Kept everyone runnin’ on the same track, so to speak. Not all this arguin’ and strugglin’ for power like they do now.” He grimaced as he drew his next card.

“How come they don’t do that now?” Rade asked.

“Well, there was this massacre, see,” said Krex. “Those that were left were inexperienced. Novices, mostly. The others…,” He paused for a moment. “Well, the few that survived were sent for ‘re-education’ in that place they call the Foundery,” he said somewhat bitterly.

“You seem to know a lot about the Keepers,” Rade said casually.

“Well, I was friends with one,” Krex said. “Unusual, I know, but me and her just seemed to hit it off. Just friends though,” he clarified. “She was a bit of a rebel among the Keepers. Always curious about travellin’ to other planets. One day, she approached me while I was unloadin’ some carbonite filtration systems, and we got to talkin’ and well…before I knew it, we were sort of… well, friends. Think it got her in some trouble with her elders back then, being as I was an outlander and all, but she somehow managed to get out of it somehow! I’d tell her about the planets I visited, and she’d tell me the stories and lore of the Keepers…” His voice trailed off, and he started to frown as if he was remembering something unpleasant.

Rade noticed Bastila approaching. He hoped that Krex wouldn’t clam up when she arrived. “What happened to her? Your friend?” Rade asked softly. “Was she killed in the massacre?”

“Hmm? Oh, no, no. She wasn’t killed,” Krex said. “She…”

Bastila returned with the drinks and passed them out. She sat down next to Rade. “Don’t mind me,” she said to Krex, waving him on with her hand. “Please, continue.”

Krex gave her a suspicious sort of look. “Your turn,” he said to Rade.

Rade played his last card, but at the same time, he used a small amount of Force Persuasion in an attempt to keep the conversation flowing, even though Berland had said that Krex was resistant to any Force mind manipulation. “Twenty.”

Krex grinned. “So it is.” He played his last one. “Twenty for me as well. Looks like we’re at an impass.”

“Looks like it. Another hand?”

Krex nodded and began to shuffle the cards. Rade sighed slightly, and gave Bastila a defeatist glance.

“You know, you’re more subtle than Berland is,” Krex said unexpectedly. His eyes flicked over Rade, then Bastila. “But I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t delve any deeper into my mind. Gives me a headache.”

Bastila admonished Rade with her eyes.

“I’m sorry,” Rade apologised to Krex. “I only meant to…”

“I know what you meant,” Krex said, dealing the cards. “You’re Jedi?”

Rade nodded.

Krex nodded as well, thinking. “You’re with the Twi’lek girl?”

Rade nodded.

“I didn’t cheat her,” he said. “Only I’ve been playin’ with this deck for so long, I know each and every card in it.” He grinned slightly. “Your friend was sayin’ that you’re looking for somethin’? A rare… Gem?”

“Yes,” Bastila said a bit too earnestly. “We’re looking for…

Rade stayed her by laying a hand on her shoulder. “Do you know where we can start looking for it?”

“I know,” said Krex. “Question is, will I tell you?” He paused, taking a moment to survey the cards he held. “More’s the question of what you plan to do with it if’n you find it?”

“We’re supposed to give it back to the Jantessans,” Rade said.

“Ah. Supposed. Interestin’ choice of words that.”

“Interesting, but apt,” replied Rade. “You have a better idea?”

Krex grinned. “Tell ‘ya what,” he began. “I’ll tell you what I told your friends. You get me out of here, and I’ll give you co-ordinates and a name. You seem like a capable sort. And if’n you’re worthy enough, you’ll find what you’re lookin’ for.”

“I can do that,” said Rade.

“Well, then,” said Krex. “Let’s finish our game and our drinks and blow this joint.”

~~~~~~~~

“Rade, how do you know that we can trust him?” said Carth, as he and the remainder of the crew of the Ebon Hawk boarded the ship to leave Jantessa.

“I don’t trust him,” said Rade. “But we have little choice. Keel’s a Prefect, and he’s got Zalbaar and Juhani as hostages.”

“I meant Krex,” said Carth.

“Oh. I trust him well enough,” said Rade. “He’ll hold up his end of the agreement.”

“Yeah, but how do you know he will? Once his ship clears Jantessan space he could just…” Carth paused. “Oh. It’s a Jedi thing, isn’t it?”

“Yup. But Krex has got another reason besides just a hatred of Berland for helping us,” he explained. Rade thought about Krex’s story about his Keeper friend. He had said she hadn’t been killed, but he hadn’t said what had happened to her. He wondered if she was one of the ones being held in the Foundery, and if Krex thought finding the Gem would somehow help her.

~~~~~~~~

The Ebon Hawk took off without incident, and left Jantessa, leaving Juhani and Zalbaar behind to investigate the Sith’s occupation.

“I can’t help feeling that something is wrong,” Bastila said to Rade as they passed through the shield barrier. “The ship…it doesn’t feel right. You think Berland has tagged it?”

“Would be surprised if he didn’t,” said Rade, peering over her shoulder at the sensors. “There. The Shadow Chaser. Hail her.”

Bastila did, and pretty soon, Gilt Krex’s gravelly voice sounded over the comm. “Thanks for your help, Jedi,” he said. “Feels good to be back in space!”

“Glad we could help each other out,” Rade said. “Now about those co-ordinates?”

Krex chuckled. “I’m sendin' them to you now. But we agreed to a name, too, didn’t we?”

“Yes, we did,” said Rade. “And from what my pilot tells me, you agreed to give him a name as well. The name of Berland’s apprentice.”

“So, I did. So I did,” Krex replied slowly. “But now that really isn’t fair, me givin’ you more than one name in exchange for only one pass. Tell ‘ya what. I’ll give you a first name of one and the last name of the other, but you decide which half you want of each. Deal?”

Carth gave Rade a sideways look. “Trust him, do you?” he scoffed.

Rade thought a moment. “Deal,” he said. “First name of the apprentice.”

“Deren,” Krex replied. “And the other name you want is Co’Vanni.” He chuckled. “That’s all I can give you. Like I said, if’n you’re worthy, you’ll find what you’re lookin’ for.”

And with that, the Shadow Chaser shot off into hyperspace.

“Let’s see those co-ordinates,” Rade said to Bastila.

She deftly tapped a few buttons and the planet they led to popped up on the Galaxy Map. “Degos V,” she said. “It’s a mining colony, just in the next system. We can make it there in a few hours.”

An alarm sounded from a panel in front of Carth. “Oh, great!” he sneered. “Damn stabiliser again!” He punched a few buttons and the alarm went off. “We’re going to have to get that thing fixed. Soon,” he added adamantly.

“Can we make it to Degos V?” Rade asked.

“Think so.”

“Good. We’ll do repairs there.” Rade stretched his hands over his head. “I’m getting some rest in the meantime.”

Rade shot a look at Bastila, hoping that she might join him after she finished plotting their course.

He sat down on the bunk in his dormitory. It had been a long day. He laid down, and closed his eyes, waiting for Bastila to come to him.

“Rade?” a female voice said softly.

Rade grinned, and opened his eyes to see… “Ithra?!”

Renegade Puma
03-10-2006, 02:56 AM
Wow! What in the heck is Ithra doing on the Ebon Hawk?? You freakin did it this time Jasra, you ended it on a flippin cliffhanger. Now I want the next chapter, and I want it now! Ok well I guess as soon as possible anyway. Great job, excellent chapter!

Renegade Puma
03-10-2006, 06:00 PM
Congrats on your review from the Mach-mister. He really praised your writing Jasra. :) Keep up the great work!

JasraLantill
03-10-2006, 10:30 PM
Rade sat bolt upright. “By the Force! Ithra, what are you doing on my ship!”

Ithra stood in the doorway, staring back at him with innocent violet eyes, and then she shrugged, not unlike a sulking child. “I wanted to come with you,” she said softly. “To help you find the Gem.”

Rade rolled his eyes, then sighed. “Does Berland know you’re here?”

She looked down at the floor. “No.”

“Great,” Rade said disparagingly. “No doubt he and Keel will add ‘kidnapping a Keeper’ to their list of trumped up charges.” He sighed, running a worried hand through his hair. “Just great,” he muttered.

He rose and moved towards her. “Stay here,” he ordered. “I’ll be right back.”

“But Rade, I have something that I need to tell y….”

“Stay. Here,” he repeated more firmly. He gave her a hard stare, then left for the cockpit.

“We’ve got a stowaway on board,” he said to Bastila and Carth.

“Oh?” Carth gave Rade a look over his shoulder. “You mean some poor quarantined ‘outlander’ actually managed to escape the Visitors’ Lounge?” He chuckled. “Good! Maybe we can learn something from them to get Juhani and Zalbaar out.”

“She’s not an outlander,” said Rade.

Bastila and Carth both turned to face him.

“She?” Bastila asked, her eyes narrowing. “She who?”

“It’s….”

“Rade?” Ithra suddenly appeared behind Rade. “I really have to tell you something.”

“Oh, no!” Carth’s head slumped. “Just when we thought it was over….”

“What are you doing on board?!” Bastila asked her.

“Obviously not listening to what people tell her to do,” Rade grumbled. “I clearly remember telling you to stay put.”

Ithra folded her arms across her chest with resignation. “Yes, but…”

“What is it with you Jantessans and the word ’but’?” Carth snapped at her. “The dock is just a few metres that way, sir, BUT you can’t get there from here. Passes can be obtained from the office, sir, BUT it’s only open when and if we feel like it. There’s always a ‘but’ with you people, isn’t there?”

Ithra sighed. “I can see that I might have made a mistake in thinking you might trust me.”

“Trust you?” Rade said incredulously. “You make life miserable for us on the journey here, turn us in to the authorities when we arrive, and then stow away on our ship? And you think those actions warrant trust?”

“I didn’t turn you in to anybody!” Ithra blurted. “That was all Berland’s doing! I knew Prefect Keel wanted to….” She paused. “When I heard that he was holding Juhani and your Wookiee hostage, well.… That wasn’t part of the plan.”

“Plan?” Bastila’s brows knitted together in a scowl. “So, there was a plan, was there?”

“Yes, but…” She abruptly stopped herself, casting a glance in Carth’s direction. “Can we talk about this later,” she said, in a decidedly more calm voice. “There’s something I really have to…”

“No, we’ll talk about this now!” Bastila said adamantly, hands on her hips and sounding not unlike someone’s mother. “Ithra, your presence here affects more than just those of us on board this ship! It could jeopardise the lives of our companions we had to leave behind, not to mention the further reaching implications of….”

“Erm, hate to interrupt,” Carth said, as the proximity alarm began to sound. He nodded to the scanners. “But we’ve got company.”

“What is it?” Rade asked, craning his neck to see the sensors.

“Looks like a small party of rogue Mandalorian raiders heading straight for us,” Carth said. He studied the sensors for a moment. “They’re powering up weapons.” He hurriedly punched a few buttons. “I’m raising our shields. Bastila, now would be a good time for those hyperspace calculations.”

Bastila quickly took her position in the navigator’s seat. “I’m on it.”

Ithra rolled her eyes. “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you about!” she said with exasperation. “Berland has sent them to destroy you!”

“Great,” said Rade, grabbing Ithra’s shoulders and moving her aside. “Thanks for the heads up.” He ran down the corridor shouting, “Canderous! We’ve got incoming! Man the starboard turret! I’ve got the port!”

Ithra watched as Carth diverted power to the shields, while Bastila called out the approach vectors of the incoming enemy ships to Rade and Canderous, then resumed her calculations.

“Can’t you just jump to hyperspace without calculations?” Ithra asked Carth.

“Huh? No,” Carth said, shaking off his momentary distraction. “Not unless we want to end up in the middle of a star or something. Bastila?”

“Give me a minute,” she snapped, her fingers tapping at lightning speed across the console.

“How does a hyperspace jump work?” Ithra asked.

“Look, Ithra, I really don’t have time to explain!” Carth barked. “Just…just find a seat somewhere and strap yourself in, will you?”

The ship lurched suddenly to the right as the fighters made their first strafing run, and Ithra snagged hold of the back of Carth’s chair to keep her balance.

“Then tell them I’m on board,” Ithra told him. “They won’t destroy us if they know I’m here.”

“I wouldn’t bet on that,” said Carth. “They’re Mandalorians, remember?”

Looking out the cockpit windows, Ithra was amazed at the speed of the fighters as they darted in and around the Ebon Hawk. One of the ships exploded, hit by either Rade or Canderous on the turret cannons, and the shower of sparks that followed reminded her of a blossoming Goldeneve, a native Jantessan flower. Exhilaration mixed with fear, and she felt her heart pounding in her chest like a bass drum. It was the most exciting event she had ever witnessed.

A second fighter exploded, quite close this time, and the concussion wave rocked the Ebon Hawk to the left this time. Ithra’s grip tightened on Carth’s seatback. “Are we winning?” she asked.

“Ithra! Shut up!” said Carth, as he made an evasive manoeuvre to avoid an oncoming fighter in his path.

“Sorry,” she said quietly, her knuckles whitening as she struggled to keep upright through the turbulence.

A third fighter was hit, spinning out of control directly towards the cockpit. Carth pulled back hard on the controls, and the Ebon Hawk lurched even more as it looped and dogded to avoid collision.

“Bastila?!” Carth shouted. “Where are those calculations?”

“Give me one more…” The Ebon Hawk was hit again, and this time sparks shot out of one of the panels.

Ithra screamed as the sparks peppered her. Tiny flames danced over the panel, and the cockpit began to fill with smoke.

“Got it!” Bastila said to Carth, as she hit a button on her console with finality. “Go!”

In a brief moment, the stars began to blur then disappear entirely. Everything was momentarily quiet, except for the hiss of the automated extinguisher putting out the panel fire and the hum of the life support systems filtering out the smoke from the cockpit.

Ithra coughed as the smoke in the air tickled her throat. “We won?” she asked.

“We escaped,” said Carth, giving her a look of disbelief.

“What’s the damage?” Rade said, storming into the cockpit and gently pushing Ithra aside.

“Well, we took some pretty bad hits,” said Carth. “We’ve got some damage to the sublight circuits, but I've managed to reroute them for the moment. Degos V isn’t far. We'll probably just make it, but if those raiders figure out where we’re going, they won’t be far behind.”

“Great.” Rade let out sigh, then turned to Ithra. “How did you find out that Berland had sent those ships to attack us?” he asked, grabbing hold of her upper arm and giving her a hard stare.

“I…I accessed the protocol droid in Prefect Keel’s office,” she said sheepishly. “It records everything he does. Berland planted a tracking device on your ship. Once he knew where you were going, he had planned to destroy you.” Rade gave her an incredulous look as he released her. “I was curious,” she replied to his silent query.

“What else did Prefect Keel have in mind for us?” Bastila asked, stepping away from her console and approaching Ithra.

Ithra bit her lip. “I’m not sure.”

“You mean, you don’t want to tell us,” Bastila corrected. “I can sense you’re withholding something.”

“It doesn’t really concern you,” Ithra said boldly. “It involves the Keepers, not the Jedi.”

Bastila and Rade both glared at her.

“Although, I can tell you if you don’t find the Gem, Juhani and Zalbaar will be…”

“Terminated?” Rade asked.

“Re-educated,” Ithra replied slowly, in a tone of voice that indicated their fate was worse than mere death. “Then sold,” she added quietly, as if that wasn’t the end of their misery. As Rade shook his head, Ithra said, “That’s why I had to warn you. What they are planning…it’s not right.” She looked down at the floor, and sadly shook her head. “It’s not the Keeper way.”

“No, it’s the Sith way,” Bastila concluded. “Ithra, when we find the Gem, would you be willing to testify against Berland? To expose him as a Sith to the Jedi Council?”

“My only concern is the fate of the Keepers,” said Ithra, casting her eyes to the floor. “I’ll help you find the Gem, but that’s all.”

“Well, at least we know where her loyalties lie,” Carth commented under-his-breath.

Rade frowned at Carth. “Ithra, does the name ‘Deren’ mean anything to you?” he asked her.

Ithra’s head snapped up, her eyes sparking with recognition. “Deren? He’s in charge of the Foundery at the Haven.”

“He’s a Keeper?”

Ithra shifted uncomfortably. “Not…exactly, no. He never made it through Assumption.” She paused, detecting the enquiring look on Revan’s face. “It’s a ceremony for novices,” she explained. “Deren is a few years older than me, but he wasn’t as particularly proficient in certain areas of study as I was. So, no, he’s not a Keeper. Only a novice. Still.”

Rade and Bastila exchanged looks. “Perfect apprentice material for a Sith like Berland then,” Rade said.

“Berland is not a Sith!” Ithra said defensively. “And Deren is not his apprentice!”

“He is,” Bastila said. “Krex told us.”

“Krex?” Ithra frowned. “I wouldn’t trust anything Krex had to say.”

“You know him?”

“Know of him,” Ithra replied. She looked like she was about to say more, but then she bit her lip and was silent for a moment. She looked at Rade askance. “What else did Krex tell you?”

“Besides the co-ordinates to Degos V, he gave us a starting point to start looking for the Gem,” said Rade. “A name. Co’Vanni.”

Ithra blanched.

“You know that name?”

Ithra stared at Rade for a moment. “It is a traitor’s name,” she said softly. Her eyes narrowed. “A name you should know well yourself,” she added.

“Really?” Bastila raised a brow in interest. “Then we may indeed be on the right track.”

The ship shuddered. “Yeah, well, let’s just get to Degos V first, and then we can worry about tracks,” said Carth, punching in a few buttons. “I’ve stabilised us as much as I can, but…” He looked at Rade. “Let’s just hope that this mining colony has a pretty good maintenance facility.”

Renegade Puma
03-14-2006, 04:39 AM
Wow Jasra! Great job. I like how Ithra has gone all innocent and nice now. For a moment I thought that she might have a crush on Rade. ;) Perhaps she does and you just haven't written it yet eh? Anyway, the way you described her and the way I picture her in my mind, well, let's just say I might make a pass at her if I were in the story. ;) Keep up the great writing!

Jae Onasi
03-14-2006, 03:20 PM
This is wonderful. The only bad thing is that I have to wait for another chapter. :)

JasraLantill
03-23-2006, 09:53 PM
Degos V was sparsely populated. Its surface was mainly rainforest jungle, and the settlements that dotted the few islands of dry land were small mining outposts, where the inhabitants eked out a living mining veins of cortosis ore or scouring the various caverns in search of rare crystals.

The Ebon Hawk limped into the only major port on the planet, aptly called Oasis. The port wasn’t glamorous, but at first glance it seemed to be fairly ordered, civilised, and for the most part operational. There were several freighters docked in the open air landing bays, though some of them appeared to be mercenary or pirate vessels rather than legitimate cargo carriers.

But that wasn’t unusual, since Degos V wasn’t part of the Republic. Instead it was an independent planet, run by a loosely organised consortium of Hutts, Humans, and Rodians. Not an unfriendly place, but a place where it was definitely wise for one to keep their wits about them and watch their back.

“Oh. Lovely,” Bastila commented on the starkly functional surroundings, as she followed Rade and Carth down the ramp and into the port.

“I don’t really care if it’s ‘lovely’ or not,” said Carth. “Just as long as it has the repair facilities and parts that we need.”

“Well, let’s go check in with the port authority,” Rade said to Carth. “Best way to find out about the facilities and any local ‘tourist attractions.’ Bastila, you stay here with our ‘guest,’” he said, nodding to Ithra who was just behind her. “When we get back, we’ll decide what to do next.”

Bastila gave him a resigned smile as she watched them leave, obviously unhappy about being assigned ‘babysitting’ duty for the moment.

Overwhelmed by her new surroundings, Ithra hovered closely behind Bastila, flanked from behind by Mission, Jolee, Canderous, and HK-47. “What is that?” she whispered to Mission, as she discreetly pointed to a Rodian arguing with one of the dock workers just a few metres away.

“That is a bug-eyed Rodian,” Mission replied sourly. “One of the most untrustworthy sentient species in the Galaxy. Bet that one is a bounty hunter,” she added.

“How can you tell?” asked Ithra.

“Well, he’s holding a modified hold out blaster in his hand for one. And looks like he’s arguing about money. Bounty hunters are always arguing about money.”

“So, he’s dangerous?”

“Dangerous? Him?” Mission snorted. “Nah. Well, not to us anyway,” she retracted. “Bounty hunters are only dangerous if you’re their target. Or, if you interfere with cashing in their bounty,” she added in retrospect. “Or if you cross them. Or look at them funny. Or accidentally offend them. Or…”

“That’s enough, Mission,” Bastila warned. “I’m sure we could all do without hearing the sordid details on the consequences of breaching the norms of lower-end societal etiquette.”

“Hey!” Mission frowned. “Who are you calling ‘lower end?’”

Bastila heaved a sigh.

Ithra shifted uncomfortably. “Maybe… we should wait inside the ship until Rade and Carth get back,” Ithra said rather apprehensively to Bastila. “It feels… dangerous here. Can’t you feel it?”

“Nonsense,” Bastila scoffed. “We’re perfectly safe right here. You’re standing inbetween two Jedi, a Mandalorian and an assault droid. I can assure you, you’re not even remotely in ‘danger.’”

Just then, the Rodian used his modified hold-out blaster to blast a hole into the chest of the dock worker he’d been arguing with. For a brief moment, everyone’s attention was diverted to the spectacle, but then just as quickly, they went about their business as if nothing unusual had taken place.

Ithra stared wide-eyed at the wisps of smoke rising from the now deceased dock worker, while the Rodian holstered his weapon and nonchalantly walked away. Slowly, she turned her head towards to the once over-confident Bastila.

“Okay, so maybe Bastila was wrong,” Canderous said lightly, breaking the silence.

Bastila gave Canderous an icy stare, but before she could launch a retort, Rade and Carth came out of the port authority office, heading towards them.

“Right, do you want the good news or the bad news?” Rade asked Bastila.

Bastila sighed. “Let’s hear the good news.”

“The good news is that we have a lead on the Gem. Someone with the name Co’Vanni runs a cantina not far from here.”

“And the bad news?” Jolee asked.

“The bad news is that their maintenance facility isn’t as well equipped as we had hoped,” said Carth. “We may have some trouble getting parts. And, they don’t seem to like Republic credits here too much.”

“Typical,” Bastila sighed. “Never anything simple or easy. So, what’s the plan?”

“Well, I think we should split up,” said Rade. “You, Ithra and I will check out the lead at the cantina. Carth, Mission, Jolee and Canderous can scrounge for parts and fix the ship.”

“Aw! Why do I always get the most ‘unfun’ jobs?” Mission complained. “Can’t I go with you? Please? You’ll need someone to watch your back.” she added persuasively.

Rade considered this for a moment. “You’re right, Mission. Canderous, you come with us.”

“What?” Mission stomped her foot. “But that’s not fair!”

“Nope, but that’s how it is, kid,” said Jolee, patting her reassuringly on the shoulder. “I’m sure we’ll find something fun for you to do.”

“Fixing engines.” Mission scowled. “Yeah, sounds like real ‘fun’ to me.”

“Query: What about me, Master?” HK said pleadingly. “I am undeniably more proficient than any meatbag with a blaster. And you did imply a promise when you said ‘maybe later’ in response to my previous query about torturing the meatbag trader Krex on Jantessa.”

Rade sighed. “Okay, fine. You can come, too.”

Mission folded her arms, and stormed back into the ship in a huff. “Takes a stupid droid and a brainless Mandalorian, but not me…” her voice trailed off.

“Appreciative Reply: Oh, thank you, Master!” said HK. “I am so looking forward to finally demonstrating my valuable combat skills and unique abilities!”

“But only if I ask you to, right?” Rade clarified.

“Statement: But of course, Master! I exist only to serve you.”

Bastila looked at Rade askance. “Are you sure about taking HK?” she whispered.

Rade shrugged. “Figure if we keep an eye on him, we can keep him out of trouble,” he replied quietly. “I’m still not sure what Berland did to him, remember?”

“Well, I suppose he does have his uses,” Bastila nodded. “All right, then,” she said to everyone. “Let’s get moving.”


~~~~~~~~~

The main thoroughfare of Oasis was just like any found in other port cities in the Galaxy--shops and services, warehouses, restaurants, all situated within easy walking distance between clusters of lodging complexes. But the side streets were of a decidedly more dangerous flavour.

Seedy cantinas, shady shops, gambling parlours, and brothels lined both sides of the street, with most all of them having brightly lit, albeit poorly maintained, neon signs above their doors in an attempt to attract customers to their wares and services within. Among the normal clientele that often frequented such areas, menacing-looking thugs asserted their way through the people-lined walkways, avoiding small heaps of rubbish that were slowly being collected by shabby-looking maintenance droids.

As there was not really any central government on Oasis, the thugs were employed by the various factions in charge to do the job that security guards or police officials would have normally done on a civilised planet, such as Coruscant. This particular section of Oasis was under the control of Hedra the Hutt, as indicated by green armbands they wore.

“The Miscreant Miner?” Bastila’s brows knitted together with deep suspicion as the group approached the cantina the man at the port had told Rade they might find the person called Co’Vanni. “Are you sure this is the right place?”

Located midway in the street, one half of the Miscreant Miner’s lighted sign flickered dangerously as if in any second it would short out. There were two windows on either side of the main entrance, though it was difficult to tell if they were just dirty or had been purposefully frosted to obscure the view within. A small board on the wall listed the specials of the day, although this, too, was a bit grungy and badly scratched making it difficult to read from any distance.

Rade looked up at the sign above the cantina’s door. “Yup. That’s the place.”

“It looks… treacherous,” Ithra commented, making sure she was safely between Bastila and Canderous. Her nose wrinkled in disgust. “And dirty. Just like all of these places.”

“Ithra, you’ll have to accept the fact that not everyone in the Galaxy is as fastidious as the Jantessans are,” Rade said to her. “Besides, a little dirt never hurt anyone, and the man at the port said that this was actually one of the nicer cantinas.”

As if on cue, a Rodian and a Human male were suddenly and forcibly ejected from the front door of the cantina by a pair of large hands, hurling the two bodies through the air directly past Rade where they came to land several metres away in the middle of small pile of rubbish.

“And stay out!” said a deep, rumbling voice, followed by the clapping together of hands as they were dusted off. Then the door slammed shut.

The ousted pair staggered to their feet, looked first at the door, then at each other, and then proceeded with their fisticuffs that had obviously caused them to be thrown out of the establishment in the first place. Again, people paid the pair’s activities with little notice, as if this sort of unruly behaviour was the norm rather than the exception.

“Nice?” Ithra protested quietly. “You call that nice?”

“Suppostion: The meatbags could have been maimed or killed before being thrown out,” HK-47 suggested. “That’s what I would have done.”

“Of course that’s what you would have done,” Canderous said to the droid. “Me? I would have just roughed them up a bit more.” He shrugged. “Maybe to just above consciousness,” he continued. “Just to get my point across.”

“Beasts, the pair of you,” Bastila murmured.

“See?” Rade said demonstratively to Ithra. “Nice.”

Ithra shot him a cold look.

“We’ll be fine,” Bastila said, prodding Ithra forward.

“Sure we will,” Rade agreed, as he opened the door to the establishment. “Just as long as we don’t start any fights,” he added under his breath.

The interior of the cantina was a surprising difference from what they had seen on the outside. The place was busy with customers, miners mostly, but there were some families with children as well. The walls were decorated in neutral colours, a mixture of beiges, greys, and light browns, punctuated with a decorative line of black midway up the wall, and all anchored together with a tastefully patterned, fitted carpet covering the floor. Dining tables were laid out in orderly rows in front of them, while a tidy, well-stocked bar was situated at the far end of the large room. Towards the back left, appeared to be the kitchen as a pair of swinging doors soon parted and a female Twi’lek wearing a white apron appeared, balancing a tray that held plates of steaming, fragrant food which she carried over to one of the tables. On the other side of the room, another swinging door, which, from the low din of conversation he could hear emanating from behind it, Rade surmised might lead to a gaming den.

The group was standing in a section partitioned off to mark a reception area, and it was here that Rade came face to chest with the owner of the gruff voice and the large hands that had ejected the previous patrons. He was extremely large for human, as big as a Wookiee, in fact, and with a dark unilateral brow just as hairy. But he was neatly dressed--his clothing plain, but freshly pressed, and with a small pink flower tucked in his lapel.

“Good evening, sir,” the man addressed Rade in a slow and deliberate baritone voice. “My name is Horace. Four?”

“Pardon?” asked Rade.

“The number of your party, sir?” Horace asked. “I need to know if any more guests are expected to join you, so that I may seat your party appropriately.”

“Oh,” Rade said, slightly taken aback at the sudden formality of the situation. “Erm…yes. Four. Plus a droid.”

Horace picked up four data cards from a holder attached to the wall--menus apparently--then he pulled out some sticky-backed numbered chits from another holder. “I’m sorry, but I will need to ask your party to check all weapons, sir.”

“Check our weapons?” Canderous asked suspiciously.

“Why, yes, sir,” said the man. “This is a family establishment. All weapons are kept securely in our armoury, to ensure the safety of our patrons and enhance their dining experience.” He pointed to a sign hanging on the wall.

Welcome to the Miscreant Miner.
No weapons. No swearing. No spitting. No fighting.
Younglings are allowed in the restaurant section only.
Patrons found to be disruptive to other customers
will be forcibly ejected from the premises
at the management's discretion.

Rade raised a curious eyebrow. From the scene they had witnessed outside, the ‘forcibly ejected’ part was rigidly enforced by Horace. Rade looked askance at Bastila, who shrugged. “Alright…” Rade took out his lightsabre and handed it to Horace, then beckoned with his hand for Canderous and Bastila to do the same. “You, too, HK,” he said to the droid. “Give me your blaster.”

“Query: But,Master, how will I be able to perform my primary duty of protecting you when I am disarmed?”

Rade looked over the gigantic figure of Horace in front of him. “I think we’ll manage,” he said, taking the droid’s blaster and adding it to the rest of the cache. “They seem to have adequate security.”

Horace carefully tagged each weapon with a numbered chit, then handed them the corresponding stubs. “Thank you,” he said politely. He pressed a button on the wall, and a droid with a wide mesh basket soon appeared to carry their weapons away to the armoury.

“Now, if you will please follow me, sir, I will show you to your table,” Horace said.

He led them to an empty table for six in the middle of the crowded dining area, where they were seated and given their menus.

“Your server will be with you momentarily,” Horace said. “If you require anything else, please do not hesitate to ask.”

“Oh, there is one thing,” said Rade, as he nonchalantly perused the menu. “Is it possible to speak with the owner of this establishment?”

“The owner, sir?”

“This is such a nice place. I just wondered if it might be possible to pay him a compliment in person.”

Even though Horace normally spoke very slowly, he seemed to take a little longer than necessary to reply. “I will see what I can do, sir.”

Horace summoned a droid to man the entrance, and then disappeared through the double doors that led to the gaming area.

“He’s hiding something,” Bastila said.

“I know,” said Rade. “But let’s just see what happens.”

“This is nice,” Ithra said out of the blue, as she looked at her menu.

“What’s nice?” Bastila asked, surprised to hear something positive from the girl.

“The food,” Ithra said. “Roast rump of Nerf, smothered in a spicy granita gravy, served with seasonal vegetables and a fresh herb salad,” she read. “Or, how about this. A one-kilo premium Shaak steak, grilled to order, served with whipped manas root topped with grated Naboo cheese, and a side of buttered spargle tips. Or, three-cheese, wild Cira and mushroom casserole, served with a side of buttered seasonal vegetables and freshly baked whole grain flatbread. Or….”

“We can all read, you know,” Canderous said dryly.

“And they even have desserts!” Ithra chimed, totally oblivious to the Mandalorian’s comment.

“Great,” said Rade. “But let’s remember that they don’t like Republic credits,” he warned. “We might not be able to….”

“But it says here that they take any currency,” Ithra hurriedly pointed out on the bottom of the menu. “And I’m starving,” she added.

“Let’s keep in mind that we’re here primarily to find a lead on your Gem,” Bastila reminded Ithra. “Not to stuff ourselves with rich sauces and over-indulgent sweets. Besides, we have food on the ship.”

Ithra’s eyes solidly met Bastila’s as they snapped up from her menu. “Not unless you restocked on Jantessa you don’t,” she said frankly. “And I don’t relish eating Zorgang nuts for the remainder of the journey.”

“I don’t relish you being on the journey in the first place,” Bastila retorted.

Rade held up his hand to stop their bickering. “If they take Republic credits, I don’t see any harm in ordering some food,” he said. “Besides, it might lessen any suspicions as to the purpose of our visit.”

As they waited for Horace to return, a server came over and took their orders, including Bastila’s who, after all her objections, ended up ordering the wild Cira and mushroom casserole. Just as their meal arrived, Horace returned.

“My apologies, sir,” he said to Rade. “But I have been informed that the owner is away for the moment. Perhaps if you leave your contact information with me, they can contact you upon their return.”

Rade exchanged looks with Bastila. “Any idea on where they went?”

“I’m sorry, sir. I’m not at liberty to say.”

“When will they return?” Bastila asked.

“I’m sorry, madam. I’m afraid I couldn’t say.”

Ithra put down her fork, then swallowed. She looked at Rade and Bastila, then frowned at them both. Without warning, her eyes turned suddenly black, and Horace clutched his temple as if in pain. Then, just as quickly as they had turned, Ithra’s eyes returned to their normal shade of violet.

Before Rade or Bastila could say anything, Ithra, in a thoroughly innocent sounding voice, asked, “Is something wrong, Horace?”

Horace rubbed his temple. “Just a sudden pain, miss,” he said. “Unusual, but it has passed.” He bowed his head slightly, and excused himself, returning to his station at the door.

“Ithra!” Bastila hissed at her. “What did you just do?”

“What do you think I did?” Ithra casually replied, picking up her fork to continue her meal. “You wanted to know where the owner is. He wasn’t going to tell you. So, I pried it from him.”

Rade bent in closer to her. “You ripped the information from his mind?” he whispered crossly to her. “Just like that?”

Her mouth full, Ithra nodded, then swallowed. “I don’t see what the problem is,” she said, shrugging. She took a drink of milk from her glass. “It was easy, and it obviously wasn’t that painful for him.”

“Ithra, that’s not the point!” Bastila said. “You can’t just go about ripping stuff from people’s minds, when and if you feel like it!”

“Well, how else were we supposed to find out?” Ithra gave the pair of them a questioning look.

“We ask someone else,” Rade told her. “Honestly, Ithra, you’re going to get yourself into some serious trouble if you keep doing that!”

“Fine,” she said belligerently. “I won’t do it anymore.” She took another few forkfuls of food before noticing that everyone was staring at her. “What?”

“So?” Rade asked bluntly. “Where are they?”

Ithra’s jaw set. “Oh. I see. So, it’s not alright for me to ‘seek’ someone in your presence, but it’s alright for me to tell you what I found afterwards.” She rolled her eyes. “Typical Jedi duplicity.”

Rade rested his head in his hands in a gesture of frustration. “Ithra…”

“I’ll tell you,” she said. “But only after I’ve had dessert.”

~~~~~~~

“Mine 23, Gretackmuth settlement,” Rade repeated to the transport driver, as he held the door open for Ithra and Bastila to climb inside the all-terrain crawler.

“Gretackmuth, eh?” The grey-haired driver gave Rade a toothless grin. “Popular place today.”

“Oh? How so?”

“Just back from taking a group of Mandy mercs there,” the driver replied, scratching his white stubbly chin. “Suppose they’re there to assist either the miners or Hedra. You, erm, miners, mercs, or, erm…” he peered into the back of the transport, watching Ithra and Bastila as they seated themselves. “…merchants?”

Rade gave a look at his group—a Mandalorian, a heavily armed droid, and two beautiful women. He could tell where the old man’s thoughts were heading. “Erm…it’s not what you think….”

The old man chortled. “Don’t worry. I’m very discreet. Just don’t let Hedra know what you’re up to. He’s all for free enterprise, as long as he gets a slice of the profits. And lovelies like those will bring in some hefty profits, eh?” He gave Rade a friendly nudge in the side.

“Erm…yeah.”

Canderous chuckled at Rade, before he stepped aboard the transport behind HK.

“Well, let’s get going then,” Rade said quickly to the driver, and he, too, stepped aboard and closed the door behind him.

“Lovelies and merchants, huh?” Canderous said quietly.

“What was that?” Bastila asked.

“Nothing,” Rade said quickly. “Just something the driver was rambling on about.” He gave a guarded glance in Canderous’ direction, to which the Mandalorian responded with a grin and another small chuckle.

It was a thirty minute ride over a rough road to Gretackmuth, a small settlement run by Hedra the Hutt. A small place, the settlement consisted of about forty miners, some with families; some mercenary ‘enforcers’ that kept the miners in check; and some ‘sponsored services’ in the way of a small shop and a cantina, set up by Hedra to get as much profit as possible from the miner's finds.

The transport pulled up in front of the settlement shop. “Mine 23 is that way,” said the driver, pointing towards a path that led into the jungle at the outskirts of the settlement. “Ask around for Aru. He’s the foreman around here. He’ll get you and your ‘lovelies’ settled in no time at all.” He winked at Rade, before loading up some miners into the transport for the journey back to Oasis.

As the transport pulled away, Bastila raised an eyebrow. “Lovelies? Rade, is there something you forgot to tell me?”

Rade felt himself beginning to flush, and it took all of his willpower to stop himself from blushing outright. “Erm…let’s get moving,” he said, starting for the path.

“Wait a minute,” Ithra said. “I’m not tromping around in some filthy, dirty, dark hole in the ground. I’m staying right here.”

“Not that I’m looking forward to it either, but you said that’s where we’d find Co’Vanni,” said Bastila. “Mine 23, Gretackmuth settlement. So that’s where we’re going.”

“No, I said that’s what Horace was thinking in his head when you asked him about the whereabouts of…you-know-who,” said Ithra, still unwilling to say the name of the Jantessan traitor. “I don’t know that they are actually there.”

“Well, we’ll find out soon enough,” said Rade. “Now, come on.”

“Mine 23, did you say?” asked one of the miners that was hanging around the entrance to the shop. “There was some Mandys asking about Mine 23 just an hour ago. And I’ll tell you what I told them. Keep your weapons charged. You’re gonna need ‘em.. Mine’s infested with mynocks. Hundreds of ‘em. If it were up to me, I’d blast the damn thing shut, but Hedra thinks that if we did that, they’d just move into the other shafts. Shame, too. Lots of good crystals in there.”

“Mynocks?” Ithra gave a questioning look at Bastila.

“Silcon-based creatures that feed off of energy,” said Bastila. “They can live in anaerobic conditions. They’re probably attracted by the crystals.”

“And those who go after them,” added Rade. “Looks like you’ll get your chance to kill something after all, HK.”

“Statement: Warming blasters, Master,” HK-47 said, sounding almost gleeful. “Although they are not quite the type of meatbags I was looking forward to slaughtering, mynocks will suffice for the moment. This should be fun, Master!”

“Mynocks ain’t fun,” said the miner, seizing the opportunity to embellish Bastila’s rather bland description. “They suck the very life outta ‘ya,” he continued, looking directly at Ithra. “Huge sucker-like mouths. Flapping around with those big leathery wings. Ready to swoop down on you in an instant. Bam!” Ithra jumped, as the man suddenly clapped his hands together for emphasis. “Just like that!” And when they’ve caught ‘ya, they scre-ee-ech to bring the rest of their pack right to ‘ya! Screech so loud ya’d think yer eardrums were gonna pop!”

“And I suppose you know all this because you survived a personal encounter with one?” Bastila said flatly.

“Erm…well, no,” said the miner, slightly deflated by Bastila’s remark. “But, I’ve heard ‘em screech. And, I’ve heard the screams of their victims, echoing through the mine. ‘Course, I was standing outside at the time….”

“Right.” Bastila gave Ithra a challenging look. “Why don’t you ‘seek’ him and see if he’s telling the truth, hmm?”

“I don’t have to,” said Ithra. “I can feel that he believes he is.” She frowned slightly. “Can’t you?”

“I can feel that he’s trying to scare you into staying here for quite a different reason than your safety,” said Bastila. She looked at Rade. “Lovelies? Wasn’t that the word the driver used?”

Ithra frowned slightly as she used the Force to probe deeper, finally sensing the miner’s true intentions as Bastila had said they were. “Oh. I get it,” she said to Bastila, although somewhat embarrassed to admit she’d been fooled by the miner so easily. “I’m coming.”

The path through the jungle was well travelled, especially for a mine that was reported to be infested with mynocks. But as they approached the entrance, Ithra paused.

“There’s death in there,” she said, blanching as she felt the vibrations emanating from the cave. “Recent death.”

Just then, a blood-curdling scream, almost too primal to be human, echoed from the mine’s entrance.

“C’mon!” said Rade, and he, Canderous and HK boldly charged forward into the darkness.

Bastila followed them, but paused just inside, waiting for Ithra to follow. “What’s the matter?”

“But…it’s dark!”

“Ithra, you’re a Force adept. Use the Force to sense your surroundings!”

“I…I can’t,” Ithra said. “It goes against the Keeper’s Mandate. I’m not allowed.”

Bastila rolled her eyes, frustrated at the Jantessan’s ideals of not using the Force in the same way as the Jedi. She flicked on her lightsabre. “This will give us enough light to see. Now, come on. Hurry!”

Using the Force, Bastila felt her way through the twisting passages towards Rade, keeping a close tab on Ithra lagging behind her. Quite suddenly, she heard the sounds of multiple blasters firing mixed with the distinct but faint hiss of a lightsabre slicing through flesh, followed by a loud, communal screeching and the tinny voice of HK shouting, “Master! Behind you!” and more blaster fire.

“Ithra! Hurry up!” Bastila shouted urgently. “They’re in trouble!”

Hallucination
03-23-2006, 11:07 PM
Another jedi-tacular update, keep it up!
>_>
<_<
But I think it's spelled 'Bastilla', not 'Bastila'. ;)

The Doctor
03-23-2006, 11:13 PM
Yet another great chapter, Jas! Keep 'em coming!

Diego Varen
03-24-2006, 01:26 AM
Another great Chapter. Bastila is right, Bastilla isn't.

JasraLantill
03-24-2006, 02:49 AM
Another jedi-tacular update, keep it up!
>_>
<_<
But I think it's spelled 'Bastilla', not 'Bastila'. ;)

You know, Hallucination, I always thought her name had double 'els' in it, too... but then I went to play the game again and, well, Pottsie's right. There's only one! (But I still find I want to spell it with two....)

And thanks for all the compliments, everyone! Glad to know that people haven't lost interest yet.

Renegade Puma
03-24-2006, 09:55 AM
GREAT job Jasra! Your best chapter yet! :) Pretty lengthy as well. I hope you write another one in say.. a week or so? Keep it up girl! Ithra is either really innocent, or playing along at the behest of the Prefect. Either way she is hot. ;)

DarkSpiral
03-26-2006, 11:37 PM
Long one! But still good.
You're really very good at group dynamics (party banter) Jasra.

Renegade Puma
03-28-2006, 02:13 AM
Yay! 1,000 views for Jasra! Here is your party!


:sbdance :lsduel: :redbounc: :stick: :laughing: :guitar2 :3pdance: :lock: :firehead :3headed:

RC-1162
03-30-2006, 02:43 AM
i absolutely CANNOT BELIEVE I MISSED THIS!!! this is one hell of a fic, Jasra, you have planned your story VERY well and i really like the long chapters. not many people can offer that, you know (especially not me :D). I really like the way you portray the among-party-chatting and the behind-the-scenes stuff not known to Rade and Co. though, the HK bit was a little...different, i can say. he doesnt say anything like "disappointed reply", the starting word is always a single word. so if you want to make him reply with a yes, then he says "Affirmation:" for 'disappointed reply', you could make it "Disappointment:". try to make it one word. Other than that, you have done excellently, im definitly keeping an eye on this :D.

Jae Onasi
03-30-2006, 02:13 PM
I love the colorful descriptions and action sequences. Keep it up!

JasraLantill
03-30-2006, 08:20 PM
i absolutely CANNOT BELIEVE I MISSED THIS!!! this is one hell of a fic, Jasra, you have planned your story VERY well and i really like the long chapters. not many people can offer that, you know (especially not me :D). I really like the way you portray the among-party-chatting and the behind-the-scenes stuff not known to Rade and Co. though, the HK bit was a little...different, i can say. he doesnt say anything like "disappointed reply", the starting word is always a single word. so if you want to make him reply with a yes, then he says "Affirmation:" for 'disappointed reply', you could make it "Disappointment:". try to make it one word. Other than that, you have done excellently, im definitly keeping an eye on this :D.

Thanks for the kind words and advice, RC! :) HK's dialogue has always been a bit difficult for me to write. I'll keep in mind the single word start up's though. Also, any suggestions as to what he says during a battle scene? Could use a bit of help from someone who knows his character like you seem to. PM me, if you have anything you'd like to see him say in future.

And, yes, people, I am working on the next chapter, but it's been slow going of late. I've got too many irons in the fire at the moment, but I'll try to have something new by Monday.

Hallucination
03-30-2006, 10:15 PM
^'Initiating assassination protocols.' :)

RC-1162
03-31-2006, 11:18 AM
i PM'ed all the things i could find to ya, Jasra, hope they help. and i added ya to me buddy list too :D along wit Renegade Puma

JasraLantill
03-31-2006, 01:24 PM
Thanks a lot, Hallucination! I'll use that one for sure. :)

And thanks to you, too, RC. I'll be sure to use your suggestions too! (Might even go back an edit what I've already written as well.) ;)

RC-1162
03-31-2006, 03:17 PM
youre welcome, Jasra. Statement: The Master says that you had better give us a new chapter soon. :D

Renegade Puma
04-14-2006, 07:28 AM
Hey Jasra! What gives? And I thought I was taking a long break with my two week hiatus. But you are taking even longer! Haven't heard from you in awhile? You still alive and well??? Give us a new chapter soon!

RC-1162
04-14-2006, 07:41 AM
look whos talking :D
but i agree with him anyway,

JasraLantill
04-30-2006, 09:53 AM
Sorry I've taken so long to update. Between Darth RealLife and the RPs I'm in, I haven't had much time to dedicate to writing my fic. But, that said, I've done a fair amount this time, so... enjoy. :)

_________________________________


Back on the Ebon Hawk, Mission was spinning herself around and around in the navigator’s chair in the cockpit, bored.

“Mission, I know you’re bored, but you know that’s annoying, right?” Carth asked her while he was bent under one of the panels, examining the circuits.

“Yup,” she replied, and continued to spin in the chair.

Carth just sighed, and then continued working.

“Why did Ithra get to go with Rade anyway?” Mission complained after a moment. “It’s not like she’s going to be a lot of help. She doesn’t have a microgram of street smarts.”

“Well, it was Rade’s decision, not mine,” Carth grunted, as he tugged on a handful of wires. “Besides, I don’t think he took her along… for… her…” He gave a final and mighty pull and the panel and attached wires finally broke free, sending him backwards to the floor. “…street smarts.” He sighed as he looked at the panel and its fused chips. “Sure hope we can find a replacement for this.” He looked at Mission. “So, Bored One, care to take a walk to the local parts shop?”

Mission brightened. “You mean, you trust me find the parts for the ship by myself?”

“No, I just thought you might like to go with me,” Carth said, dashing her hopes. “Either that or you can stay here and help Jolee finish cleaning the…”

“Okay, okay,” Mission interrupted him. “Enough of the cleaning regimen. Let’s go.”

Leaving Jolee behind, Carth and Mission headed off into Oasis to find the parts that they needed to repair the Ebon Hawk.

“Figure we need a new sub-light control module and to replace a few of the SL power relays in the engine to get us going again,” Carth said to Mission as they walked through the space port. “Oh, and while we’re here, we should see about changing out that dodgy stabiliser, too. That thing’s worrying me.”

“Whatever.”

“Sorry, Mission,” Carth said, noticing that his young friend didn’t seem that interested. “Sometimes you’ve got to do things that you don’t want to do. That’s just life.”

“Yeah, yeah. I know.”

Carth sighed. “When we get back, I’ll ask Jolee if he wouldn’t mind going with you to pick up some more supplies. That way, you’ll get to see what’s out there, okay?”

Mission merely shrugged.

They walked a bit in silence, then Carth said, “You miss Zalbaar, don’t you.”

“Yeah,” Mission said quietly. “I mean, this is the first time we’ve ever been apart. Well, besides the time when he got kidnapped by those Gamorreans on Taris and you and Rade helped me get him back. But at least that was exciting enough to keep my mind occupied, you know?”

“I know.” Carth stopped in front of a sign. “Well, this looks promising. Zug’s Parts Emporium.”

“And Service,” Mission said, pointing out the hand scrawled words underneath the printed ones. Mission gave Carth a dubious look. “Doesn’t look like much from the outside. You sure you want to go in?”

“Can't hurt to have a look.” He held open the door for her. “After you. You’re the one with the street smarts. Let’s see if you can get us a good deal if they have what we need.”

They walked in. The front of the shop was only a long countertop and some shelves filled with containers of bolts and the odd droid part, but following the corridor to the back, the two found themselves in a large hanger, complete with ships being repaired and a large inventory of various parts.

At the far side, there was a woman arguing with a hovering Toydarian, quite possibly the shop owner.

“Oh, no,” Mission cringed. “A Toydarian. No wonder they have lots of parts in stock. Toydarians got a reputation for being…well, it’s really hard to get a bargain with them.”

“Think the word you’re looking for is ‘shrewd,’” Carth said. “C’mon. Let’s see if he’s in the mood to accept Republic credits.”

As they moved across the hanger, taking care to avoid the repair droids and Nemoidian mechanics working on some ships in the various bays, they began to overhear the conversation taking place between the owner and his obviously disgruntled customer.

“What do you mean you don’t have one in stock?” the woman said angrily to the Toydarian, as she waved her hand at the rows of parts and equipment standing on the shelves in the hanger. “Zug, you could build a brand new ship with all the stuff in here!”

“The hyperdrive needs a new transient-phase converter,” Zug said. “That ship you acquired is old. And old Y-class parts are hard to come by. Unless….” The corners of his beak like mouth upturned in a wry grin. “You want to replace the entire drive? But that will cost more,” he added, greedily rubbing two of his fingers together.

The woman’s eyes narrowed. “How much more?” she said, between clenched teeth.

“Ten thousand.”

“Ten thousand!” the woman shouted. “Are you insane? I could practically buy a new ship for ten thousand!”

Zug grinned. “Not on this planet,” he said, adding a sinister chuckle.

The woman sighed. “Replacing the entire drive…how long will that take you?”

Zug took a moment to consider. “Two weeks.”

“Two weeks? I could do it myself in less than two weeks! I need to get off this rock today!”

Carth and Mission had been standing behind the woman, patiently waiting for their turn to talk to Zug. But Carth being Carth couldn’t just let things be.

“Problem?” he asked the woman. “Maybe I can help?”

Up until now, the woman had had her back turned to him, her only discernable feature a single braid of dark glossy hair hanging down the back of her jacket. Now she turned, and Carth had to do a double-take. She was strikingly beautiful. Slim build, high arched brows, a flawless pale cream complexion, full rosy lips, and eyes of the deepest shade of violet-blue.

The woman quickly flicked her eyes over Carth and Mission. “Help? Not unless you happen to have a transient-phase converter for a class three Y-class hyperdrive you want to sell.”

Carth suddenly found himself at a loss for words. “Erm….”

“A Y-class drive?” Mission’s eyebrow’s raised. “Well, it just so happens that we were looking for some Y-class parts ourselves.”

“Mission…,” Carth said in a cautionary tone.

“Hey, you said you wanted a good deal, now leave it to me,” she whispered back to him. “So, maybe we could make a deal.”

“No one makes ‘deals’ in my shop but me!” Zug interrupted.

The woman turned and glared at the flapping Toydarian, then turned back to Carth and Mission. “What sort of deal?”

“Well, we need a stabliser, and a sub-light control module, and a few SL-power relays,” Mission said. She glanced at Carth. “And you thought I wasn’t paying attention,” she added haughtily.

“Mission…,” Carth tried to interrupt.

“You give us the parts off your ship,” Mission continued, her focus returning to the woman, “and in return, we can give you passage to where you want to go. Deal?”

“Mission…,” Carth tried again.

“Hey! I said no deals!” Zug said as he shoved his way in between them, his wings flapping faster with agitation. “My shop! My deals!”

The woman took pause, considering Mission’s proposal. “You’d give someone you don’t even know passage on your ship for the cost of a few parts?” The woman raised a suspicious eyebrow as she eyed over Carth’s Republic uniform. “You a relief worker or something?”

“Erm…no,” said Carth. “Well, not exactly….”

“Oh. I see,“ the woman said knowingly. “I was wondering when the Republic would get tired of buying their cortosis from the Consortium and send out mineral surveyors of their own. You’re here for exploration.”

“Yeah,” Mission said. “Yeah, you could say that. So, do we have a deal?”

“I said, no deals!” Zug said again, and this time he whistled for his security, a couple of Gamorrean thugs who looked like they shared a single brain cell between them.

The woman snorted with marked disdain at the approaching Gamorreans, apparently unimpressed and unconcerned by them. “Meet me outside,” she said to Mission. She glared at Zug, then headed purposefuly for her ship in the hanger, picking up a stray hydrospanner from a workbench on the way.

“Hey!” Zug said, following her. “What are you doing? You can’t just….”

“C’mon, Carth,” Mission said, wrinkling her nose at the Gamorreans. “Let’s get out of here.”

“Right behind you,” said Carth.

Outside, Carth turned to Mission and gave her an admonishing glare. “Mission…”

“Hey,” Mission said pointing a finger at him. “You said you’d let me make a deal for you.”

“Yeah, but I didn’t say that you could book a passenger in the process!”

“What’s the problem? We’ve got the room. Why not take a passenger if it means getting the parts we need to fix the ship for free?” Mission asked innocently. “And the sooner we leave, the sooner we can get Zalbaar and Juhani back. Besides, she seemed alright to me. She wasn’t even carrying a weapon.”

“None that you could see,” said Carth. “Mission, we don’t even know who she is or, more importantly, why she’s in such a hurry to leave. Didn’t that strike you as…well, odd?”

Mission looked around. Even though they were still rather close to the port, they were far enough away to begin to see the deprivation and signs of the gang controlled zones. “Hmm…gang controlled areas, slave ships and smuggling vessels in the port hangers, not a lot of legitimate businesses around…” She gave Carth a deadpan look. “If I was her, I sure wouldn’t want to hang around any longer than I had to.”

“Yeah, well…I suppose you have a point,” Carth reluctantly agreed. “But besides that, we don’t even know where she wanted to go. What if we have to take her all the way to…to Corellia, for example?”

“Then she’ll be with us a little longer than we planned,” said Mission. “Besides, she looked like she was going to get the parts off her ship herself, and she told that Toydarian that she could have changed out the hyperdrive on her own. So, she must have some mechanical knowledge. And you could use the help, you know.”

“Me?” Carth shook his head with doubt. “I don’t know, Mission. I’d like to know a little more about this woman before we agree to go ferrying her across the Galaxy.”

Just then, a SL-relay dropped from the air, and Carth just barely had enough time to reach out and catch it.

“Name’s Kye,” said the woman, approaching them with a small trolley loaded with the parts. “Stablisers, sub-light control module, a few SL-power relays, plus whatever else I could scrounge up and remove on short notice. If you’re still willing to give me passage, I’ll let you have all of this stuff. It’s of no use to me without a working hyperdrive.”

“Erm….” Carth just held the relay in his hands and stared back at her, again tongue-tied by her striking looks.

“What? You calling off the deal?” Kye asked him, frowning. When Carth didn’t answer, she turned her gaze to Mission and gave her a questioning look. “Is there something wrong with your friend?”

Mission chuckled. “Don’t get me started!” she said jokingly. “I’m Mission. This is Carth Onasi. And, yeah, the deal’s still on. That is, if the parts work.”

“They work,” Kye said. “Where’s your ship?”

“Erm…just hold on a minute,” Carth finally managed to say. “Why are you in such a hurry to leave?”

Kye gave him a deadpan look. “Do you see anything around here that would make someone want to linger?”

“Told ‘ya,” Mission said softly.

“No,” Carth replied. “But that doesn’t explain why you want to leave in such a hurry. Why today? Why not tomorrow, or the next day?” He eyed her critically. “What are you running from?”

“What makes you think I’m running from something?” she asked him. “Maybe I’m running to something? Did you ever think of that?”

Carth chewed his lip. He hadn’t.

“See? It all depends on your perspective,” said Kye. “That aside, whatever my reasons are for leaving, they are my own. And if that bothers you, then I’ll just take these parts back to my ship and find another way off this rock.”

“As long as your reasons for leaving don’t involve bounty hunters or crime bosses, then…then I suppose it’s alright,” Carth said tentatively.

Kye smiled. “As far as I know, there is no bounty on my head. And no crime boss around here is going to care one way or the other if I stay or go.”

“And just where were you planning on going?” Carth asked.

“Onderon,” she answered frankly. “Figure I could find some decent work there, with all the urban regeneration I hear Queen Talia is doing. Is… that too far for you, or in the wrong direction?”

“No, Onderon’s fine,” said Mission, coming over to help Kye with the trolley. “No problem whatsoever. C’mon, the ship’s this way,” she said, pulling the trolley in that direction.

Carth sighed. “Why do I get the feeling that I’m going to regret this?” he grumbled.

Kye stopped in her tracks, and looked over her shoulder at him. “Are you always this distrustful and paranoid of strangers?”

“Who, me? Distrustful?” He shrugged. “Only with strangers with no visible weapons who are in a really big hurry to get somewhere and won’t disclose their reasons why.”

Kye raised her eyebrows. “I have a weapon,” she stated plainly. She pulled open her jacket, revealing to him and Mission a lightsabre hilt tucked away in a shoulder holster. “I just don’t have much use for it.”

“A lightsabre? You’re a Jedi?” Mission asked in quiet awe.

“Me?” Kye laughed. “Do I look like a Jedi? No. I got this off of a trader,” she said, fastening her jacket back up. “Although, it never hurts to have certain people think you’re something that you’re not.”

Carth grinned and snorted. “It all depends on your perspective.”

Kye nodded. “Exactly,” she said to Carth. “So, you got any more questions? Do you need to know my mother’s maiden name, or what colour of socks I’m wearing, or if I cheat at Pazaak?”

“Do you cheat at Pazaak?” asked Mission.

Kye grinned at her. “Occasionally. Depends on who I’m playing and if they deserve to lose or not.”

Mission grinned broadly. “See?” she said demonstratively to Carth. “She’s fine. C’mon. The ship’s this way.”

Diego Varen
04-30-2006, 10:01 AM
I was wondering if this would be continued. I liked this Chapter. No Rade though. Just Carth and Mission. The dialogue between them was good. And Zug the Toydarian, I kept imaging Watto in my head. Will you be updating more Chapters?

JasraLantill
04-30-2006, 10:05 AM
In the caverns of Mine 23, mynocks swarmed over their prey, once the dying Mandalorian mercenary that was lying on the ground in the middle of the large chamber, but now the three figures standing back to back over his body.

They were attracted to anything that generated electrical fields, whether it was a non-living or a living entity. HK-47 was an obvious target, but so was Canderous,’ with his Mandalorian power-shielded armour, as well as Rade’s Force Senstitivity.

“Infested? Infested is right!” Canderous shouted over the blasts of his repeating carbine. “I’ve never seen so many mynocks in one place!”

Rade sliced downward, splitting a mynock in half just as it was swooping towards his comrade behind him, continuing on around to catch another one with the follow-through. “Just keep them at bay!” Rade shouted back.

HK-47 was busy blasting away mynock after mynock with quick and precise shots. “Observation: It appears that the creatures are attracted to electrical field impulses.”

“Turn off your shielding!” Rade shouted to Canderous through the din of blaster fire and mynock shrieks. “It might make you less of a target!”

“What?!” Canderous shouted back, as he blasted a mynock at close range, sending it splatting on the ground. “Are you crazy?!”

Just then, a high pitched sound pierced the air. A scream. A female’s scream.

For a moment, the mynocks paused, hovering in the air as if they were startled by something. Rade turned his head towards the entrance of the chamber. There was a flash of yellow light. A lightsabre. Bastila was battling a few mynocks that had strayed the main swarm. And Ithra stood behind her, eyes closed as if she were meditating.

“Rade!” Bastila shouted, as she sliced two mynocks with one sweep of her sabre. “We’re coming to….”

Ithra screamed again, this time, in a slightly different pitch to the one she had uttered before. All of the mynocks began to flap wildly, bumping into one another in their hurry to flee. A few still dove down to attack, but the majority of the swarm flew up into the top recesses of the chamber.

HK and Canderous easliy dispatched the few stragglers that remained, then everything was quiet.

“What the hell was that sound?!” Canderous asked as the last mynock sizzled from his last blaster shot just a few metres away from where he stood.

“Ithra,” said Rade, guardedly looking around for a sign of any more mynocks as Bastila and Ithra approached. “What did you do?” he asked Ithra.

“Me?” Ithra bit her lip, as if unwilling to talk. “Nothing.”

“Nothing?” Rade said incredulously. “You did something to make all those mynocks go away!”

“I… I just sought their consciousness,” said Ithra. “Found out what frightened them and used the Force to replicate the sound.” She hung her head, obviously ashamed by using the Force in that manner. “I’m sorry.”

“Request: Perhaps the young meatbag could retract her actions and bring the mynocks back?" said HK. "It was extremely pleasurable to kill them.”

“Killing things unnecessarily is wrong,” Ithra said. She grimaced at the sight of the sizzling mynock by Canderous’ feet. “No matter how disgusting and creepy the life form may be.”

While Rade rolled his eyes in frustration at Ithra, Bastila said, “We don’t have time for this. Let’s just find this Co'Vanni and the Gem and leave.”

“G..gone,” the dying Mandalorian at their feet coughed and spluttered. “We were... tricked. Cheated.”

Canderous bent down over his countryman. “What do you mean? Did you find the Gem?”

The Mandalorian nodded slowly. “In the… inner chamber. Took it. Left us… to die… with the mynocks.”

“Who took it?” Canderous asked.

The Mandalorian coughed again as he tried to speak.

“Who took it?!” Canderous asked more urgently.

But it was no use. A soft sigh escaped from under the Mandalorian’s helmet as he expired.

“Great,” Canderous said. “No point in hanging around here if the relic’s gone and the only witness dead.”

“Wait just a minute,” said Rade. “Maybe there are some clues in the inner chamber. HK, come with me.”

“Affirmation: Of course, Master! Perhaps we will find more creatures to kill!”

Using his lightsabre as a torch, and keeping a wary eye out for any stray mynocks, Rade strode forward with HK to the entrance to the inner chamber, leaving the others behind. Within the chamber they found more dead Mandalorians, most still clutching their blasters in their blue, lifeless hands.

“Look around for anything unsual,” Rade said to HK.

After a moment, HK said, “Observation: It appears that there was something removed from the surface of this flattened rock.”

Rade examined the rock’s surface. A small spot in the middle of it was indeed free of any dust or debris. “The Gem must have been here.” He looked around on the ground then something caught his eye. It was a datapad. One of the Mandalorians must have dropped this during their scuffle with the mynocks, he surmised, and he activated it and began to read.

“Co’Vanni hired them,” he said. “They were to help him recover the Gem and in exchange he was going to repair and refuel their ship.”

Something glistened on the ground nearby, catching Rade’s eye, and he stooped down to pick it up. A Jeneraux crystal, again something probably dropped by the Mandalorians in the heat of battle. And nearby was another one, and something else—an odd shaped piece of flattened metal, a coin or medallion of some sort. He turned it over in his hands, studying the unfamiliar markings on it. “HK, what do you make of this?” he asked, handing it to the droid.

“Observation: It is similar to the currency of Jantessa, although the markings on it indicate that it was minted before the current administration was in place.”

“Oh?” Rade asked, taking back the coin and looking at it closer. “How much before?”

“Qualification: Before you invaded the planet, Master.”

Rade frowned. “Interesting,” he murmured. He looked around some more, looking at the patterns of footsteps in the dust, building up a picture in his mind of what had happened here. “All right, let’s get back to Oasis,” he said to HK. “Nothing more to learn here.”

He pocketed the crystals and the coin, and led them back to the rest of the group. Ithra looked worried.

“The creatures are getting restless again,” she said, her eyes looking up towards the cavern’s roof. “They’ll attack soon.”

“Then let’s get out of here.” Rade motioned the group forward to the entrance. “You two go first,” he said to Bastila and Ithra. “We’ll follow up from behind, in case any those mynocks decide to attack again.”

Diego Varen
04-30-2006, 10:08 AM
Another good Chapter. I've never seen anyone updating Chapters as quick as that. I wonder if the others will read this after so long. Please check out my Fanfic, Jedi Forces - Shadows Of War.

JasraLantill
04-30-2006, 10:14 AM
“Damn! It won’t fit!” Carth said, trying to install one of the SL-relays in the engine.

“It’ll fit,” Kye said. “We just need a larger coupling.”

“It can’t be too large, or we’ll have a radiation leak,” Carth said.

“Duh.” Kye rolled her eyes, then snapped her fingers. “Give it here,” she said, beckoning with her hand for Carth to hand it over. “I’ll make it fit. You go and install the sub-light control module.”

Carth frowned. “You’re sure you can handle it?”

“Do Gamorreans have bad breath?” She beckoned with her hand again. “Trust me. It’ll fit. Now go.”

Carth reluctantly handed her the relay and went to the bridge with the control module.

“How’s it going?” Jolee asked him as he passed through the main hold.

“Not sure if this is going to work, but… we're trying.” He frowned slightly. “Jolee, what do you think of our new passenger? I mean, do you get any bad ‘Jedi’ vibes from her?”

“Nope.”

“So, you think she's okay then.”

“I didn’t say that,” Jolee said. “You asked if I got any bad vibes from her. And I said, ‘nope’. Truth is, I can’t really feel anything from her.”

Carth frowned. “Has that ever happened before?”

Jolee grinned. “Nope.” Then he added, “Well, not with humans anyway.”

Jolee’s comment caused Carth’s brow to raise. “Are you suggesting she could be some sort of…I don’t know…shape shifter or something?”

“Could be,” said Jolee, shrugging with indifference. “Then again, it could be that she just doesn’t have enough of the Force flowing through her for me to detect. I don’t know.”

Carth frowned. “Well, I suppose no vibes are better than bad ones. Still…I think I’ll keep a close eye on her.”

“Well, as long as she’s travelling on the ship, she’s not going to sabotage it,” Jolee told him. “You don’t have to be a Jedi to know that she’s not stupid.”

“Who’s not stupid?” Kye stood in the doorway of the main hold.

“Erm…we were just… erm… discussing… erm…,” Carth stuttered.

“You’re not much for words, are you,” Kye said in a very direct manner. “I’m done fitting that coupling. So, do you need help installing that module?”

“Erm….”

“It’s not quantum physics,” said Kye. “Just a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ will do.”

Jolee chuckled as Carth flushed with embarrassment at his tongue-tied state.

“You know, if you find speaking difficult,” Kye said, “you can try nodding once for yes, twice for no…”

“I can speak,” Carth blurted. “It’s just that….”

“You don’t trust me,” she finished for him. “Fine. I don’t blame you. I wouldn’t trust me either if I was in your position.”

“Oh?” said Carth. “And why is that?”

“I’m a total stranger. You don’t know anything about my motivations or reasons for wanting to leave, let alone my engineering skills, or lack thereof. What’s there to trust?”

“So you’re saying we shouldn’t trust you?” Carth asked suspiciously.

“No,” said Kye. “I’m just saying that I wouldn’t trust me if I were you. But, then again, I’m not you, and this isn’t my ship, so my opinion really doesn’t hold much weight in the matter.”

Jolee chuckled.

“So… module,” Kye said to Carth. “Need help with it or not?”

“I suppose I could use someone to monitor the connection feeds while I install it.”

“Fine. Then let’s get to it,” Kye said, heading towards the cockpit.

“I like her,” Jolee said to Carth.

“You would,” Carth grumbled back.

Diego Varen
04-30-2006, 10:18 AM
Three in a row. Three Chapters in one day. I liking this. This makes up for all the days you didn't post.

JasraLantill
04-30-2006, 10:40 AM
Yes, Pottsie, I've written quite a bit! Had to break it up into more manageable portions though, hence all the posts. This is the last one for today though. :(

______________________________

Once back at the Gretackmuth settlement, Rade's group waited for transport back to Oasis outside the cantina.

“So, tell me Ithra,” Rade said, breaking the silence that had fallen over them. “Did you know that your ruse against the Mynocks wouldn’t last long?”

Ithra shrugged. “No. Well…yes. Sort of.”

“Sort of?”

“The mynocks are simple creatures,” she explained. “They don’t have what I would call a ‘long term memory’. They live for the moment, as most lower life forms do. It was only a matter of time before the threat of a predator would be replaced by the call of hunger again.”

“So, theoretically, if someone else could do what you did, they would know that as well?”

“I suppose.”

Rade exchanged a look with Bastila. “I’ll be right back,” he said, rising and heading towards the cantina. “I have a sudden thrist.”

Inside the small cantina, Rade found the miner that had warned them about the mynocks in Mine 23.

“…reckon that we should try mine 23 again,” the miner was saying to his pals. “After all, if that pansy-faced girl can come back alive, surely we could.”

“I’d stay away from that mine if I were you,” Rade said. “There are still a lot of mynocks in there.”

“You came out of it okay,” said the miner. “Besides, even gettin’ a handful of them crystals in there would be worth it.”

“You mean, like this?” Rade held out his hand showing the miner one of the two Jenruax crystals he had found. “How about we make a trade? The crystal for some information.”

The miner gave him a suspicious look. “What kind of information?”

“A name and a description,” said Rade. “Of the person that accompanied the Mandalorians to Mine 23.”

“Well… I seem to recollect that there was someone that went with them. But… “ The miner snorted. “You know, it’s the damnedest thing. I can’t really ‘member who it was now.” He paused for a moment as he tried to think. “It was someone local though. I remember that. Just… just not what they looked like.” He turned to his friends. “Tak? Beppo? Do you ‘member?”

His two friends thought a moment, then shook their heads.

“Sorry, pal,” said the miner, giving a longing look at the crystal. “Sure wish I could have helped ‘ya.”

Rade raised an eyebrow. He knew the miner wasn’t lying, but it was odd that he couldn’t remember. Very odd. “It’s alright. Thank you for your time,” he said, and set the crystal down on the table in front of the miner.

The miner brightened. “Hey! Thanks pal!” he called after Rade as he walked out of the cantina.

Rejoining his friends, Rade motioned Bastila away for a private word. “Have you ever used the Force to permanently alter someone’s memory?” he asked. “I mean, by yourself?”

Bastila shook her head. “No, not permanently. And I wasn’t present when the Council altered yours. But as I recall, it took them some time.”

“But how long would it take to alter just one piece of it?”

“I don’t know,” Bastila answered. “Why do you ask?”

“I found this datapad in the mine, along with this,” he said, showing her the coin. “Co'Vanni was at that mine. And I figured that someone must have seen him with the Mandalorians, but the miner…the one that met us when we arrived? He remembers that there was someone with them, but he doesn’t remember who they were or what they looked like. None of the miners do.”

Bastila frowned. “That’s odd.”

“Very.”

“Perhaps this Co’Vanni drugged them or something?”

“And just had them forget one thing?” Rade shook his head. “There’s something else at work here. I’m sure of it. And I think we should drop in and see our friend Horace again at the ‘Miscreant Miner’.”

~~~~~~~~

Back at the ‘Miscreant Miner,’ Rade and company walked in. Horace, as per usual, was there to greet them at the door.

“Welcome back, sir,” he said to Rade. “Four again?”

“Oh, we’re not here to eat,” Rade said.

“Can we at least get something to take away with us?” Ithra whispered to Bastila in the background.

“No,” Bastila answered her quickly.

“We’re here to see the owner,” Rade continued. “Co’Vanni.”

Horace frowned. “I told you, that the owner is… away.”

“Away where?” Rade’s eyes narrowed threateningly.

Horace hesitated.

“If you don’t tell me, I’ll have my Jantessan Keeper friend here,” he motioned to Ithra, “rip the information out of your head. Painfully,” he added.

“A Keeper?” Horace stiffened, then looked at Ithra more closely. “You cannot be a true Keeper,” he said warily. “There are no more Keepers.”

“You know about Keepers, do you?” Bastila asked, somewhat surprised.

Very slowly, Horace nodded. “I know that all of the true Keepers were destroyed by the Sith Lord Revan when he took over Jantessa.”

“Not all of them,” Ithra said firmly. “There are some that survived.”

“Younglings. Novices,” Horace said with a twinge of sadness. “But no true Keepers remain.”

“And how do you know this?” Bastila asked. “The Jantessans are not very forthcoming about their culture or their history to outsiders.”

Horace shifted uncomfortably. “My… my employer told me,” he said with hesitation.

“Co’Vanni?”

“Yes.”

“And where is your employer now?” asked Rade. “We wish to speak with him.”

“I… I cannot say,” said Horace.

“Ithra?” Rade said. “Seek him.”

“What?”

“Seek him. Find out where this Co’Vanni is right now.”

Ithra gave Rade a disappointed look, but then…. Her eyes turned black, and Horace grimaced from her invasion of his mind.

“Onderon,” Ithra said, her eyes returning to their normal violet colour. “That’s what he’s thinking anyway. Onderon.”

“Then that’s where we’re going,” said Rade.

Diego Varen
04-30-2006, 11:01 AM
I liked that Chapter. When is the next time you're updating?

JasraLantill
04-30-2006, 11:17 AM
Pottsie, I'm afraid it won't be for a few days at least. I write my chapters in Word, then paste them on LF, so that's why it looks like these were updated so quickly. In reality, I don't type quite that fast, let alone edit that quickly either. (Like to have it sit for a day or two, and then come back to it to edit with a fresh perspective.) But rest assured the break between updates will not be as long as the last one.

Diego Varen
04-30-2006, 11:29 AM
I write mine in Word as well.

Renegade Puma
05-03-2006, 06:49 AM
Great job Jasra! Nice to have you back :) Dangit, why does the hot chick Kye have to be the bad guy? I know she is Covanni. Oh well, great updates Jasra. Can't wait for the next one. I am really starting to enjoy Ithra's character by the way. :) And you did a very nice job with Mission in this update as well.

JasraLantill
05-06-2006, 06:36 AM
Thanks, RP! Glad you enjoyed it. Hopefully, I'll be able to update it this weekend.

Hallucination
05-06-2006, 01:06 PM
Please do, I'm beginning to think you're 'pulling a Forcefight'. :xp:

Diego Varen
05-15-2006, 02:51 AM
Many writers here are sort of doing that. Including me.

RC-1162
05-15-2006, 11:40 AM
yeah, and everyone else except the n00bs :D
Great work till now, Jasra, sorry i didnt check out before. just one thing: the jedi weapon is spelt LIGHTSABER

JasraLantill
05-17-2006, 05:59 PM
((Yes, RC, the American spelling would be 'saber'. But here in the UK, it's 'sabre,' just like 'center' is 'centre', and 'theater' is 'theatre'.

Anyway, I've finished another part of my story. Apologies to everyone for not posting sooner, but it seems the battle with Darth Reallife is neverending.))

~~~~~~~~~~

“Try it now!” Kye shouted to Carth from the Ebon Hawk’s engine room.

“What?” came his muffled reply from the other end of the ship.

Kye hung her head. “Try! It! Now!” she repeated slowly and more loudly. With a trying expression on her face, she looked over at Mission, who was holding a hydrospanner in her hand, like a nurse assisting a doctor. “Men,” Kye sighed, and Mission snickered.

“Old and hard-of-hearing men,” Mission added.

“They're even worse,” Kye commented. The lights on the control panel on the hyperdrive came on, flickered, then died. “Crap.” Kye scrambled up from her position on the floor underneath the open panel. “I’ll be right back,” she said to Mission as she headed for the door. But in the doorway, she paused, and gave a look over her shoulder. “Give me a shout if the lights on that panel come on and stay on, okay?”

“Okay,” Mission said, grinning, as she was being allowed to help.

Kye hurried towards the cockpit, dodging T-3 on his way back to the engine room as she passed through the main hold. “Hey? You finished with that patch panel already?”

T-3 let out a series of whirr and whistles

Kye stared at the droid, then raised an eyebrow. “I take it that’s a ‘yes’?”

The small droid bleeped once.

“Thanks,” and she continued to the cockpit area.

Carth had his head and torso buried inside one of the open panels, trying valiantly to install and reconnect the severed connections on the new control module, and Kye could only see him from the waist down. She stood there for a moment without speaking, appraising the view.

"Damn," she heard him murmur. "Can't reach it."

“Maybe it's because your trousers are a bit too tight,” she commented, unintentionally startling Carth and causing him to bump his head on the inside of the console.

“Ow!” he grunted.

“Sorry. Didn't mean to startle you. Problem?”

“Yeah,” Carth said, as he extricated himself out into the open. “I can’t seem to get that last circuit connected.”

“You need to use a telescoping vibra joiner in order to….”

“I don’t have a telescoping vibra joiner.”

“Hmm. Then what about attaching a vari-tune spatial connector to the end of the…”

“Don’t have one of those either,” he interrupted her again.

Kye raised an eyebrow and placed her hands on her hips. “What kind of engineer are you?” she asked incredulously.

“I’m not an engineer. I’m a pilot.”

“Oh,” she said flatly. “Well. That explains it.”

“Explains what?”

“The lack of tools, the cocky attitude, the tight trousers, and your total inability to hold a reciprocating penetrator the right way ‘round’ on the first go. You know, if it wasn’t for me, you could have poked your eye out holding it like th….”

“Look,” he said testily, “if I want your opinion, I’ll ask for it!”

“Yeah? Well, if you want to get off this planet anytime soon, then you’d better start asking!” She sighed. “I should have just sold that piece of junk someone called a ship to Zug and hitched a ride on an ore freighter. They may be slow, but at least they move.”

“You think you can do better?” Carth stepped aside and motioned to the panel with his arm. “Be my guest!”

Kye knelt down and crawled underneath the console, and after a few knocks and bangs, the sparking of a fractional welder, and the buzzing sound of a hydrospanner, Mission’s voice shouted from the Engine Room. “Kye, the lights are on! And they’re staying on this time!”

Kye scrambled out from underneath the panel and stood, looking Carth in the eye. She slapped the hydrospanner in his hand. “You’re welcome,” she said to him. “Now, think you could manage putting the panel back together while I finish checking for leaks around the hyperdrive manifold?”

“Yeah. I think I can manage that,” he grumbled sourly.

She gave him a curious look. “I’m sorry. I really don’t mean to be so condescending. You know, Carth, it’s not a sign of weakness to admit you need help. Everyone has different things that they’re good at.” She grinned. “I mean, I’m total crap at flying. Well, take offs I can do. Landings aren’t great, but I seem to manage. But the bit in between? That’s the part that gives me bother. I’ve no sense of direction whatsoever. Even with the aid of a navicomputer,” she added.

Carth’s expression softened a bit. “Is that how you ended up here?”

Kye grimaced with uncertainty. “Yeah. Sort of.” She grinned. “Certainly didn’t come here for Degos V’s irresistible charm and sophisticated metropolitan lifestyle.”

Carth grinned in return. “I’ll put the panel together. Just let me know when you want me to start ‘er up.”

“I’ll send Mission up to tell you,” she said, backing her way out to the corridor. “Give her something to do. Besides, being as you’re old and hard of hearing…,” she added, with a wink, then turned and headed for the Engine Room.

“Hey, you tell Mission that you’re not much younger than me, you know!” Carth called after her.

“Yes, I know,” she called over her shoulder. “But I’m prettier and more fun, so that makes up for it in her eyes.”

“In mine, too,” Carth muttered appreciatively.

Just then T3 whizzed into the cockpit, bleeping incessantly to get Carth’s attention.

“What is it, T3?”

T3 plugged his service arm into a nearby port, and in an instant one of the panels indicated that the loading ramp was being lowered.

“They’re back?” Carth asked the droid.

T3 whirred and bleeped, confirming that Rade and rest of the crew had returned. Carth headed through the main hold to meet them, but Jolee had beaten him to it.

“It’s about time!” Jolee said lightheartedly to the group. “Carth was beginning to get worried.”

“So, did you find it?” Carth asked, pointedly ignoring Jolee’s quip.

“The only thing we found were some dead Mandalorians and more questions,” Rade replied.

“And a decent restaurant,” Ithra piped.

Rade, Bastila and Canderous all paused and stared at her in disbelief.

“Well…?” Ithra shrugged sheepishly. “I thought it was decent.”

Purposefully ignoring Ithra, Bastila turned her attention to Carth. “Anyway, we think Co’Vanni is now headed to Onderon with the Gem.”

“So that’s where we’re going,” Rade added. “Is the ship ready?”

“Just about,” Carth replied. “Oh, there’s something I need to tell you before we take off. We’ve picked up a….”

Just then, Mission appeared from the corridor. “Carth? Kye said to tell you that…” She paused, and grinned at Rade. “Oh, hey! You’re back! Find anything interesting?”

“Who’s Kye?” Canderous asked, catching Mission’s reference to an unknown person.

“Our passenger,” she answered matter-of-factly.

“Passenger?” Rade raised his eyebrows and looked first at Mission, then Carth. “Since when did we get a passenger?”

“Since I made a deal for the parts we needed,” Mission said, beaming proudly. “Without having to spend even a single credit. Isn’t that right, Carth?”

Carth’s face began to flush. “Erm… yeah. That’s right.” He met Rade’s eyes with trepidation. “That’s what I wanted to tell you about,” he said to Carth. “She’s actually been quite helpful in…”

“She’s?” Bastila said, giving a disparaging look at Ithra. “Our passenger is another she?”

“And a pretty ‘she’ at that,” Jolee added with a wink, adding to Carth’s growing embarrassment.

“Yeah, well, she’s a pretty good mechanic as well,” Carth said somewhat defensively. “I hate to admit it, but I don’t think I could have done all of the repairs without her help.”

“Speaking of help, Kye’s ready for you to fire up the engines,” Mission said to Carth. “And she said she’ll stay there and monitor the engine for a while and let you know if there are any leaks. Not that she’s expecting any, but just to give you peace of mind so you’ll relax a bit and not worry so much.”

“Give me peace of mi…?” Carth cleared his throat. “Erm…right. If you’ll excuse me,” he said to the others, “I’ve got engines to start. Bastila? I’ll need you at the navigator’s station, just to keep an eye on things.” He headed for the cockpit, and Bastila followed.

“So, about this passenger…” Rade said to Mission.

“Her name’s Kye,” Mission beamed. “And she’s great! She doesn’t treat me like a kid—let’s me help her and everything. I like her.”

“Uh-huh.” Rade lifted an inquisitive brow. “And where have you promised we would take our ‘passenger’?”

“Onderon,” Mission said frankly.

“What a coincidence,” Canderous commented dryly. “That’s just where we were going.”

“Really? Great! See, I knew things would work out!” Mission said with a satisfied smile. “Kye said Queen Talia has commissioned a lot of restoration work, so there’s lots of jobs there right now.”

Just then, the engines began to hum.

“We’ve got power, people!” Carth said over the intercom. “Next stop, Onderon!”

Rade looked at Ithra. “Think it’d be better for you, and safer for the rest of us, if you made yourself comfortable in the dormitory, rather than the cockpit this time.”

Ithra nodded bashfully. “Alright. I’m feeling like I need a rest anyway.”

“I’ll go check on Kye,” Mission said. “See if she needs any more help.”

As Ithra left for the dormitory, and Canderous and HK headed for the cargo bay, Rade sidled up to Jolee. “So, Jolee, what do you know about this Kye?”

“I know she wants off this planet,” Jolee answered. “And I know she’s pretty good with mechanical things. And I know she’s not at all bashful about saying what she thinks. And, most importantly, I know that she’s lifted Mission’s spirits. She’s been pretty down without Zalbaar around.”

“I know.” Rade stood quietly for a moment. “I can’t feel this Kye’s presence onboard the ship,” he said, frowning slightly.

“Neither can I,” said Jolee. “Damn strange, but, like I told Carth, it’s happened to me before. Not with a human, but…” He shrugged. “Maybe she’s not human. I don’t get a sense through the Force that she’s dangerous though. Even without sensing a Force signature, if she were trouble, I’d expect we’d know it.”

Rade nodded. “Still, once we get underway, I think I’ll have a chat with her.” Rade headed for the cockpit.

~~~~~~~~

“So, any problems?” Mission asked Kye, just as they both felt the ship leave the ground.

“None so far,” Kye said, keeping a close eye on the emissions monitor she held in her hands. “So, who boarded the ship? I heard voices in the main hold.”

“Just Rade and the others,” Mission said.

“Rade? He’s the captain?”

“Yeah,” said Mission. “He and the others went out looking for this Gem thing.”

Kye’s brow raised ever so slightly, but her eyes didn’t leave the monitor. “I thought you said they were exploring the mines for cortosis?”

“Erm…well, now, I didn’t exactly say they were looking for cortosis,” Mission admitted. “But they were exploring. Don’t think they found what they were looking for though. Otherwise, we’d be heading back to Jantessa get Big Z.”

“Jantessa? Nice place, is it?”

Mission snorted. “Oh, no way! Everyone there is all...I don’t know. Too clean. Too rigid. Too many rules and regulations, and… I mean, they classified Big Z as an illegally imported pet. A pet! He’s a Wookiee. Whoever heard of a Wookiee as a pet!”

Kye grinned softly. “And they wouldn’t let him leave with you?”

“No. And they kept Juhani, too.”

“Juhani?”

“She’s a Cathar. You know what they are?”

Kye nodded.

“Well, they classified her as a ‘pet’, too. Even though she’s a Jedi!” Mission rolled her eyes.

“A Jedi?” At this, Kye looked up. “You didn’t tell me that you travelled with a Jedi.”

“Didn’t I?” Mission said innocently. “Huh. Guess I’ve gotten so used to them, it doesn’t seem to matter to me as much.”

“Them?”

“Yeah. Juhani, Jolee, Bas….”

“Jolee’s a Jedi, too," Kye said pensively, though more in the manner of a statement than a question.

“Yeah. Well, sort of. More like an ex-Jedi, now, I guess.”

“I see,” Kye said, her eyes reverting back to her monitor. “And Bas? Who’s he?”

“He’s a she, actually,” Mission corrected. “Bastila. I used to think she was really stuck up and all when I first met her, but she’s not so bad, once you get to know her.”

“So, you travel with three Jedi,” Kye commented. “Interesting.”

“Four,” said a male voice from behind them.

Kye turned her head, and her body tensed as she saw Rade standing in the doorway.

“Rade, meet Kye, our passenger,” Mission introduced. “Kye, this is….”

“Rade Chano,” Rade finished for Mission. “Captain and ‘Jedi number four.’” He stared at Kye curiously for a moment. “You have a problem with Jedi?”

“Not normally.” She eyed him up and down for a moment. “You have a problem with non-Jedi?”

“Not normally,” he replied in kind.

“Good.” She then smiled. “Nice to meet you.”

“So, Mission tells me that you want to go to Onderon.”

“Only if it’s not a problem,” Kye replied. “There’s work there, but if you’re not going that way, just drop me off in the first port you come to. I’m not picky.”

“It just so happens that by strange coincidence, that’s exactly where we’re going,” Rade said with a hint of suspicion in his voice. “We’re looking for someone.” He paused, waiting for a reaction from Kye. None came. “Someone called Co’Vanni,” Rade continued. Still nothing. “Ever hear of him?”

“Sure,” Kye said plainly, to Rade’s obvious surprise. “Co’Vanni runs the Miscreant Miner. Best restaurant in Oasis. That’s common knowledge.”

Rade’s brow lifted. “So, you’ve met Co’Vanni?”

“Well… I’ve eaten at the restaurant. And I’ve met Horace.” She paused. “Of course,” she added as an afterthought, “it’s hard to miss Horace. He’s huge. Nice guy though.”

Rade stared at her for a moment.

“Something wrong?” Kye asked, before returning her eyes to the monitor.

“Maybe,” Rade said, eyeing her over. “By the way, do you know that you don’t give off any detectable Force signature?”

“A what?”

“A Force signature. Every life form gives off one. Every one but you, that is. Why is that?”

“You’re the Jedi,” Kye said, without looking up. “Aren’t Force thingies are supposed to be your department?”

“Strange, though, don’t you think?” Rade pressed her.

Kye shrugged. “If you say so. Personally, I don’t have much use for ‘The Force.’”

“What’s with the interrogation?” Mission asked Rade. “Kye’s only here to help us and you’re treating her like she’s some sort of criminal or something.”

“Actually, Mission, he has every right to interrogate me,” Kye said. “After all, I’m a complete stranger. As far as he knows, I could be a criminal or something. And as captain of a ship, it’s his responsibility to keep his crew safe.”

“Are you a criminal?” asked Rade.

“Now, that’s a fairly ambiguous question,” she replied, her eyes still focused on the monitor. “I mean, one person’s criminal could be another person’s hero.” She gave him a sideways glance. “I mean, are you a criminal? Before today, the last time I heard someone mention the word ‘Jedi,’ it was in the same breath as the words ‘mass destruction’ and ‘Darth Revan.’”

Rade’s expression darkened.

“So ‘criminal’ is a matter of perspective,” Kye continued. “Don’t you think? What you really should be asking is do I have any intention to do you or your crew any harm.” She turned off the hand-held monitor, and looked up at Rade. “And the answer to that is ‘no.’”

“Good,” Rade said, although not convincingly. “We should reach Onderon in a few hours. I’ll be in the cockpit if you need me.”

“Great. When you get there, you can tell Carth that the hyperdrive is working fine and there are no manifold leaks. But I’ll set T3 to continue to monitor for them. Just in case he was worried.”

Rade nodded and left for the bridge.

“C’mon,” Mission said. “I’ll show you the cargo bay and introduce you to Canderous.”

“Another Jedi?”

“Nope. A Mandalorian.”

Kye snorted and rolled her eyes. “You know, Mission, you’re an alright kid,” she said as she followed Mission out of the engine room. “But you’ve got some strange taste in friends.”

Diego Varen
05-18-2006, 01:28 AM
A good Chapter. I bet Kye and Mission will become friends.

I'm from the UK as well, but I spell saber like the Americans, but I spell favourite and humour in English (UK).

Renegade Puma
05-18-2006, 07:10 AM
Great chapter Jasra. Although I still hold to my theory that Kye is Co'vanni. She has to be a force user of some kind. And she has to be able to shield that fact from Jedi. She is still a mystery to me. I can't wait to see the next part. :) Keep up the great work.

Republic Grunt
05-18-2006, 01:48 PM
Actually, different spellings of words in English (i.e. color v. colour) is a wonderful way of expressing an accent if you so desire.

You have an excellent story line so far and I very much look forward to future enstallments.

JasraLantill
05-18-2006, 08:30 PM
Thanks for the compliments, guys! I'll try my best to upload the next chapter sooner than I did the last one. I'm not setting a deadline, as Darth RealLife likes to do sneak attacks, but I'll do my best to get something up within the week.

RC-1162
05-19-2006, 08:09 AM
great work with the new chapter, Jasra, i like Kye's attitude with Carth :D. keep it up.

JasraLantill
05-24-2006, 08:50 PM
((Ok, well not as long as some of my other chapters, but it's something. Enjoy!))

~~~~~~~

“Something’s odd about our passenger,” Rade said as he returned to the bridge from engineering.

“And this surprises you?” Bastila asked, as she input the final co-ordinates for Onderon. “All of our recent ‘passengers’ have been odd.”

“No, our previous passengers weren’t ‘odd’,” Rade said. “They were deceptive and sneaky. This one is…” He turned his head and looked behind him suddenly, as if expecting to see Ithra eavesdropping. But no one was there. “I can’t feel her through the Force,” he continued. “Can you?”

“No,” said Bastila. “But Jolee said that there are some creatures in the Galaxy that don’t give off a Force signature.”

“Creatures?” Carth looked up from his console. “I wouldn’t classify Kye as a ‘creature.’” He grinned slightly. “Well, not in the way you mean ‘creature.’”

“Are you sure?” Bastila asked, her mouth twitching up in a tiny, sardonic grin. “She could be a shape-shifter. Maybe, in her true form, she looks something like Zalbaar.”

“Ha, ha. Very funny,” Carth replied dryly. “You’re just jealous because there is another beautiful woman on board.”

“Yes, this part of the Galaxy seems rather prolific with them.” She looked at Rade. “Very odd, indeed, for such an isolated and remote place.”

“Carth," Rade asked, "while you and she were fixing the ship…did Kye go into any details on exactly why she wanted to go to Onderon? Besides the obvious ‘there’s work to be had there,’ I mean.”

Carth shook his head. “No, not really. In fact, she was pretty enigmatic about it when I asked her.” A moment passed, and then Carth frowned. “But, now that I thing about it, there was something I thought was strange.” He looked at Rade and Bastila. “She has a lightsabre.”

Rade’s brow rose. “Does she now?”

“Told Mission and me she got it off of a trader, as I recall.”

Bastila grinned smugly. “She didn’t happen to mention the trader’s name, did she?”

Revan thoughtfully rubbed his jaw. “Yes…like Krex, perhaps?”

“No, she…oh, now, wait a minute,” Carth said hesitantly. “You’re not suggesting that she’s the one Krex pointed us to? Co’Vanni?” He shook his head. “No way.”

“She’s going to Onderon. Co’Vanni is going to Onderon. She’s reluctant to talk about her past. Co’Vanni is so mysterious, we couldn’t even get a description of him. Or her,” Bastila mused.

Carth vehemently shook his head. “If she was this Co’Vanni, why would she have stayed aboard the ship?”

“Carth’s right,” said Rade. “Co’Vanni would have to know by now that we were looking for him. Her. Them.”

“And the best place to hide is in plain sight,” said Bastila.

“What about the Gem?” Carth asked. “If Kye’s this Co’Vanni person, she’d have the Gem. And I certainly didn’t see it.”

“You searched her?” Rade asked.

“Well…no, but….” Carth paused. “But… didn’t Ithra say she would be able to sense the Gem if it was near?”

Bastila sighed. “Yes. She did.” She looked at Rade. “And even though I still don’t trust her, I don’t think she could have kept something like that to herself. If the Gem was on board, she would have told us by now.”

Rade nodded. “Still…there’s something not right here.”

“I’ll say,” said Kye’s voice from behind him. “You’ve got a crazed assassin droid in your cargo hold. Carth, what kind of Jedi are you travelling with?”

“Suspicious ones,” Bastilla said acidly.

Kye gave her a disingenuous smile. “Ah, you must be Bastila. Mission told me you could be… irascible, for lack of a better word.”

“Irascible?!” Bastila exclaimed, frowning. “I am nothing of the sort!”

“Whatever you say,” Kye said, with a tongue-in-cheek grin. “Anyway, Rade, about this…droid in the cargo bay.”

“HK? What about him?”

Just then, a single shot of blaster fire could be heard in the main hold, followed by a loud thud.

“Canderous!” Mission screamed. “No!”

“Assassination protocols activated!” HK’s voice echoed up the corridor.

“HK, stop!” Mission could be heard shouting. “Hey, Jolee! One of those Jedi stasis fields would be handy about now!”

“He's got a glitch, that’s what,” Kye said, rather calmly for the situation. “A big glitch.”

Rade pushed past Kye, and raced down the corridor, followed closely behind by Bastila and Carth.

Kye looked around the cockpit. “Erm…is anyone going to fly the ship?”

She heard the sounds of a struggle down the corridor as the crew tried to subdue the renegade HK.

“No?” Kye said to no one in particular. She shrugged, and then went to the pilot’s control station. She looked at the panel, then frowned. If they didn’t jump into hyperspace soon, they would have to recalculate. And that would cost them precious time. Her fingers tapped a few keys. A beep sounded. A light flashed on, then off again. “There. That should do it,” she said to herself, and she stepped away from the control station and then padded down the corridor to see what was going on. “Hyperspace in three minutes, and counting.”

HK was now being held in a stasis field—two, in fact—and as Jolee and Bastila concentrated on keeping the rusty red droid immobile, Rade concentrated on trying to fix him.

“Damn that Berland!” Rade muttered. “I knew he did something to sabotage HK!”

At the mention of Berland’s name, Kye raised a stealthy brow. But something of greater interest had caught her eye. Canderous--laying on the deck, unmoving, with Mission hovering over him. She crossed through the hold, and knelt next to the fallen Mandalorian.

“HK just went…berserk!” Mission exclaimed in horror to Rade and the rest of the group. “We were just starting a game of Pazaak, and… and…” She looked up at Kye. “I… I don’t think he’s breathing!”

With a calm expression, Kye took up Canderous’ wrist in one hand, and laid her other on Canderous’ forehead, then closed her eyes.

“Got it!” Rade said, and extracted a tiny chip from HK’s chassis, no bigger than the moon on his fingernail. “Had this not been glowing red hot, I wouldn’t have even noticed this!” He nodded for Bastila and Jolee to release the droid. As soon as they did, the Ebon Hawk lurched into hyperspace, and HK-47 teetered, then fell flat to the deck on his back.

“Hey! Who jumped us into hyperspace?” Carth asked, seeing as everyone but Ithra was in the main hold.

“I did,” Kye said. Her eyes opened, but her hands remained on Canderous. “Remote jump. Don’t worry. I didn’t do any calculations on my own.”

“Observation:", said HK. "Master? I appear to have suffered a minor malfunction culminating in my being in the slightly awkward position of not being able to regain my vertical positioning. In other words, I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up.”

“You’ll be fine,” Rade said, using the Force to quickly lift HK to his feet. Rade then wheeled around to where Canderous was. “Is he...?”

“I don’t know,” Mission said worriedly. “HK shot him and ….”

“He’ll be fine,” Kye said, lifting her hand from Canderous' brow. “His pulse is strong. He’s just unconscious. He’ll come around soon.”

“Are you sure?” Mission asked.

“Oh, she’s sure,” said a cold, icy female voice. It was Ithra. Disturbed from her sleep by all of the racket, she was now standing at the other end of the main hold, glaring menacingly at Kye. “Jantessan Keepers have the ability to heal from within.” Suddenly, her eyes went black. “You traitor!” she suddenly snarled, and with a quick raise of her hand, she uncharacteristically used the Force to hurl Kye across the hold, slamming her hard into the hull wall.

Kye shook her head to clear it, then frowned. “Ow!” she said, rubbing the back of her head. “That hurt!”

Before Rade or anyone else could stop her, Ithra raised her hand again. But this time, it was Ithra who went flying backwards, her attack having been reflected by Kye, without her even raising a finger.

Kye stood up slowly and began to brush off her clothes. “You haven’t learned anything, have you,” she said to Ithra.

“I’ve learned enough to become Prime Keeper!” Ithra shouted from where she lay crumpled on the floor. “And I’ve learned that the only way to keep Jantessa alive is to join the Republic, purge it of traitors like you, and bring back the Gem to its rightful place in the Haven where it can once again be used to bring harmony and balance to our world!”

Kye raised an eyebrow. “You? Prime Keeper?” She shook her head. “There are no more Keepers.”

“That’s because you killed them all!”

“Well, apparently, I missed one,” Kye said, her eyes narrowing. “Prime Keeper, indeed!” she scoffed cynically. “You’re not a Keeper. Not even close.”

“What is going on!” Rade demanded, giving a harsh look at Ithra, then turning on Kye. “Who are you?!”

“She’s a traitor, that’s who she is!” Ithra said, getting up shakily to her feet, her eyes now returning to their normal violet shade.

“Let her speak, Ithra!” Rade ordered. “Now, who are you?”

“That depends,” said Kye.

“Quit with the cryptic questions, and just tell me who you are, and how you know Ithra!”

Kye grinned. “Ithra was once a pupil of mine,” she said matter-of-factly. “Long ago.”

“You betrayed our people and sent hundreds to their deaths!” Ithra cried. “She’s a traitor, and she deserves to die!” She made to lunge at Kye, but Jolee and Bastila grabbed hold of her and held her back.

“No one ‘deserves’ to die,” said Bastila. “No matter what they’ve done.”

“Spoken like a true Jedi,” Kye commented. “And I suppose ‘ol Revan here is proof positive of that philosophy in practice.”

Rade frowned. “I’m not Revan. Not anymore.”

“Oh? Well, if you’re not Revan, then I’m not who I was either,” Kye replied sassily.

“Okay. So who were you?”

“Kiana Do’Shaanan. Former Keeper, former collaborator with the Sith Lord Revan, currently banished traitor, damn good engineer, fairly good cook, half decent waitress, hopeless navigator and….” Kye smiled. “Ithra’s older sister.”

Diego Varen
05-25-2006, 02:36 AM
Good Chapter.

Renegade Puma
05-25-2006, 06:10 AM
Holy crap! Holy crap! Holy Crap!! Holy freaking crap!!! It may have been a bit shorter, but dang that was an amazing chapter Jasra. Kye is not who I thought she was at all, in fact you really brought that whole twist out of no where! I am so loving this story more and more with each chapter. And the "I've fallen and I can't get up" Line from HK was priceless. Can't wait to see how this unfolds.

RC-1162
05-25-2006, 01:43 PM
excellent twist, Jasra, youre climbing the ranks very quickly. this might just be better than ForceFIght's
<_<
>_>
dont tell her i said that

Hallucination
05-25-2006, 06:42 PM
this might just be better than ForceFIght's
<_<
>_>
Which one? Forcefight started her second fic.

Great job Jazzy Lentil Jasra Lantill, keep it up! :D

Writer
05-25-2006, 08:56 PM
.......... excuse me while I peel my jaw off the floor :p

Before that last chapter, I was convinced I didn't like Kye... guess that's over :D

Do write more, Jazzy, dear :)

Jae Onasi
05-26-2006, 12:27 AM
I've really enjoyed these last 2 chapters. Nice twist with Kye. I like how you do Mission's character--sassy, trusting but yet pretty worldly-wise for a teen, and still making the occasional teen mistakes.

Republic Grunt
07-26-2006, 05:10 PM
Good story so far, but when can we expect more?

JasraLantill
08-01-2006, 02:24 AM
RG, soon! As in probably this week. I'd been neglecting this story for a while (due to a whole string of different factors) but I am working on finishing it up now. I've done another few chapters and will need to proofread them before posting them. Thanks for your support. Glad to know that someone was still interested in my story. :)

RC-1162
08-01-2006, 05:09 AM
we all are, Jasra. :) now get to work! :p

The Doctor
08-01-2006, 08:53 AM
See, that's the thing - she is at work, most likely. Where else would she be at 3:00 on a Tuesday afternoon? ;)

Renegade Puma
08-02-2006, 06:23 AM
Of course we still care you goof ball! Get us new chapters :)

LordRevan123
08-04-2006, 03:35 PM
Cause it is a great fic!

JasraLantill
08-07-2006, 05:17 PM
((OOC: Ok, I finally got back on track, and as I'm off work for a few days, hopefully I can get some more written and perhaps even finish off the story. Thanks to everyone for maintaining interest in it. :) Enjoy!))
~~~~~~

After the initial shock and confusion of the past few minutes, things were finally calm for the moment on the Ebon Hawk. Thanks to Kye’s apparent knack for Force Healing, Canderous had fully recovered from his near fatal blaster accident with HK and now stood in the corridor that was next to the med bay, albeit keeping a closer eye on the droid. Kye herself sat on one side of the main hold, casually reclining back in one of the chairs. Ithra, still seething at her sister’s unexpected appearance, sat on the opposite end of the hold, her arms crossed defiantly over her chest while Bastila and Jolee securely flanked her on either side. And in the middle of the hold stood Carth, HK, and Mission, with Rade pacing back and forth.

“So,” Rade started, stopping to look directly at Kye. “I think you have some explaining to do.”

Kye blinked with astonishment. “Me? I was just hitching a ride! You’re the Sith Lord with your motley crew and crazed assassin droid skulking about Oasis interrogating people while you travel around with a Jantessan who I’m sure is that,” she measured out a small space between her thumb and forefinger, “that close to being a Sith herself! If there’s any explaining to do, it’s you, not me, who needs to do it!”

"I told you, I am not Revan anymore," Rade said firmly.

“And I am not a Sith!” Ithra protested vehemently. “You’re the traitor, not me!”

Kye gave her sister a deadpan look. “Nice to see you, too, Ithra. It’s been a long time.”

“Not long enough for me,” Ithra spat.

Kye sighed and rolled her eyes. “Yeah, well, it is written that ‘You can pick your friends, but your family is inflicted upon you.’”

“Who wrote that?” asked Jolee.

Kye shrugged. “Dunno. Read it on the wall in a public toilet once. True though.” Kye eyed her sister. “You know, despite what you must think of me, Ithra, I am glad to see you.”

“Hmphf! Liar! You wanted me dead, like the rest!”

Kye sighed. “No. I didn’t.” She looked at Rade. “He did though. And if you really are a Keeper, you should seek him and learn the truth.”

Ithra’s jaw set. “He’s not Revan. Not anymore.”

“So everyone keeps saying.” Kye gave Rade a long, hard, critical stare. “Well, he still looks like Revan to me.”

“Only on the outside, not on the inside,” Bastila said defensively. “The Jedi Council healed the Darkness within his mind.”

Kye raised an eyebrow. “Really? But that’s exactly where I was looking. Inside.”

Rade exchanged looks with Bastila, then Ithra, then his eyes set upon Kye. “I didn’t feel you invade my mind.”

“No, you wouldn’t.” She turned to her sister. “I take it then that you give people headaches when you seek?”

Ithra scowled at her.

“Ah. Thought so. Mark of poor training. Who did finish your training, by the way?” Her gaze slowly returned to Rade. “You mentioned the name ‘Berland’ earlier? Please don’t tell me that slimy, double-talking, rankweed sucking Sith that was your valet is still on Jantessa.”

“Clarification: Ambassador Berland’s title when he was serving Revan was ‘Personal Assistant,’” HK corrected her.

“Ambassador? Oh, well then... retraction: that slimy, double-talking, rankweed sucking Sith that was your Personal Assistant,” Kye mimicked HK. “And, as I recall, you served him, too," she said to the droid. "Revan, I mean, not Berland. Although, after your recent ‘display of arms’ in the cargo hold, I’m having serious doubts about that now.”

“HK doesn't serve Berland. He serves me," said Rade. “And yes, Berland is on Jantessa and I suspect he sabotaged HK on our way to Jantessa.”

“So, you let Berland actually travel with you? On board this ship?” She raised a doubtful brow. “And you say you’ve changed?" She snorted. "Yeah. Right.”

“Let’s get to the reason why you’re here,” Carth said to Kye. “You lied to me…us…I mean, Mission and me.”

“No, I didn’t,” Kye said. “I needed a ride to Onderon, and I told you my business there was my own. I told no lies.”

“You said you were looking for work,” said Carth.

“And I will be when I get there. Can’t get accommodation and food without credits, now can I? Besides, as I recall, you were quite happy to let me believe that you and your ‘crew’ here were a team of Republic surveyors for cortosis mines. I'd consider that at the least misleading, if not an outright lie.”

“Well…," Carth hesitated. "You could have invaded our minds at any time to see that wasn’t true. It's not like we could do that."

“I don’t just go about ‘invading’ people’s private thoughts unnecessarily,” said Kye, sounding outright offended. “Aside from the fact that some private thoughts can be, well… disturbing, for lack of a better word, it’s …, to put it simple terms, it’s just plain rude. I may be a traitor among my people, but I still follow standards of conduct.”

“Standards of conduct?” Ithra scoffed. “You certainly didn’t follow them on Jantessa! Admit it, Kiana, the only thing you care about is the Aylah’han Gem. You stole it from the Haven, now tell us where it is so we can return it to its rightful place and undo some of the damage you did!”

“I don’t know where it is. Exactly.”

“But you have an idea about where it’s going to be, don’t you?” asked Rade.

“Well, of course I do. I didn’t choose to go to Onderon by throwing a random dart on a star map.”

Rade looked at her askance.

Kye snorted. “I’m certainly not telling you, Revan!”

“Rade,” Rade corrected.

“Whatever!” Kye retorted. “You’re the one person in the Galaxy whose hands I do not want to see the Gem to fall into. I’d sooner let Co’Vanni keep it.”

“So…you’re not Co’Vanni?” Carth said.

Kye began to smile. “Me?” She chuckled. “No. And if you ever meet Co’Vanni, you’ll understand how amusing that is.”

“With or without your help, Rade is bringing the Gem back to Jantessa, thief,” Ithra hissed at her sister. “So it can once again be tuned by the hands of the Keepers.”

“You must mean the hands of the Sith,” Kye countered, “and they couldn’t tune it if it were a single note whistle. Like I said, there are no more real Keepers.”

“I am a real Keeper!” Ithra said adamantly as she rose from her seat. “I lead the meditations in the Haven. I am the one who selects the novices for initiation. I’m the one who has access to the sacred scrolls of Aylah’han the First, and,” she added vehemently, “I’ve committed nearly all of the passages to memory.”

“Well, good for you,” said Kye. “Did Berland give you a gold star for doing that?”

Ithra started to lunge at her sister, but was held back firmly by Jolee and Bastila.

Kye shook her head at Ithra’s uncontrolled outburst. “Prime Keeper, indeed,” she said scornfully. “There are no Keepers.”

“There’s you,” said Jolee. “You say you’re not a Keeper, but you obviously still have the knowledge and the skills of one. Being able to cloak your Force signature is no easy task. Not even for a Jedi Master.”

“Having skills and knowledge doesn’t make me a Keeper, any more than you teaching Carth to use a lightsaber would make him a Jedi,” said Kye. “I cloak my Force-Sensitivity for simple, selfish self-preservation against Sith spies and recruiters, nothing else. I’ve just done it for so long, that it’s second nature to me.”

“If you claim to not be a Keeper anymore,” asked Bastila, “then why are you interested in the Gem?”

“Who says I’m interested in it? I just don’t want anyone else to use it,” Kye said bluntly. “It’s a dangerous tool of manipulation.”

“It is not!” Ithra interjected. “It brings order and balance to….”

“It’s used to manipulate people’s thoughts so that they will work as a collective,” Kye interrupted. “To strive for a common goal.” Her eyes left Ithra for Rade. “A power that Revan found quite intriguing. And obviously, still does.” She paused. “Look, it doesn’t matter what I know or don’t know. As long as the Gem stays out of the wrong hands, I’m not too bothered by what any so-called Keepers or Sith get up to on Jantessa. It’s not my problem anymore.”

“Yes, it is.” Carth spoke up. “If you’re the only one left who can properly use the Gem, then I’d say it’s your problem. Jantessa aside, imagine the affect it could have on the entire Galaxy if it fell into Sith hands? No wonder Berland wants it so bad.”

“So that’s why they want to join the Republic,” Bastila said softly.

Kye visibly blanched. “What did you say?”

“The Jantessans. They want to join the Republic,” said Bastila. “That’s part of the reason Ithra’s here. She is to be trained by the Jedi in the arts of diplomacy, schooled in the cultures of other worlds, so she can be the Jantessan’s Senator.”

“Kriffin’ Sith’s Blood,” Kye swore. She looked at Ithra. “You? A Senator? You call yourself the Prime Keeper and you didn’t see anything wrong with this plan?”

Ithra hesitated. “It wasn’t my idea,” she stammered. “Prefect Keel was the one who made the motion at the….”

“Keel? Keel!” Kye shouted. “And you call me a traitor? Ha!” She turned back to Bastila. “You give that Gem back to the Jantessans and Ithra and I promise you, your ‘Republic’ is finished. And I mean finished. No battles, no wars, no treaties, just… finished. Done. The Sith will use the Gem to gain total control over every Republic planet without even having to fire a single blaster shot by controlling the will of the Galactic Senators.” She turned back to Ithra and her eyes narrowed menacingly. “Won’t they?”

Ithra looked flustered. “It wasn’t my idea,” she said in a tiny voice. “I don’t want to be a Senator. Not really. But they said it would bring peace and order to the Galaxy. And isn’t that what everyone wants?”

“Peace, yes. Order? No.” Kye let out a long sigh. “Although, I can see how you would think that. I thought that once. I was wrong.” Her expression grew dark, then her eyes found Rade’s. “So, very, very wrong.”

Diego Varen
08-07-2006, 05:47 PM
Great Chapter. I loved this bit:

“Who wrote that?” asked Jolee.

Kye shrugged. “Dunno. Read it on the wall in a public toilet once. True though.”

I can't wait to see the end.

RC-1162
08-08-2006, 01:57 AM
very nice! good to see you back up, Jasra, excellent job :thumbsup:

Jae Onasi
08-08-2006, 12:04 PM
Well, now we finally see the truth come out about the gem, eh? It'll be interesting to see if Rade can really gain Kye's trust. I can't blame Kye for not trusting him, however.
Glad to see you writing again!

JasraLantill
08-11-2006, 03:14 PM
Ithra let out a doleful sigh, as she remembered the day her sister Kye took the Gem from Jantessa.

In the early morning hours on the fifth day after the arrival of the Jedi Revan, while Ithra and the rest of the Keeper Novices were gathering in the main hall of the Priory to make their usual dawn procession to the Haven, Jantessa’s Prime Keeper Kiana Do’Shaanan made an unusual appearance in the Priory’s main hall. “Only those of you who have passed your third level are to accompany me to the Haven this morning,” she announced to the Novices. "The rest of you are to remain here. No one is to leave until someone comes for you.”

For a Prime Keeper, Kiana Do’Shaanan was young, only twenty-five, but she had been elected to the position because out of all of the Keepers she was the most talented with tuning the Aylah’han Gem, the Jantessan’s most sacred relic, which entailed not only manipulating the Force, but also inspiring the other Keepers to keep in tune with her ministrations. No one ever questioned the Prime Keeper’s knowledge, abilities, or integrity. It just wasn’t the Keeper way. In balance with one another, in harmony with the whole, together as one—that was basis of the Keepers’ philosophy.

Their philosophy stemmed from whom the Keepers called ‘The Old Ones,’ although they only had a single reference to their existence—an ancient stone tomb marked with the name ‘Aylah’han’, and so he was given the honorific ‘The First’. A few, very fragile scrolls and a single, violet crystal had been found inside the tomb. The scrolls detailed instructions for the ‘Keepers’ of the planet, and the special violet crystal found with them was dubbed the ‘Aylah’han Gem.’ Over time, the scrolls and the Gem had become the very basis of the Keepers’ belief system.

No one knew for sure where the Gem had originated, only that it had been brought to Jantessa by the Old Ones. It had a very special link to the Universal Force, and the scrolls spoke of how the Old Ones had used the Gem to terraform the planet from a lifeless, barren world into a rich and fertile one through ‘tuning’ the Gem. The general consensus was that without the Gem the planet would revert back to its barren state, although, as far as Ithra knew, no one had ever been brave enough to test that theory.

But tuning and balancing the Gems’ harmonics was key to maintaining the order of Jantessan society. ‘Collective spiritual maintenance,’ they called it. Its vibrations echoed through the Force, touching every living thing—plants, animals, and people—keeping everything and everyone in balance and harmony with each other. And because it was the most important task that the Keepers performed, the Gem was ritualistically ‘tuned’ every morning.

The novices, Jantessan Force Sensitive younglings in training to become Keepers themselves one day, were always invited to watch the Tuning Ceremony. It was exciting, yet strangely calming at the same time, to feel the Force being gently manipulated by the expert minds of the Keeper Elders. So when Kiana told the Novices that morning that only Third Level Novices and above were to participate in the Tuning that morning, there was an immediate protest from her sister. Ithra was only a Second Level Novice.

“Miss the Tuning? But why?” Ithra had asked, to the shock of the other Novices. It was thought of as highly improper to question the Prime Keeper in such a manner, but as Ithra was her sister, and her prime pupil, she previously had been allowed some leeway in that respect.

But not today. “Because I said so,” came Kiana’s curt reply. “You will stay here and meditate until someone comes to fetch you. Do not ask any more questions. I have no more answers for you.”

With that said, Prime Keeper Kiana abruptly left the Priory with the older Novices, and, to the remainder’s great surprise, she securely locked the Priory’s door behind her. From the outside.

Some moments passed, as the confused Novices eventually ordered themselves and began their meditations. But so sooner than they had settled, they felt a sudden and colossal disruption in the living Force around them. It was as if a bolt of lightning had pierced through their very souls.

What happened next would always be a matter of speculation as none of the Novices could see what was happening inside the Haven just a few hundred metres away. But they could hear and feel the chaos.

Over the din of screams and dying wails punctuated with intermittent blaster fire, some of the Novices began to loudly chant the Keepers’ Mandate, in a vain attempt to drown out the sounds and overwhelming feelings of pain and dread. Some of the older novices, like Ithra, had run to the windows of their rooms, to see if they could see what was going on in the Haven temple across the courtyard. Some of the younger ones could only cry.

Keeping her vigil at the window, Ithra noticed her sister Kiana, the Prime Keeper, calmly walking down the steps of the Haven, still dressed in her ceremonial white robes—robes now stained with dark red blotches and spatters. Holding the Gem in her hands, Kiana had paused for a moment, looked once over her shoulder, then tucked the Gem inside her robes and hurried out of Ithra’s view. Shortly afterwards, all went still and silent, save for the lingering echo of one single final scream of anguish.

Ithra watched in horror as Revan’s Sith soldiers then appeared from within the Haven. They calmly marched down the steps and then headed in the direction of the Presidium, the Jantessans main governmental building, leaving a trail of bloody footsteps behind them.

The Priory had fallen silent. No chants, no prayers, not even the smallet snivel or sob was heard. “We have to do something!” Ithra had finally cried out, just then realising that she was weeping uncontrollably. But her plea for action went unanswered amongst her fellow Novices, for they all felt the terrible void, just as she did. There was nothing left to do. The older Novices and the Keeper Elders were dead.

“Tell me,” Ithra asked her sister softly. “Did you weep that day? The day you stole the Gem from the Haven?”

Roused from her own dark thoughts, Kye slowly raised her eyes and stared at her sister. For a moment, she said nothing, but finally she said, “No.”

Ithra’s mouth slowly dropped with disbelief at the apparent callousness of her sister’s response.

Kye lowered her eyes. “I wept the night before.”

Diego Varen
08-11-2006, 03:21 PM
Good Chapter Jasra. Looking foward to Part Two and the rest.

JasraLantill
08-13-2006, 08:38 PM
“That day was a dark day, Ithra,” Kye said after a moment, breaking the heavy silence that had suddenly descended on the group. “Many died, and the blame is entirely mine. But it’s in the past. No one can change it.”

“No, but you can help us prevent Berland from allowing Ithra to make a similar mistake,” said Bastila.

“Mistake?" said Kye. "The massacre of the Keepers at the Haven wasn’t a mistake. I set it up on purpose.”

“You what?!” Ithra hissed incredulously.

“Ithra, I didn’t sentence our brethren to death and steal the Gem to help Revan,” said Kye. “I did it to spite him.”

“But why?” Ithra asked.

“Why?” Kye snorted. “So even if Revan did get his hands on the Gem, he wouldn’t be able to use it, that’s why.”

Ithra’s expression suddenly softened in understanding.

“Ah. So you understand now,” Kye said. “Good. Glad to see you still remember ‘some’ of what I taught you.”

“Well, I don’t understand,” said Carth. “Care to explain what you’re talking about to the rest of us?”

“No,” Kye and Ithra said in unison.

“A melody and a harmony,” Rade said absently, suddenly recalling a long forgotten conversation. Kye’s eyes flickered derisively at hearing his words.

“Rade?” Bastila asked with a furrow of concern across her brow.

“I remember…,” he said slowly. “‘You need at least two to make the Gem sing for a world. A melody and a harmony.’ That’s what Kiana said.” His expression grew troubled, and his eyes met Kye’s. “I… tortured you. When I was Revan. Made you tell me about the Gem. Made you believe that having me in charge would be better for your people. Tried to turn you to the Dark Side.” He slowly sunk down into a nearby chair, visibly shaken by the memory. “I’m sorry.”

Kye snorted with disdain. “Well, excuse me if I don’t feel like accepting your apology right now.”

“Rade? Are you alright?” Bastila asked, moving towards him and laying a hand on his shoulder.

Rade nodded, then stared at the floor. “I remember, Bastila. Remember how Kiana told me she would show me how the Gem was used, but instead, she led the Keepers to attack us. It was chaos. Shots. Blood. Screaming. They all fought to the death or were slaughtered out of anger by me and my men. And when it was all over, she and the Gem were gone.” He looked up at Kye. “It wasn’t a massacre that day. It was mass suicide.” He gave her a weak grin. “You tricked me.”

“I did,” said Kye. “But, now, here you are, back again and looking for the Gem.” Her eyes narrowed. “With two ‘Keepers’ in your custody.” She snorted. “And you want me to help you find the Gem? Dream on.”

“You and Ithra are not prisoners here,” said Bastila.

“Yet,” Kye added bitterly.

“Well, one things for sure,” Carth said to everyone. “We can’t just turn the Gem over to the Jantessans. Not now that we know what Berland plans to do with it.”

“But what about Big Z and Juhani?” asked Mission. “We can’t just leave them on Jantessa. We have to get them back!”

“And we will, Mission,” Rade soothed her. “We will. Don’t worry. We’ll think of something.”

“Well, I’m not going to do what Berland says anymore,” Ithra announced. “And without me, his plans are foiled.”

“Don’t bet on it,” Kye said to her sister. “Berland isn’t stupid. Slimy, but not stupid. And neither is Keel. I’ve no doubt that they have some sort of contingency plan in mind if you balk at their requests.”

“Berland’s apprentice,” Bastila said, thinking out loud. “Deren.”

“Deren is Berland’s apprentice?” Kye gave her an incredulous look, then shook her head. “And just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse…”

“Kye, I understand your reluctance to help us,” said Bastila. “But think of what will happen if you don’t? It was Krex who told us that Co’Vanni had the Gem on Degos V. What makes you think that he won’t eventually tell Berland?”

Kye’s mouth dropped. “Krex told you that Co’Vanni had the Gem?” A look of panic flashed in her violet eyes. “Oh, this is bad. Very, very bad.” She looked at Carth. “How long until we get to Onderon?”

“About…five hours.”

“And how long would it take for a ship from Jantessa to get to Onderon?”

“About twelve.”

“Then there might still be time,” said Kye.

“Time? You’re talking as if this is a race,” said Rade.

“It is,” said Kye. “Berland already knows where the Gem is. Or rather, like me, he knows where it will be.”

JasraLantill
08-13-2006, 08:48 PM
“But how?” Bastila asked. “I mean, he might have tracked where we went, but he couldn’t possibly know about the Gem having been moved from Degos V.”

“Oh, he knows.” Kye pulled out a datapad from her inside jacket pocket. “I wasn’t going to share this with you, but…there’s just too much at stake, and too little time.” She talked as she began to hook up the datapad to the main console. “Co’Vanni is, well, was my business partner. We owned the Miscreant Miner together. When I….”

“So you lied to me when you said you never met him,” Rade interrupted.

“No,” Kye said. “As I recall, you asked if I had met him, and I told you that I had eaten at the restaurant, which is true, and that I had met Horace, which is also true. I didn’t lie.”

“You just deliberately withheld information.”

“Lying and withholding are not the same thing.”

“They are in my book.”

Kye stared at him blankly. “Do you want to hear my story or not?”

Rade let out a sigh of resignation and waved his hand for her to continue.

“When I first came to Degos V, the Gem was all that I had. Well, that’s not ‘entirely’ true.” She flashed Rade a quick grin. “I had the clothes I was wearing and half of a burned out ship, and I think a handful of those horrible food capsules, and a datapad, and a comlink, a really tiny, black, or was it blue.…”

Rade rolled his eyes. “Okay, okay! I give! Just tell your story.”

“So, it’s alright with you if I skip the minor details?” Kye asked him.

“Yes!”

Kye grinned victoriously. “So, as I was saying, I didn’t have much, but I needed someplace to stay, food, a job—you know, the usual things you need when you’re stranded on a strange planet. So, naturally, I wandered into one of the cantinas. That’s where I met Co’Vanni. Well, not ‘met’ as in for the very first time. He used to work for my friend, Krex before he….”

“Li-ar,” Ithra sang out.

Kye blinked. “Excuse me?”

“Efram Co’Vanni was the traitorous Prefect who helped you betray our people,” Ithra said. “He went up with you to Revan’s ship when Revan first arrived on Jantessa. Every Jantessan knows that.”

“Actually, Prefect Efram Co’Vanni died on board Revan’s ship,” said Kye. “My Co’Vanni just assumed his…erm… identity.” Ithra raised a dubious eyebrow. “It’s complicated,” Kye said dismissively. “I’ll explain it to you later. So, as I was saying, there was Co’Vanni, playing Pazaak, and losing pretty badly that day I might add, so I sort of... helped him out a bit."

“You used the Force to help him cheat?” said Mission.

“Well… cheat’s a rather harsh word. I just used my powers of persuasion to cast a little doubt in the other players’ minds, or by persuading someone that they saw a different number than what was actually on their card, or….”

Mission crossed her arms over her chest. “You used the Force to help him cheat.”

Kye rolled her eyes. “Alright, fine. If you want to get picky about it, yes. I helped him cheat. But that’s not important. What is important is that Co’Vanni won, and since he won because of me, I persuaded him that it was only fair that he share half his winnings with me. So, I got a credits for a place to stay and to buy some food.”

“Doesn’t ‘cheating’ violate one of those Jantessan laws that your people seem to have such a penchant for?” asked Jolee.

Kye shot him a deadpan look. “I wasn’t on Jantessa at the time, so, technically… no. Besides, figuring out if someone’s cheating is part of the game. That’s why they call it ‘gambling’. Otherwise, they’d just call it ‘playing’. If you can’t afford to lose, and you can’t figure out when you’re being cheated, then, in my opinion, you shouldn’t be gambling in the first place.” She paused then, then gave Carth a strange look. “Where was I?”

“Place to stay, credits for food,” said Carth, grinning slightly.

“Right. Anyway, I didn’t think it was very wise to keep on ‘helping’ him win. So, I suggested to him that he might want to try a different method of earning credits, by investing in a business—the Miscreant Miner.”

“’Suggested?’” said Rade, raising an eyebrow.

Kye raised an eyebrow at him. “Suggested,” she said firmly. “Can I continue, please?” she asked. There was silence. “Thank you,” she said, then continued with her story. “Co’Vanni and I had some credits, but not nearly enough to buy the restaurant. But, I still had the Gem. So, I figured I would use it to secure financing for the business from Hedra the Hutt. And, once that was done I cou…”

“Wait, wait, wait….” This time it was Canderous who interrupted her. “Are you saying that you took your planet’s most sacred relic, this very rare and very powerful Gem that, in the right hands, has the power to dominate people’s thoughts and wills, and you….” He stifled a laugh. “You pawned it to a Hutt for credits to open up a restaurant?”

While Ithra’s mouth dropped in speechless shock, Kye gave Canderous a disparaging scowl. “No,” she said irritably. “I only showed Hedra the Gem as proof of collateral. So, technically, I didn’t pawn it.” She looked around. “Anyone else have any more questions?”

“Please continue, Kye,” said Bastila.

“Anyway…,” Kye dragged out the word emphatically, “after business started to get pretty good, and it didn’t look like anyone was going to come looking for me, I took the Gem and hid it deep in a mine infested with mynocks for safe keeping. Then, over the next year or so, I paid Hedra back the loan.

“But, even though business was good, Co’Vanni still liked to gamble. Fair to say, he’s not bad at it for the most part, but he had a bit of a losing streak. Actually, he had a very long, losing streak,” she revised, “and he ended up borrowing a lot of credits from Hedra, and a few other less than savoury people—much more than he could possibly pay back, even if he sold his share of the business.”

“So Co’Vanni stole the Gem from you to pay back Hedra,” Rade concluded.

“Erm… well… sort of….” Kye hesitated. “He took it, although he probably views it more like ‘borrowing’ rather than ‘stealing.’ But he didn’t take it just to give to Hedra.”

“So Co’Vanni’s a Force user?” Bastila asked.

“Erm…n-o,” Kye said slowly. “He’s a …” She frowned a bit. “Why would you think he was a Force user?”

“Because we found a group of dead Mandalorian mercenaries in your mynock infested mine,” said Bastila. “And the only reason we got out alive was because your sister used her abilities to trick the mynocks into leaving. So if Co’Vanni has the Gem, and he’s not giving it to Hedra for payment of his debts, I’m assuming that he must be a Force user to want to keep it, and to have escaped that mine unscathed.”

“Well, Co’Vanni’s…erm… tricky, sometimes,” said Kye. “If he hired the mercenaries to go in the mine with him, he certainly didn’t have any intention on paying them. Most likely, he just used them to distract the Mynocks so he could escape with the Gem. He’s an opportunist, and he can be very sneaky when he wants to be.”

“Kye, if Co’Vanni left just before Rade got there,” Carth said, “and you were in Oasis with me and Mission, how did you know he had stolen the Gem and was heading to Onderon?”

“Same way we found out,” said Bastila. “Horace. Ithra used her power to seek his mind. I have no doubt that Kye did the same.”

“I did, but I’m sure I did it with more finesse,” Kye said proudly. “At any rate, I still was too late. I had just missed Co’Vanni leaving the port, when I bumped into Carth and Mission.”

“That’s why you were in such a hurry to leave,” said Carth. “You wanted to catch him up.”

Kye nodded. “But seeking Horace wasn’t the only reason I knew Co’Vanni was headed to Onderon.” She looked down at her datapad now connected to the console. “Co’Vanni received this transmission before he disappeared, just before your ship arrived on Degos V.” She pressed a single button on the datapad.

JasraLantill
08-13-2006, 09:35 PM
A large, colourful hologram of exploding fireworks suddenly spurted from the centre console, followed by loud and cheery, but flamboyantly cheesy, music and a computer generated blue-hued Twi’Lek announcer dressed in a sparkly sequin suit who spoke in smooth, sing-song baritone Basic.

“Hurry, hurry, hurry!” the announcer began. “Ti-ime is running Out, for the Greatest Gaming Extravaganza in all the known Galaxy!”

A passage of music played and an imaginary crowd cheered, while pop up banners with large flashing letters spelling out ‘Hurry’s and ‘Gaming Extravaganza’ in exceedingly bright splashes of colour as the scrolled up from behind the announcer.

“Tacky, I know,” Kye commented, catching Bastila’s eyebrows raising. “But it does grab your attention.”

“Indeed,” said Bastila.

“Bako, Lugjack, Tregald, aaa-nd Schickele!” the announcer continued, as a montage of pictures of happy people playing and winning each game appeared around him. “Uvide, Spinner Pits and everyone’s favourite, the Juuuu-bilee Wheels! Swoop Racing, Pit Fighting, and Dueling! And, don’t forget, the Largest Open Invitation Pazaak Tournament This Galaxy Has Ever Seen, with a Top Prize of FIVE MILLION GALACTIC CREDITS!”

“Don’t you just love the way this guy actually makes you hear the capital letters in the sentences?” Kye commented, as she casually leaned back in her chair to watch the advertisement.

“All Proceeds from this event will be donated to the Onderon Restoration Fund to Help Rebuild IZIZ! What better reason is there, I ask you, to Come and PLAY!” More applause. “It’s a Good Cause, Time is Short, Spaces are Limited, and YOU COULD WIN BIG!”

More music and more applause, and then the announcer continued his pitch. “The Planet is Onderon, the City is Iziz, and the Time is Now! Spaces Are Limited, but Registration is FREE! All Forms of Currency, ACCEPTED! No Credits? NO PROBLEM! Just bring along any items of value, and Trade Them In for Credits at the Valuator’s Booth!” A holographic blank form flashed on and off below the announcer, prompting the watcher to input their details and send it to the organizers. “So-ooooo? What are you waiting for?! Send in Your Registration Form TODAY, and YOU COULD BE A WINNER!”

“Then again, you could not be, too,” said Carth, as more music, applause and more pictures of happy, winning people collecting credits flashed everywhere around the virtual registration form.

“Shh! You’ll miss the best part,” said Kye.

In a very rapid tone, and decidedly lower monotone pitch the announcer said all in one breath, “Registration does not include antes, tournament fees, or any mandatory management charges for private games; odds of winning may vary; prizes shown here not typical of average winnings; trade-in valuations based on item’s current market value only; all games played in accordance with gaming code 4118.8.96; all fees final and non-refundable; organisers assume no liability for accidental injuries, dismemberment, or death during play,” as tiny, print scrolled rapidly across the bottom of the display.

“So-o, come to Onderon and Play! YOU COULD BE A WINNER!” The fireworks shot off again, and the announcer grinned broadly, as more banners with ‘Onderon’ and ‘Iziz’ and ‘Winner’ hovered around him. The upbeat music rose to a crescendo as the last fireworks exploded, then the hologram disappeared, leaving only the flashing form on the datapad screen.

“Well,” said Bastila. She cleared her throat. “That was… interesting.”

Kye grinned. “Notice, erm, anything…odd about it though?”

“You mean besides the guy sounding like a swoop race announcer on too much spice?” said Mission. “Sure had lots of disclaimers at the end.”

“Yeah,” agreed Canderous. “And what the heck is Gaming Code 4-1-whatever? I’ve sure never heard of it.”

“Rules, disclaimers, regulations. It sounds very… Jantessan,” said Rade.

Kye grinned. “Very. And that’s how I know Berland knows where to find the Gem. If he knew like you did that Co’Vanni had the Gem on Degos V, it wouldn’t take much effort to send a message ahead of you. And, it would take him even less time to find out that Co’Vanni likes to gamble and that he was in debt.”

“So, you’re going to help us then?” Bastila asked.

“For the moment,” said Kye. “But that doesn’t mean I trust you.”

“Fair enough,” said Rade. “Well, at least we know where to find for Co’Vanni once we get to Onderon.”.

“You mean, ‘look’ for him,” said Kye. “Finding him is going to be a bit more difficult. Even if there really is a gambling tournament going on.”

“But you said Co’Vanni was your business partner?” said Rade. “Surely you wouldn’t have any trouble spotting him.”

Kye was quiet.

“Okay, what are you ‘withholding’ this time?” Rade asked her.

“Well…remember when I said that Co’Vanni was tricky and sneaky?”

“Yes,” said Rade.

“And how I said he assumed the real Co’Vanni’s identity.”

“Ye-es,” Rade said slowly.

“Well, he’s a….” Kye paused. “Well…he sort of has this ability to….” She paused again. “Look, I’m really not sure exactly ‘what’ he is, or where he’s from. I never really asked, to be honest. It always seemed sort of rather…impolite to ask. At any rate, he’s going to be a bit difficult to locate. Especially if he… changes.”

Rade cleared his throat impatiently. “Changes?”

“Yeah, he does that sometimes. He’s a… shape-shifter.”

Rade slowly closed his eyes. “Great.”

Diego Varen
08-14-2006, 03:24 AM
Three good Chapters. Great, looking foward to more.

JasraLantill
08-14-2006, 04:00 PM
Rade was lying in his bunk in the cargo hold, hands folded behind his head, staring at the ceiling, when the door opened and Bastila came in.

“Carth said we’ll coming out of hyperspace soon,” she said as she approached him. “Should be landing in Iziz within the hour. Did you get any sleep?”

“Yeah, some,” said Rade, although somewhat disingenuously.

She sat down on the edge of his bed. “You’re bothered by recalling your memories of Revan today, aren’t you?” although her question was more of a statement.

Rade let out a tired sigh, then gave Bastila a weak grin. “And you’re bothered that I’m bothered, is that it?”

Her eyes smiled at him.

Rade shook his head as he sat up. “Don’t be.” He took her hand and squeezed it reassuringly. "Revan’s gone. Forever. I promise.”

The corner of her mouth turned up in a soft grin. “But the memories still bother you.”

“They’re just fragments. Bits and pieces,” he said dismissively, but his eyes belied his worry.

“You’re not the same person now, Rade,” Bastila said. “No matter what Kye thinks.”

“I’m not worried by what she thinks about me,” Rade said somewhat defensively.

Bastila raised a brow. “Aren’t you?”

“No. Not at all. Not even a smidge.”

Bastila lowered her head, giving him a disbelieving look.

“Alright,” Rade conceded. “Maybe a smidge.” He sighed. “She really does hate me, you know. I can feel it every time she looks at me.”

“She’ll come around eventually. You’re Rade Chano now. Not Revan. In time, she’ll see the truth.” Bastila smiled at him, and caressed his cheek with her free hand.

Rade smiled back at her. “You have more faith in me than I do myself sometimes.” He kissed her hand, then began to draw her closer towards him. “How much time did you say we had before we landed?”


~~~~~~~~~


Mission and Jolee watched as the glowing yellow crystal on the garage workbench started to gradually change its colour from yellow to a pale green, from pale green to dark green, and then from dark green to light blue.

“Feel the shades, don’t think about them,” Kye said as she walked around Ithra who was sitting on the floor, legs crossed, eyes closed, and humming slightly.

“Let the resonance flow through you, not around you,” Kye instructed.

Ithra’s brow creased as she concentrated.

“Relax. Don’t pull it or push it. Move with it. Ride the ebbs and flows. Find the rhythm.”

The crystal flushed to a deep hue of indigo.

“That’s it,” said Kye. She stood behind Ithra. “Now, pull it. Gently. Softly.”

The crystal started to change again, becoming violet, then a deep, deep red. Ithra’s face began to show signs of strain when it was a deep orange-red, and the crystal began to vibrate, then started to bounce around on the table.

“You’re pulling too hard. Ease off.”

Suddenly the crystal shot off the table. With quick reactions, Mission shot out her hand and caught it. “Ow!” she said, suddenly dropping it to floor. “Hot!”

Kye rolled her eyes skyward, as Ithra opened hers. “What was that?” Kye asked of her sister. “I wouldn’t even pass you as a Third Level Novice with that attempt.”

“We didn’t study harmonics that much,” Ithra said defensively.

“Didn’t study har….?” Kye blinked, dumbfounded. “How can you learn anything without a solid base in harmonics? It’s like, teaching someone how to read without them knowing how to speak the language first.” She looked at Jolee. “Do the Jedi study the harmonics in the Force?”

He raised a wary brow. “Some. But not as in depth as all that.”

“Hmph,” Kye snorted. “Well,” she said to Ithra. “You’ve got a lot to learn.”

“I don’t see the point,” said Ithra. “That isn’t the Gem. It’s just a focusing crystal from Jolee's lightsaber.”

“Just a…?” Kye whispered a curse under her breath. “If you can’t manipulate the Force around a simple lightsaber crystal, how do you expect to do it with the Gem?”

Ithra sighed dejectedly, and looked down at the floor.

“Look, Ithra,” Kye said, kneeling down to eye-level with her sister. “I’m not saying that you’re horrible with harmonics, but you’re certainly not proficient enough to conduct a Tuning. Maybe in a few years, but certainly not yet.” She frowned slightly as she rose. “Which is actually a slightly worrying revelation.”

“How so?” asked Jolee.

“Well, if she’s not proficient enough to do it on her own, and Berland has plans for using the Gem in that manner, then he must have had someone else in mind to lead her.”

“His apprentice?” Mission suggested.

“No.” Kye paced for a moment, thinking. Then suddenly, she stopped dead. “Ithra, who survived?”

Ithra looked confused. “What do you mean?”

Slowly, Kye turned around to face Ithra, and her eyes narrowed. “Besides the Novices, who else survived Revan's massacre at the Haven?”

Ithra shifted uncomfortably.

Kye’s eyes darkened with anger. “You tell me right now, Ithra, or I’ll rip it out of your kriffin’ head!”

The ship jolted slightly. The Ebon Hawk had just come out of hyperspace, but Ithra looked at her sister as if she were responsible for the disturbance.

“Solti Co’Sulrani,” Ithra said quickly. “And Metcrit Do’Onvaleron. And Daenae Do’Vespran, too. But, Kye, they’re not… not the same.”

“Explain,” Kye ordered.

Just then, Carth came into the garage. “We’re on the approach to Onderon. I’ll be taking us off the autopilot in about…..” He paused. “Erm, sorry, did I interrupt something?”

“Yes,” said Kye. “Ithra, I’m waiting. Explain.”

“They’re not Keepers anymore, Kye. Not even… people. Not really.”

“Ex! Plain!” Kye growled, and this time, she outstretched her hand.

Ithra grimaced and her hand flew to her temples. “Stop it!” she said, clutching her head in her hands. “I’m trying to explain! It’s hard!”

“Then get on with it!”

“Hey! Just leave off her, will ‘ya?” Carth said, as he placed himself precariously between them.

Ithra’s pain abruptly ceased, and she glared up at her sister. “You,” she said accusingly, panting to get breath. “You are out of balance!”

“She’s just a kid,” Carth said quietly so only Kye could hear. “And she’s your sister.”

Kye stared at Carth for a moment, then took a deep breath. “Explain,” she said to Ithra. “And I’m not asking you again.”

“What’s going on?” Rade appeared in the doorway, closely followed by Bastila.

“We heard shouting,” said Bastila.

“Ithra said that there were Keepers who survived Revan’s massacre,” Jolee said to them.

Rade’s eyes widened. “Ithra? Is that true?”

“Yes,” said Ithra. “But it’s not what you think. They’re kept in the Foundry. They’re like… well, they’re in these sort of….” She paused. “There are these machines, and… and tubes and… ” She bit her lip, then shook her head. “I don’t want to think about it!” she cried out suddenly, obviously disturbed by the thought. She looked at Kye. “You want to know what happened to them? Then you can bloody well drag it out of my head yourself!”

Without warning and with singular focus in her eyes, Kye pushed past Carth and pressed her hand roughly against Ithra’s forehead. Ithra inhaled with renewed pain and her eyes widened until they were entirely rimmed with white.

“Kye!” Carth protested and lunged after her, but without even looking Kye merely brushed her free hand in his direction and he was frozen in mid-step.

In the next instant, Ithra’s ordeal was over, and she slumped forward on her hands and knees. Without expression, and looking very pale, Kye backed away from her, releasing Carth as she did so.

“Ithra, are you alright?” Mission asked, sidling up next to her and embracing her shoulders.

“Yes,” Ithra said, catching her breath as Mission helped her stand. “Yes, I’m fine. Really.” She managed a weak smile. “Thanks, Mission.”

Kye had now backed a considerable distance away from her sister and the others, but now her legs gave out and she sank to the floor on her knees. Then, she looked up to the ceiling and let out a shriek that bellowed with anguish, anger and grief. Covering her face with her hands, she leaned forward and began to weep.

Carth approached her cautiously. He made it to her without incident, and placed his hand lightly on her shoulder. Even so, she flinched. “It’ll be alright,” he said, trying to soothe her.

She looked up then, and her tearful eyes met Rade’s. But behind the tears, her eyes burned with hatred. With a single move, she pushed Carth aside and drew out the lightsaber that she had in her jacket. “I’ll kill you for what you did to them!” she hissed as she ignited her weapon in a blaze of red. “Do you hear me?! I’ll kill you!”

Diego Varen
08-14-2006, 04:05 PM
Another good Chapter Jasra.

Renegade Puma
08-15-2006, 04:32 AM
Friggin great chapters Jasra. It's been so long. It's so great to get to read more of your story! I can't wait to see how this turns out!

JasraLantill
08-15-2006, 06:37 AM
((Glad to hear you're writing again, RP! Next chapter should be up within an hour or so. Just doing some final edits. I'm not very good at writing 'battle/action' scenes, so it's taking a while. Maybe you can give me some pointers?

-------edit--------

Ok, so it took more than an hour. Still... enjoy! ))


~~~~~~~~~~~


“Kye, stop!” Bastila said, but as she sent a Force Wave out to push Kye back, Kye reflected it and Bastila’s wave pushed the entire group back against the walls of the garage.

“You can’t use the Force against her like that,” Ithra said, as she disentangled herself from between Mission and Carth. “Not when she’s expecting it!”

“Now you tell me,” Bastila grumbled as she grappled for her lightsaber and struggled to her feet.

Rade, however, was already on his feet, with his own saber glowing hot with the golden light from the special crystal within. “You want a fight, Kye? You got it!”

While the others were still sorting themselves out, Kye launched herself at Rade and he leaped forward to meet her in the middle of the room with a mighty clash of saber beams.

“Rade, no!” Bastila and Carth both called out, but Rade and Kye were already parrying each other’s blows. Quickly and furiously they battled each other, sending out sparks as their blades smashed and grated together, neither one gaining or losing ground.

“You’re good,” Rade said to her as their blades finally locked for a moment, and they each paused, pressing for advantage. “But you can’t win, Kye.”

“We’ll see,” said Kye. “You taught me all you know, Revan.” She suddenly shoved him hard, then spun backwards, only to come slicing at him in a long sweeping downward arc, singing the fabric of Rade’s shirt as he swerved to avoid it.

By this time Bastila had ignited her own saber and she charged at Kye’s flank. But Kye was quick. She wheeled on Bastila with a skill and pace that sharply reminded Bastila of the day she herself had battled the Dark Lord Revan on board his ship. While still keeping Rade at bay, Kye’s blade crashed with Bastila’s in a succession of quick exchanges, finally managing to knock Bastila’s saber out of her hand and then kick her down to the floor.

Only Rade’s quick reactions stopped Kye’s next strike against Bastila, and their sabers locked over Bastila’s prone body.

“Bastila, move!” Rade said as his blade hovered dangerously over her head, grating against Kye’s. With some effort, Rade managed to land a hard kick to Kye’s hip. Off-balance, Kye tumbled backwards, allowing Bastila time to roll out of harms way.

Kye quickly found her feet just as Rade stepped up his attack. Blow after blocked blow, he pressed her further back to the aft side of the garage, but only for a moment. Their sabers locked again. “I have no quarrel with you, Kye,” Rade said, between clenched teeth as they battled for dominance. “Stop this now and we can talk about it!”

Bastila reached out with the Force, and her saber slid across the floor and into her hands. She was about to re-enter the fray, when Jolee grabbed her arm and held her back. “No, wait,” he said to her. “Just keep them on the far side. Carth and I have an idea.” He and Carth sprinted out the garage and down the corridor.

“The time for talking is over!” Kye snarled, and with a mighty grunt, she pushed forward, giving her the space to kick his knee. Off-balance, Rade stumbled back, and Kye swung. Rade arched backwards, narrowly avoiding her blade slicing him in two. As she followed through with a downward sweeping arc, Rade ducked and rolled, her blade passing just over his head.

“Stop it!” Ithra cried out to the both of them. “Just stop it! Both of you!”

But the battle continued. Soon, Kye’s nose was bleeding from a well-aimed elbow by Rade, but Rade was also bleeding—from a cut on his upper arm that hadn’t been totally cauterised by Kye’s blade.

“Ow!” Feeling a sharp pain in her thigh, Kye glared down at the astromech droid she had just bumped into, then angrily kicked it over and used a burst of the Force to shove it out of her way.

“Clumsy,” Rade said as he blocked her next blow. “Better watch where you’re going.”

His insult made her renew her attack, and Kye pushed forward. But, Rade continued to block, and soon had pushed her back. It was obvious that both were tiring from the duel, but it was also obvious that neither was giving up just yet.

“I don’t have to look to know where you’re going!” Kye spat at him. She made an unexpected twist. “You’re going straight to hell!” she said as her blade swung towards Rade’s neck. But quite suddenly, and for no apparent reason, she lost her balance and her blade totally missed her mark. Her eyes widened with surprise as she staggered unsteadily backwards, but she quickly regained her footing and stood ready to defend herself.

But confused himself by her sudden unsteadiness, Rade had paused. It was then he spotted Jolee and Carth helping to right T3 near the aft corridor. As soon as T3 was standing solidly on the floor, Jolee winked at Revan.

“Put your saber down, Kye,” Rade said. “It’s over.”

“Not while I have blood left in my veins!” Breathing heavily now and increasingly unsteady on her feet, Kye still managed a few more good strikes at him, but she seemed surprised that Rade was not attacking in kind, but merely defending against her blows while continuing to stare over her shoulder. Confused, Kye took the chance to look in the direction of Rade’s gaze. And then she saw it. The droid T3--and the empty syringe it held in one of its utility arms.

“You drugged me?” she said incredulously. She stumbled again, but as Rade moved forward to disarm her, she raised her blade and swung at him wildly, keeping him at bay.

“Is that what you did to them?” she asked, panting for breath while struggling to keep on her feet and focus her eyes. “Drugged them? Instead of denying them death? So you could…. access their minds?” Kye’s knees gave way and she sank to the floor. “You sick bastard.”

Woooo the droid whistled dolefully.

Rade approached her and easily switched off her saber and took it from her limp hand. She was struggling to stay conscious now, the drug injected into her by T3 now starting to take full effect. “You mutilated them,” she said, her voice weak. Preserved them in…kolto…. Only to keep… their… consciousness… alive.” She collapsed flat onto the floor. “You monster…” Her eyes closed.

Rade knelt close to her and was just feeling for her pulse on her neck when Jolee and Carth joined him. “Her breathing’s rapid and heavy, but her pulse is steady and strong,” said Rade.

The old Jedi nodded. “She’ll be fine. What I gave her won’t last long,” he said. “Couple of hours at most. But she’ll be more comfortable in the med bay.”

But as Jolee and Rade started to lift her, Carth said, “No. I’ll take her.” He lifted her gently, and followed Jolee away to the med bay.

“I’m sorry,” said Ithra, head low and looking down at the floor as Rade approached her. “I didn’t mean to upset her like that. But, I just couldn’t tell her.” She grimaced as if the very thought of the artificially kept Keeper ‘survivors’ made her nauseous. “It was too horrible.”

“It’s not your fault, Ithra,” said Mission, patting Ithra’s shoulders.

“Mission’s right,” said Rade. “Your sister’s hatred for me was bound to come out sooner or later.” His expression grew worried. “But I certainly don’t remember doing the things she accused me of.”

“Only Berland has access to that part of the Foundry,” said Ithra. “He restricted it, after I wandered in after him and saw… ‘them.’” She swallowed hard. “It was so ghastly—to see the three of them floating in those tanks, mutilated and….” She let out a shuddering breath, then shivered. “Berland helped me forget about it. But, now, seeing Kye again, I… “ She paused, taking a deep breath, then exhaling slowly. “I don’t know why Berland keeps them, but, now that I think about it, it seems likely that’s how he obtained the knowledge to finish teaching me and the rest of the Novices.”

“That’s why you have gaps,” said Mission.

“Gaps?” Rade asked.

“Kye said that Ithra had gaps in her knowledge base,” said Mission. “Makes sense if Berland was getting his information to teach her by…”

“By non-traditional means,” Bastila finished for her, having noticed Ithra’s increasing discomfort on the subject.

Mission nodded. “Yeah.”

“Well, if Revan left Berland on Jantessa,” said Bastila, “it’s more likely that Berland, not Revan, was responsible for… the suvivors’ continued captivity.”

“Well, Kye was right about one thing,” Rade said. “We don’t have much time. We have to find that Gem before Berland does.”

Carth’s voice came over the intercom. “All right people, we’re landing in Iziz in ten minutes. Should be pretty smooth this time, but all the same, fasten your seat belts.”

Renegade Puma
08-16-2006, 03:36 AM
You need help with your fight scenes? Could have fooled me Jasra. In fact I will go as far as to say that your fights put mine to shame. Holy crap that was a terrific chapter! Can't wait for the next one. Nice job with the droid helping in the fight. Seems you have read some of my unfinished chapter and stolen my Idea ;)

JasraLantill
08-16-2006, 05:26 PM
((Stolen your idea? Hmm, RP...was that another teaser perhaps? :) Anyway, glad you liked my battle scene, although I think it could do with more specific references to moves and such. This next bit is pretty tame compared to the previous one. But then again, it's only part one of a larger chapter. ;) Enjoy!))

~~~~~~~~~~

The cargo ramp of the Ebon Hawk lowered and the crew, minus T3 and Carth, descended into the port of Iziz.

“Well, it looks as though they are actually having a gaming tournament here,” said Bastila, and she pointed to a large banner hanging overhead that said ‘Registration for Gaming Extravaganza in Benefit for the Iziz Restoration Fund This Way’ followed by a directional arrow.

“And I can see why they thought they needed one,” said Mission. “Look at the size of that pothole!”

The spaceport Iziz had indeed had seen better days. Scorch marks and holes from bomb blasts were still highly visible and even though the worst of the damage had been repaired, and the port was operational, there was still much that needed done.

“Yeah, we hit them pretty hard,” said Canderous. “Then the Sith hit them even harder.”

“So, let’s go contribute to a worthy cause, find this Co’Vanni person, get the Gem, and get out of here,” said Rade. He started to lead them in the direction of the arrow on the banner.

“Erm…does anyone know what Co’Vanni looks like?” asked Jolee. “As I recall, Kye never really said and she’s going to be out for at least another hour.”

Rade paused mid-step. There was silence in the group. “You’re right,” Rade said dejectedly. “She didn’t.”

“I know what he looks like,” piped Ithra, to Rade’s obvious surprise. “Well, what I mean is, I know what the real Co’Vanni looked like.” She ran back inside the ship, returning with a datapad. “Here,” she said, handing the datapad to Rade. “Have everyone upload this. It’s a Jantessan news file highlighting the opening of a new wing in the port quarantine facility a few years ago. Co’Vanni was in charge of it.”

“So, Co’Vanni had Keel’s job before Keel did?” said Jolee.

“Yes,” said Ithra. “Well, he was appointed to it after Co’Vanni and Kye were deemed traitors and disappeared.”

“And what did Keel do before then?” Jolee asked.

Ithra thought. “I’m not sure. Think it had something to do with communications though. Whatever it was, it wasn’t very important.”

“Ah,” Jolee said thoughtfully. “Well, that makes sense.”

“It does?” Ithra frowned at him. “Wait… do you think that Keel had something to do with Co’Vanni’s betrayal? So he could get Co’Vanni’s job?”

“Maybe.”

“Perhaps that’s something we should look into,” said Bastila. “Onderon has been a trade partner of Jantessa for a long time. Perhaps one of us should investigate the Onderon records of their dealings with the Jantessans to see if we can find anything suspicious.”

“Think it’s more important that we find Co’Vanni first,” said Rade as he uploaded the picture into the last of everyone’s personal datapad. “Right, now that we all have some idea of what he should look like, assuming, of course, that he hasn’t ‘changed’ yet, let’s go find him.” He started forward again.

“Wait a minute,” said Bastila.

Rade paused again. “Yes?”

“What, we’re just going to walk around and look for him?”

“Well…yeah. That’s the plan.”

“Plan? You call that a plan?”

“Erm… yeah.”

Bastila sighed, and crossed her arms over her chest. “We need a plan, Rade.”

“O-ka-ay….” Rade took a moment to think. “The plan is for us to register for that gaming tournament as players. That way, we’ll be able to get in close to the action without causing a lot of suspicion.”

“Fine,” said Bastila. “As long as you don’t you think that three Jedi registering for a gaming tournament doesn’t sound suspicious,” she added.

He raised an eyebrow at her. She grinned at him with false sweetness. “New plan?” she suggested.

Rade sighed, then thought a moment more. “Okay, here’s the new plan. Canderous, you go with Jolee and Mission. Check out the cantinas and that ‘Trade In’ booth the advertisement mentioned. Oh, and see if you can find out who’s actually organised this event. Bastila, you see if you can gain access to the Onderonian government archives. See what you can find out about Keel and maybe even Berland. Ithra, you come with me. We’re registering for the tournament. We’ll all check in with Carth by comlink in say…two hours. Then we’ll figure out what to do from there.”

“Query: What about me, Master? Qualification: My assassination protocols could be most helpful in eliminating any cheating meatbags you might encounter at the gaming tables.”

“Erm…think we need to be a bit more discreet with our eliminations. HK, you go with Bastila.”

“What?” said Bastila. “I don’t need a tin can with an overactive blaster to be following me around. I’m a Jedi. I can take care of myself.”

“Affirmation: I agree, Master. My skills are wasted in the irrelevant defense of meatbags.”

“Bastila, Onderon’s relationship with the Republic is already strained,” said Rade. “I’d feel better if you had HK with you to watch your back.”

Bastila sighed. “Fine,” she said unenthusiastically. “Let’s go, HK.”

“Disclosure: Master, I find this assignment to be both menial and degrading. Affirmation: Nevertheless, I will comply.”

As Bastila and HK headed off towards the Palace, Mission said to Rade, “I think I should go with you and Ithra. After all, I can play Pazaak with the best of them. You’ll need me.”

“Yes, but I’m thinking that they might need your slicing skills even more.”

“Slicing?” Ithra asked.

“Lockpicking,” Rade explained.

Ithra stared at Mission. “You know how to pick locks?”

“Yeah, well….,” Mission started, somewhat embarrassed. But when she noticed that Ithra was staring at her not with condescension but admiration, she brightened. “Yeah, I can slice just about anything. You’re right Rade,” she said agreeably. “They might need my help.”

Unseen by Mission, Canderous raised an eyebrow. “Well, c’mon, ‘slicer.’ Let’s get going. We’re burning daylight.” He, Jolee, and Mission headed off.

“C’mon, Ithra,” said Rade, guiding her with a hand on her shoulder. “Let’s go register for the Pazaak tournament.”

“But, Rade, I don’t know how to… ‘gamble’,” she said hesitantly, as she followed him. “I’ve only watched Mission, Canderous, and Zalbaar play Pazaak once.”

“Do you know the rules of the game?”

“Well, Mission explained them, yes, but…”

“Then you’ll do fine,” Rade said. “Just stay close and follow my lead.”

They followed the signs that said ‘Registration’ to the outside of a large tent set up in the main square of the city. There were plenty of people registering for the tournament, and Rade and Ithra scanned the crowd looking for Co’Vanni as they waited in the queue.

“Do you see him yet?” Rade asked.

“No, but…” Ithra frowned. “I feel something.”

Rade raised an eyebrow. “What? The Gem?”

“Maybe.” She turned her head to the left, then to the right. “Yes, I think so. But it’s faint. Very faint. I can’t tell which direction the feeling is coming from.” She sighed. “I wish Kye was with us. She’d be able to locate it.”

“Well, just keep your eyes open, and let me know if your ‘feeling’ gets any stronger.”

It was their turn to register.

“Name?” asked the man at the desk, head down over his computer terminal.

“Rade.”

The man slowly raised his head, his eyes squinting with doubt. “That’s it? No second name, just… Rade?”

Rade grinned sheepishly. “Erm…no, of course not. It’s…” His eye caught the tail end of one of the advertising banners waving in the breeze. “Vaganza. Rade Vaganza.” He looked at Ithra. “And this is….”

To Rade’s surprise, Ithra suddenly said, “His wife, Shana. Shana Vaganza.”

“Fine,” the man said, typing in the information. “Planet of origin?”

“Corellia,” Ithra said before Rade could answer.

“Fine.” The man typed in the information, then gave Rade and Ithra both a data disc. “Mr. and Mrs. Vaganza, these are your RegiDiscs,” he said for probably the two-hundredth time that day. “You’ll need a RegiDisc to gain entry into the main tent. Keep it with you at all times. You can load or redeem credits onto it at any time using the Exchange Desks located at either side of the entrance tent. No prizes will be paid for anything without a valid RegiDisc. Information booth is at the rear of the main tent. Facilities are off to either side. Enjoy yourselves and good luck.”

“Thank you,” Ithra said, taking hold of Rade’s arm. “We will.” She smiled at the man, whose grim taut face suddenly softened into half of a smile, then she nudged Rade and they strolled away.

“Wife, huh?” said Rade.

“It was the only relation to you I could think of at the spur of the moment,” Ithra replied as they walked toward the main tent.

“And Corellia?”

“I’ve been browsing though the star Republic star charts. Many of the main hyperspace routes seem to lead past it, so it must be a very populous place. Little chance of anyone finding out if we’re really from there, don’t you think?”

“Indeed. Good thinking.” He grinned. “You don’t ‘sound’ Corellian, but…”

“I’ve recently emigrated,” she said without missing a beat.

Rade snorted with amusement. “I think you’ll do just fine at the Pazaak tables.”

Diego Varen
08-16-2006, 05:41 PM
Good Chapter Jasra. It wasn't bland for me. I'm looking foward to more.

JasraLantill
08-16-2006, 05:46 PM
Glad you didn't think it was bland! ;) After the last chapter, I was having some doubts about it. :)

Renegade Puma
08-17-2006, 06:59 AM
Lol, good chapter Jasra. Although if Bastilla caught cute, beautiful little Ithra holding onto Rade's arm and claiming to be his wife she might get a but upset. ;) Keep up the great work!

P.s.
Think you could arrange a date between me and Ithra? ;)

JasraLantill
08-17-2006, 08:08 AM
Lol, good chapter Jasra. Although if Bastilla caught cute, beautiful little Ithra holding onto Rade's arm and claiming to be his wife she might get a but upset. ;)

Yeah, I would imagine there'd be some Dark Side emotions showing up if Bastila saw them together. Erm,... and I don't think Ithra's sister Kye would be too pleased either (seeing as she just tried to kill Rade in the previous chapter.) ;)

P.s.
Think you could arrange a date between me and Ithra? ;)

Well, PM me a character name and a description and I'll try to work you into her very busy schedule. ;)

Thanks for reading and commenting. Next chapter will be up today sometime.

Jae Onasi
08-17-2006, 02:39 PM
I've been swamped with some craziness in my volunteer job so I haven't been able to read as much lately, so I'm way behind. I enjoyed it much, I thought the battle scene seemed fine. I was wondering where Jolee was during the fight at first.
"Mr. and Mrs. Vaganza" :lol:

Renegade Puma
08-18-2006, 02:38 AM
I just have to say that this fic is right up there as one of my favorite three I have ever read Jasra. Those three would be :Plight of darkness: :Adventures of Jolee Bindo: And then yours, in no particula order :)

Also I am glad to see you are almost at the 3,000+ view mark as well. Kind of funny how we stated our fics about the same time and they have pretty much walked hand in hand as far as how many times they have been viewed and posted in. I am happy for you.

Can't wait for the next chapter!

JasraLantill
08-18-2006, 11:10 AM
((@RP--Thanks! I've enjoyed writing my story as much as I've enjoyed reading yours. :) Thanks for all of your support over the months I've been writing this.

@ Jae--Vaganza... Glad that brought you a smile. I was inspired by the way Daniel (Robin Williams) generated the name for his 'character' in 'Mrs. Doubtfire'.

And, here's the next chapter...

Which would have been posted earlier, had there not been some maniacal Sith Lord practicing his Force Lightning skills in the local area last night. Hmmm.... or maybe it was just a large thunderstorm. Hard to tell.

Anyway, enjoy!))

~~~~~~~~~

“Thank you for seeing me on such short notice, Your Highness,” Bastila said, bowing to Queen Talia and her advisors.

“We are always happy to render assistance to a Jedi,” Queen Talia replied. “How can I help you?”

“Well, I’d like to be allowed access to some of your archives. In particular, those that deal with trade relations between Onderon and Jantessa.”

“Jantessa?” Queen Talia looked a bit confused. “We’ve had strained relations with Jantessa in the past, but....”

“Their Sith occupation,” Bastila said. “I know.”

“Is that what the Jedi are investigating?” Queen Talia enquired. “For the Jantessans tell us that they have overthrown the Sith, and have eliminated their presence from their planet. I have even heard that they are considering joining the Republic.”

“That’s what we are investigating,” Bastila said. “We want to verify their claim of sovereignty before they apply for Republic inclusion.”

“I see.”

Bastila could sense the tension mounting in Queen Talia and her advisors. Even though Queen Talia was an ardent supporter of the Republic, since the Mandalorian and Sith wars a growing number of Onderonians had become dissatisfied with maintaining Republic membership. If Jantessa joined the Republic, it would certainly help strengthen Queen Talia’s position. But if evidence of any misdealings regarding Jantessa were discovered and disclosed now, and Jantessa’s bid to join refused, Onderon’s loyalty to the Republic might also become suspect and jeopardise their reputation in the Senate. It could be the tiny spark Talia’s opposition needed to start a civil war.

“Why haven’t the Jedi asked the Jantessans themselves for this information?” Queen Talia wanted to know.

“We have,” Bastila disclosed. “But because of the Jantessan’s stringent regulations regarding ‘outlanders’ we were allowed only… limited access to their records during our visit. There is still a percentage of the Jantessan population that does not feel joining the Republic would be beneficial,” she added, hoping to generate a sympathetic response.

Queen Talia nodded. “Jantessa has always been rather exclusive in regards to outsiders,” she agreed. “I would like to help you, but there are other factors I must consider.”

“In no way would the Jedi allow their findings to impinge on Onderon’s sovereignty or standing in the Republic,” Bastila quickly assured her. “We would be very discreet.”

Queen Talia motioned for one of her advisors to approach her. After a few exchanged whispers, she said, “Very well. I will allow you access to the Palace Library. You will find your requested archive files there. If you wait outside, someone will escort you shortly.”

“Thank you, Your Highness. You have been most kind.”

Bastila bowed and then left the throne room to join HK in the antechamber.

“Well, I got us access. Now we just have to wait for an escort.”

“Statement: My earlier suggestion to you of blasting through the library door would have been far more time efficient.”

Bastila looked at the droid, then shook her head and sighed. “Rade must do something about those defective protocols of yours.”

“Objection: There is nothing defective with my protocols! All of my programming and analytical systems are in perfect working order.”

“Oh, of course they are,” she said sarcastically. “But blasting through the doors of the Palace Library is hardly what I would consider to be conducive to maintaining good diplomatic relations with a planetary government experiencing strained ties with the Republic.”

“Observation: Had you specified the requirement for diplomatic discretion in your original query of …” HK’s voice changed to mimic Bastila’s. “…’Now that we’re inside the Palace gates, all we have to do is figure out a way to get into the Palace Library’…” His voice changed back to its normal tone. “…I would have suggested a more appropriate solution.”

“Such as?”

“Answer: Sabotage of their internal security systems, quiet strangulation of the library security staff, or perhaps even a well-timed explosion as a diversionary tactic to gain entry. Or, a combination of all three.”

Bastila let out an annoyed sigh. “I’d prefer to wait for our escort, thank you very much.”

“Statement: As you wish. However, we are wasting time.”

“Somehow I prefer wasting a few minutes to igniting another civil war.”

There was a brief moment of silence.

“Observation: Your preference for pacifism is obviously derived from your defective meatbag protocols. Query: Perhaps the Master can rectify this when we return to the ship, by pressing his mucus-coated lips against yours again in the cargo hold. You always seem more agreeable after those encounters.”

Bastila opened her mouth to protest but didn’t have time to retort, as at that moment their escort arrived to take them to the Palace Library.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“The feeling I had is getting stronger,” said Ithra as she and Rade made their way to the main gaming tent. “I think we’re heading in the right direction.” She scanned the crowd. “Still don’t see Co… I mean, the man we’re looking for.” She lowered her voice. “It may not be wise to speak his name in case others may hear it,” she whispered to him.

“Good thinking,” Rade whispered back, then grinned with amusement. “Let’s go put some credits on our RegiDisc’s first, then we’ll cruise the crowd.”

Rade put 100 credits on each of their discs, enough to enter a few card games, but not enough to attract any attention. They milled through the crowd of happy gamblers, passing by low ante Pazaak tables and rows of….

“What’s this?” Ithra had stopped in front of a lugjack machine. “It’s very bright and colourful,” she commented. “Is it a game?”

“It’s a lugjack machine,” he said. He put his Regidisc in the slot, then pulled the handle on the side of the machine. There were three ‘wheels’ displayed on the screen began to spin, then stopped one by one, showing three different symbols across the centre line.

Ithra stared at it, obviously expecting more to happen. “Is that all it does?”

Rade nodded as he took out his card. “Yup.”

Ithra looked around at all the people around them quite happily inserting their discs and pulling the handles as some of the machines played short happy little tunes. “Then is this one broken? All the other machines seem to be playing music.”

“No, it’s not broken. It only plays music when you win. And the odds of winning on these things are pretty low.”

Just then a Twi’Lek approached them. “Are you, erm….” He motioned to the machine near Ithra and Rade.

“Oh, no,” said Rade, shifting Ithra out of the way. “Go ahead.”

Ithra watched as the the Twi’Lek inserted his card, then pulled the handle just as Rade had done. Again the wheels spun, but when they stopped this time, two of the symbols on the centre line matched. The Twi’Lek smiled as the machine played a brief but jovial tune and the message ’pay 10 credits’ flashed on the screen.

“He just won ten credits,” Ithra said to Rade.

“He did.”

“Just by matching two symbols?”

“Yes.”

“And all he has to do is pull the handle?”

“Yes.”

The Twi’Lek joyfully pulled the handle again. The wheels spun, then stopped, and again the simple tune played and the Twi’Lek smiled happily as another ten credits was added to his RegiDisc account.

“He won again,” Ithra said to Rade.

“Apparently.”

A third time produced no result.

“Well,” Rade said conclusively, patting Ithra on the shoulder. “Winning streak’s over. C’mon. We should head off and see if…”

But the wheels had spun for a fourth time, and now produced two different matching symbols on the pay line. A longer tune played, and the Twi’Lek let out a whoop of joy as ‘pay 25 credits’ flashed on the display.

“So, the amount he wins, is dependent on the types of symbols, not just the matching of them?”

“Yes.”

“And would it play a longer tune if he matched three symbols?”

Rade sighed. “Probably.”

Ithra’s brow twitched.

“But it’s a waste of….” But Ithra had already moved to the next machine and inserted her RegiDisc. Rade sighed. “…credits.”

Ithra pulled the handle then watched the spinning wheels. The first wheel stopped on a purple circle with a gold bar across it. Then the second wheel stopped on the same symbol. Then the last wheel stopped. The machine started to belt out an entire orchestral movement as the message ‘pay 1000 credits’ flashed in large font on the display screen. Ithra smiled broadly and joyfully clapped her hands. “Look, I wo…”

Ithra was cut off as Rade quickly snatched her card out of the machine and was hurriedly ushering her down the aisle towards the Pazaak tables.

“What are you doing?!” Ithra protested, dragging her feet. “I won!”

Rade stopped, then looked around to see if anyone was watching them. “You cheated,” he accused her in a hushed whisper as he pointed a finger at her. “You used the Force to make those wheels stop at the right places, didn’t you!”

“I did not!”

Rade gave her a hard look. “Would you keep your voice down? I don’t want people to start staring.”

“I didn’t,” Ithra quietly hissed at him. “It was just… beginner’s luck.”

Rade gave her a disbelieving look. “Luck, huh?”

“Luck.” Ithra stared back at him with her large, innocent looking violet eyes. “I’m sorry,” she apologized. “I only wanted to try it because it was something new and it looked like fun.”

Rade sighed. “Look, we’re trying not to attract attention, remember? And we’re not here to play. We’re here to find… you- know-who and you-know-what. Now, c’mon.”

Ithra nodded, and she started to walk with Rade towards the Pazaak tables. “But when we’re done can we come back and…?”

“No.”

“Not even for a little while?”

“No.”

“But….”

“No!”

Ithra sighed glumly.

“You’re supposed to be following your ‘feeling,’ remember?” Rade reminded her.

She bit her lip. “I’ve… I’ve lost it.”

“That’s because you’re concentrating on spinning wheels and computer generated tunes instead of on the reason we’re here,” said Rade. “Now, c’mon. The person we’re looking for isn’t going to be wasting his credits on lugjack.” He led the way to the card tables, keeping a watchful eye on Ithra who was lagging behind, longingly eyeing the lugjack machines over her shoulder.

“I should have taken Mission,” he grumbled to himself.

“I heard that,” Ithra said.

“Good,” Rade growled. He spied two seats at an open Pazaak table in the middle and headed for them. “Hurry it up then. The tournament’s about to start.”

Diego Varen
08-18-2006, 12:31 PM
'Mrs. Doubtfire' is a good Film. Anyway it was a good Chapter Jasra. I had thunderstorms here too. I'm looking foward to more Chapters.

Renegade Puma
08-18-2006, 07:27 PM
Oh my gosh!! ROFL ROFL!! This had to be one of the funniest conversations I have ever read in these forums...

“Answer: Sabotage of their internal security systems, quiet strangulation of the library security staff, or perhaps even a well-timed explosion as a diversionary tactic to gain entry. Or, a combination of all three.”

Bastila let out an annoyed sigh. “I’d prefer to wait for our escort, thank you very much.”

“Statement: As you wish. However, we are wasting time.”

“Somehow I prefer wasting a few minutes to igniting another civil war.”

There was a brief moment of silence.

“Observation: Your preference for pacifism is obviously derived from your defective meatbag protocols. Query: Perhaps the Master can rectify this when we return to the ship, by pressing his mucus-coated lips against yours again in the cargo hold. You always seem more agreeable after those encounters.”

Great stuff Jasra. Also I think I would have given in if Ithra did this to me..

“Luck.” Ithra stared back at him with her large, innocent looking violet eyes. “I’m sorry,” she apologized. “I only wanted to try it because it was something new and it looked like fun.”

At any rate, this was a great chapter that really showed your skills at writing interactions among the characters. Can't wait for the next chapter Jasra, keep up the good work.

Jae Onasi
08-18-2006, 11:00 PM
Oh, yeah, the 'mucus-covered lips' line and HK noticing Bastila being more agreable after 'those encounters' were hilarious.

JasraLantill
08-18-2006, 11:26 PM
Glad you enjoyed that chapter. I had loads of fun writing it! Next chapter might not be up until Sunday. Still ironing out some things in it. But thanks for the positive comments! Makes me think that I'm doing something right. :)

The Doctor
08-19-2006, 11:06 AM
Good. No offense, but I'm glad it's taking a while. Gives me time to catch up on the rest of the fic. :xp:

Looks great, Jas. I don't think you have a problem with fight scenes at all. Better than mine... mine are all the same. At least yours have variety.

Me likes. Great story so far. Now that I'm semi-caught up, I can't wait for more. :p

kata_mad
08-19-2006, 04:28 PM
Wow, great story so far. I love reading stories about the aftermath of K1.

Renegade Puma
08-20-2006, 12:29 PM
Yay Congrats Jasra! You've passed the 3,000 view mark! Woo hoo cake and a party for Jasra!!!

:cowdance :guiness: :sonar1 :moped :sbdance :guitar2 :darthx

Writer
08-20-2006, 12:38 PM
Heh... I go to San Francisco for a week and you update like crazy... I should take vacations more often :p

JasraLantill
08-20-2006, 12:49 PM
Yay Congrats Jasra! You've passed the 3,000 view mark! Woo hoo cake and a party for Jasra!!!

Thanks, RP! That's the best birthday present yet! ;)

@WJ--Well, I've been on holiday for the last week, too (but at home mind, not exciting metropolitan San Fran! (wow!) ) so that's why I've been able to write so much of late. Tomorrow I start back to work though, so the next few updates probably won't be daily. But I'll try my best to get at least one chapter a week. ;) ) I've got some stuff written now, but need to iron out a few things before posting.

Thanks for reading though!

JasraLantill
08-22-2006, 03:43 PM
Bad news. Next chapter probably won't be until the weekend. Had to format my hard drive and the two chapters I had nearly finished are now lost. (Well, not lost completely. They're still in my head, and on bits of notepaper, just not on the computer. ;) ) Promise I'll have something by Saturday though.

Writer
08-22-2006, 07:29 PM
's ok, Jazzy, dear. I'm rather patient... most of the time :p

Renegade Puma
12-23-2006, 04:06 AM
More is needed. More more, now now!

Master_ Tyvokka
01-05-2007, 04:29 PM
been a while since an update. so when are you planning on publishing the next part of this awesome story of yours. Keep it going!

Vaelastraz
01-06-2007, 03:20 PM
Read through the entire story today. Brilliant.
This is the best Kotor story I've read so far. Such an intelligent plot... great!

I'm now cought in it...now where's that promised next chapter? I will remain in front of my computer and press "refresh" untill it is posted.

JasraLantill
01-07-2007, 03:49 AM
Well, yes, it has been a while since I've updated. A very long while now that I look back on it. And I am feeling sort of guilty that I haven't finished this up. So....

Took me a little while to get back into the story, but I'll post what I've got now. Hopefully, I'll finish up another chapter by the end of the week. (Bar no major computer glitches, ISP problems, severe weather, or family obligations. ;) )

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Now sitting at one of the tournament Pazaak tables next to Rade, Ithra studied the cards in her sidedeck carefully. There were seven other players doing the same, all preparing their strategies and trying to glean any information about each other before the game started.

After a contemplative moment Ithra said, “So, Rade, let me just confirm something. I have to choose four of these cards to play with, and the aim of this particular game is to accumulate a total value in the hand equal to twenty?”

A heavy set man with a large moustache who sat opposite Ithra at the table couldn’t help but overhear her. “That’s right, little lady,” he confirmed with a scheming grin starting to appear on his chubby face. “Twenty, without going over.”

“Or closer to twenty than the other players,” Rade said, while he eyed the stranger suspiciously.

The man purposefully ignored Rade’s glaring stare and leaned in closer. His smile changed, becoming slightly more predatory. “This, erm, your first tournament, miss?”

Ithra looked up from her cards without expression. “Actually, it’s my first game.”

“Oh?” The man reached in his pocket and set more credit chips in front of him on the table. His smile grew broader. “Well, the best of luck to you.”

“Thank you,” Ithra replied politely. “And I wish the same for you.”

“You’re not supposed to wish other players luck,” Rade said to her. “You want to win so that we can get to the higher stakes tables.”

“Don’t be rude,” Ithra said, mildly annoyed. “I do apologise,” she said to the man. “My husband can be quite single-minded when it comes to money.”

At the word 'husband', Rade rolled his eyes. Ithra was really getting into her role--a little too into it for his tastes.

“Oh, we’re all single-minded when it comes to that,” the man replied. “But your husband’s right, miss. Only the top three winners can go through to the next round.” He chuckled. “And you’ll need all the luck you can get to win against me.”

“I will win,” Ithra said confidently. “I’ve got the best sort of luck.” She looked askance at Rade, then chose her four cards from her sidedeck, and then smiled sweetly at the man across from her. “Beginner’s luck.”

The man, as well as a few of the other players who had been listening to the conversation, chuckled at her comment. Rade, on the other hand, wasn’t laughing.

“This isn’t lugjack,” Rade whispered into Ithra’s ear. “This is Pazaak.”

Ithra stared back blankly at him.

“You’re not playing against a machine.”

Ithra blinked.

“There is a human factor involved in this game.”

Ithra’s eyebrow arched slightly.

Rade rolled his eyes, then leaned in closer to her ear. “People can cheat.”

“Even after all we’ve been through, you still have so little faith in me, dear.” Ithra let out a tiny sigh. “Sometimes I wonder why I married you.”

To Rade’s obvious chagrin, her comment caused another round of chuckles, jeers, and elbows-in-the-side around the table. But before he could say anything a voice came over the loudspeakers.

“Dealers, take your positions! Players, ante up! The Pazaak tournament begins in four, three, two, one…”

A loud horn sounded. The tournament had begun.

Rade and Ithra both tossed in their ante into the centre of the table and waited for the dealer to deal their first cards.


~~~~~~~~~

In the depths of a private room in the archives of the Palace Library, Bastila was browsing through their computers for information related to shipments either coming or going to Jantessa from Onderon. She had found a great many documents detailing trade agreements, changes in types of imports and exports allowed from either side, and now she was looking through the individual cargo manifests for the past few years. A tedious task, but one that just might have paid off….

“Well, this is odd,” Bastila said outloud to herself, as she flipped back to a previous document to compare the two.

“Query: Are you referring to the non-holographic antiquated Onderonian computer terminals in this tiny, dusty alcove they’ve placed us in? Or have you discovered some type of discrepancy in their recordkeeping abilities?”

“Hmm?” Bastila was catapulted back into the real world. “Erm, no. Not a discrepancy really. Just something… odd.” She contemplatively tapped her lips with her finger. “What do you think would be a reason for importing something from Nar Shaddaa, sending the crate it came in directly to Jantessa from here, only to have the exact same cargo sent back a month later?”

“Answer: I would postulate that some type of modification was being made to the original cargo—the addition of components, upgrading modules, or perhaps even performing a final stage of processing to a raw material. Qualification: If you would tell me the specific contents of the cargo, I believe I would be able to make a more accurate analysis.”

“That’s what makes these particular manifests so odd. These only state the dimensions of the cargo crates and that the cargo was non-organic in nature, but no details on the actual contents. All of the other ones are very detailed, just as I would expect for Jantessa.” She paused for a moment. “What sort of modifications would Jantessa be making to a non-organic cargo? The majority of Jantessa’s exports are of an agricultural nature.”

“Objection: Most of Jantessa’s exports were of an agricultural nature. Since the Sith occupation, it is not inconceivable that they could have evolved to a more technological based economy without the Onderonian’s or the Republic’s knowledge.”

“I suppose,” said Bastila. “But it still doesn’t make much sense. Unless….” She tapped some keys as she queried the computer for a different file. “Now this is interesting…,” she said, pointing to the screen. “There are no Republic restrictions for passing cargo through from one non-Republic port to another. So, if the cargo originated in Nar Shaddaa, with its final destination being Jantessa, the Onderonian officials are not obligated to inspect its contents. And if the cargo then gets sent from Jantessa, it then falls under Onderon’s local trade agreement, and therefore is excluded from any Republic regulations.” She looked at HK. “It’s an importation loophole.”

“Disclosure: I believe one of my previous masters benefited quite extensively from such loopholes.”

“Oh? How so?”

“Statement: The modification of weapons can be a very lucrative venture for meatbags of a decidedly corrupt and backstabbing nature--a task that does not require a large amount of technology, but a great deal of persuasion and knowledge of loopholes.”

“Persuasion and loopholes?” Bastila frowned slightly. “Well all of these odd cargos did come from Nar Shaddaa. And you can’t get more decidedly corrupt than than Berland. And if anyone is good at finding loopholes in a regulation or law, it’s got to be a Jantessan,” she concluded. “Like Prefect Keel.” She crossed her arms and let out a sigh. “Now, how to prove it. I really need to get more specific information on what the contents of those crates were….”

Just then Bastila sensed someone approaching, and she turned towards the corridor to face the approaching person.

“Ah, just the one I wanted to see,” Bastila said, as she recognised the man who had escorted her and HK down to the private archive room. “I need to find more specific details on some particular cargo manifests. Can you help me?”

“Why, yes, of course.” Colonel Tobin smiled. “If you and your droid will just follow me, please?”

Diego Varen
01-07-2007, 05:35 AM
Nice to see you back Jasra. Rade and Ithra's Pazaak game to Colonel Tobin meeting Bastila, it's all getting better, which I mean to say, another good Chapter. I'm looking foward to the other half of Chapter 13.

Master_ Tyvokka
01-07-2007, 01:17 PM
Yes. Another great chapter good to see you back on this fic again it is one i always anticipate to read. Keep it up!

Bee Hoon
01-15-2007, 08:10 AM
I really enjoyed reading the fic so far! Can't wait to see what Kye does when she wakes up, lol.

Jae Onasi
01-18-2007, 11:23 PM
The plot thickens---nice dialog at the Pazaak table. Ithra's ingenuous comments had me chuckling. And what's Tobin up to?

Renegade Puma
01-26-2007, 02:59 PM
Yay Jasra's back!! Woot woot. Sorry you had to die in my fic :( Anyway, great chapter! dum dum dum.... It's Col Tobin!! And I also loved the card table scene with Rade and Ithra. Funny stuff :)

Can't wait for your next update! More more more more...

Psyris 'Voice' Alden
11-10-2008, 06:57 AM
Amazing!! Simply Amazing! I Wish i knew this forum existed earlier, Especially after plowing through Both "Crystals of Life" (http://www.lucasforums.com/showthread.php?t=157648) and "Hidden Shades of Grey" (http://lucasforums.com/showthread.php?t=157519) in one night. Dumbstruck! Both Renegade Puma and Jasra Lantill have incredible talents as writers. Heh although after checking the dates between story posts, I am sort of glad it took me a while to find these Fanfics. Waiting for each new episode would have driven me CRAZY with anticipation! (I know... Thats the point) Which brings me to my next point... COME BACK JASRA!! Please?¿ Im so Enraptured by this well planned and projected story that I'm finding it hard to read any other fic on these forums! (aside from Jae Onasi's "Adventures of Jolee Bindo" which i have to pause in my reading cause my eyes are gonna fall out and i need sleep :xp: )

I'll tell you another thing, After playing Kotor 1&2 LS/DS, Male and Female i always found it very hard and awkward to play a Male Revan/Exile as LS. This Fic, however, has everything in the character development and portrayal that I felt the Games lacked while playing as a Male PC. Incredible accomplishments that have added to my love of the original stories and Left me wanting more, More, MORE! "Hidden shades of Grey" is one of my favorite Kotor after-stories so far. Finish it please?? *Sends Jasra creativity Vibes* And as For your Epilogue Renegade Puma... *Creativity Vibes*

machievelli
12-04-2008, 01:03 PM
read