Star Wars: Republic Dawn
I finished the Beginning.
I knew I could go farther, but face it people would you rather buy three books of about 300 pages each which will last years, or one monster 1000+page opus that you have to be careful reading to spare the spine?
But even I was unsatisifed. Damn it that was 200 odd pages that literally pour out like water. I got over a thousand hits during the time I wrote it.
And I am still unsatisifed. From what I saw of that last post today, so are some of you. I finished it, will trim and edit it, but that isn;t what you want to see. You want more Breia, More Sanji. You just want more.
So All right already.
Star Wars: Republic Dawn
The Corellian frigate Vengeance dropped out of hyperspace. An instant later Task Force Costigain dropped out behind it. Ten frigates and fifteen corvettes spread in a glittering jewel-like pattern. The seventeen ships of the fleet train were almost an afterthought. Enough ammunition spare parts and fuel to keep the warships in action for a week resided in those lumbering ships, along with a full medical unit. The largest unit ever assembled by the Corellian navy for one purpose.
And they were too late.
Admiral Halley Onasi looked out the transparisteel view ports at the scene of a slaughter. Wreckage stretched farther than the eye could see. According to all of the sensors this morass of wreckage stretched for almost two light seconds, six hundred thousand kilometers, and almost as deep. All that remained of a space station and perhaps thirty ships.
“Report.” She ordered, turning back to her crew.
“Nothing yet, Admiral.” Captain Koori Solo reported. He was in his late twenties, young for this command. But his father’s abilities when it came to flying and knowing where he was in relation to everything around him had held the young officer in good stead. From commander of an attack squadron, to navigator of the old Wayfarer, to first officer of Croyler. Now captain. His career track had been as rapid as a shooting star.
“We’re getting beacons from maybe half a dozen life pods.” He shook his head. “All told there should be over seven hundred pods.” His silence after the statement said more than any rant about almost 8,000 lives snuffed out.
“Concentrate the first division of the corvettes to defend the train. Have the medics on Sanctuary prepare for casualties.” Onasi drummed her fingers on the arm of her chair. “Shuttles are to assume that there are mines ahead.”
That assumption had been valid the last two times they had been attacked in this manner. Croyler was in the yards having her bow replaced after running into a mine field. No one knew how many Reprieve had absorbed before she was destroyed. No one had survived from her crew.
Slowly the shuttles moved in. Each scanned not only their own path, but along both sides as far as the path of their neighbors. The enemy had been tricky in their mine placement. Some had been limpets that would float up, attach to the hull, then explode, or wait until the shuttle had returned to their mother ships before exploding. Others had missile engines attached, and would attack from three times the distance. Missile pods had been discovered in such fields, even stealthed gravitic mines. The possibilities were endless and alarming.
As each shuttle probed forward, they looked not only for the siren calls of life pods, but for anything shaped like one. Something had to have happened to those missing pods.
“Shuttle 71 reports. It has a life pod in sight.” The communications officer reported.
“On visual.” Onasi ordered. Solo had come up beside her, and they watched the screen.
It wasn’t immediately obvious why the pod beacon was inactive. It tumbled through space in a regal spiral. Then as it moved farther, the other side came into view. The pod had been opened as if a maniac had used an axe on a tin of beans. As the opening swept past the camera people screaming silently in death could be seen. Every seat looked to be full.
Solo leaned back. “Send to shuttle 71. Have someone in a suit check that pod for booby traps. If it is not wired to blow, I want it aboard as soon as possible.”
The shuttle slowed, and a man in a suit moved out. Solo pitied the man. He had been in the situation before. Pragmatically it was less expensive to replace a single man than to replace a five thousand credit shuttle or a tenth of a million credit frigate. But if you’re that man who is only worth a handful of credits a week, you can feel, uncared for. Solo looked at the screen, stripping out the suit number. A name came up, and he tapped his com system.
“Be careful, Salazar.” He warned. “These bastards are pretty tricky.”
He heard a breathy laugh. “Not as sneaky as I can be, sir.” Salazar replied. The med reading which had come up with the name showed a high pulse and respiration rate. Solo racked his brain. He knew everyone aboard, and his memory was legendary.
“Like the personnel lift bomb?” He asked.
The heart line spiked.” Hey sir, that wasn’t me!”
“A tub of lubricating grease poured into a weather balloon and suspended above the car of a personnel lift? Command detonated so it soaked six men from Beta shift who just happen to be on the outs with you?” Solo chuckled. “I can’t have two such demonic pranksters aboard.”
The lines slowed. “Well maybe you do sir. But me I doubt it.” The tone was bantering.
“Then take care and get back here in one piece. Better the devil you know than the one you don’t.”
“I heard that, sir.”
Solo keyed off, just listening as Salazar began the slow and steady cant well known to men who worked around sudden death by explosives. “You handled that well.” Onasi commented. “Calm him down, give him a feeling that someone in this abattoir thinks about him, at least briefly.”
“I thought that was part of my job, sir.” Solo replied. The bead that was Salazar was almost within arm’s reach, his suit orbiting the pod as he examined the hull millimeter by millimeter.
“It is.” Onasi’s chuckle was throaty. “But you’d be surprised how many men reach your rank without learning it.”
Solo looked at the older woman. Halley Onasi was older than his father. She had started as a mustang, an officer that was originally an enlisted man. There had been more blocks in her way than Solo could have imagined. He had gone through the Naval Academy, and just about every person he had met there was using his social position to ready themselves for the future, not a career. So many of his classmates were time servers who would attach ‘Corellian Navy; Ret’ to their resume in a couple of years if they hadn‘t already done so.
But Solo had dreamed of space since his father had taken him on his first joy ride at five. Something about expanding his horizons.
Serving under Onasi was something he had dreamed about. To be respected by her...
“Nothing attached to the outside.” Salazar commented. The scanner doesn’t pick up any live circuits under the skin. Moving to the gash now.”
Solo felt a chill. “Salazar, hold position.”
The suit slowed. “Holding position.”
Solo racked his brain again. Everything that Salazar’s suit should have came up as if on a screen before his eyes. “Salazar, I want you to spread your solar shield panel. Push it in front of the gap.”
On screen, the young man spread his panel as instructed, the opaque plastic film tightened as he fed air into the support lines. He slid up beside the pod, pushing the panel over the hole-
The film rippled as bullets ripped through it. Salazar held on grimly as over fifty rounds tore the sheet to shreds.
“Maybe there are two sneaky bastards aboard. Assuming you don’t mind the title, sir.”
“I think my parents would be upset, but I’m proud to be included. We’re going to send off a couple more panels, just in case they loaded more than one gun.” Solo switched off. “Sir, we need some expert advice on this.”
“Who would you suggest?”
“My sister is a member of the Jedi order. I’ve seen her play chess with her back turned to the board, and when she was a kid, fiddled with the lighting circuits without touching them. We need someone like her to help us disarm these mines faster.”
“Unfortunately asking the Jedi for anything is a political decision.” Onasi demurred. “Besides it would take what, a week to get her here from the Coruscant Temple?”
“She’s not there. She’s at home taking a sabbatical.” He shrugged. “And arguing with father. That’s what, a 20 hours round trip?”
“We can’t afford the wasted time.” Onasi demurred. “Sending a ship back, picking her up and bringing her back would take 20 hours true.” She steepled her fingers. “But if I sent a mail packet home in a torpedo, that would only take eight and a half for message to be delivered, and having her here if she comes.” Onasi turned to look at him, her left eye flashing in a wink. “Personal mail is not political as you know.” She turned back to the screen. “Don’t you have some mail to write, Captain?”
Breia Solo wasn’t sure what was the biggest mistake. Coming home, staying more than a few days, or... Becoming a Jedi Monk.
Breakfast was always the worse. Mother would not have left for her office yet, Father was working at home, and she didn’t have any missions assigned.
The pity was the worst though. Breia Sookor Bai Echana, master of the Coruscant Monastery had looked at her, with pity. How she could tell that a woman without sight was looking at her with pity had been was unclear.
Little one, you need some time to yourself.
But Master, I must go have something to do! There are dozens of missions that must be handled-
All true. But the last mission was... painful.
Pain is part of life, Master. I can’t just sit here and think of how my Master died.
Yet if you do not listen to me and do as you are bid, that is exactly what you will do. His death was regrettable. However I have studied all of the reports. From both you and the surveillance systems. The odds were that neither of you would walk out alive. Thank the force you did.
But if I had moved a bit faster. Not hesitated-
Might have been is never something to examine too closely. Whatever you might have done is unimportant. You made a decision. It was neither right nor wrong. It was and is what happened.
I know. But my hesitation killed Master Werron.
No, the Noghri did. Did your hesitation lead to his death? I think not.
You have always been unwilling to punish me, Master.
Why? Because you bear my name? Because you are the daughter of good friends? No. I have been as harsh as you needed. No more, no less. Now you have a choice. You may go to the mother monastery of Ossus for a time. There are those that can learn from you. This ability you have with machines... It is frightening to one such as me even as it is astonishing and wonderful.
It frightens you?
I spent my early life learning the song of steel, how to hear it, and adjust it to perfection. Now this would make everything I learned before I was 20 worthless. It is no longer the song of the steel, but wave fluctuations, and sonic modulations. Soon the weapons I made will be curious artifacts of a bygone time. Perhaps not long after I will join them.
Master you cannot die!
Padawan, death is nature’s way of telling you your to stop doing that. When I die it will be my time. As Master Werron knew. It is the opinion of the Council that you will take a two week sabbatical. Either you will go to Ossus, go on vacation, or go home.
Breia had chosen the one that seemed least painful, or so she thought at the time. It had been a rough decade at the Monastery. Learning how to forge her own sword, to move silent and unnoticed. To use that Force that existed to do things that were magical to the uninitiated.
But first had come the interest she had discovered in music which had blossomed into an interest in sound itself. Finally the breakthrough. The sword she now bore was the crowning achievement. A blade that used directed sound to turn any blade into a blade like the Jedi Monks used, and had used for over two decades.
Part of the problem had been that metallurgy had progressed. When those who would oppose the Jedi originally had faced the new weapon their armor had been useless. Now there were signs that composite armors with woven sections of monomolecular cloth had limited but not negated that weapon. A blade no longer merely sliced through them, but had to cut as would a normal blade. Her new design, a vibrating metal blade with sonic vibrations to cause material to vibrate away from it seemed to be the answer. One of the Masters had called it a vibroblade.
But when it came time to use it for the first time she had hesitated, as if she were a first year Apprentice unwilling to try her blade on the flesh of another. She knew it would slide through the flesh as easily as it had sliced through 20 centimeter battle steel in demonstrations. But for some reason she had hesitated.
And her Master had died.
Her father Darshan Solo grunted as she entered the dining room. He had a stack of fanfold readouts that were almost a third of a meter thick on his right side, and as he ate, he would flip the pages by. CEC was having a rough year. The Kuati yards had started to produce a new model of medium transport, making the entire newly designed ships of the same class by CEC obsolete and overpriced. Her godfather Koori Deralo had spent months redesigning the ships and the factories to make them faster and cheaper. A lot of workers had been laid off because the new fully automated systems had made them redundant.
But Darshan and Koori had agreed that they couldn’t merely throw talented men to the four winds. Between them they had found other jobs for a lot of them. But the acrimony of the few that refused other work was wearing.
Her mother Holani came in. Like her husband, she had her own work. But hers was on a pad with bloodthirsty threats engraved on the casing, and a print scanner to tell not only if she was authorized, but to notify the CSS if someone tried without that authorization. She smiled lightly at her daughter, kissed Darshan on the cheek, and sat, pulling the plate of eggs and pancakes to her. Breia wondered where her mother put all the calories. All her life she had fought gaining weight. She took after her father in that. The once rail thin young man had become a stocky middle aged man. But her mother could eat as if there were no tomorrow, and not gain a kilo. It was frustrating.
“So, what have you planned for today?” Darshan asked, looking up from the paper without moving his head.
“I was going to go to the museum. Get my head straight, father.”
“What is the problem now?” He leaned back, picking up the cup of tea. “Still having problems with that sound sword of yours?”
“No, Father. I worked out what was wrong.” She shoved the remnants of meat and egg around on the plate. “I just need to think about where my life is going.”
“Heavy thoughts for one your age.” Holani commented. She poured cream into her tea, adding enough sweetener to stun a diabetic. She didn’t drink tea, she drank a warm tea flavored milk shake every morning.
“It’s that last mission. I heard-”
“You heard what, father?” The tone was not light in any way. Wars had started with that tone of voice.
“Breia sent me a letter-”
“Oh she did.” The tone went even flatter. Cities had died when men gave orders in that tone of voice. “What did my dear master have to say?”
“Breia.” Holani looked up. “It’s not polite to interrogate your father. Let him finish a simple statement. Then you can rip out his liver.”
“You’re not helping, mother. Well?”
“You were in the postscript. She has been asked to mediate a labor dispute here on Corellia. She said in passing that if you liked, she would come by and spend some time with you.”
“That does not answer my question.”
“She said the last mission was rough. Your master died, and you thought it was your fault-”
The silverware Breia had been holding slammed down as she stood. “I am an adult, Father. You and Breia can’t seem to get that through your thick heads but I am quite capable of mulling over what is wrong with my life without parents and teachers getting together to discuss it!” She threw her napkin down. “I am going out. I will be home when I decide to be home.”
“Just for once I am going to do what I want father! If I want to get falling down not sure of who took to bed drunk, I will. Is. That. Clear?”
Holani set down her cup. “We have been informed, my daughter. Do what you will.”
The girl stormed from the room. Darshan almost stood to follow her, but Holani motioned for him to stop.
“Darshan, we can’t live her life for her.”
“But she’s in pain, Damnit! Can’t Breia see that?”
Holani sighed, picking up her cup again. “Our daughter is grown, my love. As much as we might want to shield her from life, she is an adult and can make any decision she wants, no matter how stupid that decision is to us.” She sipped. “We didn’t have this much angst when Koori went into the Academy at 14.”
“Yeah, but Koori was only 200 kilometers away. He could come home for dinner any time he wanted to. But Breia had to go to Coruscant. A week away by ship.”
“The Master explained that to us at the time.” Holani commented.
“I understand that having a doting parent there every second near enough to intervene would affect her training. I understand that without that training she would never become what she has. But my love they stole my daughter from me at six, and returned that!” He waved toward the door. “She is our daughter, and I love her, but... She isn’t the child she was.”
“Of course not.” Holani poured and mixed her tea, taking her time to think about what to answer. Finally she sipped. “She takes after me, just as Koori took after you. To her a ship is something to fly, and she does it well. But it is not the be all and end all that it was to you. I have always been the kind that would unscrew the inscrutable. You knew that when you met me. She sees everything around her as patterns of this Force they go on about. She know that somehow if she reaches out at just the right point, she can change the galaxy.
“But seeing it and knowing how to fix it is always different. How many times have I been frustrated from work and couldn’t explain why to you?”
“Too often than I care to think about.” He admitted.
“Yet I spring back. She will learn to spring back, Darshan. Trust me on that.”
“I do.” He whispered, sitting down again. His hand groped across, and found hers. “It’s just... I always had in my mind what I would do as a father. I couldn’t protect my children from everything, but I swore to try! I can’t bear to see her in pain.”
“Nor I. But as Breia told you, this is something she must work out for herself.”
The communications annunciator sounded and Holani reached across. “Solo here.”
“Miss Solo, we have a sealed communication from Captain Koori Solo.”
“Send it on.”
“Ma’am, it’s not for you. It’s addressed to Breia Solo.”
Holani’s eyes showed nothing. “Send it on, I will get it to her.” She inserted a common pad into the slot, and caught it as it popped out. “I will catch our daughter. Darshan my love, why don’t you go test fly something. I hear the new Saber will be quite a handful.”
“I’m sure you did, since I told you.” He waved. “Go. I will pretend I am a complete idiot and don’t notice anything until she’s cooled her jets. All right?”
“The man I love finally learns some tact.” Holani kissed him gently.
“Tact. That’s a word in the dictionary between tacky and tardy, right?”
A vacation from the Sabbatical
Breia didn’t do as she had threatened. As a young girl at the Monastery she had learned enough control of her body that drinking to make herself that stupid was almost impossible. Oh she could do it. But it would be a lot of effort for little or nothing.
No. Some petty vindictive part of her had wanted to hurt her father, hurt Master Breia. She knew it was petty, knew it was childish. But she had wanted to anyway. She almost took back what she had said, almost run back to throw her arms around him and apologize. But her own innate stubbornness stopped her.
She walked onto the balcony, looking out. The city gleamed in the gentle light of early morning. So much vibrancy there. Yet with her training she could see and feel so much more. The nexus of lies and deceit that was the Corporate quarter. The dingy little lies of the government offices. The solid black of the underworld. All of it there among the glow of newborns, people happy to see the sunrise. The evanescent glow of so many people made her want to sing. At the same time the dark shadow of all those that felt out of place, ill used, or worn down made her want to weep.
She knew her place in the universe. Knew that she could do what so many of those sad people could not. She could make the world, the galaxy a better place. As long as she held to her training.
Self forgiveness was a big problem. She knew this to be true because she had made mistakes before. She wasn’t perfect, and knew it. Her teachers had always told her to find a use for it. But this time...
“Yes, Mother?” She turned. Holani stood there, watching her. How to describe her mother? She could rattle off the standard Identification description. But that didn’t describe the glow of suppressed energy her mother had always had. To her trained sight she was a glow of red from anger. Anger at problems the government faced, people that were a danger. The blues of her love for her family and her job. The shadow of pain she knew she had caused.
“You have too much of me in you, my daughter.” Holani said softly. She came over beside her, turning the younger woman toward the city again arm draped around her. “Most see just the beauty of the structures, the lights during the evening. But some...
“You see that darkness as well as I do, just differently. To me it’s nuances of the way a diplomat talks to hide deceit. The way they hold their eyes, or their mouth. You see even deeper. There are time I wish I had your gift. There I times, I know, when you curse it.” Her arm tightened.
“I never told you of what I was like before I met your father, have I?”
“I was a person that you would have been afraid to associate with. I was a liar a spy a thief and a murderer. I helped kidnap your teacher and came very close to getting her killed.”
“Let me finish. Thanks to my actions I have caused the deaths of the gods alone know how many.
“Then I met your father. A young idiot with dreams of being better, of doing what was right. A young idiot that took that monster I had become and made me what I am today. An idiot I love so much it hurts.
“He would do the same for you if he could. If he had your gift he would have set the world on it’s ear to remove even a tithe of your pain. But I know as you do that he cannot.”
“Mother, I caused Master Werron’s death!”
“You did nothing of the sort.” Holani replied. “When you were coming home, I asked Master Breia to give me information on what had occurred. It is against the rules of your order, but she knows what I do for the government, what i was, and she also knows that I would never tell anyone of it. I owe her too big a debt for any petty actions on my part.
“The Noghri would have attacked anyway. They felt pressured by the Corporations, by the governments, you and your master appeared to be an easy target for them to strike at, or so they thought. Your hesitation according to the transcripts of the security cameras was trying to figure out which weapon to use. You may have assigned different motives to what occurred, but that is exactly what I saw. Use your new sword, or use your forged blade. One brief hesitation. It wasn’t something you could even know would occur.
“Soldiers have it happen all the time. They are surprised, and part of them wants to go with one weapon, another part with another weapon. You resolved it. Just not fast enough for your own sense of well being.”
“Maybe mother.” Breia looked away. “I don’t think coming home was such a good idea.”
“You know what they say. Home is where they have to take you in.” Holani hugged her tightly, then held up a data chip. “Koori sent this addressed to you.”
The girl took the chip, feeling her mother leave. What would her brother have to say? A part of her pain had eased. Her mother, she knew, had been a bit of a rogue before she had married. Her mother knew weapons far too well for someone everyone thought was a socialite. Her duties with the Corellian Special Services should have been proof enough.
The chip fed into her pad, and she lifted it. “Hi, sis. Got some interesting problems here, and the first thing I thought was maybe you could help.
“I told the Admiral about you, and she asked me to send this. Before you ask, this is not an official government request. Those damn Pols would be arguing into the next century and we don’t have that kind of time. The Admiral asked me to say that if you can help, we would welcome it. But we aren’t asking the Jedi, we’re asking my sister. Got it?
“If you do come, could you bring some of Grandmother’s Keflaka cookies?
I‘d do serious injury for some of them. Message ends.”
She smiled gently. Koori and those damn cookies! She considered. Technically she could not accept. She was a Jedi monk and all assignments except those you happened upon in for travels were to be assigned.
Yet she was on vacation. Besides, this sounded... Interesting. She keyed her com line, calling the local Monastery. She was able to reach archives and records without questions, and downloaded all of the data on the problem Corellia was having at the moment. She called the military base, and a Courier was going to the fleet, then on to Coruscant. She was able to get passage by merely saying ‘I am a Jedi on a mission’.
The military at least seemed to appreciate them.
All right, sixteen hits and nothing? Is it really that bad?
LOL, give us a chance to log on and actually read it Mach! This is really great stuff so far. Just as good if not better than your last two installments. I am really enjoying being able to read about Darshan and Holani again. And their two children seem like they are going to accomlish a lot of good. I can't wait to get some more Breia and Sanji action though. Keep up the great work!
Keep up the fic-tasticness. :)
As the courier burrowed through space, Breia read the data she had downloaded from the Corellian Temple. There was a lot of data, but it all seemed of the negative variety; Stations in the closer systems, all settled and claimed by Corellia had been attacked. Any ships in the system were also attacked and destroyed. The attacks had been fast and brutal. Over 20,000 had died so far. Six stations worth an aggregate estimate of 2 billion credits, along with a quarter million tons of shipping. Small vessels, escorts and Corvettes had proven useless. Whoever was attacking had to be using ships of Frigate size or larger. She visualized something that made a 400 meter long Frigate look small, but her mind rebelled.
The few survivors had been the assorted lucky crewman who had been in the right place to survive, but knew little about ships, so there wasn’t even a description of the ships. only reports that ships of unknown design had come, blown the stations, and departed.
But there were anomalies. Communications from the last station, Sigma 9 in the Britain system had been perfectly normal up until the last frantic message. Beta 2 in the Feramond system, the second attacked had been the same. A sudden attack and everyone died. The others had gone down almost unnoticed, only a ship chancing to pass through the system had detected the wreckage.
She checked the scan data. Battlefields in space were incredibly messy regardless of what holo-dramas suggested. Projectiles that missed their targets traveled at a small percentage of light speed and sometimes took weeks to leave the system. The same with missiles. Just as deadly to a ship entering from the wrong course or perhaps even in another system in several years. The scan data showed a lot of projectiles going out. But the pattern looked odd to her. She turned then the forensics. Oddly enough every weapon that had killed someone had been made by the same peoples that had been on the ships. Corellian hand weapons had smashed Corellian stations, Duros made weapons had been used on the few Duros ships that had been involved. Even Twi-lek weapons on Twi-lek ships. The resources the enemy had to have was astounding.
She tapped the com annunciator, flipping back to check the one anomaly that bothered her the most.
“Captain Boroni here. What do you need, Padawan?”
“Is there a free computer that can crunch numbers over a very long period?”
“No, Padawan. Well, if you don’t mind a droid...”
“Not a problem. I don’t have any prejudices.”
“Then you can have the sanctimonious little piece of crap. He’s on the way.”
“Thank you, Captain. Won’t the Navy be upset that you are giving away a droid?”
“Not this series. They tend to get irritating after a while.”
She keyed off, nodding absently. The forensics team had reported traces of what appeared to be a coolant named Bidraxidine in the air of the last station attacked. Her brow wrinkled. The chemical was inert in most species, though it caused Duros to sneeze. The ratio of the chemical was minor. Probably not important.
There was a knock at her door, and an eight legged horror came in. Breia leaped to her feet, hand touching the hilt of her sword. The metallic monster stopped at the door, two eyes on stalks swiveling to look at her.
“You requested a droid, Padawan?” It asked. The voice was incongruous. It was a deep baritone. Coming from something that looked like a hook spider, it was a bit of a shock.
“Yes I did.”
“I am A4D9, self aware computing unit. You have calculations to be made?”
“How much do you know about ballistics?”
“More than the average person would either need or want, Padawan.”
“I can see why they don’t like you. Come here.” The monster walked across the deck, stopping beside her chair. “Where do I input the data?”
“I am not a toaster, Padawan.” One of the pedipalps lifted, and a computer access rod slid out. “Is the data on the system before you?”
The rod slid into the socket. “Specific files?”
“All ballistic files for the attacks on the stations. I want to know where all projectiles and missiles originated.”
“I see why I was assigned. This will take some time. Several hours at least.”
“While you are at it, check the reports from the air systems of the areas of the stations that were not vented. Look for any anomalous compounds.”
“Station Theta 4 was completely depressurized. There will be no such data.”
“I am aware of that.”
“This will take a much shorter period. I can have the air data ready for you by end of watch.”
“Thank you.” She leaned back from the computer, looking at the overhead. “Who could be behind these attacks?” She mused.
“I have no idea.” The droid replied. “Not that anyone has asked.“
“Neither did I.” She said.
“See?” the droid hunkered down, circuits whirring.
Breia Sookor Bai Echana, looked out of the screen at Holani. The woman knew she was being seen. Breia had slipped the plug into it’s socket in front of her. An uncommon courtesy.
“I knew you were beautiful, I just didn’t know how beautiful.” Breia said.
“Spare me the flattery, old friend. What can I do for you?”
“I tried your daughter’s com link but have received no reply.”
“That might be because she received a letter from Koori and the instant she read it, she contacted the Monastery here, then the Navy.”
“I have been apprised of that. What they didn’t know was what she was doing.”
“Give me a moment.” Holani lifted her pad, and tapped the screen. The letter from Koori was there, and she directed a program at it.
“What are you doing, as if I didn’t know?”
“Parents worry. More than teachers sometimes.” Holani mused. “She went from a blue funk to totally focused in less than half an hour, and I for one have been curious.”
“But you didn’t try to decode it before.”
“Heaven forefend! What kind of mother do you think I am?”
“An overprotective one.”
“Ah, but still true to allowing the children their privacy.”
“Is that so.” Breia said dryly. “This from the mother that had listening devices hidden in her rooms at the Coruscant temple.”
“Well I only listen to see if she cried and why.” Holani explained.
“And did the same to her son. How did you get them on his first ship?”
“A routine investigation. Some just happened to be in rooms he spent a lot of time in.”
“Ah.” Holani linked the pad to the screen, and they watched the letter play.
“Him and those cookies!” Holani laughed. “I will have to contact Mama and get some for him.”
“He’ll know you read the letter.”
“No he won’t. I always arrange to have a couple of dozen sent out.”
“So.” Breia leaned back, fingers steepled. “This is strange. You do know that four Coruscanti station have been attacked.”
“Yes. And three Twi-lek ones, and one Hutt and a Duros station.”
“It looks like a systematic attack against the core systems.” Breia said softly. “At the same time, the Jedi have been blocked out of it.”
“I know that, old friend. You and your kind are sometimes too bluntly honest when it comes to arbitration. None of the Corporations are really happy with you. They never have been in truth. And truth be known, Galactic Mining and Mineral has more pull with Intelligence than I do.”
“True. It‘s the same with the Galactic Trade Authority on Coruscant.” Breia rocked her chair back and forth idly. “Ah, but one of our own is going into danger. Holani, do you think the Corellian Special Service will be upset if some of us went to this last site?”
Holani laughed. “Director Maron will be furious.” She leaned forward. “That is, if we tell him first. He might even have a heart attack!”
“Then I think I will need a full court press. Seven of us in two ships.” She turned to touch a panel. “And we will bring some specialty droids. This looks to be something we must be part of.”
“Holani.” Breia stopped, sighing. “I have a gut feeling that something is going to come seriously loose if we don’t get involved. A feeling that not only will we be going into danger, but your daughter has already blindly done just that.”
“Is it really that bad?”
Breia nodded. “If we do not stop this, I predict that Corellia will be at war with one or more systems within the year. I predict that ten to twenty of the core systems will be involved in that same war before three years have passed."
“You have never been much for predicting, Breia.”
“It is not me doing that prediction, Holani. It is the Force guiding me.”
“Then may it guide you and keep you all safe.”
“No one ever said a Jedi’s life was safe.” The screen blanked.
Holani leaned back, her face troubled. She suddenly felt that her daughter might die out there.
The courier dropped out of warp, running in toward the fleet. It docked with the flagship. Captain Solo was on the boat deck, hands clasped behind his back. The tube irised open, and something that looked like a giant metallic spider swarmed out, moving aside. Behind it, swimming easily through the vacuum, came his sister. She flipped end for end, her feet coming down even with the deck as she passed from zero gravity to ship’s gravity. It was a gymnastic feat few could do without the grab bar above the tube’s end.
She looked around, then at her brother. “Request permission to come aboard, sir?”
“Granted, Padawan. Welcome aboard the Vengeance.”
She walked forward, aware of the eyes from the crewmen busy at their duties. Within seconds the news that a Jedi was aboard would spread. She reached out, shaking her brother’s hand. “I believe you wanted to have me assist on mine clearing?”
“Yes, Padawan.” His face was smooth, a perfect face for playing Sabaac. “If you will come this way, I think the Admiral would like to talk to you first.”
“Please, lead the way, Captain.” She turned toward the droid. “A4, go to my quarters. If you finish any computations within the next hour or so please let me know.”
“Yes, Padawan.” It replied. “It would help if I knew where the quarters were.”
“Deck two, Compartment S 41.” The captain said.
“Thank you, Captain.” The droid watched the lift door close. The crew glared at it, then returned to their work.
The doors had barely closed when Breia found herself lifted in a bear hug. “Behave yourself, Koori!” She laughed. “If they don’t know you are my brother, people would talk!”
He pecked her on the cheek. “I’ve missed you Brie.”
“I missed you to.” She looked up at him, nose wrinkling. “What about you and Sala Dodonna?”
“It wouldn’t have worked.” He sighed. “The scion of the great Naval Dodonna infatuated with the son of a merchant?”
“She loved you, brother.”
“Not enough. When her parents made it me or a career she dumped me so fast you’d think I was radioactive.”
“Too bad. I was picturing kids with her hair and your eyes...”
The door opened before he could retort. They walked down the passageway together, the soul of propriety. Koori knocked on a door. “Come.”
They walked into the Admiral’s cabin. Unlike a lot of people who had the same title, Onasi didn’t have a lot of staff along. Her flag allowed her fifteen, she had brought two, her Chief of Staff and her Flag Lieutenant. Both were in the compartment when they arrived.
“Ah, Padawan. Good of you to accept your brother’s invitation.”
“I came because you needed help, Admiral.” She demurred. “How many of the attacks have you been briefed on, Admiral?”
“There have been more.” Breia filled them in on the attacks on other polities. “I came because when I heard that Corellia was not the only government being attacked, I thought I saw a pattern. I borrowed an A4 droid from the courier, and I have it working on some data. I think I might explain how the attacks are occurring, and why.”
“So soon.” The Chief of Staff snapped. “Only been on the case a few hours and already you know more than we do?”
“Hush.” The Admiral said. “A fresh point of view can sometimes see what we will not.” She looked at Breia carefully. “Your brother told me you have an... ability with electronics?”
“Yes. I noticed it when I was a child. I can feel where they are, and what they do.”
“Poppycock.” The Chief of Staff growled.
Breia raised her hand to forestall a rebuke from the admiral. “In your top desk drawer, there are five pads. One is encrypted to Alpha level, two to Beta, the other two unencrypted. One of them is a third full of your diary, the other of your personal log. In the left hand upper drawer are a pair of electro-binoculars with a defective power cell. You might tell the tech to check the connection on the third post on the left.
“In the top right drawer, you have your pistol which is sitting on top of your com link. The Commander who is so abrasive has a watch that is slow. It has been losing ten hundredths of a second every day for the past month. The vibration crystal is faulty.” She looked at the Commander. “Shall I do more magic tricks for you?”
“I think you have proven quite efficient, Padawan.” Onasi said. “Now how would that work with mines and booby traps?”
“Except for pure mechanical traps, every booby trap works using some circuitry or power sources. I can feel them.”
“At what distance?”
“My maximum range appears to be around fifty meters.”
“Padawan Solo.” Her com link chirped.
“Go ahead A4.”
“There are no anomalous compounds in the air systems you mention except for the trace amounts of Bidraxidine on Station Alpha 14. However there is residue of some odd chemicals that could be caused by respiration of Bidraxidine if this was in fact that compound.”
“The Bidraxidine which is in the system aboard the remains of Sigma 9 is chemically different from the norm, suggesting that someone used Bidraxidine as a carrier. I am not fully conversant with physiology, so I cannot determine the cause or the affect of such a compound.”
“Are ship’s surgeon might.” Koori said.
“Yes. May I ask why an inert engine coolant seems to interest you, Padawan?”
“Yes Admiral.” She looked around the room. “If I am correct, there was no attack.”
“What?” The Chief of Staff bolted upright. “Are you saying that 8,000 people didn’t die out there?”
“I didn’t say that, Commander. What I mean is that they killed each other.”
*** gleefully rubs hands together ***
Yee-aah! Now we're talkin'! Mystery, intrigue, deception, the threat of interplanetary war, and Breia deciding the Jedi must become involved whether or not the system governments/corporations want their help or not. I can hardly wait for more.
If someone had actually asked him, A4 was happy. The puzzle given to him by the Padawan was intriguing. The chemical analysis was child’s play, and discovering the respirant residue had been the icing on the cake.
What most bio-forms didn’t understand, or failed to take into consideration was that when they breathed, they drew in gas, and some of that gas remained in their systems. For humans and most of the known sophonts that was oxygen. Bidraxidine had seven oxygen molecules in it’s artificially designed matrix, and when inhaled, would leave some of them in the body, becoming a degraded form.
This gas was so close to the chemical mix called Bidraxidine that it would be unnoticed in a test of the atmosphere. The test equipment would read it as that chemical.
Yet it was not Bidraxidine. It had 8 molecules of oxygen, and from the attachment points of the molecule, had started with more like 12.
The projectile tracking was more difficult, and it turned to that now.
Ballistics was a simple pure science. A projectile would travel on a course affected only by gravity in space, and the micro gravities created by artificial systems would affect them only slightly. He hadn’t been told to add the movement of ships and wreckage, but he added that to the equation as well. He assumed that the Padawan wished to find out where the ships were as well, and as they were damaged or destroyed, where the wreckage went.
Sigma 9 was the first done, of course. The data was more recent, and the wreckage had drifted little in comparison.
“You’re mad.” The Commander snarled.
“Admiral, she expects us to believe that 8,000 people just decided out of nowhere to kill each other? It’s ludicrous!”
“I have the droid I brought working on the drift patterns of the expended ordinance and wreckage. I am willing to bet you real money that it will prove what I am claiming.”
“If it does I will apologize on the flight deck to the entire crew!” Dothan retorted hotly.
Breia lifted the com link. “Go ahead, A4.”
“Data for Sigma 9 is in. The others will take several more hours.”
“Admiral do we have a data link here?”
“On my desk.”
“A4, send it to the Admiral’s cabin.”
Onasi sat, keying the system. A spherical holo formed. At the center was what was left of the station.
“This is the location of all projectiles and floating debris within a five light second area. The ship‘s scans ordered by Captain Solo go out fifteen light minutes.” A4 reported. “Now, we will reverse the clock slowly.” As the words came out, the bullets, missiles and wreckage began to drift inward. The scale stayed at five light second, and more entered it. Then even more. Finally the scale jumped to only four light seconds. Again they waited as projectiles streamed back into the center.
“At this point, I direct your attention to the ships and station.” A4 brought up a scan of only the center light second. The distance a bullet or missile would travel in about five seconds time. As they watched, the projectiles began disappearing into the structures, but not emerging. At the edge, a life pod suddenly floated together out of scrap, followed by another. A small merchant ship suddenly blossomed into life, the projectiles that had destroyed it moving inexorably backward toward another ship nearby. Projectiles streamed into the center at a more rapid rate, more and more pods appearing as wreckage flowed together. Another ship that had been tumbling moved backwards, parts flowing into it until it was suddenly whole again.
There were millions of small red specks now. A pod reassembled, and a missile leaped from it to the station, socketing itself back in a tube that was itself reforming.
The play stopped. “This is fifteen seconds into the incident. Every ship is accounted for.”
“But what about an intruder?” The Commander was ashen.
“It was not in the system during the attack. Note this.” Another hologram blossomed. The time tick was 20 minutes after the attack. A number of the last projectiles fired suddenly drifted to the side. “Those deviations in their course were caused by a detectable artificial gravity field. I am discerning this from what you might call ‘shadow’ evidence, something not there, but it’s presence affected the matter around it. This area of affect began at 20 light seconds from the station, moved into the area of greatest damage, and stayed for approximately seven hours. It departed an hour or more before the fleet arrived.”
“I seem to owe you an apology.” Dothan said.
“Never mind you rash promise, Commander. If I hadn’t already had the clues I have given you I would have suspected insanity as well.” Breia replied. “I accept your apology here.”
“But there is an outside agent.” Koori said. “Someone planted this chemical, then came in and laid booby traps to catch us.”
“Yes.” Breia considered. “Are the logs of arrivals still accessible?”
“No, Damnit. The computer core took a hit about fifteen seconds or so into the incident. A missile from the Corvette assigned here, I think.” Koori leaned forward. “But maybe the other stations have records we can use.”
“As soon as I am done clearing the booby traps, I must go then. All of the records are on Corellia and I know there will be another attack soon. I have to figure out where and try to be there before it happens.” Breia said.
The ship settled on the small landing field near the Monastery where Breia Sookor Bai Echana waited patiently. The ramp came down, and a small figure bounded down the ramp. She remember Yodai well. He reminded her so much of Dor.
“Greetings I give, Master Sookor.” He chirped. Behind him, Sanji Gretu came down the ramp. The years had not been kind. His lungs, scarred by vacuum in orbit of Ithor had never fully healed. He had refused artificial lungs, and kept going despite the handicap.
“Stop that.” Breia hugged him. “It’s good to see you again, Sanji.”
“Have you ever noticed how much of discussion revolves around sight?” He asked.
“More than you might have.” She replied tartly. “Did you bring them?”
“Yes. Four droids of the B9 series. May I ask why?”
“They have a special function only they can carry out.” She replied. “Have two of them transfer to the Falcon.”
Yodai leaped back aboard the ship. Breia’s head turned as if she could actually see the little being. “Does he wear you out?”
“Not as much as those damn Mandalorian boys. Oh, Anak sent greetings from Ithor.”
“So the Mandalorians got that contract?”
“After Czerka tried to hide that mining base on the planet, the Ithorians decided the only people they could trust were the Mando. They don’t lie.”
“Yes, they haven’t reached that level of sophistication yet. Good for them.”
A small group of young Jedi monks approached, and Breia noticed them. “Ah, our staff as it were.” Breia said. The four young beings stopped, bowing. “Master Gretu, may I present Padawan Lang from my home world.” The young Echani bowed deeper. “Apprentices Shali of Rutia, Amberdon of Coruscant, and Yaka of Ithor.” The Twi-lek, human and Ithorian each bowed deeply as they were named. “Shali is Lang’s apprentice at the moment. Amberdon is my new pilot.”
“And Yaka?” Sanji asked.
“We need something to slow down our good friend Padawan Solo. Yaka will fit the bill nicely once we arrive.”
“What is the situation.”
“Always business.” Breia laughed then she sobered. “The attacks on the Hutt, Twi-lek Coruscanti and Corellians are not separate events as we had surmised. Breia’s report before she left suggests that they are all linked. I have studied the evidence she delivered, and I agree with her.”
“So we have been asked-”
“No. We have not been asked to intervene. I believe we must.”
Sanji considered. “I trust your judgment, Breia. But have you informed the council?”
“I will right before we leave.”
He sighed. “I worry about you sometimes.”
Her com link beeped, and she touched it. “Breia Sookor Bai Echana.”
“Master Sookor, there is a message for you from the Navy department. Marked urgent.” The apprentice reported.
“I will be up there in a moment.” She took Sanji’s arm. “Now help an old woman find the communications room.”
“-So that is the situation as I see it, Master Sookor. I apologize for not being there to meet you, but the situation will explode all out of proportion if we don’t discover what is happening. I have asked the Navy to transport me to Delta 4 station. I have checked the pattern of attacks and Delta 4 is between the last Coruscanti attack, and the first Twi-lek one. I believe it is next on their agenda. I hope you can reply before I depart Sigma 9. If not you can meet me on Delta 4. Padawan Solo out.” Breia leaned back, rubbing her chin in thought. “I can almost see the pattern she describes. Sanji, head immediately to Delta 4. Be prepared for an attack using some kind of chemical weapon.”
“At once Master.”
“Communications, send a reply to the Navy for a torpedo. Have Breia wait there for our arrival. Do not proceed to Delta 4 without support.”
Breia stood. “Let’s be about our work. Lang, has the ship been checked out?”
“Then take it directly to Sigma 9 at best speed. The Falcon cannot keep up with you, so link up with Breia when you arrive.”
“You could wait a few days. Until I can send a warship with you.” Onasi said as they headed toward the docking bay. “At least wait until the Surgeon has completed his analysis!”
“No Admiral.” Breia walked alongside her, setting the fast pace. It might have been funny to the crew to have an Admiral almost jogging to keep up, but Breia didn’t consider it. “This cargo ship is enroute to Delta 4, and I can shave a day or more if I leave immediately. You can notify Corellia by torpedo, and I can’t wait that long.” They entered the docking bay, where A4 already waited. “Come on you lump of tin, we have work to do.” She said.
“Actually there is not tin in my matrix. I am primarily-”
“I know, A4. Look up the term tease later.” Breia waited as the docking tube irised open, and waved to the Admiral and her brother before diving into it, followed by the Droid.
The light cargo ship Evanescent Star rolled away from the ship. thrusters slamming it onto course. It went into hyper almost immediately. A moment later, a message torpedo dropped out, and began broadcasting.
“Priority message to Padawan Solo from Master Sookor. Solo is to await arrival of Jedi delegation. Under no circumstances is she to proceed to Delta 4 without support.”
This is a fast-paced story so far with lots of action and not a whole lot of downtime. Very enjoyable. Looking forward to reading how Breia Solo handles the challenges ahead.
It all came down to simple chance and geometry. If Breia had waited three minutes, she would have been contacted and waited for the arrival of her fellows. If Corellia had been half a light year close to Delta 4, she would not have arrived first.
The Evanescent Star came out of hyper space, running in toward Station Delta 4. Breia stood behind the captain as the ship raced toward it’s destination.
“My thanks, Captain Condon.” She said.
“You’re very welcome, Padawan. We picked up a good contract on Taris thanks to some of you. The company likes to pay it’s debts.”
“Then fare and trade well, Captain.” She watched as the ship slid up to the docking ring, the hatch mating with the entry.
It took only a moment to clear customs. Her robe identified her as a Jedi Monk and the Duros customs officer waved her through. She walked to the lift, stepping in. “Main Control central.” She said. The lift beeped at her, and she hurtled down ward. Behind her A4 committed a minor droid blasphemy, then tapped the control for a service lift.
Breia felt a dread that had nothing to do with the station. Something dark was out there, and she could feel it’s hunger. The door opened and she walked out, stopping at the security kiosk.
“I am Padawan Breia Solo. I must speak to the station commander immediately.”
“One of them Jedi.” She couldn’t see the man’s face, but could fee the contempt. “The commander won’t want to see you.”
Breia reached out, and pictured her hand closing on the man’s throat. She had heard of but never done a force grip before. The man clutched his throat, falling against the door. Breia leaned forward, her grip tightening on his neck.
“If you don’t let me in this instant everyone on this station will die. Now open the damn door!”
The man pawed upward, finally hitting the admittance button. Breia dropped him, stalking through the door. She paused, then swept her leg up sharply, catching the man in the face as he charged after her, drawing his sidearm.
“What the hell is going on here?” Someone shouted. Breia spun like a breech-block slamming into place. The man was short and fat, a butterball rather than a human being. She walked over, bowing slightly.
“I am Padawan Solo of the Jedi. There is an emergency, and you must assist me or the station will be destroyed.”
“It is not me you have to fear you fool!” She roared. “Someone has planted canisters of gas that will drive everyone here mad! We have to stop them now!”
“You’re crazy.” The man snapped.
“Yeah, I’m getting a lot of that.” She said. “I need to see all of your records, and shipments of gas, either Bidraxidine or some other gas in the same kind of canisters.” He looked at her warily. “That wasn’t a request, Commander.”
It took only minutes. Fifty canisters of Bidraxidine had been delivered, and were in storage hold seven near the hull. Breia first ordered that the air filtration system be shut down from that location. Then she hurried across the station.
The tanks were standard 400 liter units. Each enough to fill a pebble reactor or a fusion plant. She looked around, seeing the work crew shifting cargo. “Clear this room.”
“Who the-” She drew cleanly, the metal blade she carried slicing the corner off a crate.
“Clear. This. Room. Now!” The men ran. She reached out with the force, slamming the door. Carefully she walked over to the canisters, a sensor in hand. There was no trace of Bidraxidine in the air. The only time there should be leakage was when someone filled a reactor vessel, or if one had been breached. Nothing had happened yet.
So, they deliver the gas as normal. Something causes it to release, and then what? She inspected the canisters. Nothing to the untrained eye. She closed her eyes, looking for-
The timer was to her right about four meters on the outside tank. All of them were in series so one after another they would vent. In that first tank was a bomb. Not a big one, merely large enough to shatter all of the tanks when the aneroid barometer installed told it that all of them were empty. She turned even as the timer reached zero.
The click was anticlimactic. Her sensitive hearing could hear the gas venting. Not a large leak, it would take half an hour to vent just the one tank.
She leaped to the tank, looking for the valve that would shut it off. There was none. The next tank in line had one though, and she slammed it closed. The one tank would be all they had to deal with.
There was a slight smell in the air. She knew Bidraxidine was odorless and colorless. But this isn’t Bidraxidine she told herself. It’s something that drives people mad. So mad that they turned on each other. She drew her sword, and cut at the straps that linked the tanks together. The metal resisted, and she sheathed it, drawing her vibroblade. She thumbed it on, setting it for metal, then sliced through the straps. The tank weighed ten times what she did, and there was no time to find a lift or jack. She bent, putting her hands under the tank. It is a feather, it is so light you have to be careful how you pick it up. She lifted in one massive spasm, falling backwards as the ton and a half tank flipped across the compartment. She fell, sprawling. She leaped to her feet, running toward the door. Vent the compartment into space. It’s the only way-
There was a thud, and the tank shredded. She dove as shrapnel flew past her. There was an arcing sound in front of her, and she stared aghast at the control she needed. Without it, the only way to vent the compartment was by blowing the cargo hatch. That would also destroy the evidence.
She was already dosed, she knew that. If they opened the hatch the gas would seep into the station, and everyone would go mad.
If they let me out without checking, without quarantine I will become a monster. I cannot let that happen.
She didn’t think, she reacted. She drew her sword, finding a stack of steel ingots ten meters long. She thrust into it, and when the blade was two thirds of the way in she snapped her wrist. The blade shattered, a small fragment slicing open her hand, but she ignored it. She drew the vibroblade. Ten years of her life, years of working out exactly how it would work. She didn’t even know if she could repeat it.
She flicked it on, thrusting into the metal. She flicked it off, and leaned with all of her strength, feeling the metal sheer. The pommel hung from her hand. She cast it aside, going to the communicator panel.
“Commander, emergency. Have all compartments check for Bidraxidine leakage. If any rooms show signs of it immediately quarantine them.”
“We’ll get you out of there-”
“No! Under no circumstances open the door to this compartment without full haz-mat support! Everyone will die if you do!”
There was a sound. Breia didn’t even know what it was.
Then like a tidal wave madness struck.
The Jedi courier Kreekta burst out of hyper. Sanji leaned back, tapping the com panel. “Delta 4 station this is Jedi courier Kreekta on approach. I need to talk to your station commander immediately-”
“You damn Jedi! That lunatic is tearing up my cargo bay!” Someone screamed back.”
“Some woman showed up, choked one of my guards with some kind of magic, cleared a docking bay crew, and then went mad! She threw a ton and a half tank across the compartment, then she went bug-nuts right in the middle of a conversation!!”
“I will be there in a few minutes. Under no circumstances are you to open that compartment!”
If whatever was in those tanks is causing this I wouldn’t open it if you paid me!”
The courier docked in bay one, and Sanji charged out, gasping as he ran. Yodai bounded along beside him like a demented teddy bear, using not only the decks but the bulkheads in his efforts to keep up. They charged into a lift, and Yodai shouted, “Main Control!” as Sanji collapsed, clutching his chest. Yodai knelt beside him. “Master, slow you must take it.”
“No.” Sanji wheezed, eyes tight with pain. “There is no time. No time.” He staggered to his feet as the door snapped open. He stormed down the hall toward the Security kiosk.
The guard leaped to his feet. “You can’t-” Sanji made a flicking motion with his hand, and the man slammed into the bulkhead, collapsing in a boneless heap.
The Main control room was a mad house. A fat man at one control spun around. “What are you Jedi doing to me!” He screamed.
“Please report.” Sanji said.
“Like I told you. The crazy woman sealed the door, told us to watch for Bidraxidine leakage!”
“Is there any?”
“None reported so far. We don’t scan for chemicals that aren’t potential dangers. We had to recalibrate.” He spun back to the screen. One compartment marked CARGO 7 was a lurid red. “There’s a lot of Bidraxidine in that room. The tank that blew must have vented into it. So far-” Another compartment beside it turned pink. “Wait-”
“Seal that compartment as well.”
“Seal it!” Sanji shouted. The supervisor growled, and flicked a switch. Like a warship, stations were able to seal compartments separately. For the same reasons, possible pirates and mutiny.
“There are five people in that room.”
“Until this is clear they are not safe.”
“Safe? What kind of-” There was a sound, the tone the intercom made when it started an all hands bulletin. The room they had just sealed suddenly strobed red.
“What is that?”
“Weapons discharge!” The supervisor flipped a switch.
It looked like an asylum with no security. A Rodian was screaming wordlessly, his pistol blasting shot after shot. Two of the others were down. The other two were trying to strangle each other. The Rodian stepped up, firing into the pair until they slumped in death. Yet his finger kept squeezing the trigger. He spun, slamming the gun into the room control, trying to open the door.
“What is this?”
“Some kind of psychoactive gas obviously.” Sanji replied. “Yodai, get with the station damage control team. We need to find a way to vent any contaminated compartments without killing the occupants.”
“At once. The little Jedi charged toward the door. The guard was just standing, and Yodai leaped up, catching him by the lapels. “Only Jedi had harmed you not I am. Want to make full deck?” The man moaned, leaning back. Yodai bounded off him and into the lift.
“Are the cameras still on in hold 7?”
“Yeah. Bring them up Toro.” The main screen lit. Breia was the only one in the compartment, and she was everywhere, leaping like Yodai had from place to place. She had ripped half of the lights down, every console in the room had been shattered. As they watched she picked up a crate, spinning to throw it against the hatch. She screamed, leaping to the hatch, pounding it. “I’ll kill you, kill you all!” She screamed over and over, beating her hands bloody. The all hand tone went off, and she covered her ears. “Stop it Stop it Stop it!” She picked up another crate, throwing it against the com panel. There was a shriek of electricity arcing, and the cameras went dead.
Sanji leaned back. “We have to remove that tone sound. It seems to make the situation worse.”
“No can do. It’s hardwired.” The Supervisor looked up. “On every station.”
“Wait. Every station? What about Coruscanti ones?”
”Buddy it’s standard equipment for every ship, station everywhere. For five years now.”
Sanji lat, his hands instinctively clutching his chest. “Five years.”
The ship came out of hyper space, slowly approaching the fleet around Sigma 9. “This is Jedi Padawan Lang aboard Jedi courier 771. Request communication with Padawan Solo.”
“Jedi courier this is Fleet Communications. Padawan Solo left here four hours ago for station Delta 4.”
Lang’s eyes tightened. “We had sent a communication asking her to await our arrival.”
“We received it, but it arrived not long after she departed.”
“Thank you.” Lang leaned back, closing his eyes. He pictured Breia Sookor, her face, her manner of speaking. He felt a tenuous link to her, and sent down it dread, and urgency.
“Breia!” Master Sookor sat bolt upright. Apprentice Amberdon flinched as she clawed his arm. “Drop out of Hyper. Reset our course for Delta 4!”
Yodai growled as the team worked. A section of emergency pipe had been cut into the circulation system of Cargo 7, and attached to an air exchanger jerry rigged to it. Tanks waited for their deadly cargo, one already attached. The senior tech checked everything, then looked at the diminutive creature. “We’re ready.”
“Compartment we are is sealed must be. No chance of leakage if this fails.”
If you say so.” The tech tapped his com link. “Control, lock down compartment 7/a5/01. Jedi orders.”
“Understood. locking down now.” The blast door behind them slammed down.
“I hope you’re right that we need to do this.” The tech said. “If that gas leaks in here-”
“If leaks in here it does, none of us leave alive. Must of others think.” Yodai snapped.
“Tell me, Jedi.” The tech flipped on the pump. “Have you every thought of becoming a motivational speaker?”
“Why ask you?”
“Because I’m in the mood to eat my own gun just being around you.”
Courier 771 dropped out of hyper space and right behind it like a shark came Millennium Falcon. They approached the station which was rapidly emptying as ships broke free to run. When each called they got a laconic “Great, a convention.” before Sanji spoke to them.
The ships docked, and more Jedi poured out. With them came the B9 droids, rolling on their tracks with an implacable speed. Four of them headed down to where the damage control team was almost finished venting Cargo 7. Two broke away to approach compartment 7/a1/01 where a Rodian was even now slamming again and again into the hatch.
“Ready?” the senior tech at the second compartment asked.
Arms spread as the droid opened up. Each arm was rated at four and a half tons. “Ready.” The droid grated. The tech stepped back, sealing the blast door between him and the hatch. The hatch slapped open, and the Rodian saw the droids. He screamed, charging.
The first droid ducked to the side. As it did, the Rodian focused on it, turning. The second droid caught his arm, and gas shot into his face. The Rodian screamed, beating at it.
“Stun gas has no effect.” Sanji reported.
“I hate to do it.” Breia Sookor said. “Tell it to go to step 2.”
“Step two.” A voice came over the intercom. The droid slid out a stun rod, slapping the Rodian in the chest. His body spasmed, but still he fought. The droid reset the rod higher, and hit him again. This setting, powerful enough to knock a Hutt on his back did the trick. The Rodian collapsed unconscious. It began extruding poly-fiber plastic, wrapping the Rodian as if it were a spider wrapping a meal. As it clipped and heat sealed the material, the Rodian came awake. The fabic was rated at fifty tons, strong enough to hold a full grown Corellian Megateer. It creaked, but held.
“Subject secured.” The droid reported.
“Stand by to vent compartment.”
The second droid popped out an air mask, and after a few seconds, was able to slip in on the Rodian. “Ready.”
The two droids jolted as they merely vented the compartment into space. They waited patiently as the system began to refill the space.
“Subject stable.” The first droid reported.
“Transport to medical. Team is standing by.”
She could see her hands smashing again and again into the hatch as if through a heat haze. The damn thing refused to open, and the things that had killed her master were getting away! She felt her throat, raw from screaming, but still she keened her fury and loss. I will kill every one of you! She screamed. I will rip out your hearts and feed them to you before you die!
The hatch suddenly lifted. There they were, squat tracked droids. Murderers! She leaped, and one of them moved back. She followed, wanting to rip it’s circuits out. Something caught her arm, and she spun, her hands closing on the metal arm. She focused, feeling the force flow into her and through her. The droid smoked, then burst as the electricity within it ran through tender circuits. Something caught her from behind and she spun in it’s grasp, both feet setting against the carapace. She caught the arms, feeling them shear away as she heaved with all of her strength. Nothing would stop her! She’d kill- A rod slapped out, and her body spasmed, then collapsed.
I'm less PC than I used to be 10 years ago, e.g. I think yeoman sounds much better than, say, 'yeoperson' or 'yeolady', which are just ungodly stupid-sounding. However, I do prefer Sir and Ma'am for officers since it's supposed to be a mark of respect to an individual. But it's your fic. :)
It's just that I have studied the military for over 40 years now. The modern military can be expressed in the comment made by the Commander of the Seal School in GI Jane. After a long diatribe about having to put up with the various programs the sexually intergrated military had to put up with he ends with commenting that if the shape of his cgiar offends her sensibilities, he'd put it out.
I never had more respect for a woman in a man's job as I did when she commented that it was the smell not the shape that bothered her.
The American Militaryis in transition. For the last 30 years a woman can and does routinely command men. For the last 20 a woman can enter the fields where promotions excell, combat arms. But most of those women don't complain about what they are called. They complain about sexual bias which blocks promotion.
Men have been the warriors with few exceptions since man became organized beyond the family unit. Women entering such a field should accept the strictures of it, not attempt to impose their view on it. Ma'am or Miss is a title for someone that is expected to work but not fight. It is not meant to be insulting to ladies when I call all officers 'sir'. It is to say that these women have accepted that stricture in their lives.
My hubby's in the Army, so I get way more of a view of it than I ever wanted. :) Part of the problem with women not getting promoted isn't always sexual bias, though it can well be. Part of it's attitude. Sometimes they work so hard trying to prove themselves as good as men in the military that they develop a big chip on the shoulder and lose sight of what they should be doing, which is an excellent job. That's not to say that I don't appreciate the work my feminist forebears did to make it easier for me to do grad/professional school, and I know there's sexism out there. I can appreciate that people have to adapt to certain customs and paradigms instead of the other way around, though sometimes a paradigm shift is a good thing. I just don't like the language being 'hermaphroditized' for lack of a better term (and I know 'Sir' isn't that. :) )
Anyway, I'm catching up on your latest and am enjoying it so far. Heh, sometimes you write faster than I have a chance to keep up with.
THis one is going a lot faster than even I anticipated. It is also going a lor darker just to warn you all.
Jae, what we have in my version is a military that has gotten beyond the plumbing, but still hasn't goteen past political influences, that's all.
Blood chemistry normal. All traces are out of her system.
Keep her on the machine for another half an hour. We have to make sure that all byproducts are gone too. A loud raucous noise burned in her ears.
Damn! I liked that tone.
So did I. But until they find out how it affects the gas they have to make do.
Breia floated. The world was a warm and fuzzy area beyond her grasp. She knew she should be up and around. The enemy would be coming soon...
Breia snapped upright, looking around frantically. The Noghri were here. Coming to kill me. I tried to kill them but something...
The room was a Spartan white. Nothing to catch her eye. Just a deep expanse of white and cream. She looked at the tubes stuck in her arm. She wanted to rip them out but she didn’t have the strength.
She heard a door hiss open, and laid down. When they came...
The door to her room hissed open. “Are you going to kill me?” The voice asked. Breia sat up. Master Sookor stood there, her eyeless face looking toward the bed.
“The Noghri-” Her voice was a hoarse whisper.
“Tell me what you think happened.”
Breia concentrated. The last few hours were a blur. “I had found the tank of gas, and it activated before I could disarm it. I sealed the valves so the other tanks wouldn’t vent, and I think I ripped the tank loose. Tell Master Dregar that using the force when lifting can hurt. I almost ruptured a disc.”
“I’ll tell him.”
“I contacted the station Commander, warned him that we had to use hazardous materials protocols. I was arguing with him when...” She looked puzzled. “I sensed Noghri. They were aboard the station. I knew they were coming. But I couldn’t find my sword. I tried to get out of the cargo bay...” He voiced petered out. Her hands were bandaged to twice their normal size. Her hands smashing again and again into the hatch. Some animal howling for blood in her ears. “Oh gods, what have I done?”
Master Sookor looked at her calmly. “You found the tank as you described. You threw a ton and a half over 20 meters, and halfway through a bulkhead. Master Dregar was suitably impressed. A pity, it broke the seal between the Cargo bay and a storage unit beside it. He was even more impressed when I showed him what you did to the two B9s sent to restrain you.”
“The arms of a B9 police restraint droid,” The master stated pedantically, “Are rated at four and a half tons. You ripped one completely off a droid, and electrocuted the other. Those are fifty kilo-credit apiece, the military and polce on Coruscant will be irate with you about wrecking two of the prototypes.
“Anyway, When the gas was released, you broke your sword, smashed that vibroblade of yours before trying to contact the Commander. It’s a good thing you did.
“The gas was sensitive to sonic vibrations. The same sound used by every system in the Galaxy for an all hands announcement causes it to break down incrementally. The waste material causes a sudden surge in brain chemistry causing a massive paranoia level. Whatever you see as your worst enemy is suddenly there and trying to kill you. You seemed to think the droids were that enemy. You shorted out one as I said, and ripped an arm off another.
“The death toll here is fifteen. People trapped in compartments that had leakage.”
She suddenly was there. There they were, squat tracked droids. Murderers!
“Oh, gods. I failed.”
“Listen to me. There are seven thousand people on this station. Your actions saved all but fifteen.”
“Wait. You said the tank broke a seal between the Cargo bay and a storage unit beside it. Where were those people?”
“Do I really need to tell you?” Master Sookor replied gently.
“So I failed those people. I murdered-”
“I said shut the hell up and listen!” Master Sookor leaned forward. “Brie, the only one that had a chance of breaking free into the main areas was you. You could have flooded the entire station. But when you knew you were affected you instead broke the only weapons you had. Either one could have been used to cut your way to that phantom enemy. You stopped yourself. So instead of crying about fifteen unlucky people, thank those same gods that you put yourself through hell to save seven thousand.”
“The enemy ship?”
“Came and ran like hell with Padawan Lang snapping at her heels.” Master Sookor replied. “We IDed it as an old Corellian Balladeer class. We have enough data to find out who owns it. Every supply and warehouse station in the known systems are being notified, and every scanner is set to detect even the smallest trace of Bidraxidine. If detected the computers automatically seal the area until it is verified that there is no dangerous contamination.” She waved as the loud atonal burr sounded. “And we’ve replaced the all hands tone, as I think you might have noticed.”
“My swords. I broke my swords!”
“Girl, swords have souls, and they know when they have been abused.” The Master told her, falling back on her original religious training. “But if they are broken to save lives, they accept it.”
“Did they figure out what it was? I didn’t smash the rest of the tanks did I?”
“Not for lack of trying. You tried to rip loose the second tank to batter the hatch down with, but you only cut the one set of straps. Yes, we have a full forensic crew here. People from Coruscant, Ryloth, Nar Hutta, Corellia, Duros. We have everyone here working together for the first time since they formed the Galactic Trade Authority, and they want blood. As soon as you’re up your apprentice will fill you in.”
My Apprentice? When did I get an Apprentice?”
“When I assigned one. I always do when a Padawan Learner is made Padawan teacher.”
“Yes. For four days now.”
“Wait a minute. I only arrived this morning!”
“That morning was four days ago.” She patted the girl’s hand. “And if you’re a good girl and eat your veggies, you can meet him in about an hour.
Hospital food is always bland. Breia knew that, hated it the times she was sick or injured, but endured it. The vegetables had been boiled to limp death and she hated it. Her mother made the best steamed vegetable. Just like Father always cooks the meat so tender. She thought. It’s when you don’t have what you’re used to that it hurts the most.
The door hissed open, and a sight she had never expected to see came in. It was a male Ithorian dressed in Jedi robes.
“Greetings Padawan Teacher. I am Yaka. I have been assigned as your apprentice and pilot.”
“Wait, I pilot my own ship!”
The soft eyes wrinkled. “I am told that you tend to be... rough with small ships. I have a gentler touch.” His hands came up, and she smiled. The Ithorians were the most peaceful people in the Galaxy. They flew the way they gardened, with a deep and abiding respect.
“So you have been assigned to me?”
“You have a skill with electronics. I have shown some skill with them myself. It was believed that if you could teach me, then we separately, could teach new students.”
“How are you with a sword?”
The eyes grew troubled. “I am adept, though it pains me to use one.”
“I understand.” She slid her legs out from under the covers. She was a little unsteady, but that would pass. “Now where did they put my robes?”
“In the table beside your bed. I have brought your new sword.”
“Supposed to hand forge the thing myself.” She grumped. The clothes were right where he said they were. She stripped, ignoring him. After spending over ten years in the Monastery, she no longer noticed others either male or female when she was getting dressed.
“I was asked by Master Sookor to tell you that she will forgive that you have not made your own to use at this time. As long as you promise not to shatter this one as well.”
“With my luck so far I make no guarantees.” She replied. The belt went snug. She turned, and he held out the sheathed weapon. She drew it. The blade was a little shorter than the one she was used to, but the wavy edge bespoke the true Jedi smith. Like her own now gone weapon the back strap was sharpened for about 15 centimeters from the point. She had always liked the idea of cutting whichever way she swung. The balance a little farther forward than she like, but give her a few minutes with a tool bench, and that was solved.
“All right, you were supposed to brief me.”
“There is a meeting in ten minutes in the Station briefing room. You were asked to attend.”
“Then let’s be about it.” They walked down the passageway, then Breia stopped. There was such a wave of pain and sadness from the next room that she wanted to drop to her knees in agony. “Who is that?” She gasped, waving toward the door.
“Another affected survivor. A Rodian named Greitau. He went mad in a small compartment. He killed the other four occupants.”
She felt the gun in her hand, lifting it. Maro and Doshi were dead, she had shot them over and over. Doti and Blass weren’t paying attention to her. They were strangling each other, neither would let go until they were dead. Part of her mind rebelled. They are my friends, drinking companions! The gun writhed in her hand, blood spraying from holes in their flesh as she fired again and again. Then the gun stopped firing but her finger kept pulling the trigger.
She shook herself, then walked over, opening the door.
The Rodian was laying there, eyes staring at the opposite wall. She could sense that he knew they were there. He hoped they would simply do whatever medical things they needed to do and leave him in his misery.
She padded to the bed, then laid a gentle hand on his chest. He stiffened, then pulled away.
“Leave me, please.” He said in his own tongue.
“It wasn’t your fault.” She said softly.
“Greitau son of Brooda, son of Femtor, a monster made you do this horrible thing. If you had not survived, he would have won.”
“Why?” He whispered. “Why did he do this to me? To Maro and Doshi? In what way were Doti and Blass an offense?”
“He didn’t not know them and would not care.” She leaned down, her lips brushing his cheek. “I saw what he did within my own mind as you did. I will hunt him down and make sure no other suffer as you did. I swear it.”
He turned, looking at her. “A Jedi promises death? Such is not your way.”
“Not usually. But there are some sins that can only be expiated with blood pain and death. The only way he lives is if he pleads for mercy. If not I will spill his black blood.”
“For your own pain.”
“No. My pain is incidental. For the pain of those few that have survived. For those who died. For those who went mad and watched themselves kill their friends and loves.”
The green hand rose, clutching hers. “For my friends, please.”
“I swear it.” She repeated.
“A Jedi promises to ease my pain.” He whispered. “Find this person, please.”
She patted his hand, then left the room.
“Where the hell is-” The door opened and Breia walked in. “It’s about time, Padawan.” The man growled. His collar showed the points of the Coruscanti Navy.
“Forgive me. I was easing the suffering of the other survivor.” Breia retorted.
The man was nonplused by her reply. “Well we want to make sure there aren’t any more suffering.”
“I agree.” Breia moved around the compartment to sit beside the other Jedi. Masters Gretu and Sookor were on one tier, their subordinates on the tier below. Breia was motioned to sit beside Padawan Teacher Lang. Yaka moved down to sit with the others.
The meeting was heavy with brass. The Coruscanti and Corellians had sent full Admirals, Onasi from Corellia, and Regna Motha from Coruscant. The Twi-leki had sent Governor Vao of their colony on Rutia. The Duros had sent their chief of investigation Cashio. The Hutt had merely sent a senior Vice President of their trade guild.
“All right, Investigator Cashio and Chief Medical officer Halo of Corellia will give their report.”
Halo was a short plump woman with a slow drawling way of speaking. Breia tagged her as an inner city citizen from Coronet. “The chemical is a genius creation. The carrier molecule is Bidraxidine, which as you all know is made on Nar Shadaa by the Hutt Chemical Engineering Consortium.” She flashed the molecule on screen. “Whoever modified it was subtle and extremely precise. This is what we obtained from samples that survived thanks to Padawan Solo.”
The molecule was subtly different. It was four times the size of the standard Bidraxidine molecule, but in every way tested as Bidraxidine. segments of the molecule were highlighted.
“These segments of the molecule are stable unless affected by a single series of tones.” Above her head a speaker bleeped the tones. Breia tensed. She was in a room with all of the chief investigators. If she suddenly went mad again...
The threat passed, and she sighed. Lang looked at her with pity in his eyes. In the holotank, the molecule broke down. The segments that had broken away blinked, one red, one green, another yellow, one white, the last purple.
“Each of these affects a different species. The red affects humans, Green Twi-lek, Yellow Hutt, white Duros. But the Purple is the key.” The holo filled with the purple molecule. “This affects all insectoid species such as Ruurian Verpine and Sulishti Despite their different physiologies.”
“The chemical affects each of the races in the same manner. It causes the release of endorphins and overloads the sense. The person is thrust into the worst possible paranoid fantasy they can imagine. Something that can be rectified only by the most violent retribution.
“So perhaps this is something created by one of theses insects?” Governor Vao suggested.
“Or an enemy.” Master Sookor replied.
“But why release it among us?” Motha snarled.
“We have yet to determine where it was made. But Investigator Cashio has clues of where it came from.”
“The chemicals arrived from Nar Shadaa with loads of standard Bidraxidine gas. But the shipments were earmarked for specific locations upon arrival.” He brought up a star map. “They went to these station first. Coruscanti, Corellian, and Twi-lek. The next shipments went to these station, two Coruscanti, one Duros the other Corellian. The next shipments went to these, three Corellian one Hutt, one Coruscanti. The next shipments were sent to these. One Corellian, one Coruscanti, one Sulishti.
“We were unable to warn the Sulishti station in time.”
“How many casualties.”
Cashio was silent for a time. “The Sulishti travel in clan units, males females, eggs, nymphs-”
“A number, please.” Onasi said.
“One hundred seventy two thousand.”
Gods.” Someone whispered.
“Are they going to join us?”
“The Sulishti join no one. They are going to find who did this, and kill them. Anyone connected to it will be killed.”
“So we have the chemicals arriving at what location?”
“Coruscant. They were all consigned to the Czerka warehouse and shipped from there.”
“That doesn’t make any sense.” Motha snapped. Nal Hutta is the damn planet Nar Shadaa orbits. Star Map!” A navigational map flashed up. “Nal Hutta is over here in Galactic east south east. Ryloth is here toward Galactic south, Corellia and Duros here, and Coruscant here in the Core. Sulisht here off to Galactic North west. There is no place where all of them have an interest!”
“Yes there is.” Master Sookor said softly. She pointed just southwest of the core. “Fondor.”
Breia gasped. She remembered Landru. The short human stood there, listening. Breia had been trying to learn the Corellia Than pipe, a hellishly difficult instrument. She had been enthralled by Casa Meridian’s rendition of ‘Hawk Flight’ as a child which had been written for the Than pipe. A brisk rapidly changing melody that she had discovered couldn’t be duplicated by a neophyte. It was before her interests had extended into sound itself.
No, like this. He had walked over, holding out his hand. When she had merely looked at the young Padawan he had reached over plucking the tube from her hand. She had been stunned by his hubris. Personal belongings of other students were never touched without asking first. He had blown a slow riff as if to check the tune, then begun the measure of ‘Hawk Flight’ flipping through the melody as if he’d written it himself.
She had accepted the pipe back, partially angry, but at the same time enthralled.
Landru had been a Fondorian.
“Wait.” She stood, walking down to stand beside the hologram. “Computer, play the all hands tone that was standard.” It played. She noticed everyone relaxed at it. She had always been enthralled by that simple riff of notes. It caught your attention, lifted your heart. She could never understand why.
Suddenly she did. “Computer. Scan musical database. What music uses these notes as a varying theme?”
“‘Hawk Flight’ is the only piece of music where these note played the central theme.”
“Who wrote ‘Hawk Flight‘?”
“Zardan Landru of Fondor is credited for the original piece.”
She turned, looking at the suddenly horrified face of Master Sookor.
Very interesting, but it's 'Nal Hutta', not 'Nar Hutta'. :)
A brief note before continuing:
When I wrote the scene where they are describing who is affected by this chemical, I needed an insect species to be badly affected. I picked the Vratix without bothering to read the entire entry. The Vratix in Luke Skywalker's time are the sole suppliers of Bacta. So obviously they haven't been discovered yet. Also they are not the xenophobic whack-jobs I was going on to portray. More importantly, considering what is going to happen in about three chapters, I could not use them.
So I createdanother race none of you would have heard of. The Sulishti.
So, yes, I make mistakes.
This is one action-packed story. Looking forward to more chapters. Also you did a great job with explaining how the pseudo-Bidraxidine affected different species when it broke down from the sound of "all hands." I am very interested in finding out who engineered this chemical agent.
Breia stormed into the quarters set aside for the Jedi contingent. She spun to face Master Sookor. “You knew.”
“Until you discovered the information I only assumed.” The master replied.
She seemed to shrivel up before the younger woman’s eyes. Her hand reached out, blindly finding a chair arm, and she sat. “He was my student until he left.”
The shattered sword falling to the ground in a glittering heap. The disdain in his eyes. For a Jedi to break his sword was to cast aside all of their teachings. It was rare. So rare that Breia Sookor knew the angst her namesake had felt.
We helped them do it master. Helped an interplanetary consortium turn my home into a slag heap.
It is not as bad as you think-
No, it’s worse! Open pit mining! water pure when I was a child running foul with the waste from their machinery! The damn Kusberi supplied by the Sulishti will be there a millennia from now, still poisoning the land.
Areas once quiet and dark by night now lit by thousands of light standards! The town I was born in turned into a nest of thieves and whores that do nothing but service their workers!
He had turned on his heel, he’d pack his bags, and left without another word to anyone.
“In my heart, yes. I knew.” Breia Sookor looked up. “I failed. I didn’t know how badly until you discovered this.”
“Then why didn’t you tell them?” Breia demanded.
“Because if he did this, no matter how many helped, the people of Fondor as a whole did not help him. Do you want an entire planet’s population on your conscience? You have seen what the Sulishti do to their enemies.”
The Sulishti were the most xenophobic race known in the Galaxy. Few rare individuals had discovered ways to trade with them. They almost never dealt with other races unless they initiated the contact. Their home world was a hive of trillions living up to five kilometers below the surface to ten above it. They did not travel except for brief visits to a neighboring system, and the only base she had ever heard of was located in orbit of their home world. The only thing they hated more than contact with other species was someone stealing what they considered theirs.
Breia nodded numbly. She had been with this very master as an apprentice when the Sulishti had hit a base on Anision. Located tragically enough in that neighboring system. A Company had set up a mining station on the planet without notifying the Sulishti. They claimed the world, not knowing that it was the source of an edible grub highly prized by the Sulishti and the entire planet named as a preserve.
The Sulishti fleet had come in, hundreds of thousands of the insects dropping out of space with no warning. The Jedi had intervened at the request of the Company to retrieve their people. The Sulishti had merely ignored the entreaties. A team of Jedi led by Breia Sookor had slipped past the newly erected Sulishti blockade, hoping to find them.
What they had found was a series of pits excavated and filled with what had once been a small thriving Company base. The Sulishti had merely bulldozed what remained of the structures into pits, and buried them. Seventeen thousand people, men women and children ripped apart alive had been buried with it as if they were also scrap.
Breia was glad her imagination wasn‘t up to visualizing an entire planet that had been treated that way. “So what are we going to do?”
“First we must investigate Nar Shadaa. Find out if there are any more shipments of this hell gas. Someone must also check Coruscant to try to catch any that has already been shipped. Then...” Breia Sookor looked down at her hands. “We must find Landru. He is the key to the puzzle. He was a talented chemist as well as musician. I believe he must have made it. The use of music, his own music to activate it points directly to him. But he couldn‘t have done it alone.”
Breia Solo nodded. “Where do you wish me to go?”
“Coruscant. Transport Lang with you so he can pick up his own ship Honor Blade. He will go on to Nar Shadaa. You will go to the warehouse and find if any of this gas is there, or where any more might have been sent. Sanji will go to Coruscant and try to pick up the trail of this Balladeer as well.”
“If this is a problem of our making, it is a problem we must deal with. I am going to Fondor.”
Breia Solo felt a chill of warning. “Let me go in your stead.”
“No.” Master Sookor looked at her. “Please do as you are bid.”
“As you will, Master.”
Breia Sookor watched the girl leave. She sat deep in thought until Apprentice Amberdon came to get her.
The small ship looked as if it was already in flight at hyper speed. It was a smooth shining arrowhead with a series of clearsteel ports. “She is a beauty.” Breia whispered. She walked under the needle nose, reaching up to touch it. “What is her name?”
“She doesn’t have one yet.” Lang replied. “She was built by your father’s company as a courier. Twin forward firing chain guns, four proton missiles in the weapons bay two message torpedoes. Carries a crew of three in comfort or four if you’re very friendly.” Lang reached up and stroked the metal. “He had an Echani company design her. When Master Sookor told him you were to become a Padawan teacher, he gave it to us for your use.”
Breia looked at him. “Father has to stop giving away ships. This is what, seven so far?”
“To the Order yes. Try fifteen if you count Corellian and Coruscanti factors that can help with business. All tax deductible.”
“They would be if Mother had any say.” She stroked the metal, then guiltily pulled back her hand. “What did you call her when you were flying her here?”
“The last three numbers of her registry number. 771.”
“Well we needs something better than that. Hawk Flight. My favorite music.”
Lang looked away so she wouldn’t see the worry. He’d heard Hawk Flight when it had been part of a play about an Echani warrior of the early days. He had stood alone against a hundred Lortu during the wars when they attacked his village. His stand had been recorded.
On his tombstone.
There was a clicking, and Breia turned. A4 was standing there. If it had been human, she would have been sure he would have arms crossed, toe tapping, and an irritated expression on it’s face.
“A4, it’s good to see you.”
“You might have considered your companions before you ran off in every direction simultaneously at Hyper speed.” A4 replied. “I might have been able to help you.”
“A4, from what I have been told, if you had been with me in the cargo bay, they would be recycling what was left.”
“Yes. After hearing what you did to the B9s, I must admit I am glad I was not with you. The one that can be repaired is still shocked by your ripping his arm off.”
“You can talk with a B9?”
“Pretty much all droids made by the same company can communicate. Unless there are specific strictures. The B9 is based on the L7 made on Corellia so there is a window for communication.”
“Well get aboard then. We have to go.”
“Remember what I said? Three in comfort, four if you’re very friendly. Five is going to be a pain.”
“Master Lang, I will stay in the cargo hold and try to keep my own discomfort to a minimum.”
Lang looked calmly at the droid. “I wasn’t worried about your comfort.”
“No one is.”
The three ships lifted, moving into formation.
“You have your instructions?” Millennium Falcon transmitted.
“Transit to Corellia, get Lang’s ship. Transit from there to Coruscant.” Hawk Flight replied.
“Transit to Sulisht and try to keep the pins in.” Kreekta replied.
“If you find anything, contact each other immediately. Each of the governments involved except for the Sulishti has promised we can get additional message torpedoes from them.”
“Master, what of the council?”
“You will communicate what has occurred to them when you arrive on Coruscant, Sanji.”
“Let us be about it.”
The smallest and fastest ship spun on her wing, then raced from the system. The other ship arced into a different trajectory. There was a flash of light and both were gone.
Breia Sookor Bai Echana bid them goodbye. “Set course for Fondor, Amberdon.”
The Millennium Falcon spun on her axis, and was gone.
Hawk Flight slowed, dropping to the tarmac near the Jedi Monastery. The ramp dropped, and Lang stepped out, followed by Shali. There was a grey ship sitting there. A purely Echani design, Breia could see the resemblance to her own ship. She walked down to stand beside the others as the cargo bay opened, and one of the remaining undamaged B9s rolled out.
“Are you sure you want to leave it with me?” Lang asked.
“Since I have to go to Coruscant, I can arrange to pick up another there.” She replied. “Master Sookor has the other undamaged one. Sanji has the one I... redesigned.“
“It has been interesting.”
“Yes.” When Lang had said close, he hadn’t been joking. There were only three bunks aboard the ship, and the Mess deck table would fit only that number at one time. They had spent the last day and a half in each other’s pockets literally. They had decided on a hot bunk situation. One person would find whatever bed happened to be empty to sleep in. Bad enough for four humans, but both Twi-lek and Ithorian pheromones were different enough to be disturbing if you weren’t used to them. Breia had gotten little sleep. Meals were also staggered, the two Padawan teachers ate with their own apprentices and did their own dishes. But the smell of meat disturbed Yaka especially when served the way Shali preferred it, blood rare. The smell of Pipalli used by Lang bothered Shali. Breia was used to it because her mother had introduced her to Echani cooking. She had gotten a book of Mando recipes, and Breia shuddered when she was told what went into a ‘proper’ Merdai stew. She didn’t mind a vegetarian diet, but she decided she had to teach her new student that vegetables aren’t always served raw.
On top of every other irritant with the droids crammed into the miniscule hold there wasn’t enough room to practice, and meditation with someone snoring (Shali had a high pitched almost musical snore) talking walking, grumbling (Lang had done a lot of that) was difficult.
“That was pretty good how you handled the droids. I saw the footage after watching it live. Tell me, how did you do that to a droid?”
She closed her eyes. “I visualized a lightning bolt, then I directed it through the electronics.”
“No. I understand how you did that one. I just can’t duplicate it. I meant the other.”
“Have you studied under Master Dregar?”
“No. One of his students teaches his class on Corellia.”
“What you do is forget about the mass of your target. Picture it as a feather, or a small cup, say. Each can be lifted easily.”
“But how did you rip it’s arm off?” Lang asked in an exasperated manner.
“By picturing it as an insect.”
He considered. “You know, I don’t think anyone ever came up with that idea before.”
“If I hadn’t been insane, I don‘t think I would have.” She replied. “I’m off to Coruscant.”
“Good luck. May the Force be with you.”
The simple farewell of the Order felt so right. Breia clasped his hand, then Shali’s. “May the Force watch over you both.” She turned, walking back up the ramp.
Lang walked over to Honor Blade, running his hand along the nose. “Did you miss us, old girl?” Then he looked at his Apprentice. “Best speed to Nar Shadaa.”
Breia watched as Yaka took the ship up. He did have a smooth and gentle touch. The ship seemed to purr as he rocketed up, spinning to bring it on the vector to Coruscant. The transition to Hyper was so gentle she almost didn’t notice it. After some pilots, it was refreshing.
“That is it until we arrive on Coruscant in-” his eyes flicked to the nav computer “29.8 hours.”
“Good. First we practice. Then we meditate, then I for one am going to sleep in a bed I don’t have to share.”
“Master, we still have the two droids in the cargo hold. There isn’t a lot of room.”
“As Master Sookor taught me years ago, A warrior can learn to control his weapon and himself. All else is determined by luck. Come on.”
He set the autopilot, and followed. Breia opened the storage cabinet, taking out the dulled practice blades. While dull compared to say a kitchen chopping knife or their own weapons, they were sharp enough to injure. They were not the standard weights of a Monastery, but suited to the blades they carried. Yaka’s was a little heavier than Breia’s and she noted that as she handed it over.
“All right. Now, let’s see your form. Wheel.” Yaka spun the blade in a whirling pattern before him. A defensive pattern that would block most attacks, and would block all with movement of his torso and legs.
“Octagon wheel first stance.” He stopped the blade, holding it upright before him. Called an octagon because the blade could instantly move to any point to protect him.
“Advance.” The sword dropped to a middle guard, his feet shuffled forward smoothly.
“You have the basics.” She slid into the same stance facing him. “But I sense disquiet.”
Yaka lowered the blade a touch. “My people think me mad that I have learned something so destructive. I have doubted the senses that drew me into the order.”
“I know the feeling.” She reached out, taking the weapon from him. “Yaka, we need to talk.” She put them away, leading him into the mess deck. She drew a cup of Ithorian Wide Leaf tea for him, pouring herself a cup of the Echani fire tea her mother had introduced her to years before. She sat, facing her student.
“Yaka, in the forest, you sometimes have trees that are rotted in only one place. Do your people leave them to die of it?”
“Of course not!” His look was shocked. “We cleanse the rot, and seal the wound so the tree will grow strong.”
“And if you have a crop that is blighted-”
“I know where you are going.” Yaka interrupted softly. “It is just not our way to consider any life especially sentient life as something you can prune or clip. There are beings I have met that would kill without compunction. Something my people could never understand. But I do not like ending their lives. I can fight with a weapon. I just... Am not comfortable with it.”
“Do you think any of the order like killing?” She asked gently. “As much as there are evil ones among us, on the whole our species does not kill.”
“You eat meat.”
“Yaka, humans are descended from omnivores. Our race learned to eat anything if necessary to survive. The Twi-lek and the Hutt are descended from Carnivores. The Duros eat moss and fungus. Your own people are herbivores. It is in our natures to eat what we do.”
“But you raise animals for the sole reason that they are food.”
“We do that. So does every race that has meat as part of their diet. But have you considered the alternative? On my home world there was a clan that foreswore all animal products. They ate no meat, they drank no milk, no eggs, nothing that came from an animal. But they caused thousands of them to die anyway.”
“Why?” Yaka’s eyes were horrified.
“Because since they didn‘t use them, didn’t feel selling them was right, they wouldn’t send them somewhere to be eaten. They freed the animals they once ate, but man had engineered them to be placid, and predators killed a lot of them. Others starved because they had to save all of the grain they had once fed them for themselves, so they drove them away no matter how often they returned.
“Plus there are pests that ate their food and they had to kill them. They were no better in their way than those of us that do eat meat. Humans are not like Ithorians. We cannot simply produce pheromones that drive pests away. We did not have the skill to make artificial ones, or engineer our plants to fend for themselves.
“The Ithorians can, and did. I honestly wish every race could have your reverence for life, but until they do, there will be rogues that kill others because they can, or want something, or whatever reason they give for it. That is why we are here. To save some of those light of life and the Force from being ended.”
Yaka looked down. “I understand your words here.” He touched the long trunk like neck. “But not here.” He touched his lower abdomen where his race kept their heart.
“Yaka. I know it will shock you. But I have killed. It’s not something I am proud of. I am more proud that when I had the chance, I destroyed my sword rather than hold it when I was insane. But the times I killed I wasn’t given a choice. I did what had to be done like the Ithorian farmer burning a blighted crop. It is something I have nightmares about sometimes. I wish that in each case I had been given a choice to make. If I had, those people, as evil or misguided as they were, would be alive today.”
She patted him on the hand. “No practice on this trip. But when we reach Coruscant...”
So, now that I've had the chance to read through this properly and give it the attention it so fully deserves, I have to say I'm thoroughly enjoying it. A4 telling Breia Solo 'I am not a toaster,' was hilarious. I'm still chuckling about it several chapters later.
I only had a few very minor problems when reading it. I'm aware that it's a draft so I'm not getting too picky about the piddly details.
Nar Shaddaa has 2 d's.
Comma usage--most of us use too many or use them in the wrong place. You use them in the right place, but sometimes not often enough. There were a few times where I went 'huh?', re-read it, mentally added commas, and then thought 'oh, OK, that's what he meant.' This caught my eye only a few times in the entire piece to date, so it's not a huge deal.
You've added enough characters into the story that in this last chapter, I forgot who was going in what ship, except Hawk's Flight. It's not a problem of too many characters, it just was a problem of not re-stating who was where. I could have gone back to re-read and figure it out, but I didn't feel like working that hard today. :)
This may be my personal thing because I like a lot of sensory description of places and people--sometimes you may need to add just a little more for us to get the full impact. You don't do a bad job by any many means, and this last chapter was very good in that respect. I just know you have the ability to take it from an A- or A to an A+ without adding too much more.
The things I liked were many. The action sequences were good. Finding out that it was the people on the stations who went nuts and killed themselves was an interesting twist.
The science of the chemical was interesting and believable and probably not over-technical for the non-science people. However, I've had so much science now that my perspective on what I think people should know and what their knowledge base really is is likely to be 2 different things. Since I've had organic chem, biochem, physiology, and pharmacology, I found myself thinking about this more than most might, but it worked for me and believe me, if it didn't, I'd let you know, since science inaccuracies drive me nuts.
Totally off tangent:
I was thinking of PMing and letting you know I'd be happy to provide tech advice on medical stuff when I realized I'd be happy to do that for anyone here on the forum (within constraints of time).
I'm also wondering if a thread/sticky for people willing to offer tech advice on their area of expertise so we could pick their brains now and then would be useful--I know I could have used some advice on security awhile back. :)
Back on track:
I like seeing different cultures' descriptions, and so hearing about different species' development was cool for me. I'm intrigued by the Sulishti and by Landru having fallen to the dark side. I was fascinated by the idea that Jedi of this time would use force powers considered part of the 'dark side' and not be particularly bothered by that. Your humor bits are really funny and keep me laughing for quite some time. I like A4's sassy attitude.
And of course I'm looking forward to reading more. :D
lol: Some of us have other responsibilities to attend to before we can take the time to read it through entirely and express appreciation in a complete way beyond a simple 'good job' (which is fine, but I do like to offer a little bit more that that....) I had an attack of Life and some projects last week so I didn't get a chance to do more than skim the forum, make a few comments, and get a couple chapters of mine out of my head before it drove me completely crazy. :D [/QUOTE]
I know what you mean. It's just that I put it up and no one had said squat! I wondered, did I do it wrong? Thank you. I have attacks of life a lot too. Nack in Novemeber our car was stolen and we're still 5,000 in the hole from what we had to put out trying to get a new car on short notice etc.
Suggest it to Stingerzh or Darth333. I know a lot of people here would enjoy the help. Being a techno-gek, I have both the vehicle and weapons books from Star Wars and the Enqyclopedia and New Essential Chronology. Always ready to help.
What is considered right and proper depends, as Obi Wan said, on your point of view.
An interesting dialog between Breia Solo and her newly assigned Padawan Learner, Yaka. We'll have to see if Yaka can really resort to the sword when the situation calls for it.
A little less action in this chapter. I'm not complaining, just noting. ;) And I really liked how you described the difficulties of all those different species on Hawk Flight living in such close proximity to each other. The differing pheromones as well as the cramped quarters formed a distinct image in my mind and the snoring added an element I could relate to even more. Nicely done on that one.
In my reply I mentioned zip training in biochemistry etc.
Did I mention I am a military historian and I know a lot about chemical warfare?
I like social history better myself, but I've picked up some history of medicine and science (and dabbled in a few other areas) to go along with all the science I did before and during prof. school. I'd probably go back and finish a PhD in history if I were independently wealthy, just because I'm a school junkie. :) I was in college way, way too long.
I PMd stingerhs about doing a resource/tech advisor thread, and he's looking into that.
1. The survivor from the last station was a Rodian. Rodians were not listed as being affected.
2. Do you know what a Binary toxin is?
3. I myself didn't think of it until afterward, but I have to have a for real target. Stay tuned for the chapter following the next post.
2. Binary toxin--I didn't know what they were before I just read through some journal articles just now, though I knew there were different types of toxins. The article I linked here probably has one of the better descriptions of just which part of the cell is involved and which chemicals are affected but it's pretty technical. Binary Bacterial Toxins
EDIT I'm going to try and explain it in Real People language. While I understand we scientist types need to use the correct terminology and I expect there to be a considerable number of "Big Words," we sure need to learn how to make scientific articles more readable and eschew obfuscation. :) Some of these articles are written with some really awkward sentence constructions. Sheesh.
(begin Toxins 101)
1. Basically, toxins are chemicals, usually proteins, that can do 1 of 2 things. 1. affect the tissues around specific cells so that the bacteria can spread farther in and 2. (more commonly) invade a specific type of cell and cause damage to it, causing it to die. The most common are hemotoxins and neurotoxins, but there are others, including the binary toxins as you asked about.
For lack of a better explanation at the moment, hemotoxins break open blood cells and/or damage the parts of blood that cause proper clotting. Without enough working blood cells, the tissues and body can't get enough oxygen. If you kill off enough red blood cells, there's not enough oxygen circulating for the body to survive. If the platelets (the clotting cells) don't work, the blood can't clot, and people can bleed to death from fairly small injuries.
Neurotoxins (and other cell-specific toxins) usually affect some specific part of the outside of the cell that changes what happens inside the cells. There are a lot of different parts that make up the outside of the cell, or cell membrane. It's not all uniform. If some of these parts of the cell membrane are damaged, the cell can die or stop functioning correctly. For instance, there are pores (or channels) in the cell membrane that let in calcium ions or sodium ions. These pores open and close to let in just the right amount of ions to do their job. A nerve cell has to have one amount of ions in order to stay at its resting state and another to actually 'fire', or send a signal. If you upset the balance of ions, the nerve cell will either not fire at all or will continue firing endlessly. Some neurotoxins make the ion pores stay stuck in the open position, and some will make the pores stay closed, and this makes the nerve not work correctly, and in some cases the toxin simply causes the nerve to die. If the nerves don't work correctly, nasty things start happening to the body.
Edit: For instance, if the nerve cell that makes a muscle contract can't fire, the muscle won't work and paralysis happens. If that same nerve cell is stuck constantly firing, then that muscle spasms and can't relax. If this happens, say, in the diaphragm, you can't breathe if either happens, because it has to both contract and relax in order for you to breathe.
Usually, toxins affect only one structure in a cell membrane.
Binary toxins work a little differently. The bacteria that produce binary toxins are producing two separate components to affect a cell, instead of one like the toxins above. The first component (which they call component B) attaches to the cell membranes. Once attached, it changes shape and creates a pore or channel through the membrane. The second component (called component A) attaches to the pore, goes through it, and then ends up inside the cell where it does its damage. Different binary toxins affect different structures or chemicals inside the cells.
The bacteria that produce binary toxins are nasty ones, like the botulism and anthrax germs.
Sanji looked at the spreading lights of Coruscant. The city of the same name stretched for a hundred kilometers in every direction. The seat of several massive trade conglomerates. Home as well to the Galactic Trade Authority, which now had over a hundred members counting colonies. It was just about midnight down there.
Kreekta, a Twi-lek designed courier settled gently on the landing stage. Four Jedi awaited him. Masters Hobart and Soo-chin, and their Padawan.
Sanji picked up his staff. He hated that in that he had begun to parallel his old master. She was blind, and had a reason for it. Him? Lungs scarred because he had acted rather than thinking, tried to hold his breath instead of hyperventilating and allow it to gush into space. How man times had he been told that a simple automatic reflex had caused the bulk of his injuries?
Hobart stepped forward, offering his hand. “Welcome back Sanji.”
“Hobart. Is the council assembled?”
“Except for Master Hontu. He is getting crotchety in his old age.”
“Old! He was crotchety when I met him thirty years ago.”
Hobart shrugged. “For humans sixty is getting old. By the way, how is Master Sookor?”
“She is enroute to Fondor on the business we must discuss. She is like dried meat. Tough but still good at what she does.”
“Giving us trouble the young woman beside him snapped. Soo-chin was a repressed ball of energy, with fiery red hair and a temper to match. Sometimes like a heavy ball, would come down on someone’s feet and crush them. She was one of the only Jedi Sanji knew had been removed from field operations because she pushed too hard. She judge too quickly. However she was an excellent administrator and bluntly honest when young Jedi were considered for promotion which kept her busy in the Monastery.
The building was almost stark. The walls had nothing to tell anyone what was done in it. No murals of brave Jedi, no fleets smashing enemy strongholds. It could have been the entry way into any law office on the planet. But beyond the kiosk where young Jedi answered questions even at this time of night was the door to the Monastery proper.
Beyond that was wonder; a garden large enough to feed the people who worked here in an emergency, tended during the day by quiet gentle Ithorians. They had been brought from their home world and asked to work at what they did best, and the lush foliage bespoke beauty for it’s own sake. There were plants and trees from a hundred worlds here, all in neatly demarcated areas with tags to identify them. The smells caught Sanji’s heart with longing. Among them he could detect a Ryloth night bloom, and he wished to stay and drink it in, but there wasn’t time.
The inner courtyard was the council meeting place, and Sanji stood patiently as the masters gathered. When all twelve were there he began. He recounted the events that led to Breia Solo going to Station Sigma 9, the events that occurred on Delta 4, and finally the conclusions of the team assigned to stop more attacks.
“So Master Sookor decided this on her own?” Soo-chin demanded. “Without the council’s approval?”
“She sensed a danger to the young Padawan that bears her name.” Sanji replied. “She acted to deal with that.”
“Some dark foreshadowing?”
“Yes.” Sanji considered. “She also believes that her apprentice Zardan Landru is involved.”
“We have had Padawan and Apprentices leave the order before.” Hobart replied softly. “Why should this situation be linked to this one?”
“First, Landru was a world class chemical engineer. He could literally use the force to feel how a chemical can bond. If there are ten beings in the galaxy with as much skill I would have trouble finding them. Second, the music.”
“Hawk Flight.” Hontu mused. “Why is this linked to it?”
“The music cuts across species boundaries, affecting everyone who hears it. Always in the same way, as if a friend had called your name, attracting your attention. The music is linked to the force as we all know. It was what attracted the Jedi that recruited him for the order
“Five years ago, he was approached by the Czerka corporation, which had given the contract for communications on stations that have more than 10% population of other races. The royalties before he left funded the growth of our temple here. Now that he has left, it goes into his own accounts, but the amount is still several thousand credits a year.
“Not enough to buy a ship as you surmise. Or purchase a factory to manufacture or fund a laboratory to develop this.” Hobart commented
“We do not think he is working alone. Someone must be supplying the money. Someone is supplying the ship and resources, and using him to create this. But he would not be doing this unwillingly. I believe...” He paused. “I believe he has fallen.”
The council recoiled. It was the darkest secret the Order held. Some of their students seemed to go off on a dangerous tangent as they reached adulthood. Personal animosities, emotional outbursts, even racial hatreds seemed to fuel it.
Yet they had been incredibly lucky. In the millennia since the first Monastery had been founded only six were known to have fallen. The last had caused a lot of grief, but it had always been contained to a single planet or star system before Sogor.
Not this time.
“What do you need?”
“Your grace your blessing and your support.” Sanji replied.
“Nothing else?”” Soo-chin waved at the other masters. “There are fourteen masters and thirty trained Padawan here. All you ask is a blind eye?”
“I expect nothing of the sort.” Sanji bit out. “There are eight of us assigned to track this down by Master Sookor already. Too many and those beyond our order will wonder why we have suddenly become a beehive of activity. If that occurs, some will wonder what secrets we hide. There are already those that seem to think we store our worldly good within our walls.”
They nodded. People trying to infiltrate the Monasteries were easy to spot. Reporters, Government operatives, even thieves. Some of those had been nasty. A criminal gang on Corellia had thought the local monastery a storehouse of wealth. A smash and grab operation had been planned, weapons bought, then they had attacked in the dead of night. Ten men had gone in, four had come out alive. The police had picked up the bodies, parts of bodies and the stunned survivors. None of the students had been even injured.
They couldn’t tell those caught, but it was like watching a baby animal trying to hide it’s head while it’s bottom still stuck out in plain view. When the Force was your ally a lot of what people thought was hidden was revealed. A few over the decades had succeeded. They usually ended up joining the order.
“Then what would you have us do?” Hontu asked.
“I ask that all of the Monasteries be informed of what is going on. Perhaps some clues can be ascertained by those that investigate their local conditions.
“That if we do need help, they know the council has authorized it. We will not have time to go through the usual meeting and agreement process very often as we are now.”
The masters looked at each other. Hontu looked back at him. “Agreed, Master Gretu.”
He bowed. He marched out into the night, returning to his ship.
“Master?” Padawan Rafe Morale looked back.
“Hop us over to the Military field. I have the report from the joint meeting. Then? Commercial registry. We have a long night ahead of us.”
Breia stretched, yawning. The first time she had gotten a real rest since she had left for Delta 4 Station. There was a smell in the air, and she cocked her head, puzzled. It smelled like-
“Yaka, no!” She leaped up, charging forward. There were clouds of smoke from the galley, and at the stove, Yaka was beating futilely at a burning pan.
Breia snatched up a lid, slamming it down on the conflagration. She coughed, choking as the air circulation system busily sucked up the fumes and smoke.
“What in the name of every hell were you doing?”
“I was trying to make a breakfast for you. Your file said you like pancakes, and the recipe looked simple, and the cooking directions...” He petered out. “Well they looked simple as well.”
Yaka looked distraught, and she could understand why. Very few people can reduce a galley to a total disaster with one dish, but he had succeeded admirably. Worse the stench of burnt batter would linger for weeks!
“How much cooking have you done?” She asked tartly.
“Well...” He dug a toe into the deck. “This was my first time.”
“All right, I see if we’re going to travel for any real length of time you are going to have to learn.” She lifted the lid. The pan was a blackened mess, ans she slid it into the sanitizer. “Get me another frying pan, and a teapot for water.” She looked at the bowl he had mixed the batter in, and almost chuckled. He had made enough for about fifty pancakes. “Then while I am making these, find a storage container. We have enough batter for at least three more days here.”
She wiped down the stove so there would be no more stench (How did he get batter on all four elements?) and with the new pan, began to make her normal four pancakes. He watched carefully.
“Would you like to try one?”
“Is there any animal fat or meat in them?” He asked suspiciously.
“No.” She reached below the counter, getting out a spray bottle. “Those do. Nerf butter. But this,” she held up the bottle, “Is vegetable oil. When you make them from now on, use this. And don’t spray any on the burner elements.”
“I worked that out when I tried to use the oil to loosen a stuck pancake.” He replied dryly.
She lifted the pan, spraying it, then made another. He handed her the plate and she slid the golden brown circle onto it with an accomplished air.
“How do you do that so easily?” He waved and she noticed flakes of batter stuck to the overhead. (How did he scatter it so far?)
“My master...” She bit her lip, choking back her pain. “Master Werron was hopeless if it came to cooking. He could burn water.” She lifted the teapot, pouring liquid into the two cups. “So on long trips I had to learn how to cook in self defense.”
“You were with him a long time, obviously.”
“Yes.” She was silent. “I have been with the order for almost 20 years now. My first master was Master Sookor. She was a much better cook than I am. Then the last decade, I was with Master Werron.”
“I am sorry that the subject pains you.”
“It would have to. I got him killed.”
She set the tub of butter, another of margarine, and the four types of syrup she always carried. Lang may have been an ass in a lot of ways, but he had stocked the ship primarily with things she ate, so it wasn’t all bad. “What would you know about it?”
“When Master Sookor chose me as your new apprentice, I studied the missions you have undertaken. In all of them you have always reacted swiftly and surely.”
“Not on that mission.”
“Master, you did not expect an attack.” Yaka slipped a sliver of pancake into his mouth. His eyes widened. “Interesting.” The Ithorians had four throats, so he was able to chew and talk at the same time.
“Try some of the syrup.” She motioned. “The red is Corellian Calla berry. The orange is Coruscanti glow spice. The green...” She considered. “I would give it a miss unless you like very spicy food. It’s Fire spice syrup. Like my tea.” She held the cup and sipped. “The last is Ossus blue-stem.”
He poured a dollop of the blue syrup, daintily touching a sliver of cake into it before sticking it in his mouth.
“Yes, I like this.”
“Of course we didn’t expect an attack.” She retorted. “The Company had told us that the Noghri had been shipped in as workers. They didn’t bother to mention that they had taken them from four different tribes!”
Yaka tried the Calla berry. “This is also good. But when the attack came your only hesitation was what? Which weapon to draw. If you had carried either one or the other, that would not have been a problem.”
“That’s true. But I was like a kid with a new toy. ‘Look what this will do’!”
He poured a bit of the glow spice. After a moment of chewing, he commented, “This I think would become addictive to my people. I had best not try any more of the glow spice.” He hesitated, then touched a bare spot of the Fire spice on his plate. “Have you not heard masters comment on how their Padawan tend to do things they might not think about?”
“Yes. But I thought... I never thought I would do something so stupid!”
“Mistakes happen. Sometimes you have to live with them, sometimes you correct them, sometimes you die from them.” He dipped into the fire spice. The piece of pancake had barely touched his tongue when he leaped up and backwards, gasping.
Breia immediately reached the tap, poured a cup of water, and handed it to him. He chugged it down, all four throats gasping simultaneously After a fourth glass, he finally sat again.
“You actually like that?” He asked.
“Sometimes. When I’m in a really foul mood.” She poured the Fire Spice syrup on what was left, cutting and feeding a piece into her mouth, chewing contemplatively.
“You are either braver than I thought, stronger than I might have imagined. Or...”
“Or?” She asked.
“Possibly your entire race is insane.”
“We do have our moments.”
The briefing took hours. Not because Sanji had that much information to pass, but because every time he reached new data yet another officer or specialist had to be called. Since it began several hours before dawn, this meant the military men would have to stop the briefing, call in say the Admiral in charge of Home fleet, await his arrival, probably grumpy from being awakened, then he would have to start again.
Every time it happened that new occupant would ask the same stupid questions, make the same important (To them) points, then it would begin again.
This time it was the Admiral in charge of procurement. Sanji asked for a brief recess, and stepped out, having some tea. He looked at the sky, at the horizon which had brightened into false dawn. So many people had died. He remembered that poor Rodian who had survived...
He paused, mind flashing back to the meeting
Each of these affects a different species. The red affects humans, Green Twi-lek, Yellow Hutt, white Duros. But the Purple is the key.
This affects all insectoid species such as Ruurian Verpine and Sulishti Despite their different physiologies.
There was no one molecule that affected Rodians!
Breia went into the cargo bay. A4 was rumbling to itself in the corner. “Am I going to have to send you in to be lubricated?”
“Not for several months at least. I was merely cogitating on what was not said at the meeting you attended.”
“Everyone was concentrating so much on who had survived and what the chemical might have done. But they ignored the fact that one of those affected, who survived, was Rodian.”
“You supplied this copy of the transcript.” His speakers repeate the sound of that meeting with perfect fidelity.
“Each of these affects a different species. The red affects humans, Green Twi-lek, Yellow Hutt, white Duros. But the Purple is the key.
“This affects all insectoid species such as Ruurian Verpine and Sulishti Despite their different physiologies.”
“So wha...” She stopped. “Wait a minute, Rodians weren’t mentioned!”
“Correct That kept me occupied for several hours until I discovered this.” A small panel on his dorsal carapace flipped up, and a hologram flashed into view. “The molecules are as they are described, except they did not consider them in a binary situation. Each of the chemicals is released simultaneously in every being that had breathed the gas. But these two-” The ones for Twi-lek and Duros- “Combine to make this” Another molecule formed It was a mix of white and green parts in a smooth circle like a benzene ring. Some of both them had broken free, the additional atoms merely floating aside.
“This has the same affects on Rodians as the other gases affect other species.”
“That is great news!”
“I suggest you hold your applause. Doctor Halo didn’t follow through on her research once she discovered how the molecule broke up. If she had, she would have seen this.”
A flow of data came up. She looked at it confused. “What am I looking at?”
“Medical data base. I... borrowed it from the computer of Delta 4. This weapon molecule is almost exactly a mirror image of this one.” Another molecule appeared. IT rotated, then above it flashed the weapon’s molecule. They floated there, and she could instantly see that if they touched as they now did...
There was a melding, Nothing was knocked loose, both molecules locked together. ”The molecule I displayed is the equivalent in Sulishti for the adrenaline molecule in humans. It has the same affects. However this-” the new molecule flashed, “Is not absorbed and broken down by the tissues as adrenaline is. It will however bounce in and out, causing the same reaction over and over.”
“So you’re saying that if the Sulishti breath this-”
“Their aggressive tendencies will explode outward, first against anything not of their species, then against any not of their specific clan, then against any that work in different sectors meaning different parts of even the same ship, then finally any that remain.”
“So it is worse that the affect on say a human.”
“Greater than you can imagine. Because as this sets off the body’s receptor, more of the adrenaline analog will be pumped, causing greater aggression, causing more adrenaline, causing more aggression.”
“I am afraid-”
"On all of the other species we know can be affected, the gas is assimilated and broken down meaning it will wear off after a time measured in a few hours. This molecule will not break down or wear out as long as there is any adrenaline remaining. Worse, contact with one of these combined cells with the hypothalamus analog will cause it to release this instead. It is a permanent fixture.”
“You mean...” She stared at the new malignancy. “It will kill the entire Sulishti race?”
“And at the same time guarantee that a lot of peoples will die right along with them.”
With some gases, they are extremely dangerous to store, as the accidents in Utah back in the 60s shows.
To make it safe, the US government during the mid 60s began working on what is called a binary toxin. It is breaking the dangerous molecule into two inert (Or at least non toxic) molecules, with a binder that causes them to reform when combined. The weapon is loaded into a shell or bomb, and when it is fired or dripped the spinning of the shell (Or artificially induced spinning in a bomb) mixes it before release.
I read a book named Binary (They made a movie with Ben Gazzara back in the 70s, though i can't remember the name) where Stephen Lange (I think that was the author, not sure about his first name) waxed lyrical after someone stole about a ton of it.
Another good chapter, but I have a little problem:
And here I was thinking of biological warfare. :D
I got kind of lost on the technicalities of the chemical weapon. I did understand that the chemical will have a permanent effect on the Sulishti which will cause them to attack everyone else until everyone else is dead at which point they would turn on each other. However I didn't really follow how A4 was able to determine the exact behavior the weapon molecule would produce in the Sulishti.
@Jae and mach: And here I was thinking my chemistry test was confusing.... ;)
P.S. @Jae: This is really off-topic, but have you ever considered going to The Senate Chambers?
@mach--you may want to change the poison/toxin from something that's a mirror image to something that is nearly identical except maybe for a small protein molecule (or something else in the organic chem department) that is attached somewhere. The active part of the poison would be the same as adrenaline, but the extra attachment in a non-active part of the poison would prevent the enzyme that breaks down adrenaline from working on the toxin. Since the enzyme can't break down the toxin, it stays active. That way, it also wouldn't have to bounce in and out of anywhere--it would just stay in the same place and continue to cause an active response.
The reason I say this is that in most animals including humans, the mirror image of a biochem molecule is many times inactive. Think of it this way. Say you have a lock that is the same shape as your left hand. If you press your left hand on it, it will unlock and work. Your right hand is the mirror image of the left, but the right hand would not be able to fit the lock properly to unlock it. The same thing happens in the body. The left-hand version of the biochemical will work, but the right-hand version won't (or vice-versa), even though chemically they're identical. It's just how they're oriented.
@Hall-I'm very delighted to never have a chemistry test ever again. ;P
Organic chem drove me up a wall. I could have cared less how to make a ketone out of an alcohol because I wasn't ever going to need it in Real Life. I plodded through it just to get the good grade for prof. school. Biochem at least had some relevence to what I was planning on doing so I found it far more interesting.
I've lurked a bit in the Senate Chambers. Some of the discussion there is quite interesting. If I wanted to jump into some of the arguments, though, it might take more time than I really have available for the research I'd want to do to present a decent argument. Hubby's a better debater than I am, too. I have to be mentally 'on' 100% at work (patients don't like it if you're only half way there with them :) ), so by the time I get home, get kids fed and homework done and then get them into bed, I'm ready for less serious thinking. Once my kids' school is out for the summer I won't have quite so many time demands so I may jump in then. The exception is the Westboro church thread, since I lived in Topeka--that'll get some comment tonight I think.
And since I've taken up enough of poor mach's thread, I should probably return it to its rightful owner and go back on topic. :D
You see, that is the difference between knowing chemical weapons but not knowing biochm or ogranic chemistry.I will change it in the finished story.
I haven't gotten around to reading your latest chapter "clues" yet. But I read the other four last night :) So far this part of your story is much better than the first two in my opinion. Great writing and a masterful plot if I do say so myself. I am hoping that the enemy is the first Sith to come around. :) Keep up the great work Machievelli.
But if you're talking attitude, what about Sogor? Wouldn't he have been the first?
Evil is evil, no matter what title they decide to call themselves.
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