[FIN] The True Teachings IV: Fate of the Future
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Fate of the Future
''If there's a bright center to the universe, you're on the planet that it's farthest from.''
Time passes. For six months Ralik and his army lay hidden in their planet-sized factory. Their fleet slowly growing larger and the time for action was approaching. The Sith Empire was still unaware of the actual threat that Ralik and his followers posed and every attempt of Darth Krayt's agents to track Ralik down has been in vain. The factory and the terrifying growing fleet remained hidden. So did the cloning facility and as the number of ships grew, so did the number of soldiers. Ralik stood on the observation port in the Lenari factory and as he gazed upon the darkness of space he knew that the time of destiny approaches.
Raxus Prime. Four days later. The garbage pit of the galaxy. With its poisonous surface and millions of different disgusting smells it was the last place anyone would willingly visit. The sole purpose of this planet is to be an enormous junkyard. It has no cities, only Industrial facilities and toxic pools. The only thing close enough to a city is the residential quarter of the facility, where workers lived, if it could be called living.
The planet did have a small spaceport, which was the cleanest and thus the bussiest part of the planet. The only part where you could see crowds on the streets. The dimmed yellow lights uncloaked the cloud of smoke that was all over the atmosphere. Various exausts from the Industrial facilities, no doubt. Maybe even from the toxic pools. The Raxus sun lit up the orange-red sky that stretched across the horizon as the people moved in the crowd, unaware of the events that were bound to unfold.
''Do you see him?'' Gann asked over the comlink device.
''Not yet.'' Forn replied.
''Where is he? We've been waiting here for hours!'' Gann said nervously.
''He'll show up. He has to, we just have to be patient.'' Forn calmed him down.
''Damn junkyard planet! I won't be able to shake off the smell for weeks.'' Gann cursed.
''I hear ya, but we are here to do a job and we can't leave until its done. You know this order came directly from Darth Krayt.''
''Yeah, I know. What I don't know is what would this Sith Lord we're after be doing on this planet and why, if he's so dangerous, did Krayt not send his Hands to take care of him.'' Gann wondered out loud.
''Maybe he's not that dangerous after all.''
''Let's hope not. The sooner we-- wait a minute.''
''What is it?'' Forn asked with a dose of excitement.
''I think I see him, look to your left.'' Gann said as he adjusted the targeting reticule on his sniper rifle.
''I'll be...'' Forn said, ''I think our target has showed himself at last.''
''It was about time, too. A few more minutes and my sense of smell would have been permanently ruined.''
Indeed it seemed so. In the crowd of Jawas and humans walked a figure with a red hood and leggings and black torso armor. The description matched. He even had an amphistaff in the right hand. It was him. The assassins were sure of it. He was walking rather slowly from the food store and it appeared he was going towards the spaceport exit. This was the best chance they were going to get. The only chance. It was much better to shoot him in a crowd and use the following panic and disarray to flee the scene unnoticed. Yes, the plan sounded perfect.
''Where are you going?'' Gann asked rhetorically while he was following the target through his scope.
''We should take him out now, before he escapes.'' Forn warned.
''We will, in a minute. All right, do you have him?'' Gann asked over the comlink.
''Oh, yeah.'' Forn confirmed as he zoomed in on the target's head.
''You want him?'' Gann asked, keeping the target in his sights.
''Sure, I'll take him...'' Gann never heard the end of Forn's sentence, just a sharp sound of something hitting someone.
''Forn? Forn, you there?'' He asked into the comlink. ''What the hell is going on?''
Gann quickly turned his scope towards the roof of the building Forn was on, but he didn't see his colleague there. Instead all he got to see was a strange rusty-red droid aiming a rifle back at him. Gann could see the droid pulling the trigger and then, before he knew it, he was dead just as his partner was. The rusty-red droid put down Forn's rifle next to his lifeless body and walked away from the scene.
''...do not underestimate the powers of the Emperor.''
Two days later. Coruscant, the former capital of the Old Republic, the First Galactic Empire, the New Republic, the Yuuzhan Vong, the Gallactic Alliance and now the capital of the new Sith Empire. Yes, this planet has had its share of transition and battles throughout history, but, as its residents will learn, the time of peace has not come yet.
The sun was setting over the city-planet, turning the sky yellow. Life went on as normal as it could under the iron rule of the New Sith Order and the Sith themselves have turned most of their attention from hunting Jedi and Imperial Knights to hunting a dark and phantasmic threat, with very little, or more often no success at all.
Darth Maladi, the Devaronian Sith woman, the head of Sith Intelligence was due for another report to the Emperor. As she entered the Throne room of the new Imperial Palace, she noticed the others were already there, waiting only for her. She saw Darth Krayt, sitting on his throne, next to him, on the right was his second in command, Darth Wyyrlok, on each side of the throne was one of the two Hands on the left was Darth Nihl, the Nagai warrior, and on the right Darth Talon, the female Twi'Lek. Darth Stryfe, the head of Sith security forces and the most brutal of Darth Krayt's followers was also there, standing a few meters in front of the throne and waiting.
''Darth Maladi'', Krayt said, ''it was about time you arrived.''
''I apologize, my lord, some late minute reports came in and I wanted to take a quick look at them.'' Maladi said submissively.
''Approach.'' Krayt said with a terrifying tone.
Maladi obeyed and slowly approached the throne. She stood next to Darth Stryfe and bowed down in respect for her master.
''So, tell me, what do the reports say?'' Krayt asked, again in a deep and terrifying tone.
''The operation on Raxus Prime was a failure. Our agents were killed by an unknown perpetrator two days ago.'' Maladi said as she rose back to a standing position.
''Two days ago? And why did it take you this long to tell me?''
''The bodies were hidden, my lord, our agents found them earlier today.''
''Interesting. This is the third time in the last month.'' Krayt admitted.
''Yes. It seems that every time our agents get close to this target they get themselves killed.'' Maladi confirmed.
''And a very interesting choice of locations it was indeed. Gamorr, Chandrila and now Raxus Prime.'' Krayt noted.
''What do you think he was doing in all those places, my lord?'' Maladi asked.
''Well, it is your job to find that out, Maladi. And I want you to get on it as soon as you return to your post. Stop sending assassins after him, but notify our men to immediately report, if they see him and be sure to tell them not to engage, only follow. As for the bounty we offered... rise it for a thousand credits. Who knows, perhaps the bounty hunters can do our job for us and even if they can't, they'll be a big enough nuisance to slow his efforts down.''
''Yes, my lord.''
''Now, Darth Stryfe, have you made any progress in solving the recent murders of our agents here on Coruscant?'' Krayt turned his attention to the second of the two servants he summoned.
''Unfortunately not, my lord'', Stryfe said, ''All we know is that both murders happened yesterday and that both victims died in an... unusual death.''
''Unusual? What do you mean?'' Krayt asked.
''One of the victims, Darth Asphyxus, choked to death and the other, Darth Smyte, appears to have walked under a trash compactor. Needless to say that there wasn't much of a body left after that. We identified him by DNA tests.''
''Unortodox indeed'', Krayt acknowledged, ''Keep me informed. I sense there is more to these deaths than meets the eye.''
''Yes, my lord.'' Stryfe said.
''Go now, leave me. You too, my Hands.'' Krayt ordered.
''We obey, lord Krayt.'' The four Sith Lords said and left the room.
Wyyrlok waited a few minutes after the four left the throne room to address his master. Krayt managed to live for a century thanks to periodical stasis and numerous healing meditations. He managed to become the Emperor, to defeat his enemies or drive them into hiding, but besides it all he fought another battle, a battle known only to him and his second in command, Wyyrlok. Darth Krayt, the Sith Emperor was slowly dying from an unknown disease.
''How are you feeling, my lord?'' Wyyrlok asked.
''Fine, for the moment, but the disease is winning, I can feel it.''
''Perhaps you should perform another healing meditation, my lord.'' Wyyrlok suggested.
''Perhaps I should, but that is only a temporary solution and I need a permanent one. How goes our search for the Jedi that can heal back the dead?''
''Our agents lost track of him, some time ago. The last report was very interesting, it said that the Jedi we seek is the last of the Skywalker line and it said that he has reestablished contact with his fellow Jedi.''
''The last of the Skywalkers. It fits perfectly, the Skywalker family was always strong in the Force. Where is he now?''
''We don't know, my lord. He was last seen on Muunilist, but our agents lost him there.'' Wyyrlok reported with caution.
''Keep looking Wyyrlok, it is imperative that we find him and capture him.''
''Yes, my lord.''
In the meantime, Darth Maladi returned to the headquarters of Sith Intelligence and relayed Darth Krayt's orders. Darth Stryfe, on the other hand, decided to go back to one of the crime scenes and take another look. Night had fallen and the city lights were the only thing that enabled people to see. Stryfe was a big and tough looking human male, with long black hair. He was, like most of these new Sith painted in red and black Sith tattoos. He entered an alley, meaning to take a shortcut to the crime scene when he heard a voice behind him.
''Darth Stryfe.'' The dark voice called.
Stryfe quickly turned around, but nobody was there.
''Darth Stryfe.'' The voice sounded again and again it seemed to come from behind.
''Who's there!?'' Stryfe shouted in anger as he turned around again.
''Your time has come, Darth Stryfe.'' The voice sounded again.
Stryfe turned to see a figure with a red hood hiding most of the face, a Vonduun crab armor with a strange golden hexagonal insignia on the chest and a red dress-like clothing over the legs, hiding the rest of the armor. The only thing that was sure was that the figure was a male.
''Who are you and how dare you follow me?'' Stryfe demanded.
''Such anger and arrogance from someone so patethic.'' The figure said.
''How dare you, whelp?!'' Stryfe shouted and charged toward the male figure only to be stopped and held paralysed in place a meter in front of him.
''The time of you pretenders is over. The time of Truth is at hand.'' The figure said.
''What are you babbling about!?'' Stryfe shouted, ''Release me and I may show you mercy!''
''How patethic. You call yourself ''strife'', as if you could ever produce something like that between enemies. You are just a simple brute, but do not worry. Your life will end according to your name, in strife with the rest of your Order.''
The figure vanished. Stryfe left the alley and instead of going to the crime scene, he went to the headquarters of the Sith security forces. He knew where he wanted to go, but his legs were taking him somewhere else. When the guards asked him to identify himself, Stryfe simply ignited his lightsaber and charged at them. The guards thought that he has either gone mad, or that he has betrayed the Sith Order. They attacked and so Stryfe's life was ended.
''We don't have to win, we only have to fight.''
The sun rose on the Imperial world of Bastion. The only world still unconquered by the Sith. The only world whose location is unknown to the rest of the galaxy. Darth Talon, one of Krayt's Hands almost found its location six months ago by trying to follow Marasiah Fel, the daughter of the legitimate Emperor Roan Fel, but Marasiah managed to cover her tracks and preserve the secrecy of Bastion's location.
Her father, Roan Fel, was a fully trained Imperial Knight and he was, at the moment, the only person with enough tactical genius and with enough courage to oppose the Sith. During these seven and a half years he and the remaining Imperial Knights, as well as the few companies of soldiers still loyal to him were doing their best to retake the galaxy away from the grasp of Darth Krayt, unfortunately their best wasn't good enough. They have managed to put some disarray into the Outer Rim systems with their guerrilla attacks, but they haven't in fact managed to retake even one system from the Sith.
The walls of the Emperor's Bastion retreat shined on the rising sun. The compound had once been a place where members of the royal family would come to rest, relax and think in peace, but now it had become the Imperial base of operations. Fel called it a temporary headquarters, but in reality it was more permanent than he would believe.
Due to these troubled times the Imperial knights and the military somewhat lacked in tradition, but they still showed the proper amount of respect to their Emperor. Every pointless custom was suspened, only some basic courtesy could be spared. Courtesy like reporting to the Emperor in the audience chamber of his retreat.
The audience chamber was about ten meters wide and about twelve meters long, not even half the size of the throne room of the Imperial Palace on Coruscant, but it did the job well enough. The throne itself was a lot simpler than the one on Coruscant, but Fel didn't mind. Deep inside he knew that things like those are the least of his concerns. The main goal was to reclaim his Empire. The need for luxury could wait.
A squadron of troops has just returned from an attack on one of the Outer Rim Sith strongholds and the squadron leader, Imperial Knight Sigel Dare immediately came to report their progress. Sigel was a cold woman with a high sense of duty and an even higher resentment towards the Sith. She wore the traditional Imperial Knight uniform, just like every other Imperial Knight did, the Red Armor over the black fibersuit with the Imperial insignia on the left shoulder pad and a dark brown cape on the back. Her goldish brown hair was fairly long, but she wore a unique hairdue that hid the actual length of her hair.
She approached the Emperor and bowed down as a sign of respect. The bow lasted about two or three seconds and then she rose. Besides Roan Fel himself, there were four more Imperial Knights in the room, one of them was Antares Draco, the leader of the Imperial Knights and Fel's most devoted bodyguard. He would give his life for the Emperor, if the need arose.
''Commander Sigel'' Fel said, ''How did your attack go?''
''It wasn't a complete success, your majesty, but we did some damage.''
''And our troops?'' Fel asked with genuine care.
''No losses on our part, your majesty.'' Sigel replied.
''Excellent. And the damage to the Sith base?'' Fel asked with even more concern.
''We've managed to destroy their communications array and their food storage.''
''Is that all?'' Fel asked with slight disappointment.
''No, your majesty.'' Sigel said, ''We've also crippled their TIE fighter population and did some minor damage on their weapon emplacements.''
''The repairs will no doubt keep them busy for some time.'' Fel pointed out.
''Yes, your majesty.'' Sigel agreed.
''Which is why I want you to launch another surprise attack tomorrow, first thing in the morning.'' Fel added with a dose of strictness in his voice.
''Tomorrow morning?'' Sigel asked in astonishment.
''You heard me, Commander.'' Fel confirmed, ''First thing tomorrow morning.''
''Yes, your majesty.'' She admitted defeat.
''Now go and have some rest.'' Fel's attitude changed, ''You and your troops have the rest of the day off. I want you well rested for tomorrow.''
''Yes, your majesty. Thank you.'' Sigel did a quick bow and left.
Draco had carefully listened to the entire conversation, but he didn't even think of saying a word while Sigel was still there. Now that she left he thought about it alright. Fel glanced at him from the corner of his eye. Draco glanced back then looked away.
''I can sense that something's on your mind, Antares.'' Fel finally broke the awkward silence.
''Well, if I may be honest, your majesty...'' Draco started.
''You may.'' Fel confirmed with a dose of humor.
''... I'm not sure where these attacks are leading. This hit and run tactics is becoming tiresome and it shows little actual success.'' Draco finished.
''And you would rather we sent a team straight to Coruscant to assassinate Krayt.''
''Something like that, yes.'' Draco admitted.
''One day, perhaps, but not yet.'' Fel said calmly.
''But how will that attack tomorrow benefit our cause?'' Draco asked cautiously.
''That base is the only one the Sith have on that entire planet. If it is destroyed, we'll have a chance at bolsting our own ranks with people who express the desire to join us.'' Fel explained.
''I see. And if the people are too afraid of the Sith to join us?''
''Then we'll have to deal with it. Its their choice after all.'' Fel said.
''I don't know, your majesty. Something's not right and I don't like it.'' Draco said.
''We will deal with every consequence in its proper time.''
''The Force is strong with this one.''
Ossus. The planet had its share of wars and destruction. It has been destroyed twice now. The second time, more recently, by the Sith forces who were lead by Darth Nihl, one of Krayt's Hands. Among many other Jedi that died that day was Kol Skywalker, leading member of the last Jedi Council and the father of Cade Skywalker. It was that day, the day of the Massacre of Ossus, that almost drove Cade to the Dark Side, when he brought back his Master, Wolf Sazen from the edge of death using the Force. It was that day, seven and a half years ago that made Cade turn away from his legacy and pursue a career among pirates, smugglers and bounty hunters. He remembered it as if it happened yesterday.
During his time with the bounty hunters he ran into a Jedi, a Bothan Jedi named Hosk Tre'lyis. Cade refused it at first, didn't want to hear anything Tre'lyis had to say, didn't want to have anything with the Jedi, except to collect bounty the Sith put on them, but in the end he changed his mind, made the right choice, or rather decided to give Jedi a second chance and parted ways with his two bounty hunter comrades as friendly as he could.
After the Massacre of Ossus, seven years ago, the surviving Jedi scattered throughout the galaxy. They chose places where few would think to look, just like the Jedi Masters of old during the aftermath of the Jedi Civil War. The only difference was that this time there was no Republic and the Sith were controlling the galaxy. The Sith had agents everywhere and the Jedi rarely dared to gather on populated worlds, lest they be tracked down by Krayt's minions.
After the return of Cade Skywalker into the Jedi Order, or at least what remained of the Order, some of the remaining Jedi gathered at their ruined and abandoned Academy on Ossus. Cade's old master Wolf Sazen was proven right. A Skywalker was needed to gather the Jedi, but Cade himself was not a Jedi yet. He missed seven years of training and it was necessary to fill as many holes as possible and in the shortest possible time.
So Cade trained and trained, under the watchful eye of Master Sazen, the one-armed Zabrak. He lost his arm fighting Darth Nihl the day Ossus fell, but it didn't affect his skill with the lightsaber, or his skill in the Force. If nothing, it made him stronger and more careful. The only thing that scared Sazen was that Cade could fall to the Dark Side. It scared him ever since Cade brought him back to life by tapping into the Dark Side of the Force and Sazen would do his best to prevent it from happening. He would pass on all his knowledge and wisdom to his apprentice.
''Good, Cade, very good.'' Sazen said, ''Soon you will master the Shii Cho form of lightsaber combat perfectly.''
''What can I say Sazen. I'm a fast learner.'' Cade said loosely, the years spent amongst pirates and bounty hunters impacted on his behaviour.
''That may very well be true, but don't get too overconfident and don't let pride and arrogance cloud your judgement. That is the path to the Dark Side.'' Sazen said caringly.
''Right. You know, this is the fourth time in the last hour that you've lectured me on the dangers of the Dark Side.'' Cade said smugly.
''Yes, I did. It is a very important lesson to be learned.'' The Zabrak confirmed.
''You are becoming boring, Sazen. We both know why are you repeating it so much.''
''Is that so? Well, I'm glad that you know and I hope that you realize what danger you put yourself in... put everybody else in...''
''When I brought you back to life.'' Cade finished the sentence for him.
''Yes, exactly. So, do you understand?'' Sazen asked, slightly annoyed by Cade's attitude.
''I understand what you are afraid of, but I don't agree with you.'' Cade said, ''I think it is a gift. Imagine how many lives I can save with that power! Imagine what I could accomplish!''
''This is precisely what I was warning you about, Cade! You are letting your anger and your pride control you! Fight it, you must control them and keep them in check.'' Sazen bursted out.
''Now who's in danger of falling to the Dark Side?'' Cade asked sarcastically, ''Don't worry Sazen, I won't let my anger control me.''
''I certainly hope so, Cade.'' Sazen said calmly, ''For your sake and for everybody else's.''
It was almost nightfall and Shado Vao was coming to call Sazen and Skywalker for dinner. Shado is a Twi'Lek Jedi with great talent and potential and Cade's old friend. Seven years ago Shado was a mere Padawan, just as Cade was, but now he was a Jedi Knight. His sister, Astraal Vao, on the other hand decided that her place was with the Imperial Mission and was now a close companion of Princess Marasiah Fel. Shado entered the courtyard just to witness the end of Cade's and Sazen's argument.
''Am I interrupting something?'' He asked.
''Nothing. Nothing at all.'' Cade replied, ''What's up, Shado?''
''Well, it's almost dinner time, so I came to get the two of you.'' Shado said.
''We're coming.'' Sazen said as calmly as he could, ''I hope you will seriously consider what I have said, Cade.'' Sazen said as he walked out of the courtyard and back into the Academy.
''Sure, Sazen.'' Cade said, ''Sure.''
''You know, between his howling and you blasting everything in sight, it's a wonder the whole station doesn't know we're here.''
Socorro. A planet in the Outer Rim, one of many not-so-hospitable planets in the galaxy. Its terrain is primarily composed of deserts, mountains and volcanic ground. Not a pleasant place, but its inhabitants didn't mind the planet's hot climate. They were proud of their home, such as it was. On a historical note, Socorro was the homeworld of Lando Calrissian, a General of the New Republic, on a more recent note the planet held the headquarters of Rav's bounty hunter organization.
Rav was of the Feeorin species, he used to be a pirate, but gave it up to start a bounty hunting business. He was recognizable for his blue skin, a cross-like scar over his left eye and a mechanical claw-like right leg. He's the pirate that found Cade Skywalker after the Massacre of Ossus and picked him up with his ship. Rav was a smart and calculating individual who knew how to get what he wanted from people and who knew how to make people do what he wanted. That is how he managed to keep Skywalker performing special favors for him, since Cade had a spice addiction. Unfortunately for Rav, the Bothan Jedi Tre'lyis recognized the problem and used the Force to heal Cade from his addiction, allowing him to end his dealings with Rav. Rav was upset, but he wasn't going to make a bad situation worse by showing force, so he cut his losses and ended his arrangement with Cade in the friendliest way possible.
Rav wasn't a bad guy, though he wasn't anywhere near being honest, but he took care of his people. This was one of those days when he had to make another demonstration of his authority.
Cade's former bounty hunter partners and shipmates, the pink skinned Zeltron woman, Deliah Blue and the human man, Jariah Syn were on their way to Rav's office for an urgent meeting.
''What do you think this is all about?'' Syn asked.
''I have no idea, but Rav sounded pretty serious over the com. This must be something big.'' Blue answered. She was as confused as her colleague.
''I don't like it. Things have been getting more dangerous lately for people in our line of business.'' Syn pointed out.
''You said it. Ever since Cade left we haven't had a decent bounty.'' Deliah Blue never did get over Skywalker's departure. She had a thing for him, she wasn't sure how serious it was, but she regretted not getting the chance to know him better.
''Cade. There we go again. Cade betrayed us, Deliah. He was a frakking Jedi! He was a Jedi and he didn't bother to tell us!'' Syn had an inexplicable loathing towards the Jedi, which is why he didn't take Cade's reason for resigning too well.
''Betrayed us? No, I don't look at it that way. He was just being smart.'' Blue pointed out, ''He was protecting himself. And us, for that matter. If he revealed his past to us every bounty hunter in the galaxy, or every other scum that had a beef with Cade for that matter, would have come swarming down on all of us.'' Blue said.
''Perhaps, but that's no excuse! We trusted him, he was our captain, but apparently he didn't trust us.'' Syn said, in reality he was thinking ''He didn't trust me!''
''Oh, get over it, Syn!'' Blue said, ''You just have issues against the Jedi and you couldn't stand that your captain used to be one!''
''Hmpf.'' Syn frowned, ''Right.'' He said nervously, ''And what about Rav?''
''What about him?'' Blue asked rhetorically.
''Rav saved Cade's life in the first place and Cade didn't have the courtesy to tell him about his past.'' Syn demanded.
''Oh, come on! Rav knew all about Cade, he had to. Rav is always at least one step in front of everybody else. Why do you think he fed Cade's spice addiction?''
They were at the entrance to Rav's office by now. The argument was heating up, voices were becoming louder. Rav could hear them from the inside and he decided that he has had enough.
''Am I interrupting something?'' Rav asked sarcastically as he appeared at the door.
''No, Rav, we were just...'' Syn started.
''You were alerting half of the city block that you were here.'' Rav finished for him.
''Sorry, Rav.'' Blue said.
''Forget it. Now, get in, we have urgent matters to attend to.''
Rav's office was a lot cleaner than the rest of the building in which it was housed. It wasn't very large, just two tables and some chairs, as well as a state of the art computer terminal in the back. The lights were dimmed, creating the atmosphere found only in descriptions of the offices of sleezy private investigators in the local holonovels. It was early evening. Rav sat behind his terminal and Syn and Blue stood behind him.
''So what was so urgent, Rav?'' Blue finally asked.
''Things are getting ugly. Between last night's attack on the Sith base and the death of every bounty hunter I send after that Sith bounty it isn't safe for us on Socorro as it used to be.'' Rav explained.
''So what are we going to do about it?'' Syn asked.
''I have a bad feeling that when those Imperial Knights take over the planet the first thing they're gonna do is come down on smuggling and bounty hunting businesses, which is why I've decided that we should get the hell out of here as soon as tonight.''
''And where are we going?'' Syn was curious.
''In a few minutes I'm going to have a talk with Queen Jool. If all goes well, we will be heading for Coruscant.''
''Queen Jool? You know better than to deal with a Hutt. Are things really that bad, Rav?'' Blue asked.
''We won't be working for her, but we do need her permission to operate there. She is the leading crime lord on the Capital.'' Rav said reluctantly.
''Maybe we should try to find Cade.'' Blue suggested, ''I don't think he'd refuse to help us out after all we've been through.''
''Yeah, right.'' Syn countered, ''Haven't we been over this already?''
''Stop it! Both of you.'' Rav decided to put an end to it, ''If we had more time, Deliah, I'd agree with you, but we don't know where he went and we don't have the time to look for him, so we will take what we can get. Understood?''
''Yeah.'' She said unwillingly.
The terminal beeped, signaling that there's an incoming transmission. Rav pressed the ''accept'' button and an ugly face of a green skinned Hutt with a cybernetic eye appeared on the screen.
''I will do whatever necessary to protect those who depend on me. No more. But no less.''
Grand Admiral Thrawn
Night had fallen on Bastion and everyone at the Emperor's retreat, except for the guards were fast asleep. Well, almost everyone. Imperial Knight Sigel Dare was staring through the mansion windows at the city beneath them. Thinking. In just a little under seven hours she would be launching a second attack at the Sith stronghold on Socorro, she knew that she needed to be well rested for the job, but she just couldn't make herself go to sleep.
Bastion's night sky was actually quite a sight. The sky was clearer than on any other planet and you could see almost every star that could be seen on that side of the planet. Sigel was looking at only one star out of the entire flock. Sokor, the sun of Socorro. In a way she was preparing herself for tomorrow's battle, concentrating, using every Knight skill she had to clear her mind.
''You too?'' She heard a male voice come from behind her.
She turned around to see who it was and saw Antares Draco, leader of the Imperial Knights standing in full uniform only a few steps behind her. The first thing she thought was how could she not have sensed him coming. It worried her. She didn't want something like that happening in the middle of tomorrow's battle.
''Couldn't sleep.'' She finally answered.
''Me neither, so I decided to take a walk around the mansion to clear my head.'' Draco said.
''Same here.'' She added with a friendly tone.
''You're worried about tomorrow. I can sense it.'' Draco said.
''Yes. Yes, I am.'' Dare confirmed, ''Whatever damage we did last night, it wasn't enough. Their weapon emplacements are almost intact and tomorrow we have to go there again.''
''You'll succeed. You shouldn't worry so much, Emperor Fel has confidence in you as do the rest of the Imperial Knights, as do your troops. You can do it.'' Draco said.
''I certainly hope so, Antares.'' She said, calmer now, ''So what's your excuse for being awake at this hour?''
''This whole unfortunate situation and our position in it.'' He admitted.
''I'm not exactly happy about it either, but we will not surrender and in the end the Empire will be ours again.'' Dare returned the favor.
''Yes, I know that, but with the tactics we are using now we'll all be in our sixties when we finally defeat the Sith. We need a more direct approach.'' Draco insisted.
''Ah, so that's what's bothering you.'' Sigel said, ''Trust in the Emperor's judgement, he knows what he's doing.''
''I certainly hope he does. I'd give my life for him, but sometimes he just makes me wonder.'' Draco said.
''Perhaps it is his way of testing our loyalty.'' Sigel suggested cooly.
''Perhaps you are right. Come on, we've wasted enough of our sleep time and you do have an assault to lead in the morning.'' Draco said.
''True. Good night.'' She said as she walked away from the window.
''May the Force be with you.'' Draco said.
Sigel returned to her room, but she didn't go straight to bed. She continued her observation through the window in her room. The lights of the city that lay below them were glowing brightly. It was an evening of celebration. One of many customs of the locals. Sigel stretched out with the Force and could almost hear the music on the streets and the cheering of the people. She couldn't understand how they could be so relaxed in the midst of war. She tried though.
Perhaps it was because of the fact that Bastion's location was a well guarded secret, maybe it was because there were no incidents on the planet itself, or maybe it was because Bastion was the most fortified planet in this entire galaxy. The people knew it, knew it all too well and it made them feel safe and confident. Perhaps a little too confident and relaxed for Sigel's taste. They obviously didn't realize the seriousness of the situation in which they were in and didn't think anything, or anyone could penetrate Bastion's defenses.
Who knows? Perhaps they were right not to worry. Perhaps Bastion really is untouchable, but Sigel couldn't believe that. Not after everything she'd seen. The destruction, the violence, the darkness. The galaxy just didn't feel the same anymore. It felt dark, somehow and it wasn't just because of the Sith. That's what worried her the most. The thought of losing touch with everything around her.
Draco was right. Something had to be done. Something drastic. And it would begin with tomorrow's attack. The orders were to simply crush the Sith compound to the ground, but then again, sneak attack tactics weren't one of Fel's stronger sides. He was a good politician and a good military commander, but his expertise lay more in organising large battles, nothing like this one. That is why Sigel decided to modify those orders a little bit. She would destroy the base, but she would first send techs and slicers to take the Sith database apart and pull any useful information it might hold.
She turned her gaze back into the sky and the star Sokor. She stared at it for a few more minutes, or at least it felt like minutes to her. She glanced at her chronometer and it showed that morning was only four hours away. Time to get some sleep. As much as was possible. The Sith will not fight with any less determinance just because she didn't get enough beauty sleep.
''Your chances come in two shapes. Slim, and fat.''
''As I'm sure you can understand, we would keep most of the profits and give you a certain percentage.'' Rav said. The negotiations were taking forever. The Hutt drove a hard bargain, but Rav drove a harder one.
(''You have a lot of guts, Feeorin, to talk to me like that.'') Queen Jool said. Like the rest of the Hutts, she understood Galactic Basic, but spoke only in Huttese.
''I beg your pardon, I believe I was appropriately polite and respectful.'' Rav countered, as if offended.
(''You know what I mean.'') The slimy, green skinned Hutt muttered, (''You offer me some small percentage, as if I'm some patethic lowlife. It's a disgrace, an informant gets a bigger cut than what you're offering me.'')
''We're all lowlives. Jool, you arrogant slug.'' Rav thought. ''Well, why don't you make a suggestion and I'm sure we can work out a mutually benefitial arrangement.'' He suggested.
(''I want fifty percent of your earnings, Rav.'') Jool said bluntly, (''That's how much it costs to be under my protection, to work on my turf and to live on my turf.'')
''Thirty percent.'' Rav said.
(''Fourty and not one less.'') Jool said.
''Thirty five.'' Rav countered, ''How about it?''
(''Hah, hah, hah! You're brave, bounty hunter.'') Jool laughed, (''Very well, thirty five percent it is.'')
''Then it's settled.'' Rav concluded, ''We'll leave in an hour and will be on Coruscant as early as tomorrow.''
(''Drop by my cantina, Rik's. To... work out the details. I'll be seeing you.'') Queen Jool said and ended transmission.
Jariah Syn and Deliah Blue were standing right behind Rav the whole time. They never said a word during the negotiations, but Rav knew they weren't thrilled with the arrangement.
''Thirty five percent! Rav, we're being ripped-off!'' Syn bursted out finally.
''Ah, there it is.'' Rav expected this, ''It's a necessity. We won't be working for her for the rest of our lives, it's only temporary. Until we find a better deal.'' Rav tried to calm the situation.
''I don't like it, Rav.'' Blue added, ''I think Jool is up to something, I could feel it in her voice.''
''Maybe she is, but we're not exactly bantha herders. We can handle whatever she tries to throw at us. And there's always the possibility that she is on the level.'' He answered.
''I still think we should find Cade. I don't think he'd refuse to help us out.'' Blue insisted.
''You're never gonna drop it, are you?'' Syn interfered, ''Sober up, Deliah! He's gone with those Jedi. He ain't coming back!''
''No, but that doesn't mean he wouldn't help us if we went to him.'' She countered fiercely.
A thunder-like sound in the distance made them pause. For a moment everything was silent as a grave. A minute, or two. Then another thunder in the distance. And another and another. Explosions.
It was morning already and the Imperial forces launched their second attack against the Sith base. It took the three bounty hunters awhile to realize what was happening and when they did the only surprise they felt was that the second attack happened so soon after the first one. It was time to leave. Rav knew it, Syn knew it and even Deliah knew it.
''We're running out of time, so let's cut this short.'' Rav said finally, ''Do you have any idea where Cade might be?''
''Not really, but where can a Jedi be, if he wants to train? He must be at one of their Academies.'' She answered.
''Uh-huh. You know you're only guessing?'' Rav asked sarcastically.
''Maybe, but I think it's better than working for Jool and since we know that the Sith are using the Jedi Temple on Coruscant, we can rule out that place, which leaves Yavin IV and Ossus.''
''And you'd be willing to bet your life that he's on one of those planets?'' Rav said.
''I would.'' She answered confidently.
''Fine.'' Rav said reluctantly, ''Go then and check it out. Me and Syn, however, are going to Coruscant. We'll honor our arrangement with Jool and wait for you there.''
''Alright, if that's how you want it, but be careful. I'd bet my hydrospanner that Jool isn't completely on the level with us.''
Rav nodded and the three ran out of his office and straight into Rav's hidden hangar. Deliah took the shuttle while Rav and Syn took the Mynock, the ship once used by Cade, Deliah and Syn. They snuck off the planet on its other side and went their separate ways.
''What are you waiting for? Flowers and a box of candy?''
It was high noon on Bastion. As Sigel Dare entered Fel's audience chamber flashes of the battle flew through her mind.
She was leading a squadron of ten starfighters and one transport shuttle against the Sith. It took them awhile, but the fighters managed to destroy the generator that was powering the weapon emplacements. Most importantly, it took the lives of two of the starfighter pilots. The remaining eight starfighters swarmed in on the base and provided cover fire for the transport with the squadron of ground troopers. It was a bloody battle, laser fire and explosions flashing from all directions, the Sith warriors charging at the troops like madmen with their red lightsabers drawn. They didn't fear death. A third of the ground forces were lost before the last of the Sith warriors fell. The battle was over and what remained of the Sith stronghold was theirs.
It was a costly battle and Sigel only hoped that the lives lost were worth it. And now she had to report it all to Roan Fel, to her Emperor. He sat on his chair in a calm stance, typical for him. Draco was once again standing beside him and two more Imperial Knights were guarding the entrance to the room.
''I hear you have been victorious, Sigel.'' Fel said with an authoritative tone.
''Yes, your majesty. The Sith of Socorro lie dead and their base in ruins.'' She replied.
''Excellent work. I knew my trust in you wasn't misplaced.'' Fel said with his formal voice.
''We lost a lot of good men, loyal soldiers out there.'' She added.
''Their lives are not given in vain. Trust me.'' Fel said calmly.
''I certainly hope so. There's something else, your majesty...'' Dare started.
''Yes?'' Fel lifted an eyebrow in wonder.
''Before we destroyed the base, I ordered a tech team to slice into their database. They downloaded all the files, but these two seemed particularly interesting.'' She said as she handed a datapad to Fel.
He took a glance at the screen and tossed back the datapad to her. ''Irrelevant.'' He said coldly, ''That is of no consequence to us.''
''I beg your pardon, your majesty, but how can it not be? It might be an opportunity we've been waiting for.'' Sigel insisted.
''For what? An attack on the capital?'' Fel bursted out, ''No! We will continue to do as we have done so far. When the time comes we will retake Coruscant.''
''Respectfully, your majesty, but how long will that take? The Sith underestimate us! Their attention is turned to other goals, now is the time to strike.'' She insisted.
''I see you have been somewhat influenced by Antares here. He also doesn't like our current tactics.'' Fel said as calmly as he could, ''Well, I don't like them either, but that's all we've got now. Understood? When I find the situation approprate I will order an attack on the Capital, not before.'' He glanced at Draco and then turned his gaze to Sigel.
''I understand.'' She admitted defeat. He was her Emperor after all, he knew best.
''Good. And you Antares? Do you understand?'' Fel asked, glancing at Draco with the corner of his eye.
''I understand, your majesty.'' He said.
''Good. You may be excused, both of you.'' Fel said.
Sigel and Draco nodded and went for the door. They walked across the reception hallway to the Military Wing. Sigel was a little disappointed that Fel dismissed the information she showed him so quickly, but she tried to persuade him otherwise and it didn't work. Smething else needed to be done.
She was walking so fast that Draco had to run a few steps to catch up with her.
''Sigel, wait.'' He said.
''Yes?'' She turned around to see him slowing down and walking to her.
''You have to understand something...'' He started calmly.
''I understand a lot, but I can't understand the Emperor dismissing this so quickly. Not after we've lost so many men to get this. The Sith database is the reason I requested to bring ground forces, I could have leveled that entire base from the air, but I wanted to try to find something useful and I have.'' She said almost with anger.
''The Emperor values your actions, but he is a proud man. He will change his mind. I'll talk to him. Privately. It's all about subtlety, Sigel.'' Draco calmed her down.
''Very well. Here.'' She handed him the datapad, ''See what you make of this, personally I find it a very interesting read.''
''I'll study it carefully, I promise.'' Draco said and he meant it. If there was anything useful in those files he would find a way to persuade the Emperor into action.
''I'm going to my quarters.'' Sigel said, ''I'm desperate for a good sleep.'' She turned and left.
Draco watched her leave the room and then he finally lowered his look to the screen of the datapad she gave him. There were three files on it. They went in the following order: The Jedi Healer, The Unknown Threat and at last The murders on Coruscant.
''The secret to successful analysis, Car'das: whenever possible, reduce matters to a single variable''
Grand Admiral Thrawn
A day later. A lone shuttle approaches the deserted planet of Ossus. Its two suns were rising above the horizon and the Jedi Praxeum. Cade casually walked in the sensor chamber, holding a cup of Norvanian Grog. He took a sip of the alcochol and took a look around the room. He noticed Shado sitting behind the computer console and staring at various sensor readings. Master Wolf Sazen was standing behind him. They were commenting on something, but Cade was not yet fully awake so he couldn't hear exactly what it was.
He took another sip of his drink and quietly approached the two. He stood there, behind Sazen for a minute or two more, staring at the readings with them, or at least pretending to stare while slowly drinking his Norvanian Grog and then Master Sazen finally turned around only to make a frowned face, showing his disgust for the strong odor of Cade's drink.
''Mornin'.'' Cade said casually.
''Good morning, Cade.'' Sazen replied calmly.
''So, what's so interesting on that screen that made you guys not even notice me entering the room.'' Cade asked, slightly affected by the alcochol, but more awake than a minute ago.
''Just because we didn't react doesn't mean we didn't notice, Cade. We are Jedi, remember that.'' Sazen said with a lecturing tone.
''Right, right. Still, that doesn't answer my question, Sazen. What's on the screen?'' Cade said cooly.
''Take a look for yourself.'' Sazen said.
''It's a ship.'' Shado finally spoke up, ''A small shuttle, I've detected only one person aboard.''
''We think it's an agent of the Sith, probably sent here to do a routine sensor sweep of the planet. It wouldn't be the first time.'' Sazen explained as Cade took a look at the magnified video feed of the shuttle.
''Well, I can tell you straight out that you couldn't be more wrong.'' Cade said.
''What? How can you be so sure?'' Sazen asked with astonishment.
''Because I recognize the markings on the shuttle.'' Cade replied, ''See that symbol? It's the symbol of Rav's group.''
''Your former employer?'' Shado said, ''What would he or one of his subordinates be doing here?''
''Let's find out.'' Cade suggested.
Deliah Blue was sitting in the shuttle's cockpit, watching the double sunrise as she waited for the shuttle's sensors to finish their job. Besides Tatooine, this was the only planet with two suns she had visited so far. The sensors beeped to report their findings, or rather to report that there were no findings to report. They haven't detected anything. ''How is this possible?'' She wondered. She was already on Yavin IV and the place there turned out to be completely abandoned. If the Ossuary was abandoned too, then her judgement on Cade's and the Jedi's whereabouts was completely wrong. She wasn't going to find Cade. And then her communications system beeped. A transmission from the surface. She keyed on the comm and a familiar face appeared on the viewscreen.
''Hi there, Deliah. You're a long way from Socorro.'' It was Cade. A slightly tidier, but still familiar version of him.
''I came here searching for you. Something's happened.'' She said with a slight relief.
''Why don't you come down and you can tell me all about it in person?'' He asked, humor intended.
Cade's face was gone and a set of coordinates appeared on her screen, Deliah punched them in along with the landing vector. A lot of Ossus' surface was destroyed thanks to Darth Krayt's sabotage of the Yuuzhan Vong terraforming efforts. The plantlife produced during the vongforming has long since extinguished, rotted and disappeared. The surface was all dry land now. In the distance Deliah could see a lone building rising from the ground. Minute after minute it grew ever larger as her shuttle drew ever closer to it. The Jedi Praxeum of Ossus.
As Blue landed her shuttle she saw Cade standing in the courtyard, already waiting for her. He was just as excited about seeing her as she was excited about seeing him, but he tried not to show it as much. The last time he saw Blue was a little less than six months ago, just before he left Rav's organization. The shuttle door opened and a pink skinned, blue haired girl appeared at the door. It was her.
''Cade.'' She waved as she descended down the shuttle's ramp and walked towards him.
''Well, well, well. Look what the cat dragged in.'' He joked, ''What's up Deliah?''
''We've got problems.'' She said, ''We need your help, Cade.''
''Let's go inside.'' Cade replied, now with a serious tone, ''We'll sit down, have a few drinks and you can explain everything to me in detail.''
''The Dark Side of the Force is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural.''
''Your progress on these murders, Darth Maladi?'' Krayt's hologram demanded.
''We've made some progress, but unfortunately not much, my lord'' She replied submissively.
''Not much?'' Krayt demanded, ''Not much!? It's been four days since Darth Stryfe's death, Maladi! Four more deaths have occured since then, all members of my Order!''
''Yes, my lord... I know, I... I understand your anger, but we are...'' She didn't get to finish.
''You are slacking off! After Stryfe's death I put you in charge of this investigation because I thought you could handle it appropriately. Was I wrong, Maladi?'' Krayt demanded. His deep voice echoing through the sound speakers.
''No, my lord. I will handle this, I will not disappoint you.'' She said with determination.
''See that you do not. Now, tell me of what little progress you've made. And of course the progress about tracking down our threat. Have you learned why he visited all those planets in the last six months?''
''I believe I have, my lord.'' She paused for a second, '' Every single planet he visited either housed a tomb of a certain Jedi, or a Sith, or was once a resting place of powerful Sith, or Jedi artifacts.''
''I see. Go on.'' Krayt said calmly.
''The locations of those tombs, or artifacts had a residual Force aura. Even after the artifacts were removed the aura remained. And now it's gone.'' She said.
''Gone? Interesting.'' Krayt admitted.
''Yes, my lord. It is my belief that our target went to all those places for the sole purpose of gathering that Force energy. I have yet to figure out why and knowing so little about him, or his power in the Force I can't make a proper assumption.''
''You don't have to. It's pretty obvious. He's powerful in the Force, but he isn't a Jedi, or a Sith. His powers are like nothing anyone's ever faced and they are vast. But, he's not satisfied. He wants more.'' Krayt said calmly.
''My lord?'' Maladi was at a loss.
''He is using that Force energy to strengthen himself even more. He must be found and stopped. The sooner the better.'' Krayt said with a dose of satisfaction.
''I believe I have made some progress in that department as well. As you know, my lord, the murders here on Coruscant started a day after that incident on Raxus Prime. After that there were no sightings of our target on any other system. I believe that he is here on Coruscant and that he is responsible for the murders.'' Maladi said finally.
Krayt's holoimage stood still for a moment. He was deep in thought. ''Good work, Maladi.'' He said finally, ''This is a lot more serious than I though. Come to the Imperial Palace, we must decide carefully what our next move will be.''
She nodded her head in acknowledgement and Krayt's hologram disappeared. Maladi downloaded all the data she had on the case to a datapad with haste and rushed out of the Sith Intelligence headquarters.
Meanwhile, back at the Imperial Palace, Morlish Veed just finished listening to Krayt's conversation with Maladi. A Grand Admiral, the most influencial among the Imperial Moffs and now he was reduced to eavesdropping. He heard footsteps approaching and he quickly turned around and moved away from the Throne room entrance. Then he saw who it was that was approaching. Nyna Calixte, a Moff and former head of the Imperial Intelligence. She lost her job when Krayt took over and the Imperial Intelligence was replaced by Sith Intelligence. Now she was only an admiral in the military and only by rank. In reality, she spent most of her time filing paperwork. The irony was that she was the person through whom the Sith made contact with the Empire.
''Eavesdropping again, Morlish?'' She said as she approached him.
''Ssshhh. Not so loud, Calixte.'' He replied nervously.
''I'm sorry, Morlish, but this is really amusing.'' She said more quietly, but with a mocking smile.
''I'm working for all our benefit, Calixte. Instead of laughing at me, you and the other Moffs should be helping me.'' He hissed.
''Come on now, Morlish. You don't care about the rest of us, you're just angry because Krayt double-crossed you. You wanted to be Emperor, remember?'' She said with a subtle, but mocking tone, ''I, on the other hand, have accepted my fate, so have the rest of the Moffs and so should you. There is no gain in trying to go against the Sith. Unless you're a very powerful Jedi.''
''Funny you should say that.'' Veed countered, ''I just heard something very interesting. Apparently there is some sort of Jedi, or a more powerful Sith Lord killing Krayt's agents.''
''You are sure about that, Morlish? You didn't misinterpret anything?'' She asked, slightly interested.
''Misinterpret? No.'' He said, ''Krayt just finished a conversation with his head of Intelligence and she said that the killer is here. On Coruscant. He killed that brute idiot Stryfe and a number of Krayt's agents.''
''Alright, Morlish. I'm interested. You may actually have something there, now let's figure out how best to use it.''
Maladi was half way to the Imperial Palace by now. Her personal transport was flying on autopilot and she could review the material in more detail, but she wasn't going to get that chance.
''Darth Maladi.'' A dark voice said.
The Devaronian looked around, but saw no one. She was the only person aboard this transport. She lowered her look back to the datapad.
''Maladi. What an interesting name.'' The voice sounded again.
Maladi looked around again and now saw a male figure in the back of the transport. The red hood was covering most of his face, but she noticed that he was wearing a black Vonduun crab armor with a golden hexagonal insignia on the chest. With that ragged red legdress over the armor leggings he looked almost like a wraith.
''W... who are you?'' Maladi asked with apparent fear in her voice.
''I am the future, Maladi and I have come to cleanse my Empire of you usurpers.'' He said.
''What are you going to do to me?'' She asked not even wanting to know the answer.
''Like I said, you have a very interesting name. You know that the root of your name is the word ''disease''? It is a rather fitting name. You so-called Sith Lords are a disease and I am the cure.'' He said rising his head just a little, revealing his eyes.
Maladi was utterly afraid. She thought of igniting her lightsaber and charging at him, but she gave up that idea as suicidal. In reality nothing she could try would work. She looked at his red eyes and knew that she was about to die. She felt a pain through her entire body, then the wooziness started and a few seconds after that she saw a blister appear on her right hand. It wasn't the only one. More and more blisters popped up on various parts of Maladi's body and each of them produced a sharp pain. She fell down on her knees, trying to crawl towards the hooded figure. She tried to beg for her life, but the words wouldn't come out of her mouth. She started to lose breath and just before she exhaled her last breath she looked up to see that the figure was gone. Disappeared. She fell down, dead, with an expression of horror on her face.
''One more down.''
A ship orbited the capital of the Sith Empire. There was an ancient aura about it. Its crew were only one ancient astromech droid and one equally ancient rusty-red assassin droid. The red droid was listening to the transmission between the Sith Emperor and his head of Intelligence. The ship started its descent on Coruscant.
If the droid had a mouth, he would have smiled with satisfaction, but as it is he simply said: ''Statement: There you are. I was correct.''
''Who's the more foolish, the fool, or the fool who follows him?''
It was high noon on Bastion. It was the most beautiful time of the day for Marasiah Fel. The colors of the sky and clouds at noon were one of the few things that took the Princess' mind of this entire situation. Driven away from her own home on Coruscant, her father, the Emperor, now reduced to a leader of a guerrilla force. It was a real shame.
Marasiah stood on the balcony, staring partly at the sky and partly at the city below. She envied the people that lived there. Ordinary people. They don't even feel the impacts of this war. That's what it was in the end, war. Those people live their lives as if everything was normal, they were completely oblivious to the world around them. Marasiah wished she could lead a normal life again, no strings attached, but she couldn't. She was a Fel, the daughter of the Emperor. She had obligations.
The door ot her chambers buzzed. ''Enter.'' Marasiah said, still staring at the sky.
The door opened and a Twi'Lek young woman entered. It was Astraal Vao, sister of the Jedi Shado Vao and a close friend of the Princess. She was wearing the traditional white dress-uniform of the Imperial Mission. She slowly approached the balcony door.
''Are you alright, Princess?'' She asked with genuine concern.
''Yes. It's just... this war and everything.'' Marasiah replied.
''Your father and his Imperial Knights are doing all they can.'' Astraal tried to consolate her.
''My father is doing everything he believes is right, but that doesn't make it so. I know that there are a lot of Imperial Knights who don't agree with my father's choice of tactics and frankly, neither do I.''
''What are you saying, Princess?'' Astraal asked slightly confused.
''I'm saying my father made a mistake when he preserved the Empire and then another one when he allied himself with the Sith. I'm saying that now he doesn't have enough courage to clean up his own mess.'' Marasiah said with resentment.
''Princess Marasiah...'' Astraal was taken by surprise.
''Deep in your heart you too know it's true, Astraal. My father is afraid that if he attacks Coruscant now, the Sith will retaliate against Bastion. He's afraid that he'll die.'' Marasiah said, the resentment growing inside her.
''You aren't planning something on your own, Princess. Are you?'' Astraal asked with a genuine concern for the Princess. The door buzzed again.
''Ah, they are here.'' Marasiah said, ''Would you let them in, Astraal?''
Astraal nodded in acknowledgement and went to the door to greet the guests. The door opened and on the other side stood three Imperial Knights Antares Draco, Sigel Dare and Ganner Krieg. Astraal was utterly confused by all this, but she stepped to the side and gestured the three to enter. Marasiah entered back into her chamber too, closed the balcony door and pulled on the golden satin curtains.
''Astraal, I'm sorry, but I need to discuss something with my guests in private.'' Marasiah politely suggested her to leave.
Astraal took the hint. ''Of course, Princess. If you'll excuse me...'' She said, a quick bow followed and she left the room.
Marasiah now turned to her three guests. She gestured with her hand for them to sit down and they did. She followed suit. Her entire room was reeking of nobility. The walls were painted in mild silver, the furniture dressed with the most expensive fabrics, paintings of famous artists hanging on the walls, but all that meant very little to Marasiah.
''Princess?'' Draco said, breaking her trail of thought and making her refocus on the situation at hand.
''Draco, Sigel, I'm glad you came. Ganner, I didn't know you'd be here too.'' She said semi-formally.
''Draco showed me the data and I think it's worth the risk.'' The man with the long red hair tied in a tail said.
''Good. The more the merrier.'' The Princess said, ''Now, may I see the data?''
''Of course, Princess.'' Draco said and gestured with is head to Sigel who handed the datapad to the Princess.
Marasiah looked at the titles of the three files on the datapad - The Jedi Healer, The Unknown Threat and The murders on Coruscant. She took a moment to quickly read through each of the files while the Imperial Knights sat on the bright red furniture and waited. When she finally finished reading through it she raised her head and her look showed that she was interested.
''This is very intriguing.'' She said finally, ''The Sith attention is focused on these three things and on them only. The fact that they didn't do anything to reestablish their presence on Socorro, or retaliate for our attack proves this.''
''The question is, Princess, what are we going to do? How are we going to use this information?'' Draco said calmly.
''Your father dismissed the idea of attacking Coruscant and the Sith Emperor.'' Sigel said.
''Then we'll have to take matters into our own hands. My father is to stubborn, proud and... afraid. Leave everything to me. Once I get things organized I will inform you so we can work out the details.'' Marasiah said.
''Is there anything we should do?'' Ganner asked.
''Yes. Find out which Imperial Knights would be willing to join us and I'll do the same with the military. Be subtle about it, we don't want my father finding out until there's nothing he can do about it, except help us.''
''Oh no my young Jedi, it is you who are mistaken ... about a great .. many .. things.''
''Queen Jool?'' Cade said, ''I didn't know things got that desperate.''
''Neither did I.'' Blue agreed.
They were sitting at the Ossuary mess hall, well, the improvised mess hall. Cade fixed himself another Norvanian Grog and one for Deliah, too. They were slowly sipping their drinks as Deliah explained the situation to Cade.
''You want me to help you do... what exactly?'' Cade asked smugly, but with slight confusion. He could read her mind, he mastered that Force power long ago, but he didn't do it out of sheer courtesy.
''I want you to go with me to Coruscant and get them.'' She said bluntly.
''And then what?''
''Then come back here. I thought you'd talk to your Jedi buddies and arrange us a temporary stay at your lovely Academy.'' She said with a dose of mockery.
''Uh-huh. And why do you think they'd allow you to stay?'' He asked, ''I'm not sure I have that kind of influence here.''
''Oh, come on, Cade. You know you have.'' Deliah insisted.
''Ahhh, fine.'' He said reluctantly, ''Let's go.''
''Go where, Cade?'' Master Wolf Sazen interrupted.
''To Coruscant. I gotta help my old bounty hunter pals.'' He said.
''You can't leave now, your training is not yet complete. And Coruscant? Have you considered what would happen if the Sith got a hold of you?'' Sazen said with obvious concern.
''The Sith? Who says they'll even know I was there?'' Cade asked with a dose of arrogance.
''Cade, please reconsider.'' Sazen repeated his warning, ''This is not the time to interrupt your training. Besides, that might only be an elaborate trap. They are bounty hunters, Cade.''
''I'm leaving and that's final.'' Cade said, determined to end this conversation, ''When I get them we'll all come back here.''
''Actually, leaving might not be that bad an idea.'' Shado interrupted them all. In his look they could feel that this was somethng serious.
Shado walked closer to the rest of the group and relayed the terrible news he had. His sensors have detected a squadron of Imperial fighters on approach vector to the Ossus Academy.
''I have no idea how they found us, but they are here and they are heading right for us. There's still enough time to escape unnoticed.'' Shado suggested.
''Damn.'' Deliah said, ''This is all my fault.''
''What do you mean?'' Sazen asked as calmly as he could.
''Before I came here, I went to Yavin. I ran into a Sith patrol there. I... I thought I'd lost them, but they must have followed me.'' She said with sadness and guilt in her voice.
''We better hury, if we're going to get out of here.'' Sazen said after a minute of complete silence.
They ran toward the courtyard and their ships. On the way they alerted the other two Jedi that were hiding at the Academy with them, one of them was Master Hosk Tre'lyis, the Jedi who brought Cade here in the first place, though he couldn't have done it without the influence of Luke Skywalker's Force spirit. When they arrived to the courtyard they could already see the squadron of Imperial fighters approaching. They all hurried into the large transport freighter and lifted off. Safe at last. Or at least that's what they all thought for a moment, but then they heard a thumping sound and the ship vibrated. They were being shot at. Cade rushed to the storage bay. He felt he had to do something.
''Where the Kessel are you going, Cade?'' Blue shouted from behind.
''There's an X-Wing fighter in the storage bay. As soon as we leave Ossus' orbit I'm heading out to try to do something about those fighters chasing us.''
''Are you nuts? There's a whole squadron behind us.'' She shouted again.
''A squadron of five ships. I can take them.'' He replied, his smile radiating with confidence.
''Just be careful not to repeat what happened the last time you did this.'' Shado shouted from behind.
''Don't worry, I'm a much better pilot now.'' Cade put on another smug smile and left for the storage bay.
The ship vibrated from the hits. The TIE's were right behind them and they weren't planning on letting them go. After about five minutes of defying the planet's gravity while being shot from behind the transport freighter managed to break free of Ossus' orbit. The pursuing TIE's sped up and a storm of red laser fire came from their direction. The transport's shields were holding, but they weren't going to hold forever.
The pursuers paused and just before they launched another salvo, an X-83 twintail fighter flew out of the larger ship and spat blue laser fire all over the attackers. Two pursuing ships exploded in a blaze of orange flames and smoke while the remaining three took evasive maneuvers and focused their attention on the attacking fighter. They broke formation and divided. One TIE was trying to get Cade's attention while the other two were attempting to sneak up from behind. They had no idea that they were fighting a Jedi. Cade felt their thoughts through the Force and quickly fired upon the ship in front of him after which he pulled his ship up vertically and arced back to get behind the other two ships while the third exploded from the hit. The other two were going too fast and didn't even notice what Cade had done until it was too late. Cade opened fire from behind and the two ships exploded, leaving only small bits of debris. It was over. They were safe again.
The storage bay doors closed behind the X-83 and Cade jumped out of the fighter to see Deliah and Sazen waiting.
''Nice job.'' Deliah said with a smile.
''Thanks. What now?'' Cade asked as he caught his breath.
''Well, I suppose we might as well go to Coruscant to get those friends of yours.'' Sazen said, ''Maybe once we meet up, we'll be able to help each other.''
''Examine all obstacles carefully. With a little ingenuity, they can often be turned into levers.''
Grand Admiral Thrawn
''Damn it.'' Marasiah cursed after hearing the news.
It was evening. Both Marasiah and the three Imperial Knights did their tasks, but the results weren't satisfying. It is amazing with what speed they all managed to finish it, beside their usual obligations.
''So that's it?'' Marasiah spoke a moment later.
''We're on our own.'' Sigel confirmed with equal disappointment.
''I can't believe it.'' Marasiah said, ''Not one soldier and not one Imperial Knight is willing to help us.''
''They blindly trust in your fathers tactics.'' Draco explained as calmly as possible.
''They have agreed though to keep our proposition to themselves.'' Ganner added, trying to lighten up the atmosphere.
''Meaning they won't report it to my father. Well, that's something.'' The Princess said grimly.
''The only question left is what now?'' Draco pointed out.
''If you three are willing, the four of us could go to Coruscant and perform the mission ourselves.'' Marasiah suggested with some reservation.
''I say we do it. Even if we fail, we will die with the satisfaction that we did all we could.'' Sigel almost shouted out.
''And we will take as many Sith as we can with us.'' Ganner Krieg eagerly agreed.
''We are with you, Princess.'' Draco confirmed calmly.
''Excellent. Meet me on the landing pad tonight at midnight. It's when the guards' shifts change. A perfect moment for us to sneak out.'' Marasiah said.
The three nodded in agreement, said goodbye and left to finish their regular duties. There was a lot to do and there wasn't much time to do it.
The first thing Marasiah did was prepare her own lightsaber. She too was a trained Knight after all. As all Imperial Knights Marasiah too carried a silver bladed lightsaber. The identical lightsabers represented a symbol of loyalty to the Emperor and a symbol of the Emperor's greatness, the Emperor always came first. Always, except for this time. Now the galaxy came first. It was rather ironical, but it was necessary. Marasiah only hoped that, when her father eventually realizes what they had done, he will gather the courage and reason to bring his fleet to Coruscant and help them.
Sigel Dare spent the few hours she had burried in paperwork. Reports, plans, orders, it all had to be signed, approved and filed. A very unusual work for an Imperial Knight. What little time she had left after that she spent in her room. She didn't have much to bring with her. Her lightsaber, the Imperial Knight uniform she was wearing and a pair of casual clothes, for the needs of subterfuge.
Ganner Krieg was in his office. Although he said he was with them, he didn't completely agree with what they were planning, but Antares was his friend and the Princess' safety was his duty, as it was the duty of any other Imperial Knight. He would be there for them and, if needed, give his life in the process.
Antares Draco, the leader of the Imperial Knights, the most trusted and most devoted of them all. He would obey the Emperor's wishes and give his life for the Emperor without regret, but now he was about to do something that completely opposed his convictions. He would go against the Emperor's wishes. It was betrayal, but it was for the good of the galaxy and for the good of Fel's Empire. This is what Draco told himself during his meditation in these few hours. It was almost time to go. Draco said a quick prayer for his other three companions and another for ther Emperor. He stood up, took his lightsaber and attached it to his belt, then he took his small bag and departed.
Midnight came. The sun disappeared over the horizon and the sky changed its color from orange-yellow to dark blue. Marasiah was waiting at the ship's entry ramp. She kept herself busy in the last few hours by fitting a cloaking generator aboard her private transport shuttle. The cloaking shield had its flaws, as it was never fully developed. It blocked sensor signals from penetrating it from the outside, but unlike the older versions it didn't block out the signal of the sensors from the ship it was installed on. The downside was that the generator could work for only ten minutes, then it would shutdown and recharge, which took another ten minutes.
The three Imperial Knights arrived as was agreed. Each of them in their full uniform and each of them carrying a small bag, presumably with some inconspicuous clothes. Marasiah waved to them and they quickly ran to the shuttle.
''Let's go.'' She said, ''We only have a few minutes to leave the planet undetected.''
The three nodded and entered the shuttle. The ramp closed behind them and the shuttle lifted off with the cloaking generator activated. Exactly ten minutes later they left Bastion's orbit, the cloaking generator shut itself down and the shuttle quickly distanced itself from the planet's orbital sensors.
''Course set for Coruscant.'' Sigel reported and the shuttle jumped into hyperspace.
''You have paid the price for your lack of vision.''
The reign of the Sith could be felt in Coruscant's air. The people tried to live their lives, but the grip of opression tightened around them. But the Sith were the least of Rav's and Syn's concerns. It took them long enough to get here, evading every Sith and Imperial patrol. It took them too long and a day more, but they were here now and it was time to pay Queen Jool a visit.
The Hutt operated her dealings from a sleazy cantina named Rik's. It was located in the lower city levels, on the border of the middle class residential areas between the part of the planet where only the poorest citizens dwelled. A perfect place to get lost. The guest list consisted of many kinds of lowlives, from bounty hunters to spies, from smugglers to spice dealers. Every illegal business had its representative here.
The air inside wasn't very clean, it reeked of various cigars and alcocholic beverages. It was the first thing Jariah Syn and Rav noticed when they entered the place. The cantina itself had two sabacc tables, one jhabacc table for the wealthier scum, three dejarik tables and four divot tables. It also had a dance show, a common accessory of any self-respecting club owner, with young dancer girls that inclided Twi'Leks, Zeltrons and a few Zabraks. The most important part about the danceshow was that the services of dancers extended beyond simple dancing. The cantina also had a number of ordinary tables for those who came only for the drinks.
Queen Jool lived in a swamp beneath the cantina, but this time she decided to go up and greet her two guests in an area more suitable to them. The one-legged Feeorin and his human companion spotted the Hutt in the back of the gambling area.
(''Ah Rav, you finally arrived.'') Jool greeted in Huttese.
''I'm sorry for the delay. We had to make sure that no one was following us.'' Rav replied politely.
(''Certainly. We wouldn't want any unwelcome visitors here.'') The green skinned Hutt seemed to agree, (''Now, let's talk business.'')
''That's why we're here.'' Rav replied. He appreciated the direct approach.
While Rav did the talking, Syn did the watching. He spotted two interesting characters in the cantina. One of them was a crude-looking Gotal male who was trying his best to inconspicuously watch the two of them. ''I know I saw that face somewhere.'' Syn thought to himself, ''But where?'' Something didn't feel right. And then he recognized the Gotal.
''Rav, take a look to your left.'' Syn whispered. Rav heard him perfectly and did a casual glance at the told direction.
''Recognize him? It's Attatag Gosem, the Sith spy.'' Syn whispered again. Rav did a slight, almost unnoticable nod in confimation.
''Now take a look to your right. See that guy?'' Syn asked. Rav glanced to the right and saw who Syn was referring to.
That other interesting character he spotted. He was barely visible in the crowd, but they both recognized the red hood and the golden hexagonal insignia on the chest of his Vonduun crab armor from numerous Sith bounty posts. The figure didn't even look at them, he was looking straight at Queen Jool. This was all going from bad to worse.
Jool realized that the game was over. The Hutt signaled her men and the Gotal spy and he and four more thugs, two Togorians, a Wookie and a Weequay, converged on Rav and Syn with blasters pointed straight at them.
(''I hoped to do this quietly, but this will have to do.'') Jool said as her cybernetic eye focused on Rav.
''What's this all about, Jool?'' Rav asked.
(''Believe it, or not the Sith have posted a handsome bounty for your heads. Too bad that the Zeltron isn't here with you, but I suppose the two of you will do just as well.'') Jool said, not even trying to hide the satisfaction in her voice.
''The Zeltron. Deliah. Where the Kessel is she?'' Rav wondered.
(''Silent, are you, Rav?'') Jool gloated, (''Nothing to say?'')
''Actually I have a proposition for you.'' Syn jumped in, ''See that guy over to the right? The one with the red hood?'' He said quietly. Jool recognized him from the Sith bounty posts, ''Wouldn't you rather collect the bounty on his head? Let us go and get the bigger prize, Jool. Otherwise this could all get messy and you probably won't get a second chance at him.'' Syn goaded the Hutt. He didn't believe for a second that Jool would just let them go, but he had to stall somehow until he or Rav figured something out.
''Let them go.'' Attatag spoke up, ''Lord Krayt will pay you an enormous fee if you can get that man.'' He said referring to the hooded figure.
Jool signaled her thugs and they started to converge on the seemingly unsuspecting figure. He suddenly spotted them and they drew their blasters in order to shoot. They knew what happened to all the other bounty hunters who moved against this guy and they weren't taking any chances.
Rav and Syn slowly moved toward the exit and then a flash of red laser fire came from that direction hitting one of Jool's thugs. The remaining three turned around and started shooting at Rav and Syn and everyone else that got in the way. All hell broke loose at Rik's. Rav and Syn hit the floor and noticed three more shots of red laser fire coming from the entrance, each shot hitting and killing one of the thugs. Syn glanced at the entrance and, just for a second, saw a rusty-red droid with a laser rifle, but before he had a chance to take a good look at it, the droid fled. He then took a look at the direction the hooded figure was and noticed that he too had disappeared. He and Rav rose up to their feet and noticed Attatag pointing his blaster at them again and two more of Jools thugs doing the same.
''Looks like we'll have to settle for the two of you after all.'' The Gotal spoke.
''No, you won't!'' A female voice came from the cantina entrance, followed by a white laser shot straight at Attatag. Rav and Syn turned to see Deliah and Cade there. So she made it.
''What took you so long?'' Syn asked, trying to make a joke.
Deliah answered by smiling and firing a shot at one of the remaining two of Jool's thugs. Cade fired a shot at the other one and seconds later there were two more corpses next to Attatag's. Rav then turned to Jool, anger sparking from his one good eye.
''You made a bad move, Jool.'' Rav told the Hutt, ''And it will be your last.'' He raised his mechanical leg and pointed it towards her.
(''Rav, what are you doing?'') The Hutt panicked, (''Wait a minute! We can work something out, we can'')
The Hutt didn't get to finish her sentence. A flash of light came out of the small hole on the center of the sole of the mechanical foot and it hit the Hutt straight in the heart. Queen Jool, the crimelord of Coruscant was dead.
''Let's go.'' Rav ordered.
''You and I have a lot to talk about, Cade.'' Syn hissed out as he passed Cade and went toward the entrance.
''Sure, Syn, but it'll wait until we're somewhere safer.'' Cade replied with a smug smile.
''Yeah, we don't want that red droid to return.'' Rav said.
''You saw him too?'' Deliah said with a hint of surprise.
''When you understand a species' art, you understand that species.''
Grand Admiral Thrawn
Two hours later, that same day. In the center of his master-ship, sitting connected to the Force-amplifying neural interface in the center of the dim-lighted circular command room was Ralik. The red hood over his head still hiding most of his face and the golden hexagonal insignia with the two lines on its sides shining from the chamber lights.
He remembered the day he returned to the Dark Planet, his one last visit to that place. The specter of his unnamed master was waiting in the compound's Throne room, as always.
''You summoned, master?'' He said then.
''Yes, Ralik. Your time is approaching. Your destiny will soon be fulfilled, but I have one last task for you. One last thing you must do for me.'' The dark figure whispered.
''What is it, master?'' Ralik asked.
''Listen carefully, for this is my final lesson to you.'' The figure whispered, ''Concentrate on me. Feel the Force in my spirit.''
''I feel it, master.'' Ralik said a few seconds later.
''Good. Now hold out your arms and draw out the Force from me and into you.'' The figure whispered, ''Once you do this your power will grow vastly. Your last mission for me is to go to planets that have places which are strong in the Force, places like the tombs of Jedi and Sith and to take the Force energy from those places. After you have finished, you will be so powerful that no one will be able to stop you.''
Ralik obeyed his master that one last time and the dark specter turned into smoke and the smoke appeared to enter Ralik's palms. Ralik felt his power in the Force growing, his senses sharpening. His master had given him a unique farewell present. He taught him how to absorb residual Force power.
Ralik remembered how he left the Dark Planet for good and traveled from one planet to another, absorbing Force energy from certain locatons and enlarging his power. He fulfilled that task while his army and fleet were growing and now, after elaborate subterfuge and intimidation tactics the time has come to take his prize.
''You summoned me, Lord Ralik?'' The black skinned Lenari officer respectfully asked when he entered the command chamber of the master-ship.
''Yes, Faren. The time has come. In exactly two hours I want you to order our ships to attack.'' Ralik said coldly. Arrogance and confidence echoing in his voice.
''Yes, my lord.'' The black skinned alien said, bowed and left the room.
Meanwhile, back on Coruscant Darth Krayt has summoned the Moffs to an urgent meeting. The six Moffs, headed by Morlish Veed answered the call with no idea whatsoever what this was all about. They all heard the rumours, read the reports, but was this all truly because of some killer?
''The Moffs answer your call, Emperor.'' The six said after a bow.
''Moffs of the Empire, I am sure that you have heard all about the recent deaths of many of my followers, including my head of Sith Intelligence, Darth Maladi.'' Krayt started.
''Yes, my lord.'' Veed confirmed.
''I have called you here because I am in need of your services. I am declaring a quarantine over Coruscant. I want you to fly to our orbital spaceport and position our fleet around the planet. No ship will be allowed to leave Coruscant until this threat has been eliminated. If any ship wishes to land you will inform them of the status and if they still wish to land you will act according to standard procedure.''
''Yes, my lord.'' Veed answered for all of them.
''Grand Admiral Morlish Veed, you will be leading our fleet, the rest of you will work according to Admiral Veed's orders. Go now and execute my will!'' Krayt said and with those words the meeting was over, the Moffs bowed once again and departed.
''Did you hear that, Calixte?'' Veed said to the woman minutes after they left the Imperial Palace.
''Yes. Krayt's losing it, this may be our chance, if we play the cards right.'' The woman answered with a wicked smile.
It took them an hour to position the fleet, but when that hour passed the network of Pellaeon-class Star Destroyers, named in honor of Grand Admiral Gilad Pellaeon who once served under the infamous Grand Admiral Thrawn and later became one of the most valuable officers of the Galactic Alliance, was so tight that not even a fly could pass through it.
''This is Grand Admiral Morlish Veed to all ships: as of this moment the quarantine is in effect. No ships are allowed to leave the planet. If any ship attempts to break through you will respond with deadly force.'' Veed announced from his flagship, the Pellaeon-class Super Star Destroyer Vindicator.
On the far end of the system a ship left hyperspace. It was the shuttle of Marasiah Fel. She and her three allies have arrived. The huge fleet of Star Destroyers struck terror into the four and as they remembered why they were here, the courage they needed slowly returned.
''We are close enough, activate the cloaking generator and set course for Coruscant's surface.'' Marasiah ordered and in just a few seconds the shuttle disappeared from sight and sped up past the terrifying fleet.
''All those Star Destroyers. What do you think is happening here?'' Draco asked.
''I don't know, but I'm sure we can find out. Tap into their comm frequency.'' She ordered and Sigel, who was sitting in the copilot's seat complied.
''...as of this moment the quarantine is in effect. No ships are allowed to leave the planet. If any ship attempts to break through you will respond with deadly force.'' The audio message sounded through the comm speakers.
''Looks like we've arrived just in time. Things have definitely went overboard around here.'' Ganner noticed.
''So it begins.''
''At an end your rule is... and not short enough it was.''
Ralik stood a few meters away from the entrance to the Imperial Palace. The structure was indeed magnificent. The walls were part glass and part permacrete with extraodinary giant statues and murals over them. A pure work of art. But it was time to redecorate.
The two Sith guards didn't even know what hit them when they flew to the wall behind them, hitting their heads and losing consciousness. Ralik simply walked into the palace, with almost no effort, holding his amphistaff in his right hand, red hood over the head, red clothing over the legs and the golden hexagonal insignia shining on his chest.
''I sense an intruder inside the palace.'' Krayt said to his two Hands, ''Alert the palace security, but the two of you stay here. You too, Wyyrlok.''
''Yes, lord Krayt.'' Nihl and Talon obeyed. Wyyrlok nodded his head silently.
Ralik slowly walked across the palace corridors completely calm and relaxed. In a little less than an hour his fleet will attack and by then he will have already become Emperor. His calmness was interrupted by a swarm of Sith warriors that rushed at him from the stairway of the huge chamber in front of him. Their warcries echoed between the chamber walls as they rushed blindly toward their doom, for Ralik wasn't even the least concerned by them. He simply stood there and with his one thought the horde of Sith warriors started falling down instantly. Some in the middle of a jump, others in the middle of a warcry, but five seconds later the room wasn't filled with the horde of angry Sith warriors anymore, it was filled with corpses.
''How patethic.'' Ralik thought as he continued his walk to the Throne room of the Imperial Palace. The Throne room was three floors up and Ralik was determined to cleanse his palace of the Sith usurpers before he got to the main event. The ground floor was clean but there were still Sith left to kill before he reached the Throne room.
Ralik reached the first floor after taking the steps from which the Sith horde came. Unlike the ground floor it was really quiet. Like nobody was here. Ralik continued down the central corridor and after he made about five steps a door closed behind him and a second later another door came out of the walls two meters ahead and closed. ''Do they really think this can stop me?'' He thought. He stretched his mind with the Force and the door in front of him broke into two very large pieces and flew about a meter forward before falling to the floor.
Ralik calmly stepped over the broken pieces and went on his way. The next corridor was a little wider than the last one and had a lot more lights. Ralik didn't sense any Sith waiting in ambush, but he was sure that this corridor had some kind of defense. He was right. After making two steps the door closed behind him again and automated laser turrets emerged from the ceiling. Five on the left and five on the right. Ralik smiled. The turrets started firing and Ralik simply continued to walk calmly across the room, using the Force to guide his right hand and swiftly deflect every single bolt of red laser fire with his amphistaff. When he reached the opposite end of the corridor he turned around and crushed all the turrets with the Force.
''We have reports that the intruder is breaking hrough our defenses, my lord.'' Wyyrlok said, ''Perhaps we should use the emergency exit and leave the palace.''
''No. There will be no retreat.'' Krayt said with calmness and confidence.
The second floor was a little more lively. This time the Sith warriors tried to surprise him by attacking from behind, but they all ran into Ralik's amphistaff, or were killed by his mind. After a few corridors the attacks stopped. ''Could it be that they realized who they're up against?'' Ralik wondered.
His question was about to be answered. He entered a corridor that was at least twenty meters long and completely dark. The only visible light was coming from the next corridor. Ralik entered the dark corridor and continued his calm walk. Nothing happened. Ralik crossed the first half of the corridor without so much of a hint of an incident, but then as he crossed the middle a small sharp object flew right beside his head. ''Well, this ought to be interesting.'' Ralik used the Force to amplify his sight and scout the rest of the corridor carefully, but he didn't see anyone. He tuned his senses and continued forward. Two steps later another sharp object flew towards him, but thanks to the Force Ralik managed to evade it. He scouted the room once again and once again saw nobody. He managed to make five more steps when two more objects flew at him. He evaded the first and caught the second one. It was a small disk with razor-sharp edges. A very sophisticated weapon. He dropped it on the floor and before he took another step three more disk-blades flew towards him from various directions. He ducked, then flipped off the left wall and finally leaned to the right to evade all three. ''I'm getting tired of this.'' He looked across the rest of the corridor more carefully and in one corner he noticed a pair of barely visible red eyes. ''A Defel. No wonder I didn't see it at first. Those things are almost invisible in normal light or darkness, they can only be seen under ultraviolet light.'' Ralik focused on the red eyes and followed them as they moved from one wall to the next, from the floor to the ceiling and vice versa. Ralik picked up his pace and began to gain on his shadowy attacker. The disk-blades continued to fly at him in pairs and he avoided them with little trouble. He was now barely two meters apart from the Defel. Still focused on the red eyes he threw his amphistaff in their direction with such strength that the Defel didn't even see it coming before it was too late. Ralik approached the dead Wraith and pulled out his amphistaff out of the corpse.
''Lord Krayt, the intruder is almost here.'' Wyyrlok reported.
''Good. I look forward to meeting this one that has dared defy my Order and kill my followers.'' Krayt replied, still calmly sitting on his throne.
And then a figure appeared at the entrance to the Throne room as the two guards next to it fell down dead. The figure looked like a wraith with that red hood over the head and the red clothing over the armored legs, but that insignia on the chest was the most mysterious thing of all. The figure made a few more steps toward the throne.
''So you are the one that has been causing me trouble ever since Abregado-rae.'' Krayt said.
''I have come for you, Darth Krayt. I have come to take what is mine.'' Ralik said righteously.
''I sense great power in you, but you are a fool if you think to stand against me.'' Krayt warned.
''You are the fool here, Krayt.'' Ralik said the name with disgust, ''Surrender the throne to me and I will give you a quick death.''
Krayt didn't answer. Instead he turned to his two Hands, Darth Talon and Darth Nihl. They took the hint and charged toward the hooded figure. The Twi'Lek, Darth Talon was faster, she ran with a fury that seemed unstoppable, but then, three meters apart from the hooded figure she was tossed to the left with a force and a speed so huge that it couldn't be described. ''Fly, Talon.'' Ralik thought. With enormous speed she hit the almost impregnable glass wall, falling down and leaving a small crack and a bloody stain on the glass.
Nihl saw it, but didn't care, he thought he can use the opportunity to kill the intruder before he notices him. The Nagai warrior was wrong. He jumped toward Ralik, holding his lightstaff, a unique lightsaber with a long staff for a handle, like a warrior holds a spear before throwing it. He was just about to throw the lightstaff at Ralik when he was suddenly paralyzed in mid-air. He struggled to break free, but it was in vain. He was trapped in mid-air in that throwing stance.
''Darth Nihl.'' Ralik said in that same voice he used when he addressed Maladi, Stryfe and every other of his Sith victims, ''You name yourself ''nothingness'', I assume in respect for your master. You have no idea what nothingness is, but I will teach you. Since your name is ''nothing'', it is fitting that you should become nothing.''
Nihl listened carefully to what Ralik said, but had no idea what he meant until it happened. Nihl's body, along with his lightstaff was starting to disintegrate and a few seconds later he was no more. He wasn't even able to scream.
Wyyrlok, Krayt's second in command was terrified, but he knew what his duty was. He ignited his lightsaber and charged toward Ralik. Krayt just sat on his throne and watched.
''Darth Wyyrlok, false sorcerer. You fancy yourself a warlock. Your name is meaningless and thus your death will be meaningless as well!'' Ralik spoke loud enough for both Wyyrlok and Krayt to hear.
The Chagrian charged toward Ralik with his lightsaber drawn and ready and then unexpectedly he tripped, his lightsaber slipped out of his hand and into the air. He fell down on his stomach and just as he turned on his back his own lightsaber fell down and stabbed him right through the heart. And so the last of Darth Krayt's guards was dead.
Ralik approached the throne where Krayt sat and said: ''All that is yours is rightfully mine.'' He spoke with huge bitterness.
Krayt stood up from the throne and replied with confidence: ''You may have killed my servants, but you are no match for me. I have lived through a century and I will not let some juiced up maggot prevent me from creating order!'' Krayt held out his arms and his two lightsabers flew from his back to his hands and ignited.
''You are a bigger fool than I thought.'' Ralik replied, ''You pride yourself with your long life, call yourself Krayt, as the giant dragon of Tatooine, but you are the maggot. You hide behind that patethic excuse for a Vonduun crab armor, but I see right through you.''
''What are you talking about?'' Krayt insisted.
''You call yourself a Sith, you dress your troops in Yuuzhan Vong armor, but you are neither. You are a mere thief. It is an insult to the Yuuzhan Vong.'' Ralik pulled the hood back to reveal his face, ''I am the one true master. I have survived for more than a century and unlike you I have done so thanks to the Force, not some stasis technology.''
Krayt recognized the Yuuzhan Vong features on Ralik's face. ''So, you are some halfbreed Vong that got angry because his side lost the war and now that you picked up some skills in the Force you think you can rule the galaxy.'' Krayt tried to aggravate his opponent.
Ralik simply used the Force to turn Krayt's two lightsabers into dust. ''I hope this reassured you of my power. Remember, I know who you really are.'' Ralik said, ''A few years before his death Luke Skywalker started having visions of a shadowy figure that threatened his family. He first thought that shadowy figure was the Dark Lady Lumiya, then he thought it was my master, but it was me all along. I said I knew you and indeed I do... Jacen Solo.'' Krayt's face froze, ''I know that you did all this simply to protect the galaxy, but your destiny was simply to prepare the galaxy for me. Nothing more. It is my destiny to rule it and spread the True Teachings, erasing all Jedi and Sith from the face of existence, including your cousin Cade Skywalker. He was the healer you sought, you know. Your purpose is fulfilled, Solo, there is no need for you to live anymore.''
Krayt suddenly felt a sharp pain spreading throughout his body, he felt himself weakening.
''It is the disease inside you, I am helping it spread. It will all be over soon.'' Ralik said as the Sith Emperor fell down and slowly died, his helmet hiding an expression of unspeakable horror on his face.
''You are very clever,Commander. Someday that cleverness will turn against you.''
After a long run through Lower Coruscant, Cade and his three bounty hunter friends returned to their shuttle back in the Space Traffic quarter. Syn was still frowning at Cade, but Rav was more than glad that he and Deliah showed up when they did. Deliah was just glad that she and Cade found the other two alive and that they arrived in time to keep them that way. As the four approached the shuttle Master Sazen came down the ramp to greet them.
''More Jedi.'' Syn mumbled, ''How many of them did you bring along, Deliah?''
''Can it, Syn.'' She snapped, ''If it weren't for Cade you'd most likely be dead right now.''
Syn mumbled something unintelligible and after another angry look from Deliah he was quiet. Master Sazen had a serious expression on his face. Cade knew this wasn't going to be a pleasant talk.
''Greetings, Master Jedi.'' Rav politely said to the Zabrak, ''I thank you for taking the time to come to our assistance.''
''I only hope that when the time comes you will be able to come to ours.'' Sazen replied.
Rav slowly nodded with a slight and devious smile. He knew that this Jedi didn't trust him and he didn't care. As far as Rav was concerned that was smart thinking. If he were a Jedi he would act in the exact same way.
''What's going on, Sazen?'' Cade asked finally, ''Your face gives you away, what's wrong?''
''I'm... not sure. I feel a great disturbance in the Force. An unknown darkness is rising and if we do not act, it will consume us all.'' The Jedi Master replied with no pleasure in doing so.
''What does that mean?'' Syn asked, ''Are the Sith on to us? I wish you Jedi could for once speak clearly.''
''I know why you fear us and why you hate us.'' Sazen replied, ''But your fear is unfounded, I assure you and I apologize for not being more clear, but I really don't know the exact proportions of what I felt.''
''Does it perhaps have anything to do with that?'' Deliah asked pointing at the sky. The rest of them looked up and saw an armada of Pellaeon-class Star Destroyers covering most of the sky around the planet.
''The Destroyer fleet has been there for almost an hour, a notification was given. I'm surprised you didn't hear it, Coruscant is under quarantine.'' Sazen explained, ''No ships are allowed to leave the planet.''
''Well isn't this just peachy?'' Syn frowned.
''Yeah...'' Cade wanted to say something, but his trail of thought was interrupted by four persons walking out of a ship not ten meters away from theirs, one of them looked awfuly familiar, ''Look.'' He said to the others, ''Over there. Isn't that Marasiah Fel?''
''The Princess? What is she doing here?'' Rav wondered.
''No idea, why don't we ask her?'' Cade suggested.
''Sure, but you might wanna watch out for the three Imperial Knights she brought along, or couldn't you guess who her companions are?'' Syn warned.
''I think she saw us too.'' Deliah noticed, ''They seem to be coming this way.''
It was indeed Marasiah, along with Sigel Dare, Ganner Krieg and Antares Draco and yes, she had noticed the Jedi and their companions. ''What the blazes are they doing here?'' She thought.
''Are you sure this is wise, Princess?'' Draco asked quietly.
''Yes. If there's any chance of them helping us, we better take it.'' Marasiah replied, ''Besides, I've already met some of them.'' Sigel and Krieg simply nodded in agreement.
''Princess Marasiah Fel.'' Sazen greeted her, ''What brings you to the Capital?''
''I'm here to return the galaxy under the rule of the Fel dynasty.'' She replied, ''How about you, Master Jedi?''
''A similar reason.'' Sazen said, ''The only difference is that it involves a reestablishment of the Republic and the destruction of the Sith.''
''That was some quick thinking, Sazen. Were you planning on letting the rest of us in on your little scheme?'' Cade sent a thought to Sazen.
''We have little choice left, Cade. As a Skywalker you of all people should support me.'' Sazen sent back his reply in another thought.
''A Skywalker? Now that's interesting.'' Marasiah interrupted them. She allowed herself a slight enjoyment in seeing the look on their faces when they realized that she heard every word they telepathically sent to each other, ''You never did reveal your last name when we met back on Socorro six months ago.'' Marasiah said.
''I like your style, Princess.'' Cade said smugly, ''When you wanna know something you just eavesdrop on the conversation. Kind of like me.''
''I'm nothing like you.'' She said with resentment, ''Now, to get back to the matter at hand the most important question is how will we deal with the Sith. We can work on the details of the next form of government if we get out of this one alive.''
''Agreed.'' Sazen said, ''We need a smart plan. Darth Krayt and his Sith are not to be underestimated.''
''My first question is are there any more Jedi, besides the two of you?'' Marasiah asked and noticed a Twi'Lek and a Bothan in Jedi robes emerge from the shuttle. It was Shado Vao and Hosk Tre'lyis, ''Never mind, so there's four of you and these three...''
''Bounty hunters.'' Rav enlightened her proudly.
''I know, I have met Skywalker and these two before.'' She said pointing at Deliah and Syn, ''Now, let's work on the plan. As you said...'' She addressed Sazen, ''the Sith are not to be underestimated.''
''The time has come.'' The two hours since Ralik gave the order to the Lenari officer have passed. Grand Admiral Morlish Veed was standing on the bridge of his Pellaeon-class Super Star Destoryer flagship Vindicator, looking through the bridge viewport when his first officer came.
''Grand Admiral, our sensors are detecting a huge armada of ships emerging near our position.'' The officer said.
Veed looked at the viewport and saw a fleet of black spherical ships materializing from out of nowhere, small orange-yellow lights glowed from the viewports of the ships' many decks. ''Inform the rest of the fleet and prepare for battle, I doubt a fleet this size is here for a social call.''
The events that were playing out in Coruscant's orbit couldn't be seen from the surface at this point, but it was of no consequence. What happened next made every being on the planet painfully aware of the situation. Every single comercial screen on the planet changed into a picture of a strange hexagonal insignia with a line on each side shaped like the number one and its mirror image. Every sound message was silent and a few seconds later a sinister voice replaced it. The voice relayed a completely new and terrifying message. It wasn't heard only on Coruscant, it was heard on every planet in the Sith Empire.
''Residents of the galaxy, I hereby inform you that the days of the Sith Empire are over. The days of my Empire have arrived. I am Lord Ralik, master of the True Teachings and I say to you: submit or die. The True Teachings will spread across the galaxy and any who dare oppose us will be swept away like little flakes of dust!''
Cade noticed a strange expression on Sazen's face when he heard the announcement. It was like he knew this was going to happen. This must have been the darkness he was talking about.
''Sazen, is there something you want to tell us?'' Cade asked his master.
''The son of Skywalker must not become a Jedi''
''I am sorry father, but you didn't listen so I took matters into my own hands. I have gone to Coruscant to retake the galaxy from the Sith. Don't worry, Draco, Sigel and Krieg are here to protect me. Goodbye, father. Wish me luck.''
The holorecording ended and Roan Fel sat on his throne on Bastion, as if he were paralyzed. He couldn't believe his eyes, or his ears. ''Mobilize our fleet.'' He ordered finally, ''We go to Coruscant.'' He barely pronounced it. His only hope was that Marasiah was still alive.
Ralik pulled his hood back on and took a look around the Throne room. Next to him a dried and already half-decomposed corpse of Darth Krayt lay and near the entrance to the Throne room, at the base of the left glass wall lay Darth Talon.
''Awaken.'' She heard the voice saying. She opened her eyes to see her former master slain and a dark and hooded figure standing next to his corpse. Looking at her. She rose slowly, trying not to make a move that would provoke the figure.
''Approach.'' She heard him say. She obeyed. Slowly the Twi'Lek walked to the base of the throne.
''What is your name?'' Ralik asked her.
''I am Darth Talon, Hand of Darth Krayt. I am a Sith warrior.'' She replied.
''I asked for your real name.'' Ralik smiled deviously, ''You think that having a ''Darth'' in your name makes you a Lord of the Sith? You are mistaken.''
''I have no other name, but the one my master gave me.'' The Twi'Lek said with confusion.
''Yes you do, you have only forgotten it. Become my apprentice and learn what it means to be a true master of the Force, what it means to wield true power. Learn the way of the True Teachings and I will restore your true name to you.'' He proposed with a righteous tone.
''I submit... master.'' The Twi'Lek said, ''I wish to learn the way of the True Teachings.''
''Good. Then remember your true name.'' Ralik said with dark satisfaction.
''Ryleena.'' The word echoed in her mind. ''My name is Ryleena and I submit to your will, master.''
''Good. I am pleased. Stay sharp, my apprentice. Soon we will have company and you will get the chance to prove your worth. Think of it as your... first test.'' Ralik said with a grim smile.
Meanwhile, back on the landing pad the conversation went on. Sazen still had that look of a man who knew more than he was sharing with the class, but he was about to explain everything. The circumstances demanded it. This was no time for secrets.
''Well, Sazen?'' Cade asked suspiciously.
''It's something your father, Kol, said. Something that was passed on to him by his father, Ben, your grandfather and to him by your famous great-grandfather, Luke Skywalker.''
''What was it?'' Cade was interested and so were the rest of them.
''In the last years of his life Luke Skywalker was visited by two very interesting individuals. Two droids to be exact, ancient droids.'' Sazen started to explain.
''How ancient?'' Cade asked.
''Four thousand years. They once belonged to a famous Jedi who fought and defeated a great and dark foe. They said that their master predicted that in the far future that darkness will rise again and that he left them to stop it.'' Sazen said.
''Two droids? You're kidding me?'' Cade said. The others just listened to the story.
''Yes. An astromech droid and a rusty-red assassin droid with a rather strange personality.'' Sazen confirmed.
''That must be the droid we saw at Rik's, the one that killed Jool's thugs after they went for that hooded guy.'' Deliah pointed out.
''You've seen the droid and the figure? Now I am certain that the prophecy is fulfilling. This Ralik must be the threat the droids were talking about and it is imperative that we stop him.'' Sazen said with a sense of dread.
Marasiah and the three Imperial Knights listened to the entire story. They weren't entirely convinced, but they admitted that the situation was very serious and that it had to be dealt with.
''What's our next move?'' was all Marasiah could say.
''We go to the Imperial Palace.'' Cade said, ''All of us. That's our safest bet. We can't trust some ancient droid. From what we saw he was protecting the guy we're up against.''
''I'm not sure that's entirely true, but I agree that we should march for the palace.'' Sazen said, ''Only the future will tell if those droids were honest. In the meantime, this Ralik is our concern. There is no one else here capable of stopping him.''
And with those words they moved out. They had no knowledge of the dark fleet of Lenari warships that were closing in on Coruscant.
"So be it .. Jedi"
Grand Admiral Morlish Veed watched through the bridge viewport of the Vindicator as the fleet of black spherical ships drew ever closer to Coruscant. All he had to worry a few hours ago was how to get rid of Darth Krayt and now, after hearing Ralik's announcement and seeing this enormous fleet the stakes became incredibly higher. A message came from the leading enemy ship:
''This is High Centurion Faren of the Lenari Imperium. In the name of Lord Ralik, the master of the True Teachings you will surrender, or die.''
''There will be no surrender.'' Veed replied and cut off the enemy ship.
''This is Grand Admiral Morlish Veed to all ships: prepare for battle, all TIE fighters prepare to launch, all Destroyers prepare to open fire on enemy capital ships.'' Veed ordered.
On the bridge of the Lenari master-ship High Centurion Faren issued a similar order. The spherical ships approached the Imperial fleet and as the Imperials launched their TIE fighters, swarms of black triangular fighters emerged from the spherical capital ships. The TIE's opened fire on the enemy fighters, inflicting some damage, but it took a TIE quite a few shots to destroy a Lenari fighter. The black triangular fighters performed evasive maneuvers and opened fire on the Imperial fighters. Yellow particle beams flashed from the black fighters and started ripping through any TIE that got in the way.
Imperial Star Destroyers opened fire on the spherical capital ships and after they've taken a few shots the black spheres shot back. Flashes of red turbolaser fire from one direction and yellow particle beams from the other lit up the space between the two conflicting fleets and fought for supremacy, as the fleets did. A black sphere fired its particle beam and one of the Star Destroyers blew up in a spectacular blaze of red and orange flames.
''Did you see that, Veed? We just lost a capital ship!''
''I saw it, Calixte!'' Veed answered over the comm, ''This is the Grand Admiral: all ships, target the closest sphere and open fire, perhaps a joint attack from our capital ships will be more than it can handle.'' He ordered.
Back on the surface of the Capital, the group of four Jedi, four Imperial Knights and three bounty hunters entered the Imperial Palace. The first thing they noticed was a deadly silence. There wasn't a sound that could be heard inside the palace.
''Stay sharp.'' Cade said, ''Something doesn't feel right.''
The group continued along the main corridor and when they reached the ground floor atrium they couldn't believe their eyes. At least fifty corpses lay there, all Sith warriors and not a scratch, or a laser burn on them. Cade thought he heard one of his companions make a sigh of amazement at the sight, but he simply ignored it, he focused all of his senses to detect any possible threats. His lightsaber was already in his right hand, ready to be ignited if the opportunity arises.
The group continued cautiously to the second and then the third floor. Along the way they had the opportunity to see Ralik's handiwork, first in the crushed laser turrets and then in the barely visible corpse of the Defel in the long, dark corridor. They arrived to the Throne room entrance without incidents and when they stepped inside, they saw a young Twi'Lek woman meditating just a few meters from the door they came through and meters behind her, sitting on the Imperial throne was a dark male figure with a red hood shadowing his face. ''Ralik.''
''You have arrived as expected.'' He said, still calmly sitting on the throne.
''So it is true.'' Sazen shouted, ''You are the dark threat prophesied by the ancients.''
''I am the one True master!'' Ralik shouted back, ''I have come to spread the way of the True Teachings across this galaxy. As its ruler, it is my destiny.''
''As you can see, we don't seem to agree with you.'' Cade replied smugly.
''You will learn, young Skywalker. The healer Jedi that Krayt was after all along. As you can see, unfortunately Krayt didn't get the chance to exploit your powers.'' Ralik said gesturing with his left hand toward Krayt's corpse.
''Well, I suppose I should thank you for that.'' Cade said with the same smug tone, his lightsaber still tightly held in his right hand, ready to be used.
''Ryleena, take care of the rest of our guests while I have a chat with young Skywalker.'' Ralik arrogantly ordered his new apprentice.
The Twi'Lek girl jumped into the air, igniting her red lightsaber and engaging Cade's companions as he ran toward the Imperial throne. The three bounty hunters took cover behind the rows of pillars on the left and right side, the three remaining Jedi ran after Cade, while Marasiah Fel and her three Imperial Knight guards ignited their silver-bladed lightsabers and engaged the Twi'Lek attacker.
As Cade approached the base of the throne he felt something happen behind him. He glanced back and noticed some kind of Force barrier splitting the throne from the rest of the chamber. Master Sazen, Master Tre'lyis and Shado Vao persistently attempted to penetrate the barrier, but without success. Cade was on his own.
''I recognize you.'' Marasiah said as she battled the Twi'Lek, ''You were the Sith that killed Elke Vetter, my mentor.''
''I was and now I'm going to kill you too.'' Ryleena replied and used the Force to push Marasiah back and slam her into a wall, leaving her unconscious.
''I will protect you, Princess!'' Ganner Krieg shouted as he charged at the Twi'Lek while the other two Knights tended to Marasiah. Meanwhile, Rav, Syn and Deliah realized that this Sith, or whatever she was, couldn't be beaten by blaster fire so they joined the three Jedi to try to get to Cade.
''Come closer, young Skywalker.'' Ralik demanded from his throne. He slowly stood up and held out his left hand toward the young man. His amphistaff tightly gripped by his right hand.
''You are too melodramatic for a Sith Lord.'' Cade mocked.
''Who said I was a Sith Lord?'' Ralik replied, ''This one, on the other hand...'' Ralik gestured again at Krayt's corpse, ''He thought he was a Sith, your cousin here, but he was simply a desperate Jedi. Nothing more.''
''What do you mean by ''my cousin''?'' Cade asked with disbelief.
''Allow me to introduce Darth Krayt, once known as Jacen Solo.'' Ralik joked with a twisted sense of humor, ''Apprentice of the Dark Lady Lumiya, self proclaimed Sith Lord and now a rotting corpse. He sensed your ability to revive others, you know. That's why he wanted to hunt you down so badly. He wanted you to save his life.''
Cade ignited his blue lightsaber and swung it at Ralik who quickly blocked it with his amphistaff. Cade kept pushing, but Ralik successfully held his ground. ''You can't win this fight, young Skywalker. It's a lot less painful for you to simply surrender.''
''We take what is given.'' Cade said quietly, ''I will not surrender with the galaxy at stake.'' He swirled his blue-bladed lightsaber at Ralik again and Ralik again blocked his attack.
The red and silver blades clashed over and over as Ganner Krieg did his best to outmaneuver the Twi'Lek woman. Unfortunatelly Krieg was slowly getting tired, his focus slowly dropping. Marasiah regained consciousness thanks to the healing techniques applied by Sigel and Draco and as she struggled to regain her sense of balance she saw Krieg battle with her mentor's assassin. Krieg swung his lightsaber at Ryleena, but his attack was blocked. At that moment Ryleena saw a chance and managed to disarm her opponent. Krieg cried out in pain as she plunged her red blade into his chest and as he fell down he heard Marasiah's scream. ''I'm sorry, Princess, I failed you.''
''Now for the main course.'' Ryleena said as she approached the Princess. Draco and Sigel prepared to battle her, but Marasiah prevented them
''No.'' She said, ''I will deal with Elke's murderer.''
The two Imperial Knights reluctantly stepped aside as Marasiah gathered all her rage and grief and focused it at the approaching threat. Marasiah held her hands at Ryleena and let the energy she gathered take shape. She held Ryleena in a tight grip and with a swift move of her left hand she tossed the Twi'Lek with amazing force at the same, already cracked window at which Ralik threw her some time before. As she slammed it the glass broke completely and Ryleena fell out into the abyss. ''It will be a long fall, but all the more painful when she finally hits the ground.'' Marasiah thought, relieved to be rid of the anger she felt.
''You cannot win Skywalker! If I wanted to, I could kill you with one thought.'' Ralik said as he blocked another Cade's attack.
''You keep saying that, but I'm not convinced.'' Cade mocked.
''The only reason why I haven't killed you yet is because I want you to follow the True path, to be my apprentice.'' Ralik explained as he swirled his amphistaff at Cade's blue blade.
Suddenly a lound sound echoed from the outside. It was the sound of a ship's engines. Outside the Throne room's rear glass wall, directly behind the throne itself an ancient ship emerged. The Ebon Hawk. Ralik and Cade watched as the ship fired at the glass and broke it, sending tiny sharp pieces of it at the direction of the throne. ''What is this?'' Ralik and Cade wondered simoultaneously as they disengaged from attacking each other. The ship's ramp lowered and standing on it was a rusty-red assassin droid, the same one Cade and Deliah saw at Rik's.
''Statement: Goodbye, dark threat.'' The droid said in a mocking tone and fired at the surprised Ralik from his blaster rifle, completely ambivalent to Ralik's futile attempts to destroy him with the Force. He, HK-47, was protected by a special crystal that, much like the ysalamiri of Myrkr, created a field that blocked out the Force.
Cade and the droid watched in amazement as Ralik's body disintegrated into small granules and vanished along with the Force field that kept the others away from the throne. ''I'm still alive.'' Cade heard Ralik's voice in his head. ''Did you really think I would be killed that easily?.'' ''This wasn't him!'' Cade shouted as the rest of the group approached the throne.
''There's a space battle above Coruscant and he's there, waiting for us.'' Cade told the others.
''Statement: Then hurry up and get aboard, meatbags! I am not going to lose my target.'' HK-47 said.
''...what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Another Star Destroyer exploded in a blaze of red fire as Grand Admiral Morlish Veed began to realize that this was a losing battle. The black spherical capital ships were barely scratched by their turbolasers and while he lost almost a third of his fleet the attackers lost only a couple of spheres. Veed saw no way out of this. And then an armada of ten Pellaeon-class Super Star Destroyers emerged from hyperspace.
''To all loyal Imperial forces: this is Emperor Roan Fel, we are here to assist.'' Veed heard the message over the comm.
''This is Grand Admiral Morlish Veed, your forces welcome you, Emperor Fel. It is a pleasure to hear your voice again, my lord.''
''Cut the act Veed! I know all about your little betrayal, but now is not the time for settling old scores. I am assuming command of the Imperial fleet. We have a threat to deal with.''
Fel's flagship received pledges of allegiance from all Moffs and he started issuing orders. He wasn't sure if even he would be able to defeat these aliens, but he had to try. For his daughter. He ordered his fleet of Super Star Destroyers to open fire as they made their way to the rest of the Imperial fleet. Meanwhile an ancient freighter left Coruscant's orbit and flew into the mayhem.
''See that sphere over there?'' Cade asked, ''The one that's larger and slightly different from the rest of them?''
''We see it.'' Draco answered as he and Sigel played the roles of pilot and copilot and guided the ship through this mess, ''What about it?''
''He's there. On that ship.'' Cade answered.
''Thank you for helping us at Rik's.'' Rav told the droid.
''Clarification: I was merely making sure that my target safely arrives to the Imperial Palace and eliminates the Sith Emperor.'' HK-47 answered.
''You really are one devious assassin droid.'' Rav said, ''I could use someone like you when this is all over. How would you like a place in my organization?''
''Statement: If there's murdering of meatbags involved, I'm your droid.''
''Good. Now all we have to do is get out of this one alive.'' Rav pointed out.
''Marasiah, is that you in that freighter?'' A voice came through the comm.
''Yes, father. I'm here.'' She answered, releived to hear his voice.
''I'm sending you the guidance vector to my ship...'' The message broke off. Marasiah looked through the viewport and saw a damaged sphere collide with a Super Star Destroyer, destroying itself and the other ship and creating a massive explosion in the process.
''Father!'' Marasiah cried out. The others tried to console her by telling her that the ship that was destroyed may not have been her father's, but she knew better. She sensed it in the Force. Her father was dead, which meant that she was now in command. She activated the comm and sent a message: ''To all Imperial ships: this is Princess Marasiah Fel, my father's ship is destroyed. I am taking command of the fleet.''
''This is Moff Nyna Calixte aboard the Sovereign, our docking bay is prepared and we await the arrival of your ship.''
Marasiah acknowledged and Draco and Sigel changed course and began to make their way to the Sovereign. The battle raged on as the two fleets exchanged weapons fire. The black spheres firing their particle beams and the Imperials hitting them back with every available turbolaser cannon, but they inflicted almost no damage at all.
Calixte was standing on the Sovereign's bridge when Marasiah and her companions, the two droids as well, made their appearance. Calixte bowed and stepped aside, relinquishing her command of the ship.
''This is Princess Marasiah Fel aboard the Star Destroyer Sovereign to all ships: concentrate your fire on the following coordinates.'' She said as one of the junior officers sent the coordinates of the Lenari master-ship to the rest of the fleet.
Suddenly the Sovereign shook. It was hit, but not from the Lenari weapons. This shot came from one of their own ships.
''Princess Marasiah. This is Grand Admiral Morlish Veed. I could have accepted your father's return, but now that he's dead I won't let anyone prevent me from becoming the Emperor!'' The voice sounded over the comm system.
''Veed! Have you gone mad?! What are you doing, you idiot!? We are in the middle of a deadly battle and all you can think of is your own petty ambitions!''
''Spare me the lecture, Calixte. You're no better than me, just more passive. But I have had it, my ship is superior to yours, I will have no problem destroying you and in the middle of this mess no one would be the wiser. Goodbye.''
But before Veed could fire the fatal shot an extremely strong particle beam coming from the Lenari master-ship hit the Vindicator's bridge, killing everyone there, including Veed. Veed's Super Star Destroyer was now floating dead in space as its remaining crewmembers made their way to the escape pods.
''Good shot, Faren.'' Ralik telepathically congratulated the Lenari commander from his neural interface chamber aboard the spherical master-ship. ''We can't have our opponents killing each other, now can we?''
''Thank you, Lord Ralik. If I may say so, sir, your idea to project yourself on Coruscant directly from here, using the neural interface to amplify your powers was pure brilliance.''
''Thank you, High Centurion.'' Ralik answered telepathically. ''Now, let's finish the rest of this pitiful fleet.''
One of the black spheres fired at another Star Destroyer and blew it out of the sky. The remainig Imperial ships fought back as hard as they could, but with little success.
''What's our status, Calixte?'' Marasiah demanded.
''Veed's shot took out our weapons grid. The bastard knew right where to aim.'' Calixte reported.
''Observation: Your ships are doing no damage to the enemy flagship, I suggest another tactics we should send a team to board it instead of shooting at it. Clarification: When our team, with me as the leader, gets aboard we would only have to find and kill their leader.''
''I'd like nothing more than to finish my fight with that... that madman.'' Cade said, ''But you've seen the firepower of those ships, even their fighters could take us out easily.''
''Exactly.'' Sazen agreed, ''We need to find another way.''
''But what?'' Draco asked and then the answer presented itself to them on a silver platter.
A massive fleet of organic-looking alien ships appeared out of nowhere. They fired upon the Lenari fleet and started destroying the black spheres one by one, their energy weapons ripping through the spheres like they were made out of paper. In the end only the master-ship remained intact.
''Who are they?'' Marasiah wondered out loud as she watched the mysterious fleet of stingray-shaped ships destroy the black spheres with little touble.
''The Aing-Tii.'' Shado replied.
''What?'' Marasiah said.
''The Aing-Tii. They are an order of alien monks who live near the Kathol Rift and rarely leave it. They have a unique space drive technology that allows them to travel instantly to any point in the galaxy. They also have a unique view on the Force and they hate slavers more than anything.'' Shado explained.
''If they can travel instantly, what took them so long?'' Rav asked.
''Who knows? Perhaps they just learned of this battle, in any case they are here to help us and that's what's important.'' Shado said.
When they finished destroying the Lenari ships, the Aing-Tii fleet surrounded the master-ship and sent a message to all Imperial ships in the area: ''This is the Seventh fleet of the Aing-Tii Order, we are here to assist. Please hold your fire, we will depart shortly.'' The alien voice echoed with incredible calmness and light. To Force-sensitives it was a feeling like no other, like a conversation with the Force itself.
The Aing-Tii addressed their next message to Ralik, but allowed the bridge of the Sovereign to listen. ''It is over, Ralik. You have been deceived. What you know as the True Teachings is nothing more than a perversion of them. Accept the truth and give yourself a second chance.''
''You lie!'' Ralik shouted, ''It is my destiny to rule this galaxy! My master assured me of it!''
''Clear your mind and look in your heart, Ralik. You will see the truth.''
For some reason Ralik decided to do as the Aing-Tii suggested and then it hit him. He remembered his whole life. He remembered why he left the Yuuzhan Vong army and why he accepted the teachings of the dark figure. He desired greater power and appreciation, but somewhere along the way he allowed himself to become a puppet of some spirit and wage a war that he never truly wanted. ''But...'' He said.
''Why haven't we shown ourselves sooner? The Aing-Tii do not believe in destiny, nothing is predetermined, only guided as we were guided to come here at this precise moment. You were guided too, Ralik, but not to rule this galaxy. Only to cleanse it of the evils that consumed her and you have done so by killing the Sith Emperor.''
''But, who are the Lenari then?''
''They are from another dimension, as their leader had told you, but they are an evil Empire of slavers and their only desire is to spread their rule throughout the universe. What he told you about their arrival here was true, but it wasn't the Rakata who destroyed the ship with the dimensional drive, it was the Aing-Tii. We come from the same place as the Lenari do. We have fought them for ages and kept them at bay in this universe. We thought we defeated them before the Rakata began their conquest, but we were wrong.''
''So what happens now?'' Ralik asked.
''The Aing-Tii invite you to join us in guarding the dimensional gate at Kathol Rift and learn the only truth that exists and the only True Teachings that exist. If you accept, we will transport you to our ship. If you decline you may go whereever you want to.''
''Very well.'' Ralik sighed ''I accept. I'm tired of war and power, some peace will be a nice change.''
''Very good. Be prepared, we will transport you to one of our ships.''
The dim-lighted command chamber bursted around Ralik into bright light and he soon found himself no longer aboard the master-ship, but with the Aing-Tii. Cade, Marasiah and the others watched as the Aing-Tii ships destroyed the Lenari master-ship and soon after disappeared into the depths of space.
''Statement: I am experiencing a very strange feeling.'' HK said, ''Statement: Protocol Reunion activated. Come on, T3 unit, we have to go. I regretfully reject that job offer.'' The droid told Rav and then both HK and T3 disappeared behind the bridge door and a few minutes later the Ebon Hawk left the Sovereign's hangar and jumped into hyperspace.
''So what do we do now?'' Cade asked.
''Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future.''
In the following days the remaining Sith were rounded up and either arrested or killed. The rest of the Jedi crawled out of their hiding places and helped with the process. In the next few months the atmosphere on Coruscant became bright and friendly again. The Imperial Palace has been turned into a museum, after the corpses were transported out, of course. The Moffs have lost their titles and instead performed some different functions for the government. The Galactic Senate has been reestablished and a special first session was demanded. Marasiah Fel, the new Empress had an important announcement. The senators answered the call and the Senate Rotunda was filled with representatives from every system that was, until now, a part of the Empire. Marasiah emerged on the platform that was usually occupied by the Chancellor.
''Loyal Senators, I have called you all here today to relay this news that will change the course of our history. As of this moment the Empire is no more. My father was a good man, but he held the Empire out of sheer naivete and pride. I hope I know better. I am hereby reforming our system into the Third Galactic Republic. According to the laws of the first, Old Republic, the Senate will have the most important role in making the most crucial and delicate decisions for the wellfare of our vast interplanetary socety. I will assume the role of Chancellor and perform it in accordance to the laws of the Old Republic. That Republic, after all, had the longest lifespan and I hope that this one will last even longer. I am also hereby ordering the Imperial Knights to disband. If they chose to do so, they may rejoin the Jedi Order, whose members I ask to once again assume the roles of protectors and mediators in this frail galaxy. Of course it won't be all milk and honey from the start. We have a long way of rebuilding ahead of us and it is my hope that we can rebuild the institution that is the Republic successfully. I thank you for your time, Senators and wish you many prosperous years of service to our Republic.''
And with those words the first session of the Senate was over. Cade Skywalker watched the speech from the entrance to the Senate Rotunda. He was now training on Coruscant, in the newly restaurated Jedi Temple. Soon his training will be complete and he will become a Jedi Master himself. Marasiah saw him watching and smiled. He smiled back, his usual smug smile, nodded and quietly left.
Jariah Syn, Deliah Blue and Rav returned to Socorro and continued their bounty hunter lives, but they remained in contact with Cade. They were even offered the positions of Ambassadors of the Republic on Socorro, but they politely declined. That just wasn't their life.
''So what happens now?''
''Only time will tell.''
''Yes, time and the minds and the desires of the people.''
''Precisely. The galaxy is at peace for the moment, but it is the nature of things to bring chaos after order and bring order after chaos.''
''I understand, master.''
''No, Ralik, not master. Teacher. That's all I am as well as any other elder member of our Order. You must be on your guard too and learn carefully everything we teach you, because the galaxy will need you once more, some time in the future.''
''Yes, teacher. I will do my best.''
''Nothing else will do. The Lenari planet-factory is still out there somewhere along with their cloning labs.''
''You didn't destroy it?''
''We couldn't find it. When we arrived at the coordinatees you gave us we found nothing but empty space.''
''They must have heard of the fleet's defeat and moved it.''
''Yes, but they will show themselves again one day and you must be ready for them when that day comes.''
''I will not fail.''
Somewhere, hidden deep in the Unknown Regions an enormous, planet-sized factory floated through space. Next to it a small planetoid with a cloning lab under its surface. Both with full Lenari crew complement. Overseer Crull stood at the factory's viewport and gazed into the empty space. The hour of the Lenari will come again. One day in the future.
Somewhere, in the Outer Rim territories, on a grassy planet in the Chommell sector, hidden deep within the planet's mountains the Ebon Hawk stood. Ten meters in front of it lay a small house and behind it a monument of stone. The two droids stood in front of the monument and read the inscription.
It said: ''Here lies Revan, hero of the Republic, pride of the Jedi. His actions will be remembered, his presence will be missed, but we, his children will carry on his legacy.''
The two droids were finally home.
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