Keeping the Galaxy Intact
[Persuade] The 5 guidelines of this roleplay are hopefully easy to follow! :)
1. This is more like a story or fanfiction than standard roleplay, so try to
set the scene (description and otherwise) of your characters & what they do.
2. No killing off anyone else's characters without their permission.
3. No one-liners. Limited god-moding is allowed in that you can control how some characters (like mine) briefly respond to others to keep the dialogue flowing. For example, you can have me tease someone or roll my eyes, but no long speeches for my character or others' unless we write them.
4. I want to return to the old glory days when I FINISHED something! :)
5. Have fun above all! And now, our story begins on a night for a brawl...
STAR WARS: KEEPING THE GALAXY INTACT
Part One: A Down-and-Out Duelist
What a dive! Tysyacha Odnova knew that in places like these, she made her living as the night's entertainment and for that she should be grateful. However, that didn't mean she liked the smoke and the reek of cheap ale and cantina patrons' drunken breath. This place couldn't even be called a cantina, for it lacked the basic sense of atmosphere that most cantinas had. This was a bar, in the crudest sense of one. Men got drunk here, women got paid here, and for duelists like Tysyacha and her ill-fated opponents, some got killed here. That was the lay of the land, and she knew it.
That didn't mean she'd lose.
"All right," she smiled once the clamor of clinking glasses and too-loud private conversations had begun to die down. "Three fights tonight. Who's my first victim?" After silence ensued, the duelist announced her usual wager with a twinkle in her blue eyes that appeared steel-gray from a distance. "Come on. You know you won't get killed. The deal is, with me, servitude is worse than death. Odnova is my last name, and that means 'one', as in 'number one'. If you break me, you break my pride as well, and I'll serve you." More smoke-filled silence. "No one wants me as a hireling? A flunkie? A bodyguard? Very well. Since no one will fight me, I guess I'll claim my victories by forfeit. Bartender! Bring me one shotglass of your hardest distill and a free dinner."
"Wait a minute." A drunken, dishevelled man stumbled up to the front of the bar where Tysyacha stood waiting. "You have to pay your way. Just like the rest of us, duelie. I'll fight you and win, and then you'll warm my chamber--"
"Hah!" Tysyacha scoffed. "I wouldn't settle that score with you if I were a Twi-lek slave girl ordered to do so. Come on, then. Bring out your weapon. I have two." With sleek pride, she brandished two highly-polished (and highly-sharpened) vibrodaggers, each enhanced with a keen blade for accuracy.
The inebriated man laughed. "Phfft! Child's play. Drop those knives, little girl."
Tysyacha smiled again and then counted to four, silently, in her mind. Raz--dva--tri--chetyr'! With one springing attack, she pounced upon the drunken dolt and slammed him flat onto the top of the bar counter. Quickly, she slipped both vibrodaggers into a V position, one on either side of his neck.
"Guggagghh!" gurgled the man. "I give, I give, I give up! Get off me!"
"I thought you liked that," mumbled Tysyacha. "Or are you always supposed to be the 'top dog'?" Howling laughter erupted from the crowd as the duelist released the double-daggered threat from her opponent's large red neck. "Go away. I have two other fools to fight." The man bowed his head and slunk to the back of the bar. He couldn't believe it. Finally--too much juma juice!
"Who's next?" Though she hated to admit it, Tysyacha felt a heady rush.
"I." Just this one word, spoken coldly, in an accent Tysyacha found eerily familiar. "I am a Twi-lek slave girl, little one, and I'll teach you what servitude means. You shall do my work right alongside me, for my master, living only for the sake of others' pleasure. Would you like that? My, you reek. Too much sweat and too few sanisteams, I wager. Well, enough words. En garde!"
With a mighty kick, the Twi-lek, her face and lekku a deep shade of sunset orange, sent Tysyacha hurtling backward, almost into the wall of the bar.
The kick had landed right in the middle of our hero's sternum, and Tysyacha gasped for breath. Clearly, this one knew martial arts, something she knew nothing of. Her craft was bladecraft, not this deadly dance of kung-fu.
After re-focusing her mind (and her breathing) for a few seconds, Tysyacha attacked. Through an inner sense of hers (what some called "reading people" but she felt was something more), she knew she could not let the Twi-lek attack again. She had been broken, most likely in a callous way, and people like that of any race struck to kill. With only split seconds to act, she did.
In a fury of whirling blades, Tysyacha sliced through the leather of the Twi-lek's uniform's midsection, not wounding her but causing her to gasp in horror. Shredded to ribbons, the Twi-lek now looked as if some angry kath hound had decided to "go right for the gut." Shrieking, her opponent knelt.
"I should not have underestimated you, Odnova! Take my lekku as trophies!"
With an odd sensation pouring over her, knowing that such a move could be her last, Tysyacha placed a hand upon the girl's shoulder. "No. I don't take trophies from my duels, only credits and free meals and a place to stay. You can redeem yourself by killing your master. Find freedom. You can fight, and anyone who owns slaves is even worse than a bounty hunter. Go now. Use that passion that you have to break whoever broke you, by my leave."
"You are one of thousands," said the Twi-lek with watery eyes, "hence your name, and yet you have the strength of only one--with compassion."
Compassion? Was that what had filled her? A jest! Compassion was when you fed the poor and scrubbed out their refreshers for free, not let a fighter go who had wanted to force you into slavery. Compassion was self-sacrifice, and all Tysyacha had given up was a few words and a pat on the shoulder.
Helping the poor. Feeding the needy. All so someone else could get rich.
I have nothing left to sacrifice, thought Tysyacha, only my pride. And my status as the number-one duelist in this filthy neighborhood.
"One more," she smiled with a flourish of her blades. "Then I can eat. Who will change my last name to Dvukh?" A pause. "That's 'two'--"second'".
Two seconds passed. The bar patrons were all gawking, their mouths "O's"!
Zenu'la danced, the moves so automatic now from years of practice that she didn't even have to think about it anymore. In truth, as long as she just wiggled the 'important parts', that's all the patrons cared about. The more they saw of her smooth blue skin and twining lekku, the better, in their view. No one here in this backwater cantina truly appreciated the intricacies of Twi'leki dance, or cared about the Twi'lek girls who danced the complex patterns.
"I'm going to challenge that duelist," Noo'rala said as she passed by Zenu'la in one of the runs of dance steps.
"Are you crazy? Akat'rat will be furious if you have so much as a broken nail from fighting. You know you're his pet."
"I'm sick of his bedding him night after night. I can beat her. I've been studying hard."
"Mu-tan-ra techniques will not save you from vibroblades, sweet. Reconsider before you get killed."
"Well, if I'm dead I don't have to bed him every again, now will I? Besides, I'm not going to lose. Give me fighting advice, Zenu'la."
"The best way to win is to not be there in the first place."
Noo'rala rolled her eyes and tilted her head, waiting for a better response, then twirled around, hands waving deadly beauty in the air.
Zenu'la sighed. "She's right handed. Use your kicks--your legs are longer than her arms. better a cut leg than a dagger in the heart. Feint to her right, but immediately roundhouse-kick to the left side of her head or side kick her left knee. Whatever you do, go as fast as you can and kick like you're trying to crush Akat'rat's....assets."
The battle was painfully short. Noo'rala was at the duelist's mercy in under 10 seconds, and Zenu'la was sure the girl was dead. Then the duelist stunned everyone, including her, by showing Noo'rala mercy.
Zenu'la stopped dancing in surprise.
"One more fight," Tysyacha prompted with a calm smile. "Any takers?"
"Boo-oo-o!" This loud and drawn-out jeer issued from one of the men standing at the bar in front of her. His lean face was spotted with stubble, and the cleft of his chin was so noticeable that it could have been a caricature. "You can't fight! You're just a pacifist schutta!" Tysyacha leaned forward a bit, and she could see that his eyes were almost completely bloodshot. Heavy drinker, or heavy fighter? This man appeared to be both.
"Excuse me; I've won two duels. What does that prove?" Tysyacha rolled her eyes. "Come on. I'll even fight you bare-handed. Unarmed. You don't look like you have a weapon. What do you say?" As a gesture of goodwill and fair play, the duelist stepped toward the bar and stabbed her two vibroblades into it. Not too deeply, though, just the very tips--she wanted to be able to get them back out after the fight was done. Her weapons were extensions of not only her arms, but her soul. All the money she'd ever earned was mostly spent on repairing them.
Seeing his obvious chance, the man's ale-clouded gaze suddenly turned fierce and deadly. "I'll kill you in two seconds, kid," he growled, climbing--no, vaulting--over the bar railing and throwing the entire brunt of his muscular weight upon Tysyacha.
Rattled, the girl gave a yelp, and she felt her bladder loosen a bit. Blast! I've never done anything like that before, wet myself during a duel--
In an instant, the man's hands were upon her neck, squeezing and tightening.
"Gotta breathe," he hissed through clenched teeth, grinning triumphantly. "Too bad you can't." He pressed harder, letting the whites of his opponent's eyes start to bulge. He loved the smell of fear, and the look.
Kick! Claw! Bite! Scratch! Tysyacha's brain was frantically screaming instructions to her nervous system, and her muscles did respond, but only as a marionette's joints would when a puppeteer pulled the strings. She could kick, but her kicks were like those of a child who was just learning how to swim (and not doing very well.) She could claw, but her nail-scratches upon his arms seemed not to bother the man. She could bite, but she was concentrating so hard upon breathing that straining to bite was impossible. She could scratch, but her nails were so short she wasn't even breaking skin. Drawing blood, or causing enough pain to startle the man, was a moot point now. He kept squeezing and squeezing, with glee.
Something inside Tysyacha fought to keep her alive--fought to keep her within hearing range of the outraged crowd, stomping and shouting and smashing cheap glassware in blind fury. Fought to keep her smelling the man's sweat and stinking breath, which was far greater than her own. Fought to keep some air in her two lungs, but even that proved taxing.
As her eyes began to water and her sight to blur, Tysyacha had a thought:
The odds have betrayed you. Are you willing to die?
It happens every day, she mused. Duelists kill, and they get killed. I guess this is it. Maybe I'm just trying to be fair. She closed her eyes.
Suddenly, memories came flashing in front of Tysyacha's blackened veil of sight behind her closed eyes. The tutelage at the ivory-draped Jedi Enclave on Dantooine, the fighting skills she'd learned from a wise teacher who had utterly betrayed her. They all had--Masters Kavar, Vrook, Zez-Kai Ell. Of course, she'd betrayed them first by going to war under Revan as his General and thrall. Haunting her mind's eye, the masked face of her second Master made her shiver and convulse. She was dying, and all she could think of was Revan? Not even Kreia, who'd re-taught her to listen to and use the Force?
Kreia. Darth Traya. She'd weep to see me here, distracted from my mission.
Of course, the expenses of keeping an aging space vessel and two droids in tip-top shape added up, and quite quickly at that. Dueling was as good a way as any to regain spent credits, or so Tysyacha believed. Now it seemed all over, as her black screen of closed-eye vision began to turn a deep red.
You cannot give up now. Knee-kick him hard in the chest, which you are still able to do, despite the pain and your fading senses and abilities.
"Kreia," mumbled Tysyacha weakly, trying to speak and squirm her way out of her ale-besotted opponent's death grip on her neck at the same time. I am Tysyacha Odnova, and if I choose to die here, that's my decision--not yours. She'd had enough of fighting, killing, dueling. Of two wars, the war within herself and the war between the Jedi and the Sith that would not end. Even with her influence and shaping of galactic events, the Sith were still a threat, and the galaxy was no more at peace than it had been before Revan was Lord of the Sith. Why did it still need her--did Kreia still need her?
Ah! You were once Dvukh, my Exile! Listen to your Master and obey!
With the last remaining bit of brute strength in her body, Tysyacha brought her knee up to her chest and kicked her leg out, smacking the man squarely in the sternum, just as the Twi'lek had done to her, but with a definite touch of the Force. The man sprawled backwards toward the bar, where screaming faces and clawing hands reached out to grab him. His fate would be bloody...
"I declare the winner Tysyacha Odnova by default!", shouted the bartender, trying to keep control of the roaring throng of patrons behind the bar. He raised one of Tysyacha's arms up in victory, and the duelist, panting with relief and exhaustion, did not even attempt to resist. A victory, yes, but it had been a hollow one. She had not conquered this night, or this opponent. "As for the other one, let's show him what we do to kriffing cheaters!"
Tysyacha felt dizzy and light-headed again, as if she were about to faint. Faint she did, and when she came to (a complete surprise, in her opinion, knowing how close she had been to dying for real), she noticed the bartender motioning upward toward the ceiling. The man who had tried to kill her in a seemingly "by the rules" duel was dangling by the neck, his eyes bulging in horrified surprise. Hearing the creak, creak of the bar rafters as he swung gently to and fro like a pendulum, the other duelist felt rather sick.
"I need--", she said quickly, and then rushed outside to vomit in the gutter.
Pathetic. You've wasted your time here. Abandon the Ebon Hawk and the droids. You're not going to need them. Someone else will come along and save you and the galaxy, or else they'll walk the same foolish path as the Sith Lords you have killed. Like mine. Hurry, now. Find somewhere to rest...
As she left the bar, Tysyacha felt a light touch on her shoulder. Based on that touch, it would have been easy to assume that a child who'd watched the fights within had dared to approach her, but if that's what she was expecting when she turned to face the being who'd touched her, Tysyacha Odnova was in for a surprise.
Rika Saben was a tall woman with loosely curled, dark brown hair and expressive brown eyes. Though the majority of the galaxy might have seen her at a glance and thought 'mercenary' due to her clothing, anyone who had been around Jedi could see it in Rika's posture; she had been a Jedi once. And judjing by the slight flicker of light reflecting off something beneath her knee-length leather jacket, she still carried a lightsaber.
"Have you become so lost that you beg for trouble in a simple bar?" Rika asked. To the ear, her voice was gentle, almost soothing, but there was a quiet power within this woman. She regarded Tysyacha with traces of sadness, but then she shook her head.
"Never mind that," she said. "You are in need of rest. I know just the place."
She led Tysyacha to a small hotel, well off the beaten path. After paying for a room, Rika turned to Tysyacha and said, "Here, you shall rest. And later, we shall speak, if you have the desire."
"Thank you!", smiled Tysyacha, breathless after her long evening and utterly spent from the three fights she had won (albeit by default on the last one). She gratefully collapsed onto the springy mattress of the bedcot and felt relieved. No spiders, no roaches, no magmites (a revolting mix of maggot and termite), no ticks...Almost instantly, she fell into a deep and dreamless sleep, not caring what time she awoke.
When she did, she glanced at her timepiece. Only 2200 hours, and no more? To her, the night was still young. Tysyacha decided to seek out her mysterious benefactor, unless the dark-haired woman was as soundly asleep as she had been two hours ago. First things first--a sanisteam, complete with all the bactericidal soap and water she could program the cleansing droids to lather onto her body, hot and sticky with sweat.
Refreshed, the exiled Jedi took stock of her clothing. Dueling leathers, worn and torn--got to get those mended sometime--more dueling leathers, and a simple tunic worn by most everyone these days if they were commonfolk. That would do. She didn't want to visit her Good Galactic Citizen dressed for another bout of fighting. Tysyacha exited the hotel room and found her sitting in the lobby, enjoying the cool air and waiting with a rather expectant smile. Tysyacha sat in an opposite lounger.
"Good evening," she said with a smile and short laugh. "Sorry if I kept you waiting! If you watched the fight at the bar, you might have picked up that my name's Tysyacha Odnova. That means 'one', as in 'number one', although I sure don't feel like 'number one' right now." At a sympathetic glance from her benefactor, she continued. "Usually, I don't go around like this night after night, fighting duels and earning complementary dinners. I'm kind of on a mission, and my spaceship and droids are in bad need of repair." She gave a rueful smile. "I guess you could say I'm failing at it right now."
Suddenly, she had an idea. "You wouldn't happen to know anything about that kind of thing, would you? Repairs? All I know how to do is talk, eat, mend wounds, and fight, and I guess my 'fixer-upper' skills got ignored in the rest of my training." She added quickly, "Duelist training, that is." She didn't want anyone knowing her shady past.
Something gnawed at Tysyacha. "I'm such a schutta! I don't mean to impose."
"You're hardly imposing," Rika said pleasantly. "My name is Rika Saben. Truth be told, I heard your name and sought you out. It hasn't been easy. You're quite the challenge to track down. No, don't be uneasy. You have had far too many people looking for you in your past. Don't tell me you're afraid of followers now."
She leaned back in her chair. "Odnova may not seem like a proper name for you at the moment, but mark my words, it will ring truthfully once more. I have come to you for that reason."
With a comforting smile, she leaned forward once more. "And as to your questions, I am capable of performing some repair work. I would be happy to take a look at your droids and your ship. But tell me; what is your mission?"
But before Tysyacha could respond, a stranger approached, growling something in an unfamiliar language. He was clearly unhappy about something. Rika's facial expression changed and she replied in the same language, a sharp, barking answer, which sounded almost as if she might have been swearing at him. His eyes widened, startled perhaps that she could understand and reply to him, and he scurried away.
"I apologize for that," Rika said, smiling faintly. Perhaps she was not quite the 'Good Galactic Citizen' she initially appeared to be.
Tysyacha felt the same lurch in the pit of her stomach that she had when her now-dead opponent had jumped over the railing to strangle her back at the bar.
Not now, Exile. You may trust this one, at least for the present.
But what if she's-- She replied to Kreia's voice in her consciousness with her own quick injunction.
Just like me? A soft chuckle. Wipe the fear from your mind. You will not find obedience a difficult Master. Not blind obedience, which I wrenched from the man you once loved, who is now united with the Force that you taught him to hear, but rather obedience born of full understanding.
A brief flash of memory haunted the Exile's mind: Atton dueling Sion, in vain.
Returning to the present, as Kreia recommended that she do back when they were trying to escape the Harbinger, Tysyacha closed her eyes and shook her head for a moment. "Sorry. Guess I'm still asleep. Walk with me."
She and Rika Saben strolled away from the hotel down a long city block that resembled the Lower City of the extinct planet of Taris, though it was on the highest urban-planning level. Poverty was no stranger to this section of town, though it had just enough prosperity in it to create the illusion that life was, as Atton would have said, "pure pazaak" here. There were enough cantinas, enough "book" shops that offered the kind of light drivel the masses loved, and enough cineplexes to make someone think this was a filmmaking city.
"I rent space in a garage around here," Tysyacha said. "It's not the best, but it's all I can really afford after I spend money to have my clothes sewn back up after a duel and my daggers re-sharpened." Rika nodded knowingly. "I think it's called Snello's, because the place is run by a Toydarian by that name. Not that I've ever seen a sign for this garage, but that's how it goes."
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a familiar beating of wings and a snouted face. Snello, who had a cousin back on Nar Shaddaa, was greedy and impatient for payment, but he was nicer than most Toydarians she'd met. Kind of like Quello. If you had the credits, he had the garage space.
"Nice to see you! Got this week's rent?" Tysyacha handed him 100 credits.
"200 next time. Got to keep up with rising repair costs." Sure you do.
A few moments later, Tysyacha and Rika gazed at a rather battered vessel, still more than spaceworthy but showing marked signs of wear and tear.
"This is my vessel, the Ebon Hawk," she announced with heraldic flair. "It may not look like much, but it's got two droids inside that are none the worse for all their travels. Good controls, good hull strength, good hyperdrive. Could be better, but that's where you come in." She gave a wink. "T3? HK? Come on out here; I'd like you to meet a new technician."
A silver utility droid and tall copper "battle droid" slowly exited the vessel.
"This is Rika Saben," said Tysyacha to the droids, "and hopefully she can do some repairs to your frame and chassis. Don't be worried. She helped me."
Dwoooooo. T3-M4 sounded nervous. Perhaps he was remembering someone else who had helped Tysyacha, someone who turned out to be the third Sith Lord in a triumvirate that could have laid the galaxy to waste.
"Skeptical Statement: I am not sure I trust this 'meatbag', Master," said HK-47. "Recommendation: Target for full termination procedures. Affirmative?"
Tysyacha scowled. "Negative. Keep your vocabulator quiet, HK, or I'll sell you to Snello for spare parts. If he had some more, garage space wouldn't cost so much, now, would it?" This seemed to silence the belligerent machine.
"Sorry," she smiled. "Trigger-happy battle droid. So, want to have a look?"
"Oh, this should be relatively easy," Rika murmured. She approached HK-47 first.
"Veiled threat: if you damage my systems in any way..." the droid began. But Rika laughed.
"Your threat isn't so veiled if you mention that's what it is beforehand," she pointed out. "Now shut up and let me work."
"Save it," Rika growled. The droid was silent for a moment.
"Puzzled observation: Master, this meatbag interrupted me. That has never..."
"Amused observation:" Rika cut in, a smirk on her face. "I'm sorry, I seem to have 'accidentally' disconnected his speech function."
HK-47 made a rather threatening gesture before Rika completely deactivated him. T3 issued a flurry of beeps and whistles, rocking violently and Rika laughed.
"Don't worry," she said. "I can tell you're much more cooperative than your tall friend here... there won't be a problem."
Rika continued her work in silence and it wasn't long before she switched HK back online... fully functional.
"Threat: For deactivating me, I ought to..." He paused for a moment. "Retraction: As I seem to be functioning far better than before, it seems unwise to threaten the meatbag stranger."
"Glad to see you've come around," Rika murmured, amused. "The meatbag has a name, by the way. I'm Rika Saben."
"Condescending statement: Of course you are. You are also a meatbag."
"Sure, whatever," Rika chuckled. Then, she got to work on T3. As she worked, she thought it might be beneficial to attempt to learn a little more about Tysyacha's 'mission'.
"Back at the hotel, you said you were on a mission," she said. "Seeing as I seem to have signed on, would you mind going into a bit more detail?"
Tysyacha watched Rika work, amazed at the grace and proficiency with which she practiced her craft. Mediocre mechanics, or even slightly above-par ones like Snello, had none of the finesse and careful diligence that Rika showed while repairing the droids. For that, the Exile was grateful and humbled. Still, she knew she had to be careful about how much she revealed and concealed. Rika might not travel with her if she knew that the duelist Odnova had once been apprenticed to two Sith Lords.
"I'm looking for a Jedi," began Tysyacha, "one of the most powerful in the known galaxy, in fact. He used to be a Sith Lord, and his name was feared--Darth Revan." No shock or surprise showed itself in Rika's dark brown eyes, so Tysyacha continued. "I knew him, and I need to find him because he may be the only one who can stop the true threat to the galaxy. My droid friends and I have traveled for two years in this vessel, searching for Revan but finding no trace. It's getting exhausting trying to earn enough money to keep all of us in tip-top shape, and that's why I've turned to dueling.
"As for Revan, he was ambushed by the Jedi aboard his own battleship, but not before his apprentice, Lord Malak, had burned away most of his mind and his memories. The Jedi held Malak at bay and helped to save Revan, re-training him as a Padawan and later a Jedi Knight. Of course, none of the Masters told him who he really was, and it wasn't until Revan confronted Malak again aboard the battleship Leviathan that he learned the truth. At first, Revan resented the Jedi for brainwashing him and conscripting him into their service, but once he realized he alone had the chance of stopping Malak and his Sith armada, that is when he truly became redeemed."
Tysyacha stood silent for a moment and then sighed. "Now he's gone. He's somewhere beyond the Outer Rim, I'm sure, but I have no clue where to go next or what to do. Would you help me, beyond the kindnesses that you've shown me thus far, and help me find him? If Revan has gone to find and defeat the Sith, the true Sith, then he will need all the allies he can get." Her eyes, unbeknownst to her, were filling with tears.
Rika was silent for a moment as she worked on T3. Just as she seemed about to speak, T3 whistled to Tysyacha, indicating that he had seen the lightsaber at Rika's waist. The woman smiled faintly, completing her work on the droid, and then stood, turning to face Tysyacha. As she turned, she lifted one side of her jacket away, revealing the lightsaber to Tysyacha.
"I'm not just a good mechanic," she said quietly. "I also knew Revan.. and I see the wisdom in finding him. I will aid you in your search. But first you should know of me."
She turned away for a moment, as if gathering her thoughts. "I have walked the exile's path longer than you, Tysyacha Odnova. Your words and actions caught up with you after you returned from war. Mine confronted me a year before Revan led a call to war. And though, in my travels I heard of Revan and his quest, I never thought to follow him. His path was not mine."
She shook her head. "I also heard rumors of Revan's redemption, but it was not my concern. I was not a Jedi. And when the Jedi were all but eliminated and disbanded, I saw wisdom in the Council's decision to exile me all those years ago. For though they could not have been seeing this far into the future, they knew Force users would be needed for the good of the galaxy."
With a small sigh, she nodded. "And that is exactly what I am. Seperated from the teachings of the Jedi Order, I have learned about the Force in its natural element... nature itself. I am stronger now than I ever could have been had I stayed with the Jedi... and far stronger and more understanding of the ways of the Force than if I had fallen with Revan."
Noting the astonishment plainly visible on Tysyacha's face, Rika smiled faintly. "The Force flows with nature," she said. "I can teach you to feel it in a way you have never felt it before, a way that no Jedi and certainly no Sith would ever be able to teach you."
Tysyacha blushed. "I would be honored by that," she replied without hesitation, but then, trusting in her instincts and the Force, she said, "Let's board the Hawk. We won't have to blast off just yet or anything like that, but I wouldn't want this to be overheard." She glanced around and lowered her voice. "You may know that I was exiled from the Jedi Order, but the why of it has only been heard by me and the three Jedi Masters, now dead--er, one with the Force--who explained it."
Without another word, she, Rika Saben, and the two droids climbed the entrance ramp onto the vessel. Once aboard, Rika and Tysyacha sat down.
"As you know, I fought in the Mandalorian Wars under Revan as his General. I was the one who gave the fateful order to activate the monstrous killing machine called the Shadow Generator, wiping out all soldiers and droids on both sides and almost ending my own life. However, albeit unconsciously, I severed all ties to the Force in order to save myself. No one, Force-user or not, can withstand that much pain and that much death and still survive without some intervention of that sort. I felt nothing then, and pain now.
"I was completely blind and deaf to the Force for five years, which I spent in exile, and then my second Master came to train me in its ways again. I am more like Revan than I know, because before he was retrained, Revan also had no idea that he was so strong in the Force. I thought that once I found three Jedi Masters, whom I believed to be long gone or in seclusive hiding, I could find out the truth about why I had been banished from the Jedi Order. I originally thought it was simply punishment for following Revan to war, but then I found out it was far more. The Masters showed me truth, but no mercy.
"Through cutting myself off from the Force in order to survive the last battle of the Mandalorian Wars, I had created a wound, or echo, in the Force itself and a wound within my own soul, a hollow void where the Force had once been. The only way that my second Master was able to help me re-learn the ways of the Jedi was through letting me draw some of her Force power to use as my own. I am a symbiotic Force bonder at best and a leech at worst. Know that if you travel with me, your actions may very well mirror mine. I do not believe in conscious manipulation of others, but unconscious manipulation has happened with every person who has ever called themselves my friend."
Silence from Rika, and from the Ebon Hawk, save the humming of the hyperdrive and the almost inaudible beeping of various life-support systems and environmental controls. In the almost tomb-like quietness, Kreia spoke.
Exile. You still believe that yours is the most monstrous crime someone could have ever committed in this galaxy? According to the Jedi, the crime she has committed is just as great, if not far greater. You revealed the truth that life can exist without the Force, and the teachings of the Jedi, despite all their talk of 'compassion' and 'truth', are hollow at their core, a black hole.
The truth that your fellow traveler reveals, however, concerns not just the Jedi Order but the galaxy itself and how it is ordered, how it is kept intact. You may find, at the end of your travels, that such a galaxy is not worth saving. Know that eliciting this information from Rika will not be easy. Once you pledge yourself to her service and take the name of Dvukh again, not just learn her Force teachings, will she trust you enough to reveal it.
Go now. Find Revan, as I directed, and find the True Sith. Then, at last, you shall find the answers you seek and the meaning behind all you've done.
Tysyacha was shivering and perspiring at the same time suddenly, but she hoped Rika thought it was because the air-coolant system was set too high.
She smiled and offered a hand. "What do you say? Shall we return to the hotel, which is very nice, by the way, and take off in the morning, or do we make a break in the middle of the night"--a timepiece glance--"which it is?"
"Midnight," Rika said after a long pause. She smiled. "No better time to leave a planet where your welcome is outworn. Our meeting here was not coincidence, Tysyacha. But we must not delay the quest for Revan."
"And yet..." she paused. "I think we will need more than just the two of us. I am a decent mechanic and a fair pilot. But at my core, I am neither. I am an adviser, training companion and coach, and someone you can rely on if conflict arises." After another, shorter pause, she went on, "But as to our departure, I leave that to you. We could remain here and see if we can't get a mechanic and a pilot to join us... or we can worry about getting them later. Your choice."
"One more night on this crime-ridden, Force-forsaken planet might do us good," replied Tysyacha. "Snello might get suspicious if we just take off like this from his launching pad at midnight. Sometimes he--well, I think he's an informant for some of the local crime lords. A snitch, I'd call it, but I know firsthand that a traitor is a traitor no matter what you call him or her." Rika nodded, and then Tysyacha stood up. They both returned to the Spacelanes Hotel, neither asking many more questions of the other. Both were tired, Tysyacha even more so than she had been after her duels.
Lying in her rumpled bed once again (for she never made it after using it), the Jedi Exile thought she'd sink into one of those deep, dreamless slumbers that refreshed her as much as it made her a little bit wary. She almost always remembered her dreams. This one, however, was a long and continuous nightmare, a loop of fights and faces.
One face in particular, Tysyacha noticed in her subconscious state. A female face. Not Rika's, no, but one with the same dark hair and deeply piercing expression. Blue eyes, full and sensuous lips, a double-bladed saberstaff glowing red as her own blood.
"Revan betrayed me," snarled the shadowy dream-figure, who was a Sith Lord or a Dark Jedi. "At once, he spurned me out of love and duty for the galaxy and left me responsible to bear the burdens its weary citizens still carried. Help me, help me, help me. I've heard that pathetic plea for countless years, and for every good deed I did, two more evil ones would be committed in its place. People never learn, and aliens fall into crime just as readily as humans sometimes. They might learn their lesson for a time, but then they slip either into apathy or their old habits. Why should the Jedi continue to defend them when they do nothing of substance to protect either their bodies or their souls? Under my law, everyone will rise to their highest potential, not sink to their lowest instincts. Everyone will be clean."
"Except for you," Tysyacha said to the dark one, keeping her two short silver sabers in a parrying position. "You don't see how much you've succumbed to the Dark Side while claiming to serve the Light. Please, let me convince you."
"Convince me?" The dark one smiled. "You say that I've fallen to the Dark Side, and yet how would you know that unless you've done so yourself? I was tortured by Lord Malak and pledged allegiance to the Sith. I've known the taste of power and passion, felt unbridled fury course through me. Who are you to say I am corrupt, while you have known nothing but purity, Jedi?"
"You forget," Tysyacha said, "that I followed Revan in the Mandalorian Wars. I served his Master next, a female Sith Lord who almost persuaded me to yield again."
"And you'll yield a third time." Her tone had been gentle and whisper-soft when she said this, but then as she gripped Tysyacha in a Force Crush around the neck, it turned blade-hard and cold as carbonite. "I'll break you and then I'll break your Master--not one of Malachor, but one born of a chance encounter. Once you are broken, you'll both serve me with a bowed head and a grateful heart, and only then will you know what true Light is."
Tysyacha convulsed with terror into a fetal position. Sitting bolt upright in bed would have been too cliche, and she was too numb with fear to do so.
The night was cold, the air bitter - but what else was new?
Not many people were out at this time at night, even in the sprawling entertainment centers that were all around him. They were all indoors - drinking at the cantinas, dancing at the clubs, watching at the movies, resting up in hotel rooms....there were probably thousands - if not tens of thousands - of people still awake in this sector.
A single group of people moved down the boardwalk. Four women - two teenagers, one female child, and perhaps the mother of the three - strode down the near-deserted streets, chatting and laughing as they did so. Judging by their dress, they could easily have just come from the show. Everything was just jolly for them - until a monster rat darted across the street, right in their path. The girls shrieked and jumped back, lifting up the hems of their skirts and standing on tip-toe. As if that would stop the rat from crawling up their legs, if it felt the fancy.
Welcome to the city, love.
The words were silent, held only within the mind of the man who leaned against the wall of a building nearby the pair, his arms folded over his scoundrel's vest, one foot up against the base of the wall. His piercing blue eyes looked out from his mane of unruly dark brown hair. His gloved fingers moved up to rub at the whiskers that were growing on the edge of his chin and up the sides of his face. The thought of just what to call the facial hair had always intrigued him - it wasn't particularly a beard; there wasn't enough hair for it to be a beard. But it wasn't exactly five o'clock shadow, either.
He discarded that unimportant train of thought as the beams of light spilling out from the garage complex just a few yards to his left was interrupted. The two women who had entered several minutes - had been ten? Fifteen? Or maybe half an hour? Perhaps more? - prior were leaving. He had followed them all this way after seeing one of them fight in the cantina. He was tempted to follow them again - but his guess was that they were headed back to the hotel room. And he had already seen that. Everything that he had been looking for was just a few yards away in one of Snello's lots. He waited for the women to be out of sight around one of the corners before dashing in.
The Toydarian was no where around - which only made his life easier. Slipping through into the main building, he darted from one dock to the next until he found the one that the women had been looking at before.
And there she was - the Ebon Hawk. It was the singular most famous vessel in all the galaxy...and it had been years since he had seen it. He had always been fascinated by this simple, medium-size freighter craft. So strange that a non-military issue ship like a freighter would be able to outrun Sith battle cruisers. Not that the Sith were any sort of threat now.
A faint sense of nostalgia came over him as he looked up at the battered ship - it was, in fact, so battered that many wouldn't recognize it. But the image of seeing the ship for the first time in Davik's hangar - in pristine, just-built condition, it looked like the single most beautiful piece of machinery he had ever seen. He tread carefully on the ground now - he wasn't sure if there was any droids or other sentients around. But he couldn't help himself - after hearing all these stories about the ship, he had to get a closer look...
Rika also experienced a restless night, though her... encounters were not nearly as frightening as the Exile's. She did not sleep, but her meditation was filled with visits from people she had known in the past. The first to visit was her old master.
"Still trying to save the galaxy, friend?" he asked gently. Rika's consciousness split from her body and rose to stand beside him.
"It's a highly unlikely event," she replied, "but I must make what little difference I can."
"I always admired you... Rika," the old man told her. He frowned, for just a moment. "That is what you're calling yourself these days, isn't it?" A nod from Rika, and the old man continued. "I admired you especially when I heard that you did not join Revan's ranks when he left the Jedi. That was when I realized you had not defied the Jedi. That the Jedi defied you."
"That was also a week before you died, as I recall," Rika remarked. Her master nodded in agreement.
"It was," he said. "But in that last week, I followed your trail through the galaxy and experienced just a taste of what you have become. Now, your path has intersected that of Tysyacha Odnova, the Jedi Exile. But even being one with the Force, I am not sure what you intend to accomplish by finding Revan."
"Revan is not my primary objective," Rika answered shortly. "The Force grows uneasy when it cannot flow as it intends. Tysyacha is a puzzling injury to it. It does not know how to heal that injury."
"And you do?" the old master inquired, doubtful. "Even I, Rika, being one with the Force, cannot possibly imagine what you have in mind."
"That is because you are too close to the problem," Rika explained patiently. "You are part of the problem. But that is no matter. I need to spend time with her. Given enough time and the proper care and instruction, the wound will heal.
The Master did not trouble her any further that night. However, another presence visited. This second presence was not so welcome. The woman who appeared looked as if she could have been Rika's identical twin sister. And in fact, this was truth.
"Your thoughts spell trouble, Ari..." her sister began. A sharp glare from Rika cut her sentence short.
"My name is Rika Saben," she hissed. "And you will address me as such."
"As you wish," the woman replied. "However, your thoughts spell trouble for the galaxy... 'Rika'. You follow along blindly with a plan to find Revan, but to what purpose?"
"The fact that I agreed to aid Tysyacha Odnova in finding Revan has nothing to do with..."
"With finding Revan," Rika's sister sighed. "Save it. You know I've heard it all before. Saving the galaxy, healing the wounds in the Force... blah, blah, blah, blah-blah. You claim to have such lofty ideals, such wonderful power. And what are you focusing that power on? A broken Jedi. You're a fool and you always have been."
"That's real convincing coming from you," Rika snorted. "I respected the counsel of my old master because he has seen a taste of what I see all the time... even if it took him death to understand. You on the other hand are not dead. Still lurking somewhere about on the edge of the known galaxy. And you come to me in visions, afraid of confrontation. Spare me your psychobabble and tell me what you want this time."
"I want you to persuade Tysyacha to call off her search Ariana. Revan does not want to be found. He's far to busy to worry about the rest of the galaxy."
"Let the exiles be the judge of that," Rika hissed. "And how many times do I have to tell you..."
"... that Ariana Bai died when her treacherous sister shot her in the back," her sister filled in. "Spare me the rant, Rika. Or have you forgotten that I am the one who killed Ariana? And don't think I know nothing of your ambitions, of your motivation. Your desire to heal everything will end your life Rika. And this time, it won't be my fault... and I certainly won't help you."
"You know nothing, Nanda!" Rika snarled. "Now leave me in peace!"
As Nanda's image faded from Rika's mind, she opened her eyes, sensing Tysyacha's fear. With a weary sigh, she rose and went to the Exile's room. Rapping lightly on the door, she opened it and entered.
"Rest peacefully, Tysyacha Odnova," she said softly, crossing to the bed and resting a hand gently on Tysyacha's forehead. "There is little left to this night and it ought not be spent in terror. Rest. Block out all distractions. Sleep."
Calling on a tiny fraction of the power of the Force, Rika did what she could to soothe Tysyacha's fears. Then, she left, returning to her own room and falling into a deep meditation, intended for rest.
She received no further visits that night.
Usually during the night at Snello's body shop, T3-M4 and HK-47, the two droids, automatically sent themselves into "sleep mode", which was a sort of half-conscious standby. They didn't shut themselves down completely in case there happened to arrive some potential thieves or vandals, but even droids enjoyed their moments of respite between their long days of full functioning. Machinery had to recalibrate, coolant to recircuit, and the like.
T3 was the first to "awaken". He sensed an unfamiliar presence in the Ebon Hawk. Dwooooo... He put himself into his most cautious and "stealthy" speed, suddenly and fully ready to perform a night patrol.
HK's copper-toned and sagging frame suddenly jerked awake, and a muffled sound, remarkably like "Ahem!", wound its way out of his vocabulator. T3 would pay for this. He sometimes tried to play midnight pranks on HK.
"Irritated Statement: Be wary, you bucket of bolts. I'll shut you down." HK "sighed" and shouldered his brand-new molten cannon, marching out of the cargo hold with the sleepy solemnity of a recently-roused soldier.
T3 was making whirring and beeping noises that quite obviously gave away his position, so that meant he would pay double. Stupidity was not a thing that HK-47 tolerated well, and if that little tin can was going to play tricks on him, T3 should at least have the common sense to hide more quietly.
Suddenly, however, HK knew that something really was wrong. An intruder was in the ship, and T3 had him "cornered", dweedling at him curiously.
HK-47 pointed his massive weapon at a shadowy figure that looked rather disheveled in his opinion. A petty thief, he mused, and not a very good one.
"Attention: Meatbag intruder, I shall explain your present situation in terms that your tiny intellect will be sure to understand." HK spoke slowly and deliberately, as if to a child or a drunk that was stupefied by juma juice.
"Imminent Threat: I--shall--kill--you. Rather sooner than later, in my opinion. You--are--a--thief. Or a vandal, at least, which is just as bad, since this is my Master's ship. This is the Ebon Hawk, and it is worth more, both in bodies and credits, than your puny life ever will be. Prepare for annihilation."
Dwoo. T3 was scared, the ferric fool. Why didn't he draw his blaster?
The durasteel plating of the loading ramp, the flooring, and walls was old and scratched - a patch here and there shone brighter and fresher than the others where the sections had to be replaced for whatever reason, but it seemed that most of the ship was still of its original construction. A true miracle of engineering - the galaxy was rich of stories of what this ship had been through. There were, of course, those that seemed larger than life. Only the owner of the ship could dispel the fact from the fiction - and even then, there were rumors that the current captain of the Hawk was an exiled Jedi.
His feet were almost silent as he moved slowly through the ship, his hand running across the cool, steel walls fondly as he did so. However, walking on the metal floor of a ship always brought with it a resonance of sound, regardless of how quietly you strode. He knew this - and even so, he was surprised when the sudden sound of whirring reached his ears. He froze, his eyes wide as he scanned the darkness - within seconds, he recognized the whirring as the noise of an astromech droid's motion belts. He cursed softly to himself - he hadn't thought anything sentient was inhabiting the ship.
He began to make a silent dash to the top of the loading ramp when the whirring became louder - and then it was followed by beeping and buzzing, the astromech shinning his flashflight in his eyes. He stumbled to a stop, blinded for a moment - and that moment was all it took to make things go from bad to worse as an all-too familiar 'voice' echoed from the nearby corridor.
"Irritated Statement: Be wary, you bucket of bolts. I'll shut you down."
Within seconds, a the silhouette of a droid's frame was visible behind the astromech. The shape was familiar - and once integrated with the voice and manner of dialogue, he knew at once what and who he was dealing with.
"Attention: Meatbag intruder, I shall explain your present situation in terms that your tiny intellect will be sure to understand."
It was an HK unit, and it had leveled an extremely dangerous gun at him. The glowing red eyes looked less than friendly in the darkness - and, differed from the droid's beliefs, he was not about to let those optical units be the last thing he saw.
"Imminent Threat: I--shall--kill--you. Rather sooner than later, in my opinion. You--are--a--thief. Or a vandal, at least, which is just as bad, since this is my Master's ship. This is the Ebon Hawk, and it is worth more, both in bodies and credits, than your puny life ever will be. Prepare for annihilation."
He slowly raised his arms in the air, almost as if he were surrendering. He kept his body in check - with a droid like this, any sudden movements would be potentially lethal.
"Easy, HK..." he said, "I apologize for boarding - I didn't think anyone was on. I swear to you that I was only looking - I haven't seen this ship for years. I was curious."
He doubted a military-grade assassin droid would buy or settle for something like that, but....it was the best he had, and it was worth a shot.
HK-47 seemed confused for a moment, but only for the fraction of a second it took him to readjust his cockeyed aim and recalibrate the sights on the molten cannon.
"Question: You say you have not seen this ship for years, yet who are you? A tourist? Not many people have seen the inside of the Ebon Hawk, and even then, the sentients of organic construction that my Master has allowed inside were followers of hers. Efficient meatbag servants, they were, and yet you strongly appear not to be. State your name, intruder, and perhaps I shall let you live, though it is highly doubtful. Do not attempt to prevaricate or lie, for I can see through such shallow attempts."
T3-M4 beeped and dwoodled in a rather subdued fashion, quiet but insistent, as if warning HK that he might be trifling with the wrong "meatbag intruder".
He took a second to consider the best way to word it - because an HK unit, as the scar on his right shoulder was testament to, often listened to the first few words of a sentence before deciding for itself what the rest would say, and react to it immediately. Caution was key.
"I'll admit, I'm not one of your master's servants," he said, "But my name isn't important - you wouldn't recognize it. I knew the Ebon Hawk before this captain was its owner - I first saw it on Taris. Davik Kang had it then. Thus, understandably...it's been a while."
It wasn't the whole truth, but...he hadn't lied exactly, either...
HK considered this. Half of his mechanical brain logically prompted him to "terminate this potential hostility" immediately, but the other half said something that could prove far more beneficial. It came up with a plan to test this man, this slinking and evasive figure, and see if he was telling any part of the truth within his few words.
"Decisive Statement: I shall seal you in the cargo hold for the remainder of this night, and when my Master and her newest companion return in the morning, I shall do whatever she wishes me to do with you. If she wants to kill you herself, fine, but if she'd rather leave the duty to me, meatbag, I shall be nothing but pleased to oblige."
The assassin droid shoved the molten cannon blaster that he carried right into the intruder's left temple, motioning for him to stand. The "meatbag" did so, and as HK scanned his body for any concealed weapons with his infrared sensors, he found none. This would be very entertaining, guarding a prisoner for the first time in what seemed several millennia. If necessary, he'd use "hard interrogation methods" to learn the captive's true purpose in boarding the Ebon Hawk. Oh, what fun! HK smiled.
"If I may," said the man deferentially, "may I ask you a question about your Master?"
"Annoyed Assent: Certainly, but the less words that emit from you, the better."
"Who is he or she, and have you served your Master for very long at all, HK?"
"Proud Answer: My Master's name is Tysyacha Odnova, though she has retaken an old surname after terminating her own previous Master, who had become a lethal Sithoid hostility. I have served her during the course of two years, and it has pleased me to terminate any threats that have presented themselves to her. She is slightly on the pacifist side, which causes my estimation of her to be a bit less than it could be, but no one who attacks her with an intent to kill emerges alive after any sort of fight."
With T3 following behind as a doubtful escort, HK and the man reached the cargo hold.
"Here we are. Do not make any sudden moves, or I shall be forced to terminate you."
HK-47's prisoner nodded, and he and the two droids entered the cargo hold. HK sealed the door shut behind them with a few hisses and clicks of the ship's hydraulics, and then he bade the man sit on the floor while he and T3 resumed their guard posts.
"Subtle Warning: I shall not go into standby mode at any point during your custody," HK told him. "I do not trust you, and neither would my Master if she were here. I strongly suggest that if you believe in any sort of religious doctrine or extinct deities, meditate upon them and 'pray', as some meatbags are fond of doing. Hopefully, my Master will see you for whom you are in the light of day and take appropriate action."
He means kill me. The prisoner turned up the corner of his mouth in a half-grin.
He took the droid's offer to sit - and did just that. He fell to the floor with a soft thunk, and rested back against the wall, his head leaning back against it. He had been detained by a droid...a fecking droid. If any of his old friends had heard of this...
Lifting his left hand, he twitched the fingers experimentally - and heard a few soft clicks. Damn thing - even though it was top of the line and mega-advanced, it still jammed. He pulled back his sleeve to reveal that the black glove he wore expanded beyond his hand - all the way up to his elbow. He unbuckled the two straps that spanned it and peeled it from his arm, revealing a biomail arm.
He popped open the side of it with a few clicks, revealing the five small pistons inside. He twitched his fingers again and quickly located the problem. With delicate fingers, he shifted the piston around a few times before cracking his mechanical knuckles. He closed the door on it again, and twitched his fingers a third time - no jam. He pulled the glove back on and replaced his sleeve, looking up and tuning into what HK was saying.
"...deities, meditate upon them and 'pray', as some meatbags are fond of doing. Hopefully, my Master will see you for whom you are in the light of day and take appropriate action."
"Thank you for your hospitality, HK." he called back through the door, smirking a bit as he tilted his head back again, closing his eyes. This was going to be a long night....
HK watched the prisoner tinker with his mechanical arm methodically, at first quite interested, being mechanical himself, but then experiencing pangs of boredom. He stood at ease, yet did not truly relax (as much as a droid could relax) for an instant. He took his guard duties seriously, and this man would never escape on his watch.
As for interrogation, whether it be "hard" or "soft", the assassin droid decided against it. Had this prisoner shown any signs of hostility or even arrogance, HK-47 would have been glad to question him further, but the man was simply bored, although attentive. No matter. The Exile would come, and then she'd cut him in two with her silver sabers.
The night, as the Ebon Hawk's newest captive suspected, was long and quiet, and when dawn came, it was almost with relief that both droids and man greeted it. As for Tysyacha, she had awakened before Rika--far before Rika, in fact. As far as she could tell, the kind woman was still asleep and snoring softly when Tysyacha went to check on her to make sure she was all right. You never could be too careful, knowing this hidden part of town and the slight yet pervasive seediness of its hotels.
At approximately 0500 hours, Tysyacha went to Snello's, inhabited by the proletarian, disinterested and mostly-departing night crew, to check on the ship. To her surprise and consternation, HK-47 emerged down the loading ramp of the Ebon Hawk, his red eyes glowing. What had gone wrong? The Exile braced herself for the worst.
"Indignant Report: Master," began HK, "at approximately 0100 hours or slightly before, an intruder boarded the Ebon Hawk. Male, of indeterminate age, rather unkempt appearance. I attempted to question him, eliciting his name and purpose for visiting, but he has been somewhat evasive. Instead of terminating this potential hostility, however, I instead deferred to my own assumption of your possible wishes and sealed him securely within the cargo hold. By 'sealed', I meant 'locked', Master. T3-M4 is presently guarding him. Shall I take you to him?" HK still carried his molten cannon.
"Please." Great. Some potential thief, or scrounger for spare parts. What next?
Once aboard the Ebon Hawk, Tysyacha ignited her lightsabers and went to the cargo hold. She wanted to be prepared in case the prisoner attacked or made a run for it. After last night's duel, she swore to herself she'd not be taken by surprise.
At the Exile's security codes being entered, the cargo hold doors slid open, and she saw not a belligerent thug or even a disgruntled Snello's employee, but a man that took her breath away for a split second with his presence. His eyes bore into hers. Odnova, they said, as if warning a guilty criminal of his or her hard-labor-worthy mistake. I knew you when you were Dvukh, and you shall take that name again.
Tysyacha cleared her throat. "State your name and business," she said calmly. "Why have you boarded the Ebon Hawk?" She kept her two sabers in parrying stance.
Until about four seconds before the door open, he had been in a relative state of sleep - more like daydreaming with his eyes closed - but the minute the door opened, he jolted into wakefulness. He looked up to see a woman's silhouette in the doorway...and two rather rare weapon.
"Whoa..." he said, closing his eyes hard and putting a hand up, "Bright, much?"
It took a moment for his eyes to adjust to the sudden light, but when they did, his piercing blue eyes caught the gaze of the woman, the current captain of the Ebon Hawk. A flash of intuition across his eyes, and a flash of shock through hers. He stood up slowly.
"Madam Jedi." he said with an exaggerated bow, his eyes never leaving hers. Coming to a standing position, he kept his powerful gaze on her own. "Who would have ever thought that a Jedi would be found here..."
"My name is Tysyacha Odnova," said the Exile, "and it's Miss." Her voice was calmer than it had been, but not by much. Slow degree by slow degree, she was beginning to realize that this man was not intent on attacking her, but more likely on escaping. "I never married. Jedi aren't allowed to, but I was tempted once." Atton. He's one with the Force now, yet I can't say this man won't someday usurp his memory. Getting back to the task at hand, Tysyacha said, "I never would have thought that you would have been found here, in the middle of the night. Who are you, and why are you aboard?"
"Ahem." This from HK-47, who sounded a bit impatient. "Shall I enact full termination procedures now, Master, or do you wish to banter with the meatbag a bit more?" After a whole night of waiting, this was to be his reward? More waiting? What a pazaak gyp!
He inclined his head once more, a faint smile playing about his lips. "My apologies, Tysy." he said, his eyes flashing intuitively again. He straightened once more, his ice blue eyes flashing from the Jedi to the HK unit.
"I must confess, there's a bit that I know about Jedi, but...that fact I wasn't clear on." There was no air of deception or malice in his face or the air about him - to all the world, he seemed as if he had very little intent to do more than explain away the trouble. "In fact...that is why I had come here last night. I saw you fight in the cantina - and I knew that that wasn't any sort of normal fighting style. I was curious...and hopefully, that won't kill the cat this time around."
Tysyacha's expression brightened, and she smiled with genuine pleasure. "Oh! You're interested in my dueling techniques--how I managed to get out of that stanging vise-grip that one drunken schutta had on my neck. Very well. It's been a while since I've had the opportunity to train someone, or at least teach them something they didn't already know." She motioned for the man to stand, and he did so and stretched.
"Please forgive me. It's 0600 hours, and I'm wondering if you'd like some breakfast. It's the least I owe you after your detainment by my--erm--bodyguard droids. Not some chunks of dehydrated astronaut fodder, either, real breakfast. Perhaps you'd care to join me and my friend Rika for some at the Spacelanes Hotel Cafe?" A relaxed glance.
His careful words had brought about a stronger reaction than he had thought - he hadn't thought that she would get sidetracked so quickly, especially when he had made the small slip of her name.
From being detained to invited to breakfast...well, he would say that he wasn't doing too bad for himself.
"I think I would enjoy that quite a bit." he said, flashing a smile. He rubbed distractedly at his biomail arm as he took a few steps towards the Jedi, his gaze turning to HK. "Again, I thank you for your hospitality, HK. It was quite a pleasant night."
With the innocent tone of his eyes and voice, it was rather difficult to tell whether he was being sarcastic or not.
Rika roused herself and left the dorm she'd finally managed to sleep in. To her surprise, she found Tysyacha and the two droids with a stranger. For a short time, she held back, listening to the conversation. But then, Tysyacha offered to allow the stranger to join them for breakfast and Rika frowned. She came into view, glaring darkly at the stranger. She didn't know who he was and therefore, she did not trust him... not even after seeing Tysyacha conversing with him in relative friendliness.
"Someone you know, Tysyacha?" she demanded, her voice a cool, commanding tone, which cracked sharply in the confined space. "Or perhaps someone who stuck his nose where it didn't belong?"
She examined the man from head to foot. "Mechanic, by the look of you." She turned to Tysyacha and said softly, "I realize I said we'd need a mechanic, but if a stray who happened to wander aboard the ship is the best we can come up with I can't say I have much faith in our quest's success."
Turning back to the man, Rika raised her voice and said, "No more dodging. Your name. Now."
Tysyacha again cleared her throat, but with a tone of nervousness and deference this time instead of one used to intimidate and command attention. How could I allow myself to get distracted so easily? she thought, feeling a bit ashamed. She turned to Rika, hoping that she would accept her own explanation of the night's events.
"Apparently," she began humbly, "after we'd both gone back to the hotel, our present stranger boarded the Ebon Hawk. HK-47 and T3-M4 were roused to attention, being on either standby mode or guard patrol, and they intercepted him. HK, like you, was not pleased to find him aboard the ship and treated him as he would any other potentially hostile intruder." A slight blush. "He took this man prisoner and sealed him in the cargo hold for the remainder of the night. I got up before you did and went here to Snello's to check on the ship. HK informed me of the situation, suspecting that our extra bit of 'cargo' was a potential thief or vandal, and I ignited my sabers and went to confront the prisoner.
"Surprisingly, he'd taken nothing and damaged nothing. Instead, he says he was at the cantina last night where I was fighting my three duels. As a spectator, he was interested in my fighting techniques, and he came to the Hawk to see if he could find me. For one, I believe him. I detected no trace of deception in his voice when I spoke to him just now, and I've learned the rare Miraluka technique of Force Sight. When I look at this stranger, I see pure white neutrality, no trace of darkness."
Rika still looked rather displeased, so Tysyacha bowed deeply in Jedi fashion. "Forgive me, Rika. It seems I've let my own ego get in the way of using more rational common sense, and since Jedi are to have let go of their egos a long time ago, I feel ashamed. It's been a long time since I've shown anyone the secrets of my fighting style, and I was flattered that this stranger was so interested as to try and find the Hawk."
She looked up and to the man. "What now? I can't call you Oy, ty, which in my native tongue means 'Hey, you!'" A small smile played at the corners of the prisoner's mouth, but neither Rika nor the two droids shared Tysyacha's flash of humor.
HK stepped forward. "Veiled Insult: In my opinion, for him, Oy, ty shall suffice."
"In my opinion, that will work just fine as well." he murmured softly. Running a hand through his hair, he shook his head a bit to dishevel it. It was the type of hair that didn't look so good when it was flat and controlled - not to mention it felt extremely uncomfortable.
"My apologies, Miss," he said, inclining his head in a slight bow, his arms behind his back in a military fashion. "I don't mean to cause you any sort of fear or mistrust. You were correct - I am a bit of a mechanic myself, and as such, I can appreciate a good ship when I see it. Not only did I come seeking Miss Odnova, but I had also heard rumors that the Ebon Hawk had been docked somewhere in this sector. When I saw the way that Miss Odnova fought, I thought that she was certainly the legendary owner of this ship - and I was curious to see it again. I haven't seen the Hawk since the destruction of Taris, so I feel that you might understand my curiosity."
Tysyacha took a visible step backward. As far as she could recall, the planet of Taris had been utterly decimated by Lord Malak and the Sith, a world of billions of residents reduced to ash in the blink of an eye. All so the Sith could make sure that one Jedi, Bastila Shan by name, did not escape the planet except under their own custody.
Had this man seen the Ebon Hawk around the time of Taris' destruction? How?
"Excuse me," said Tysyacha, "but as far as I know, the Sith struck the planet of Taris almost without warning. No one saw the barrage of superheated laser fire coming, or at least none of the commonfolk. As I recall, the only way this vessel escaped the onslaught was that Revan, a former Sith Lord and one of my previous Masters, stole and commandeered the ship from a Tarisian crime lord named Davik Kang right before the lasers wiped everything out. He had his crew with him, and unless you were one of them or had some marvelous backup plan to stay alive on the Tarisian homeworld, there is no way you'd be standing here right now and telling me this."
Tysyacha put her hands on her hips. "Or, perhaps you're one of Davik's men, or a rare remnant of Malak's forces who knew what was going to happen beforehand. A sleeper cell, so to speak, who would have his own transportation off the planet and would have seen the Ebon Hawk on one of his many missions to destroy it. You have just made a critical mistake, my friend. Who would have been in such a position to have seen the outside of the Hawk, let alone the inside, since Taris died except one of the Sith or the Kang criminal elements looking for such a well-known vessel?"
He held up his hands in a defensive surrender, blinking slowly as he looked at the captain.
"Please, please, Miss Odnova. Your accusations are quite painful." he said, "I assure you, I am no criminal - nor am I a...Sith. I tend to stay away from political sides like that - I find that it's quite a bit more self-preserving to be on your own side.
"As for joining Davik's version of the Exchange, I regret to inform you that I despise such petty crimes and the criminals that commit them. I suppose you could define me as a freelancer - I travel from planet to planet looking for work. Davik had invited me - and I went to see him simply for credibility. If one finds that you have been personally invited by one such as Davik, one tends to believe that you're pretty good. I gracefully and gratefully denied his request, obviously - but not before seeing the Ebon Hawk.
"When I left, the Sith had not set up their blockade as of yet. Their ships were orbiting the far side of the planet, last I heard - rumors of Republic movements in a nearby sector were thick on the streets. I decided it would be smart to leave before any trouble broke out."
Tysyacha nodded. "I apologize for levelling these suspicions against you, but since the events of the past seven years, I have learned that you can never be too careful about whom to trust. You are beginning to earn mine, and in time, I hope that I will do the same also." She turned to Rika. "Rika? I'm willing to trust your judgment on whether you'll allow this man to serve as a mechanic aboard the Ebon Hawk if he wishes to do so, but I believe that time is of the essence. Snello has always been a rather shady garage manager, but after tonight, I suspect some of his criminal connections might come looking for us."
Rika stood, considering the situation carefully, and Tysyacha again spoke to the man.
"Out of curiosity," said Tysyacha, "have you heard of a Jedi by the name of Bastila Shan? Supposedly, she was the reason the Sith destroyed Taris. Bastila had a rare talent called Battle Meditation, which allowed her to turn the tide of even the largest skirmishes of war. The Sith wanted her alive, and they would not let her escape Taris unless she was in Force stun-cuffs and under their custody. The reason I think you might have heard of Bastila is because she was offered up as a prize in a swoop race, and the whole main metropolis of Taris couldn't stop talking about it."
And I, mused Tysyacha, can't stop believing she's the Sith in my dreams.
A flash of...something moved suddenly across the man's penetrating and expressionless eyes. Recognition? Intuition?
"Well...I wouldn't say that I know her." he said, his eyes scanning his gloves for a moment. "I have heard of her - I think most of those within the Republic during those years had. She was our hope, and our only true weapon against the Sith. We all had our beliefs of victory in her - when her cruiser went down, we were all afraid for the fate of the war. I can't say that I knew that she was being held captive as a prize. I wasn't on-planet at the time."
Tysyacha heard her stomach growl rather insistently, and she knew that the three of them could easily continue their conversation over something more substantial than the freeze-dried nerf jerky stored in the cargo hold. "Please, come," she beckoned to Rika and the man with a mechanic's looks and unruly dark hair. "The Spacelanes Cafe is waiting, and for what it's worth, I don't think anyone would try to kill us in broad daylight in front of a bunch of hungry restaurant patrons." Reluctantly, Rika nodded.
The Spacelanes Cafe was, as to be expected, crowded, noisy, and heady with the scents of frying breakfast food. For one, Tysyacha felt her mouth water copiously, and she wondered if the others were experiencing the same phenomenon. The maitre d', a wiry Rodian clad in a clean white apron, showed them to a small, round corner table built for four, but just barely. They were shown flimsy menus listing a couple of misspelled entrees, but other than that, the restaurant was more than passable.
"I take order?" This from a tall, thin waiter with, Tysyacha thought, only the most basic grasp of Basic. When she showed him the menu and the platter of two fried krayt dragon eggs and bantha bacon, he raised an eyebrow. "Egg-gg-gs?" he asked.
"Yes, eggs," said Tysyacha gently, knowing firsthand the pratfalls of learning a foreign language, but still a shade irritated. "And bantha bacon, please, with juma juice." At a wide-eyed look from Rika, the Jedi Exile shrugged. "Keeps me awake. For most, it's a depressant, slowing their nervous systems down, but for me, it's a great stimulant." She smiled, and the waiter bowed to them, almost touching his forehead to the table.
The man smirked to himself, shaking his head slightly as the Jedi ordered a glass of Juma Juice - surely it was hardly later than seven in the morning? Even by most galactic standards, that was quite early to be drinking. He didn't make any notice of it, however - he simply returned his eyes to the menu in front of him.
When the waiter asked in clumsy, stuttering Basic, he glanced at the man over the top of the shabby pamphlet. His eyes moved back to the menu within seconds - and yet, he seemed to have already ascertained where this man had come from. It was so strikingly obvious because he spoke a few words in an unfamiliar language that caused the waiter to pull back slightly in surprise. He returned a few words in the same guttural language, in which the man responded in kind. The waiter scribbled down the order, and his eyes stayed on the menu, oblivious to the looks that the others were giving him.
Rika and Tysyacha both looked astonished, their mouths agape. What language was that, sir, they seemed to be saying, and where in the kriffing galaxy did you ever learn it? If this man truly was a mechanic, however, perhaps it should have come as no surprise that he knew the waiter's native language. Customers naturally came in all shapes and sizes and tongues, because broken machines knew no language or cultural barriers. Tysyacha felt rather humbled at her slight rudeness to the waiter. "Tell him I'm sorry if I sounded terse," she mumbled, and the man did so.
After Rika had given her order as well, the waiter left the three of them to their own private conversation, no matter if they could barely hear themselves think, let alone talk. Cafes like these had a congenial atmosphere where the clinking of plates and silverware far prevailed over the murmurs of intelligent discourse. Ah, well. The Force, at least to Tysyacha and Rika, provided them with acute hearing to listen to the man.
"As I said," began Tysyacha, "or as you might have ascertained during our brief three-way conversation back aboard the Ebon Hawk, we're in need of a mechanic. We are on a mission for some--er--reconaissance. We both know some Jedi techniques, and right now we're trying to find a Jedi that's only been talked about in historical holocrons lately. We believe that he can teach us Force styles and ways of fighting and persuasion that no person in the galaxy has practiced ever since he disappeared.
"Rika and I are not simply amateurs, either. We believe, or at least I do, that the Sith have not been completely defeated. As an old Master of mine once said, 'the Sith is a belief', and as long as this belief prevails or is at least prevalent in sentient minds, the Sith will never be vanquished. Nevertheless, I believe the galaxy's in danger again."
Tysyacha folded her hands in front of her and smiled wryly. "I'm not asking you to play hero. The Force knows I'm not one. I'm a duelist with a high body count, even though I've never slaughtered anyone during one of my entertainment-only fights. You might say my past has been shadier than most. Even bounty hunters would blush.
"Nevertheless, I am not on the side of the Sith, and I'll be cut in two before I see them take the world again. I've heard of Darth Revan, and Malak. Revan has been redeemed, I've heard, but Malak almost laid waste to this whole galaxy on his quest for unlimited power. We need to find this particular vanished Jedi so we can learn from him. Otherwise, I doubt that what little I do know will do much good against a still-remaining Sith threat. Rika knows more than I do,"--a smile at Rika--"but we think this Jedi can help us be far more beneficial to the cause of the Light and the Republic. In order to find him, we need a ship in good repair, and that's why we need you."
The man folded the menu and handed it to the waiter's waiting hand before he disappeared. He took in their looks of incredulous surprise with little notice, seeming entirely unperturbed. Rather than sitting forward and explaining how he knew such a language, he simply returned their gazes with a nonchalant one of his own.
As Tysyacha explained her story - one that he already had an inkling of, if the rumors of her being the Jedi Exile were true - he listened intently and leaned back in the seat. He raised his arms, elbows resting against the booth's back as he watched the two of them, drinking in her words with a look of attention - but not of surprise, or even intrigue. When the woman mentioned that both she and her companion were versed in the ways of the Jedi, he raised a surprised eyebrow - but other than that, he hardly reacted.
"Hm." he murmured. "Searching for Revan while being able to stay on and repair the infamous Ebon Hawk..." a smirk curled his lips, "When can I start?"
"When Rika says you can start." Tysyacha gazed at the man matter-of-factly. "She's the one who rescued me from vomiting into a trash-bin outside the latest bar where I'd been dueling. It was she who offered to take me under her wing and teach me more of the skills I'm supposed to be learning instead of how to knee a drunk punk in the chest." She rolled her large blue eyes. "That man is dead right now. He was hanged, or rather lynched, after our duel for being a cheater who pulled a sneak attack. I can't truly say I allowed it to happen, because I'd passed out as it did."
An involuntary shudder ran through Tysyacha. According to the code of the Jedi, she was supposed to have enough self-mastery to rescue herself from the throes of semi-consciousness and turn back the wrath of the angry and inebriated mob. However, she had failed, and Tysyacha no longer considered this any big surprise. She was, after all, an exile, and after being away from the Jedi training rooms and meditation chambers for seven years, she found she no longer had the fortitude she once did.
"I'm sorry it happened," she said sadly, "but I'm not at all sorry that I'm still alive."
"Can you believe it?" This from an indignant matron at the next table, markedly better-dressed than the rest of the customers and even Tysyacha herself. Perhaps she had been served by the same waiter with the sketchy (at best) grasp of Basic. "I thought one of the basic requirements in order to be a waiter was knowing how to read the menu. For shame! When I asked for griddle cakes, he said, 'Cakes? It dessert, we not have cakes.' I wanted to slap him. Griddle cakes, you fool, not dessert cakes! You know," she said to her companion, "that's what's wrong with the whole galaxy these days. In their search for ever-cheaper labor, bosses everywhere are paying obtuse and uneducated proles to do every sort of job. I'd hire a droid to wait on me instead! At least droids are required to know a multitude of languages and to read menucrons."
Tysyacha bristled at the woman's loud and commanding tone of voice. With a slight push of the Force, she sent the woman's tall glass of water tumbling into her lap.
"Ohh!" The matron stood up and snorted with disgust. Her lap was wet, and the folds of her floral-print dress were clinging to her stomach and below. "Blast these tipping tables! How does the manager of this cafe think he can get away with such things?"
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