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Old 09-19-2005, 05:03 PM   #3
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When I arrived at the Kolari system, the Sith war was nearing the end of it’s first year. The only major change from when the recruiter had spoken to me was that the Corellians were supplying equipment in return for ground forces. Since the enemy was starting to move toward the sector, the local militias were starting to build up.
I have constantly been berated since I became a Jedi about the military. The Republic doesn’t have one per se. Each planet or alliance even corporation has it’s own military force, with their own weapons ships and even training. There isn’t even a recognized unified Academy, though the Republic Naval Academy is recognized by many. This means every military force has it’s own ways of doing things.
But you have to understand that the Republic is a very loose alliance, based primarily on trade and currency. Not a solid Federal union like say the Corellian Trade Alliance. The idea had been considered when the Republic had first been formed 20 millennia ago, but the sheer prospect of trying to assure that the laws are the same from place to place would have been staggering.
A unified military might have made the wars we did face less bloody, but only at the expense of a massive military force that could just as easily be turned on our own people. The Galaxy has over 50 billion stars, and so many planets. Why should we of Deralia pay for a military we only see when we need to actually fight? So they never created a unified Republic Fleet or Republic army.
Also, on a galactic scale even the largest war is a storm seen from a distance for most of us. The only Mandalorians I had seen up until that point had been hunters that came just like any other to test themselves against our game.
But war had come to us here, and the militia was mobilizing.
While we end up fighting together standardization is a joke. No two units from different planets have the same weapons. No two have ships of the same design. Also while the Galaxy is cosmopolitan, the militias are not. Most of the alien races fight in their own units, humans in their own etc.
My first six months was spent in boot camp. You can’t just hand the soldiers their blasters armor and swords then send them out to die. Not if you want to have most of them a week from now. Instead you take these raw recruits, and teach them how to use the weapons.
I did rather well. Except for the folding stock the shortened barrel and the option to set it for automatic fire, the blaster rifle I was issued was a Corellian hunting rifle. The pistol was also Corellian, and something I had sometimes carried in the field at home. The meter long swords were slightly longer than the panga I had used at home, and made of the same composite. The only difference I saw was that while at home we wore them on the hip, the sheath for a sword was on your back with the handle even with your head.
Our blades had to be made from the composites called a Corotosis weave developed by the Verpine. Ever since the Jedi had developed the light saber, people had tried and finally found something that would block or at least retard it. A light saber would slide along the blade, nicking but not slicing through it. Our armor used the same kinds of composites, with additional layers to stop or deflect blaster fire damage from flames or cold, even sonic weapons.
But we were happy to have the weapons and armor, because for the first time in fifty years, we faced Dark Jedi among the Sith.
Over two thousand years ago, a sect of the Jedi had broken away. They had fled the Republic, and joined the Sith.
Originally, the Sith had been a race, a violently xenophobic race. They had attacked the Republic throughout the centuries, and finally had been beaten back to their home world. When the first dark Jedi arrived, there had been bloodshed, but finally the Sith accepted them for their nihilistic view of life in general, and the galaxy in particular. For centuries they had stayed on that planet, but a thousand years ago, they struck out at the galaxy again. So started the first war actually called the Sith war. They were beaten, but every few centuries, they would try yet again.
Maybe that is why a lot of people can’t differentiate between Jedi and Sith. Both have power that a normal person can not even conceive of. The only difference between them is; are they friendly to you or not? If you have ever had a Jedi adjudicate your case in the other person’s favor what do you think?
Much later when I began Jedi training, I learned the main difference is the same as governments or men themselves. Some people revel in the power, and want more. Others make decisions in their lives where they take the easier path rather than doing what has to be done, no matter how hard. Others merely see the galaxy as chaos, and try to impose some sort of order on it.
Like most people then, I looked on the Jedi as odd people with powers I could not match. When I faced my first dark Jedi, they seemed the same. The first Jedi I ever met was Padawan Loras of Beretell. She was assigned to my ship when I left boot camp. She looked about as dangerous as a kitten. Just a short jolly fat woman.
To most boot camp is six months of hell. To me it was home with fifty people living in the same room. The hardship I endured was dealing with fifty people from seven planets, and forty different sets of rules they had been raised by. It wasn’t until the fifth time someone made a sexual overture to me that I finally understood what was being offered. That last was so blatant that I would have had to be mentally deficient to misunderstand. I didn’t pair off, though a lot of my classmates did. That just didn’t interest me. I passed through basic and the advanced courses with barely a ripple. By the time we were in the last weeks, I was tapped as a rifle instructor.
I graduated and was assigned to fleet operations. I was assigned with those that survived training to the Corellian Frigate Ashtree Corona. The next year was taken up in raids on various Sith controlled worlds. A lot of my classmates died, but somehow I did not. By the end of that year, I was a squad leader. I fought in three fleet actions, including the ambush at Zanebra where Revan fell.
As a ground troop, we saw little direct action except for boarding actions. During ship to ship actions we were assigned to turbolaser batteries, and kept them operational. At Zanebra, we were one of five ships that were pounding Behemoth, the enemy flagship. Suddenly we were ordered to check fire, and immediately retarget Leviathan, the flagship of the Sith Second column. We pounded her, and would have probably blown her into dust, but suddenly she turned, and to our amazement, fired her entire starboard broadside not at us, but at Behemoth!
Already badly damaged, life pods began spewing away from the crippled ship. Then she exploded. Our scanners were confused for several fatal seconds. Ashtree Corona was the closest ship, and Leviathan concentrated all of her fire on us.
It was like being in a waste can with the gods playing a field hockey with you. I had already been in my suit, and had ducked below the cannon to repair an electronic fault. That saved me when a blast gutted the gun and killed everyone else in the compartment. I tried to contact the bridge but internal communications was out. I finally made my way to rescue workers farther inboard.
For the next hours the crew was busy just trying to save the ship. Of the contingent of fifty ground troopers aboard, I was one of only ten that survived. The crew dragooned those of us that were handy with tools into service. Six including myself were assigned to rescue operations. All scanners were dead. For all we knew, a thousand Sith were coming. But we had our duty. Two of the men I assigned to damage control, finding the pitifully few survivors in the wreckage aboard. The other four came with me. We put on hard suits with thruster packs, and went to see what survivors might be floating past in life pods.
This should have been simple, read a beacon, tractor it in, save a life. But the Sith had taken to dumping pods with thermal detonators or planar charges rigged to blow. Either would badly damage a ship that tractored it in. So we had to go out and personally check each pod before the boat bay officer would bring them aboard. They simply saw the demographics. It was less expensive in the long run to risk a single trooper that a billion credit ship. Just harder on the troopers.
It was simple, really. Jet up to the armorplast view port, and look inside. If you see a body, check to see if it is Sith or Republic. If you see no one, set a beacon on it, and an EOD team would disable any traps. If you see a bomb of any kind, you blow it in place. If there is a Republican troop in it, you tag it with a different beacon, and it is towed in ASAP. If it’s Sith, and they appeared to be armed, you tapped on the plast, showed them the limpet mine in your other hand, and make a motion to ask if they were going to surrender. If they did, you used the EOD beacon. If not? That was what the mine was for.
This sounds harsh, but some of the Sith weren’t in the surrendering mood. If not, we saw no reason to deal with them beyond making sure they passed on. Most of the surviving prisoners I had seen were just as dejected as I would have been in their place.
The battle had run away from us. Though we didn’t know it, the battle was over. Leviathan and those ships able to escape had run. Not that we were in much better shape. It had started with forty-five of ours versus forty of theirs. Out of their fleet, only five ships had escaped. Of ours only three were hyper drive capable. There were a dozen hulks that had to be either repaired or destroyed of what both fleets had left. We’d won, but I didn’t think we could afford many victories like it.
I was at this for over fifteen hours; my suit was down to the emergency air pack when I called into the ship. “Ashtree Corona this is unit seven. Area appears clear, down to reserve air. Ready to return.”
Before Ashtree Corona could answer, a different voice cut in. “Unit seven, this is Endar Spire do not, I repeat, do not return to Ashtree Corona at this time. Sweep your sector again.”
“Wait a minute, Endar Spire! These are my people you are risking. What is left out there worth their lives?” Asked Commander Roofan. Our captain Bendar Solo had died with over half our crew.
“Commander, one of the pods that blew off Leviathan contained some of our boarding crew. The Jedi aboard here says General Bastila might be aboard it.”
Bastila! I had heard of her, or course. When this ambush had been planned, Bastila was going to use a Jedi power called battle mediation to slip through the defenses of the enemy flagship intending to capture or kill the dark lord Revan.
“Endar Spire, I don’t care if my wife, the entire senate and the damn Jedi council is still out there! I can have a fresh troop with full supplies out there in an hour.”
“They might not have an hour!”
I looked around. “Ashtree Corona this is unit seven.”
“Go seven.”
Maybe I can at least localize her pod for a follow on.”
There was silence. I hadn’t considered that I had just undercut my superior. Bastila was important enough that the Republic had bet 10,000 lives on this attack, and lost most of them. That made her more important than I was. I had made calls like this before since I was made squad leader. Who was more important? In this case, Bastila was.
“Unit seven give fuel state and consumables.”
I looked at the read out. Both were in the yellow, but I had seen them as bad before. “Fuel 17%, air four zero minutes.” That was bad, but not unrecoverable. I had enough fuel to head out a short distance, at the expense of being plucked out of space like a fly when I came back on a ballistic course.
“Understood Unit Seven. You have permission to make one, I repeat, one check run. Set return alarm for fifteen minutes of air. If you have not found this pod by that time, you will return aboard immediately.”
“Understood.” I lifted the scan pack, but still there wasn’t anything out there according to it. No beacon no loose mass the size of a pod. Only a thick debris field a short distance away. A pod could have been jammed in there, and beacons did fail. I targeted it, and set the thruster pack. My fuel was down to 11 when I pulled up outside of it.
From what I could recognize, I knew this was wreckage from Behemoth. A ship almost ten times the size of the Ashtree Corona. I began scanning it item by item, anything big enough to conceal a pod.
Something caught my eye, and I looked toward one of the larger pieces. I could have sworn I saw something there, but there was nothing on the scanner. The section was three decks through, and an ID marker on one deck said it came from level 4. The decks had been first cut by turbolaser fire, then sheared apart by the explosion. I could see parts of deck three and five from here. And in the middle of that mess was what looked like an undeployed pod! “ Have a pod in sight. Going in to check.”
I spun in place, and was aiming for the pod when something hit me from behind. I had been so intent on my search I had forgotten to set my proximity alarm. I was slammed forward, spinning helplessly. My systems were going haywire. The thruster pack controls all read dead. I had no maneuvering control.
“Problem.” I said. The spin and thrust was throwing me past the hulk, and if I didn’t catch something fast I was going to fall forever. The Com officer was shouting questions, but I ignored him. I saw a section of conduit that thrust out like a spear, and I reached for it, putting all of my effort into catching that metal lifeline. I saw it flash by, and closed my eyes.
Suddenly I felt a jerk as if I had been tied by my hand to a landspeeder. The torque almost ripped my arm off. As I slowed, I heard another alarm.
“Wait.” I demanded, looking at the display. My air that had been above thirty was dropping like a bomb. “Air tank damaged. Give me quiet.” I popped the seals, and the thruster pack spun away. Whatever had hit it had slammed into my back, and either cracked the tank, or popped the seal. If it was the tank, I was already dead. If it were the seal, I might be able to reattach it.
They tell you in suit training that you need two people when reattaching a line seal. I didn’t have another person.
I caught the flailing line, and reached back. To picture my problem, visualize a metal pin sticking up just about in the center of your shoulder blades. Now take a tube in your hand, and reach back, and thread that pin through the tube without seeing it, and knowing you only have one chance to do it right. I closed my eyes again. They weren’t going to help me if I failed.
There was a click after a moment, and the alarm shut off. I breathed deeply, fighting the panic that had been there. That was why I never used the adrenal stims they issue. I don’t like the affect when you come down. “Got it.” I reported.
“Give air state.”
I opened my eyes. “I have to check the pod first.”
“To Pathan’s nine hells with the pod!” He almost screamed.
I ignored him. There was a stanchion within reach, and I swung across outside the armorplast of the door. Through it I could see half a dozen crumpled bodies. On top was a woman in what looked like a Jedi robe. She’s here.” I tapped the stud on my armband, activating my beacon. I could hear it‘s siren call. Something still worked. “Home in on my signal.”
“Give me your air state!“ This time he did scream.
I looked at it, blinked, and looked again. The number refused to get bigger.
“Give me a situation and number. Now!”
“Bad, eight.” Eight minutes of life left.
“Bad!” He giggled hysterically. “I would have said that qualified as panic! Give me a moment.” I could hear him calling flight quarters to see what could be done. I knocked on the armorplast, but the woman didn’t move.
“Unit seven, uh, Danika. We can get a lander there.” I could hear the worry in his voice.
“It’s going to take at least fifteen minutes.”
Even with the air in the suit that left me a full five minutes with no air. I wasn’t going back to the ship. I contemplated my death, and for some reason, it didn’t bother me. Well whining wouldn’t help. “Hurry. I am going to take a nap.”
I could see the stars out there, the distant specks of ships and suits. None were close enough to reach me in time. I took my survival line, and threaded it through the stanchion and a convenient handle, then rested against the armorplast, my face touching it. I darkened the visor. Better they didn’t wake up and see a dead woman looking back.
I considered using my pharmacope to check out. When they install them in your suit, they tell you what not to take with what else. For example, number one was a painkiller, and number three a powerful adrenal stim. Together, your heart goes from zero to light speed in about three seconds, and shuts down in four. Painless, or so they say.
No. I would not go out that way. I checked it, and took a double dose of number 7, a basic sleep aid. I closed my eyes, and listened to the soft hiss of the air.
Even with the drug I knew when the air ran out. Aided by the drug, my mind tottered on the brink, then broke away from its foundations. It spun down into the depths like a wheel flying off a child’s toy. After a moment, I slid down more easily, sinking into the depths of darkness to come to rest like a stone on the deepest reach of life itself, above the precipice that is death. There was no data coming in any more. I was deaf dumb and blind, and knew death was just a step away. Entirely free of all human concerns, yet alive with a lucidity and coherence.
All notions of mind, all ties of blood and family, all desires of the heart fell away, and I was nothing but that bright spark that was the essence of everything I was. Unable to resist destruction. To be alone in it’s own madness of being, motiveless beyond the will to survive. I sank deeper...
I dreamed...

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

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