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Old 05-01-2006, 12:48 AM   #69
machievelli
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Cordon Sanitaire

Like avenging angels three couriers dropped out of hyperspace. Ahead of them approximately 14000 kilometers away was the bulk of the docks in orbits.

“Master, there is a ship registering as the Feradi in very low orbit of the planet.” Padawan Mooroli reported, the Lekku of his head weaving gently.

“Any sign of Millennium Falcon?”

“Yes sir.” He keyed a button, flashing a holo up. “The Falcon is in the boat bay of this small station in orbit approximately 50 kilometers higher.” He flinched. “Feradi is in motion. Dropping downward. The station is deorbiting. It will hit atmosphere in ten minutes.”

“Stop it I will, Master Hobart.”

“Do that, Yodai.” Hobart considered. There were too few of them. The people in shuttles headed for the planet had to be warned, as did the massive stations in orbit as well. But Breia was also in danger...

“Padawan Solo, go to Master Sookor’s rescue. I will go to the command station and quarantine everyone who has come up from the planet. We don’t have a lot of time.”

“On it.” Padawan Sani of Naboo swept down into a tight turn. “Padawan Reiger, you have to play shepherd. Do not let any more shuttles approach the planet. If they refuse to stop, fire a warning burst. If they still fail, fire to disable.” Without a word Knight of Ossus turned onto it’s new course.

“For all, may the Force be with us.” Knight of Coruscant turned toward the stations ahead, radio waves already reaching out.

*****
“Sir, these shuttles are scheduled up to 48 hours in advance. We cannot just cut the planet off-”

“Almost a half million people are already dead and you’re saying you can’t stop shuttles because it will interfere with your schedule? There are over sixty thousand of your own workers on the planet, along with three and a half million Fondorians and your precious schedule is more important?” Hobart asked coolly.

“Well I-”

Hobart continued ruthlessly. “Since this conversation is being recorded I ask you again; Which is more important, your precious schedule or more lives!”

The man swallowed, and his voice was quavering. He hit a button and an alarm klaxon sounded. “All stations, cease launching and recovering planet bound shuttles. I repeat., all stations, cease launching and recovering planet bound shuttles. All stations go to defensive fire plan Beta. All defensive systems on active.

“All shuttles approaching planet Fondor. Do not enter atmosphere, I repeat, all shuttles approaching planet Fondor. Do not enter atmosphere.

“All shuttles on approach from planet Fondor, go to area grid Zed Alpha Niner, hold until called for. Any and I repeat any attempt to dock before you have been cleared will cause your destruction. Defensive systems on all station are now active.” He switched off. “Satisfied?”

“Not until this menace is taken care of.

*****

Padawan Rees of Coruscant dived howling into the upper atmosphere. Below it, barely traveling mach 7, was Feradi. “All weapons active.” Yodai ordered. He turned to his console. The ship had made three circuits of the planet before he had closed the range, and the gas that was venting stopped. A series of smaller canisters had been spraying outward on this orbit instead of gas, but Yodai wasn‘t taking any chances. The Proton torpedo dropped, slamming forward at almost a tenth of light speed. The launch and the explosion that shredded the ship into flinders happened almost simultaneously.

“What about the canisters?” Padawan Samsun asked.

“Too small to target they are. Hope we must that people not there when they land.”

The canisters spun madly on their descent, steadying to drop almost straight down as they cleared a kilometer’s height. At a quarter kilometer, very small charges peeled them open like ripe fruit, dispensing flocks of bird into the air. On the night side they settled down, going to sleep automatically. But on the day side, the air was filled with deadly song.

*****
“Shuttle Alpha two niner, this is Jedi courier Knight of Ossus. You will immediately come right to two zero niner and proceed to area Zed Alpha Niner as instructed.”

“Knight of Ossus. we are closer to Fondor ground one. Will proceed-”

Padawan Reiger keyed the guns. He had purposely offset by seven degrees, a distance of just 200 meters in front of the plunging shuttle’s bow. The tracers shot past like bolts of livid fire. The shuttle leaped upward like a fly attempting to escape.

“Mayday, mayday! This is shuttle Alpha two niner! We are under attack!

“Shuttle Alpha two niner, that was your only warning shot. I am dialing the weapons to center of vehicle mass.” Reiger, a tall man with long ash blonde hair and cold eyes leaned into his microphone. “You have five second to comply.” He then began counting calmly.

At four the shuttle lifted back toward orbit.

“Shuttle Alpha two niner, I will warn you that if you attempt to head anywhere except Area Zed Alpha Niner, we do carry four missiles. You will get a first hand look at what they can do out to three light seconds distance.”

Sullenly the shuttle did exactly what it had been told to do.

“Master Reiger. I though the range of our missiles was only two point five light seconds.”

“Really? You mean I lied to that man?” His look was so innocent that Padawan Diera Coori laughed.

*****
“Look, Master, they approach as I anticipated.” Landru opened the boat bay, dispassionately watching Millennium Falcon flip end for end as the air blew it away from the station.

“I do hope someone saves the ship.” He commented. “We spent a lot of years aboard that ship.”

“Yes. “ Breia sighed. “Enough to know that you have gone insane my apprentice.”

“Apprentice.” He sighed, looking back at her with love in his eyes. “You may not know it, but you saying that word takes me so far back.”

“Back before murder was an option.”

“After I am dead, and you see what I have done, at least someone will understand.” He turned away, all business again. “Only one ship. A maximum of four Monks. I will deal with them, bundle you onto the ship, and send it off. Goodbye, Master.” He slipped a pair of earplugs into his ears into his ears, and touched the key for the sonic projector.

*****
As Padawan Sani of Naboo settled on the deck, Yaka found himself humming. An atonal wail from all four throats simultaneously. He almost stopped, but it suddenly struck him.

There was a predator on his home world called a Shrieker. It attacked by first stunning it’s prey with a supersonic wail, then stung the victim to death and fed on the body. His people had developed the same atonal wail to protect themselves and when struck by such an attack, the instinctively gave out this humming sound. Beside him Breia Solo gave a shriek of pain, holding her ears in agony. He stood, still wailing, and ran to the cargo bay. He found a set of ear protectors, sliding them on the woman as the tone died.

“What is happening?” A4’s eyes turned toward him.

“Sonic weapon. The Master is unconscious.” He turned. The droid had followed him. Can you pilot this ship?”

“That is very simple. I can-”

“This station will fall out of atmosphere in less than a minute. If I am not back you must get the ship away.”

“But you don’t have time-” The droid was talking to empty space.

*****

Yaka passed the droid carrying the unconscious Master Sookor. He could not have explained to a layman where he was going. Another Jedi would have understood that little tilt of sound or light that guided him.

The room was deep and open. A man stood at the transparisteel windows, watching as they edges of metal began to begin to glow. He looked up, taking in the Ithorian with a calm glance. “If you don’t leave immediately, you will die.”

“I am taking you with me, Landru. The dead demand it.”

“I don’t care what they demand, my young friend. I am going home.”

“If I must force you, you will come.” Yaka drew his sword, then gently lay it on the deck. Then he lumbered forward.

*****

“What is happening?” Breia Sookor snapped awake with yet another headache. There was a rather ugly droid standing over her.

“I was ordered to move this ship away and into space when one minute had elapsed.”

She stood. She was unsteady, but she had been freed. She walked over to the command seat where her young namesake lay still stunned taking her sword. “Then I suggest you obey that order.”

“But Master Sookor-”

“I have to try to save an old friend.” She dived out of the ship, running. A4 watched her go. 29 seconds and counting...

*****

Breia flew down the corridors, running against time. Even as she knew she was too late.

The room was as it had been when she had first awakened there. Only one thing was different, the crumpled body of a young Ithorian lay curiously relaxed on the floor. She turned. Landru stood at the window. “Another life.” She snapped.

He turned, tears running down his cheeks. The gun he had used to kill the young Jedi dropped from his trembling hand “He was the bravest being I have ever met. He cast away his sword to take me with his bare hands. I pointed the gun at him. Fired a warning shot! He struggled with me, it went off...” Landru fell to his knees. “Why can’t you just kill me or let me die?” He screamed. “It is done, over, and I want to go home!”

She padded toward him, standing over him like Nemesis. He looked up, eyes begging.

Breia set the sword down, kneeling to hold him. The frame of the transparisteel was burning away as the station continued it’s final plunge.

“My greatest student, my greatest failure.” She whispered.

“But you don’t understand. I didn‘t fail.”

He spoke to her, telling her all. By the end she was laughing when the transparisteel melted.

*****

Three seconds...Two seconds...One second... A4 keyed the controls. The ramp coming up even as the engines screamed. He spun the ship in place, ramming it through the opening door of the boat bay.

“Wha...” Breia Solo tried to stand, but between a blinding headache and vertigo she ended up sprawled on the deck. Around her she could feel the ship shuddering as it punched up out of the atmosphere.

“Yaka...”

“Padawan Yaka left the ship intending to find Master Sookor and the enemy. He did not return. Master Sookor was brought aboard by the L7 waiting in the cargo bay. I have accessed it’s memory. A full rendition of how the gas was manufactured was in it‘s memory along with a list of everyone connected to it. Those who have not already been incarcerated will be.”

“Breia...”

“She left the ship to save an old friend in her own words. Both of them gave me a countdown to depart if they had not returned.”

“They... Are still on the station?”

“There is no station for them to be on.” The screen lit up. Behind them, the burning hulk of the station was screaming down into the atmosphere. As she watched, it landed in a circle of buildings surrounded by a deep red growth of plants. At mach 20 it was no longer metal and plastic, but an energy state eager for immolation. The equivalent of a ten kiloton warhead erased the town it fell on from the map.

She stared at it in horror. Yaka, Master Breia Sookor. Gone in a flash of light heat and sound. The com panel flashed, and she keyed it absently.

“Padawan Sani of Naboo. This is Padawan Reiger aboard Knight of Coruscant. Did you succeed?”

“No.” She whispered, sliding into the flight seat of the ship. “Padawan Yaka and Master Sookor are both dead. They rode the station down.”

“Gods.” Reiger gasped. “Join up at the command station with Master Hobart. I’ll keep this up.”

“No.” She wiped her eyes. “You need help. I will circle the containment area until all shuttles are accounted for.”

“Understood, Padawan Solo. You ride herd, I‘ll chivvy them along.”

*****

“Curious.” A4 said.

“What are you going on about now?” Breia asked dully.

“The chemical composition of the weapon.”

“What?”

“It is not stable.”

“Of course it is not stable. Creating a weapon susceptible to a sound vibration pretty much guarantees that it will be unstable.” She snapped.

“Yes. But examine these.” above the droid’s head a holo showed the artificial chemical breaking down then recombining in the Kusberi DNA. As she watched, each was highlighted. “The Sulishti specific compound has changed. It is no longer lethal, but...”

“But what?“

“It now causes a violent reaction to air pressure, making them physically sick the higher they go. The effects are similar to withdrawal from some of the nastier pain medications. An altitude of even a few hundred meters will cause physical discomfort bordering on agony.” The photo receptors swiveled. “You do know that on ships all species reduce standard air pressure to save on mass carried. Just being in a ship when they seal the hatch could be painful. It also causes a panic reaction linked directly to this in any that breathe it in the long term. Every time they try it will become worse. But these,” The other three flashed. “Are unstable. they have half lives if you will.”

“Meaning?”

“The first to dissipate into uselessness is the Human specific. It needs these key elements (Sections started to flash) which do not occur in nature. They are manufactured. 48 hours after the Kusberi begins producing it, the compound becomes this.” Another molecule subtly different appeared. “Though it does not degrade into safety for almost 2,000 years.

“the Twi-lek specific begins degrading next, but is still dangerous for 4,000 years. However when the cast off molecules interact with the degraded Human specific compound it creates this.” Another molecule again subtly different appeared. “This will begin to occur within two weeks.

“The Hutt specific will take almost 10,000 years to degrade, but the castoff molecules will combine with the newly formed Human / Twi-lek hybrid to form this within about three months.” The new molecule looked a lot like...

“Bidraxidine?”

“A naturally occurring form that does not need to be manufactured. Actually if my figures for collecting and encasing the gas in carbonite are correct it will be cheaper to merely siphon filter and bottle it there in atmosphere rather than pay for manufacture. Since the primary supplier of Bidraxidine to the Galaxy are the Hutt, they no longer have a corner on the market.

“The large molecules which are still toxic can be filtered readily, so when the plant life creates the Bidraxidine it can be sold. The species in question merely cannot go to the planet for it.

“If any Sulishti are off their home planet, they will be unable to live on a planet or travel through a station where this chemical in use unless they are willing to stay there forever.”

“What about the Ruurians Verpine-”

“Yes, in the artificial form. This agricultural form will not break free if aspirated by those races. Their adrenal analogs will not cause it to form the weapon. It is perfectly harmless.” The droid swiveled it’s eyes toward her. “However, there is one other problem with the raw gas product during that period. The only way to be perfectly safe for either Humans Hutt or Twi-lek or for species other than the Sulishti on their home world require two things. One is they have to be exposed to this gas in every form from original to reconstituted, or have been born where it is present.

“Second, they must have a quantity of Kusberi pollen in their lungs and sinus cavities equal to a minimum of six months constant exposure. Any human not already been resident on Fondor for that period of time, is in deadly danger, and no new people can move there until the initial toxin has been rendered harmless without taking the chance that some of it remains.

“The children!”

“What has not been checked by the medical staff was the affect of this gas on juvenile forms. However like most stimulants used by adults, the paradoxical effect comes into play. Even in a normal environment, a child is unaffected by this chemical. Had you noticed that most of the survivors aboard relatively undamaged stations have been children?”

She hadn‘t. Damn. But it made sense. Everyone goes mad, you are afraid, you run and hid. Somewhere they can’t reach you. A child’s idea of hiding saved you when force of arms could not. “But what of the workers from the orbital facilities?”

“They get only sporadic doses of the pollen when they are in the planet. A continued exposure to the pollen is why the native Fondorians are so badly affected. They get it constantly. But when this strikes they will be the only ones free of the weapon.

“Then there is this which is also odd.” The toxin was displayed, and beside it, a small series of molecules. “On the left is the toxin. On the right, is the primary enzme in Kusberi pollen which affects humans and especially Fondorians. When they combine...” The toxin touched the pollen, and rolled around it, the toxin matching the pollen exactly. “The toxin blocks the chemical in the Kusberi from assimilation. It is a totally natural antidote to the allergic reaction. At the same time this combination renders the toxin inert in humans but no other race.

“Oh gods.” Breia slapped her forehead. He’s created a cordon Sanitaire!’

“What?”

“A term that means ‘clean area’. He has created a place where humans can live eventually, and anyone native can remain, but no one else can.”

She looked toward the planet, shaking her head in wonder. Then turned to her duties.

*****
The final death toll was 61,428. Watching the scenes from the cameras set up in the towns created for the workers was too reminiscent of what she had seen to feel good to Breia. But the scenes from the towns where the Fondorians lived apart from the interlopers was positively pastoral. Behind he she could hear a couple of the Conglomerate board members talking.

“We’ll have to build a massive station just for R&R.” One commented. “It’ll set our growth predictions back by at least a decade.”

“No. We‘ll just raise the price on our ships 10% across the board...”

Master Hobart came up before she turned to rip someone’s head off.

*****

Breia Solo’s Journal: Looking down on the planet, I am sure that both Landru and my namesake Master Sookor are both having a good laugh at what has occurred. Two planet has been neatly excised from the galaxy, and the only people capable of settling on the other one live on the planet below me, which is under quarantine, and will be for ten millennia.

She would probably be upset with the loss of Millennium Falcon but when Knight of Ossus went back to tow her in, the ship had been spinning down into atmosphere. Master Reiger and Padawan Diera Coori swear the ship turned to point her blunt bow at the planet before her final dive. She had served one mistress since I was a baby, and refused to let anyone sail her with that mistress now dust.

There are fifty thousand workers in the, uh ‘soft’ industries still trapped down below. Read bartenders, waitresses, people of negotiable affections, you name it. People that had lived on the planet so they could batten on the workers. The one group that Landru did not work into his calculations. All there long enough for the pollen to save their lives. It will take a long time to work out a way to transport them off. Without their usual source of income, they are not happy to be there, and the Fondorians don’t want them there.

There are also 42,000 children of five different races down there and seventeen human planets as well, orphaned by the weapon. While the conglomerate is trying to find parents and relatives, there is no hurry. The Fondorians are family oriented, and every child even the Rodian and Hutt children can find homes if they wish to stay. i watched a pair of families arguing who would take a poor immature Hutt of only seventy years old. The Sulishti trapped on that world have been relocated to Delta continent. Oddly enough now that they are trapped among us, they are beginning to interact more readily with other races.

The change between the sickly people that had lived tormented by the Kusberi and the people now immune to it is astonishing. If the corporations decide they have to mine on this planet. the citizens won’t forget the mess that has been made any time soon.

They have named the small songbirds ‘Landru’s skimmer. Whether we wish to label him a villain or a hero, the people of that once tortured planet will remember his music with fondness.

Even his last act was a touch of genius. The station he rode to his death landed almost exactly on the village he had been born in, abandoned by the Fondorians for five decades. He went home, and assured no one would live there ever. Only 20,000 odd of those leeches who worked for the Conglomerate lived there.

Master Hobart told me that Breia went to her death in peace. She was still alive when the station fell into the atmosphere and he swears amused greatly just before she died. He also opined that it was the Force itself that helped Landru succeed.

Now I wonder.

The Force is within all of us. Perhaps the power of four million odd people in torment fed his ability, made his plan no matter how insane it seemed work so smoothly. The reports from Nar Shaddaa are a puzzle because no one ordered Hand personnel to lay the elaborate fields of booby traps that were discovered at the stations that had been attacked. There is no signature of who might have done it, or why. Every piece used in their manufacture were common materials and the only way to tell a Corellian ‘Room Broom’ from the Coruscanti ‘Man sweeper is by serial numbers. Everything supposedly was already aboard those stations, and you can believe it if you wish. A lot of the Military do.

Some have suggested that people on the stations that have knowledge of such things placed them during their madness, but it begs the question of the ones set up with equipment they would not have had, such as missile pods. It is the one puzzle remaining.

The Chancellor won the election with a landside, his party so firmly in power I do not expect him to be deposed any time soon. He assured that the courts martial for the officers arrested at his order were scrupulously fair. Admirals Tori Logan Nadien Charles were convicted of all charges. The only one not sent to prison was Charles, who shot himself with his own sidearm before the sentence was read. Minister Riker was stripped of his seat in the senate, and is to be tried before a civilian court. Considering everything a lawyer can do in front of a civilian court that is not allowed before a military one, the trial may begin sometime in the next decade.

We are enroute to Coruscant. I am being assigned a new Padawan learner...


'To argue with those who have renounced the use and authority of reason is as futile as to administer medicine to the dead.' Now who said that?

From the one who brought you;
What we die for...
Acceptance
KOTOR excerpts
Star Wars: The Beginning
Star Wars: Republic Dawn
Return From Exile

Last edited by machievelli; 05-03-2006 at 03:51 AM. Reason: rewrite
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