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Old 05-14-2006, 07:48 PM   #135
machievelli
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Therefore at first be shy as a maiden. When the enemy gives you an opening be as swift as a hare and he will be unable to withstand you.

Ebon Hawk

Enroute to the Star Forge System

Danika

The next few days were tense. Everyone dealt with the tension in their own ways. Juhani Jolee and I spent hours honing Sasha’ growing skills, and spent others practicing with our weapons. Canderous made small adjustments in his blaster rifle, Carth worked on piloting, Mission on figuring what we would need to get when we reached a new port. Zaalbar kept us fed and tinkered with the engine. I was constantly nagged by the fact that there was nothing more from Bastila after she had shut me out. The bond still existed, so she was alive. But what had happened to her?

It was a relief when we came out at ten planetary diameters from a small planet.

“Not much to see.” Carth said. “Are we sure this is the right place?”

I pointed wordlessly at the fleet that orbited the star, or rather, the structure above the star’s North Pole. He stared at it, then used the sensors to bring up a larger picture. As I might have said before, it was shaped not unlike a lightsaber pommel, only fatter. Over a hundred kilometers through, it was more than a thousand in length.

“The Star Forge.” Carth whispered. “I’ve never seen anything like it!”

“We’re here, now we need to tell someone.” I told him.

“Yeah, all right. I’m sending this directly to the sixth fleet. Admiral Dodonna will know what to do. Maybe a quick strike can cripple it.”

“I don’t know.” I pointed at the dots of yet more ships coming around from the sensor shadow of the massive structure. “How many ships do they have here?”

Carth stared. “It looks like all of them.” He added that to the message. “All right, the message is away. All we have to do is sit here outside their sensor range-” there was a bleep, and he snarled. “Fighters coming in fast. Get on the guns!”

I leaped up, running back to the centerline. Canderous passed me taking the ladder down as I climbed up. I was in my seat, weapons activated as the fighters came snarling in. Ebon Hawk was running toward the planet, trying to put it between the fleet and us. I blasted a fighter, spinning to find another as the ship started rocking as if it was going mad.

“Carth-”

“Some kind of disruptor field! Flight controls are burning out!”

The fighters lofted away from us, and I could understand why. The ship was tumbling out of control toward the planet.

“All hands brace for collision, all hand, brace for collision!” Carth screamed. “This might be a rough landing.”

Watching a crash-landing is so much more fun if there is some distance between you and it. From where I sat the sky the sea and land were interchangeable, spinning past my view in a whirling vortex. Suddenly we leveled out. How I didn’t know. Thrusters blasted, then we bounced on our landing gear. We came down again, oleo joints screaming in protest. Then there was silence.

“Well, we’re down.” Carth said. I unstrapped, and climbed down the ladder. The others were already gathering in the mess hall, and I collapsed into a seat.

“Hey, when you said rough, you were understating it! What happened, Carth? You been on a drinking binge while we weren’t watching?” Mission asked.

“That disruptor field fried our stabilizers. We’re lucky we made it down in one piece.” He rubbed his scalp. “Unless we can fix them, we’re stuck here. I can’t guarantee what would happen if we took off without them.”

“While we were descending, I think I saw ships that had crashed before us.” Juhani mused. Perhaps they might have the parts we need?”

“So did I.” Canderous said. “Some of them aren’t that far away.” He shook his head. “This place is a graveyard of ships from thousands of years of history. There must be something we can use.”

“Yeah. But even if we can repair the stabilizers, that disruptor field is still there. We’d just run into it again when we lift.”

“I’m more worried about the fleet.” I said. “The field seems to extend out from the Star Forge, and is adjustable. If they turn it up while the fleet is in system, who knows what will happen!”

“But there has to be a way to shield from it.” Carth mused. “The Sith didn’t seem to be affected by it. But we won’t have time to find that way, so destroying or shutting it down is our best option.”

I think T3 might have found it.” Mission said. We crowded around the monitor she was using. A field seemed to emanate from the planet, running outward another AU. A staggering amount of energy.

“The field is coming from a building not far from here.”

“What about Bastila?” I asked.

“We haven’t forgotten about her.” Carth soothed. “But there isn’t anything we can do until the field is down and the ship is repaired.”

“I only hope we are not to late.” Juhani whispered. “Bastila has been Malak’s prisoner for more than a week. If he can turn her to the dark side, the fleet we have called is doomed!”

“Bastila won’t turn to the dark side.” I said, even as my heart told me otherwise.

“Like you once did, I fear that Bastila will feel the lure of the dark side. “Can’t you feel it? Like a smell in the air. Whoever these people were, they lived and breathed the dark side their entire lives. She may be strong in the force, but she is impulsive and prideful. Like you were once, Revan.” Jolee opined.

“Don‘t call me that!” I shook my head vehemently. “Revan is dead and buried. I am Danika now and forever.”

“Hold on to that thought, girl. But remember that Bastila hasn’t been through the same hell yet. If she still feels as you do, than all she needs is rescue.”

“If Bastila is on the Star Forge, as you seem to think, we can’t rescue her until we’re repaired and the field is down, Jolee.” Carth shook his head, making a copy of the data from the sensors. “I’ve also downloaded the types of ships that might the parts By name and type. There are half a dozen ships close enough to check out. I’ve downloaded their positions and maybe one of them has what we need.”

“I hope it’s really that easy, Carth.” Mission murmured.

“You and me both, Mission. All right, Zaalbar and I will start ripping out fried circuits. Mission and the droids will go through what we have, and see what can be replaced. Danika, who will you take?”

“Jolee and Canderous.” I said. “Juhani, can you help with the scanning?”

“Yes.”

We gathered our equipment, and gathered at the ramp. I trotted down it, then stopped. I had seen this beach before...

The blade slicing through Mission, watching her fall, hearing Zaalbar’s despairing scream.

“Danika?” Jolee was watching me, worried.

“I had a vision back at the Academy. Me killing Mission and Zaalbar here. On this very spot.” I whispered.

“Then you are close to the point where your choice will kill her or save her.” Jolee replied. “I’m here, I hope I can stop you when that time comes.”

“If anyone can.” I whispered. I turned. Someone was running in the rock and stone above us.

Four figures came into sight. They were the same race as the builders. However they had devolved badly. Their weapons were rock and wood with sharp stone chips imbedded in them. They saw us, and seemed surprised for a moment, then they charged with an ululating cry.

Canderous smoothly aimed as if he were on a target range and three of them were dead before they reached us. The last died as I cut him down.

“What are they?” Canderous asked. “I’ve never seen such things.

“Murderous animals!” Someone said, and we spun. Two Duros staggered from the rocks near the side of our private beach, hands raised in supplication. “Thank you humans for saving us!”

“No problem.” I said.

“If your arrival had not been so fortuitous, we would have been caught! They treat all that are not of their kind as food!”

“What are you doing here?” I asked.

“Our mining survey ship crashed here months ago. Our ship sank out there, at sea. Of our crew, only ten survived. We have been hunted and attacked by them ever since our arrival. Some said they would swim to that small island there.” He waved at the horizon. Unless they could swam better than any Duros I have ever seen, they were dead.

“They have been attacking you?”

“Yes. They are vicious, hunting us using the Rancor they have tamed. If we are caught, we end up in their stew pots.”

“Are there other survivors? from other ships?”

“Many, a hundred, maybe more. Most live by running from these monsters. Only the Mandalorians are safe from them.”

“Mando?” Canderous asked. “Where are they? How many?”

“A dozen all told, we think.” One of the Duros said. “They have a lot of their technology remaining. Stealth fields, and mines. But they prey on us too. They are camped in a valley on the other side of the Temple mount.”

“Danika?” Canderous asked.

“Yes, I think we might be able to use some allies. Shall we go?”

“No, I will go alone.” He demurred. “That will stop the foolish among them from shooting first.”

“We cannot stay.” The Duros said. “The longer we stay in one place, the more likely one of our enemies will find us.”

“Wait.” I lifted my com and gave an order. A few moments later, Carth pushed a lifter down the ramp. On it was an inflatable raft, and about four days worth of rations. The Duros were stunned by our generosity, but once they had the raft, they couldn’t get into it and away from shore fast enough. I had Juhani join us, and started up the slope into the depths of the island.

There was a path cutting to the left, and I ignored it. I knew somehow that the enemy the Duros were worried about lived that way. Instead I took the switchback climbing up the scree, and soon we could look down on the beach. The intruder lights were on, and the turrets were hot. I found another cut in the rock, and we followed it. Ahead of us, I could hear something roaring.



Unknown planet

Canderous

I went back aboard as Danika led the others up the hill. I went to the cargo bay which I had made my home, and gathered some things. A sound-blocking stealth belt, and the black coveralls that went with it. My armor was gone, and I wished I had it now. Mando are more into appearances than other might think. I was going to contact my people, and I looked like a ragamuffin. No help for it.

I came down the ramp, then started up the same hill at a jog. The valley with the temple was up from the beach, and I ignored the path that led to the left. The path opened into a lush valley with a huge pyramid in its center. I heard roaring, and saw a pair Rancor shambling through the remains of pillars and other structures. I went across past the temple, invisible in the stealth field, and found a path leading down the other side. I trod down it slowly, silent and invisible. Ahead of me I could see a series of mines. I stopped, and examined them. Standard layout. I slipped through the gap that should have been there and moved farther.

I came upon the encampment, and my throat tightened. A dozen was right, if you counted the women, which we do. Only five were adult men of warrior age and three of the women. The other ‘warriors’ were between eight and ten years old. A dozen or more younger children were busy at their training or doing the menial jobs necessary. I hefted a rock, and flung it down to fall near the fire. All of the men and three of the women leaped for weapons, spinning to face up the slope. I shut down the stealth field.

“Who leads?” I roared.

One of the men stepped forward. “Makiel Suuchin of Clan Lembat!” He shouted. “Who attacks?”

“I do not attack. I come to talk!”

“Then who comes to talk?” He asked.

“Canderous Ordo of clan Ordo.” I replied.

“Canderous Ordo is dead! He died at Malchior V!”

“I stand before you and can prove my name.” I retorted. “Where were you when Malchior V was fought!”

“Aboard Dhalgiri!” He replied.

“The command of Soontal Ordo of clan Ordo.” I said. “Son of my Daughter Chandra.”

“No more. He was badly wounded, and ordered us to jump out on a blind course.”

“The fool!” I shook my head at the daring of it. A blind course is just that. You closed your eyes and put a pin in a map of the Galaxy, and went whatever direction fate took you in hyperspace. They could have all died out there. Instead... “Soontal is dead.” It wasn’t really a question. He would have been trading embraces with me if he lived.

“In the crash.” Makiel replied. “Along with almost all of us.”

“May I come down?”

“Yes, and welcome, father by marriage of our captain.”

I moved down the hill, and they gathered around me. The children were well behaved, only one reached out to finger my clothing, and he dropped his hand without being told. I moved to the fire, standing with my people for the first time.

“We only arrived here a short while ago.” I told them.

“More Mando?” Someone asked. “Does the war go on?”

“No. The war has been over for many years. But a new war has begun, and we can have a part in it.”

“Says who?” One spoke. “I am Konrad Morgo of clan Shoomart. Those we have hunted of the Galaxy told us that Mandalore is dead.”

“But there is a new Mandalore.” I told them. “Revan defeated Mandalore, and assumed his place.”

“So what?” He shrugged. “We have heard some of the war you speak. Revan is dead.”

“She is not dead.” I snapped. “She is here, and she sent me.”

“To do what?”

“That is for her to say. She is Mandalore.“



Unknown planet

Danika

We reached the temple mount after a sharp battle. I ran toward the building, but felt something pushing me back.

“A force field of some kind.” Jolee grunted. I agreed. Suddenly;

I stood before the temple. The secret to escape from this world, to the huge structure in space was here. The Rift Treader lay out in the sea, brought down by the disruptor field emanating from this very building.

“Perhaps the natives?” Malak asked. I nodded my agreement. “The one that calls himself the One is mad. While he might help us, do you trust him?”

“Never, Revan.”

“Then perhaps we should speak with these Elders he spoke of.” I pointed.


I turned. “That way.” The others merely nodded. We crossed the open area, and went down another path. Where it turned, was what looked like a small ship. I scanned it. “Corellian Class A17. It’s on Carth’s list.” I started to walk forward but Jolee stopped me. A small animal hopped from the underbrush. “Gizka. Harmful little buggers.”

“It doesn’t look dangerous.” I said.

“They aren’t. But they breed like mad. Something here must feed on them or we’d be hip deep already.”

An instant later, the animal was blown apart by a hidden mine. We stared at the gobbets of flesh that were all that remained.

“Well that would fix the problem.” Jolee said.

It took us several hours to get into the ship. Mines had been placed on every entryway and we had to disarm them as we worked our way into it. The parts we needed were easy to find once we did. Less than twenty minutes all told. We worked our way back out of the ship, then fumbled our way across the clearing to the path leading onward. We finally reached the beach an hour before sunset. A structure stood before us. Pillars ran across the face of it, and energy flowed between them. A set of pillars stood away from the others, with an obvious path between them. I stepped into the area, and a hologram appeared. One of the aliens that made this world their home looked at me.

“You are not Rakata. What is your business with the Elders, off-worlder?”
A voice asked. I understood it!

“Who are you?”

“I am a monitoring system that protects the Elders from attack. I repeat, you are not Rakata. State your purpose or be destroyed.” A bolt of energy ran between the posts behind us.

“I come seeking entry into the Star Forge.”

“Hold. Pattern matching employed. You are Revan.”

“Was. No longer.”

“Your answer makes no sense. But the Elders wish to speak with you. You may enter.” The energy behind us guttered out, and before us the pathway opened.



Elders

Danika

The door opened before us soundlessly. Whatever else they had lost, the Rakata had not lost that! We walked into the courtyard, facing three of the Elders. The center one of the trio spoke.

“We of the Elder’s council did not expect to see you again Revan. We had thought that you had betrayed us. Why have you returned to our village after all this time?”

I stopped. “I am not Revan, any more. I am called Danika Wordweaver now.”

“This answer makes no sense. Our sensors and our eyes recognize you. You are the one called Revan. You are the very one that came here before with your servant, Malak. You promised to help us. In exchange for our aid, you promised to destroy the ancient evil of our race that orbits our star. Are you saying that this promise has no meaning to you?”

“My mind was destroyed. Almost all memories I have of your world have been lost.”

They huddled to talk quietly. “This explains the differences in the way you were and the way you are now. You are not as you once were. Perhaps you speak the truth, and all memory has been lost. Yet that power which you wield, what you call the Force, is still there. You can still help us, if we are willing to trust you yet again.

“If what you say is true, that you cannot remember your last visit here, than you must have a number of questions. Ask what you will, and we will try to help you understand.”

“You can tell me who you are first.”

“We are called the Elders. Our ancestors were priests and scientists among our people, serving the Infinite Empire before it collapsed almost 30,000 odd of your years ago. As I said, you arrived here four of your years ago with your servant Malak. Your great ship was dragged from orbit as ships have been destroyed since the fall of the Empire. Both of you survived that crash with a handful of others, though you were then trapped on our world. In your search for a way to escape you found our enclave as you have again.

“You used the Force to draw the language of the Rakata from our minds, and impressed the language you call Basic on ours to allow us to help you in that escape. You convinced us to aid you in entering the temple of the Ancients. Both you and Malak entered after promising to destroy the weapon that floats in space.

“Yet after all this time you have returned. The evil still exists, for we can feel it.”

“Have a lot of ships crashed here?”

“The disruptor field was a defense of last resort created by the Ancients to protect our home world from attack. Most die when their ships crash, but some survive, as do the creatures you call Rancor and Gizka. The Rancor have been captured when young, and are used by the warlike tribes of the islands to attack others.”

“Tell me more of your people.”

“There are hundreds of thousands of our people upon this world. But except for this one enclave, they are fierce warlike primitives. When our world was bombarded, our people hid in shelters beneath the surface for thousands of years. Finally some began seeking the surface again. But those that come to the surface late find that they are under attack by their own kind.

“Our society was rigidly stratified, and each shelter was for one order only. As I said, we were priests and scientists. Others, such as those that follow the One were warriors in their tribe, and still remain so. Others were artisans farmers, and so on.”

He looked sad. “Since the One became their leader, attacks by his followers have increased. Farmers that could have fed us have died because the One and his followers kill them and take food. Artisans die because the One does not have the patience to discover that they could make what he needs. Medical personnel die and the One tries to use the medicines without their help, which makes even more die. Infant mortality among the warriors alone is at over ten percent.

“We have technology which we took with us which he does not, and that is all that has saved us from the same fate. The fool thinks that what we know is magical and easily used. We control much that is still more advanced than you might imagine. We control access to the temple, which is still a storehouse of knowledge if we could enter it again. That he wants, for enough of our people have been tortured for him to understand the power of the temple.

“But that is lost to us. When the civil wars began, warlords unleashed horrors unimaginable. Plagues weapons Droids capable of thinking and fighting on their own. Our race even here on our home world was driven almost to extinction. To stop it from happening again, the knowledge of those weapon were locked within the temple, and sealed so that only we could enter it.

“But something inconceivable happened. It is believed that one of the plagues that were spread during those wars denied our race the use of the Force. Once we had such a control over it that we built machines with the Force as part of their construction. Metals that cannot exist in nature we made as a matter of course.

“But without the force we can not enter the temple. That is why we helped you when you came before. You could enter the temple, where we cannot. It has been determined by the best of our scientists that when the great evil above is gone, we may again learn the use of the Force.”

“Can you help me again?”

“We trusted you once before to our detriment, Revan. You betrayed our trust. It is true that one like you can enter the Temple where we cannot, but how can you expect us to trust you again?”

“I am a servant of the light now.” I whispered. “I must make amends for the evil that I have done.”

“You claimed the same when you were here before. Claimed that your purpose would require the destruction of the evil above. You claim to not remember, but you follow the same path as before. You have crashed again. You have come to us asking help, again. You promise to remove the evil, again. How can we trust you?”

“I have said I am not the one that came before.” I touched my head. “My mind is a blank slate when it comes to your world. Only my actions can prove I speak the truth.”

“In this you do speak truth. Words are easy to speak, and hard to prove. It is the actions that judge the person. You must prove to us that you are not what you once were.”

“How may I prove this?”

“The One has become a serious problem. He has dismounted guns from some of the ships, and has tried to move them here to destroy us. While our defenses can stop their hand weapons even those of the ones called Mando, they cannot stand against that much firepower. It is lucky for us that he thinks of droids as moving targets for practice, for they would have sped his efforts.

“A team of scouts had gone out to find where he has hidden these weapons, but they were captured. There is only one of them remaining alive. We have our own spies among them, and while they cannot help in an escape, they have reported what horrors the One has inflicted on our people. We ask that you rescue this one of ours.”

“I can negotiate with the One for his release.”

“Would that your luck be better than ours. All we have sent to talk before have died for thirty of your years. If it can be done without bloodshed, we would accept it. If he would be willing to have it so.”

“So I must save this one.”

“Risking your life for one you do not actually know is supposed to be what your kind strive for.” He said gently. “Or so you once told me.”

“Then at least I told you the truth once!” I said. “We will get him back.”

“Go with this Force.”

We went out into the early evening darkness. I led the others back up the path, threading through the mines that still lay there. The temple beckoned, but I ignored it. Without the aid of the Rakata, I could not enter.

I signaled for a halt, and waited.

“Why...” Jolee stopped. Around us Mando warriors appeared from their stealth fields. Ten of them. Then Canderous appeared from his field. He walked over, and knelt.

“My Mandalore, I have brought them as you commanded.”

“Well done.” I said. “Do any challenge my orders?”

One walked forward. “I am Konrad Morgo of clan Shoomart. I do not challenge your right, merely your purpose.”

“Speak on, Konrad.” I nodded.

“To what purpose do we fight and die for you here? Have we not fought and died for nothing under other Mandalore before you?” There was a gasp from the gathered warriors. Unless he was willing to challenge me directly, which he had refused to do, this was tantamount to a mutiny. Under their own laws, I could have killed him where he stood.

“I took your honor from your clans because of those acts.” I replied. “In time, it would have been redeemed. But I died and was reborn. I know the honor of the Mando people.” I motioned toward Canderous. “This one took the burden of shame for his clan because of another. No one told him to do so, he did what honor demanded. Will you do the same?”

Konrad lowered his head. “Others have made that claim since you disappeared.”

“Were they Mandalore of the Mandalore?” I asked sharply.

“No.” Again petty defiance. By refusing to use the title, he was questioning it.

“I swear to you. Within days the Mando will either regain their honor, or lose it forever. As Mandalore I can do this.”

“Yes.” His head bowed, and his answer was a whisper. Unless overturned by another, the dictate of the Mandalore was absolute. In the millennia since they had been formed, only three times had it been overturned.

“Konrad, evil floats over this world. It is in the great space station around the star, in the ships that guard it. Hundreds of ships. We,” I motioned toward Canderous, toward the two silent Jedi behind me, “And others in our ship will face them when our ship is ready to fight again. We will fight, and we will win or die.

“Against such a force all you can do is die.” Konrad replied.

“But I have concerns which reach beyond my death.” I waved toward the island around us. ‘Hundreds of thousands of people who need someone to teach them the ways of modern war in the event that we fail. People willing to give their entire lives making sure that these people fight and die well. That millennia from now, the name Mando will ring not as brutes, but the bravest of all peoples."

He looked at me, and his face glowed. “To fight a war that may never end? Against an enemy that will show us no mercy?”

“What else would a Mandalore ask of her people?”

He fell to his knee. “Chu, my Mandalore!”

The others dropped to their knees.

“My people, there is much we must do first...”


'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
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